In Lord of the Flies, the novel that Yellowjackets is loosely based upon, the stranded young boys eventually siphon off into two groups in hopes of survival: Ralph’s group encourages civility while Jack’s veers into savagery. As leaders, the two boys couldn’t be more different: Ralph practices democratic leadership, aiming to get everyone rescued, while Jack inhabits a dictator-like role that forces his followers to comply to his every whim. Lost—another show that Yellowjackets shares DNA with—also saw two schools of thought spring up on the island: one behind Jack Shephard, the practical leader, and another behind John Locke, the spiritual one.
Four episodes into the new season of Yellowjackets, the different factions in the wilderness are beginning to clearly form. Natalie and Lottie have become the de facto leaders, each employing a different approach, much like the aforementioned characters did. Like Ralph and Jack, Natalie’s group is grounded in reality and driven by their practical survival needs. Lottie, meanwhile, has been “chosen” and her powers seem to be activated by the wilderness (just like Locke’s were), and her followers cling to her every move. At odds with each other, Lottie’s followers—a very vocal Mari and Crystal—challenge Natalie to a contest in “Old Wounds”: whoever discovers food first wins.
The two set out in opposite directions, Natalie using her hunting instincts while Lottie tries to summon her powers to lead her. Lottie is a believer, but still thinks this contest is futile—early in her quest, she touches the symbol carved into trees in the woods. But instead of having a breakthrough, she braces herself. “Fuck me,” she says, defeated. Carrying on, she finds the altar seen at the end of season 1, and sacrifices blood from her palm to speak to the spirits. As she loses a significant amount of blood, she hallucinates the small plane that Laura Lee died in sitting in front of her, fully intact. Scavenging the plane for food, she finds Laura’s cross necklace and teddy bear before the episode goes into full Lost-mode with a mysterious hatch.
On the other end of the hatch isn’t the Dharma Initiative, but rather a trippy view of a 1990s mall. She peruses the stores in a haze and driven by her hunger and the quest at hand, she sees her fellow Yellowjackets gathered at a food court table. Laura offers her food while Natalie taunts her. But in reality, Lottie is bleeding out and her significant loss of blood causes her to pass out in the snow with no plane or cafeteria in sight. This is the second time Laura has appeared in a Lottie dream (the other being the demonic version she saw while trying to save Adult Travis in the second episode). We saw Laura and the plane blow up in front of our eyes in season 1, but her reappearance in Lottie’s psyche suggests that their close connection is continuing beyond the grave or leading Lottie’s powers in some way.
Lottie isn’t faring much better in the present: her visions have spooked her enough to send her to an urgent therapy session. Her usual doctor is on sabbatical (this detail feels important since it’s not trying to explain a recasting or logistical production decision as we’ve never met the character before), so she explains to the new one that she needs her medications increased to battle the unwanted visions. “Last time, it became something different,” Lottie says fearfully. The psychiatrist pushes her to think about what the visions might be telling her, to which she says, “nothing, because they’re not real.” Almost like she’s trying to convince herself. Lottie notably ran out of pills early in season 1, and her “sobriety” likely played a role in realizing her powers; learning that she has been medicated for the past ten years (including during Travis’s death) draws less sinister conclusions to the cult, which may long have been the only thing keeping the destructive visions at bay.
Later on, Lottie is shuffling some flashcards when she sees the Queen of Hearts playing card with its eyes scratched out (which is featured in the new opening credits and is potentially connected to the man with no eyes, or a nod to her role as the Antler Queen). No matter how much she shuffles the deck, the card keeps reappearing. She’s shaken up and cuts her palm at an altar as a sacrifice again asking, “can this be enough? Please?” It’s the second time in this episode that Lottie sacrifices her blood like this for an unknown entity and the results have yet to aid her in any way.
Back in the wilderness, Natalie sees footsteps in the snow that look like they belong to a large animal. She follows them out to a frozen lake, uncovering something trapped under the surface: a moose. Rushing back to the cabin, she enlists everyone’s help to pull it out of the ice, though Mari (whom I dubbed “Lottie’s #1 fan” in my notes) resists the rescue mission, stating that it’s cheating in the ideological competition she conjured. Misty, who was firmly in Lottie’s camp earlier in the episode, can’t resist the promise of food and goes to help excavate the moose, to Mari’s chagrin. The thing is, the moose is heavy—even more so now that its fur is bogged down by water—and their best effort of tug-of-war with the animal is in vain. No one is more defeated than Natalie, who all but plunges into the water after its sinking carcass, desperate for what would have provided a sense of stability in the community.
