Fargo recap: "Lemme tell you a story..."

Episode five: "The Six Ungraspables" [Warning: Spoilers for FX's Fargo series]

It's a wonder that Fargo still starts off with the same disclaimer each time (we get it already, yeesh). Instead, it should really just read: Once upon a time, in a land filled with ice and snow...

Because that's really what we're getting with each episode: tales and fables about the barren land up north, populated by good and bad people. This episode is no exception, and there are plenty of stories to be go around.

See also: Fargo episode four recap: A million shades of green

Parables abound in "The Six Ungraspables." The first to appear is, in fact, in the title of the episode, inspired by a Zen koan. The six ungraspables refer to the five senses and the mind -- something everyone's going to start needing to use more of if they want to get what they want in the end.

At the beginning of the episode, we take another trip into Bemidji long before Sam Hess gets murdered. This time we're at Uli's Sporting Goods -- y'all catch that Big Lebowski reference there? -- where Lester's picking up a pack of socks. Irregular socks, that is, because out of the six socks in the package, there are three men's socks and three women's socks. Lester decides to buy them, but the shop owner says it's a "best offer" kind of price.

"You tell me -- what's fair?" Lester asks. What is fair? Certainly not the $2 he originally offered, but he eventually gets talked up to $55 for the socks and a 12 gauge shotgun. This shotgun will later blow a couple holes through Sheriff Thurman and leave that buckshot pellet lodged in Lester's hand.

But before we get to that fateful night, Lester's wife Pearl sees his purchase and scoffs, "If anyone could shoot theirselves in the face with an unloaded firearm, it's you." True to form, Lester drops the rifle on accident before storing it on top of a cabinet. Remember when he dropped Chazz's automatic in the first episode? This guy is a real butterfingers with guns (but give him a hammer and he'll go to town).

Flash forward to the present, with Lester sandwiched between the hitmen in the jail cell. Wrench gets up, takes off his sock, and stuffs it in Lester's mouth while Numbers inflicts some torturous pain on the guy simply by touching his festering hand. Lester squeals on Malvo and yaks all over the cell after the hitmen's bail gets posted.

Meanwhile, Molly gets in touch with her domestic side, but can't shake what she knows about the connections between Malvo and Lester. She suits up and storms into Bill's office to tell him what's what: the phone dump results come back and show a call from Lester's to Malvo's motel room the night trucking guy Hess died at the Lucky Penny strip club. The motel workers I.D. Malvo from the surveillance footage taken from St. Paul (when Malvo dragged that guy out of the office by his tie), and they also say they found a few tokens from the Lucky Penny.

Bill goes through what looks like a million emotions when he hears the story and puts the pieces together. "Sonova bitch," he says before revealing that Lester's in that holding cell for hitting the cop still.

They go to talk to Lester, and he's delirious. Covered in vomit and babbling ("She's washing towels" -- a throwback to episode one), they put him in an ambulance where, in the throes of pain, he rats on Malvo again.

Later that night, Molly sneaks into Lester's house. She sees that fish poster covered in blood, the stains on the floor, and she has a feeling about that washer. She dismantles it, and doesn't find anything, but she's not convinced.

Gus, too, is uneasy about the situation. Being computer illiterate, he asks Greta to do an internet search for Frank Peterson (Malvo's minister disguise from the last episode). A bunch of dummy sites pop up for Reverend Peterson, but when they search for "Lorne Malvo," there are no results. Gus starts putting the puzzle pieces together, too.

Eventually, he gives up for the night and sits down at the kitchen table with a drink: a wholesome glass of milk. And whad'ya know, the neighbor through the window is enjoying some milk, too, and he invites himself over to the Grimlys to chat with Gus.

Gus asks his neighbor for advice about the Malvo situation. Story time.

"Is this a... uh..." Gus asks, waving his hand around questioningly.

"It's a parable," his neighbor says dismissively. He goes on to tell a tale about a wealthy man who one day realizes there's so much bad in the world that he wants to help. He gives away all his money to cure the world of its ills, but still doesn't feel like he did enough. Next, he gives up a kidney. Still, not enough. Finally, he asks a doctor to take all his usable parts -- liver, heart, corneas -- but the doctor won't assist him in killing himself for others. So the man goes home, writes "organ donor" on his bathroom wall and slits his wrists in the tub.

"Only a fool thinks he can solve the world's problems," the neighbor ends the tale.

"But you gotta try, don't'cha?" Gus replies earnestly. You betcha, Gus.

