Enemies at and inside the gates? Well, you betcha that it’s time to take off the shackles and throw away the key.
The episode begins with a ballad as Mac David describes a song he wrote about feeling alone. As he sings, we join Emmit on the road, while Stella arrives home and finds an envelope addressed for Emmit’s eyes only, but she soon opens it and finds a ransom note and CD.
She soon watches it and is revolted by what she sees, which is ‘Emmit’ screwing Nikki. We then flash back to Ray and Nikki setting up to shoot said tape. Ray isn’t keen on blackmail, but the two don’t have a choice since they’ve lost the high roller and Ray did just lose his job, although he did it at least for love.
When Nikki, now wearing a hooker wig, returns from the bathroom, she finds Ray on his knees with an engagement ring. He asks if Nikki will marry him, and she agrees as the two kiss. Now it’s time to make a sex tape.
Back on the road, Emmit gets a call from Stella, but all he hears is noise. He rushes home and finds the family packing up and leaving. Stella doesn’t give Emmit a chance to explain himself, so he’s left to watch as his family departs. Soon after, he finds the ransom note and the incriminating sex tape.
Sy arrives at the office and finds Varga, Yuri, and Meemo waiting for him. Varga is quick to note that Sy has a fat wife, thus making her untrustworthy and unable to differentiate between food and a dick in the mouth. Varga then whips out his dick, stuffs it into one of Sy’s mugs, and tells Sy that this is not his office anymore.
Yuri pours Sy a drink and forces him to down the entire thing. Turns out that Yuri told Varga that Sy spoke to the police yesterday, but Sy says that the cop came to him because one of the company’s cars was involved in an accident- completely unrelated to Varga’s business. Varga knows that a cuckold like Sy may have an impulse to act, but what’s happening is good because Emmit signed the papers that makes them partners.
All Sy has to do is review the accounts, write up the deals, and approve the paperwork. With that, Yuri shows Sy to his new office. He later calls Emmit, and gets no answer, to tell him that things are worse than they expected. Since Sy gest no response, he wonders if his signal is bad, but he soon leaves the office in a hurry.
Later, he heads to a fancy restaurant to speak with Ms. Ruby Goldfarb, played by Mary McDonnell, and tells her that he feels like he’s left the known world and stepped into the unknown. That’s how Ruby felt when her husband died.
See, Mr. Goldfarb made his first million in mortuaries. When he had a stroke while eating a three pound lobster, Mr. Goldfarb had a revelation: self-storage was the future. There are similarities when you realize that people need a place to put things they’ll never use again. When Mr. Goldfarb, Ruby had a revelation of her own: parking lots. People always need a place to park, after all.
Ruby isn’t looking for a romantic partner. Her preference is to acquire the Stussy Company as a whole while Sy and Emmit keep the name. The other option is that Sy and Emmit buy several other lots independently. That, though, would make Goldfarb a competitor, and you don’t want a Goldfarb for an enemy.
Sy tells Ruby that there’s no problem- just a softening of the will while Emmit has apparently been talking about dedicating himself to good works. Sy told Emmit that he’d be more than welcome to run the day-to-day work, but Emmit wants the two to stick together. When Goldfarb asks if Sy would be fine with selling a company he worked hard to build, Sy is saved by a text from Emmit, who needs to see him now.
He takes his leave, but tells Goldfarb that he’s easy-to-get, so he gives her his private line. With that, he heads off, unaware that he’s being followed by Yuri and Meemo…
He arrives at Emmit’s mansion and finds Emmit sobbing in one of the rooms. While Sy is focused on Varga being made partner, Emmit is beyond upset that Ray blackmailed him, thus making Stella leave. Sy tells Emmit that enemies are at and inside the gate, but Emmit now starts to wonder what’s the point of Sy, since he’s supposed to be a fixer. But now, everything’s broken.
