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Ultimate Cowboy Showdown: Season 3 Recap

Ultimate Cowboy Showdown: Hosted by Trace Adkins

What you missed on Season 3 of Ultimate Cowboy Showdown

It Comes Down to These Three.

Jamon, Coy, Yellowtail

Who will win the Ultimate Cowboy Showdown? The three finalists face off for the last time. One will go home with the title of “Ultimate Cowboy,” and win a herd of cattle worth $50,000, an Arrowquip Q-Catch Cattle Chute and Heeler Portable Corral, a shiny new buckle, and the pride of knowing he gave it his all and came out on top.

They are the cream of the crop. Top hands. And any one of them is qualified and deserving of the honor. But in this final challenge, even the smallest mistake can mean the difference between winning it all and going home empty-handed.

The Ultimate Challenge

  1. In three huge, wide-open, unfenced pastures roam 50 head of gold-tagged cows among the larger herds of blue-tagged cows.
  2. The cowboys must work together to sort off the cows with gold tags and drive them to the semi-truck trailer and load them. Those are the cows the winner will take home.
  3. The terrain is treacherous with steep mountain climbs, deep ravines, thick brush, and uneven ground, not to mention acres and acres of land where the sorted cows can easily escape.
  4. As if sorting and containing the gold-tag cows isn’t hard enough, there’s one steer in each pasture that must be roped and tied down.

All this and only three cowboys to get it done! Trace Adkins, Buddy Schnaufer, Cash Myers, and Booger Brown are looking for leadership, a well-thought-out plan and strategy, and most of all—success.

Pasture 1

Objective: Sort 10 gold-tag cows, rope and tie down one steer, and drive the selected cows to pasture 2.

Immediately, Yellowtail demonstrates great leadership and lays out a smart initial plan. With Coy and Jamon on board, the trio works as a team to start sorting cows, but at one point, Jamon takes off up the other side of the mountain before they had control of the herd. Now with a man down, Coy and Yellowtail must leave the gathered herd to rope and tie the steer. No one is watching the cows. When Jamon realizes this, it’s too late. Two cows escaped, and he has no clue which direction they went in. Yellowtail spots one and rides hard through the brush to turn around a very headstrong cow. In the meantime, Jamon spots the other errant cow down a ravine and across the river. He drives it up, where Coy wrangles it back to the herd. But the judges don’t see Jamon in the ditch. They saw only Coy moving the cow back. In spite of the mistakes, the cowboys worked together overall to accomplish the first goal.

Pasture 2

Objective: Sort 15 gold-tag cows, rope and tie down one steer, and drive the selected cows to pasture 3.

The round-up in pasture 2 goes much smoother. Jamon holds the herd while Yellowtail and Coy sort the 25 additional cows and push them to the herd. The terrain in this pasture is very steep and when it comes time to rope, Yellowtail heads, and Jamon steps up to heel, making quick work of it. After letting cows escape in pasture 1, the judges are pleased that Jamon took the initiative to help Yellowtail, showing them he’s a team player.

Pasture 3

Objective: Sort 25 gold-tag cows, rope and tie down one steer, drive the prize herd worth $50,000 to the trailer, and load them.

Again, Jamon holds the herd. This time Coy takes leadership. He and Yellowtail work seamlessly to sort the gold-tag cows, then rope and tie the steer. The judges comment that the two of them always seem to be in exactly the right place when one needs the other. The herd, now 50 cows strong, moves as a unit to the trailer with just the three top cowboys working as a supportive team to keep them on course.

Who will sit tall in the saddle? Who will go home?

Before they head into the arena to face the judges, Trace meets with each cowboy for one last assessment before making the difficult decision of naming a winner. Yellowtail says winning would literally save his family’s ranch. Jamon talks about using the prize to continue his work with youth inspiring them to pursue the cowboy life. Recently separated, Coy shares that he’d bring the winnings home to his three daughters, that this is his chance to create a new life.

It’s the moment of truth. No one questions Jamon’s guts, grit, and heart, but his mistakes on the drive put him at risk. In this company, being good is not good enough. In the end, Jamon’s lack of ranch skills and experience does him in.

Pack your personals, Jamon Turner.

Either Yellowtail or Coy will be the Ultimate Cowboy. Trace asks his co-judges for their opinions. Buddy picks Yellowtail. Cash chooses Coy. The final decision falls to Trace.

The Ultimate Cowboy Showdown winner is…

Coy Melancon


Getting Down to the Wire

Only four cowboys remain. No more teams. No more immunity. The cowboys need to bring their A-plus game or be prepared to go home—because only three will make it to the final round.

It’s About the Horse, of Course…

A cowboy’s most important “tool” is his or her horse. The partnership depends on trust in each other. So, this week, Trace tests the cowboys’ horsemanship, not only their riding skills but also their training and salesmanship abilities.

