On “Yellowstone,” John Dutton (Kevin Costner) is the patriarch of the Dutton family and the owner of the biggest contiguous ranch in the country. He is also a sixth-generation rancher who is determined not to sell the land his father bequeathed to him. Dutton had four children – Lee, Beth, Jamie and Kayce – one of whom died in the first episode.
Spoiler alert: the following contains plot details that may ruin the suspense. If you haven’t watched the first three seasons, they are available online and well worth seeing.
Here are Dutton’s three most pivotal moments as “Yellowstone” fans wait for Season 4 to air later in 2021.
Dutton Survives a Ruptured Ulcer
Dutton is a colon cancer survivor, but he guards that secret jealously because he fears for his political fortunes. He has had a tumor removed in the past. Then one of the doctors who treated him got to talking, and Dutton’s secret began to leak out.
So when Dutton starts experiencing symptoms – abdominal pain, coughing up blood – he doesn’t want to return to the doctor’s office. Instead, he keeps his suffering to himself and tries (without success) to hide his pain from those around him.
Finally, he collapses near the barn on a day when the veterinarian is visiting to treat the livestock. The veterinarian does a quick X-ray and finds an ulcer that needs to be operated on immediately. She treats Dutton, and then he is whisked off by helicopter to a hospital for humans. He survives, but his doctor chides him for staying away, causing a problem that could have been treated with a pill to grow into one that needed emergency surgery.
Dutton realizes that he’s been living like there’s no tomorrow, and that has led to a mess of problems that he now needs to fix. But the experience changes his outlook in a fundamental way.
Dutton Shoots Malcolm Beck
As “Yellowstone” villains go, the Beck brothers are arguably the worst so far. They send two men to assault Beth, kidnap Dutton’s grandson Tate (Brecken Merrill) to deposit him with abusive white nationalists and kill off developer Dan Jenkins (Danny Huston).
The pair are reportedly based on two real brothers, but show creator Taylor Sheridan won’t say which ones. “I don’t need them showing up at my house,” he told Deadline.
As Season 2 builds to its finale, the brothers embark on a spree of psychopathic bullying, forcing Dutton to form alliances with old enemies to take them out. He marshals the entire Dutton ranch to search for Tate and do what it takes to bring him back.
Kayce hunts down Malcolm’s brother Teal (Terry Serpico) and unflinchingly kills him. The information Teal shares before he dies leads them on bit of a wild goose chase. When they finally track Malcolm (Neal McDonough) down, Dutton shoots him, but doesn’t kill him.
As Malcolm is lying on the grass, Dutton offers him mercy and persuades him to give up Tate’s location. Malcolm then spurns the offer to go to a hospital and tells Dutton he wishes they had never met.
Dutton Appoints Kayce Livestock Commissioner
Dutton serves as a livestock commissioner when “Yellowstone” begins. But in Season 3, he decides to give the job to Kayce (Luke Grimes). At first his son balks, but Governor Lynelle Perry (Wendy Moniz) eventually persuades Kayce to take over his father’s position.
Initially, Kayce accepts the duty reluctantly. But he soon comes to enjoy the role, and before long he has an office full of local ranchers thanking him for his work protecting them.
Grimes told Monsters & Critics last month that Kayce and his father are moving gradually toward figuring each other out. And the livestock commissioner development is a major part of that.
“Kayce and John have a strained relationship when you first meet them. And as the series unfolds, you figure out more and more why that is,” he said. “There’s always a pattern of them mending that, seeing eye-to-eye, and figuring each other out. Those have actually been some of my favorite scenes, just filling each other in on who they’ve become.”
As for Kayce’s papa, he couldn’t be prouder. In one poignant scene, Dutton tells Kayce it’s nice to see a plan work out for once – implying, in other words, that he seems to be settling into his new role quite nicely. Kayce tells his father to have a good day. Dutton responds that he doesn’t have any more of those left.