FX’s Fargo season two episode five is now officially my favorite episode of the season. Airing on November 9, 2015, the fifth episode had a little bit of everything: a massacre, a head in a box, Ronald Reagan as played by Ash vs Evil Dead‘s Bruce Campbell, and an actual moment of Peggy displaying her love for Ed. It took a while to get to the reason behind the episode’s title but every element of “The Gift of the Magi” leading up to that reveal was simply brilliant. Writer/executive producer Noah Hawley outdid himself, crafting an incredible story brought to life by an outstanding acting ensemble. Allan Dobrescu and Jesse Plemons were the stand-outs in this episode, but the entire cast were hitting on all cylinders in this episode.
Fargo season two episode five recap:
Hanzee (Zahn McClarnon) hands Floyd (Jean Smart) Rye’s burnt belt buckle and says he was run down by a butcher after killing the people in the Waffle Hut. Dodd (Jeffrey Donovan) fills in the details, making up a story that he’s known as the Butcher of Luverne – a contract man out of Kansas City. Hanzee goes along with Dodd’s fictitious story, saying the Butcher ambushed Rye. Dodd says it’s because of the war Kansas City wants. Hanzee thinks they killed Rye, panicked, and are covering it up so that the sale goes down.
Presidential candidate Ronald Reagan delivers a speech to the citizens of Luverne, Minnesota. Meanwhile, the KC mafia prepare for war against the Gerhardts in Fargo, North Dakota. In the woods, Joe talks to a man who’s hunting with the group who happens to have political connections. He’s a bow hunter and as he’s about to shoot a deer, the KC mafia is ambushed by the Gerhardts gang, taking out the politically connected hunter first. The Kitchen brothers are killing machines, ruthlessly mowing down the Fargo gunmen. Joe Bulo (Brad Garrett) runs away from the gunfire and through the woods while the Kitchen brothers take out anyone they see. Suddenly Hanzee is on the scene and he easily kills one of the heavily-armed Kitchen brothers with just his knife. Joe is out of breath when he makes it to the cars and there in front of him is Hanzee.
Reagan speaks to the assembled townspeople in Luverne and Karl Weathers (Nick Offerman) is in the crowd, moved to tears by Reagan’s speech. However, on the sidewalk outside after the speech is over, Karl tells Lou Solverson (Patrick Wilson) he won’t shake Reagan’s hand because he made a movie with a monkey. But that turns out to be a lie as he’s completely star-struck when Reagan’s in front of him. Lou’s going to accompany the candidate’s bus and before he leaves, Karl tells him to try and ask Reagan if Joan Crawford had crabs. Joe declines to even attempt to pose that question.
Back at the Gerhardt house, Dodd walks in and is ecstatic that they took out so many of the KC gang. Mike Milligan (Bokeem Woodbine) wasn’t there but Dodd says the KC people will come back at them hard. Floyd really believed they would negotiate and she wants the Butcher dead. “No mercy,” she tells Dodd. Dodd says he’ll send Virgil (Greg Bryk).
Meanwhile, Ed Blumquist (Jesse Plemons) is having nightmares of killing Rye. He heads down to the basement and finds Peggy (Kirsten Dunst) staring at stacks of magazines and books (thousands of them!). She’s preparing for their trip to California because she thinks they have to run. Ed doesn’t understand, and Peggy’s still wondering why Rye was in the road after killing those people. She tells Ed that Constance saw the car in the garage and knows about the accident. Peggy doesn’t think she’ll say anything but it’s too risky. They have to leave, but Ed is completely against that decision. He’s not leaving. He wants the shop, the kids, and that’s it. Peggy can’t get the money back, but Ed says they’ll figure something out and still buy the shop on Friday.
Charlie (Allan Dobrescu) wants to help take out the Butcher but Dodd won’t let him. Dodd tells Virgil they need to kill Ed Blumquist who is “posing as the town butcher.” Charlie says it should be a Gerhardt that takes out Ed and that a real boss would know that. Dodd changes his mind and says Charlie will go with Virgil and be the one who ultimately pulls the trigger.
Dodd Gerhardt’s daughter, Simone (Rachel Keller), says she has an errand to run and takes off. At the Pearl Hotel she meets up with Mike Milligan once more. She tells him it’s getting ugly out there and they talk about their moms. Mike tells Simone that her Indian killed one of the Kitchen brothers and lots of other people. She claims not to know anything about it and Mike wants to know what exactly she thinks this is between the two of them. Mike opens a box that was in front of him and in it is Joe’s head! (Bye, bye Brad Garrett.) She knows she’s in trouble now and starts crying, and Mike tells her he needs to know everything ahead of time or else she’ll die with the rest of her family.
Lou and the Reagan bus are stopped on the side of the road when Lou gets a message from Ben Schmidt (Keir O’Donnell) with the Fargo PD. He’s out in the woods at the massacre site which he labels a “sh*t sandwich.” 12 are dead: the scorecard reads 6 Fargo, 6 KC. Lou tells him Rye was run over by a beautician and they probably dumped the body in the woods. Ben’s mom thinks he should try to calm things down, and Lou says after he’s done with Reagan he’ll come to Fargo.
