A Look at Fargo- Season 1, Episode 6: “Buridan’s Ass”

The phrase “winter is coming” seems almost too easy to describe the oncoming danger that took place during this week’s episode, entitled “Buridan’s Ass.”  But we do get some good action moments and twists that make for a very interesting episode and character moments.

Buridan's Ass- Mob that hired Mr. Numbers and Mr. Wrench discusses Sam Hess' death

The episode begins in a restaurant, where a group of fancy elite types discuss every topic under the sun until one mentions Sam Hess.  A man next to him brings up Mr. Numbers and Mr. Wrench, who were assigned to get Hess’ killer, but he discusses possible motives: extramarital affair?  Whatever reason, they’re not interested in who is responsible so much as that they’re killed.

Buridan's Ass- Lorne Malvo and Don Chumph discuss Stavros Milos' and the ransom money

Don Chumph awakens to the sound of a drill before light enters the pantry.  Malvo has come to set him loose, though Chumph believes that trust has been broken.  He’s had time to think about how to divide the money and wants a 60-40 split in his favor, but Malvo pays him no mind until he hands Chumph a ransom note and the voice scrambler he needs to call Stavros Milos.

Milos receives the call and the mystery caller tells a tale about a boy who hungered for so much while others had what he would give to have even a scrap of.  Milos must meet at the parking garage at high noon.  With his job done, Chumph goes to grab the nearby duffel bag when Malvo knocks him out.

Buridan's Ass- Gus and Molly discuss Ziskind's encounter with Malvo

While heading to meet with Gus Grimly, Molly overhears on the radio that the incoming blizzard may be one of the worst in Minnesota history.  How foreboding, right?  When she arrives, Greta is not there- she’s at a friend’s place, as Gus figured that would be safer.  Gus shares details about Ziskind’s encounter with Malvo.

Gus didn’t call it in because he’s not exactly seen as the most trustworthy source after the department believes he arrested the wrong man.  However, Ziskind did get a view of the license plate on Malvo’s SUV, which, as it turns out, is linked to Phoenix Farms.

Buridan's Ass- Chaz talks with Lester about the murders

At the hospital, Lester is all ready to go, but the orderly lets him know that only the police officer sitting outside his room can give him permission to leave.  Why’s he there?  It’s not for the orderly to say.  When the orderly leaves, Lester tries to escape through the window, but to no avail.

When he heads back into bed, he gets an unexpected visit from Chaz, who demands to know what the hell is going on.  Lester tries to talk his way through the situation, but Chaz isn’t buying it and knows that Lester is lying.  He even brings up the kidnapping phone call as evidence that something is off about Lester’s behavior.

More than usual, I mean.  Lester tries to appeal to his brother and is adamant that he’s innocent.  Chaz shoots down his appeal and lays into him: if Lester walks to walk away a free man, someone has to be given up.  Lester’s been a burden on Chaz’s life for years.  Despite bringing Lester into his home after such a traumatic episode, Chaz still feels that Lester isn’t right in this world.

After Chaz leaves, Lester contemplates his situation and makes his move: his bandaged roommate who can only speak in muffles becomes the foil for his plan.  Lester switches beds with the roommate, who is slated for an operation, and wraps his own face in gauze.  When the orderly returns, Lester is wheeled out.

Once the coast is clear, Lester gets dressed and heads for the staff locker room.  He retrieves his car keys and heads to his car.  After entering, he lets out a sigh of relief, glad that he’s finally out.

Buridan's Ass- Stavros Milos leaves the parking garage

Milos heads to the meeting point at the parking garage, but has a sudden change of heart.  He also decides he’s not going to pay the fee that he needs to for even entering the garage, but he’s on a mission from God and demands the man in the toll both open the gate.  His Lord demands it!

Buridan's Ass- Gus and Molly at Phoenix Farms Shopping Mart

Gus and Molly, meanwhile, discuss Lester’s shotgun pellet wound before heading to the Phoenix Farms Shopping Mart.  The clerks are…not very helpful at all.  One calls for a manager, and after a long enough wait, Gus and Molly leave.  Well, that accomplished nothing.

Gus tries to keep up his optimism when he tells Molly that people should and know better than they are instead of being liars and two faced.  However, Molly’s certain that it’s hard to live in this world if you believe that.

Buridan's Ass- Don Chumph tries to shoot Lorne Malvo

Don Chumph awakens to find himself bound and gagged with his hands taped to a gun.  Malvo wasn’t a fan of the 60-40 deal and has two things to say:  Chumph is bound in the event that Milos calls the cops, they’ll already be too busy.  The second:  Turkish Delight is disgusting.  Chumph, with every fiber of his being, pulls the trigger!

Of course, the gun doesn’t fire, but Malvo would be insulted if Chumph didn’t at least try.  Malvo sets up with a sniper rifle and begins taking random shots outside.  The police are alerted, as Malvo learns through the police scanner, so he leaves.

Buridan's Ass- Lester retries gun from behind poster

Lester heads back home and heads to the basement.  Noticing that the washer has been moved, he pulls back the poster and sticks his hand through a hole in the wall.  To his relief, the hammer is still there.  He grabs it, along with some photos of Pearl and a pair of her panties before leaving.

