In the very first scene of the pilot episode of Yellowjackets, we see a barefoot girl with long dark hair running, terrified, through a snowy landscape. It appears to be early morning, with the sun just barely shining through the thick trees, many of which have ominous symbols carved into them, and there are the sounds of bird and animal calls in the distance. The noises seem to be coming from people, presumably the same people who crafted the spiky pit in the distance that this girl is running toward. Falling in, her body all a jumble amidst the spikes and collecting snow, we hear the crunch of footsteps approach, and a pair of pink converse come into view. This was the proclamation of what winter would look like for the post-crash Yellowjackets attempting to survive in the wilderness. And that winter is now just around the corner.
This episode is ramping up to the conclusion of the first season and focuses on Laura Lee, who has been a sort of Bible chucking, now let us bow our heads punchline. But here she’s smoothing the creases in her sensible dress, grabbing her trusty teddy bear, and stepping forward to do the hell something about the fact that winter is coming and they will soon have nothing left to eat. Well, nothing aside from the pack of wolves in the woods that we saw in the last episode, but TBD if those were even real or not.
In a flashback to Laura Lee’s earlier days spent at Mary Magdalene Summer Camp, we see her take a nasty header into the pool and get rescued by a lifeguard wearing a huge gold cross that reflects the glare of the sun back into her eyes. From that moment, we go back to the cabin that the Yellowjackets are making camp in post-crash and Laura Lee sits alone, asking God to send her a sign. A small bird lands beside her, and this is all the push she needs to announce to the rest of the girls that she’s going to fly the dead guy’s plane to get some help. This is the same plane that’s been rusting in the woods for who knows how long, and that she believes to have taught herself to fly via reading the manual and, well, because God said so. When she tells everyone her plans, they’re vocal about it being a bad idea, especially coach Ben, who we now know is as gay as that bird that told Laura Lee to fly this decrepit plane. But Laura Lee is not to be deterred, and the rest of the survivors clear debris from off the plane and watch her fly away to who knows where in search of help. It seems like the woods might just let her go for a brief moment, but then the teddy bear she has strapped into the co-pilot seat suddenly bursts into flames. Laura Lee watches it burn for a bit and then lets Jesus take the wheel as the rest of the plane goes up in a fiery blaze.
Speaking of fiery blazes … Van is alive! After getting her face partially chewed off by wolves (or possibly one of her teammates), she’s presumed dead and about to be laid to rest via funeral pyre when she shows signs of life and is pulled out grumbling, “Really!?! Fire??” After almost getting burned up in the plane crash, and then a funeral pyre, learning that Laura Lee died the way she did was probably even more upsetting. She wasn’t amongst the group who saw Laura Lee off, as she was left behind to convalesce. But she definitely would have heard the boom.
Something is going on in these woods that’s certainly pointing towards a mystical/paranormal element working against the survivors, but it’s hard to determine if this is something that’s actually happening, or if it’s just a creative way to show how stress, lack of sleep, dehydration, and possibly eating things from the woods that they shouldn’t be eating is affecting them. If I try to do something in the morning before having coffee, I end up getting a massive headache that ruins my whole day, so I can’t imagine what manner of beasties my mind would serve up if I were out there flailing around in the woods sucking on sticks for months on end. And aside from all that, now Jackie is adding to everyone’s problems by going down the line attempting to sabotage everyone’s relationships by revealing secrets. She tells the group about Shauna being pregnant. She tells Travis about Natalie sleeping with the guy who gave him the nickname he hates, Flex. And why? After reading Shauna’s journal, it’s easy to understand why she’d want to cause shit for her, but what did she read in there that made her want to target Natalie as well?
Although we know from flashbacks that Natalie and Travis made it out of the woods and, it looks like, went on to have a meaningful romantic relationship, we see in her present-day adulthood just to what extent his loss has wrecked her emotionally. She’s newly out of rehab and already hitting the bottle hard and sending texts for $300 coke deliveries. In a heartbreaking scene in her hotel room, she puts on a face mask while on the phone with Travis’ bank, attempting to get info on who took all his money out after his death. The person on the other line won’t help her, because she’s not a family member of Travis, and when Natalie’s patience wears down, she howls to speak to the manager, throwing things around the room, becoming unglued, and yelling, “Do you believe in love!?!” Juliette Lewis, who plays Natalie as a grownup, throws her whole body into this, as she does with everything else she does while acting, performing with her band Juliette and the Licks, or even just taking to Instagram stories with her Bluetooth speaker blasting out her favorite song of the moment. She’s currently healing from a torn ACL and meniscus because of all this. But it looks to be worth it, and it probably wouldn’t stop her even if it weren’t.
In the adult lives of Misty, Shauna, and Taissa, things are becoming equally unraveled as the threat of their secrets being revealed pushes closer. When Shauna’s daughter Callie tells her that she googled Adam and wasn’t able to find any internet presence for him at all, which would be very rare for someone claiming to be an artist in 2021, Shauna does some digging of her own and finds that he didn’t go to Pratt like he said he did. He makes the excuse that he just said it to impress her and nearly convinces her to run away to a cabin with him (honestly, stay out of the woods) but then when she goes home to try on a weird yellow dress that Jeff bought her to wear to their reunion she finds glitter on the floor of her closet and her journals are missing from the safe. We’re supposed to think that Adam is behind this, but I’m still side-eyeing Jeff. Visibly shaken by the idea of Adam, or anyone for that matter, having the journals that lay out in explicit detail everything she’s tried to hide for 25 years, she rushes back to Adam’s apartment and demands to know who he is. Honestly. Who the hell is Adam??
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• I couldn’t stop replaying the part where Misty bursts into Natalie’s apartment and shoves her aside to stop her from doing coke. Christina Ricci and Juliette Lewis are so fantastic together in these roles.
• The thought of Taissa’s family dog gone missing and her having to send her wife and son away because she’s afraid of hurting them is just so so sad and terrifying. What happened to that poor dog?
• Don’t mess with Caligula.