Yellowjackets Recap: Good Game


Old Wounds
Season 2 Episode 4
Editor’s Rating 4 stars


Old Wounds
Season 2 Episode 4
Editor’s Rating 4 stars
Photo: Colin Bentley/SHOWTIME/Colin Bentley/SHOWTIME

“Old Wounds” is available to stream now via Showtime Anytime; it will make its Showtime network premiere on Sunday, April 16 at 9 p.m. ET.

If you were a kid in the late ’80s, chances are that you played a game called “Don’t Break the Ice.” Featuring a flat tabletop with a grid of white blocks, it was basically a horizontal version of Jenga, daring players to knock pieces out of the center, one by one. You lost if the little dude at the center fell in during your turn. As the second season of Yellowjackets progresses, it feels like all the characters are playing a real-life game of “Don’t Break the Ice.” In an effort to protect their respective lives, they’re all strategically knocking pieces free, but the center can only withstand constant erosion for so long.

In the present timeline, things are beginning to crack, with Lottie’s wilderness hallucinations reemerging, Shauna revealing the truth about Adam’s death to her daughter, Misty possibly getting a bit too close to Walter, and Evil Tai looking for some psychic relief by hunting down Van. As Misty gets closer to the “purple people,” and we see a thrilling reunion between Van and Tai, it sure seems like something in the universe wants the survivors to get back together.

In the wilderness, the ice literally breaks when the gang attempts to dislodge a frozen moose from the frozen lake. During a hunting contest between Lottie and Natalie, Natalie spots the moose she encountered days before at the plane. Everyone attempts to heave the big guy out of the water, but it’s useless. He slips away, knocking free a crucial piece of survival architecture that’s been keeping this group together thus far. They’re still starving, and the winter is showing no signs of ending.

So much happens in this episode, but the growing tension between Ben and Mari can’t be ignored. The two have been openly sniping at one another for a while now, and here, we see Mari confront Ben for potentially taking missing rations. She doesn’t believe him when he denies taking anything, and he fires back, “If it had been me, what exactly would you do about it? Would you eat me?” Ben might be losing it — we see him have another flashback of a loving moment with Paul — but he still (probably rightly) has the presence of mind to be terrified by the company he’s keeping. He’s also skeptical of Lottie’s “powers,” putting him firmly in the logic-lovers camp with Natalie, Tai, and Shauna.

The division between the Lottie lovers and the skeptics is certainly going to come to a head at some point, and being a staunch non-believer (and non-participant in cannibalism), Ben might just be the first one to go. But what if the focus on Ben is a red herring, and Mari is next on the chopping block? Mari fits the physical attributes of the pit girl from the premiere, she’s not very nice to most of the other people in the cabin, and she hears that mysterious dripping noise. None of that bodes well for her.

Lottie’s “powers” are put to the test during the hunt, but nothing she does reveals anything overtly supernatural. Instead, she stumbles about in the woods, offers a blood sacrifice to her makeshift altar, and then proceeds to have a barn burner of a hallucination. A vision leads her to where the pilot’s plane used to be, and she enters into a hatch (major Lost vibes). She doesn’t find a wild-eyed guy inputting numbers into a mystery computer, though; she finds her friends. A distorted version of the theme song plays over the scene as she winds through a mall and eventually meets up with her friends at the food court. Laura Lee reminds her that she’s starving and freezing — thanks for the hot tips, Laura Lee — and after she collapses in the snow, the rest of the girls find her and bring her back before she can freeze to death like Jackie.

In the present, we see Lottie cut her hand in the same exact way she does in the wilderness. Aptly entitled “Old Wounds,” this episode gives us more information about how adult Lottie is coping with the past. For the past ten years, she’s had a standing appointment with her trusted psychiatrist, re-upping her same meds every time. But she’s beginning to experience disturbing hallucinations again, and she wants them to stop. It feels important to note that she calls them “visions,” not hallucinations, and she grapples with her wording when she talks to the doctor, her language possibly alluding to the fact that she believes that she’s communing with something bigger than herself. She admits that her visions caused pain and suffering when she had them “as a kid” and that she doesn’t need that anymore because she’s truly helping people.

