S1 E8: "The Unraveling: Part 1"
3 stars out of 5
Here we are, the last two episodes of the season, which together comprise "The Unraveling." It's been a busy season, with a lot of impediments to the Duttons, and it'll all come to a head in the next two hours.
As part one opens, we get the origin story of Rip, who seems to be part of the family but isn't - not unlike a more brutal version of Robert Duval's consigliere in Godfather. When we first see him we don't know it is Rip. We see a teenaged boy, bloodied, who opens his eyes to find another little boy, his brother, dead. Then, enraged, he runs into the next room and kills a man in the process of killing his mother. It's a grim start to the episode, but that's Yellowstone, for you. We couldn't have expected Rip's story was happy.
Now, at this point, we don't know how the cabal of branded bunkhouse boys started, but it seems like Rip is the perfect candidate. Although I think you could argue that his patricide was self-defense (and if it wasn't, what is?), so the boy's not so much a criminal in need of redemption (like Jimmy) as a boy who needs to escape his past. So Dutton's offer to take the boy in if he works for him non-stop for the rest of his life seems to be an odd one, but it is also clear that young Rip needs something a father figure, and Dutton is game to be the aloof, imperious but at least not abusive father Rip never had. As long as Rip delivers someone to the "train station" now and then.
Come to think of it, Dutton definitely enjoys a more friction-less relationship with Rip, his sort-of adopted son, than he does the entire rest of his family except for Tate, who he just plies with giant cookies and donuts all the time.
Rip agrees, after voraciously eating a sandwich, to Dutton's terms.
As another aside, I wish we saw more of Josh Lucas's young Dutton. Costner's Dutton, at least so far, is always beat down, in pain, dying of cancer, or brooding over the state of his ranch and/or children.
On the ranch, Dutton and adult Rip find out that trying to do the right thing, which they do so rarely, is not going to bear them fruit. The Fish, Wildlife and Parks agent tells Dutton straight-up that he should have buried the whole lot of corpses - that's two tourists and one giant grizzly bear - rather than fess up. Because now FWP is going to make some real trouble for them. In addition, we know that this is almost certainly going to dovetail nicely with the Jenkins/Rainwater plan to get Dutton over his relocation of the stream, which ostensibly deprives grizzlies of their trout. In fact, the FWP agent says that it all looks a lot more like Rip was hunting an endangered grizzly bear and shot it, which was in turn witnessed by two tourists, and that Rip then killed them to cover up his bear-icide before calling his agency to report it. This is giddily nonsensical, the kind of way, way over-the-top soap opera that this show does so well without ever quite verging into camp.
Dutton sure wishes Jamie, his usual fixer, could help. Jamie's too busy with his political campaign, though. Dutton is displeased.
Monica's recovery continues apace, while Felix watches. Monica says when she's out of the hospital she wants to stay with her grandfather. He says she should stay with Kayce, but she insists.
Jamie's on a morning news program in Bozeman while his campaign manager looks on. And then, next to the campaign manager is Sarah Nguyen, the journalist we saw fishing on the river with her girlfriend a couple of episodes ago. Remember her? Well, she's snuck her way onto Jamie's campaign team as some sort of researcher, and then she makes a clumsy attempt to get Jamie's campaign manager to give her information about Dutton. This ends with the most sinister, awkward invitation to dinner ever.
Kayce arrives at their house to find it ransacked by "treasure hunters." Huh? What's worse, they've stolen Tate's dinosaur. "Should have let me shoot 'em," says Sam Stands Alone, who is probably right.
Rip now meets someone who seems like a pretty good match for him: the all-business Officer Charlotte Sykes, who refuses to let him call her ma'am, and tells him she's heard a lot about him, all bad. Well, it isn't Rip's fault that a horsefly lands on the horse. He tries to warn her, but she won't have it, and pretty soon the horse is bucking and Rip is proven right in his assessment: "Nobody ever f---ing listens to me." She somehow falls off the horse and impales herself on a post wrapped in barbed wire.
Rip realizes that if he doesn't save her, he's going to get blamed for this, too. He asks for her pistol to shoot the horse, and she declines, so he has to clip the horse loose and then dig the post, with her attached, out of the ground. And this thing impaling her is as big around as a golf ball at least, with barbed wire through it, so you'd be forgiven for thinking Rip's chances of saving her are slim. But Rip calls a helicopter and she speeds off, presumably for Bozeman General Hospital, the show's fictional stand-in for Bozeman Health Deaconess.
Next, we get a scene with Nguyen and her girlfriend that delivers on this episode's quotient of nudity as required by the format of prestige television.
