The show opens with an open mouth, tongue glistening and wriggling as a cavity gets filled by none other than Lorne Malvo. Only, it's not Malvo, it's his latest alter-ego seen for just a moment in a Vegas bar during last week's episode.
These days, Malvo's moonlighting as a dentist in the southwest, engaged to his ultra-blonde dental hygienist, and super buddy-buddy with the other dentist in the office, Burtie Burt (apparently everyone in Malvo's life now has the proclivity to making up nicknames for each other).
Malvo's even got a sweet new catchphrase ("aces"), which seems so strange and disconcerting whenever he says it, especially during an interaction with his Stepford-esque fiancee, Jemma, over that giant rock on her ring finger.
"Honey, you've earned it," says Malvo. "It's like my mum always said, 'Boys, if you like the milk, buy the freaking cow.'"
"Oh, that's so sweet," Jemma coos. "Well, I am gonna stick my whole thumb up your ass later."
"Aces." Malvo responds with a smirk and a finger gun. Wait, what just happened? Well, for one, Malvo keeps solidifying himself as the creepiest dude, and he just inadvertently foreshadowed exactly what he's going to do to Jemma in just a few days in Vegas.
See, Malvo's co-worker Burtie-Burt finally reveals to him at a super-grown-up house party that Burt's brother is in the Witness Protection Program, and well, gee, Malvo's been such a breath of fresh air in his life, wouldn't he like to come along for a surreptitious meet-and-greet with that brother in Vegas? You can practically see Malvo licking his chops at how well his plan is working out. He's about to collect big on a $100,000 bounty as the resident Boba Fett of the Fargo world.
But then Lester steps into the picture. For whatever reason, Lester spots Malvo, and decides that it would be a great idea to go over to the hitman and say his how-do-you-dos as he's yukking it up with Jemma, Burt, and Burt's wife while planning the super-secret meeting with Burt's brother.
Malvo refuses to recognize Lester, but that ol' so-and-so from Bemidji won't give up short of saying, "Hey, remember we met in the emergency room and you murdered a bully for me, and then you murdered the Sheriff in my living room, and then you murdered a whole bunch'a other folks, too?" Malvo's group decides to call it a night on account of Lester's social faux pas. Only once they reach the elevator, Lester pops his hand (remember when buckshot was festering like crazy in his hand last year?) in the door and invites himself in.
"Is this what you want?" Malvo drops the dentist act in front of his friends and gives Lester an ice cold ultimatum. "Yes. Or no?"
Bang. Bang. Bang. Malvo doesn't even take his eyes off of Lester as he puts bullets clean through the heads of his group, complaining about how many "sewer mouths" he had to wade through to try to weasel his way into the bounty. "That's on you," Malvo says calmly to Lester, referring to the bloody mess of bodies sprawled on the elevator floor.
Whoops, Lester. You chose the wrong night for a little reunion of sorts. And really, why was Lester so adamant about making Malvo recognize him? Sure, Lester wants to prove he's more than the bumbling, hen-pecked husband he used to be -- he's a hotshot with an award in Vegas, baby! But seriously, Lester knows that Malvo's a sinister dude -- why not let that sleeping wolf lie so he can catch his prey?
It turns out that Lester didn't really change as much as he thought, because when the elevator doors open in the basement of the hotel, he clocks Malvo over the head with that crystal award and bolts down the hall. Malvo, stupefied for only a second, stands up and calls after Lester (reminiscent of that first scene between Landa and Shoshanna in Inglourious Basterds, no?). Blood splatters illuminated behind Malvo's silhouette make him look like the angel of death, which is apt imagery considering what just happened.
Lester's not ready for this nonsense to start up again, so he wakes up Linda, and ushers her out of the hotel, peeking over his shoulder and behind doors all the way back to Minnesota. Linda's worried, but not worried enough. She defers to Lester and lets him explain his way out of just about everything. It also helps that he just offered to take her to Acapulco to drink rum out of a coconut. When in doubt, Lester always flees.
Meanwhile, at the diner, Lou, Molly, Gus, and Greta are one big happy family, talking about Lou's old paramour (the mail lady!) over waffles and laughs. "You're the granddaughter I always wanted but was afraid to buy online," Lou tells Greta when she asks him to go fishing with her as she's heading out the door. Awww, but also, awkward?
Molly gets a call forwarded from the station, since Sheriff Bill is down in St. Paul for a conference, there's an incident from Las Vegas that needs her attention right away. Three bodies. An elevator. And a witness from Bemidji. Much like Malvo's reaction when he heard about Burt's brother, Molly's face reveals the ignition of old grudges and injustices from the past year when she hears Lester's name.
She zips over to the Nygaards' swanky new home (good choice getting outta that murder den, Lester), where they're getting ready to jet south of the border on the down low. Only, Linda doesn't seem to know when to speak and when to keep her mouth shut when Molly's questioning Lester. About halfway through the reluctant conversation, Linda wises up and covers for Lester about why they left Vegas in such a rush: She was homesick. Not a great excuse, but for a woman who constantly looks like she caught between headlights, it's not too shabby. Molly warns the couple to not leave town for a little while, and Lester obliges (just kidding, if we could see his hand, his fingers would've probably been crossed).
