“I Want to Be Him” feels, at times, like the second half of a two-hour episode, resolving some of the threads introduced last week. The biggest development, of course, is the delayed confrontation between Jamie and his biological father, who fully owns up to arranging to kill Jamie’s family. It’s a scene that unequivocally establishes Garrett Randall as a total monster, a manipulator who’s no better as a father than John.
I do have to say that I’m skeptical Jamie would be won over so quickly to Garrett’s case after just a couple minutes of bullshitting, especially when Garrett explicitly states his intention to keep trying to kill the Duttons until it works. It’s a smart idea for him to turn Jamie against Kayce, the one person in the family who still shows him any love or respect — but so quickly, when the last time we saw them interact was one of the warmest scenes in the whole show? And what about all the other innocents whom the militia tried to kill, like Kayce’s wife and son? How can you justify that? Then again, we’ve seen how easily Jamie can be controlled. As much as he insists everything he’s doing is for himself now, he’s just under another abusive dad’s sway without realizing it.
Jamie’s ex and their son are nowhere to be seen this week, though, a strange absence after their reunion last time. In fact, Jamie’s only other scene is the same confrontation with Beth we’ve seen a million times before: Beth shows up unannounced to gloat about whatever new power play she’s made (this time her new job at Market Equities) and promise to ruin Jamie in some creative way. It’s beyond stale at this point. In fact, Beth really isn’t at the top of her game this episode; she just comes across as an immature brat when she snipes at Summer over breakfast, especially when she was the one who wanted John to get laid in the first place. “I hope you die of ass cancer” is a pretty weak barb for Beth.
And yeah, you read that right: off-screen, John and Summer consummated a romance I wasn’t even sure would become a romance! I like the idea of seeing more of John’s dating life, but so far, Summer is such a caricature of a hippie activist girl. The script makes her annoying and naïve, questioning the Duttons’ way of life without actually knowing the slightest thing about ranching. So we get all these scenes of John surprising her with his depth and care while she just pouts, seemingly annoyed with anything that alters her way of thinking. How does this new story challenge John in any way? Is there really a point in introducing a female liberal activist character just to teach her what she’s missing?
Kayce spends most of “I Want to Be Him” living in domestic bliss, moving into a new house with Monica and Tate. Their biggest source of tension this episode is a little benign jealousy when Kayce runs into Avery, the Yellowstone’s first female ranch hand from season two. With most of the larger plot drama on hold, the main source of tension currently lies in the bunkhouse. It’s an unusual and potentially interesting configuration for this show. Lloyd’s petty grudge against Walker has fully spiraled out of control now; he snaps again and smashes Walker’s guitar, then brandishes a knife and stabs him just above the heart.
John’s final solution, carried out by Rip, is to force them to fight it out once and for all as if Walker’s unprovoked stabbing wasn’t enough pain in 24 hours. And fight it out they do — for hours. By the end, Walker has resigned himself to little spurts of counterattacks, but Lloyd is still whaling on him. I’m not sure how either of them makes it out alive without any serious wounds, especially the guy who just got stitched up.
In the end, Rip follows through with his usual MO and beats Lloyd up a little more for good measure, moments after hugging him and saying he loves him. It’s an ending that makes sense. The problem is … didn’t we do this already? Lloyd already attacked Walker two episodes back, and Rip already broke it up before smacking Lloyd down himself. That episode even seemed to end with Lloyd resignedly accepting his circumstances. So why are we still spending so much time on it, even repeating the same beats?
It remains to be seen if the cycle is broken or not; we could be headed for a dark ending with Rip tragically taking Lloyd to the train station a couple of weeks from now, disposing of him the way Lloyd has disposed of their enemies for 30 years. Nothing seems to have stuck so far. And John’s decision-making does seem shaky here when he impulsively bans all girls from the bunkhouse. This could be the latest example of John’s old-fashioned way of doing things falling short.
I’m usually in support of any acknowledgment of John’s faults, even when it comes from a hypocrite like Garrett Randall. So I’d like to see some of his mistakes have some real, long-lasting consequences, something more than a temporary incapacitation or the more general dread of losing the place he’s too proud to give up willingly. That’s where the heart of the show is, and it remains John’s greatest motivator this season — but it’d still be nice to get some real, concrete action going in these final few episodes.
The Last Round-Up
• Carter Corner: I appreciate Lloyd’s continued bond with Carter, and it’s nice to see Carter come to admire John by the end of the episode, even if his claim that he wants to be him comes a little quickly. But I continue to be puzzled by how all the dialogue acts like Carter betrayed Beth in some major way. Lloyd tells him he needs to apologize to her better, but … for what? Ungratefully wanting a shirt?
• I’m curious to see Colby’s reaction to Teeter leaving the bunkhouse. This week’s dialogue clarifies that the two of them have kept up a relationship of some kind since their kiss last season, but they aren’t official.
• Has Kayce been following up with Jamie about Terrell Riggins? It feels like this season must be building toward a big John-Riggins faceoff, with the ultimate test of Jamie’s allegiance, but I’m not sure what the mechanism to get there is when John and Kayce seem to have lost any urgency since taking out the militia.
• Rip has a place in mind to marry Beth, somewhere that can be their own. Going back a couple of episodes, is Beth still planning to throw him his first birthday party, or was that conversation a total throwaway scene?
• Also, is Beth actually doing any work at Market Equities? We haven’t seen Caroline Warner or Ellis Steele in a while. Did Chief Rainwater agree to Warner’s deal and end the stall in construction?
• Jimmy continues to settle in at the Four Sixes, finally teaching himself how to rope. Again, the Texas scenes can be quite peaceful and pretty, but this story feels like a separate show, which it kind of is.