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What Are Lottie and Her Acolytes Really Up to in ‘Yellowjackets’?

Can Lottie’s cult—er, “intentional community”—provide clues about what actually happened in the wilderness?

Showtime/Getty Images/Ringer illustration

Yellowjackets is not a show about good outcomes. In its 1990s timeline, teenagers shiver and starve in the Canadian wilderness after living through a plane crash; in its present-day timeline, the now-adult survivors of that experience grapple with the effects of enduring trauma. Yet two episodes into its second season, the show has presented us with something new: a survivor who appears to be healthy, wealthy, and perhaps even happy.

Season 2 introduces us to the adult Lottie Matthews, played by Simone Kessell. Draped in gauzy jewel tones with a Rolex on her wrist, she leads a community called Camp Green Pine. There, her acolytes dress head to toe in purple and wear gold pendants emblazoned with the stick-figure symbol found in the woods during the ’90s. Camp Green Pine is a place where one imagines the word “energy” is invoked a great deal, and where it would not be much of a surprise to crack open a cabin and find an NFL quarterback midway through a darkness retreat.

But Camp Green Pine’s granola-forward lifestyle doesn’t seem to be entirely peaceful. At the end of Season 1, members of the community broke into Natalie’s motel room and kidnapped her; she begins this season chained to a bed at the camp compound. (For her own good, the members insist!) After escaping, Natalie witnesses a group of them wearing animal masks—a thematic callback to those months in the woods, to put it mildly—escorting a naked man to a freshly dug grave, in which they proceed to partially bury him. Lottie leads the ceremony.

If it’s not exactly a cult—and Lottie maintains it is not—it at least shares a lot of cult hallmarks. “We are an intentional community turning suffering into strength so we can be our best selves,” Lottie tells Natalie in a TED Talk purr. The burial, she insists, was a “therapeutic treatment.” As for those purple clothes? They’re not purple, Lottie says—they’re heliotrope.

But the cult leader doth protest too much, methinks. Devotees swaddled in monotone garb who study the wisdom of a spiritual figure call to mind several real cults—most notably the Rajneeshee community, founded by Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh in Oregon during the 1980s, in which followers wore various shades of red. And while there are lots of intentional communities around the United States, and perhaps even more therapeutic centers in sumptuous locales where you can fork over the equivalent of a Rolex as down payment for treatments, there probably aren’t many of either whose residents/clients/adherents carry out surveillance ops and kidnappings at the behest of their founders.

Back in the earlier timeline, Lottie’s parents did not respond well to the return of their traumatized teenager. In a flashback, we see them lament to a doctor—in Lottie’s stone-faced presence, no less—that she wouldn’t speak or eat after returning from the woods. In response, Lottie was sent to an inpatient psychiatric facility where she received electroconvulsive therapy. This appears to have been the beginning of years of hospitalizations: In the present, Misty seems shocked to learn that Lottie is no longer in “a mental institution in Switzerland.”

One could read Lottie’s decision to start a wellness center as a response to what she endured. Instead of a sterile white hospital, there’s a picturesque lake nestled in a verdant forest. Instead of mass-produced cafeteria food, there are juice and honey straight from the hive. Instead of hospital gowns, there are heliotrope and signs advising onlookers to BREATHE. Instead of electroconvulsive therapy, there is faux burial au naturel.

But Lottie’s history points toward a darker edge to the reimagined treatment narrative. Increasingly, the ’90s timeline shows Lottie assuming the mantle of leader among one faction in the woods. She issues regular blessings to those who leave the cabin—involving sage-esque smoke, ceremonial sips from a concoction containing blood from her palm, and a ritualized drawing of the symbol—ostensibly to protect them. She has convinced some that she has a healing touch: When Travis begins to hyperventilate over the search for his still-missing brother, Javi, who bolted in the chaos of Season 1’s mushroom-fueled rager, Lottie presses her hand to his chest and calms him in moments.

So how much of Camp Green Pine’s spirituality overlaps with Lottie’s “Wicca bullshit,” as Natalie dubbed her emerging belief system back in the ’90s? That’s one of the show’s biggest questions going forward. We know that she remains fixated on the symbol. We know, too, that she retained belief in her power to heal others with her touch for at least a while after leaving the woods; in the Season 2 premiere, she soothed a roommate with her palm at the institution where she received electroconvulsive therapy. And she exudes the same magnetism that has always carried a hint of danger: As in the ’90s, she has an eerie gift for convincing others to follow her down very strange paths.

Lottie’s relationship to the symbol—and the darkness from the woods that it seems to represent, with adult Taissa apparently painting it on the wall of her basement with the blood of dearly departed Biscuit—is particularly alarming. In telling Natalie her account of Travis’s Season 1 death, Lottie denies involvement and tries to distance herself from his own obsession with the symbol, which he formed by arranging candles around himself just before what Lottie insists was a fatal accident. But if she’s actually left behind the symbol mysticism, why is it at the heart of her new community?

There are other breadcrumbs, too. With the identity of the Antler Queen still unknown, Camp Green Pine’s adoption of purple—a garment color historically associated with royalty—feels poignant. Even the name “Camp Green Pine” feels significant, given that it comes from somebody who experienced a formative trauma among pine trees. Could the name be a reference to what Natalie called “that weird mossy tree” that seemed to defy winter, the one she and Travis found while searching for Javi?

Perhaps Camp Green Pine is indeed merely a sanctuary of retrospection and self-actualization. But with Lottie gathering disciples—and with Lottie’s shadows lurking in her own retrospection—it’s difficult to imagine that therapeutic treatments will be the end of what team heliotrope has to offer.