Milos gives up. God/Malvo has won through the 10 plagues he's wrought on the supermarket king, and now Milos will give up $1 million to his blackmailer. (He still doesn't realize it's Malvo.) We also finally see Milos reveal an inkling of care for his son by trying to send him away before the death-of-the-firstborn plague hits. Milos' son tries to tell his father that there's something fishy about the crickets, that they're from local pet stores. But Milos can't be bothered, he just wants to make sure his son's safe and no more plagues appear.

Malvo drives Milos to the grocery store to pick up the money, and on the way back, he tells a story. Malvo contends that St. Lawrence (Milos's favorite) got roasted not because he was Christian, but because wolves brought up the Romans. His tale's got a heavy-handed dose of bestiality and misogyny: a woman thinks it'll be funny to let a Rottweiler mount her, but the dog just sees an opportunity for sexual satisfaction. She tries to get away, but the dog won't let her, so they have to put a bullet in the dog's head to stop him. What does that have to do with St. Lawrence? "The Romans were raised by wolves," Malvo says. "They see a guy turning water into wine, what do they do? They eat him. Because there are no saints in the animal kingdom. Only breakfast and dinner."

Breakfast and dinner, indeed.

This whole episode actually reminded us of another parable (we know, we know, another story, great) about a group of blind men and an elephant. Each man feels a different part of the elephant, unable to see what he is touching, and they all come up with different opinions about what exactly they're sensing. The one touching the tusk feels something very different than the one patting an ear, same with the tail and the foot and the rump. The blind men argue over who is right about his perception, but unless they agree to trust each other, they won't be able to "see" the elephant as a whole.

We've got six people connected to the elephant in the room Malvo: Lester, the hit men (they are, for all purposes, one entity), Molly, Gus, Milos, and now a reluctant Sheriff Bill. They've each seen a different side of this predator (Remember those shades of green from "Eating the Blame"?), understanding little bits and pieces the others don't know about Malvo, and now it's up to them to step back and see him for what he is. Only then can someone catch this sly fellow.

Now it's time to take bets on who gets to him first. What do you think?

Death count:

Five, the dog, and maybe the widow Hess... who we haven't seen since she practically gave Lester a lap dance.

Random notebook dump:

  • Malvo locked Don Chumph into his own pantry and screwed the door shut. Poor idiot.

  • Lots of stories, but also... lots of socks. (Lester buys socks, Wrench stuffs a sock in Lester's mouth, and Gus's neighbor talks about his hole-ridden socks.) What's up with that?

  • According to the legend about the beginnings of Rome, Remus and Romulus were raised by wolves and went on to found the city (well, actually Romulus killed Remus first and then named Rome after himself, naturally). Gina Hess has referred to her children as "animals," and "wolves" in particular. Are the dimwitted Hess boys about to start their own (trucking?) empire? Will one of them kill the other for his own gains? Seriously, though, why haven't we heard from any of the Hesses in so long?

  • Also, when Malvo buys the police scanner and single walkie-talkie from his guy-with-a-van (to keep tabs on Greta Grimly), there are two tvs playing videos of a wolf. Coincidence? We think not.

  • Just about everyone on the show has a goal in mind -- whether it's money, justice, revenge, a Turkish bath house, or peace with God. But really, what does Lester want at this point? To live out his life as a quiet insurance salesman? To shoot big guns with his brother all day? To fade away into obscurity? He did away with a lifelong bully... and his wife, and now he spends more time running from hitmen than anything else. This surely isn't what he was envisioning when he was in the emergency room during that first episode, so where does he go from here?

  • Does Gus's neighbor realize his wife gave Gus a little peepshow?

  • There was some great dialogue going on in this episode:

  • When Lester tattles on Malvo:
    Lester: "Lorne, like the fella from Bonanza. I think I'm gonna puke."
    Numbers: "If you puke in here, I'll kill you. I mean, I'll actually kill you." (Yeah, Lester, that's gross.)

    Bill and Molly get mixed up about which motel workers they're talking about:
    Bill: "Curly hair... looks like she draws her eyebrows on with a Sharpie?"
    Molly: "No sir, this is a severe woman with hard hair... Anyway."

  • Last, speaking of Molly, when are she and Gus finally gonna get it on?

Important takeaways from the episode:

  • Lester has finally ratted on Malvo -- while in immense pain, mind you -- to the hitmen and Molly.

  • Milos has the million in his possession, ready to give it up for God... will something happen in the meantime?

  • Malvo's got a direct line to Gus's kid -- whether that's just to snoop for stuff to use against Officer Grimly or if it's to actually scare Greta, we have yet to find out

  • Snowstorm's a-coming. Everyone hunker down.

[Editor's note: Don't have cable? Looking to read recaps? Want to discuss the show in the comments? We'll be recapping each episode weekly as it airs. Stay tuned!]