Guest judge, renowned horse trainer Ken McNabb tasks the men to show off their horses’ best moves, as if they were presenting the horses to potential buyers. McNabb designs patterns that include the basics—with a couple of fun twists. He’s looking for precision from horse and rider, trust in the horse, and control.

The Challenge:

Each cowboy is to ride the patterns and complete the tasks. Trace and the judges then rank them from first place to fourth, and this order will play a crucial role in the elimination challenge.

Pattern 1:

  • Enter at a walk
  • Lope a big half-circle
  • Accelerate to a deep (or sliding) stop
  • Back 10 feet
  • Halt, set the horse up, and stand for 10 seconds
  • Ride to a herd of calves in the corner of the arena, choose a calf, cut it from the herd, and keep it from running back for as long as possible. AQHA Versatility Style Ranch Cut rules apply.

Buck: Riding a three-year-old filly in a snaffle, he enters calmly and completes the pattern well, but in the backup, he uses two hands on the reins, and McNabb comments he could have done it using just one hand. Buck cuts and holds the calf easily and ends his run with a couple of easy spins for good measure, showing off his training and his horse’s ability and potential.

Yellowtail: Right off the bat, the judges love Yellowtail’s horse, and comment they can tell he’s not only a good cowboy but also a good horseman. His horse carries itself well and shows more flexion than the others. But Yellowtail seems a little nervous. He starts out well but uses a touch too much hand in the backup, and his horse backs crooked. Yellowtail approaches the herd quietly and takes too much time sorting. He manages to cut a calf then loses it almost immediately.

Jamon: Jamon’s horse enters with a good deal of energy, but when it comes time to gallop into the stop, he doesn’t allow the horse to speed up enough to sit back on its haunches. The judges comment that he didn’t trust his horse to halt. Though his horse needed to be quieter when entering the herd, Jamon manages to cut a calf successfully. His horse shows good expression and eagerness to work. However, Jamon uses his hands a lot. While the rules allow using the reins, the judges say it looked as if he needed to steer, rather than allowing the horse freedom to control the cow on its own.

Coy: Coy’s horse seemed nervous at the start. His pattern was fraught with errors. He was late with his lope and took the wrong lead, but he was the only cowboy to use one hand on the reins. Trace noted it showed he had a lot of faith in his horse. When it came time to enter the herd, he and his horse were all business. He rode in quietly, cut a calf, and though he used a good deal of hand, his horse showed some great cutting moves and a bright expression. At one point, the calf started to race to the herd, but Coy turned it back in a swift move. The judges were surprised and impressed when they realized he didn’t lose the calf.

 

Pattern 2:

Yes, there was more cow work ahead, but first McNabb wanted to see if the horses trusted their riders enough to jump!

  • Enter preferably at a lope
  • Jump a low three-jump gymnastic, with one stride in between jumps.
  • Enter the branding pen at the walk
  • Demonstrate a spin (three full rotations)
  • Rope a cow by the hind feet

 

Buck: Buck trots his young horse to the jumps, and the filly shows courage and trust over the fences. In the pen, however, things start to unravel. The judges have high expectations for this cute horse, but Buck seems to pull the filly around, and consequently, she has too much bend in her body and a lot of movement in her hind end, when she should be pivoting. The horse does her job admirably among the cows, but Buck just can’t get a rope on—anything! His frustration shows. Finally, he connects.

Jamon: Jamon starts strong and straight to the jumps then drifts left at the last. In the pen, his spin is slow. He catches his calf on the first try but has so much slack in the rope, that he loses control as the tied calf kicks and bucks around him.

Yellowtail: Yellowtail lopes to the jumps, but his horse stops and then pops over. He has a hard time keeping the horse straight, as it looks to run out at every jump. He keeps the horse moving forward, and though it isn’t pretty, he gets through it. He enters the pen in his characteristic quiet demeanor and demonstrates a good spin. Though a little slow, his horse is straight and pivots well on its haunches. Yellowtail sorts his calf and ropes it easily on the first try. The judges comment that horses are a reflection of their trainers and riders. And like Yellowtail, his horse is calm, patient, trusting and simply goes to work.

Coy: Coy’s horse has lots of energy, and he spooks at the jumps. It’s not exactly graceful, but Coy gives him the confidence to get through it. In the pen, he performs an excellent spin keeping his horse’s body straight, rocking back and pivoting perfectly on his haunches. It’s the cleanest spin of all. Then Coy wastes no time with his rope. He gets right up behind a calf, swings, and catches it on his first try.

 

Judges Rankings:

First Place: Coy

Second Place: Yellowtail

Third Place: Buck

Fourth Place: Jamon

 

Get Ready for a Wild Ride…

The Elimination Challenge

It’s one thing to ride a horse you’ve trained and bonded with. It’s a whole other story to work cows off a rough string horse—the stubborn types that don’t take kindly to saddles, and no rancher wants to ride. In the pen are four such horses. Each cowboy must choose a horse from the group, rope it, saddle it, and mount it within five minutes then use their selected horse to round up and drive a herd of cows into a pen, sort the calves, and load them on a stock trailer.

