‘Yellowjackets’ Episode 6 Enforces a Grueling Reality Check

Sophie Nélisse gives the performance of the season in this harrowing installment.
A teen girl with long, messy brown hair wearing a furry coat addressing a shorter girl with glasses and wavy, dirty blond hair next to a window; still from "Yellowjackets"
Courtney Eaton and Samantha Hanratty in "Yellowjackets" Season 2, Episode 6.
Kailey Schwerman/SHOWTIME

[Editor’s Note: The following review contains spoilers for “Yellowjackets” Season 2 Episode 6, “Qui.”]

“Yellowjackets” may be a twisted TV drama, but it’s tough to build a case that it pulls the rug out from under its audience. More often than not, things go how you’d expect them to, in a world where the ultimate twist is the one taken by fate when a flight crashed in the Canadian wilderness. Everything that follows, tragic as it is, has an inevitable kind of logic to it.

Episode 6, “Qui,” directed by Liz Garbus and written by Karen Joseph Adcock & Ameni Rozsa, is a crystal clear reminder of that. Shauna (Sophie Nélisse) is in labor, and the inevitability of her pregnancy brings a fierce reality check crashing down on the cabin. It ends up being a checkpoint, revealing every character’s truth in how they respond to the situation. Surprisingly, Misty (Samantha Hanratty) panics; as much as Hanratty embodies a smart little sociopath, she’s a terrified child just like everyone else. Even though she threatened to kill Crystal (Nuha Jes Izman) in Episode 5, she didn’t — but knowing that she was indirectly responsible for her best friend’s death has immediate, detrimental effects. Nurse Misty checks out as she sees Shauna’s blood on her hands and another friend in need who she can’t help and may, in fact, hurt. The guilt of Crystal’s death now connects Misty to Shauna and Lottie (Courtney Eaton), both of whom harbor the same pain about Jackie (Ella Purnell) and Laura Lee (Jane Widdop), respectively.

The labor also terrifies Coach Scott (Steven Kreuger), who apologizes as weakly as that guy in “Titanic” who tells Rose and Jack that he dropped the key in the water and then leaves them to drown below deck. Weak! He retreats to his “memory palace,” clenching his eyes shut and covering his ears to dive into the parallel life he could have lived with boyfriend Paul (François Arnaud) — but it’s starting to unravel. This time, Ben and Paul are not at home in New York City, but in a cabin in the wilderness, complete with a mounted moose skull and blizzard outside. As they play charades, Shauna’s screams break through, and Coach’s safety blanket weakens.

Shauna’s situation confirms just how strongly the Yellowjackets have started to believe in Lottie’s rituals and an external force. It’s Travis (Kevin Alves), the formerly reticent resident teen male, who takes the antlers off the wall and slices his palm open as the team present offerings. “The wilderness recognizes your sacrifice, and so do I,” says Lottie. It’s Taissa — once as skeptical as Shauna and Natalie (Sophie Thatcher) — who joins in as they chant, “We hear the wilderness and it hears us,” desperate for anything, anything, to keep her friend alive.

Melanie Lynskey and Sarah Desjardins in "Yellowjackets"
Like mother, like daughter (terrifying).Kailey Schwerman/SHOWTIME

In the present, Shauna (Melanie Lynskey) and Callie (Sarah Desjardins) are called to the police station for questioning with regard to the disappearance of Adam Martin (Peter Gadiot). It’s mostly played for comic relief, but the affair, murder, cover-up, and family secrets are getting to Jeff (Warren Kole). He’s unraveling and feels like his family is unraveling, seeing the potential fallout of these crimes better than his wife or daughter can. In Episode 1, he jokingly confessed to Callie that he enjoys the occasional heteronormative gender role; on some level, what’s happening with his family is emasculating him, reminding him that he should be their protector, yet remains completely powerless.

In the interrogation, Shauna breaks down, confessing that she never wanted Callie and never felt like she deserved Jeff. She tries not to let herself love them, but she does anyway. It’s another home run in a hat-trick of Lynskey monologues, and it’s the truth, because Shauna is a bad liar. She says that she never wanted to be a mom, and somewhere on Lynskey’s face you can tell Shauna is thinking not just of Callie but of that baby boy in the wilderness. She never wanted to be a mom, except when she did — when she passed out and saw a life with him and someone to love out there in the cold, lonely winter. “Qui” is Latin for “who,” a question that remains unanswered in the episode and for the rest of Shauna’s life.

If the scene when Shauna wakes up after passing out during labor feels familiar, it’s because it’s that same eerie peace and joy that welcomed Jackie in the cabin when she and Shauna made up in the Season 1 finale — a dream sequence that would turn out to be Jackie’s death. Another cue that what’s happening is maybe not real is the undetermined passage of time, with hours or days passing as she tries to feed the baby. She speaks softly to him, and in a season full of outstanding monologues, this one from Nélisse is breathtaking. She tearfully delivers world-shifting emotions, the camera barely leaving her face, but always as a teenager, a girl who has experienced impossible circumstances. This Shauna gives the impression that her son’s birth healed all the pain she felt before it, because this is Shauna’s subconscious and that’s what she wants.

“Haunting” is not a sufficient adjective for the episode’s final moments, when Shauna wakes up in actuality and learns that she lost the baby. It’s not only believable, but realistic — delivered by people without experience, likely premature, and from a starving mother, the baby was always in some danger — and still incredibly painful. After enduring one incomprehensible horror after another, she has no choice but to move forward, even as we leave her in these last moments with her son.

Grade: B+

“Yellowjackets” releases new episodes Fridays via streaming and Sundays at 9 p.m. ET on Showtime.

Food for Thought

  • Obsessed with every single item adult Misty empties from her pockets.
  • Jeff listening to “Fuck the Police” outside the station is absolutely ludicrously on-the-nose, and I’ll allow it.
  • I’ve never seen placenta before (real or fake) and I’d like to never see it again.
  • I know he’s going through it but Jeff is still cracking me up. The spit-take when Shauna tells him she confessed to the affair, the wobbly lie about how she takes a long time in the bathroom, even his desperate “Hey Van!” before Tai (Tawny Cypress) hangs up the phone — it’s all so pure. There’s also something very comforting about the fact that not only does Jeff know the truth of what happened in the wilderness but he also knows everyone who was part of it! This man is just saying hi to his old classmate over the phone, and it’s sweet.
  • Van (Lauren Ambrose) makes not one but two suicide cult references in the span of a few minutes: “Keep your eyes peeled for the black-and-white Nikes,” which refers to the shoes worn by those in the Heaven’s Gate cult in 1997, and Kool-Aid powder, which was laced with potassium cyanide and consumed by members of the Peoples Temple in 1978. NOPE TO THIS!
  • You know who is a good liar? Callie Sadecki, who scrunches up her face, brings tears to her eyes, and accuses Jay (John Reynolds) of sexually assaulting her.
  • It’s Van who seems to have the strongest reaction to Lottie (Simone Kessell) in the presence, silhouetted against the mountains like it’s 1996. Van was one of Lottie’s first acolytes — what happened between them? Will seeing Lottie again after all this time awaken something that Van has been stifling?
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