A Look at Fargo- Season 1, Episode 9: “A Fox, a Rabbit, and a Cabbage”

Is it better to walk away from a potentially dangerous situation, or face it head on, even if you don’t have to?  For Lester Nygaard, the darker path is also the slimier one as he forces his way back into Lorne Malvo’s life.  “A Fox, a Rabbit, and a Cabbage” isn’t as fast paced as previous episodes have been, but that doesn’t take away from the great dialogue and very tense situations.  It’s all building up to what should be a satisfying finale.

A Fox, a Rabbit and a Cabbage- Lorne Malvo the dentist

The episode begins in a man’s mouth.  Yeah.  In Kansas City, Missouri, a man is receives dental care, courtesy of Lorne Malv-oh, I mean, Mike.  When the work is done, in pops Mike’s pal, Burt Canton, played by Stephen Root, who plans to attend a party Malvo is hosting that evening.

A Fox, a Rabbit and a Cabbage- Burt and Louise Canton

When night arrives, Burt and his wife, Louise, played by Jennifer Copping, meet Mike and his special lady, Jemma Stalone, played by Helena Mattsson.  In private, Burt asks Mike if he popped the question to Jemma, which he has.  The two are happy together.  Burt, not so much.  Ever since Louise put the ring on her finger, she won’t take Burt in her mouth.  Well, Burt, just take the ring back if you want it that bad.  The two make future plans before Malvo heads upstairs and listens to audio on a recorder of what sounds like a desperate man’s pleas.

We then jump forward to almost the exact same shot where “The Heap” ended, with Mike, Jemma, Burt and Louise sitting at a table, having a laugh.

A Fox, a Rabbit and a Cabbage- Malvo's unexpected run-in with Lester

They’re interrupted by the arrival of Lester Nygaard, a man Mike claims to have never seen or met before.  Instead of just moving on, Lester presses Mike for an answer.  As the four leave, Malvo whispers to Lester that he had best walk away.

No dice.  He follows the four into an elevator.  Damn it, Lester has worked too hard for this and won’t have it ruined!  Mike asks one simple question to Lester: is this what he wants?

A Fox, a Rabbit and a Cabbage- Malvo's elevator executions

When Lester answers yes, Malvo pulls out a gun and kills his three fellow travelers.  Malvo is not pleased.  He’s spent six months working on getting close to Burt, which meant putting his hands down many mouths.  Now Lester’s interruption has thrown him off.  There’s a $100,000 bounty down the toilet.  He now needs Lester to help him move the bodies, but Lester clocks Malvo on the head with his award and runs off.

He returns to his hotel room and wakes Linda up, telling them that it’s time to go.

A Fox, a Rabbit and a Cabbage- Agents Budge and Pepper contemplate the episode's title

In Fargo, North Dakota, Budge and Pepper wrap their heads around a challenge: a man has the episode’s title-I mean, a man has a fox, a rabbit and a cabbage.  He needs to get across a river with all three, but without losing any of them.  What does he do?  Budge thinks the man should just eat them all, but that’s not the answer Pepper was looking for.  Budge says it’s still an answer, which is true.

An agent shows up to request the syndicate massacre file.  The two agents wonder if there’s been a break, but it’s only because someone’s constantly been calling about it.

A Fox, a Rabbit and a Cabbage- Lou, Greta, Gus and Molly have breakfast

At Lou’s, Lou, Greta, Molly and Gus has breakfast.  According to Molly, Bill is heading to St. Paul for a law enforcement conference.  Her final day on the force is a month from now, but she’s about to get involved pretty soon.  Now, in fact, as Bill calls her with information about a murder.  Seriously, are there no other cops around besides Solverson?

A Fox, a Rabbit and a Cabbage- Lester makes new travel plans

Paranoid Lester drives home, believing that he and Linda are being followed, but they’re not.  He changes his plans: the two of them should go to Acapulco.  Tonight.  He’ll go to the office to pick up the passports so the two of them can run away together.  Maybe never even come back.

When the two arrive back at home, Lester is extra cautious in the event that he’s being watched.  Downstairs, Lester pulls out a gun from a box of Chaz’s hunting gear and loads the waiting firearm.  Can never be too careful.  Anyway, there’s an 11 pm flight out of Minneapolis, so the two should be on the road by six o’clock.

A Fox, a Rabbit and a Cabbage- Lester's reunion with Deputy Solverson

But before Lester can flee, he’ll first have to answer a few questions from his favorite deputy.

A Fox, a Rabbit and a Cabbage- Gus thinks he spotted Malvo

On the road, Mailman Gus Grimly is hard at work when a car passes.  He could swear that he’s seen the driver before, but goes back about his business.

A Fox, a Rabbit and a Cabbage- Malvo asks new occupants of Lester's old home about his whereabouts

Malvo arrives at Lester’s old home and asks the new occupants about Lester Nygaard’s whereabouts.  They suggest trying his job, but Malvo’s already been to Bo Munk.  It turns out that Lester now has his own business.  With his name on it and everything.  Before leaving, Malvo tells the family not only about the murders that took place in their new home, but how the previous occupant heard things in his head.  Just some advice.

