Yellowstone has been one of cable’s biggest hits on Paramount Network since its debut back in 2018. This Sunday the world-renowned show premiered on CBS with the series that made co-creator Taylor Sheridan a household name. For avid fans of Yellowstone, they got to join along to watch it all from the beginning. For others, it was the start of a new journey to see how this epic saga began. From week to week both new fans and old fans alike will get to watch the series from it’s entirety.
The season premiere of Yellowstone was two hours packed with unrealistically wild modern-day western drama that you can’t take your eyes off of. Without further adieu let’s dive right into the Dutton Dynasty.
Yellowstone season 1 episode 1 recap
The opening of “Daybreak” begins with an accident where John Dutton (Kevin Costner) must put a horse down in a fatal tragedy after an oversized semi topples over. At the crash site, John picks up a paper that reads Paradise Valley Development and you can see from the look on his face it’s not a good sign of the times. The scene also depicts the hard thing that ranchers have to go through on a daily basis. Putting beloved animals down is something that won’t be a first in Yellowstone.
Directly after, we meet John Dutton’s children: Beth Dutton (Kelly Reilly), bull shark in the boardroom; Kayce Dutton (Luke Grimes), the youngest is a crazy cowboy taking jobs to wrangle in problem horses; Jamie (Wes Bentley) is sharp as a tack lawyer trying to keep the preservation of the Dutton land intact for his family; and Lee, John Dutton’s right-hand man who is most likely to take over the ranch when or if John decides to hang his hat up.
Kayce takes the Mustang he caught to the Broken Rock Reservation where he resides with his son Tate (Brecken Merrill) and wife Monica (Kelsey Asbille). Kayce is a defiant soul and has a way of speaking to animals on a spiritual level, something he may have learned from being around the presence of Native Americans. Monica’s brother doesn’t seem as fond of Kayce nor do many of the men in the reservation. Because of Monica, it seems like Kayce is somebody that they deal with but will never see as one of them.
John Dutton is back at home nursing his head wound and Jamie reveals what went down in the courtroom. There seems to be no love lost between the two. Though Jamie said no at the capitol building to the housing development plan to take 30,000 acres and even let them timber the wood from the land, John seems immediately annoyed with his son. Jamie doesn’t think it’s a bad deal and that it should be considered, but he says no because he knows that is what his father would say. Mostly, John wants Jamie to learn when to act like a landowner and when to act like a lawyer. Currently, Lee seems to be John’s most reliable son.
Yellowstone recap: There’s a new Chief in town
Onto meeting one of the other most notable men of Yellowstone. Thomas Rainwater (Gil Birmingham) is now the new chairman of the Broken Rock Reservation. Thomas meets with a senator named Huntington. He wasn’t raised on the reservation, he was adopted and had no connection to his Native American heritage. It wasn’t until he was 18 that he found out who he was. His adoptive parents were Mexican and lied to him to give him a better chance at life, which is not very different from the white man's way of thinking. Now that Thomas runs the casino he’s going to buy back what America has taken from his people.
The real enemy of this episode is Dan Jenkins (Danny Huston), who wants Paradise Valley to have its own takeover of Montana. After all, John Dutton doesn’t need to own it all right?
Beth Dutton sips a drink at the bar. A man named Ted tries to pick her up and unsuccessfully tries to analyze her. He was completely off but she could read him like a book, in a brutal fashion. It becomes evident that Beth Dutton does not mess with soft city boys.
Soon there becomes a tribal conflict about cattle. The Native Americans believe since the cattle crossed into their land they can do with them what they want, but the Duttons don’t seem very forthcoming about that. The tribal police try to calm down the fighting but John soon flies in with a helicopter after Lee sends him an SOS message.
Somebody cut the barbwire on the fence which was how the cattle were able to get through. Unfortunately for them, they don’t know the difference between Indian and ranch land. John speaks to the elder named Felix who tells him he will try to keep them where they are for now, but the new chief wants a fight. He wants to prove a point to the people to win them over. Because he wasn’t born a Native American he has a lot to prove and it looks like the Duttons will be in his crosshairs.
After trying to help herd the cattle on reservation land, Kayce is back on his own trying to break the wild mustang he caught. John comes to visit his son but it is more of a warning of concern. He doesn’t want Kayce to be caught in the middle of a cattle war between him and Monica’s people. If Kayce knew there was a fight between both sides, he wouldn’t have been there at all. Kayce struggles with the balance of his family on the reservation and his family with the Dutton’s. He is constantly having to choose sides. John wants to spend some time with his grandson Tate, but Kayce keeps him very guarded. There is an intense distance there. He wants to know his grandson. If you thought Jamie and John had a strained relationship his with Kayce takes the cake.
