FX’s Fargo season three episode five should have come with a warning not to be drinking anything during Michael Stuhlbarg’s (‘Sy Feltz’) first scene. It was disturbing and a little nauseating, but also extremely effective in reinforcing the new hierarchy at Stussy Lots. Season three’s fifth episode is one of the darkest of the series and came loaded with unexpected twists.
Episode five titled ‘The House of Special Purpose’ begins with “It’s Hard to Be Humble” playing as Emmit (Ewan McGregor) drives down the road. His wife, Grace (Linda Kash), beats him home and picks up a padded manila envelope left outside their front door addressed to Emmit Stussy with a “your eyes only” warning. After she settles in, she opens the envelope and there’s a ransom-style note which reads: “Pay us $100,000 or we show your wife.” The envelope also contains an unlabeled CD.
Apparently Grace’s curiosity got the best of her and she emerges from a room in tears. In the background the audio of the video indicates she’s just watched a sex tape. The camera follows the noise into the room and it’s Nikki and Ray (dressed as Emmit) who are going at it.
The scene switches to Nikki (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) preparing the camera for the video shoot while discussing with Ray exactly where they should have sex. Nikki’s the brains behind this scam, instructing Ray on where they should do it, how they should do it, and reminding him they’ll need to keep their faces slightly obscured. Nikki assures Ray it’s time to play to win and since they lost the high roller, they have no other choice. Nikki and Ray are both angry at Emmit, but she’s more into the idea of revenge over Ray losing his job than Ray. As Nikki gets dressed and pulls on a long wig, Ray pulls out an engagement ring. She reacts by telling him she needs to take off the hooker wig if he’s going to propose and once she does, he asks her to marry him. She says yes, of course, and tells him she’s the happiest woman ever.
Proposal complete, Nikki says, “Now let’s make a sex tape!”
Emmit’s still driving when Grace calls him, screaming. By the time he gets home, Grace has the kids all loaded up and ready to leave. His kids inform him they saw the tape and are disgusted. He tries to convince his wife he didn’t do anything, but she won’t even look at him. After they pull away, his face transforms from sad and confused to angry.
Emmit watches the tape and can’t believe what his brother has done.
Sy arrives at work to find Varga (David Thewlis) and his thugs have made themselves comfortable in his office. Varga insults Sy’s wife, looking at her photo and calling her fat. He then pisses in Sy’s “World’s Best Dad” coffee cup and claims Sy’s office is now his. Meemo and Yuri force Sy at gunpoint to drink Varga’s urine and he gags as they force him to drain the cup. This is happening because Sy spoke with Officer Winnie Lopez which Sy admits to, but swears it was only in regards to a car accident. Varga reminds him they’re now partners and that lives are changing for the better. Sy just needs to fall in line and do what he’s told – nothing more. Yuri and Meemo escort a stunned Sy to his new office.
Sy sneaks into the stairwell and calls Emmit, leaving a message that it’s worse than they thought.
Later that same day, Sy meets with their potential investor, Mrs. Ruby Goldfarb (Mary McDonnell), at a fancy restaurant. He’s on edge and laughs nervously, explaining he just had an “upsetting experience.” Mrs. Goldfarb confirms she wants to buy the entire company or, if that’s not doable, she’ll buy lots on her own and be their competitor. She warns him, “You don’t want a Goldfarb for an enemy.” Sy says they’re open to being bought out, lying that Emmit is looking to dedicate himself to charitable causes instead of working full-time. Their conversation is interrupted when he gets a text from Emmit saying they need to meet at his house immediately.
Sy makes an excuse to cut the meeting with Mrs. Goldfarb short and takes off for Emmit’s. Yuri and Meemo follow not far behind.
Over at Emmit’s place, Sy finds him huddled in a corner crying his eyes out. Sy asks if Emmit signed partnership papers with Varga, but Emmit’s only thinking about what Ray did to cause Grace to take their kids and leave. Sy nearly explodes when Emmit won’t concentrate on their business problem, concerned the enemy is now inside the company. “What is the point of you?!” asks Emmit, angrily. “You’re supposed to be a fixer. Nothing is fixed and everything’s broken.”
Emmit finally reveals Ray sent Gloria a sex tape in which he was dressed up as Emmit. Emmit blames Sy for everything including setting up the business deal that let Varga into their lives. They argue about who is to blame for their predicament and Sy asks to be unchained to handle things. Emmit calls himself a good man who’s never cheated on his wife, and Sy admits he looks up to him. Emmit says to fix this, whatever it takes. “Shackles off?” asks Sy. Emmit agrees.
And now we finally catch up with Gloria Burgle (Carrie Coon) as she and Officer Winnie Lopez (Olivia Sandoval) try to explain to Officer Donny Mashman (Mark Forward) what they’ve uncovered about Ennis’ murder. It’s a confusing tale involving multiple Stussys, parolee Maurice LeFay, and poor Ennis. Donny knows the new Chief isn’t going to like any of this, but Gloria doesn’t care. She and Winnie head out to track down the woman who lived in the apartment from which the air conditioner fell and landed on Maurice. They suspect she’s somehow connected to the murder.
