The Law of Vacant Places
Season 3, Episode 1
Episode Information
Air Date:

April 19, 2017


1.42 million

Written by:

Noah Hawley

Directed by:

Noah Hawley

Episode Chronology
Previous Episode:


Next Episode:

The Principle of Restricted Choice


The Law of Vacant Places is the first episode of Season 3 of Fargo, as well as the twenty-first episode overall. It premiered on April 19, 2017.


A petty sibling rivalry between two brothers escalates and brings chaos to a small Minnesotan community.


At a compound in East Berlin in 1988, Colonel Horst Lagerfeld records a conversation with himself and a German citizen named Jakob Ungerleider, whom the former accuses of being "Yuri Gurka", a wanted man who had recently killed his girlfriend. Jakob tries to explain that it is a misunderstanding that both he and Yuri both have significant others named Helga, and that Yuri must have lived in the house previously before he had moved into it. Horst accuses Jakob of saying the state is wrong, and what Jakob is saying is only a story.

In 2010, in the Minneapolis suburb Eden Prairie, Minnesota, Emmit Stussy and his lawyer Sy Feltz meet with their banker, Buck Olander, about a loan organization that Emmit's parking lot company took out a loan from last year and now intend to pay back, now that their business has bloomed. Emmit explains that he had tried calling them on the number they gave them, but only heard clicks and buzzers coming from their end. Despite being the one who suggested they get a loan from said third party, Buck says he does not know much about them. Emmit recalls meeting their broker, Rick Ehrmantraut, and has not heard from them since. Buck does not give a response and Emmit dismisses him. Before leaving, Buck asks Emmit about meeting with a widow named Mrs. Goldfarb, a "storage queen" who is looking to be a silent partner for them.

Emmit and his wife Stella Stussy are celebrating their 25th anniversary with many colleagues and guests, including his brother Ray Stussy and his fiancée Nikki Swango, who are standing in the back of the room as Emmit gives a speech about their first date. As everyone raises their glass, Ray dumps his in a plant behind him and tosses the glass inside. Sy approaches Ray and tells him he got him five minutes to speak with his brother.

In Emmit's office, Ray sits down with his brother while Sy watching from the side. Ray tries to make small talk about Grace, Emmit's daughter's, wedding. Emmit tells him it was a small one wedding in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico on the beach where nobody wore shoes, which he points out to be an odd feature, while Emmit and Sy had meetings the next day with potential investors. Ray jokes bitterly about not being invited and Sy tells him not to take offense. Ray gets to the point and tells Emmit he is getting engaged, to which Emmit asks "again?" and Sy mocks him for dating one of his parolees.

Ray is annoyed that Sy is here in the first place, and Emmit explains that Sy is always present for conversations that concern money. In this case, Ray wants to buy Nikki a ring, using the argument that Emmit still owes him from when they were kids. Sy and Emmit remind Ray that they've given him a lot of money already, $850 for car repairs. Emmit co-signing a mortgage for his apartment, and more. They try to tell Ray that it is not the best time for them to be giving him more money (especially with their new business deals). Ray asks for his stamp back, thinking that will call it even.

Ray recalls the time when they were kids when their father died, and according to Ray, Emmit tricked him into trading a stamp for a corvette. Unbeknownst to Ray, the stamp was worth a lot of money, which helped Emmit become as successful as he is today. Emmit argues the opposite, that Ray asked for the car. Ray asks how much he got for the stamp collection but gets no response. As Ray and Nikki leave the party, he tells her he will handle the situation.

On their drive back home, Nikki discusses with Ray their strategy for the upcoming Bridge tournament, which will eventually lead them to competitions in Wisconsin and other states if they win. Ray reminds her that she is not allowed to leave the state due to being on parole. Nikki asks if he could sign a form, but Ray insists that even that is a little too risky since they are not supposed to be dating to begin with, seeing as he is her parole officer. Nikki reminds him that they could win a lot of money from these tournaments, possibly six figures, which would be enough that they would never need to borrow money from Emmit again, which perks Ray's interest.

Ennis Stussy and his grandson Nathan Burgle work at the Red Owl Market. Business is slow enough that Nathan can play video games and Ennis stocks shelves while occasionally taking drinks from his own product. Gloria Burgle, Nathan's mother, arrives to pick him up but the automatic door will not let her in, so Nathan opens the door for her. Nathan gets his coat and the two of them leave.

A montage begins ensues as Ray has an afternoon of interviewing parolees at his office, submitting them to scheduled urine tests as well as listening to a couple of them talk about why they think they're innocent. Ray looks out his window at a sign for Emmit's company in plain view, very much disgusted.

Ray thus decides to steal the vintage stamp. As luck would have it, one of his parolees, Maurice LeFay, has failed his most recent urine test. Ray coerces Maurice into agreeing to steal the stamp from Emmit's house in exchange for the failed urine test being tossed. Ray hands him a note that reads "Emmit Stussy 914 Maiden Lane Eden Prarie" and tells him to get the stamp back.

At the Stussy residence, Emmit gets a phone call from Sy, who tells Emmit that the "clicks and buzzers" number contact came to the office, but it is not Ehrmantraut. Sy does not want to specify too much on the phone, and insists he come to the office right away. Meanwhile, Maurice drives down the dark highway with the note sitting on the passenger seat. He is getting high while talking to his therapist via speakerphone. Maurice tells him about his parole officer being mean to him. He tries throwing his cigarette out the window but neglects to open the window so it falls onto his crotch. In a panic, he rolls down the window completely to dispose of it when the note with the address flies out the window. He stops on the side of the highway to search for it, but quickly gives up thinking he has remembered the address.

