“A Knife and No Coin,” Episode 8 of Yellowstone Season 5, returns the series from its holiday break and sets the table for its midseason hiatus. That’s right, we’ll have to wait until summer 2023 for some resolution on “power has a price” and “progress stops with me,” the dual mantras that have defined Taylor Sheridan’s storytelling ever since John Dutton became the governor of Montana, the traditional rhythms of ranch life became increasingly unsettled, and Jamie Dutton became his father’s biggest threat, both to John’s political survival and his management of the Yellowstone’s financial and generational legacy. There’s a lot going on in “A Knife and No Coin.” But for starters, let’s get some closure on that flashback from Season 5 Episode 7 and Young Rip’s coronation as a branded knight of the Dutton fam army.
John Dutton accepted Young Rip’s rationale for his deadly fight with Rowdy the drifter cowboy. But if the insult to Beth caused Rip to be insulted, then there’s more going on than just an altercation gone wrong. So John tests Rip’s commitment to both the Yellowstone and Young Beth. First, they drive to a remote Wyoming border turnout and “the train station,” or the longtime canyon burial ground of Dutton family foes, where Young Rip and Young Lloyd (Forrest Wilder) dutifully toss in Rowdy’s corpse. Next, they settle in by a blazing campfire. And then John gives Rip a speech about the reciprocity of fighting for the ranch and the security it assures any cowboys willing to uphold its mantle. Young Rip doesn’t hesitate, Lloyd pulls the hooked rocking Y brand from the hot coals of the fire, and soon the beaming future ranch foreman and loving husband of Beth Dutton is greeted by the bunkhouse boys as a fellow knight in his Wranglers and pearl snap armor.
With Yellowstone’s proportional vibe shift to the Texas panhandle looming – in the wake of the brucellosis scare, that’s where half the herd and its cowboy minders will reside – we rejoin local resident and branded favorite son of the Yellowstone Jimmy Hirdstrom (Jefferson White), who nowadays is working the 6666 Ranch and enjoying backyard Banquets and foot rubs with his vet tech true love Emily (Kathryn Kelly). The return of viewer favorite Jimmy sets up a beautiful sequence in “A Knife and No Coin,” one of Yellowstone’s extended and loving tributes to horsemanship and cowboys at work, whether it’s the 6666 hands trucking their horses and whooping out to meet the herd, or all of the activity back in Paradise Valley as Rip and his handpicked crew of Teeter, Ryan, Walker, and Jake prepare their cattle for travel and gather the personal gear required for the journey.
John hates to admit it, but as governor his day-to-day life is in Helena. And since Rip will be away with the herd, he asks Monica if Kayce and their family will move onto the property as its trusted stewards. Monica sees John’s offer as a chance to start over, a chance to try again for a baby, and Kayce says his vision showed him a choice between the ranch and his family. “Maybe this is the way to have both,” she tells her husband. For John, his farewell with Rip is one of tight smiles and the briefest of shoulder claps. But Kayce is a little surprised when his dad hugs him fully and with visible emotion. “You’re stronger than I was,” the elder Dutton says. “I guess that’s how it’s supposed to be.” Kayce says it’d be easy to think it was John leaving the ranch, and Rip summarizes what all of this torch passing really means. “He is.”
“In canceling the funding for the Paradise Valley International Airport, Governor Dutton has violated state law.” Jamie is having his baleful moment before the Montana state assembly, delivering the heavy-handed speech approved note for note by Sarah Atwood. And the attorney general’s request for a senate tribunal seeking impeachment passes 67 to 33 as the governor appears at a ceremony alongside Thomas Rainwater and Senator Perry. But instead of endorsing the pipeline that will run underneath the Broken Rock reservation, he delivers an impromptu speech about progress and who benefits from it. (Who gains and who loses from progress is what it’s all about in Yellowstone.) Later, Clara says Jamie’s impeachment claims are utter conjecture. But John knows it’ll be a fight all the same, won not with truth but menace. “I don’t know how to fight with menace,” Clara says, but the governor’s faithful comms director is definitely still down to scrap.
Menace? Beth Dutton resembles that remark. As Jamie lies in bed at home with Sarah, who’s praising the perfection of his impeachment speech like he’s her puppy who just completed finishing school, Beth arrives like a brick through a window. Then she clocks Jamie with the same brick and demands his resignation from the AG’s office. But Beth going full “motherfucker!” on her brother is checked when he blabs about the century’s worth of family secrets at the bottom of “train station” canyon. “Do you want to know the real price for protecting the ranch? I don’t think you do.” Knowing where the bodies are buried is a big deal when you’re a Dutton. But so is fighting. And as Beth tells the smug duo of Jamie and Sarah, clad in their bedroom sheets, “the war is just beginning.”
Beth’s testy confrontation with her dad over the train station revelation becomes a commentary on the entire string of Taylor Sheridan’s Yellowstone universe. It’s a string John knows has always needed to be tugged. “You’re shocked we found a way to circumvent the consequences of defending ourselves. I’m shocked we need a way. But we do. We always have. And unless we’re willing to walk away from 120 years of our family bleeding into this ground, we always will.” And now it dawns on Beth. Who do the Duttons put in their remote human trash can, their jurisdictional dead zone? “All the enemies who’ve attacked us.” And who’s attacking them right now? Jamie. And as sinister music swells, the governor gives no immediate answer to what she seems to suggest.
Would Beth really put out a hit on Jamie? Let’s get the attorney general’s hot take. “I think she’ll try to have me killed.” With one brick to the dome, Jamie and Sarah’s gubernatorial power grab has escalated into competing scenarios for contact killings, with Jamie once again blundering into trusting who’s pulling his marionette strings. Sure, Sarah says, stroking her pet. There are companies that perform corporate wet work. And if Jamie really wants to anticipate Beth’s actions with a pivot to offense, then she can make it happen.
Hooked Rocking Y’s:
- A ranch brand to represent a cowboy’s ride or die really is a thing. Often, as the Working Ranch Cowboys Association puts it, “isn’t merely a symbol on a cow.” It’s a cowboy’s mark on the world.
- As the bunkhouse crew are pulling out for Texas, Cowboy Ryan gets schooled about packing for the elements. Bring your long johns, Rip warns, because there’s no cover out on the plain. And Walker, whose direct experience with Texas cowboying qualified him for this trip, says the coldest he’s ever been was with “heifers on the Pitchfork in January.” It’s likely a direct reference to Pitchfork Land & Cattle, a historic ranch covering over 160,000 acres across the state’s panhandle and located about 12 miles from the 6666 Ranch, which in real life is now owned by a group led by Yellowstone creator, writer, director, exec producer and occasional co-star Taylor Sheridan.
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