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Kayce Dutton and other characters are forced to deal with death in latest ‘Yellowstone’ episode

Death makes its presence known through the entire episode; and it’s heartbreaking.

Luke Grimes in character as Kayce Dutton wearing a cowboy hat
via IMDb/Emmerson Miller/Paramount

Yellowstone fans tuned into a new episode Sunday night called “Tall Drink of Water,” but a more fitting title might have been something to do with the heartbreaking and life-altering effect that death can have on a person or a family, especially the Duttons.

Okay, maybe that would have been too wordy a title, but you get the idea. The episode we tuned into was laced with death at every turn, and how it imposes itself upon you when you least expect it.

In this episode, it first rears its head when Beth and John share a talk on the porch

“You can love a memory all you want, but it can’t love you back,” she tells him before heading off to Salt Lake. What John doesn’t see next is that she cries in the car before pulling out of the driveway, sitting with death just long enough to feel its impact on her life, now and in the years since her mother’s accident. It’s a familiar friend to her at this point, and an enemy, too. 

Monica and Kayce lost their son in the season five premiere of Yellowstone, and they’re still very much learning how to process that pain. Death bites again in the moments they share as they attempt to plan a ceremony for their son. 

Reaching out to Chief Rainwater and his right-hand man, Mo, they ask for help in doing things right by their culture and by their son, John. Telling the leaders that their current home is a rental, they’ve decided to lay him to rest at the ranch.

Mo says they’ll need a “four-legged” to take him on the journey; a horse. Rainwater notes that their son’s spirit needs a horse to take him to the other side. Kayce is upset that they’ll have to kill a horse, but Mo assures them that a horse will be ready when their son’s spirit is. 

It’s heartbreaking, but the idea that he won’t be going to the other side alone is slightly comforting. 

Rainwater tells them that death is private, “perhaps the one thing we do alone.” He tells them the ceremony is private too, not for anyone else in their family; it’s for John to be sent off the “right way.” This means that the ceremony isn’t even for grieving, including from his parents; it’s for nothing else in the world but for the little boy they lost. 

Death also impacts Kayce by “making a choice,” and fans realize this has something to do with his vision quest. He’s making a choice: to give up his title as Livestock Commissioner and find work that doesn’t hurt him or Monica every time he does it. Kayce feels a deep sense of responsibility for the loss of their son for not being there when she was experiencing cramps. 

Mo reminds him that he did a lot of good as Livestock Commissioner, but Chief Rainwater says he understands his choice. In the moments after, we hear things breaking in the kitchen; and death once again makes its presence known. Monica is feeling the weight of her loss, and it’s too much to bear. She goes from chopping vegetables to cutting off her hair and sobs on the floor as she clutches her stomach. It’s the most brutally honest moment we’ve seen of her dealing with the loss, and we know it won’t be the last one. 

Kayce must look on from the porch, being told she has to do this alone, death once again stepping in and calling the shots. 

Another way death laced itself through the episode was when agents greeted Rip from the Fish and Wildlife Service, looking to take him on a ride to find out what was happening with the wolves. Yep, the animals they killed came back around to bite them, just as we suspected they might.

Luckily, Rip is a brilliant man and was able to throw him off of their scent, for now at least, but nothing is ever cut and dry at the Yellowstone. 

Be it the loss of a life that was yet to be lived truly or the loss of animals at the ranch, death has left several a fingerprint at the Yellowstone Dutton Ranch, and we’ve certainly not seen the last of it yet. 

About the author

Ashley Marie

Ashley Marie is a staff writer, beat leader, Disney fanatic, and Yellowstone expert. When she's not filling her friends in on all the entertainment news they can handle, she's drinking her go-to Starbucks order — a caramel macchiato, thank you — and wishing she was at Disney World or spending time at the Yellowstone Dutton Ranch. With a focus on positivity and kindness in journalism, Ashley has been writing for a decade and hopes to keep bringing you articles for decades to come.