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.


The episode opens up with a 1993 New Yorker car driving down the highway in the middle of the night. The car is being driven by a drifter named Lorne Malvo, who is listening to a mix tape. Screams are heard coming from inside the trunk of the car. Suddenly, a deer runs across the highway and gets hit by Malvo's car, causing him to swerve off the road and crash. A man wearing nothing but undergarments trapped inside the trunk manages to get out of the trunk, and runs off. Malvo gets out of the car and watches the man run into the woods. He walks over to the deer he hit, and looks down at it with remorse.

Meanwhile at the Nygaard residence, Lester Nygaard and his wife Pearl Nygaard are discussing the amount of noise their laundry machine is making in the basement. Pearl goes on about how Lester's brother and his family bought a bunch of high-tech utilities including a laundry machine that washes and dries, as well as a TV with surround sound. She tells Lester that he needs to try harder in order to get better things as he leaves for work. Lester zones out and Pearl's rant becomes muffled as he goes to check on the laundry machine.

Later, Lester tries to sell life insurance to an expecting couple, and fails completely. They leave before he can finish his terrible pitch. After work, Lester does some window shopping for a new laundry machine. He is approached by his old high school bully Sam Hess, along with his two sons Mickey and Moe. Sam tells Lester he has his own trucking company now, and he had recently bought a summer house in Bear Island. Sam taunts Lester, bringing up the time he put him in an oil drum and rolled him into the highway, and mentions the time he slept with Pearl in high school. Lester tries to leave, but Sam chases him down and pretends to punch him. Lester reacts anyway and hits his head on the window.

Lester goes to the hospital to get his nose checked from hitting it on the window, and sits in the waiting room with an ice pack. Malvo is also in the waiting room sitting in the chair next to Lester, with a head wound from crashing his car the other night. Lester takes a drink from a Faygo can, and Malvo asks for a sip. Lester gives him the can, and Malvo asks what happened to his nose. Lester explains it was a "misunderstanding" which quickly turns into a conversation about killing Sam. Malvo suggests that Lester wants him to kill Sam, to which he doesn't give a direct yes or no answer. Instead, Lester hurriedly leaves for the doctor's office.

Elsewhere, Chief of Police Vern Thurman and deputy Molly Solverson investigate a car wreck that appears to be the same car that Malvo crashed. They notice blood on the front of the car, possibly a deer, but Molly explains there has been no evidence found. Vern finds more blood in the snow, and on the steering wheel of the car. He checks the trunk to find the dead deer, which Molly admits she never thought of checking. They decide to follow the bloody footprints in the snow, to find a man in his underwear who froze to death sitting beside a tree.

Vern returns home to his pregnant wife Ida Thurman. Vern checks on the nursery which still hasn't been painted due to Ida not being able to choose a color. They sit down for dinner and discuss the frozen man from the car wreck, and deduce that he crashed the car and continued on foot, but got lost in the woods and froze to death. Ida tells Vern that he's a good man, and that her sister told her she was crazy to marry him. Vern jokingly says that her sister is crazy.

Malvo pays a visit to Hess & Sons Transport, where he meets Sam's two sons goofing off. He asks them where he can find Sam. Sam arrives and asks Malvo what he wants. Malvo taunts him, but Sam restrains himself due to spotting Malvo's head injury. Malvo claims he just wanted to take a look at Sam, and leaves.

Lester and Pearl go to visit Lester's brother, Chaz Nygaard along with his wife Kitty and his son Gordo. Chaz prepares ham while he and Lester talk about the raise that Chaz had recently got, as well as a corner office. Pearl continues to comment on how much better off Chaz is than Lester. The two of them go out to the garage to get more beer. There, Chaz says he thinks Gordo might have autism, explaining that Gordo is constantly drawing on the walls and leaving jars of pee in his closet. Chaz shows him his gun collection, which includes an M249 silahi machine gun. He says it's technically not legal to have, but he got a friend to lend it to him. Lester tries to hold it and drops it due to its weight, and it breaks. Chaz gets upset, and yells at Lester for always being a screw-up, and being a weak older brother. On the way back home, Pearl nags about how Lester apparently hit Chaz, shortly after their argument.

Meanwhile at Rundle Realty, a man with a bunch of phones gets a call from Malvo, the man says he's been expecting him but he got delayed due to "car troubles." The man asks when Malvo will be in Duluth to pick up the next client. Malvo says he is taking a detour first to kill Sam. Sam is at a strip club having relations with one of the strippers in one of the rooms. Malvo enters the room and throws a knife into the back of Sam's head, killing him. Vern gets a call in the middle of the night to investigate. There, Molly and officer Bill Oswalt investigate the crime scene. Bill stands away from the corpse, saying that he is sensitive to blood. When Molly asks him if Sam was the one that was tied to a crime syndicate in Fargo, Vern tells her that there has never been any proof.

