Season 1, Episode 4: “Eating the Blame”
Directed by Randall Einhorn
Written by Noah Hawley
* For a review of the previous episode, “A Muddy Road” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “The Six Ungraspables” – click here
After Lorne Malvo (Billy Bob Thornton) stepped up the mischief, bringing it bloody and tough to Stavros Milos (Oliver Platt), and Deputy Molly Solverson (Allison Tolman) has begun leaning even further towards something fishy surrounding Lester Nygaard (Martin Freeman), we’re back in Minnesota, between Duluth and Bemidji. Let’s see what “Eating the Blame” and Noah Hawley have in store for us, shall we? Well all righty.
This episode opens with more beautifully captured Minnesotan landscapes, snow lining the roads. We watch a station wagon hauling a small trailer. Eventually, we discover it’s 1987. Inside the car, a young Stavros (Carlos Diaz) drives his wife and child in the desperate cold. Things are rough for them, it seems. But what’s at work here isn’t merely flashback. Once Stavros and his little family break down at the roadside, Hawley takes us into crossover territory with the Coen Brothers and their original film Fargo. Desperate and at his wits’ end, Milos prays to God, hoping for “gas, a warm bed” and that if things change he’ll but his “humble servant” forever. Then, out in the snow he spies the windshield scraper. Yes, that one. Same one that’s now, in the 2006 timeline, hanging in a frame on the wall in Stavros’ office. In ’87, he dug up the infamous bag of money left out in the snow buried at the finish of the Coen Brothers film. The lucky Stavros got his fortune out of pure lucky, then misguidedly tried to lightly keep in touch with God due to this afterwards; and I use the word lightly very lightly. But I love how this connects things without having to use the same characters as the movie, Hawley creates his own Minnesotan plots and webs them into that of the Coens original work.
Cut back to Stavros, who has Don Chumph (Glenn Howerton) checking out his house after the bloody shower incident. They want to know about tampering, though, naturally Don plays the fool. Not that it’s hard. A little talk of the Bible, Moses and the Plagues comes out, which spurs Stavros into an amphetamine-fueled rage. He is in one bad state. When Don leaves, he spots Malvo off against the treeline, standing ominously like the wandering evil that he is.
Back with Gus Grimly (Colin Hanks). He’s out looking after Animal Control business. Gus makes a terribly timed joke about an Animal Control worker who’s always sick, which I laughed aloud at. Too funny, especially his reaction. Then, he finds himself headed out to look after the claim of a dead dog, obviously at the Milos residence. Perfect timing, right? He finds Malvo standing silently on the side of the road. Slicking back his hair, Lorne gets ready to make up some stories and, maybe, likely, talk himself out of whatever’s coming. But Officer Grimly definitely wants to make good on his big blunder, not picking Malvo up the first time. Will the greasy criminal slip his way out of this one?
At the police station, Lorne falls into his latest identity: Father Frank Peterson. He even slips on a pair of glasses quickly to convince everyone, plus beefs up a Midwestern accent.
At Deputy Solverson’s office, she receives a call from Grimly. He advises about Malvo being in custody and then she’s headed out his way to see what’s happening. Meanwhile, Chief Bill Oswalt (Bob Odenkirk) isn’t interested as much as he ought to be, only because he didn’t get the call and Molly did. “Well that‘s irregular,” Bill complains. Taking things over Oswalt heads up to Duluth himself leaving Molly behind to fume rightfully.
Lester is headed over to his house with brother Chaz (Joshua Close), the latter of which finds himself disgusted and creeped out after discovering a big stain of blood still all over the floor. Upstairs, Lester gets some of his things but has a bit of a problem with his hand. Ah, the buckshot wound – always there, like the guilt behind Lester’s shiny facade. It’s the physical symbol of his guilty conscience, as if he can’t seem to ever manage to fully put it behind him, in the back of his mind. It’s always at the fore, continually and consistently dragging him back to that dangerous night.
Mr. Numbers (Adam Goldberg) makes a call to Lester. He’s surprised to hear from Numbers.
Mr. Numbers: “But I think you need to ask yourself – was it worth it?”
Lester: “Worth what?”
Mr. Numbers: “Your life”
At a diner, Mr. Numbers sits down after his call with Mr. Wrench (Russell Harvard). I love their conversation, as it comes with subtitles for the sign language while they chat. Great, quirky dialogue, but not for the sake of it. These two characters are inherently idiosyncratic, right from the name on down, and here with a slight interaction involving Lou Solverson (Keith Carradine), we get lots of their attitudes, their style, all in one fun scene. Better yet, if you’re caught up to current day like I am you may have noticed we’re introduced to Mr. Wrench and Mr. Numbers as kids right at the end of Season 2.
