'Fargo' recap: About that bowling alley...

The mayhem at the prison transport bus on 'Fargo.'
The mayhem at the prison transport bus on 'Fargo.'
Chris Large | FX

Buckle your seat belts, "Fargo" fans: The show just took a hard left turn toward the spiritual.

Before we enter the limbo of the bowling alley, though, we have to get through some wolf-masked mayhem.

At the beginning, we were treated to a flashback explaining just how Yuri and Meemo managed to ambush the prison transport bus — the same bus carrying a nearly defeated Nikki Swango. Nikki was not alone, though. Her seatmate just happened to be that familiar face from season one, Mr. Wrench. (He's still got the jacket.)

Yuri and Meemo are joined by the unnamed henchman who tried to dispatch Nikki with a syringe in the last episode. After they crash the bus using a homemade ramp, they slip on masks and get to work. Yuri's the wolf, Meemo's the goat, and No-Name is wearing a pig mask. (As with any movie or TV show with a body count, it's not a good sign if you don't have a name. You're not long for this world.)

Amid the chaos of the crash, we realize that Mr. Wrench and Nikki aren't just sitting together, they're shackled together. As far as who you'd want to be shackled to when a band of henchman is trying to kill you, Mr. Wrench is pretty high up on that list. He launches into action and manages to drag the two of them out of the emergency exit and into the relative safety of the woods.

Mary Elizabeth Winstead as Nikki Swango, Russell Harvard as Mr. Wrench
Mary Elizabeth Winstead as Nikki Swango, Russell Harvard as Mr. Wrench on 'Fargo.'
Chris Large | FX

Meanwhile, a hapless couple in a minivan pulls by the brutal scene, and what they see — the crashed bus and the henchmen — will be their undoing. As Christmas carols blare out of their speakers, the couple realize the henchmen are giving chase. Rest in peace, minivan-ers.

In the woods, we begin a fairy tale-esque chase through the snow. Nikki in her fur coat and Mr. Wrench in his fringed leather are the prey, and Yuri and No-Name are the hunters.

Wrench quickly realizes he's been shackled to a walking target: "After U?" he writes in the snow.

"Sorry," Nikki writes.

The chase runs through the night and into the day, racking up plenty of the "Fargo" specialty: blood in the snow.

At one point, the hunters become the hunted: An innocent father-son duo mistake the wolf pelt on Yuri's head for an actual wolf. They peg the pelt with a crossbow bolt, but that's definitely the last shot they'll ever take. Next thing we know, Yuri has the crossbow. You can imagine how that happened.

In the woods we get our first confirmation that henchman Yuri is the original Yuri that the interrogator in Berlin was seeking when the season opened. He sees a tattoo on No-Name's wrist that reads "Helga."

"I knew a Helga once," Yuri says. "All she would do is talk, talk, talk." (Remember: The Berlin interrogator was looking for a Yuri in connection with the murder of Helga Albrecht.)

On the prey side, Nikki is being haunted by her last conversations with Ray as she and Wrench stumble, still shackled, through the woods.

Then, they happen up on it: The perfect solution to all of their problems. An ax lodged in a stump in the middle of a clearing. What could be better to sever their chains? And what could be a more perfect trap? They stagger past a body strung up in a tree — apparently, they're not looking for omens.

It is, indeed, a trap. Yuri starts to fire on them with his newly acquired crossbow after they try to ax the chain. Thus begins another blood-in-the-snow battle. In the struggle, Nikki and Wrench gruesomely (and a little accidentally) dispatch No-Name by pulling their shared chain clear through his neck. Wrench sends the ax hurtling through the trees in the direction of Yuri, where it slices into something with a resounding thunk.

Nikki and Wrench make for the woods again, and as we follow the ax we see that it has hit Yuri — but it only sliced off his ear. Just a flesh wound.

In a redemption moment for Wrench, even when he is able to pull their chains apart, he still sticks with the wounded Nikki and keeps dragging her through the woods. That's a lot of loyalty to a woman you just met and who almost got you killed, multiple times.

Eventually, they stumble out of the forest to see the glowing light of a bowling alley.

Or is it a bowling alley?

"You want shoes?" the bowling alley attendant asks a bloodied, exhausted Nikki when she staggers in.

"Just whiskey," Nikki says.

The camera pulls back to reveal that Nikki has a drinking partner — the mystery man played by Ray Wise. He was Gloria Burgle's seatmate on the plane to Los Angeles, who mysteriously showed up at a bar with Gloria as well.

Now he's drinking sherry and talking to Nikki about the Book of Job and reincarnation.

"Life is suffering. I think you're beginning to understand that," he says.