The catch? The cowboys get to choose their horses based on their standings in the previous challenge. So, Coy picks first and Jamon, in last place, gets whatever is left. But it’s Jamon who has no trouble roping the sorrel nobody wanted. Though the horse tries to pull away, he gets control and mounts up first. Buck gets a rope on the flea-bitten gray, but the horse is wild, and he breaks away, flying around the pen, dragging the rope. Yellowtail gets a halter on his sturdy bay horse, but time is ticking and he’s taking a lot of it. Coy gets a saddle on his chestnut and is doing groundwork with it when Jamon lopes by a little too close for comfort. The judges speculate that he made this dangerous move on purpose. Buck finally catches the gray and gets a saddle on. Yellowtail saddles up, but the bay is a bronc! Meanwhile, Jamon and Coy ride out to wrangle the herd. Coy’s horse buries his head and humps his back in several crow-hops trying to ditch Coy in the dirt, but Coy recovers and kicks on. Back at the pen, Yellowtail is up and takes off. Buck is the last to ride out.

What follows is pure chaos—a jumble of overtalking, arguing, and accusations with no plan or leadership to achieve the goal of the challenge. They manage to get the cows to the pen, sort the calves and start loading them on the trailer. Earlier, Coy went to open the trailer tailgate, but he never checked inside. While the calves are shoving their way in, Jamon sees that the divider gate in the trailer is locked shut, and the calves will not fit in just half the space. They would have to get the calves out and start over, but Jamon runs in among the jammed-up calves and gets the gate open. He, literally, climbs over the rushing calves to get out of the trailer without being trampled. It was a risky and dangerous move. The tailgate closed and locked, the challenge is complete.

In the arena

The wind is howling, and the mood is heavy. Yellowtail is more uneasy than at any other elimination. Buck claims he had bad luck, and that he will have to fight hard to remain in the competition. He still plots to get Jamon kicked out.

The judges do not mince words. “I don’t think any one of you did your job correctly today,” Buddy Schnaufer says. Each cowboy gets a brutally honest dressing down. Any one of them could be sent home.

In the end, Trace singles out the cowboy who made the most errors.

 

Pack your personals: Buck Faust

 

 


Who Will Be a Cut Above?

Any cowboy worth their salt can cut and sort cows. Even a beginner or average hand must demonstrate this skill. But there’s nothing novice or average about Sal Campos, Buck Faust, Jamon Turner, Coy Melancon, and Stephen Yellowtail, the five remaining competitors on Ultimate Cowboy Showdown—and, in this final Immunity Challenge, what Trace is looking for is one outstanding cowboy with exceptional cow cutting skills.

Tag! You’re It!

The teams are dismantled! Now, it’s every cowboy for himself—but only one will win the final Immunity Buckle. In a test of their cow sense and horsemanship skills, the cowboys must cut the five blue-tagged and five gold-tagged cows from the herd in the arena and drive each group into their respective color-coded pens. The cowboy who completes the task the fastest wins immunity.

Jamon is up first, and his strategy is to sort the cows two at a time into whichever pen corresponds to their tags. However, he fails to tell the gatekeeper to close the gates after the cows enter, and a few escape. He wastes precious time and fuels Buck’s determination to see Jamon kicked out of the competition.

In last week’s Tic Tac Toe challenge, Buck talked a good game and it paid off. This week, not so much. No one can dispute his experience and his superior cow-reading instincts, but sometimes, stuff just happens. He starts with a solid plan but a gold-tagged cow wanders in with the blue herd, and he must cut her out, adding time to his score.

Coy is back up on his horse Big John for the first time after their terrifying tumble in episode 6, and he and his equine partner execute a speedy and perfect plan to cut and pen the designated cows.

Sal attempts to imitate Coy but starts out chaotic with cows going every which way. He recovers quickly and makes up for lost time.

Yellowtail takes a slow, methodical approach. His run is the smoothest—and deceptively fast.

In the end, it comes down to Coy and Yellowtail, with Coy besting Yellowtail by a mere 15 seconds.

Friend and Foe

Other than taking home the prize herd, Buck would like nothing more than to see the taillights on Jamon’s truck growing smaller in the distance. He works an alliance with Sal against Jamon. They conspire to find a way to set him up to fail.

Give Me a Home Where the Buffalo Roam…

Morning on the ranch brings the cowboys together for a challenge that will test not only their cutting skills and strategy but also their bravery. Because the bovine beasts they’re about to pen are—buffalo! Ornery and hard to control, buffalo can weigh 2,400 pounds, charge at speeds up to 35 miles per hour, and turn around on a dime. They’re unpredictable and dangerous.

Reminiscent of Kevin Costner in Dances with Wolves, this challenge tasks the cowboys to cut a total of four rogue buffalo from their prize herd, then drive them down a straight alley into a stock trailer. Of the remaining five cowboys, there’s only one cowboy who has never even seen these imposing animals—Jamon.

