Warning: This recap for the “The Narrow Escape Problem” episode of Fargo contains storyline and character spoilers.
In which we learn a bit more about what makes V.M. Varga tick, Emmit and Sy just hope he’ll let them keep on ticking, and Gloria makes a new friend with the same spirit of rebellion.
21 things we learn in “Narrow Escape Problem”:
1. As episode narrator Billy Bob Thornton relays, the theme of the episode is Peter and the Wolf, and our Fargo pals correlate to the following Peter instruments and characters: Emmit/bird/flute; Ray/duck/oboe; Nikki/cat/clarinet; Sy/grandfather/bassoon; Varga’s henchmen Yuri and Meemo/blast of hunter’s shotguns/kettle drums; V.M. Varga/wolf/French horns; and Gloria/Peter/strings.
2. V.M. Varga has an eating issue. A disorder, actually. He eats, quickly, six full plates of breakfast — pancakes, bacon, many slices of toast, fried eggs he picks up with his fingers to shove into his mouth faster — then immediately goes to the bathroom, and with a ritual that includes putting a cloth down on the floor in front of the toilet, regurgitates all he has consumed.
3. Ray shaves his mustache, covers his head with a (bad) curly wig, and dons a cheap suit because he and Nikki are doin’ a little thieving. She drops him off in front of Emmit’s bank, where, she assumes, Emmit has hidden the postage stamp. Ray, doing a good enough impression of his brother to fool butt-smooching bank manager Buck Olander, is at first denied access to Emmit’s bank deposit box, because he doesn’t have the key. But Nikki advises Ray to “remember, the richest guy in the room is always the boss,” so he threatens to move his (Emmit’s) cash to another bank unless Buck gives him (Ray) access to the box, plus $10,000 in $100 bills, and $1 of quarters for the meter. Buck gets him all of that.
4. What was inside Emmit’s bank deposit box: a velvet bag with the word “Luverne” embroidered on it. Inside the bag: not the stamp, but some ashes, which Ray tastes. When Emmit and Sy find out what Ray has done, they reveal the source of the ashes: Emmit’s dead dog, which both he and Sy loved.
5. Ray and Nikki make off with $10K (plus the quarters), but she questions why Ray didn’t take more. “See, that’s the criminal mentality, your old life … this is fair market value,” he says. They’re not crooks, he says, as they plan for their upcoming business dinner with Burt Lurdsman, plumbing supplies salesman and professional bridge player sponsor.
6. Authorities ruled Irv Blumkin’s death a suicide, Sy tells Emmit, but he thinks Varga is up to something, and it may be related to Irv’s death. Sy tells Emmit they should meet with the widow Goldfarb, not to sell to her, but because she’s got a lot of cash, and he thinks they’re being pulled into “something sticky.”
7. Another Varga surprise: He, and perhaps Meemo and Yuri, lives inside the semi-truck they drove into a Stussy parking lot in “The Principle of Restricted Choice.”
8. Yuri tells Meemo there are two words for “truth” in Russian and one for untruth: “nepravda.” Yuri continues, “This is the weapon the leader uses because he knows, but they don’t: the truth is whatever he says it is.”
9. Gloria investigates Maurice’s remains at the morgue, and finds (in addition to his scooped-out noggin) the ripped-out phone book page with Ennis’s address, and a St. Cloud parole board business card. Her new boss, probably, Sheriff Dammik, tells her to let go of the Maurice case. “We’re talking simple wrong place, wrong time,” Dammik says. “Simple hopper with an itch on a spree, who met the business end of a Maytag. Cosmic justice, good riddance.” She, of course, heads out to investigate Maurice further at the St. Cloud parole board instead. He says she’s trying to stir up trouble, she denies it. Going into the parole building, Gloria passes Nikki as she’s leaving. Gloria turns around to look at her, Nikki looks right into the camera.
10. The parole board building motion detection door won’t open for Gloria. The motion detection sink won’t work for her in the bathroom, nor will the motion detection soap dispenser nor the motion detection hand dryer.
11. Gloria does make a friend in the parole board bathroom: superfriendly St. Cloud metro cop Winnie Lopez. They bond — or rather, Winnie bonds with Gloria — when the St. Cloud cop, who thinks she’s pregnant, is in the stall and finds out she needs a “putter-inner,” or pad. Gloria doesn’t have one, but does find out the particulars of Winnie and Mrs. Winnie’s (Jerry) love life, including how they’re stuck on the missionary position since trying to get pregnant. Winnie notes Gloria’s at the parole office looking for a killer, while Winnie is there to talk to a parole officer who’s the victim of a hit-and-run.
12. Gloria interviews Maurice’s parole officer and is surprised to find out his last name is Stussy. Ray says it’s a coincidence, that it’s a common name, that he has lots of cousins. He, nervously, claims to know nothing about Maurice, but she leaves her business card with him. Ray notes she’s the police chief. She tells him to ignore that, they’re restructuring. “They always find a way to screw ya, don’t they?” he asks. Gloria: “They try.”
13. Ray is called into a meeting with his boss, Scotty Pullover, and the deputy director. Scotty says Ray’s in trouble as he hands him a packet of photos. They’re of Ray and Nikki at Emmit’s anniversary party, and Ray can’t deny it: He’s in love with Nikki and she’s in love with him. Before his confession, Scotty and his boss offer suspension … afterward, Scotty tells him he’s got 10 minutes to clean out his desk.
