Yellowstone Episode 8
“Went all-wildcat on me.”
Reminiscent of the pilot, the episode opens up with a stunning scene. A teenager wakes up swinging to a tableau of violence: a dead boy and the screams of a mother dying under the fists of his father. He kills the man with a frying pan left on the stove.
The scene then jumps to Montana, where a much younger John Dutton was told they caught a drifter. Dutton pointed out this was a matter for the sheriff. However, the ranch hand said, “The sheriff told me to call you.”
“Some bullshit story.”
This was the first encounter between Rip Wheeler and John Dutton. Everything Rip has done for Dutton started with this confrontation years ago. John took Rip in rather than cast him out. John offered him essentially a clean slate. It’s a great way to explain Rip’s fierce loyalty to the Dutton ranch, most of all, to John Dutton. The flashback also left us uneasy: was this foreshadowing of what will happen to Rip?
For once Rip tried to do the right thing. He called the authorities after the deaths of the two tourists, only later accused of unsavory actions. A bit ironic, considering what he did in the previous episodes. The local authorities argued the body—the bear, not the tourists because offing Yogi bear was the federal offense—should have been buried, covered up, which we’ve discovered is the MO for pretty much everyone in this show. I shudder to think what else could be out there in the Montana wilderness.
John tried to call Jamie to ‘fix this,’ but of course, the oldest son is off campaigning for Attorney General. All there was left to do was for Rip to wait for Fish and Wildlife. We’re treated to one last glimpse of the dead bear, huge, bulking and now lifeless.
“One step at a time.”
The show pulls us out of the scene and into a different sort of situation where Monica struggles to regain her life after being in a coma for a good portion of the previous episode. As she struggles to walk and find her balance with the parallel bars, she pleads with her grandfather to let her and Tate stay with him. She confesses she doesn’t know Kayce anymore. Maybe this was her way of achieving balance in some aspect of her life.
We jump to Jamie Dutton, politicking in a local news interview. His phone, left in the care of his campaign manager Christina, has been buzzing non-stop from John Dutton. And each time, Christina declined the call. Sarah Nguyen asked why John Dutton’s problems were becoming Jamie’s. Christina denied it, but her interest was piqued when Sarah pressed. As Christina walked away with a promise she’ll “make the time” to meet Sarah and her girlfriend, Sarah realizes she may have blown her cover. Although, I thought she was as subtle as a herd of rampaging cattle in the previous episodes.
Meanwhile, Kayce drove home and found his trailer home ransacked. The dinosaur bones were pulled from the hole Kayce and Tate worked hard on. Treasure hunters took everything; even the one tethering link Kayce hoped to share with his son.
“You do not get my gun.”
Back in the ranch (pun fully intended), Rip meets with Fish and Wildlife Officer Skyles. She regarded Rip with open disdain, brusque as she demanded to see the dead bear. As expected, the two rode off in uneasy silence. The conversation was curt. When Rip pointed out a horsefly on Skyles’s horse, the officer dismissed it, even becoming antagonistic when Rip repeatedly warned her.
Sure enough, the horsefly bit Skyles’s horse and the horse bolts with Skyles. Rip lamented “No one ever fucking listens to me” before chasing after them.
The officer’s horse gets trapped under barbed wire and Skyles gets skewered by a fence post. As I watched this, the thought that ran in my mind was they’re going to blame this on poor Rip. A beat later, Rip shuts down Skyles’s fears she’s dying with “You ain’t gonna die ’cause if you die, they’re gonna think I did this too.”
Still, Skyles resisted Rip’s advice to shoot the horse before the horse recovers and panics. She was also reluctant to let Rip help her. We see more of the kinder side of Rip as we did in previous episodes. He acknowledged Skyles has no reason to trust him, but she needed to right now. He gets her on her feet—fence post and all—and they wait for the Dutton helicopter to get them out. By the time the aircraft arrived, Rip and Skyles came to a sort of understanding and even a laugh. It probably won’t spared Rip from the troubles ahead, but it was nice to see someone who might be on Rip’s side down the road; someone a lot more stable than Beth Dutton.
“…an evil woman.”
It’s a bit heartbreaking in the next scene to watch Kayce fix up the furniture and set things right when we know what Kayce doesn’t: Monica and Tate are not coming back here. And maybe Kayce already suspected the growing divide, especially with his son. Tate had wanted to stay on the Dutton ranch and have a different life from the reservation. The dinosaur bones and the time spent excavating them were the vestiges of a father-son relationship Kayce was determined to keep. But even that was stolen from him.
The scene switched back to, in my opinion, the least exciting part of the episode. Sarah Nguyen discussed with her girlfriend about staying. She believed John Dutton was the main villain, but as we’ve seen throughout the season, there was more than one. She monologues to her girlfriend how Dutton was rich and only working on getting himself richer. She believed her article could affect real change. Her girlfriend appeared to be more invested in going home to Seattle. She punctuated this by dropping her towel—insert gratuitous lesbian nudity here—and sauntered away. I’ve watched this scene several times (no, not because of that), but I still can’t see what value this has to the plot. I suspect, however, Nguyen is going to be a vital cog in the wheel either in the final episode or the already declared second season.
“I’ll give you Yellowstone.”
