Spoilers ahead for “Old Wounds,”the fourth episode of Yellowjackets season two.
While Juliette Lewis’s present-day Natalie is off getting kidnapped by Lottie and stabbing cult members with forks, her equally angsty (but far more pragmatic) teenage Yellowjackets self, played by 22-year-old Sophie Thatcher, is trying to fend off her teammates’ starvation. In the fourth episode of the Showtime series’ second season, Nat finds a moose trapped in the frozen lake and conscripts the other Yellowjackets to help her pull it out to no avail. As the ice breaks, Natalie is pulled face first into the water and can only watch in horror as the beast — and her hopes of keeping the survivors fed through winter — sinks to a watery grave. Often more reserved in her performance, Thatcher lets her character break down totally, the exhaustion and despair evident in every sob.
And that’s far from Natalie’s only problem. After faking proof of the long-missing Javi’s death in order to convince a despondent Travis that his brother is gone for good, Nat is stunned to see Javi reappear on the cabin’s doorstep alive, if not exactly well, at the end of the episode. Combined with Lottie’s escalating interest in Travis, this revelation might just topple the already shaky romance between Nat and Travis and leave her without allies in the woods.
How did you film the underwater scene when Natalie goes after the moose?
It was in this very deep tank, and I was attached with a rope so there was no way I could fall in. But trying to open my eyes and looking at what seemed like a never-ending tank — there’s something really daunting about that. It was warm water, so that was fine, but the look in my eyes was from the claustrophobia and looking into the tank, because I was freaking out. Also, they built such a beautiful moose, and that was daunting because it was so huge and took up so much of the tank.
And it was on my 22nd birthday that we shot it. [Laughs.] It was at the very end of such a long day, and I was already exhausted.
Was that the hardest scene you shot for the show so far?
Working in Alberta was probably the most physically taxing. We were actually going through the snow and I thought I was gonna get frostbite at one point. They had these warming tents — they were very prepared for everything — but it was excruciating. Alberta is where they shot The Revenant. Like, the coldest place ever.
I will say, though, that those were my two favorite days to film. I felt so fulfilled, and I brought that experience back with me. I had a strong foundation after being out in the wilderness and then going back to a studio knowing what it feels like to be cold and seeing how your voice changes.
Until that scene, Natalie had been fairly stoic, just determined to survive. But when she loses the moose, she has a full emotional breakdown.
She’s been focused on proving herself, on being the moral compass and bringing people back to reality and making them focus on actual survival tactics. It’s nice for her to have a release. I’m interested in seeing more of her breaking down into who she is in the modern day.
Natalie ends up in that situation because she challenged Lottie to a hunting contest. Why do you think she feels such a sense of competition toward her?
It mainly stems from jealousy with Travis. But also Natalie’s the one who’s actually helping everyone in a practical sense by giving them food. Without her, I don’t think any of them would’ve survived. And I think she’s almost jealous of the way people are receiving Lottie’s spirituality and optimism, and how everyone’s leaning toward her for that rather than Natalie, who is sacrificing herself every day by going out into the wilderness. The biggest thing for her is seeing how Travis is becoming more distracted and fully falling for Lottie’s faith, but there’s also some self-righteousness. Natalie’s been fending for herself for her entire life, and Lottie is someone who grew up very rich.
With how bad things are for everyone in the woods, it’s easy to forget how hard Natalie’s life was pre-crash.
Exactly! I think that’s why she falls into this position of huntress naturally. She’s come from such a complicated family, and her parents have gone through those cycles with drugs and everything. To some extent, she’s been in survival mode her whole life.
Things go even more south for Natalie at the end of the episode, when Javi comes back and Travis realizes she lied about his death. What do you think she feels in that moment?
There’s relief because she truly loves Travis and wants him to be okay and have that weight off his back. But there’s so much guilt, too. Natalie carries a lot of it, and it darkens her. There’s always been a heaviness in her, but this season the heaviness keeps layering, and toward the end, it becomes too much and there’s a bit of a switch.
Natalie may (temporarily) lose an ally in Travis, but she seems to gain one in Lottie as they call a truce while Lottie warms up in the tub. Do you think it’ll last?
There’s always going to be a slight insecurity from Natalie that there’s something Lottie gives Travis that she can’t. But, of course, they’re not completely against each other. They were teammates at one point, and in that moment, they decide to go back to what it was like before the wilderness, when they were team players.
On a lighter note, it must have been fun to film Lottie’s hallucination of all of you in a mall eating Chinese food, since you so rarely get to be out of the woods and in nice clothes.
It’s strange since it’s this surreal dream experience. It’s a very blurred line between, Is this actually Natalie or is this Lottie’s perception of Natalie? It’s fun to be able to do that, but it’s also a little confusing as an actor. But that’s what’s exciting about our show: We’re finally getting into these crazy psychological moments within each character.
This interview has been edited and condensed.