Yellowstone season 1, episode 4 recap: ‘The Long Black Train’


On the last episode of Yellowstone, the Dutton clan got their cattle back from Thomas Rainwater and the nearby Native American tribe.

Meanwhile, Beth and Jamie were both embarking on political campaigns in Yellowstone. And Kayce rescued a girl from kidnappers on the Reservation and buried the perpetrators’ bodies in the desert.

As the fourth episode, “The Long Black Train” begins, construction workers on the Reservation have dug up human remains. They want the area cleared so they can continue working, but the Chief of Police and Rainwater seal the area off so they can investigate what happened. Could these be the bodies of the kidnappers Kayce killed in the previous episode?

On the Reservation, Kayce and Monica are dealing with the aftermath of the death of their sister-in-law, Robert Long’s wife, who committed suicide. Her parents are coming from Seattle to pick up her three children. Monica asks Kayce to take Tate away so he won’t see his cousins leave.

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At Yellowstone Ranch, one of the ranch hands, Mickey, tells another, Emmett, that John has colon cancer. According to him, his son is Dutton’s doctor and he removed two feet from John’s colon the previous week. Emmett asks John about his diagnosis and expresses concern about his role as Bureau of Land Management commissioner.

John says he no longer has cancer after his surgery and comments that there’s no one else who could take the commissioner job. He also swears Emmett to secrecy as Kayce enters.

Kayce passes Tate off to John and John entertains Tate by taking him to the river. As John teaches Tate to make a fire, Tate falls into the river. John jumps in and saves him.

At the reservation, Rainwater comes to see Kayce but finds Monica. Rainwater implies that he believes that Kayce’s behind all the random acts of violence taking place on the Reservation, including the bodies they found buried in the desert.

On the Ranch, Rip and the ranch hands are herding cattle in the fields. After getting thrown from his horse, Jimmy, the newest and least-experienced recruit, finds a stray calf.

Jimmy brings the calf back and another ranch hand, Fred, gets jealous. Later Fred confronts Jimmy and beats him up.

Rip notices the fight and beats Fred because, apparently, there’s not supposed to be any fighting on the Ranch. Jimmy shouts that he was the one who started it. But Rip branded Jimmy with a Yellowstone “Y” earlier, so he views Jimmy as protected. Rip shows the brand on Jimmy’s chest to everyone and says no one should touch a branded man. He then fires Fred,

After the altercation ends, Rip tells Jimmy that the other men just work there but the branded men die there. I’m sure that’s news to Jimmy since the terms and conditions of the branding weren’t exactly outlined before he received it.

After Kayce picks up Tate, Rip tells John that he fired Fred. Rip implies that Fred’s seen a lot on the Ranch and John tells him to deal with Fred, however, he sees fit.

John also instructs Rip to replace Fred with someone with a brand. He wants it to be someone from the prison. Apparently, John believes the brand isn’t earned, it’s something to live up to. So former prisoners are good at living up to the brand?

Fred is driven to the “train station” by one of the ranch hands. The man tosses Fred’s stuff over the side of a cliff and then shoots him in the head. What could Fred have seen working on the Ranch that deserved a death sentence?

On the way home, Kayce is pulled over by the police. They arrest him and take him away.

Meanwhile, Beth takes Jenkins to a cowboy bar where she gets him punched by two separate men. When Jenkins wants to leave, she refuses, saying she thought he’d be tougher.

Later, Rip meets Beth there and shows her he’s definitely tough.

As disjointed as the previous episodes of Yellowstone were, this one is the first to feel mostly like filler. The major plot centered on the ranch hands, Jimmy and Fred. Yet, Jamie who we saw more than usual last episode was nowhere to be found, and Beth was relegated to a side plot where she verbally and emotionally eviscerated people as usual.

Meanwhile, we learned about John’s cancer, although we had no hint that he was sick in previous episodes. Also, the law is catching up to Kayce, although it previously seemed like Rainwater might give him a pass.

It’s hard to fathom why the inner-workings of Yellowstone Ranch and John Dutton’s life are so top-secret that he’d keep his cancer diagnosis from everyone — or that this would even be possible — and that getting fired from the Ranch should lead to a worker’s death. The Duttons and their Ranch are awfully shady, but it’s difficult to understand why John and Rip act like they’re the horseback-riding mafia.

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Also, once again different plot lines come and go seemingly at random with no consistent mix of characters or even understandable motivations across episodes.

We’ll see how things continue to develop on next week’s episode of Yellowstone. In the meantime, you can catch up on our third episode recap, and stream the series on the Paramount Network.