When the cowboys gather to plan their strategy, Yellowtail asks Jamon to man the trailer gate at the end, while the rest of them drive the buffalo, but Jamon bristles at the suggestion, considering it a “low man’s” job. He wants to be in the fight, not left on the sidelines. He’s on to the plot against him. Yellowtail takes the job, and he and Sal ride off to set up panels to keep the buffalo from spinning around and running back.

Though the buffalo are feisty, they seem to want to be away from the cows and the men sort them from one pen to the other with few problems. But Jamon’s horse is clearly skittish, and Buck appears to be afraid of getting too close to the buffalo. It’s another story when they get the massive bovines into the tight alley and the cowboys—on foot—must pressure them into the trailer inside the tight temporary pen that Yellowtail and Sal set up. The objective is to keep them moving fast and forward, right into the back of the trailer, but the buffalo are feeling trapped, and agitated. They keep trying to swing around, causing the cowboys in the pen to climb up the panels to safety.

Coy has immunity, but you’d never believe it. He hustles and shows no fear as he’s the only one holding the gate against the buffalo, keeping them contained. But the cowboys need to get them on the trailer fast. Coy devises a plan to use the gate to herd the buffalo. It’s a risky move. If the frustrated buffalo look to escape, they could easily crash through the gate, and trample the cowboys. With only a flimsy gate between them and thousands of pounds of angry bison, they put the pressure on, one tense step after another, until the four buffalo crowd onto the trailer. The tailgate up and locked shut, Sal, Buck, Yellowtail, Jamon, and Coy can finally breathe. They got the job done. But for some, facing Trace in the arena will be harder than staring down an irritable 2,000-pound buffalo.

In the arena

Though they worked together on the buffalo challenge, Trace takes each man’s performance, past and present, into consideration. Because neither has won an Immunity Challenge, Sal and Yellowtail are at risk, but Yellowtail has often taken a leadership position. In the end, Trace makes the difficult decision to send Sal packing.

Pack your personals: Sal Campos

 


This Immunity Challenge Is Not Child’s Play.

The remaining six cowboys are summoned to the arena for an immunity challenge that tests their cow reading instincts, control, and skills. Are they asked to cut? Rope? Pen? No! Trace has something far more difficult in mind: Tic Tac Toe—with cows!

When the cowboys walk into the Powderhorn Arena, they immediately see a white outlined grid painted in the sand. Time to play Tic Tac Toe! Each team, in turn, attempts to drive a cow into a square and keep it there for 10 seconds, and they have only one minute to get it done. The Blue Team (Coy Melancon, Sarah Foti, and Stephen Yellowtail) is up first. They choose X’s for their mark. Their first cow is quiet, and they easily keep it within a square for a great start. The Green Team’s cow is livelier, and they fail to mark an “O” on the board. The next cow outsmarts The Blue Team for no score, but The Green Team (Sal Campos, Buck Faust, Jamon Turner) comes back strong and blocks The Blue Team with a strategically placed “O.” They go back and forth blocking each other, and in the end, The Green Team prevails, winning the team portion of the challenge.

Now they face off against each other, and only one will win the Immunity Buckle. The objective: Drive one cow into one square and keep it there for as long as possible within five minutes. Jamon goes first and, he has a hard time getting the cow near the square. Time is up and the cow never steps a foot into the box. Buck wastes no time criticizing Jamon’s cow reading skills but it’s time he puts his money (or Immunity Buckle) where his mouth is because he’s up next. Buck talks a good game, but he also has game. In an impressive display of cow sense and horsemanship, Buck puts just enough pressure on the cow to ease it into the square, then backs off, patiently letting it rest, rewarding the cow for staying within bounds—for a full two minutes and 38 seconds. Sal has his work cut out for him trying to beat that performance, and though he works his cow with skill, he can hold it in the square for only five seconds. Buck wins immunity.

After the Immunity Challenge, Jamon is resting outside when Sal joins him. Initially leery, Jamon hears him out. The two talk about their lives and discover they have a lot more in common than they thought. On a handshake, they settle their differences and come away feeling mutual respect. Jamon admits it took a lot of guts for Sal to approach him and want to clear the air.

The Weight of the World on Their Shoulders…

Sometimes one is not exactly eager to step on the scale. In this case, it’s positively daunting, as it will mean the difference between moving on in the competition or packing it in. The cowboys don’t have to weigh in, but their cows do!

This Team Challenge tests the competitors’ cattlemen skills. Who can size up the best cows for market if an order comes in for a herd by weight? Out of a group of 50 cattle, each team must choose a herd that includes at least two bulls, two cows, two calves, and any others that will come closest to a combined weight of 15,000 pounds. The teams must plan an efficient strategy to sort and tag only the cattle they want to bring to the scales, plus they must rope and tag the two calves. The team whose herd comes closest to 15,000 pounds, high or low, wins.

