Yellowstone season 5, episode 7 recap – why does John need to move the herd?

By Jonathon Wilson
Published: December 19, 2022 (Last updated: January 25, 2024)
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Yellowstone season 5, episode 7 recap


“The Dream Is Not Me” sets up a lot of drama for the back half of the season as John finally faces viable threats both financial and political.

This recap of Yellowstone season 5, episode 7, “The Dream Is Not Me”, contains spoilers.

Yellowstone doesn’t abuse flashbacks as much as most shows do. In fact, they’re usually worth looking forward to, since they dispense important character backstories, set up spin-offs, and just otherwise help to tie the endless expanses of Dutton land to the history that built it – and the blood that watered it over several generations.

Yellowstone season 5, episode 7 recap

Blood is indeed spilled in the flashback sequence that opens “The Dream Is Not Me”. In it, a young Rip defends Beth’s honor against a cowboy who speaks ill of her, and when his opponent pulls a knife, Rip stoves his head in with a stone. When the man wakes in the night, spewing his guts up, he sends Rip for help and implores him to say he fell off his horse and got trampled by it. Better that than the trouble Rip would get in for telling the truth.

Rip, though, has sworn to tell John (Josh Lucas doing an amazing Costner impression) the truth whatever the cost. He does. And when they return to the scene of the crime and find the man dead, that truth costs Rip a lifetime of loyalty. This, as we’ll see, comes to matter in the present day.

Things aren’t much better in the present day either, to be fair. Jamie continues to be embarrassingly easy to manipulate, and Sarah is coaching him through a viable plan to remove John from his position as governor and take control of the ranch. They’re understandably frustrated that John keeps coming up smelling of roses despite the fact he isn’t doing any actual governing, which is a problem for Rainwater too, who is being faced with the possibility of a pipeline being dug right beneath Broken Rock Reservation’s drinking water reservoir – something that Montana’s governor should ideally be quite concerned with.

John has more pressing concerns, though, since a large swathe of his land, contaminated by trespassing bison, has infected the grazing cattle with brucellosis, and the state doesn’t like that. In fact, their standard response is to just cull the entire herd and refund the ranchers with a fraction of what the herd’s worth, which given all John’s current financial problems isn’t exactly ideal. But the solution isn’t financially sound either. John plans to relocate half the herd to leased land down south, where the winters aren’t so cold, but it’ll mean sending Rip and half his cowboys to babysit the cattle for about a year.

This is why that opening flashback was included. We have to understand why Rip’s loyalty to John would outweigh his responsibilities to his wife; why he’d up and leave for a year, no questions asked, just because John told him to. He won’t be alone – he picks Jake, Walker, Teeter, and Ryan to go with him, and they’re always happy to do more “cowboy sh*t” – but he will be far away from his loved ones, and he’d obviously rather not go. His immediate concern, though, is everyone else, so he pays for the whole gang to go to the county fair so that Colby can win Teeter a pink teddy bear and Ryan can say his farewells to Abby.

Beth is primarily concerned about what this means financially. Leasing the land will be a multi-million dollar hit that’ll require hefty loans, and the ranch only breaks even anyway – living cattle, it turns out, aren’t anywhere close to as valuable as dead ones, so she begins looking into potential solutions that involve selling their own beef. She also tells Rip she’ll be accompanying him to Texas, and at this point, everybody knows better than to argue with her.

Besides his financial woes, John does also seem to be politically vulnerable at this point, and it isn’t because he’s smooching Summer in public. No, it’s because Ellis Steele and Sarah inform Jamie about the Dutton land having been put in a conservation easement, which Jamie can technically legally overturn. However, he’ll need to get John impeached first, on the grounds that his self-serving decision-making could bankrupt the state. The episode ends with him reading out a drafted speech calling for exactly that, which Sarah, in her typical sultry fashion, happily approves.

You can catch Yellowstone season 5, episode 7, “The Dream Is Not Me”, exclusively on the Paramount Network.

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