Showtime’s ‘Yellowjackets’ tells the story of the members of a New Jersey high school girls’ soccer team who get stranded in the Ontario Wilderness after their plane crashes in 1996. The survivors make drastic decisions to keep living, including cannibalism. In the present day, those who made it back to civilization continue struggling with the memories of their past actions.
One of the girls who survive the crash is Vanessa “Van” Palmer (Liv Hewson as teen), the goalkeeper of the team. As she isn’t part of the initial group of adult Yellowjackets who appear in the first season, many viewers presumed that she is dead. However, following the announcement of Lauren Ambrose’s casting as the adult Van in the months leading up to the release of season 2, it was revealed to be not the case. In season 2 episode 5, following her reunion with Van, Taissa discovers certain pills in the other woman’s medicine cabinet. If this has made you wonder whether Van has cancer, we got you covered. SPOILERS AHEAD.
What is Van’s Illness?
During her time in the Wilderness, Taissa develops a case of sleepwalking. As we learn in the course of the series, she gains a modicum of control over it with Van’s help. In the present day, not long after she receives a postcard reading “Wish You Were Here” with a picture of a forest landscape and the mysterious Symbol, Taissa starts sleepwalking again. Her wife, Simone, discovers the alter Taissa has built with the heart and head of their family dog, Biscuit, and decides to leave with their son Sammy. The last straw for Taissa seems to be when she nearly causes Simone’s death in a car accident.
Taissa subsequently decides to seek out Van, who now lives in a small town and runs a VHS store. Van is stunned to see her former girlfriends there and soon learns her reasons. Reluctantly, she agrees to let Taissa stay at her home. That night, after showering, Taissa finds oxycodone in Van’s medicine cabinet and confronts Van about it. Initially evasive, Van later admits that the pills are for her mother, who was diagnosed with cancer and spent her last days with Van.
However, after Taissa has fallen asleep, Van retrieves the pills from the trash she dropped them in earlier, indicating that either she is the one who has cancer or is dealing with some other serious condition. Oxycodone is not exclusively a cancer drug but is used to relieve moderate to severe pain. So, while it is a significant possibility that Van has cancer, it’s also possible that it’s something else, and we might learn more about it in the coming episodes.
Reflecting on the reunion between Van and Taissa, Tawny Cypress, the actress who portrays the adult Taissa, stated in an interview with TVLine, “That’s a really good question. I think that she has compartmentalized her, put her away in a box when they ended their relationship. She says how many girls she f[expletive]ed in college and all this other stuff. It didn’t even dawn on her to connect with Van again until the other Tai came out and told her to do so. Yeah. No, I think she is too much into making her life as perfect as possible and she’s a narcissist so, she’s not just thinking about old, past relationships.”
According to reports, Van wasn’t initially supposed to survive the first season, but Hewson’s performance convinced the series creators to keep her around. “I just really loved Liv’s performance that was so good that they decided to keep the character around, and now I have a gig so I’m grateful for that,” Ambrose told Collider. “I’m so amazed by the combination of extremely vulnerable and extremely tough, extremely capable. The character’s a survivor from the first scene you see her. She’s waking her drunk mother before she goes off to the soccer trip. And the performance was so beautiful and open and alive, even in the face of so many harrowing staring-death-in-the-face experiences. And I think when we find Van grown up that the character is kind of hardened, calcified and dimmed, and seemingly okay. Functioning, clearly, sort of, but the light is turned way down.”
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