DISCLAIMER: This recap of the Yellowjackets season premiere episode, “Friends, Romans, Countrymen,” contains spoilers. Proceed at your peril. 

Welcome back to The Wilderness, acolytes. Yellowjackets is back with a bang, bringing a bloody, macabre mystery with nuanced performances and fun character dynamics. I love the editing in this outing and how it seamlessly weaves between the past and present. “Friends, Romans, Countrymen” delves into the fallout from the Season 1 finale as our core cast tries to keep their heads above water. 

Yellowjackets keeps its finger on the pulse of narrative intrigue. This episode is packed with action to maintain plot momentum, but it never feels overstuffed. We also get a few great character moments, like Van’s creative way of telling Taissa she loves her. Misty baking an “I want my lawyer” cookie for Shauna is a hilarious bit. Or the opening scene with Van and Taissa bound by their wrists to prevent Taissa from sleepwalking. Brilliant. Side note: I might be Team Jeff now. 

Ready to delve into “Friends, Romans, Countrymen”? Let’s get to it. 

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We open with the teens slumbering in the cabin. Teen Natalie (Sophie Thatcher) and Teen Travis (Kevin Alves) prepare to embark on another search for his little brother, Javi. Teen Lottie (Courtney Eaton) performs her “Wicca bullsh*t” to ensure they return safely. Natalie’s not a fan of it, while Travis leans into the witchy stuff. Flash forward two years to 1998 when the girls return home. We see a bevy of reporters pummeling them with questions. Lottie sits in therapy with her parents, who claim she hasn’t spoken since reuniting with her family. 

Then, we see Lottie undergo electroconvulsive therapy to relieve her symptoms. During her stay at the mental facility, she comforts her roommate as the latter experiences a panic attack. Lottie, now talking, claims those in charge only want them to feel better. Next, we skip a couple of decades to the present day, wherein adult Lottie (Simone Kessell) speaks to her followers at a wellness retreat. She urges them to take care of themselves because nobody else can. She claims they don’t have anybody to blame for their pain but themselves. “We are the ones making ourselves sick,” she adds. 

Adult Misty sits on a bed with her arms crossed while looking irritated in Yellowjackets Season 2 Episode 1, "Friends, Romans, Countrymen."

Christina Ricci as Misty in YELLOWJACKETS Season 2 Episode 1, “Friends, Romans, Countrymen.” Photo Credit: Kimberley French/SHOWTIME.

Later, we see adult Shauna (Melanie Lynskey) questioned about Adam’s death. A detective interrogates her, asking inquiries meant to trip her up. Thankfully, it’s only adult Misty (Christina Ricci) with a voice-modulating app on her phone. She’s trying to prepare Shauna for potential police questioning should they zero in on her as a suspect. Misty wants to wait for Taissa and Natalie to show up, but Shauna insists they won’t. 

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Speaking of, adult Taissa (Tawny Cypress) is at a rescue, hoping to take a puppy home with her. Are we sure that’s a good idea after, you know, what she did with the last dog? Taissa scoops up Steve the Pup and bolts. Her campaign manager calls her while she’s driving and wants to prepare for the next election even though Taissa’s not in office yet. Meanwhile, Misty opens the “Bureau of Citizen Detectives” site and logs on. She scours the comments, looking for anything suspicious regarding Adam. Misty notices one commenter believes Adam’s “lady friend” did him in. Uh-oh. 

Shauna and Callie (Sarah Desjardins) discuss Jeff after her boyfriend departs. Callie insists that Jeff deserves to know what’s going on. Adam’s disappearance is all over the news. However, Shauna already told Jeff about her fling with Adam (and the stabby-stabby stuff). Problem solved! 

Teen Taissa sits at a table in a darkened cabin while smiling in Yellowjackets Season 2 Episode 1, "Friends, Romans, Countrymen."

Jasmin Savoy Brown as Teen Taissa in YELLOWJACKETS Season 2 Episode 1, “Friends, Romans, Countrymen.” Photo Credit: Kailey Schwerman/SHOWTIME.

