Season one episode three of Paramount Network’s dramatic series Yellowstone opens with a flashback to a young Kayce and a young Beth out for a ride with their mom, Evelyn (Gretchen Mol). Beth’s uneasy on her skittish horse, and her mom has no sympathy for the young girl. Suddenly, Beth’s horse rears up causing her mother’s horse to throw her. The horse lands on Evelyn and it’s instantly apparent she’s badly injured.
Kayce tries to help his mom and even offers to go get his dad, but Evelyn insists since this is Beth’s fault, she needs to go for help. (No wonder Beth’s screwed up as an adult.) Evelyn places her hand gently on Kayce’s face and says, “If this is the last thing I see, so be it.”
Back at Yellowstone, the ranch hands are busy branding calves. John and his men notice two horses returning without riders and head out to search for Kayce and Evelyn. Beth intercepts them but is unable to point out her mom’s location.
Night falls and Kayce stands watch over his mom, armed with a small knife. He’s able to keep the wildlife at bay until his father arrives.
Flash forward to current events, John (Kevin Costner) and Governor Lynelle Perry (Wendy Moniz) are spending the night together. She suggests Jamie run for office as an independent.
Over on the reservation, Kayce (Luke Grimes) takes his son, Tate (Brecken Merrill), out for target practice. They’re sharing some father and son bonding time when Tate asks his dad if he’s going back in the army. “Bills don’t pay themselves, son,” replies Kayce.
Kayce admits he doesn’t want to go, and Tate begs him not to leave.
Jamie (Wes Bentley) gets a call from Mike warning him the medical examiner’s office burned to a crisp and it looks suspicious. Fingers will soon be pointing at the Duttons. Jamie reminds Mike the medical examiner was fired for being addicted to smoking embalming fluid, so this very well could have been an accident. Jamie reminds Mike he secured him a partnership at a prestigious law firm and wants him to confirm this might have been an accident.
Jamie hurries off the phone when he sees Beth (Kelly Reilly) tossing something in a water trough. She retrieves two bottles of alcohol from the house and heads back outside with Jamie hot on her heels. She’s naked under a robe which she takes off over Jamie’s protestations. She climbs into the trough, opens one of the bottles, and then proceeds to slice and dice Jamie with her words.
It turns out she’s in a horrible mood because it’s the anniversary of their mother’s death, something Jamie didn’t realize. Jamie leaves her alone to mourn without saying another word.
Beth watches from the water trough as Governor Perry leaves the house, silently passing judgment with each step Lynelle takes. Lynelle smiles and is about to approach Beth but thinks better of it and leaves. (Smart move.)
Rip Wheeler (Cole Hauser) attempts to convince Beth to go in the house and she finally gives in. However, she does so buck naked, refusing his offer of a coat.
While Kayce and Tate are driving home, Kayce comes across a suspicious white van. Kayce gently explains to his young son that sometimes strangers try and take advantage of the laws on the reservation. He goes to investigate and a man leaps out of the back of the van. Kayce shoots him as the van drives away. He leaves Tate inside a drainage pipe by the side of the road, protected from the sun, as he gives chase in his truck.
Unfortunately, the drainage pipe is the home of a very angry rattlesnake. Tate tosses a rock at the snake but misses, making it even more upset. It strikes at him and Tate attempts to kick it. Tate, in what’s possibly a life or death battle, stomps on the snake with all his might.
The van crashes into a ditch and Kayce gives chase as the driver flees while firing wildly. Kayce lassos the driver who falls and cracks open his head on a rock. Kayce leaves him there without really checking on his condition, returning to the van where he finds a girl bound and gagged in the back. She’s bloody and frightened, but she allows Kayce to remove the tape. She’s happy to hear Kayce killed the men who kidnapped her.
Kayce returns to retrieve Tate who proudly shows off the snake he just killed.
The girl doesn’t want to call the police, swearing she’ll refuse to tell them what happened.
Jamie and John negotiate a deal, and Jamie advises his dad he wants to run for Attorney General. John says he’ll think about it.
Kayce returns the girl to her parents, letting them know whatever happened to her was bad but he doesn’t know exactly what went down. He lets the dad, Danny, know that he took care of the men and admits he isn’t sure what to do next.
Elsewhere, Thomas Rainwater (Gil Birmingham) prepares to attend a black-tie dinner. As his driver’s heading into town, they spot coyotes on the side of the road. (That’s a bad omen.)
