Laura Lee. We barely knew thee. It’s a strange choice in this week’s episode of Yellowjackets to take one of our most intriguing supporting characters, allude to a full episode devoted to her, and instead wave her off with three inglorious scenes. The first flashback sees Laura Lee diving into the shallow end of Christian summer camp, banging her head against the pool floor. She comes to after extensive CPR and first glimpses a golden cross hanging from the lifeguard’s neck. “No, Laura Lee,” he says looking her straight in the eye, “I didn’t save you, He did.”
And so starts the contemptuous tone the episode takes towards Laura Lee and her faith, which is jarring because up until now, Yellowjackets has had a more nuanced approach than that. Sure, we all giggled at her suspecting the plane crash was divine punishment for her just thinking the c-word but she showed real poise leading them in prayer over the graves of the people killed in the plane crash. It was also clearly a wise move on her part to avoid the séance, but she still came to the rescue to physically beat the evil out of Lottie with her bible.
It makes it all the sadder that when she makes a plan to fly the decrepit plane for rescue, it’s shown to come from a place of misguided religious hubris and willing martyrdom. When the episode concludes and the plane catches fire—first burning her teddy bear before exploding above the lake—it’s hard to entirely comprehend the tone. For all that the Yellowjackets themselves collapse devastated on the shore, the explosion hits like a punch line. And Laura Lee’s story, particularly thanks to an excellent performance from Jane Widdop, deserves better.
But before we set off down Laura Lee’s tragic path, the episode starts on as hideous an image as we’ve ever had, one more successfully tinged with humor. Van lies on a lit funeral pyre missing most of her cheek, watched by her sobbing teammates and Taissa still drenched in wolf blood. As her clothes catch fire, she begins to come to, and her friends realize they have set fire to a very much alive person. Watching her teammates patting her down as they acknowledge they’ve added extensive burns to her list of injuries is truly grotesque, which makes Liv Hewson’s delivery of “Really? Fire?” all the more hilarious.
Meanwhile, in the present day, two pairs of relationships are at the fore: Missy butting heads with Nat while Shauna bonds with Taissa. Missy vs. Nat proves the funnier of the two. It’s a grim sight watching Nat drunkenly smear eye makeup over her face (even if Juliette Lewis still somehow makes it look cool) and order a bag of cocaine. And even with a woman tied up in her basement, it’s hard not to find Misty as endearing as she is terrifying. Using her surveillance of Nat, she spots the cocaine delivery and uses herself as a literal human shield, shoveling as much cocaine into her nose as humanly possible. Sadly, as the way things tend to go for Misty, she isn’t met with gratitude. “I have never even tried cocaine before!” she screams at an ungrateful Nat.
Say what you want about Misty—and calling her psychopath who trapped her friends in the wilderness for 19 months to starve and die and abuser of the elderly would be valid—she’s kind of a great friend? As well as taking a large pile of cocaine to stop Nat’s relapse, she has been selflessly investigating Travis’ murder and seems to be a very nurturing owner to that parrot. We should all be so lucky to have such great multitasking skill—and as an audience be eternally grateful that we live in an era where such complicated roles are being written for women. It remains a credit to Christina Ricci’s performance that Misty contains such multitudes and seamlessly pivots between nurturing and murderous.
Both Nat and Misty end up at the end of their tether this episode: Misty almost sacrificing Caligula and Nat hitting what I suspect still isn’t rock bottom, resorting to sniffing cocaine out of the carpet before blackmailing an old sponsor to give her Travis’ bank records. Far more straightforwardly tender is the bond being reignited between Shauna and Taissa. In the past, Shauna shares an non-judgmental intimacy that contrasts with the toxic dynamic she has with Jackie, who announces Shauna’s pregnancy to the group to further incentivize Laura Lee to fly the plane.
Further points are scored in the “Jackie Sucks” column when she informs Travis of Nat’s sexual history, which included one of Travis’ bullies. Call me a sex-positive fourth wave feminist but… so? Travis’s freakout seems entirely unjustified at this news, but Nat being Nat can’t help but stick the knife in during a confrontation. Sophie Thatcher mirrors Juliette Lewis’ venom for Detective Kevin when she hisses at him, “I guess it’s a good thing you couldn’t get it up.”
Even in the midst of such misery, Shauna and Taissa maintain a lovely bond across timelines. In the past and in the present they provide comfort and an open mind to one another. In the present-day storyline, Taissa’s “sleepwalking” has made her afraid to stay around her family so she decides to stay at Shauna’s place and they snuggle up in bed together, confessing their sins and fears to one another is a warm, safe space. Melanie Lynskey and Tawny Cypress have such warm ease together, it’s hard to believe these two characters were ever estranged.
Taissa gives Shauna the strength to fully confront Adam, the world’s most suspicious man. She at first goes to question him about his internet absence and he concedes he didn’t really go to Pratt, but his giant puppy dog eyes and rock-hard abs have Shauna going back to pack her sexy new dress from Jeff (it continues to be extremely funny how nothing is sacred to Shauna) for a weekend away in a cabin. It is only when she spots some incriminating flakes of glitter in Adam’s closet hiding spot that she accepts that the world’s most suspicious man might be… suspicious.
It’s hard to even put into words how much, after all this, the ending lands with a thud. We are all aware they have a year or so left in the wilderness, so Laura Lee is doomed to fail. Her death above the lake provokes a few interesting responses, such as Jackie burrowing her face into Travis’ chest, but it proves a cheap trick all round.