Warning: The recap of the “Who Rules the Land of Denial?” episode of Fargo contains spoilers.
In which Nikki is reunited with Ray, a Wise man gives Nikki some guidance and a new purpose, Sy dares to drink another Varga beverage, and Emmit can’t continue to outrun his conscience.
14 things we learn in “Who Rules the Land of Denial?”:
1. After the prison bus crash that ended last week’s episode, Nikki and her seatmate, Wes Wrench — the hitman from Fargo Season 1 — escape out the backdoor, with the pig mask-wearing fake cop, the one Gloria Burgle prevented from poisoning Nikki in her jail cell, and Yuri on their trail as they head into the woods. Meemo’s there, too, but he’s off chasing down the unfortunate couple whose enjoyment of “Deck the Halls” on their car radio is going to come to an abrupt halt because they happened to drive by the bus crash while Varga’s minions were visible.
2. Nikki and Wes are still shackled together as they maneuver through the woods, and she discovers he’s deaf. They communicate by writing with a stick in the snow, but their shared goal doesn’t really require communication: They need to avoid Varga’s crew and try to break the chain holding them together. By daylight, they’ve made their way to a clearing, but that also allows Yuri and GWTTPN (Guy Who Tried To Poison Nikki) to spot them with a pair of binoculars. While surveilling together, Yuri notes GWTTPN’s tattoo of the name Helga. Yuri says he knew a Helga once, and all she did was talk.
3. Also while surveilling, Yuri is wearing his wolf head. Suddenly, an arrow flies at him, into the wolf head. A pair of hunters come to investigate, and just as they realize they haven’t shot a real wolf, Yuri creeps up behind them and… flash forward to Yuri and GWTTPN suddenly in possession of crossbows and one of the hunters hanging from a tree, body full of arrows.
4. Nikki and Wes continue through the woods, with Nikki thinking about Ray, and how he forgot the getaway money, and how she offered to be the one to leave the motel and go get it back at Ray’s house. It gets dark again, and the escapees come upon a small clearing surrounded by trees, with a stump in the middle. There’s an ax in the stump, and Wes goes to work trying to break the chain, but arrows begin flying at them. Wes is hit, and he and Nikki hide behind the stump. An arrow goes through Nikki’s leg, and as the two try to make a run back into the woods, GWTTPN runs at them. They knock him down, and wrap their chain around his neck. They pull so hard the chain eventually slices through his neck. As his body sits propped up against the stump, his head falls off.
5. Wes gives Nikki a stick to bite down on, while he breaks off the pointed end of the arrow from her leg, and then pulls the other half out. Wes breaks their chain, but they continue their escape together. As they flee, the ax Wes had thrown into the woods during the GWTTPN attack is seen sticking in a tree, with a bloody ear below it.
6. Wes and Nikki make their way to a little hill, and spot a flashing light — could there be a police road block on the other side? Nah, it’s the flashing neon light of a bowling alley sign. They enter, battered, dirty, disheveled, limping, and bloodied. Wes sits in a chair, and Nikki goes to the counter and orders a couple of whiskeys. It’s the first chance she’s had to stop and take a breath since the bus crash, but she’s not alone. Paul Marrane (guest star Ray Wise), the smooth talker who met Gloria on her flight to Los Angeles and then spared her from further conversation with jerky cop date Hunt in “The Law of Non-Contradiction,” appears beside her. He orders a sherry and observes she’s got tsuris, troubles. She tells him she’s had a long day, and he says they all are, long. “That’s the nature of existence… life is suffering,” Paul says. “I think you’re beginning to understand that.” Nikki: “Amen.”
Paul then asks if he can show her something. He pulls a kitten out of a box and tells her the kitty’s name is Ray. She holds Ray, hugging him and petting him, while Paul tells her about gilgul, a Kabbalistic idea that suggests an old soul tries to attach itself to a new body. Some souls can’t find a body and they’re lost, he says, as Nikki looks the kitty in the eyes and asks if he’s Ray.
Paul also tells Nikki about the Massacre of Uman in 1768, and how Rabbi Nachman believed the Jewish victims of the massacre — women and children killed by the Cossacks and tossed into a giant hole — were lost souls. He asks her if she’s ever been here before.
“The bowling alley?” she asks.
“Is that what you see?” he asks. “We all end up here eventually, to be weighed and judged, as it is now for you and your friend. You know, some thought that he should be left behind, but I convinced them that he was on a better path now. And you… ‘Who will rise for me against the wicked? Who will take a stand against the evildoers?’”
Paul asks Nikki if she needs a ride. There’s a green Volkswagen Beetle out front, he says, key under the mat. “This is the universe at its most ironic,” he tells her. “Don’t worry, its sins have been swept clean.” She thanks him, but he adds, “Don’t thank me. Simply deliver a message when the time comes.”
“To who?” Nikki asks.
“The wicked,” Paul says. “Tell them, ‘Though thy exalt thyself like the eagle, though thy make thy nest in the stars, thence will I bring thee down,’ sayeth the Lord.” He tells her she’ll remember it when the time comes. Nikki kisses Ray, and tells him not to worry. He meows at her, as she asks Paul for a favor. “When the Gophers play, put a little beer in a bowl in front of the game.”
Paul — or God? Or the Devil? Or someone who should have been in The Big Lebowski? — laughs, and tells Nikki, “Lech-Lecha, Lech-Lecha,” meaning “Go, go.”
