With four seasons under its big-buckled belt, Yellowstone has treated fans to enough big skies, stretching plains, and majestic steeds to fill a ten-gallon hat. But even if you've only caught a handful of the contemporary western's 39 episodes, you know behind all that beauty lies just as much betrayal, deception, and murder. In fact, keeping up with the show's dark side can be as daunting as breaking a bucking bronco. With that in mind, we've recapped everything you need to know before saddling up for season 5.
This land is Dutton land
Most of the series' bad behavior comes courtesy of disputes over John Dutton's (Kevin Costner) coveted land. The Dutton Ranch is the biggest in the country, and seemingly everyone wants a piece of it. Season 1 saw John and his dysfunctional offspring – Beth (Kelly Reilly), Jamie (Wes Bentley) and Kayce (Luke Grimes) – fend off both Dan Jenkins (Danny Huston) and Thomas Rainwater (Gil Birmingham), a real estate developer and Native American leader, respectively. These threats were mostly thwarted, but not without casualties, as John's oldest son Lee was killed in the crossfire.
Season 2 finds Dutton, Jenkins, and Rainwater joining forces against an even bigger bad, Malcolm Beck (Neal McDonough) and his brother Teal. The evil-doing duo play dirty, enlisting a variety of bad seeds to attack Dutton's family and their allies, ultimately killing Dan, kidnapping Kayce's son Tate, and brutally attacking Beth. The latter is saved by her longtime love/John's right-hand-man-in-black, Rip Wheeler (Cole Hauser), the boy is rescued, and the Becks get a deadly dose of Dutton justice.
Emerson Miller/Paramount Network Pete Sands, Mo Brings Plenty, Gil Birmingham, Cole Hauser, Kevin Costner, Wes Bentley
Who Shot J.... Dutton?
The Becks' violent acts look like grade-school bullying compared to what befalls the Dutton clan during season 3's finale. As the episode comes to a close, a bomb detonates in Beth's office, Kayce's fending off gunmen at his workplace, and John's riddled with bullets on the side of the road. Worst of all, we don't know who's responsible for the coordinated attack. It's pretty much"Who shot J.R.?" all over again.
Season 3 antagonist Roarke (Josh Holloway) is a prime suspect. In addition to repping a firm that wants to turn the ranch into an airport, the fly-fishing foe is behind a brutal attack on Dutton wranglers Teeter and Colby. John's attorney general son Jamie also looks guilty, as another season 3 bombshell reveals his father's been keeping a sizable secret from him – he's adopted. Jamie finds his bio-dad, Garret Randall (Will Patton) and discovers he did 30 years for killing his wife when Jamie was a baby. But Randall sweet talks his long lost son, convincing him the murder was justified and his adoptive dad's using him.
Season 3 also sees plenty of drama in the bunkhouse. On top of the aforementioned attack on Teeter and Colby, clueless cowboy-wannabe Jimmy (Jefferson White) finds his calling in the rodeo ring. His dreams are jettisoned by an injury, but his new, barrel racing girlfriend Mia convinces him to literally get back on the horse. This doesn't go well, and Jimmy's left face down in the dirt when the season concludes. The bunkhouse also welcomes back Walker (Ryan Bingham), the pain-in-the-ass ranch hand Kayce was supposed to kill in season 2. Rip and Loyd (Forrie J. Smith) stumble upon the crooning ex-con in a bar, and reluctantly give him another chance — if he plays by Rip's rules.
Other season 3 highs and lows include Beth proposing marriage to Rip, Kayce's wife Monica helping Rainwater capture and kill a rapist-murderer, and the reveal of why Beth hates Jamie so much. In a flashback, we discover he "helped" young Beth get an abortion by having her sterilized. Also, the aborted baby was Rip's. Elsewhere, John turns down a half-billion dollars for his land to keep a promise to his deceased dad, and the Yellowstone "Y" – branded into Dutton's wranglers – is literally cut from a man's chest. So, yeah, just the usual happenings down on the ranch.
Emerson Miller/Paramount Network John Dutton (Kevin Costner) hands over the reigns to the Ranch to his youngest son Kayce (Luke Grimes)
A stampede of questions before season 5
Season 4 picks up right where we left things. A dazed and injured Beth exits the bombed building, John bleeds out in the breakdown lane, and Kayce's locked-and-loaded behind his desk. But we also see more of the attack, as Monica and Tate are rushed by a gunman at the ranch. A brutal scuffle between Monica and the assailant ends with Tate taking him out with a shotgun blast.
Fast-forward a few months and the Duttons are alive, but much worse for wear. More than that, they're hungry for revenge. They track and kill the hired guns that carried out the attack, but still don't know who's calling the shots. Beth believes it's Jamie, who's bonding with his bio-dad in a brand new home. His former campaign assistant/girlfriend Christina also shows up to introduce him to the son he didn't know he had. She and bio-dad also begin pulling the strings of Jamie's future political career —namely, plotting his run for governor.
