‘Fargo’ Recap: ‘I Feel as If I’ve Left the Known World’

Andy Yu as Meemo, Michael Stuhlbarg as Sy Feltz, and Goran Bogdan as Yuri in FX’s Fargo.
(Photo: FX)

Warning: This recap for the “The House of Special Purpose” episode of Fargo contains storyline and character spoilers.

In which a sex tape, a coffee mug, and a man named Dollars wreak all kinds of havoc on the Stussy contingent.

20 things we learn in “The House of Special Purpose”:

1. Stella Stussy (a name second only to Nikki Swango in its deliciousness) returns home from the grocery store to find a padded envelope on her front landing. It’s marked “EMMIT STUSSY (YOUR EYES ONLY),” and she does resist the temptation to open it… until she puts the groceries in the pantry. The next thing we know, she’s reading a ransom note and watching a sex tape (DVD actually) that appears to show Stella’s beloved husband Emmit having sex with someone who is definitely not Stella.

2. Yep, definitely not Stella… or Emmit. The sex tape is the handiwork of Nikki and Ray, who filmed themselves — both wearing wigs — having sex, and are using the video to blackmail Emmit. P.S. Yes, of course the ransom note was created with cut out magazine letters.

3. Ray is not thrilled with the blackmail plan. But he and the Swango need cash, fast, since he’s sans job, and since his need to drown his sorrows about that fact, in sidecars, at a bar, instead of showing up for the big meeting with bridge sponsor Burt Lurdsman, means he and Nikki are broke and without any other immediate prospects. Sweetly, she doesn’t blame him or allow him to beat himself up for the imbibing. You “deprive a man of his career and endanger his female,” she tells Ray, and that’s what he’s gonna do.

4. The affection continues to be mutual, which is why, in the middle of the production of their blackmail sex tape, Ray gets down on one knee and proposes to Nikki. “Babe, you’re my everything,” he says. “I want we should spend the rest of our lives together.”

“For Pete’s sake, I’m wearing a hooker wig!” she tells him, but then accepts his proposal… after reminding him that he has to actually ask her.

“Nikki Swango, will you marry me?”

“Yes, Raymond Stussy, I will marry you… you have made me the happiest woman ever. [Puts her red wig back on.] Now, let’s make a sex tape.”

5. Emmit is driving along when he gets a call from Stella, who’s sobbing and ranting and so upset he can’t totally understand what she’s saying. He speeds home, but arrives only in time to see his wife, daughter, son-in-law, and mother loading into a van. He pleads with her that he didn’t, wouldn’t, do anything, but she and the family leave him standing in front of the Stussy manse all alone, shouting “Stella!” (Stanley Kowalski-style). He goes inside and watches the video himself, immediately knowing who sent it.

6. At Stussy parking lots HQ, Sy arrives to find Varga in Sy’s office, with his feet up on the desk. Sy’s ticked and even moreso when he rushes into the office, and Varga, holding a framed photo of Mrs. Sy, says, “You have a fat wife. A fat woman is inherently untrustworthy as she is a sensualist who sees no real difference between a pastrami sandwich and a dick in the mouth.” Sy gets angrier, but Meemo and Yuri surround him. As V.M. continues to insult Sy’s wife, he picks up the “World’s Best Dad!” mug from his desk, unzips his trousers, and begins to urinate in it. In the mug. He pees into Sy’s mug! But wait… there’s more. And worse.

7. Yuri and Meemo force Sy to drink the mug’s contents! And not just a sip. They force him to drink all of it, the whole mugful, as its contents drip from his mug and that thick moustache.

8. Sufficiently humiliated, Sy then defends himself as Varga tells him he knows Sy talked to the police. Sy says the cop talk was only about a fender bender involving a company car, and Varga warns him about retaliating for the mug incident. “You may have, during the course of the day, a strong impulse to act. It’s perfectly normal, a man of your station being forced to play the cuckold, but remember, it’s all a matter of perspective. What’s happening here is good, you and I are partners now… contracts have been signed by the major domo himself.” As Meemo and Yuri usher Sy from his office, former office, Varga turns the knife one more rotation and reminds Sy to take his mug with him. Sy does, picking it up with two fingers, touching as little of it as possible, since urine continues to spill from it.

