'Fargo' recap: A real 'High Noon' day

Mike Milligan and the Kitchen Brothers
Mike Milligan (Bokeem Woodbine) flanked by the Kitchen Brothers (Brad and Todd Mann) tells Lou Solverson, "I am not a crook."
Courtesy of FX

Every week on "Aw Jeez: A 'Fargo' podcast," hosts Tracy Mumford and Jay Gabler recap the latest episode, and interview experts about the mayhem, the mob and the Minnesota moments in season two of "Fargo." Listen to the audio for more analysis and speculation on last night's goings on.

Back to the Midwest, 1979: Not only is there crime and chaos on the prairie, those mysterious lights in the sky keep dancing.

In this episode, we talk to MPR News' John Enger about the real life extraterrestrial story that may have inspired this season's UFO references.

But first: What in the heck happened last night?

Peggy and Ed
Peggy Blumquist (Kirsten Dunst) wants to go for a drive with Ed (Jesse Plemons).
Courtesy of FX

The episode begins with Hanzee Dent, the Gerhardt's loyal enforcer, crouching in the snowy woods, stroking a bunny. The scene is intercut with flashbacks to Dent's childhood, as he watches a magician pull a rabbit out of a hat in his one-room schoolhouse. Suddenly, the adult Dent kills his rabbit — and we're off to the races!

The Gerhardts have convened a gathering of a few of their regional cronies, so that Floyd and the boys can apprise their posse of the situation with Kansas City (and thank them for their kind cards and letters). We're left with the distinct impression that not everyone in North Dakota thinks it would be such a terrible idea to sell out — and one of their combover-laden pals takes the opportunity to take a potshot at Jimmy Carter — but ultimately, the guests agree to support the Gerhardts if it comes to shooting. ("We're not gonna make the first move, but if Kansas City comes at you shooting, we'll cut the nose off their face.")

Cut to Fargo's Pearl Hotel, where Joe Bulo is having a power breakfast with Mike Milligan. After singing the praises of Agree shampoo ("Feel my hair!"), Bulo sends Milligan to find Rye to use as leverage against "the frau" in the continuing negotiations over who's going to rule the Fargo underworld.

Meanwhile, Lou is on the road to Fargo himself. He's planning to look into the late judge's caseload in case there are clues to be had. While he's driving, Hank radios in to tell Lou that prints on the murder weapon have been identified as Rye's. Lou tells Hank to tell Betsy not to wait up for him, which seems like good advice when you're headed up to Fargo to shake down North Dakota's deadliest family.

In Fargo, Lou meets Ben Schmidt, the detective who's handling the Fargo end of things. ("I hear the crime scene was a deal.") When Ben hears the Gerhardts are involved, he lets Lou know that he's basically petrified of the crime family, whose history he quickly recaps for Lou's benefit. When asked, Ben says he doesn't know anything about the Kansas City crew...yet.

Back at the family compound, Dent is having a chat with Gerhardt granddaughter Simone while he butchers the ill-fated bunny. Simone thinks the family are "squares" for trying to keep her well-behaved ("Sometimes a girl just wants to bust a nut, you know?"), but she admits to Dent that Rye has an inner-city hangout. Dent tells her to take him there, and takes a juicy bite of the rabbit's heart.

Bestey and Hank
Betsey Solverson (Cristin Milioti) has a not-so-crazy theory to share with her dad Hank Larsson (Ted Danson), while Peggy (Kirsten Dunst) tries to keep her cool.
Courtesy of FX

Down in Luverne, Betsy's at the salon to get her hair did, and while she's in the chair, Peggy tells her coworker that she sprang for the Lifespring seminar — without telling Ed. Hank arrives to plaster Rye's mugshot in the window ("To kill all those people — and for what? A little money?"). Betsy shares her theory of the crime with Hank: "I'm thinking, what if the killer [...] inadvertently gets himself struck by a passing motorist?"

Peggy, of course, thinks that's a ridiculous idea, and Hank's inclined to agree. ("It's not like you're going to drive home with a Gerhardt on the windshield and, y'know, start supper.") Still, Peggy's freaked out and runs to tell Ed that they have to dispose of the car. (Ed's coworker Noreen is still reading Camus' "The Myth of Sisyphus" instead of working, but maybe it's a slow day at the butcher shop.) Luckily, Peggy's got a plan for that.

