Fargo recap: Buridan's Ass
Malvo's plan results in unexpected consequences while Lester hatches a devious scheme of his own.
Something’s fishy in Minnesota – or is that the smell of all the dead bodies beginning to pile up? We’re losing people who can help uncover the truth about the Bemidji murders as Malvo – and now Lester – enact their elaborate, devious plans.
But first, we’re finally introduced to Fargo. The crime syndicate boss is meeting with his henchman in an Asian restaurant, going over what appears to be financials as his brusque Aussie underling dominates the conversation. (Bonus: Now we all know how to prepare fresh fish.) The boss is a man of few words: “Sam Hess,” he says. His numbers man – not to be confused with Mr. Numbers – flips to a page in his ledger and reads: “Assets deployed. Mr. Wrench and Mr. Numbers. Three days plus lodging plus mileage.”
The boss man doesn’t seem to like what he is hearing. The Australian is unsettled as he explains that Numbers and Wrench don’t believe Hess’ killing is related to the business. It might be extramarital on the wife’s side; they’re on their way to apprehend the guy.
“Dead,” the head guy says. “Not apprehend. Dead. Don’t care extramarital, don’t care not related, kill and be killed. Head in a bag. There’s the message.” And he stabs his fish and sucks on the head to make his point.
Don, meanwhile, is having his own feast (of pathetic sorts). He’s still stuck in the pantry and still dreaming about all of that money he thinks he’s going to get, hypothetically inviting people to his fancy new Turkish baths. Poor, delusional Don. Not sure where he decided to use the bathroom, but at least there are snacks. Malvo lets him out; it’s time to make the call.
Don’s upset, naturally – his feelings were hurt, ya know? He’s not going to get that 60/40 split of the money, no matter how much he thinks he’s doing all of the work in this blackmail scheme. But wait — “Why is there paper on the windows?” he wonders. What’s in Malvo’s bag? Don does perk up at the idea of getting to use the “voice thingy” again and does his best Darth Vader impression before Malvo hands him a script to read to Milos.
Milos is waiting for the call. It’s snowing; he’s sitting in his office, staring at his ice scraper, sitting in front of his St. Lawrence stained glass window, recounting how he got the money to make him the Supermarket King in the first place. The phone rings: “Once upon a time there was a little boy,” Don says through the voice modifier. “He was born in a field and raised in the woods. And he had nothing. In the winter the boy would freeze and in the summer he would boil. He knew the name of every stinging insect. At night, he would look at the lights in the houses, and he would want. Why was he outside, and they in? Why was he so hungry, and they fed? It should be me, he said. And out of the darkness the wolves came, whispering. You understand what I’m saying?”
Milos nods. “Yeah.” These parables are having the desired effect on all of the characters – Milos, Grimly – but does every teaching lesson or Malvo intimidation need a metaphor? Even for a Coen-themed series, there have been a lot of these Meaningful Stories in just six episodes.
Milos is instructed to make the drop at a parking garage. He hangs up; Malvo wants to know if it sounds like he’s going to pay, but Don “doesn’t know what that sounds like.” No matter — the trainer’s use to Malvo is almost up anyway. To make that point, the hit man whacks his accomplice over the face with a blender.
To set the scene of The Storm of the Century descending upon Minnesota, we get Molly driving to Duluth, listening to the weather report. She meets Grimly at his apartment; he says he sent Greta to a friend where she’d be safer, which may be the smartest thing he’s done all season. He fills her in on his neighbor’s run-in with Malvo, but admits he didn’t call it in because no one believes him anymore anyway. (Except her. Aw, budding cop feelings.) The good news: The neighbor got the plates, and it turns out the SUV Malvo was driving belongs to Phoenix Farms, where a chipper, totally unhelpful cashier tries to call the manager to talk to the two cops. No luck. Molly leaves her card and says they want to ask about a company car. She even writes down the plates, which will inevitably turn out to be a terrible decision, right? Milos believes he’s mixed up in some shady business. Malvo is out for blood. And now Molly just let them know that she’s onto them – even if she doesn’t know exactly what’s going on. Why wouldn’t she have just said, “Look – we’re the fricking law and someone needs to get in touch with us ASAP.” It seems that she gave away way too much here. But Molly doesn’t seem concerned. She wants more coffee. Cop date!
It’s snowing in Bemidji, too, where Lester tells a nurse at the hospital that he’s ready to go home. But that’s up to the cop sitting outside of his door, she says, refusing to tell him why his room is being guarded. Lester knows why, of course. He strips the IV out of his arm and tries the window; it’s locked, and he’s trapped. He hears someone outside and hops back into bed. Turns out Chazz has come to berate him and tell him what a bad brother and all around terrible person he is. He only knows the half of it.