Teen Shauna (Sophie Nélisse) and Jackie (Ella Purnell) play MASH in the meat shed. Ah, MASH. That takes me back. Of course, we know Jackie is dead, and Shauna has spent the past two months with her corpse. Keeping it in the cold significantly slows decomposition. Shauna’s very much in the throes of grief. Jackie wonders why Shauna can’t let her go. Perhaps the latter’s holding onto something? Jackie asks Shauna when she started fooling around with Jeff. Shauna reveals her affair with Jackie’s boyfriend began after a party and she initiated it. She inadvertently snaps off one of Jackie’s ears. After making a futile attempt at sticking it back on, Shauna pockets the ear. Ew. 

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In the present, Shauna examines Adam’s belongings, including his driver’s license. She remembers he has an art studio. Its contents might throw her in the path of suspicion. She calls Jeff (Warren Kole) to inform him about it. Meanwhile, Taissa drives to Sammy’s (Aiden Stoxx) school to surprise him with the puppy. However, Simone (Rukiya Bernard) orders Taissa to steer clear of their son. She mentions the altar with the dog’s head she found without blatantly stating it. Simone urges Taissa to step down as senator and seek help. Until then, she can’t see Sammy. 

Next, in 1996, teen Natalie and Travis search the vast Canadian snowy wilderness for Javi. Travis believes he sees Javi frozen in the snow, but it’s the skeleton of a fox. It’s abundantly clear that Natalie’s losing hope in finding Javi, as it’s been two months, but she can’t break that news to Travis. Side note: if you recall, Shauna was the one who told Javi to run in “Doomcoming.” Natalie and Travis mark their place and head back to the cabin. 

Teen Travis and teen Natalie sit in front of a fire in the cabin in Yellowjackets Season 2 Episode 1, "Friends, Romans, Countrymen."

(L-R): Kevin Alves as Teen Travis and Sophie Thatcher as Teen Natalie in YELLOWJACKETS Season 2 Episode 1, “Friends, Romans, Countrymen.” Photo Credit: Kailey Schwerman/SHOWTIME.

Then, adult Misty asks a hotel receptionist if he’s seen Natalie. After he refuses to answer her questions, Misty not-so-subtly threatens him with information about his address and home life. Gotta love blackmail. Shauna and Jeff break into Adam’s art studio, where they find nude paintings of her. Jeff asks if she posed for Adam, which she vehemently denies. They realize they can’t carry the paintings out of the studio without someone spotting them. Thus, they destroy them right then and there. 

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Shauna lets slip how revved up she gets when thinking of Jeff being with someone else. Naturally, the verbal foreplay culminates in steamy action. And, no, they don’t play with the paints. Meanwhile, teen Shauna’s examining the ear when the gang calls her downstairs for dinner. Teen Taissa (Jasmin Savoy Brown) asks how she’s holding up. Shauna lies, claiming it’s all good in the neighborhood. Teen Misty (Samantha Hanratty) is still stuck on water-fetching duty. It’s her punishment for giving everyone shrooms during Doomcoming. 

Next, teen Natalie presents part of a map to Ben (Steven Krueger), who attaches it to the rest of said map of their vast surroundings. Adult Misty breaks into Natalie’s hotel room and finds it empty. After a brief emotional breakdown, Misty notices the door looks peculiar — as if someone kicked it open. She appears to piece together that Natalie was kidnapped. 

Adult Shauna sits in the dark at a table with her hands folded in front of her in Yellowjackets Season 2 Episode 1, "Friends, Romans, Countrymen."

Melanie Lynskey as Shauna in YELLOWJACKETS Season 2 Episode 1, “Friends, Romans, Countrymen.” Photo Credit: Kimberley French/SHOWTIME.

Sure enough, we see adult Natalie (Juliette Lewis) bound to a bed. Lisa (Nicole Maines) brings her food but doesn’t offer up much else regarding information. However, Natalie puts two and two together after noticing Lisa’s necklace. It’s that damn symbol, the one we’ve been seeing since the beginning. Lisa removes one of Natalie’s shackles so she can eat. Jeff rocks out to “Last Resort” by Papa Roach in his car. First, the MASH game, now this. Is this the teen Melody starter pack? 

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Then, he and Shauna set fire to Adam’s belongings in their grill. Jeff brings out hot dogs, so they have a legitimate excuse for using their grill in November. Adult Taissa notices smears of blood outside a crawl space in her basement. Taissa crawls through the tunnel to find her macabre altar, complete with the dog head, Sammy’s doll and a heart. Horrified by what she did while sleepwalking, Taissa starts sobbing. Her new puppy, Steve, chooses this moment to join her. She embraces him and vows not to do the same thing to him. 