More of Lorne Malvo a.k.a Frank Robertson. He’s dealing with the idiotic Don Chumph, and not too worried about being in jail, saying he’ll be out in “two hours” to be exact. Pretty confident. At the same time, Chief Oswalt shows up in Duluth. Gus again has to endure more bathroom time while Oswalt and Schmidt (Peter Breitmayer) take a leak as he runs down everything for Bill. Basically here we’re seeing a good man trying to do right while other officers of the law around him are clearly and brutally incompetent. Particularly Oswalt, played to perfection by Bob Odenkirk of whom I’ve been a longtime fan since his days as mostly a writer.
Lorne goes head-to-head with Oswalt and Schmidt in an interrogation room, playing up his meek and mild demeanour along with that stressed Minnesota accent. He claims to not have been in Bemidji and jokes around trying to make light of the situation. And tragically, or tragicomically, he manages to sly talk his way out of things. The story gets thicker once Oswalt and Schmidt check on Frank’s background… and it all checks out. All the while, Lorne behind the facade of Frank smiles through the two-way glass at Gus standing right outside.
Deputy Molly is hard at work. She tracked down the motel owner and the young man with whom Malvo earlier had an encounter. Just so happens, he even signed his name in the book as Lorne Malvo. He memorably asked about a pet fish and such, which obviously wasn’t hard to forget for the clerk. Yet all the while, Frank Robertson is being let go to walk free. “You‘re making a mistake,” shouts Grimly – the very same thing Malvo earlier told him he’d be saying later. The tragedy continues, as Gus is being held accountable for pointing his gun at a supposed minister, a civilian, and nobody can see what’s going on. Even Oswalt shakes Lorne’s hand before the man leaves.
A brief confrontation between Grimly and Malvo sees the latter break out some criminal wisdom, after the former asks how he can just lie then walk away so casually: “Did you know the human eye can see more shades of green than any other colour? My question is why?… when you figure out the answer to my question, then you‘ll have the answer to yours.” It’s a question of predators. And the many, many shades of villainy.
Just as Lester begins to worry about a forensic team searching through his vehicle at the impound, Mrs. Numbers and Wrench toss him into a trunk then speed off, possibly towards a frozen lake. Lester manages to call his brother from inside the trunk, though Chaz is in the midst of watching porno in his garage. “I think I may have been kidnapped is the thing,” Lester tells him politely and strangely calm. After finding a taser, he claims the whole thing was a joke: “You‘re an asshole,” his brother replies, hanging up then going back to the porn. When the car stops he prepares his weapon. But a punch to the gut and the strength of Mr. Wrench overpowers him. Out onto the ice, auger once more in tow, the two partners take Nygaard to his probable doom. They’re still convinced it was Lester killed Sam Hess. Then out of nowhere, Lester tasers Numbers before taking off and leaving the unsuspecting Wrench still drilling a hole in the ice.
Through the forest and the trees, Lester makes it out onto a road where a police car is stopped nearby. He runs down trying to find help. The officer (Gary Valentine) won’t give Lester a ride, so he punches the cop in the face with a light tap prompting an arrest. All to get away from the two henchmen nipping at his heels.
The amphetamines are working overtime on Stavros, whose teeth are grinding, whose pores are all but pouring. He works away at his desk trying not to lift off like a rocket. He and his son Dmitri (Gordon S. Miller) have a fight, or more so Stavros yells at his son.
And following this very brief moment, more Plagues of Egypt befall Milos. Well, at least close enough. Crickets begin to literally seep from the walls, flying and perching over everything in the grocery store sending customers wailing through the doors. Things are getting Biblically fucked up: “Remember – God is watching,” a disguised voice tells Milos over the phone. Stavros is worried a reckoning has come round, full-circle, after he took that money from the snowy side of the road.
In a smoky bar, Mrs. Numbers and Wrench aren’t getting along too well. Specifically, Wrench doesn’t look pleased with his good buddy. A fight breaks out and they kick the shit out of each other for a while.
At her father’s diner, Molly meets Gus. He gives the sad report about what happened with Malvo. And they think about where to move next on the grand chessboard of their horrible situation.
And the bar fight has led Mrs. Numbers and Wrench into a jail cell. Right next to their old pal Lester Nygaard. Confronted with them, the finale of the episode sees the men now smiling, happy to be right back with him again.
Excited, as usual, for the next episode – titled “The Six Ungraspables”. Stay tuned, my fellow Fargo addicts!