Welcome back to the Yellowjackets hive! Every week we'll be interviewing someone from the addictive Showtime drama to discuss the shockers from the latest episode, get hints on what to look out for in the rest of the season, and to break down the Easter eggs that abound in the show's scripts, props, and even in its killer '90s soundtrack. (After all, it's the only series that deploys dramatic devices like Chekov's Tori Amos lyric.) Spoilers below.
The chase is on! In the penultimate episode of its second season, Yellowjackets has barreled at a breakneck pace towards not only a finale that the cast has described as "devastating" and "relentless," but also towards giving viewers something they've been waiting for since the show's pilot. The Yellowjackets are exhausted, starving, and desperate without their leader Lottie—who's in a bad way after volunteering to let Shauna free kick her body to within an inch of its life as a means of purging Shauna's anger at losing her baby. So they decided to do what any group of crazed teenagers whose adult coach has left them unattended to explore some caves would do in this situation: they decided to ritualistically sacrifice one of their own as an offering to the "wilderness." In exchange, they hope to save Lottie and sustain themselves a bit longer by cannibalizing their chosen sacrifice. The ritual brings into play items that fans have been eyeing for the better part of two seasons: notably, the Queen of Hearts from Lottie's visions (whoever draws it is sacrificed) and Jackie's heart necklace (which we see around the neck of the dead girl—a kind of mark to be hunted—in the show's opening episode).
At the center of these scenes is Sophie Thatcher's Natalie. Fitting that the last one girl left who doesn't buy into Lottie's mysticism is the one chosen to save her life by Lottie's very own mystical practices. Thatcher has spent the season slowly simmering the tensions between Nat and Lottie, and her performance in these scenes explodes like a powder keg. Saved by Travis and running through the woods for her life, she's intercepted by Javi, who tries to help her escape, only to fall through the frozen lake and die in Nat's stead. "The wilderness has chosen." But this, says Thatcher, is only the beginning.
For the second-to-last in our weekly Yellowjackets interview series, Thatcher breaks down how the stranded soccer team's situation escalated so drastically, how Nat and Lottie's relationship is at the center of it all, and how the episode marks a "very big turning point." Oh, and what will happen in next week's finale? "When I read it," says Thatcher, "I was screaming."
Going into this season, what did you know about Nat and her character's trajectory?
I never really had an explicit conversation with the writers, but I knew that Nat was going to continue her role as the "huntress," and I heard that there would be tension between her and Lottie. I thought that the tension would go through most of the season but then it kind of died out around episode four. So I had no idea there was going to be such a big shift this episode. And there's another shift—the last two episodes cause some big shifts for Nat, which came out of nowhere for me and was exciting because things seemed to have died down for her. I also remember the writers had told me that they were excited about a really simple scene between Nat and Lottie, which turned out to be the scene in the bathtub.
How would you describe Nat's relationship not only to Lottie but to Lottie and Travis?
I think there's a lot of jealousy and a lot of insecurity. She's just an insecure person, and she takes it out in very strange ways because she has such a strong mask and really likes to keep that mask up. With Travis, she feels like Lottie has replaced her. So there's this jealousy and resentment simmering, which creates a really complicated dynamic between all of them, because it also creates some resentment towards Travis as she sees him going in a direction that is so far from her own beliefs. It's all in all just very isolating for her. She ends up feeling disconnected from everybody.
The bathtub scene was unique in that we saw them revert back to normal girls, teammates with a friendly rivalry who talk smack. Why do you think it was such an important scene to the writers and to your character?
I think reality hits her and she sees how her jealousy went too far and her competitive side got the best of her. She realizes that Lottie was about to die, and that somehow it could have been because of her. Ultimately, she wants everybody to survive, and she remembers in that moment that Lottie is her teammate just like everybody else. It's very emotionally mature of her to go back to finding that common, neutral ground. I loved that scene. It was so small, but very important. It was telling of Natalie's character, of how she's still the most grounded and rooted in reality.
But by last night's episode, Nat's animosity towards Lottie—or rather, Nat's animosity towards what Lottie represents—returns. How much of that is, as Coach Ben points out, jealousy? And how much is uneasiness about being the last Yellowjacket to not buy into Lottie's mysticism?
I think it's a lot of jealousy—and a lot of stubbornness too. Now she's the last one standing, but she's used to being isolated and lonely and can take the position of "outcast" pretty easily. So I think she falls into that position and it moves her further from everyone else.
She's already so far removed from the rest of the group because she's outside every day. She still has her role as the huntress. And because she's going outside every day and facing reality, she doesn't really believe in Lottie's…I was going to say "bullshit," which is very Natalie of me! [laughs] I don't know if she's fully aware of being the moral or logical compass of the group, but to some extent she is just because she wants to stay as grounded as possible.
