‘Yellowstone’ recap: Punches are thrown, and it’s not the cowboys in this ranch brawl

Season 5, Episode 5, “Watch ‘Em Ride Away”

Spoiler alert: Look, you know there’s gonna be stuff about the episode in here, right? So don’t read if you haven’t watched. As John Dutton might say, don’t put the cart before the horse. Go stream the thing and we’ll be here when you’re done.

The Yellowstone Ranch cowboys get ready for the spring cattle “gathering” in Season 5, Episode 5.
The Yellowstone Ranch cowboys get ready for the spring cattle “gathering” in Season 5, Episode 5.

Ryan J. Rusak, opinion editor: The best way to summarize Episode 5 is to say that one big bubble of tension finally burst, only to be quickly replaced by another. Off we go…

The episode opened with another flashback, a parallel to the main storyline: Cowboys riding off to round up young cattle for branding. By all accounts, it’s a tough, dangerous job.

And of course, there’s young Rip and Beth, picking up after their last appearance, when Beth slept with a cowboy to antagonize Rip. This time, she wishes him well. It felt like perhaps this was to foreshadow problems in their present-day relationship. And they did fight later in the episode, but they always seem to figure it out quickly.

John Dutton is back in rancher mode, leaving the duties of governor mostly to the side.

Nicole Russell, opinion writer: Can governors just do this? Decide to skip being a governor for a bit and work? I mean, maybe if more govs could keep their day jobs, more people would want to be governor.

I chuckled a little when Dutton’s assistant, Clara, told him there was already a name for inviting press out to a planned event, and here he thought he’d just come up with that nifty plan. Politics 101, my friend.

Kelly Reilly as Beth Dutton and Kevin Costner as John Dutton in Season 5, Episode 5 of “Yellowstone.”
Kelly Reilly as Beth Dutton and Kevin Costner as John Dutton in Season 5, Episode 5 of “Yellowstone.”

Ryan: Beth confronts John about his springing Summer Higgins, his environmental activist lover, out of prison and bringing her to the ranch. The conversation reveals that Beth has a better grasp on the forces aligning against John than he does.

Nicole: I liked the brief conversation between Summer and Carter outside. He is adorable and astute for a kid his age. She asks him about the fire in the mountains and who puts it out. Carter replies, “God does.” She responds incredulously that nature does and Carter says confidently, “That’s what I said.”

Ryan: He’s suddenly very wise for a kid who was the lost son of a drug addict a season ago. But it did work, perhaps because they’re both outsiders and the younger one has the better perspective.

Next, we’re back to Monica and Kayce, who quickly goes from despondent and listless to excited about participating in the “gathering” of the herd. He clearly needs a purpose, and Monica supports it. They’re finally healing, which can only mean another disaster around the corner.

The episode’s big drama soon follows, as the family gathers for dinner the night before taking off for the drive. It’s a classic, over-the-top, ridiculous “Yellowstone” scene. Summer starts by firing off every animal activist cliché in the book at poor Gator, who’s just trying to serve up a meal he’s proud to have made.

Nicole: Speaking of Monica and Kayce, I appreciated that Monica just burst out laughing at Summer at the dinner table. I was thinking about how absurd it all was. Someone had to do it. It was a moment of realness. It actually made me wonder if it was even scripted.

BETH DUTTON, SUMMER HIGGINS TRADE PUNCHES

Ryan: Beth’s had enough and takes Summer outside for a fight. And it’s a doozy — Summer notes she studied jiu jitsu for nine years, and Beth is, well, Beth. Their battle is reminiscent of the classic “Dynasty” brawl between Krystle and Alexis, but with less fountain and more direct punches. When it’s done — that is, when Summer has had enough — Beth seems ready to welcome Summer into the fold. That was easy!

Nicole: This scene was like “Fight Club” but with a bunch of Real Housewives Of Montana. I know it’s “Yellowstone,” and we’re supposed to just go with it, but women don’t just keep slugging each other like that. I could see a slap or two out of impulsivity, but squaring off like two boxers? C’mon. Of course though, it made for great TV, especially when Beth urges Summer to go back to dinner without washing the blood off her face. Beth thinks like a 19 year-old man sometimes.