The two bicker over who let the enemies in the gate, and Sy believes that if his hands were free, he could stop this situation. Emmit blames Nikki for putting ideas in Ray’s head. He never looked sideways at a woman for so long, and Sy has admired Emmit for being such a role model. Emmit tells Sy to fix this, no matter what it takes. Shackles off. As Sy attempts to tell Emmit about his meeting with Goldfarb, Emmit just tells him to leave.
Gloria and Winnie tell Donny that they figure Maurice LeFay was ordered to rob someone, but went to the wrong address. Donny figures that Chief Dammick won’t like this, but Gloria says that Dammick doesn’t have to since this is all at least factual. Plus, you don’t have to like the truth for it to be true. Also, Gloria wants to check on this Vanessa woman who rented the apartment that lost the air conditioner. The two may be connected.
At a shop, Ray tries on a tuxedo, but he’s concerned over the $100,000 ransom price on the note. Nikki believes that the two are worth as much and that Emmit’s business and mansion should belong to Ray. After all, Emmit used the stamp to build his empire. In Nikki’s eyes, they’re doing Emmit a favor by asking for 100 thousand, so Emmit will be getting off easy.
Nikki receives a call from Sy, who knows all about the sex tape left at the house. And now Stella’s gone. Nikki maintains that Emmit will pay regardless since Ray is part of this business, and she doesn’t intend to stop. Sy arranges a meeting between the two at Stussy Lot 350 in one hour, but Nikki ups the price from 100 to now 200 grand to keep her from telling Stella the other truth, even though Emmit never screwed his secretary.
Nikki hangs up just as Emmit puts the finishing touch on the tuxedo. Nikki leaves to go do a girl thing. I mean, she used her tampon and period blood as weapons in Emmit’s office. She’s already done a girl thing.
Anyway, on the bus ride back with his new tuxedo, Ray gets a call from Emmit, who tells him that Stella saw the tape and that she left him. Ray isn’t regretful and the two get into a war of words, with the occasional ‘Fuck’ dropped in here and there, but hey, this is a public bus. Good thing it was just Ray’s mom.
When Ray arrives at his stop, he receives an unexpected visit from Gloria and Winnie, who need Ray to come to the station to answer a few more questions. He agrees, but needs to be done by six since he has an appointment.
At the station, Ray figures that the three are on the same side since he’s also an officer, but Gloria mentions that Ray was just fired yesterday. Ray claims that he’s going to continue his education, though Winnie mentions that she met with Sy Feltz. Ray says that he was just in a minor skirmish, but doesn’t admit that Sy drove the vehicle that hit his. It’s a family matter as far as he sees it. Past disagreements are bygones. Think of Jesus.
The two officers ask if there’s any bad blood between Ray and Emmit, but Ray tells the two not to trust a snake like Sy. Winnie asks Ray how his car came to be damaged, given how Sy ran into him two times. Ray admits that there’s jealousy between him and Emmit, but no bad blood. Hey, he was even at the wedding of Emmit’s daughter. Gloria then asks about Maurice, but Ray says he was just another number on a file.
Before Gloria can ask when Ray last saw Maurice, Chief Dammick interrupts and tells her and Winnie to stop questioning Ray. Gloria thinks that things have escalated due to the bad blood between the brothers. Dammick tells a story about a girl, named Laura Buxton, and her red balloon. The girl tied a note to it, telling anyone who found it to return it to her address, which she listed.
She lets the balloon go and it travels far enough where it lands in a field. Another girl also named, wait for it, Laura Buxton, found it. What are the odds? Point is coincidences happen. Gloria shares a story of her own: a guy named Stussy hired an idiot to rob his brother, but the idiot drove to the wrong town and killed the wrong Stussy. Of course, Dammick hates that story and it doesn’t help that, for now, Gloria can’t prove her case.
That evening, Emmit heads to a parking lot, where Varga soon joins him in his truck. Varga asks how Sheila is doing, but then tells Emmit that the Jew, Sy, can’t be trusted, as he’s been sneaking around and possibly colluding with Ray. People have said that. More than that, Varga knows that Ray broke into Emmit’s safe deposit box and he would’ve needed a key.