14. When Ray walks outside, office possessions in hand, ready to go to the big meeting with Burt Lurdsman that evening, he sees Sy and Sy’s Humvee parked in front. Sy just points at him as Ray realizes who gave those photos to his boss. And there’s an insult/injury situation: When Sy drives away, Ray sees his Corvette … with both passenger-side tires booted. Later, Ray sits, dejected, at a bar, drinking, his box of office belongings still at his side. Meanwhile, Nikki is at dinner with Burt Lurdsman, trying to explain why Ray hasn’t shown up yet.
15. Winnie goes to Stussy HQ to talk to Sy, who’s nervous to see her, especially when Yuri and Meemo sit right outside his office, watching Sy and Winnie chat. She tells him she’s there to investigate an “automotive flapper,” involving an auto registered to the Stussy company. She tells him one complainant, Ray Stussy, doesn’t want to press charges, and asks if he’s related to the Stussy who owns the company. Sy doesn’t answer. Then she asks who specifically drives the auto; Sy lies, and says he’ll have to have someone look it up. Winnie remains one cool customer while’s she’s trying to get info from Sy, who grows increasingly paranoid as Yuri and Meemo continue to stare him down until Winnie leaves.
16. Cue the French horns: The big bad wolf is walking through Emmit’s snowy front yard and right up to his door. Emmit is furious — or at least, sure as shootin’ annoyed — to find Varga at his castle. “A step too far is what this is, coming to my home,” Emmit tells Varga, who invites himself to join the Stussy household for a pork chop and applesauce dinner. The group eats in the kitchen, where V.M. reveals he grew up the son of a housemaid, and Stella, Emmit’s wife, asks him if he’s British. “What gave it away?” he gently teases, then tells her he actually considers himself a citizen of the world. He scarfs down his food, then hands Emmit a packet of contracts before excusing himself to go to the bathroom. Cue the hurling sounds.
17. In Emmit’s study, he tells Varga he’s not signing the documents Varga brought, which would make Emmit his partner, and threatens to call Sy. Varga says he thought Emmit was the boss, not Sy. Emmit hangs up, and Varga makes another big revelation: his guiding philosophy. “We’re literally in the age of refugees, my friend,” he tells Emmit, describing how 1 percent of the population owns 85 percent of the world’s wealth, which means a whole lot of something are coming for a reckoning, pitchforks pointed right at the Emmits of the world.
“There’s an accounting coming, Mr. Stussy, and you know I’m right,” Varga says. “Mondo hordes descending, and what are you doing to insulate yourself, your family? You think you’re rich? You have no idea what rich means. Rich is a fleet of private planes filled with decoys to mask your scent. It’s a banker in Wyoming, and another in Gstaad. So that’s action item No. 1, the accumulation of wealth, and I mean wealth, not money.”
Emmit asks what action item No. 2 is. “To use the wealth to become invisible,” Varga says.
18. Varga tells Emmit he knows about the stamp, the Swango putter-inner in his desk, the Stussy brothers’ feud. “I hear things. I hear them because I listen,” he tells Emmit. “I see them because I hear.” Surveillance, indeed. Emmit begs one more time for Varga to just take his loan back, but V.M. tells E.S. he’s in the pan. “You’re in the pan, and you know where you go when you leave the pan,” says Varga. “They’re coming, pitchfork peasants with murder in their eyes, and me your guardian angel.”
The wolf, er angel, has secured for Emmit, for himself, an additional line of credit for Stussy Co., in the sum of $25 million. He tells Emmit he’s not in just the parking lot business anymore … now he’s in the “billionaire business,” which makes Emmit smile.
19. Varga wants to know if Ray and “the girl” are going to be a problem. Emmit says no; it’s a dumb rivalry, plus, “honestly, he’s a loser … so what else could she be?”
20. The narrator: “Just then, Grandfather came out. He was angry because Peter had gone into the meadow. ‘It’s a dangerous place. If a wolf should come out of the forest, then what would you do?’ But Peter paid no attention to his grandfather’s words. Boys like Peter aren’t afraid of wolves.”
21. Nor are women like Gloria. While tucking Nathan into bed, a car pulls up at her house. It’s Officer Winnie, who takes Gloria up on her offer of a cup of tea while she shares her day’s work. Winnie ran the plates on her hit-and-run case and went to see “a fella” (Sy) after she ran into Gloria at the parole board office. Something about the fella struck her as odd: One of the hit-and-run victims had the same last name as the guy who owns the company that leases the car … they’re brothers. Then Winnie looked up Gloria’s murder case and found out that the victim had the same name as the parole officer/hit-and-run victim, and his brother, who owns the company and leased the offending hit-and-run car, and who lives in … Eden Prairie, the town close to Eden Valley, where Ennis Stussy lived. Dots connecting, worlds colliding, crimes overlapping.
* The very special kind of poetry that is the phrasing of Fargo dialogue: When Buck Olander asks “Emmit”/Ray if he’s been hitting the weights, Ray replies, “Hitting the buffet, more like.”
* Ray to Buck, when Buck tries to advise him about withdrawing more than $10K (advice, just guessing, someone is going to be sorry Ray ignored): “Buck, if I wanted an opinion from an a**hole, I’d ask my own, got it?”
* Emmit to Sy, about Ray swiping Luverne’s ashes: “Used feminine hygiene in a man’s desk drawer is one thing, but now … the ridicule of beloved remains.”
Sy to Emmit: “Cremains, I think, is the preferred nomenclature.”
* Winnie on how she and her husband are treating making a baby like a job, like “those old Road Runner cartoons, with the wolf and the sheep dog, how you punch a clock to go to work.”
* A 2016 New York Times article titled “To Understand Trump, Learn Russian” goes into more depth on Yuri’s explanation of the two Russian words for “truth.”
* Aren’t you really craving a pork chop and applesauce dinner right about now?
Fargo airs Wednesdays at 10 p.m. on FX.
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