Molly's "naked fella" investigation turns up a surprising clue, Lester's return to work leads to more trouble, Malvo gets into the blackmail game, and Gus comes clean

By Amber Ray
Updated October 06, 2015 at 06:47 PM EDT
Credit: Chris Large/FX
S1 E3
  • TV Show
  • FX

You just know something’s not quite right when an episode opens by slowly panning down the empty halls of a nondescript office at floor level.

It’s an urban office; the view from the windowed walls tell us that much. There are cubicles; it’s sterile and, one might imagine, soul-crushing to work at this place. Down a long hallway, the camera focuses on a generic fish tank screensaver, the kind where the fish seemingly swim around at their own free will, which seemed totally high-tech back in 2006.

The man sitting in front of the computer makes the situation feel more desperate. He’s distraught, concerned about something…something that might be coming down the hall after him. He checks the walkway for a second time and…there stands Lorne Malvo. Yeah, this guy is screwed.

The guy says “sh–” at least 500 times, frantically trying to figure out a way out, but Malvo has cornered his prey. “Tell them I’ll pay it all back!” the man pleads. Malvo grabs the guy by the necktie and drags him down the hall. This hit man is quite cavalier in his crimes and violence, isn’t he? He allows people — victims and witnesses alike — to see his face. He’s caught on the office’s security cameras. He left fingerprints on a murder weapon at Lester Nygaard’s house. To Lorne Malvo, is life just a game of Catch Me If You Can?

He drags the guy to the office garage and holds up a nasty-looking knife, which he uses to remove the man’s clothing. Malvo stuffs the man in the trunk — aha! This is the guy who winds up frozen in the woods outside of Bemidji. This is Deputy Molly Solverson’s “naked fella.”

We see his perspective during the car crash. We see him fleeing in the snow and stopping to catch a breath — which turns out to be one of his last. Is he thinking about those pictures of the little kids at his cubicle? How he shouldn’t have gotten involved with loan sharks/the mob/whatever bad guys put a hit on him?

Molly is on the case — well, now that she’s been taken off of the double-homicide at the Nygaard’s house. She drives to St. Paul to interview the witnesses in the office abduction. “Phil was just typing away,” one woman says. “Nice guy, too. Super…such a pity. Gambling problem, I heard,” she adds. “I heard drugs,” says another. “I heard he like slept with a 13-year-old girl,” chimes in a man, who is then chastised for “spreading rumors.” “It was gambling for sure,” the first woman insists. Ah, cubicle life.

The security officer at the office takes Molly to see footage of the crime. And there is Malvo, dragging Phil out of the elevator. The security guard wonders if this is the guy who killed all those people in Bemidji. Molly wonders that, too.

Speaking of Malvo, he’s busy playing all the players in the Stavros Milos blackmail case. He pays a visit to Don Chumph’s gym, where he confronts the trainer: “You got bronzer on your blackmail note.” Don takes Malvo to a closet to speak in private. (“You couldn’t find a smaller room for us to talk in?”) Don looks like he’s about to pee himself as Malvo interrogates his blackmailer. “I got two questions and one comment,” Malvo says. “First question: Why $43,613?” Don wanted to start a Turkish bath. (Because sure, why not?)

“Second question: What do you know?” Turns out, not much. All Don knows is what Helena told him: That Milos lies about his money, which is vague and not very helpful. “So you’re blackmailing a guy for something but you don’t know what it is,” Malvo tries to clarify. Then the hit man offers his comment: “You’re an idiot.” The good news, he says, is that he’s taking over the blackmail scheme.

“You work for the guy,” Don says, trying to put together the pieces and failing miserably.

“Exactly. And now you work for me. The first thing we need is a new blackmail letter.” (Anyone else seeing the allusions to Brad Pitt’s trying-to-scheme gym rat in the Coen brothers’ Burn After Reading?)

Meanwhile in Duluth, Gus Grimly is still feeling sorry for himself over that bad guy who got away. He runs the plates from that ticket he never actually wrote and discovers the car is registered to…Lester Nygaard. He doesn’t seem to know the connection yet, but he does realize that it’s not the guy who was driving.

