‘Fargo’ Recap: Unfathomable Pinheadery and Psychic Drano

Mary Elizabeth Winstead as Nikki Swango, Ewan McGregor as Ray Stussy in FX's Fargo. (Photo: Chris Lange/FX)
Ewan McGregor as Emmit Stussy in FX’s ‘Fargo’ (Photo: Chris Lange/FX)

Warning: The recap for the “The Principle of Restricted Choice” episode of Fargo contains storyline and character spoilers.

In which Emmit Stussy tries to bid adieu to his brother, but finds out he’s stuck with V.M. Varga — for good.

21 things we learn in “The Principle of Restricted Choice”:

1. Gloria is pretty sure her murdered stepfather, Ennis, was really Golden Planet award-winning sci-fi novelist Thaddeus Mobley.

2. Earl, the attendant at the gas station/convenience mart where the late Maurice LeFay swiped that phone book page, thinks people use frozen orange juice concentrate to make meth, because a young person came in and bought a whole case of it. He also tells Gloria about Maurice and the phone book, and Gloria notes that the missing page is the one that would have listed Ennis’s address.

3. The Eden Valley public library and police station are in the same tiny building. The “lockup” area for criminals: in a storage room, where boxes of computers are stashed…

4. … because police chief Gloria (or former police chief; she learns the county has taken control of her department and a new chief is taking over) doesn’t like technology. She can’t get good cell phone reception, and we’ve seen twice that motion detection doors don’t detect her. Which came first: Her hatred of technology, or her poor experiences with it? Or maybe, like in Thaddeus Mobley’s books (and as would not be a unique experience in the Fargo universe), there’s some alien element about her?

Carrie Coon as Gloria Burgle in FX's Fargo. (Credit: FX)
Carrie Coon as Gloria Burgle in FX’s ‘Fargo’ (Credit: FX)

5. Irv Blumkin (the second best Season 3 character name after, of course, Nikki Swango), the attorney for Emmit Stussy, is unimpressed with “the parking lot king of Minnesota” when Emmit and Sy go to Irv to ask that he investigate V.M. Varga — by befriending him on Facebook — so they can repay their loan and get him out of their business. Irv asks what V.M. stands for. The fellas don’t know. “You borrowed a million dollars from a man without knowing his first name.” Emmit and Sy try to explain, but Irv cuts them off. “It’s not a question. I’m just assessing the level of stupidity.”

6. Irv does Google ol’ V.M. — once his secretary explains where the enter key is on his computer — but his computer immediately dies and it appears someone has taken control of it. Later, when Irv is in the parking garage to leave, two of Varga’s minions toss him off the building. When Emmit hears about Irv’s death later, he assumes it was suicide.

7. Emmit tells Sy he may have been too harsh with Ray at the anniversary party. He thinks maybe he should give him the stamp. Sy says Ray is a loser, and that the “goddamned parking lot king of Minnesota” shouldn’t give in to him. “He doesn’t want the stamp,” Sy says. “He wants your life.”

8. Varga and his goons park a semi-truck in one of the Stussy lots, even though it’s against code to park such a vehicle there. Sy and Emmit worry about what could be in it. Drugs? Guns? Liquor? All good guesses, but providing a small, but probably not insignificant glimpse into Sy’s mind, he guesses the truck could be housing “slave girls.”

Michael Stuhlbarg as Sy Feltz in FX’s ‘Fargo’ (Photo: Chris Lange/FX)
Michael Stuhlbarg as Sy Feltz in FX’s ‘Fargo’ (Photo: Chris Lange/FX)

9. Ray has to use his boss’s computer because “vermin” chewed through the cord on his. Also, because of all those urine tests he administers, and all the splashes that occur during them, Ray only has two shoes that aren’t pee-stained… and they’re not matching shoes.

10. Ray uses the computer to look up Maurice LeFay. He sees Maurice is dead — an accidental death Ray later describes as “misadventure by major appliance” when reporting it to Nikki — and tells boss Scotty that Maurice failed a urine test and has probably skipped town, as a way of trying to establish an alibi. Meanwhile, outside Nikki’s building, i.e. the scene of the crime, a man is trying to mop up Maurice’s remains off the sidewalk.

11. Nikki wants to impress potential bridge sponsor Bert Lerdsman so he’ll reward her and Ray, but she thinks Ray’s “blood feud” with Emmit is causing his chi to be blocked. She tries to unblock it with a couple of smacks across his face, but it doesn’t work.

12. Ray’s also worried they’re not out of the woods re: Ennis’s death, but Nikki assures him they won’t be done in by Maurice’s “unfathomable pinheadery” (see No. 2 above).

