Fargo recap: You betcha it's a game changer

Episode eight: "The Heap" [Warning: Spoilers for FX's Fargo series]

The latest episode of Fargo began inauspiciously, just where things left off... and then something happened. Instead of staying the course, at the 30-minute mark during "The Heap," boy did things change.

Readers beware, there be major spoilers here. (Right after the jump, that is.)

See also: Fargo recap, episode seven: Oh hey, Key and Peele

Okay, let's just save ourselves some time and get right to it. Holy. Crap.

Molly is pregnant? And in uniform? Hello, paging Frances McDormand, Marge Gunderson's costume has been reported missing. And yet -- yet -- Allison Tolman manages to soldier through on her own terms even with this major nod to the '96 Fargo. She's still on the hunt for Malvo, and by golly, we hope she picks up that trail right to... Vegas?

Speaking of Vegas: Lester is picking up fiiiiine young things in a hotel bar when he's got a really nice, dedicated lady waiting for him up in his room. Oh yeah, he's married to his coworker Linda now. (Remember when she sent that soup along when his other wife died? That was nice, wasn't it?)

Also, hello, Malvo has turned into a silver fox now?

Seriously, what happened? In just one year, all the characters have reinvented themselves and become whatever they've been striving for this whole time. While at first it seems far-fetched, we couldn't peel our eyes away from the screen. Noah Hawley has propelled Fargo's characters in time (last time he did so was into Stavros Milos's past), and frankly we're glad to be a little further removed from those few weeks of straight up northern Minnesota massacres.

Finally, for the love of the police force , Gus has become a mailman. (Probably as a result of the inquest about Molly's bullet injury.) And it seems like he's a really great postal worker, except for the fact that he forgets to pick up the ever-important red sauce for dinner on his way home. We'll forgive him for that, because he's mostly just got his teenage daughter and his very, very pregnant lady on his mind, and their food requests are maybe a little too much for the now-gleeful Gus to handle. (Deliverin' all that mail! Takes the brain power outta ya, don't 'cha know?)

Meanwhile, Lester has somehow won Insurance Salesman of the Year at a ceremony in Vegas. (Because the insurance awards dudes are paying close attention to Bo Munk's insurance outlet in Bemidji?) Nevermind that, Lester's now hitched to that nice lady from the office who was always on his side. Seriously, I don't know what it is, but Lester's living the dream right now. Or at least, his dream. We're still waiting for it to turn into a nightmare, and it seems like it might after he spots a ghost from his former life in the hotel bar after he wins an award.

Only it's not a ghost. It's Lorne Malvo, yukking it up with a table of so-and-so's that Lester just happens to catch out of the corner of his eye. We don't see Malvo take direct notice of Lester, but we have the feeling he might be gunning for something from the super successful insurance guy sometime soon. Oddly enough, we barely see Malvo, and we're looking forward to finding out how he got all the way to Sin City.

But let's rewind a little bit, because these are just the things that were so artfully revealed after the clock struck the half hour. You might be asking yourself, "Now that we're so far into the future, does anything that happened before that even matter?" Of course it does.

The episode starts out like a paid advertisement for a washing machine manufacturer (or a PBS special about how stuff gets made) precisely because, well, they're making washers in a factory. One of them gets shipped to Lester, who has decided to go whole-hog and revamp his entire house according to his own newly bachelorized perspective. He revels in the new washing machine, barely listening to the delivery man as he tells Lester that the old version in the basement was a total lemon.

The camera spins round and round Lester's face as he sits on the basement floor, presumably right on top of (or very near) the spot where he clubbed his wife to death. He listens to the washer, which is basically silent compared to his old one, and it's a twisted nod to his hen-pecked life when Pearl was still around. Things were loud and messy and naggy, and damn if Lester just needed a new model... of everything. Including his new lover (and eventual wife) Linda. He gets rid of every little knick-knack in the house that reminds him of Pearl, from those damn motivational signs to her super-new, super-nice-looking sewing machine. Gone, trashed, whatever. Just like everything else Lester doesn't want anymore (see: Lester's wife, brother, nephew, sister-in-law, etc., etc., etc.).

