Yellowjackets Recap: Lightning Crashes


Season 2 Episode 7
Editor’s Rating 4 stars


Season 2 Episode 7
Editor’s Rating 4 stars
Photo: Kailey Schwerman/SHOWTIME/Kailey Schwerman/SHOWTIME

“Burial” is available to stream now via Showtime Anytime; it will make its Showtime network premiere on Sunday, May 14, at 9 p.m. ET.

According to Dr. Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, there are five stages of grief: Denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. For most people, these phases do not occur in any specific order, and individuals can cycle through each emotional state more than once. However, directly on the heels of the devastating loss of Shauna’s baby after “Qui,” Shauna is moving through the stages in a textbook manner as she’s shifted from a state of denial to straight-up rage.

The episode begins with a chilling Nirvana needle drop as “Something in the Way” plays over the direct aftermath of the baby’s death. As the snowstorm rages on outside, the group hunkers down, unable to escape the aura of unimaginable grief that saturates the air inside the cabin. Yet, while Nirvana sets the solemn tone for this moment, the themes of “Lightning Crashes” by Live — yet another stellar ‘90s needle drop that comes later in the episode — provide a narrative backbone writ large.

“Lightning Crashes” was released in 1994, so it was a cultural touchstone for the Yellowjackets before the crash. The music video for the song focuses on a woman giving birth with an angel hovering nearby and another woman dying at the same time. Just like there are stages of grief, this song underscores that there are also stages of life, and both the video and the intense lyrics affirm that life is a cycle of give-and-take that isn’t often fair, but everything balances out in the end.

The concept of death potentially paying for life is explored via Gen and Melissa, the once-peripheral characters who have now become a de facto Greek chorus in the wilderness. Melissa wonders aloud if the deaths of the baby and (presumably) Crystal will now bring them something good. Lottie disagrees, saying that the wilderness “doesn’t trade or haggle,” but it is a bit odd that every time there’s some sort of injury, harm, or death, the rest of the group benefits. Fans have been theorizing about this concept for a while, and if true, it certainly brings the ritualistic hunting from the pilot episode into starker view.

In the present, it’s refreshing to finally see the adult survivors together. There’s a zesty, playfully catty energy in the air when Shauna, Tai, and Van check-in and choose from a menu of woo-woo therapy options. Shauna selects “Self-Care,” which turns out to be watching a baby goat named Bruce. She’s fully convinced that she’s going to have to kill the goat at the end of the day because why wouldn’t she? All of her repressed trauma has imprinted upon her, telling her that she will inevitably be faced with losing everything she loves. As she struggles with her assignment, she hunts down Lottie and starts spilling tea. Lottie listens with compassion, and Simone Kessell even finds a way to raise her eyebrows in a way that acknowledges the loss of the baby in all of Shauna’s existential mess. When Lottie tells Shauna that she doesn’t have to kill the goat, Melanie Lynskey’s “Oh, Bruce!” delivery is both hilarious and heartbreaking.

Tai chooses “Renewal,” which is painting the side of a building with a teeny paintbrush. We can see that Tai has painted a small swatch of yellow on the building with the word “fuck” in all caps above it. Fun! Just like Shauna, she stops Lottie as she’s engaging in this ridiculous treatment, and Lottie offers her words of affirmation regarding her “other you.” Echoing a scene from the wilderness, Lottie tells Tai that her ”other” self might not be something she wants to bury. Curious.

Later, Tai takes her wedding ring off and finds Van curled up with a bottle of tequila. They make out for a bit. It’s exciting because there’s still love between them, but there’s also the matter of Tai’s wife, Simone, who’s still in the hospital. Has Tai called to check on her or Sammy or even Steve once?! I hope someone is taking care of Steve, is all I’m saying.

Van also admits to Tai that she has an aggressive form of cancer. This explains the pill bottles and the overdue bills. The wilderness echo of this moment between Tai and Van is a conversation in which Van asks what her purpose is. The wilderness has spared her countless times, and she’s wondering why that is. It’s unclear if she finds that purpose in the wilderness, but the subtext here is that Van is staring down death yet again in adulthood, and there might be a reason for it.

Misty also struggles with her assignment. Last to pick, she’s stuck with “Guidance.” This turns out to be a dip in the compound’s sensory deprivation tank. After some resistance, Misty gets redirected by the unflagging Lisa and succumbs to the tank. What follows is a frothy fever dream that combines musical elements, that Twin Peaks-inspired image from the opening credits, and a completely wild scene with a human man wearing a Caligula costume. (That man just happens to be the great character actor John Cameron Mitchell, and he nails the role as Misty’s sassy and permissive subconscious.) Suspicious icons that float around during the sequence include some sort of an ax and the syringe that Misty surrendered when she checked into Camp Green Pine. At the conclusion of her experience, Misty hops out and calls her would-be paramour, Walter. She leaves a giddy message: one part adorable, one part hysterical (“Your grandma sounds cool!”), and ten million parts incriminating. What will Moriarty do with this new information from his Sherlock?

