There are certain things about Thanksgiving that we can rely on each year, creature comforts that help us mark the passage of time. The familiar plop of cranberry sauce falling out of its can, photos posted to social media showing the nastiest plate of food you’ve ever seen, and the annual panic around having to think of something to talk about with the older men in your life.
Fathers, uncles by blood, uncles by marriage, that guy who gets called a cousin but is really just some dude your dad grew up with — these men are always at Thanksgiving, and they are always talking about something you’re not super interested in. If you don’t feel like explaining your job or your dating life to one of these men, the best way to deflect is to get them talking about something they love. At this time of year, football is always a safe bet, but you can only say “How ‘bout them Bills” so many times before you feel the light drain from your eyes.
Here is my suggestion to you: Talk to these men about Yellowstone. Do you know what Yellowstone is? It’s cable’s number one television show, and I would bet good money that an older man at your Thanksgiving table is watching it and dying to talk about it. Taylor Sheridan’s western soap opera about ranchers in Montana is now in its fourth season, and its premiere earlier this month drew almost 13 million viewers (compare that to Succession’s 1.4 million premiere viewers, you coastal elitist piece of shit); your dad is probably one of them. It is the dad-est show since Ray Donovan. Perhaps practice talking about Yellowstone with him first, and then you can move on to each of the other men as you see fit.
Oh, but you’ve never seen a single episode of Yellowstone. Here’s the beautiful thing: you don’t have to have seen a single episode to make this work. You just need to have your talking points set, then your dad will be off to the races and you can sit back and eat stuffing while he talks about the trials and tribulations of the Dutton family.
What I’ve crafted for you today is a Yellowstone cheat sheet broken up into levels based on how in-depth you want to get. Whether you want to remain surface-level or you want to really get into it with your dad about the intricacies of season three’s stock shorting subplot, there’s something in here for you. But first, let’s go over the basics of TV’s hottest show that you have not seen a single frame of.
Yellowstone focuses on the Duttons, a family that owns the largest contiguous ranch in the United States. The patriarch of the family is John (Kevin Costner), who is very gruff and also has colon cancer in season one, so he is trying to figure out which of his children will take over the ranch that has been in his family since the 19th century. His kids are Jamie (Wes Bentley), Beth (Kelly Reilly), and Kayce (Luke Grimes). Kayce is pronounced like “Casey” — if you mispronounce this your dad will immediately know you are bluffing. There is a fourth Dutton child, Lee (David Annable), but he is killed by Kayce’s brother-in-law in the pilot. Sorry, but there will obviously be Yellowstone spoilers in this cheat sheet. I know you weren’t really going to watch it so I assume this is fine.
Every season of Yellowstone is about approximately one million things that include but are not limited to: the Duttons’ relationship with the Indigenous community, traumatic brain injuries, shootouts, Montana politics, livestock, traumatic rodeo injuries, kidnapping, the vast beauty of the American west, traumatic abortions, money, bombs, business yuppies encroaching on hardworn Montana folk, finding out you were adopted, and cowboy hats. However, if you want to boil it down to its core, the problem at the center of Yellowstone is that people are always trying to buy that damn ranch away from the Duttons. John refuses to sell it, and people have been killed in the process of trying to take it out from under him.
That is most of what you have to know about the show. Now let’s get to your talking points. I will only go into things that happened in the first three seasons as it is almost impossible to stream season four as it airs, and I’m working from the assumption that you do not have access to the Paramount Network.
At this level you are going to relate the television show Yellowstone to other things you know about, so as to keep the conversation flowing easily and keep both you and your father interested.
- That Costner sure knows how to turn in a performance, huh?
- Dad, did you know that the guy who plays Thomas Rainwater on Yellowstone also plays Jacob’s dad in the Twilight movies?
- If you think about it, Yellowstone and Succession are basically the same show except Yellowstone has more guns and Succession has more jokes. But, ya know, same set up. Jamie is Shiv, Beth is Kendall, Kayce is Roman, and obviously John is Logan.
- I didn’t realize that Wes Bentley had been hiding over on Yellowstone for all these years, I was wondering where he went.
Ok, so for the intermediate level you are going to wade into more specifics of the show without going too deep into the details. Here, it won’t matter if you know exactly when these things happened or what exactly the questions are referring to, but they’re specific enough that your dad will certainly have opinions and you can just agree with whatever he’s saying.
- Do we like Monica? Note: Monica is Kayce’s Native American wife, and a real sore spot in the Yellowstone fan community. She is severely underwritten but also annoying but also suffered literal head trauma from getting punched in the head by a teenager in season one.
- Can you sort your children by which Dutton child they are? (You should refute whichever one he says you are just to keep the conversation spicy, even if you are definitely a hotheaded Kayce).
- I think the engagement ring that Beth gives Rip is kind of hideous. That thick black band? Not for me, but to each their own, I guess.
- If we were sitting on a ranch worth half a billion dollars but it had been in our family since the late 1800s, would you sell it to Lost’s Josh Holloway?
Before wading into these waters, you should at the very least watch the pilot so that you can meet all the characters and know exactly who you’re talking about. It would be très embarrassing for you to talk a big game only to realize after the fact that you’ve been calling Jamie by Kayce’s name for the entire time. No true Yellowstone fan would ever do that.
- Kind of fucked up that Jamie let Beth get an abortion that sterilized her when she was a literal teenager, no? (This is only safe if you are comfortable starting shit at the Thanksgiving table or if you have a progressive father.)
- I still don’t think I fully understand what a “Livestock Agent” does and what their purview really is. Why can they shoot people? And now Kayce is the Livestock Commissioner but also is maybe going to run for governor? Does that position really hold that much power?
- I just don’t see a scenario where Tate (Kayce and Monica’s son who was kidnapped in season two) grows up to be a normal person. Too much trauma from a family that’s too screwed up.
- If you had adopted me because my father beat my mother to death when I was a baby, would you have kept it a secret for my entire life, only to reveal it when I looked at my birth certificate for apparently the first time ever at 40-something years old? Note: You should be aware that this is something that happens to Jamie, specifically.
So there you have it. You are now fully prepared to let your dad talk at you about Yellowstone for at least 20 minutes this Thanksgiving. Or maybe you are now prepared to embark on your own Yellowstone journey, because I promise you it is impossible to convey how insane this show is through the written word alone. You kind of have to see how many literal explosions they fit into the series to really believe it.