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Kill the Messenger is the second episode of the first season of Yellowstone. It first aired on June 27, 2018. 

Plot summary[]

John collects an old debt and calls in a favor, and Kayce considers his options for the future as the Duttons realize the potential repercussions of the dispute. (Paramount Network)


Beware of 'spoilers' from here on down!

It is morning on the ranchJohn Dutton attempts to mount the unbroken stallion gifted to him by his son, Kayce Dutton, but the horse immediately starts bucking in an attempt to knock off his rider. Rip Wheeler watches on as John tries this again and again, the stallion appearing to settle before falling to the ground continuing his protest of John as a rider. Rip suggests attempting to break in the horse chest deep in a river, but John's against it showing how the horse is now placid without a rider.

John determines, while panting, that breaking the stallion is "a job for a young man with rubber bones". Rip and John look over to where Jimmy Herstrom is mucking up outside.  Rip mentions having a good idea before going over to Jimmy and telling him to put down his rake.

Jimmy protests that he knows nothing about horses as John and Rip duct tape his right hand to the saddle horn and his ankles to the stirrups whilst he is mounted on the stallion. Rip hands Jimmy the reins so that he doesn't flip backward, telling the boy to never let go. Rip throws the duct tape to Ryan standing outside the corral before both John and Rip leave the ring.  

Ryan starts some banter about expecting resistance, which Jimmy questions. John rebuts that resistance is something that defines itself, before instructing Jimmy to kick the stallion to get him started. Immediately the stallion attempts to buck Jimmy off, circling the pen. Jimmy yells regularly as he struggles to hold on, the duct tape stopping him from being thrown. The more senior cowboys watch on amused and glad that it's not them that is the 'low man'. John mentions that it's being 'low man' that turns people into cowboys.


Over at Kayce Dutton's place, Kayce is attempting to remove a stump with his old tractor. After one particularly hard pull, the tractor tips over to the left, knocking Kayce from the drivers seat. Kayce swears and kicks at the tractor as he gets out before grabbing an axe to hack at the tree stump.

Kayce then grabs a bucket of some kind of explosive and his shot gun before walking over to the stump. Tate walks out asking about the tractor and asking why Kayce flipped it and what the bucket is for. Kayce tells Tate to get in the house, and grinds the bucket into the ground a bit next to the stump. Kayce tells Tate to go inside again when Tate comments the tractor is already dead, but Tate just goes to sit on the porch and yells that he doesn't care when Kayce tells him the porch isn't inside. 

Kayce instructs Tate to cover his ears and open his mouth, and he does the same before shooting at the bucket causing a large explosion that rocks the ground and the house. Monica shrieks and ducks when she feels the explosion while she is taking a shower.

Tate asks why he didn't use an explosive in the first place when Monica runs out in a towel, yelling if the explosion was done by Kayce. Kayce explains thats why he didn't do it first. Monica slams the door as she goes back inside and the boys start to walk over to the crater. Inside the crater they find some fossilized bones of a dinosaur.


In the Capitol building of Montana, a the governor's assistant calls out after Jamie Dutton. She guides him to the governor's office where Governor Perry is sitting opposite Attorney General Stewart . Jamie is asked to have a seat on the couch to discuss things impacting his future career, and Stewart joins him. He opens a file with a picture of his recently deceased brother, Lee Dutton's, face on it with a clear picture of the bullet wound. Stewart talks about how the bullet wound would have paralysed Lee in the arms and how he could not have shot Robert Long back, meaning there was a third shooter. 

Jamie says it doesn't matter since it would have been self defense, but Perry says it isn't that simple. Stewart brings over the file containing Robert's picture showing a close grouping of shots in the chest and an execution style shot to the forehead. Stewart mentions all the agencies that would get involved when this medical report gets filed and the governor mentions that the file are basically screaming of a cover up done by his father, John Dutton.

Stewart mentions two BLM agents noticing there was another rider when Lee arrived at Yellowstone Dutton Ranch and the governor adds that friends "forget things" for friends, but the reports will add up enough evidence that it would not matter. Perry mentions that it's already national news and the evidence points can to a "racially motivated killing by an officer of [Jamie's] father's agency" and the Attorney General would have to start chopping heads, his own first.