The Blue Team goes first, and from the start, Yellowtail takes charge, frustrating Coy and Sarah, who have their own opinions on how the task should be done. Yellowtail thinks it’s best to rope the calves first. Sarah opts out, so it’s up to him and Coy to do the job but with the wind howling in gusts of 40 miles per hour, they have a hard time throwing a rope accurately, and the clock is ticking. The lack of planning and communication starts to unravel the team, and when the guys need help to get the calves tagged, Sarah runs out on foot instead of riding on horseback. They begin to gather the remaining cows and bulls with Yellowtail estimating the weight. Then a tagged bull escapes and he takes off after it, leaving Coy and Sarah for a long time, to tag and do the math. When Yellowtail finally returns with the wayward bull, they drive their herd of seven cows, four bulls, and two calves to the scales. They got it done but it could have run much smoother. Sarah and Coy know exactly who they intend to blame, and Yellowtail knows, that as the leader if The Blue Team loses, Trace will set his sights on him.

The Green Team steps up to the plate with surprising cooperation. They set aside the animosity stirred up in the campout challenge and turn their efforts to working together to complete their job. Sal Campos takes the lead, lays out a sensible strategy, and they all agree on the plan. Though Buck has immunity, he pulls his weight for the team. They decide to rope the calves last and immediately start sorting and tagging the cows and bulls. When Jamon and Buck want to tag an additional cow, Sal convinces them it would throw off the total weight of the herd. He knows he’s sticking his neck out because if he’s wrong, the error could send him home. The wind is still gusting, but Jamon and Sal manage to get the calves roped. In the end, they drive eight cows, two bulls, and two calves to the scales.

As the teams prepare to face Trace, and co-judges Buddy Schnaufer, and Cash Myers in the arena, Coy and Sarah conspire against Yellowtail, and though Jamon, Sal, and Buck made amends, he’s still nervous, that they will throw him under the bus if it comes down to it.

In the Arena

Trace tells Buck he was impressed with him. Though he had immunity, he still worked as if he could be sent home.

The weight of Blue Team’s herd was over by approximately 3,000 pounds. The total weight of The Green Team’s herd was over by about 2,000 pounds. The Green Team wins.

Let the blame game begin, and Coy and Sarah heap it all on Yellowtail. He came up with the plan and it failed. Instead of making excuses and engaging in the finger-pointing, Yellowtail admits fault and states his case for why he should remain.

Though the weight of the herd determined the winning and losing teams, Trace now considers the cowboys’ performances, past, and present, plus their future potential. In a shocking decision, he sends Sarah packing, and she is not pleased.

It’s coming down to the wire. Going forward there are no more teams. It’s cowboy vs. cowboy, and just one more Immunity Challenge.

Pack your personals: Sarah Foti

 


It’s a sunny morning on the ranch, and surely stomachs must be grumbling for some good grub, but today’s camp cooks will be—the cowboys. The most important (and feared) member of an Old West cattle drive was the cook. In this immunity challenge, the remaining eight cowboys must prepare a hearty, healthy meal and serve it to Trace Adkins and guest judge, renowned chuckwagon cook, Kent Rollins.

They have 45 minutes to cook a savory meal using only a Dutch oven over an open fire, including the mandatory staple that could make or break a chuckwagon cook’s career—the coffee. To raise the stakes, they’re using Kent Rollins’ signature blend “Cowboy Coffee.” Time to see if Jamon, a self-avowed “French Press kinda guy,” holds up to Kent’s scrutiny. He does, and his dish, a colorful and hearty goulash, gets the nod, too. But when it comes to Buck’s “stew,” Trace good-naturedly, declares it, “nasty.” Stephen Yellowtail’s dish has the flavor they’re looking for, but undercooked rice knocks him down a few pegs.

In the end, Keaton’s street tacos and “good” coffee win him the Immunity Buckle. And that’s fortunate because soon enough, we learn Keaton, now a member of The Blue Team, has a secret—he took a fall earlier in the morning and hurt his back. He hopes to lay low and heal during the team challenge, but his plan goes awry when he discovers the challenge won’t be easy on anyone.

The Team Challenge:

Drawing inspiration from Kevin Costner in Open Range, this challenge tests the contestants’ skills and their endurance. One of the most important tasks a cowboy performs is keeping their herd safe. The teams head to a wide-open field where they will each have 25 cows in their care. Sounds like a chore any competent cowboy could do in their sleep, but in this case, there’ll be little, if any sleep. The teams must rough it, camping out overnight, and ensuring the cows do not escape their designated perimeter. Did we mention it’s mountain lion country? The team that loads up their supplies and mounts their horses first, gets to pick their location: the flat camp or the more difficult mountain camp.