Emmit arrives at his office where Sy is waiting with their contact, V.M. Varga. Emmit explains to Varga that they are ready to pay back the loan, which turns out to be one million dollars, in interest now that they are in the black. Varga tells them not only to keep the money, but it was an investment rather than a loan. Emmit and Sy insist on paying the money back as they are legally bound to do so, but Varga argues that it is merely a piece of paper. He goes on to explain that now is not the time for questions. After a year of studying Emmit's company, Narwhal now has means of disguising their activities. They have full access to their systems which will allow them to monitor the company's activity. Varga threatens them not to mention this to anyone as he leaves, leaving the two of them in shock.

Gloria and Nathan have dinner with Ennis at his house. Ennis gives Nathan a present for his birthday: a carving that he made. Gloria explains her situation at work, which involves her precinct being absorbed into the Meeker County police force. This would of course mean that Gloria is no longer chief of police. She tells Nathan he will be staying with his father, this weekend to go to a symphony. Nathan asks if Dale, his father's boyfriend is his other dad, to which Gloria does not have an answer. Ennis mumbles about what the bible says about that situation, much to Gloria's annoyance.

Ray and Nikki compete in the Wildcat Regional Bridge Tournament at the Clarion Hotel. Elsewhere, Maurice continues driving toward his destination, but has trouble remembering the names of the city and street. He eventually sees a sign for Eden Valley and begins driving in that direction. Gloria and Nathan leave Ennis's house and begin driving home.

Maurice stops at a gas station and asks the clerk if he has a phone book, which he does. Despite the clerk's protests, Maurice tears out a page from the phone book and takes it with him to his car. Scanning the page, he finds an "E Stussy" with an address of 15 Malta Road. Believing that to be the correct address, he drives off.

In his house, Ennis has dozed off watching what seems to be an alien-related TV show. He wakes up, goes to his freezer, and takes two swigs of vodka. A set of headlights shines into the kitchen as Ennis peers out the window to see who is there. Gloria and Nathan are driving home when Nathan realizes he left his carving with Ennis and insists they go back for it. Gloria returns to the house to find the front door wide open. Inside, the house is a mess and she finds Ennis bound to a chair with his nose and mouth glued shut. Nathan walks in and sees Ennis's lifeless body, and Gloria tells him to get back to the car as she sweeps the house for the home invader. Gloria deduces that the invader was looking for something on the desk, as the contents appear to have been rummaged through. Underneath a loose floorboard she finds a box full of old science fiction books authored by a man named Thaddeus Mobley.

Having won third place in the tournament, Ray and Nikki go to her apartment to celebrate as Maurice watches them enter the building from his car. The two of them share a candlelit bath, and Nikki posts about their Bridge tournament win on Facebook. Suddenly, Maurice enters the bathroom and sits on the toilet for a smoke. He begins telling Ray about the difficulties of obtaining the stamps when Ray tries to stop him. Maurice continues, saying he did what he asked and robbed the "rich guy from Eden Valley". Ray corrects him that he was supposed to go to Eden Prairie, to which Nikki realizes he hired Maurice to steal the stamp. Ray explains to her that he needs it to buy her a ring, which she says is romantic.

Maurice hands Ray what he believes to be the stamps that he asked for, but they're just regular old stamps. Furious, Ray attacks Maurice, who promptly pulls a gun on him and demands five thousand dollars in payment for his task. Still in the bath tub, Nikki stands up exposing herself to Maurice, distracting him and giving Ray a chance to go for his gun. Ray fails, and Maurice threatens to either turn them over to the police or kill them if they don't get him the money by tomorrow. After Maurice leaves, Nikki begins counting as Ray tries apologizing to her. It turns out she is counting the seconds it will take for Maurice to exit the building so she can loosen the air conditioner unit in time. Once Maurice walks outside and lights a cigarette, she has Ray kick the AC off the window sill and it lands on Maurice's head, killing him instantly. Nikki calls 911 to report her AC unit "accidentally" coming loose and crushing someone. She tells Ray to leave, saying she has everything covered. She also tells him to take the stamps and burn them. Ray leaves through the back exit as the police arrive.

Police also show up at Ennis's house where Gloria and Nathan wait for them. They arrive along with her ex-husband Ron, as well as Dale, who take Nathan home with them. Gloria and Ron agree not to send Nathan to school tomorrow due to the traumatic events of the night.


Main cast

Guest Starring




  • First appearance of Emmit Stussy.
  • First appearance of Ray Stussy.
  • First appearance of Stella Stussy.
  • First appearance of Grace Stussy.
  • First appearance of Nikki Swango.
  • First appearance of V.M. Vargas.
  • First appearance of Gloria Burgle.
  • First appearance of Nathan Burgle.
  • First appearance of Ron Burgle.
  • First appearance of Dale.
  • First appearance of Buck Olander.

Season 3 episodes

01. "The Law of Vacant Places"
02. "The Principle of Restricted Choice"
03. "The Law of Non-Contradiction"
04. "The Narrow Escape Problem"
05. "The House of Special Purpose"

06. "The Lord of No Mercy"
07. "The Law of Inevitability"
08. "Who Rules the Land of Denial?"
09. "Aporia"
10. "Somebody to Love"

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