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 three of "Fargo."
This week's episode includes an interview with Rachel Tenner, the show's casting director. The interview starts at 20:00.
Hot on the heels of last week's space odyssey, this week's episode of "Fargo" also had a theme: "Peter and the Wolf." Remember Sergei Prokofiev's classic for children, in which each character is played by an instrument?
In the "Fargo" version, the bird — a flute — is Emmit, carefully choosing from among his many neckties. The doomed duck — an oboe — is Ray, shaving off his mustache. Nikki is the cat, represented by a clarinet. Grandfather — a bassoon — is Sy, playing with his toy parking lot. The hunters' guns — bass drums — are Varga's goon squad, and V.M. himself is the wolf — French horns. Our heroine Gloria Burgle, of course, gets the cheerful strings that correspond to Peter.
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But what's the deal this "Peter and the Wolf" crossover? Well, cue up the whole piece again if you haven't heard it in a while. In the Russian story, a spat between the teasing bird and the jealous duck is a lighthearted preamble to the real battle, between Peter and the Wolf. In the end, Peter traps the wolf with the help of the bird, the wily cat gets away and Grandpa fumes. And the duck? We learn the duck's fate in the story's final words:
"If one would listen very carefully, he would hear the duck quacking inside the wolf, because the wolf, in his hurry, had swallowed her alive."
So, good luck with that, Ray.
Now, the narrator for all of this is none other than Lorne Malvo himself, from season one: Billy Bob Thornton.
And the opening sequence solves a mystery we're not sure we needed to be solved: We get the truth behind V.M. Varga's mangled teeth. He binges and purges, we learn, and the acid has taken its toll on his not-so-pearly whites. It's such a long-held habit that apparently, he can make himself vomit through sheer willpower. It's that kind of skewed discipline that's got the wily Brit to his vaunted place in the underworld.
Then, we're off to a caper: Ray is going to pull the old impersonate-the-brother trick to get into Emmit's safe deposit box, which Ray and Nikki still assume contains the valuable stamp at the center of the brothers' feud. Driving into a version of downtown St. Cloud that's considerably more picturesque than the real thing, Ray succeeds at accessing the box — but only after threatening to move "his" accounts.
There's no stamp in there, though — the box turns out to contain only a velvet bag labeled "Luverne." A strange dust cloud rises when Ray opens it: it turns out to be the ashes of a beloved family dog. (It's also a nod to season two of the show, which took place in Luverne, Minn.)
But Ray doesn't leave the bank entirely empty-handed. He withdraws $10,001 of Emmit's money in cash, including a dollar in quarters "for the meter." He does this despite being advised that a withdrawal of over $10,000 will automatically trigger an inquiry into Stussy Lots' finances. Ray doesn't care, but Emmit might, given what's going on in the new wing of his office, courtesy of Varga.
Speaking of Varga, we finally see what's inside that mysterious semi-trailer parked illegally in a Stussy lot. It turns out the semi is Varga's home and command center. His henchmen Meemo and Yuri meet him there, and Yuri waxes rhapsodic about the youth of Vladimir Putin — who ruled his schoolyard with fists, Yuri says, and then ruled Russia with misinformation.
As for Gloria Burgle, she's following up on the fate of her murder suspect Maurice LeFey. We get a grisly glimpse of the caved-in head of the late LeFey, as Gloria goes through his belongings. Two things catch her eye: The torn page of the Eden Valley phone book with her murdered stepfather's name on it, and a business card from the St. Cloud parole office.
That card leads Gloria to Ray, but while she's waiting to talk to him she makes the acquaintance of the extremely friendly and extremely talkative St. Cloud police officer, Winnie Lopez. After oversharing about her attempts to become pregnant, Winnie tells Gloria that she's working on a hit-and-run case, which — we later learn — was Sy backing his Hummer over Ray's red Corvette.
When Gloria finally meets with Ray, he tries to brush off her visit as more questions about his car. But what Gloria wants is the scoop on LeFey. Ray plays dumb, but Gloria notices his nameplate: Ray Stussy. You can see her wheels turning: It can't all be just a coincidence.
After Gloria leaves, Ray's day gets even worse. Someone mailed his supervisors incriminating photos of Ray and Nikki, together at his brother's anniversary party. It's all strictly against policy, for Ray to be dating one of his own parolees. His bosses offer to let Ray off with a suspension if he tells them it was just a one-time fling, but he can't do it. Ray stays true and gets fired, just barely managing to talk his bosses out of revoking Nikki's parole.
The person behind the anonymous photos? It's Sy, who is waiting for Ray in the parking lot, pointing triumphantly. He drives off victoriously in his Hummer, having crippled Ray's Corvette once again — this time with parking boots.
But when Sy gets to the office of Stussy Lots, he has his own fate coming. Officer Winnie Lopez is waiting in the lobby — and neither Yuri or Meemo is happy about the presence of law enforcement so close to their new operation.
Sy, making Jerry Lundegaard from the original "Fargo" look like a vision of composure, nervously stonewalls Winnie, who is there to investigate the Hummer-Corvette crash. Ray doesn't want to press charges, she explains, but the diner waitress whose wagon also got hit by the Humvee is "hopping mad." Winnie just wants to know who was behind the wheel that day, since it's a company car. Sy does everything he can to get her out of the office, promising that "the girl in HR" will figure it out.
While Ray drowns his sorrows at the bar, missing the meeting with Nikki and the plumbing czar who is thinking of sponsoring their bridge team, Emmit's day also takes a turn.
V.M. Varga arrives at Emmit's for dinner, unannounced. There's no escape from him, Emmit is quickly learning. Especially after Varga presents Emmit with a contract that will make him a partner in Stussy Lots Ltd.
Emmit is initially upset about the unsubtle takeover of his company, but he reconsiders in the face of Varga's apocalyptic view of the world. (You need wealth to protect yourself from the teeming hordes, the master manipulator explains.) Varga promises to make Emmit a billionaire and to take care of any other problems Emmit might have.
Like his brother.
It turns out Varga knows everything about Emmit, including the sordid details of the stamp battle with Ray. (He's learned it all by tapping phones and checking Facebook, we see.)
By the end of their twisted conversation, Emmit dismisses Ray as a loser and looks ready to sign the partnership agreement with Varga.
The episode closes out at Gloria's wood-paneled house. After she tucks her son into bed, there's an unexpected knock at the door: Winnie Lopez.
Gloria's impatience with being disturbed while at home disappears when she learns that Winnie is actually on to something with this whole, tangled mess. She has started to connect some dots: from Stussy to Stussy to Stussy, and from Eden Valley to Eden Prairie.
In case there was any doubt that they're getting warm, the tea kettle starts to scream in the background.