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John Dutton Has a Meet-Cute With an Animal Lover

It’s the ‘Yellowstone’ version of ‘You’ve Got Mail’

Paramount/Getty Images/Ringer illustration

Here we are, Yellowstone-heads—the halfway point of the season. Let’s take stock of what’s happened thus far: Beth got mad at a kid for a dumb reason. Rip put a snake in a cooler. We’ve had exactly one jarring flashback to the late 19th century. Jimmy went on a road trip with a jerk. We still don’t really know who tried to kill 75 percent of the Duttons. Thomas Rainwater hasn’t made any metaphorical chess moves in a while. There’s constant drama in the bunkhouse. Monica hated Kayce for an episode, but now she doesn’t. Whew.

The next few episodes will surely ratchet the tension up and bring us closer to what will very clearly be a tragic conclusion, with fan theories ranging from Jamie’s imminent death to Carter wanting Beth to buy him another cowboy shirt. But “Under a Blanket of Red” was another somewhat quiet affair, introducing some new faces, continuing long-simmering plotlines, and keeping the requisite amount of ambient dread humming. We got to see a heated and confusing debate in the bunkhouse about roping cattle in space. We were treated to the flaccid efforts of Blue State activists when confronted with Red State gumption. One Dutton got to meet his child for the first time. And most importantly, John Dutton said the following words to a potential love interest: “There will be a time when Earth sheds us like dead skin.”

That’s just how the man flirts.

1: Gratuitous Anatomy Lessons

Following Beth’s promise to get her dad “some pussy” in the previous episode, the sedate opening of “Under a Blanket of Red” follows world-weary and lonely John Dutton through a doleful day on the ranch. In the evening, he takes a shower, as is his right as the Baron of Montana. He disrobes, reminding us of all the times this man has recently been shot. And then as he is changing into his pajama bottoms, Beth drops in unannounced and says, “Coulda done without the anatomy lesson, but that’s OK. I’ll work that shit out in therapy.”

I’m not sure what the purpose of this scene was other than to have the sight of her father’s penis nudge Beth toward an introspective mood about how empty houses are sort of a bummer and how she would survive a meteor striking Earth and become queen of the cockroaches, but I trust Taylor Sheridan’s vision.

37: Beth’s Age

Thirty-seven is a great age to be a hard-drinking corporate raider with a Nietzschean outlook on the world and an arsenal of profanity-laden quips. It’s also a good age to be a hard-drinking freelance writer with a seasons-4-8-of–The Simpsons outlook on the world (hi). Everyone has their own path and both of these are equally decent paths.

4: Sweat Lodge Sessions for Tate

Finally off the ranch and back on the Broken Rock Reservation, Tate is getting his mind right by spending some time in a sweat lodge with various elders, including Thomas Rainwater and Mo Brings Plenty. It’s good that the show is not actively ignoring Tate’s trauma vis-a-vis shooting a clown in the back. Killing someone should have psychic pain consequences, but not too many of the adults in Yellowstone get hung up about all the murder they’ve been around, so Tate the child will have to stand in for the audience’s horror. Monica speaks briefly with Thomas Rainwater, who tells her she is a warrior, Tate is a warrior, and that they should all be warriors. It’s a loose translation of Angela Blue Thunder’s powerful call to action morphed into an optimistic stump speech.

10: Parts of a Saddle

Lloyd continues to be treated like a pariah by Rip and the other ranch hands in the wake of the scuffle with Walker, and I gotta tell you, this may be the most depressing Yellowstone plotline yet. It just seems so needlessly cruel! This whole thing is entirely Rip’s fault for letting it escalate to the point when Lloyd isn’t being punished so much as humiliated and embarrassed every waking minute of the day. One of his punishments in this episode is having to explain to Carter the proper way to saddle a horse. You know Rip expects this to be torture, as he can’t imagine a worse thing than talking to “the boy,” but Lloyd is patient and friendly, naming the components of the saddle and asking Carter to repeat them back to him. He does. Not that you needed the reminder—by the osmosis of watching four seasons of the show, all of you surely know that the parts of a saddle are the horn, pommel, skirt, seat, rigging, cinch, latigo, stirrup, D rings, and the back billet.

30 to 354: Legs Centipedes Have

This is a disgusting fact about centipedes not explicitly revealed in the episode (at least on screen), but Jimmy’s encounter with a centipede while sleeping at the 6666 demanded some extracurricular research. Yes, the wild story of Jimmy traveling from Montana to the fabled ranch in Texas ratchets up the action as Jimmy pulls a very non-Texas move by taking a nap on the ground and running afoul of a centipede. This is when he meets a gnarled old cowpoke played by one of my favorite actors in the world, Barry Corbin. This wise man very gently tells Jimmy he’s not a cowboy yet (has anyone on the show not told Jimmy this yet?) but at least he delivers the bad news with folksy grandiloquence. In any case, we’re halfway through the season and Jimmy’s biggest drama thus far has been getting bitten by a bug while he was taking a nap. Can’t wait to see where this goes.

