Yellowstone made its broadcast television debut Sunday night with the series’ premiere, “Daybreak” airing on CBS. It was announced earlier this year that the fan-favorite series would begin airing on the network Sunday nights this fall, starting from that first episode at 9 p.m. ET on nights where the network airs only one NFL game. For many, this is an opportunity to watch the Kevin Costner-starring western drama for the first time while for fans already invested in the Dutton family saga, it’s a chance to go back to the beginning to where it all started while they wait for the final chapter. A lot happens in the series’ first episode — and we’re here to break it all down. Here is a spoiler-filled recap of “Daylight”, the first episode of Yellowstone’s first season — including notes on how CBS altered the episode for broadcast.
What Happened in “Daybreak”?
An injured John Dutton speaks to his injured horse before shooting in the head. They’ve been involved in a bad auto accident involving a trailer hauling construction equipment. The other driver is dead and John discovers the truck is being driven for Paradise Valley Development.
We’re introduced to the Dutton children. Jamie Dutton gives testimony at a hearing at the Montana statehouse. Someone is trying to get eminent domain declared for a housing development that would take some of the Dutton’s ranch, but the Governor dismisses it. Elsewhere, Beth Dutton is brought out as the big gun for the firm she works at to bully an energy company into doing what they want and let the firm assume management. Kayce Dutton deals with a problem horse and returns to his home on the reservation. Lee Dutton prepares to go round up some errant cattle for a Livestock Commission operation.
On the Broken Rock Reservation, Thomas Rainwater meets with Senator Huntington. He reveals his personal history about how his adoptive parents kept his native heritage from him and now he’s planning to use the casino to buy back native land for the native people and wants the Senator’s help.
Dan Jenkins, the man behind the Paradise Valley Development, meets with bankers and tells the skeptical group that in Montana he can do whatever he wants on his land. Nearby, Beth is watching. Back on the reservation, the ranchers find themselves in a standoff with the indigenous people living on the reservation because a herd of cattle has wandered onto native land, which prompts the natives to claim them. Things get tense. John shows up and speaks to an elder, Felix and they agree to keep the cows from wandering off until things can be sorted out though it’s made clear that Rainwater is looking for a fight. John spots Kayce on the side of the natives.
John asks Jamie what they can do legally about the cattle and then meets with some people, including Dirk who gets John to hire his grandson Jimmy, who has a criminal record, to work at the ranch. He also meets with the Governor, who says Jamie should be in politics but John says no. The next day, John visits Kayce who says he didn’t know the cattle belonged to the Duttons. John also says he wants to get to know his grandson, Tate. At the ranch, Rip Wheeler goes to Jimmy’s trailer, tases and abducts him, giving him a choice to be sent back to prison or work at the Yellowstone, albeit with a Yellowstone brand on his chest. Jimmy accepts and is branded.
John spots Dan playing golf near his property and confronts him. The confrontation goes badly with Dan saying that John cannot stop progress and John threatens Dan if he continues with his plans. He also tells Dan that he owes him a horse, referring to the accident. Jamie and Beth have a tense encounter before Beth finds and seduces Rip. John ends up meeting with an engineer about what the development would mean for the water supply for the Yellowstone, prompting John to decide to move the river — aka, blow up a dam and dry up Dan’s water supply. Rainwater also has a tense meeting with John and reveals that they are keeping the cattle because John’s ancestors stole their land.
The cattle operation begins and quickly goes awry. Lee gets the cattle off the reservation but gets shot by Monica Dutton’s (Kayce’s wife) brother, Robert and despite Kayce riding up and killing Robert to keep him from shooting Lee again, Lee dies. The family takes Lee’s death hard, though John only breaks down later alone in the barn. Kayce doesn’t tell Monica what happened with Robert. Back at the ranch, John tells Jamie and Beth he needs them to stick around and when Beth asks him who she needs to fight he tells her “everyone”.
How Did CBS Change “Daybreak” For Broadcast?
While Yellowstone made its CBS broadcast debut on Sunday night, the version of “Daybreak” that aired does differ a bit from the Paramount Network version of the same episode due to network broadcast standards. It was previously confirmed that there would be some changes made for the broadcast, changes that CBS confirmed to Country Living would be “minor and the integrity of the original series will be preserved”. What that means for this first, two-hour episode, is that there was some profanity and explicit language muted during the episode. The other major edits involved nudity, specifically a scene with Beth in which she is undressing and the sex scene that follows between Beth and Rip that is reframed so as not to show the character’s bare breasts. There are also some other scenes that are trimmed from the episodes, specifically scenes on the ranch with the workers — as those are scenes that contain the bulk of the explicit language.
Yellowstone airs Sunday nights on CBS. The first four seasons of the series are also available to stream on Peacock.