Yeah, Buck drilled a hole in the safe, but that’s what Sy said. Varga believes that Sy is making a move and using Ray as a diversion. Or worse, as a straw man. After all, the name on the marquee is Stussy Lots, but doesn’t specify which Stussy.
Emmit maintains that Sy is on board and hates Ray with a passion, so Varga gives us an analogy: they’re fixing a fluffy and delicious soufflé, but you can’t agitate it while it rises or it will just go poof. Lines of credit, capital acquisition, and increased valuation turn a small business into a big one. And Sy may be preventing that from happening. With the seeds of doubt planted, Emmit agrees to talk to Sy.
He and Varga return to the office, where they receive an unexpected visitor: IRS Agent Larue Dollard, played by Hamish Linklater. Emmit and Dollard head to Emmit’s office while Sy watches from a distance. Dollard is here to discuss a recent $10,000 withdrawal. It’s not a crime, but a transaction that high triggers an alert, so Dollard wants to look at Emmit’s book.
Even though this is a routine visit, Dollard is required by law to select Emmit for additional questioning. No need for a warrant since this isn’t the FBI. And since this is informal, there won’t be a need for an actual audit. And that word, audit, terrifies Emmit, who maintains that the records are pristine.
Dollard then asks if Varga is Sy Feltz, but Emmit tells him that Sy is off today due to a family matter. However, Dollard would need to talk with him as well. Emmit wants to know how much time this would take, but all Dollard wants to do is perform a few interviews and look at the books. For that, he needs is an office. Luckily, Emmit knows just where to put Dollard, who agrees to show up tomorrow at 7:30 am.
When Dollard leaves, Varga asks Sy if Dollard has a wife and kids, as that can be used against him. Emmit tells Varga that this is over since Dollard will be sticking around and asking questions. Good thing Varga confirms to Emmit that there are fakes books to show Dollard.
So it’s finally time for Nikki and Sy to meet. He invites her to go deeper and away from the road. He offers $50,000 for Nikki to leave the state, but Nikki still wants 200 grand and the stamp. It’s a matter of principle. The two receive a surprise visit from Yuri and Meemo. Yuri asks if Nikki has ever been to Siberia, as it’s much Minnesota’s weather, minus the earth soaking in blood.
And that’s all of Russia. Yuri doesn’t believe that Nikki could imagine people endured in Russia, whether it’s the pogroms, starvation, or mothers cooking and eating their babies. That’s why the snow falls white- to hide the blood. Nikki tries to leave, but Meemo and Yuri subdue and beat the hell out of her. When Yuri and Meemo take their leave, a stunned Sy shakes out of his funk and leaves the lot. For Sy, this comes after the cup.
Oh, but Nikki still has the strength to struggle as she heads back to her car.
As Emmit arrives at home, he finds a beaten Nikki in her bathtub.
Back in the premiere, the Stasi officer wanted to distinguish between Yuri Gurka’s story of what happened to his wife and the truth. And that’s been a constant of this season so far from what I can gather: truth versus fiction, or an accepted truth. The known versus the unknown. Especially when we’re in a pinch or moment of desperation, we sometimes become less rational and unwilling to accept the truth. We hear what we want to hear.
Never mind Ray calling Sy a snake- that title fits more with Varga, who can tell Emmit what he may accept as truth in his moment of weakness. Emmit’s just lost his wife and he’s questioning Sy’s usefulness since he’s failed to solve the problem of Ray and Nikki. At this point, in his desperation and frustration, he’s open to anything that sounds appealing or at least the slightest bit believable.
I imagine part of Varga’s goal is to marginalize Sy as much as possible until he’s removed from the equation. He has Yuri and Meemo tail him, violates his mug, and takes over his office. In addition to becoming partner, Varga may be content if he took Sy’s place as Emmit’s right hand man. He just has to tell the other truths in order to create division between Sy and Emmit. And Sy is meeting Goldfarb, so he is still talking to someone.
