A gauntlet got thrown at John Dutton's feet, but who threw it?
That's the most significant question to come from Yellowstone Season 2 Episode 4 as the ranch suffers a tremendous loss.
It really hits the fan when Jamie discovers their ability to recoup that loss was tied up in Beth's business ventures. Will the two ever stop clashing?
All the dirty business in the world is fine with me until you start messing with the animals.
That was some very dirty pool someone was playing with the Dutton's livelihood with the hope to drive them out of Montana.
Bloat is a terribly painful condition. If anyone here watches The Incredible Dr. Pol on National Geographic, you've seen the doc and his associates deal with it.
One animal with bloat is a mess. An entire pasture would have been impossible for Rip and Kayce to save even if they had found the cattle in time to do something.
Watching Rip pierce the belly of that poor beast was bad enough, but imagining all of them at first so deliriously happy with the feed to then become so devilishly afflicted turns my stomach.
It practically gives me bloat!
The Livestock Association doesn't have enough people to hunt down killers with the capacity to do what they did with the resources they had.
That requires a lot of manpower, and as soon as John saw the devastation, he called upon Sheriff Donnie.
Maybe you haven't noticed, but there is a war going on in this valley. Today's the day you choose sides.John
The sheriff was awfully testy about getting pulled into the Yellowstone's affairs. He was protesting a little too much.
He balked at putting any of his men on the case, and he balked at the idea of deputizing any of John's to go above and beyond their abilities in the Livestock Association.
You have to wonder why he was so put off at the notion he had to step up to the plate for a man who has supported his elections in the past.
It begs the question of where his loyalties lie, and that question got answered when Kayce and Deputy Steve went out in search of airstrips that could have been used to perpetrate the crime against the Yellowstone.
There was a strange sense of foreboding at hand when John demanded the sheriff commit to backing up Kayce's calls for help if he needed it. It's one thing to request that a new deputy doesn't use lethal force even if he's in command of a weapon. It's another to doge calls to Dispatch.
Felon rancher Jerry was known to kill cattle and blame it on natural forces to that he could get some compensation. It was inevitable that the law would catch him sooner or later.
He must have failed to share his situation with his son who thought brandishing a shotgun at a deputy would be of assistance in already shaky circumstances.
John: Was it justified?
Kayce: He had a freaked out kid pointing a shotgun at him. It was justified. Was it right? Right and wrong is so far from this place, I don't think it factors in at all.
Kayce has such a good heart. He keeps to himself, works as God intended, and cares for his (albeit f*cked up) family. But he also gets lassoed into some pretty awful situations.
It's unclear how what happened will screw with the Duttons and the Yellowstone. Maybe it will mark the turning point for the sheriff to pick that side John mentioned. Hopefully, some good will come out of that poor kid's unnecessary death.
Donnie: What'd I say, John? One fuckin' day on patrol! One day, that's what...
John: [punches him in the face] You gave me your word, Donnie, and you broke it!
Donnie: This over a fuckin' cow, John. A fuckin' cow!
John: It's not over a fuckin' cow. It's over you not givin' backup! You denied the request! Jesus Christ. A show of force may have changed this whole fuckin' thing. So you want to blame somebody, then you blame yourself you son of a bitch.
But geez, as terrible as it was, they sure did a superb job of capturing the beauty of the west while filming it. There were so many luscious looks at the vast American west during "Only Devils Left" that served to remind us what it is John is fighting for.
We also got wind of the fact the Yellowstone isn't a money maker, and that everyone who thinks he lives high on the hog and doesn't deserve to keep what he's attained through hard work has no idea what they're talking about.
The truth of the matter is that losing that enormous amount of cattle could lead to the destruction of the Yellowstone if cattle prices fall.
Jamie: Hey! Beth. That is over half the ranch's cash. What are we going to do in November if cattle prices go down? How much money do you think this ranch makes in a year? After payroll, property taxes, and hay and countless other expenses, NOTHING. This ranch has not turned a profit in six years. And maybe you don't understand the impact of a few hundred dead cattle, but that's half a million dollars rotting in the field! You fucked us. Fucked. US. I want the ranch out of that trust, and I want it out today.
Beth: It doesn't work like that, Jamie.
Jamie: You make it work like that.
Beth: Fuck. Now I see. You think you're going to get him to trust you by making him not trust me? I wish you and your bird balls the best of luck.
It got even worse when Jamie got wind of the huge outlay of cash Beth used in her business ventures. What we know of Beth's activities is that she's trying to make money so that John doesn't have to face the same cash problem every fall. She's trying to help in her way.
But Jamie is trying to help, too, by understanding that John loves the ranch and ranching. If he loses that before her ventures put them in the black, it could all be for nothing.
It was laugh-out-loud funny watching Jamie flip his sister the bird during their first meeting with Cassidy.
But it's not very funny at all how the two of them are constantly at each other's throats. I've mentioned before that we need to know what the hell is between them, but it's getting worse.
At one point in between jabs at the size of Jamie's balls, Beth did Jamie the courtesy of sharing all of the things she believes, offering clues to Jamie and viewers where her head is at.
