John Dutton fires everyone

Warning: Contains spoilers for Season 5, Episode 4 of "Yellowstone"

Despite the record-breaking Season 5 premiere of "Yellowstone," fans’ opinions of the show are a little mixed. The numbers say people still love it, but the bleak chatter online from "Yellowstone" fans after Season 5, Episode 3 has some concerned for innocent characters like Monica (Kelsey Asbille). Fans perceive her role this season to be smaller and are now worried for Monica’s life. Meanwhile, formerly popular characters like Beth (Kelly Reilly) don’t appear to be winning over hearts as they become increasingly unhinged (more on that in a little bit).

Episode 4, "Horses in Heaven," represents a bit of a lull in the early part of this season. The show takes somewhat of a break from all the melodrama to hold a special funeral and set up a metric ton of exposition for what’s about to happen next. John Dutton (Kevin Costner) becoming governor of Montana to cancel the airport project and protect his ranch may end up backfiring on him in ways he didn’t anticipate. The pieces on the chess board are getting into position, and a complicated firestorm of conflicting interests is about to rain down on the ranch. So let’s dig into the nitty-gritty of the important things to focus on from tonight’s episode.

The Dutton family says a tearful farewell to Baby John

Tate, Monica, and Kayce Dutton at a funeral

In this episode, Monica’s and Kayce’s (Luke Grimes) funeral plans come to fruition. But in many ways, the funeral scenes carry a much deeper and more symbolic meaning. Several characters struggle to navigate the complex cultural differences which sometimes keep people apart and alienated. In other scenes, the things they have in common help bridge gaps and bring them closer together.

The biggest bonding happened between John Dutton and his daughter-in-law, Monica. First, it was a nice touch showing the baby being buried with the braided hair Monica cut off in "Yellowstone" Season 5, Episode 3. John keeping his distance during the ceremony shows a humble and reverent side of his character that fans aren’t used to seeing. Later, he approaches Monica and shares his grief with her. During this emotional encounter, he revisits the painful memory of burying his adult son in Season 1. He also opens up about the "perfect life" his almost-brother Peter lived, who died shortly after birth and only ever knew his mother’s face and her love before blinking out of existence. You can tell by how she cries in his arms that the experience has brought them closer together.

Are things still awkward between the Duttons and the Natives of Broken Rock? Sure. The cowboys clumsily but respectfully manage to help them prepare for the ceremony. Then Beth gets weirded out after seeing the baby’s ashes and demands her father never let anyone cremate her body (because the idea of being burned to ash and thrown to the wind seems like a dismissive end to her existence). Due to the heavy emotion involved, the funeral scene may surprise fans. It might be nice for viewers to see less fighting and more bonding. However, many might simply see this as the calm before the storm.

Beth really does need to work on her impulse control

Beth sitting in jail

Will fans see more bonding moments, though? Not if Beth (Kelly Reilly) has anything to say about it. First, it’s a little strange that she would discuss funeral arrangements with her dad, seeing as how most children are supposed to outlive their parents (although the Duttons are a unique bunch in that regard). Was it just an offhand comment inspired by the funeral ceremony or another bit of foreshadowing from the show? Beth is going down a pretty dark path right now. In this episode, she even says it herself: "I am the wrath of a woman scorned. Call it what you will." And her performance in this episode is pure, irrational, 100% adulterated wrath from start to finish.

Despite seriously injuring the woman from Sacramento in Episode 3’s bar fight, she acts incredulous that she’s still facing disorderly conduct charges and being forced to do community service after all of Jamie’s (Wes Bentley) damage control. She then nearly causes a car accident and puts them both in mortal danger after she finds out that Jamie, whom (as we learned a few seasons ago) is why Beth can’t have children, has a secret child. A son, at that. Stalking Jamie in his spare time to see what he’s up to is also pretty unhinged. And if Summer Higgins (Piper Perabo) doesn’t end up with a snake in her bed covered in Beth’s fingerprints, that’ll be very surprising.

It’s obvious that Beth might need therapy, although she’s the last person to go. But if Beth doesn’t process her grief properly (the way Kayce and his family do in this episode), it could consume her. This show and Beth herself are quite possibly a classic Shakespearean tragedy waiting to happen.

This episode explores the gray area between environmentalism and progress

A scared man gets fired

The scene where John is talking with his policy advisors about how best to manage a possible future solar farm project is a good example of how little the Dutton patriarch wants to play politics. When the idea of a solar panel project is brought up, John scoffs and mentions the damage such an endeavor could do to the sage grass that grows around the proposed land.

Despite how politicized some of the aspects of this debate are, neither side really wins in this episode. They explore the importance of environmentalism far enough to point out certain hypocrisies, but fall just short of a useful compromise. The proposed energy projects would damage the Sage Grouse habitat. But instead of proposing a workable solution (like something akin to the highly successful Million Solar Roofs Initiative), John fires everyone and pats himself on the back for saving Montana taxpayers $1.6 million per year.

However, those potentially destructive energy projects are still fighting over the land. John’s brazen move may shave a couple of dollars off of the average Montanan’s state tax bill, but those birds and those households who need energy are getting lost in the shuffle.

The show is setting up the dominoes that will fall later this season

Jamie is being a lawyer

Now, let’s talk about the simpler, more straightforward conflicts. John is going to be under assault from multiple fronts, including Rainwater (Gil Birmingham) and Atwood (Dawn Olivieri) — if that even is her real name — for canceling the airport project. The environmental NGOs will be breathing down his neck soon, too, for the death of those protected wolves. Lastly, John isn’t making himself any friends in government by firing everyone and refusing to play the game. His myopic focus on protecting the ranch and the ranch only sets him up for a potentially bigger, more dramatic failure later this season.

Furthermore, Beth is collecting enemies left, right, and center. It’s unclear whether the Sacramento slugfest incident is successfully extinguished or whether it’ll come back to haunt her later. She almost killed Jamie and is determined to steal custody of his son away from him, which would likely require her to leverage her proof of him murdering his biological father in order to make an inch of progress toward that goal. She now has to live in the same house as one of her dad’s romantic trysts, and loyal fans of the show know how Beth feels about the women who share her father’s bed.

Lastly, Beth may be about to butt heads with her father, too. Beth has fundamentally conflicting interests. She loves her father and will make grand sacrifices for his happiness, but she is (ironically) 100% indifferent about what he loves the most: the ranch’s survival. If anything happens to John, neither Beth nor Jamie will protect it. And Kayce seems like he’s on his way out, too. If the Dutton family cannot shift gears, then the Yellowstone ranch may be on its very last legs.

When will Season 5 Episode 5 of Yellowstone air?

Horse riders getting ready

According to various online outlets, fans of the show can expect to see Episode 5 air on the Paramount Network on December 4, 2022. It should air at its normal time of 8:00 p.m. ET. But what will it be about? What can viewers expect to see? Based on this week’s episode, the show will be following multiple plotlines, and it’s hard to predict exact specifics for the very next episode. But there are a few educated guesses that can be made.

The easiest plot points to focus on in the short term are John Dutton utilizing Summer to help him navigate the complicated problems that the dead wolves (and possibly the endangered Grouse) pose.

At the same time, the show might have some fun playing around with Beth’s feud with Summer and the conflict between those two women who dislike each other living under the same roof. Also, let’s not forget that major revelation of Sarah Atwood galivanting around with a fake identity! It would be understandable if she dropped a phony name to trick Jamie into trusting her. But the fact that Beth scanned her ID and couldn’t find anything but false information is a doozy. Who is this woman, and what is her real agenda? Fans may have to wait until at least next week in order to find out real answers.