Teen Shauna goes into labor. Adult Shauna goes into the police interrogation room.
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By Esther Zuckerman
Season 2, Episode 6: ‘Qui’
“Yellowjackets” often favors the disturbing over the tragic. And for a moment it appears that’s how the long-awaited birth of Teen Shauna’s child is going to go. Shauna wakes up to find that the boy is gone from his crib beside her. She stumbles out of bed, disoriented, and sees her teammates in a huddle, blood dripping from their mouths.
“Are they going to eat the baby?” is a question I had heard floated from viewers this season, and it makes sense that that would be the expectation. It’s the most upsetting thing that could possibly happen — or at least it’s what you would think would be the most upsetting thing that could possibly happen. This week’s episode, titled “Qui,” challenges that with a bait-and-switch scenario that swaps out the gruesome for the mournful.
It turns out the nightmare of the Yellowjackets feasting on Shauna’s child is just that: A nightmare. When she awakes, her friends are gathered around her. Her baby never made it. “Why can’t you hear him cry?” Shauna weeps, trying to convince the others that her vision was real as they slowly back away.
Sophie Nélisse’s sobs burrow under your bones as she cradles the corpse. Because horror has become de rigueur on this series, Nélisse’s portrayal of Shauna’s sorrow hits harder. It was easy to guess that Shauna’s baby wasn’t going to survive. After all, he doesn’t exist in the present timeline, and his chances of surviving the winter wilderness were probably slim. But the revelation that he was stillborn, directed skillfully by the filmmaker Liz Garbus, allows the viewer to experience a raft of emotions that make the final revelation all the more heartbreaking.
Immediately, Shauna’s labor is not going smoothly. Misty, still reeling from Crystal’s death, is too panicked to occupy the role she so relishes of the helpful savior. Lottie, meanwhile, is gathering her followers for offerings on an animal skull. The placenta emerges first. The baby is late. As the team chants, ‘We hear the wilderness and it hears us,’ the screen fades to black on Shauna’s anguished face.
Then there is a glimmer of hope. Misty places the child in Shauna’s arms as the Elliott Smith song “Pitseleh,” starts to play. It’s a track that takes its name from a Yiddish word for “little one,” but it is also, as is typical for Smith, a sad song about love lost and a relationship that was never meant to be. It sounds like a lullaby, but in context it’s an omen.
Shauna’s fantasy of her baby is just realistic enough to fool the audience. Malnourished, she can’t get the boy to latch onto her breast. He cries and cries and is seemingly soothed only when Lottie comes along, offering up her own milk, a detail that begins to indicate that something here is off. When Shauna finally gets her child to breastfeed, there is sweet relief. “It’s you and me kid,” she says. “It’s you and me against the whole world.”
But then that maternal happiness is shattered. The tea Natalie has brought her seems to have knocked her out, and she awakens to discover the horrific image of her progeny turned into food. But that’s yet another trick of the mind. The baby never made it.
This week’s episode resets the season. The 1990s plotline offers up two events the audience has been anticipating: The birth and the death of Shauna’s child. Now, the remaining three episodes of Season 2 must contend with how Shauna reckons with the loss and how the rest of the Yellowjackets deal with her immeasurable pain. (I’m still not ruling out the possibility that the baby will be eaten. If nothing else, I assume the placenta will provide some nutrients.)
In the present day, this installment finally brought the surviving women all back together, each of them making the pilgrimage to Lottie’s community. Given the magnitude of what is happening in the wilderness, the dramas of the 2020s feel like filler to get to the big reunion.
Misty arrives at the commune, where she halfheartedly participates in a drum circle. Her initial goal is still to rescue Natalie, but she ends up beckoning more Yellowjackets to this place. This time there are better eats, however. “It’s a bunch of granola losers, but the food is great and the B.O. factor is surprisingly low,” Misty tells Taissa, who decides to meet her. Van drives her, and despite her skepticism and plans to immediately leave, ends up getting out of the car when she sees Lottie.
On the journey over, Taissa calls Shauna, who is being interrogated by the cops. Jeff picks up and hears Tai’s pitch on the trip. In the station, Callie thinks she has an angle with Kevyn Tan, telling him that she had sex with Saracusa so any evidence he collects will be inadmissible. But Adult Shauna finds herself in a more vulnerable spot. Saracusa’s line of questioning hits a nerve, and Shauna starts to spill about how she never really wanted to be a mom.
The conflicted, occasionally dispassionate way she describes her relationship to motherhood stands in opposition to Teen Shauna’s desperation. Still, her stream of consciousness confession — which seems in Melanie Lynskey’s portrayal at least partially calculated — leads to her admitting that she did have an affair with Adam Martin, which means she’s screwed.
When she returns to Jeff and her minivan, he encourages her to go meet up with Tai and Van at Lottie’s.
So now they are all back together. Natalie, who has found something resembling real friendship with Lisa; Misty, still scheming; Van, pushing away her problems; Taissa, trying to reckon with her second personality; and Shauna, evading the police. They stand in one line as Lottie, clothed in a blue robe turns to them. In an overhead shot we see that the gulf between Lottie and the other Yellowjackets forms the shape of that pesky symbol from the wilderness. The layout of Lottie’s camp isn’t arbitrary. Instead, it’s beckoning the darkness.
During her meeting with her psychiatrist, Lottie explains that she isn’t worried that she is ill, she is worried that she never was ill, that all of the terrors she experienced were very much real and now they are re-emerging. The past has now arrived on her land in the form of these five women. Even if they are seeking peace, it’s hard to imagine that’s what they are bringing with them.
More to chew on
Another great Jeff moment: Listening to N.W.A. outside the police station, trying his best to seem tough.
The purple fashion options that Lottie’s community provides for newcomers are truly cute. Misty’s coat, for one.
I’m still wondering where the Ben flashbacks are going to lead.
That said, Ben freaking out over the birth, explaining that he only hit play on a tape during health class is pretty great.
Long live the 14th Gilly.
I’m rooting for the friendship between Lisa and Natalie — something genuine in this messy world.
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