The two are telling Jamie not to put themselves in that position and to fix this problem. Jamie asks for some time to fix the issue, wanting to know how long they could hold the report. Stewart thinks they could maybe hold it a week. Perry tells him to do it fast since this is "the kind of ship that sinks everyone".


Back at the ranch, it is noon and Beth Dutton grabs a bottle of pills as she wakes up, glass of whiskey in hand. Jamie knocks and enters mentioning these things and saying she looks sick. Beth retorts that she's on vacation. Jamie walks in and Beth mentions that it feels very serious.

Jamie sits down on the bed and asks for her advice. Beth immediate says that he's gay and that their father won't love him if Jamie tells him. Jamie rubs his face and says asking her for help is a waste of time. Beth smiles as if she's won as she grabs another bottle of pills. 

Jamie tells her she should just leave if being at the ranch is so terrible, whilst also hanging up a large framed photo of their family that was resting on the floor. He then says he's not gay, just celibate for fear of passing on the gene that created Beth. Beth responds sarcastically that his response is a good one.

Jamie walks out of the room holding up his middle finger and then pointing at her with it before closing the door. Immediately Beth goes to the hung frame and removes it from its hook, letting it fall to the floor and shatter the glass.


Back with Jimmy, the stallion is now cantering around the pen without bucking. Ryan and Colby are watching and discussing a possible bet over the taming of the stallion. John and Rip are also watching.

Jamie approaches John and says they have a problem. John in turn asks Jamie if he doesn't have a solution. Jamie replies that it requires a few bad solutions. They talk more in the stables, John asking if Kayce had been identified, which he had not been. Tom Reynolds and Aaron McReary are named as the agents that saw him, and John says he'll handle Reynolds but doesn't know McReary. Jamie mentions that he's quite religious and most likely doesn't lie, so John tells him to find out where McReary goes to church. 

The discussion then turns to the medical examiner's report. John says the medical report has to change, but Jamie says that the doctors took an oath that wasn't to John and the photographs wouldn't change. John says it okay since the body is buried, but Jamie rebuts that when the report gets seen the law enforcement would not ask permission, they'd just dig up the body.

Jamie wants them to beat them to it and cremate the body so that it can't reveal that what happened. John tells him not to say anything to him. Jamie continues says that Robert was executed and talks about the tight grouping of bullet wounds on his chest. Jamie asks his father what livestock officer could do that. John nods and then goes off saying he needs to hear Kayce say it first.


At Kayce's place, John and Tate are lying down in the crater digging up the dinosaur carefully. John talks about how most of Montana was under the ocean a long time ago and that the crater would have been right on the beach, holding up a sea shell. They discuss the dinosaur being dinner to maybe a prehistoric shark. The both decide they never want to see or catch that big a fish.

Tate asks if anyone will find their bones one day and ask what happened to them. John says that after they live, exploring is all done, then tells him to keep up their work as Kayce approaches, getting up to talk to him.

John says he needs to ask Kayce something, and Kayce responds that he already told him. John rebuts that he needs the truth this time, and Kayce says he told the truth. John then says Kayce's a boy playing chess with masters when he normally plays checkers. He warns Kayce that these people will twist him until the truth and his future is unrecognizable. John says he deserves to know what happened. Kayce says what happened that night stays where it is. John then says "not a thing on this planet stays where it is". John asks if Lee got to see the bullet coming, and Kayce says he did.


John returns to the ranch where Jimmy is still riding around in circles on the stallion. He tells Jamie that the medical examiner needs to take a new oath. Jamie then mentions that Long's autopsy had been shared with the tribal police since the examiner didn't want to delay it. 

John then asks what they have on the medical examiner. Jamie mentions he was forced to resign from Chicago because he was caught smoking the embalming fluid. Jamie says if this is found out, all his finding could be ruled inadmissible. He asks John if he wants to push it and John says he'll think about it before walking off. He stops immediately and says not to do anything but to send Rip as he won't negotiate with a drug addict.

