“A Thundering” (Episode 201)
June 19, 2019
Season 1 of Yellowstone introduced us to the Dutton family, owners of the largest contiguous cattle ranch in the United States … its approximately the size of Rhode Island. Based in Montana, the Dutton Ranch is run by the family patriarch, John Dutton (Kevin Costner). The Duttons Ranch abuts an embittered Native American reservation as well as the first National Park, Yellowstone. John has 4 adult children who serve the family and the ranch in different ways. Beth (Kelly Reilly) is a high-powered financial player who takes more of a lead role in the family’s business dealings. Kayce (Luke Grimes) is an ex-Navy SEAL with a ton of PTSD and Daddy issues. By the end of Season 1, he’s estranged from his wife, Monica (Kelsey Asbille), and returns to the ranch to live (his son stays with mom). Jamie Dutton (Wes Bentley) is a lawyer and is persuaded by the Governor to run for state Attorney General (John doesn’t particularly like this line of business for his son). In furtherance of his career, Jamie betrays the family to a reporter looking for dirt on the Duttons. Lee Dutton (Dave Annable) was murdered by his sister-in-law’s brother at the end of Episode 1 … so don’t get attached to him.
Enough about Season 1, let us ride into the fray of Season 2. Keep reading for our deep dive recap & review of the Season 2 premiere, “A Thundering” … BEWARE OF SPOILERS!!!
Thomas Rainwater (Gil Birmingham) is bloody. He’s standing alone looking out at the Montana landscape. He sees a woman burning and falling down, as a single tree burns near her. He turns and is now sitting next to a burned Dan Jenkins (Danny Huston). Thomas asks Dan what happened to him, as Dan pulls a gun on Thomas. He screams as the gun goes off. Thomas awakens from his nightmare with a start, covered in sweat.
John and Kayce Dutton, and a team of cowboys ride up to a tree ridge. Kayce says he can smell “them” in there. The group decides they can’t go into the heavy forest with the horses. John says to send in the dogs as he’s not about to leave $100k worth of bulls in the thicket. Stupid Bulls. The dogs run into the brush and the cattle emerge in a chaotic scatter pattern. The cowboys and dogs are hard at work wrangling and rustling.
The bulls are angry at being rustled up, bellowing loudly and running out from the trees. One of the dogs lets out a painful cry. Kayce gallops to the scene as a bull tries to gore the dog as it runs away. Kayce lassos the out of control bull and brings him into control.
A man arrives at the gate of the Yellowstone Dutton Ranch. He’s alone. He walks onto the ranch.
At the pens, Kayce and some hands are separating the bulls from the cows. Some bulls bust into the cow pen just as John arrives to check on the progress. Jimmy Hurdstrom (Jefferson White) is admonished for not having a handle on the gate and he shoots back they’re angry bulls.
“Of course they’re angry, Jimmy. Their job’s to fuck and they ain’t fucked in 6 months, Jimmy.”
A bull ejaculator for artificial insemination is handed over to Avery (Tanaya Beatty). This is the biggest damn dildo you’ve ever seen and they squabble over who’s going to do it. She is having none of this and passes it off like a hot potato. The man who walked up to the gate asks who’s in charge and John is pointed out to him. He goes up to John and asks if he has any day work as he’s making his way to Arizona? John in turn, directs him over to Kayce. Kayce looks a little confused as to why John defers this to him.
Jamie Dutton is lying in bed as he’s getting the lowdown on his fundraiser itinerary from Christina (Katherine Cunningham). She adds that her parents will be in Missoula the upcoming weekend and they’d love to meet him. Not sure what the look on Jamie’s face is: fear or indigestion? Either way, he’s not jazzed about that proposition as he gets dressed. He runs out to get coffee.
At the coffee shop, Jamie just wants a cup of coffee but has to deal with a pretentious barista and her pretentious coffee making ways. He returns to Christina’s apartment and sits pensively on the couch.
Beth Dutton is looking at six month lease on a rental space for her firm. The real estate agent is tickled that such a high powered bank is taking up residence in Bozeman, even if it’s only for 6 months.
