A Look at Fargo- Season 1, Episode 4: “Eating the Blame”

In which we see the characters defined as predators or prey, “Eating the Blame” asserts that people don’t evolve- they just adapt to the situation around them based on their needs.  The mantra of kill or be killed is evident as some fight to survive, while others struggle to grasp with the fact that they’ve been beaten.

Eating the Blame- Young Helena and Stavros Milos

The episode begins with a young Stavros Milos, played by Carlos Diaz, and a young Helena, played by Eve Marlow played by driving along the snowy Minnesota road.  Things are not well for the Milos clan.  They have outstanding debts and a baby that needs food.  Their situation goes from bad to worse when the car comes to a halt.  Stavros tries to flag down an incoming truck, but it passes.

Eating the Blame- Young Stavros Milos finds Carl's briefcase of money

Something calls Stavros to a nearby fence.  He heads to it and digs through the snow with a nearby red scraper to find a very familiar looking black briefcase filled with money.  With no one around, Milos heads back to the car and tells his wife that God is real.

Eating the Blame- Don Chumph after looking through Stavros Milos' pipes

We cut to present day Stavros Milos watching Don Chumph go through the building’s pipes to find out what led to the blood bath from the end of last week’s episode.  Chumph finds no evidence of wildlife in the pipes- it’s all clean.  As Chumph heads out, he asks Milos if he ever read the Bible because the blood made him think Milos.  Milos takes offense to this and seizes Chumph by the neck, but he eventually lets him go.  Chumph leaves, but as he heads back to his truck, he spots a figure watching him in the distance.

Eating the Blame- Officer Gus Grimly arrests Lorne Malvo

Officer Gus Grimly receives a call from dispatch about a murdered canine report.  While approaching the scene, he passes a familiar face and stops when he recognizes it as the man who he pulled over, but let escape.  He pulls over and takes part in what has to be one of the most awkward arrests I’ve ever watched.  First, he sort of demands that Lorne Malvo freeze, though Malvo begins making a phone call.  Grimly draws his gun and approaches Malvo.  It’s as if Grimly has never arrested anyone before.  I mean, what the heck?

Anyway, Grimly doesn’t tell Malvo what he’s charged with, but leaves that for the station.  Malvo repeatedly tells Grimly that he’s making a mistake, though also warns Grimly that he will be saying the exact same thing in a few hours.

Eating the Blame- Deputy Solverson looks through file on Lester Nygaard

Deputy Solverson looks through some files before random pictures of Asian women pop up on her computer.  Virus, maybe?  She closes them out, but then receives an email with details about a phone dump of Lester’s phone.  She receives a call from Grimly, who lets her know that his station has Malvo in holding.

Bill, meanwhile, informs the squad about an incoming storm and the opportunity for officers to make extra money with a few more assignments.  Molly comes in and tells Bill that the Duluth Police Department has the man from the surveillance photo.  Bill questions why Molly was contacted, since she’s not on the case anymore, but she explains her run-in with Grimly without giving away specific details that led to the encounter.  Either way, Bill insists that he go instead.  After all, he’s the officer in charge.

Eating the Blame- Lester picks at his injured hand

Lester and Chaz return to Lester’s home and still find the blood stain in the carpet.    Lester heads upstairs to grab a bag, but not before a burning sensation erupts from his still injured hand.  In fact, it feels as if the pain has gotten worse.  The phone rings: it’s Mr. Numbers.  He asks Lester if it was worth it, it being Gina Hess.  Was it worth his life?  He’ll find out.

Eating the Blame- Mr. Numbers and Mr. Wrench bicker over how to deal with Lester

Meanwhile, at Lou’s Coffee Shop, Mr. Numbers and Mr. Wrench bicker.  Hey, at least they’re given subtitles this time around.  Wrench asks Numbers about Lester’s response: he didn’t outright say that he killed Sam Hess.  Regardless, Numbers still wants to have Lester killed.  Wrench prefers that Lester say that he did it.

At the Duluth Police Department, Lorne gets two minutes for a phone call, which he uses to call Don Chumph.

Eating the Blame- Lorne Malvo tricks Bill and Duluth's police lieutenant

When this is all settled, the Duluth lieutenant brings Bill to talk with Gus, who again admits that he did not know that the car Malvo drove was stolen.  The prints had been wiped clean.  He still has proof that Malvo is the same man based on the Deputy Solverson’s evidence.  How he saw that without Bill knowing creates another dilemma.  Also, Gus’ dash cam was not working, so he has no video evidence of the night he first met Malvo.  Also, in Bill’s mind, the surveillance photo is too grainy and could be anyone, so whether Malvo is truly their guy is up in the air.

