The following contains spoilers for Yellowjackets S1E7, “No Compass” (written by Katherine Kearns and directed by Eva Sørhaug)
Have I mentioned before in these articles how Van has been my favorite Yellowjacket from the beginning? Somehow I feel like the action has always been elsewhere, or others have been more implicated in the mystery, while Van has been a kind of breath of fresh air, a comforting presence, and not just in terms of providing moments of levity to the show—Van is the kind of person you’re just happy exists.
Van was the goalie, the one who binds the team together, not as captain but on the backend. Goalie may be the most important position in soccer, if the least flashy, and at a certain level everyone knows it. There is a certain similarity between goalies, bassists, and editors, and it gets right to where my sympathies tend to lie—with those who are often unsung but nevertheless provide a grounding force.
But I fear I didn’t properly comment on Van’s joy as the Yellowjackets team won their game in the pilot, or adequately express my own at her reappearance after being left to burn in the wreckage of the plane crash, nor properly celebrate her budding romance with Taissa. I’ve connected with Van deeply as a fan of Yellowjackets, but haven’t had a lot to say about that.
In S1E7 she wears a Coed Naked Soccer T-shirt. Those things were everywhere in the mid-90s and we all thought they were funny for some reason—just a mild subversion of mores and assertion of sexuality pervading youth. I think I had a billiards one. The ’90s were weird. At least they were teaching us to laugh at double entendres. And of course Van would have this shirt.
To take her from us is to cut out our heart, a loss Yellowjackets has primed us to feel right along with the other girls in the woods. And watching the closing shots of “No Compass” again, I am confident that Van is dead. But even if, through the effect of TV magic, it turns out that she’s just been viciously maimed, the effect would be largely the same, or almost worse.
Van’s joie de vivre managed to persevere through the plane crash and even being abandoned by Jackie and Shauna as she tried to escape the burning plane. She’s been used to having to care for herself, with a mother often narcotically absent. But her relationship with Tai was different, or should have been and needed to be. Now that’s been betrayed.
Van trusted Tai to be the fearless leader and to look out for her. She swallowed her doubts along the way. She wasn’t jumping to believe Lottie to be preternaturally gifted but finding the river freaked her out. And she was perfectly willing to accept the piece of bone as a good luck totem, just in case, because why not.
Van was open to the idea that something strange might be going on, beyond their normal concepts, but Taissa shot that right down. She’s not just skeptical but dismissive. She can’t even be open to the possibility of the supernatural and thus tries her hardest to repress the indications of it (like the Man With No Eyes), though this manifests in her losing time and becoming the “bad one.”
It’s clear this is what happens in “No Compass” after she takes the first watch of the night, as when she wakes up in a tree she’s also stolen the bone totem from Van for some reason. Taissa doesn’t even know what she’s doing or how she got in the tree when she hears the others screaming. Whether or not that piece of bone would have kept Van safe (as Lottie thought), Tai had no right to take it from her.
Van volunteered to take that first watch of the night and Taissa wouldn’t let her. It’s her fault Van is dead. I hope she haunts her.
Now Taissa should recognize that her confidence has become hubris. Wolves may be afraid of humans for the most part, but when the humans can’t find animals in the woods to eat likely those wolves are having trouble too.
It is not entirely clear what the fallout of Van’s death will be, though. It seems like a good bet that the image in the credits of Taissa, Misty, Mari, and Akilah looking downward will turn out to be when they are burying the body, but will Taissa even want to turn around at this point, or will she persist in her mission despite what’s happened? What we’ve seen of 2021 Taissa makes me suspect it will be the latter.
The visions of wolves Taissa has in 2021 gain in depth from all of this nonetheless—the wolf represents the threat she tries to keep at bay by not believing in it, and we now see the cost that’s reaped for her.
At the beginning of S1E7 in 2021, she awakes in a tree and washes up, bandaging her hand. I wonder if she is always aware of the cleaning up part, and if these episodes have recurred continuously for 25 years, or if she thought she was over them. I suspect the latter, but that hardly jibes with post facto awareness. She’s trying to hide from herself.
Which of course never works.
Natalie’s right when she asserts that Taissa and Shauna are living on the brink as much as she is in 2021, though they’re better at hiding it. It’s maybe a little less clear with Shauna, though “No Compass” finds her cheating on Jeff with Adam in such a risky way that we have to see a desire to blow everything apart bubbling up beneath the surface.
She also pushes back when Natalie says they’ve all done far worse things, as they talk about whether Nat intended to kill the guy who took the ransom money. Whether or not Shauna feels guilt, she insists that she doesn’t, which we saw also before when she was talking to an apparition of Jackie in the latter’s bedroom. I’m inclined to think that this is the truth of her disposition—that Shauna isn’t repressing remorse and shame but has rather embraced an amoral view of the world which finds such sentiments useless.
Speaking of Jackie, she confronts Shauna in 1996 and learns about the pregnancy, suspects Shauna is lying about how it happened, and confirms that suspicion by reading Shauna’s journal. So the falling out between these friends would seem to be incoming.
I’m still terrified about what will happen to Shauna’s baby.
Taissa tells Shauna that they wouldn’t be alive if it weren’t for Natalie, as she attempts to justify the money she’s spent on rehab for her. Of course, we already know that Natalie hunted and brought the girls food, but it’s a safe bet Tai means a little more than that. I suppose the big question is whether these women were involved in the cannibalism and ritual sacrifice we saw in the pilot. I have always assumed they all were, but I’d have to admit I’m lacking in evidence for that one.
Natalie borrows Kevyn’s gun and then lies to him about what happened, which would be bad enough, but then she throws in a line about how pathetic he is. I don’t think she means it, if we recall her talking about their affair with the other women earlier in S1E7, but Nat’s way of defending herself can involve turning mean and pushing people away.
In contrast, her 1996 scenes in “No Compass” show her being vulnerable with Travis, though this doesn’t work out well. The poor guy gets all in his head about things during their awkward (failed) sex scene and then gets embarrassed before getting embarrassed about being embarrassed. So he leaves her alone. I hate to admit that the teenage version of myself can relate.
In order to get Jessica Roberts to talk, Misty injects some chocolates with fentanyl as she rattles off Jessica’s father’s name and address on the way to describing the conversation she had with the man’s nurse to make sure he’ll get the “special gift from his daughter” Misty is preparing to send him. I am pretty sure this poor woman doesn’t know anything of value, but she does confess that Taissa hired her and that she tried to talk to Travis but he turned her away.
The important tidbit is that someone emptied Travis’s bank account after he died. It seems odd that this wouldn’t have been in the police report, but maybe it was a small amount of money, withdrawn by ATM? I guess I’m not sure how much of a clue I think this is.
It would seem to provide further evidence that Javi is not in the picture in 2021. I know some people think he’s Adam, but that just doesn’t get any grip for me. You’d have to think that Shauna would recognize him, particularly when they are forming something of a friendship in the woods. (It’s a cool wolf carving he makes, by the way.)
Could there be some clue in the 1995 film While You Were Sleeping? Misty is watching it before she interrogates Jessica Roberts, but more importantly, Van relays its plot around the campfire in 1996. I can’t remember the film well enough to speculate about it having some significance in puzzling out the mysteries of Yellowjackets, but I suppose you could take the way it centers on a coma and put that in your theory mill.
Alternately (or at the same time) we might think about how Misty is watching it in 2021 and wonder if she is remembering that night 25 years prior. Maybe Van’s death is the beginning of something. Maybe they’ll eat her flesh.
We know Taissa’s hungry.