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‘The Ranch’ Review: One Last Season with Danny Masterson is Too Many, So Here’s What Happens and What’s Next

For anyone still (rightfully) intrigued by Sam Elliott’s tragic rancher, this marks the first essential recap of any Netflix series — we watched so you don’t have to.

The Ranch Danny Masterson Sam Elliott Netflix

Greg Gayne/Netflix

What does this mean for Rooster? Given the often blunt story transitions in “The Ranch,” any number of reasons could be used to explain Masterson’s sudden absence next season:

  • Beau kills Rooster for buying the ranch without his permission, and Season 5 picks up during the trial.
  • Rooster flees Colorado in fear of his father and goes into hiding. Later, the family finds out he died after joining a cult and getting sacrificed by the female members.
  • Masterson is recast with… Luke Wilson? Reid Scott? Seth Green? All three appeared on “That 70’s Show,” so “The Ranch’s” heritage would remain intact. Plus, Rooster says his charm is “85 percent beard,” so throw some hair on a famous face and no one will even notice.

None of these are all that graceful. A time jump seems like the easiest option, really. Picking up immediately after Season 4 ends would mean Rooster has to be around, whereas replacing him with a cousin or long-lost sister (Rachel Bilson, perhaps?) could be easier if we start in three or so months later.

The Ranch Sam Elliott Netflix

The Big Twist with Beau

As alluded to above, Beau doesn’t have quite as much to do in Season 4. He’s still a regular presence, but his biggest development is limited to a heart attack later in the season. He has a few solid scenes with his neighbor, Mr. Peterson (played by “70’s Show” alum Kurtwood Smith), as the two settle decades-old feuds and acknowledge the looming presence of death is moving ever closer.

But mainly Beau comes to realize how much he loves Joanne, played by Kathy Baker. Though she left to be with her family in Arizona at the end of last season, Joanne returns in Season 4. Beau is seeing someone else, but he can’t shake Joanne and the two get back together.

At season’s end, both Joanne and Beau’s ex-wife, Maggie (Debra Winger), are by his bedside in the hospital. He seems to love both, and Maggie is shown to have a lingering attraction, affection, or general interest in Beau, but she repeatedly pushes him to Joanne and Beau seems happy to abide.

Whether or not it sticks — along with Beau’s post-heart attack interest in travel and foreign food — we shall see, but Beau’s biggest challenge will be surviving his next heart attack, which seems inevitable given what his sons did while he was gone.

The Sneaky Progressive Agenda

Whether it’s by encouraging an old ranch hand like Beau to explore his feelings or gently pushing a pro-choice mentality, “The Ranch” consistently introduces a progressive belief or two within its conservative story. This year’s argument is a little less obvious, but perhaps more thoughtful than normal: Season 4 discusses the pros and cons of natural gas pipelines.

The plot is prominent throughout the 10 episodes. It starts when Beau, Colt, and Rooster are offered a contract from a natural gas company looking to run a pipeline over their land. At first, Beau is against it: He loves the land and doesn’t want to do anything to put it at risk. But the money proves too enticing, and the group comes around to letting it happen.

That is, until Maggie comes home and has her say in the matter. Though she can’t convince them to change their minds, she gets herself arrested protesting the pipeline and spends the ride back educating her family on the finer points of the argument.

Like a lot of plot points, it’s not fully realized. The pro and con arguments are rendered moot when the protests stop the pipeline from being built, and the biggest takeaway for the family is, “Shit, we just lost a ton of money.”

Additional Details That May or May Not Prove Vital

  • Colt and Abby (Elisha Cuthbert) get engaged at a Thomas Rhett concert in Episode 2. Colt proposes after getting thrown in the drunk tank while trying to get Rhett to invite him on stage, so he can propose during the concert.
  • After taking over his mom’s bar last season, Rooster gets busted for serving underage patrons. When she finds out, Maggie takes the bar back and Rooster goes back to working on the ranch.
  • Rooster and Mary (Megyn Price) break up. Basically, she realizes he’s just a fun time and not someone she’s in love with anymore. He quickly starts sleeping with other women, including a geologist sent by the company building the pipeline, even though she can’t figure out why she likes him. (Neither can we.)
  • There’s another semi-cliffhanger to end Season 4: After her school gets shut down in town, Abby (Elisha Cuthbert) moves to Denver to start a new teaching job — and she doesn’t say goodbye to Colt.

Grade: C-

“The Ranch” Part 4 is streaming now on Netflix.

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