Ed calls around to his family trying to come up with the money for a down payment. He really wants to live the American dream and won’t give up. He tells his co-worker, Noreen, about his unwavering desire to own the butcher shop and she says it’s all worthless because they’re all going to die anyway.
Outside the butcher shop, Charlie and Virgil talk about where Charlie should shoot Ed. Virgil tells him just to point and shoot. Before he goes in, Virgil reminds him there can’t be any witnesses. Charlie goes into the shop and sees Noreen behind the counter. She offers him meat – pig, cow, chicken, but no fish. Charlie says he’s looking for the butcher, but Noreen says he’s actually the assistant butcher. Charlie seems a bit unsure and as he waits for Ed Noreen smiles at him. They talk about a book she’s reading. They compare favorite holidays and he ruins the end of Rocky for her. Ed comes out of the back with a plate of meat and asks Charlie what he needs. Yes, he chickens out and sits in the car with Virgil, clutching his just-purchased meat.
Peggy’s at home packing her clothes, jewelry, accessories, and magazines. Next we see her emerge from a bus with two packed suitcases. She goes to the auto body shop and her car is all fixed up. Sonny greets her and Peggy gives him a check, telling him to hold off cashing it until the end of the week. They load up her suitcases and she’s ready to hit the road, but she stops and seems to be reconsidering her decision. She backs up and asks Sonny if he wants to buy her car because they can use the money. She’s decided not to go on her trip, and he can give her $700 for the car. She’s fine with that.
She gets on the bus with her suitcases and smiles a very pensive little smile.
At the Gerhardt estate, Bear (Angus Sampson) asks Hanzee how the ambush went. He thanks him for his service to the family and tells him he’s actually part of the family. Bear tells Hanzee there’s a place at the table with or without Dodd. The war’s escalated because of what happened to Rye but Dodd breaks up their conversation before Hanzee says anything about Rye. The brothers obviously hate each other and Bear says, “In the end, we all get what we deserve.”
Reagan’s back on the road and after delivering another speech he winds up in the restroom with Lou. They discuss Lou’s military service. Reagan talks about a war movie he made for Paramount like it was the real thing, but he can’t remember whether they lived or died in that film. It’s a surreal moment, and Lou tells him he thinks his wife’s got lymphoma because the sickness of this world is inside his wife in the form of cancer. He asks Reagan if they’ll get out of the war and Reagan replies, “Son, there’s not a challenge on god’s earth that can’t be overcome by an American. I truly believe that.” That’s not the answer Lou wanted.
Lou’s wife, Betsy (Cristin Milioti), sits at the dining room table considering the trial pill. Crossing herself, she takes the pill still unsure whether it’s real or not. Her daughter Molly has drawn a photo that looks like an alien spaceship above the family. Her dad, Hank Larsson (Ted Danson), arrives to find out how she’s doing, telling her Lou has at least two hours of work left. He offers to fix her dinner and she’s nauseous which she thinks is a good thing since that means she’s probably taking the real pill.
Charlie calls his dad from a pay phone, telling him he’s ready to go back to school. Obviously the family business isn’t for him. Charlie once again approaches the butcher shop and slowly goes inside. He locks the door and turns the sign to closed. He pull out his gun (Noreen is gone) and heads into the back where Ed is busy working. Ed’s cutting up a hog and Charlie silently points a gun at his head. Just then, Noreen comes in and yells at Ed. Charlie shoots, misses, and sets the place on fire. He has to reload. Virgil comes in and shoots at Ed, but the bullet ricochets and hits Charlie. Virgil and Ed engage in hand to hand combat, with Virgil choking Ed. As he’s being choked on the table with the pig, he sees his dreams going up in flames. But on he fights and he gets the best of Virgil, hitting him and then splitting his head in two with a butcher knife. Noreen’s injured on the floor but able to get up. She tries to help Charlie as the flames totally engulf the back of the shop. They pull Charlie outside, screaming for someone to call a fire truck. Ed saved the kid and he wants to make sure Noreen tells the cops the kid shot first and the big guy came at him, and that the whole thing was self-defense. He leaves her standing in the road to explain to the authorities. Ed runs to his truck as Bud’s Meats burns.
Simone makes it home and Dodd wants to know where she’s been. She says she was with a friend, but Dodd won’t leave it at that. Floyd interrupts them and tells Dodd to leave her alone.
It’s nighttime now and the fire is out. Lou pulls up and sees the remains of the building, knowing it’s where Ed worked. He also sees Charlie being taken away in the ambulance and Noreen talking to Hank on the curb.
At home, Peggy tells Ed he was right. She was selfish and they have to fight for what they want. She shows him the check for the car and tells him he can buy the shop. Ed says the shop burned down and he killed one, maybe two, of the guys who Lou said would come after them. He thanks her for the check but says they have to go immediately. Just then sirens are heard and the police pull up out front. Ed and Peggy stare open-mouthed at the door.