What drives people to make decisions?
When you're in the heat of the moment, do you have what it takes to move past your primal instincts? Do the lessons you learned early in life help or haunt you?
Those are just some of the thoughts that were running through my head while watching Yellowstone Season 2 Episode 6, an episode that saw the Dutton children and the wranglers making life-or-death decisions.
John and Beth worry about the Rainwaters, Jenkins, and Becks of the world taking down Yellowstone, but the people on the inside are far more likely to deal a death blow to the ranch.
A casino and a housing development on the outer limits of the ranch will call into question all kinds of things about water rights, pollution by cattle, and who knows what else.
But before any of that even becomes an issue, the body count from the Yellowstone has to drop significantly. And John, who wants to be outside of it and who gets protected from those on the inside, has to take some accountability.
Yellowstone revisited the exact moment that Jamie's life became something utterly out of his control. Jamie has been on a path of John's making whether he wanted it or not, and if he wasn't even applying to universities, he wasn't ready to conquer the world.
John: Jamie, you ever think about what you want to be when you get older?
John: I mean as a job.
Jamie: I always figured one day I'd do your job.
John: Take a look at that.
John: Congratulations, son.
Jamie: I didn't apply to Harvard.
John: I applied for you. It's a great honor, and you earned it. Busted your ass in school, and this is your reward.
Jamie: Where's Harvard? Connecticut?
Jamie: That's really far.
John: You want to be me someday? Then become something that can help me protect this place.
He wanted to be a cowboy, just like his dad, but excelling at school was turned against him so he could prepare to represent the family as the country changed, moving away from lives like the Duttons and forcing out individual ranchers and farmers.
Jamie: What do you want me to become?
John: A lawyer.
Jamie: You always say that you don't respect lawyers.
John: Well, become one that I can.
Jamie: Why a lawyer?
John: Lawyers are the swords of this century. Words are weapons now. I need you to learn how to use 'em.
John was preparing him for a battle of a kind Jamie had never even considered.
And even though Beth has been impressed with the amount of data Jamie can make sense of in that head of his, every move he's made is for his dad, and when John lost faith in him, Jamie lost faith in himself.
John wanted Jamie to sue the crap out of Sarah and her magazine, but was that a realistic goal when John didn't have faith in Jamie? He spent years making him into a political candidate to get angry when he wasn't at the ranch to act on behalf of the family.
You know, your father's ranch isn't a kingdom, Jamie, and he isn't a king. And you. Running for an office that allows you to rewrite the rules to your father's liking? You know, your family deserves to lose everything. I can't tell you the pleasure that it gives me to be the one taking it. No man should have this much land. It should be a park or a game preserve. And when I'm done, maybe it will.Sarah
Jamie lost everything he had spent years trying to achieve, but even after all of that, when someone attacks the ranch, he can't walk away.
The combination of his downfall and Sarah's part in it drove him right to the edge, and Jamie couldn't stop.
While I have no first-hand experience of falling off the edge like Jamie did when he killed Sarah, I've often wondered what the hell goes through someone's mind when they can't claw their way back to sanity.
At the moment it all goes too far, what is going through your mind? It seems like Yellowstone did an excellent job getting it right.
Jamie was shocked at what he'd done, but at the same time saw it through to the end when he realized the enormity of his actions.
Saying "I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry," over and over, while he strangled Sarah, was terrifying. I believed him. He was sorry. But when he let her push his buttons, he didn't see a way out of it.
It's not the first time Rip has been there for Jamie. When John was giving Jamie a pounding for not being there after Rip's run-in with the bear (and two tourists), Rip stepped between the two men to keep John from killing Jamie.
Jamie: Rip, please, as a friend. I've always treated you as an equal. Like a friend.
Rip: Yeah, you have.
Jamie: [crying] It didn't even feel like my hands. It's like I was above, watchin' it. I, I don't know what to do.
So Jamie joins Kayce in the family as another Dutton child to kill. Maybe Rip can help him understand the ramifications of it if he even gets it himself.
The saddest part has to be that John would have preferred another of his sons died. He admitted he didn't know how to move on from what happened after he put it together, but John doesn't know how to deal with much. Most of what gets done is done while he looks elsewhere.
Even after John and Kayce promised things would get better for him at the ranch, Rip still managed to use him as the possible scapegoat for Jamie's actions.
If you watch Yellowstone online you might wonder how much what happened between Beth and Walker factored into Rip's decision to use Walker in that way. Walker complains a lot, sure, but he has been at the top of Rip's list to finish dirty deeds since arrived.
It still begs the question of how much John knows about what goes on at the ranch. Could Jamie have kept John from being an accessory to murder?
John knows about the brand and what it means to the Yellowstone wranglers. It's a free pass for the Yellowstone to use them as they see fit. In return, they get the power of the Yellowstone behind them when the shit hits the fan. But is it really enough?
Does anyone go into a murderous relationship fully understanding what it means?
Jamie will now have to find out what it means to carry such a heavy weight on his shoulders. Kayce has been carrying it for a lot longer, and opening up the floodgates at war clouded his judgment when it came time to do it again.
Walker: People like to think we ain't animals like we've evolved into something different. Prison teaches you real quick we haven't. You can forget bears and wolves and snakes and all that shit. We're the meanest fuckin' thing on this planet. Of allthe animals in the kingdom, we're the fuckin' worst.
