(This story contains spoilers from the fifth episode of Yellow jackets season two, “Two Truths and a Lie.”)
Yellow jackets was praised for its casting after the first season introduced characters so conveniently shared by two sets of actresses. Following the dual timelines of the hit Showtime series, the teen Yellowjackets soccer team and the adults they become – after surviving the 1996 plane crash and 19 months in the wilderness – fused together with the teen and adult versions from Shauna (Melanie Lynskey and Sophie Nélisse), Natalie (Juliette Lewis and Sophie Thatcher), Misty (Christina Ricci and Samantha Hanratty) and Taissa (Tawny Cypress and Jasmin Savoy Brown).
The second season expanded the roster of survivors from four to six when it first introduced the adult Lottie, played by newcomer Simone Kessell, in the premiere and, after a brief introduction at the end of episode four, viewers were finally introduced to adult Van, played by Lauren Ambrose, when she and adult Taissa (Cypress) reunited in the fifth episode.
“Initially my questions were, ‘OK, what does the experience they all went through look like for Van as an adult? How has that worked with her over the years? What’s it going to do to her? Where is it going?’” Ambrose said The Hollywood Reporter of which she asked showrunners Ashley Lyle, Bart Nickerson and Jonathan Lisco to play the season two role. “Liv (Hewson) gives such a wonderful performance; so funny, open and alive. I just really admire what Liv has done with this character and I’m really honored to come on board and continue her as an adult.
The other pairs of Yellowjackets survivors were able to create their characters together from the very beginning of the show. So when it came to bringing Van and Taissa’s teen romance to life 25 years later, the foursome that inhabits the two characters got to observe each other on set to make up for that time.
“Courtney and I talked about this a little bit because for the two of us it’s kind of the opposite where we didn’t have to worry about matching someone,” Hewson shared. THR about Eaton, who plays the teenage version of Lottie. “But Lauren came to see Jasmine and I working. And then I slipped in and watched her and Tawny do a little work. And when Lauren came in, she asked the editors to do a compilation of all our scenes from season one. And they made it for her. It’s a supercut from Van-Taissa.
The scene that Ambrose came to star in played out memorably in the opening moments of the third episode: after Van (Hewson) reminded Taissa (Savoy) that they were eating Jackie, Taissa vomited. ‘Do you really not remember? Tai, you ate her sightVan says to her friend, who has suffered from dissociative sleepwalking and can’t remember having their cannibal feast.
“It was at the end, the close-up where I had my Viola moment, with the snot and tears. And she was like ‘Hello!’ I was like, ‘Sorry about the snot!’” recalled Savoy, who shared with THR that unlike several of her co-stars, she had no physical reaction when filming the Jackie party.
“I think that’s what dissociation is,” she continued, “to go back to filming and I had a hard time filming that scene and got a little numb, was my body paying attention to me? I ended up not getting a physical reaction like some of our cast mates, like throwing up, etc. So if that’s the purpose this alter ego/other version of Taissa serves then I’m really curious to see how her relationship with that other version of herself progresses, be it the rest of the season or future seasons.
She told Savoy that Taissa interprets the experience of “other Tai” as feeling like “I’m out of control, I hate feeling out of control, I’m always in control and I wake up scared and frustrated.”
So it makes sense that in the current timeline, whenever Taissa feels an overwhelming loss of control, she would seek out Van. (After sacrificing her family dog to win her election to the New Jersey Senate, Taissa had a hallucination about her son and crashed her car, leaving wife Simone, played by Rukiya Bernard, still unconscious in a hospital bed. )
But for Cypress, that means a weakness in Tai. “Taissa goes back to feeling insecure about herself after the crash, where everything was so delicate in her world. And when she meets Van again, I think that’s really going back and falling back into an old relationship,” Cypress shared with THR. “She trusted Van so much, that because of this traumatic relationship, she immediately trusted Van again and did everything Van told her to do. It’s like when you have your first love. You move on with your life, you come back to that first love and you fall right back in line.”
The fifth episode reunited the pair when Taissa once again crashed her car and hitchhiked to Van’s video store, a location Detective Jessica Roberts (Rekha Sharma), who was killed by Misty in season one, tracked down for Tai. while investigating the Yellowjackets during the campaign. The former couple dropped a hint about the time difference between the wilderness and the present – about how they got to Shauna and Jeff’s (Warren Kole) wedding – but the timeline of their breakup remains a mystery.
The co-stars who play teen Van and Tai have their own theories about why the pair eventually broke up. “I think they will eventually part in the woods. I don’t think they make it all the way back,” Savoy said, adding that the line about Shauna and Jeff’s wedding “doesn’t mean they were together.”
Hewson shared their theory: “What I think about all the time with these two characters, I think they were together before the plane crash, but I think they hooked up and didn’t talk about it. I don’t think it was serious. So what I think happened is they fall in love in the wilderness. They come to their friends and say, “I love you.” Their relationship is stuck in this traumatic experience they have. So once you get back to the real world, to get that experience off you, how can you stay with this person? We don’t know how they break up, but I suppose that has something to do with it. It’s like with Shauna and Jackie – they should have had that fight in high school normally and got over it. And Van and Taissa should have been allowed to fall in love and then decide what to do when they go to university.”
The shared trauma that Van and Taissa carry bubbled to the surface these days, as they argued about why Taissa showed up at Van’s doorstep in the first place – and when “other Tai” visited Van in the middle of the night, she kissed her and said “we shouldn’t be here.” When Tai finally breaks down, Van comforts her and promises to help.
Cypress says this will be the start of a difficult journey ahead of them as they reach the middle of nine episodes. “That’s basically Tai the rest of the season, is this shadow of the season one Tai being so sure of herself and so confident. This new Tai is weak. Especially with the personality break where all the power has gone to the other Tai. She really is a shell of herself,” she said. And with the discovery that Van is dependent on painkillers, Ambrose agreed: “Van as an adult is stuck and not that free, open self, perhaps in her essence. But it’s really the guilt and shame. She seems pretty okay on the surface, I suppose they all do. But you end up seeing a lot happening to her and eating a lot. I see her as dimmed and stuck and hardened.
Ambrose said all of this is why she’s so invested in Van and Taissa’s storyline and their intense arc. “There’s a lot of energy in it for each other — what they’ve been through together and how they’ve been able to live so fully and be who they were is out there in the wilderness,” she said.
She continued, “One big thing is that all of these characters essentially lived in the forest most of all, and most importantly I think Tai and Van are able to be openly in this relationship with their teammates, which isn’t really the experience that a teenager in 1996. And what that must have been like getting back into society and back to the real world, and then I have a lot of questions about what it was like for them to break up. Now that they haven’t seen each other for so long, that for any reason this has been too much to bear for so many years, and now they’re here, needing each other again, for different reasons. And then the whole group needs each other, because really, they’re the only ones who know what experience they had.
Yellow jackets streams weekly on Fridays and airs on Showtime Sundays at 9 p.m. Stay tuned THR‘s Yellow jackets season two coverage and interviews.