You can't blame a show like Yellowstone for showcasing natural beauty, so yet another episode opens with beautiful dawn on the ranch. Tate exits the tent, yawning, and sees Dutton crouching in the brush, watching something. Tate trucks after him, shouting, "good morning, grandpa!"
But Dutton bids the boy be quiet. He explains that the noise they're hearing is a cow elks bleats as it tries to lead a wolf away from her newly born calf. Baby elk, Dutton explains, don't have a sent, so the wolf can't find it unless the calf jumps up and makes a run for it. Dutton says he'd like to try to help save the baby elk, and the boy agrees to assist as well. Their mission is to mark their territory, peeing in the vicinity of the calf and, in so doing, dissuading the wolf to go near.
Kayce and Monica wake up and make sure Tate is safe before going back to the tent to savor a moment's privacy. Dutton asks Tate what he'd like to do, so they go on a walk. Tate remarks that he thought ranching would be hard work, and Dutton tells him that what they're doing isn't ranching, it's the spoils of ranching - it's why they ranch. Ranching, as a matter of fact, is a "terrible business" since they can't control the variables. Tate, the little pragmatist, asks why they do it, if it's so awful. And Dutton replies that they do it because "it's one hell of a life."
Beth and Rip are waxing philosophical on the porch of Rip's house. Beth observes that it's a shame that all of this natural beauty on the ranch will be gone in a few generations. Rip tells her they've been saying that for ages, and the frontier is still there. Beth begs to differ: "that's not the frontier, Rip." They agree to disagree, and Rip goes to work after they both agree the other is smart.
Meanwhile, in the seat of government power, Perry says that Reid, Dutton's dummy Attorney General candidate from Miles City, has been called up to the big leagues - the president's chief of staff told them she's going to be deputy Attorney General of the United States at 30. However improbably, this leaves Montana without an AG, so she begs the forever put-upon Stewart to assume the job in the interim. He agrees, with a hangdog expression. Then it's on to the next problem, which turns out to be a handful of Market Equity suits led by the ghoulish Ellis Steele.
Steele says, in essence, that he thinks that Market Equity's proposed resort/airport could be the next Jackson Hole. Perry says that she doesn't think Jackson Hole is a good example of a reasonable place to live, since gazillionaires have filled with with vacant second homes while locals can't afford to live there (sound familiar?). Steele counters that it could mean 3 to 6 billion dollars in tax revenue. Perry gets a greedy look in her eye before asking where they intend to build the airport, and Steele tells her that the FAA has selected a perfect spot, and guess what: it's right in the middle of the Yellowstone. Perry says Dutton won't sell, and eminent domain won't work, but Ellis Steele is pretty sure that it will, if it's in the service of building a major town.
Beth's embracing the work-from-home lifestyle by operating her laptop on Rip's porch, wrapped in a blanket. She gets a call from Perry's secretary, her informant, who tells her where Market Equity wants to build their airport. Beth curses.
At the jail, Jamie meets with Hendon, and immediately he's in shark mode. He sets up a whole, complicated lie involving the Sweet Grass County sheriff's deputies having maybe already beaten the horse thieves up, and Hendon not being culpable for their deaths. Hendon agrees to adopt Jamie's story.
Beth drives once again to confront Roarke about Market Equity's plan. After the requisite sexually explicit repartee, she comes out with him and asks where they intend to put the airport. Roarke deflects, saying that he's aware that she's bribed a government official (the secretary) to provide information but that he can't blame her for that. After all, he's done just about everything you can do to make money. Again Roarke says that all he wants to do is make Dutton one of the richest men in Montana (by buying his land). Beth vows to stop him.
It turns out that someone doesn't like Jamie's plan for how to handle Hendon's murder of the agents - specifically, Sweet Grass County Attorney Randy, who arrives at Jamie's office to raise hell. He might be mad, but Jamie's even madder, throwing a paperweight at Randy's head. Jamie tells Randy that he's got the phone call in which Randy says to make an example of the horse thieves recorded, and he's willing to use it to bring him down Randy says that if Hendon takes the fall for this, everyone else is clear, but Jamie points out that's a good deal for everyone but Hendon and his family, who will have to "rot in a f***ing single-wide in Belgrade" while he's in jail (the author of this recap, by the way, spent a good chunk of his youth living in a single-wide in Belgrade, by the way). Finally, Crooked Jamie suggests that since the dead men were from Louisiana and Missouri (and thus won't be missed by locals) they should just claim they found them dead, full of booze, in a ditch. Call them John Does.
