The following story contains spoilers for Season 5, Episode 3 of Yellowstone, titled “Tall Drink of Water.”
For as big as Yellowstone has gotten in its 4+ seasons airing on the Paramount Network, the show’s marquee, name, star is still, of course, Kevin Costner as John Dutton. Not to take anything away from the work that Luke Grimes, Kelly Reilly, Wes Bentley, Cole Hauser, et cetera have done on the show, but Kevin Costner is still Kevin Costner. The man has two Oscars.
Which is all to say that it also shows how far Yellowstone has come in its 4+ seasons where an episode like “Tall Drink of Water,” Episode 3 of Season 5, can come along that only barely features John Dutton as he adjusts to his new role as Governor of Montana. The episode opens with a flashback to Dutton’s past (once again featuring Josh Lucas as a younger Costner), and features just a few short scenes of now-Governor Dutton saying cryptic things during a morning coffee with Beth (Reilly) and telling Kayce (Grimes) that it’s OK for him to prioritize his family, quit his position as Livestock Commissioner, and have a funeral for his deceased newborn son on Dutton Ranch land.
So, yeah, I mean…it’s heavy stuff. But it still makes for a significantly more Costner-free episode than usual, as Yellowstone instead focuses on establishing some other plotlines that will presumably also play majors roles in Season 5. Kayce’s role this episode is largely limited to what we said above as well; he and Monica (Kelsey Asbille) are still grieving the loss of their son in different ways, and Kayce has apparently decided that his vision quest from last year means he needs to put family first before everything else, especially now.
Native leaders Thomas Rainwater (Gil Birmingham) and Mo (Mo Brings Plenty) say that Kayce made a good choice, and Mo seems to imply that he can get Kayce a new job as some kind of Montana ranger. Is that a new job—and new Yellowstone storyline—I sense?
Anyway. Now it’s time to get into the rest of the stuff that did happen in Season 5, Episode 3. Shall we?
Some Wolves in Sheep’s Clothing
After last week’s episode included a plotline where the bunkhouse boys accidentally kill wolves that—whoops! are tagged and live in the national park and aren’t supposed to be randomly shot dead—this week opens with a flashback to a young John Dutton dealing with a community problem with wolves. We know the phrase “wolves in sheep’s clothing,” and we’ve been seeing it throughout Yellowstone; Beth is openly a badass and kind of verbally berates everyone she comes in contact with, but someone like Monica and even Jamie have proven at times to be more formidable than people around them give credit for.
The point being made is that John Dutton clearly has a long history with wolves who don’t look it, and anyone who might be coming for his throne (or power) as governor is not going to be the surprise they think they might be.
But the Dutton Ranch boys are going to have to keep an eye on what’s happening with those national park wolf collars. We saw them get jammed in the river last week, and this week some guys were snooping around. Rip fended them off for the time being, but that’s not going to last—there wouldn’t be a show if it was.
Come on, Jamie, Do Better Man
As we said above, it’s always kind of been uncertain on Yellowstone whether Jamie is a power player who’s stronger than he lets on, or kind of a bumbling idiot who just keeps getting opportunities and failing over and over again.
The current Jamie Dutton (Bentley) storyline, which finds him as Montana’s District Attorney and dealing with Market Equities’ attorneys Ellis Steele (John Emmet Tracy) and newcomer Sarah Atwood (Dawn Olivieri), kind of lands right smack in the middle. Jamie easily outsmarts a failed attempt of a lawsuit by Ellis before having very little rebuttal to any of the points that Sarah makes to him. He agrees to meet up with her again to further discuss. We then see within moments that it was Ellis and Sarah’s plan all along for Ellis to sort of instantly fail and give Jamie that little W so he could more easily be talked down by Sarah after the fact.
There are two major takeaways from this moment: Sarah is clearly going to be a major power player this season (as if her dramatic entrance in Episode 2 didn’t already prove that), and Jamie is once again being used as a pawn getting into a web of deep trouble that he likely won’t be able to get himself out of. We saw his father, Garrett Randall, manipulate him. We saw him totally fail in some blackmail situation with that journalist to the point where he had to murder her and hide her body (remember that?!?!), and we saw him constantly nonstop bicker with both John and Beth. Will Jamie ever get a break? Will Jamie ever do anything right? Stay tuned this season to find out. But it sure seems like Sarah is about to once again play him for a fool.
Can we also briefly talk about how good Olivieri is as Sarah? The actress got a brief taste of the Yellowstone-verse last year in a couple episodes of 1883, but gets a much juicier role this time around in the flagship Yellowstone. Her line deliveries and facial expressions are just fantastic. If we’re being honest, I’m still thinking about the way she said “it means I’m gonna make a lot of money” in Episode 2.
