Yellowstone season 4, episode 4 recap – “Winning or Learning”

By Jonathon Wilson
Published: November 22, 2021 (Last updated: January 18, 2024)
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Yellowstone season 4, episode 4 recap - "Winning or Learning"


“Winning or Learning” is a slower-paced, more character-driven episode comprising many hard choices.

This recap of Yellowstone season 4, episode 4, “Winning or Learning”, contains spoilers.

Yellowstone has an almost unique ability to make land deals, long journeys, and corporate files in manila envelopes interesting, which is just as well for the latest episode, “Winning or Learning”, since that’s most of what it consists of. After an explosive start to the season, it’s nice to see the show wallow in its ambience, letting the characters bounce off one another while still, albeit gradually, furthering the overarching plot. There’s actually a big development made in that regard this week, but what’ll last about this instalment is what it has to say about the Dutton family and the complex, dangerous, perennially hostile world each of its members is forced to navigate.

Yellowstone season 4, episode 4 recap

Jimmy isn’t a Dutton, of course, but he might as well be at this point. “Winning or Learning” spends a lot of time with him as he ambles his way towards a spin-off set on Texas’s legendary 6666, or Four Sixes, ranch. He mails the checks from the sale of John’s new horses — his plan was to flip them for a profit to keep the ranch afloat — back to the Yellowstone, but can’t find the words for a letter to Mia along with them. He bonds a little with Travis. Eventually, he arrives at the Four Sixes, alone in the middle of land that extends to the horizon in all directions. We’ll see him again, but perhaps not in this show.

But Jimmy’s journey is important — he embodies the whole “winning or learning” path of life, one of two that Rip later lays out to Carter, who’s still in the doghouse after antagonising Beth last week. The other is losing “all the way to the f*cking grave”. Rip doesn’t seem the fatherly type, but as a man who doesn’t even know his own age or birthday, he’s pretty ideally suited to impart lessons about life’s harsh realities. This isn’t a great episode for Rip, either, while we’re on the subject, since he’s forced to sock Lloyd in the mouth after he picks a fight with Walker. He doesn’t want to, but there’s a rule about fighting on the Yellowstone — if you’re going to fight with someone, you fight with him, and he’ll fight you all goddamn day. If Carter learns nothing else from him, he might at least end up with a catchphrase.

Anyway, onto the meat. John meets up with Kayce for their now-obligatory morning ride, and passes on the information Rainwater gave him about Riggins, the convict doing a ten-stretch who was instructed to organize a hit on the Dutton family. As predicted, Kayce needs to get Jamie to pull a few strings with the Bureau of Prisons, and if he refuses, well… it’s an admission of guilt, as far as John’s concerned. But Kayce isn’t convinced. When he goes to see his brother, who is smugly refusing to cease development with Market Equities despite displacing citizens and wildlife and disrupting Montana’s longstanding natural order, they share a touching reunion. When Kayce asks for help, Jamie offers it, unflinchingly. He contacts the right people. He’ll meet with Riggins personally. Jamie claims to have never stopped looking out for the family, making sure that they never saw legal reprisal for the revenge they took on the militia, and Kayce is tempted to believe him. He certainly makes a strong case.

This isn’t Kayce’s only touching scene in “Winning or Learning”. He shares a couple with his father, and another with Monica and Tate, whom he suggests move back to Monica’s grandfather’s place on the reservation. She can’t pack her bags fast enough. It’s not a permanent solution, but it’s at least a way to get the two of them out of the house. John understands, even if he sits on the porch like the old man he is and watches them go with defeat in his eyes. When he tells Beth about it later, he laments the fact his children all have to leave in order to find happiness. As she points out, though, there’s never any peace at the Yellowstone. That might suit men like him and Kayce, and women like her, who aren’t exactly peaceful, but it isn’t for everyone.

Beth has other news for John — she has been offered a job. The scene in which this takes place is the best of the episode. Beth sits down with Market Equities’ CEO Caroline Warner and expects to brute-force her way through the meeting as she always does, but no such luck. Caroline, as she explains, climbed the corporate ladder when it was greased to stop women from doing so. “The big dog is off the porch now, Beth. And I will tear you to f*cking pieces.” Luckily, Caroline has a better idea. She’s aware of the land trust that Beth set up for the Yellowstone using Schwartz & Meyer, a minority investor with no controlling interest, as a front. And she wants Beth to sell it. Both of them know that the ranch is going to be lost eventually. Of course, as long as John is alive, Beth can’t — and won’t — sell. So Caroline has a counteroffer. If Beth goes to work for Market Equities and finds her some riper Montana territory, maybe she won’t need the Yellowstone. Caroline wants to develop a destination town in every valley, but the only way she can do that is with an insider who can help Montana realize that its only resource of worth is the fantasy of the West. Beth agrees, but in exchange for an offer that — she thinks — Market Equities can’t accept. She wants Caroline’s controlling interest in Schwartz & Meyer so she can use it to bankrupt and fire Jamie.

But Jamie might have other things to worry about. When he sits down with Riggins’ file, he makes a discovery. One of his former cellmates was his biological father, Garrett. That means that dear old dad just topped the likeliest list of suspects behind the attempted assassination of the Duttons.

You can stream Yellowstone season 4, episode 4, “Winning or Learning”, on Paramount.

Paramount+, TV, Weekly TV
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