Yellowstone

‘Yellowstone’s Weirdest Episode Is Also Its Most Emotional

Remember Kayce's vision quest?

  • In the Season 4 finale of Yellowstone, Kayce embarks on a vision quest and reunites with his dead brother, Lee, who warns him of his impending fate.
  •  Kayce’s vision has a profound impact on him, as he is scared by Lee’s appearance and is comforted by another vision of a woman. This leads to speculation about the future of his marriage and the Dutton family as a whole.
  •  Kayce’s visions force him to confront his past and face his fears. Lee’s return signifies the family’s descent into chaos, but Kayce may have the potential to reunite his siblings and save their legacy.

A commonly used trope in the Western genre is the idea that our hero must go on some sort of vision quest to find direction for his wayward life. This has been used in plenty of Western movies and shows throughout the years, and while it might not be as pronounced as the light and dark cowboy hats that riddle the genre, it’s enough of a recurring instance that it eventually made its way to Yellowstone as well. In the Season 4 finale, “Grass on the Streets and Weeds on the Rooftops,” Kayce Dutton (Luke Grimes) embarks on his own vision quest where he has one of the strangest encounters of his life: he reunites with his dead brother.

What Happens to Lee Dutton in ‘Yellowstone’?

In case you have forgotten who Lee Dutton (Dave Annable) is, you’re not alone. The eldest of John Dutton’s (Kevin Costner) sons, Lee died in the very first episode (“Daybreak”) after being killed during a cattle dispute by none other than Kayce’s own brother-in-law Robert Long (Jeremiah Bitsui). As a result, Kayce shoots Robert in self-defense, which in turn causes a rift between him and his wife Monica (Kelsey Asbille). Though Kayce eventually repairs his marriage, he’s still left without his oldest brother. However, Rip Wheeler (Cole Hauser) sort of steps in to take over Lee’s role within the family.

After that, we don’t ever see Lee again (not even in photographs), save for the Dutton family Christmas flashback in “A Monster Is Among Us.” Dave Annable went on to do other things–namely appearing on The CW’s own neo-Western Walker–and the Dutton family basically forgot about him ever existing. That or they were so disturbed that they decided not to mention it again–at least, until recent years. With Lee’s temporary return from the grave at the end of Season 4, Yellowstone opted to reflect further on its past before proceeding to its fifth and final season.

In the episode, Lee wakes up a sleeping Kayce by chastising him for not doing as he was told (in this case, praying for a vision). Instead, Lee offers his help, asking his brother to open the barrier between them so that he might enter. Having been warned against this, Kayce refuses and that’s when things get truly terrifying. In an instant, Lee appears as he did when he died, with blood seeping out from his mouth, as he screams at Kayce, telling his younger brother that it’s his destiny to wind up dead just like him.

Kayce’s Vision Has a Profound Impact On Him in ‘Yellowstone’

This sudden turn in the vision scares Kayce so much that he wakes up from his sleep only to find himself comforted by a woman he at first thinks is Monica. Turns out, it’s actually another vision, and he’s embraced and kissed by Avery (Tanaya Beatty), the Yellowstone’s former ranch hand who has a thing for the youngest Dutton son. This too wakes Kayce, who finally finds himself alone. Since all of this happens in a matter of minutes, only to cut away to other matters on the ranch, it’s hard to digest upfront, but Kayce is soon confronted by what all this could mean.

At the end of his vision, Kayce is presented by his spirit guide with two paths. Upon completing his trial, he tells Monica that he saw “the end of us,” and while there’s some debate about whether that means his marriage or the Dutton family as a whole, Lee’s appearance seems to imply the latter. Sure, one could argue that Avery’s sudden emergence signals some potential adultery, but given Kayce’s character and his immediate response, it’s more likely that it’s the Duttons who will suffer.

Going into Season 5, Kayce carries this vision with him. Upon losing his unborn second son, the youngest heir seems to understand what comes next. Naming his son John Dutton was no mistake. As a name that has stuck with the Yellowstone Dutton Ranch for decades, the death of his unborn child is almost prophetic concerning what is to come for the Dutton family. Paired with Lee’s comment about how it’s Kayce’s destiny to wind up like him, the death of his son is likely only the beginning of the fall of the house of Dutton.

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Kayce’s Visions in ‘Yellowstone’ Season 4 Mean More Than You Think

There’s no denying that Kayce has had it rough at times throughout Yellowstone, but seeing one’s brother, who you loved and trusted, come back from the grave only to turn on you in your moment of need is horrifying. If this weren’t Yellowstone, we’d have thought it was a scene from some Western horror flick. Given that Kayce once looked up to his brother, seeing him in again like this couldn’t be easy. “When Lee comes back, it’s sort of a really big deal for Kayce to kind of have this moment with his brother,” actor Luke Grimes reveals on the “Behind the Story” for the episode.

“It’s not just there to sort of spook people,” the actor continues. “It’s there because you’re watching him deal with his past, with things that sort of torture him the most. Obviously, his brother’s death is going to be one of those things.” This point of view on what Kayce’s going through offers another interpretation of these events, making Lee’s appearance less about him seeing the spirit of his brother and more about him reliving the memory of his past failure, and what he’s afraid he too might become. As his visions force Kayce to deal with the things he’s been running away from for years, Lee’s sudden and frightening return is more than he can bear. No wonder he immediately retreats.

Is Kayce the Only Dutton Who Can Reunite the Family in ‘Yellowstone’?

In many ways, Lee’s death in the very first episode signifies the slow descent toward extinction the 21st-century band of Duttons is fated to endure. It was that incident that made them more enemies, and others such as Dan Jenkins (Danny Huston), the Beck brothers, and even Randall Garrett (Will Patton) soon crawled out of the woodwork to get their piece of the Yellowstone pie. But just as Kayce once betrayed his family by leaving all those years ago, so now is there another traitor in the Duttons’ midst in his adoptive brother Jamie (Wes Bentley).

Just as Lee’s warnings prophecy the end of their family (and possibly Kayce himself), so do they point to a division within the family. This feud between Beth (Kelly Reilly) and Jamie has only fractured the Dutton clan and no good has come of it. Additionally, Kayce’s own struggle between choosing his family or Monica’s has likewise been a recurring battle throughout Yellowstone. But just as Kayce is able to bring a semblance of peace between Monica and his father, so too can he possibly be the peacemaker between his living siblings. He was too late to save Lee back in Season 1, but his vision may be a warning that it’s not too late to save Beth and Jamie from each other.

Emotionally, this is a pretty tight spot for Kayce to live in. On one hand, he and his siblings don’t really see eye-to-eye too often. In fact, they’ve hardly spent much time together over the past few seasons (aside from Beth and Jamie yelling at and beating each other), with each pursuing their own wants and desires. But seeing Lee again may have sparked a desire in Kayce that we have yet to see him fulfill on screen, one that could give him the final word on all this sibling rivalry nonsense. Nevertheless, whether Kayce is the one who can save his family’s legacy or not, it’s clear that his brother’s death has haunted him for years, making their brief spiritual reunion both one of the weirdest and most emotionally charged moments on the show.

Yellowstone can be streamed exclusively on Peacock and airs every Sunday on CBS.

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