Yellowstone season 1 episode 1 recap: welcome to Montana (2024)

Yellowstone season 1 episode 1 recap: welcome to Montana (1)

NOTE: this post contains spoilers for Yellowstone season 1 episode 1, "Daybreak."

One of the biggest cable shows comes to broadcast, as Yellowstone season 1 airs on CBS as part of its 2023 fall TV schedule. For many, this will be their first chance to watch Taylor Sheridan's neo-western from the very beginning. We're here to help with detailed recaps in case you missed anything in the episode.

Let's get right into the massive, two-hour Yellowstone series premiere, “Daybreak.”

Meet the Duttons

A car crash has occurred. A man (Kevin Costner), bleeding but alright, calms his severely injured horse. The man says the horse deserves better, but all he can do is offer it peace, shooting it to end its misery.

The man inspects the rest of the crash site. In a crashed semi-truck, the driver is dead. The man sees a sheet of paper that says "Paradise Valley Development."

The man rests on a fence looking over a field of cattle. "The things we do to keep you fed," he says. The police arrive and realize the man is John Dutton, Livestock Commissioner and one of the most influential people in the valley.

At the Montana state capitol, Jamie Dutton (Wes Bentley) argues against a housing development that would infringe on his family's ranch. He says land preservation and property rights hold greater importance to Montana than "nonessential" developments. The opposition argues the Duttons, with their massive ranch, are preventing Montana from meeting the needs of its growing population. Governor Lynelle Perry (Wendy Moniz) sides with Jamie, and dismisses the case.

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The opposition offers to pay the Duttons for access to the land, a fraction of their ranch, but Jamie knows his father will never agree to it.

Kayce Dutton (Luke Grimes) helps a group of oilmen relocate a herd of wild horses. He knows he just needs get the main stallion out of there and the rest will leave on their own. The oilmen tell him the stallion is one mean horse, but Kayce rides right at him.

The next we see of Kayce he has gotten the stallion into his truck. He takes him home to his wife Monica (Kelsey Asbille) and son Tate (Brecken Merrill) on the Broken Rock Reservation to train. Monica's brother, Robert (Jeremiah Bitsui), asks for Kayce's help with something the next day, a rare interaction between them.

Beth Dutton (Kelly Reilly) works in an office. She is called to bring the hammer down when a business owner doesn't want to meet the demands of Beth's company. She tells him if they don't she is going to go about destroying them so they'll have to declare bankruptcy. This gets the owner to agree. He whispers "b**ch" to Beth, but she says she saved him from losing all his money, to which he gives a beaten "thank you."

At the Yellowstone ranch, Jamie tells John about the deal he was offered, believing they should consider it. John, as predicted, shuts it down. He knows he has a piece of land that everyone wants, but isn't going to give it up.

John heads out, but before he does he talks with his eldest son Lee (Dave Annable), who is preparing for a Livestock Commission operation.

  • Dutton family tree: from 1883 to Yellowstone

Opposing forces

Thomas Rainwater (Gil Birmingham), the new chairman of the Broken Rock reservation, meets with Senator Huntington (Jill Hennessy). He explains how his adoptive parents thought it was better he didn't know his native heritage, which he believes has been the US's policy forever: to have the native people "stop being Indian." Using the casino his reservation operates, he plans to buy back his people's land, and he wants her help.

Also hoping to claim a slice of Montana for himself is Dan Jenkins (Danny Huston), the man behind the Paradise Valley Development. While meeting with a group of bankers who are skeptical of his plans, Dan explains in Montana, on his land he can do whatever he wants.

In the same building, Beth sits at a bar. A guy comes over and starts to hit on her, but she quickly brushes him off. She's hunting, just not for him. She has her eyes on the bankers Dan just met with. This allows Beth to confirm Dan's plans to build a city that would infringe on the Yellowstone ranch and its resources.

On the reservation, ranchers and natives have a standoff over a herd of cattle. The ranches say the cows belong to them, but since they are on reservation land, the natives are claiming them. As tensions rise and guns are drawn, John arrives. He speaks with an elder, Felix (Rudy Ramos), who explains Rainwater is angling for a fight. They agree to keep the cows from wandering off until a solution can be reached. Among the cattle, John sees Kayce, who helped herd the cattle.

