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In Yellowstone season 4 episode 5, we meet yet another pain in the butt for House Dutton: an activist named Summer Higgins (Piper Perabo), introduced throwing rocks at a bewildered Kayce.
The incident follows a protest outside the Montana Department of Livestock station, towards which Kayce ungracefully pushes his way through, drawing his gun the moment the crowd overtakes him—because goddamn if Kayce Dutton is gonna be late to work. Another livestock agent also pulls his firearm, and the crowd begins filming and taunting. The sheriff later shows up and chastises Kayce for creating publicity nightmare, explaining he did exactly what the crowd wanted: he showed unnecessary force. Kayce just gives his blank Kayce stare. Daddy shows up. He grumbles.
The protest seems to involve a spattering of various issues, including the use of force by livestock officials (an observation hard to disagree with given all the raids, arrests, and killings orchestrated by agents over the past three seasons of the show), farming and ranching practices using cattle, and some other environmental degradation issues that we couldn’t make out. Leading the charge is the activist Summer Higgins, who John Dutton decides to charge with a crime over her rock throwing. He later posts her bail and picks her up from jail later in the episode.
The two go for a drive and reflect on the end of mankind, as the earth sheds its poisonous human skin during the final moments of homo sapiens. Yeah, we’re just as confused as you are.
Here’s what to know about the newest Yellowstone character and her role in the conflicts to come.
Who is Summer Higgins?
Summer Higgins is an environmental activist protesting Montana’s Livestock department and ranching practices. Her character also seems to be something of a political foil to John Dutton, as their first interactions imitate the kind of ideological differences inherent in voting disagreements. In fact, it’s hard not to see Summer as a kind of stand-in for urban liberalism. Her confrontation with John and successive get-to-know-each-other joy ride through the ranch captures a kind of isle-crossing parley; they’re just two voters from different parties taking a walk in each other’s shoes.
That kind of characterization seems a bit off for a series that hasn’t yet broached American politics. Doing so now, and this late into the show’s run, feels performative. Some fans will probably see Summer as an unnecessary plotline meant to increase the show’s cultural relevance. At least, that’s how we’re reading it for now.
But Summer could also just be the show’s latest villain. Her ride with John is simply a rare moment of allyship before a real showdown.
In an interview with Esquire earlier this year, actor Piper Perabo revealed that she would be something of an antagonist for the Duttons, explaining, “my interests are a direct conflict with the Duttons’ interests. But I can't say who I square off with.”
Becoming a Duton antagonist doesn’t often fare well for Yellowstone characters. “It's very terrifying to come in on the wrong side of the Duttons,” Perabo said. “That was the choice though.”
Whomever Summer squares off with, it’s probably not going to end well.
Who is Piper Perabo?
Perabo is an activist herself and was even arrested for protesting the Supreme Court nomination of Brett Kavanaugh in 2018. She says that fact alone piqued Yellowstone creator Taylor Sheridan’s interest. “He was really interested in the story of civil disobedience and the sort of process of putting your body on the line for a cause that you care about,” Perabo said.
Before Yellowstone, Perabo’s big roles included Cheaper by the Dozen and Covert Affairs, the latter of which earned her a Golden Globe nomination.
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