What Happened Last Night on Yellowstone? Here’s Our Recap of Season 5 Episode 7
We still don’t understand the flashback device Yellowstone Season 5 has been employing from its start, but, so far, it’s where most of the action has been. Episode 7 opens with one, a murder. Rip, age 18 or so, has it out with another cowboy one night during that whole branding affair. Man mentions Beth. Rip responds. Man uses a knife. Rip picks up a rock. Game over. We’re made to understand after the fight, when a younger John Dutton makes clear to Rip the consequences of the murder, why Rip can never leave the ranch. Because John will tell? Actually, it’s not really clear at all.
We’re guessing these flashback scenes—which mostly highlight the early relationship between Rip and Beth—somehow signal future tragedy. All season, we’ve seen more wholesome Beth/Rip moments than in all seasons combined. Maybe the show is getting especially sentimental. Or maybe it’s getting ready to tear our hearts out. Someone’s gonna die, right? Or are these flashbacks really just superfluous backstory?
Anyway, after the opening murder, we return to the present-day drama, which is less murder than legal threats, cattle disease, and ranching economics. Oh boy.
Episode 7 seems to set up the major obstacles for the remainder of the season. (Episode 8, the mid-season finale, will air on New Year’s Day, having skipped Christmas Sunday; the next part of Season 5, which is rumored to be 7 more episodes, should air sometime late winter.)
Let’s get into it.
Easy with that Easement!
Sarah has finally made her plan evident vis-à-vis punchingbag Jamie. Market Equities hopes to depose John Dutton from the governor seat and resume construction on the airport. Sarah’s strategy of achieving this, she says, is helping Jamie take John’s seat. Jamie understands the financial pressure on the state of Montana and also knows that the airport is maybe the only way the Yellowstone ranch can avoid financial ruin. He tells Sarah his primary concern is the ranch. Sarah says she wants to help Jamie save it. Deal done.
Problem is: John Dutton put the ranch in a conservation easement, meaning no development can take place without vicious battles with environmental conservation groups. Somehow, Jamie didn’t know about this. Sarah points out that John’s decision could incur bad faith bargaining litigation, costing Montana billions. Such an action, she says, might be an impeachable offense. Jamie agrees. He plans to deliver this pronouncement in hopes of forcing a new election. Sarah promises that Market Equities will pay to back his candidacy.
Can Jamie trust Sarah? Absolutely not. Sarah’s incentives are only to support Market Equities’ airport construction. She has no desire to save the Yellowstone ranch, or even, really, to see Jamie in office. She will likely use him to torpedo John’s order to halt construction and then find a way to burn him. Poor Jamie. Man never gets a win.
A Curse of Pestilence Upon Your Land!
The narrative gods now see fit to burden John Dutton another way—by ruining his business. During the cattle branding, the cowboys find stillborn buffalo carcasses in the fields, suggesting some of the cattle might be infected with brucellosis, a bacterial infection dangerous for humans and, therefore, rendering the heard unsellable. In fact, the state, John says, will have the herd destroyed if they are infected. While the heard is insured, the ranch would lose the advantage of years of breeding. That’s the first problem.
The second problem is that regardless of herd infection, John has now declared most of the grazing land unusable, meaning the ranch now has to find more land to keep its cattle fed. This means renting land at a price the ranch can’t afford. John plans to take out a loan in order to pay for it, though Beth points out this decision will accomplish nothing; the Yellowstone will soon be in financial ruin anyway. (Also, that conservation easement means they can’t simply cut up the land and sell parts of it to pay for the rest.)
Beth harangues John for his lack of business acumen—even though Beth surely must have been aware of the ranch’s business model for decades. Beth proposes a new business venture. Instead of selling cattle wholesale to buyers, the ranch will find a way to package and sell the beef themselves. And online! Using technology!
John isn’t into it, moving forward with his rent-land-and-incur-debt plan anyway. He leases the land and prepares to send several cowboys along with the cattle. The trip will require the cowboys to leave the ranch for a year, heading somewhere south, like New Mexico. Rip picks his crew, telling them they’ll be leaving for a while, which complicates some newfound relationships—but, hey, that’s cowboy life. Beth, even after telling John that he needs her to take charge of the business, tells Rip she’s coming with him.
So, are they doing the beef thing? Are they just gonna take on more debt? What’s the plan, Beth?
More Summertime Blues
Meanwhile, Mo and Thomas Rainwater meet with Senator Perry who tells them about construction plans for a gas pipeline through Broken Rock Reservation. Perry says there isn’t much either can do about it, except denounce the plans publicly. Perry says she will stand with Rainwater, helping support him in the upcoming reservation election, during which Angela hopes to depose him.
We’re not sure where this plotline will go, nor why Perry seems keen to keep Rainwater around, given his growing opposition. We figure the storyline will somehow involve the Yellowstone ranch eventually, maybe forcing John and Rainwater into some agreement; an alliance between the two has been teased earlier in the season.
Some other developments in Episode 7 …
John and Summer seem to be growing closer romantically, because, well, we sure as heck can’t figure that one out. Summer suggests that John ought to educate more dumb libs like herself by showing them how ranching is done—a ham-fisted bit of dialogue no doubt meant to speak to us viewers. The message: walk a little bit in the other side’s shoes before you judge. Surely that will heal the political divide and help stop climate change.
Or maybe just kissing your enemy at a county fair to some sad country music. This week’s banger is “Summertime Blues” by Zach Bryan. At least we can all agree on one thing this episode: that song fucking rocks.
Joshua St Clair is an Assistant Editor at Men’s Health Magazine.
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