Morton's Fork
Season 1, Episode 10
Episode Information
Air Date:

June 17, 2014

Written by:

Noah Hawley

Directed by:

Matt Shakman

Episode Chronology
Previous Episode:

A Fox, A Rabbit, and A Cabbage

Next Episode:

Waiting for Dutch


Morton's Fork is the Season 1 finale of Fargo, as well as the tenth episode overall. The episode premiered on June 17, 2014.


Molly takes the lead, while Gus pursues a hunch. Lester manipulates a situation, and Malvo finds a new target.


The episode opens up with tire tracks in the snow leading to what appears to be the aftermath of a snowmobile crash. A trail of footprints leads from the snowmobile to a hole in a frozen lake.

Shortly after witnessing the murder of his wife, Lester waits for Malvo to leave the area before heading into the building. He takes a moment to look at Linda's corpse before retrieving the money from his safe. As he is taking the money out, he recalls Malvo asking him "is this what you want?". Lester changes his mind and puts the money back in the safe. Before leaving, he covers up the crime scene to make it seem like he was never there. Lester enters's Lou's Coffee Shop and orders for both himself and Linda in order to create a cover story, and promptly sneaks out the back door.

Outside the shop, Lester enters the phone booth to make an anonymous tip to the Bemidji Police Department, reporting shots fired at Nygaard Insurance. Upon returning to his seat in the shop, Lou mentions to Lester that someone had come looking for him earlier that day. Lester recognizes Lou's description of the man and asks what he wanted. Lou tells him the man wanted his address and number, but nothing more. Lou also shows distaste for the man's demeanor, to which Lester apologizes for the bother. As Lester realizes he left his ticket to Acapulco in his jacket (which he gave to Linda), two police cars drive past the shop on their way to the insurance office.

Molly Solverson is at home watching TV with Gus and Greta as she receives a phone call reporting the murder of Lester's wife, again. Upon entering the crime scene, Bill Oswalt tells her she didn't have to come, to which she replies they both know that's not true. Molly inspects Linda's corpse and deduces that she was not the intended victim due to Lester's orange coat covering most of her body. Lester enters the scene and pretends to break down. Molly asks him if he thinks this is connected to the Las Vegas murders and him being a prime witness, which causes him to "break down" even more. Before being escorted outside, Lester asks if he can say good-bye to Linda. Molly refuses at first, but Bill allows it. He uses this as an attempt to retrieve the ticket, but he is stopped.

Meanwhile in an isolated cabin, Malvo listens to police chatter. On the radio, he hears that Molly has Lester in custody and she wants Budge and Pepper to meet her at the station to receive developments. Malvo retrieves a gun and tools from his bag and begins his plan. At the station, the two agents wait for updates. Molly tells them they found plane tickets to Mexico in Linda's coat pocket, Bill tells them she was shot in the back of the head. Lou arrives at the station to warn Molly about the man he saw earlier, saying he was looking for Lester and was driving a red BMW. As Molly heads for the investigation room, Lou tells her he will stand guard on her front porch until the mess is over. Outside, Malvo breaks into the agents' car and steals a book. Lester sits in the investigation room with flashes of the Las Vegas murders circulating through his head. Molly and Bill enter with the two FBI agents who show Lester pictures of Malvo. Lester refuses to answer any questions and asks for a lawyer. Molly warns him that someone like Malvo isn't going to stop until he gets what he wants.

The next morning, Lou sits on the porch of the Solverson residence with a shotgun as promised, much to the surprise of Gus. Lou tells him that Malvo has returned, and Molly is at the precinct with Lester in custody. Gus leaves for the station and asks Lou to watch over Greta, which he fully intends to do. At the station, Molly briefs everyone on their task to search for Malvo. She receives a phone call from Gus who tells her to run the search from the safety of the station and not risk her own life. Reluctantly, Molly agrees and sends her officers out to begin the search. After Gus hangs up, he spots and lone wolf in the middle of the road and slams on his breaks. Out of the corner of his eye, he spots a red BMW parked outside a cabin. He picks up his phone to call Molly back, but decides against it. He pulls around the corner, sneaks into the woods and watches Malvo leave in his car. Gus enters the cabin and waits for him to return.

Back at the station, Molly gives Bill an update on the case. They plan to station Lester at his house and use him as bait for Malvo. Bill tells her he is retiring after this is sorted out, saying he doesn't have the stomach for the things that some people can be capable of. He then states that with his departure, Molly should take over as chief after she has her baby. Molly says she appreciates she offer, but she will take some time to think about it. From outside, Malvo uses the stolen book to pose as an FBI agent and get the names of Budge and Pepper, as well as call off the back-up forces.

Malvo goes to a used car lot and convinces the salesman to go with him on a test drive in one of his cars. Meanwhile, Lester is still in the investigation room. Molly enters to tell him they're letting him go, though Budge and Pepper are going to drive him home. Before leaving, Lester tries insisting that he is not the man she thinks he is. Molly replies with a riddle about empathy that Lester fails to understand, proving that Molly knows exactly what kind of man he is.