Skip Sprang is just fine
Fargo police detective Ben Schmidt (Keir O'Donnell) and Lou Solverson (Patrick Wilson) check on Skip Sprang (Mike Bradecich). Poor Skip.
Courtesy of FX

But wait. What ever happened to that typewriter guy? We finally learn his name: Skip Sprang. He's hanging around the courthouse acting as suspicious as possible. Lou thinks Skip looks "squirrely" enough to be involved (in fact, he's abusing his steering wheel, Lundegaard-style), but Ben talks Lou out of pulling the hapless salesman in for questioning.

Leaving the courthouse, Skip makes a poor judgment call and pays a visit to Rye's Fargo flophouse. Seduced inside by a heavy-breathing Simone, Skip meets Dent, who'd like to know what scheme Skip and Rye had going. Skip tries to play dumb and leave for an "appointment," but Simone grabs him by the American-flag necktie and pulls him out the door. ("Sucks to your appointments! I think we should have some fun.")

Back on the frozen tundra: Here's Peggy's plan: Her uncle would fake accidents to cover up damage he did to his truck while driving drunk, and Peggy doesn't see why that wouldn't work for the Rye-sized hole in their windshield. Ed seems reluctant, but Peggy gives him a rare blast of warmth ("You've been a real paladin") and Ed drives off to hit a tree — oops, backwards. Slipped on the ice. He tries again, and gets it right the second time.

On the Gerhardt compound, Bear is sending his stammering son Charlie off to school, so as to keep him out of the imminent turf war. ("It's going to get icky around here, most likely.") While they're talking, Lou arrives with a decidedly hesitant Ben ("Not too late to go to the movies!" says Ben as the two drive up to the gate), and the cops are immediately surrounded by Gerhardt thugs. The Gerhardts ask for their weapons, and Ben gladly hands his over. Lou, however, literally sticks to his guns. ("Am I the only one here who's clear on the concept of law enforcement?")

Lou Solverson
Lou Solverson (Patrick Wilson) reminds Fargo how law enforcement works.
Courtesy of FX

Lou breaks the Waffle Hut news to the Gerhardts: Three dead, and Rye's fingerprints are on the gun. The Gerhardts threaten Ben — who's clearly unused to exercising any authority over the crime lords — but Lou stands up to the gangsters, and lets them know that Mike Milligan is on Rye's trail as well. Dodd is extremely annoyed, but lets the cops go and Ben practically leaps back into the car through the window.

On the trail of Rye, Mike Milligan and his Kitchen Brothers show up at the would-be typewriter shop. So does Lou, sparking yet another tense confrontation. (This episode has more showdowns than a shoot-out happy Western.) This time, guns are drawn in a Kitchen-Kitchen-Solverson standoff, which ends with the Kansas City crew backing out the door with Mike Milligan quoting Tricky Dick: "I am not a crook," he says, giving the ironic victory fingers.

Floyd and Bear Gerhardt
Floyd Gerhardt (Jean Smart) and her son Bear (Angus Sampson) are not pleased with the visitor from Luverne, Minn.
Courtesy of FX

Lou's last encounter in the Peace Garden State this episode is with a guy in line at the gas station. (File under: Reasons not to miss the '70s.) This guy has some thoughts to share on UFOs, saying they were seen "from Mankato to Vermillion" two nights previous. "Strange happenings, huh?" Indeed.

Finally, Lou makes it safely home. Though Betsy didn't have to wait up for him, she did — playing cribbage with dear ol' Dad. "It's been a real High Noon, my day," Lou dryly tells Hank.

Cut to a little quality time between Dodd and his daughter Simone — and by "quality time," I mean Dodd angrily declaring he wanted a boy while Simone snaps, "You wanna hit me again? Is that getting you hard?" In this case, that seems to be a rhetorical question.

There's no pleasing Dodd, despite the fact that Simone brought Skip to him. Once they've established that Skip doesn't know where Rye is and hasn't talked to the cops, they bury the poor typewriter salesman under a truckload of asphalt. Dodd dispatches Dent to Luverne to find Rye — and "if anyone gets in your way, you kill 'em dead."

Just another week in Fargo.

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