The Duttons may have survived the attempt on their lives, but their land is still under attack. Rip takes out Roarke with the old rattlesnake-in-an-Igloo-cooler trick, while Rainwater – and his cutthroat consultant Angela – stall construction with an environmental lawsuit. But Roarke's boss Caroline Warner (Jacki Weaver) isn't backing down. In a keep-your-enemies-close move, she recognizes Beth's ruthless business instincts and offers her a job. Beth accepts with the intention of destroying the company from the inside out, but Warner ultimately fires Beth and promises to replace her home with a public restroom.
Warner also makes a move on Rainwater, offering to pay for his casino if he stops interfering with her airport plans. The Broken Rock Indian Reservation leader also gets an earful from Angela, who wants him to man-up and take his peoples' land back. Rainwater's been more frenemy than outright foe to Dutton throughout the series, but we don't know where his allegiances lie when the season ends.
Cam McLeod/Paramount Network Ian Bohen as Ryan, Kevin Costner as John Dutton and Denim Richards as Colby
Wolves and babies and orphans, oh my!
John's making some sly business moves of his own, creating a new revenue stream by making a risky but promising investment in show horses. He also announces his campaign for governor, roundly embarrassing and devastating Jamie, who expected to be endorsed for the seat. Kayce's also taken a shine to politics, thriving as Livestock Commissioner to the point his constituents suggest he also consider a run for higher office.
Kayce's got more pressing concerns, however, as Monica and Tate are still severely traumatized by the attack. Kayce and Monica decide to move and find peace away from the Dutton Ranch. Their new mountainside home is perfect, save for the wolf that continues to haunt Kayce. Rainwater believes the creature is a message-carrying spirit animal, so he sends Kayce on a vision quest to decipher its meaning. More specifically, he's sent to the "cliff of death" for four days and four nights without food or water. He survives, but not before experiencing unsettling hallucinations, including seeing himself in the arms of Avery, a former Yellowstone ranch-hand and the subject of Monica's recent jealousy. When he returns from the mountain, he tells his wife, "I saw the end of us." On a happier note, the couple is also expecting another baby.
Beth and Rip also find themselves with child… sort of. While visiting her father in the hospital, Beth befriends Carter (Finn Little), a troubled youngster who's moments from becoming an orphan. Following the death of his no-good dad, the boy comes knocking at the ranch. Rip and Beth reluctantly take him in and put him to work in the stalls. Carter's an entitled punk with a foul mouth, but Rip sets him straight and, by season's end, he's attending his adoptive parents' wedding. Oh yeah, Beth and Rip also tie the knot this season, courtesy of a priest abducted by the bride, obviously.
Paramount Network Kevin Costner
Daddy and daughter divided
Carter's not the only new addition to become entangled in the Duttons' never-ending drama. John's called to the Livestock Association offices to help break up a protest led by animal activist Summer Higgins (Piper Perabo). Dutton doesn't agree with her cause, but appreciates her spark and conviction. He bails her out of jail and promptly beds her, a series of events his daughter is none too happy about.
Beth reacts by killing two birds with one stone. She convinces Summer to protest the airport – which brings bad press to the project – while also putting the activist back in jail. The charges are much steeper this time though, and John must call in a favor to ensure Summer doesn't spend most of her life in the slammer.
Beth and John were already at odds over the senior Dutton risking his life to halt a robbery, which also resulted in his sheriff friend being killed. Her callous use of Summer only widens the wedge between them, and John suggests she find a new home. Beth's ready to comply, but rethinks her decision when Rip tells her he might not be there when she decides to return. In a rare moment of humility, Beth takes the initiative to patch things up with her dad.
Paramount Network Kevin Costner as John Dutton on 'Yellowstone'
Jimmy finds his way… and a wife
Meanwhile at the bunkhouse, Jimmy's recovered, again, and is ordered off to Texas by John to become a real cowboy. Mia gives him an ultimatum, asking him to choose her over his loyalty to Dutton. Jimmy chooses Texas, where he meets new girl Emily, and promptly gets engaged. He brings his fiancee back to Montana, where a throw-down immediately erupts between her and Mia.
Speaking of flying fists, Lloyd and Walker also have it out, which leads to Rip and Lloyd having it out. This brings plenty of bruises, black eyes, and a broken guitar, but after much tough cowboy love, the trio put their differences aside. As the season draws to a close, Jimmy heads back to Texas – with John's blessing, of course – and passes a tearful Mia on the way out.
With all that in the rear-view, we're back to the big mystery of who ordered the hit on the Duttons. Turns out it wasn't Jamie or Roarke, but bio-dad, who hired a former cellmate to put the plan in motion. Jamie figures this out and confronts Garrret, but is once again steered by his silver tongue. Beth finds out too, but still believes her least favorite brother had something to do with it. She gives Jamie three options: Spend life in prison, be tortured and killed by Rip, or eliminate Garret himself. Jamie picks door number three, sending his father off with an "I love you" and a bullet to the brain. While disposing of the body, he's surprised by Beth, who's recording him in the act.
The season ends with Beth informing her father of what she's done. Despite all the lies and betrayals between John and Jamie, Dutton senior admits to loving his estranged son. Fearing Beth killed him, he asks, "Do I still have him?" Beth responds, "Yes," then adds, "But now you own him, daddy."
Yellowstone season 5 debuts on Paramount Nov. 13.
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