Yellowjackets Premiere Recap: Turbulent Teens — Plus, Grade It!


Showtime’s new drama, Yellowjackets, teaches us that the high-school-girls’-athletics-to-brutal-survivalist-strategy pipeline might not be as long as we’d think.

In a moment, we’ll want to hear what you thought of the series, which stars Juliette Lewis (Secrets and Lies), Christina Ricci (The Lizzie Borden Chronicles), Melanie Lynskey (Togetherness) and Tawny Cypress (Unforgettable). But first, a quick recap.

INTO THE WOODS, IT’S TIME TO GO, I HATE TO LEAVE, I HAVE TO THOUGH | The episode opens as a girl wearing only what looks like a nightgown runs through the snowy woods. She’s crying as she passes runes and stick figures dangling from the trees, and eventually she falls into a pit, impaling herself on stakes lining the bottom. We notice that the girl is wearing a gold pendant, then someone wearing furs and a very creepy mask approaches the pit and looks down.

https://tvline.com/tag/yellowjackets/SECRETS AND KEG STANDS | After a brief, present-day interlude in which an interviewer asks various people about “what really happened out there,” soon we’re thrust into a girls’ soccer game in 1996 New Jersey. (The Umbros! I die of nostalgia!) The team that wins, aka Yellowjackets, are ecstatic. “We’re going to nationals!” they cheer.

As the hour unfolds, we meet various members of the team. There’s Jackie (Sweetbitter‘s Ella Purnell), the vivacious team captain who’s been dating her boyfriend, Jeff, since freshman year. (Though they’ve broken up a number of times, she’s secure in the knowledge that they’re both technically virgins, she assures her pal, Shauna.) Shauna (The Book Thief‘s Sophie Nélisse)  is Jackie’s quieter and — let’s just say it — smarter best friend. On the way to school one morning after Jeff sneaks out of Jackie’s bedroom window, Jackie excitedly talks about how she and Shauna will share a dorm room at Rutgers University when they both attend there in the fall.

yellowjackets-premiere-recap-season-1-episode-1We also meet Natalie (Chicago Med‘s Sophie Thatcher), a punk rock-y “burnout” who doesn’t mind getting in trouble; and Taissa (For the People‘s Jasmin Savoy Brown), an aggressively competitive player who is so worried that a weaker member of the team will hurt their chances at nationals, she tackles the girl and breaks her leg during a scrimmage, rendering the poor kid unable to attend the competition. There’s also a very Christian girl named Laura Lee (newcomer Jane Widdop), a girl named Van (Santa Clarita Diet‘s Liv Hewson) with an alcoholic mother, one named Lottie (newcomer Courtney Eaton) who is both rich and on some type of medicine, and the team’s socially awkward equipment manager Misty (Shameless‘ Samantha Hanratty).

ROUGH LANDING | The night before the girls go to the championship, they attend a keg party in the woods, and a whole bunch of stuff goes down. Natalie drops LSD. Shauna confronts Tai about injuring their teammate Allie, calling Tai a “sociopath.” When Jackie gets wind of the brawl, she puts an end to it and makes everyone on the team say nice things about each other, which brings the overall tension down quite a bit.

Jeff drives Jackie and Shauna home, dropping his girlfriend off first so she can make her curfew. Afterward, Shauna asks him to pull over on the side of the road, where they start kissing. “I thought we weren’t doing this again,” he says. “We’re not. Again,” she responds. Then they have sex. When Shauna gets home, we see that she’s gotten accepted to Brown University  — though she seems to be keeping that information secret.

yellowjackets-premiere-recap-season-1-episode-1-The next morning, all of the girls board a private plane to the championship, paid for by Lottie’s father. The team’s coach and his two sons are there, as are all the girls. Jackie passes a very nervous Shauna some Valium to ease her anxiety about the flight, then lets her borrow her gold necklace — the same one we saw the girl wearing in the wilderness at the start of the episode. “It’s basically a good-luck charm,” Jackie says. “Now, nothing can touch you.” Over the intercom, the pilot announces that because of weather, they’re going to fly farther north than normal, over the Canadian Rockies.