Kelly Reilly as Beth Dutton and Kevin Costner as John Dutton in Season 5, Episode 5 of “Yellowstone.”
Kelly Reilly as Beth Dutton and Kevin Costner as John Dutton in Season 5, Episode 5 of “Yellowstone.”

Ryan: The rest of the episode is preparation and departure for the gathering. And the signs are ominous — John again repeats how hard it’s going to be, and Monica tells Kayce to take care of their son, creepily reminding him that Tate is now the only one they’ve got. That can’t be good, and the previews for next week clearly indicate someone gets hurt out there.

Bottom line, it wasn’t a great episode, but it was solid in terms of building for the future. And there was a whole lot of ranch/cowboy cosplay, so at least it was fun.

Nicole: There was a lot of action in last week’s episode, one that really left us simultaneously catching our breath then holding it at the end, so this one felt like the writers were letting us breathe a bit and prepare for the next big event. Yet it wasn’t boring, by any means.

RANDOM OBSERVATIONS ABOUT EPISODE 4

From Ryan:

  • After the big Beth-Summer fight, John tells Rip that he doesn’t understand how Beth manages to get crazier as the years roll on. And that he envies her. Weird. But the scene is one that connects directly to the prequels, with John talking about the violence it took for the Duttons to settle and hold the Yellowstone. Guess it’s time to promo “1923,” the latest spinoff (coming soon to a streaming service near you!).

  • The political stupidity in this episode was mercifully light, but there was one moment to note — Clara, John’s assistant, apparently meets Kayce for the first time and asks John if that’s his youngest son. Because the governor’s assistant would have no idea who the sitting livestock commissioner is and would never have met him.

  • John must really like Summer. Gator seems like a helluva chef and he’s awfully put upon by this terrible family, and yet a guy whose entire life is the meat business can’t bring himself to defend his employee against her.

  • Whiskey notes: Rip and John share a pour of Crown Royal as they bond over living with Beth. I’m smelling a sponsorship! Beth hits the Tito’s pretty hard before the dinner scene because when Hollywood wants to convey someone is a serious drinker, they put straight vodka in his or her hand. (Nicole: I know you’re a whiskey fan but have you ever poured yourself a glass first thing in the morning like Beth did for John the morning she confronted him about Summer? Wow. Ryan: No. Well, maybe once or twice while on vacation.)

  • Line of the night: There were many thoughtful exchanges, but I’m going to pick out one of the few moments of levity. When Rip tells Lloyd to prep for the gathering, he responds: “Yeehaw, cowboy [expletive]! Yeah!”

  • The episode ends with a dedication to Timothy Reynolds, a veteran Hollywood technician who worked on “Yellowstone” and died in August.

From Nicole:

  • The last several episodes have heavily relied on Beth’s character to keep the action going, even in flashbacks, which I find interesting. While a compelling character for sure, she’s not nearly as complex as some of the others. It made me wonder if she’s been featured more because fans are just wild about her.

  • Almost every time a scene starts with her I’m reminded the actress who plays Beth, Kelly Reilly, plays Mr. Darcy’s best friend’s sister in the 2005 film “Pride and Prejudice” (She’s Caroline Bingley). It’s really one of the best film versions of one of the great novels written by a female with a complex female protagonist. While Reilly plays a cool cucumber in that film, Beth is an entirely different persona, proving Reilly is quite the versatile actress.

  • I’m a meat eater and have eaten quite a bit of game in my life, from bison and quail to “Rocky Mountain Oysters” and even traditional Scottish haggis. I have never had dove and didn’t think it looked too appetizing at dinner. Not that I side with Summer, of course. But maybe that was the point.

  • Another note on the dinner: Have you noticed that it’s kind of a throwback to old formal, aristocratic-style dinners, what with the personal chef and the nicely set table, red wine, and the unspoken demand that everyone be there. My family sits down to dinner most nights but I wonder, in today’s era, how many families do this and whether or not these dining scenes look super foreign to today’s audience.

  • My line of the night comes from the very beginning scene between today’s Rip and Beth. She tells him that her nightmares of yesterday wake her up, Rip — who’s oddly wise for an orphaned cowboy — says, “Baby, yesterday is what eats everybody; that’s why I don’t think about it.”