Meanwhile, Ray tries on dinner jackets while he and Nikki discuss the $100,000 bribe. Nikki’s determined to make Emmit pay because she’s certain he cheated Ray out of his inheritance. While Ray tries on another jacket, Nikki gets a call from Sy who calls her the stupidest person alive. He tells her Gloria watched the video and left, so there’s no way Emmit’s paying. Nikki swears they won’t stop until Ray gets what’s his, and Sy suggests they meet. But then Nikki comes up with a new plan. She ups the figure to $200,000 to tell Gloria the truth. Sy sets up a place to meet and hangs up.
Ray settles on a jacket and Nikki heads out to meet Sy, without giving Ray any details.
Ray takes the bus home and Emmit calls him, declaring Ray’s dead. Emmit lets his brother know Grace left and Ray isn’t all that sympathetic, saying he’s out of a job and Emmit should have done the right thing to begin with. They threaten each other and it escalates as they yell, “F*ck you!” at each other.
Gloria and Winnie catch up with Ray and ask him to come with them to the station. They promise to have him home by 6pm.
The interrogation begins and Ray claims he’s going back to school and that’s why he’s not working anymore as a probation officer. They ask about his relationship with Sy Feltz and Ray says he doesn’t have any hard feelings toward him about the accident. He then says it’s all a family matter and the law doesn’t need to be involved. Gloria asks if there’s bad blood between he and his brother, and Ray starts to get upset. Winnie wants to know why Sy hit his Corvette twice, and Ray blames it on Sy’s jealousy over his relationship with his brother. Ray lies and says he’s really close with Emmit and there’s no bad blood.
Gloria continues the questioning and wants to know all about Maurice LeFay. Ray doesn’t admit to knowing him well, and reminds Gloria he told her Maurice blew his last piss test. The interrogation’s interrupted by Chief Moe Dammik (Shea Whigham) who’s had enough of all this. He wants Gloria to let Ray go, and Winnie gives a brief rundown of all the evidence. Moe’s not impressed and says this is all just a big coincidence. He’s also certain they can’t prove anything, so it’s time to set Ray free and move on.
Emmit pulls into a parking garage and Varga’s waiting for him. He sits down in the passenger seat and asks about Emmit’s wife. Varga then reveals he’s not sure they can trust Sy and that there’s talk Sy is colluding with Ray. Varga even knows Ray broke into Emmit’s bank and he thinks Sy gave Ray the key to Emmit’s safety deposit box. Varga’s convinced Sy and Ray are working together, or that Sy is making a move to kick Emmit out and insert Ray into the company. Emmit says Sy hates Ray and is totally on board with their new partnership with Varga. Finally, Emmit admits Sy just wants to protect him. He assures Varga he’ll talk to Sy and set things straight.
When Varga and Emmit enter the office, they find IRS Agent LaRue Dollard (Hamish Linklater) waiting to speak with Emmit. Dollard wants to know about the withdrawal of $10,000 earlier this week, explaining that the IRS received an alert and now Dollard has to look at Emmit’s books. It’ll be minimally invasive and the agent calls it informal so that they can avoid a real audit. Emmit claims their records are pristine, and Dollard asks if the man in the next office is Sy Feltz. Emmit says Sy’s out of the office, and Dollard informs him he’ll need to talk to senior members of his staff. Emmit seems to accept all this and they make an appointment for Dollard to start his audit the next morning at 7:30am.
As soon as he leaves, Varga asks if the agent is married or mentioned kids. Emmit can’t believe what’s going on, upset the agent wants to see the books. Varga isn’t concerned because they’ll show Agent Dollard the fake books that Emmit didn’t even realize they had.
Sy and Nikki meet in Lot 350 away from any traffic. Sy offers her $40,000 plus she can keep the $10,000 they stole at the bank. Nikki asks for $200,000 and the stamp or no deal. Yuri and Meemo arrive and although Sy tries to send them away, they won’t leave. Yuri asks if Nikki’s been to Siberia and says the parking lot is much like it. Yuri talks about the blood that soaks the dirt in Siberia, all the dead bodies, and mothers who eat their babies. (Yuri’s just a ton of fun, isn’t he?) As Nikki tries to leave, Meemo grabs her and he and Yuri ruthlessly beat her. Sy looks on, concerned, and his legs begin to wobble. Nikki stops making noise but the pounding of fists continues. Finally, Yuri and Meemo drive away. Sy also leaves without checking on Nikki.
The camera slowly moves toward Nikki as she struggles to stand. She makes it to the driver side door.
Ray, smiling, rides home on the bus.
Nikki crawls into the car and pulls herself up to sit behind the steering wheel.
Ray arrives back home and talks to Nikki, but she doesn’t answer. He finds her fully clothed in the bathtub. She’s badly bruised and barely moves when he touches her.
More on Fargo:
– Fargo Season 3 Episode 1 ‘The Law of Vacant Places’ Recap
– Fargo Season 3 Episode 2 ‘The Principle of Restricted Choice’ Recap
– Fargo Season 3 Episode 3 ‘The Law of Non-Contradiction’ Recap
– Fargo Season 3 Episode 4 ‘The Narrow Escape’ Recap
– Fargo Season 3 Episode 6 ‘The Lord of No Mercy’ Recap