Who’s another man who still has a card left to play? Coach Ben Scott. We see him experience another starvation hallucination in which Paul seems to be talking to a secret entity. Instead of the vision taking place in Paul’s apartment — or even the hybrid apartment/cabin from last week’s vision — Paul is fully in the cabin, and there’s no more pretense of their old lives. As Paul leaves, he tells Ben that he doesn’t belong here anymore and that he loves him. Then he says, “We all love you.” What? Who’s we?! I’m getting ghost pilot vibes (or “cabin daddy” if ya nasty) in this scene, and I’m pretty convinced that Ben is so on the brink of starvation that he’s in the space between life and death in which he can actually see the wilderness entity and all its minions. As he leaves the cabin, a pair of antlers frame the crown of his head.

Ben heads to the poop cliff. Misty is there. She’s trying to find Crystal’s body before everyone else can find her and eat her, but the body is mysteriously missing. Hmm. Ben and Misty have a moment on the cliff in which Ben is clearly ready to give up, but Misty won’t let him go. Actor Steven Krueger gives a lovely and understated performance here as Ben wrestles with the choice in front of him. Tears silently spill over his cheeks as he contemplates the abyss. When Misty threatens to out him as gay to the whole world, Krueger delivers the line, “Do it,” with a quiet conviction that shook me to my core. However, Misty’s caterwauling soon turns Ben back from the precipice, and he lives to see another day.

Whether Ben is seeing entities on the other side or just hallucinating is fully up for debate. What’s not up for debate is whether or not Lottie’s psychiatrist is real — she’s not. When we see her this time, she has a funky fresh side-swept hairdo and ‘tude for days. As the scene toggles between Lottie and her “doctor,” Lottie sees the truth. In a frightening jump cut, Lottie’s vision changes. Now it’s the antler queen in the therapist’s chair, striking an imposing figure and speaking in a garbled version of Lottie’s voice. She says, “Does a hunt that has no violence feed anyone?” It turns out that the call was coming from inside the house all along.

In the wake of this reveal, Lottie goes to find the rest of the Yellowjackets. She tells them to leave, but they refuse, choosing instead to reminisce and get drunk on the contents of the compound’s surprisingly stocked bar. When Misty tries to casually bring up the wilderness, Van immediately stops it, but Nat pushes a bit further. She’s fully in on the transformation that Lottie promised — even if Lottie herself can’t follow her own advice — and she wants to know what they remember. As they finally delve into things, Van shifts focus to the song playing in the background. The group dances along to “Lightning Crashes,” the chorus warning them of what will happen in the future if they don’t get it together. “Oh, now, feel it coming back again.” Yup. “Like a rolling thunder chasing the wind.” Sure. “Forces pulling from the center of the Earth again.” Bingo.

The joyous — if oblivious — reunion is intercut with Shauna’s feral manifestation of her grief in the wilderness. She’s full of rage. Lottie sees this, offers herself up, and Shauna proceeds to beat the ever-loving shit out of her teammate. One of the first depictions of sustained physical violence in the show, the scene is graphic and bloody and is juxtaposed with the adult survivors dancing with abandon in the snow. However, unable and unwilling to face the gruesome realities of their shared past, these women seem doomed to go down the same paths of destruction that they once walked as teens in the wilderness. As Lottie tells Antler Shrink: “We hurt each other.” As the episode draws to a close, it certainly feels like someone will soon be on the chopping block in the present.

Buzz Buzz Buzz

• The coda to the episode sees an adorably flustered Jeff call Shauna about a break in the Adam Martin case. The cops have found the body. This is terrible news, and what’s even more distressing is that we don’t get to see what Jeff rocks out to as he processes this information. My vote is for “Bodies” by Drowning Pool.

• Sorry, but as someone who grew up experiencing New England winters, I’m calling BS on the snow ratios after the storm. The girls have to dig out of the cabin’s front door, and yet, minutes later, they’re freely walking on pathways with a scant two inches of powder? I get that snowmaking machines are expensive to run, but c’mon now.

• When the adult survivors all convene at Lottie’s, Nat says, “We’re all here.” Could this mean that there are no additional survivors in the present? I had hope for you, Akilah!

• There’s another Alanis cover at the top of this episode. If she’s sticking around, I’d love to hear her iconic voice as one of the recurring chanting voices from the haunting score.

• You can call the number for Lottie’s compound. If you missed it, it’s 607-478-1033. Prepare to be a little disturbed by what you hear, especially if you call late at night while alone in your house, like I totally did.

• Best line of the episode? “Our devices leave us captive to other people’s priorities.” Truth.

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Yellowjackets Recap: Lightning Crashes