Season 2, Episode 3: "The Reek of Desperation"
Four Stars Out Of Five
"The Reek of Desperation" opens with what is becoming one of the show's trademarks: a beautifully shot sequence of cattle roping in lush near-slow-motion. Kayce watches as the hands do their thing, a perplexed look on his face. John rides up and, in an apparent test of Kayce's cowboy-ing, asks Kayce where he thinks the cattle should be put. Kayce for some reason assumes that John wants them in pasture 12, but then points out that pasture 12 doesn't have a hot wire and suggests pasture 9 instead, since it's got a creek and a fence. Dutton agrees to 9, and lets on that he was only testing Kayce anyway. Dutton tells him to meet him at the Livestock Agency office, commenting that the rancher's don't get to have any of the fun; fun is the purview of wranglers.
Kayce then presides over a debate over the best path to pasture 9, with the Bunkhouse Boys weighing in one by one. Jimmy comments that he can't swim, and finally Rip tells them all to shut up and do their job. Once they're on their way, Rip tells Kayce not to ask them for their opinions - the delineation of power is for Kayce to tell Rip what he wants done, and for Rip to scream and yell at the others until they do it. Lloyd, too, offers his advice: "different never works."
Though he's a murderer many times over, Kayce has a lot to learn about the division of labor on the Yellowstone.
Next, we witness the moment that Jenkins and Rainwater sign their contract, followed by a nice little moment when Rainwater's lawyer gives Jenkins's lawyer a withering look. The press is let into the office, and Rainwater does a little eloquent grandstanding.
Jamie meets with Governor Perry at the Capitol, and sees an ad for Cassidy Reid, his opponent for Attorney General chosen by John and Beth. She's squeaky clean, blonde, pretty, and has a charity that brings horses and veterans together. Cassidy Reid even steals Jamie's announcement speech. In short, she means serious trouble for Jamie's campaign unless he can get some big-money donors. Well, Governor Perry just happens to have one lined up - that is, if Jamie can swallow taking one more big step against his father: the donor is revealed to be Thomas Rainwater. Jamie balks - its a bridge too far for son already on the outs with his family. He says he'll think about it, but he's none too happy about it.
I know Rainwater is one of the forces arrayed against Dutton, but I'm also on the record for kind of being on Rainwater's side. He's greedy, but he seems honest enough, which is certainly at a premium in Yellowstone's hopelessly corrupt version of Montana politics.
Kayce might just learn something to that effect as he takes the preliminary steps to become a livestock agent. Also in the office are Dutton, Ryan, and newcomer to the series Livestock Agent Steve Hendon (James Jordan). They tell Kayce that to become a full livestock agent, he must first go to police academy. Incredibly, Kayce's background check to CIC comes back with no priors and no outstanding warrants despite his tendency to shoot people. But then I guess none of the shootings ever stuck to him. Kayce is cleared to do a ride-along.
Kayce is understandably skeptical that he will be able to pass either a polygraph or a psych evaluation, but Dutton tells him those won't be necessary. Even so, Dutton asks him why he doesn't think he could pass a psych evaluation and Kayce replies, with all the sulky surliness of an adolescent, "my whole life!"
As if to prove himself right, Kayce then visits Monica and Tate in their new faculty housing apartment supplied by MSU. He laments how "permanent" the apartment seems. Tate runs in and asks if Kayce wants to see his room, which he's excited about because it's got a bunk bed. In a moment that feels pretty authentic, Tate excitedly tells his Dad he can stay the night because Tate can only sleep in one of the bunks. Everybody but Tate feels bad, and then Kayce puts down a wad of bills. Then, for the hundredth time they tell one another they want to be together but can't for some reason. Monica tells him that he keeps leaving, but Kayce is confused because Monica told him to leave. Anyone who's ever had a fight in a relationship knows the beats. Then Tate runs in and shouts, "stop it." I, for one, can't wait for these two to get back together, if only because I'm so tired of seeing this exact scene happen over and over. Truth be told, I can't quite remember why they split up - I think it was because he was going to join the Navy Seals again, but that clearly didn't happen, so just get back together so that he can get back to shooting people already.
Governor Perry and Dutton meet in some ultra-fancy downtown bar and drink unpronounceable wine. She chastises him for drinking his wine too fast, and then proceeds to down a "wine flight" with expediency. Dutton complains that the time in which Perry was a "rodeo queen leading the parade" is over, while now they "plugin their cars while they come in to drink."
They then discuss their rapidly deteriorating Attorney General race, and John says that he's going to get Jamie to step down. Perry does, however, get one good observation: "we don't have families, we have employees we're related to." She points out that neither one of them can remember the last conversation they had with family about how they feel, or what their dreams and aspirations are, or even how their day went. This is doubly true of Dutton, who has upon multiple occasions told (what's left of) his family that he doesn't want to discuss business at the dinner table. Last week, in fact, Beth took the opportunity of that speech to storm away from the dinner table while shouting, "I'm a 34-year-old woman, I'll talk about whatever the [expletive] I want!" Somehow Perry and Dutton end up going home together.
They are unable to be intimate, unfortunately, because Perry still loves her dead husband, gone now for ten years. We're meant to understand that the same is true for Dutton, only more so - he lost her twenty-odd years ago, and the whole family has been more-or-less in disarray ever since. He probably shouldn't exert himself with such athletics anyway, given that an episode or two ago a cattle veterinarian opened him up and played around in his guts before sewing him back up.
He calls her honey and tells her that's how she knows that what she and her husband had was true love. It's another nice little scene that continues to demonstrate what I observed last week - this is the (marginally) kinder, gentler John Dutton.
