Warning: This recap for “The Lord of No Mercy” episode of Fargo contains spoilers.
In which Emmit Stussy makes good on his promise to see Ray Stussy sponged off the floor.
25 things we learn in “The Lord of no Mercy”:
1. Battered and bruised Nikki tells Ray about the men who beat her: One was Russian, the other was “some kind of Oriental,” they drove a late model Cadillac, and she didn’t get their license plate number. She’s still in much pain, covered with bruises on her torso, and Ray is so angry that he gets his gun from its storage location in his refrigerator’s deli drawer. He and Nikki leave with the gun.
2. Varga says he’s about to tell a true story, about a 150-year-old bank, with $60 billion in assets, that collapsed overnight. Its stock price dropped 93 percent in eight hours. “One day it’s solvent, the next it’s worthless,” he says, talking about Lehman Brothers to make his point that “perception of reality becomes reality.”
3. He tells another story he says is true: How World War I was started by a sandwich. On June 28, 1914, a man named Gavrilo Princip — part of a group of conspirators who wanted to assassinate Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria — was upset about a failed attempt to kill Ferdinand with a grenade, and he decided to get lunch. While he was eating a sandwich in a deli, a car pulled up out front. Ferdinand and his wife were inside it — the Archduke’s driver was lost — and when Princip saw him, he realized he was getting a second chance. He dropped the sammie, and went outside to do some murdering, an act that sparked a chain of events that led to the start of World War I.
4. And Varga has one more true story: That of Neil Armstrong walking on the moon in July 1969. Except that was a lie; the story Varga is telling is about how that famous historical event never really happened, but was instead created by actors and a crew on a soundstage in New Mexico. We learn he’s been telling all these true stories to Sy and Emmit, as the trio discusses Varga’s plan for doubling the size of the Stussy company in just three months. Varga has orchestrated $50 million worth of loans to buy 16 new parking lots, which will make everyone involved a lot of cash.
5. Sy doesn’t think the risk is worth the payoff, especially since, as he points out, there is an IRS agent at the office, waiting to go through their books. Tax fraud is a bad idea, he says, and asks, “The more cautious approach… why not?”
6. “Because the shallow end of the pool is where the turds float,” Varga answers, assuring Sy the IRS guy will see some books, but not the books. Emmit seems to be fully on board with Varga’s plan for the quick cash infusion, while Varga tries further assure Sy that the IRS only goes after “middle managers and movie stars… people who park their money in a Denver Wells Fargo under their mother-in-law’s maiden name.” He tells Sy, “I assure you the IRS could not unravel an intricate web of shell companies and loan outs and secret accounts in Monaco, Luxembourg, and the Cook Islands if you gave them the account numbers.”
“What?!” says an increasingly confused Sy.
Varga: “I’m beginning to think that finance is more of a hobby with you.”
7. As Sy and Varga chat, Emmit tunes out. He’s thinking about the fight he had with Ray, on the phone, when Ray was on the bus. It appears to be weighing on Emmit that he told Ray, “When I’m done with you, they’ll be sponging you off the floor.” Varga, meanwhile, assures Sy he’s taking care of the IRS.
8. At Stussy HQ, IRS agent Larue Dollard is waiting in a conference room, pens and notepads meticulously arranged. Into the room comes Meemo, dressed in suit and glasses that mirror Dollard’s. Meemo opens his briefcase and takes out papers and writing utensils he arranges just so, just like the IRS agent. He then shoves across the table a packet pf papers. Section 41C of the U.S. tax code “affords my client the right to licensed representation in the face of any IRS inquiry,” he tells Dollard. In fact, the IRS must notify the company 30 days in advance, of any documents they want to see and any employees they want to interview. Since they haven’t done that, Meemo says, Dollard needs to “vacate our offices immediately.”
9. Meemo leaves the building and walks into a waiting car, driven by Yuri. As they pull away from the curb, Ray and Nikki drive right up behind them and follow them. Yuri and Meemo drive to Varga’s parking lot semi-truck home, and Ray wants to get out of the car and shoot them. A cooler head – Ms. Swango’s — prevails.
10. Back at Ray’s house, Nikki is laying in a bathtub filled with ice. That and aspirin are her only treatment, and Ray worries she may have internal injuries from the beating. She refuses to go to the ER, though, as the cops and the “villains” are looking for her. Nikki has had time to think, and she’s determined that the reason she and Sy were greeted by Meemo and Yuri is because Emmit is mixed up in some “shady doings.” He probably had cash problems when the housing market crashed, she guesses, and couldn’t get a bank loan. He went elsewhere, she thinks, maybe private equity sources, but “a shark in a suit is still a shark,” she points out. She tells Ray he’ll get his shot at revenge for her beating, but not until they figure out what their “play” is in all this.
11. A new Varga quirk: He likes to jam a small metal pointing stick into his gums and between his teeth, to make them bleed and cause himself pain.
12. Gloria and Winnie arrive at Stussy HQ, to talk to Emmit. Varga overhears and invites himself into the discussion. “I didn’t get your name,” Gloria tells him.
“True,” he says. “I’m an associate of Mr. Stussy’s is all you need to know for now.”
Gloria: “Associate in what capacity?”
Varga: “Ladies shoes.”
Emmit laughs. Gloria and Winnie do not.
Gloria asks Emmit if he and his brother are in the midst of a feud. He denies it, after she explains the flowchart of connections with him, Ray, Ennis Stussy’s murder, Maurice LeFay, the car accident, and the towns of Eden Valley and Eden Prairie. Varga defensively points out her whole theory sounds like a big coincidence. “In 1932, there were 24 Hitlers in the German phone books,” he says. “Now, are you suggesting they were all responsible for the Final Solution?”
