[This story contains spoilers from the third episode of Yellowjackets season two, “DIGESTIF.”]
Yellowjackets returned after the show’s most shocking episode yet to show the collective hangover for the young survivors after their cannibalistic feast.
The third episode of the hit Showtime survival series, titled “DIGESTIF,” opens with a reminder for both viewers and Taissa (Jasmin Savoy Brown) about what they did. “You really don’t remember? Tai, you ate her face,” says Van (Liv Hewson) to her girlfriend, who has dissociative sleepwalking episodes and is unable to remember what happens when “other Tai” takes over. She then gets violently ill.
As the cast shared in an oral history with The Hollywood Reporter, the starving characters in the show’s 1996 wilderness timeline savagely feasted on the body of their dead teammate Jackie (played by Ella Purnell), after a hallucinatory sex scene involving Lottie (Courtney Eaton), that played out in both reality and in a bacchanal dream sequence.
Everyone partook in the feast — except for Coach Ben Scott (Steven Krueger), which put a target on his back. “We wanted to explore it from the girls’ point of view. Because when he abstains, so to speak, how do they now view him?” explained co-showrunner Jonathan Lisco, who wrote the “Edible Complex” episode, when speaking to THR about Ben’s storyline. “They could potentially view him as someone who had discipline and didn’t want to break that social taboo. But it’s more likely they will now see him as more self-righteous and judgey, and therefore consider him outside the circle of their ingroup politics. So I think it’s in some ways very dangerous for Coach, that he didn’t engage in the feast. And so we’ll see that play out in the course of the episodes.”
What plays out in the third episode is an internal journey for the only adult in the wilderness, as Coach begins to experience the neurological effects of being the most starving of the bunch. As he lies in the cabin and daydreams, Yellowjackets jumps back in time to show Ben’s life before the crash. The flashback, however, plays out both in the past and in an alternate timeline, as it shows what life could have been for Ben if he had never gotten on the plane and instead had committed to his boyfriend, Paul, played by François Arnaud.
“If I got on that plane, I was committing to the saddest possible version of me. A fucking closeted high school soccer coach who ignores everything he wants because he thinks it will, I don’t know, keep him safe?” says Ben, in this alternate version. “I’m going to live how I want to, how I know I’m meant to, and I’m going to be the person that I know I am. Fuck everyone else.”
As a reminder, Ben only came out to the team after the crash. And in the scene, the local news runs with the story of the Yellowjackets team crashing, as if Ben never got on the plane.
“Ben is a unique character because he is there with them, but he’s such an outsider at this point,” Krueger says, speaking to THR. “I did wonder going into season two, where are they going to go with this? What’s an interesting way to tell his story? And I thought the creators and the writers just nailed it. Getting to see the one person who is outside the group go internal and really start living in his own mind, it just makes it all the more tragic. It makes his journey all the more heartbreaking.”
He continues, “You haven’t seen the ultimate consequences of what happens as a result of him kind of going into his own psyche, but it’s intense. And it’s sad and it’s scary. And I think that people are really going to enjoy it; it gives a nice little inflection and an inside peak at exactly what he’s going through.”
What viewers do begin to see is Ben hallucinating some of the fears that were written all over his face as he watched his team of teenagers feast on Jackie. The second episode ended with Ben backing his way into the cabin, and slamming the door in both horror and fear about what they are capable of, and if he could be next. As Natalie (Sophie Thatcher) tells Jackie’s remains in a foreboding warning, “I think shit is going to get a lot worse out here.”
In the “Edible Complex” oral history, Krueger explained that Ben, as the adult, feels a responsibility to separate right from wrong, and knows he will be the one who has to answer questions if and when they are rescued. “There’s this constant sobriety that Ben has about the situation — about what’s right and wrong — that the younger people kind of lose track of. He’s able to control his own impulses,” he said, “but he completely loses control over everybody else, and I think that’s the most haunting thing for him.”
Here, he elaborates on that: “The inner monologue that I was working with [at the end of episode two] was along the lines of holding up a mirror to myself and realizing that not only have I lost control of the situation out here, but also that my identity is tied up in that,” he says. “My identity in front of these people, in front of these young girls, is their coach and their authority figure. And if that’s out the window, then, who am I?”
Digging more into Ben’s psyche and what’s to come in the 1996 wilderness (the survivors end up being stranded for 19 months, and seven episodes of season two remain), Krueger adds: “All of a sudden, I’m completely impotent. I don’t really know who I am any more, I don’t really know how to identify myself when I look in the mirror. So if I’m only left with that, it leads to what we see with Coach Ben in the rest of the season, which is him becoming very internal and dealing with his own psyche, because that’s really all he has left. He’s questioning, where do I go at this point? Who is this person? I don’t even recognize him anymore. And given everything else that’s going on externally, that’s a really hard thing to deal with.”
Yellowjackets releases new episodes weekly on Fridays for Showtime subscribers, and airs on cable Sundays at 9 p.m. Keep up with THR‘s Yellowjackets season two coverage and interviews.