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The Worst Decisions John Dutton Has Made On Yellowstone So Far

It's safe to say a majority of "Yellowstone" fans love John Dutton (Kevin Costner). The man works hard, cares for his family, stands up for his personal ideals, doesn't falter in the face of adversity, and remains loyal to those who are loyal to him. Yet, even viewers who adamantly support a majority of his beliefs will admit he ... sometimes makes really dumb decisions.

Look, Dutton cares about Yellowstone Ranch and his family — probably in that order — and does his best to keep both safe. On occasion, though, he has reacted poorly, even irrationally, to certain situations, and seems to harbor enough grudges to pack a large barn. All of this would be fine, except John's actions often lead to dire consequences that affect those closest to him, most especially his family. While John always seems to come out victorious, the road to the top is paved with the bones of many who suffered as a result of his ineptitude. That said, we cobbled together a list of what we feel are John Dutton's worst decisions on "Yellowstone" thus far, ranked from dumb to really dumb. 

Allows Kayce and Monica to Live Off the Ranch

In Season 4, John unwisely allows Kayce (Luke Grimes) and Monica Dutton (Kelsey Asbille) to move to a house off-site to mend their marriage. From a Kayce/Monica standpoint, this is the right play. The couple can hang out with Tate (Brecken Merrill), reunite as a family, and hopefully steer clear of further problems caused by the Duttons. From John's perspective, though, letting Kayce — perhaps his closest ally outside of Beth Dutton (Kelly Reilly) and Rip (Cole Hauser) — leave his side during such a dangerous time is foolhardy. John has to know the powerful influence Monica has on his son. What good does it do him to let the pair go off on their own?

Before long, Kayce will start looking at the ranch again like an outsider, and see his father for who he truly is. Again, this is great for Kayce, but as stans of John Dutton we fear all this does is further isolate the man and make him more vulnerable to his enemies.

Nearly Kicks Beth Out

In a head-scratching move, John nearly severs his most important alliance in the name of ... love? Midway through Season 4, John begins seeing animal rights activist Summer Higgins (Piper Perabo), a random fling if there ever was one. Beth doesn't take too kindly to her father's new mistress and decides to get rid of Summer by involving her in a scheme designed to help the ranch. Unfortunately, said scheme lands Summer in jail. John is surprisingly infuriated with his daughter, claiming the Duttons don't harm innocent people. (The many men he ordered to be "dropped off at the train station" might disagree.) He actually tells Beth, his most loyal ally, to pack her things and get off the ranch.

Okay, we're willing to buy that John was heated. Maybe he didn't mean to say what he said, but for someone who is willing to kill in order to keep his land, you'd think John would show a little restraint when it comes to punishing people in his inner circle. Particularly Beth, who has remained as devout a daughter as he could hope for. 

Competes Against Jamie for Governor

John's handling of his adopted son Jamie (Wes Bentley) has been problematic, to say the least. In Season 4, however, John might have taken things a little too far when he decided to run for Governor in order to keep Jamie from doing so. What's more, he and Beth invite Jamie down to a press conference, and the young man assumes they are there on his behalf. As Jamie makes his way to the podium he's shocked to hear his father's name called, and even more stunned to realize John is now his opponent. 

Does anyone think this is the right move? John thinks that Jamie can't be trusted with power and aims to block his every move. The problem is, at some point John's constant provocations will eventually lead Jamie to do something truly awful. He's already proven capable of murder. Now that he has zero attachment to the Dutton family, what's to keep him from spilling their secrets? Or using his considerable resources to strike back? We certainly don't agree with all of Jamie's actions, but this is the type of enemy John would do best to monitor at close range.

