Somewhere over the rainbow…
The episode begins on the road with Omie. He opens his trunk as his passenger, Aldo, played by Joel Reitsma, complains about riding for six hours. Apparently they’ve arrived at Pluto. Or rather, a marker honoring Clyde Tombaugh, the man who discovered Pluto. Aldo tells Omie about Calamita looking for hardware to kill some men in Kansas. Still, Aldo isn’t getting out of the trunk anytime soon, though.
Omie arrives at a gas station, where another man, played by Mac Robinson, asks if he’s ever seen a Korean. He hasn’t, but he’s met a woman from Thailand. He asks about an Italian man in a red coat, but no one like that has been by as of recent. The patron asks about the ruckus in the truck, but let’s pay that no mind.
With this being the only service station for miles, chances are Calamita may come by again. Omie offers to stick around and wait.
In the meantime, Omie offers to paint the service station, and Aldo is an unwilling participant.
Later, the two stop for a drink, with Aldo continuing to refer to Omie as “boy.” Aldo doesn’t consider them on the same footing, but they’re both working hard for “the man.” He tells a story about a King Turtle who got on the backs of other turtles to see ahead for miles. King Turtle can soon see for miles, but the ones on the bottom were getting crushed.
This riveting tale is interrupted by the arrival of a car that pulls up. Omie shoots Aldo dead as Calamita exits the vehicle.
We jump back to one day prior and rejoin Satchel and Rabbi Milligan as they pass Pluto and the service station. Rabbi soon cuts the radio and tells Satchel that they’re still hours from their destination as they enter Liberal, Kansas- the pancake hub of the world. Who knew? They need a few nights to get their heads on straight. The two arrive at The Mellon Mounds- a historical marker in Kansas. Also, sleep with one eye open.
As they enter the location, named The Barton Arms, the clerk eventually gives Rabbi keys for the west side, though she lets him know that the sisters don’t care much for Coloreds. By the way, said clerk is a Colored. So do the sisters not care much for her?
Never mind. That doesn’t mean they don’t have a room, so Rabbi and Satchel just have to stay clear of them. By the by, when it comes to the question of Old or New Testament, Rabbi asks which one is it where you’re born again, which is the New Testament. Keep that in mind.
Rabbi plans to go out to get some money, as he laid some away in town and plans to retrieve it. Satchel is focused on the hospital man next door. Rabbi hands Satchel a knife, telling the boy that he can’t come with him. With that, Rabbi drives off and heads into town.
He arrives at a very familiar looking store, which apparently used to be under previous ownership, so operations were turned over to the prior owner’s brother, who lost it due to gambling. Rabbi points out that there used to be a wall in one spot, and indeed there was. Now there isn’t. Rabbi leaves just as the owner gets a phone call.
Back at the boarding house, Satchel hears a sound from a cabinet and examines it, but just turns out that to be a dog inside. Per the tag, the dog’s name is apparently Rabbit. Satchel lets her out into the hallway, but he follows her downstairs.
He ends up chit-chatting with one of the attendees, a salesman named Hunk Swindell, played by Tim Hopper, who also asks about east or west, and advises him to get to one side. Hunk wants Satchel to ask him questions, so Satchel asks whether Hunk has any food. He’s learned how to channel his thoughts into a strategy for success.
Hunk’s companion, Hickory J. Milch, played by Japhet Balaban, asks if Satchel is from Texas, as that’s where he’s headed to cure his gold rush fever. Rabbi Milligan returns to see that Satchel has made a new friend- or three- and orders him back to his room.
Upstairs, Rabbi finds a rock in his shoe. The hole in said shoe doesn’t help.
Either way, it’s time for dinner, though Satchel isn’t allowed to join because Coloreds aren’t allowed at the table. However, one of the attendees calls the shots and says that Satchel can join. Everyone does their introduction, while Rabbi gives a fake name, Duffy, and says that Satchel is his ward. He’s hoping to get a fresh start at Sioux Falls.
Hunk brings up the original story of Goldilocks and how it was apparently not bears, but witches. She didn’t fit in anywhere in the end.