Michael Stuhlbarg as Sy Feltz and Mary McDonnell as Widow Goldfarb in FX’s ‘Fargo’ (Photo: FX)

9. After the mug trauma, Sy heads out for a meeting with Mrs. Goldfarb, a woman who’s already wealthy from the cash she and her late husband made in the mortuary and self-storage games. They both provide “a place to put the things you never use again,” she tells Sy, explaining what the two businesses have in common. She also reveals she wants to buy the Stussy company, as parking lots are “the final piece to the storage triptych.” Sy says he knows Emmit is interested in selling it because he has decided to dedicate himself “in toto” to good works, like “preschools in Mumbai, clinics in Inner Mongolia, better access to veterinary care.” Just then, he gets a text from Emmit, summoning him to the Stussy home, so he excuses himself, which Mrs. Goldfarb takes as him playing hard to get re: selling the company.

10. Even after the mug event, Sy underestimates just how frightened of the Varga contingent he should be, as he’s completely clueless that Meemo and Yuri are waiting in the Bears Den restaurant parking lot, and follow him as he leaves it.

Michael Stuhlbarg as Sy Feltz in FX’s ‘Fargo’ (Photo: FX)

11. Sy arrives at Casa de Stussy to find Emmit sitting on the floor, sobbing as his face is buried in Stella’s clothing. Sy’s angry at Emmit for signing Varga’s contracts, and for the mug incident, of course. “He put his schvonce in the mug Esther gave me!” he tells Emmit. Emmit turns it around on him, telling him he was supposed to stop Ray and Nikki. Sy says he’s tired of hearing about his dumb brother, especially now that the “enemy is inside the gates.”

But Emmit continues. “What is the point of you?” he asks Sy. “You’re supposed to be a fixer… everything is broke.” He tells Sy about the sex tape, which could have been avoided if he’d cut Ray and Nikki off like he was supposed to. Sy says he couldn’t because Emmit wouldn’t give him carte blanche in dealing with Ray. Emmit tells him, now, fix it, whatever it takes.

“Shackles off?” Sy asks.

Emmit: “And throw away the key.”

12. At the Eden Valley Public Library/Police Department (the EVPL and the EVPD), Gloria and Winnie try to explain the complicated Maurice/Ray Stussy/Emmit Stussy/Ennis Stussy crime tree to Donny. What ensues is the Minnesota Nice version of “Who’s on First?” Gloria and Winnie are going to continue pursuing the case, though Donny warns that Chief Dammik will not approve.

13. Nikki and Ray go wedding tux shopping. He can button the 42, but she suggests he get the size 44, so he can breathe. She is demanding $100,000 for the sex tape, but Ray isn’t sure they should ask for that much. “What makes him rich and us not?” Nikki asks. “Larceny.” She’s going for it, and while Ray’s in the dressing room, she gets a call from Sy. He tells her Stella saw the video, so they have no blackmail leverage anymore. Not too fast, Swango says. They can convince Stella that isn’t Emmit in the video, and that should be worth $200,000. Sy tells her to meet him at Stussy lot 350 to discuss.

14. Nikki tells Ray she’s gotta do a girl thing, and heads off to lot 350 alone. Ray takes the bus home, carrying his newly-purchased tux. He gets a call from Emmit, who tells him Stella left him because of the sex video. Ray feels bad, but still tells Emmit you reap what you sow, which kicks off an F-bomb laden shouting match, with Ray’s loud side of it heard by all his fellow bus passengers. They’re staring at him when he hangs up. “My mom,” he tells them.

Carrie Coon as Gloria Burgle, Olivia Sandoval as Winnie Lopez, and Ewan McGregor as Ray Stussy in FX’s ‘Fargo’ (Photo: Chris Large/FX)

15. Gloria and Winnie meet Ray outside his house. They want him to go to the station to discuss Emmit and Maurice and Sy and the fender bender, and their “intersection of interest” in those topics. He agrees to go, as long as he’s back by 6 p.m. He has an “appointment” at that time, he tells them. At the station, Gloria and Winnie pepper him with questions and are confusing him to the point that he begins to admit things, like confirming that it was Sy who was driving the Stussy-registered auto that hit his car. But just as the women are really getting somewhere, Chief Dammik arrives and puts the kibosh on the grilling, saying the whole Stussy/Stussy/Stussy/Maurice affair is a big coincidence.

