S2 E4: "Only Devils Left"
Four Stars Out of Five
It's night on the Yellowstone ranch, and something strange is happening - green hay is being dropped from the sky. It lands in the field, kicking up a wet cloud of clover. Uh-oh, this can't be good. More and more hay falls, and the cows, heedless of the danger, go get themselves a big mouthful. Our view shifts to the inside of a plane, out of which some unidentified baddies are throwing bales of green hay.
Farmers and ranchers already know what's coming.
The next morning, Kayce and Rip are riding the fence line looking for holes when Jimmy spots a cow that "looks kinda funny." Indeed, it's dangerously full of gas - so much so they have to ventilate her right there, patching up the cut with wound dust. Immediately over the next crest lie several hundred more cattle puffed up like sea urchins, and in their unhappy case, it's too late to aerate them.
John, as yet blissfully unaware of all the beef he's just lost, sits in Governor's Perry office with Beth and Jamie, who are there to welcome Cassidy Reid to the dirty world of (Yellowstone's depiction of) Montana politics. Beth is still needling Jamie, which is, as ever, unnecessary. Then Jamie gets a call. It's bad news, of course.
"Who died," Dutton asks.
Now Dutton's whole field is a big crime scene. Dutton tells Jamie that he knows exactly who did it (we, like him, are assuming it's Jenkins, although it doesn't really seem his style). It's time for Ryan and the other Livestock Agents to begin their investigation.
Speak of which, Rainwater and Jenkins are at the press conference for the groundbreaking of their complex of casinos and hotels. Jenkins asks Rainwater if he knows the Beck brothers. Rainwater isn't too concerned about them - once Broken Rock annexes the land, they won't have to apply to the Beck brothers for liquor licenses. But Doug (Michael Todd Behrens), Jenkins lawyer, is concerned about the land annexation; even though Jenkins will save money on permits and licenses, Doug thinks that it might invalidate their contract - Rainwater will be under no legal requirement to keep his word. But Doug's not the only skeptic - Rainwater overhears Marcus (Eddie Spears), one of the Broken Rock tribal council, telling the press that he doesn't agree with the casino project.
The Beck brothers, watching from their evil, taxidermied lair, are predictably angry about how deftly Rainwater sidestepped their legal wrangling. Malcolm tells his brother they need to find "less subtle means of indicating our displeasure."
The ever-worthless Park County Sheriff Donnie Haskell, meanwhile, has arrived at the Yellowstone and is telling Dutton that he's more or less stumped, as the hay couldn't have "fallen out of the ****ing sky!"
But, of course, it did. Jamie says that he thinks it must have been a plane usually reserved for skydivers. At any rate, the Sheriff says he can't do anything about it - Dutton's the Livestock Agency guy anyway. But Dutton's only got six agents, so he's asking Haskell for some additional manpower. Failing that, Haskell should deputize some of his men - namely, Kayce. In the end, Haskell agrees to deputize Kayce, but only on the agreement that Kayce try really, really hard not to shoot anyone.
Dutton tells him, and this will be key, that if Kayce calls in asking for support, Dutton expects that he'll get said support from Haskell, and quick.
So Kayce and Ryan ride off in a Yellowstone pickup to find out who's responsible while Jamie rattles off possible skydiving outfits, deciding the most likely culprit is one in Three Forks. But then Jamie finds paperwork showing that the ranch is tied up in a big trust. Kayce, not dumb exactly but not a legal eagle either, asks, "trust who?"
Jamie should have known it wasn't Kayce's idea anyway - it's obviously Beth's. Just then, he gets a call from Sarah Nguyen, the journalist working on her big expose about Dutton. Oh yeah, forgot about that, didn't you?
Beth enters, and Jamie spells it out for her: the ranch hasn't turned a profit in years, and now the loss of hundreds of head of cattle means that she very well may have put the ranch at risk by putting up $5 million of it up against her real estate scheme. If cattle prices go down, they're screwed.
Later, Jimmy's ne'er-do-well acquaintances, unhappy with having been bear sprayed by Avery last episode, take it out on Jimmy's elderly father. They tell him to tell Jimmy to get them the money he owes them, before beating the snot out of the poor old man to the accompaniment of a rap song.
That evening on, at the ranch, Lloyd and Rip tell Dutton there's 360 additional head of cattle dead and that the clover was dropped all through the valley. Their only recourse is to drive the cattle up into the pass, where they won't be at risk of getting into the greenery, and to burn the field. Otherwise, the clover will take root, and it'll be even worse next year. It'll require water trucks, the fire department, and a whole lot of hassle. Additionally, the cowboys will have to drive 4-wheelers, which they generally think is beneath them since they're avid horsemen.
Jimmy's father, considerably worse for wear, drives to the Yellowstone to ask his son how much he owes. It's $8 thousand, more than either Jimmy or his dad have. Jimmy vows to get the money.
In Monica's classroom, the lesson is on "ocean water," a mix of lysol and water that some on the reservation drink because alcohol is illegal there. Monica's handsome personal trainer Martin nods approvingly - quite forward, really. After class, Martin tells her that she shouldn't only teach about the tragedies of Native existence, but show the culture too. To than end he suggests the class take a field trip to the Crow relay races. She likes the idea, but she's still bashful, and presumably in love with Kayce.
