Now that’s why the Yellowjackets team is submitting Sophie Nélisse in the lead acting category at this year’s Emmys!
Not that the young Canadian hasn’t turned out stellar performances in this season’s first five episodes. But Episode 6, with its truly heartbreaking storyline around Shauna’s long-awaited birth, is a showcase for Nélisse, and she more than delivers on the level of her older (and higher-profile) co-stars.
Her echoing gasps of “Why can’t you hear him crying?” that sound over the episode’s final fade to black will stay with me for a long long time. I don’t want to be presumptuous, but just imagine an Emmys race with both Sophie Nélisse and Melanie Lynskey nominated in the same category for playing the same role! Iconic!
As an episode, “Qui” delivers a lot to love in addition to Nélisse’s acting, though it does fall into a few patterns and inconsistencies I’ve disliked about this second season.
We open with a welcome flashback to before the crash, specifically the team in health class learning about, of course, the miracle of life (and birth). And while the idea that all of our characters would be in the same class that happens to be taught by their gay soccer coach is a bit of a stretch to me, I’ll allow it.
A characteristically dark question from Misty about childbirth—“So, how much blood is there on average?”—transitions us perfectly to Shauna in labour, with Misty staring face-first into Shauna’s downstairs. It’s safe to assume the group voted her “most likely to enjoy delivering a baby,” which makes sense. But Misty is, in fact, not enjoying it, obviously still rattled by the whole “bestie dying” thing.
She leaves in a panic, and after the group unsuccessfully tries to enlist Coach Ben (who backs out, saying, “I just pressed Play on a video!”) they turn to the darker arts, with Travis doing some spooky forest blood magic by cutting his hand over a skull with some trinket “offerings.”
I’m not loving the VHS static transition to Ben’s flashbacks or his flashbacks in particular at all. They feel a bit listless and out of sync with the rest of the series, and while this particular one involves recalling tension in a cabin while playing games with his boyfriend and friends—obviously linked to the ongoing events—it feels out of place. Why is he the only one getting these sorts of interior flashbacks? Why the static? Why is Paul there so much? Maybe there will be payoff later in the season—some connection that will all make it make sense—but at this point they just feel like a creative, but unnecessary, reach.
After Akilah steps into midwife duty, the spooky forest magic brings the group together, with even Taissa willing the forest to save the baby, or specifically, “our baby,” as Lottie says. Even after the placenta comes out first, things take a turn for the better, and before we know it, Shauna is cradling a gasping newborn as Elliott Smith’s “Pitseleh” plays.
Meanwhile in the present day, our adult survivors are finally starting to come together. Misty has walked herself into Lottie’s compound. Nat, still shaken from her revealing visions with Lottie, is shooting cans and grimly wondering if the team even deserved to survive after the terrible things they did. And Lottie is in therapy with grim declarations of her own.
“The power of that place. The god of that place. We did terrible things in its name. And I thought that when we were rescued that we left it there. But now I realize we brought it back with us.”
And while I led this recap off with Nélisse’s stupendous performance, all of the adult actors are also firing on all cylinders. Juliette Lewis absolutely devours her reading of “I don’t think we deserved to.”
And that’s not even counting the usual recipient of high acting praise. Lynskey, once again delivers a standout episode as Shauna, as she and Callie are called into questioning with Kevyn Tan and Saracusa. And while Callie spins a very Shauna-like twist on Kevyn by threatening to call out Saracusa for coming on to her—proving she certainly inherited at least some of her mom’s pragmatic cold-bloodedness—Shauna’s bluntly truthful declaration of “I never even wanted to be a mom” hits right to the core, particularly in the context of the rest of the episode. Just give all of the awards to both Lynskey and Nélisse.
Shauna and Callie leave the police station to find a message left with Jeff from Taissa and Van, who are en route to Lottie’s compound after a call from Misty. Shauna decides to go too, finally getting us to the long-awaited reunion of the adult survivors. After separate adventures ranging from blackmail to book club to Elijah Wood, it feels like the entire series has been building to a moment where we get all of the adults in one storyline together and I cannot wait to see what comes next.
Obviously, raising a baby in a frigid cabin while you’re starving is far from ideal, but back in the ’90s, we see the teen Shauna really struggle with her turn into parenthood. Alongside the show’s excellent roster of writers, Nélisse and Lynskey have sculpted Shauna into such a multifaceted character in both the ’90s and the present day, and the play between her present-day admissions around parenthood and the depth of the emotion teen Shauna is feeling around the baby dives so deep.
Not only can she not breastfeed, but she wakes up one night to see Lottie doing just that with the baby and assuring Shauna that it will all make sense soon. Sure enough, the baby finally latches, and Shauna breathes a sigh of relief—only to drift off into a dream showing what we’ve all been expecting: baby-eating, with the whole team, mouths bloodied, munching down.
She wakes with a start to find the team around her, no blood and, notably, no baby. We as the audience realize long before it sets in for Shauna. There is no baby. There was no baby. As Taissa reveals through tears, the baby didn’t survive the birth—whatever Shauna experienced wasn’t real; likely just a trauma response. And this is where Nélisse lets loose in gasping, wracking sobs that perfectly toe the line of being over the top as she clutches the bundle of blankets. She’s grounded, mournful and so full of pain, as she is unable to accept the reality of the loss.
We don’t get any perfect needle-drop to cap the episode—just silence as Shauna says over and over: “Why can’t you hear him crying?”
Other thoughts from the hive:
🐝”Half your wardrobe is Sleater-Kinney tour T-shirts.” Taissa calling out Van’s dykedom almost deserves its own segment. See also “Does Miss Congeniality go in ‘Sandy good’ or ‘Sandy bad’?”
🐝 The Mazzy Star Nonstop Banger Award: Many strong contenders in this episode, but it’s gotta be Jeff listening to “Fuck Tha Police” by N.W.A. in the car outside the police station. We love an ACAB husband!
🐝 Jeff’s quickly made-up lie as to why Shauna can’t come to the phone: “She’s in the bathroom … sometimes takes a while.”
🐝Misty on Lottie’s cult: “It’s a bunch of granola losers, but the food is great and the B.O. factor is surprisingly low.”
🐝Van’s on the dating apps! Let’s just say … I’d swipe right.
🐝Many fans have strong feelings about the direction of the show and what our “answer” will be. Is it supernatural? Scientific? All a dream? I myself am firmly in the “the real darkness is being a teen girl” camp and I do think this episode continues to support that theory. I’m curious to hear your thoughts on where we’re headed, now that we’re definitely headed somewhere. Weigh in the comments below!
New episodes of Yellowjackets are available streaming in Canada and the U.S. on Fridays, and air live on Showtime Sunday nights at 9 p.m. EDT.