Grimly goes to talk to the lieutenant…in the bathroom, where he’s “taking a dump.” Grimly wants to talk about that triple homicide and is reprimanded: Talk to your shift commander. To add insult to injury, he’s mistaken for another cop, corrects the lieutenant (who thinks he’s animal control), and launches into his Malvo story: He let the guy go with a warning, but it turns out the car belongs to one of the victims.


The lieutenant busts out of the stall, pissed. He tries to understand how badly Grimly screwed up while buttoning his pants, saying “it’s goddamn Sioux Falls all over again.” (Foreshadowing!) Grimly is instructed to look through every mug book in the state to find this guy — and personally make the call to Bemidji to let them know he’s a terrible cop (or something to that effect), absolving the rest of the department from “dips–ttery.”

Cut to Lester’s house, where Pearl has left us two more nuggets of wisdom: “The key to life is happiness” and “hope” are written out on the refrigerator. Lester’s at the kitchen table, hearing his wife nagging from beyond the grave, looking into living room, which he still hasn’t cleaned up — at all. Even that coffee cup is still there. He flashes to the chief getting shot…and decides it’s time to go back to work.

He drives to the insurance office, where the secretary gives him a hug. Boss Bo Munk asks if he wants to help out by running some papers over to the Hess widow, on account of her husband being murdered (“uh-oh,” the secretary says, trying to protect Lester). He has a “dentist thing” so it would be a big help. Lester agrees.

We see two arrows shot in a “for sale” sign — guess we’re at the Hess house now. Yep, there are the hooligans brothers, harassing Lester. Gina Hess opens the door. “Get off the guy and quit shooting up the lawn sign,” she scolds. “They’re wolves,” she adds. “What do you want?”

She perks up when Lester says he’s from Monk Insurance. “Why didn’t you say so?” she asks. “Do you want a whisky? When do I get my money?”

Lester tries to offer his condolences. Gina, wearing a hooded pink robe, lights a cigarette, holding what could be described as an adult sippy cup. She’s obviously only concerned about the money, the only thing she ever cared about in her relationship with Sam.

Lester begins to explain that in the case of murder, there is a different process for the paperwork. Interesting how he keeps it together, being so complicit in Sam’s death.

“Wait a minute, you’re that guy — your wife was killed and the chief of police, he was murdered at your house, right?” Gina asks. “I think you better have that whisky.”

And suddenly they’re in the living room and she’s coming onto him: “You should get out there, date.”

“Did you like her, your wife?” Gina asks. She hated her husband, met him as a stripper in Vegas. Lester admits he’s never been to a strip club. She plays with her robe. “Well, I was good,” she says. “I’ve got great tits and I’m super flexible” — demonstrating that last bit by putting an Ugg-footed leg up by his shoulder. She lounges on the arm rest, boobs in his face. “Tell me handsome, what’s a girl got to do to get that money?” She puts her leg up again…

And her son sees her though the window and shoots his brother in the ass with an arrow. Lester looks out at the scene and notices that there are two men in the woods also watching. It’s Numbers and Wrench.

Back in Duluth, Malvo is visiting a drug dealer who appears to be quite professional. He has a very clean, organized van full of illegal merchandise. Malvo wants Adderall, and a high dosage, too: “Just pretend I’m a 300 lb. 9 year-old who can’t finish a sentence,” he says. The guy also tries to sell him a zombie survival kit — really? Were the undead such a big deal back in 2006?

Scene change to St. Paul, where Molly is meeting with an old friend for dinner after wrapping up her “naked fella” investigation at his former office. Her friend is one of those people who moved out of Bemijdi right after high school because “nothing ever happens in Bemidji.” (Except three homicides in a matter of days.) If these women ever had anything in common, they certainly don’t anymore.

Molly’s asked if she’s dating anyone; she makes a joke about being an old ship captain and her friend doesn’t get it. The woman launches into her own stories about “Internet dating,” including one about the guy she’s dating now: On a trip to Acapulco, they thought he got a spider bite, but it turned out a spider laid eggs in his skin, and “in the middle of doing it all these baby spiders popped out of his neck.” Lesson learned, she says: “From now on I’m staying right here in Minnesota.”

