It’s cards on the table time in Kansas City, at least for some of our players. Others are trying to keep a bluff going, with different levels of success. Josto falls into both camps. In one of the biggest moments of “Lay Away,” this season’s seventh episode, Josto gives Loy permission to kill Gaetano as revenge for members of his family killing Loy’s son Satchel. Josto’s not even trying to hide that he’s fine — really, really, fine, actually — with Gaetano being dead, calculating that Loy taking out Gaetano and Calamita will make them square for killing Doctor Senator and that he’ll lose his troublesome brother and least-reliable lieutenant in the process. That’s what he’s showing. What he’s hiding is that Satchel’s not dead, or at least probably not dead. He’s disappeared to parts unknown with Rabbi Milligan and nobody knows where they are. Including us. Both characters are MIA this episode.
They’ll almost certainly return, but it also seems like we’re going to be bidding farewell to Zelmare and Swanee this episode. After briefly teasing Odis, they’re handed a ticket to Philadelphia by Loy, who no longer requires their services, even though they don’t know anyone in Philly. (“Y’all got friendly faces,” he tells them. “You’ll do just fine.”) “It’s been a sad parade,” Swanee says as an exit line. Farewell, you colorful, fun-loving, digestively challenged criminals. Fargo hasn’t shown any interest in creating a spinoff, but if they did, these two would surely be contenders.
A few other characters only make short but meaningful appearances this outing. We see Ethelrida watch as the King of Tears takes a delivery, then have an awkward interaction. Then there’s the casket with somebody (something?) inside it lifting the lid. That’s a big question mark for future episodes to address (one that most likely has something to do with King of Tears’ new understanding with the Cannons).
So is Ethelrida’s fate in general. We only see Oraetta at the beginning of this episode, but her scene is significant, to say the least. We first see her baking some macaroons for Dr. Harvard, then cheerfully delivering them before coaxing him into trying just one, even though he’s already full. “We are but human after all, prone to the whim and allure of such sugary delights,” she says, and that bit of poetic phrasing delivered in a Minnesota accent turns out to be too hard to resist. Soon he’s gasping on the floor while she rifles through his desk, searching for the “concerned citizen” complaint that alleges she’s committed horrible crimes. She finds it as Dr. Harvard expires, and while the last episode seemed to suggest that she instantly recognized Ethelrida’s work, that’s a little less clear this time out. Maybe she’s just concentrating on delivering the perfect scream that will alert others to Dr. Harvard’s imminent, natural-seeming demise. The one she arrives at does the job just fine.
Mostly, however, “Lay Away” focuses on the drama between the Faddas and the Cannons, which is getting more complicated by the minute. Neither Josto nor Loy feels like they can get good help anymore. Josto’s annoyed that Rabbi has run off with Satchel. Loy’s annoyed that Leon thinks he understands gang-versus-gang warfare half as well as he thinks he does. Florine’s annoyed because Calamita has shown up at her house with the intention of retrieving Zero and she has to fend him off herself with a shotgun. Gaetano’s annoyed because, well, he’s chained like a dog for most of the episode. Who wouldn’t be annoyed? And Dickie? He’s mostly annoyed that Odis is so stupid he thinks he’s getting away with being crooked cop two times over.
It’s cards on the table time for them, too. When Deafy confronts Odis with knowledge of his corruption, whatever fig leaf of civility that had hung between them gets ripped away. (That Odis threatens to kill his “Mormon God” probably doesn’t help.) But Deafy’s MO remains to sit and wait (and occasionally browbeat others for fresh intel). We’ve only seen him swing into action once, when he attempted to nab Zelmare and Swanee. That went poorly, so now he seems even more committed to biding his time. Whether that will pay off or not remains to be seen, but Deafy seems to know what he’s doing.
It could also be that he’s just waiting for the Cannons and the Faddas to kill each other, or tear themselves apart from the inside, both of which seem like real possibilities. Josto thinks he’s arranged a way to get Gaetano and Calamita out of the way without losing Zero, but that plan seems unlikely to work given Loy’s decision to just let Gaetano go at episode’s end, sensing, probably rightly, that this won’t be good for Josto and will be good for him. He’s playing a game of Kansas City Realpolitik. But he does so having suffered horrible losses (though not as many as he believes he’s suffered.) Doctor Senator’s dead. His son Satchel is (apparently) dead. Diner’s Club has swooped in with the credit-card plan he and Doctor Senator pioneered. If Florine didn’t hate him before, she certainly hates him after he breaks the news of their son’s death to her. All he has left is the business, and he plans to push that as far as he can no matter how many bodies his efforts leave behind. It’s not going to be pretty.
• We’re seven episodes in, so it’s probably time to start asking this question: Does this season have an endgame? There are currently so many moving pieces, it’s not clear where all of them are headed — or if the show has a route to bring them all together at the end. Apart from Ethelrida, the Smutnys go unseen. Is Josto still interested in taking our Dr. Harvard? Is he still sleeping with Oraetta? Will he ever learn that she’s unwittingly exacted revenge for him? It’s all unclear at the moment, but maybe that’s as it should be.
• As Oraetta bakes, she’s accompanied by “Twisted,” the signature hit of Annie Ross released in 1952. That’s a couple of years after the events of this season, but its first-person account of a woman losing her mind feels right for the moment anyway.
• Poor Antoon: He does the right thing and not only dies for it but gets left for the birds to eat.
• Odis comes this close to a clean getaway this week after dreaming of his dead girlfriend and packing up his knickknacks. The series’s attitude toward him is tough to read. He’s an amoral jerk, but scenes like this seem designed to stir sympathy.