After spending this much time in the wilderness, it’s about time we imagined how the characters’ lives would be if they hadn’t boarded that plane. (Lost did an entire season contemplating it via the “flash sideways” device, though their version was eventually revealed to speak to the afterlife, rather than a “what if” scenario.) On Yellowjackets, Coach Ben (Steven Krueger), who decidedly chose not to participate in the feast of Jackie at the end of the second episode, is regretting all of his life decisions—especially the one where he chose the Yellowjackets coaching job over his relationship.
Coach Ben’s sexuality was mentioned in season 1, but it’s really explored in season 2 episode 3, “Digestif.” He’s gay and closeted and afraid of what could happen if his truth comes to the light. When his secret boyfriend Paul asks him to move in with him and take their relationship to the next level—which would require him to come out and potentially lose his coaching job—he chafes against the request and Paul promptly breaks up with him. In Ben’s daydream, which is presented as a factual memory until the very end, he decides to really give their relationship a chance by making a last-second detour away from the airport on the day of the fateful flight. As they embrace, the TV’s chyron reports the news about the flight gone missing.
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We haven’t seen Coach Ben and his amputated limb in the present, and his resistance to the new food source feels like he has a target painted on his back. In a pre-season interview, Sophie Nélisse (teen Shauna) and Krueger dished that Ben was one to watch and worry about, and his actions thus far have certainly played into my suspicion that he’s about to make a scene or stage a rebellion in the near future.
While Ben is contemplating his next move, Natalie disposes of Jackie’s remains near the plane in an effort to make her demise look like part of the wreckage in case they are rescued. She sees a white elk near the plane, but shoots and misses, causing the elk to storm toward her. As she braces for cover, the elk suddenly disappears as quickly as it had appeared. The elk seems like a figment of Natalie’s imagination (perhaps a human-flesh-fueled hallucination or a signal of the group’s ongoing hunger), or a manifestation of the forest’s supernatural powers trying to make contact.
Meanwhile, the rest of the team decides to throw Shauna a baby shower to lift her spirits after she admits to feeling scared and out of control post-Jackie-feast. She still harbors guilt from eating her best friend—and so does Taissa, who seems to have dissociated during the binge and is mortified to realize that they chowed down on their teammate the previous night. (In a great bit of dialogue, Van enlightens her matter-of-factly, saying, “Tai, you ate her face”).
The baby shower is Lottie’s idea to “welcome him,” ostensibly referring to the baby Shauna is carrying. Technically we don’t know the gender (Callie is too young to be the wilderness child), so this detail could reveal a lot about Lottie’s powers in the future when the baby is finally delivered. With the help of Crystal (Nuha Jes Izman), Misty leans into her love of theater and performs a monologue from Steel Magnolias about a dead child, but more sinister foreshadowing follows. Lottie gifts Shauna’s baby a blanket with the mysterious symbol drawn on it, causing a stir among the team. When Shauna gets a nosebleed and blood drops onto the symbol, a flock of dead birds fall on the cottage shortly after. Blood is an ongoing motif of sacrifice that summons the wilderness’s powers, whether it’s given voluntarily or not. The dead birds, which Lottie seeks blessings from, typically signify bad omens like the death of a family member in Indigenous cultures—in this case, that could be referring to Jackie or worse: Shauna’s child.
Taissa’s memory issues continue to be a throughline: in the wilderness timeline, her sleepwalking self allows Van to accompany her deep into the forest, where she leads Van to trees marked with the symbol and mumbles about being chosen by the “one with no eyes”—a reference to the creepy figure we saw intermittently in Tai’s season 1 storylines. But when she awakens, she has no recollection or knowledge of who that figure is.