The only impediment to that plan is the barrel racer girl who was the victim of the original horse robbery. She saw their faces, after all. So Jamie goes out to visit her family. Taking her father aside, Jamie plies him with some blowhard nonsense about how "no one who ever puts their hand on my family ever puts their hand on anything else," citing the assault of Beth although we, of course, know that Jamie didn't have much to do with securing vengeance for that. Jamie also suggests that the father doesn't know for sure that his daughter getting beat up was as far as it went. So then Jamie pulls the piece de resistance: after the father admits that he's thought about waiting outside the courthouse at their arraignment with a shotgun, Jamie tells him the job's already done. He shows the father the back of the horse trailer, still splashed with their blood. The father gets misty-eyed and tells Jamie he ought to run for governor.
After hosing the blood out of the trailer, the girl's father (his name is Phil Hawthorne) says that if/when Jamie needs a favor, he'll be delighted to oblige. A relieved Jamie returns to his truck.
That night, Perry is brooding over the placement of the airport. She tries to call Dutton, no answer. She calls Jamie, who agrees to meet with her tomorrow, thinking that Perry must want to meet him because of the murdered horse thieves. He, in turn, calls County Attorney Randy, who is also inclined to panic.
The next day, Dutton goes to the second barn to inspect their progress on its construction. A nervous Jimmy asks what time it is, and then asks for permission to go to a rodeo in Livingston at 3 PM. Dutton subtly hints that, should Jimmy break an arm at a rodeo, he will no longer be employable at the Yellowstone. Jimmy laughs nervously.
Jamie drives to the Yellowstone to tell Dutton about the meeting. Dutton says that if the meeting is that important, she can meet him at the rodeo, where he'll be. Then Dutton tells Rip to select two workers to stay with the beef because the rest are going to Livingston to see Jimmy ride. Isn't that sweet?
Colby's staying with Teeter to watch the cattle. The Bunkhouse Boys variously suggest that those two will engage in the act of physical love, while Teeter compares Jimmy to a plucked chicken. Everyone laughs.
It's golden hour at the Livingston Rodeo, and everyone listens to the National Anthem, Stetsons in hand. Rip and Beth almost hold hands, but Rip disengages with her, thinking of the issue of propriety. Duttons says that "everyone must think I'm the dumbest man in the valley" before allowing that Rip can hold her hand if he pleases. So they do.
Turns out that Jimmy's drawn a real mean horse, one that's managed to buck every rider so far, apparently. Jimmy's going to have to maintain focus and keep his head in the game. Too bad that he's chasing after Mia (Eden Brolin), who he's smitten with after seeing her ride the flag around the arena before the rodeo. He finds her, but is speechless. She asks if he's going to say anything, and he admits that he hadn't planned it out beyond approaching her. But apparently the admiration is mutual, because she already knows his name, having seen him at previous rodeos around the state. He can't think of anything to say, so she suggests he ask her out on a date. The Bunkhouse boys are watching all of this with various reactions, from Lloyd's warmhearted "go get 'em tiger" look to Jake's frank disgust. She even gives him a peck on the cheek before his match. Awww!
Perry has arrived at the rodeo, where she sits next to (nearly disgraced) former Livestock Commissioner John Dutton. She balks at being made to go to the rodeo, though they've done this before way back in season one. Remember when? After the requisite flirtations, she says that she'll tell him the solution tonight and the problem tomorrow. The solution: Jamie steps down as Livestock Commissioner to become interim Attorney General, and Dutton can choose his replacement for Commissioner. A concerned Dutton asks what they're negotiating for. "An acceptable surrender," she says.
Sure enough, back at Yellowstone, Teeter is just shy of jumping Colby. He asks her kindly to leave him alone.
Jimmy's up next. While they wait, Perry says that she thinks she can make Kayce agree to be Commissioner. We'll see about that. Then Jimmy, distracted by his new lady-love, hits the arena. It's looking good, looking good, looking good when we hear a sickening crack and see he's been unhorsed. The Duttons watch, concerned, as Lloyd rushes to his surrogate son figure. The credits roll on a bona fide cliffhanger.