Season 1, Episode 5: "Coming Home"
Four out of Five Stars
Welcome back to the Dutton ranch, folks. It's a sunny, brisk morning, and John, Rip and Jamie are horse shopping. A horse salesman named Travis is trying to get them to buy a $5 million dollar stud horse with a real impressive pedigree. Even at that price, Dutton is told that he will make his money back in three years, but just in case they show him some cheaper horses, like one that's a measly $200,000. Rip says he likes the "$5 million b*stard, but it ain't my money." Jamie tells his father they simply can't afford the fancy one, and Dutton responds in a very Dutton way: by growling "don't tell me what I can and cannot do."
But before he can growl any further, Monica and Tate arrive. It's grandpa time.
But first he tells Jamie to watch for Kayce being moved from local jail to prison. So far, nothing. Dutton asks, "what do you think they got him for," a fair question considering how often he kills someone on the show. "Hopefully it's the rez thing," Jamie replies.
Dutton tells Jamie to take the helicopter to wherever he has to go to deal with the Kayce situation. And then it's grandpa time, with Dutton offering an irresistibly big cookie - "big as a dinner plate" - to Tate if he runs inside to get it. While he's on a cookie hunt, Dutton tells Monica not to worry; they'll deal with Kayce's legal woes. Monica worries anyway. Dutton makes his bid to get the family under his roof, telling Monica to think about her family because surviving day-to-day isn't living. Just then, Tate bursts out of the house with a big cookie and exclaims, "Boy, you weren't kidding!"
As an aside, I've read that a lot of people don't like Tate. So far, I think he's a cute kid and a good actor. I don't know what there is to dislike. But he can sure look excited about a cookie, which I think speaks for his skill as a performer.
Jamie's helicopter takes off, and in the next scene, we see that Dutton was in a hurry to send him to Broken Rock Reservation, where Rainwater and the tribal police are asking Kayce why they found a body full of slugs that match the slide currently in Kayce's gun (remember, the tribal police chief switched slides with Kayce after Kayce put the victim of the meth explosion out of his misery - keep up now!). Kayce explains that he shot the men because the young girl was being kidnapped and was in imminent danger, but that doesn't satisfy Rainwater, who says that the killing is one thing, and the hiding of the bodies is another.
How far away is Dutton's ranch from Broken Rock Tribal Justice Complex, by the way? However large Dutton's spread is, part of it abuts the reservation because some of his cattle were able to meander onto Broken Rock land. So did Jamie just take a five-minute helicopter ride?
Why not? After all, the Duttons aren't the type to waste time.
Jamie deftly swats away the tribal police's accusations against Kayce. So the bullets in the body match a tribal cop's gun? Shouldn't have traded, I guess. It seems like Rainwater should have been shrewd enough to anticipate this. But he's in for the long game, so maybe he did. Kayce and Jamie get back in the helicopter and head for the Dutton ranch.
Rip, meanwhile, has to go recruit a new hand after Fred met with the "long black train" at the end of the last episode (that's what Dutton calls a bullet in the head and a long fall off of a cliff). He stops outside of the prison (for us Montanans, is that Deer Lodge?) and calls Walker (Ryan Bingham) over to the truck. Walker's an experienced hand from Texas that killed a man in a barfight after he got to Montana. He seems to check all of Rip's boxes: he's a criminal, he can ride a horse, and he doesn't bat an eye when Rip suggests that he only got his horse by performing unsavory favors. Walker gets in the truck and rides off to his new future at the Yellowstone Ranch.
As for Beth, she's continuing her single-minded crusade against Dan Jenkins, sitting in a Yellowstone Club-type bar and talking with her Salt Lake boss, Bob Schwartz (Michael Nouri). He wants her back and working in the office, but she tells him her sabbatical is indefinitely extended and that, besides, there are plenty of companies to gut right here in the Paradise Valley. In a speech that may have the ring of truth to it, she tells Bob, "Look where you are. It's the Mecca of dumb money. I'm half surprised I don't see trust fund babies walking here on I-90, flogging themselves. It's the greatest concentration of wealth in the United States. Not New York, not LA, right here. I could throw a boomerang across the room and hit five billionaires."
I'm not sure that the writers of Yellowstone have the exact correct billionaire to boomerang ratio there, but there's definitely something to what she's saying.
Bob then offers her a job running an office in Bozeman, and Beth tells him that if she did, she'd start with dismantling Dan Jenkins' company. All rich people know each other, so naturally Bob is friends with Jenkins. But being friends doesn't mean that Bob wouldn't let Beth eviscerate him. Beth tells Bob that if only he was a little younger, she might want him. The way to Beth's heart, evidently, is ruthlessness.
