Well, here we are, the climactic episode of season one. It's been a wild ride, with plenty of murder, intrigue, and gorgeous scenery. And it's certainly been compelling so far. But as metaphorical storm clouds gather over the Yellowstone, what will be left of the Duttons after all of this high drama has concluded? And will there be anything left at all?
The safe answer is yes, since there's at least three more seasons after. But as for how the Duttons will evade all of the forces arrayed to deny them their land and in some cases kill them, well, that remains to be seen.
At the beginning of the episode, John Dutton and Rip are still dealing with the fallout of the dead grizzly bear and, to a much lesser extent, the dead tourists. Sheriff Donnie Haskell (Hugh Dillon) insists they didn't find any bullets where Rip said he fired them. We already know, because we saw the shots fired, that Rip is telling the truth. So Dutton, intent on proving Rip was right, grabs his own rifle, goes to where Rip said he fired the shots, and then pulls the trigger twice. He collects the shells from the ground, certain that if Rip had fired them there, they would have landed there. Confronting the sheriff, he tells him to fess up. Turns out the Sheriff is lying, which we already know, as he finally produces a bag with shells in it. The FWP agent is not impressed with Haskell's open attempt at lying, and when the agent protests, Haskell replies with "that's evidence!" Haskell doesn't seem like a smart man, let alone a good sheriff; in the end he goes with "I forgot I picked them up!"
In fact, I think that very few of Dutton's enemies are all that smart - the sheriff has also recently gotten a membership at Jenkins's fancy club. That's sloppy of Jenkins, and of the sheriff too - don't pay your hired goons to withhold evidence with a membership to a country club. That's dumb.
"The whole county's turning on me, Rip," Dutton laments.
At the Yellowstone, Jason (David Cleveland Brown) is reeling from his evening with Beth and Jenkins's wife. He emerges from the ranch house and pukes into the Duttons' immaculately maintained flower bed. Couldn't have vomited in the bathroom like everyone else, rather than go outside?
Beth comes outside to give him some alka seltzer, and Jason stumbles inside to recover. Dutton then tells Beth they need a new attorney for the ranch, since Jamie is taking his political aspirations seriously. Dutton tells her he's going to "take away the thing he left us for," and Beth gets one of her vicious, sharky half-smiles that only comes when someone she knows is going to be unhappy; she's the queen of schadenfreude.
So Dutton meets with Governor Perry and the sitting A.G. in one of the show's many beautiful country club lodges, and tells them he wants Jamie to drop out. Perry and the AG balk, and then tell him what we already know: that Dutton has screwed up bad, and that it's all going to come out sooner or later: his shootout on the reservation, the EPA's mad about the bombing of the river, various civil suits, all of it. Dutton took some big swings in the last few months, and very few of them amounted to a home run. In fact, I'm not sure he even managed to get on base. They tell him the only thing for it is for him to step down as livestock commissioner. He tells them if they want him gone, they should run someone against him who can beat him.
As Dutton is storming out, he notices that Jamie and his campaign manager are sitting in an adjoining room, harasses him, and then makes a second dramatic exit, saying that the only thing they have in common is their last name.
Ah, isn't it nice to join the Bunkhouse Boys? They're so much more fun than the Duttons. Rip proves his proficiency at roping before telling Walker and Jimmy to go next. Jimmy asks how much bad luck he's liable to get from setting his hat down on the bed before learning that it's also bad luck to call your horse by the wrong name, which he has been for months. And indeed, bad luck is visited on him when he ropes the bull but is immediately pulled off his horse, saddle and all. Rip, a paragon of human kindness, tells Jimmy it isn't bad luck, it's that he's stupid. It really says something about the Duttons that I'd rather hang out with Rip than any of them.
Rip loves John, though. That much is evident. When he finds John shoveling out one of the horse's stalls, Rip tells him there's people for that. Dutton tells him that he wants Rip to investigate who's behind the whole county turning against him, and also tells him that he's not going to the doctor anymore. And in an uncommonly tender moment, he tells Rip to call him John.
"I'm sorry, John," Rip says, and it's genuinely moving.
Later, John tells Beth to get Jamie off the payroll, and she gets the same slow, evil grin she got earlier. Oh, Beth. Is there anything under that tough, hateful exterior, or are you solely animated by hatred? Well, precious little besides hate, because her next stop is Jamie's campaign headquarters, with poor Jason in tow. She makes a scene, of course; it's what she does best. She tells him she's now replaced him as the Yellowstone's Chief Counsel (though she's not a lawyer?) and that she needs his credit card. Sarah Nguyen, intrepid reporter, stands not too far off listening. Beth even breaks one of the campaign mugs. Lord, what an unpleasant character.
Rip's at the strip club, meanwhile, and now for his health. He's recruiting. He approaches Avery (Tanaya Beatty), though we don't yet know for what purpose, only that she stands to make $1000 and it's not illegal. She says she'll do it, but only if she gets a job on the Yellowstone. She breaks colts, you see. Rip reluctantly agrees.
