In the episode, a frustrated cattle rancher named Emmett (Buck Taylor) asks Kayce to “do something” about his new neighbor Ralph (Jonathan Kells Phillips) who’s put cattle guards on an easement on his property, preventing Emmett from moving his cattle over said easement and interfering with the rancher’s livelihood. Emmett explains that he’s tried everything, including lawyers, to get the unrelenting neighbor to allow him to use the easement. So, what does Livestock Commissioner Kayce Dutton do in order to ease tensions between the warring neighbors? Naturally, he breaks several laws, including wrongful imprisonment by tying Ralph up and shutting him inside his own cattle grate.
If this was meant to illustrate Kayce “turning to the dark side,” so to speak, and allowing his Dutton-bred machismo to win out over his better angels, it failed to do so simply because Kayce’s actions aren’t just aggressive and vengeful — they’re illogical. John Dutton (Kevin Costner) and his loyal minions might have a “win at all costs” approach to dealing with conflict, but there’s always some semblance of rationale in the rules they break along the way.