A whole lot happens in Yellowstone Season 5, Episode 5, so let’s break down that sweeping ending that ties directly into the episode’s opening flashback.
Season 5, Episode 5 showcases many things, from Beth Dutton’s violent nature to the lifeblood of her family: cattle. Yet its the latter that finally takes center stage in “Watch ‘Em Ride Away.”
Indeed, it’s time to brand this year’s calves. The Dutton cowboys have been helping every ranch around the valley brand their own (as we saw in Episode 4), and now it’s the Yellowstone’s turn to get to work. In doing so, John (Kevin Costner) decides to kill two pressing birds with one stone. To accomplish the first ‘bird,’ John gathers every Dutton ranch hand and hired day worker he’s got, and prepares them to head way out to pasture, cowboy style. Everyone will be staying in tents, and Gator (Gabriel “Gator” Guilbeau) is to fetch the wagon. It’s about to get real 1883 on Yellowstone, because cowboying to brand cattle hasn’t changed much (if at all) in the last 140 years.
“Nobody knows what the hell we do anymore. It’s time we remind them. Have Gator pull out the wagon. I’m going to invite the whole damn county,” John decides. And this is how he’ll accomplish that second ‘bird.’ John plans to showcase what his family – and all ranchers – do for a living to the public. So he’ll host a media and political circus and show the world how alive this way of life still is.
What is ‘The Gathering’ on ‘Yellowstone’?
By the end of the episode, we’ve heard a lot of to-do over this “gathering,” which is exactly what it sounds like: the gathering of cattle by herding. Once gathered, this year’s calves will be branded with the infamous ‘Y’ brand so they can be identified from all other livestock in the valley.
If it sounds like a huge undertaking within the episode, that’s because it is. The Duttons own thousands of heads of cattle, and they can be spread out across thousands of acres as they graze the Yellowstone Dutton Ranch (which is, don’t forget, bigger than the state of Rhode Island).
To gather them all up will require a lot of manpower, hence the extra dayworkers and hired hands we briefly see throughout Yellowstone Season 5, Episode 5. It’ll also take time, which is why the cowboys plan to be out for at least a week.
Everyone forms up before John as the morning comes. It’s time to move out. And it is here that Yellowstone showcases how long this patriarch has been doing what he does best: drive cattle.
Season 5, Episode 5 Showcases How Long John Dutton Has Been Cowboying
Before Episode 5 ends, John gives the game plan to his cowboys like a general to his soldiers:
“We’ll ride up along Mount Chisholm, push ’em down into Lewis Creek, and hold ’em over night. If we’re lucky, we’ll get ’em all in one drive. No way to get a camp up there, so it’s empty stomachs and cold backs for a couple days. Yee haw.”John Dutton (Kevin Costner)
If it sounds familiar, that’s because it’s the same plan we heard him give a good twenty years prior during this episode’s opening flashback. “Watch ‘Em Ride Away” began with another trip back to the 1990s as young John Dutton (Josh Lucas) guides his ranch hands through the plan for that year’s gathering:
“We’re gonna trot out to Mount Chisholm, set camp there, then drive ’em down to Lewis Creek. Them old dries are gonna want to double back on yah, but just keep moving south. Then, we’ll hold ’em in the meadow, then push ’em down into the river.”Young John Dutton (Josh Lucas)
Back in present day, we watch the cowboys ride away at the end of the episode, including Kayce (Luke Grimes), Rip (Cole Hauser), and even Beth (Kelly Reilly). This leaves Summer (Piper Perabo) and Kayce’s wife, Monica (Kelsey Asbille) on the ranch, the latter of which is in tears as her husband and son, Tate (Brecken Merrill), ride off.
‘If it doesn’t make you cry to watch your family ride away, you probably shouldn’t have one’
“If it doesn’t make you cry to watch your family ride away, you probably shouldn’t have one,” Monica weeps to Summer as her family heads for the horizon. This gives the episode its name, while also showcasing how perilous (and long) these gatherings can become.
In Season 5, Episode 6, we’ll see how this year’s gathering works out, and how the media perceives the true life of Governor John Dutton.
Yellowstone returns next Sunday, Dec. 11 for Season 5, Episode 6, exclusively on Paramount Network.