Ritualistically choosing a Yellowjacket to be sacrificed to the wilderness seems like a pretty severe escalation. How do you think they got to that place?
Because they're used to this team dynamic, they're used to listening to the team leader. Lottie falls naturally into that role because she gives them faith and answers. There have been some unexplainable things that have happened to Lottie and people want to believe that that's because there's something else going on. So at this point, they've lost their leader. There's a sense that some people are giving up, some people are completely lost. The future looks bleak.
So you're saying it's a mix of their old team dynamics—a willingness to "take one for the team," especially for the team leader, perverted by Lottie's mysticism.
And they're in this heightened situation where everybody is so crazed and so hungry and nobody's in their right mind. It all feels like a fever dream. So since nobody's in their right mind, there's this immediate acceptance. They're so exhausted and hungry, and they're willing to give themselves up to make it stop.
Ever since Lottie "took" Shauna's pain and anger by way of taking a massive beating, Shauna seems to have quietly slipped into Team Lottie, making Nat the last one standing. Of all people, why would she agree to not only making a sacrifice to the wilderness, but allowing herself to be that sacrifice?
In that card scene, there's a sense of giving up and giving in for Natalie. At this point, she's past the point of exhaustion, she's tired of being the outcast, and she's maybe scared of what would happen if she were to rebel. And in the end, we do see! So I think she wants to be the bigger person in this situation when she draws the card, even to the point of wanting Shauna to look her in the face because doesn't want to die a coward.
Fans online and on Reddit have been speculating about the Queen of Hearts and Jackie's heart necklace being used in a ritual very similar to what transpired in the episode. Do you read Reddit, and how do you feel about fans getting it right?
Well, during the first season, I was on Reddit, which is the worst thing for an actor to do. I was like, "What are they saying about me?" And it was always just about how bad my wig looked. It looks good this season, but in the first season, there were no roots, and that's what all the comments were about. So I got off Reddit, and I'm pretty distanced from it this season. I don't really know what people have been saying—but I think my mom does! [laughs] She pays a lot of attention because she's a big fan.
Is it safe to say the Queen of Hearts will be returning?
Yes. And it will go further….
Once Nat draws the Queen of Hearts, Travis saves her and sends Javi to help her. Nat has developed a special, protective relationship with Javi, and now she's just watched him die trying to save her. How is that going to affect her—and her relationship to Travis—moving forward?
This is a very big turning point for her. She's already a person that naturally carries a lot of guilt and a lot of heaviness. But this is the biggest burden so far. Her and Travis will never go back to how they were. There will be a connection over trauma and the fact that they've seen each other at their very worst, and that's a very specific type of bond. But this guilt is going to create a wall that lives in her forever. And look at what's happened already! First, you eat a person and now that's something you have to live with. Then she lets Javi die. The guilt is just gonna keep building up. And that's what makes modern day Natalie. That's why she doesn't want to be conscious most of the time.
From a practical level, what was it like shooting that frantic chase scene in the wilderness?
It was a lot of running! This is so silly, but I'm very self-conscious of my run. And now watching it onscreen, I look like a gremlin! But it's one of the hardest things to do on camera! You're trying to stay in character but also trying to not look stupid. When we were doing the soccer training for the pilot, the coach said that I run with the posture of a gazelle.
But isn't that good? As the saying goes, "graceful as a gazelle!"
But that's not how a soccer player runs! And it's not how you run for your life! So I tried to look badass and it didn't work. [laughs] This all makes me seem like a bad actor!
What were the vibes on set during the card scene and the chase scene?
There was something so weird about filming the card scene. It was such a long shot, and we went through everybody every single time. Then Lottie's little shrine fell over out of nowhere, and I was like, "It's cursed! We're cursed!" So I had that in the back of my mind for the rest of the shoot.
And there was already a built-in sense of anxiety in the room. We're not use to the stillness and the quiet, and there's something so haunting about that. So there was this building tension, and for the character to go feral in the chase scene felt like a release of all that tension. Everybody just got super manic.
Since you mentioned the shrine—the Yellowjackets all seemed to place a token or sacrifice on it. What did Nat contribute?
I didn't put anything on the shrine. I don't think Natalie would have put anything on it.
What can you tease of the finale and the aftermath of what happened at the end of this episode?
There's another huge shift for Natalie that came out of nowhere. And when I read it, I was screaming and I called my mom.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Nojan Aminosharei is the Entertainment Director of Men’s Health and the Special Projects Editor of Harper’s Bazaar. He was previously the Entertainment Director of Hearst Digital Media, and before that a Senior Editor at GQ. Raised in Vancouver, Canada, Nojan graduated from NYU with a master’s degree in magazine journalism. The late Elaine Stritch once told him, “What the fuck kind of name is Nojan? I’m 89 years old, I don’t have time for that shit.”