Let's Talk About The Ominous Queen Of Hearts In Yellowjackets

This post contains spoilers for the latest episode of "Yellowjackets" season 2.

The girls of "Yellowjackets" are survivors, and in season 2 of the hit Showtime series, Shauna, Taissa, Van, Misty, Natalie, Lottie, and the rest of the team have gotten the daily rituals of life in the wilderness down to a science. They hunt and forage, but they also take the ritual part of daily ritual seriously; Lottie (Courtney Eaton), the vision-stricken girl who makes a compelling case for a supernatural presence in the forest, puts drops of her blood in their tea and guides them through meditations each morning.

In the most recent episode of the series, we also see the girls partake in a new daily ritual, one that initially seems pretty clever. Back in season 1, the group found playing cards in the abandoned cabin they holed up in, and now we see that they're using the cards to rotate chore duty. When Crystal (Nuha Jes Izman) grabs a two, it apparently means she's on bathroom duty, tasked with emptying the group's waste bucket over the edge of a cliff. On their own, the chore cards seem like another creative innovation from a group that's stepped up and found ways to stay (mostly) civilized even under the most brutal circumstances. In the context of the entire series, though, the return of the playing cards is a lot more ominous than it seems.

'No queens in that deck'

The deck of cards first appears in episode eight of season 1, when Travis (Kevin Alves) can be seen playing with them. "There's no queens in that deck," Natalie (Sophie Thatcher) tells him, in a throwaway line that feels like anything but. The moment has inspired fans to speculate that the four queens have a symbolic meaning that foreshadows the rest of the girls' time in the wilderness. Whether they refer to four different girls taking up the mantle of Antler Queen, four who are sacrificed to feed the others, or even four who become predatory hunters like the ones we saw in the pilot's cold open, the offhand statement certainly seemed significant.

We finally saw one of the queens return in the fourth episode of season 2, when cult leader Lottie (Courtney Eaton) is stricken by a vision of a queen of hearts card. She's looking through a deck of "gratitude entries" (basically a list of things she's thankful for) when she suddenly sees a queen of hearts card, creased and dirty, with the queen's eyes scratched out by what looks like a black pen. Lottie blinks hard and the image vanishes; it was another vision (or hallucination).

Fans of the series, including Reddit users like logicallymagical, have posited that the missing queen cards hint at a system by which, perhaps in a future moment of hunger and desperation, the girls will choose who becomes their prey. The very first scene in the series features a group of bundled-up survivors led by an Antler Queen chasing down a frantic girl who eventually falls into a spiked pit. That girl ends up feeding the group — and setting the stage for all of our questions about how the group would ultimately devolve into cannibalism.

A method to their madness

At the time, the scene looked like a ruthless, frenzied hunt, but could there actually be some order to the chaos? If the girls use playing cards to decide who's hunted — perhaps with the missing queens used to choose predator or prey — their cannibalism could feel less like an unspeakable act and more like, well, a team sport. Some of the show's key horror elements so far have ultimately been reframed as a demonstration of practical survival skills (see: eating Jackie), so it wouldn't be a surprise if the cards turned out to be the method to the girls' apparent madness.

Before this week, the queen cards speculation seemed like a bit of a stretch, but now that we know for sure that the survivors use the cards to pick chores, they seem like they could be one Doomcoming-like collective freakout away from deciding that, actually, being hunted is a chore, too. Lottie even seems to have referenced the group's potential future dynamic to Natalie at the compound, when she explains that in winter, bees kill off potential future queens. Plus, promotional materials for this season may have both purposely and accidentally reinforced the card-drawing theory.

In the ensemble poster for the new season, a queen of hearts card is on display behind present-day Van's (Lauren Ambrose) shoulder, woven into a circle of twigs that also includes a dead bird, a jawbone, a deer skull, one of Lottie's cult members' necklaces, and some sort of weapon. "Yellowjackets" cast member Sophie Nélisse also added fuel to the playing card theory fire during a Bustle interview, when she complimented co-star Melanie Lynskey with what definitely sounds like a reference to an out-of-context spoiler for a future episode.

The Queen of Hearts may not be who you think it is

If all of that isn't enough, last week's episode also included a sly literary reference that has more than a little to do with the queen of hearts. When Lottie hallucinates a trip to the mall with her teammates, she runs into Laura Lee (Jane Widdop), the Christian girl who died trying to fly a rickety plane to safety last season. Widdop shared behind-the-scenes photos from the day of the shoot to their Instagram, and captioned them "laura lee x alice in wonderland core." Once Widdop mentions it, it's hard to unsee the references to Lewis Carroll's classic in the scene, which sees Lottie at a topsy-turvy tea party of sorts.

If Laura Lee, with her blonde hair and blue outfit, is a stand-in for innocent Alice, that means someone at the table has to be the Queen of Hearts, the tempestuous ruler who's prone to declaring, "Off with their heads!" Lottie obviously seems to have the most power over the group at this point in the series, but she's disoriented here, and her classmates are making jokes at her expense. Nat, meanwhile, is dressed in black with bright red lipstick, a departure from both her typical style and everyone else's relatively casual dress. Could she be the Queen of Hearts? If so, whose head does she want on a platter?

Those chore cards could come back in a big way

Despite the many clues pointing to the importance of the queen cards and their eventual role in the girls' hierarchy, there are still some major details that won't be confirmed until the show finally plays its hand. Did the deck in the cabin really come without queen cards, or did one of the girls take them? Does the person who draws a queen card have to shed someone else's blood, or, as Lottie did in episode four when she cut her hand in sacrifice, give some of their own? Does the symbolism behind the cards also mean we'll see the rise and fall of four antler queens by the time the girls make it out of the wilderness?

The answers are uncertain, but the introduction of the chore cards, shuffled and presented by Mari (Alexa Barajas), certainly pulls this assortment of clues into focus. Whether it's the harsh winter, Lottie's visions, or some combination of the two that ultimately push the girls to the brink, it seems likely that the cards — especially the queen of hearts — will come back in a big way. Suddenly, drawing bathroom duty twice in a row doesn't sound so bad.

New episodes of "Yellowjackets" stream Fridays in the Showtime app, and air Sundays on Showtime.