Decisions, decisions

Yellowstone season 1 episode 1 recap: welcome to Montana (3)

At a livestock auction, John asks Jamie what legal recourse they have on reservation land, but the situation is murky. John meets with a few other people. First is Dirk (Stanley Peternel), who wants John to hire his grandson, Jimmy, at the ranch. John he doesn't hire criminals, but when Dirk pleads with him, John agrees, but he'll do it his way. John then speaks with Governor Perry, who praises Jamie's case and believes he should be in politics. John doesn't want that, preferring to keep Jamie working for him.

The next day, John visits Kayce on the reservation. The two have an uneasy relationship, but Kayce says he didn't know the cattle belonged to John. That's only part of the reason John is there. He wants to know his grandson, but Kayce is reluctant. John leaves but offers a piece of advice: if Kayce and Tate ever have a moment where a single decision could alter their relationship, he wants Kayce to think of this moment and the consequences of choosing wrong.

That night, Kayce and Monica agree they should let Tate get to know John.

Rip Wheeler (Cole Hauser) arrives at Jimmy Hurdstrom's (Jefferson White) trailer, tases Jimmy and ties him up. Rip explains Jimmy has a choice: let Rip take him to the police and have him go to prison (there's illegal drugs and paraphernalia littered throughout the trailer), or come work at the Yellowstone, marked with a red-hot Yellowstone brand.

Jimmy asks why John Dutton would care about him? Rip says he doesn't, but if he accepts, he will. He reveals he also has the Yellowstone brand. Jimmy accepts, gets branded and is told to be at the ranch on Monday.

John and Lee drive through the ranch inspecting cattle. When they see a cow down in the field, they rush to help it give birth, saving the calf and mom. John asks Lee what he sees in the calf. Lee says a life he needs to feed and defend until it can feed him. John says he sees an investment. It's the difference between a rancher and a cowboy.

Later, John spots Dan playing golf on the edge of his property and rides to meet him. He knows Dan plans to build a development. Dan says John can't stop progress. But John will try, threatening Dan if he continues and saying Dan owes him a horse.

Jamie and Beth run into each other at the ranch house. These siblings clearly don't like each other. When Jamie asks what she is doing there, she simply says fixing something he couldn't.

Beth then finds Rip in the house, teasing him that he looks nervous to be there. Beth quickly seduces him and they have sex. But when Rip asks if she wants to go to a music festival, she says he ruined it.

A good day

Kayce brings Tate to the Yellowstone, where he gets to reconnect with his siblings as they all go out riding (save for Beth, who does not ride horses). Lee, Jamie, Kayce and Tate go fishing, where they ask Kayce why he is choosing to live on the reservation. Kayce says John told him to leave, but he apparently said that to all of them, Kayce is just the only one who listened. They argue a bit, then Tate stands up for his dad, cursing out his uncle. But that just gets them all to laugh.

Know thy enemy

Yellowstone season 1 episode 1 recap: welcome to Montana (4)

John meets with an engineer about what Dan's development would do to their water supply. When he doesn't like the answer, he plans to move the river.

Back on the reservation, Monica and Kayce have her brother and others over. There is tension over the cattle situation between Kayce and Robert. Someone tries to break it by asking Kayce about his military medals. Robert says he has two Silver Stars of his own, which means he killed two people. Kayce counters, saying they wouldn't believe what did to get his Navy Cross medal.

They get another visitor that night, Rainwater, who asks Kayce about John. Kayce says John is reasonable, until he is provoked, then reason doesn't factor in at all.

The next day, John and Rainwater meet. John attempts to give an olive branch by having a tribal elder hunt buffalo on the property, but Rainwater sees it as an insult and calls John a hypocrite, as his ancestors stole the very land they are on, so Rainwater stole the cattle.

Later, Felix talks with Kayce. He explains the reservation will keep the cattle, but John will try and take them back. Whatever Kayce does next he will be judged, so Felix urges him to go back and stand with his family, because despite his marriage to Monica, Native Americans aren't his people.