Beth finds her Dad in his office. She tells him she’s found a prospect, a candidate who’s the state prosecutor in Custer County and a former rodeo queen. Beth adds Jamie is going to hate her. John remarks the girl looks like Beth.
Thomas is meeting with his council. They’re discussing the merits of building a new casino off the reservation versus improving the one they already have. Thomas is in favor of building the new casino, even though the cost is great. but he’s counseled that would bring unpredictable partners. Thomas’s plan is to do what the white man has been doing to them for centuries: buy the land for the casino and then annex it as reservation land to be exempted from state tax and state regulation. Kind of like how an embassy functions. He asks the council for the approval for the loan, but is met with slight resistance.
Monica is walking with a cane on a University campus. She meets with the Professor (John Forker) to ask for the job she had been previously offered. She’s told that the money allocated for that program was redirected and that offer no longer stands. He has a different position to offer her in the American Studies division until a more permanent role arises, teaching from Columbus’s arrival up until the Declaration of Independence. She’s dubious given Columbus’s historical relationship with Native Americans …
“Which version of Columbus’s history am I teaching?”
Cassidy Reid (Kelly Rohrbach), the candidate Beth mentioned earlier, arrives at the Ranch and meets Beth. She’s curious as to what she can do for the Duttons to which Beth replies, it’s more what they can do for her. Cassidy is offered the Duttons’ backing for Attorney General. Cassidy doesn’t hide her surprise they’re not supporting the Dutton in the race and Beth offers a snide remark, “clearly you haven’t met him.”
John tells Cassidy that they want what’s best for Montana and she feels like the right candidate. Beth asks Cassidy to elaborate on some of the programs she’s initiated, such as a support program for returned veterans to aid with PTSD. Cassidy is worried about not getting enough votes throughout the state but John tells her that she’ll have the votes she needs.
The cowboys are having lunch. There’s a little stand off between the new Cowboy (Steven Williams) and the more established cowboys. There’s some grandstanding and posturing about who’s more of a man’s man until Rip Wheeler (Cole Hauser) steps in. New Cowboy is warned by Walker (Ryan Bingham) to watch himself on this ranch … it’s like no place they’ve ever worked before. Walker says odd things like he should keep his eye on the bosses and he’ll need permission to leave. Walker says he plans to leave with the Cowboy when he decides to go.
Kayce goes to visit Tate on the reservation. He’s warmly greeted by Felix Long (Rudy Ramos), his father-in-law. He missed seeing his son before he fell asleep. Kayce and Monica talk. Kayce is upset she’s keeping Tate from him but she replies that she wants to shield Tate from what Kayce’s done (killing her brother, Tate’s uncle, after he killed Kayce’s brother, Lee). She yields and tells Kayce that he’s got to put him back to sleep if he wakes him up. Kayce goes to Tate (Breckin Merrill) but he’s sleeping and Kayce has second thoughts about waking him up. He asks Monica if he can just watch him sleep a bit. Monica is all “whatevs” and heads to the living room to sob.
Beth meets her boss, Bob Schwartz (Michael Nouri), in a bar. She fills him in that she got their office on Main Street in Bozeman. She tells him about the land developers, like Jenkins,who are out to build McMansions and that some try to go further with the development to include hotels and subdivisions. She continues that these plans often fail because they don’t have enough cash flow to make the land profitable. Beth suggests a different, more complex approach for them to undercut and push out these other land developers.
The plan: Set up a fund to buy land in a category known as conservation easement, which yields a significant property tax cut, then have the property enrolled by the Department of Agriculture in a scheme where the government pays them not to farm the land. All of this is done to control the supply of land. Beth continues that they could pay off the loan for their initial investment in 7 years, using the government stipend for the premium land per acre per year.
They would become landlords who get paid not to rent. Bob’s not convinced, he thinks this sounds like a pyramid scheme. Beth defends it, saying the government is at the bottom of the pyramid, which would make it more stable. She suggests a $100 million land investment, funneling the money from the government into more land purchases. She projects they can buy 50,000 acres a year without spending any of their own money with a $46 million profit by year two. Bob comes around to this, seeing the possibilities. He’s curious as to why no one has done this and she says bluntly that no one can afford those first two years. Bob asks what’s in it for Beth?