A Fox, a Rabbit and a Cabbage- Molly questions Lester and Linda

Lester, again, tries to duck and dodge every question Molly throws at him about the murders in Las Vegas.  He claims that when he got off the elevator, the others on it were still alive.  Molly doesn’t give in that quickly, though.  She checked Lester’s flight and notices the sudden change in return date.  My word, woman, how were you not promoted to Chief or Detective?

A Fox, a Rabbit and a Cabbage- Lester and Linda duck and dodge Molly's questions

This is where Linda jumps in and insists that she felt homesick and wanted to return in a hurry.  For now, Molly is satisfied, but the Vegas Police Department will be sending over some photos from the hotel surveillance cameras, so Lester and Linda probably shouldn’t leave town.  There’s a hitch in the plan.

As Solverson returns to her cruiser, she gets a call on her radio about two federal agents who are looking for her.  Before leaving, she notices the not-so-subtle Lester Nygaard watching her through his blinds.

A Fox, a Rabbit and a Cabbage- Malvo chats with Lou Solverson

Back to Lou’s Coffee Shop, Malvo stops by for a slice of pie and inquires about the whereabouts of Lester Nygaard.  He’s just passing through town and wants to look up his old buddy.  He won’t be there for long, so he’d rather surprise him instead of calling him.

Malvo then notices the photo of Gus Grimly and Molly Solverson on their wedding day.  He thinks that Gus is Lou’s son, but he’s not too far off.  He then acknowledges that people only see the happy photos.  They never see the depressing ones that involve couples arguing and a child with a black eye.

Lou brings up a case he had in Sioux City in 1979- a gruesome case that involved bodies that, if stacked high enough, could reach the second floor of the building where he found them.

A Fox, a Rabbit and a Cabbage- Agents Budge and Pepper speak with Molly about the syndicate massacre

As this conversation unfolds, Molly pulls up outside.  She enters from the back door just as Malvo leaves through the front.  Budge and Pepper enter through the front door soon after, which makes me wonder how in the world did they miss Malvo again?  He was right there!  Anyway, the two agents have a personal investment in the massacre case since, you know, they were there as it all unfolded.

A Fox, a Rabbit and a Cabbage- Bob apologizes to Budge and Pepper about Molly's crime web

At the police station, Solverson shows off one of her crime webs to an impressed Budge and Pepper.  Bill pops in and, aghast at seeing Molly pursuing Lester again, apologizes to the two agents.  However, the two question how Bill wouldn’t care about the obvious connections between Lorne Malvo and Lester Nygaard.  They plan to take a run at Lester themselves.

A Fox, a Rabbit and a Cabbage- Linda talks about her time working at a hotel

Lester prints out the tickets and tells Linda that it’s time to head out.  Don’t worry about the deputy.  Lester says that he already spoke to her and all is well, so they can leave.  Very convenient.  On the car ride to Lester’s office, Linda talks of her secret crush she always had on him.  She dreamt that a man would, one day, whisk her away from all of this.  Keep dreaming, Linda.

Dread comes over Lester when he drives his office and sees a light is on.  Fearing the worst and trying to save face, Lester realizes that he hurt his back when he pulled out their luggage.  He needs Linda to be a dear and go get the passports for him.  But it’s very cold, so he offers his coat and advises her to put the hood up so she won’t catch a chill.

A Fox, a Rabbit and a Cabbage- Lester watches Linda walk to her death

As Linda takes the last walk of her life, Lester watches from a distance as a figure from inside his office rises, raises a gun and shoots Linda in the head.  Moments later, Lorne Malvo emerges from Lester’s office, lights a cigarette and walks off.  Lester Nygaard lives to see another day and adds another body to his count.

This episode brings to mind Malvo’s wise words to Gus back in the pilot about walking down two different paths: Gus could either go home to have the satisfaction of being able to see his daughter grow up, or walk down a darker path from which he might never return.  A big focal point of Fargo has been choices and the consequences of bad decision making.  It’s shown what becomes of those who allow themselves to be manipulated, as we saw through Don Chumph, in order to have some feeling of involvement.

In the case of both Chumph and Lester, it’s about being empowered after not contributing much to the world.  Both of them had a little taste of power, but what is power if it’s not used properly?  Not power at all, I say.  Fargo has embodied good versus evil, with Malvo as an always lurking threat, while characters like Gus and Molly gives us hope that good will reign.  Well, not me because I’m a sadist and would actually want to see evil reign once in a while.

But Fargo also showcased the importance of commitment to the mission.  No matter how grueling the task, if the job is unfinished, you have an obligation to see it through.  It’s what fuels our drive, as with Molly getting her second wind with the case.