Malvo stops at Leroy's Motor Inn to spend the night. When entering the main building, the front desk clerk is bantering with one of the workman about replacing bed sheets properly. Malvo approaches the clerk and questions the strict rules of the motor inn. On the way to his room, he stops to talk to the workman from earlier and tells him about the time when someone insulted him. In retaliation, he urinated in his gas tank and the car stopped functioning properly. Once in his room, he calls the clerk and tells him there is someone urinating in her red Cavalier.

The next day, Molly visits Lou's Coffee Shop, run by her father Lou. She is looking through the murder file of Sam Hess. Vern visits to discuss the case. Molly connects the frozen man in his underwear to a hospital patient that had a head injury, possibly from a car wreck. She also explains that the car was stolen. Vern tells her she will make a good Chief of Police one day.

Meanwhile at the Hess residence, a man talks to Gina Hess (Sam's wife), about Fargo, distancing themselves from Sam's murder. The twin boys are also in the room. The maid gets a phone call for Mickey, the older brother. On the other end is Malvo posing as Sam's attorney. He tells Mickey that according to Sam's will, all of his possessions are going to his younger brother, Moe. During the call, Vern and Molly arrive at the house to ask Gina a few questions about Sam's involvement with the criminal underworld. Meanwhile, Mickey takes Moe out to the back yard and beats him with a hockey stick, which Molly runs out and stops.

Lester goes to work only for his boss to approach him and he asks for the insurance policy on Sam Hess. Lester learns that Sam had been murdered the other night. Lester pays a visit to Malvo at a diner, and asks him if he killed Sam. Malvo tells him the murder is Lester's fault due to him telling Malvo to kill Sam, even though he never gave a direct answer. He tells him that back in the day men were gorillas who fended for themselves, and tells him that he needs to be one. He needs to stand up the tide.

At the police department, Vern gets a call from Ida about painting the nursery, now she thinks the room should be white. Vern says the room is already white, but she wants a new shade of white. He tells her he will stop by the hardware store to pick up some paint cans, and they can decide later tonight. It finally sinks in for Ida that they're having a baby. Leaving the hardware store with the paint buckets, Vern gets a call from Molly. She says she checked up on Moe at the hospital who has a broken collar bone. While there, she asked around if there was anyone with a head injury, which there was. She explains that the man with the head injury was talking to someone else about Sam Hess, deducing he may be connected to the murder. The man he was talking with was Lester. Vern decides to go to Lester's house to talk to him about it.

Back at the Nygaard residence, Lester is in the basement trying to fix the laundry machine. The machine breaks even more, and Pearl starts nagging again about how big of a failure he is. He explains that he was "standing up to the tide" as Malvo told him to. Pearl comments on how Lester is not even close to a man, and can never stand up to anything. He tells her to take it back, but she continues taunting him. He reaches into the toolbox and grabs a hammer, but she still continues to taunt him. He then snaps and hits her once on the head with the hammer, killing her. Once Lester realizes what he's done, he freaks out and continues to bash Pearl's head in. Lester then tries to cover up the murder, and calls Malvo to tell him that he killed Pearl and needs him to come and help him. He plans to have Malvo visit so he can kill Malvo for convincing him to "stand up to the tide" which indirectly caused him to kill Pearl. He gets a shotgun ready and waits. Instead, he gets a visit from Vern.

Vern comes in and asks if Pearl is home, and if Lester's nose is alright. He then asks about the man Lester talked with at the hospital, but before he can get an answer he sees a trail of blood on their stairwell to the basement. He looks downstairs to see Pearl's dead body, and begins to arrest Lester. He calls Molly for back-up, but before they arrive Malvo shows up and kills Vern with Lester's shotgun. Malvo asks Lester what he told Vern, he says he didn't tell him anything. Malvo goes into the basement to look at the crime scene, and Lester notices that a piece of the shotgun shell that hit Vern ricocheted and hit his right hand. The back-up forces arrive along with Molly and Bill. Lester goes into the basement to find that Malvo has disappeared and panics. He rams his head into the wall to knock himself out in order to make it look like he was a victim of a home invasion. Vern's body is covered up and taken away. Molly visits Ida to tell her the news, and brings the white paint buckets that Vern had with him.

Meanwhile in Duluth, Minnesota, Officer Gus Grimly is patrolling the freeway. His daughter is talking to him on the walkie-talkie, giving him updates on Vikings football game. He sees a car speed around a corner, and pulls the driver over. The driver is revealed to be Malvo , who convinces Gus not to write him up and let him go, telling him that if he wants to be able to see his daughter again (who is still trying to talk to him on the radio) he should not follow him.

The next morning, Lester wakes up in the hospital, still with the hand wound which he quickly hides, knowing it's proof that he was in the room with Vern when he was killed, and not in the basement. Elsewhere, Molly and Lou are getting ready to go ice fishing. Lou wants Molly to work with him at the coffee shop where he knows it's safe, especially now that there have been several murders in the past few days. She declines, and decides to head into work and postpones the ice fishing for another day.

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.


  • 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"

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