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Recap / Fargo S 03 E 01 The Law Of Vacant Places

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In 1988 East Berlin, Jacob Ungerleider is questioned about the death of a woman, whose boyfriend is listed as the inhabitant of Ungerleider's apartment. Ungerleider claims it is a case of mistaken identity.

In 2010 Minnesota, St. Cloud parole officer Ray Stussy (Ewan McGregor) wants to marry his parolee girlfriend Nikki Swango (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) and asks to borrow some money from his brother Emmit (also McGregor) to pay for a ring. Emmit refuses, and the brothers argue over their father's inheritance that they had traded each other: Emmit traded the Corvette left to him with Ray, in exchange for a valuable stamp collection.

Ray later blackmails another parolee, Maurice LeFay (Scoot McNairy), who has failed a drug test, and coerces him into stealing Emmit's remaining stamp. However, Maurice loses the address and only partially remembers it. So instead of visiting Emmit Stussy in Eden Prairie, he goes to the home of Ennis Stussy in Eden Valley.

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Meanwhile, Emmit seeks to repay a business loan from two years ago, only to be informed by a shady businessman named V.M. Varga (David Thewlis) that the loan was actually a partnership agreement from a shady corporation.

In Eden Valley, police chief Gloria Burgle (Carrie Coon) and her teenage son Nathan (Graham Verchere) leave the house of her stepfather Ennis (Scott Hylands), but return for a forgotten gift to find him dead and the house ransacked. Because of the name/address mix-up, Maurice has mistakenly killed the wrong Stussy. He later goes to blackmail Ray, but Nikki and Ray kill him by dropping an air conditioner on him as he leaves.


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Tropes:

  • Continuity Nod: Footage of the UFO from the Sioux Falls massacre in season 2 can be seen on Ennis's TV.
  • Contrived Coincidence: It's a pretty big coincidence that after driving 75 miles the wrong way to Eden Valley instead of Eden Prairie, Maurice would find another E. Stussy.
  • Establishing Character Moment: Nikki places highly in a bridge tournament with Ray and soon thereafter establishes her cunning during their encounter with Maurice. In later episodes, she shows additional canniness and credits her skill in bridge for her strategic mind.
  • Fanservice: Mary Elizabeth Winstead flashes her rear getting out of the bathtub.
  • Improvised Weapon: Nikki comes up with the idea to drop her air conditioning unit on Maurice's head when he blackmails Ray. It works like a charm.
  • Indy Ploy: Nikki reveals she has a great aptitude for these when she comes up with a way to murder Maurice and make it look like an accident in less than a minute and executes it in less than two.
  • Loan Shark: Subverted. Emmit thought that he was borrowing money from one and is prepared to pay a hefty interest on the loan. However, Varga counters by revealing it was actually an "investment", and insists that Emmit pay him back by using his business to launder their money.
  • Make It Look Like an Accident: Nikki kills Maurice by dropping her air conditioner on his head, claiming it was faulty and fell on its own.
  • Murder Is the Best Solution: In order to keep Maurice from blackmailing Ray, Nikki decides to kill him immediately.
  • An Offer You Can't Refuse: Varga comes with a proposition to take over Emmit's business which Emmit cannot refuse.
  • Oh, Crap!: Emmit and Sy get this reaction when they realize Varga has other intentions than being paid back.
  • Picture-Perfect Presentation: The transition from East Berlin to Minnesota happens via the picture on the wall.
  • Ransacked Room: Maurice ransacks the old man's house in search for the stamp.
  • Ripped from the Phone Book: When he arrives at Eden Valley, Maurice looks up E. Stussy in a gas station's phone book and rips out the page with his address in full view of the attendant. Not only does it lead to him killing the wrong person, it also provides evidence that the killing wasn't random.
  • Show Some Leg: Nikki steps out of the bathtub completely nude in an attempt to distract Maurice long enough for Ray to get the gun away from him. It works on her part, Ray's just too slow to the draw, and she has to prompt him to disarm Maurice of his gun.
  • Sibling Rivalry: Established between Emmit and Ray right off the bat, though most of the hostility comes from Ray's end, and is ironically exacerbated by Sy and Nikki and neither of the Stussy brothers themselves.
  • Vanity License Plate: Ray's Corvette has ACE•HOLE written on the metal plate.
  • We Hardly Knew Ye: Maurice is killed by the end of the premiere.
  • What the Hell Is That Accent?: Emmit and Sy are both baffled by Varga's manner of speaking.
    Sy: Where are you from?
    Varga: America.

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