Yellowstone recap: Tall glass of whiskey
And now we meet Rip Wheeler (Cole Hauser) who shows up at Jimmy’s trailer and tases him to the ground. Jimmy is a thief who is about to get his third strike, but due to a promise that John made he wants to turn him into a man and has Rip brand him to the ranch. When they brand someone to the Yellowstone ranch it means the ranch owns them. Anyone who has been branded owes themselves and everything they are to the ranch for saving their lives. Jimmy will start Monday at the ranch instead of an extended jail sentence.
In bed, Monica seems to like John Dutton even less than Kayce. They don’t like the idea but they eventually agree John and Tate should know each other. Even if they don’t think John deserves it. In return, they talk of having another baby so when he leaves it won’t hurt them so much.
Speaking of family dysfunction Jamie and Beth are at the Dutton family home together. The two enjoy their snarky comments back to back like it’s an Olympic event. Off in the distance, John spots Dan Jenkins playing golf and tells him to move to Dallas if he wants to build subdivisions. There’s no way in hell John is going to let some new developer come in and take ownership of something they refuse to work for.
"There’s nothing that happens in this valley I don’t know about."
You can sense right away Beth and Rip have a history. It takes her no time to loosen her robe and the two of them waste no time having rough sex. In the end, Rip asks Beth to a music festival which is met by utter annoyance from Beth about how he ruins it every time. So this must be a regular occurrence with them.
Yellowstone recap: It’s a good day
Against his better judgment, Kayce brings Tate to the ranch to visit. But he does have a nice reunion with his brothers. On the other hand, Kayce and Beth seem to have a much healthier relationship than the others. Beth is probably the only person on the ranch who doesn’t like to ride horses. Meanwhile, Tate is already having a blast riding with John and seeing firsthand what it’s like to be a cowboy.
Soon all the boys have a fish fry with the fish they caught. Tate sees firsthand what it’s like to be brothers and steps in to defend his dad. But both Jamie and Lee think it’s crazy for him to raise Tate on a dusty reservation when they’ve got all this. Kayce sees his life as much better than working 100 hours a week and being a 38-year-old bachelor like Lee.
Tensions run high between Monica’s brother Robert and Kayce. There is some competition about who has the most military accommodations. Rainwater comes over to visit Kayce and thank him for helping herd the cattle due to the awkward situation it put him in. He wants Kayce to help him and help him understand the man he’s negotiating with, John.
"Until they find a cure for human nature, a man must stand with his people."
Monica’s great-grandfather thinks the best thing for Kayce and Monica to do is go the Yellowstone for a while and take care of each other. Because the reservation is not budging on the cattle, both Monica and Kayce will be judged by the sins of the father. It is the best thing for both parties because this battle is only going to get bloodier. He tells him some hard truth that he may not have been ready to hear. The Dutton’s are his people, not them. He can no longer keep his back turned on his own.
Jimmy is now on the ranch to work and looks like he hasn’t ridden a horse in his life. This valley is going to beat him up. There’s a child-like spirit to Jimmy who just wants to take nature in and look out for trout, but soon he’s tasked with helping Rip and the bunkhouse boys set up a line of dynamite.
Yellowstone recap: A brother for a brother
Shortly after, there is a standoff between the reservation protecting the cattle and John’s army to get the cattle back. Gunfire ensues quickly and John tells his men to fall back. Lee however is not going anywhere without their beef. Kayce catches himself on the wrong side of the fight and Lee pays the price.
Monica’s brother Robert shoots Lee and then goes after Kayce as he’s trying to tend to his brother. Lee tells him you’re the man now. He knows that he’s dying and Kayce will have to step up for his family and the ranch. It's then we see first-hand how quick Kayce is with a gun. A brother for a brother.
Kayce takes Lee back on his horse to John. He tells him to go straight to Jamie and tell him everything while it’s fresh. John sets Lee up against the tree the same way James Dutton held Elsa when she was dying in 1883. We see a bird that John looks at as he holds his eldest son. If that’s not a sign of Elsa I don’t know what is.
As Lee is laid to rest the gravestones, Ned Dutton and Chance Dutton come across the screen. John sits next to an emotional Kayce who is not ready to come back home just yet. Nor is he ready to reveal to his wife what happened out there with Robert.
John takes a moment to take Kayce’s horse to the barn and has his emotional breakdown. This is a man who is already carrying so much loss. Now that the heir to the Dutton throne is gone it leaves in question who is going to carry the family name. Kayce doesn’t want to have anything to do with it and Jamie seems more like a pawn the family uses to get out of trouble. Beth has the respect but she has no will to do what John does. The future of the Dutton family remains in peril.
At the end of the episode, we see that Kayce is branded too which begs the question what trouble did Kayce get into before to have to be branded to his own family’s ranch? And why did he leave it behind?
Jamie knows John doesn’t look at him the way he looked at Lee, and Beth tells him he never will. However, John needs both of them right now and neither will leave his side. “Just tell me who to fight,” Beth tells her father to which he replies “Everyone.” Nobody is safe in the Yellowstone Valley anymore.