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The Kayce Scene That Went Too Far On Yellowstone

In its first three seasons, Taylor Sheridan's "Yellowstone" wowed audiences and critics alike by attempting to strike a balance between the realities of life for many in Montana, and the often harmful, if epic, mythology of "The American West." In Season 4, however, some fans are noticing a turn in direction and writing that's seen characters evolve into caricatures, and relevant plot lines and themes take a back seat to testosterone-fueled melodrama and unnecessary loose ends. As television writer Amanda Whiting observes, "The season's new storylines are sensational if disconnected from the show's central theme" (via Indiewire). 

Few characters this season haven't, at some point, fallen prey to these strange and "sensational" new spins on the narrative, and Luke Grimes' Kayce Dutton is no exception. There's one scene, however, that truly takes the cake in terms of extreme "just too much-ness." In Season 4, Episode 3, titled "All I See Is You," Kayce is approached, as Livestock Commissioner, to handle a dispute between a long-time cattle rancher (and Montana native) and the rancher's neighbor — a "rich Californian" and outsider. While the dispute itself rang true for many viewers, Kayce's handling of it was, to say the least, baffling. 

Kayce's abuse of his power came off as silly

In the episode, a frustrated cattle rancher named Emmett (Buck Taylor) asks Kayce to "do something" about his new neighbor Ralph (Jonathan Kells Phillips) who's put cattle guards on an easement on his property, preventing Emmett from moving his cattle over said easement and interfering with the rancher's livelihood. Emmett explains that he's tried everything, including lawyers, to get the unrelenting neighbor to allow him to use the easement. So, what does Livestock Commissioner Kayce Dutton do in order to ease tensions between the warring neighbors? Naturally, he breaks several laws, including wrongful imprisonment by tying Ralph up and shutting him inside his own cattle grate.

If this was meant to illustrate Kayce "turning to the dark side," so to speak, and allowing his Dutton-bred machismo to win out over his better angels, it failed to do so simply because Kayce's actions aren't just aggressive and vengeful — they're illogical. John Dutton (Kevin Costner) and his loyal minions might have a "win at all costs" approach to dealing with conflict, but there's always some semblance of rationale in the rules they break along the way. 

Kayce's response to a bad neighbor perplexed many

Other than providing some excellent product placement for Dodge Ram trucks, it's difficult to decipher the logic behind Kayce's uncharacteristically petty action. As u/NukularWinter pointed out on a Reddit discussion about the scene, there were several other ways both Emmett and Kayce could have dealt with the snotty, caricature of a Californian's refusal to remove the guards. "Was I the only person thinking that a dumptruck full of gravel would have taken care of that cattle guard, and as a bonus left a huge mess for the d****e guy to clear?" asked a fan. "I would have thrown down a few pieces of plywood and proceeded to utilize my easement, as is my legal right," wrote u/Creepydoc, adding that "It's like nobody (on the show) has ever moved cattle over a guard before." 

In another Reddit thread, u/BNMiller31 wondered what Kayce's motivation or "endgame" could possibly be: "how does stuffing the CA guy in the shallow cattle guard hole ultimately help resolve the problem?" they asked. To be clear, it doesn't. The cattle guard is still there, and Emmett will still have to truck his cattle in.

Of course, not everyone hated the cartoonish scene. As u/No-Document-932 wrote, "it's the completely unhinged, out of pocket scenes like this that make the show for me. It's so comedic in this absurdist way that's similar to like MacGruber or Scary Movie." The fan admitted, however, that this likely wasn't "the intent of the show's creators." But considering how many of this type of scene audiences have been subjected to this season, it does make one wonder.