‘Yellowstone’ Star Breaks Down That Intense Episode & Teases the Season 3 Finale

Yellowstone - Season 3 - Denim Richards as Colby
Spoiler Alert
Paramount Network

[Warning: The below contains MAJOR spoilers for Season 3, Episode 9 of Yellowstone, “Meaner Than Evil.”]

The good news: ranch hands Colby (Denim Richards) and Teeter (Jennifer Landon) are alive after John Dutton’s (Kevin Costner) foes, Wade (Boots Southerland) and Clint Morrow (Brent Walker), tried to trample them to death.

In August 16’s penultimate episode, “Meaner Than Evil,” the Dutton ranch gets its payback, as foreman Rip Wheeler (Cole Hauser) leads everyone in hunting down the Morrows, cutting Wade’s brand out of his chest, and ultimately tossing their bodies off a cliff, never to be found. But the price of that revenge is the brand itself, paid by Colby, Teeter, and Ryan (Ian Bohen).

Here, Richards breaks down the intense episode and teases next week’s Season 3 finale.

It’s good to see Colby and Teeter are both alive.

Denim Richards: [Laughs] Yeah, it was quite a cliffhanger for everyone, including myself when I first got the script.

Can you talk about reading that river scene and filming it?

What’s always exciting about this show is you never know when your name’s going to get called. You’re going through, and everything is great, and all of a sudden, something comes across your screen, and you’re like, “wait a second, how does this work?” I remember when I first got this script, I’m reading it and then Jennifer Landon messaged me, “we don’t die.” I was like, “what are you talking about?” and I’m reading the script, “oh, that’s what they’re talking about.”

When we actually went and did the scene, I was like, “I have no idea how this is even going to work.” I got into this mental state where I was like, “this is going to be so fun, to just be in this water, even though it was so cold, but to just be in the type of immersive experience.” As an artist, that’s something you really look forward to doing. Challenging yourself, not only physically, mentally, but also emotionally, and these last two episodes really did that for me. I feel so proud to be able to do that and to be able to do it with somebody like Jennifer Landon, who’s also such a phenomenal artist, was really awesome. I’m really glad the audience reacted in the way we all hoped they would.

How is this experience going to change Colby? We already start to see it with what happens with Wade, right?

Right. We all see Ryan, where he clearly wants to be in those deep, intense moments with Rip [and] Kayce, whereas Colby’s been very laid back and just “let’s stay out of the way. If we don’t make any trouble, we can never get in any trouble.”

Now, he really is coming with a different intention. He’s gotten a taste of what this fight is all about, and this fight is so much different than getting into a bar fight and all these other things, where it’s just fun and games, no one’s trying to kill each other. Now, you actually took the lowest route possible to try to kill somebody. Now, Colby’s going to want something for that. It’s going to be exciting, going forward, to see how this begins to change and evolve him into a little bit more a rigid character, not necessarily so happy go lucky.

Ryan John Colby Yellowstone Season 3

(Paramount Network)

Especially because, like you said, he wasn’t involved in anything. But because he works on the ranch, he got pulled into it.

Right. That’s always the hard part. With all the characters that go into the bunkhouse, we’ve been there from the beginning, but we’ve also been kept separated from the darker side, the black ops side of things on the ranch. Now when we’ve actually been unintentionally drawn into that, there’s no going back. It is one of those types of situations where it’s like, “OK, now we’ve seen it and you can’t unsee it and now we have the broken bones and the wounds to prove that we’ve been in it.” Now everything changes.

This season was really about getting emotionally connected with the characters more, [while] Season 1 and 2 was a lot of action and showing the raw side of them. Now this is an emotional raw side of a lot of these characters, so every decision that’s being made is really cutting everybody emotionally. Because of that, everyone begins to operate in a completely different way.

How is Colby feeling about what they did to Wade Morrow and his son? Does he feel it’s justified after what they did, especially since he saw Teeter’s head wound?

Yeah, that was something to behold, wasn’t it? Absolutely. One of the things that happens is John Dutton gives fair warnings and—we’ve seen this with Walker, with others—once you take this brand, this brand is for life. The only time that you get to not be a part of this brand is if you die. If you leave, you can never come back. So the intentions are always made very, very clear, but oftentimes, these people think, “oh, time has passed and because now I’m with people that have even more money, I’ll just team up with them,” then they come back.

