When FX’s Fargo season three episode three begins it’s with the introduction of Thaddeus Mobley (Thomas Mann) as a young adult. It’s 1975 and after an awards ceremony Thaddeus orders a cream soda as he’s not a drinker. Howard Zimmerman (Fred Melamed) introduces himself and it turns out he’s a movie producer. He asks Thaddeus if he’s thought about turning his book into a film, and Thaddeus seems taken with the idea. As they leave, their photo (the one in the newspaper article Gloria will find years later) is snapped by a photographer.
Howard and Thaddeus check out Vivian Lord’s screen test and then Howard introduces Vivian (Francesca Eastwood) to Thaddeus, calling him a genius. Thaddeus says his screenplay’s coming along and Howard assures him he’ll pay for his expenses to remain in Hollywood, if he remembers to keep the receipts. While they’re talking, Howard takes a call from Warren Beatty who apparently can’t do the film because of his other commitments. If they want Warren, they’ll have to bribe another studio to get him out of his contract. Thaddeus offers to pay the bribe out of his book advance, and then we see as the days go by he keeps writing the producer increasingly larger checks. Thaddeus also pays for Vivian’s drugs. One thing leads to another, and now Thaddeus is also a druggie.
An animated sequence shows a spaceship crashing and the astronaut barely alive, struggling to speak to his android assistant. The astronaut dies and the android MNSKY (a prototype) obeys his last wish to get word back that it wasn’t all for nothing.
The scene shifts and we learn the animation was portraying what Gloria (Carrie Coon) was reading on a plane trip to Los Angeles. The man next to her (Ray Wise) asks if the book is any good, and she gives him a brief synopsis. They chitchat about traveling and after landing, Gloria wheels her luggage to a rental car lot. A tagline appears telling us these events took place in LA in 2010.
Gloria makes it to the Hollywood Premiere Motel pictured in the photo and as she’s checking in, a Santa who’s attending a convention runs off with her luggage. He speeds away before Gloria can catch him. She reports the theft and, fortunately, she caught the license plate. The officer admits it’s unlikely she’ll get it back and Gloria takes the news well. She then asks the officer to do something for her, explaining she’s a police chief in Eden Valley, Minnesota in town looking up info on a victim of a homicide. The officer says if the license plate checks out, he’ll come find her.
Once in her room, Gloria discovers a pair of men’s shoes and a wooden box. When she flips the switch on top, a mechanical hand reaches out and flips it back. After playing with the box, Gloria checks in on Nathan (Graham Verchere), asking how he’s doing with his dad. She reminds him to eat his vegetables and they talk about why she’s in Hollywood in the first place. After their brief chat, Nathan passes the phone to Officer Donny Mashman (Mark Forward) who reports the new chief is upset she flew to LA and won’t pay for the trip. Gloria didn’t ask to be reimbursed, so she’s okay with that. She tells Donny she found the motel from the photo and has a lead on actress Vivian Lord, the woman in the signed headshot she found along with the books in Ennis’ place after he was murdered.
Gloria eats at a diner and then asks to see Vivian who’s working there as a waitress. After introducing herself, she asks if she remembers Thaddeus and shows her the signed photo from all those years ago. Vivian laughs, saying she doesn’t remember the ‘70s and those signed photos are pretty common. Vivian says back then she was rarely sober and Gloria tells her where she’s staying, in case she changes her mind about talking.
When Gloria enters her room, she finds her stolen bag on the bed with a note from Officer Hunt offering to buy her a beer. They meet at a bar and Gloria sticks to “diet pop.” He’s incredulous she’s not on Facebook, tells her it’s like a small town, and it turns out he’s a horrible conversationalist. He admits he couldn’t find anything on Thaddeus and when he goes to the restroom, just coincidentally the man from the plane is seated a few feet away from her. He introduces himself as Paul Marrane and after finding out Gloria is almost divorced, he tells the story of a soldier going off to war who gives his wife a bill of divorce before he leaves. Officer Hunt returns and tries to shoo Paul away but after finding out Gloria has no plans to sleep with him, Officer Hunt gives up and leaves.
The evening doesn’t get any better for Gloria. She returns to her room and there’s a note on the door saying Chief Moe Dammik wants her to get back home immediately. She clicks the lever on the weird box once and then gets in bed.