Gets His Son Killed

The series premiere of "Yellowstone" went out of its way to establish John's bond with his eldest son, Lee (Dave Annable), who was poised to inherit the ranch and all the land once his father passes on. Unfortunately, some of the Yellowstone cattle end up on Broken Rock Reservation where they are detained by the local tribesman, headed by Monica's brother Robert Long (Jeremiah Bitsui). The event causes John and Chief Thomas Rainwater (Gil Birmingham) to lock horns as the former wants his cattle back and the latter believe they are now part of the reservation. Rather than handle the situation with a level head, John decides to send in a legion of Livestock Commission agents led by his son. Naturally, things go awry. Kayce appears and tries to keep the cattle away from his father's men, while Robert opens fire on anything that moves. Eventually, the embittered warrior Robert shoots and kills Lee, prompting a violent retaliation from Kayce.  

Honestly, we can't be too hard on John for his decision to use excessive force against his enemies. This is "Yellowstone," after all. Even so, it's likely there were alternative measures he could have taken. Rainwater is a reasonable man. It's likely John could have sat down with him and figured something out before resorting to violence. Even if the peaceful approach doesn't work, we still think it's silly to ask your first-born child to risk his life for a herd of cattle. 

Refuses the $500 Million Buyout

After four seasons of violence, corruption, and murder it's fair to wonder whether the grand prize (and grand conflict) at the center of "Yellowstone" is actually worth the struggle. John is beholden to a promise he made his dying father, who urged him to keep the Dutton Ranch — all 825,000 acres of it — at all cost. To what end?   

So far this land has caused nothing but misery and heartache for everyone involved, especially John. This is why in Season 3 we wanted to scream at our TVs after John refused to accept a check in the amount of $500 million from Market Equities CEO Willa Hayes (Karen Pittman) and hedge fund manager Roarke Morris (Josh Holloway). "I made a promise and I'd rather lose it than break it," John says. That's all fine and dandy, but at some point he has to realize the impact his stubborn ideology has on his family. His eldest son has already been killed, while his remaining offspring have endured a lifetime's worth of pain fighting for his cause. If John truly cares about those closest to him, he would accept the money and move them all far away from danger. Otherwise, he's just prolonging a pointless war. 

Blocked Jamie's Attorney General Bid

John's decision to go up against Jamie for governor at the very least has some reasoning behind it. At that point in the series, he had seen Jamie's true colors and realized the unstable young man couldn't be trusted with power. However, in Season 2 John makes a similar move and removes his support for Jamie's bid at Attorney General, but only because Jamie began placing the duties of his office over his allegiance to the Dutton Ranch. This action led the adopted Dutton son down a dark path he will likely never turn away from.

In hindsight, John should have sat down with Jamie and calmly reminded him of his duties rather than ripping away his one chance at success. Here, we have another case of John's emotions getting the better of him, resulting in a fractured relationship with a once-powerful family member. 

Didn't Take the Beck Brothers Seriously

Throughout Season 2, John continually glosses over Teal (Terry Serpico) and Malcolm Beck (Neal McDonough) — aka the Beck brothers — despite knowing full well their propensity for violence. Perhaps he was more worried about Dan Jenkins (Danny Houston) and Thomas Rainwater, but for whatever reason John simply never saw Teal or Malcolm as a viable threat. 

Case in point: John declines the Beck brothers' offer to team up, which leaves the pair visibly incensed. Shortly after, a herd of Yellowstone cattle is poisoned with clover by a mysterious foe, prompting John and Kayce to launch an investigation. Where do they go? Dan Jenkins and Thomas Rainwater. It's only after Beth is violently assaulted by a man who explicitly states he works for the Beck brothers that John realizes his calamitous miscalculation. Even then, he's still shocked when they kidnap his grandson Tate. Come on, John! After all these years, you should know there are no rules in this world.  

Lets Tate Go Out Alone at Night

Even on a regular night, it would seem odd for John to allow his grandson Tate to wander outside alone at night on a ranch with so many dangerous obstacles. The young kid could have been trampled, fallen on a pitchfork, run into Beth, or been carried away by a large hawk. Dutton Ranch, even in peacetime, is no place for children.