Shauna falls asleep but is jolted awake as the plane is in peril. Coach puts an oxygen mask on her; next to her, Jackie is passed out. Everything is rattling and shaking, and girls are getting tossed around the cabin, as the plane goes down. A dazed Shauna pulls up her window shade just in time to see the plane about to plow into some trees.

MEET THE NEW BOSS | In a continuation of the scene from the start of the hour, more masked-and-furred people roast some meet and serve it to another figure wearing antlers — maybe this is the leader? That figure nods, and everyone else grabs chunks of meet. OH GOOD GOD, THEY THEY ATE THE NIGHTGOWN GIRL, DIDN’T THEY? (Side note: Did you get a good look at the girl in that bloody montage? Is is Jackie? I had a hard time telling.) The leader then takes off her mask and puts on her glasses: It’s equipment manager Misty.

ALL GROWN UP | For simplicity’s sake, I’ve bundled all the flashbacks and all of the present-day scenes together; the show, however, ping-pongs between the two. Adult Shauna (Lynskey) is a bored wife and mother who does not react kindly when a woman claiming to be a reporter from The Star-Ledger newspaper comes to the house, wanting to talk to her about the incident all those years ago. “The plane crashed. A bunch of my friends died. The rest of us starved and scavenged and prayed for 19 months until they finally found us, and that’s the end of the story,” she says. The reporter says she can guarantee Shauna a seven-figure book advance, and they can write the book together. Shauna flatly replies that she hasn’t spoken to any of the other survivors in years.

Later, when she’s frustrated that her teen daughter didn’t defrost some meat for dinner, Shauna kills a rabbit in her garden with a spade. (!) We also see that Jeff — aka Jackie’s boyfriend from way back — is now Shauna’s husband. Toward the end of the hour, Shauna takes a burner phone and some other items out of a safe, then makes a call, saying only: “We need to talk.”

Turns out, she’s getting in touch with Tai (Cypress), who’s running for state senator. When we catch up with adult Tai, she’s getting photographed — along with her wife, young son and dog — for a profile in Jersey Monthly. “You’re the queer Kamala,” the photographer says adoringly, and of course the crash comes up. But Tai insists she wants to focus on the future, “not my past.”

yellowjackets-premiere-recap-season-1-episode-1Funny, because it’s Tai who meets with Shauna in a diner one night. They talk about how Natalie is in rehab, “and there’s still no sign of the others,” whatever that means. Shauna suspects the reporter isn’t who she says she is. “We agreed: Say no more than we have to, stay out of the public eye,” she reminds Tai. “As long as nobody does anything crazy, we have nothing to worry about.” However, if someone starts digging, “We are all f–ked.” OK, Yellowjackets, you’ve hooked me!

Elsewhere, Natalie (Lewis) is, indeed, wrapping up rehab, but even her fellow group-therapy members don’t know what happened to her all those years ago. “After they rescued us, I lost my purpose,” is all she’ll say. “And thanks to my time here, I finally know how to get it back.” And so, once out, she makes a beeline for a storage facility where she’s been keeping a car and a rifle, among other belongings. She tells the facility’s nosy manager that she’s planning to “reconnect with some old friends.”

https://tvline.com/tag/yellowjackets/Before the episode ends, we catch up with one more survivor: Misty (Ricci), who’s a nursing-home care assistant. She seems sweet as pie… until one of the residents has an accident in bed and then flips her food tray when Misty is displeased. So Misty takes the woman’s morphine away as punishment, tossing off a casual, “Don’t f–k with me.” (!)

Now it’s your turn. What did you think of the premiere? Grade it via the poll below, then hit the comments with your thoughts!

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