Chazz tells Lester what the cops are saying: They think he may have hired a hit man to knock off Pearl. Lester puts on his best poker face. “I swear to God I did not do this, anything,” he says.
“Well they think you did, so you’ve got to give them something. Someone,” Chazz says. “If you want this to go away you have to give them someone.” And to really drive his point home: “You’ve been a burden my whole life. You’re done. There’s something wrong with you, there’s something missing.”
Chazz leaves, and that’s when the light bulb goes off. Lester once again hops out of bed. He starts pulling the covers off of his roommate and throws the bandaged sap onto his own bed. He wraps the man in the blankets and covers his head so it looks like he’s sleeping. Is the man conscious? Did see Lester try to escape and listen to Chazz accuse him of murder? There’s not much he can do about it either way.
Lester grabs his clothes out of the closet and puts them under the covers. He grabs bandages and starts wrapping them around his face. Can he wrap himself up before the nurse arrives? He does a good enough job, hops into his roommate’s vacated bed, and is rolled out by the nurse. He moans to really play up the charade; she leaves him in the hall, saying someone will be out for him in a minute. And when she leaves, Lester springs into action. The bandages come off, the scarf and coat and boots go on. Very smartly, he pulls the bed through the opposite doors so the nurse will think he’s been properly moved into examination. He just so happens to be by the staff locker room, where he grabs someone’s keys, walks outside into the snow (it’s really coming down now), pushes the remote clicker, and sits down inside the car, relieved that he’s becoming pretty good at this criminal stuff.
Oh, but the plan gets more devious. At home, he retrieves the murder weapon from a hole behind the fish poster (so that’s where he hid it post-washing machine). He pulls out a box full of old photos and grabs a boudoir shot of Pearl. He grabs a pair of her underwear out of the laundry hamper, and it’s onto phase 3.
Lester sneaks into Chazz’s garage, calling out to see if anyone is home. He opens the gun case, pushes back the rifles and shotguns, and places the hammer, photo, and lingerie in the back shelf. He pauses at a picture of his brother and his family, and maybe, just maybe, feels a slight twinge of regret looking at the face of little Gordon. He opens the case again and grabs a handgun. He walks into Gordon’s room and wipes off the gun with his scarf, then places it into the kid’s backpack. No, nevermind — Lester has no remorse of any kind. Chazz was right. Something is broken.
Gordon spots him walking down from the second floor; they look at each other in a painfully long exchange, but it turns out the kid doesn’t really think twice about it. Lester was staying with them, after all. His uncle, the killer, walks out, returns to the hospital, and finishes his plan. He makes it back to the bed in time to rewrap his face in bandages and for the nurse to find her “lost” patient. Back in his room, Lester makes the full switch with his roommate. He sits up in his bed by the window, staring into space, hands folded. Does he feel anything? If he’s trying to frame a kid, no. And then, he smiles. No, Lester feels nothing but pleasure thinking he is going to get away with murder.
Malvo is also pretty damn confident that he won’t get caught for his crimes. He’s so sure of that fact, he uses the snowstorm as a backdrop for a killing spree. When Don finally comes to, he finally realizes he’s not getting any of that blackmail money – he’s duct taped to a stationary bike directly in front of the door. Malvo has a gun and is listening to a police scanner. “In case Stavros does call the cops, we want to make sure they’re too busy to respond,” he says, smiling. He places the gun in Don’s hands, which are taped to the handlebars. He’s a soulless, crafty criminal.
Don tries to protest. He’s crying as Malvo tapes the gun to his hands. Don attempts to pull the trigger. “That’s OK,” Malvo says. “I’d be insulted if you didn’t try.”
Malvo’s got his own gun taped to a chair by the window. This time, he’s wearing gloves. He shoots into the street, where people are walking. He doesn’t hit them, but makes enough noise and damage for someone to call the cops almost instantly. Don finally sees where this is going as Malvo packs his own weapon and bag and exits out a back door.
The resulting police showdown is brutal, a true testament to Malvo’s sadistic side. It all plays out slowly, but you know how this is going to end. The cops show up. No, it looks like every cop in Duluth has showed up. The team moves in; one cop triggers a tripwire, which fires multiple blasts out into the street and in the path of the police. The cops return fire as Don, the helpless pawn, tries to dodge the bullets. Was he hit?
They’re given the order to breach the house. Don manages to move the tape from his lips and screams wait, but he’s too late. They throw a flash bomb into the window and it goes off; Don is stunned. They open the door and see a gun; multiple officers begin firing and Don is covered in a hail of bullets that forces his body to writhe left and right. What was it? One hundred shots? His body falls limp, blood dripping from his mouth. How long before they see what really happened? Is this an echo of the infamous Sioux Falls incident that both the Duluth cops and Molly’s dad remember in anger?