By the way, creepy as it was, I loved that visual of the wolf as the credits played, calling back to the previous episode where, in the story of Peter and the Wolf, Varga represents the wolf.
Anyway, what’s worse is that now, in addition to Varga, Emmit now has the IRS on his back due to Ray’s actions, so if he’s not careful or Dollard has more questions about the books, Emmit’s problems could get worse. Side-note, it’s nice that Hamish Linklater is looking much better than he did at the end of the first season of Legion.
By the way, as far as Emmit is concerned, one thing that irks me is that Stella doesn’t give Emmit a chance to explain himself. As long as she’s been with him, and as he states, there’s no reason he would just turn and betray her in such a way. But she freezes him out as if she’s already declared the video to be the bonafide truth. Given how loving the two have been, this could have been averted if she gave him time to speak.
But she’s seen enough to make up her mind thanks to Nikki’s planning. The cat is cleverer than Sy and Emmit give her credit for, but then she ups the ante by wanting more money and doubling down on the notion that Ray deserves everything Emmit has. Like Varga with Emmit, she’s planting seeds in Ray’s mind so he’ll accept her version of his life as fact.
And even through all of that, the relationship with them is still very believable. Their chemistry is warm and I buy that Nikki is genuinely happy when Ray proposes to her, even when she’s in a hooker wig. When she’s helping him with his tuxedo, it doesn’t feel like she’s conning him. This is something she wants and feels that the two of them have earned, given what they’ve endured thus far.
While she may have a plan for most situations, she couldn’t have anticipated being on the receiving end of Varga’s wrath, though that beating could’ve also been meant for Sy. In what might be the most violent this season has been since Maurice met an air conditioner, the beating is made more brutal because we don’t see it. The sound of it, coupled with Sy’s reactions, reinforce the notion that sometimes less is more.
The fact that Nikki got caught in Varga’s web is scary enough because she’s done nothing to get his attention yet, but she still ended up in the crosshairs. But here’s a tiny qualm I have: we know Varga is ruthless in his approach and methods. He had Irv tossed to his death. I get that he wants to send a message, but unless Yuri and Meemo just showed restraint, wouldn’t it make much more sense just to kill Nikki outright?
This is assuming Varga even knew Sy was going to meet Nikki in the first place, but he might have had an inkling- we did learn from the previous episode that he’d been listening in on Emmit’s conversations. So if Varga had an idea, why not just have Yuri and Meemo kill Nikki and be done with it? Mr. Numbers and Mr. Wrench they are not. But maybe Varga hopes this will deter Nikki from meddling in this affair.
Again, I could be looking too deep into this and perhaps Yuri and Meemo came to teach Sy a lesson, but they picked Nikki to show, as Yuri said, that this punishment awaited Sy.
Hey, at the very least she had the strength to crawl back to her car and make it back home. So the plan couldn’t have been to cripple her if she ended up making it home. Could she later die from her injuries, or make a full recovery? Who knows? I was wrong about Bear supposedly letting Simone live last season when he did, in fact, end up killing her, so I’ll just wait to see what happens.
Seems like the biggest obstacle to the investigation is another officer on the force. For now. Like last time, Dammick has a very practical approach to police work. Everything is a cosmic coincidence and when those things happen, you close the book on that chapter and keep moving. I get his perspective, but don’t see why he doesn’t just let Gloria do her work. She’s not bugging anyone else and the officers aren’t overloaded with cases.
At the very least, allow Gloria and Winnie to continue exploring this on their own, even if it means they won’t get backing from anyone else. Like Dammick, Gloria is interested in the truth, but not the shorthand version that can be written off as happenstance. Things may get messier the more she works, but as she tells Donny, you don’t have to like the truth in order for it to be true.
And what’s true is that things are no doubt escalating in another great episode for the season. Never mind the brotherly feud, now Varga has sown lines of division between Emmit and Sy. With Varga having his minions administer a brutal beating, the shackles are indeed off as we arrive at the halfway point of the season.