“I Killed A Man Today” is Yellowstone firing on all cylinders – things are really heating up as we race towards the end of the season.
This recap of Yellowstone season 3, episode 8, “I Killed a Man Today”, contains spoilers. You can check out our thoughts on the previous episode by clicking these words.
I’m glad that I’ve remained an enthusiastic defender of Taylor Sheridan’s Yellowstone over the last couple of years, and I genuinely feel like when it’s firing on all cylinders it’s one of the best shows airing right now. It’s episodes like “I Killed A Man Today”, in which things finally happened in this season, that seems to prove I’m onto something. But there’s still a matter I very much don’t understand about this season, and that’s the idea that the Duttons are broke.
Not broke broke, obviously, but broke enough that the ranch is due to go under in a couple of years since it’s only making enough to handle the property tax. Hasn’t it been a pretty major plot point throughout the first two seasons that the Duttons are crazy, supervillain wealthy? Where has that private helicopter gone? Tate even makes an explicit point in this episode of saying that Kayce is broke. Since when? He’s no longer living on the reservation and he’s gainfully employed as the livestock commissioner – surely he’s less broke now than he was before?
I raise all this since it’s pretty integral to the season’s overarching land-grab narrative, which requires the Duttons to be broke in order to justify Market Equities’ lucrative offer of half a billion dollars for their expansive acreage. Until now, there hasn’t been any reason to believe that John wouldn’t just tell the greedy venture capitalists to get off his lawn and task his offspring with making sure they do in a variety of entertaining ways. But with this additional financial context, the stakes are different. John isn’t just deciding whether or not he wants to give up his land anymore. He’s going to lose the land anyway; his decision now is whether he sells a good chunk of it for enormous profits, or whether he goes gradually broke and dies a pauper, with no lasting legacy for Tate to inherit.
The obvious decision is to sell, and now we’re here, I’m glad that Sheridan spent so much time in creating a scenario in which all of John’s kids, and even John himself, are able to see this. Jamie takes the Market Equities offer to Kayce, who is a beloved local celebrity after his recent exploits, and explains to him the upsides of taking the deal and the downsides of refusing it. He also explains that the deal has to be presented to John by Beth, and since Beth hates Jamie, it has to be presented to her by Kayce. This all makes perfect sense within the established character dynamics, and when Beth eventually does take John the deal, she even makes a point of explaining that despite her hatred of Jamie it’s useful to have him legislating on Montana’s behalf, which he won’t be able to do due to a conflict of interest should John reject the deal and force the state to enact eminent domain.
Yellowstone season 3, episode 8 also makes a strong case for this being the only option by laying out how even Beth’s maverick short-selling of stocks, rumor-mongering and team-up with Angela Blue Thunder isn’t really making a dent on Willa Hayes, who admires her spirit and craziness but has the full might of Montana behind her. As Jamie explains to Kayce, the jobs and economic boost that would come from a ski resort and an airport are in the state’s best interests. The powers that be want this to happen.
John, though, won’t give an inch. Not one. He made a promise that he wouldn’t sell this land, and he’d rather lose it than break that promise. He opines to Beth that there must be another way. But is there?
“I Killed A Man Today” doesn’t confirm or deny, but it does reveal what its title is about. And it involves Monica, of all people, who breaks down on the side of the road and ends up stranded, only to be picked up by an obvious creeper. This really seems like it’s going to be another of Sheridan’s out-of-nowhere subplots, and it seemed all too easy to make an already underused Monica the victim of a sexual assault for easy drama. But that’s not at all what’s going on here. She’s instead working a sting operation for Chief Rainwater in order to take out the serial killer and rapist from the missing-persons investigation a couple of episodes ago. After chasing her and accosting her, the perpetrator ends up dead.
Naturally, she blames herself, and a later conversation with Kayce about them both keeping secrets to protect the other (she didn’t tell him what she was up to; he didn’t tell her about his rustler raid, although it’s all over the papers) is a bit unfairly weighted against her. “I Killed A Man” doesn’t really get into the interiority of her new vigilantism, so I hope it’s brought up again in subsequent episodes.
Admittedly, Kayce’s development into a responsible man has been a big part of this season, and we’re getting a similar trajectory for Rip, who becoming a much softer fellow, which isn’t going unremarked upon. He’s getting married and asks Lloyd to be his best man. He lets a useless horse go free, and Lloyd says explicitly that he’s a big softy. And when they go out drinking in a local bar, he gets all teary, especially when Walker returns as a musician, prompting Lloyd to comment on the fact he’s supposed to be dead. The implication is pretty clear.
What I’m still confused about is where we’re going with the whole Wade and son subplot, which also gets some development in Yellowstone season 3, episode 8 that intersects with Teeter and Colby, of all people. John’s nemesis catches the two of them skinny dipping and tramples them with his horse as a message to John; when the mugging is over, we see neither of them break the surface of the water. It’s unlikely both are dead since it wouldn’t be much of a message if they were, but this is an act that demands retaliation. I hope we get it soon.
Jonathon is the Co-Founder of Ready Steady Cut and has been Senior Editor and Chief Critic of the outlet since 2017.