The Blue Team hustles right from the jump, grabbing essentials and packing them onto their horses. Not surprisingly, they’re loaded, mounted, and ready to ride faster than The Green Team. They choose the flat camp. At their location, each cowboy takes a task, and they set up camp efficiently, with Stephen Yellowtail showing exceptional skill, gathering the herd by himself. One of the requirements is to keep a fire burning all night. Keaton steps up to chop wood but with the first swing of the ax, he’s in excruciating pain. He cowboys up and vows to keep going. The team divvies up night watch in shifts: Coy and Stephen guard the herd, Keaton sleeps, and Sarah keeps the fire lit. Temps have dropped 25 degrees and they’re all feeling the bitter cold in their bones, especially Keaton. When it comes time for him to relieve Stephen on watch, his back seizes up, and he can’t mount his horse. Realizing he’s not able to go on, Keaton withdraws from the competition—in the middle of the night. Now one man down, Stephen pulls an all-nighter to keep the herd together.

Meanwhile, from the start, The Green Team takes the opposite approach, leisurely picking up as many supplies as they can comfortably pack on their horses’ backs, and once they arrive at their spot up the mountain, they still show no sense of urgency. They need to get their cattle rounded up before dark, and they’re burning daylight. Finally, Jamon Turner and Sal Campos ride out to round up the herd, and immediately, they’re at each other’s throats, arguing about how to get the job done. The team makes no plan for the overnight responsibilities. Finally, Jamon and Sal take their places to watch the cows, while Stephen Heitmann and Buck Faust, keep camp. But Stephen and Buck hit the sack, and Sal leaves his post to do the same. Jamon realizes he’s on his own, and a few cows on Sal’s side are wandering out of the perimeter. When he goes to cut them off, his horse steps on a rein and snaps it. Jamon calls for help but gets no response. He manages to patch the broken rein and goes after the cows. At this point, Sal wakes up and takes off to assist, but Jamon has it under control. The bad blood between these cowboys hits the boiling point. They end up in a shouting match now involving Stephen and Buck, as well, taking Sal’s side. All the while, the cows are unattended and beginning to spill out—for which Jamon gets blamed! It’s clear who will be thrown under the bus if The Green Team loses.

The Morning After…

At Sunrise both teams have met the objective of the challenge but in true Trace fashion, it ain’t over, till it’s over!

Now, two members of each team must rope and tie down two steers in the field, race back to camp and put the fire out completely in order to call time.

With no sleep, Jamon volunteers first for The Green Team and Buck joins him to rope. They’re a little slow with the second steer, but they complete the challenge.

For The Blue Team, Coy and Stephen Yellowtail step up to rope, while Sarah watches the herd and the fire. These cowboys try a different tact. To save time they rope both steers individually, and once caught help each other tie them down. Once the steers are tied, Coy gallops flat out toward camp, but he hits a soft patch of dirt, and his horse, Big John, wipes out, flipping head over heel. Coy takes a hard tumble and is in obvious pain. Stephen and Sarah race to help Coy, and they make it back to camp to finish the challenge. Stephen is visibly shaken. Though down for a while, Big John gets up and is okay.

In the Arena

Because The Blue Team’s cattle remained within the perimeter all night, they win the challenge.

The Green Team is on the chopping block. Let the fireworks begin! Along with Trace, judges Buddy Schnaufer and Booger Brown all agree the team lacked drive. As predicted, Stephen Heitmann, Sal Campos, and Buck Faust condemn Jamon.

But one cowboy didn’t pull his weight at all, overnight, and though he was the most rested with the freshest horse, he didn’t cowboy up to rope in the morning.

Trace makes the call. Stephen Heitmann, gather your personals and hit the trail.

Pack your personals: Stephen Heitmann

 


The competition intensifies as two cowboys from the losing team will face elimination this time around. In the first nighttime immunity challenge, the contestants kick back around a campfire for the first-ever cowboy talent show:

Jamon starts things off with a poem about the life of a cowboy. 

Cody breaks out the guitar and sings an ultimate cowboy anthem.

Stephen shows off a skill he learned from his father—auctioneering.

Eddie brings it to the streets by break dancing.

Keaton grabs a rope to wrangle up some tricks.

Sal takes a stab at comedy.

Buck stumbles his way through a magic trick.

Sarah impersonates a man she respects.

Stephen Yellowtail gets a reaction from the audience for his “sacred song.”

Coy displays his sentimental side with a heartfelt poem.

Trace appreciates Coy’s thoughtful poem and names him the winner of the immunity buckle.

As the cowboys prepare for the next elimination challenge, Keaton contemplates his future. After giving up day-to-day cowboyin’ to provide for his family, he realizes it’s time to get back to what he loves. Stephen shares how roping made him a viral sensation when a steer escaped inside a bank, and he saved the day.

The stakes are high in this two-person elimination challenge, especially between teammates. For this challenge, each team has to wrangle six colts into a trap, choose two, cut them from the herd, break and ride the two untamed horses, and bring all six horses to the finish line.

