Led by big screen star Kevin Costner, “Yellowstone” has grown into one of the best crime dramas on television since its debut in 2018. Created by Taylor Sheridan, writer of the Oscar-nominated neo-Western “Hell or High Water,” the series has dazzled with a mix of gritty action, family drama, and dark politics. Set in the big sky country of Montana, it centers on Costner’s John Dutton, the leader of the Yellowstone-Dutton Ranch, which has a legacy that stretches back to the 19th century.
A story about a dying way of life and the lengths that the people still living it will go to in order to preserve it, “Yellowstone” is full of compelling characters. John’s children — Jamie, Kayce, and Beth — each have major roles to play in helping their father fend off their enemies, who encircle them on all sides. There’s the neighboring Broken Rock Indian Reservation, the real estate developers, the big government politicians, and the capitalist investors, all of whom want a piece of their land. At the same time, the ranch hands themselves offer up plenty of excitement, including top dog Rip Wheeler, former drug dealer Jimmy, and the wayward, guitar-playing cowboy Walker.
With so many complicated stories running side by side, it’s inevitable that some plot holes will appear from time to time. Some can be overlooked, but others have caused us to continually scratch our heads. So mount up, because this is a list of plot holes in “Yellowstone” that, after all these years, we still can’t explain. Spoilers ahead.
Beth’s extortion plot
“Yellowstone” has its share of rivalries, but none can hold a candle to the family feud between siblings Beth and Jamie Dutton. In the finale of Season 4, Beth finally seems to get her revenge, holding information that could destroy her brother once and for all. But, when scrutinized even just a little bit, her extortion scheme doesn’t really add up.
It all starts with Jamie’s real father, Garrett Randall, who hires a gang of thugs to assassinate the entire family. When Beth learns that Jamie’s birth father is responsible, she doesn’t out him right away. Instead, after Jamie begs her not to tell their father, she uses her leverage to force him into ᴋɪʟʟɪɴɢ Randall and disposing of the body at the train station (the spot where the Duttons have long dumped the bodies of their murder victims). The final touch comes when she snaps a photo of him with Randall’s corpse just when he’s about to toss the body into the canyon. Beth later shows her father the photo and tells him plainly, “Now you own him.”
We’re not quite sure how Beth or John “own” Jamie with this information. Surely if she went to the authorities then any investigation would reveal a vast web of lies, murder, and corruption at the ranch, not to mention the train station itself. If authorities went to retrieve Randall’s body, they would no doubt unearth more than one family secret, many of which were buried by Beth’s husband, Rip Wheeler. Has she really thought this through?
Knowledge of the train station
Since the show began, the proverbial “train station” has been the ever-present threat that looms over anyone who would stand against the Duttons. Whether one is an enemy, a rival, or a betrayer, if you cross them you’ll get a ride to the train station one way or another. Usually it’s Dutton enforcer Rip Wheeler giving them the ride, and when their fate is sealed, they’re driven out to a remote canyon and dumped over the edge, never to be seen again. What makes it the perfect place to dispose of evidence — as pointed out by ranch hand Lloyd — is that it sits within a region that is isolated and empty: A county with no population, no police, no regional government with any jurisdiction. But how did Jamie even know it existed when he dumped his father’s body there?
Through most of Season 4, we’re led to believe that the only people who have knowledge of the train station are Rip, Kayce, Lloyd, and potentially Walker. Given that Jamie is the family’s attorney, it makes sense that John would keep his adopted son in the dark about it — he’s usually kept out of the loop when it comes to the family’s murderous mischief for reasons of legal deniability. And, while Beth may be married to Rip, there’s been no evidence to suggest she was at all aware of the train station either. Yet, Jamie and Beth both seem intimately aware of the location and its purpose, with no explanation.
Jamie’s murder of Sarah
Jamie’s loyalty to the Yellowstone has long been in doubt, with the character flitting back and forth between devoted son and backstabbing Judas. At one point, Jamie completely turns his back on the family and is ready to spill the beans to journalist Sarah Nguyen. When he gets cold feet and changes his mind, he asks her to spike the story, only to be refused. With the intrepid reporter unwilling to take back the explosive story she’s sitting on, Jamie impulsively strangles her. Panicking about what he’s done, Jamie goes to Rip for help and the two conspire to have Nguyen’s body dumped in a river, hoping to make her ᴅᴇᴀᴛʜ look like a kayaking accident.
While this may seem clever, it actually creates a pretty serious plot hole. If her body is found — which is likely, given their plan — even the most basic autopsy would show that she was strangled. There’s really no reason at all why Rip wouldn’t have chosen to use the train station to get rid of the evidence, other than the writers simply not wanting to go down that same road again. If they had, they would have actually covered their backs on another plot hole — it would have explained how Jamie knew about the dumping ground.
In Season 3, we finally learn the source of Beth’s animosity toward her brother Jamie. In a flashback, we discover that they were close as teenagers. When she found out that she was pregnant, Beth turned to her brother for help. Jamie’s solution was to take her to the abortion clinic that serves the region’s indigenous population. Jamie is informed that the procedure will amount to sterilization for Beth, but that doesn’t stop him. Jamie consents on her behalf and doesn’t even tell Beth about the consequences. Understandably, when she finally learns the truth, she can never forgive him.