“I’m making you money, Bob. And I’m digging a 200 square mile moat around my father’s ranch.”
Ahhh, there it is. Bob’s all in. Beth leaves him there to ponder their riches.
Back at the ranch, the cowboys have a card game underway. Avery isn’t having it and asks if this is the big plan for Saturday night? The cowboys all get real quiet. New Cowboy says back in his day they’d play for some real “Cowboy Poker.” Jimmy asks what is that and he’s told they’re not doing it. New Cowboy insults their collective manhood, which is all it takes to get the game going …
In the center of the bull pen, we see the cowboys gathered around a card table.
“You wanna explain the rules?”
“Last one at the table, keeps the pot.”
A bull charges and busts up the table and they all scatter. Avery was the last one at the table. “Give me my money.” Rip breaks it all up but is secretly impressed that Avery was last
The cowboys head down to the local bar. Avery and Jimmy are chatting at the bar. Avery declines a dance invitation from a patron and he’s not taking it well. Jimmy is fueling the fire telling him to essentially take a hike, but with more colorful language.
Just when you think all is well, Jimmy is being super cocky that they’re with Yellowstone and no one will mess with them, the rejected bar patron comes back and grabs Jimmy from behind. Avery slams a beer bottle over him and the rejected bar patron punches her. Another Yellowstone hand whacks the bar patron with a pool cue. And now the bar brawl ensues. There’s lots of plaid shirts and cowboy hats flipping and punching each other as the mayhem ensues.
Back at the Ranch, Lloyd (Forrie E. Smith) is passing out frozen vegetables for the guys to use as ice packs for their faces and knuckles. Kayce enters and wants to know what happened. He heads up to Rip to tell him the wranglers got the hell beat out of them. There’s still tension between Kayce and Rip about who’s in charge.
Back at the bar, Kayce and Rip open the double doors. The boys back a trailer up to the door and release one of the bulls loose in the bar. Everyone scrambles for higher ground as the Yellowstone wranglers are all lined up outside with baseball bats and mean looks on their faces. Rip tells Jimmy to call out the guys they fought with. As the offending cowboys flee the bar, the Yellowstone men beat the ever loving shit out of them with bats and clubs. It’s horrifically violent. In a poweplay moment, Rip taunts Walker to beat the shit out of one of the guys, prove his loyalty to the Yellowstone Ranch … Walker walks away.
Rip goes inside to wrangle the bull back into the trailer. He threatens the owner saying the next time something like this happens, someone should call the Yellowstone Ranch or break it up. Kayce goes a step further and threatens to burn it down if it happens again.
The next morning, John walks into a restaurant and sees Dan Jenkins sitting at a booth. He sits down with Dan and ask if Dan’s planning to ship out soon? Dan makes the mistake of trying to go toe to toe with John. He taunts John about how he will take Yellowstone from John and picks at his nerves by mentioning the failure of a parent to see their child (Lee) die before them. John is not amused and leaves Dan with some sober thoughts as he walks away.
“You should’ve gone to the sheriff, Dan. Cause next time, you won’t get cut down. Cause next time? I’ll do it myself.””
Jimmy has a gloved hand up a cow’s .. um … nether region as the animal husbandry specialist (Rya Kihlstedt) from earlier is back. John and Kayce share a few words in the yard. As John walks away he falls to the ground. Kayce races over and turns him over.
There’s a good amount of blood coming out of John’s mouth … and it had nothing to do with the fall. The animal husbandry lady has medical equipment in her trailer. They bring John in and plop him on the cold metal table as he continues to spit up blood. Husbandry Specialist Lady says she’s going to take an X-Ray and John grunts out that it’s related to his colon cancer …
Husbandry Specialist Lady thinks he’d be shitting blood, not spitting up if this was because of colon cancer. Nope, she diagnoses him with a ruptured ulcer. In additional news, she tells John she’s going to have to cauterize here and now or else, he’ll bleed out before they reach a hospital.