7. As The Swango and Wes leave the bowling alley in the green Bug, Yuri comes in, bloodied head, sans ear, asking for napkins and vodka. Paul once again appears, but he offers no kitten hugs. “You are Yuri Gurka,” he says. “Cossack of the plains, grandchild of the Wolves 100. I have a message for you from Helga Albrecht and the Rabbi Nachman.” Paul looks straight ahead, and Yuri looks straight ahead, and a woman, with hundreds of people behind her, stare back.
Yuri doesn’t return to V.M. Varga’s employ.
8. Gloria — sporting a reindeer antler headband and dangly Christmas tree-shaped earrings — is celebrating an awkward holiday morning with her son, her soon-to-be-ex-husband, and her ex’s boyfriend, when duty calls. She drives to the scene of the bus crash — passing that dead couple in the van along the way — and meets up with the U.S. Marshal team investigating the crash. They’re rude and dismissive — continuing the disturbing trend of male colleagues who underestimate Gloria — but do tell her that there are no females on the bus, meaning Nikki Swango is MIA.
9. Sy arrives at Emmit’s house for a meeting, and is greeted by Varga, who tries to serve him a plate of food and tells him he’s $5 million richer because of their… dealings. Sy declines the vittles, so Varga and Meemo push a cup of tea on him. It’s Mama Varga’s recipe, V.M. says, “the secret of which she smuggled beneath her bosom, all the way from Wales to Bristol.” Sy says it’s bitter, but Varga insists he drink more. Sy looks a bit — shaken? — after the tea, but asks again to see Emmit. Varga tells him he’s resting, “a little of the old snore and drool.”
“As soon as he’s wakies, I’ll have him give you a ring-a-ding,” Varga says. “Copacetic?”
Sy leaves, and as he walks to his Humvee, he looks up and sees Emmit standing at a window. Sy waves, but Emmit walks away.
10. Sy arrives at Stussy HQ, a sweaty, coughing, unsteady mess. He throws up at the front desk. “Well, that’s not right,” he says, and passes out. We see him being taken into the hospital, ER staff working on him. That morphs into a scene where he’s in a hospital bed, the unforgettable moustache replaced with a full beard. Time jump alert: Sy’s in a coma, and it’s now March 15, 2011.
11. Emmit was visiting Sy, sitting on the edge of his bed. When he leaves the room, Gloria and Winnie greet him, peppering him with questions and comments. Harassing, he says; just on their lunch break, looking for the shepherd’s pie in the cafeteria, they say. Gloria says Sy’s doc still can’t pinpoint what happened to him, but it’s some sort of toxic shock. The women follow Emmit to the parking lot, asking how his business is doing. They hear he’s expanding, buying up lots of new properties. Emmit reaches the space where his car should be, and instead he finds a familiar Corvette. Gloria asks if that’s his brother’s car.
12. Emmit, freaked out by the car, goes to his office, where he finds all the photos and artwork have been replaced by photos of the stamp, the stamp, the one he and Ray argued about. He calls Varga in a panic, telling him about the Corvette and the stamp pics. Emmit thinks Ray may still be alive, and that Ray and Nikki are behind the Corvette at the hospital and the stamp pictures. Varga tells Emmit to calm down, that he’s sending Meemo to take him home. And while we may assume it’s Varga behind the ‘Vette and the stamp shots, V.M. seems genuinely surprised that Emmit was at the hospital.
13. At home, Emmit has been drinking. While using the bathroom, he sees his reflection in the toilet water and screams for help: he appears to suddenly have a moustache. Varga is in the Stussy manse, and tries to talk Emmit down, while also asking if he signed the latest stack of papers he needs to sign. Emmit says he’s done with all that. He has enough money; there’s a “hand reaching out from beyond the grave,” he says, and starts babbling about his dad’s death, and how an older brother took advantage of a younger one.
Varga tells him he’s a hero, but “even heroes can have setbacks… a messy divorce, death of a loved one or a beloved business partner.”
“Sy’s not dead,” Emmit says.
“Yet,” Varga says.
As Emmit talks about Ray, as a kid, wanting Emmit to play with him, to watch him, Varga gives Emmit some pills to take, sedatives, he says. Emmit falls asleep, and Meemo carries him upstairs to his bed. When Meemo leaves the room, Emmit’s eyes fly open, and his opened palm reveals he didn’t swallow the pills.
14. Gloria’s at work, in a building that is not the Eden Valley Public Library. She’s sitting at a desk across from Donny, who refers to her as “chief,” prompting her to remind him she’s not that anymore. In fact, her days are spent serving eviction notices. She’s also still married to Ron, but the divorce papers are in her hand. She doesn’t sign them, but then, on her way out the door for the day, she suddenly decides to scribble her signature at the “Sign Here” flag on the document, and asks a colleague to put the envelope in the morning mail.
As she turns towards the door, she hears a familiar voice at the front desk.
“My name is Emmit Stussy,” Emmit Stussy says. “I wanna confess.”
* I know it’s the Minnesota niceness playing out, but considering the last time Varga and Meemo wanted — forced — Sy to drink something, might not he have been a bit more hesitant to sip anything they proffered, no matter how fancy the china cup it came in?
* Meemo likes to drive with earbuds in. Bad Meemo.
* Only two more episodes remain in Season 3 … who do you think is going to be the recipient of the message Paul asked Nikki to deliver?
Fargo airs Wednesdays at 10 p.m. on FX