A Fox, a Rabbit and a Cabbage- Malvo tells Lou that no good ever came from a piece of cherry pie

A lot of the tense moments come not through violence, but just natural buildup of a scene.  The show anticipates what we expect to happen, and either delivers or shows something completely different.  Lou and Malvo’s conversation, probably my favorite single sequence of the entire episode, had me thinking it would end with Malvo killing Lou, particularly after he found the link between him, Molly and Gus.  And with Molly not too far from the coffee shop, I expected a confrontation, but Malvo just vanished like a ghost as soon as Molly happened to return.  Despite how graphic the show has been, Fargo has never needed to rely on blood and gore to be entertaining.  Sometimes the gratuitous violence can enhance the scene based on what we don’t see, as with Malvo massacring the crime syndicate while we only got to hear- and briefly see- it happen.

A Fox, a Rabbit and a Cabbage- Malvo asks Lester if this is what he wants

This episode, more than any other, I would say, showed the lengths to which Malvo will go to get a job done.  Not just assuming a new identity, but forming actual connections with people he’s never met before shows how devoted he is to his work.  A $100,000 bounty is not small potatoes.  Given how much of a ghost Malvo is, his assimilation into another life is no surprise since he’s shrouded in so much mystery.

A Fox, a Rabbit and a Cabbage- Lorne Malvo and Jemma Stalone

From his mannerisms and the jovial tone he takes when speaking with Burt, I get the feeling that maybe, when the work is all done, Malvo may actually want to try and form a genuine connection.

A Fox, a Rabbit and a Cabbage- Malvo prepares to execute Burt, Louise and Jemma

But when Lester brings the monster back out, Malvo’s forced to sever his bonds.  And through his hidden meanings, he once again asked exactly what Lester wanted to hear.  He has always offered Lester a choice.  By spilling more blood, Malvo has implicated Lester, a man he figured as none too clever, which made Lester hitting him with his prize all the more surprising.  And like with Ziskind, Malvo gets into the heads of Lou and the family living in Lester’s old home.

A Fox, a Rabbit and a Cabbage- Molly sees Lester watching her

Molly Solverson has received the validation she never would have gotten from Bill.  With Budge and Pepper, she’s got that extra push to continue pursuing the case.  Heck, the two agents may help provide extra muscle since, you know, Molly’s with child.  Much like her encounter with Lester in the drug store, Molly’s questioning of Lester and Linda showed her apt detective skills.  If it were anyone else she suspected, I don’t think she’d have gone as far as looking up flight changes, but she’s noticed Lester’s odd behavior from the start.

A Fox, a Rabbit and a Cabbage- Gus goes over Molly's home crime web

Again, much is at stake, given her near close encounters and now that Malvo knows about her connection to the officer who arrested him.  Speaking of, Gus seems to also be back in the game after he realizes that he did, in fact, see Lorne Malvo pass him.  From his look at Molly’s home crime web, he’s also itching to get another shot at Malvo.  Side-note I can’t help but laugh at the fact that Molly describes Mr. Wrench as “Deaf Fella” on her crime web.

A Fox, a Rabbit and a Cabbage- Lester watches Malvo execute Linda

And then there’s Lester the coward.  I mean, really.  Credit must go to the writers and Martin Freeman’s performance of a man who is so despicable and has escaped justice at every turn so far.

A Fox, a Rabbit and a Cabbage- Lester says yes to Malvo's question

Lester had become a changed man.  He had a woman who loved him, supportive friends and his own business.  He had it all and I feel the point of his encounter with Malvo was to prove just how much of a new man he had become.  Malvo tests Lester because he knows that Lester is insecure enough to take the bait.  For Lester to continue down the right path, all he had to do was walk away.

If he didn’t feel the need to have Lorne Malvo validate his existence, Linda would still be alive he wouldn’t be involved in another murder investigation and he would have put Lorne Malvo behind him for good.  Instead, he pushed Malvo to reveal himself, which means Lester is a witness to murder- and technically an accomplice since Malvo only did it after Lester said it’s what he wanted- and has Solverson on his case again.  His ego got the better of him.  Granted, Budge and Pepper probably would have eventually questioned Lester anyway, but now Molly has another reason to be on his case.

A Fox, a Rabbit and a Cabbage- Lester and Linda wait for elevator

I didn’t want to believe he would let his wife die, but the moment he claimed his back hurt, it became clear that Lester was out to save his own behind.  He survives because it’s what he knows how to do, not because he’s good at it.  And because Lester isn’t a good planner, blood is once again on his hands and he must now contend with the man who created him.  And I really feel bad for Linda, who we only really got to know on this episode, and now she’s dead due to Lester’s cowardice.  Tragic.

Between this episode and “The Heap,” there is a lot at stake for the finale.  The walls are closing in on Lester from all sides and Lorne Malvo is once again a man on a mission. There’s no telling who will cross paths with whom, and there are still the X factors like Mr. Wrench and whether Lou tells Molly of the strange individual he met.  But this was another solid installment with great writing and very tense moments helped by the great performances across the board.  Here’s to the finale.

2 thoughts on “A Look at Fargo- Season 1, Episode 9: “A Fox, a Rabbit, and a Cabbage”

  1. Pingback: Fargo TV Series A Fox, a Rabbit and a Cabbage Recap | Film Encounters

  2. Pingback: 5 najfajnieszych serialowych psychopatów » Kryminalny Blues

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