At the Yellowstone, the Beck brothers have driven up and are banging on the door. Rip intercepts them, and the Beck brothers' security guys tussle with Rip. Rip beats the crap out of them, disarms one, and is about to shoot the lot of them with Jamie runs outside. It seems the Beck brothers called him and asked if they could come over and make their pitch. Jamie just didn't realize it would be so soon. Regardless, John is reluctant to take help from anyone (although he's fine with bullying his family).
Even so, Dutton agrees to hear them out, growling "I'm taking this meeting alone," by which he evidently means with Rip but without Jamie. Poor Jamie.
The Beck brothers say that as soon as the casino and hotel are done, they can expect a ski resort to follow. The resulting rise in the price of land will mean that the Yellowstone will finally be unsustainable. He'll have no choice but to carve it up and sell it. Still, Dutton says he doesn't need partners. Still, he's not entirely against it, and the Beck brothers seem to think they've gained some ground. Rip gets the best line of the scene: pointing at their expensive bolo ties, he says, "that's not how you wear one of those..."
Kayce and Ryan are driving when Kayce gets a call from Monica. She tells him she's lonely, and he tells her he can solve that problem. She says she wants him to come over, but he can't, and that she just wanted to hear his voice. Just get back together already! Ryan asks, "is everything alright?"
Kayce says, "nope." Ryan shakes his head as if to say "these Duttons are nuts," presumably echoing the feeling of a large segment of the audience.
Dutton, Jamie and Beth then meet with Cassidy Reid - time to see if she'll play ball. They want her to file an injunction against the Broken Rock casino on the grounds that it is clearly an attempt to get out of state regulation. She then asks about the state Senate hearing about whether or not the Livestock Agency is overstepping its bounds. Beth, who has spent several episodes trying to s**t right where she eats, suggests that it might be inculpatory that Jamie had foreknowledge of the premiere episode's disastrous raid to get the cattle back from Broken Rock. Dutton shuts her down, but not as strongly or as decisively as I, personally, would have liked. Why does he let her get away with this stuff? Be a team player, Beth.
It continues through dinner, with Cassidy Reid sitting at the Dutton's table and Beth refusing to allow either Cassidy or Jamie to sit in Kayce's spot or another spot - presumably Lee or Evelyns. In fact, she insists he sit next to her, and then literally stabs him under the table. He excuses himself.
At Monica and Tate's university housing, Kayce comes over uninvited, but she doesn't mind much. They end up making love. Later, Tate walks in and realizes his dad's home. He climbs into bed with them. JUST GET BACK TOGETHER ALREADY!
The next day, Livestock Agent Hendon and Kayce are called out to a small rancher's spread to investigate his claim of a cow killed by wolves. Trouble is, his spread is right next to another guy, Jerry Hayes, who has cried wolf multiple times - he's almost certainly killing his own cows in order to collect on them. The poor rancher is a one-man operation, so Kayce offers him some friendly advice: rent a couple of mean mules and turn them out with the herd in order to dissuade further wolves. As an aside, does something look fake about that eagle circling overhead? I'd bet two bits it's computer-generated, but I'm not complaining. I'm sure that hawks are hard to wrangle.
Kayce and Hendon go to investigate Hayes's own claim of a cow killed by wolves. They wait for the backup Haskell promised them, but it never arrives. Looking at the cow, Kayce smells a rat right away, and it takes him all of thirty seconds to decide that Hayes killed his own cow with a weed whacker. It takes a cold SOB to kill a cow with a weed whacker. Hendon tells Hayes he's under arrest, but Hayes's son has other ideas. Pretty soon everyone's in a standoff, with guns drawn. Incredibly, Kayce's not the one who shoots someone. In fact, Kayce is the one telling Hayes's son it's not worth it because he'll dad will go to county jail, pay a fine, and maybe pick up some trash on the side of a road - hardly worth killing for. But Hendon pulls his gun and shoots, putting a couple of bullets in Hayes's son, killing him. Nothing ever goes easy if the Duttons are around.
On the ranch, Dutton and the bunkhouse boys are getting ready to raze their field when John gets a call. He goes out to Hayes's place and is himself surprised that it wasn't Kayce who fired. Kayce tells him Hendon's decision was justified but maybe not exactly "right." To Hendon's credit, he says that the killing was his call, and takes responsibility.
Then Haskell drives up, full of vinegar about how it only took Dutton one day to somehow kill someone. Dutton's retort comes in the form of a punch to Haskell's jaw. "This is because you wouldn't send backup," he says. There's something to what he said, too. One or two other deputies might have changed the outcome.
Regardless, the Beck brothers are watching the fallout of the arrest on the news. Malcolm, always sinister, says, "I know how we can help John Dutton."
Finally, we see the bunkhouse boys (with flamethrowers!) razing the field as a pensive song by Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit plays.
I continue to be of the opinion that this season is shaping up even better than the first - a bit less dreary, and a bit more character-based. And I definitely look forward to seeing what fresh hell the Beck brothers will bring to the world of Yellowstone.