Rip is sitting on the corral fence watching Jimmy. He says it's an even bet who quits first. John mentions that Jimmy quit hours ago. Rip says he'll be a cowboy before sundown, but John says the boy is just a favor.


In Thomas Rainwater's office, he, his driver and Ben Waters are discussing Robert Long's autopsy. Thomas says it's hard to call that self defense, and Ben says that if Lee Dutton was alive, he'd press charges. Thomas questions if Lee Dutton was the shooter. He mentions that at the moment the event is a tragedy, however if the shots were not self defense but from a third shooter, the event would become the end of John Dutton.

Ben mentions that the only person near the scene was Kayce, and that even if he was on their side for cattle, his view might differ in this situation. Kayce is mentioned to be a hero and soldier.  


Back at the corral, the stallion is finally coming to a stop, Jimmy hunched over the front of the saddle. John tells rip to pull Jimmy down. Rip takes a knife can cuts the duct tape from Jimmy's limbs, allowing Jimmy to slowly dismount from the horse's back.  Jimmy immediately falls onto his knees and elbows, spitting into the sand. Rip helps him up as he walks away from the stallion, hunched over, to rest on the fence.

Rip mounts the stallion and walks him around the corral, encouraging him faster before slowing him down and dismounting. Rip then tells Jimmy to bathe the horse and tie him up, not allowing any hay until the horse cools down. 

Jimmy walks out of the corral bowlegged and hunched over. Rip says the stallion must be broken now. Jimmy vomits a few paces away from the corral. John says there may be a little cowboy in him after all. 


Rip walks out of the stable and Beth is standing outside. Rip says he doesn't have the energy for her today. Beth says to take her anywhere but a music festival, to pick something more suited to her personality. Rip then suggests that they go get drunk and watch some wolves kill an elk in the park. Beth walks past him and says she'll drive.


Over at a rodeo, Toby Reynolds is getting ready to ride a bull, which he stays on for several seconds. Carl Reynolds  and John are sitting in the stands. Carl mentions the Toby shaves a year off his life every time he rides a bull. John replies that it shaves a year off his own, and Toby isn't even his son. Carl asks how he kept his sons out of rodeo. John says that the only reason to ride a bull is to meet a nurse. Carl then says that he wouldn't be surprised if nurses were behind it all, seeing as the pay's not great.

They talk about the difference between raising sons and daughters: stopping their girls from screwing and stopping the boys from screwing themselves up. John then says he needs help to unscrew something, for Reynold's oldest son Tom to stop telling people that he saw someone or it would cost him another son if he keeps telling that version of events. Carl says to tell him what he should have seen and he would make sure that was all Tom ever saw.


It's now night and Rip and Beth are on their date watching wolves from a car. Beth starts talking about death and morbidity. Rip says pretending something hasn't happened doesn't change the fact that it happened. Beth says that it makes you think it hasn't happened. Rip says everyone will die someday and Beth responds by saying he got old. Rip chuckles that she hasn't aged a day and might just be able to cheat death. 

Beth goes in to kiss him before opening the car door and running at the wolves yelling, whiskey bottle in hand, arms high in the air. Rip runs after her, huffing when he catches up. When Rip asks what's wrong with her, she responds says she's cheating death like he said. Rip says she's the craziest person he's met. Beth continues her thought saying it's only the people that she loves that dies. She says she's surprised Rip's standing, but that God must still be punishing him as well.


At an the cowboys bunkhouse, the boys are playing an arcade shooting game,  practicing lassos, and playing cards. Jimmy is resting on his back on his bunk. Ryan comes out in a towel, having just finished his shower, calling the next one up. A cowboy mentions that Jimmy's next, but he responds he'll wait for the water to warm. Colby says the water will never get warm until they hire someone new. The cowboy says he doesn't want to sleep next to him smelling like a goat and he'll be asleep in an hour if he waits and then tells him to get up repeatedly. He goes to drag him off the bed when Jimmy doesn't make an effort, pulling his legs and then opening up Jimmy's shirt revealing the Yellowstone Dutton brand on his chest. 

Lloyd then says Jimmy can have his shower in the morning when it's plenty hot. Lloyd then takes off his shirt revealing his brand, saying cold water doesn't bother him. The other cowboys stand around in awkward silence. 