The thing is, Lester and Linda need to escape -- like, yesterday -- because Malvo's back in town.
Malvo first stop is Lester's old house, where he seeks out Lester's new address, finds out the guy's got his own insurance company ("Over on 3rd!"), and he scares the bejeezus out of the kids living in the murder den by telling them it's haunted now. Typical Malvo, getting his kicks wherever he can.
Malvo's next stop in the "tight knit community" (his words) is Lou's, because you know we've all been waiting for a showdown between Billy Bob Thornton and Keith Carradine. And boy did we get a good'un.
When Malvo asks Lou about where to find Lester, Lou doesn't give him any information, and instead seems way more rational than Malvo, seeing if he called Lester first, or if he wants Lou to pass along a message for Lester. Malvo squirrels his way out of the questioning, saying that he wants to surprise Lester. Meanwhile, Lou's mental cop radar is going off because there are about a million weird things happening during this conversation.
"They look happy," Malvo says of Molly and Gus's wedding picture placed proudly atop Lou's shelf. "Of course, no one hangs the sad pictures, am I right?"
Malvo and Lou get into a silent staring contest, and we honestly half expected one of them was going to pull out a gun and that would be that. But it doesn't happen that way. They stare at each other for a couple seconds in silence, and it feels like an eternity until Lou breaks the science with the story of the '79 Sioux Falls incident where there were so many bodies you could stack 'em all the way to the second floor. He asks Malvo if he's ever been to Sioux Falls.
Malvo deflects and decides to go on his way, saying: "I haven't had pie like that since the Garden of Eden." Subtle.
As if the stakes during the Lou versus Malvo scene weren't already high enough, they're brought to a fever pitch as Molly makes her way back to the diner to meet up with the file-bound FBI guys from Fargo. After laying around the filing office (literally), Budge and Pepper heard someone from Bemidji had been calling about the Fargo syndicate massacre, and decided to make their way over the border. (This is the most excited we've ever heard someone ask "Where's Bemidji?!")
During Lou and Malvo's battle of wills, the camera cuts to Molly multiple times. Will she get there before Malvo leaves? Will he recognize her? We realize there won't be a showdown since Molly enters through the back door while Malvo leaves through the front (and about five seconds later, Budge and Pepper show up). Talk about timing.
Budge and Pepper are thrilled to hear about Molly's sleuthing, and the trio goes to the station to check out her research. Speaking of timing, Bill returns from St. Paul and just about screams at Molly for bugging the nice G-men with her crazy yarn-covered board of links between all the suspects she's run into in the Malvo-Nygaard case from the past year. Only the FBI guys totally shut Bill down, wanting to hear more from Molly the next day. Budge, Pepper, and Molly go to arrange for a motel (will they be staying at the same motel as Malvo?) and talk shop.
It's nightfall now, and Lester decides it's time to get the hell outta dodge. He gets ready for a potential battle with Malvo (by digging into Chazz's old hunting stuff -- a gift from his sister-in-law -- and getting, yes, a gun) and prints off boarding passes for a trip to Acapulco for him and Linda.
They have to stop by the insurance office to pick up their passports and extra cash, which begs the question(s): Why don't they keep their passports at home, and should Lester really be taking petty cash from his office? No matter, he's suited up in that ol' orange jacket and driving to the office while Linda tells Lester he's her knight in shining armor after years of playing Cinderella at her parents' motel. Oh, you poor thing, Linda.
Once they're at the office, Lester gets Linda to go do his dirty work for him, since he "tweaked his back" while putting the suitcases in the car.
"Oh, put your hood up," says Lester. "I'd hate for your pretty face to freeze." And those are the last words Linda ever hears. Thirty seconds later, Malvo shoots her in the back of the head in the office, thinking she's actually Lester.
Malvo stalks off into the night, and Lester watches him from the car after having just dodged another (literal) bullet.
Random notebook dump:
The episode name comes from the old brain teaser about a man with a boat who needs to get a fox, a rabbit, and a cabbage across a river. He can only take one item with him each way, and he let the fox eat the rabbit or the rabbit eat the cabbage while he's ferrying stuff around. Budge and Pepper work through the puzzle in their own way and come to the best answer possible: a turducken. (Let the rabbit eat the cabbage and the fox eat the rabbit, and they can all go over together!) This is not the answer. But to quote Pepper, "It's an answer."
"I think I'd look cool with a limp." -- The dumbest thing that Greta has ever said, especially as her new granddad limps around the diner.
Did you guys catch that nod to The Shining at the beginning? A steady cam roamed down the Vegas strip into the ominous-looking hotel hallway, all the way to the soon-to-be-blood-covered elevator, and we half expected to see some bloody twins.
"I used to sit at my desk and dream about you leaving your wife, or somehow gettin' her outta the picture." -- Linda waxes poetic about Lester, and then talks about the one time she had to clean up a massive poo on a mattress at her parents' motel.
Important takeaways from the episode:
Lester instigated three murders in Vegas by provoking Malvo.
Molly's finally being vindicated for her work on the Nygaard case by the FBI guys.
Linda died a very quick death after a very shitty betrayal.
Malvo's still on the loose.