2: Guns Drawn to Put Down a Protest

Kayce drives into the teeth of a protest by a rowdy group of activists and things go from heated to physical. Kayce tackles a protester, and both he and his deputy draw their firearms. Sheriff Haskell (Hugh Dillon) arrives and immediately clocks that Kayce and his deputy have been played and that this “shit show” is exactly what these Machiavellian do-gooders want. The proof is in the pudding of dozens of phones recording and probably live-tweeting this needlessly tense situation.

This scene is a Trojan horse to introduce what appears to be John Dutton’s latest love interest, the too-appropriately-named Summer Higgins (Piper Perabo). “Men objectify our breasts” is one of the first things she proclaims to the nonplussed Dutton patriarch, who clearly didn’t have dealing with members of the Green Party on his Episode 5 bingo card. But it’s not breast objectification that has brought these protesters to Montana—no, they’re there to protest the “state-sponsored police force that protects industrialized animal farming and the mass murder of millions of animals every year.” This mouthful of dialogue prompts John to rhetorically ask, “You ever plow a field, Summer?” He then mansplains the inherent violence of farming.

Summer is, of course, a professional activist-agitator whose views are diametrically opposed to John Dutton’s, but after he bails her out of jail it takes about one minute of his gruff sentimentality to almost completely win her over. Maybe not to his Thomas Hobbes of the hinterlands outlook on the world, but she’s definitely warming to the idea of boning down with the enemy. Nervous as a schoolboy, John says to her, “I’d like to show you my ranch.”

I think we all know what it means when a guy wants to show you his ranch.

4: In the Morning Is Still Nighttime

After they bond through regarding the rote memorization of the components of a saddle, Carter and Lloyd share another sweet moment in which the haunted-and-alone Lloyd implores the closet-dwelling Carter to get some rest because “morning comes early.” Carter, clever and overworked on this hellish ranch, counters that 4 a.m. isn’t morning—it’s obviously nighttime. Lloyd can’t really argue with that. Obviously, this little bit of relatively pleasant interaction is building to something bleak.

4: Laramie’s Lines of Dialogue

Laramie, the other buckle bunny and the Helen of Troy (sorry for so many Iliad references today, it’s just the only work of art on Yellowstone’s level) who got Lloyd and Walker feuding, doesn’t get much time to make her case as a fully-formed human being. Her main character trait up to this point is that she’s very horny. So, in place of any in-show development, here’s a list of things I pretend Laramie likes, to make her seem more complete to me: the smell right after it rains, her father’s spaghetti recipe, the YA novel Maniac Magee, Montana vs. Montana State football games, true crime, the one time she went to Disneyworld, and the music of Lydia Loveless.

40: Acreage Around Monica and Kayce’s Potential New House

Over breakfast, Monica and Kayce discuss renting a house. It’s halfway between the reservation and Bozeman and looks pretty nice and is a good size. They both seem so happy and hopeful, which sort of indicates that this house will soon burn down, or maybe a serial killer lives in the basement. Tate ambles into the kitchen and Grandpa Felix gives him a cast-iron skillet full to the brim with eggs, meat, and frybread to fill him up after the crucible of the sweat lodge. Kayce gets an egg, over easy. It’s a nice, quiet family moment bereft of home invaders, snakes, and militia.

6: The Hour of the Day When Beth Starts Drinking

Beth explains “intermittent fasting” to John: Nothing but coffee and cigarettes until noon, then she can eat whatever, then exclusively booze after 6 p.m. Somehow, this leads to Beth confessing she is taking the job at Market Equities. John is, as we are, perplexed, wondering how exactly that helps the Duttons. Beth says she plans to run it into the ground. My question would be: Would that not be something the Market Equities brain trust have … predicted and planned for? This conversation is so boring John Dutton gets up in the middle of his breakfast to drive to jail so he can hang out with Summer Higgins instead.

300: People at the Wedding

Beth is renting out the ranch for weddings and other events, and the couple currently trying to reserve a slot are expecting 300 guests. They also want a hayride and other goofy stuff. Beth mocks these clueless New York bluebloods but remains committed to taking their money. But apparently, she’s been driving to Salt Lake City the whole time she was talking to them, and has to get off the phone so she can ruin the life of her former colleague and mentor Bob Schwartz. It’s not as important to the audience as it is to Beth, but she’s now in charge of Schwartz & Meyer, thanks to Market Equities giving her controlling interest in her former firm. Cool. It’s always enjoyable when Beth walks through an office building intending to defenestrate somebody!

1: Surprise, Baby!

Jamie shows up to confront Garrett Randall (Will Patton) about trying to murder his family, but as often happens in that situation, your former flame shows up out of nowhere with the young son you’ve never met. Yes, Christina (Katherine Cunningham) is back. You may remember Beth admiring her hips and dubbing her Bubble Butt. Christina, who almost certainly knows Jamie murdered the reporter Sarah Nguyen, was never a passive observer in Jamie’s story, and her sudden arrival is suspicious, to say the least. All the alone time she and Randall shared before Jamie’s arrival also seems ripe for secret exchanging and general skullduggery planning.