The problems with this are many, but we find it mostly hard to believe that Jamie would be allowed to consent for his sister, even if he were of legal age. He’s not her parent or legal guardian, and considering that the clinic staff seem to recognize them as children of the powerful Dutton family, we’re also skeptical that they would agree to perform such a procedure in secret. After all, there could (and should) have been serious repercussions for them. Likewise, the doctors — even ones that operate outside of the normal jurisdiction — would be ethically obligated to inform the patient about the details of the procedure. It just doesn’t add up.
The bomb on the Beck brothers’ plane
A plot development that has frustrated fans of “Yellowstone” for years occurred all the way back in Season 2. That year we saw the arrival of the infamous Beck brothers, a pair of ruthless businessmen with an eye on the Yellowstone-Dutton Ranch. They have big plans to build a casino, but both the Duttons and real estate developer Dan Jenkins stand in their way. Responsible for a cold-blooded attack on the youngest member of the Dutton family, Malcolm and Teal Beck are despicable, irredeemable baddies, and nobody was shedding a tear when Kayce and a member of Jenkins’ security team planted a bomb on their plane. But, for some reason, they never used it.
The bomb seemed like a vicious plot, but given how dangerous the Becks clearly were — making more than one threat against the Duttons to that point — it seemed like a prudent course of action. We’re guessing, since it didn’t go off, that the bomb was made to be activated by remote. Yet, even when the situation escalates and the Becks make direct attacks on the family, the bomb doesn’t come into play. Instead, Kayce seeks them out and guns them down in cold blood. It’s a thrilling conclusion to the story, sure, but what happened to the bomb? Did the writers forget about it? Viewers hadn’t, and it remains one of the biggest unresolved plot contrivances the show has trotted out.
Riggins’ prison interview
At the conclusion of Season 3, in one of the most action-packed, nail-biting sequences that “Yellowstone” has ever offered up, a team of hitmen come to assassinate the Duttons. While everyone manages to miraculously survive, the assassination attempt is eventually traced back to an incarcerated man named Terrell Riggins, who leads the Montana Free State Militia. Later on in Season 4, the family sends lawyer Jamie to interview him, and he learns first hand that it was all at the behest of Garrett Randall — his own birth father.
Following his interview with Riggins, Jamie doesn’t reveal what he learned to the rest of the Dutton clan and that’s where the plot hole comes in. Why wouldn’t John follow-up to find out what he learned? It would seem kind of important considering the entire family and their ranch had come under attack. The reason, of course, is that the story needed it to be Beth who learned the truth on her own, because it set up Season 4’s dramatic conclusion in which she was able to force her brother into a confrontation with Randall. But in the process it makes John (and Kayce, for that matter) seem pretty unconcerned about who really put the hit out on them, and that doesn’t sit right with us.
John’s trust in Jamie
As stories unfold and move on, many plot holes are simply swept under the rug. But, when it comes to “Yellowstone,” there’s at least one that keeps rearing its ugly head over and over: John Dutton’s flip-flopping trust in his adopted son Jamie. When we first meet Jamie, we view him as a loyal, faithful son who uses his unique skills to help the family any way he can. He’s a Harvard-educated lawyer, and that serves him well in his powerful position as the state’s Attorney General, a position that allows him to use his political and legal influence to help the ranch and his family. Yet, multiple storylines have seen John turn on Jamie before welcoming him back into the fold, or Jamie betraying the family only for them to reconcile. How John can continue to trust his son pushes the boundaries of believability.
It’s true that a father’s love can see past plenty of transgressions. But fully placing his trust in Jamie to help save his family, the ranch, and their legacy despite the repeated betrayals doesn’t make a ton of sense. One of the most recent head-scratching moments came in the Season 5 opener. Not long after John stabs Jamie in the back (he didn’t trust him to run for governor so he took his place on the ballot), the newly installed Governor John Dutton gives him an important role in his administration that he could easily use to subvert his family’s goals. Go figure.
Jamie’s birth certificate
It does start to seem strange that so many plot holes revolve around family lawyer Jamie Dutton. It’s like he’s a swiss cheese of stories, with so many cavernous plot holes we’re forced to wonder if the writers were even paying much attention to the details of his complex character and nuanced backstory. Because, once again, we have a massive question mark surrounding the major revelation that Jamie isn’t actually a Dutton by blood.
In a pivotal Season 3 episode, Jamie needs to ratify his appointment to the post of Attorney General, and to do it he needs access to his birth certificate. When he goes to the records office to track it down, he is shocked to learn that he is in fact adopted. Even the clerk herself is annoyed, because if she’d been told it would have made it easier to locate in the files. But, considering he’s a Harvard-educated attorney in a position of power, we find it incredibly hard to believe that he’s gone his entire life without viewing his own birth certificate even once.
Even if we assume that his father went to some extreme lengths to hide his son’s adoption from him, we just can’t imagine that it had never been discovered prior to this point. And it doesn’t even seem that his adopted father cared much, as in most real cases, adopted children are given amended birth certificates.