The teens sit in front of a fire in the cabin while teen Lottie calms down teen Travis in Yellowjackets Season 2 Episode 1, "Friends, Romans, Countrymen."

(L-R): Courtney Eaton as Teen Lottie, Kevin Alves as Teen Travis, Sophie Thatcher as Teen Natalie, Samantha Hanratty as Teen Misty, Sophie Nélisse as Teen Shauna and Nia Sondaya as Teen Akilah in YELLOWJACKETS Season 2 Episode 1, “Friends, Romans, Countrymen.” Photo Credit: Kailey Schwerman/SHOWTIME.

Next, Shauna, Jeff and Callie have dinner together. It’s awkward, at least for Callie. Jeff tries to smooth things over with her by cooking her a veggie burger instead of the pig anuses that are hot dogs. Meanwhile, in 1996, teen Travis starts having a panic attack after telling Natalie he knows she doesn’t believe Javi’s alive. Lottie saves the day by calming him down and gently persuading him to focus on breathing. While panicking, Travis appears to spot a tree bathed in sunlight. Now, lit candles surround it, not dissimilar to the burning altar Lottie envisioned when Laura Lee baptized her last season. Lottie reveals Javi’s alive. She knows it. She’s been right about most things so far. 

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Natalie pulls Lottie aside and criticizes her for giving Travis false hope. Later, in the present day, adult Natalie attacks Lisa when she enters the latter’s room by stabbing her through the hand. Natalie unbuckles her other restraint and flees. We see the expansive compound Natalie’s in as she winds through the trees to evade capture. Then, teen Taissa starts kissing teen Van (Liv Hewson) while the pair lay in bed together. However, Taissa takes it too far when she bites Van’s lip, causing it to bleed. 

Teen Taissa and teen Van sit on opposite sides of a table in a darkened cabin in Yellowjackets Season 2 Episode 1, "Friends, Romans, Countrymen."

(L-R): Jasmin Savoy Brown as Teen Taissa and Liv Hewson as Teen Van in YELLOWJACKETS Season 2 Episode 1, “Friends, Romans, Countrymen.” Photo Credit: Kailey Schwerman/SHOWTIME.

Van reassures Taissa that all’s well. She knows an unseen force controls Taissa. After all, she sleepwalks. In a romantic gesture, Van writes “I ♥ U” in her blood on Taissa’s arm. Hey, it’s kinda hot. Taissa can’t believe this is how Van tells her she loves her. Taissa responds with a whispered declaration of love, and the pair start making out. Ah, teen love. 

In the present, Natalie observes while a handful of folks donning animal masks emerge from the darkened woods. They bury a naked man alive, as you do. Suddenly, Lottie appears, reuniting with Natalie. Lottie’s cult is up to some weird sh*t. Natalie’s not a fan. I mean, she didn’t like the Wiccan stuff 25 years ago, so this checks out. Lottie reveals she has a message for Natalie from Travis. Teen Natalie and teen Travis are on another hunt for Javi, while, in the present, Callie finds the charred bits of Adam’s driver’s license in the grill. Uh-oh. That’s not all: teen Shauna puts Jackie’s ear in her mouth (ew times infinity). 

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Note to self: don’t eat dead people’s ears, no matter how appealing they might look. Beyond that, “Friends, Romans, Countrymen” plants the seeds for what’s sure to be an electrifying, darkly weird thrill ride of a season. Christina Ricci is absolute, hysterical perfection as Misty. Melanie Lynskey knows how to deliver a line so naturally, it almost seems like she’s not acting. That’s how brilliant she is. Exhibit A: Shauna tells Jeff she gets off on him being with someone else when they’re in the art studio. Tawny Cypress doles out a gut-wrenching performance, notably when Taissa discovers her macabre shrine. Juliette Lewis is all piss and vinegar, fire and rage, as Natalie. 

The younger versions of the adults are so spot-on in their physicality and mannerisms. Performance-wise, across the board, it’s such a well-oiled machine. 

What’s Travis’s message for Natalie from beyond the grave? Will we find Javi alive? What will Callie do next now that she knows her parents are involved in Adam’s disappearance? Only time (and more episodes) will tell. 

Yellowjackets streams new episodes every Friday on the Showtime app, and if you bundle Paramount+ with Showtime. You can also catch their cable network airings every Sunday at 9 pm on Showtime

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Melody McCune
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