The next morning, John is looking at an old photo of his family when Beth walks in. John ask's where she's been to which she respond the park and asks what he's doing. John say he has to make another decision a father shouldn't have to make. John asks her about Judgement Day and cremation in relation to the Bible as well as needing to hide something Lee didn't do but Kayce did. Beth responds that the decision should be easy as Kayce was her mother's favorite and they promised to protect him.


John is sitting in the church Aaron McReary attends when the Father Bob walks in talking about John in the scaffolding hanging off beams. John confesses that's he's seen too much bad to believe in God. Bob starts talking about faith in tragedy. John says he doesn't regret any of his sin, but he does worry over the one he's about to partake in and force Bob to take part in as part of a debt.


Father Bob's next sermon is on false witness, the Ninth Commandment, and not speaking against one's neighbor or one's shepherd. He speaks about attacking the Shepherd by tricking the mind of people, any thereby destroying the flock.

Aaron approaches Father Bob after the service, saying the sermon seemed to talk specifically to him. Bob says that he doesn't choose the sermon or whom it' s for, but he just has to deliver it. Bob invites him to talk inside for Aaron to talk through his problems.

-- Over at Kayce's, Kayce is on the phone with his old captain who complains that his team is a little light at the moment. Kayce mentions he's calling because he wants back in. After a moment of disbelief, his captain says to pack his stuff. Kayce responds that he never unpacked. When Kayce hangs up, he turns around to see his wife, Monica, who say they're gonna be late.


Monica asks what she's done when they're in the car together. When Kayce responds it isn't her, she asks what he did. Kayce says he can't provide for a family selling horses. Monica rebuts he definitely can't if he's gifting them away. Kayce says he has two skills, and only one of them pays. He then mentions that he doesn't want his wife to have that responsibility and Monica cuts him off saying neither one of them had a problem with him being a broke horse trainer last week, and only he has since his father has been back in his life.

When Kayce says he's no good at this, Monica agrees that he's probably the worst lier she's ever met. So she asks him to stop lying and say why he's leaving. As Kayce goes to confess to killing Robert, her brother, the house on the side of the road explodes, causing Kayce to swerve off the road. 

Kayce tells Monica to call 911 as he goes to inspect the explosion's remains. Kayce takes over his jumper to cover his mouth as he walks through the smoke. He comes across a dog with missing hind legs before finding a man burned all over asking after his family. When Kayce tells him they're all gone, he asks Kayce to kill him. 

Kayce runs back to the car, and Monica asks if there are people. Kayce says not anymore as he grabs his gun. When Kayce tries to make her stay behind, Monica says she goes where he goes. Kayce concedes and they both go back to the man. The man is still asking to be killed when they return.

Kayce asks how long the ambulance will be and Monica says 45 minutes. Kayce responds this man doesn't have 45 minutes and there's no pain like burning. He takes out his gun, cocks it, aims and they both look away as he shoots. 

The tribal police eventually arrive since the event occurred on reserve land. Ben Waters mentions that killing the man was the right thing to do as he talks to Thomas Rainwater. Thomas says he's not ready to play this hand and to make it go away. 

Ben goes over to Kayce and makes him trade slides, saying that he was the one who put the man out of his misery rather than Kayce, naming Kayce as a witness. Ben says that is what he will put in the report. 

Thomas comes over and says he and Kayce are covered in evil and must wash it off.


Thomas, Kayce and other tribe members are sitting and standing around a fire preparing for a sweat. Thomas starts talking about fathers and sons, about how babies look like their fathers when they are born. Thomas goes on to say that all men are bad, but some of them try real hard to be good. He speaks of the sweat ceremony and what you see as a map of the future, saying "The good things about maps is if you don't like the path you are on, you can always choose another."


It's night and four men are carrying a coffin, John and Jamie following them. The body of Lee is removed and bagged, and the coffin is broken up into pieces. They bring the body and the coffin parts and throw them into an incinerator before it's closed up. The operator says the oven's never has a person in it before, but they should have ashes in 10 minutes. John and Jamie watch on silently, glances between themselves and the oven.