Remember when I mentioned there was more than one villain? Thomas Rainwater and Dan Jenkins discussed Dutton’s downfall over a game of golf, Montana’s glory in the background. Rainwater offered to buy Dan’s land and bring it into reservation’s domain. Reservation lands have no zoning laws, which was what was disrupting Jenkins’s plans in the past. In turn, by building Jenkins’s hotel and casinos, the nearby properties will go up in value. In turn, this would double Dutton’s ranch property taxes into an impossible $11 million.
Beth, unaware of the deal brewing between Rainwater and Jenkins, thought she found a way to hurt Jenkins. He’s mortgaged his house twice and his credit was overextended; his stock is at an abysmal low price. Jenkins was putting everything he has on the development. Beth’s solution: buy up shares and wind up in his board by Monday. Along the way, Beth spotted Jenkins’s wife Victoria.
“I just see differently now.”
As Beth and Rainwater’s machinations are going on, Kayce found himself in his crisis. Monica told Kayce she’s not going to stop him from leaving this time. Kayce has always fled from problems under the reasoning it was better if he stayed away. This time, Monica tells him to go. She said to Kayce she didn’t forget him, but now saw him differently. The only way to protect their son Tate was to keep him away from John and Kayce.
It felt like this was inevitable ever since the death of Kayce’s brother in the pilot. Kayce kept Monica from the truth, inadvertently creating the divide they both denied existed. There was a sense of resignation when Monica told Kayce it was over. She said she still loved Kayce, but she loved Tate more. She made a choice Kayce should have made: the Duttons or Monica and Tate.
“It was fun.”
Jenkins returned home to a smug Beth smoking on his front steps, his wife drunk and pressed up against Beth’s assistant Jason. Beth told Jenkins’s her plan to take over a controlling part of his shares, declaring “You hurt my father; I hurt you back.” To add insult to injury, Beth said Victoria wasn’t part of her plan. Just ‘fun.’
Beth has been on a path of self-destruction since episode one, driven by self-loathing and guilt. John Dutton was aware of the damage brewing inside Beth and knew she would do anything for him as well. Voicing the threat to Jenkins confirmed she knew her use to her father. She’s going to wreck everything in her path in her father’s name. However, her onslaught on Jenkins may very well be the tipping point and steer Jenkins into an alliance with Rainwater.
This battle for Yellowstone from all sides has been brewing all season. When Kayce, brooding as he filled his pickup’s tank, finally snapped and beat up a drifter, it was unexpected. But sadly it was also inevitable. Kayce seemed to have the knack for getting in trouble at the worst time. We left the scene with Kayce pulled off the man and the police on their way.
“Don’t take this away from me.”
Another event that felt destined to happen was the scene between John and his son Jamie. When Jamie finally returned to the ranch, he was oblivious to what happened for three-quarters of the episode. John demanded Jamie drop the race for Attorney General. Jamie argued then plead that he was doing this for John. It’s a contrast to Beth, who is willing to help her father but never said it out loud. Jamie, on the other hand, is always defending his actions and loyalty to John.
The confrontation comes to physical blows until Rip pulled Jamie back. When Jamie left, Rip asks John was okay and here, John wearily said he doesn’t know. John revealed to Rip and not to his children about the fear he may lose the ranch.
This was one of my favorite moments of the season. We were aware of Rip’s devotion. The flashback gave us a glimpse of where it all began. It was a great payoff to see John tell the truth to Rip, who was as loyal and dedicated as John wished his children were. But this moment was also tragic: John’s words shouldn’t have been just for Rip.
“We have a real problem.”
Jamie, bruised physically and spiritually, returned to the campaign office. And like John, confessed hard truths to an outsider. Jamie was not one of my favorite characters; he’s manipulated easily by the forces around him. He spilled his heart out to his campaign manager: he wants to be AG not only for his father but for himself as well. However, he didn’t want to go against his father. Christina asked him if Jamie’s ever done anything for himself. It’s heartbreaking when Jamie replied he didn’t know.
This scene could have ended perfectly here, but what we get instead is Christina climbing onto Jamie’s lap. Christina asked Jamie to do something just because he wants to. She asked Jamie to “be selfish with me” and proceeded to kiss him. We fade out of a scene, which I thought was yet another person manipulating Jamie.
“Don’t put it on the bed.”
In the midst of bonds breaking, loyalties splintering, we get a comforting camaraderie scene that felt almost out of place. We’re back in the bunkhouse, where Jimmy can’t find his hat. After some ribbing, the guys gave Jimmy a new one which they each contributed a week’s pay.
Admittedly, Jimmy’s beaming grin and the good-natured teasing was cute. However, with a majority of the episode quite the opposite, this moment felt ill-fitted and jarring. But whatever, a peek of better times for anyone was a relief. Of course, Walker, still smarting from Rip’s warning he can’t leave Yellowstone, muddied up the moment with his prediction: if Jimmy’s cowboy into Yellowstone, he’s cursed.
But what about the bear?
And on that cheery note, the episode ends ominously. Remember the bear? It was left dead on the cliff at the scene of the crime. In the dark, one by one a wolf approached and started to eat the bear. And the episode faded into black.
This show loves its foreshadowing. We may find out who’s the ‘bear’ in part two of the finale Wednesday.
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