Then Jenkins is golfing with his new co-investor Thomas Rainwater. They are continuing the same discussion of their (evil?) plan to take down Dutton. If the Black Rock Reservation owns the land that the casino and hotel are on, that means that Jenkins can avoid zoning, etc, if he should realize his plan to build a city. As a result, property values in the Paradise Valley will double, as will the Duttons' property taxes, bringing Dutton's yearly property tax to $11 million. Jenkins and Rainwater will have made his property too valuable for him to afford to own.
In Bozeman, Beth is driving down main street with her assistant when she discovers that Jenkins is 100% leveraged, having several mortgages to pay for the development. Not only that, but he's selling shares of the company, which means that Beth can buy them herself. To add insult to injury, she happens to see Jenkins' wife Victoria coming out of a posh Bozeman boutique. She tells the driver to pull over, and then agrees to be Victoria's designated driver while she gets soused. The spider has the fly in her web! Or at least the fly's desperately bored wife.
At the hospital, Kayce tells a disappointed Tate that someone stole his dinosaur. "Told you," Tate says. Then Monica tells Kayce she's tired of trying to get him to stay. If he wants to sign up again, he should go ahead. We kind of already know that Kayce isn't going to sign up (unless the show really surprises me), but sure, we'll pretend that we're cut up about this.
Dan Jenkins comes home from his game of gold to find Beth is having a cigarette on the front porch. When he asks her what she's doing there, she plays coy, saying even she wouldn't smoke in his living room, because she's got boundaries. He goes inside to find his wife grinding on Beth's assistant and drinking champagne out of the bottle. He returns to Beth and tells her that he's going to ruin her and her whole family.
But frankly, I'm not sure why he's so mad; it doesn't seem like he likes his wife much anyway.
Before he goes, Beth tells him her plan to buy up all of his publicly traded shares. He tells her she'll live to regret it.
If I were a crust punk looking to hold someone up for a few bucks, I wouldn't pick Kayce, but that's the mistake made in the next scene. Kayce shows the gentleman the error of his ways. Someone behind the scenes of the show realized that Kayce hasn't punched anyone since his blowup at the hospital, and so we get this scene to remind us that Kayce's still mad as hell.
Jamie arrives home at his first two days of campaigning to find Daddy is mad at him. Dutton tells him he's going out with Rip and FWP tomorrow, or else. He also tells Jamie that he's done running, effective immediately. Jamie doesn't see it that way, and it comes to blows while Rip watches. Finally, Dutton tells Jamie he'll arrange it so the DA doesn't step down, so that if Jamie wants to continue running he'll do so against a candidate Dutton backs.
I don't know if Dutton has a plan, but it sure seems like it's all shaking itself loose. As he tells Rip, it's been "136 years the ranch has been in this family, and I'm the one to lose it."
It's about time we went to the bunkhouse, where Rip brings Walker a beer. This is after Walker enjoying a little time with Rip's sweetie Beth, so Rip is already motivated to prove he's a big dog. But when Walker expresses the slightest question as to what this whole branding thing is all about Rip tells him, in no uncertain terms, that his only way off the ranch is by dying. "See you in the morning," he says, and that concludes the conversation.
In Helena, Christina the campaign manager tells Jamie that he has Governor Perry's support regardless of what Dutton says, despite their being odd bedfellows.
"Fathers who love their children don't do this," Christina tells him, and I have to admit that she might be right. Dutton seems to see Jamie as a lawyer on a retainer, and not a son. Then Christina seduces Jamie, apparently fulfilling Governor Perry's intention of giving him a romantic entanglement to demonstrate to voters his masculine prowess.
Now comes the most satisfying scene of the season so far - poor Jimmy, abused, kicked up and down the Paradise Valley, forced to chase his hat, get treed by bears, etc, is pacing up and down the bunkhouse. Finally he asks the other cowboys where his hat is, and for a moment it looks like Jimmy's going to get a heap more abuse for his troubles. But instead, Lloyd tosses him a beautiful, high-crowned black cowboy hat with a bent brim. Each of the cowboys spent a week's wages on it, they tell him. Jimmy is genuinely moved, grinning and thanking them. It is probably the kindest thing we have seen yet in the world of "Yellowstone," and it's very welcome.
In fact, I think I like the bunkhouse boys better than I like any of the Duttons. So far, anyway.
And then, in the episode's final moments, we see a pack of wolves descent on the Dutton's dead grizzly bear, which I suppose must be some sort of metaphor.
Phew, that one went fast, but we've only got one more to the season - and you can bet it'll be full of violence, tragedy, and all the other "Yellowstone" trimmings!