This one really has us scratching our heads. In a highly active thread on ‘Yellowstone’s subreddit, fans are debating the true significance of John’s Season 2 finale gift to ever-loyal Rip Wheeler. At first glance, the letter – read aloud to Rip by Beth – seems to confirm everything Rip Wheeler has ever wanted out of life on the Yellowstone ranch, as does the cabin John gives him. But is there far more at play here? Fans certainly think so.
“They killed all the militia men and rescued Tate. Why did John write that letter and give it to his daughter, who then read it aloud to Rip?” the thread’s poster begins. “The letter said something about John’s sons ‘kept dying and quitting, but he had enough sons after all’… Then Beth told Rip that house was his, and Rip started crying because John said he was his son in the letter?” the Redditor continues. “It just seemed like an odd and random thing to throw into that episode. Am I missing something?”
Maybe you are, Redditor. And maybe we are, too. A swiftly upvoted top comment aims to clarify the situation with: “I think that scene was meant to show that John thought of Rip as family since in a previous episode Rip told Beth that he considered them family even if they don’t feel the same.”
“I can’t risk you, son…”
Nothing, however, is ever this simple on ‘Yellowstone,’ is it? Can John truly think of Rip as a son? Or is he telling him as much to keep his loyalty in check? There’s no doubt in this author & viewer’s mind that John loves Rip on some level – but it is not the same love he holds for his blood kin. If it were, he would never send Rip to his death on a near-weekly basis as he does.
John confirms this to us on multiple occasions with his own words. “I can’t risk you, son,” he says to Kayce – his only remaining biological son. Has John ever pulled back on risking Rip’s life? Not once. In fact, it is exactly what he expects of Rip.
‘Yellowstone’ Viewers Continue to Struggle with John & Rip’s Relationship
Sharp viewers are noticing this as they re-watch ‘Yellowstone’ seasons 1-3, too. As a result, many believe the letter and gift were simply a ploy to keep Rip loyal – instead of a pure-hearted gift to a son. Yet we’ve got to keep in mind, too, that if Rip and Beth actually do get married, then Rip will become a true member of the family.
Regardless, Rip’s loyalty to John hasn’t been completely blind. As one Redditor notes: “I will say there was one moment, after Kayce told Rip and Lloyd they’d be in the back during the cattle drive in season 2, Rip told Lloyd this was just a reminder that they were tools and nothing more. Granted, that was before John gave Rip the cabin and then immediately sent him directly into gunfire because he ‘couldn’t spare’ Kayce, the golden child. So, it could just be that was the sloppy writing poking it’s head out again…”
Fans are also looking to Season 3’s treatment of Rip for clues. Rip has, among many other things, had to return to the bunkhouse – courtesy of Kayce’s orders.
“Is Rip part of family meals? Has John started bringing him into a role running the ranch? I have no doubts that John is very fond of Rip and trusts him to follow his orders. I also have no doubts that John does not think of Rip as one of his children or heirs,” another Redditor cites of Season 3.
What say you, fellow Outsiders? Has Rip’s life after John rescued him as a teenager been more or less the life of a servant? Or does a deeper understanding, loyalty, and love run both ways?