"Amen," says Nikki. She doesn't seem to wonder who he is, or how he knows so much about her life. Then he hands her a kitten. (I told you to buckle your seat belt, this episode swerved all over the road.)

The cat's name is Ray, he says. Nikki snuggles the kitten, her last connection to her dead fiance.

Then Mr. Mystery starts talking all about those who were slaughtered in the Ukraine, hundreds of years ago. The violent history of that region of the world has been a theme of this season, and this episode lingered on it for quite a while.

We get the sense that this is some sort of limbo, and Mr. Mystery is weighing and measuring souls. He's not ready to take Nikki's soul, he says, because he needs her to "deliver a message when the time comes." A message to the wicked: "Though thou exalt thyself like the eagle, though thou make thy nest among the stars, thence will I bring thee down, sayeth the Lord." (That's Obadiah 1:4, if anyone's checking.)

He's also not going to take Wrench's soul today: He has redeemed himself (for now). Mr. Mystery tells them to hit the road in the green Volkswagen Beetle that's waiting in the parking lot.

If you had any doubt that this was not a normal bowling alley, the soul-weighing continues. The bowling alley's next guest is none another than an earless Yuri, who has followed Nikki and Wrench's path through the woods. He orders napkins and vodka. Mr. Mystery has clearly been waiting for him.

And so has Helga Albrecht, and all the souls that were killed in the Ukraine. We get this stark black-and white-vision of all of them, the crowds of the dead, waiting for Yuri.

Where can you possibly go from there? To a Christmas scene, of course.

We leave the limbo of the bowling alley behind for a scene of almost domestic bliss at Gloria's, where she's celebrating with her son, her soon-to-be ex-husband and his boyfriend. But the joy of the day is interrupted by a phone call, to which Gloria can only say, "Aw jeez."

She's called to investigate the murders of the minivan-ers, and the mayhem at the prison transport bus. Here we meet more people who aren't willing to listen to Gloria's theories about what's really happening. The U.S. marshals on the scene tell her only that Nikki wasn't on the bus when they got there, and they'll call her if they find her — dead or alive.

Meanwhile, in Eden Prairie, the loyal-to-a-fault Sy Feltz has come to visit Emmit at home.

But Emmit's home is no longer just his own: Meemo and Varga have made themselves very comfortable there. Meemo even slams the door in Sy's face, though Varga is more welcoming after that. He invites Sy to have a meal, and even to have some tea.

Why Sy would ever, in a million years, take another beverage from Varga after the mug incident a few episodes ago is absolutely beyond all human reason.

"It's a little bitter," Sy says. You have no idea.

Varga tells Sy not to worry about anything anymore, he's handling all of it, including Emmit. Just sit back and cash the checks, he tells Sy, before escorting him to the door. In the driveway, Sy can see Emmit standing at the window — but Emmit doesn't return his wave. He just steps behind the curtains.

The tea takes its toll. By the time Sy gets back to the Stussy Lots office, he's staggering, sweating and losing his lunch. We see him rushed to the hospital, and are treated to one of the strangest flash forwards in "Fargo" history: Suddenly it's March 15, and Sy has been in a coma for two and a half months.

Emmit is standing, heavy with guilt, at his bedside.

Outside the hospital room, a very dogged Gloria and Winnie are waiting for him, still asking questions about the case all these months later. You get the sense this has become routine — the two of them following him everywhere he goes, trying to solve the mess of murders and mayhem that seems to all revolve around Emmit.

But Emmit has other problems now, besides Gloria and Winnie's continued suspicion. He's being haunted. First, he finds that Ray's Corvette has taken his own car's spot in the parking lot. When he returns to his office by cab, he finds that someone has replaced all of his interior decor with large blow-ups of the stamp — you know the one.

Shaken, he goes home, but it doesn't end. He drinks himself into a stupor and when he staggers to the bathroom, he finds that someone has glued a mustache to his face — a mustache exactly like Ray's. He calls the only one who can help him anymore — Varga.

Varga tells him to get over it, but he just can't. He's become a shadow of himself, under all the guilt over Ray and then Sy. Varga throws his usual high philosophy zingers at him, but they aren't working this time. "Is the bible a children's book?" Varga asks. He tries again: "No one remembers the second man to climb Mount Everest."

Finally, Varga soothes Emmit with a handful of pills. Meemo then drags him, unconscious, to his bedroom.

But Emmit's done playing: He merely palmed the pills, we see. He cannot be handled.

At the police station, where Gloria has been demoted from chief to deputy, she's finally getting around to signing her divorce papers.

But patience is rewarded: As she's signing, a man enters the station behind her.

"My name's Emmit Stussy," he says. "I want to confess."

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