The Blue Team is up first. Eddie steps up, volunteering to ride a colt, and Stephen takes on the second horse. Sarah flawlessly leads the horses to the trap. With the first step of the challenge complete, now comes the hard part—riding the wild colts. Although Cody helps the team by roping both horses, he tries to do everything and slows down the group. Sarah tries to get involved, but no one will let her, leaving her on the outskirts. Eddie’s fear gets the best of him, and he takes his time saddling up. Stephen saddles and rides his colt with ease. Eddie gets control of the colt and crosses the finish line.

Determined to finish in less time than The Blue Team, The Green Team moves quickly through the first part of the course. Jamon and Keaton rope the colts, and Buck and Sal step up to ride. Buck takes on one of the wildest colts in the bunch, and it takes him time, which could cost the team. Buck’s rodeo skills come in handy when the horse resists, but the horse calms down, and he makes it across the finish line. After a bit of turbulence, Sal is inches away when his colt refuses to cross the finish line. Thinking on his feet, Stephen leads the other horses to the end, and Sal’s colt follows to stop the clock.

At a very tense elimination, The Blue Team yet again finishes the challenge in less time than The Green Team. With Coy having earned the immunity buckle for this challenge, he takes a seat next to The Blue team as the rest of his team face Trace. With each member quick to point the finger at a different cowboy, Trace ultimately makes the decision. While he respected Eddie’s decision to step up and ride a colt, his follow-through didn’t quite cut it, and Trace sends him on his way. Next, he singles out the challenge’s team leader, Cody, on his inability to take control of the situation and tells him to hit the trail.

With the team members now uneven, Trace moves Keaton over to The Green Team in hopes that throwing a new personality into the mix will be beneficial for all.

Pack your personals: Cody Anthony and Eddie Peña


 

Renowned horse breeder and trainer Ken McNabb joins Trace, Cash, Buddy, and the 11 remaining cowboys for the immunity challenge. Assessing the cowboys’ acumen of the horse market, the competitors make educated guesses on a series of horses’ monetary values. Each round, cowboys furthest from the correct price are out of the running for the immunity buckle. Much to Trace and the judges’ surprise, Jamon, the winner of the previous immunity buckle, is the first one out. Sarah proves that she has a keen eye for the business and walks away safe from elimination.

Sarah shares the pride she has for ranching and beekeeping. While Coy tries to stir up trouble with some of the other cowboys, a conversation about marriage and the strain cowboyin’ puts on relationships makes its way into the discussion, bringing Coy to open up about troubles at home.

In a shocking turn of events, Trace announces that another cowboy will be joining each team for the elimination challenge—former San Francisco 49ers tight end Vernon Davis and former New England Patriots fullback Glenn Gronkowski. Designed after the beloved film City Slickers, the seasoned cowboys are responsible for guiding their inexperienced new teammates through the challenge.

Once they look the part, Glenn joins The Blue Team, and The Green Team welcomes Vernon with open arms. To prepare the football stars for the challenge, their teammates give them a crash course in Cowboyin’ 101, and Glenn and Vernon gain a new respect for the way of life. Keaton gets on hands and knees to help Vernon get a better idea of what he should expect.

Split into three parts—the teams must quickly pack up camp before a stampeding herd reaches them. Then, they must drive the herd to pasture and gather the stray steers located within the bush, in the trenches, and up a mountain along the trail. The Green Team kicks things off, and they pack up camp just in the nick of time. Jamon heads out to grab the first stray steer, but only pushes it away from the herd. Seeing his teammate in trouble, Keaton comes to assist. Things get increasingly worse when the steer makes its way to the ravine, and caught up in the moment, Jamon rides off, hoping it will make its way back to the herd. With the newbie up next, Vernon impresses everyone with his cowboyin’ skills, and Stephen Heitmann takes on the hardest steer of the bunch with success.

During The Blue Team’s time to ride, the contestants pack up camp with time to spare, and as the herding begins, Sarah gives Glenn a hard time. Undeterred, Glenn goes after the first steer and is a natural. Stephen Yellowtail takes a backseat in this challenge and goes for the easiest steer. Cody makes the call to rope a steer as a safety precaution when his horse suffers an injury. Although the right move, judges have to dock the team’s time. Chris and Sarah tag team to catch the last two steers, but Chris’ aggressive approach puts them in a tough spot. As Sarah unwaveringly pursues the steer over a fence and through a creek, Chris leaves her high and dry when he gives up and leaves her on her own.

After The Blue Team’s mishap, Chris makes a last-ditch effort to form an alliance with Coy to throw Stephen Yellowtail under the bus. While Coy agrees to his face, the proposition leaves a bad taste in his mouth and clarity on who should be the one to hit the trail.

As the sun goes down, the cowboys head to the arena for elimination. Although both teams received docks in their times for not gathering all of the steers, The Green Team wins the challenge. With Jamon, Stephen Yellowtail, and Chris on the chopping block, tensions rise when Coy doesn’t stick to his word and Trace sends Chris packing.

