Monday 6 March 2023

Yellowjackets - You’re obviously hiding something from me.

 Yellowjackets: 1x07 No Compass.

Taissa: There is a solution for everything. An explanation for everything. 

Watching Taissa in this episode made me think about Jasmin Savoy Brown’s character arc on The Leftovers. It was marked mostly by conspicuous absence, but in the few episodes in which she actually appears, she makes an impact. Evie is the opposite of Taissa in terms of ideology, but they are similar in their determination once they have decided on what path to take, and relentless in pursuing it. If there is one theme that is emerging in Yellowjackets, it is about where characters fall on an axis between rational thought and willingness to embrace the inexplicable – and the two extremes here are Taissa and Lottie (Laura Lee too, who is mostly inspired by her deep religiousness). Taissa has read the situation, objectively, correctly: winter is coming, and in the context of the wilderness, that does not mean discomfort, but death. There is no more deer to hunt – she doesn’t read the diseased one that Natalie shot in the previous episode as an ill, supernatural omen, but as proof that there is no more prey for them. They will all starve or freeze, and help will not arrive. Going off south is rational, but an incredibly dangerous proposition due to the lack of resources they have. She believes it’s the right thing to do so much that she is willing to do it on her own, and she knows that she will die if she is wrong, but it is still better than sitting still and waiting for certain death at the cabin. Van follows her not because she believes in the cause – she all but says that she loves Taissa in her little speech about taking her to New York and experiencing all the things she’s dreamed and hoped for with her. Van is there because she wants a shared future with Taissa, and she knows that entails buying into this plan. Akilah and Mari come along, and so does Misty, because she watches Ben’s enthusiasm in teaching Taissa how to survive. She thinks it will seem brave to him, like she is proving something, and Ben is all too happy to see her go and be free of her. But none of them have Taissa’s certainty that this is the right thing to do.

For one, ominously, Natalie refuses to hand over the gun. She insists it has to stay in the cabin. She also (again, just falling short of saying she loves him) convinces Travis to stay, who feels an obligation to look after them (would it have made a difference if he had been there at a crucial moment?). They have a compass and a flare gun. They hear wolves howl in the distance as soon as they make camp. 

The other ominous sign is Lottie’s premonition of bad things happening. She dreams of a river of blood, and red fog. Her belief in her vision is so deep that she gives Van a talisman to hold on to. I love how Liv Hewson plays Van’s approach to Lottie’s visions. Van doesn’t have Laura Lee’s religious conviction, but she’s hedging her bets – it could be true. It seems likely to be true especially when they stumble over the red river and their compass goes haywire. Misty explains that the discoloration could be caused by mineral deposits, and maybe they could confuse the compass, but to anyone who has not completely discarded Lottie’s words, it is the unlikeliest of coincidences. 

Everyone but Taissa wants to turn back. Then, Taissa wakes up in the branches of a tree and hears desperate shouts in the distance. There’s a wolf, and chaos. She fires the flare gun, and in the red fog that follows, she sees Van, severely wounded, not moving. 

Taissa’s rationality is at conflict with the fact that we have now seen her, more than once, seemingly sleepwalking outside, both as a teenager and as an adult. She eats dirt. She rummages around in the tree outside her house, explaining where Sammy’s image of a woman in the tree comes from. It’s unclear if she is aware of it, but I think when she scrubs at her hands and binds her wound, she’s awake. There could be rational explanations for what is happening to her, but even then, there is something here that is entirely out of her control. 

In the present time, Taissa, Nat and Shauna meet up to deliver the 50k (Nat sold her Porsche) to the blackmailer. Shauna places a tracker in the bag (hilariously, after realising that 50k in $100 notes is a lot less expansive than she thought). They stake out the delivery point, getting drunk, incapable of making small talk with each other. Maybe there is a bit of lightness when Nat shares that she is having a thing with Kevyn that is maybe nice (later, she will fuck that thing up royally, as if she doesn’t believe she deserves anything nice). The stakeout goes wrong fast, and they end up chasing a masked man through a depot, almost killing him with a gun. In the car after the shock, they talk about how they did worse things in the woods – and before that, Taissa and Shauna have a moment where they think about how little Nat has of her own, how they are lucky to have their own families while Nat has nothing, especially now that Travis is dead. They lose the guy with the money, and in the emotional fallout, Natalie tells them that they are just as close to the brink as she is, that the only difference is that she is being more honest. She is proven immediately right when Shauna finds Adam in front of her empty house when she gets back at 4AM in the morning and she invites him in, only to find herself in a French farce in the morning when Jeff comes home. 

Back at camp, the ticking time bomb that is Shauna’s baby comes closer to exploding when Jackie corners her and asks her what secret she is keeping. Now that Taissa is gone, Shauna doesn’t have a buffer anymore, and Jackie is deeply wounded because she feels like Shauna doesn’t want to be her best friend anymore. Shauna lies on the spot and tells her she is pregnant with Randy’s baby. She is not a good liar. At night, Jackie steals her diary and reads the truth. It’s significant that Shauna, in spite of the close quarters and having lived her entire teenage life entangled with Jackie (“I have a life outside of you, you know.” she says), thinks that she can put her secrets into a diary – like she is constructing privacy on paper that she doesn’t have anymore in their communal life, a privacy that is ultimately fragile. Later, when she comes back from the wilderness, she will go into Jackie’s room and read her diaries – and then, continue to construct a reality in them that doesn’t exist anymore.  

Random notes: 

The scene where Ben has to pretend he’s sorry to see Misty go is hilarious. He clearly feels like it’s deliverance. 

In the meantime, adult Misty is injecting fentanyl into chocolates to blackmail kidnapping victim Jessica Roberts into telling her the truth, and I love that for Misty. You can write the most insane sentence about Misty and it feels completely true to her character. Jessica Roberts suggests they team up to investigate because she also doesn’t believe that Travis killed himself (someone emptied and closed his account after his death) but Misty is smart enough to recognise a con artist when she sees one. 

Also - one of the best segue between scenes is when Van retells the batshit plot of While You Were Sleeping and it cuts to Misty playing it for Jessica on her old TV in the basement.  

Watch out for a man covered in glitter - but maybe keep in mind how easily glitter transfers...

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