Cut to Milos’ house, where his dog sees a deer, goes outside, and sees Malvo. Milos is calling for the dog, King. Malvo sticks his arm through the dog door, unlocks the door, and lets himself in. He replaces Milos’ acetaminophen with the Adderall. Milos is coming and yet Malvo is calm, walking slowly — he once again seems unconcerned about getting caught, or simply knows he’s so good he won’t get caught. We think Milos is going to see Malvo, but no. Milos walks to the door and sees his dog outside, dead, with another blackmail note. (No peeks at what this note says, unfortunately.) No one is outside.

Meanwhile, back at the insurance office, Lester’s hand is giving him the kind of trouble that makes one think this injury is going to be his downfall. He is moaning in the bathroom, trying to squeeze puss out of the infected wound. His coworkers say they’re going to Arby’s. He tries to redress his hand and walks out, surprised to see Numbers and Wrench waiting for him in the front of the office.

The phone rings. It’s Duluth impound — they have Lester’s car, which is surprising, but great news. Numbers looks at brochures, Wrench looks brooding. “So, what can I do for you fellas then?” Lester asks. “‘Cause we’re kinda busy right now.” Is that an attempt at a joke, or is that Lester’s defense mechanism kicking in again?

Wrench signs and makes angry faces at Lester. “No, sorry,” Lester says, not comprehending sign language.

“Sam Hess,” Numbers says. “You family of his?” Lester asks. He’s not getting any better at hiding surprise when it comes to being questioned about the crimes he helped commit.

Wrench jumps up, threatening. He signs in Lester’s face, aggressively. Numbers laughs. “Lester, we saw you with the widow — looked like you were having a party. Were you celebrating, maybe?”

Lester is flustered, intimidated, and pushed against the desk in his chair. “I got a deaf cousin,” he tries, weakly. And then the last person he wants to see shows up to save him. It’s Molly.

He walks over, but the door is locked. “Sorry about the door, not sure how that happened,” he says. He’s trying to play it cool, like Numbers and Wrench are customers. “I’m not interrupting anything?” Molly asks, once again doubting he will give her a true answer. “Oh no, just giving these guys a quote,” he says as they play along, then leave.

Lester closes the door behind them, relieved. Molly suspects they’re not from around here and Lester agrees, saying they were looking for travel insurance — which is still an odd thing for an out-of-towner to be shopping for.

Now Molly’s going to play her own con. With the chief dead, she’s worried about life insurance. (Notice the snow globe on Lester’s desk? Producer Warren Littlefield has said a Fargo snow globe from the 1996 film helped serve as inspiration for getting the FX series made.) She’s got all her details here, she says, holding up a manila envelope. And then she drops it.

Both she and Lester bend down to pick up the papers. Sneaky Molly stuck that photo of Malvo from the office building security cameras in there, on top, and Lester notices. “Ok, well, uh, oh…wow, uh you know there are lots of choices policy-wise,” he says. “And of course I can’t give you the whole long speech,” he adds, though Molly insists she’s got time. “It’s all in here, all the details,” he says, pushing brochures her way. He looks at his watch, getting more flustered by the second. “I gotta close up real soon,” he says, always making excuses. Molly studies him. She thanks him for his time and he ushers her out the door. He knows he’s in trouble.

Milos is also in trouble.

Malvo is in his home office, staring at a framed painting of an ice scraper. There’s a hand statue, and a giant stained glass mural of St. Lawrence, “patron saint of badasses, burnt alive by the Romans,” Milos explains. “Know what he said? Turn me over, I’m done on this side.”

Milos is, of course, livid over the murder of his dog. He’s breathless. Malvo is calm. “He raised his price,” the two-timing hit man says. Milos is outraged. A million dollars after killing his dog? His response: “Eat a turd.”

Milos says it can’t be his ex-wife, she loved the dog, too. Malvo wants to know who else knows about the money.

“Nobody knows, it’s impossible,” Milos says. Malvo wants to know what that’s supposed to mean, but Milos won’t budge. Instead he pops his not-acetaminophen like candy. Malvo asks to move onto the property “until this thing’s over,” using the line that the culprit came to the house once and might do it again. Milos unwisely agrees.