On this particular night at the tail end of Season 2, the Duttons are engaged in a violent war against the Beck Brothers. Beth and Rip had already been attacked as a result of the feud. Yet, a few episodes later, John lets Tate wander outside the house by himself to tend to his new horse. Naturally, a member of the Beck clan (who was probably busy trying to pry open a locked window) leaped at the astonishing opportunity to snatch the boy without so much as a fuss. To compound matters, John waits for nearly an hour before deciding to go look for his defenseless grandson and realizes all too quickly how dumb it was to leave him unguarded in the first place.

Didn't Tell Jamie About His Real Dad

Almost every one of John's decisions regarding Jamie has been terrible, yet his most egregious act was not telling him about his real father. As viewers discovered in Season 3, Jamie is adopted. The poor guy only finds out after a city clerk accidentally stumbles on his file while searching for his birth certificate, which is probably not the way anyone should find out about their true lineage. Needless to say, the news rocks Jamie to the core and quite literally severs his already shaky allegiance with John.

In hindsight, John probably should have told Jamie the truth when he was, say, around the age of 10, allowing the boy to choose his own path. From his vantage point, Jamie likely views his entire life as one elongated ploy to further aid John's foolhardy quest to preserve his land at all cost. While we think Jamie is most definitely a slimeball, we can't help but feel his character makeup might have been a little different had he been given a few more choices to base his life around.

Kicks Kayce Out for Keeping Tate

At the end of Season 2, fans were finally given the reason for John and Kayce's longstanding feud. While speaking with an inquisitive Monica asking about the rift, John replies, "He disobeyed me one too many times ... He told me he got some girl he barely knew pregnant and he was gonna marry her. I told him to take you to the clinic and not let you leave until you had an abortion, but he wouldn't do it."

In other words, Kayce got Monica pregnant and refused to kill the kid despite his father's wishes. John being John, he felt his son had betrayed him and opted to kick him off the ranch altogether. Clearly, this was a moment where John let his emotions get the better of him. Granted, he probably felt Kayce was ill-suited to raise a child and was likely just doing what he thought was best for all involved. One could argue that John should have welcomed Monica on the ranch with open arms as soon as he found out about the pregnancy, but that path wouldn't offer much in the way of drama.

Tries to Stop a Holdup

If we've learned anything from "Yellowstone," it's that John needs all the help he can get to fend off his enemies. That said, why would he put one of his closest allies, Sheriff Donnie Haskell, on the line trying to play the role of hero? In the Season 4 episode, "No Kindness for the Coward," John and Rip are heading out to meet with Donnie at a café in town. When they get there, the pair quickly notice a group of robbers holding up the place, and the good Sheriff is stuck in the middle. 

Rather than call the calvary, John and Rip decided to play Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and burst into the joint with guns blazing. Their actions, while heroic, lead to Donnie's death, which further complicates matters for John as his replacement doesn't seem too interested in continuing his predecessor's shady ways. Still, our biggest gripe with John in this instance is that he always seems to needlessly put his life on the line. Does John not realize he is the only thing standing in the way of about a thousand corporations turning his land into Disney World? 

Almost Dies by Stubbornly Ignoring Doctorly Advice

A majority of problems throughout the first season of "Yellowstone" revolved around John Dutton's cancer, which many felt was going to end his life. What happens to the ranch? Which one of his kids will step in to stop outside forces from claiming his property? Who will carry on the Dutton tradition? The answers to such questions hinged on John's survival. Knowing all that, one would assume the man would go to great pains to ensure his personal health and well-being. 

Yet, at the beginning of Season 2, John nearly dies from a ruptured ulcer that only occurs because he stubbornly refused to attend his regular doctor appointments. Look, we're all for John's cavalier me-against-the-world attitude, but there's cowboy cool and then there's stupid. In this instance, the latter prevails and almost costs the Duttons everything they hold dear, as his passing would be akin to the death of Vito Corleone in "The Godfather." Next time just get to your appointment on time and save yourself (and your family) a world of hurt, John.