Two-pronged attack

Jimmy arrives at the ranch just as things are ramping up for a massive operation. Rip tells him to shut up and follow orders. They work with the engineer to set explosives to divert the river. When Jimmy complains the Yellowstone was supposed to keep him out of trouble, Rip explains now he won't get caught.

At Dan's property, he speaks with the banker about what makes this place so special, how it's man's instinct to be migratory and claim new land. But it won't be easy, because just then the explosives go off. Dan immediately knows John has done something. The next morning he finds a completely dry river on his property.

The other half of the operation has Lee and John attempt to take the cattle back. Robert and others are waiting for them, ready to fight. As things go down, Kayce arrives on the stallion, hoping to get the cattle to move. While John is distracted by Kayce, Robert opens fire on the helicopter. Reservation police arrive and it becomes a huge mess.

Amid all of it, Lee wrangles the cattle off reservation land. He shouts if they want them they can come get them. He sees Kayce in the distance, but while he is distracted, Robert shoots Lee in the back. Kayce rides up to stop Robert from shooting Lee again and kills Robert. However, Lee still dies.

The next morning, Kayce rides to the Yellowstone with Lee's body. John rides out and takes Lee, telling Kayce to go straight to Jamie and tell him everything. John takes Lee to a secluded spot, sitting with his son's body and telling him they'll pick a spot for him to be buried.

Monica wakes up to see the stallion outside their house, but no Kayce. She is frightened, but Kayce quickly arrives via helicopter.

Unity through grief

John and Kayce both take Lee's death hard. John believes he should have seen it coming, but manages to keep his emotions in check. After the burial, he sees Kayce sitting alone with the stallion, which he gives to John as a gift. It's only when John is alone in the barn with the horse that he breaks down crying.

At their home, Monica wants to know what happened with Robert, but Kayce doesn't say anything, he just stares in front of the bathroom mirror. With his shirt off, we see he has the Yellowstone brand like Rip and Jimmy.

Back on the ranch, John talks with Jamie and Beth. He needs Jamie more than ever and wants Beth to stick around. She says she's not going anywhere and to just tell her who to fight. John says, "everyone."

Episodes of Yellowstone season 1 air on CBS every Sunday. They are available to stream on Peaco*ck.

Yellowstone season 1 episode 1 recap: welcome to Montana (6)

Michael Balderston

Michael Balderston is a DC-based entertainment and assistant managing editor for What to Watch, who has previously written about the TV and movies with TV Technology, Awards Circuit and regional publications. Spending most of his time watching new movies at the theater or classics on TCM, some of Michael's favorite movies include Casablanca, Moulin Rouge!, Silence of the Lambs, Children of Men, One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest and Star Wars. On the TV side he enjoys Only Murders in the Building, Yellowstone, The Boys, Game of Thrones and is always up for a Seinfeld rerun. Follow on Letterboxd.

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Yellowstone season 1 episode 1 recap: welcome to Montana (2024)


What happened in episode 1 of Yellowstone Season 1? ›

Ticked, John sent Lee and his hands to retrieve the livestock under cover of darkness, only to find the Broken Rock Police ready for a fight. In the ensuing melee, Monica's brother Robert fatally shot Lee, then, trying (in vain) to protect his own brother, Kayce fatally shot Robert!

Who was the livestock agent killed in episode 1 of Yellowstone? ›

Near the end of "Daybreak," Lee, himself a Livestock Agent, is murdered by Robert Long (Jeremiah Bitsui) — who just so happens to be Monica Dutton's (Kelsey Asbille) brother — during a cattle dispute on the border of the Dutton Ranch and the Broken Rock Indian Reservation.

What do Montana residents think of the show Yellowstone? ›

The Washington Post reported not all Montana residents were pleased with "Yellowstone." A Bozeman rancher told the publication that "the show has given our ranchers a bad name." That's because the ranching family on the show often resort to violence to solve their problems.

