Thursday 9 March 2023

Yellowjackets - Please. Just show me a sign.

Yellowjackets: 1x08 Flight of the Bumblebee.

Do you ever think about what our lives would have been like if it didn’t happen?

One of the questions hovering in between the two timelines of Yellowjackets is how anyone can come back from the wilderness, experiencing what the stranded team is going through, and return to a regular life. Between the four survivors we’ve been following – Misty, Shauna, Taissa and Nat – there are four distinct lives here, each haunted by what happened. Of them, it feels like Misty maybe ended up where she would have gone regardless: an unapologetic weirdo, a citizen detective, proud companion of Caligula. It’s hard to tell if she is happy in her life, but she definitely doesn’t feel like she is having any regrets. Taissa’s life is collapsing. Shauna is doing everything, seemingly, to blow her life up. The two talk about how they envisioned their future before the crash happened: Shauna did none of the things, studying or falling in love with someone who wasn’t Jeff, writing. Taissa did all of them, and she felt like none of it was real. They talk about love – the temptation of chasing “it”, a certain spark (Shauna feels it with Adam, Taissa doesn’t say it, but we can guess it may have been Van, especially with what we see them go through together in this episode), the resignation to a safe and certain life, the compromise of mediocrity. But what if that certainty is no longer there, if circumstances are conspiring to force them into making different choices?

Van is forever surviving the impossible. She almost burned on the plane. She has survived the wolf attack, and wakes up just before her friends light her funeral pyre on fire. Considering where Van will end up at the end of the season, this impossible survival feels like something that is profoundly changing her. Lottie said that the woods have an intention (they don’t want them to leave), but in Van’s case, it feels like they are deliberately changing her. Struggling to walk back to camp, Taissa stays with Van but sends the other girls back to get help. They somehow, miraculously, survive out there on their own, and Akilah stitches up Van’s facial wounds. But Taissa chooses Shauna to share her secret with. She tells her about the sleepwalking, letting the fire go out and waking up in the tree to find her friends in danger. In the present time, again Taissa tells Shauna first, sleeping over like they’re teenagers again (giggling over Shauna’s boy, at one stage). It’s only after that that Taissa tells her wife about the sleepwalking, and begs her to leave because she doesn’t think she’s safe to be around. 

In the nighttime conversation between Taissa and Shauna, you can see how excited Shauna is about Adam, how she needs this adventure to distract her from the life she doesn’t even feel like she’s chosen. Callie knows about Adam, she is horrified to find his ID on their floor, but Shauna is justifying the affair with the one she assumes Jeff is having. But, Callie points out again, Adam doesn’t seem legit. He is an artist, but can’t be found on the internet. He claims to have gone to Pratt but when Shauna calls the university, they have no records of him. Life would have pushed Shauna to always believe the worst is happening – Adam explains he lied about university to try and impress her, and she has such a deep need to feel like someone wants her for who she is, with no ulterior motive. But then she finds glitter near the wardrobe where Adam was hiding, and draws the conclusion that to her feels obvious. And Shauna has been practicing for the worst for more than a year in the woods, and has learned how to live with secrets for all the years since. 

The episode opened with Laura Lee having an eye-opening near-death experience at a Bible camp. She is a true believer: she was once saved, and so she believes that God will once again guide her to safety. The expedition to get help has failed, and so she has decided, after she asks for a sign and a little bird appears, that she will fly the airplane. Ben tries to stop her but whatever power he had as the only adult present has disappeared in the weeks they have been gone from civilisation. The team clears the underbrush, and Laura Lee, accompanied by Leonard, her teddy bear, takes off. Ecstatic, she is doing the impossible. And then the plane explodes in the sky. 

Random notes: 

I love the scene between Natalie and Ben in this episode. Natalie is struggling with Travis’ emotional stuntedness, and she approaches her conversation to Ben about it (considering we spend so much in this episode with Taissa and Shauna talking, how significant is it that Natalie shares her burden with none of her friends, and instead chooses Ben?) by opening with the fact that she knows he is gay: she isn’t one to gossip, but she is observant, and she recognises that Ben, like her, is a kind of outcast. This is the Nineties, so Ben, even though he has just crashed in the woods, lost a leg, and has no clue how they will survive the winter, panics about her telling someone. Then he tells her he thinks Travis in deep, that he genuinely likes her. Jackie screws up the reunion when she tells Travis that Natalie was hooking up with an older boy who used to torment him, and again, his rage gets the better of him. 

A lot happens in this episode, and Misty is once again on her own, except she watches Nat buy cocaine from a dealer, panic-drives to her motel room and snorts all the coke to save her from relapsing (Yellowjackets is a comedy!), and then wins in a stand-off against Jessica Roberts when she returns (poor Caligula! Mommy didn’t mean it!), then appearing to realise that maybe Jessica Roberts is actually the closest she has to a sort-of, fucked up friend right now, offering to make some food. 

When the girls seem uncertain about Laura Lee taking the plane out, Jackie shares Shauna's secret with everyone (likely fuming over the other secret she learned from Shauna's diary), because, as she says later, this isn't the time for secrets anymore. That's the second secret she lets sleep carelessly out there - and considering they are in for more suffering, it makes you wonder where that will put her in the team dynamics going forward. 

Natalie, who has learned from Misty that Travis' bank account was emptied after his death, blackmails a bank worker who used to be her sponsor into finding out more information for her. Turns out the two of them were selling personal details to identity thieves to fuel their habit. 

Jeff gifts Shauna a yellow dress for their reunion, forever veering between support and undermining: he tells Shauna she has to be beautiful because he was once prom king, but then says she will be the most beautiful woman there whatever she wears. Shauna doesn’t make the connection that somehow, Jeff has come into enough money to buy the dress, in spite of their financial strive. 

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