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[This story contains spoilers from the third episode of Yellowjackets season two, “DIGESTIF.”]
There’s a moment in the latest episode of Yellowjackets when Jeff (Warren Kole) asks Shauna (Melanie Lynskey) a question that he doesn’t want the answer to.
“How the heck did the van get back?”
The third episode of the hit Showtime series followed up on several story threads for the adult characters following the shocking cannibal feast in the past timeline. That moment, which saw the crash survivors eating their dead teammate Jackie in hopes of surviving a bleak winter in the wilderness, is among the many sources of trauma that the adult characters are seen living with in the show’s present-day timeline, and none more so than adult Shauna.
The season two episode “DIGESTIF” (which refers to needing help to digest a big meal), was written by Rich Monahan, Sarah L. Thompson and Ameni Rozsa and directed by Jeffrey W. Byrd. When the hour catches up with adult Shauna, the trauma she has so adeptly repressed bubbles up to the surface.
First, she confronts a carjacker who tries to steal their family minivan at gun point, much to the horror of husband Jeff. But it’s when she hunts the car down to get it back that a vision of her younger self reappears.
As she points a gun at the man who has her car, she tells him that her hand is shaking because of how badly she wants to shoot him. “Have you ever peeled the skin off a human corpse?” she asks. “It’s not as easy as you might think. It’s really stuck on us, skin. You have to roll back just the edges of it, so you can get a good enough grip to really pull. Which again, isn’t easy. People are always so sweaty when you kill them. Just like, oily. There’s a look people get when they realize they’re going to die. It’s that one.”
The scene is chilling, as it hits differently now that viewers have seen what Shauna and the team are capable of to survive in the wilderness. But what is even more chilling is how quickly she brushes it off — with one of Shauna’s signature quirky shrugs — when Jeff later asks how she got the minivan back. Jeff’s question remains rhetorical and the audience is left to assume that Jeff takes whatever Shauna says (verbally or in body language) at face value and accepts her all the same.
“They’re in this strange position where she finally has realized that he does love her unconditionally,” Lynskey tells The Hollywood Reporter of her curious Yellowjackets marriage. “The fact that he read the journals, that he knows everything, I think is so shocking for her to be like, ‘Hang on, someone can know everything about me and still love me?'”
The first season revealed that Jeff read Shauna’s journals from her time in the wilderness, and seeing what happened with the Jackie feast now underscores how big of a deal that is. Especially with the added layer that Shauna and Jeff’s teenage affair, behind Jackie’s back, was a main source of the brewing finale fight that instigated Jackie sleeping out in the cold and freezing to death overnight.
“Shauna is just that girl for him, and he can’t resist her,” Kole explains to THR about what motivates Jeff to be so unconditional. “She’s absolutely irresistible. He’s madly in love with her. He is loyal, to the death, to this woman. And they are partners in crime right from the beginning. Right when she returns, they’ve got this shared guilt. When they’re at Jackie’s house for this annual birthday in season one — this annual self-flagellation they put themselves through as penance for their sins, maybe for Jackie’s death — there’s common ground. He knows how exceptional she is; he knows he’s lucky. And it props him up to know she is his wife. So he’ll accept those journals.”
But Shauna and Jeff handle things differently. As Lynskey says, “Shauna is so far behind in processing. Things happen to her and she sort of files them away for later.” Meanwhile, Jeff is only starting to scratch the surface of Shauna’s trauma, which remains ever-present now 25 years after the plane crash. She’s already filed away her affair with and murder of Adam (Peter Gadiot), which is why she pushes her husband away as he tries to engage her about it.
“I think there was a moment at the end of last season where she started to feel what it means to have the understanding that he does know all of that [from reading the journals] and she’s like, ‘I can’t feel the feelings around all of that just yet,'” says Lynskey. “She’s only just grappling with that and then he’s like, ‘But hang on, I have some questions about the affair.’ It’s kind of like, ‘Oh, God. You had a moment and then I’m still apologizing and feeling guilty and crappy about it.’ But he’s trying to come to terms with getting more information about how scary and dangerous she is. And she has a new respect for him also, because he’s done some crazy shit and she realizes he’s not that boring and this is fun. So, they’re really kind of getting to know each other.”
Despite the guilt she has around what happened to Adam, the fact that she and Jeff have this big secret actually brings her back to the young person she was out in the wilderness — a place that has stunted many of the adult survivors, who struggle to feel as alive as they were as teenagers in the wild.
“She has a lot of guilt about killing Adam. But there’s also something about the risk and the nearly being caught and all the craziness that is so intoxicating to her and she’s like, ‘Oh, hang on, this is me. Suddenly I know myself again. I look in the mirror and I’m like, there she is,'” says Lynskey of recognizing her younger self, who is played by Sophie Nélisse in the 1996 timeline. “So, Shauna is just pushing it, she’s pushing the boundaries. It’s interesting where it ends up by the end of the season. It sort of veers away from that because so much else is happening, but she’s definitely pushing it for a while.”
And no matter how far she pushes it, Kole says Jeff (who is now an accessory to Adam’s murder) is pretty much along for the ride.
“He’s not the most complicated man, yet he’s being asked to handle a very complicated situation, emotionally and intellectually,” says Kole as the local police begin to investigate Adam’s murder. “So he’s going to maybe regress a bit, to a less mature version of himself and throw the occasional tantrum. But I’d like to think that his actions speak loud in that he’s not running away; he’s trying, dammit! For better or for worse.”
Then he offers this tease about where the ride in their minivan is going to veer in season two: “As Shauna continues to reconstitute into this manifestation that he’d only read about in these journals of herself — the more savage, dark impulse Shauna — he’s being optimistic, but it’s fragile. And he’s really being tested as it continues to descend into a very dark, violent place.”
Yellowjackets releases new episodes weekly on Fridays for Showtime subscribers and airs on cable Sundays at 9 p.m. Keep up with THR‘s Yellowjackets season two coverage and interviews.
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