Yellowjackets is a show that lives and dies in contrasts, and how it delicately balances the two. For every moment of “there’s no book club?!” or Misty singing show tunes, there’s also the darkness of eating your best friend like barbeque or Misty maybe kind of sort of killing Crystal/Kristen.
Threading that needle can be challenging, and the show isn’t always perfect at it. But when it works, it works.
Enter “Burial,” a standout episode for the series in how it delivers both unbelievable hilarity via that Caligula dream sequence, alongside some of the series’ most visually and emotionally brutal confrontations. Nowhere else can you get John Cameron Mitchell in bird drag along with an extended and bloody fight scene, teen girls musing about eating their friend and Melanie Lynskey holding a goat. I love it! And with only two episodes remaining in this season, I will miss Yellowjackets when it’s gone.
We open on a sombre note, as Nirvana’s “Something in the Way” scores the cabin’s depression following the loss of Shauna’s baby. As the rest of the team gets a small spark when the snow finally stops and they’re able to leave the cabin, Shauna still clutches the bundle of blankets, giving the baby the eponymous burial in a small stone cairn outside.
Shauna’s trauma around parenthood continues as a theme in the present day, as newly arrived at Lottie’s community, the reunited adult survivors each break off for their own “therapy.” Van is given “Foraging”—where she swiftly opts out and goes to “forage” a bottle of tequila. Taissa’s task of “Renewal” involves painting a building with a small brush. Misty’s is “Guidance,” which involves a trip to a float tank (more on that in a bit). And Shauna gets “Self-Care,” where she’s instructed to watch a goat named Bruce for the whole day.
It certainly says something about Shauna that her first assumption is she’ll have to kill the goat at the end of it. And when the goat briefly eats a piece of rope, she panics, saying, “It is one thing if I stab this goat later, but there is no way it’s dying while I’m watching it,” which certainly reveals some of her anxieties.
When Lottie confirms that Shauna won’t have to kill the goat, she breaks down and opens up in yet another stellar moment for Melanie Lynskey. She says she’s kept Callie at arm’s length out of a fear that she might die or she “was never real to begin with” and just … oof. Now knowing what happened with the baby, that hits hard.
Elsewhere, Misty is squicked about going into the sensory deprivation tank and from what we’ve learned about Misty’s mind, I can’t blame her. But when she does finally get in, we’re treated to one of Yellowjackets’ most surprising and delightful sequences yet—a peek inside of Misty’s mind. There, Hedwig and the Angry Inch’s John Cameron Mitchell sings as Caligula, alongside a top-hat-glad Walter (Elijah Wood). Christina Ricci’s performance of Misty’s bewilderment and wonder is top-notch, as she spins, dances and twirls alongside images of the plane’s black box and needles full of drugs.
When Misty questions her decisions and impulses, Caligula reassures her: “You’re looking at the floor when you should look at the magic. How much do we all count on you? How many times did you get the ball over the goal line?”
“You are not a murderer, Misty, you’re a closer.” And reassured in that contrast, Misty exits the tank with new energy, calling Walter in an attempt to apologize.
Back in the ’90s storyline, Misty is tested as the team sets out to search for Crystal/Kristen, and starts to doubt that she wasn’t involved in the other girl’s disappearance. Samantha Hanratty does some great work as Misty falsely chokes out tears and her emotional commitment to finding the other girl, trying to prove to a skeptical Mari and Akilah that she’s terrified of finding the other girl frozen with “a little song frozen in her throat.” Do they believe her? Not really, but they agree to splitting up and Misty frantically returns to the site of the fall.
She doesn’t find the body there, but rather Coach Ben, on the verge of throwing himself off the cliff. I wrote last week about my mixed feelings about Ben’s flashbacks and the static transitions, but colour me intrigued by the turn they take this week, where Paul seems to speak directly to Ben, saying, “What matters now is that you aren’t welcome here anymore—it’s time.” Is it just a depression/trauma-fuelled vision, or something more? I’m certainly curious, and willing to entertain more.
Regardless of what it means, it drives Ben to finally shave before hobbling to the cliff’s edge. After he asks Misty to just “push” him off, something stirs in her and she starts to threaten him. “If you kill yourself right now, we will eat you. I will savour every moment of it, especially your high-calorie butt meat,” she says. She threatens to “tell the world” about their love story, and to posthumously accuse Ben of trying to assault all of the girls, and of impregnating Shauna. And, most heavily, she threatens to out him. None of this seems to sway him, until she softly says that she can’t have another death on her hands, and he steps back. Still, I feel Ben is not long for this world: beyond the ominous looks post-Jackie feast earlier this season, and the fact that he isn’t present in the current day, it’s clear that he would have the hardest time returning to the real world. It’s one thing to be a plane crash survivor who ate your teammate: it’s another to be the adult who let it happen.
Speaking of adults, our adult survivors come together at the end of the day and their various learnings for a cathartic fireside get-together. Does the montage of images of them hugging, whispering and sharing feel a touch fan-servicey? Sure. Am I mad about being serviced? No.
And as the adults come together in the present, dancing in the snow, the opposite happens in the past. Still convinced that the vision she saw of the team eating the baby was real, Shauna confronts and punches Misty and bites Van when she tries to restrain her. Lottie steps in and offers herself up to Shauna, saying, “Shauna we need you—let it out.” And in an absolutely brutal moment—one of the show’s darkest, if you ask me, and this is a show where people get eaten—Shauna wails on Lottie until the other girl’s face is a bloody pulp. It’s hard, it’s heavy and it’s dark.
And again, we got it the same episode as John Cameron Mitchell in a parrot costume! Talk about range!
Other thoughts from the hive:
🐝 So, Lottie’s therapist we’ve seen over the past few episodes definitely isn’t real, and is revealed as a hallucination of the antler queen, actively encouraging Lottie to dive back into the spooky wilderness stuff! “Does a hunt that has no violence feed anyone?”
🐝Van has cancer, and that explains the unpaid bills, etc. Only Taissa knows at this point, but surely it’s going to come up
🐝 “So I’ll just be inside that water coffin in the dark all by myself?” Misty speaking for all of us on the concept of float tanks.
🐝 “I’m not like you, okay? I don’t think of killing as a joke,” Shauna says to Misty. Doesn’t change the fact that she’s very good at it.
🐝 The Mazzy Star Nonstop Banger Award: After that excellent cover of No Doubt’s “I’m Just a Girl” from earlier this season, Florence + the Machine is back this week, as “Free” scores the adults’ slumber party. But I’m giving it to another track from the party, Sneaker Pimps’ “6 Underground,” which feels just so effortlessly perfect.
🐝 Mari on whether they would eat Crystal/Kristen if they found her: “It would be disrespectful to the wilderness to waste it.”
🐝 The episode ends with Jeff calling Shauna about Adam’s body being discovered, so I guess our cop storyline isn’t going anywhere. More Kevyn Tan!
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.