FARGO, Season 5, Episode 6: ‘The Tender Trap’

Jennifer Jason Leigh as Lorraine Lyon in “Fargo.” (PHOTO: FX)

Northern Minnesota author Aaron J. Brown reviews each episode of “Fargo” with an eye for unique details from the place where the show is set. The ratings range from INTERESTING  (bad), to COULD BE WORSE (not so good) to PRETTY GOOD (not so bad), and OH, YA! (real good then).

Beware the spoilers.

The Tender Trap

(Original air date: Dec. 19, 2023)

As we begin the second half of the latest season of “Fargo,” let’s consider where we are. A “Fargo” story is more than just a Midwestern setting, funny accents and melodramatic violence. Deep philosophical questions about human nature and morality rest at the heart of these tales. 

In Season 5, Noah Hawley centers the story on debt and sin. Lorraine Lyon (Jennifer Jason Leigh) is “The Queen of Debt,” owner of the largest debt collection firm in the country. Indira Olmstead (Richa Moorjani) is an officer of the law weighed down by her personal credit woes. Hired killer Ole Munch (Sam Spruell) is, or would appear to be, a 500-year old Welsh sin eater who spent those centuries internalizing his guilt and self-loathing. And Dot (Juno Temple) — the Tiger — seeks to escape a husband who perceives her as property and her escape as a debt owed exclusively to him.

This episode of “Fargo” is all about debt.

The titular (tee hee) Tender Trap refers to a strip club where Roy Tillman (Jon Hamm) accosts the banker who was going to sell his bank to Lorraine. Don’t sell, says Roy. “Or else” is implied. Here we see an example of how abusive men use control to shape the lives of the people they can’t influence through normal means.

Back at the Olmstead house, Indira is lying in bed ignoring calls from the debt collectors. Tough to watch. This was life in my parents’ house during high school. The tone of voice in the calls. A little too close to home.

Scotty (Sienna King) found the husband’s supply of sugary cereal. Lars (Lukas Gage) fell asleep in the garage, again. Then he comes in to the kitchen to give one of the most infuriating monologues in the history of the show. He wants Indira to be a wife, one who supports him and listens to him and does pretty much everything he wants. Knowing how much debt he’s wracked up, this is maddening. To quote my wife, “I want to shove him in a wood chipper.” Pretty sure that’s how Indira feels, too. She leaves Scotty in his care so she can get to work, but this conversation is clearly not over. 

Meantime, in western North Dakota, Gator (Joe Keery) and Tillman’s goons are working over the angry patient, who they think is Wayne, in the shed. Roy is in the kitchen where his wife Karen (Rebecca Liddiard) is giving him a haircut. He moves and she accidentally clips his ear. He slaps her for her trouble, in front of his daughters, raising the bar for terrible husbands on this episode. A Lyon Motors commercial lets him know that they have the wrong guy. Roy goes out to the shed, shoots angry man, and informs Gator he’s got a bad luck problem. They now know that Dot/Nadine switched the names on the rooms. Interesting that Roy never seems surprised by her aptitude. 

At the hospital in or near Scandia, Indira interviews one of the nurses. She figures out that the names were switched and that the missing man was mistaken for Wayne Lyon. She also catches wind of the FBI presence on the scene. We cut to the cafeteria where the FBI agents are interviewing Wayne and his quiet alcoholic father, Wink (Jan Bos). Wayne is very disoriented. His father is very disassociated.

Dot’s real name is Nadine Bump. She assumed a fake ID to escape Roy and marry Wayne. Indira arrives to intervene. She and the FBI agents exit, leaving Wayne to wonder if he’s really married and where Dot might be. 

Roy meets with Ole Munch to see about finishing the job. Likes that he doesn’t talk much

“A man has only so many words in his life,” says Ole. “For us there are very few left.” 

Is the “us” referring to Roy and him, or is he speaking of himself in the plural?

Roy warns Ole about Nadine’s slippery nature. Pays him for the past job and sets him loose on his terrible business of finding Nadine. Gator tries to razz him as he leaves. But Ole knows the score. Who lives, who dies, these are things that happen. “A man” knows he can’t change these things and so he does not complain about them. Ole is saying something here about manhood, a kind of manhood that Gator Tillman can’t quite grasp. Gator does, however, place a tracking device on Ole’s car as he goes. The Tillmans will be shadowing the sin-eating killer in his pursuit of the Tiger.

Back in Minnesota, the FBI agents meet with Indira Olmstead to give her the details on Tillman. They are onto Roy’s funneling of weapons to a right wing militia and hope to flip one of his men to testify. Indira wants to go after Roy on his abuse, the missing man. But the FBI brushes that off. Roy’s too powerful to be nailed on that. 

In the golf enclave of the Olmstead’s home, Scotty checks on Lars. He’s not very friendly. He leaves her alone to go see his physical therapist. The fact that he’s putting on cologne suggest this is a certain kind of physical therapy not sanctioned by the American Physical Therapy Association. Lars told her not to play his drum set, but Scotty plays them pretty well once he leaves.

Danish Graves briefs Lorraine on the bank deal. There was a note left, “Not on my watch.” Lorraine knows immediately that it’s Roy’s payback. They roll in Wayne, who wants to know about Dot. She sends him to his old room, with his “stuffies.” Lorraine orders Danish to North Dakota to “steal an election.” She’s referring to Roy’s election. Their war is just heating up. 

Indira returns home from her challenging day to hear Scotty wailing on the drums. 

“This is a nice kit,” says Scotty.

“It ought to be,” says Indira. “for what it cost.”

Scotty never got fed. So off they go to Grandma’s house. Indira thinks she’ll be safer at Lorraine’s. The husband Wink is playing war with his toys, emphasizing the theme of men who failed to launch. 

Indira explains to Lorraine how Dot is more like her than she realizes. Persistent. Independent. Someone Lorraine should be helping. 

Lorraine offers Indira a job as head of her security force. Real money. Debt relief. Indira is thinking about it. But wants Lorraine to think, too.

Indira has 24 hours to accept the job offer. 

Back at the Tender Trap, our banker friend is getting a lap dance from a sparkly stripper. Quite suddenly, Danish Graves is standing over them, totally harshing the vibe. Danish hands the banker a phone. It’s Lorraine. She’s pulling the purchase offer and putting the FEC on him. She even got his son expelled from Notre Dame for nonpayment of tuition.

“You will spend the rest of your days in squalor, surrounded by the dead-eyed stares of your futureless children,” she says. 

After this cutting line, Lorraine opens Dot’s file to see the horrific abuse Roy committed against her. As fearsome as Lorraine is, she is moved. And that is very bad for Roy Tillman.

EPISODE GRADE: Oh ya! It’s getting good, and the themes are coming into sharp focus. I imagine some will lament the politics, but this is all rather agnostic about right and left. This is about power in its most primal form. The relationships between and among men and women stand at the heart of it all.


No Dot in this episode. Looks like she’ll be the major player in next week’s episode. Interesting

Jeez, you guys. Not much to go on this week. Great episode, and the producers didn’t get anything extremely wrong. Pretty good.

Read more at the Fargo Review page.

Previous Episode: “The Tiger

Next Episode: “Linda

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