Warning: This article contains spoilers for season five of Yellowstone.

Yellowstone fans knew that the midseason finale of everyone’s favorite cowboy drama would be full of highs and lows, but we didn’t anticipate the tearful goodbye that took place between father and son; or father and daughter-in-law. With significant changes on the horizon in Montana, some of our favorite characters are gearing up for a change in scenery, and one of them is the patriarch himself.

John Dutton swore in as Governor of Montana in the premiere of season five, bringing several changes for the family and the ranch hands through the process. Of course, John himself wasn’t immune to all that was happening around him, and in addition to a change of job title, he’s had less time to spend at the ranch as of late.

As some of the best hands on the ranch prepare to head to Texas to relocate the cattle from the Yellowstone Dutton Ranch, John finds Monica leaning against a gate as she watches them work. She looks over at him and, in perhaps their most genuine conversation to date, she thanks him for the kind words he offered after her son’s death.

After the ceremony honoring the short life of John Dutton IV, John shares a moment with Monica in which he tells her that all her baby ever knew was love; the darkness within the world never touched him, and he was blessed to only exist in love. He also told her that his parents lost a baby when John was a child, and similar words helped their family cope. John nods, soaking in the moment of growth between the pair. They’ve not always seen eye to eye, and her gratitude for their relationship comes at a critical time.

John is there to ask Monica a question, and it’s an important one.

John lets Monica know that if Tate is to inherit a ranch as he gets older, they have to ensure it’ll stay in working order, and that very idea is pulling him in two directions. So, for now, while he deals with business in Helena, he needs someone to take care of the ranch, and not just anyone — he needs Kayce and Monica.

Monica agrees to help and reminds John that it’s all he’s ever had to do: ask. John says he knows that now and walks towards Kayce and Rip who is working with the cattle. He shares a heavy moment with Kayce, leaning in to give him a full-body hug and sharing three words he doesn’t often share with his son: “I love you.” Cue the tears.

Kayce shrugs the moment off and tells Rip it feels like John is the one leaving, and Rip tells him that he is. Kayce wasn’t made privy to the conversation John and Monica shared, and while he knows his father has a heavy weight on his shoulders, he wasn’t sure just how heavy that was. He wasn’t aware of why that goodbye felt so heavy.

Of course, Kayce also couldn’t have known what Jamie had up his sleeve either, and part of the emotional depth of this episode exists in the magic Taylor Sheridan uses to craft a storyline that shows up in several ways throughout the episode, with hints as to what’s coming next without being too obvious about it.

As John Dutton left the ranch that morning, he couldn’t have been prepared for what the future would hold for him, and as he said his emotional goodbye to Kayce, he was saying goodbye to a lot more without knowing it. We won’t find out what’s next for John, Jamie, or Beth until the second half of season five premieres this summer, but there’s a lot to dream up in the time between.

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