Politics, high finance, and strained family relationships are once again front and center in Paramount Network’s Yellowstone season two episode three. The episode titled “The Reek of Desperation” opens with Kayce (Luke Grimes) and his dad discussing moving the herd. It’s a test of sorts regarding Kayce’s leadership skills, and he apparently passed as John (Kevin Costner) agrees with his son’s decisions.
Kayce wants to work with the men but his father has different plans. He wants his son to concentrate on the business side, not the wrangling side from this point forward.
Kayce informs the men what he wants them to do, and they come up with a handful of questions/suggestions. Rip (Cole Hauser) nips the discussion in the bud. He tells the wranglers to get busy doing the job and after they ride away, he assures Kayce he’ll keep the men in line.
Rip seems genuine as he explains how things should be handled in this new chain of command while Kayce’s learning how to be in charge.
Dan Jenkins (Danny Huston) and Thomas Rainwater (Gil Birmingham) complete their deal on the new hotel and casino. Photographers snap photos as they announce a new era and a new partnership.
Jamie (Wes Bentley) visits Governor Perry (Wendy Moniz-Grillo) who quickly schools him in running for office. The key: winning is all that matters. He’s shocked to discover Thomas Rainwater is in attendance at their brainstorming session and is backing his campaign for Attorney General. Rainwater’s sure that with his support, Jamie will win. Without it he’s certain to lose to John Dutton’s handpicked candidate, Cassidy Reid (Kelly Rohrbach).
The short meeting ends with Jamie unsure how to move forward. He asks for a day to decide his next step.
Elsewhere, John continues to groom Kayce to eventually take over. Kayce meets with his dad and two associates in John’s Livestock Commissioner’s office. John informs his youngest son he’ll need to go through the police academy in order to hold his office, and Kayce’s quick to point out he doesn’t want the office. John tells him he’s not taking over the position immediately; they’re looking 15 years down the line.
“Understand, Kayce, this office is how you protect the ranch and every ranch like it,” explains John.
Kayce asks for a moment alone with his dad and confesses he’s not sure about taking on these responsibilities. John cuts him off, attempting to set his mind at ease. Kayce’s worried about taking a polygraph or undergoing a psych eval, but John assures him he won’t have to take either test.
Curious, John asks why Kayce fears a psych eval. Kayce confesses it’s because of his whole life.
Meeting over, Kayce heads off to visit Monica (Kelsey Asbille) and Tate at their new apartment. He and Monica make small talk, avoiding any touchy topics. Tate’s excited about the new place and his new room. He even invites his dad to spend the night in the top bunk.
It’s obviously hard on Kayce to be there with Monica, and he says what’s in his heart.
“I don’t know how to do this, Monica. I don’t know how to not be with you, not talk to you. You’re my wife. You’re my best friend; you’re my only friend,” confesses Kayce in a heartbreaking moment.
Monica replies, “You’re mine too, Kayce.”
Kayce’s not sure what Monica wants from him. Kayce reminds her she asked him to leave, and Monica explains she hoped he would fight for the life he wants. Confused and frustrated, Kayce tells her she should have asked for what she wanted.
John and Governor Perry meet at a bar, easing into business matters with a little reminiscing about old times. She compliments him on his political maneuverings, and he explains he found an Attorney General for her. (And he’s definitely not talking about his son, Jamie.)
Governor Perry admits she’s in a precarious situation now and she’ll have to continue to back Jamie. His opposition, Cassidy, would be beholden to John and she can’t have that. Jamie should have been the perfect choice for both of them. John shocks the Governor by revealing he’s going to make Jamie step down. He wants her promise not to fight him on this matter or else he’ll find someone to run against her.
The talk turns to family and relationships before eventually evolving into an afternoon of passionately making out after drinks. She stops them before they can take it further, asking if John will ever fall in love again. When he says no, she agrees she won’t either. They quietly talk about their loved ones who’ve passed while holding each other. We see the softer side of John that’s usually kept hidden.
Back at the ranch, Beth confesses she wishes Rip didn’t let Kayce win the fistfight. Rip asks what he would have won if he’d beat Kayce, and Beth reveals she thinks Rip beating Kayce so bad he left the ranch would have been the best outcome of the fight. She also confesses with Kayce in charge things will only get worse.
Next, a new player in the battle for control of valuable Montana real estate is introduced. Malcolm Beck (Neal McDonough) reads the headlines announcing the new casino deal and demands to know who Dan Jenkins is.
Two men are loading up on acetone in a hardware store when they notice a cop entering the place. They leave their basket full of items in the checkout lane and make a quick exit.
