Van and Tai Finally Reunite

So far in Season 2, the creators of Yellowjackets have been trying their best to curtail any suspicions about one of the biggest changes the show has seen from the first season. No, not the number of Christina Ricci’s punchlines being reduced, or why Juliette Lewis has been trapped in the same shirt-and-faux-leather-leggings combo for days (Adult Lottie can’t loan Natalie one piece of non-purple clothing?). Rather, the biggest question has been: Where did all of these new Yellowjackets come from?

Since the premiere of Season 2, we’ve seen Yellowjackets once stuck in the background pop up as legitimate supporting characters. Now that almost everyone back in the ’90s is getting at least one line per episode, the hunting cabin that the girls are sheltered in suddenly feels claustrophobic. It’s no wonder that tensions are simmering close to a boil. And with the reveal at the end of this week’s episode, things are going to split right down the middle.

But first, we have to address how the episode opens. This week’s installment had plenty of cryptic asides and Easter eggs—particularly with the alternate opening credits theme. What starts off as the normal version of “No Return” descends into a distorted mutilation of itself, with operatic harmonies that veer on maddening. The reason for this substitution isn’t entirely clear, but there are clues as to its inclusion later on. Given that it’s cued after adult Taissa wakes up in the middle of nowhere, in her car with the fuel tank empty, it’s safe to assume things are only getting worse—which, really, should just be this show’s tagline.

After having a vision of all of her compound’s beehives drenched in viscous blood, Adult Lottie is, appropriately, at her psychiatrist. Finally, someone with a healthy approach to their trauma! Except Lottie’s usual doctor has taken a sudden sabbatical, something that Lottie doesn’t seem nearly as perturbed by as she should be. Her doctor’s new stand-in encourages Lottie to embrace her visions, instead of pushing them away and potentially heightening the power that their stress has on her. That might be good advice, if Lottie weren’t being plagued by a supernatural force that has been following her since she was a teenager.

Back in the ’90s, Lottie and Natalie decide to test Lottie’s supposed otherworldly powers, after Shauna’s nosebleed dripping on the symbol Lottie wrote on Shauna’s baby blanket gave the stranded girls a few fowl to gnaw on. Half of the remaining crash survivors have become Lottie devotees, while the other half are reluctant to accept the inexplicable darkness happening around them. The two factions encourage Lottie and Natalie to head out into the wilderness for a competition: Whoever brings home more game wins. Given that Lottie brought them birds and a bear without so much as a bullet, Natalie takes the gun.

Neither party has much luck—the shot of Natalie and the rest of the squad losing a frozen moose to the depths of a nearby lake is especially bleak. But Lottie’s approach is less conventional. While traipsing through the snow, she stumbles upon a wooden altar, with empty candleholders and objects hanging from it. Thinking that her blood holds the key to tapping into whatever magic swirls around them, she lacerates her palm with a knife, coloring the drifts of snow beneath the altar crimson.

When Lottie is alone, without the relentless support of her believers back at the cabin to cloud her judgment, we can see her facade crumble. She’s just as desperate, scared, and confused as the rest of her teammates. Keeping up appearances has exhausted her, and getting a glimpse of Lottie isolated, away from those she’s forced herself to embolden, lets us see just how depleted she is.

Before long, her body reflects it. While bleeding out, she makes her way over to the plane crash site and climbs in a hatch inside the plane, down to what appears to be a dimly lit mall food court. Obviously, this is another one of her visions, like the one from Season 1 that saw her swimming through a canal over to a candlelit cavern, before stepping into an elevator to nowhere. But this time, she’s joined by all of her friends—including the deceased Laura Lee—at one of the food court tables. And what is playing in the background of her vision, but a twinkling, stripped-down version of “No Return.”

Hearing the Yellowjackets theme transform from the wicked-cool opening song to a fully diegetic—at least, that’s what I assume, given its Muzak-y, mall-radio vibe—composition is totally jarring. It creates a deep sense of unease for the audience, and melts away the barrier between us and the television. If this “No Return” reprise is meant to mimic Lottie’s same feeling of a deforming reality within the viewer, it’s damn effective.

Lottie can’t spend long inside her own vision. She’s on the verge of hypothermia in real life, collapsed next to the plane, and bleeding. Before she passes on to the great big mega mall in the sky, however, she’s saved by her teammates and brought back to the cabin, where she briefly exchanges freezing-cold pleasantries with Natalie. Both of them are dejected, returning without any food. It’s nice to see the two girls have a moment to themselves, away from the chatter of the rest of their surviving cohorts, who have pitted them against each other.

But they won’t stay friendly for long. Taissa and Van’s search for more of the hunting cabin symbols carved on trees in the woods leads them to a tree with snow melted around its trunk. Taissa follows nearby tracks in the snow and discovers Javi, Travis’ brother, who’s somehow still alive after fleeing the mushroom-spiked feast months prior. When he’s dragged back to the cabin, everyone—including Javi—is in a state of shock. Lottie had professed that she had a deep feeling Javi was still alive, heartening her disciples even more. But Taissa was the one who knew how to find him, by following the pattern of symbols she and Van had been marking while Taissa sleepwalked.

This difference between these unholy powers that be is sure to further divide the group in coming episodes. How that might factor into who the Yellowjackets will eventually choose for their ritual sacrifice is yet to be determined. But oh, how exciting it is to think of the possibilities. Will Lottie rally her side into hunters, devoted to her beck and call? Will the groups break apart, forcing one side out of the cabin to fend for themselves? The one thing that seems certain is that the scale of power is tilted toward Lottie, as the episode’s ending suggests.

Adult Lottie finds a playing card in her office, back at the compound. The card is tattered, with the queen’s eyes scribbled out with a pen. It’s unclear whether the card is real or imagined, though it certainly seems like a guarantee that Lottie will be crowned the Antler Queen later in the series. At her wit’s end, Lottie walks into the woods near her compound and kneels at the altar she knelt at all those winters ago, cutting her hand open once more. “Can this just be enough?” she asks. “Please?”

Kailey Schwerman/Showtime

To bookend the episode, we check back in with Taissa, who hitched a ride with a trucker (who happened to be one of her constituents, politics never sleeps, people!). Taissa woke up in her car next to the folder of information detailing the Yellowjackets’ present-day whereabouts, which she paid a detective to compile last season. Now, we know why. Taissa trudges into a modern video rental store called While You Were Streaming to greet the adult version of Van (Lauren Ambrose), who’s working behind the counter, still sporting the scars that Taissa helped stitch up when she was attacked by a wolf as a teenager.

It’s a sweet reunion, but the last thing that Van—who seems to be legitimately well-adjusted, at least enough to get a business license—needs is to be pulled into Taissa’s dangerous orbit. This is the reunion that every hardcore Yellowjackets shipper has been anticipating, and it’s sure to please them all. But I’m not yet sold. Taissa is doing more than just sleepwalking these days, she’s wreaking full havoc. Van already made it out alive once; her odds of survival don’t seem as good a second time around.

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