Meanwhile, we're half-way through the episode, and Beth hasn't made anyone feel small yet, so she finds Rip feeding the horses and tells him that he shouldn't have let Kayce win so that he doesn't have to do that kind of measly grunt work. Rip, a wiser man than she gives him credit for, says that he likes feeding the horses: "it's the highlight of my day," he says. Beth suggests that loyalty to the Duttons hasn't given him much, but the camera pulls back to reveal the stunning beauty of the Dutton spread. Rip indicates all of it with a nod of his head and says, with Rip's dry sarcasm, "yep, it's awful, right?" The subtext: Rip loves the ranch, and Beth hates it.
Whoa, where are we now? The next scene takes us into the taxidermy-stuffed offices of what I presume will be some new villains, the Beck brothers, Malcolm (Neal McDonough, from Justified) and Teal (Terry Serpico). They're real rich cowboy types, complete with bolo ties and expensively rustic furnishings. Teal hands Malcolm a copy of the Bozeman Daily Chronicle with a cover story about Jenkins and Rainwater's casino and hotel. Whoever they are, they seem pretty mad about it.
Next, at what I assume is a thinly veiled Murdoch's (only called Big Circle Ranch Supply from the visible signage), two ne'er-do-wells stalk the aisles for the ingredients to make methamphetamines. They abandon the cart when a highway patrolman enter the store.
Outside the ranch supply store, Jimmy and Avery have bought wire to mend the Yellowstone's fences. Seeing that Avery doesn't have gloves and is struggling to lift the bales with her bare hands, he suggests that she go inside to buy clips while he takes care of the bales. She cuts him down, asking "You just tell me what to do, Gomer?" Of course, Jimmy was just trying to be gallant, the poor SOB. So he goes to buy the clips instead.
And it turns out, perhaps not surprisingly, that the aforementioned ne'er-do-wells are former associates of Jimmy's, and that he owes them money. They tell him he can start to repay them by buying their needed ingredients, which he neglects to do, resulting in their jumping on the truck and attacking in the parking lot. Avery gives them a shot of bear spray (Jimmy gets caught in the crossfire), and one of the truck's windows gets shattered. I suppose it was inevitable that Jimmy's past would come back to haunt him. Avery's right, though: he does look like "Eminem at a hayride."
Meanwhile, at MSU's pool, some sparks fly between Monica and her handsome Crow native physical therapist - enough for her to point out to him that she's married. He says he knows, and that he's seen her ring. It doesn't seem to dissuade him.
As Avery and Jimmy try to wipe down the bear spray out of the truck, Lloyd sees what they're doing and asked what happens. Avery's about to tell the whole story, but Jimmy cuts her off, just explaining that a can of bear spray accidentally "went off."
Lloyd comes back with one of his classic Lloyd-isms: "Jimmy, you ain't got the sense to pour warm piss out of your boot." Jimmy says he knows its an insult but doesn't know what it means - why would there be pee in his boot? Avery says he's so dumb he's almost attractive, and Jimmy takes the edged compliment gracefully.
Back at Jenkins's country club, Dan's enjoying looking at the model of the casino and hotel, which is a sleek modernist monstrosity, when the Beck brothers walk in and strongarm him. Teal Beck observes that the plan for a second-home community just outside the casino is "utterly classless," which might be true, but so is Teal's bolo tie. Jenkins assumes, reasonably, that the Becks are some of Dutton's "friends," but they tell him they've never met him. We found out that the Becks own a chain of gas stations and casinos and that Malcolm is the head of the Montana liquor board. Apparently, this means that he can rescind existing liquor licenses at will (the corruption never ends!), and he's going to do so tomorrow for Jenkins's country club, and that, of course, he won't be issuing one for the casino and hotel, either.. Jenkins says he's tired of being bullied by rednecks. The Beck brothers play their hand - they want him to get out of the existing deal with Rainwater and make a deal with them. Jenkins smashes his model.
Meanwhile, in Christina's posh Bozeman apartment, Jamie's reluctance to accept the help of Rainwater has strained their domestic bliss. He tells her he doesn't think he can do it, and she tells him, well, he sort of has to if he wants to become Attorney General. That's politics, baby. He goes for a walk.
Here's where Jamie does something I just don't think he would do. His walk through downtown Bozeman brings him right outside Beth's corporate office, which he enters in the chance that she's there after hours. She is, and he tells her about his moral dilemma.
Why would he do this? He should talk to literally anyone else about this, not his sister, who hates him passionately and has never done a kind thing for him ever, as far as we know. There's no way her advice will be friendly, well-thought-out, or compassionate. So while I understand the scene's necessity from a dramatic standpoint, especially as the show tries to establish a new status quo even as it sets up new villains and conflicts, I think Jamie would do better to seek advice from, say, a charging grizzly bear than Beth.
She impugns the size of his testicles, tells him he ruined her life, and speaks the episode's titular line: "you reek of desperation." Her sage guidance is that he should step down.
So, the next morning, he tells Christina as much, and she doesn't take it well. She tells him to get out of the apartment - their relationship has evidently concluded. The day's been a real bummer for poor Jamie - all the women in his life have told him he's a wuss.
Well, there's always the open arms of family, so the prodigal son returns to the Yellowstone just in time for dinner (grilled octopus, by the way, since they're all on the Mediterranean diet). Dutton asks, again, how everyone's day was - everyone is too dramatic and mopey to answer with a nice, polite "fine, yours?" Jamie walks in, and at least John extends the metaphorical olive branch. When Kayce, who hasn't been paying much attention, asks where Jamie's been, Beth erupts into a cackling fit. John decides he's had enough octopus, and heads outside.
Outside, he looks wistfully at the ever hard-working Rip who, though he's not technically family, is probably the only one who isn't a huge jerk, his habit of beating people to within an inch of their lives notwithstanding.
In the episode's last moment he looks to the sky and addresses his late wife: "Godd**n you for leaving me."