After the ceremony, Kayce is driving home and sees a coyote crossing the road and slows down. The coyote stops on the other lane of the road and appears to stare at him. A truck comes down the road quickly in the other direction. Kayce honks repeatedly to warn the truck about the coyote or scare the coyote off, but the truck just runs into it without stopping or hindering its trip. Kayce continues his trip home.      --

At the county medical examiner's office, the examiner is smoking embalming fluid. Rip scares the guy when he asks why he does that from the door. When the man says he wants to forget everything, Rip retorts that he wouldn't be there if that was the case. The coroner gets angry and picks up a handheld electric drill, asking if he wants to fight. Rip has him come over and easily disarms and and knocks the guy out.      --

Back at Kayce's home, Tate is being tucked into bed by Monica. Tate choose to read a dinosaur book before bed, but says that the dinosaur outside their house is a secret just for him and his dad so Monica is not allow to read the book to him. Monica says she can read it to him, or he can just look at pictures, and Tate picks pictures.


Rip asks the coroner what each of the pipes does, and tells him to pull out the oxygen one. He does and Rip then instructs him to put some tools in the metal kidney dish. When he refuses and says he won't tell anyone, Rip says it's already too late for that, but also asks him why he is scared. When the coroner says he doesn't want to die, Rip responds that it seems he doesn't want to live either. Rip then goes on to say that it's the habit of living he's scared of loosing. He then repeats his order about the tools. The coroner picks up the tray and puts it in the microwave as instructed.

Rip walks over to the computer and asks if it is the only one with the report, making sure it's not at his house or anywhere else. The coroner mentions that everyone will know it is arson, but Rip mentions that it will look like suicide and that deep down that's what the medical examiner wants. The coroner doesn't refute it.

Rip puts the laptop on top of the microwave and grabs some alcohol to put in the microwave with the metal dish. The coroner asks if he can smoke one more joint and Rip agrees. As he takes a breath of the joint, Rip grabs him in a sleeper hold and knocks him out, forcing the air out of his lungs before gently laying him on the floor. He sets the timer for 10 minutes and walks out of the room. The microwave begins to spark and produce small flames inside immediately.


Monica is grading papers when Kayce arrives. Kayce sits down and says if he's gonna lose Monica it's going to be because of what he did, not because of his lies. Monica asks if she gives him this lie if he will stay, but Kayce says if he says she'll learn it. Monica then says that was what they meant when they said for better or for worse. Kayce says it will get worse. 

Tate calls from the other room and Monica asks him to say he'll stay. Kayce says whatever he does is because he loves her. Monica makes him look at her as she says she'll forgive him for anything, but Kayce says there is something. Tate calls out again, and Kayce joins him saying he wants to be with his son. 

Kayce is then sitting in bed with his son, reading through the book, discussing digging up and hiding the dinosaur bones. Monica is crying silently outside the room in the hallway.


John Dutton is digging up part of his wife's grave the next morning, talking about burying his son twice. He mentions bring her company as he pours Lee's ashes in the small hole he made in her grave before covering up the hole again. He pats Evelyn Dutton's headstone before walking off with his shovel and the box he used to carry Lee's ashes.


  • Even though Danny Huston is mentioned in this episode's opening credits, he did not make an appearance.
  • Sila Agavale's role as Process Server is mentioned in the credits, even though his scene wasn't included in this particular episode. Instead, his scene was shown in A Monster Is Among Us, the seventh episode of the season.
  • Remarkably, Walter Mecham and Trenton James were credited for playing George Washington and Andrew Jackson, two roles that would seem to stand out in the present day storyline of the series. The two actors, however, do not seem to appear in this episode.


  • Thomas Rainwater: "Right now we have a tragedy. If there’s a third shooter we have something entirely different."
  • Carl Reynolds: "I hope I never meet the first man who thought it was a good idea to ride a bull."
    John Dutton: "I don't know, Carl. First man might be worth meeting. It's the second man I wonder about."
  • John Dutton: "I don’t regret one sin I’ve committed. It’s the one I’m about to commit that worries me."
  • Beth Dutton: "It's only the things I love that die, Rip, never me. Come to think of it, I'm surprised you're still standing."