Lester didn't need to win over Linda -- she was already pretty into him (and potentially the other office workers as well) long before -- but he got the perfect opportunity when the fabulously fur-clad Gina Hess and her dim-witted boys stormed into Bo Munk's Insurance. Gina was finally privy to the fact that she wasn't actually going to get any insurance money from her dead husband's policy (he stopped making payments long before his unexpected death atop a stripper). It wasn't lost on her alcohol-addled minded that this became apparent only after she'd let Lester into her inner circle, if you know what we mean. At that point, she tried to sic her wolves boys on Lester much like her husband used to bully that little weasel, but Lester had the office man's best weapon (besides a paper-cutter that is, since those are basically mini-guillotines): a stapler. BAM. BAM. Both Hess boys, Mickey and Moe, get slammed with staples on their foreheads right before Gina ushers them outta the shop. Linda's impressed at Lester's feat of "heroism," and she's not playing hard-to-get now.

Game, set, match, Lester. Right? At least he thinks so while carrying his insurance award around the hotel like it's some sort of magnetizing, chick-magnet, Academy Award type thing. (Word to the wise, you look desperate, honey.)

Fortunately for Lester, there's a pretty young woman in a little black dress that's more than happy to make eyes at him while he sips his Blood and Sand cocktail. Unfortunately for Lester, the aforementioned, gray-haired Malvo is right behind him, and perhaps a couple steps ahead of the insurance salesman, framer, and murderer from ol' Bemidji.

Random notebook dump:

Sheriff Bill and his wife have themselves a miracle adoptee from Sudan. Bill has his foster son Tahir retell his story to Molly of coming to America, going through a lot of terrible stuff, and having to live off of pilfering from Milos's store for three months before Bill suddenly found him. Miracles, ya! Note: Bill actually seems really overjoyed here, and we are, too.

Kitty Nygaard, Lester's sister-in-law, reveals early on that both her son Gordo and her husband Chazz are in the corrections system. She says Chazz is "up in Faribault" (wrong because wouldn't you say "down" since Faribault is south?) and poor Gordo is in Red Wing trying to finagle just doing time-served and probation for that gun stunt. Kitty was also Miss Hubbard County ("You don't cheat on Miss Hubbard County!"), and she alllllmost comes onto Lester.

Molly and widow Thurman talk at a little shindig at Lou's. Molly vows (yet again) not to give up on the case while still trying to obey Sheriff Bill.

Fumbling FBI guys Budge and Pepper are on indefinite filing duty after the Fargo killing spree debacle. They're armed with only Budge's wit, a grainy ATM photo of Malvo from the crime scene (seriously, did Malvo watch that video from The Ring? Why can no one get a decent photo?), and a tennis ball which, when bounced against an office wall after a whole year, re-reveals that ATM photo and reignites their curiosity in the case.

Malvo also made a deal with Wrench after killing the latter's police escort while he went to take a leak. If Wrench is still sore about Numbers, he can come find Malvo. Otherwise, here's the key to those pesky, pesky handcuffs. Enjoy your freedom and fly, little bird. Don't forget your Davy Crockett jacket.

Important takeaways from the episode:

We skipped ahead a WHOLE YEAR.

Lester is alive, married, and suddenly afraid for the cushy lifestyle he's gotten accustomed to over the past year. (Also, he milked the misfortunes of his own family during his award acceptance speech -- all woes that he caused. Dude is stone cold.)

Molly and Gus are alive, living happily with Greta (she even calls Molly "mom"), expecting another very little one on the way, and livin' the Minnesotan family dream. (For how long, though?)

Malvo's alive and the life of the party. We think he could be a good addition to Danny Ocean's gang (it's been a while since there was a sequel, right?). They could definitely use a Malvo.

Key and Peele are alive and have survived shitty filing duty for a year! (Let's see more of them in these next coupl'a eps, okay?)

Also, Gina's alive! And so are the Hess boys! Rejoice, for we got to see Kate Walsh chew the scenery swathed in fur.

Basically no major characters died during this episode (we're not counting Wrench's small-bladdered police escort), and things are ramping up as we head into the last two episodes of the season. We're stoked.