'Fargo' recap: You have to unchain me

The endangered Sy Feltz (Michael Stuhlbarg) on 'Fargo.'
The endangered Sy Feltz (Michael Stuhlbarg) on 'Fargo.'
Chris Large | 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 three of "Fargo."

This week's episode includes an interview with Aaron Brown, a writer and radio producer from Northern Minnesota, who talks about the mysteries of this season and where the show could go next.

It's dark days in St. Cloud, where the Stussy brothers' schemes are coming back to haunt them.

The episode title is "The House of Special Purpose," which refers to the house in Russia where Emperor Nicholas II and his family were killed after the Bolshevik Revolution. Apparently it's time for the mighty to pay the price for their hubris, as Yuri continues to constantly remind us.

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We see Emmit's devoted wife of 25 years, Stella, coming home to a strange package on the doorstep. It's addressed to Emmit, but it's marked with the irresistible phrase "your eyes only," so of course she opens it. Inside is a blackmail note demanding $100,000 "or else your wife will see this." Too late for that. Also enclosed is a DVD with what looks like a sex tape starring Emmit.

But as Stella runs crying from the room, we realize it's not Emmit. It's Ray, still keeping up his Emmit impersonation. And the "other woman" is Nikki Swango, in a wig. Their plan to fake the tape and blackmail Emmit — like every other complicated plan on "Fargo" — doesn't end well.

Making the tape was romantic, though, at least for these two. In a flashback, we see that Ray was so moved by Nikki's scheming that he popped the question right then, while she was still wearing the wig.

But while Ray's planning his marriage, Emmit's is crumbling, thanks to the tape.

He comes home to find Stella packed and ready to go; they're even loading Grandma into the van. His daughter and son-in-law are irate, too. They've all seen the tape, and they've all bought it. Looks like Ray successfully hid his "difference," as Nikki calls his beer belly.

Sy gets some encouragement from Yuri and Meemo on 'Fargo.'
Sy gets some encouragement from Yuri and Meemo on 'Fargo.'
Courtesy of FX

It's not going to be a great day for Sy, either. When he gets to the office, he finds V.M. Varga with his feet up on Sy's desk.

Varga heard about Sy's meeting with Winnie Lopez, the St. Cloud police officer, and he's decided to put Sy in his place — specifically, in a different office. First, he ruins Sy's "World's Best Dad" mug forever, in unspeakable ways. Then, he lets Sy know that he will no longer be Emmit's right-hand man. Emmit and Varga have a new partnership, and Sy's business days are coming to an end.

Reeling, Sy stumbles off to a meeting at the ominously decorated Bear's Den supper club with the Widow Goldfarb, played by "Battlestar Galactica" star Mary McDonnell. This is Sy's last chance to save the business from Varga's control, he thinks. If she buys them out, the Varga mess will have been just a bad dream.

She's a tough cookie. She wants to buy Stussy Lots, she says, and if they don't sell, she's going to start her own rival parking lot company. Sy signals that they're extremely receptive to her offer.

Sy Feltz meets with the Widow Goldfarb on 'Fargo.'
Sy Feltz (Michael Stuhlbarg) meets with the Widow Goldfarb (Mary McDonnell) on 'Fargo.'
Courtesy of FX

After that errand, Sy is summoned to Eden Prairie, where he finds Emmit hugging his wife's bathrobe and crying in a corner. ("Stella!") Sy wants to talk about the more pressing matter of Varga's hostile takeover and mug brutalities ("Enemies are at the gates! Inside the gates!"), but Emmit is only interested in revenge on Ray and Nikki for the tape.

You're a fixer, Emmit tells Sy. Fix this.

So Sy gets ahold of Nikki, to try and fix the sex tape confusion for Emmit, just as she and Ray are picking out a tux and dress for their newly possible dream wedding. (A hundred thousand dollars can fund a pretty classy affair.)

Nikki doesn't seem to care that Stella watched the tape first. She offers to convince Stella that it was fake (which it was) for the newly raised price of $200,000. That's a lot of money for proving that what never happened really never happened.

Sy and Nikki settle on a parking lot meeting to hash out the details.

Gloria Burgle and Winnie Lopez interrogate the hapless Ray Stussy.
Gloria Burgle and Winnie Lopez interrogate the hapless Ray Stussy on 'Fargo.'
Chris Large | FX

Meanwhile, policewomen extraordinaire Gloria Burgle and Winnie Lopez are explaining to deputy Donnie what they've figured it out: Ray hired Maurice to rob Emmit, but Maurice screwed up and attacked the wrong Stussy, killing Ennis. Easy, see?

Gloria suspects that the woman whose A/C unit subsequently crushed Maurice may be involved, too. That would be Nikki — except she rented the apartment as "Vanessa," giving Gloria one more knot to untangle. This all may be true, but, as deputy Donnie correctly observes, "New chief isn't gonna like this."

Chief Dammick likes it so little that he forces Gloria and Winnie to release Ray after they pull him in for questioning. Sometimes a coincidence is just a coincidence, he says. And Gloria has no proof there's any substantive connection between Emmit Stussy and the murdered Ennis Stussy.

Sheriff Moe Dammik (Shea Whigham) lectures Gloria Burgle (Carrie Coon)
Sheriff Moe Dammik (Shea Whigham) lectures Gloria Burgle (Carrie Coon) on 'Fargo.'
Chris Large | FX

Meanwhile, Varga is continuing his campaign of misinformation and mistrust. Now he's whispering in Emmit's ear that Sy, his most trusted of friends, his loyal business partner, is conspiring against him. It's easy, Varga explains. We're making a souffle — that would be the billion-dollar fraud he's trying to perpetrate — and all of these troublemakers might pop it. Better to get them out of the picture.

Varga won't, however, find it quite so easy to intimidate the IRS agent who arrives at the office. Ray's $10,001 withdrawal from the bank, when he was posing as Emmit, has triggered an automatic investigation. The agent just wants to park himself in the office for a few weeks, and check the books. Routine. Emmit has no choice but to agree.

"That's alright," says Varga after the agent leaves. "We'll show him the fake ones." Emmit is aghast to learn that Stussy Lots now has fake books, but it's too late to turn back on these twisted business plans now.

Speaking of twisted plans, Sy and Nikki pull into an out-of-the-way lot to have it out over the continually more complicated blackmail.

But Sy doesn't come alone. He doesn't realize that Varga's henchmen, Yuri and Meemo, have been following him the whole time. This time, however, they're on his side.

When Nikki doesn't take Sy's low-ball offer of $40,000 to fix the whole mess, the henchmen unleash a brutal beating on Nikki. (It seems fatal for a moment, but if you extend last episode's "Peter and the Wolf" metaphor, Nikki's the cat, remember? Nine lives.)

Sy watches in horror as it all unfolds. It's a warning for him, too: Yuri makes that very clear. After the tough guys leave, Sy rolls off, as well, leaving Nikki semi-conscious on the frozen ground.

Maybe Sy is more of a fixer than he realized — or maybe everything is now hopelessly broken.