Ewan McGregor as Ray Stussy and Mary Elizabeth Winstead as Nikki Swango in FX’s ‘Fargo’ (Photo: Chris Lange/FX)
Ewan McGregor as Ray Stussy and Mary Elizabeth Winstead as Nikki Swango in FX’s ‘Fargo’ (Photo: Chris Lange/FX)

13. Nikki says they just need some “psychic Drano” to clear Ray’s head. The feud with Ray made him go crazy and hire that “doofus” to steal the stamp, so now they’ll do it themselves, she says, or, he can make up with Emmit. They go to Emmit’s that night for that very reason, and Ray makes what appears to be a sincere effort with his brother. He tells him he’s proud of him, the family he’s made and the business he created. He says Emmit owes him nothing, and all is right between them. Meanwhile…

14. … Nikki is breaking into Emmit’s study to swipe the stamp. When she gets in, she sees the stamp is no longer in its frame. Instead, the frame is holding a picture of a donkey, and she finds a receipt for a safety deposit box. She assumes Emmit has moved the stamp and left the jackass photo as a message for Ray, so she leaves one of her own: “Who’s the ass now?” she writes on the donkey pic — in blood. Blood from her used tampon, which she then deposits in Emmit’s desk.

15. Ray leaves Emmit’s house. Emmit goes inside, and, seeing a light on in his office, enters. He finds the donkey photo and message, and then the source of said message in his drawer. He calls Sy to the house and tells him he knows Nikki did it while Ray kept him occupied with his reconciliation talk. He tells Sy he’s finally done with Ray, and wants Sy to get that message across to Ray.

Mary Elizabeth Winstead as Nikki Swango and Ewan McGregor as Ray Stussy in FX’s ‘Fargo’ (Photo: Chris Lange/FX)
Mary Elizabeth Winstead as Nikki Swango and Ewan McGregor as Ray Stussy in FX’s ‘Fargo’ (Photo: Chris Lange/FX)

16. Down the road from Emmit’s house, Nikki comes out of the woods and meets Ray in the Corvette. Ray is genuinely happy to report he made amends with Emmit, and now feels his chi is unblocked. Then Nikki tells him about the MIA stamp and the new framed photo. “Not only does he hide the trump card,” she tells Ray, “he rubs our noses in it with a burro.”

17. Emmit didn’t hide the stamp. He tells Sy it’s being reframed because the housekeeper accidentally broke it when she was cleaning.

18. Ray’s eating breakfast at a diner the next day when Sy pulls up in the Symobile — a Humvee, of course. He goes inside, threatens Ray, drops a $20 bill on the table, and tells him never to contact Emmit again, after the stunt he and Nikki pulled with “feminine hygiene deployed as a weapon.” As he’s driving away, Sy backs up his auto and smashes it hard into Ray’s beloved Corvette. Twice.

19. At Stussy Lots Ltd. HQ, Varga and his minions, Yuri and Meemo, show up with scads of boxes that appear to contain files. Varga informs Emmit and Sy he’s taking over a vacant wing in the building.

Mary Elizabeth Winstead as Nikki Swango, Ewan McGregor as Ray Stussy in FX's Fargo. (Photo: Chris Lange/FX)
David Thewlis as V.M. Vargas in FX’s ‘Fargo’ (Photo: Chris Lange/FX)

20. Oh, and lest the Stussy powers that be think they’re going to change the terms of their partnership with V.M., they should rest assured they are not, he tells them. He’s all about the parking lot biz, he says, because it runs on cash, and uses no technology that makes the income verifiable. Sy tries to argue otherwise, but V.M. assures him, he’s got contingency plans, so his best advice to Emmit and Sy: “You’re trapped. [But] don’t look sad. By the time we’re done, you’ll be billionaires… on paper, at least.”

21. Or in jail, or six feet under, at worst.

Don’tcha Know:

  • Gloria, when her deputy asks if she’s going to visit Ennis at the morgue: “They glued his nose and mouth shut. Are you thinking cause of death is somehow a cliffhanger?”

  • Emmit, reading about Ennis’s murder in the newspaper: “Not the Minnesota I grew up in, I’ll tell you that.”

  • When Ray is reading the paper during breakfast, he moves his lips and reads very softly out loud.

  • TV tunes: Dakhabrakha’s “Sho Z-Pod Duba” (when Varga and company arrive at the Stussy lot); Ray G THunderchild’s untitled chant (when Ray’s under the desk discovering his vermin-destroyed cord); Ural Cossacks Choir & Uzory’s “Kalinka” (after Yuri and Meemo kill Irv); Bing Crosby’s version of “The Christmas Song” (when Ray’s eating breakfast at the diner); and Gogol Bordello’s “American Wedding” (during the end credits).

Fargo airs Wednesdays at 10 p.m. on FX.

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