Note: this post contains spoilers for Yellowstone season 5 episode 5, "Watch 'Em Ride Away."
With 14 episodes promised, Yellowstone season 5 is going to be the biggest season yet for the western drama, at the very least in terms of number of episodes. Yet even though John Dutton (Kevin Costner) has taken over the role of governor and faces arguably his biggest enemy yet in Market Equities, season 5 has started on with a surprisingly small scale. But when an episode is done like "Watch 'Em Ride Away," you'd be hard pressed to complain about it.
Things get going with another quick flashback, as young John Dutton (Josh Lucas) gets his cowboys ready to herd their cattle. Young Beth (Kylie Rogers) comes to say goodbye to Young Rip (Kyle Red Silverstein), seemingly making amends after her actions in the flashback that we saw in episode 1. We cut back to the present as Beth (Kelly Reilly) wakes up, feeling remorseful over the actions of her younger self, but Rip tells her he doesn’t think about the past, reassuring her in their relationship.
The Yellowstone is getting ready to brand its cattle and John is determined to not let his new role as governor interfere with this annual tradition. His assistant Clara (Lilli Kay) says they can double the event as a political platform, allowing John to knock out a series of meetings in a single day and getting the benefit of showing others the work they do on the ranch and its importance.
In addition to the outside guests, John also takes this opportunity to help Kayce (Luke Grimes) and Monica (Kelsey Asbille) get a distraction, inviting them to take part. They both agree it's a good idea, but Monica also tells her husband she doesn't think he needs to stop doing his job as Livestock commissioner, believing they can handle the challenges. But Kayce again indicates that he may be ready for something new.
However, not everyone is exactly a welcome guest on the ranch. Beth is weary of Summer (Piper Perabo), warning John that Piper is another enemy, just like the environmentalists that he is hoping she can help him fight, Beth believing she won't betray that belief system so easily. She dislikes the idea of Piper at the ranch so much that she insists she actually go on the herding trip with everyone, despite Rip pointing out her usual aversion to the cowboy way of life. But, as usual, when Beth says she is going to do something, there isn't much that will stop her.
Before they set out, John decides he wants to have a big family dinner, Piper included. However, their cook wasn't aware of Piper's vegan diet soon enough, so she takes the opportunity to try and make a case for how wrong it is that they are about to eat all these different animals. It's awkward to say the least (Monica actually laughs for the first time this season from all the awkwardness) and Beth finally can't take it anymore. She takes Piper outside and the two fight.
John lets it happen, but Rip goes outside to intervene, seeing them both wrestling on the ground. He tells them that they need to settle their differences since there is no other good option and if they're going to fight they should just trade blows until one of them has had enough. They do and Piper taps out first. Beth shows she is willing to move on though, helping Piper up and telling her that if she treats her and her family with respect, that's what she'll get too.
The one scene we get away from the ranch this week is back in Helena, where Jamie (Wes Bentley) is packing up for the day when Sarah Atwood (Dawn Olivieri) arrives for an unscheduled meeting. Jamie acknowledges that their previous meeting was unprofessional, but if Sarah was hoping it would recuse Jamie from any possible litigation, it doesn't matter as the state hires outside litigators in all its cases. It doesn't phase Sarah at all though, who unbuttons her dress for another rendezvous. Still probably safe to guess this is all part of her plan.
The next morning, everyone on the ranch wakes up early to get ready for their trek out. Piper takes it all in, eventually asking Beth what she should do while they are all gone? Beth tells her she should walk around their ranch and see the care and love they have for the land and determine if they really are the enemy that Piper believes them to be.
The episode bookends with John once again giving instructions to everyone on what their plan is before they ride out. Monica, who came out to say goodbye to Kayce and Tate (Brecken Merrill), cries as they ride away. She says, "If it doesn't make you cry to watch your family ride away, you probably shouldn't have one."
"Watch 'Em Ride Away" was a truly interesting episode for Yellowstone. Small in scale but focused and impactful on hitting key relationship moments between the Duttons and those closest in their orbit. Hopefully it's the stage setter for events that will truly make this season the biggest one of the show yet.
New episodes of Yellowstone air on Sundays on Paramount Network in the US and Monday on Paramount Plus in the UK.
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Michael Balderston is a DC-based entertainment and assistant managing editor for What to Watch, who has previously written about the TV and movies with TV Technology, Awards Circuit and regional publications. Spending most of his time watching new movies at the theater or classics on TCM, some of Michael's favorite movies include Casablanca, Moulin Rouge!, Silence of the Lambs, Children of Men, One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest and Star Wars. On the TV side he enjoys Peaky Blinders, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, Saturday Night Live, Only Murders in the Building and is always up for a Seinfeld rerun. Follow on Letterboxd (opens in new tab).
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