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The Crocodile's Dilemma
Season 1, Episode 1
Episode Information
Air Date:

April 15, 2014

Written by:

Noah Hawley

Directed by:

Adam Bernstein

Episode Chronology
Next Episode:

The Rooster Prince


The Crocodile's Dilemma is the first episode of Season 1 of Fargo, as well as the series premiere. The episode premiered on April 15, 2014.


A rootless, manipulative man meets a small town insurance salesman and sets him on a path of destruction.


In 2006, Lorne Malvo drives down a snowy highway in the middle of the night. As muffled shouts come from his trunk, he listens to a tape of a man raving about plotting to hurt or kill someone. Deer bound across the road and he hits one, swerving into the snow. A man stripped down to his underwear emerges from the trunk of Malvo's car and runs off into the woods, while Malvo stares at the dying deer.

Lester Nygaard, a meek, beaten-down insurance salesman in Bemidji, Minnesota, is lambasted by his wife Pearl for not being as successful as his brother, as he can afford a good washing machine, while Lester and Pearl's is loud and obnoxious. At work, he fails to sell to an expecting couple with a morbid pitch, and crosses paths with high school bully Sam Hess. Hess gleefully recounts in front of his sons his successes in life, as well as a story about putting Lester in an oil drum and rolling him across the highway, and sleeping with his wife while they were teenagers. Hess throws a fake punch at Lester, and he jerks into a window and breaks his nose.

As he waits in the hospital to get his nose checked, he ends up sitting next to Malvo, who is getting checked for injuries from his accident. Malvo starts conversation by asking for some of Lester's drink, and despite Lester awkwardly trying to sidestep what really happened to his nose, Malvo gets him to confess the truth. Malvo suggests to Lester that he should kill Hess for humiliating him, and Lester, shocked, jokingly suggests that the man kill him instead. Horrified to see that Malvo is taking the suggestion seriously, he is called away by staff before he can give him a definitive yes or no.

Police deputy Molly Solverson finds Malvo's wrecked car with the deer in the trunk, and calls chief Vern Thurman out to take a look with her. They follow a set of footprints into the woods, and find the nearly naked man, frozen to death next to a tree. Thurman returns home to his pregnant wife Ida to look at their unpainted nursery, unable to decide on a color. Ida agrees with his theory that the man in the woods was the driver, and delirious, stumbled out, undressed, and died.

Malvo visits Hess' trucking company, and antagonizes his sons until Hess himself comes out of a meeting. Despite antagonizing him, Malvo leaves peacefully, claiming he just wanted a look. Lester and Pearl visit Chazz and his wife, Kitty, for dinner. While Pearl continues to belittle Lester in front of them, Chazz takes him out to the garage and shows Lester his gun collection, including an illegal machine gun he got from a friend. When he lets Lester take a look, Lester drops it and is berated by his brother for being a screw-up. Lester punches him, leaving him to also be berated by Pearl when they leave.

Malvo follows Hess while he calls a man named Mr. Rundle and tells him he's going to be a couple of days behind schedule, as he has "personal" business to attend to. He tracks Hess to a strip club and kills him by throwing a knife into the back of his head while he's having sex with a stripper. Thurman, Molly, and milquetoast officer Bill Oswalt are called to the crime scene. Molly brings up the fact that Hess has rumored ties to the Fargo Crime Syndicate, but Thurman reminds her that they are, in fact, just rumors. Malvo stops at an inn to spend the night, and after noticing a worker being berated by the clerk, convinces him to urinate in the gas tank of her car. He watches this through his window and calls the clerk, grinning.

Molly and Thurman have breakfast at her father's coffee shop to discuss the two deaths from yesterday. She notes that the dead man in the woods could not have been the driver, as the steering wheel had blood on it from a head injury, but the man's head was fine. As she also mentions she found the car was reported stolen, Thurman wistfully comments that she will make an excellent chief. A representative from Fargo coaches Hess' uncaring widow, Gina, on what to say to the police. Malvo calls the house posing as the estate attorney and tells Hess' older son that all of his father's possessions are going to his younger brother. As Thurman and Molly question Gina, the older brother runs outside and starts beating up the younger, which Molly is forced to break up.

Lester finds out from his boss that Hess was murdered because they handled Hess's life insurance policy. Noticing Malvo in a diner, Lester gets a booth with him to ask if he was responsible. Malvo retorts that Hess's death is Lester's fault, because he never directly told him not to. He tells Lester that he has spent has life thinking there are rules, but there are none. He harkens back to the days when men were more gorilla than anything, who fended for themselves. Malvo tells Lester that whoever is wearing him down does not understand this and that he needs to remind them of his gorilla heritage. Molly, at the hospital because of the Hess boy, excitedly calls Thurman to tell him she found a nurse who identified the man with the head injury. The nurse had overhead him talking to Lester about Hess. Thurman decides to pay a visit to Lester.