Bill and the lieutenant question Malvo, who plays the innocent act of being Minister Frank Peterson.  Even puts on a Minnesota accent.  He says he was at home when Officer Grimly pulled a gun on him.  Also, he didn’t know that he was pulled over speeding.

Eating the Blame- Deputy Solverson interviews hotel manager and son from the pilot

Back in Fargo, Deputy Solverson interviews the hotel manager and her son about Lorne Malvo.  The manager knew from the start that something was odd about Malvo the second he started asking about pets.  Just in case, she makes everyone write their name down in the ledger.

Grimly again calls Solverson to let him know that Malvo is being questioned right now.  The only reason he’s not there is because he does animal control.  She brings up the name Lorne Malvo, which contradicts Frank Peterson, but Grimly doesn’t get a chance to reveal this new information.  The lieutenant and Bill release Malvo and apologize for a huge misunderstanding.  The lieutenant then turns his attention on Grimly and tells him that Malvo’s story checks out.  Grimly is assigned desk duty for three weeks.  As Malvo walks out, Grimly realizes the ironic echo in Malvo’s foreshadowing when he tells the lieutenant that he’s making a mistake.

Eating the Blame- Grimly confronts Malvo

As Malvo leaves, Grimly follows him into a hallway and asks how he can just lie like that.  Malvo responds with a riddle: how come the human eye sees shades of green than any other color?

Lester leaves work and receives a phone call from a man telling him that his car still isn’t ready.  Perhaps Lester should pay more attention, because he’s soon abducted by Mr. Numbers and Mr. Wrench.

From the trunk of his abductor’s car, Lester calls Chaz and tells him that he’s been kidnapped, but he advises against calling the police to report a kidnapping.  But wait, Lester still has the taser he pocketed last week.

Eating the Blame- Mr. Numbers demands that Lester confess that he killed Sam Hess

Numbers and Wrench pull Lester from the car and onto a frozen lake.  Wrench gets to drilling a hole while Numbers demands that Lester admit that he killed Sam Hess.  He refuses, but does manage to tase Numbers and make his getaway while Wrench, none the wiser, continues to drill.

Lester returns to civilization and conveniently finds a police officer.  He asks the officer for a ride, but the officer tells him that he’s not a taxi service.  Lester resorts to the one tactic that he knows will work: violence to get himself arrested.  He sucker punches the cop, but it looks like it hurt Lester more than the cop.  Nonetheless, he’s now forced to arrest Lester.

Eating the Blame- Stavros Milos receives a phone call after seeing that his supermarket is overrun with crickets

Stavros is still on edge.  He continues to talk about be or be killed to his son when crickets pop up all around them.  First it’s one, then three, then five, then pandemonium strikes as they realize that the entire Phoenix Farms Shopping Mart is crawling with crickets.  As Stavros rushes out, he receives a phone call demanding one million in unmarked bills.  God is watching.

An unsuccessful Numbers and Wrench drink at a bar, Numbers more so than Wrench.  The two bicker again before they erupt in a full blown bar fight.

Eating the Blame- Grimly and Molly meet at Lou's Coffee Shop

At Lou’s Coffee Shop, Grimly finally arrives for his meeting with Solverson.  They talk about their day before Grimly repeats Malvo’s remark about the human eye seeing shades of green.  The reason?  Humans are predators.  What’s next for the two, however?  In a word: Lester.

Eating the Blame- Lester alone in jail cell

Lester, however, is probably happier than he’s ever been all day.  He’s in a cell, by himself, and will be well guarded.  Sure, the accommodations could be better, but at least no one’s trying to kill him.

Eating the Blame- Mr. Numbers and Mr. Wrench end up in same jail cell as Lester

Oh, never mind.

Through Malvo’s riddle about why the human sees shades of green and Solverson’s telling Grimly that it’s because we’re predators, this episode dealt with human nature and how we react when backed into a corner.  Malvo, who exists as this almost untouchable entity, has been able to talk and kill his way out of any situation without a moment’s hesitation.  He knows perfectly well what he’s capable of, whereas someone like Lester is still coming to terms with the fact that the world he lives in isn’t as glamorous as he had believed.