There’s no point in going too far down prediction road here, but it feels pretty safe to say that Sarah is going to be able to outsmart and outmaneuver Jamie, and we’re going to see a Sarah vs. Beth showdown for the ages. That should make for some fun TV.
Some Trouble on the Reservation
One big problem with Yellowstone Season 4 was that it sort of minimized the role of Thomas Rainwater and some of our other great Native/Indigenous characters; in retrospect, it felt a bit like Thomas and Mo were mainly part of the story to guide Kayce’s bizarre vision quest. With Thomas and the Duttons no longer at each other’s throats in the same way they were in the early seasons, the tension between the two parties largely died down. And without that tension, someone was going to suffer, and Yellowstone is about the Duttons. So it wasn’t going to be them.
With John as governor, though, this story seems to have a bit more juice again. While the episode does being with Thomas and Mo offering to help Kayce with a new job, we follow Thomas a bit longer and see that there’s a bit of fighting happening within the reservation; a protest outside the casino is challenging his status as Chief, and inside, he’s getting more and more crap from Angela Blue Thunder (Q’orianka Kilcher), the aggressive power player who basically seems like the Native’s answer to Beth Dutton.
There’s not a ton going here just yet, but it’s fun to see seeds being planted for these characters to become characters in their own right again and not just accessories to help Kayce, or whoever, reach self-realization.
“I Really Fucked Somebody Over Today. It Felt Great.”
Beth has a fun storyline this week, which starts with her heading out to Salt Lake City to take care of some real estate business that quite frankly is a little hard to follow. Essentially, it seems like she’s selling her controlling share of Schwartz & Meyer off to Market Equities’ biggest competitor, and also putting a conservation easement on the land in the vicinity of the Dutton Ranch. She sells the company off, but gets to retain aa bunch of money and also gets to have some favors owed by this other company.
The basis of what we need to know is that this really screws Market Equities over, and their CEO Caroline Warner (Jacki Weaver) is particularly scrambling in the aftermath. Beth’s endgame was essentially to get CEOs fired, which, well, it seems like her mission might be accomplished fairly soon.
Beth is in a jovial mood, and gets home to Rip (Hauser) and their illegally-adopted son Carter (Finn Little) hanging around. Beth wants to hang out with the bunkhouse fellas, and then, eventually, after some partying and drinking for Lloyd’s (Forrie J. Smith) 58th (or is it 85th?) birthday, Beth suggests they head out to a bar in Bozeman. Rip advises against it, suggesting that Bozeman bars are all tourists and fake cowboys, and, as usual, he’s right. But for now, Beth just wants everyone to go to a fun bar and get drunk and have fun. So they go! Except Carter, who has to stay at home.
When they get to Bozeman, things go according to plan for a little bit. Beth, Teeter, and the bunkhouse boys are all having a good time. And who happens to be playing at the bar other than bunkhouse Ryan’s new love interest Abby (Lainey Wilson), who we met back in Episode 1? Good times, lots of drinking and fun and live music is happening. All is good. Rip is even smiling!
But we’re watching Yellowstone. And they’re in a bar. So when a random tourist woman comes up and starts relentlessly hitting on Rip, you know it’s not going to end well. He tries, like a gentleman, to tell this woman this his wife is standing six feet away dancing (she had previously said that her husband is in Sacramento, those darn Californians). The woman claims that she’ll handle it, walking up to Beth and planning to say literally who could possibly know.
We know what’s coming after that. They talk for about five seconds before Rip signals to Lloyd that it’s time to go and Beth breaks a beer bottle over this idiot woman’s head. All chaos breaks loose, and then we see the aftermath outside (after Beth punches the woman one more time). The new sheriff pulls up and tells Rip there’s a big problem (and can you really blame him?). Rip seems to imply that Beth getting into trouble for breaking glass on this lady’s head is a problem, and the episode kind of concludes there.
A fun little melee, but there are so many storylines already going in Yellowstone that I’m not quite sure we needed to add an ongoing subplot where Beth (presumably) escapes the long arm of the law from attacking a dumb woman in a bar using her father’s influence as Governor of Montana. Maybe this kind of situation—now that her father is as high-profile as ever—could make for some sort of political sideshow. Maybe Beth has a real moment of reckoning for having such a short fuse and being such a liability just about everywhere.
But it’s still more likely, though, that we’ll just see them solve this problem using those ever-valuable Dutton resources. But maybe everyone in Yellowstone should just start listening to Rip at every turn. The man is always right.