Kayce: Yeah, I know.
Walker: I'm just tryin' to do things a little different, that's all.
Kayce: Yeah, me too.
Walker: This ain't different.
Kayce: You want different? What's your word worth?
Walker: It's worth my life.
Kayce: You give me your word that everything you saw and heard on this ranch stays with you. I'll give you mine the next time you come through here, I'll be runnin' it, and I'll do it different. And you'll be welcome back anytime.
Walker: Yeah, I reckon I outta stay away from here for a while.
Kayce: I'd recommend it.
Walker: I won't forget this. I owe you one.
Kayce: Yeah. Knowing this world, I'm sure you'll be able to return the favor.
Kayce has said many times he wants to do things differently than Rip. He got the chance to prove that sentiment when he let Walker go somewhere else other than the fantastical train station in the sky.
If the trail Rip left for Walker to take the fall is uncovered, how would Jamie react? Rip will think Walker is dead, but what if Walker gets hauled in for Sarah's murder? At some point, all of this illegal maneuvering has to bite the Yellowstone in the ass, and it seems like a prime opportunity.
Kayce has no idea what went down with Jamie or that Rip was working on his behalf. Letting go of Walker could have sealed the fate of his brother.
Given the circumstances, it was an opportune time to teach Tate how to hunt. But will going through the motions and taking life and even learning respect for it be enough to help if Tate ever finds himself in similar situations to Kayce, Jamie, or Rip?
That rifle has the power to take a life. Whatever you point it at. You know that, right? So if you know that, you also know you don't have the power to bring it back, do ya? Even if you wanted to, even if it was a mistake. It's not a trick question, Tate. You just gotta be sure before you pull the trigger because killin's the one thing you can't undo.John
There's no doubt that all three of them had the same lesson growing up. That hasn't stopped them from playing God in one way or another.
Tate was fired up to go hunting, but even with the warning, he wasn't prepared for what it meant for a buck to be there one second and gone the next.
Taking life isn't easily understood.
The idea behind it can seem legit, but until you take one, it is probably never fully realized. From what I understand, the theory behind hunting (not just for sport) is that you get respect for life and offers the opportunity to understand the consequences of taking a life.
But the look on Tate's face when the full realization hit him was heartbreaking.
Kayce: Hey, what's the matter buddy?
Tate: It's, it's that.
Kayce: It's OK. It's a big deal takin' a life, but everything on earth's gotta do it to survive. Even trees. The big ones kill all the smaller stuff beneath it.
John: Killin's the one thing everything on this planet does to survive, Tate. It's the one thing we all share. Now you share it, too.
Tate: Will something kill us too, grandpa?
John: Yeah, something will kill us, too, Tate. It might be a bacteria so small you need a microscope to see it. It might be a big old bear. There's no such thing dying of old age. Something kills us all.
It's a hell of a time to get a lesson on life and death just after your first kill, but there isn't a great time to reveal that everything is going to die.
Is the whole experience ominous? As I mentioned earlier, if Rip, Jamie, and Kayce all got the same lesson, well, it didn't do them a whole lot of good. They all still have a wonton disregard for life.
Now I have to wonder who might not make it to the end of Yellowstone Season 2.
But, there were some heartwarming moments on this episode, too. Jimmy has the heart that keeps everyone in line.
From the very first moment Jimmy got his feet wet as a wrangler, he's managed to keep his butt on a horse. He can't ride worth a darn, but when they put on him on a horse and set him free, the dude clung on for dear life.
That skill turned out to be something quite valuable, a lot more than whatever it was the wranglers were getting into on Yellowstone Season 2 Episode 5.
Jimmy: Rip? Did you see that?! Eight seconds!
Rip: [chuckles] Yeah, Jimmy, I saw.
Jimmy was so excited to do something well that even Rip couldn't help but let his guard down for a minute.
It always curls my toes when Rip gets soft. There is no mistaking how much he and Lloyd care for Jimmy.
Lloyd looks at Jimmy like a son, in much the same way he does at Rip, and the tender moments he exhibited teaching Jimmy how to follow in his footsteps were very emotional.
You could tell it was the first thing Jimmy had ever accomplished all on his own. He was so out of his element.
I have a feeling that gold buckle will play a big part in the show going forward because he's never going to take it off! It will be a source of pride, and it should be.
As chuffed as he was to get the cash, his eyes glazed over when he picked up the buckle. And Lloyd's started to water. Oh, the feels!
When Yellowstone returns, we have a sit-down between John, Jenkins, and Rainwater to look forward to now that he knows it was the Beck brothers who killed his cattle.
The way he put it to Jenkins left him little wiggle room; if John got taken down by the Becks, and John took down Jenkins, imagine what the Becks could do to Jenkins!
What do you expect will be Beth's reaction when she finds out what Jamie did? She's going to have to weigh in on that, right?
And correct me if I'm wrong, but in the short flash of a scene featuring Monica, it seemed like she was ready to commit to Kayce again come what may.
What are the most important factors to see to completion in the final four episodes of the season? Drop all of your thoughts below in the comments!
Carissa Pavlica is the managing editor and a staff writer and critic for TV Fanatic. She's a member of the Critic's Choice Association, enjoys mentoring writers, conversing with cats, and passionately discussing the nuances of television and film with anyone who will listen. Follow her on Twitter and email her here at TV Fanatic.