Warning: This recap for the “The Law of Non-Contradiction” episode of Fargo contains storyline and character spoilers.
In which we learn how Thaddeus Mobley became Ennis Stussy and the plot of The Planet Wyh.
18 things we learn in “The Law of Non-Contradiction”:
1. Thaddeus Mobley, a shy, naive young man from Baraboo, Wis., travels to Los Angeles in 1975 to accept a Golden Planet Award for his sci-fi novel The Planet Wyh. While at the celebration’s bar to order a cream soda, Tad meets fast-talking producer Howard Zimmerman, who tells the writer he wants to turn his book into a major motion picture starring Robert Redford as the robot. Zimmerman tells Tad he’s “the cheddar,” but Three Dog Night’s “Liar” is the scene’s perfectly chosen soundtrack.
2. Tad starts working on the screenplay, but Zimmerman really reels him in when he shows him a screen test for actress Vivian Lord. While Tad immediately begins crushing on her, Zimmerman fakes a call with Warren Beatty, who he calls “bubbeleh.” He tells Tad Beatty he can’t be in The Planet Wyh because he’s under contract, but if they had some cash, they could try bribing the studio to let Beatty work with them. Thus begins the writing of a string of checks: thousands of dollars of Tad’s next book advance transferred to Howard. Tad doesn’t seem to notice that while he’s writing the first $2,000 check, the allegedly broke Howard is snorting cocaine.
3. Tad gets a date with Vivian and buys her cocaine. She gets him to snort some by telling him it will make sex amazing. They go back to the Hollywood Premiere Motel, room 203, where Tad is living. After sex, he gets up, snorts more coke, and works on his screenplay. “From small dreams, huge civilizations arose …” it begins.
4. The first of a series of animated segments that unfolds the plot of The Planet Wyh introduces us to a spaceship that crashes on Earth. A captain and a robot, Mnsky, get out, but the captain is wounded. He tells Mnsky to find a way to get word back home, then he dies. “Thus began the wander of the android Mnsky,” says the voiceover.
5. 2010 timeline: Gloria, to investigate her stepfather Ennis Stussy’s death, is on an airplane to Los Angeles. She’s reading The Planet Wyh, which catches the attention of the man sitting next to her. He asks her what the book is about, and she says it’s about a robot searching for the meaning of life. He can appreciate that, as he is on his sixth flight of the week … as Gloria points out, it’s only Tuesday.
6. In L.A., Gloria checks into the Hollywood Premiere Motel, room 203. There’s a Santa Claus convention at the motel, and one of the Santas steals her luggage. When LAPD Officer Hunt is interviewing her about the theft, he asks if anything valuable is inside. She says no: “Mostly flannel.”
7. Gloria finds a pair of shoes and a Leave Me Alone Box/the Most Useless Machine inside her room. She calls her son and explains she’s gone to L.A. to find out more about Ennis. Nathan says he’s not even really her dad, but she points out, “He was something to somebody.”
8. She later goes to Pann’s coffee shop to meet with a waitress … named Vivian Lord. A signed publicity photo of young Vivian was among Ennis’s things, but now 60-something waitress Vivian tells Gloria she doesn’t remember much about that time period, because she’s only been sober for the last 29 years. Which time period, Gloria asks. “The ’70s,” says Vivian. Gloria tells her she’s looking for info on her dead stepdad, gives Vivian her business card, and asks her to call if she thinks of anything that would be helpful.
9. Back in Gloria’s room, she finds her stolen suitcase. Officer Hunt left it, but there’s nothing inside, save an empty Whatchamacallit wrapper and a note from Hunt, asking Gloria to meet him for a drink. She does, only to find him ordering two beers at a time, poking fun at her accent, bragging about his 352 Facebook friends, and informing her he has to drop the kids off at the pool. He finally asks her if he’s going to get laid, or what? “What,” Gloria responds. Her evening’s not a total bust, though, because also at the bar: Paul Marrane (guest star Ray Wise), the charming man she sat next to on her flight to L.A.
10. After Gloria returns to the Hollywood Premiere Motel and tucks herself into bed, we get a second installment of the animated Planet Wyh. In it, Mnsky travels the planet for centuries, “a being in search of meaning.” Once every century he has to stop to recharge, and during one such break, three baddies attack him and rip off one of his arms, as Mnsky stands there saying the only phrase he knows: “I can help!”