3: Gods in Texas

The three gods in Texas are in no particular order: God, George Strait, and Buster Welch. Welch is a real-life legendary cowboy who wakes Jimmy up with his rambling in a barn. A moment later, a younger, less rambling cowboy is very quickly unimpressed with Jimmy’s mental faculties, saying “I hope the Good Lord gave you a big dick, Jimmy, because he sure shorted you on brains.” Thankfully, it has already been established in Season 3 during his recuperation in the hospital that God (not George Strait, the Other Guy) did give Jimmy a big dick. I expect the strangely persistent “Does Jimmy have a big dick?” discourse to rear its head roughly 6,666 more times.

A Preview of Episode 6, “I Want to Be Him”

1: Last Chance for Lloyd

Lloyd seems headed for disaster. It’s excruciating to witness in real time because Lloyd is such an affable uncle type, a genuine sweetheart whose cardinal sin is letting his old man crush get away from him a little. The preview for Sunday’s episode hints at further bonding between the oldest and youngest hands at the Yellowstone, with Lloyd telling Carter that the ranch is no place for outcasts like them. The following is half-baked speculation: in his final act of paternal kindness, Lloyd will hatch a plan to take Carter someplace less goofy and harsh. Carter will entertain the opportunity, but betray Lloyd and reveal the plan to Rip (whose fault this all is) to gain back some social capital and perhaps improve his place on the totem pole of this bizarrely melodramatic ranch. Rip will drive Lloyd to the Wyoming “train station,” ostensibly to throw him into the Big Public Pit of Bodies. But—and this is just hoping against hope—Lloyd will earn one last reprieve. Although, knowing this show, he’ll probably get stomped on by a bison with syphilis in the season finale, having redeemed himself but still acting as the sacrifice the ranch demanded.

0: Scenes of Jamie’s Dinner

You may recall Garrett promised Jamie he’d have supper waiting for him when he returned. Well, Jaime returned and we haven’t seen what Garrett cooked. One of the more disappointing plot holes of this season.

2: Perceivable Words From Teeter

Teeter’s accent doesn’t make sense. It just doesn’t. I know they’ve mentioned this before but I feel it should be mentioned more. There should be an FBI warning about it before each episode starts.

1: Shocking Death

It just feels like we’re due for an oh no they didn’t moment. Assuming my previous prediction that Lloyd doesn’t go so far over the line, my pick for shocking death is Mia. The scenario is simple: Lloyd challenges Walker to an old-fashioned duel or something normal like that; Laramie gets in the way trying to protect her singing man from her former old man; bullets fly, and Mia, who was attempting to get Laramie out of harm’s way, ends up shot. In the grand tradition of fiction written by men, the death of his girlfriend and one true love will initially cause Jimmy great sadness, but in the end it will just make him a better cowboy.

3: Times Jimmy Fails to Impress Someone

This 6666 plotline is potentially not a plotline at all, but a psychological experiment designed to test how well humans would survive if the only show on television was Jimmy from Yellowstone not understanding simple instructions and falling off horses. The results are too dangerous to publish.

-10: Hatchets Beth and Jamie Bury

Not happening. The first time Beth will admit Jamie is not the worst person to ever exist will be at his funeral, when she will say something a bit more kind and nuanced like, “Jamie was one of the worst people to ever exist.”

0: Times Jamie Shoots Garrett Randall

If you were writing a television show set in, say, Montana, and you needed a violent ambitious mastermind to be your Mountain West Moriarty, you might create Garrett Randall. Everything points toward his guilt. He has a motive. Jamie was the only Dutton sibling not targeted. He was cellmates with the organizer of the hit. He killed Jamie’s mom, so you know he’s not adverse to a little blood-letting. Also, he’s just generally off-putting and creepy! But it’s so obvious that it kind of almost, almost makes you think he’s yet another smoke screen. We’re halfway through the season and still have no definitive answers about the massive (and botched) hit against the Duttons that kept them incapacitated for all of 10 minutes. Could it be so simple as the Evil Cowboy Dad trying to snuff out the Righteous Cowboy Dad? Sure, this is Yellowstone, it could be that simple—but there’s still time for it to have been the bikers from California or a talking grizzly bear. All that to say that, despite the preview offering us a glimpse of Jamie waving a gun at Garrett, he’s not going to go all Kayce and mete out frontier justice. His conscience, or the threat of being blackmailed, will keep his finger off the trigger.

-1: Halfway Decent Comebacks From Summer

There’s no way Beth is going to pass up the chance to drop some truly quippy and harsh words when she discovers Summer Higgins walking around the house half-dressed in the morning. Summer, being the tough sort who spends her life looking to fight injustice, will not balk at responding to Beth’s insults in kind. But this is Beth Dutton, a mythical character made of Teflon. She will always get the last word, and often the first word and all the words in the middle. Summer will only be spared the worst of Beth’s wrath when John sleepily walks into the kitchen with his coffee mug, defusing the situation by saying something like, “One day maggots will feast on our flesh and the earth will be scorched and lifeless and the only ones you can trust then is family.”

Alex Siquig lives in Baltimore, drinks MD 20/20, and writes about things like Game of Thrones, the Willennium, and the life of Doug Funnie.