Jamie and Christina are going to pick up some champagne, presumably to celebrate his family exile. On the way out, he tries to offer some assistance to an old cowboy, who tells him in no uncertain terms he doesn't need Jamie's help. Then, just to add insult to injury, the old cowboy tells Jamie that a tie is "the leash your master cut, because he knows you ain't going nowhere." Is everyone in Yellowstone some sort of sage?
The next morning, at Jamie's campaign headquarters, Sarah Nguyen comes clean. She reveals to them that she's an investigative reporter working on a story about his cowboy mafia dad, and that they can either work with her, or get swept away in the tide of anti-Dutton sentiment. To that end, she proposes they cast Jamie as "new kind of politician, one who seeks out corruption." That would be a new kind of politician, wouldn't it? In essence, she suggests that his only chance is to try to take his father down, as "there's no greater source of corruption than [Jamie's] father."
Next up, we get to visit Jenkins' modernist country club monstrosity as he and Rainwater continue to hash out the details of their development. I think we've now had four episodes where all these guys did was talk real estate minutiae. Personally, I think we could have had a little less real estate talk, but there might be some kind of previously underserved viewer who only turns into Yellowstone for all of the detailed talk about developing hotels and casinos. But then the camera pans left and - aha! - we see what Rip hired Avery for; she's sitting in the country club listening to their every word. That's why you meet in private, folks.
John and Beth discuss their need for a new attorney who can do everything, one who can emulate Jamie's "melon head." Rip then interrupts, laying out Rainwater and Jenkins' plans. Dutton expresses to Rip that he doesn't think any of his (surviving, non-exiled) children are capable of protecting the Yellowstone from Rainwater and Jenkins. A look passes between them that might just say that Dutton wishes Rip were his kid before Dutton telling him that he needs these problems to go away before he dies, which is to say, before he dies of the cancer which seems to have returned. In the hallway, Beth confronts Rip, but seems to think that he's in a bad mood because she's sleeping with Walker (which we haven't had confirmed before now). Rip replies he's just worried about her.
At the Bunkhouse, Jimmy wins a hand of cards and concludes his luck has turned around when Rip arrives with Avery, announcing she's the new groomer. The boys go insane, running to watch as a real human woman gets ready to shower. She obliges them by stripping, and then threatening to castrate them.
Ryan sums it up: "Lord, this was not a test I was expecting."
Walker takes an evening stroll during which he runs into Beth. He tells her he senses "something evil" about the Yellowstone, and tells her he's got to leave. She tells him she's been a prisoner of the Yellowstone her whole life, and that her brand's on the inside. Both prisoners try to alleviate their woes by making out.
Meanwhile, Sheriff Haskell arrives at the Yellowstone and drops Kayce off (remember how he beat the crap out of a drifter?). Dutton tells Haskell he remembers when the Sheriff had the stomach to run men like Jenkins off, but Haskell insists that it's no use. After Haskell drives away, Dutton and Kayce discuss the living arrangements. Since Monica's left him, Kayce tells John he'd like to come home. But not to stay in the house; without Monica, he'd rather stay in the bunkhouse with the cowboys.
So Kayce goes to the bunkhouse, where Avery has made herself at home, winning a hand against the boys. But when Kayce walks in, they make eye contact. Do they have a past?
Monica and Tate arrive at Felix's place, where they intend to stay during Monica's rehabilitation. Everybody starts crying at once.
Jamie meets with Sarah and Christina in a hotel room, where he intends to lay it out regarding his father's many crimes.
In downtown Bozeman (as played by some town in Utah), Rip, Kayce and Lloyd kidnap Jenkins in broad daylight while driving an enormous Yellowstone Ranch truck. This is why they're not very good criminals, you know. It might behoove Dutton to adopt a little subtlety in his approach. But that's not the cowboy way. At the end of a rope, Jenkins reveals his plan to them, and Kayce tells them to hang him. But the thing is, Jenkins is probably right when he tells them Dutton has two choices: sell the Yellowstone, or lose it. We leave Jenkins clutching his throat. Even Rip looks at Kayce like he's a cold customer.
Beth and Dutton share an awkward dinner, during which Beth is crying, though I'm not sure why. I suppose there are plenty of reasons. Then Dutton tells her he remembers when the dinner table was full, and not just two angry, bitter Duttons. She tells him that's a dream, not a memory, before heading out into the fields to strike a dramatic pose and cry some more. Then she asks Dutton where Kayce is, since he had returned to the ranch, and Dutton tells her he's staying in the bunkhouse. He also tells her it's not how many people are sitting at the table, but that the table exists, and there are seats for everyone should they choose to sit (did he forget that he drove Jamie away?). Beth reiterates that as soon as he's dead, she's selling that table. Dutton broods before growling, "I'm not going anywhere." She replies with, "I sure hope not."
Then, as a pensive song begins to play, Dutton walks onto the vast acreage of his most probably doomed ranch.
I'm surprised that there weren't any loose ends tied up at the end of the season. I think we can assume that Jenkins isn't dead, and even if he is, Rainwater's still out there, as are Nguyen and the EPA and everyone else.
Well, I guess we'll just have to wait for season two to see what happens. Luckily for us, we won't have to wait long. See you next week, Yellowstone fans.