How has Rip not been discovered?
Similar to Jamie, “Yellowstone” bruiser Rip Wheeler came to the Yellowstone Ranch after a tragedy and was taken in by John Dutton. But, perhaps because he was a teenager when he was forced to murder his own father — who’d beaten his mother and threatened his life, too — he wasn’t welcomed as an officially adopted son. Here’s where things get a little tricky, as it has been mentioned that Rip doesn’t have any official paperwork or legal persona. Because he was the perpetrator in a brutal ᴋɪʟʟɪɴɢ, the Duttons went to great pains to hide his identity. But, like Jamie, we have to wonder how he’s gone decades without anyone figuring it out and putting the pieces together.
We can certainly accept that John himself has helped hide the truth from the community, fudging paperwork and permits, possibly even bribing officials to look the other way from time to time. But with his father ᴋɪʟʟɪed in cold blood, it strains believability that nobody would have come looking for him or that he could have gotten by with no place on the public record. Not to mention that each and every time that Rip gets involved with law enforcement — which is many — it confounds credulity that they’d accept the fact that he has no identity, corrupt police or not.
No matter how they try to explain this one — if they ever even do — it’s well past the point of a plot hole that can be easily glossed over.
Roarke’s ᴅᴇᴀᴛʜ by rattlesnake
One of the slimiest, snarkiest villains on “Yellowstone,” Roarke Morris is a stock trader and investor played by “Lost” veteran Josh Holloway. A frequent thorn in the side of Beth Dutton and the Yellowstone Ranch, he’s not nearly as vicious as the Beck brothers, but far more annoying. To get him out of the way, Rip doesn’t need to resort to a gangland style ᴋɪʟʟɪɴɢ, instead flinging a rattlesnake from a cooler while Roarke is fishing. The snake lunges for Roarke’s face, sinks in its fangs, and delivers a deadly dose of venom that ᴋɪʟʟs Roarke in seconds. Unfortunately, that’s just not how rattlesnake bites work.
Talking with Outsider.com, Nashville Zoo’s Area Supervisor of Herpetology Nicholas Hanna broke down how such bites do work, and they don’t usually line up with what we saw on screen. Unlike a cobra, which has venom that attacks the nervous system, a rattlesnake bite takes a different route. “Rattlesnake venom, as a hemotoxic venom, just starts to degrade your tissue. So it usually takes a while for you to d*e.”
According to experts at the Smithsonian National Zoo, rattlesnake bites are, in fact, rarely fatal. ᴅᴇᴀᴛʜ is easily prevented with readily available anti-venom, which can be administered within 2-3 days, according to Healthline.com. Yet, Roarke d*es within seconds, which seems like a major plot pitfall. Could it have happened that way? “All the stars would have to line up,” Hanna told Outsider. “It’s certainly in the realm of possibility, but again, only in that perfect case scenario.”
It’s like Lee’s ᴅᴇᴀᴛʜ never happened
ᴅᴇᴀᴛʜ is a major part of “Yellowstone,” and it struck the Dutton family early in the series. In the very first episode, “Daybreak,” the eldest Dutton son Lee is gunned down and ᴋɪʟʟed in a confrontation with the Broken Rock Indian Reservation over the theft of horses from the Yellowstone Ranch. He’d pop up during a flashback in a Season 2 episode and in a vision of Kayce’s in Season 4, but we still have a few questions about his absence that need answering.
For starters, as many fans have noted, Lee is conspicuously absent in several flashbacks to the Dutton family’s earlier days. In periods where he should be present, Lee is nowhere to be seen or mentioned, and he’s even been erased from at least one family portrait from their youth. Chalk it up to a production oversight if you want, but what seems most odd to us is how he’s hardly ever mentioned. While John and Beth repeatedly mention the loss of matriarch Evelyn and how it shook the family to its core, it seems that the ᴅᴇᴀᴛʜ of Lee had no such impact on the family.
Why is Jimmy allowed to leave?
Being a ranch hand at the Yellowstone is more than just a job, it’s a lifetime commitment. Ranchers are physically branded and must swear fealty to the big “Y,” and much of that is because of the crimes they engage in. In fact, when Walker is sentenced to ᴅᴇᴀᴛʜ by Rip, part of the reason is that he can’t be trusted with the knowledge of the murders and cover-ups that go on there. But somehow, the same is not said of ranch hand Jimmy, who departed the series for his own spin-off, “Yellowstone: 6666.”
While Jimmy didn’t take part directly in any of the worst crimes, he was at least part of the murders of Ray and Blake, two men who’d been involved in the ᴅᴇᴀᴛʜ of Jimmy’s father. Though nobody was crying for the two thugs, the plot to ᴋɪʟʟ them could land the ranch in serious trouble with the law. And that’s hardly the only knowledge Jimmy has of criminal conduct at the Yellowstone. With that in mind, it seems curious that John Dutton would be so quick to let Jimmy leave the Yellowstone when they wouldn’t allow Walker to do the same.
Granted, the real reason is that producers want Jimmy to headline his own series, but it seems like quite the paradox. At the very least, the plot hole could have been addressed with a stern threat from Rip.