Season 1, Episode 7: "A Monster Among Us"
3 stars out of 5
This episode of Yellowstone opens with what passes for broad comedy in the world of the show: Dutton is on the way to his Cattleman's Association dinner, wearing a tuxedo shirt and bow tie (in which he doesn't look altogether comfortable), notices a busload of tourists on his land. What's worse, they're dangerously close to a full-grown grizzly.
It seems to be a tour bus catering to the Chinese, and a woman is explaining something in Mandarin to the group. Dutton is incensed, not just by the intrusion on his land, but by their proximity to the dangerous bear.
By the way, this scene feels a little silly. It exists to set something up later (which is in itself pretty silly), and for John to fire a gun and say something cool to the camera, but I'm not sure it makes a lot of sense. I realize that tourists can e fool-hardy, but are these guys really going to get that close to a bear? Don't they have dangerous animals in China, too? Or are they trying to feed themselves to the bear?
At any rate, Dutton says they should move because, well, grizzly bear. The interpreter shrugs it off in a patronizing way, downplaying the danger. Then Dutton says he owns this land and, gesturing at pretty much the whole world, says he owns the rest of it too. One of the Chinese, presumably a real People's Republic kind of guy, says that no one man should own all this land, and that it should be shared with the people. Seeing how this group isn't going to listen to Capitalist reason, John begins firing his rifle into the air. Finally, after Dutton succeeds in herding the group back to the bus, John gets his chance at a one-liner: "This is America. We don't share land here."
Which is a badass line, make no mistake. But I get the feeling John isn't the strongest proponent of public lands.
In the hospital, the surgeons are performing brain surgery on Monica. Outside, Kayce and Tate are throwing separate tantrums: Kayce by insisting on storming the ICU and then getting queasy when he sees Monica all bandaged up, and Tate because he's not impressed with the nurse's origami frog, even though the origami frog is pretty cute. It comes to blows because Kayce punches one of the nurses who is trying to subdue his hysterical, violent child. Of course, the nurse probably doesn't know how lucky he is Kayce doesn't shoot him. Both are strongly encouraged to leave the damn hospital.
At the Cattleman's Association dinner, Dutton gives a speech about how ranching is the only profession in which your grandest hope is to break even every year and then pass it on to your kids. I believe this may be true for 98% of ranchers but it's pretty rich coming from Dutton, who's richer than Croesus and Midas combined. But it makes for a pretty speech. John's in a bad mood anyway because not one of his children, not one, showed up for his speech. And in a troubling sign of things to come, even his paramour Governor Perry doesn't come over to talk to him.
As a side note, Dutton notes in his speech that the ranch was founded in 1886 - and it occurs to this humble blogger that a spinoff about the founding of the ranch would be pretty cool. Lonesome Dove vibes. I'm here to consult.
Anyway, the Dutton kids couldn't attend because each is embroiled in their own drama. We've already covered what Kayce's up to.
Jamie is in his campaign office while his fetching new campaign manager/presumptive-lover is making doe eyes at him. He then insists on not being idealistic before saying he wants to restore the ideals of the Old West. He'll make a good politician with that kind of double-talk.
Beth? Well, she's sitting in bed crying and having a flashback.
When we last saw Evelyn Dutton, John's late wife and mother to the Dutton children, we saw her die in a freak riding accident. We'll also remember that she was exceptionally cruel to Beth for some reason, and now we see why, or at least a partial explanation: she did it out of love. It's Christmas morning at the Yellowstone, and no one can open presents until Beth comes downstairs. But she's upstairs, mortified because she's just begun her first period.
While Beth takes a bath to soothe her cramps, Evelyn explains that now, because she's a woman, everyone will hate her and think she's "less", a weak creature incapable of anything. This is taking place in the 90s, by the way. "That's why I'm going to have be hard on you, honey." Evelyn explains. "You're going to hate it. I know I did."
This is is one of those instances that the show veers off into some sort of preposterous Western fantasy that becomes, occasionally, utterly ridiculous. The notion that this loving mother is going have to be a heatlessly cruel monster to her daughter from here on out in order to toughen her up enough to meet the world is, well, pretty ridiculous. Real Mommie Dearest stuff. But in the world of Yellowstone, cruelty is the lingua franca, and needless, exorbitant suffering is equated with grit - it's a world where minimum wage employees undergo branding, after all. But just because it's ridiculous don't mean it ain't capital entertainment.
Dadgum it, Beth's going to ride a horse, thus overcoming the last shreds of fear that are holding her back. But she just can't get the hang of it. That is until the silver-tongued Walker shows her how, giving us one of the best pieces of dialogue in the show so far.
He explains how the horse is sensitive enough to feel a fly on its back, which means it can feel exactly however she feels. He grabs her around the ribs and holds her gently. See how that feels different than that? Or that? One way you feel held, the other you feel as if somebody wants to do you violence. She understands. Now, she mounts the horse and is able, for the first time, to ride in a relaxed way.