Her life in the present is no better: in the wake of the car accident, Tai is losing it. She finds the hanged person symbol drawn on Simone’s palm and later dissociates in the bathroom as her reflection takes on their own consciousness and covers parts of her face with her hands, encircling one eye (my initial thought is that this gesture is the symbol personified, but it only seems to cover half of it). We’re no closer to understanding what is haunting her, but the reappearance of the man with no eyes is ominous and could be a specter of death and/or violence. To add salt to the wound, Tai is a deeply proud woman and an apparently terrible boss: despite being in no shape to drive, she demands her assistant’s car keys and leaves the hospital.
Speaking of violence, Adult Shauna is going off the deep end. The brief run-in with the cops last week seems to have shaken both her and Jeff, and they act out in completely different ways. Jeff takes the macho route by confronting Kevyn at the gym and later inexplicably suggesting a spontaneous road trip to Colonial Williamsburg after being butthurt about strawberry lube (I love the writers’ commitment to painting Jeff as a huge dweeb). Things go awry on their rendezvous when they almost hit a pedestrian in an alleyway who turns out to be an amateur carjacker. Held at gunpoint, Jeff is useless but Shauna takes matters into her own hands by shoving him and gaining control of the weapon. Jeff is either feeling emasculated by his wife’s skills or is truly just bewildered by what is happening because he fumbles Shauna’s plan and allows the guy to steal their minivan.
But Shauna won’t quit. She pockets the gun and later Ubers to a random junkyard where she threatens the thieves. It’s not just that she’s willing to go to such lengths to get her family’s “piece of shit minivan” back, but it’s the extent to which she relishes having the power and the control. “My hand wasn’t shaking because I was nervous,” she tells the scared carjacker. “It was shaking because of how badly I wanted to do this.” Four words: Melanie. Lynskey. Emmy. Reel. Shauna’s reliance on violence, or at least the threat of it, throughout both timelines is all about her obsession with control and she isn’t afraid to lean on her softer facade to get what she wants. She’ll do anything to hold onto the power, to feel the rush of being atop the food chain for once, and she no longer seems afraid of the consequences.
The adult versions of Lottie and Natalie continue to be as at odds with one another as their teenage selves were. As part of the “intentional community,” as Lottie calls it, Natalie is asked to look inward and share something she wants to process with the group. She declines, obviously, and is forced into an exercise with the follower, Lisa (Nicole Maines), that Natalie attacked. Lottie arms Lisa with a fork against an unarmed Natalie, telling Lisa that she’s allowed to “hurt Natalie back,” clearly showing Natalie that her fate is in Lottie’s hands. Instead, Lisa chooses to hug Natalie and forgive her.
We get to see more of the community’s grounds, including Lottie’s quarters, which are marked by the same deer head that we’ve seen in the opening credits and the season 1 rituals that gave her the name “Antler Queen.” Lottie is also a beekeeper, explaining the way that bees swarm around their queen to keep them safe as an analog to the way she has her followers under her finger. But by episode’s end, Lottie seems threatened by Natalie’s presence as she imagines that someone has massacred the entire bee hive community. Her break with reality is a surprise given how she’s been positioned as the Yellowjacket with all of the answers—but this makes me question how much of Lottie’s beliefs we should be buying into. After all, her powers came to light only after she ran out of her psychiatric meds in season 1.
In one of the weaker asides in the episode, Misty finally meets the Reddit detective, Walter, played by Elijah Wood. On his boat, they pose as the FBI and stage an interrogation of Randy, one of Walter’s leads about Natalie’s disappearance and Jeff’s best friend whom Misty has known since elementary school, to learn more about Natalie’s disappearance. Misty hides in the bathroom and feeds questions to Walter, and the only useful piece to come out is that Natalie was abducted by people wearing purple. Of course, we know that that’s the wardrobe of Lottie’s cult, but Misty and Walter initially brush it aside as a nonsensical detail. Still, they decide to look into the group’s credit card history and find that it’s tied to an address in upstate New York. Next week, I expect Misty and Walter to converge on Lottie. And who knows, maybe Misty knew about her cult all along.
Radhika Menon is a freelance entertainment writer, with a focus on TV and film. Her writing can be found on Vulture, Teen Vogue, Bustle, and more.