Budge and Pepper escort Lester out of the station and begin driving to the Nygaard residence with Malvo secretly following behind them. On the way there, Budge asks Lester riddle about the fox, rabbit, and cabbage that he asked his partner before. Much to Pepper's annoyance, Lester plays along and solves the riddle with ease. They arrive at the house and allow Lester to enter while they stand guard outside. Lester goes into the basement and gathers Chazz's hunting gear.

Lou continues to sit on the front porch of the Solverson residence, meanwhile Greta brings him a cup of hot chocolate. She asks him about his time on the police force. He tells her he was an officer for eighteen years before he took a bullet to the hip at a traffic stop. She asks if he has stood guard on the porch before, which he did in the winter of 1979. He had sat outside all night in -4 degree weather while a four-year-old Molly slept inside. After hearing his story, Greta goes inside the house and brings out her own rifle, telling him if Malvo comes she'll shoot his eye off, then Lou can finish him off.

Molly oversees the search for Malvo from the station. It's quiet so far, so she decides to head for Lester's house. Meanwhile, Budge and Pepper continue standing guard. They see a black rental car roll up to the property. Believing it to potentially be their back-up, they exit their car. The agents call to the driver but get no response. They walk towards the car with their guns drawn. Approaching the car, it is revealed to be the used car salesman with his hands taped to the steering wheel. With the agents distracted, Malvo walks out of the woods behind them and shoots both the agents, killing him. Malvo approaches the salesman who pleads for his life, but the scene cuts away after, leaving his fate unknown.

As Molly is on her way to Lester's house, Lester is busy throwing clothes around the bedroom. He takes a minute to look at his award before throwing it on the floor. He walks downstairs to see two trails of blood and an empty FBI car outside in the front yard, which tells him that Malvo is close. Outside, Malvo hides the bodies of Budge and Pepper behind a pile of lumber before breaking into the house. Malvo follows the sound of Lester phoning the police to the bedroom where he steps on the bear trap that Lester set up. With Malvo pinned down, Lester barges out of the bathroom and shoots him, but misses. Malvo throws the award at Lester's face which stuns him, giving him time to reach for his gun. However, Lester ducks for cover before Malvo can get a clear shot. Gun still drawn, Lester waits for him inside the bathroom, but he never comes. He exits the bathroom to check the trap, but Malvo is gone. A trail of blood leads out of the house and disappears where the FBI agents' car was once parked.

Malvo returns to his cabin and tends to his leg wound. He stares at the lone wolf standing outside his window, licking his chops. From the shadows, Gus steps forward with his gun drawn, saying he figured out Malvo's riddle. Malvo mocks him, and Gus shoots him three times in the chest. Malvo tries getting up but can't. In his struggle, he smiles as Gus puts two more bullets in his head, finally killing him.

Upon hearing the news of Malvo's death, Molly arrives at the cabin to see multiple police cars already on the scene. Gus meets with her and brings her into the cabin. Inside, he shows her Malvo's corpse, as well as the case filled with client tapes, including one for Lester Nygaard. She listens to the tape which contains Lester's confession of Pearl's murder.

Two weeks later, Lester is attempting to escape the country on a snowmobile in Glacier National Park, Montana where he runs into the U.S. Border Patrol and is forced to flee. They chase him to a frozen lake where they are forced to stop due to the thin ice being unsafe. Lester crashes his snowmobile and continues on foot as the patrolmen call out to him to not go out any further. The ice begins cracking underneath him, and by the time Lester realizes what is happening, he falls through the ice, freezing to death instantly.

Back at home, Molly the news of Lester's demise. She sits down with her family to watch TV. Gus tells her that he is going to get a citation for bravery from Malvo's murder. Molly says she is proud of him, though Gus says they should be giving it to her. Molly reassures him that the citation is for him, as she gets to be Chief.


Main cast

Recurring cast




  • Last appearance of Lorne Malvo.
  • Last appearance of Lester Nygaard.
  • Last appearance of Bill Budge.
  • Last appearance of Webb Pepper.
  • The brain-teaser asked by Bill Budge is anwsered by Lester Nygaard at this episode.
  • The song played during the end credits is the theme from the film.
  • The title refers to a piece of reasoning in which contradictory arguments lead to different but equally unpleasant conclusions. Originating from John Morton, Archbishop of Canterbury, who held that any man living modestly must be saving money and therefore could afford taxes, whereas if he was living extravagantly then he was obviously rich and could still afford them. In the climax of the titular episode, Lester is faced with a 'Morton's fork' as he flees from the police towards the frozen lake after his snowmobile crashes. If Lester surrenders, he will be arrested and sentenced to a lengthy prison stay for his crimes but if Lester runs, he will likely fall through thin ice into the lake and drown.
  • There are a few references to other Coen Bros. movies in this:
    • The deputy reporting a "unsecured load" is a reference to No Country For Old Men, in which Sheriff Bell pulls over a truck (hauling away the victims in the shootout) for that infraction.
    • The light pouring through the bullet holes in the door of Lester's bathroom resembles a similar shot in Blood Simple.
    • Lester hiding out in a cabin by the lake is similar to the hideout Carl and Gaear use in the original Fargo film.
    • Malvo's being hobbled by a leg wound resembles what eventually happens to Chigurh in No Country For Old Men.
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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