“An Acceptable Surrender” does serious harm to a fan-favorite character, and the scale of the Duttons’ problems becomes clear.
This recap of Yellowstone season 3, episode 3, “An Acceptable Surrender”, contains spoilers. You can check out our thoughts on the previous episode by clicking these words.
There’s a reason that John Dutton has spent much of the first three episodes of this season out in the wilderness with Tate, and it isn’t so we can get to know both of them better, although that’s a pleasant consequence. The real reason, I suspect, is that we have to swallow a tough pill in believing that John really is a humble man of the land after spending two prior seasons watching him recline in his sprawling ranch, fly around on his private helicopter, and pull strings within government and elsewhere to ensure that the Duttons’ seventh-generation grip on Yellowstone remains tight. “An Acceptable Surrender” sees Ellis Steele lay out to Governor Lynelle Perry Providence Hospitality Management’s plans for an airport and ski resort smack-bang in the middle of privately-owned Montana, and he’s letting both her and the audience know that he won’t be taking no for an answer.
Steele’s counter – echoed later by Roarke Morris, once again confronted by Beth while fishing – to the idea of John not wanting to sell up is that he’ll be made incredibly wealthy, and for us to believe that won’t appeal to John we have to believe that he doesn’t care about wealth. And for us to believe he doesn’t care about wealth we have to feel as though he isn’t already preposterously wealthy, which would put him in the same bracket as the slick money men vying for his territory. Thus, he’s out camping, loving the retired life, and helping Tate to save baby elk by urinating nearby and throwing off the wolves.
Luckily, Taylor Sheridan is really, really good at writing aimless flavour dialogue that puts this point across, and Kevin Costner is really good at snarling it out. So it’s getting easier to believe that John Dutton is just a decent salt-of-the-earth type just trying to enjoy his retirement, especially since he’s now apparently laidback enough to take the whole family to watch Jimmy rodeo – even if he is meeting Governor Perry there to discuss a problem and a solution.
That’s where “An Acceptable Surrender” comes in: It’s what Perry proposes since, with the prospect of 40,000 new homeowners pumping billions of tax dollars into Montana’s economy, it’s inevitable that John will have to give up the land under Eminent Domain. The financial upside is too high for the Governor to turn it away, but if she appoints Jamie as the new attorney general and John replaces the livestock commissioner role with Kayce, it’ll ensure that the Duttons’ have enough bargaining power to be handsomely remunerated for their loss.
This stuff occupies a good chunk of Yellowstone season 3, episode 3, and it’s much more interesting than you’d think. The rest of the episode sees Jamie trying to cover up one of his agents unlawfully killing two horse thieves by flexing as a man of the people to the victim’s father, letting on that he had his daughter’s attackers killed as a personal favour to the working man so that the horse trailer gets a spring clean and everyone keeps their mouths shut. This business is classic Sheridan as well, and these deviations often don’t go anywhere, so it’s difficult to tell whether the favour that the rancher owes Jamie will ever have to be repaid or not. But either way, it’s a laugh to see hapless Jamie front as one of the people.
And then there’s poor old Jimmy, an enduring fan-favourite and classic lovable idiot archetype who last season discovered he had a particular talent for rodeo and in “An Acceptable Surrender” wants to cash in on it – an endeavour that the entire ranch turns up to support him in, including Rip and Beth, who finally get to be public with their relationship when John amusedly reveals that he knows perfectly well what they’ve been up to and doesn’t much mind. Things are going well for Jimmy. His adopted family have all turned up to support him in something he’s good at, and right before he’s due to ride, he meets a pretty girl named Mia who suggests he asks her out on a date. She accepts, and then when Jimmy goes out to ride he has a terrible accident and is ferried away in an ambulance.
So, is Jimmy dead? Can our hearts take it if he is? It’s difficult to answer either question at this point. But it’s an especially downbeat end to a generally melancholic episode, which only allows one or two moments of levity, mostly in the form of new rancher Teeter harassing Colby when they’re left alone to watch the herd. There’s a lot of doubt surrounding where this season might go, but based on what we know about Yellowstone, it’s very likely that Jimmy won’t be the last person to get hospitalized.