Thomas’ vehicle is stopped and he’s surrounded by police. He’s forced to his knees and arrested for stealing John Dutton’s cattle.
A while later, Danny tells Kayce his daughter doesn’t want anyone to know what happened. Unfortunately, because they were white men someone will notice they’re missing. Fortunately, things often disappear on the reservation. They agree to meet later to take care of the bodies.
Kayce drops off Tate at home and won’t tell his wife, Monica (Kelsey Asbille), what he’s up to because he needs to leave. He promises to fill her in later.
Thomas is taken to jail and locked up. Not long after he’s placed in a cell, he’s brought out to meet with John. Thomas thanks him for the reminder of what it’s like to be oppressed. John laughs that off and then recites the key details on Thomas’ background including that he’s a Harvard grad who worked for a high-powered PR firm. John warns Thomas he’ll remained locked up at least overnight, saying he’ll be in jail until he gives back the cattle.
Thomas isn’t easily intimated. He explains he’s figured out it will take $14 billion to buy up the whole valley after John dies and his kids can’t pay the inheritance taxes. He’ll then pull down all the fences and wipe away any evidence the Duttons ever existed. He’s going to erase them from the future, calling his actions the past catching up with the Duttons.
It appears John’s met his match but there’s no outward indication he feels threatened.
While leaving the jail, John makes a call to get the ball rolling on a political campaign. When he returns home, he meets with Beth. He asks her to stick around because he wants her to run for the state assembly. She reminds him it should be Jamie, but he’s made up his mind.
A large team arrives at Yellowstone to plot out Beth’s campaign.
Meanwhile, Kayce and Danny use a truck’s headlights to dig graves in the middle of nowhere. They toss the two bodies in and douse it with charcoal fluid. Danny wants to burn the bodies so their souls are trapped. The hole is just to hide what’s left.
Over at Yellowstone Ranch, Jamie’s hanging out outside, angry his father chose Beth to run. He equates cancer to suicide from the inside out and then tells his sister that’s what she is.
They take a walk to the barn where Beth once again tears down her brother, calling him a fighter who can’t win. She thinks their dad’s backing her because she’s got what it takes and he doesn’t. Jamie continues to argue and Beth confesses she doesn’t care about the ranch. If their dad were to die tomorrow, she’d sell her shares and get far, far away. Everything she does is for their father while everything Jamie does is for the ranch. She adds, just to rub salt in the open wound, that their father can’t trust him.
Jamie calls her toxic and delivers what proves to be an insult Beth can’t let slide. “I can barely remember what you were like before you killed her.”
Those are fighting words and Beth punches him in the face, repeatedly. She tells him to be a man and finally he punches her back. “A man would have walked away,” says Beth, laughing.
She continues to laugh as she waltzes out of the barn.
After the political planning committee has finished their business for the evening, John warns Jamie to quit grabbing tigers by the tail. Jamie reveals he’s going to run for Attorney General to make sure they control that office. He expects his father’s support. John gives it to him along with a warning that if he hits Beth again, he’ll put his head through the wall.
Later, Dan Jenkins (Danny Huston), an enemy of John Dutton who’s still sore over John moving the river, runs into Beth at a bar. She knows who he is and doesn’t care that he’s married with kids as they tease and flirt. “I prefer it. Where’s the fun in wrecking a single man? When I break you, I want to know that I’m breaking generations,” says Beth, tauntingly.
John Dutton spends the night in the barn in a stall with a horse. He’s awakened by the sounds of big rigs loaded with his kidnapped cattle.
Monica’s sister-in-law watches kids playing outside and cries. Kayce’s in the ring right outside the trailer working a horse when they hear a gunshot. The woman, deep in mourning for her husband, killed herself.
The final scene shows a work crew setting up for the day. As the camera pans out, we see they’re about to work feet from the freshly dug grave.
More on Yellowstone:
- Yellowstone Series Review
- Recap of Season 1 Episode 2 “Kill the Messenger”
- Recap of Season 1 Episode 4 “The Long Black Train”
- Recap of Season 1 Episode 6 “The Remembering”
- Recap of Season 1 Episode 7 “A Monster Among Us”
- Recap of Season 1 Episode 8 “The Unravelling: Part 1”
- Recap of Episode 9 “The Unravelling: Part 2”
- Preview of Yellowstone Starring Kevin Costner