Why does Dan owe John a horse? ›

John spots Dan playing golf near his property and confronts him. The confrontation goes badly with Dan saying that John cannot stop progress and John threatens Dan if he continues with his plans. He also tells Dan that he owes him a horse, referring to the accident.

Why does Beth hate Jamie? ›

As Beth keeps reminding viewers, she has been perpetually angry at Jamie for how Jamie inadvertently made her sterile by helping her get an abortion when they were both teenagers.

Why is Kayce branded? ›

The branding in Yellowstone symbolizes a significant bond between the ranch workers and the Dutton family, showing both ownership and loyalty. John Dutton used the Yellowstone brand to punish his son Kayce for leaving the ranch, but it also highlights the limits of John's power.

Why was Lee Dutton killed off? ›

His Murder Was The Result Of Cultural Tensions Between Ranchers & The Reservation. Lee Dutton's death is a significant event that establishes the high stakes and the often violent world of Yellowstone. As the eldest Dutton son and a Livestock Agent, Lee's dedication to his family's ranch is unwavering.

Which Dutton dies in Season 1? ›

Died in season 1, episode 1.

While the loss of Lee Dutton is a necessary spark to the events of Yellowstone, the first significant death in the series is still shocking. During a dispute with the Broken Rock Indian Reservation, John sends Lee to reclaim cattle, resulting in his death in a shootout.

Which Dutton son died in episode 1? ›

During the raid, Lee gets distracted when he sees his brother Kayce (Luke Grimes) in the distance and ends up getting shot in the back by Monica's (Kelsey Asbille) brother-in-law Robert Long (Jeremiah Bitsui). Kayce comes to his brother's aid, fatally shooting Robert, but it's too late. Lee is dead.

Why is Bozeman Montana so expensive? ›

A recent article posted by Bozeman Real Estate Group says one of the main reasons Bozeman houses are so expensive is out-of-state money. People moving to Bozeman from places where real estate is more expensive can easily compete in our market, outbidding local buyers and paying all cash for homes.

Is Yellowstone accurate about Montana? ›

As an outdoor brand whose headquarters are in the great state of Montana, we, at Jelt, have been inundated with questions about whether the Paramount TV series Yellowstone is an accurate depiction of life in Montana. Well, I am here to set the record straight. It is NOT.

Did they actually film Yellowstone in Montana? ›

In 2020, the filming of Yellowstone moved north to Montana to take advantage of a new tax program offered by the state, according to the Salt Lake City Tribune. Apart from the financial aspect, it was also home to the real-life Chief Joseph Ranch, the setting for the Dutton family's ranch in the Paramount Network show.

Why does John hate Wade? ›

Wade's theft deeply affects John Dutton and the ranchers. The theft of the brand or valuable assets like cattle is taken seriously by the Duttons, as seen through their punishment of horse thieves in past generations.

What did Wade take from John? ›

Wade Morrow Steals The Brand From Yellowstone Ranch

As a branded man, a rancher is made to uphold the secrets of Yellowstone at all costs. Because Wade left the Yellowstone Ranch, he, in effect, steals the brand from John and his family.

What is the one thing a cowboy doesn t steal from another cowboy? ›

What is the one thing a cowboy doesn't steal? A real cowboy doesn't usually steal anything except another cowboys girl! He may, and many years ago have stolen another man's horse or saddle or gun but even then, they would not steal another man's boots!

What happened in Yellowstone Season 1? ›

John Dutton is dying and his main mission in Season 1 of Yellowstone is to save the Dutton ranch and bring his family together to preserve their heritage. Kayce returns to the Yellowstone after the death of his brother, Lee, and allows his anger to consume him as he fights to protect the ranch for his son's future.

When was Yellowstone Season 1 Episode 1? ›

What happened in Season 1 Episode 2 of Yellowstone? ›

John and Jamie are forced to enact a plan to protect Kayce and get rid of the evidence about Robert Long's suspicious death, via cremating Lee`s remains, convincing one medical examiner to forget his story and burning the other (albeit a Death Seeker) in his office, along with the evidence of the autopsy on Robert.

What episode does Beth kiss Walker? ›

Season One Episode 5 Beth and Walker Kiss | TikTok.


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