Dutton remarks that it's the first good thing he's seen in weeks. Rip agrees, but is ambivalent because even though Walker isn't as big around as a Buick like Rip, his beard is almost as good as Rip's. Rip looks as if he might not appreciate the proximity Walker is enjoying with his woman. Rip looks fit to shoot a bear.
At the hospital, Felix is smudging the room with sage and asking the creator to save Monica when he sets off the smoke detector. But it does seem to get Monica out her coma, who says one word: "stop." We are made to wonder if the creator hasn't obliged Felix.
And back to our villains, or at least antagonists, Jenkins and Rainwater have brought their legal sharks together to try to agree on a contract. They discuss a lot of stuff that is above my head, but in the end the long and short of it seems to be that Jenkins will agree to their plan to buy up the land adjacent to the Yellowstone and provide it with a water source if he gets the profits from the hotel (and not the casino) that will be built there. Also, his fixer has a great idea to take Dutton down: when he altered the flow of the river, she says, Dutton thus endangered the grizzly bear who used to feed off the trout from the river. This is against the Federal Endangered Species Act (nevermind they've been declared "least concern"), and thus Dutton is in big trouble.
Dutton happens to be at the hospital for an MRI to see if they've got all the cancer when he notices Tate in the waiting room. Which means Kayce must not have told him about Monica going to the ER.
At the ranch, what would seem to be an intruder turns out to be a process server. The show is again wandering into the absurd - do you think a process server would really come on foot all the way to the house of a kajillion-acre ranch like the Yellowstone? The idea is tantamount to a process server going up to the front door of Ted Turner's ranch. Something tells me they'd figure out another way to do it.
In the hills, however, we're back to broad comedy as three of the hands, including Jimmy and Walker, are setting out to deal with the bear. Only none of them remembered to bring the rifle, and Jimmy ends up out of the saddle. He climbs a tiny tree and yells until Walker, maybe the best roper of the bunkhouse boys, ropes the bear and leads it away. Ropes the grizzly bear and safely leads it away? This is, so far, the most ridiculous scene of Yellowstone so far. Again, not complaining - I'm thoroughly entertained. But this feels a lot something out of Bonanza or Wonder Woman, really, than the tone Yellowstone typically goes for.
"You owe me a rope," Walker tells Jimmy. What, he's not going to go get it back, too?
At the hospital, Monica's awake but doesn't have sensation in her left leg.
Well, all of that business and drama leaves Rip to take care of the damn bear, then. He rides until he's close to it and then scares it close to a cliff. He also finds two hikers hanging off a cliff. We are left to conclude they must be some of the aforementioned Chinese tourists when Rip finds out the male hiker doesnt' speak English. He says he can help them, but he's got to lift them one-by-one. The male tourist, out of either lack of understanding or an excess of fear, tries to wrap it around both of them at once. Rip tells them not to. They do it anyway, and pretty soon the woman hiker has dropped and is dead at the bottom of the cliff. The male hiker decides he doesn't want to go on, or that it was his fault, or both, and pretty soon he's dead too.
The bear has evidently been waiting until Rip is done with them before it decides to charge Rip. Rip puts it down with one well-aimed rifle-shot. You win some, you lose some.
Then, at the Middle School the tribal council is deciding what to do with the young man who mistakenly punched Monica. Rainwater explains to him that he's in a precarious position with only two paths: forward to safety or a life of ruin. He might have a chance if Monica lives, but he has none at all if she dies.
In the car, Rainwater says to his driver Mo that he thought this would be easier, and he wonders if he's going to be able to make a difference after all. Mo tells him that's what his predecessor said, too.
Dutton arrives at the ranch with Tate, and something is ailing him big time. He's in great pain, so he tells Beth to take care of Tate for a while. Beth protests that she's not one to take care of kids, and Dutton snaps that he's not asking and then goes upstairs to deal with the pain. He finds blood in his stool, not a good sign.
"Who are you," Tate asks.
"I'm your Aunt," Beth tells him. She also says the only thing she can "cook" is a cheese plate. Tate doesn't like the sound of a cheese plate, so she suggests they go to see what the bunkhouse boys are having for supper.
Monica's feeling better, but she's still confused about where Tate is, and she's unable to eat with a spoon.
At Jamie's campaign office, he is giving the troops a speech so his campaign manager declines a call from Rip. Rip, presumably, needs a legal eagle to deal with the cleanup of both the bear and of the two dead tourists, both of which may require a little PR spin.
Finally, at the bunkhouse, Tate's having some dinner, and Beth is enjoying some of Walker's singing and guitar-plucking. Rip enters and again looks like he ain't happy about the idea of Beth with someone else even though, as she tells him, "you brought the music festival to me."
Night comes to the Dutton ranch as Rip walks off to do all the work himself.