A Muddy Road
Season 1, Episode 3
Episode Information
Air Date:

April 29, 2014

Written by:

Noah Hawley

Directed by:

Randall Einhorn

Episode Chronology
Previous Episode:

The Rooster Prince

Next Episode:

Eating the Blame


A Muddy Road is the third episode of Season 1 of Fargo. The episode premiered on April 29, 2014.


Malvo flips the script on the blackmail operation. Molly sets a trap, and Gus debates whether he should come clean. Lester's return to work has complicated repercussions.


A man is seen in his office cubicle in Saint Paul, Minnesota filing papers. He hears footsteps, and checks outside his cubicle to see Lorne Malvo standing at the end of the corridor, and he panics. As Malvo approaches him, he begs for his life, telling him he will pay off a debt that he owes. Before he can finish, Malvo grabs him by the necktie and drags him out of the office and into the parking lot, where he is seen by the security camera. The man is stripped down to his underwear and put in the trunk of a car and driven away until the car crashes. He manages to get out of the trunk and flee into the woods, where he freezes to death overnight.

Molly Solverson drives to the office building in order to investigate, having been put on the case by Bill Oswalt earlier that day. The man, revealed to be Phil McCormick, had a habit of gambling according to his co-workers, among other rumors of illicit acts. They show Molly the security footage of Malvo dragging Phil out an elevator door, as she is certain he is connected with the murders in Bemidji.

In Duluth, Malvo visits Don's gym to tell him he knows he is the blackmailer. Don brings him into the closet to talk with him in private, and he panics and begs Malvo not to hurt him. Once he calms down, Malvo tells him he has two questions and one comment. The first question is why such an exact amount of money, $43,613? Don starts explaining his plan to open a Turkish bathhouse, when Malvo interrupts him with the second question: what does he know? He admits he doesn't really know anything, to which Malvo gives his comment: You're an idiot. Malvo tells him he is taking over the blackmail. Confused, Don agrees.

At his desk, Gus Grimly continues to think about letting Malvo go the other night. He looks up the license plate on the car and realizes that it belongs to Lester Nygaard, one of the victims of the break-in. He finds Lt. Schmidt, his boss, in the bathroom and confesses to letting Malvo go, and also tell him about the connection to Lester. Schmidt gets mad at him and tells him to call the Bemidji PD and say it was him that screwed up.

Meanwhile, Lester is sitting in his house still having flashbacks of Pearl and the night he killed her. He decides to return to work to try to get his mind off it. His boss, Bo, assigns him to deliver some files to Gina Hess. There, Mickey and Moe are in the yard playing with crossbows. Gina apologizes to Lester for her sons being rambunctious, tearing up their house which she is trying to sell. Lester tries to walk her through the policies, but she is more concerned about the money. She goes as far as to seduce him for it until Mickey shoots Moe in the backside with his crossbow. As both Lester and Gina look at the chaos in the yard, Numbers and Wrench are seen watching from the bushes.

Elsewhere, Malvo visits a drug dealer to get a bunch of adderall. The dealer also offers him a zombie survival kit he made, to which Malvo replies he doesn't need it, saying the world is already bad enough that zombies wouldn't make it any worse. Molly visits an old high school friend, who tells her about her history of unsuccessful online dating adventures, including a time a spider bit her boyfriend and eggs hatched inside his neck.

Malvo sneaks into the Milos residence to switch Stavros' pills with the adderall. On the way, he kills his dog King. He leaves without being noticed. Stavros goes outside to find his dog dead with a new blackmail note attached to him, this time for $1,000,000.

In the bathroom of his workplace, Lester tries to remove the piece of shotgun shell still in his hand. He exits the bathroom to see Numbers and Wrench waiting for him at his desk. Lester gets a call from the depo telling him his stolen car has been found, asking to come collect it for a fee. Once he hangs up, they ask him about his affiliation with Sam Hess. Wrench, in sign language, calls him a weakling. Before they can do anything, Molly arrives. Lester lets her in, and Numbers and Wrench casually leave. Molly tells Lester she wants to get some insurance for her father, now worrying that he could be in danger at some point. She drops her file folder one the ground with the page open that shows a photo of Malvo on the security footage, which Lester sees and gets nervous.

Back in Duluth, Malvo looks at a large frame of a red ice pick in Stavros' office. Stavros is furious about the death of his dog and the increased price of the blackmail. He no longer thinks his ex-wife is the culprit, Malvo asks him if anyone else knows about the money, to which he replies no one else does, though he does not seem too certain. Malvo asks to move onto his property to "guard" him, which he agrees to as long as Malvo gets the job done.

Gus looks through several books of mugshots trying to find a file on Lorne Malvo, with some help from Greta. He is hesitant to make to call to Bemidji to tell him he let Malvo go, Greta suggests he tell them in person. Meanwhile, Molly brings the lead on Malvo to Bill's office, making him proud of her. That is, until she brings up the part where she talked to Lester, then he gets frustrated with her.

Later, Gus and Greta arrive at the Bemidji PD, and Gus asks to talk to someone about the suspect. Hearing about it, Molly intervenes and has him talk to her about it. Gus tells her the story of him pulling Malvo over and letting him get away. Molly shows him the picture of Malvo to see if he recognizes him, and he does. Molly is disappointed in Gus for letting him get away, until she sees Greta walk in and realizes why he made that decision. Greta asks for vending machine money and leaves. Molly asks how old she is and the whereabouts of her mother. She is twelve years old, and her mother died when she was two. Molly offers to take them both to dinner.

At the diner, Gus and Greta wait for Molly to arrive as she finishes filing reports. Lou walks up to him and recognizes Gus' badge, and asks if he works for Lt. Schmidt. He says he does, and Lou remarks a bit of distaste towards Schmidt, recalling the time they had a deal together in Sioux Falls on a task force. Molly arrives, and they order burgers. They continue discussing the case.

Meanwhile, Lester visits his brother as he is preparing guns for a hunt. Lester grabs a taser from the counter without Chaz seeing, and he asks Chaz which gun makes the biggest hole.  A montage begins with Lester shooting the machine gun with Chaz. A narration begins of Malvo reading Exodus 6:13, regarding the story of Moses. Numbers and Wrench are shown hiding out in an ice fishing shack. Stavros is seen getting in the shower, and blood starts coming out of the shower head. Screams are heard as Malvo is seen outside putting empty canisters of pig's blood into a truck.


Main cast

Recurring cast




  • Pearl Nygaard (Kelly Holden Bashar) and Vern Thurman (Shawn Doyle) have been demoted to co-stars, only appearing in flashbacks.
  • Phil McCormick is finally named after being found dead two episodes ago.
  • The title refers to a Zen koan. Two monks are traveling together down a muddy road. They meet a beautiful young woman who is unable to cross the road. One monk lifts her across the road and the two monks return to the temple. The second monk then objects, saying that monks do not go near females, particularly if they are young and beautiful and asks why helped the girl. The first monk replies, "I left the girl by the road. Are you still carrying her?"
Season 1 episodes

01. "The Crocodile's Dilemma"
02. "The Rooster Prince"
03. "A Muddy Road"
04. "Eating the Blame"
05. "The Six Ungraspables"

06. "Buridan's Ass"
07. "Who Shaves the Barber?"
08. "The Heap"
09. "A Fox, A Rabbit, and A Cabbage"
10. "Morton's Fork"

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