Monday 27 February 2023

Yellowjackets - I don’t belong here.

Yellowjackets: 1x05 Blood Hive.

The situation of the stranded in the wilderness is a juxtaposition of sorts: on the one hand, there is endless space to explore and escape to, but whatever is in those trees might be dangerous, and there is safety in numbers. On the other hand, there is the enclosure of the cabin, a tight space to contain so many people, with inescapable dynamics. The idea of all the girls syncing up and bleeding at the same time (a myth, by the way) works to showcase what happens when a biological reality meets the particularly challenging circumstances of a survival situation. Obviously, in this cabin in the woods built by (presumably male) survivalists, there are no pads of tampons, so the girls have to improvise. The result, from the outside, looks like homesteading, like a community of girls working together to improvise a solution for their shared problem, but it also creates an issue for Shauna, who is not sharing in the ritual, because she is pregnant. There is a weird way in which the pregnancy serves like a ticking time bomb for the secret she has been keeping from Jackie, where the longer she withholds, the more obvious it will become (when Jackie mentions her assumed virginity, it prompts Shauna to dip one of the homemade pads into some deer blood to pretend, but Taissa watches her). Rescue, however many weeks out from the crash they are, seems increasingly unlikely, and the chances of Shauna still being there in nine months is becoming more and more likely (we do, after all, know she survived, we do know that it took more than a year for the girls to return). 

The other person seemingly suffering, or feeling profoundly on the outs, is Travis, who has already repeatedly showcased how he defines his masculinity versus what he perceives as being surrounded by femineity. He has escaped with Natalie to hunt, and they have started a contest about who is the better shot (it’s obviously still Nat), but also are beginning to flirt beyond their little banter. We know how close they will eventually get – this is the first episode in which adult Nat has a memory of a grown-up Travis, as she is looking at the photos from his autopsy – and out in the woods, hunting game to sustain them, they kiss for the first time. There are a lot of scenes of communal life in the episode, but the ones that stand out are the one-on-ones, individual relationships emerging even in the closeness of the cabin. Shauna tries to coax Jackie into pulling her weight, realising that she is being perceived as weak by the other girls, trying a motivation speech about how Jackie has always been able to bring out the good in people (Jackie’s response, in turn, is a lot less kind to Shauna). Taissa and Van are hooking up secretly, and maybe have been for a while now (we don’t know if they were before the crash, only that they were always looking for each other in a crowd). Misty continues to be an absolutely terrifying nursemaid to Coach Ben, this time around poisoning him with a cup of tea, and Ben tries to save himself by pretending he’s in love with her. Finally, after a lot of other things go down, Shauna joins Taissa up in the attic, proving that nothing supernatural is going down, but also sharing an intimate moment in which Taissa asks Shauna about her pregnancy, and promises to keep her secret (notably, they are not with the people you would think they’d be closest to up there – new things are happening).  

The problems the group face are adult and serious. The solutions, because most of them are teenagers, aren’t – after they hear mysterious noises from the attic, Jackie suggests holding a séance. It’s like a leftover from a life where things like communing with the occult (Laura Lee) or playing games (Jackie) were normal teenage things they did. They place candles on the carved symbols on the floor of the attic, and Shauna gamefully plays the medium that will commune with the dead. They ask typical teenage questions, confirming rumours and gossip. It’s not until Javi and Taissa join them that a serious question is ask by Travis’ little brother – will they all die out there? – that inexplicable things begin to happen. The window flies open, the candles burn out, Lottie, now weeks away from her last dose of antipsychotics, begins speaking in French, in a horrifying voice, about blood sacrifice and an evil that is lurking and waiting for them. Laura Lee attempts an exorcism, and Lottie snaps back to reality, but whether what happened can be explained rationally or not will divide the group. 

In the last episode, teenage Jackie appeared to adult Shauna at the bridge like a harbinger of doom. It’s like she is haunting Shauna – the motif returns this episode when she goes to a wild Halloween party with Adam (book club!) and spies someone wearing Jackie’s unform in the crowd, only to find her daughter, who stole it from her wardrobe. Cassie is high, and doesn’t really understand what happened to her mother out there either, only that she is still haunted by it, that her insistence of being okay is a lie she’s been telling for a very long time. The thing is that living people rarely haunt, and that we have yet to see an adult Jackie on this show – like Shauna’s pregnancy, it’s something we know to be true before it is confirmed on screen. In a surprisingly heartfelt scene, Shauna nurses her daughter through her high, and they have a genuine conversation about how Cassie empathises with what Shauna went through and how much she appreciates that Shauna has come back with scars that she is reluctant to show anyone. She also now knows about Adam (a danger that Shauna diffuses with truly exceptional ease later, painting what Cassie’s life would look like after a divorce), but the more haunting sense here is that Cassie can feel that something is off between her parents that connects back to their shared history with Jackie. The scene also reveals that Jackie’s unform was given to her on her 40th birthday by Jackie’s parents, like there is a connection, a grieving, that has continued for a very long time. 

Travis is also reluctant to join in with the séance, but his presence feels significant because of what Nat and Misty find in the crime scene photos (which they retrieve, expertly, from a hacker after dousing him in gasoline and threatening to light him on fire). It appears as if someone placed candles in exactly the same shape they used in the séance, the shape of the symbol that is carved into trees and the floor of the attic. Travis, ever the doubter, would have never done that himself, and someone removed the candles after his death. 

Random notes: 

Shauna: The people who matter recognise Daria, okay!

Laura Lee is studying a manual for the Cessna, considering flying it to get help. 

Taissa remains mostly separate from the others in this episode (which is interesting, considering teenage Taissa feels slightly separate from the group as well, for example not taking part in the séance from the start, and remaining in serious doubt about when the others perceive that something supernatural is happening). The campaign is taking its toll, and she finds a graffiti on her house one morning (SPILL! It says in red paint). She finds an open pot of paint under her son’s bed, and accuses him, but he insists that “the woman in the tree” did it. She almost decides to quit the campaign and focus on her family, only changing her mind last moment at a conference, instead pretending that the graffiti was another part of her opponent’s smear campaign. 

Misty gifts Nat an owl with a secret camera built in, and the first thing she spies on it is a meeting between Nat and Taissa, and a glimpse of how they both feel about her (poodle-hair is a sharp, sharp insult). They also both receive a text message with a blackmail attempt. 

Bracelet watch: Shauna returns it to Jackie, in this episode. 

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