But is she? Nat goes on a pretty random side quest with Lisa to help run the honey stand at the farmers’ market, and when Lisa stops by her mom’s house to visit her fish, it does kind of feel like Lottie is helping her. We do learn that Lottie is restrictive in where her cult members can go and who they can see, and Nat eats this information up. However, she also wears her heart on her sleeve, and she’s come to respect Lisa a bit. So, she steals her fish for her. This subplot is a bit odd, but if it was written for the express purpose of Juliette Lewis making an excellent “I have a secret fish in my mouth” face, then so be it.

Nat and Lisa’s stop makes them late for the farmers’ market, which is too bad because that’s where Walter and Misty are headed. Walter has proven himself to be nothing but a lovable kook so far. Later, we find out that this dude has six million dollars from a scaffolding settlement, which makes one seriously wonder why he hasn’t invested in a CD player or a Spotify account so he can play his beloved musicals without the hassle of having to physically rewind cassettes.

Walter seems really into Misty, but she has her doubts. She accuses him of being obsessed with her history as a Yellowjacket, even saying, “I am honored that I seem to be your favorite Yellowjacket.” Walter counters, saying that he just admires her savvy mind and ability to reference Sweeney Todd, but Misty isn’t buying it. In a frustrating sequence, the two go about their very similar yet peculiar bedtime routines in separate rooms at a lovely B&B. Poor Walter thought this night was going to go very differently.

Elsewhere, Shauna tells Callie about her murderous ways and Jeff’s blackmail plan — “He was the blackmailer!” — but stops short of telling her about what she did in the wilderness. There are still things that must be kept secret. When Jeff finds out about Shauna’s move toward brutal honesty, he’s shocked at first, but his fears are assuaged when Callie offers to help with dinner. If prestige dramas like Ozark have taught us anything, it’s that scheming nuclear families who eat dinner together can literally get away with murder.

On the other hand, Tai has blown up her family as she hitchhikes across the country to get to her old lover. (We demand to know who’s taking care of Steve!) Evil Tai prompted the journey, but regular Tai goes along with the plan, finding Memento-style clues as to where she’s supposed to be going — a video rental store in Oberlin, Ohio — and continues on the trajectory even in the moments when she regains control of her body and mind.

Leading up to the electric reveal of adult Van, this episode is bookended by significant moments in which young Van reveals the true nature of Tai’s nighttime activities to her. She draws a map of all the places Tai has found symbols on the trees in her sleep and believes there’s one last symbol in a particular location. When the pair heads out to find that location later, they don’t find a symbol, but Van does see the melty tree that Nat noted in an earlier episode. As Van contemplates the ground, Tai hears a noise and follows it. It’s Javi! It turns out that Lottie was right all along, and chances are that Mari will be insufferable for the foreseeable future. But lingering questions remain: Where was he? How did he survive? Did he poop in the cabin bucket somehow or take the extra rations?

We only get a few moments to process Javi’s return before the episode blinks back to the present day. Van reaches her final destination and hops out of the truck, contemplating a video store called “While You Were Streaming.” Remember, friends, Van was enamored with the 1995 film While You Were Sleeping and even recounted the plot as a fireside story early in the first season. (For what it’s worth, Misty also had this movie in the bootleg VHS collection that she offered to Jessica when she had her hostage.)

Putting the Sandra Bullock of it all aside, our first glimpse of Van is absolute perfection. Unfortunately, we only get a beat with the two former lovers before the episode cuts to black, but I cannot wait to spend more time with them next week.

Buzz Buzz Buzz

• Did the intro theme song, “No Return,” sound just a bit different to anyone else? That’s because it’s a special version performed by Alanis Morissette.

• Jessica Watch: Yet again, Jessica shows up in the “previously on” clips at the start of the episode, and Tai goes through the information she had on all the Yellowjackets. Are we ever going to check in on her, alive or dead? Am I being irrational to hope that she survived?

• Akilah (Nia Sondaya) finds a mouse while she’s helping Mari look for the mysterious dripping noise only she can hear. That mystery isn’t solved, but the carrying around of a mouse rings all sorts of health safety concerns in my mind.

• Speaking of health and safety, never submerge a person with potential frostbite into a tub of hot water. Never. With all of her First Aid training, Misty should have known this.

• Ben is reading the book The Magus by John Fowles. I’m not positive what the deal is with any potential symbolism here, but I’m sure it’s an important beat of foreshadowing. Does anyone know what’s going on with this book? Sound off in the comments!

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Yellowjackets Recap: Good Game