You Won’t Believe What Happened While Filming Episode 6

May 6, 2023

[Editor’s note: The following contains spoilers for Yellowjackets, Season 2, Episode 6, “Qui.”]

Yellowjackets Season 2, Episode 6, “Qui,” is an exceptional episode of television with an Emmy nomination-worthy performance at its core from Sophie Nélisse. After nearly two full seasons of wondering what will happen when Nélisse’s Shauna gives birth to her baby out in the wilderness, we got our answer and it’s utterly crushing.

Filming a birth scene is a monumental challenge no matter the circumstances, but Shauna’s situation makes that experience especially intense and perilous. Not only do the Yellowjackets have zero access to medical personnel and equipment, but they’re also suffering themselves — they’re starving and struggling to keep sound minds as their circumstances become more and more dire. Showrunners Ashley Lyle, Bart Nickerson, and Jonathan Lisco, and Episode 6 writers Karen Joseph Adcock and Ameni Rozsa don’t just make use of the physical and logistical challenges of giving birth while stranded in the wilderness; they also heavily tap into the emotional devastation of such a situation as well.
In addition to showing the birth scene play out linearly, the team also adds a fantasy/dream sequence. Initially, the audience is led to believe that Shauna’s son survived, but, extremely malnourished, she struggles to get him to breastfeed. She finally succeeds, but the much-needed relief that moment offers is immediately ripped away when it’s revealed that it was all just a dream. Shauna’s son never made it.

Image via Paramount

During a conversation with Nickerson, Lyle, and Lisco, we discussed the development of this particular sequence. “The plan was always to have the baby die.” Lyle continued, “We really infused that death and that loss into Shauna’s relationship with Callie. And her disconnect and her estrangement from her daughter, in our minds, has always been a result of that loss.”

That connection is certainly palpable, but why dig the knife in deeper? Why include both the reality and also give Shauna a taste of what could have been? Nickerson explained:

“A huge thing that we often try to do or kind of want to do is to give the audience as much as possible, like a visceral taste of the subjective experience of the character. And so, to just say, ‘Well, she lost the baby and that hurts her,’ but how do you express that and give people a handle on how to feel it? Well, you show what she lost, and you give a taste of that, of all that could have been.”

Sure enough, that choice is an emotional wallop for the viewer and I, for one, can’t imagine a more effective way of conveying the loss that Shauna’s feeling. But that narrative choice does mean Nélisse had her work cut out for her given she must film two endings for the birth sequence, two very emotionally demanding ones at that. Here’s what Nélisse told me about preparing to tackle such challenging material:

“There’s just so much going on in the episode. First of all, just the ramping up of her slowly dying within giving birth. There’s so many scenes where she’s just screaming, but to kind of level it out so that it’s not all one note throughout the whole birthing process. And to kind of play with her being scared and her also just trying to survive, and all of these elements, and I was just really nervous the whole time. [Laughs] I just watched a bunch of birthing scenes, and it was hard for me because all the women that I’ve talked to had such different birthing experiences and I kind of wanted to try to honor all of them. I think what really helped me out was playing off of the other girls like you just mentioned. It was looking at their heartbroken faces.”

Image via Paramount

If all of this doesn’t sound tough enough, just wait until you hear what happened after they finished filming those scenes.

While discussing the sequence and what she strove to do for Nélisse as a supportive scene partner on Collider Ladies Night, Jasmin Savoy Brown revealed that a significant amount of that material had to be reshot:

“I’m sure you’ve heard this story, but maybe not, that we had to shoot a lot of Episode 6 twice. We shot most of the birth stuff, the losing the baby, all of that and then the camera wiped. It was the worst day of a lot of our lives, no exaggeration, because it took like four days to shoot that scene. The screaming, the crying, the baby, the blood, the close-ups, and then like 40% of it just vanished and we had to do it again … So I just wanted to be present for Sophie and for everyone and just really be there. Even if I was off camera, sometimes looking in another actor’s eyes is what will get the emotion going again.”

No, not an ideal situation there, but the finished product couldn’t be stronger. Hopes are high that Yellowjackets will return to the Emmys in all the categories it scored nominations in last year including an Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series nomination for Melanie Lynskey and an Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series nomination for Christina Ricci, but the show deserves even more love in the acting categories. There are quite a few deserving performances in the mix, but personally? If I had to select just one to get that recognition, it’d be a no-brainer. Nélisse needs a nomination for her work in the entire series thus far, but specifically for her exceptional performance in Episode 6.

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