Jimmy’s also at the store with Avery (Tanaya Beatty) buying supplies for the ranch. He knows the two men who are now hanging out outside the store after getting spooked by the cop and doesn’t seem happy to see them. Jimmy owes one of the guys money and in exchange for paying off the debt, they tell him to buy supplies for making meth. (Jimmy knows what’s needed without being told, revealing more about his backstory.)
Jimmy emerges from the store without the supplies, and the larger of the two men knocks Jimmy’s cowboy hat off his head. Jimmy bends down to retrieve the hat and comes up swinging. He Heads back to the truck, but the men follow and try to pull Jimmy from the vehicle. Avery reacts fast, spraying bear spray in their eyes and then pulls away from the store leaving the men in pain.
Jimmy’s also covered in the chemicals but he’s safe, at least temporarily.
Meanwhile, Monica continues her physical therapy in the pool. It’s painful but she’s committed to getting her strength back. Her good-looking therapist flirts a little, but she shuts him down. She explains she’s married and isn’t interested.
Avery and Jimmy make it back to the ranch, and Jimmy lies and says the bear spray went off by accident.
Dan is looking over his model of the hotel and casino when Malcolm Beck arrives uninvited, accompanied by his brother, Teal (Terry Serpico). Malcolm reveals he knows about Dan’s battle with John Dutton and explains that he and John don’t bother each other. They stay in their own lanes and a peace exists between the two. However, Dan’s now stepped into Malcolm’s lane since he partnered with an Indian tribe.
Dan figures out these men don’t like competition. He warns them to take him to court or else back off, making his dislike for these siblings known in no uncertain terms. Teal points out that Malcolm’s the head of the Montana Liquor Board, and Malcolm confirms he’ll be revoking Dan’s current license and definitely won’t issue one for the casino or hotel.
Malcolm and Teal suggest Dan should break his deal with Thomas Rainwater and partner with them on the casino instead.
After they leave, Dan’s furious. “You want to play dirty? Let’s play f**king dirty!” he says, slamming his fist down on the casino model.
Jamie’s still mulling over his options at dinner that evening. His campaign manager/girlfriend, Christina (Katherine Cunningham), doesn’t understand the problem, and Jamie explains he can’t have his father’s enemy fund his campaign. She suggests they try and hide where the money’s coming from, but Jamie doesn’t think that’s an option. He thinks he needs to turn down Thomas Rainwater’s money, which will effectively end his shot at being elected Attorney General.
Jamie heads off for a walk to clear his head. He stops in at Schwartz & Meyer and finds Beth still at her desk. “For someone with no spine, you sure got a lot of balls,” she says upon seeing her brother arrive for an unannounced visit.
Jamie reminds her they’re family above all else. Beth isn’t impressed and tells her brother she owes him nothing. Jamie, frustrated, wants her to give him guidance. He’s running for the office his dad suggested, and he’s well aware Beth chose his opposition. Beth, in her trademarked snide style, admits she did. Jamie confesses he has a donor who will fund his campaign.
Their conversation remains stilted and tense as he reveals Thomas Rainwater is the big dollar donor. Beth tells her brother he’s not a politician because he’s not a narcissist or crazy. “Let’s be honest. You don’t know who the f**k you are and you’re looking for the world to tell you. You reek of desperation and they can smell it,” she says, pointing to Thomas’ photo in the newspaper for emphasis when she says “they.”
She warns him he’ll be torn apart and so will their father. Beth suggests he consider everyone in his life and do what’s best for them.
The following morning Jamie has made his decision. He will not accept the money from Thomas Rainwater, and he won’t play dirty. In order to beat his opponent, he has to attack his dad and he refuses to do that. Christina doesn’t take this well and calls Jamie a chickenheart. (That’s a really bizarre – and lame – insult.)
If he quits, she’s dumping him. She knows if he gives up it means he’s heading back to work with his family, and she wants nothing to do with them.
John, Beth, and Kayce are eating dinner when Jamie arrives to announce he withdrew from the race. John invites him to sit and dine with the family, and Beth even makes him a plate. She laughs hysterically when Kayce asks where Jamie’s been, and John finally has to leave the table.
Beth apologizes as her father walks out of the dining room.
John, emotional, looks out over his ranch. Rip’s walking through the sprinklers adjusting their spray. John looks away as he pulls out a handkerchief and says, “Goddamn you for leaving me.”
More on Yellowstone:
- Yellowstone Series Review
- Recap of Season 1 Episode 2 “Kill the Messenger”
- Recap of Season 1 Episode 3 “No Good Horses”
- 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”
- Yellowstone Season 1 Finale Recap
- Yellowstone Season 2 Episode 1 “A Thundering” Recap
- Yellowstone Season 2 Episode 2 “New Beginnings” Recap
- Yellowstone Season 2 Episode 4 “Only Devils Left” Recap