After Fargo took a one-episode excursion to California with Gloria Burgle and her work vacation in Hollywood, the series returned to frigid Minnesota, the investigation into Maurice LeFay’s homicide and where else that may lead.
Gloria may have learned more about her deceased stepfather, Ennis Stussy/Thaddeus Mobley, in Los Angeles, but nothing that would apparently lead to solving his murder. Maybe more could be gleaned from looking more into the guy who killed him instead. The best clue Gloria has is the parole office business card she found in Maurice’s wallet.
That leads her to Officer Ray Stussy, who still hasn’t given up on swindling his twin brother Emmit. As “The Narrow Escape Problem” begins, Nikki has come up with a scheme to get into the safety deposit box where Emmit is presumably storing the family’s valuable stamp. Shave off his mustache, put on a curly-hair wig and pose as Emmit at the bank where he does business and keeps the safety deposit box.
The bank manager is pretty chummy with Emmit, sucking up to one of his biggest customers, which threatens the whole operation. But Ray either channels his brother or just knows from life experience that being an asshole sometimes gets things done, especially when threatening to take your business elsewhere. (Ray also shows an inherent kindness toward the assistant who’s treated like dirt by the bank manager, perhaps tipping off that he’s not really a bad guy, but maybe a bad life has forced him to make questionable decisions.)
Unfortunately for Ray and Nikki, all that’s in the safety deposit box is a velvet bag filled with ashes. (We later find out those are the cremains — which is the preferred nomenclature, I think — of Emmit’s beloved dog. Even Sy loved that pooch.) No stamp. But posing as Emmit, Ray is still able to withdraw $10,000, which is what he believes the stamp is worth. Nikki wonders why he didn’t take out more money when he had the opportunity, but Ray balks at being greedy.
“See, that’s the criminal mentality,” he says. Again, Ray might be a nice guy who ends up doing bad things. Emmit seems to fit the regular Fargo model of a normal guy unwittingly pulled into criminal doings by doing business with V.M. Varga and his shady underground enterprise. But maybe Ray is really the Jerry Lundegaard, Lester Nygaard or Ed Blumquist of this story.
Ray has other problems to worry about, namely that someone has blown the whistle on his relationship with Nikki. Fraternizing with a con is no bueno, and someone has tipped off Ray’s bosses to the matter, sending photos of the two at his brother’s party. To little surprise, Sy is the one who sent the photos, keeping them as a weapon to be deployed when needed. This is revenge for robbing Emmit’s bank account and violating those beloved canine cremains. That puts Ray out of a job, but it’s better than him or Nikki going to jail.
Gloria does stop by Ray’s office — and passes by Nikki outside — but doesn’t really learn much of use. LeFay was a con who loved the reefer and failed a drug test, which may have compelled him to try and rob Ennis Stussy. Ray gets nervous when he finds out a police chief (former chief) from Eden Valley, not Eden Prairie, is looking into the crime. But she really doesn’t have much, other than Ray and Ennis share a last name.
Officer Burgle also continues to go unnoticed by any electronic sensors, whether it’s an automatic door opener or the faucet, soap dispenser and hand dryer in the parole office’s bathroom. Is this still just an amusing quirk or is there something to Gloria’s electronic invisibility?
The trip to St. Cloud may not have been a waste, however. The most interesting person Gloria met during her visit was Officer Winnie Lopez (Olivia Sandoval), who’s investigating Sy running into Ray’s car (and someone else’s vehicle) with his ridiculous Humvee. She may not have had a “putter-inner” (thank goodness for toilet paper) when she needed it in the ladies’ restroom, but she has the intuition of sensing when something doesn’t seem quite right. When Lopez visits Sy at his office to ask about the parking lot incident, he’s evasive — and fidgety because Varga’s thugs are watching him from the lobby.
Officer Winnie may be a bit more friendly and forthcoming than Chief (well, former chief) Burgle is comfortable with. But she’s good at connecting dots. She figured out that the car hit by the Humvee belonged to Ray Stussy, who’s the brother of Emmit Stussy, who owns the company where she talked to Sy. Winnie also catches on to the curious coincidence that may indicate mistaken identity in Ennis Stussy’s murder. Ennis lived in Eden Valley, while Emmit lives in Eden Prairie. So why did someone who works for Emmit go smashing up Ray’s car? The walls, they may be closing in.
That applies to the other Stussy brother who just can’t put any distance between himself, his company and V.M. Varga. (One intriguing thing we found out about Mr. Varga: He enjoys a good meal. Big meals, too. Unfortunately, after binging, he then purges it in the nearby bathroom. That’s why he has those awful teeth. It’s not just because he’s British.)
Yet Varga also promises wealth to Emmit, not just being rich. And though Emmit insists he’s just a successful guy who owns a bunch of parking lots in Minnesota, the idea of breaking into that top one percent clearly appeals to him. Maybe he’s not just a fella who needed a million-dollar loan, after all.
You can read all of our Fargo coverage here.