Then Beth begins to put her plan in action by taking the opportunity to terrorize Dan, sidling up next to him and his wife at the bar. She flirts with revealing that she knows that Jenkins got his shiner while trying to bed her at the bar but stops short of letting his wife know. For her part, Jenkins' wife seems excited by her brief meeting with Beth, telling Jenkins that she might have finally met a friend in Beth. Jenkin's wife (Barret Swatek) may even insinuate that she's attracted to Beth, which is going to make it a lot easier for Beth to "chop [their] family tree down."
On however many acres of the Dutton Ranch, John and Tate settle on throwing rocks into the trough as a fun activity. Once Tate is happily chucking stones, Monica remarks to John that he doesn't act like the man she's heard about. Just then, Jamie and Kayce arrive on the helicopter, and Jamie proclaims the problem "solved." Dutton tells Kayce that he's got something he needs Kayce to do, but that he'll like this kind of work. The work is training the very stallion Kayce gifted his father, but Kayce doesn't want to, saying "I won't work for you." But Kayce decides to do so anyway, without accepting pay.
Where's my boy Jimmy? We haven't seen him yet this episode! Well, here he is, trying to get on a horse after his hellacious beat-down at the big fists of the late, but maybe not great, Fred. Even the other hands can tell from how bad Jimmy is wincing from atop his horse that he's hurt bad. "It's the shame that hurts the most," Lloyd says, "but pain is in the mind."
Yeah, but broken ribs are in the torso. But then, I'm not very cowboy.
At the Dutton Ranch, a tweedy professorial type drives up and greets Jamie. It's the President of Montana State University, and he reveals that he'd like to expand and beef up the Native-American studies department at the University (in reality, of course, MSU's Native-American Studies department is robust and comes well-recognized without the benefit of the Duttons.) The Duttons have arranged a job interview, it seems, as a way of luring Monica (and by extension Kayce and Tate) off the rez and closer to the fold. Dutton later tells her that he's really trying to keep Kayce close, as he can keep an eye on him better here. Monica declines the offer, at least for now.
But Tate loves the Yellowstone, and tells Kayce as much while watching him start to work on the stallion again. It seems everyone wants Kayce back at Yellowstone Ranch except Kayce and Monica. Well, they end up staying in the trapper cabin on the Yellowstone, while Tate gets to sleep in the ranch proper. Lucky kid!
Next, an absolutely hammered Beth leaves the Deerfield Club. Too drunk to drive, she calls her favorite person in the world, her brother Jamie. Jamie resists picking her up, but of course he gives in, which leads to some classic Yellowstone sibling fighting. Now that Jamie's gotten a taste of punching his sister, he can't stop. He mashes her face against the window, laughing, and then she tells him that he's so "soft" because he's never lost a loved one. He reminds her that they share the same mother and brother, but she says that only the people that were there really lost anything. She grabs a pistol and puts it under her chin, threatening to kill herself, but Jamie calls her bluff.
But now we get a revealing little moment for Beth. She tells Jamie about what it was like to see her mother die knowing that her mother didn't love her, not even a little, and knowing it was her fault. She then breaks down and sobs. Jamie is human enough to be moved by that, telling her, "if hating me keeps you from hating yourself, I'll be that for you, Beth. That's what family's for."
Interesting - it seems Jamie and Beth might both be human after all!
Back at Jenkins's aggressively modern mansion, his wife is agitated to the point of drunken delirium by having even come into contact with Beth Dutton. Jenkins, however, is in panic mode. He places a call to someone we haven't met yet, his own version of Beth, some kind of fixer who he thinks might be a match for his Dutton nemesis. I fear that Jenkins has her underestimated, but we'll see.
And at the ranch, Walker (again, played by country/Americana star Ryan Bingham) plays a mournful tune for the other hands in the bunkhouse. It's a good tune, but considering his bunkmates asked for a happy song, it's an atypically sad one. It also might be available on one of Bingham's albums, I'm not sure. I'm more of a Highwaymen man myself. And then it's time for the Dutton secret ritual: the criminal branding. Walker accepts his brand with as much grace as anyone can when they feel their own flesh searing.
Beth arrives home still drunk in time to witness John being jovial old grandpa to Tate, so she does the only thing she can: goes into her stately bathroom and screams and screams and screams.
Jamie asks his father why he's keeping Beth, who is clearly not in the best mental health right now, around for this extended period. John tells him that he needs Beth because, God bless her, she can be evil, and evil's what he needs right now.
Finally, in the trapper's cabin, Kayce and Monica ruin a romantic night by arguing about whether to come to the Yellowstone or not. Let me settle the argument. Just do it!
Then, in the episode's final moments, Monica wanders away from the cabin to calm down after their fight, and happens to witness Walker get branded. If she thinks its weird, or perhaps non-standard ranch behavior, she doesn't tell anyone. "Don't think of it as a brand," Rip advises, "think of it as tenure."
What I liked about this episode is that it took a week off from the melodramatics and violence to set up further melodrama and violence in later episodes. I think the show is better when it is taking its time, allowing the tension to build from it's character's actions. Now, do you think Kayce will continue his streak of not killing anyone next week? My guess is probably not.