Pack your personals: Chris Becker


 

The ever-changing Wyoming weather delivers a fierce windstorm to keep the remaining 12 cowboys on their toes. Drawing straws to pick their opponent for a cowboy standoff immunity challenge, some contestants choose to go up against their biggest competition, while others go for the weakest link. Fighting to rope a steer first, the top three who beat out the rest go head-to-head, and the cowboy who plays dirty wins immunity. In their downtime, contestants from rival teams bond over their similar paths in life, and the loss of a parent, while two others clash.

Designed with the gusty wind as inspiration, the elimination challenge focuses on ranch work to prepare for a storm. In a relay-style race, each team member takes on a separate task:

1. Repair broken corral fence

2. Chop 100 pounds of firewood

3. Gather and herd 10 cows back to the corral

4. Ride down a creek and up the water trough line

5. Haul hay and set up six stalls

6. Lead six horses to the barn

While the team’s success is dependent on the individual, the cowboys narrow in on who they think  weighs down their teams. On The Blue Team, the high elevation leaves one contestant unable to catch their breath, and another loses control, but their impeccable horsemanship gets them back on track. On The Green Team, a cowboy starts to feel the pressure, causing them to injure themselves and make big mistakes that may cost them. In the end, Trace, Buddy, and Cash send a contestant packing.

Pack your personals: Brianna Markum-McClain


The sun comes out in Wyoming just in time for the remaining 13 cowboys to take the first immunity challenge of the competition. Split up into three parts, the contestants must first saddle their horse and go head-to-head in an old-fashioned race. The challenge ends early for one contestant when his horse makes a break for it. Next, the six fastest cowboys move on to a barrel racecourse, where only three move on to the Old West trivia. Finally, after a close race, the cowboy who won’t back down wins the immunity belt buckle and heads into the team challenge safe from elimination.

Designed after the treacherous journey of Jim Craig from the film The Man from Snowy River the teams must lead 60 horses on a 2-mile course of rough terrain that includes traveling down a mountain and through a river. The Blue Team learned from their past mistakes and approach the challenge as a unified team. The Green Team takes the lead from a seasoned cowboy, but poor communication creates frustration, and things don’t go as smoothly as anticipated. While two cowboys on The Green Team grow mutual respect for one another, members of The Blue Team find themselves at odds. In the end, Trace surprises everyone by sending a frontrunner to hit the trail.

Pack your personals: Diamond Jim


Fourteen cowboys from across the country, and from diverse and varied backgrounds, arrived at Powderhorn Ranch in Douglas, Wyoming, and even as they introduced themselves, they began sizing up the competition, planning alliances, and determining their strategies. Smart move, because Trace wasted no time putting them to the test.

 

Trace split the cowboys into equal teams in a random drawing of names.

Green Team:

Diamond Jim, Brianna Markum-McClain, Keaton Barger, Stephen Heitmann, Sal Campos, Buck Faust, and Jamon Turner.

Blue Team:

Chris Becker, Eddie Peña, Sarah Foti, Cody Anthony, Coy Melancon, Stephen Yellowtail, and Cody Traylor.

The Team Challenge: Lonesome Dove – Time Limit: 90 minutes

It was 32 degrees with snow on the ground as the teams assembled. Guest judge, Booger Brown of The Cowboy Way: Alabama, explained the rules. Out in the wide-open pasture were 50 head of cattle—one of the prizes the eventual winner will take home.

Step 1. Separate the 25 blue-tagged cows and drive them into the portable pen.

Step 2. Cut the two bulls from the herd and load them onto a trailer.

Step 3. Gather the remaining 25 gold-tagged cows, and like the scene from the mini-series, Lonesome Dove, drive those cattle down the ravine and across the river.

The Green Team went first, and Diamond Jim, the oldest competitor, immediately took the leadership position, much to the frustration of Stephen Heitmann, who thought everyone’s ideas should be heard before making a plan. Despite this initial conflict, the cowboys watched and listened to each other, and formed a bond with the goal of getting the job done right. A couple of time-wasting mistakes could have been avoided, but overall, the Green Team had a smooth run and a good plan.

The Blue Team was up next, and right off the bat tension was high. Stephen Yellowtail stepped up to lead and as he explained his strategy, Sarah Foti immediately disagreed, no discussion, no compromise, but Stephen prevailed—for the time being. Cody Traylor, who had taken a lot of razzing, especially from Sarah, for his Buckaroo swagger and flat-hat style, volunteered to man the gate on the portable corral, while everyone else headed out to sort and drive. But it was clear, that Cody had no clue how to work the gates or the pen’s panels. The team’s lack of communication, listening, and mutual respect started to unravel the tenuous teamwork they had established when they set out. They lost precious time at almost every leg of the challenge, and ultimately, lost the challenge.

Losing Team: Blue

Pack your personals: Cody Traylor

Ultimate Cowboy Showdown Cody Traylor