Yellowstone has reached its mid-season peak with episode 5 serving as a kind calm interlude between the violence of the opening episodes and what we can only imagine is a second half of equal parts chaos and bloodshed. And while the episode forgoes the now-typical Yellowstone drama—fights, threats, bunkhouse bedlam—it raises the temperature on some now-broiling conflicts—Lloyd and Walker, Jamie and Garett Randall, Garrett Randall and John Dutton, John Dutton and the universe.
The episode also attempts some weirdly political messaging in the form of Montana ranching vs animal rights activism (with a shade of climate activism); it’s hard not to see in the exchanges between John and our newest character, Summer Higgins, something of a red/blue come-to-Jesus moment of Understanding and Harmony. (Though, we should remember that the last time John Dutton showed kindness to a stranger a van full of militiamen rolled up and tried to kill him. Also, does John not see any sign of trouble that this woman, who shows up out of nowhere, also bears the surname of the man who organized the hit, the inmate Higgins?) We’re not sure how to feel about all this.
Episode 5 also officially sets Jimmy off on his new adventure in Texas—which, we think, is mostly just a tease for the Yellowstone spin-off series 6666—a development that feels each week more like a chore for the series than an actual plotline.
And once again, though we return to the reservation, we find Monica and Tate with nothing to do—despite a strong character arc for both of them during the last season, they have become shells. Monica has somehow gone from activist and vigilante to a character who mostly just mopes and stares melancholically out to the horizon. Rainwater, too, seems to be only a dispenser of wisdom in these last episodes, not, as we first met him, a power player in the land competition chess game with the Duttons.
We’re hoping things pick up soon, but for now we too are staring off into nowhere.
Here’s what Episode 5 appears to be setting up for the rest of the season.
John spends the episode’s opening moments trapped in a whiskey commercial: he walks his empty land, he sips, he eats, he sips, he takes a shower, he sips. A recurring motif for the series has been the growing vacancy of the house—how John, though his basic drive remains securing the land for his children, continually drives them away. This dynamic is mostly captured in the breakfast table, which once swelled with several Duttons, all home simultaneously, but now sits just Beth and John, doing what they agreed never to do, which is discuss business at the table.
Meanwhile, Beth continues her crusade against her former employer Schwartz and Meyer. She has accepted the offer from Caroline Warner to oversee Montana development for Market Equities, taking the firm’s controlling interest in Schwartz and Meyer as her payment. Beth visits Schwartz in his office to tell him that he’s fired. When asked by John why else she agreed to work for the firm, which appears to be making land grabs to squeeze the Yellowstone, Beth replies: to run it into the ground.
Having left the ranch, Kayce and Monica heal their relationship (which mostly deteriorated off screen following the attack on the ranch). Tate and Rainwater take part in several sweat lodge sessions. Monica tells Kayce she wants to buy a house close to the reservation where they can raise Tate. All hostility between the reservation and the Duttons seems to have evaporated, as Kayce’s presence is no longer called into question. Another abandoned line of drama, we suppose.
(Also, where the heck is Angela Blue Thunder, Rainwater’s attorney who he unleashed to finally beat the Duttons at the end of Season 3? Wasn’t she going to team up with Beth and have a good old power struggle? Sigh.)
Later in the episode, the Duttons meet a new antagonist in the form of vague activists, who surround Kayce as he arrives to work. The ensuing exchange outlines something like the ethics of rodeoing and the politics of livestock law enforcement—big themes that seem to come out of nowhere and end with John bailing out Summer, crossing the proverbial isle to show her his side of America, and the two riding through the ranch discussing the end of mankind.
We get it, John is sad.
The Bunkhouse Show
Lloyd inexplicably wants Walker dead. One night, he sees Walker hooking up with Laramie (who we’re not sure has uttered more than 8 lines of dialogue in her existence). The Lloyd-Laramie-Walker triangle remains utterly confusing and eternally uncomfortable. But Lloyd’s diminishing status in the bunkhouse due to his outburst and fight instigation leaves him full of resentment and angst. So, Walker better look out. We foresee blood.
Out in the stables, Carter continues to shovel shit. But at least now he knows how to saddle a horse and what all the straps and stuff are called.
Finally, we get new information on the twist at the end of last episode: Jamie discovered that Higgins, the inmate who orchestrated the attack on the Duttons, is Garrett Randall’s former cellmate.
Offering immunity for an exchange of information, Jamie visits Higgins and conducts an interview into the Dutton attack. He asks one question, showing Higgins a photo of Garrett: did this man pay you to organize the Dutton attack?
But we don’t get an answer, and we return with Jamie to confront Garrett, only to see Christina confronting Jamie with Jamie’s son. (Remember that storyline?) So instead of confronting his biological father over the attempted murder of his adopted father, Jamie now comes to terms with his own fatherhood.
We’re gonna guess that fatherhood plays strong thematic role for the rest of the season.
Still, we want answers. Episode 5 didn't really give us any. But it did give us a great line about cowboying: “[it is] art without an audience until the day you die.”
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