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The Yellowstone Clue That Could Point To John's Survival

Contains spoilers for Yellowstone season 3

One of the most-watched episodes of television of all time was "Who Done It?" on Dallas back in 1980. The show ended on a massive cliffhanger for the season 3 finale when the star of the show, J.R. (Larry Hagman)was shot by an unknown perpetrator. Fans had to wait an entire summer when the series returned to figure out who was behind the crime, and the resolution drew in an estimated 83 million viewers. 

This sequence of events will sound familiar to Yellowstone fans. Not only do the two shows have a lot in common — they both follow drama-filled families that get into spars with various rivals — but also, just like Dallas ended its third season on a huge cliffhanger, Yellowstone followed a similar path. Season 3 of Yellowstone ends with Morris (Josh Holloway) launching a massive coordinated attack on the Dutton family, which includes gunning down John Dutton (Kevin Costner) when he's changing a tire at the side of the road.

While fans can argue the logistics of the scene, one thing's clear: It made for excellent television. John's fate now hangs in the balance. And though it seems unlikely anyone could survive multiple machine-gun rounds to the chest, anything's possible in the realm of TV. In fact, there's a clue right there in the finale that hints John makes it out of that scenario all right. 

Dallas writer Loraine Despres points to one key moment that hints at John's fate

In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, writer Loraine Despres, who penned the famous "Who Done It?" episode of Dallas, discussed her impressions of the Yellowstone season 3 finale.

Despres began by talking about the Dallas creative team's thought process behind the famous arc wherein J.R. is shot. They were just trying to figure out what to do when, as she puts it, they decided, "I know, let's shoot J.R.!" Despres went on to say, "People would have Dallas parties. They would stay home to watch it. The following Monday, the phones were ringing off the hook. They were just shocked and delighted, of course, with the publicity because they didn't expect it. When they decided to shoot Larry Hagman, it was a big deal. He looked like he may be dead. Of course, he wasn't dead because he's a big star."

This could be what's happening with Yellowstone. The Paramount Network series is a huge hit with TV fans, and the decision to put Costner's lead character John Dutton in potentially fatal danger was a shocking decision. When EW's Omar Sanchez began to ask Despres if that's what she was getting at, that John Dutton is still alive, she answered, "With Costner in Yellowstone, yes. [...] He's shot, and then he pulls out the cell phone." 

Sanchez also mentioned that it seems unlikely someone would be able to get to John quickly enough to tend to his wounds, but as Despres put it, "I don't know why they made that decision to have Kevin Costner seem to be alive, unless they wanted to make it different than Dallas."

Everything considered, John Dutton could survive, or he might not. It's possible Costner, who's a big star, is simply done with Yellowstone. This may be the end for John Dutton, and his children will need to carry on his legacy. The cell phone shot could be a fake-out, giving audiences hope John survives only to pull the rug out from under them when season 4 comes out. That one shot holds a lot of weight, but we'll have to wait until season 4 airs sometime in 2021 to see what really happens to John.