That night, Pearl finds Lester in their basement, trying to fix the washer, but only ends up making it worse. Pearl again insults him, despite Lester saying he was "standing up to the tide," something the man told him to do. When she openly regrets her marriage to him and refuses to take it back, he snaps and hits her with a hammer. As she starts to bleed from the hit, Lester hits her again until he kills her. Horrified, he instinctively calls Malvo and gives him his address.

While waiting for Malvo to arrive, Lester grabs a shotgun and loads it, planning to kill him with it when he arrives and make it look like he killed a burglar in self-defense. There's a knock at the door, and Lester opens the door...to Thurman, who has come to question him about Hess's murder. Thurman realizes Lester is hiding something because of his shifty behavior. He then notices blood by the basement stairs, and Pearl's body as well. He immediately calls Molly and prepares to arrest Lester, but before he can tell her of the situation, Malvo sneaks in through the back, grabs Lester's gun, and shoots Thurman with it. One of the shotgun pellets embeds itself in Lester's hand as Molly and Bill arrive. Malvo escapes through a basement window, and Lester, unsure what to do as Molly enters the house, stares at a poster of one red fish swimming against a tide of yellow fish, captioned "WHAT IF YOU'RE RIGHT AND THEY'RE WRONG?", stained with Pearl's blood. He runs face-first into it and knocks himself out. Molly notices two buckets of paint for Thurman's nursery in the trunk of his car, and goes to the Thurman house to tell his wife.

Duluth police officer Gus Grimly patrols the freeway, talking to his daughter Greta over a radio so she can give him updates on the Vikings game. Malvo speeds by in his car and Gus pulls him over. Malvo calmly threatens him, noticing Greta's voice over the radio and tells Gus that he will look at her face when he gets home and realize he is alive because he chose not to stop the man, that he "chose to walk into the light instead of into the darkness." He leaves Gus in the middle of the road.

Lester awakens in the hospital and notices his hand wound, hiding it when he realizes it proves he was conscious when Thurman was killed. Lou offers Molly a job at his shop because of the three murders, but she declines, wanting to to get justice for Thurman.

Deleted scenes[]

  • Nurse gives Molly a lead on Malvo & Lester (1:45): Molly brings Moe to the hospital and stops by Sue Roundtree's desk. Molly follows up on the abandoned car wreck by asking her if there had been any recent head injuries reported. The nurse says there was one man who came in, but did not have proper identification so they could not treat him. She also says this man was talking to Lester about Sam Hess, giving Molly a strong lead for her case.


Main cast[]

Recurring cast[]




  • First appearance of Lorne Malvo.
  • First appearance of Lester Nygaard.
  • First appearance of Molly Solverson.
  • First appearance of Gus Grimly.
  • First appearance of Bill Oswalt.
  • First appearance of Lou Solverson.
  • First appearance of Chaz Nygaard.
  • First appearance of Kitty Nygaard.
  • First appearance of Gordo Nygaard.
  • First appearance of Ida Thurman.
  • First appearance of Max Gold.
  • First appearance of Gina Hess.
  • First appearance of Mickey Hess.
  • First appearance of Moe Hess.
  • First appearance of Mr. Rundle.
  • First appearance of Bo Munk.
  • First appearance of Linda Park.
  • First appearance of Phil McCormick.
  • First (and last) appearance of Sam Hess.
  • First (and last) appearance of Pearl Nygaard.
  • First (and last) appearance of Vern Thurman.
  • This episode ran for a total of 68 minutes.
  • The title refers to a paradox in which a crocodile steals a child, and promises the father that his son will be returned if he can correctly predict whether or not the crocodile will return the child. If the father thinks that it will not, the crocodile loses the deal no matter what. If the crocodile wants to give him back, it has to keep him. If it wants to keep him, it has to give him back.
  • The cassette tape that Malvo is listening to at the beginning of the episode appears to be a recording of one of Malvo's clients. The client is calling Malvo to tell him he plans to murder his wife while she is sleeping, but is scared to do so.
  • This episode takes place over the course of 18th-21th of January 2006


  • When Lester kills Pearl, there is blood splattered on the poster that reads "What if they're wrong and you're right?". When the poster is shown again seconds later, the poster is clean.
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"