Meanwhile, Grimly isn’t getting any closer to finding his suspect. He realizes it’s time to tell Bemidji what happened. Greta suggests telling them in person.

And so they go on a road trip to Bemidji, where Molly once again gets reprimanded by the new chief. She shows him the picture of Malvo, which she admits to showing to Lester, but “not officially.”

“You should’ve seen his face, it was like he saw a ghost,” Molly says. “Lester knows this fella.”

Bill is “super ticked” that she’s pestering Lester again. “Solve the naked guy,” he says. “If this is your suspect, put out an APB and we’ll get him in.”

Later, Grimly and Greta walk into the Bemidji station. Molly is up front at reception filing something, and runs over when Gus says he needs to talk to someone about Lester Nygaard. She suggests talking at her desk.

Grimly explains his story (again), ending with the car belonging to Lester.

“Son of a…he told me his car was in the shop,” Molly says.

“Here’s the thing: Lester wasn’t driving,” Grimly admits. Molly pulls out the pic of Malvo. “Holy cow. Yeah. That’s…. I think that’s him,” Grimly says.

“Security camera, caught him over in St. Paul kidnapping an accountant,” Molly explains. And then she wants to know why he only found out later it wasn’t Lester — didn’t Grimly check the guy’s license and registration?

“I asked but he threatened me,” Grimly admits. “And I uh… it’s no excuse but he’s a really dangerous-looking fella and had these really scary looking eyes….” Greta walks in and absolves her dad of being a coward, asking for money for the vending machine. Using her as a device as someone who 1. has all the answers, 2. is the voice of reason, and 3. always appears at the exact opportune moment is, so far, the weakest aspect of this series’ storytelling.

Molly asks about their situation. It’s been just him and Greta for the last 10 years. She softens, and asks Gus if they want to join her for dinner.

At Lou’s, Gus and Greta seem to like Molly. When her former cop dad notices Grimly’s uniform, he asks if he’s associated with Ben Schmidt, who turns out to be Grimly’s boss. Lou recalls a deal they had back in the day, a joint task force in Sioux Falls. “That was not a good situation,” he says. Hmmm.

Molly and the Grimlys bond over milkshakes and burgers and “something green.” “It’s a bit strange, Lester never reporting his car stolen,” Gus surmises. “Yep, I think he’s involved in some nasty business,” says Molly.

Molly asks Greta if she has a boyfriend. She brings up the spider-laying-eggs-in-a-guy’s-neck story and you have to wonder: Did Molly actually set this up as a kind of cop date?

“Not sure I want to live in a world where that can happen to a person,” Molly says of the baby spider incident. You get the feeling she’ll see a lot worse before season’s end.

And Lester is preparing for the worst. In Chazz’s garage, he tries out a Taser and sticks it in his coat pocket. Chazz, who was facing the gun cabinet with headphones on, turns around, finally noticing Lester (but not the Taser). “So which one makes the biggest hole?” Lester asks. They go out and give that hulking automatic assault rifle a try, and for the first time all series, Lester looks like he may truly be dangerous — and happy.

“And behold, the daughter of Pharaoh came down to wash herself in the river,” Malvo says in a voiceover. “And her maids walked by the river’s brink, and when she saw the basket in the sedges she sent one of her maids for it. And when it was brought she opened it and saw within an infant crying. And having compassion she said, this is one of the babes of the Hebrews. And she adopted him for a son and called him Moses, saying, ‘Because I took him out of the water.’ One day, after Moses had grown up, he went out among his people and saw their affliction. He saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew, his brethren. Looking this way and that way and seeing no people, Moses slew the Egyptian and hid him in the sand.”

The passage is said over a montage of Lester shooting, Numbers and Wrench holed up in an ice-fishing house, and Milos trying to figure out what the hell is wrong with him while popping more of the wrong pills. Milos enters the shower, and suddenly the water turns to blood. He realizes what is happening and screams. Cut to Malvo walking out of the home, smiling, carrying a red-covered book/notebook…and hiding canisters of pig’s blood in the trunk of a car.

Episode Recaps


An anthology series Inspired by the 1996 Coen Brothers film of the same name.
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  • TV-MA
  • Noah Hawley
  • FX