Fargo Recap: Briefcase of Insanity

Photo: Chris Large/FX
Episode Title
Eating the Blame
Editor’s Rating

You almost wonder if Lorne swapped out Stavros’s pain meds for amphetamine just because a popular Greek cheese’s phonetic cousin sits between the “am” and “ine.” It’s obvious that Malvo’s messing around with the supermarket king’s faith, heritage, hubris and anything else he uncovers or intuits about him. What’s less apparent is whether Lorne realizes just how God-fearing Mr. Milos is. Either way, Oliver Platt’s portly grocery tycoon thinks he’s seen the devil. 

Gus, on the other hand, finally realized he’s merely dealing with a bad man of many guises. After Lorne’s released from Duluth PD custody — Gus had brought him in sans proof of wrongdoing after a chance encounter outside Milos’s mansion — Deputy Grimly stares him down, only to be left perplexed by a riddle about why human eyes see shades of green more than any color. Over coffee later that day, relentless Deputy Solverson (who, adorably, got prettied up for their rendezvous) breaks it down: Humans are predators, evolved from apes that acclimated to nature’s chlorophyll-jacked surroundings. In his own way, Gus finally, explicitly understands what Molly’s known in her gut all along — it’s not a matter of catching and cuffing Lorne, but ensnaring him.

These budding lovers (barring a totally feasible tragic end for one or both) aren’t the only ones learning to adapt and stalk rather than fall in line and fail to evolve. Lester’s been kidnapped by Mr. Numbers and Mr. Wrench, to Wrench’s dismay. What the henchman lacks in hearing, he makes up for with tactical diligence, refusing to offer up Lester as Sam Hess’s killer until there’s no doubt. Numbers is a bit more jittery and eager to cheat (a common theme), so they throw Lester in the trunk and drag him out lakeside for a forced confession and icy burial. Much to Numbers’ shock, Lester tucked a stun gun into his jacket and zapped him right in the head. Unfortunately for Numbers, his already handicapped partner was further distracted carving out a hole for Lester’s watery grave. By the time they peeked out through roadside trees in their patented chameleon pose (they, too, have learned to blend in), Lester had rabbit-punched a Bemidji patrolman and earned a ride downtown. The trio’s cartoon cat-and-mouse shtick would, thankfully, remain unfinished.

More than halfway through Fargo, Lorne has half of the state, it would seem, in primal throes. His new sidekick, Don Chumph, might be the lone exception, but that’s because he’s already a simple simian, qualifying him as Malvo’s ideal apprentice. It was all too perfect that Don’s primary errand in “Eating the Blame” required running to the pet store, since the part-time personal trainer is basically Lorne’s obedient, neutered dog. Which is better than being a slain one, à la Stavros’s late canine, Caroline King.

Milos has emerged as the past pair of episodes’ most compelling role player, thanks overwhelmingly to Platt’s sure hand at guiding this kind of blustery-but-panic-stricken rube. Lorne’s mind games have him so turned around that he doesn’t even notice his supposed acetaminophen prescription setting off fever sweats, compulsive teeth grinding, and alertness that’s long since toppled over into paranoia. “Eating” climaxes, as it should, with Lorne all but conquering the quasi-self-made author and entrepreneur, who’s convinced the bloody shower (no gross menstrual pun intended), dead pitbull, and swarm of locusts set upon Phoenix Farms (great name for the market by the by) are comeuppance for a desperate shortcut he took to riches 19 years prior.

Kudos owed to those of you who connected that ice-scraper portrait in Stavros’s study with the film Fargo’s cash-burial scene. Tonight’s opening flashback to 1987 goes beyond seeding Easter eggs in the form of White Russian specials at Lou’s. It also makes the relationship between FX’s series and the Coen brothers’ cult movie more explicit than shared source material and setting, or their similar title-sequence disclaimers about true stories and protecting innocents. Turns out Fargo the cable show is a sequel of sorts, spun off from the revelation that Stavros, stuck roadside with no gas, a sleeping baby, and shrieking wife (echoes of Lester there, enough to make you think the latter will find some way to turn all this in his favor, at least until his own biblical tide), happened on the briefcase full of cash and fortuitous scraper that Fargo the motion picture’s Carl (Steve Buscemi) left impounded in that Minnesota snow.

But as the 2014 iteration of this grim tale continues to remind us, nothing stays buried for long. That encompasses briefcases, bodies, a lifetime of belittlement, unresolved tension between hired assassins, old cases in Sioux Falls, and, most urgent, whatever the hell is coursing through Lester’s infected hand (a horrific detail that Edgar Allan Poe might have loved). Maybe Lorne is what you get when you can’t keep a lid on all that. Or what comes along every now and again to impose some kind of vital order. Though as we close with Lester staring up at new cellmates Numbers and Wrench, it’s hard not to laugh the chaos of it all. 

Apart from all that:

The closest analog I’ve come up with for Lorne is Witches of Eastwick’s Daryl Van Horne.

Stavros and Gina really picked the wrong town to settle down in stress-free.

Boy, they’re really laying on the Gus-as-shmuck routine thick, huh?

Life goes on, as does Stormwatch 2006.

Naturally, Chazz gets queasy at the actual sight of blood.

Do Mormons really like being watched while they eat?

Hello again, motel shrew and doofus teen employee.

I know what to get Dmitri next Christmas. 

Go, Bears.