The next day, snow falls as Rabbi and Satchel and the dog hit the road. In Satchel’s mind, the dog barking in their room would just attract unwanted attention.
On the road, Rabbi asks a man what a billboard will read, as it currently says “The Future Is…” To Rabbi, it’s the principle of the matter, as it’s not right to leave people in uncertainty. I don’t think the man painting the billboard is getting paid to have this conversation. Anyway, Rabbi again turns off the radio, as we don’t get to hear about the report of a slaughterhouse shootout.
Rabbi returns to the store, as the man has had Rabbi Milligan on his mind since their first encounter. Rabbi surprises the owners by entering through the back and holds the two at gunpoint. He wants what belongs to him and demands to get his money, so the owner tells Rabbi that it’s in the safe. The two bought the store as is, but after finding money in the wall, what were they supposed to do?
Luckily, there’s still some cash in the bag, but there was originally $5,000.
Outside, a police officer taps on Rabbi’s door and asks Satchel if the car is his. Naturally, it isn’t, so the officer demands Satchel step outside. As he prepares to pull out his gun, Rabbi returns and confirms that the boy is with him, as he is the boy’s guardian. The officer relaxes his grip on the gun as Rabbi explains he served with the boy’s father during the war. The least he could do is care for his offspring.
The officer advises Rabbi to keep the boy out of sight, as traveling with a Colored kid in this town could be trouble. Well, no argument there.
Back at The Barton Arms, Satchel is hungry, but Rabbi informs him that they’ll be leaving tonight. No bringing Rabbit, either. Satchel can teach her to be quiet, but Rabbi puts his foot down. There’ll be no dog. Satchel complains that he just wanted one thing for, of all days, his birthday. When is that? Today. Well, shit.
Rabbi heads downstairs and asks the clerk if she has a cupcake or candy bar, but there’s a filling station a few miles down the road. Turns out that the sisters don’t believe in sugar. Before Rabbi leaves, he advises the clerk to let Satchel know that he’ll be right back.
Also, The Future is Now. Yes, the damn billboard is complete, but Rabbi still isn’t satisfied. The painter thinks it could be about seizing the day.
The weather begins to change for the worst. The sky grows darker and wind blows as Rabbi arrives at the service station. When he walks in, though, all he finds is a dead body on the ground. As he approaches a window, he spots Calamita holding Omie at gunpoint. When Calamita spots him, Rabbi rushes off, but Calamita manages to shoot him in the shoulder.
Omie prevents Calamita from finishing off the Rabbi, but he only had one bullet, and he didn’t land a kill shot. In retaliation, Calamita shoots and kills Omie. Rabbi can’t get off a shot as the wind knocks a piece of wood onto his arm, knocking away the gun. Seems like the end for Rabbi Milligan, right? Not a chance.
The wind intensifies as a tornado soon lifts both Calamita and Rabbi Milligan up, up, and away, into the sky.
Satchel awakens as color returns to The Barton Arms and world as a whole. He returns to the room with the doctor operating on the bandaged man. The man instructs Satchel to come closer, but Satchel is looking for his friend. Again, the bandaged man implores Satchel to come closer. No dice, as Satchel decides to wait in his room.
Indeed, Satchel returns and waits in the hotel room, with his gun in hand. He later awakens and Rabbi Milligan has still not returned. No sign of his car, either.
With no sign of his guardian, Satchel and Rabbit decide to hit the road on foot. As he and Rabbit take a long walk, Satchel stops and eyes “The Future Is Now” sign with newfound purpose in his eyes as the episode comes to a close.
Well, that was a fun trip to Kansas. Literal, even. With the Cannon and Fadda war continuing back in Kansas City, Hawley takes us on the road as we catch up with Satchel and Rabbi Milligan in a very standalone-ish episode.
It’d be completely standalone if there was no Calamita or Omie, but those elements are needed to tie this to the ongoing war. Plus, Omie and Calamita going on the road had been established prior. Since Calamita was already searching for Rabbi, and Loy had sent his men after Calamita, it was a given that we’d see them eventually catch up. As low key as this episode felt, the stakes remained high.
