Thursday, 16 February 2023

Yellowjackets – We think we know what we’re doing but really we have no clue.

Yellowjackets: 1x03 The Dollhouse.

Three days have past and there are no signs of a rescue team arriving, so the stranded now have to make a decision: after burying their dead, and trying to summarise the little they know about their perished new team mates, Taissa spots a lake in the distance. Jackie thinks, or rather, fundamentally can’t give up hope, that help will still arrive, and wants to stay near the crashed plane. Taissa thinks they should plan their survival in case they’re left on their own. The first cracks are arriving fast, and when the two proposals are put to a vote, Taissa’s plan prevails. Worse still, Shauna ends up voting with Taissa rather than her best friend, causing friction between the two. It’s already clear that Shauna is no longer the captain, and that new power structures are arising. 

On their way to the lake (Shauna writes their new location on the plane, Van takes the compass – note the resourcefulness that is emerging), the girls find a dead bear – and realise that there are many things to fear in the woods. Last episode, Taissa’s shadow puppets for her son Sammy turned real in her head, when she remembered a terrifying wolf. But once they arrive at the lake, all the dark thoughts seem to fall away, and for a moment, the survivors turn into teenagers again. They frolic in the water, play games. Taissa keeps watching Van, smiling. They spot a reflection in the distance and find an abandoned, very creepy cabin  that might just be their best hope for survival in light of the predators out there. Lottie, who has taken her last dose of antipsychotics, remains cautious and doesn’t want to go in. At night time, Taissa tells her she has to go in to survive, that whatever evil thing she perceives is just in her head – but later, up in the attic, they find a dead body tied to a chair. It’s an amazing scene, tying together three time-lines. The episode is interspersed with moments from Taissa’s childhood, when her grandmother was dying and in her last moments, in spite of previously seeming ready for death, seeing a terrifying thing just before she passes, screaming about not wanting to lose her eyes. Before the body is discovered, we see Taissa in the present time stepping on the eye of her son’s doll Manny, which she has confiscated after a playground fight – the doll itself is mangled and crushed. We see child Taissa at her grandmother’s funeral trying to get a look at her eyes, and finding them empty, eerily white. Is something supernatural happening, or is there something wrong with Taissa, something that is now expressing itself in her son’s behaviour? 

The scenes from 1996 also show how badly Travis is dealing with his father’s death. His little brother Javi is grieving, but Travis seems furious, blaming Coach Martinez for them being on the plane in the first place. His attempts to care for his brother are interspersed with violence. Natalie is always watching, and somehow, these two will eventually become close – close enough for present time Natalie to chase him into another kind of wilderness in New Hampshire, where she and Misty break into his house. Nobody’s home – there’s an expensive bottle of whiskey on the table that is beyond Travis’ means (Misty’s spotted a spay check), an old polaroid of him and Natalie. They’re arrested for trespassing and only released from jail when Misty calls her new friend Kevyn (she’s been texting him pretending to be Natalie, correctly feeling that he would do anything for her). An earlier phone call that Natalie makes to Taissa fails – Taissa appears to have helped Natalie many times with rehab, but is now in the midst of her campaign, and cautious to use her connections for her, and maybe exasperated at Natalie’s continued need for help. Freed from prison, they go to Travis’ place of work, but they’re too late. Travis is hanging from a crane, dead, and while Natalie insists that Travis wouldn’t have killed himself, Misty has retrieved a last message from a notepad. It says “Tell Nat she was right”, but Nat doesn’t know what it refers to, or doesn’t want to tell Misty. 

Throughout the day that the team makes its way to the lake and cabin, Shauna seems desperate to fix her friendship with Jackie. She watches Jackie demonstratively making new friends, as if to show how hurt she is, but in the end, in front of the cabin, they make up again. It also feels like the secret that Shauna is keeping (narrowly saved from sharing it at the bonfire the first night when Misty cauterised Ben’s leg) is a ticking time bomb between them. 

Present day Shauna is using the information she gleamed from the text message Jeff received to do her own detective work. She tries to catch him in his secret when she asks him to pick her up at the time of his illicit date, and he weasels his way out of it, only to be tailed to a hotel by her (compared to Misty, Shauna’s Citizen Detective skills are pretty amateurish). In the hotel, she very narrowly avoids ridicule when Adam suddenly shows up. The show brilliantly manipulates here, cutting between scenes of Javi in the wilderness and scenes of Adam (who is slightly younger than Shauna, just like Javi would be) showing up in places he shouldn’t be. He convinces her to have a drink, and they flirt some more. He talks about how he allows his art to guide his life randomly, and maybe presents a kind of free life that Shauna, will all of her responsibilities, is far away from. They end up in a hotel room together, after Shauna feels her suspicions of Jeff having an affair are confirmed. 

Taissa, in the midst of her campaign, is now confronted with attack ads that make her out to be dangerous. We realise that she is the one who hired Jessica Roberts to find out if any of the other survivors are talking to, or would be willing to, the press. After her wife reminded her that she wanted to run a clean campaign focused on the issues, Jessica acts like counterpoint to that idea: her opponent has covered up his daughter’s drug addiction. Instead of revealing that to the press straight away, she makes a threatening phone call to him, warning him not to fuck with her. It’s an interesting reveal of that side of her just as we’ve learned about Sammy’s fear and trauma. Who is “the bad one?”

Sammy: Why don’t people like you?

Taissa: Because I’m different than what people expect, and it scares them.

The question is – what happened to Taissa in the woods? We’ve seen her readiness to get rid of Allie, and maybe the experience out there has sharpened something that was already there, and under the magnifying lens of the campaign, it will become more and more obvious. 

Random notes: 

Lottie: Who died and made him king of snacks. 

Nat: His dad, Lottie. Literally his dad. 

On the road trip (showtunes! Misty retelling her past doomed romances!), Natalie finds evidence that Misty deliberately sabotaged her car. Misty owns up to it, saying she knew Natalie would’ve never brought her otherwise. These scenes with Juliette Lewis and Christina Ricci are great, and it’s hard to believe that they never crossed path in the 90s when they were both at the peak of their fame. Natalie asks Misty if she knows how weird she is, and the thing is, Misty definitely does, and has fully embraced it. She learned as a bullied kid that it was pointless to try and be someone else. If anything, she’s weaponised her weirdness, and it’s pretty glorious (you’d think someone like Natalie would appreciate it more, really). 

Misty’s caring for Ben has such an edge to it – the obvious reference here is Misery, he is utterly helpless and unable to say no – but nothing she does is necessarily harmful, it’s more that she seems to relish his dependence on her care. 

Of course Shauna would pretend to be Homeland Security. It’s interesting how her talent is definitely not subterfuge, but blunt violence (re: the rabbit).  

Note that there are a lot unknown girls in the wilderness that we only see in the background sometimes – this is a big group, and most of them are still unknowns. 

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