11. A trip to the Writers Guild of America nets Gloria a copy of Tad’s script and the name of his producer: Howard Zimmerman. She tracks him down to a nursing home and visits. He says he doesn’t remember Thaddeus Mobley, but then tells Gloria he was a failure. Using an electrolarynx, Howard asks her if she knows about science. “Science has this thing … they call it ‘quantum’ something,” he tells her. “It talks about how we’re all just particles, we’re floating out there, we’re moving through space, nobody knows where we are. And then every once in a while … BANG! We collide. And suddenly, for maybe a minute, we’re real. And then we float off again, as if we don’t even exist. I used to think it meant something, these collisions, the people we found.”
“And now?” Gloria asks.
“Don’t let the door hit you on the way out,” Howard tells her.
In the hallway, a nurse tells Gloria Howard’s been there a long time, since “the accident,” when he was so injured they thought he was going to be a vegetable.
12. Animated Planet Wyh segment No. 3: Mnsky watches civilizations rise and fall, and as his sensors record the data, “hope became despair became hope became despair.” He continued to send data home, but there was no one there to receive it by this point in time. One day, a spaceship lands, and men drop out and begin shooting people. Mnsky is beamed onto the ship.
13. Gloria gets a phone message at the motel, from Vivian Lord. Back at Pann’s, Vivian comes clean about the past. She knew Tad, who had developed quite a fondness for cocaine himself. He came to her apartment one evening, looking for coke, and found Howard there. He finally realized Vivian and Howard were together, and she told him she had used him. “Nobody asked you to come here with your stupid face and your sad eyes … you’re a piggybank,” she taunted him. He demanded his money back from Howard, who told him it was all gone, and said he’d done him a favor, toughened him up about the way the world really works. When Tad refused to leave, Howard put him in a chokehold and slammed him to the ground. But Tad, hurt, humiliated, and furious, got up and began viciously beating Howard with a cane, before telling Vivian she was a bad person and leaving.
14 . “He was right. I am a bad person,” Vivian tells Gloria. “But he wasn’t so good either.”
15. After the “accident” with Howard, Tad rushes back to room 203 of the Hollywood Premiere Motel and begins packing his suitcase. When he looks at his hands, which are covered with blood, he gets sick and throws up, staring into the toilet bowl.
16. After discussing the “accident” with Vivian, Gloria returns to room 203 of the Hollywood Premiere Motel and begins packing her suitcase. She drops something near the toilet, and when she bends down to pick it up, she notes the name of the toilet bowl manufacturer: Dennis Stussy. Except the “D” is missing … Ennis Stussy.
17. In the final animated segment, Mnsky is on the spaceship of the Federation of United Planets. Their leaders have downloaded his data, determined that he has been functional for 2.38 million years, and is the oldest sentient being in the history of the universe. “I can help!” he responds. But all they want from Mnsky now is for him to shut himself down, and he does, flipping his switch to the off position, just like the Most Useless Machine.
18. Gloria returns to Minnesota, where she and Nathan are the only people in attendance during visiting hours for Ennis at the funeral home. They leave and plan to go to Arby’s for dinner, but first run into Gloria’s cop partner, Donny. He tells her they found some fingerprints in Ennis’s house, and they match those of a man named Maurice LeFay, a man who recently died in a freak air conditioning accident. Gloria and Donny both remark that it’s odd he’d die via AC in winter, but Gloria is hopeful this new evidence will help them solve Ennis’s murder. As she drives away from the funeral home, the Leave Me Alone Box/ Most Useless Machine from room 203 of the Hollywood Premiere Motel is in the back window of her squad car.
- Young Vivian Lord is played by Francesca Eastwood. The older version of Vivian, as a waitress at Pann’s, is played by Frances Fisher, Eastwood’s real-life, lookalike mama.
- Yes, that was It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia’s Rob McElhenney playing obnoxious LAPD Officer Oscar Hunt.
- Donny Mashman, Gloria’s police partner, is being played by comedian Mark Forward. It’s a fine performance, but a scheduling conflict prevented Jim Gaffigan from portraying Donny, as was originally planned. I couldn’t help but think about how appropriate it would have been for Gaffigan — he of the often food-themed writings and stand-up musings — to be Donny in the episode-ending scene in which Mr. Mashman very enthusiastically invites himself along on Gloria and Nathan’s trip to Arby’s.
- Because Gloria’s clothes are never returned, she buys a series of bright or patterned shirts and wears them under the blazer she wore on the plane. One particularly memorable button-down has little motorcycles all over it, the exact sort of shirt you would expect to purchase at a store on Hollywood Blvd. near the Hollywood Premiere Motel.
- Pann’s Restaurant and Coffee Shop is real.
- Baraboo, Wis., was once the headquarters for the Ringling Brothers circus, and, during World War II, was the location of the world’s largest munitions factory.
Fargo airs Wednesdays at 10 p.m. on FX.
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