Shea Whigham as Sheriff Moe Dammik and Carrie Coon as Gloria Burgle in FX’s ‘Fargo’ (Photo: Chris Large/FX)

16. Varga tries to plant doubt in Emmit’s head about whether or not he can trust Sy. “Possibly your consigliere is making a move,” he suggests. Maybe Sy is actually working with Ray to take the company from Emmit. After all, the company signage doesn’t specify which Stussy is in charge, Varga tells Emmit. He compares their new partnership to a classic dessert. “Look, we are making a soufflé here… lines of credit, capital, acquisition, increased valuation… it’s how you turn a small business into a big business. And it is fluffy, and it is delicious, but you can’t agitate while it rises, otherwise… poof!”

Emmit continues to defend Sy’s loyalty, saying Sy is just trying to protect him.

Varga: “From success?”

17. Varga and Emmit go inside Stussy HQ, and Emmit finds an IRS agent is waiting for him. Because of that $10,000 withdraw he made, er, Ray made, the IRS was notified, and now they want to take a quick look at his financials. A “minimally invasive” review, the agent says… “day surgery versus, say, having your colon removed,” the agent explains, sharing “a little IRS humor.” Emmit is panicked, but Varga has been observing the meeting from Sy’s old office/Varga’s new office next door. He tells Emmit not to worry about the books the agent wants to review. They’ll give him the fake ones (fake ones Emmit did not know existed).

18. The IRS agent’s name: Larue Dollars. Dollars, an IRS agent! Dammik has a point about coincidences.

19. Nikki and Sy meet at lot 350, and just after they get out of their cars, Meemo and Yuri pull in. Nikki asks who they are, but Sy tells her they’re there about “something else.” She starts getting nervous after Yuri tells a story about millions of people in his homeland dying, but even Sy is shocked when Varga’s minions drag Nikki in front of her car and begin beating her. We, like Sy, don’t see the beating, but the sounds are horrific. Sy tells them they don’t need to do that, but by the time the vicious sounds are over, it appears Nikki is probably dead. Meemo and Yuri get in their car and drive off, leaving Nikki’s body there. Sy does the same, without even checking on her.

20. Do not underestimate the Swango! After all the men are gone, she slowly begins pulling herself to the driver’s side of her car. She can’t stand, but she pulls herself along, holding on to various parts of the car until she gets to the door and pulls herself into the driver’s seat.

Back at her house that evening, Ray returns from the police station and starts calling for her. He finds Nikki, laying in the bathtub, clothed, but barely conscious. He lifts up her shirt to see she’s been badly beaten, and that her body, the parts not visible under her clothing, is covered with giant bruises.

Don’tcha Know:

* Extra excellent music choices in “The House of Special Purpose”: Mac Davis’s tongue-in-cheek ditty “It’s Hard to Be Humble” could really be the Emmit Stussy theme song, so it was the perfect soundtrack for his drive (before it was interrupted by the sex tape fallout); and World Party’s “Ship of Fools” could be the soundtrack for nearly any of the characters’ storylines… read the lyrics. Any one of the Fargo-ites could be the person singing about being saved from tomorrow and the “ship of fools.”

* Nikki directs Ray to keep his shirt on during the production of the fake Emmit sex tape, for the purpose of “hiding your… difference.”

* Nikki also decides the video will focus on “cowgirl or doggie scenario[s]… favorin’ our rears, in other words, keeping our faces slightly absurd.”

“Obscured,” Ray corrects.

* That mug scene… most disturbing urine-related scene since Dumb & Dumber.

* Sy’s summation of the mug meeting later: “To be honest, I feel as if I’ve left the known world.”

* IRS agent Dollars isn’t choosy about where Emmit seats him when he returns to conduct his investigation. “I spent three months in the mailroom of a novelty store once, surrounded by plastic poop and rubber vomit,” he says. So, yeah, he’s been worse places than the Parking Lot King of Minnesota’s conference room.

Fargo airs Wednesdays at 10 p.m. on FX.

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