Here's all the things I don't believe. I don't believe you're capable of swallowing your pride and contributing to this family. I don't believe our father will ever trust you again, which is why I don't believe you have a role here anymore.Beth
But why doesn't she think John has enough love to go around? He had four kids. Were they all treated so poorly after their mother died that it's become a battle to the death to secure his love and trust?
It's never seemed like that. He might be all business with his kids, but except for turning his back on Jamie, John seems like the kind of guy who equals out his attention if not his affection.
Frankly, they have enough going on from outside forces that they don't need to be continuing and pulling other people into their family drama.
It was incredibly embarrassing for Cassidy's first few days at the Attorney General Elect to fall prey to Beth and her antics. She wasn't kidding when she said she chose Cassidy because how much Jamie would hate it.
Beth: Let me ask you, Attorney General Elect, do you find Jamie's knowledge of the rape prior to it happening culpatory in any way? I'm concerned about what happens if they ask him to testify.
Cassidy: Uh, I think attorney/client privilege recuses him of that.
Beth: Even if he was aware of a crime before it happened?
Cassidy: Are you saying a crime was intentionally committed?
John: There was no crime. Not the time, not the place.
John didn't seem all too impressed when Beth started throwing Jamie under the bus. But her line of questioning was lost on me. What was she talking about, and how did it involve Jamie?
Can you shed any light on that?
Beth never let up tearing down Jamie, and when she corraled Cassidy at the dinner table maneuvering her into Jamie's chair to leave him out in the cold, it was disappointing that Jamie listened to her and that John didn't stand up for Jamie.
Jamie is very worrisome. Reporter Sarah was also back in the mix if only for a split second, and it's unfathomable that Beth would want him so rattled that he could do damage to his father.
I don't get what she's trying to accomplish by ousting Jamie from the family. What are your thoughts on that?
I also admit to being at a bit of a loss when it comes to who they're hunting for killing the cattle.
John told his sons that they know who did it, to hunt him down, and take him to John by the hair for retribution.
My immediate thought was Dan Jenkins, but not using his name threw me, as did the fact that Dan is so far over his head with Rainwater that I don't think he would even know what to do.
Dan knows his way around real estate, sure, but when it comes to the (still wild) West, he's out of his depth. He even got warned about what was coming with Rainwater but still managed to be shocked when the man pulled the Reservation card.
What would Jenkins even know about cattle and how to kill them?
What was curious was John's initial meeting with the Beck brothers and everything that followed.
Two things about them stood out to me, especially in light of the foreboding language used before Kayce found himself in the middle of a firefight he couldn't win.
Words mean something on Yellowstone, and the Beck brothers were dealing them out.
We need to find a less subtle means of expressing our displeasure. Did we bait that trap? I think it's time we spring it.Malcolm
What trap did they bait? How do they spring it? That was said before they paid John a visit and admitted they have no qualms getting what they want in any way necessary.
What they seem to want is an all-out war amongst everyone in the valley so they can sneak in and pull the rug out from under Rainwater somehow. I can't imagine how that's possible, but maybe if John goes after Dan, it will distract everyone just long enough for them do dig around.
It must have surprised them that John was so dead set against allies of any sort and even went so far as to say that if he did anything that benefits them in the future, they could be assured it was a coincidence.
Ouch, right? That must have stung!
Jamie: Workin' with them is a deal with the devil, dad.
John: All the angels are gone, son. There's only devils left. At least they admit it.
John has a healthy respect for evil men who don't hide behind a facade of kindness. Maybe that means that he's a little more suspect of the Beck brothers than he's letting on.
As for the other stories taking place on Yellowstone at the moment, they're wholly underwhelming in the face of everything else.
I'm sick of Monica and Kayce circling each other like children on the schoolyard. They're adults. Make a damn decision that will put your kid at ease already!
And the enting aound the other stories doesn't work well, either.
Out of nowhere, there was a flash to Monica talking to her students about the ails of the reservation. If they want to cover that topic, then give it the respect it deserves. Instead, they're seemingly using her words to point to what's happening on the Yellowstone.
When the misery is bad enough, tomorrow is rarely factored into decisions.Monica
Why a minute-long segment with her saying that? What did it accomplish? Nothing in this episode. We saw her twist her ring and worry about her marriage, but that was several scenes later.
The episode could have done without the business with Jimmy, too.
Sometimes life with the wranglers helps move the plot forward and offers insight into the ranch operations that we wouldn't otherwise understand.
Then there are times when it needlessly pulls away from the main attraction. The slaughtering of cattle and circling of new allies or enemies craves exploration, especially while John's kids are at each other's throats threatening to pull his attention away from what matters.
Why don't you share with me what you find so compelling about Yellowstone?
Who do you think killed the cattle?
Will the sheriff pick a side, and will he stand by John Dutton?
Have you figured out why there is so much hatred from Beth toward her brother?
After you watch Yellowstone online, jump back here and get involved in a discussion about all things Yellowstone!
Carissa Pavlica is the managing editor and a staff writer and critic for TV Fanatic. She's a member of the Critic's Choice Association, enjoys mentoring writers, conversing with cats, and passionately discussing the nuances of television and film with anyone who will listen. Follow her on Twitter and email her here at TV Fanatic.