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Yellowstone's Dawn Olivieri Explains What Sarah Is Doing With Jamie

And the Duttons have a massive cowboy party

Lauren Piester

[Warning: The following contains spoilers for the Yellowstone Season 5 Episode 6. Read at your on risk!]

John Dutton (Kevin Costner) sure did a bad job of hyping up what turned out to be a lovely, peaceful trip through Montana. This week on Yellowstone, all the cowboys headed out on horseback to herd cattle and bring them back to the ranch for a big cattle branding party. It was advertised as a rough, two-day trip with very little food and no place to sleep—a journey only for the most hardcore of cowboys, and Beth (Kelly Reilly). But as they rode their horses and lay down to sleep against their saddles under the stars, all anyone could talk about was how perfect everything was. Everyone had a wonderful time. Rip (Cole Hauser) and Beth even found time for romance in the peaceful meadow where Rip had once thought they could get married. 

The biggest drama on the ride was a death, but it was the nicest death anyone on this show could imagine: an old, lifelong cowboy dying in his sleep, lying against his saddle after a full day of riding. 

John rode ahead of the rest of the group as they returned so that he could comfort the man's wife, and of course there was a news crew at the cattle branding party held by the governor that caught every minute of it, happy to explain that this was why the governor was not attending the meeting held by the president of the United States, and he should be praised for it. 

That heartwarming segment of the local news was watched by Jamie (Wes Bentley) and his mysterious girlfriend Sarah (Dawn Olivieri), who had just been discussing what she claims is her big master plan: get Jamie instated as governor and get the airport lease back in place. But is that really all she's trying to do? While the rest of the episode was focused on happy, mostly conflict-free cowboying, Jamie was walking on eggshells around his lady friend, trying to determine exactly what her end goal is here. Does she actually want to be sleeping with him, or is it part of the ploy? He's obviously attracted to her, but he's not stupid. He knows, and we know, that Sarah is up to something, but it's just not clear what yet. 

Unfortunately, Olivieri herself could not give any real answers when TV Guide caught up with her to talk about the episode—only Taylor Sheridan can do that. She did, however, offer many insights into what Sarah might be thinking about Jamie and how she plans to get under his skin, and how Sarah compares to her 1883 character, Claire.  

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I'm not sure what to make of your character. She came in and seemed so ominous, but then everything fell apart for Market Equities and now she's just sleeping with Jamie. Can we trust her? What's the deal? 
Dawn Olivieri: I think from how she was introduced, it probably wouldn't be in your best interest to fully put all of your trust into her character. Because the thing about smart, calculated people is that they're always a step ahead of you, so if you're thinking one thing, she's probably created this scenario so you would think that so she can make sure she gets the other thing she's trying to do, while she's distracting you with the thing that she's doing. You just have to know that about a person like that, that they're annoyingly, wickedly smart. And I am flattered that Taylor felt like that was someone I could play. So that's been my goal while I was constructing this character, and playing out these things with Jamie. What does this character need to do to get what she wants, but what's the second parallel universe that she's operating in? And there is always one. 

So, does she like him? 
Olivieri: [laughs] One of the camera operators, after we did the eight episodes, was like, "You know, one thing I really love is that I still don't know if you like him or if you don't like him. I really don't, and I've sat here and I've watched every single thing you've done." That's the woman I wanted to play, because that woman can hook a guy for the longest amount of time, and the girl who shows all her cards…I don't want you to see my hand. My poker face is the best you're gonna see. I don't want you to know. I want to appear fuzzy. I don't want to be specific and sharp, like Beth's character is right now. I have that in my arsenal—boy, you better believe I have that in my arsenal—but I don't want that to come through right now. I don't want Jamie to know. You're watching Sarah do her dance to entice Jamie's character. He's a victim. You can't be too strong with him, because he'll be like, whoa, trauma response, I have a sister like that, I don't want a girlfriend like that. You also can't be at the other end. You have to find yourself in the middle somewhere, to where you can build a guy like that up and play with him, make him feel more of a man than he is, but you do that by being the most powerful woman in a way that you're almost like belly up a little bit, but consciously. 

So Sarah's character, on my end as an actress, is extremely refined. I am so subtle with the things that I'm creating with her, and up to now, it's been very low energy. We're not fist fighting. I'm not doing what Beth is doing right now. I'm building a connection with a man that has a lot of trauma and also a lot of power, so it's been very soft and subtle, because I don't want to tip him off either. I don't want to scare him away. 