Fargo film- Carl buries money

Before moving onto characters, I want to address the opening scene with a young Stavros Milos finding a briefcase buried in the snow.  I didn’t realize this at first, but the briefcase Milos found is the same one that Steve Buscemi’s character, Carl Showalter, buried in the original film.  I love this connection and enjoy it even more so because the show doesn’t throw it in your face.  Sure, diehard fans will pick up on it at first, but it’s underplayed and feels more like an explanation for how Milos became the man that he is today.  This connection inevitably means that Jerry Lundegaard and Marge Gunderson also exist in this universe, but chances are that Jerry is in prison and Marge may not be an officer anymore.

Onto the episode itself, it focused on the repercussions of our actions.  We can’t escape our past demons.  In fact, they never really left us.  Just when we think we’re in the clear, some entity, whether physical or spiritual, reminds us that we cannot escape our fate.  No one can.

Eating the Blame- Grimly tells the lieutenant that he's making a mistake

Gus Grimly is one of the good people, no doubt, but like Lester, he doesn’t fully understand what he’s up against when it comes to Malvo.  The scene where he arrests Malvo is a good example of this.  During their first encounter, Malvo told Grimly that, if he walked away, he could go home alive to his daughter.  Not exactly the most veiled threat to a police officer, but still, Malvo took control of the situation away from someone who is in a position of authority.

Grimly wants to do the right thing, but when it comes to Malvo, he’s unsure what the right thing is.  Should he just let Malvo go and escape scrutiny from his boss, or should he throw caution to the wind and arrest Malvo, damn the consequences?  For Grimly, there’s no clear answer because doing what he feels the right thing only put him on troubled water with his superiors.  Sure, both the lieutenant and Bill are naïve about Malvo and should actively pursue him, but that speaks more to Malvo’s ability to manipulate his way out of any troubled situation.

Eating the Blame- Malvo questions Grimly about the human eye

And this is what’s allowed him to torment Stavros Milos.  I enjoyed the biblical allusions right down to the plague of crickets scattered throughout the supermarket.  When it comes to predators and prey, Malvo never considers himself prey.  He stalks his victims and remains one step ahead of them because he has a firmer grasp of human nature.  And if he’s good at anticipating the human mind, it leaves nothing to chance.

He embodies Milos’ “Kill or be kill” mantra because he will kill any way he needs to if he’s to survive.  In the case of his arrest, however, like a chameleon, he changes his appearance to avoid detection.  Thinking steps ahead is part of Malvo’s strategy.  I have no idea how far in advance he had to come up with the minister identity and the cover story that checked out and assured his release, but it was a clever ploy on his part.  Even if Don Chumph hadn’t come through, he already had a way out.  But given how calculating Malvo is, I’m surprised that he’d write his actual name down on the hotel ledger.  He probably didn’t expect anything to be done with it, but we’ll see if that comes back to bite him.

Eating the Blame- Lester in jail

Lester, however, has almost no way out of anything because he doesn’t speak for or defend himself.  Most of the time.  Unlike Malvo, who confronts a situation head on, Lester has to wait until he’s backed into a corner to strike back.  I liked the payoff to Lester pocketing Chaz’s taser last week because of how handy it was to saving Lester’s life.  It’s a small example of his assertion.  Had Lester been more assertive before he even met Lorne Malvo, he probably wouldn’t be in the situation he’s in right now, having to contend with Mr. Numbers and Mr. Wrench.

For Lester, it’s not about kill or be killed, but get out by any means.  His motivation is desperation.  He let himself get bullied by Sam Hess, he let himself get seduced by Malvo’s rhetoric and now he let himself get arrested in hopes of escaping his captors, only to wind up right back where he started when Mr. Numbers and Mr. Wrench end up in the exact same cell as him.

Eating the Blame- Solverson tells Bill that the Duluth Police Department has Lorne Malvo in holding

As for Solverson, she’s got her eyes set on Lester.  Like Malvo, she’s a predator out for her prey.  Granted, she has to keep one eye on her superiors, as Bill learned this week that she’d been in contact with the Duluth Police Department without his notice.  Like Grimly, Solverson is one of the good cops and has a firmer grasp of control than Gus.  She knows what she wants and how to get it, but other forces, like Bill, get in her way.  That’s not on purpose, but it’s indicative of her inability to be even more assertive than she already is.  Hopefully, now that she’s got her eyes set on her prey, we’ll see more of that assertion.

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