Why Yellowstone's Rainwater Is Playing Nice With Both John Dutton And Caroline Warner, According To Gil Birmingham

Spoiler warning for anyone who hasn't yet watched the latest episode of Yellowstone Season 4!

 When it comes to opposing John Dutton and his expansive Yellowstone ranch, most characters come at the family head-on, with the mysterious new Riggins character the latest to make such an explosive attempt. And just look at where that dude’s entire crew is: in the same place as Roarke, both of the Beck brothers, Wade Morrow, etc. So while Gil Birmingham’s local leader Thomas Rainwater isn’t at all on the Duttons’ team, or that of any other greedy land-grabbers in the area, as it were, he’s also knows how to avoid battles he can’t walk away from. But it looks like things are going in Rainwater’s favor in Season 4, as he’s now in good graces (of sorts) with both John and Market Equities’ newly introduced head honcho, Caroline Warner.

As seen in the video above, CinemaBlend spoke with Yellowstone star Gil Birmingham about how Season 4 kicked things off for Rainwater, who now finds himself in potentially lucrative waters thanks to Caroline’s pipe dream of an offer to help turn the area into a casino-anchored income haven geared towards rich people with holes burning in every pocket. I first asked the actor how important it is for Rainwater, as a minority figure, to keep his hands clean when dealing with so many other filthy-handed characters. He answered with:

Well, it is a balancing act as we go on to Season 4, because we're dealing with some rather criminal components, I might say, that are accepted in the corporate world, which is very much like real life. So, yeah, it's always a challenge to do the right thing, but having a purpose. Which Rainwater does, that he feels is most necessary.

At the moment, what Jacki Weaver’s Caroline Warner has offered Rainwater appeals entirely to financial desires, and to none of his genuine passions. By coming at the situation with seeming transparency, Caroline doesn’t appear to have any ulterior motives, and since her main motive is already to turn the precious land into an entertainment mini-mecca, it’s certainly possible she isn’t hiding anything up her sleeve. Except that would be impossible, because even Yellowstone characters whose sleeves have long been torn off still have shit hidden under them. 

When I asked Gil Birmingham how necessary he felt it was to buy into Caroline’s pitch, the Yellowstone star seemed to imply that shaking hands with Market Equities is an arguably necessary stepping stone to reaching his desired goals, whether or not they're ever actually reached. In his words:

See, that's the thing about Rainwater, man, he's a strategist. So you know, if you don't have the power or the leverage as of yet, then you use those alliances in any way that you can. And then you fall into a category of ethical or, I think, moral decisions, which every character is making through the show, but it's all based on their own reference point. . . . Yeah, and it's what they bring. I mean, it's very similar to the historical colonists coming into the country and developing what was natural land, and that's really what Rainwater wants to hold onto is natural land.

With this airport construction arc, Yellowstone is more than likely connecting timelines with the flashback shown in the Season 4 premiere, in which Tim McGraw’s James Dutton had a conversation about stolen land and burial favors with the head of a native group. Probably not far from where Rainwater and Caroline met, either, for theming’s sake. Of course, just because Rainwater isn’t audibly balking at the idea of casinos and hotels and theaters taking the place of the natural landscape, that doesn’t mean the urge to recoil isn’t there, and Gil Birmingham teases that history will likely repeat itself on Yellowstone.

It's atrocious, her idea what she wants to do, but it's been done before, so you know where it ends.

When it comes to keeping things on the up and up with John Dutton himself, Rainwater absolutely stuck his neck out by personally delivering the scheme-setting Checkers, rather than simply sending Mo to handle it. Even getting involved in the first place was a dicey move, though perhaps not as dicey as ignoring it and possibly facing later blowback. In any case, Rainwater didn't let it come to that, and knowingly sentenced a (guilty AF) man to death. Because he knows how inherently awful the attacks on the Duttons were, and John knows what it means for the Broken Rock chairman to take such a risk.

When I asked Gil Birmingham about the importance of Rainwater and Mo being the ones who gave John the keys to his revenge, so to speak, here's how he answered:

I guess that goes into that world of the alliances, right? You scratch my back, I'll scratch yours. But it all comes with it with a purpose. I mean, I think I forget what season it was, but Rainwater shared with John that we both want the same thing for different reasons. And so if there's any way I can help somebody that might be able to see my point of view, you know, then let me help.

Considering Thomas Rainwater never lets himself get caught with his head below water, I can't imagine much physical harm will come his way throughout the rest of Season 4. But it certainly sounds like he wishes and hopes and dreams might get crushed to dust by everyone outside the reservation. 

Yellowstone airs Sunday nights on Paramount Network at 8:00 p.m. ET. 

Nick Venable
Assistant Managing Editor

Nick is a Cajun Country native, and is often asked why he doesn't sound like that's the case. His love for his wife and daughters is almost equaled by his love of gasp-for-breath laughter and gasp-for-breath horror. A lifetime spent in the vicinity of a television screen led to his current dream job, as well as his knowledge of too many TV themes and ad jingles.