When Sarah came out of the gate, we were told to be afraid of her, but she didn't have time to actually do anything earth-shattering yet. Is there something big coming?
Olivieri: It's funny. Even the way you're saying it is exactly how I want Jamie to feel. We know she's a big player for Market Equities to bring her in, and he knows that, right? He knows what you know, but also he's got this sort of squinted, "Well I don't see what the big deal is right now, she's not really doing anything, maybe she's not as threatening as I thought." That's how you get someone, right? I am playing the most beautiful melody and the softest tune on my flute as I can so I can get that snake to come right up out of the basket. That's what I want. 

But if you've watched 1883, you know what I can access. I can become that serpent, that snake, that growling woman. I have that in there, so really I'm building a character as far from that as I can access, because I know Taylor knows what I can do, and you've seen it in there. So let's just cross our fingers that we get some of that action. 

I love that you were both part of the start of the Duttons' journey and part of trying to end it. 
Olivieri: Right? I love to say that I'm the one character that can come back from the dead. I've had a lot of people say, "Beth is gonna take you to the train station," and my response is always, "Well, the truth is I can come back." I love that Taylor has inadvertently given me a superpower that nobody can beat. 

Do you think she showed any of her hand this week, explaining to Jamie that she wants to make him governor? Or is that still part of the mystery? 
Olivieri: I want you to be unclear about that, and I want him to be unclear about it. I want so much, but I don't want to be in focus, because when you're in focus, other things come into focus. Your questions are right on par. 

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How does Sarah navigate this guy, because his loyalty wavers so much? He'll turn back to the Duttons at the last second. 
Olivieri: Yeah, well I believe game recognizes game. She'd have to see that he has that quality and mirror it, match it. You have to be able to hold that line, that energy. It's funny because I work with animals a lot, and to hold their attention, it's the same sort of idea. You have to know what they want. You have to offer that, but you can't offer too much because the pressure will push them away, and you can't offer too little because then they'll lose interest and, again, move away. So if she's holding that attention, Sarah has to know exactly when to apply pressure and when to remove it to hold his attention. That's with any guy. You know, when do I call him? When do I leave him on read? These are strategies that are meant to hook and keep hooked. So that's what she's doing, but I do want to add that I didn't want to forego the fact that she is a woman at the end of the day, and we're all the same in the sense that we have these beating hearts and we fall in love and want to be in love and we want to be taken care of and we want nice things and we want to feel beautiful. And I think for Sarah, being 40 and not having a family and choosing her career instead, that's real. And if you open that crack too much, it's gonna get you eventually. You can't play with those deeper emotions without it touching something, and that's what I'm interested in. That woman is interesting to me, not the evil sorceress that's coming in and hypnotizing him and making him do everything that she wants. No, I want to struggle a little bit. I want to be a real person. 

Do you think Sarah sees Jamie as sympathetic? He's done some horrible things, but he's also been manipulated by a lot of people. 
Olivieri: Yeah, I think she has to. Because if she thinks that, it gives her the pieces that she needs to build out his journey, because that's what she's doing. She's coaching him on how to be a stronger version of himself, because as he is right now, he's no good to her. He needs to be more of a boss. He needs to be the winner in the room, and right now he's letting his family dictate what he can and can't do. Not anymore! Sarah's there, and she's like, "I'm going to coach you now, and in the meantime, you'll get what you want, which is to win." So yeah, I think she sees him as sympathetic, but she knows she has to change that about him.

Can you tease what comes next for Sarah? I assume she'll come up against Beth at some point, since every woman on this show eventually does. 
Olivieri: Yeah, and you've got to think about how those have gone in the past. It's time for a different ending, in a way. You can't keep doing the same thing, and Taylor won't do that, so I'm very interested to see how it's gonna play out, as I think we all are. I think if anybody can get close to the mark [with Beth], it's gonna be Sarah. I love coming in as a character where all the characters before me have followed a similar route, because it just makes it more possible for Sarah to have a different outcome, which I'm a fan to see what that could be.

Yellowstone continues Sundays at 8/7c on Paramount Network. Seasons 1-4 are now available to stream on Peacock.

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