NOTE: this post contains spoilers for Yellowstone season 5 episode 7, "The Dream Is Not Me."
Taylor Sheridan is enjoying the extra leg room with Yellowstone season 5 being 14 episodes instead of the usual 10; fans, that's up for debate. Most episodes so far have focused on smaller character moments and emphasizing the way of life John (Kevin Costner) is trying to protect, with just enough plot to tease a (hopefully) jam-packed back half. "The Dream Is Not Me" is another example of this, which could also be titled "everything you ever wanted to know about running a ranch."
Things start off with a flashback, with young Rip (Kyle Red Silverstein) watching the herd with the cowboy Beth hooked up. When the cowboy is disrespectful about Beth, Rip fights him; the cowboy pulls a knife, so Rip bashes a rock over his head, hurting him bad. Rip rushes to tell John (Josh Lucas again as younger John). Still, the cowboy dies. John tells Rip he can help him, but it means he'll never leave the ranch; Rip says he has no plans to, as it's the only family he's got. And this is the story of how Rip got his brand.
In the present, Jamie (Wes Bentley) explains to Sarah (Dawn Olivieri) how he always wanted to be a cowboy but John forced him to be a lawyer and ironically hates him now because of it; fun side note, Jamie's speech is very reminiscent of the opening of The Godfather. He and Sarah agree the ranch needs to evolve to survive, which Sarah is willing to help with, but he has to ask her. Jamie does, which seems to give Sarah all the power in the relationship.
Back at the ranch, the cowboys get up early to continue branding. Beth (Kelly Reilly), Summer (Piper Perabo), Abby (Lainey Wilson) and Laramie (Hassie Harrison) wake up a bit later, with Summer and Beth having a quick debate on marriage, then Abby and Laramie surprised when Beth doesn't have a zinger for them as they walk away. Monica (Kelsey Asbille) asks Beth why she is so mean? She says it's fun, but Monica thinks it's cruel, which is why, Beth says, she doesn't do it to her. When Monica tells her she doesn't need to be treated differently because she lost a child, Beth opens up on how she also lost a child, so she knows the kind of pain Monica is dealing with.
Rainwater (Gil Birmingham) meets with Senator Perry (Wendy Moniz), who informs him the federal government is planning to put not one, but two pipelines through reservation land, directly impacting their water supply. There's very little government action they can take to stop it, so they decide to work together to build public opposition to the pipeline. Rainwater asks if John would also support them, but Perry thinks John has already done all he has set out to do as governor.
Proving the point, governing Montana is not John's biggest priority in this episode. As they wrangle some more cattle, the cowboys notice stillborn bison calves, which means disease. If the cattle have it, they'll have to kill the herd, but even if they don’t that land can't be used, which means the cows will have to be moved somewhere down south to graze. This will cost the ranch money they don't have and take Rip (Cole Hauser), Walker (Ryan Bingham), Teeter (Jen Landon), Jake (Jake Ream) and Ryan (Ian Bohen) away from the ranch for a long time.
Beth and John argue over the failing finances of ranching; after highlighting what makes ranching so special in previous episodes, this one takes a hard look at what makes it so tough in today's society. But Beth finds a new opportunity. Taking inspiration from the 6666 ranch (not so coincidentally where the cattle are also going to be sent, and which Sheridan owns in real life), Beth wants the Yellowstone to sell its own beef. John says they could never figure out the logistics before, but Beth assures him she'll take care of that.
Ellis (John Emmett Tracy) and Sarah are waiting for Jamie in his office, but before he goes in his assistant takes a second to warn Jamie about Sarah. He thanks her for the advice, but is he going to heed it? Ellis tells Jamie that John put the land in a conservation easement, which we knew a few episodes ago and it feels kind of hard to believe Jamie, the state attorney general, is just learning about. This means the state can be sued and be on the hook for $4 billion. Sarah thinks this could be used to impeach John and, in a special election, Market Equities would fully support Jamie as the next governor.
The Duttons and the cowboys head to the county fair as a way to ease the fact many of them are leaving for a year plus. While Beth says she is going to join Rip (though staying in a nearby hotel suite instead of out on the range), Abby is not as thrilled with the idea of Ryan leaving, wishing he would have picked her over the job. Summer talks with John, thanks him for giving her the chance to understand what and why they do everything and thinking that could be a way for John to protect his way of life — showing tourists what makes them unique and worth keeping around.
The episode ends with Jamie practicing his speech for the general assembly recommending to impeach John. Though one quick question, does Jamie no longer care that Beth has blackmail on him?
With that in the works, the pipeline battle and many of the characters set to break up, is Yellowstone season 5 ready to kick it into high gear?
New episodes of Yellowstone season 5 air Sundays on Paramount Network in the US, Mondays 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 Only Murders in the Building, Yellowstone, The Boys, Game of Thrones and is always up for a Seinfeld rerun. Follow on Letterboxd.