Yes, Yellowstone is the story of the entire Dutton family. But the Yellowstone Dutton ranch wouldn’t exist without John Dutton’s unofficial son, Rip. Rip manages the ranch hands, which means he basically runs the ranch. He also does John Dutton’s dirty work — and John has a lot of dirty work to be done. On the surface, Rip is one part strict foreman, one part gangster enforcer. You could almost think he’s just another silent, unfeeling, stereotypical grunt.
But then you see how he takes Jimmy under his wing, believing in a kid nobody else would. You see how he’s loyal to the Duttons, often to his own detriment. You see how he’s the toughest guy in the room and isn’t afraid to show it. And you see how his romance with Beth is a love story for the ages. Behind all the silent, unsmiling stares, hard hits, and cold-blooded killing, Rip actually has the most heart of anybody on Yellowstone Ranch. Rip and his relationships make Yellowstone the hit it is, and we’re here to celebrate his finest moments.
Rip saves Jimmy with a taser and a threat
The first time we see Rip in action in the series’ pilot episode, he shows up at the trailer of some small-time thief and tases the kid at the door. When the boy, named Jimmy, wakes, Rip says very matter-of-factly that either he should accept the Yellowstone Ranch brand, or Rip will take him to the law and make sure he goes to jail forever, given his previous record. Rip explains that this is Jimmy’s last chance to make something of himself. Then he shows Jimmy his own brand, and explains how accepting it began his own redemption.
Rip is as menacing as a bear in this scene, but he acts calmly, speaking in a tone that approaches concern and humanity. Jimmy accepts the brand and joins Yellowstone. Later, Rip says Jimmy will be a cowboy, even though John claims bringing the boy on is nothing more than a favor. They’re both proven somewhat correct, but Rip moreso.
Rip takes down Jimmy’s bully
Rip doesn’t seem to play favorites — in fact, he seems to hate almost everybody under him equally. Well, maybe not Lloyd, the old-timer. But he definitely seems to be hard on Jimmy from the start, never missing a chance to call him stupid. The other hands behave similarly, especially Fred. They back off when they see Jimmy has the brand, especially after Lloyd reveals his own brand. Still, though, Fred keeps bullying Jimmy. When Jimmy works hard, that seems to anger Fred even more. When it finally comes to blows in the yard, big Fred pummels Jimmy mercilessly.
At this, Rip tears across the yard and knocks Fred over. Rip says, “What’s the rule about fighting, Fred? You wanna fight somebody? You come fight me! I’ll fight you all goddamn day!” Rip pounds Fred, then tells Jimmy that people like that come and go, but the branded ones are truly part of the ranch. The title of this episode, “The Long Black Train,” likely references the moment Rip takes Fred to “the train station”: A cliff just off the road where Rip kills him, then pushes him into the abyss. A Dutton standard.
Rip takes Beth on a morbid date
Rip, whose history with Beth goes way back, asks her on a date when she returns to the Dutton household. He invites her to a music festival, and she mocks him. Later, she tells him to ask her on a date that’s more suited to her personality, so Rip suggests he and Beth go get drunk and watch some wolves kill an elk in the park. Beth proceeds to the car, saying she’ll drive. There’s no better way to sum up the rocky early days of their relationship than this anecdote: They’re both somewhat broken and just trying to survive whatever weird ways they can.
Rip and Beth proceed to do just what he proposed: They drink whiskey inside her car while they watch wolves feed on an elk. She talks about how in cites, people rope off death. Rip replies, “Pretending it don’t happen doesn’t make it not happen.” Then, Rip points out that everybody and everything she knows will die, though Beth herself might just manage to cheat death. Beth promptly runs at the wolves, and Rip struggles to catch up. When he does, she says there was no danger — it’s only the people she loves who dies. She muses that, as a result, she’s “surprised [Rip’s] still standing.”
Rip saves Beth from the Beck brothers’ assassins
“Resurrection Day” shows Rip as a gentle teacher, and then as a fierce warrior. Towards the end of the episode, two assassins sent by the Beck brothers break into Beth’s office. She manages to get a text off to Rip before they storm through the room, saying they’re there to scare her. To prove they’re serious, they kill her assistant. She fights back, stabbing one to death, but she can’t kill the other. He beats her horribly, and just as he’s about to rape her, a chair crashes through the glass wall of the room. Rip, angry as a bear, has arrived.
Rip takes a shot from the assailant’s gun before subduing the man — in part by pressing his eyes into his skull. He will forever be the Dutton’s enforcer, but beyond that, he’ll always be Beth’s protector. This one episode shows this versatility in full: He is both babysitter and raging bull. After the attacker’s skull is crushed by a giant ashtray, Rip takes Beth in his arms and comforts her. From that point on, she and Rip are locked together forever.
Rip has a drink or three before becoming a happy husband
Season three of Yellowstone focuses on Jamie, Kayce’s rise to respectability, and Native issues. Rip takes a back seat — except for episode seven, “The Beating.” In this installment, he takes Jimmy and Jimmy’s girlfriend, Mia, to try and sell a semi-wild horse to a legendary rodeo family. In part, this is to show Jimmy why he should quit rodeo. Mia insists on coming along and chatters on throughout the ride about clothes, spurs, and music, driving the taciturn Rip crazy. “When we get back to the ranch, I’m gonna kill you. With my bare f**king hands, Jimmy,” Rip whispers to him, as Mia prattles on.
When he gets home to Beth, he storms past her, comes out with a six-pack of Coors, chugs a few, and smiles to her, finally calmed. As he smiles, Beth surprises him by revealing that she’s asked her father if it’s okay for her to marry Rip, then presents him with a ring. This may be the happiest moment of the season, if not the series.
Season three is full of heartwarming Rip and Beth honeymoon-phase scenes, where they enjoy the love that had long been denied by Beth’s self-destructive behavior. This scene is a great example of their bond — and how Rip maintains it, by refusing to drag his work demons into his happy home.