13. Gloria persists in questioning Emmit, asking if he and Ray had had a disagreement about money, or something else Ray may have wanted back. As she’s talking to him, sitting on the coffee table in front of her is a partially unwrapped parcel, which contains the feud-causing stamp, which Emmit had reframed. Varga tells Gloria and Winnie they have to leave. She hands her card to Emmit, but Varga reaches out and takes it, before telling them again to leave.
14. Varga Googles Gloria later, but Google can’t find a single mention of her.
15. Yuri is dispatched by Varga to Eden Valley to retrieve the Eden Valley PD’s files on the Ennis Stussy murder, since they are not, famously, computerized.
16. Meemo is dispatched by Varga to Ray’s house to execute Ray and Nikki.
17. Ray and Nikki flee to a motel, because Gloria and Winnie came to their door. “The heat’s on,” Ray says. “We better blow.” They go to the Ambassador Motor Inn, a motel Ray knows takes cash, so they won’t be traced via credit card. What Ray doesn’t know: that Meemo was outside his house and followed he and Nikki to the motel.
18. Inside the motel room, a still aching Nikki asks Ray to get her aspirin and a cold compress, which makes him realize he left their getaway cash — the money they stole from Emmit’s bank — at the house. He leaves to retrieve it, while Meemo hangs around the motel ice machine.
19. At home, Ray leaves his car running and goes in to grab the cash. He does, and is startled by Emmit, who’s sitting on the couch. He reminds Ray he has a key, since he’s the one who co-signed the mortgage. He also tells him about Luverne, whose ashes Ray dumped into a trash can. She was Emmit’s daughter’s Dalmatian, he says. After those jabs, Emmit tells Ray he can’t think of one single person besides Ray who doesn’t like him.
“That’s what they say to your face,” Ray cracks. But Emmit says they’ve been fighting for 20 years, and that’s enough. He hands Ray the newly reframed stamp, and tells him it’s his. “Words said in anger, crimes committed… we’ve both done things,” Emmit says. “It’s a certain madness, I think, brotherhood. Buttons you push in me, that I push in you, grudges… I didn’t want that anymore, so I’m giving you the stamp.”
They’re lovely sentiments, and Emmit seems quite sincere, but Ray only hears one thing. “Well, you’re not giving it to me,” he says. “You can’t give me what was mine from the start.”
Ray tries to give the frame back. Emmit refuses. They shove it back and forth, with increasing aggressiveness. Emmit pushes it back hard enough that it flips, glass first, into Ray’s face, hitting him in the head and neck as the glass shatters. The frame falls away, and Emmit steps back with a frightened look on his face. It takes Ray a couple of seconds to realize he has a giant shard of glass jutting from his jugular. Emmit shakes his head, saying, “Nooooo” to Ray, who pulls the shard from his body, as blood starts spurting out of his neck. He realizes what he’s done too late. With a frightened look on his face, Ray reaches out towards Emmit and says his brother’s name two times. He falls to his knees, and then slowly slumps to the floor, losing more blood quickly.
“Raymond,” Emmit moans, as Ray dies, leaving his head in a widening pool of blood. Emmit takes out his phone and calls — who else — Varga. He tells him there’s been an accident at Ray’s, and he needs help. Varga says he’s on the way.
20. At the motel, Nikki has gone to the ice machine to fill a bucket, and Meemo sneaks into her room’s bathroom, where he waits with string to strangle her. As Nikki walks back to her room, Meemo gets a call on his cell.
21. Nikki slowly re-enters her hotel room, sensing someone is inside. Grabbing a wire hanger and fashioning it into a weapon, she swings the bathroom door open — nothing. She pulls the shower curtain back — nothing.
22. Varga and Meemo arrive at Ray’s home, and immediately been concocting a cover for Ray’s death. Varga wants to pin it on Nikki. They’ll say Ray abused her — hitting her only in places where people can’t see the bruises — and that she got fed up and killed him.
23. We realize Ray’s death, which brought Meemo to his house to help cover it up, saved Nikki’s life. Now, Nikki’s at the motel, alone, injured, without cash and food and medicine, and without a car.
24. Varga tells Emmit to go to his dinner meeting with Sy, while he and Meemo stage the crime scene. Emmit whispers to Varga, “I didn’t mean to.” Varga whispers back, “No one ever does.”
25. Gloria is in her cop car, thinking back about Varga’s rudeness in Emmit’s office, and how everyone — all the men — keep pooh-poohing her theory about the connections between Ennis’s murder and the other Stussys. “Screw it!” she says, and turns her car around. She gets on the police radio and asks the dispatcher to locate Winnie, and tell her to meet her… she’s going back to Ray’s house.
* About that Gavrilo Princip story of Varga’s… it wasn’t actually Princip who tossed the hand grenade that failed to kill Ferdinand earlier in the day. It was one of his pals, Nedeljko Cabrinovic, who tried to avoid being caught after he tossed the bad bomb by swallowing a poison pill and throwing himself into a nearby river. The poison was expired, however, and the river was only four inches deep. Cabrinovic was caught.
As for the sandwich angle of Princip’s story, there’s very little evidence to suggest it’s true. According to a 2011 SmithsonianMag.com article, the sandwich story only became widespread, and widely accepted as fact, after it was reported in a 2003 episode of the documentary TV series Days That Shook the World.
* Notice that when Emmit was really in trouble, his first instinct was to call Varga, not Sy?
* Also notice that when Ray told Varga he was going to a dinner meeting, he said it was with Sy, but didn’t mention Mrs. Goldfarb would also be there? Wonder how Varga will react when, after cleaning up Ray’s death for Emmit, he finds out Emmit and Sy are meeting with Mrs. G behind his back?
“Not well” seems like a safe guess.
Fargo airs Wednesdays at 10 p.m. on FX.
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