Of Plato’s traditional laws of thought, the principle of non-contradiction states that “nothing can both be and not be”, and so, during this fine Fargo hour, Gloria discovers the stepfather (“Sort of”) she never knew existed, a man in complete contrast to the one she thought she knew.
Opening at the 1975 Golden Planet Awards ceremony, Thaddeus Mobley aka Ennis Stussey (Thomas Mann) — who looks a lot like a young Gary Oldman or Chris O’Dowd — sidles up to the bar for a cream soda, but instead gets himself royally scammed. “You’re the Cheddar, kid. Get used to it.” Smooth and sleazy producer, Howard Zimmerman (Fred Melamed) hits up the young author for a loan to make Thaddeus’ winning book into a major motion picture, and in the blink of Vivian Lord’s (Francesca Eastwood) oh-so-long eyelashes, Mobley’s swept up in a sex and coke-fueled fantasy that ends with the business end of a bloody walking stick.
Interspersed with Gloria’s investigation and a parade of great guest stars, is the animated tale of Planet Wyh‘s MNSKY, an adorable robot who journeys through millennia, “Looking for the meaning of life, I guess.” Between Leland Palmer Ray Wise’s Paul Marrane, Eastwood’s (who has a role in the 2017 revival) young Vivian Lord, and Gloria’s diner pie (cherry, I hope), we half expected Twin Peaks‘ Agent Cooper to pop in at any moment; he and Gloria share a certain sensibility and investigating style. Unfortunately, others not so “in the spirit of inter-collegial cooperation” exist, and in a ridiculously throwback bar scene, Rob McElhenney’s Officer Oscar Hunt errs just this side of Gloria’s fist (seriously, I expected a punch!); “Am I gonna get laid or what?” “WHAT.”
By the time she gets through the hotel Santa convention (poker by the pool, anyone?), carefully inspects an odd switch box with recalcitrant hand (related to The Addams Family‘s Thing, I presume?), meets with the aged Vivian (Frances Fisher) and Zimmerman (Roger V. Burton), and hears Paul’s wonderful divorce bill story, Gloria discovers the origins of (D)Ennis Stussey inside the rim of the same damned toilet dear old stepdad once spewed vomit into, right after he bashed in Zimmerman’s skull.
Realizing Thaddeus’ secret past didn’t lead to a vengeful end, “It’s just a story”, the real connection to her stepdad’s murder slips in after Gloria and Nathan attend his oh-so-lonely funeral. Magically appearing at the mention of “Arbys”, Donny passes on information about prints discovered at Ennis’ house; ones that belong to a certain wayward stoner who met with a strangely tragic ending (“Air conditioner in winter?”). With thoughts of milkshakes and curly fries swirling through her brain alongside alternate identities and mysterious boxes, Gloria correctly reckons she just may be able to solve this thing.
How cool is this: Frances Fisher played the older Vivian Lord; her real life daughter with Clint, Francesca Eastwood, played young Vivian.
That was quite the scam smooth Zimmerman pulled off; nice setup with the Warren Beatty conversation, and playing up Thaddeus’ “space opera”. I’d have fallen hook, line and Unit MNSKY, myself.
Set against Thaddeus’ backstory, MNSKY’s similarly, ultimately sad tale — “Let them know it wasn’t all for nothing.” — left me a little crushed. “I can help” — except the otherworldly robot never really could.
Am I the only person who’s not heard Oscar’s euphemism before? “I gotta go drop the kids off by the pool” = “I gotta take a shit.” Rob McElhenney was perfect as the smarmy shithead.
I loved this small smile of approval when Gloria shot down Oscar.
That story Ray Wise’s Paul told, though! “Before he goes off to war, he gives his wife a bill of divorce … If I don’t return in twelve months, it becomes effective from this moment onward. Meaning, that if he dies, they’ve been divorced the whole time he was gone; if he returns, they were always married. Which means, if you really think about it, the entire year he was gone, she was married and divorced.”
Old Zimmerman’s explanation of science sounded oddly akin to Trump blathering. “Do you know about science? Well, science has this thing. It’s been proven.”
As asserted by the Federation of United Planets, at 2.83 million years Unit MNSKY was the oldest in the universe.
Mmm … Whatchamacallit.
I really enjoyed this capsule episode; the road less travelled. And, the animated story reminded me of Legion‘s Chapter 7.
Music this episode:
Zimmerman to Thaddeus: “After divorce number three, this tit is pretty tapped out.”
Gloria to hotel clerk: “There’s a view?”
His response: “No, there’s a smell. The ocean.”
Gloria on the phone to Donny, in response to his “What should I tell the chief?”: “Tell him I saw the ocean, it was wet.”
Gloria to Oscar when he says he tried to friend her on Facebook: “I don’t use that … stop saying that (Facebook).”
Gloria to Paul on the department: “We’re being swallowed by the county, so hierarchy’s a little unclear at present.”
Gloria to Paul after he tells the bill of divorce story: “That’s like, I’m my own Grandpa.” (grandfather paradox)
MNSKY: “I can help.”
Gloria to Donny after he called her “Old Chief” for the umpteenth time: “You gotta stop calling me that.”
WG lady to Gloria: “The Writers’ Guild doesn’t represent book writers.”
Interesting (and perhaps at some point useful) screencaps: