Yellowstone Season 5, Episode 6, “Cigarettes, Whiskey, a Meadow and You,” hit Sunday, and a whole lot went down. One major thru-line, however, tied it all together neatly: exploring the heritage of the Duttons.
As every other member of the Yellowstone world heads out for the gathering, only Monica (Kelsey Asbille) and Summer (Piper Perabo) are left on the ranch. Summer, who’s still sporting the hefty bruises of her brawl with Beth (Kelly Reilly), gets to know the Dutton world a whole lot better through Monica’s guidance. The bulk of their conversation happens within a wagon camp straight out of 1883, too, where real-life Yellowstone cook Gator makes another return preparing a feast fit for an emperor. Or governor, rather.
Yet it’s what happens next that perfectly connects the Dutton heritage from Yellowstone to 1883. Later in the day, Monica finds Summer in the Yellowstone Dutton Ranch graveyard. It’s the family graveyard, more aptly, where generations of Duttons were buried after their fight to keep this land ended.
In Yellowstone, we first saw Lee Dutton (Dave Annable) buried here as the series began. Then, some five years on, we watched as baby John Dutton IV was put to rest alongside his grandfather’s horse in an Indigenous ceremony. As Summer explores the centuries of Dutton burials, she eventually spots this freshly-built burial mound. But not before examining three graves that are far, far older.
‘Yellowstone’ Reveals Gravestones of James, Margaret, and Elsa Dutton, Solidifying Their Fates
Fascinatingly, this sequence also reveals the gravestones of 1883’s James, Margaret, and Elsa Dutton to us as Summer discovers them. Each is spattered with blood, signaling the violent, tragic legacy of this family. Firstly, Summer comes across a headstone which reads ‘Our Father’ at the top, which reveals a very important year to the Yellowstone universe.
“Who is this?” Summer asks Monica as she touches the tombstone.
“I don’t know. The first, I think,” Monica replies ambiguously. At first glance, it appears to read JOHN DUTTON and not JAMES DUTTON, especially when the spacing of the letters is considered. Whichever it reads, the ‘Our Father’ at the top solidifies this as the grave of James Dutton (Tim McGraw), while also revealing the year of his death: 1893.
Perhaps James was the middle name of the Tennessee native, and John was his first name? It is common for a son to go by their middle name when baring the same name as their father, after all. And there are certainly many John Duttons in this family tree. Could James’ first name actually be John, bringing the legacy of that family name that much further back? Or is his first-born son the first of that name? Perhaps we’ll find out in 1923, as James Badge Dale gives life to John Dutton “Sr.” in his prime.
Regardless, we now know the year in which James Dutton died. This would place that heartbreaking Yellowstone Season 4 flashback featuring his death from a gunshot wound firmly in 1893 – a decade after he and his family founded the ranch in 1883.
Fate of Margaret Dutton To Be Revealed
Matching James’ grave is the ‘Our Mother’ atop his wife’s tombstone. Here lies Margaret Dutton (Faith Hill), who lived on to take care of her sons, John and Spencer, as best she could. Margaret’s date of death, however, is conveniently obscured. The reason? You’ll have to watch the premiere of 1923 to find out.
Resting in-between her mother and father is Elsa Dutton, the first of the family to be buried on this land, and the founder of the Yellowstone Dutton Ranch dream. Her grave is older, as she died 10 years before her father as the events of 1883 came to a close. Erosion has worn away most of her name as a result, but the ‘E’ is unmistakable.
‘1923’ Continues Legacy of ‘1883’ Characters
Elsa’s tombstone is less of a revelation, as 1883 broke our hearts by showing us her slow death on-screen. Yet seeing it is a moving reminder of her legacy, as is being buried between her doting parents:
In this photo lie the three main characters of 1883. Their family legacy was left in the hands of tiny John Dutton (5-year-old Audie Rick in 1883). Margaret would, however, later give him an ally and little brother in Spencer Dutton. So far, we’ve only met Spencer in Yellowstone Season 4 flashbacks as a child. But 1923 is set to change that.
Both John and Spencer survive World War I and into Prohibition-era America. And we can only hope these two shed further light on their past – as well as their future.
Yellowstone returns next Sunday, Dec. 18 for Season 5, Episode 7. A special simulcast premiere event of 1923 will follow, so be sure to tune in exclusively on Paramount Network.