Desperation for food forces the stranded soccer team in Yellowjackets to turn to their most drastic measure yet in the penultimate episode of season 2. Titled “It Chooses,” episode eight sees the starving survivors carry out a hunt on one of their own for the first time—in what appears to be the original version of the brutal hunt shown in the opening scene of the Yellowjackets premiere.
The mood at the cabin is lower than ever in the episode—Lottie (Courtney Eaton) remains near death after letting Shauna (Sophie Nélisse) beat her violently, an effort to allow her to release her grief over the loss of her baby. And as the hunger sets in further, the line between reality and the supernatural has grown increasingly blurred. Several members of the group experience hallucinations—or visions, depending on how you see it—throughout the episode. By the end of the hour, they come to the collective decision to sacrifice one of their own so that the others can eat and, as a result, save Lottie.
To make the choice, they play what essentially boils down to a game of Russian roulette using a deck of cards: Whoever draws the queen of hearts will be the one to die. The unlucky loser of the game is Natalie (Sophie Thatcher), who accepts her fate at first and lets Shauna clasp Jackie’s heart necklace around her neck. But when Shauna moves to slit her throat, Natalie turns to tell her to look her in the eye when she kills her. In that moment, a distraught Travis (Kevin Alves) springs into action and tackles Shauna to the ground before screaming at Natalie to run.
A hunt ensues as Nat flees through the wilderness, hiding until Javi (Luciano Leroux) finds her and tries to lead her across the frozen lake to a secret hideout. But Javi falls through the ice—and though Natalie tries at first to save him, she’s pulled back by Misty (Samantha Hanratty), who tells her the girls will kill her if Javi lives. They watch as Javi helplessly flails in the water before he drowns—and then pull him out of the lake. “The wilderness chose,” Van (Liv Hewson) proclaims.
Jonathan Lisco, the co-showrunner of Yellowjackets, tells TIME they killed off Javi—who spent much of season 2 missing and presumed dead until he miraculously reappeared—to make viewers question what is actually happening.
“When you have people believing in something that they think is supernatural or phenomenological or religious, and others who think things are just random, what better way to test each side’s hypotheses?” he says. “Is it the wilderness snatching it away from them? Or is it that Javi was trying to do something genuinely good for Natalie, who was “chosen” to be murdered and consumed, and then, in doing so, his goodness created an energetic environment in which he had to be the one to suffer and die.”
The full truth about the wilderness is unlikely to be revealed this season, with only one episode left. But it’s clear that the surviving adult Yellowjackets still think there was some sort of supernatural entity that held power over them while they were stranded, even if this belief hasn’t kept their guilt over what they did at bay. Natalie and Travis, in particular, are forever changed by Javi’s death, Lisco says.
“They both felt horribly guilty over Javi and were never really able to unpack exactly how to interact with one another. Their love affair was laden in addiction and dysfunction and was very unhealthy,” he says. “They were staying together, on and off, to, in some ways, to keep what was good about their relationship in the past alive, but also in many ways to honor Javi.”
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