Buridan's Ass- Lester setting up Chaz

He heads to Chaz’s place and opens the cabinet containing his gun collection.  He then pulls back a compartment and plants the hammer, photos and panties in the collection.  After a brief detour upstairs, Lester’s chance to escape is interrupted by the return of Kitty and her son, Gordo, played by Spencer Drever.

Kitty leaves, but Gordo turns around and spots Lester just as he’s about to leave.  The two exchange no words whatsoever and Lester is allowed to leave.

Buridan's Ass- Gus and Molly talk about Hoffstead and jobs

Gus tells Molly the story about Jeremy Hoffstead, which prompts Molly to ask why he didn’t just go work for a charity.  Good question.  They soon talk jobs, or how they landed up in them.  Gus’ dream is to work for the post office.  You know, see the same people every day and be a part of the community.

Turns out that Gus never even wanted to be a cop.  In fact, when younger, he tried applying for the post office, but it was on a hiring freeze.  At the advice of a friend, he signed up for the local police department.  Only reason he tried at all was because Greta’s mother, who brought home the paychecks, died, so someone had to bring in the money.

Their talk is interrupted by the sound of speeding cruisers that pass them by.

Buridan's Ass- Officers preparing to advance on home

As the storm intensifies, officers fire into the home where an unsuspecting Don Chumph still sits.  When the officers advance, one hits a tripwire.  Gunfire emerges from the home, causing the officer to fire in retaliation.

They come closer and toss in a flash grenade.  When it detonates, the officers enter and just find a man waiting with a gun.  Obvious threat.

Buridan's Ass- Don Chumph shot to death

And that was the story of Don Chumph.

Buridan's Ass- Mr. Numbers and Mr. Wrench ambush Lorne Malvo

As Malvo makes his getaway in a new vehicle, surprise surprise, he’s ambushed by Mr. Numbers and Mr. Wrench.  Another shootout, this one alerting the attention of Gus and Molly, ensues, but because of the thick snow making it hard to see, Malvo is able to escape.

Buridan's Ass- Malvo about to kill Mr. Numbers

In a clever move that I can’t help but admire, Malvo cuts the top of his wrist to create a bloody trail that leads to a nearby door.  When Mr. Numbers approaches, Malvo surprises him from behind.  By getting the jump on him, Malvo ends Mr. Numbers’ life by slitting his throat.  With one threat out of his way, he takes Numbers’ gun and heads deeper into the storm.

Buridan's Ass- Grimly finds Molly's body in the snow

Not too far behind, Gus and Molly find the body.  As Molly heads further into the snow, shots ring out.  Gus, unable to make out what has happened, fires his gun.  As he approaches, he finds Molly face down in the snow.

Buridan's Ass- Stavros Milos returns to bury the money

The storm still raging, Stavros Milos returns to the spot where Carl originally buried the suitcase of money and reburies both it and plants the red scraper in the snow.  Feeling absolved of his wrongdoing, Milos heads back to his truck.

Buridan's Ass- Fish rain from the sky

At the same time, Wally and Dmitri drive through the snow when the unspeakable happens: fish begin to rain from the heavens.

Buridan's Ass- Stavros finds Wally's body

Later, Stavros drives along and feels some bumps along the road.  He stops the truck and finds the terrain littered with fish.  He exits his vehicle and takes a few steps forward before finding Wally’s body.

A few steps later, he finds Dmitri’s body, still inside the wrecked car.

Buridan's Ass- Lester smiles

Back at the hospital, Lester Nygaard sits back in his hospital bed and the episode draws to a close as a slow, satisfactory grin curls across his face.

That’s fine!  That was fine!  A mighty fine episode of Fargo this was, filled with both dread and tension about the fate of certain characters.  The episode wasn’t without its humor, though, and for a show that can be very morbid, the episode had time to make me laugh, whether through watching Lester trying to outfox a hospital orderly or Molly asking why Hoffstead didn’t just go work for a charity instead of killing himself.

And I still smile when Chumph tries out his Darth Vader impression on the voice scrambler, followed by Malvo swiftly smacking the scrambler away.

Buridan's Ass- Stavros mourns the loss of his son

The episode continued its use of religious imagery and symbolism when it came to mentally torturing Stavros Milos.  I honestly have no idea how Lorne Malvo orchestrated to have fish rain from the sky, if it was even part of his plan.

I assume it was only because he’s masterminded every single incident that’s sidetracked Stavros Milos’ life.  If not, it’s not impossible that a higher authority chose to rain down vengeance upon Stavros to hurt him in one of the worst ways possible.

Buridan's Ass- Stavros finds Dmitri's body still inside car

The loss of Milos’ first son, the various plagues, Stavros saying that he’s on a mission from God: Malvo has used Milos’ faith as a way to get to him.  As we see through the flashbacks Stavros has, the guilt of taking the money is eating away at him, even more so when you consider the fact that his fame and wealth have been built upon sin.

When he has a chance to repent and do the right thing, he does just that, but perhaps it wasn’t soon enough.  When he doesn’t go through with meeting at the parking garage and when he chooses to bury the money, we see shades of a man clearly bothered by his sins and this is his way of atoning for his wrongdoing.