“Suspect is down,” Malvo hears on his scanner. Everything is going to plan. Except…
As he’s driving through the blizzard, Malvo notices a car driving erratically. It swerves in front of him and he slams on the brakes, rear-ending the car, which causes his gun to slide onto the passenger’s side floor. He’s boxed in by another car – Wrench gets out from the car at the rear and begins shooting. He’s firing mercilessly; Malvo can’t reach his gun. Wrench makes it to the door and Malvo kicks it out, causing Wrench to fall backwards in the snow.
Numbers gets out of the first car, heavy artillery in hand. He showers Malvo’s car with bullets. They have him surrounded… but he escaped out the passenger’s side door and is hiding behind another parked car. The alarm goes off, giving away his position. They continue firing.
And wouldn’t you know: This is all going down in the same area where Molly’s having coffee with Grimly. Molly tells the owner to call 911. Grimly requests backup.
Malvo appears cornered. Numbers and Wrench sneak up behind the car, but he’s gone. Is this dude supernatural? Sure, it’s snowing and you can barely see anything, but how did he escape? Did he really just walk away?
Malvo sees what appears to be a shed. Numbers and Wrench appear in and out of the snow. It’s so hard to see, they all look like ghosts. It’s a beautifully executed scene (no pun intended).
Malvo slices the top of his hand with his knife and lets the blood trickle down into the snow. He moves over to the shed as Numbers picks up the trail.
Molly and Grimly arrive on the scene, with Grimly getting it wrong as usual: “Fender bender? Words exchanged?” Molly sees this for what it is: “That’s a heck of a lot of bullets fired for a fender bender.”
Malvo tricked Numbers, who goes to the door and is subsequently stabbed in the back by Malvo, who was hiding around the side. Numbers’ gun goes off, signaling Grimly and Molly. Molly takes off. Grimly wants to wait for backup.
“Who?” Malvo asks. He stabs Numbers again. “Who?” He twists the knife. “Fargo,” Numbers says, then Malvo slits his throat. He grabs the gun and walks in the opposite direction of Molly.
She and Grimly arrive at the shed. Grimly is most definitely correct in predicting that Numbers is dead. And then he notices Molly has disappeared. He stands, hesitating with every move. He’s frightened and cold and shivering. He hears Molly in the distance, announcing herself as a police officer, then hears gunfire. “Halt!” he says stupidly, then fires blindly into the snow. He walks over. Molly is down, and he is likely the one who shot her. Why is he just sitting there feeling sorry for himself? Why isn’t he trying to see if she is still alive?? Looks like the speech he gave Molly in the coffee shop about never actually wanting to be a cop wasn’t just confirmation of everything we already thought about Grimly – it was sad foreshadowing, too.
So where’s Milos in all of this, as the chaos Malvo set in place to divert his mark was going down? Turns out he did drive to that parking garage with the money. But flashbacks to how he found the money in the first place, and a call from Semenchko – who can really rock a union suit – gave him a change of heart.
“It’s not about the money; it’s bigger than that,” Milos says. “I know what I’ve got to do now. Give me an hour and head back. Tell the damn kid I love him.” Semenchko refuses the latter order.
Milos attempts to leave the garage, and in yet another homage to the Fargo movie, the attendant wants him to pay, even though Milos never even got out of his car. He tells the kid that God told him what to do, and that includes opening the gate. “Your Lord demands it,” he says.
The kid listens and lets him go without paying the $2.
So what was the divine intervention Milos was referring to? Well, he drives to that spot on the side of the road in the middle of Minnesota nowhere, where he first found that briefcase full of money. He grabs the money and trudges through the snow, over to the fence, where he buries it. He looks left, looks right, sees nothing but snow and fields and trees. He shoves the ice scraper into the snow, blade first, so the bright handle is sticking up. And he walks away.
Meanwhile, Semenchko is driving Demitri home. It looks like the snow has finally let up, but what the hell? There is something falling from the sky. It’s… fish? Hundreds of fish, pelting the car, littering the road. Semenchko can’t keep control…
And that’s where Milos finds him, thrown from the car on the side of the fish-covered road, face down in the snow. (Some of the fish are still alive, gasping – nice effect.) He walks farther and sees the car flipped on its roof over an embankment. Demitri, covered in blood, is motionless in the car. Milos weeps. He gave the money back. He doesn’t understand how or why this could happen.
Seriously though, how the heck did Malvo make that happen?