We’re still men of our word at the Yellowstone and so what we said is what we said. Now when Wade had already broken that Yellowstone code by even coming back, and then on top of that, going and trampling on people that had nothing to do with he and John, it’s completely justified, and for Colby, the only thing he wishes is he was the one that actually got to pull the rope.

I noticed that Colby walks around the tree to look at Wade.

Yeah, to look at it. You want to look at that and take that in because you realize in that moment that we’re fully in this thing now. … It’s that moment where it all sinks in. There’s no going back from this. Now we’re in it and now we’re accessories to murder, and now we’ve done all these things and this is where we are. We’re not going to leave here unless we’re dead. That’s a completely different thing than Colby’s ever experienced.

Then we get the branding scene at the end.

Yeah, and then Colby takes the brand … Seasons 1 and 2, we were like, “we just want to get branded,” then we’d get through every year, “we didn’t get to get branded.”

Teeter Colby Yellowstone Season 3

(Paramount Network)

So, then, when you get to see the way we’re getting branded, it was not only that rite of passage, which is very ceremonial, but also this way of, you know we’re also getting branded because there’s a big fight that’s going to end up happening and you need to have all hands on deck and you can’t have any of this happy go lucky and just go and have fun. We’re getting ready to gear up for a war, and this is also John Dutton’s way of letting everybody know that the way things used to look are not going to be the same going forward. It really was a different way, especially to end it on that note, which is very beautiful, very ceremonial, but also really, really intense, as we begin to move forward into Season 4.

Colby’s finally giving into the attraction between him and Teeter. How would you describe their relationship after this episode?

[Laughs] It’s complicated is the best way. What’s really interesting is that everybody has seen that Teeter has not been shy about wanting to get the attention of Colby and Colby just does what he does, but what ends up happening is when you’re around somebody, even though you may not necessarily be attracted to them, you still care for them and then when you go through that traumatic experience together, it naturally brings people together in a completely different way. That’s what has happened with Colby and Teeter, especially when we’re sharing this kiss when half her face is hanging off and it’s being stapled together. “I guess we’re just in this and how intense can it be?”

Moving forward, it really becomes this thing where you almost feel like you’re responsible for her in this way as well, which is deeper than maybe just this physical attraction. It really also becomes this, “I’m responsible for you and I want to make sure that you’re good because anything that happens to you is ultimately going to happen to me because I might have to go and protect you.” That’s a really beautiful thing to watch how that’s going to begin to unravel as this next season begins to unfold.

Throughout the season, we saw things getting a bit looser and more light-hearted in the bunkhouse, with Jimmy’s girlfriend and her friend coming in. How much do you think they all needed that, especially given the events of this episode?

It was a good thing. Especially in Seasons 1 and 2, we always joked about the bunkhouse being like the commercial break within Yellowstone, where people can just take a breath and laugh a little bit. Because it’s so intense outside of it. Within the bunkhouse, especially this season, as we’re getting the barrel racing girls that are coming in, and then obviously we have Teeter, it brings a completely different energy and atmosphere, which was beautiful.

Beth Rip Yellowstone Season 3

(Paramount Network)

For all of us in the bunkhouse, one of our favorite days was when we were having that party and you also saw Beth and Rip because Rip always comes in like a hornet, always upset that anybody has a smile on their face. To see him come in and see that transformation when he saw Beth in there dancing and having a good time, it was so beautiful because it was like this is what life is oftentimes. We can get so wound up and we never take a break, and us all being in that atmosphere and being able to take our boots off and hang out and laugh and chill and smile … John Dutton wants people to be a little bit looser and not so wound up because life is so stressful. Then as the time goes on in the season, seeing how that goes away, it was a much needed break within everything.

What can you tease about the finale? Is there a cliffhanger?

Everybody is going to be upset they have to wait eight months to see something else. There’s so many different things that are going to be happening in this finale. You have to just be there from the moment the episode starts because you don’t want to miss anything. What we saw in the beginning of this was the seasonings and the pot was simmering and now as we get into the season finale, we’re really at a boiling point and there’s no controlling the boil. It’s just coming over the pot and going all over the kitchen. It’s insane.

There’s cliffhangers and there’s a lot of things that end and it’s going to be really, really intense for a lot of people and I’m really excited to watch the reactions of everybody that’s watching. … I promise you [the finale] is going to be worth it. And it’ll be something that people will watch several times because they’ll look at it and they’ll hope to try to pick up some clues. But no matter what anybody guesses, you’ll never be able to guess the right answer as we go into this Season 4.

Yellowstone, Sundays, 9/8c, Paramount Network.