And back to the animation we go with the android MNSKY walking through a timeline of human history, beginning with the dinosaurs. All alone he traveled for centuries, recharging his battery each century. During those down hours he was attacked, with men ripping out one of his metal arms.
Gloria pays a visit to the Writers Guild of America, asking for information on Thaddeus. The WGA doesn’t represent authors, but the receptionist says she’ll check to see if they have anything on him anyway. The receptionist returns with his screenplay to Planet Why produced by Howard Zimmerman.
And now we catch up with the elderly Howard Zimmerman who’s living in a convalescent hospital. He thinks Gloria’s there for a donation, but she quickly clears that up and tells him she’s a police officer. He claims not to have heard of Thaddeus Mobley, and Gloria explains she’s just trying to connect the dots following his murder. Howard seems to remember Thaddeus, calling him a failure. He talks about science and particles colliding, and then floating off into space like we don’t even exist. Howard doesn’t believe there’s anything to random people meeting and going in and out of each other’s lives, and he kicks her out of his room without giving her any more information on Thaddeus.
Gloria stops a nurse and asks if anyone visits Howard. No one does and the nurse says he’s been there for a long time since a horrible accident almost killed him.
Another animated segment shows the one-armed MNSKY watching civilizations rise and fail. He can’t send word back home as no one’s left to respond. Finally, a spaceship arrives and the visitors begin shooting everyone in sight. MNSKY is beamed aboard the ship.
Gloria wakes from dreaming about MNSKY as someone slips a note under her door telling her to call Vivian Lord.
A flashback shows Thaddeus knocking on Vivian’s door asking if she has any cocaine. He’s run out of drugs and money and he’s about to get booted from his motel room. When he barges into Vivian’s room, Howard’s already there. Thaddeus demands his money and Howard says it’s all gone. Howard and Vivian were in on it and Thaddeus can’t believe he’s been duped. Vivian calls Thaddeus a piggybank and Howard says they did him a favor by playing him. Next time he won’t be fooled, thanks to he and Vivian’s con job. Howard grabs Thaddeus around the neck, choking him and then finally lets him free when he gives up. However, Thaddeus is not about to let Howard get away with taking all his money. Thaddeus grabs Howard’s cane and begins ruthlessly beating him with it. Vivian tries to get him to stop and Thaddeus slams her into a wall. He raises the cane to strike her but then tosses it down, saying, “You’re a bad person!”
Vivian the waitress reveals this story while seated in a booth at the diner with Gloria. The beating was the accident the nurse referred to and Howard was grievously injured. Vivian doesn’t believe Ennis’ death had anything to do with those events from decades ago and neither does Gloria. As Gloria rises to leave, Vivian says, “He was right. I am a bad person. He wasn’t so good either.”
Investigation in Hollywood complete, Gloria spends some quiet time on the beach watching the ocean.
Another flashback shows Thaddeus racing back to his motel room (the same one where Gloria is currently staying) after beating Howard. He throws his possessions in a suitcase, looks at the blood on his hands, and throws up in the toilet.
Flashforward and Gloria packs her belongings, dropping something and needing to get down on her knees near the toilet. She peers inside and sees “Dennis Stussey & Sons” stamped on the rim, but the D in Dennis is nearly wiped out. We see Thaddeus looking at the same stamp after vomiting all those years ago.
Gloria flies home to Minnesota.
A new animated segment shows aliens from the United Federation of Planets giving unit MNSKY an honor for his service. Apparently he’s the oldest sentient being in history, with the UFP judging his age to be about 2.38 million. He has seen everything including the birth and death of planets, but the UFP believes MNSKY’s service is complete and it’s time to shut himself down. Flipping open the top of his head, MNSKY flips a switch just like the one on the box in Gloria’s hotel room. (It even has the same red and green lights.)
Gloria and Nathan sit with Ennis’ casket and as they leave the funeral home, Donny’s outside with the news they got a match on the fingerprints from Ennis’ place. They came back to Maurice LeFay, and the gas station guy identified him from his photo as the man who ripped the page out of the phone book. Donny then reveals Maurice was just killed in a freak air conditioner accident. Gloria decides they should go grab something to eat before doing any further investigating. As Gloria drives off in her police car, the box with the lever from the motel room is clearly visible in the rear window.
The episode ends without a single mention of the Stussy brothers, V.M. Varga, or parolee Nikki Swango.