That said, it was a fun road trip in an episode that felt like it could have been directed by the Coens Brothers themselves. Beyond the obvious nods to films like The Wizard of Oz, this episode had a lot of nods and shades of past Coen films.
For me, the notable nods were O Brother, Where Art Thou? and Inside Llewyn Davis– the latter mostly due to the color palette- though I’ve heard that the tornado is a nod to A Simple Man which, at the time of writing this, I have not seen.
If I wanted to stretch, I’d say there’s even a quick nod to No Country for Old Men in the scene with Satchel waiting and pointing his gun at the door, similar to what Moss did while waiting for Anton during the hotel sequence in No Country. But again, similar to how past seasons have referenced one another and the Fargo film itself, these nods aren’t thrown in your face, which I like.
Though sticking with movie nods, the shift from black and white to color was an obvious parallel with The Wizard of Oz, but I’d also throw in a little bit of Pleasantville. The world doesn’t shift to color due to some big, emotional moment or outburst, but it does represent Satchel beginning to map his own future and find his own way in life, now that he’s all alone.
Like Rabbi, Satchel didn’t ask to end up in this situation, but he has to make the most of it. He barely gets acknowledgement on his birthday, Rabbi confines him to their room for his own safety, and he has to deal with a cop questioning what a kid like him is doing in Rabbi’s car. Not that Satchel is complaining. He goes along because he understands the stakes, but regardless of that, he’s still a child.
Now, a child left all alone to navigate this big world without a guardian. Between Rabbi and his own father, Satchel no doubt has some skills and smarts that he should be able to handle himself. I doubt this is the last time we see Satchel this season, but with just two episodes to go, I’m curious how the show will wrap up his arc. Like Goldilocks, he’ll have to find out where he belongs.
When you think about it, beyond the nods to other films, not a lot happens in this episode. That’s not a bad thing since Rabbi and Satchel are trying to keep a low profile, but the plot really only advances at the service station. Rabbi’s attempt at getting money from that store- which looked a lot like Bud’s Meats from Season 2- wasn’t a complete bust, but it wasn’t the payout he hoped for.
Other than that, it’s him and Satchel killing time. Credit to the show, though, for giving us a colorful cast of characters at the Barton Arms. These people could’ve been one-offs with no personality, but the two sisters who don’t get along- akin to the Good Witch of the North and the Wicked Witch of the West- the salesman Hunk, the Major and his niece, Millie, were fun characters to watch and I could’ve done with more of them.
I also enjoyed the brief time spent with Omie and Aldo, if just for Aldo quickly getting on Omie’s bad side. Still, I did like his story about the King Turtle and how the little guys are stuck at the bottom, doing the boss’ bidding. He’s not wrong. Even though guys like Omie and Calamita have important tasks, they’re still doing them at the behest of Loy and Josto.
Much as they might not want to admit it, they are still, at the end of the day, mere henchmen, and thus expendable because there’s another man lined up ready to help the boss achieve his goal.
Now, let’s talk about that tornado. Another nod to Oz, yes, but in terms of Fargo, it’s very timely. This series is no stranger to the suddenly unbelievable occurring. With Season 1, it was the fish falling from the sky. Season 2 had the UFO. Season 3 had the strange, supernatural bowling alley.
We’ve already seen that haunted figure, but what about this tornado? Perhaps greater forces attempting to intervene in this war? To stop Calamita from killing Rabbi? Even though once the wind picked them up, I doubt we’ll see them again. It’s no accident that the wind picked up and culminated in a tornado at the moment it looked like Rabbi would meet his end.
Again, he probably still did by virtue of being sucked into a tornado, but he at least he didn’t meet his end at a gun. At least Satchel can assume that Rabbi is either in jail or, likely, dead.
With Rabbi and Calamita literally in the wind and Satchel now on his own, and just two episodes left to go, how will this impact the war between the Cannons and Faddas? Will Satchel ever see his family again? Is the future truly now, or later?
See you all next week for the penultimate episode of Season 4.