Coach Ben continues to stew in the corner of the cabin, questioning whether the girls would eat him if they had to and daydreaming about what life would have been like if he had made the decision to stay and give his relationship a chance. Before we see his daydream, in which his boyfriend reassures him about not having sentimental items from past relationships, stating that he is his future, Ben is seen reading “The Magus” by John Fowles. The postmodern British novel centers on an English teacher Nicholas Urfe who “becomes embroiled in the psychological illusions of a master trickster, which become increasingly dark and serious.” In the book, Urfe is depressed and lonely until he meets a wealthy estate owner who draws him into psychological games based on his life. Now, it could be a coincidence that this is the light plane read that Ben packed, but it’s more likely a breadcrumb of Ben’s ongoing misfortune in the wilderness: there may not be a physical estate owner that seduces the survivors, but the forest itself is forcing everyone to lose their grip on reality.
In present-day, Shauna and Natalie are focused on providing freedom and truth to those around them. After Shauna finds out that Callie has been lying to her about sleeping over at her friend’s house and discovers the piece of Adam’s burnt license in her dresser, she knows it’s time to come clean to her daughter. She takes her to a remote area with no cell signal and finally tells the truth. Is she a murderer? Yes, and she admits to having even more secrets that she’s not ready to share yet. The truth is a catalyst for Callie, who has been brooding about her parents’ dysfunctional relationship and life for the entirety of the series, to finally treat her parents with some respect. But Jeff isn’t happy losing control of his family and the situation at hand, telling Shauna that as parents they should be protecting Callie, not making her an accomplice. It’s hard to argue with that despite Callie’s seemingly newfound respect for them, but the answers keep Callie from meeting up with the undercover cop Jay for the time being.
Natalie, meanwhile, goes on a road trip with Lisa. The collective sells their honey in town every Tuesday and even though their “anchors are in the compound” and not the real world, Lisa breaks the rule to go see her mom instead (well, technically she just wants to see her fish at her mom’s house). On the way over, Natalie questions these rules of the community, which Lisa says aren’t compulsory—even the purple uniform is a choice, she explains. But there are holes in the theory, especially as Lisa is actively lying in order to go see her family, and her mom clearly believes that her daughter is part of a cult, asking her to come home. She inquires about Lisa’s prescriptions and she reveals that she’s no longer taking her meds—a clear contrast to Lottie, who needs her prescription increased. Lisa pleads with her mom about taking her fish with her and when her mom says no, Natalie smuggles the fish out in her mouth.
I expected Misty and Walter to finally converge on Lottie’s compound, but it seems that reunion will be held for another week. At a diner, they discover that the cult is situated in a secluded area somewhere up Route 19 and decide to ambush them the next day instead of the dead of night. They spend the night in town in separate rooms and a split-screen shows us that they’re two halves of one whole when it comes to their various quirks. But even despite their innocent flirtations and Misty confirming that Walter isn’t just a creepy Yellowjackets fan (instead, he’s a multimillionaire survivor of a horrible accident and a musical lover who keeps a box of cassettes in his car), this storyline has been the weakest link of the series so far. With them closing in on some of the other key players, hopefully they begin to feel more vital to the plot.
Conversely, Taissa feels like the key to the entire plot. Her discoveries in both timelines prove to be the most pivotal—or at least, the most fan service—and she regularly straddles the line between practicality and spirituality. In the wilderness, she wants to renounce the supernatural happenings while also being someone who often acts as a medium for them. Her biggest believer is her girlfriend Van, who has meticulously mapped out the location of every symbol-marked tree that Tai has sleepwalked to. There’s one spot on the map missing, though, and when the girls arrive there that night, they don’t find another symbol; they find Javi. He lives! But when they bring him back to the cabin, he shows no emotion and doesn’t seem to recognize anyone—not even his brother Travis. Give Lottie a point for knowing he’s still alive, but proceed with caution as he has clearly seen some things.
In the present, a disoriented Tai wakes up behind the wheel on the side of the road with an empty gas tank (her poor assistant is never getting that car back). On the passenger seat is a manila folder titled “Yellowjackets” that seemingly belonged to the fake reporter Jessica Roberts who was tracking everyone’s whereabouts in season 1. Tai’s attention is focused on a black and white image of a video store inside the folder, and she soon begins walking along the side of the highway before being picked up by a friendly semi-truck driver. Normally I’d be worried about a situation like that, given what we know about single women hitchhiking, but Tai’s recent behavior and apparent possession by another being (or at least, another consciousness) made me more fearful for the driver.
But there’s nothing to worry about. He says he voted for her, allows her to pocket a lewd pen she finds on the floor, and views giving his Senator a ride as an honor. Tai is dropped off in town in one piece; when she looks up, she’s standing in front of the video store from the photo. Inside, a red-haired woman looks back at Tai from behind the counter: Van (played by Lauren Ambrose, who joined the cast this season). The two don’t exactly seem surprised to see their first love again and they definitely recognize each other immediately, suggesting that this isn’t their first reunion in adulthood. With Van as the purest believer of Tai’s powers, hopefully she’ll be exactly what Tai needs to gain control again.
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.