There’s a question about anesthetic and Husbandry Specialist Lady replies that a local, topical anesthesia is all she can give John; all her other tranqs are for large animals and will kill him. Husbandry Specialist Lady warns John this is going to really hurt. But John Dutton is a fucking man and a cowboy.
“Just fucking do it.”
It’s a gruesome scene as she has his stomach retracted open. She tells them to get pressure on the wound as it spurts and she starts to cauterize it.
A helicopter arrives as Rip and Kayce carry John over. John’s got a big bandage over his abdomen. The helicopter takes off and John is cranky that this is a mess. Kayce tells him to look on the bright side, at least it’s not cancer. John is feeling regretful and replies that he’s overreacted in his planning …
“I’ve got so much to undo. I’ve got so much to undo.”
As we’re joining recaps of Yellowstone in Season 2, let me tell you a couple of reasons why I watch this show. The sweeping cinematography of the Montana countryside and the music selections which match the character of the storyline, it gives you an authentic modern Western feel. Add in the star power of Oscar award winner Kevin Costner, who lends a level of authenticity to the story with his Western-genre chops, it all swirls together for an entertaining, character- driven show perfect to watch during your Summer nights.
I feel like this season is getting off to a great start. The drama is still high with the Duttons. The stage is set for some explosive moments to come this season. I think new fans to this show can slide right into the story and pick up the plot pretty easily. The story line embedded and developed in Season 1 is carrying into Season 2 and setting the stage for more fireworks.
I’m curious to see the Jamie-Christina-article dynamic and the fallout from that. Jamie, from the very short time we saw him this episode, looks really conflicted and at odds with his situation. The scene in the coffee shop was pretty funny – he looked like an old-fuddy-duddy in a trendy coffee shop. He was so snarky to the barista with her pretentious coffee making method, which I interpreted as feeling out-of-place in a place like the more traditional Montana.
Even Christina was pleased with the gentrification of Bozeman with the advent of “good coffee” and ensuring it was made the pretentious way. You could see the conflict on Jamie’s face. Where he’ll land in the fray is unknown yet, but there will definitely be a lot of fall out with the article out in the world. It’ll be interesting when it drops to see what level of criminality the Duttons went to in order to benefit their interests. There’s a lot of bad blood still with Beth’s nasty comment to Cassidy about Jamie and how no one should over-estimate him.
Kayce’s dynamic seems the most complex to me and it’ll take several episodes to iron this out. His estrangement from Monica together with trying to not isolate Tate (in a recreation of his strained relationship with his Dad) is painful to watch. No one wins in this situation. Monica’s lost her brother forever and her husband and he’s lost his wife and son, hopefully temporarily. He’s a troubled soul to begin with and things are unraveling a bit for him.
Kevin Costner is just so bad ass. He completely steals the scenes he’s in with his giant presence. He’s able to convey so much with his body language and facial expressions, as you would expect. I do want to see more of him and dive further into his character’s machinations. I was relieved the diagnosis for John isn’t cancer, but I suspect it’s not going to be as simple as a bleeding stomach ulcer. The route of that diagnosis proves he’s a man’s man befitting of the name of cowboy.
Some people liken this show to Dallas and I see that comparison: it’s a Western-style soap opera of a large powerful family, the empire they’ve built, and the drama that surrounds them. But, it’s also an unfair stereotypical designation; it pigeonholes the story as something we’ve seen before, when there’s 40 years in between the original Dallas and Yellowstone. A casual viewer shouldn’t be turned off by the comparison, to do so unfairly downplays the complex storylines, the relationship between the Native American community, the exterior threats, and the dynamic within the family which all make for high-quality entertainment.
The conversation the show tries to engage with regarding the Native American community and politics and history is a difficult dance and I’d like to see more of this. Just because something is unpleasant from our history doesn’t mean it should be sanitized or not dealt with head-on. I feel Thomas Rainwater’s narrative is going to push this dialogue along.
Yellowstone airs on the Paramount Network with the Season 2 premiere on Wednesday, June 19 at 10 PM EST.
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