Side-note, clever nod to the film: the parking garage itself is named Gustafson, after Wade Gustafson, the man who Carl killed in the movie.  I like that sort of nod- simple instead of overblown; something this show has managed to avoid doing when referring back to the film.

Buridan's Ass- Malvo escapes shootout, about to be ambushed

Malvo is one sly man and I can’t talk enough about Billy Bob Thornton’s performance.  He’s crafty and is a man of few words.  To borrow from Big Dan Teague on O Brother Where Art Thou, Malvo doesn’t say much, but when he does, it’s to the point.

Malvo has existed as a man who awakens desires within people, desire they otherwise never would have unearthed because they lacked the willpower and drive, as we see through Lester and Don.

For the most part, Malvo has been able to stay ahead of those tracking him because he’s able to formulate distractions that will take up their time, such as stuffing Chumph in the house while he made an almost clean getaway.

Buridan's Ass- Don Chumph about to do his Darth Vader impression

And yes, it does upset me that Chumph is gone, partially because this means that Dennis will have no plans to bring the gang up to Minnesota for a scheme.  But onto this universe, however, it’s clear that Chumph was on his way out the moment that Malvo locked him in the closet last week.

He had such a desire to pursue his Turkish bath dream, but had he not gotten wrapped up in the blackmailing and become intertwined with Malvo, he may still be alive.  Glenn Howerton played the part well, showing Chumph as a naïve man with good intentions who just happened to get wrapped up with the wrong man.  And what a bloody way to go out, too.

Buridan's Ass- Gus and Molly driving and discussing good and evil

Gus and Molly do make for a good team and complement each other well.  Gus is optimistic, while Molly is more realistic and I get the feeling that is all strictly professional without any hint of there being a romantic connection.  Gus clearly isn’t suited for the police force, as we learn that he didn’t even intend to be a part of it.

Gus wants to live a simple life, but he’s become caught up in this ongoing murder investigation, so he’ll have to put aside any fears and, as he hinted to Ziskind last week, do what he can to solve problems.

Is it possible that Gus accidentally shot Molly or was it someone else?  It’s hard to tell, given the thickness of the snow and Gus’ indecision.  Great way to keep viewers interested, as it leaves Solverson’s fate up in the air and ensures people will stick around to find out whether she lives.

Buridan's Ass- Gordo spots Lester

I think Lester is just going through the motions.  He’s clearly thought out some moves, as we see when he moved the hammer from behind the washer to behind the poster.  For a split second, he thought he’d been figured out, but he escaped justice once again.  While his plans aren’t exactly crafty or even all that clever, they do show the lengths Lester will go to save his own skin, even if it means potentially selling out his own brother.

As Chaz said, Lester isn’t right in this world.  He’s not completely wrong, and I’m sure Lester knows this.  Ever since he first met Malvo, Lester has been trying to accept the idea that the world has no rules.  This doesn’t give him free reign to do as he pleases, but if he wants to cover his tracks, as Malvo does, he could at least be smarter about it.

I did like the little grin he had at the end of the episode, as he felt satisfied that he’d evaded capture or detection.  But then, we’ll see whether Gordo will be tempted to tell anyone that he saw Lester in his house.

Side-note, I do have to question what kind of hospital procedure allows a potential suspect in an ongoing murder investigation to share the same room with someone else.  Sure, Lester has not been charged or convicted of anything at this moment, but he’s still suspected of being involved, so I would think officers would keep him isolated from anyone else.

The only other gripe I have involves the ambush on Malvo.  I have to wonder how Mr. Numbers and Mr. Wrench knew how to find Malvo, given he’d just acquired this new car.  Not to mention the huge snowstorm.  How in the world did Numbers and Wrench find Malvo in the first place?

Those are small nitpicks, but I thought I’d at least mention them.  They didn’t detract from an otherwise great episode that focused on the long term consequences of our actions.  Production and writing wise, I loved the snowstorm not just for atmosphere, but for how it varied from your typical shootout.

It reminded me a lot of The Walking Dead episode “Alone” where Bob, Sasha and Maggie deal with walkers in a thick layer of fog.  A lot was set up in this episode: Deputy Solverson’s fate, the mob at the very beginning that we learned is responsible for hiring Numbers and Wrench, how Wrench will cope without Numbers, Lester’s plan to frame Chaz, so much to guarantee interest for next week’s episode.

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2 thoughts on “A Look at Fargo- Season 1, Episode 6: “Buridan’s Ass”

  1. All I have to say is NOOOOO Not Mr. Numbers! What will Mr. Wrench do without him now.
    I cried so freaking hard.
    I loved those two chars, but I have learned a hard lesson that night, as with LOST, and Game of Thrones, and even the Hunger Games, I shouldnt get attached to anyone in this show.

    <>
    But damn it, if it Lorne Malvo, Mr. Wrench, and Lester Nygaard dont make it hard for me.

    All Emotions aside, yes, I love this series and this Episode was one of the best so far!

  2. Pingback: Fargo TV Series Buridan's Ass Recap | Film Encounters

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