Opening credits[]




Closing credits[]

Guest Starring[]


Crew (and other credits)[]

Opening credits[]

Closing credits[]

  • Executive Producers: John Linson, Art Linson
  • Executive Producer: Taylor Sheridan
  • Executive Producer: Kevin Costner
  • Executive Producer: David C. Glasser
  • Co-Executive Producer: Michael Friedman
  • Producer: John Vohlers
  • Co-Producer: Ben Richardson
  • Associate Producer: Tim Pedegana
  • Unit Production Manager: Matias Alvarez
  • Unit Production Manager: Daniel Schneider
  • First Assistant Director: Christopher Carroll
  • Second Assistant Director: Jason Altieri
  • Music Supervisor: Andrea von Foerster
  • Visual Effects Supervisor: Greg Liegey Jr.
  • Costume Designer: Ruth Carter
  • Assistant Costume Designer: Sandra Sedlik
  • Costume Supervisor: Paul Simmons
  • Supervising Art Director: Cara Brower
  • Art Director: Caty Maxey
  • Set Decorator: Carla Curry
  • Property Master: Ian Roylance
  • Department Head Makeup: Greg Moon
  • Department Head Hairstylist: Tim Muir
  • Second Second Assistant Director: Spencer Taylor
  • Script Supervisor: Steven Gehrke
  • Sound Mixer: Tom Curley
  • Boom Operator: Lisa Gillespie
  • Stunt Coordinator: Wade Allen
  • "A" Camera Operator: Brian Sullivan
  • Post Production Coordinator: Quinn Kawata
  • Assistant Editors: Johnnie Martinez, David Reale, Kelly Soll
  • VFX Editor: Scott Anderson
  • Post Production Assistant: Amy Pedegana
  • Production Supervisor: Sergio Rodriguez
  • Production Coordinator: Montana Peterson
  • Travel Coordinator: Morgan Asdel
  • Production Accountant: Hala Gabriel
  • Assistant to Mr. Sheridan: Grace Morton
  • Executive Assistant to the Linsons: Brian Bennett
  • Assistant to Mr. Costner: Glenn Kleczkowski
  • Production Counsel: Reed Smith
  • Publicity Coordinator: Perri Eppie
  • Gaffer: Corrin Hodgson
  • Best Boy Electric: Garrett Williams
  • Key Grip: Craig Sullivan
  • Best Boy Grip: K.C. Olsen
  • Supervising Location Manager: Mark Jarrett
  • Location Manager UT: Logan Cooper
  • Location Manager MT: Charlie Skinner
  • Lead Scout: Rusty Tinder
  • Key Assistant Location Managers: Dustin Daniels, Paul Knaus, Zach Heine, Mitchell Jarrett
  • Location Coordinator: Yvette Yurcisin
  • Construction Coordinator: Sammy Hammett
  • Transportation Coordinator: Britani Alexander
  • Supervising Sound Editor: Alan Murray
  • Re-Recording Mixers: Tim LeBlanc, Dean Zupancic
  • Music Editors: Joe Lisanti, Kyle Clausen
  • ADR Casting by: Barbara Harris
  • Main Titles Designed by: Elastic
  • Executives in Charge for Paramount Network: Ted Gold, Lauren Ruggiero
  • Rights and Clearances by: Entertainment Clearances, Inc., Cassandra Barbour, Laura Sevier
  • iStock by Getty Images, Shutterstock, Sony Music Entertainment
  • Product Placement by: Stone Management, Inc.
  • Product Placement Coordinators: Cat Stone and Adam Stone, Megan Soliah
  • Promotional Consideration Provided by: Ram Trucks, Anheuser-Busch, Incorporated, Priefert Manufacturing
  • Filmed/Taped in Utah Film Studios, Park City, Utah



Episode guide[]

Yellowstone - Season 1 episodes
01 - Daybreak 04 - The Long Black Train 07 - A Monster Is Among Us
02 - Kill the Messenger 05 - Coming Home 08 - The Unravelling: Part 1
03 - No Good Horses 06 - The Remembering 09 - The Unravelling: Part 2

External links[]