The movie opens with a car towing a new tan Oldsmobile Cutlass Ciera through a sub-freezing blizzard to a small inn in Fargo, North Dakota. It is 8:30 p.m. on a cold night in January 1987. When the driver goes inside, we see that it is Jerry Lundegaard (William H. Macy
), and he uses the false name 'Jerry Anderson' to check in. He then goes to the inn's bar/restaurant to have a meeting with two men.
Jerry has obviously never met them before. The short, bug-eyed, dark-haired, annoyed, talkative one, Carl Showalter (Steve Buscemi
), tells him that Shep Proudfoot, a mutual acquaintance of theirs who set up the meeting, had said Jerry would be there at 7:30 rather than 8:30. The other man, a tall, blond Swede named Gaear Grimsrud (Peter Stormare
), sits silently and smokes. They discuss the tan Ciera as part of a payment to them from Jerry, plus $40,000. Apparently, Jerry has hired the men to kidnap his wife in order to get a ransom from his wife's father. Jerry is a fast talker and doesn't want to say much about why he needs the money, but he reveals that his father-in-law is wealthy and that he plans on asking for $80,000 and keeping the other half for himself. Carl and Gaear accept the deal.
The next day, Jerry returns to his home in Minneapolis, Minnesota where we see part of his impassive home life. Jerry awkwardly greets his laid-back, subservient wife Jean (Kristin Rudrüd
), but he becomes uncomfortable when he sees his father-in-law, Wade Gustafson (Harve Presnell
), sitting on the couch watching a hockey game on TV, visiting that night for supper. They all eat dinner, and Jerry and Jean's young teenage son, Scotty (Tony Denman
), leaves early to go to McDonald's. Jerry and Wade start to argue about this; that Jerry seems to spoil Scotty and allows him to do whatever he wants, plus Jerry does not inflict much discipline on his son. To get out of the conversation, Jerry changes the subject by bringing up a deal he had apparently suggested earlier to Wade, in which he's asking for a loan of $750,000 to build a 40-acre parking lot in Wayzata. Wade tells Jerry that his associate, Stan Grossman, usually looks at those kinds of deals before he does. Jerry nervously urges him to accept it, saying he and his family are in desperate need of money soon. Wade, who clearly appears to have a condescending attitude toward Jerry, tells him that Jean and Scotty will never have to worry about money. (Wade clearly omits Jerry's name).
Another day later, Carl and Gaear are driving the Cutlass Ciera towards Minneapolis. Gaear tells Carl he wants to stop at "pancakes house", and Carl complains that they just had pancakes for breakfast. Gaear looks at him and tells him coldly they will stop at pancakes house. Carl agrees, somewhat reluctantly, they will stop for the night in Brainerd where they will get pancakes, and "get laid."
Back in Minneapolis, Jerry is the executive sales manager at the car lot Wade owns, a job which fits Jerry's talkative, weasely manner. He's arguing with a couple about the $500 "TruCoat" sealant on the couple's new $19,000 car, and now Jerry is clearly over-charging them for it when they had said they didn't want it. Jerry says he will talk to his manager about it, and leaves the room to have a conversation with another salesman about hockey tickets. He comes back and lies to the couple by stating that his manager has approved a $100 discount on the TruCoat, and the husband agrees but profanely accuses Jerry of being a liar.
The story goes back briefly to a motel room at the Blue Ox, a motel in Brainerd that evening. Gaear and Carl are having enthusiastic sex with two women on separate beds in the same room. They watch 'The Tonight Show' with Johnny Carson on the TV afterwords.
The next morning at the Lundegaards', Jean and Scotty are having an argument about his low grades in school. The phone rings, and it's Wade calling for Jerry. Wade tells him that Stan Grossman has looked at the parking lot deal and he says it's "pretty sweet." Jerry tries to restrain his excitement, as he apparently had thought Wade wouldn't want to go through with it. They schedule a meeting for 2:30 pm that afternoon.
Jerry is optimistic about the future meeting with Wade, and is now considering calling off the kidnap/ransom plot. He makes his way to the dealership's large service garage to seek out a burly Native American mechanic, named Shep Proudfoot (Steve Reevis
). A man of few words, Shep is apparently the middleman who set up Jerry's earlier meeting with Carl and Gaear. Surprisingly, Shep does not know who Carl is. He tells Jerry he'll only vouch for Grimsrud, not Carl. Regardless, Jerry tells him that's fine, but was just wondering if there was an alternate phone number to reach Carl and Gaear. Shep casually tells Jerry that he can't help him anymore, for he has no other means to get in contact with Gaear or Carl. Jerry is visibly nervous.
In the next scene, Carl and Gaear are driving and the skyline of the Twin Cities is visible. Carl chats mindlessly to Gaear and asks him if he's ever been to the Twin Cities, to which Gaear responds with a short "nope." Carl goes on about how that's the most Gaear has said all day. He asks Gaear how much he'd like it if he stopped talking.
Meanwhile, Jerry is sitting in his office at the car dealership talking on the phone. On the other end is a man named Reilly Diefenbach (voice of Warren Keith) from the banking loan company GMAC who tells Jerry that he can't read the serial numbers of a list of vehicles on a financing document Jerry sent by fax some time ago. Jerry is elusive, telling him there's no problem since the loans are in place already. The man tells him 'yes', and that Jerry got $320,000 last month from the insurance loans for the new set of cars sold, but there's an audit on the loan and that if Jerry cannot supply the serial numbers of the cars as proof of the sales to prove that the vehicles exist, GMAC will have to recall all of that money. Jerry clearly tries to get the man off the phone as quickly as he can while still being vague about the particulars. Jerry tells him that he'll fax him another copy. The man tells him a fax copy is no good, because he can't read the serial numbers of the cars from the fax he already has. Jerry tells him he'll send him another one as soon as possible and then hangs up.
(Note: It is highly implied at this point that Jerry is secretly embezzling money from the car dealership bank accounts either for personal use or to pay off more anonymous debts. So, in order to cover up his crime, he replaced the money he stole by sending fake sales documents to acquire a $320,000 insurance loan from GMAC for a new batch of cars that he sold... cars which apparently don't exist, thus in some part explains why Jerry needs $320,000 to pay back GMAC when they come to recall their loan.)
At the Lundegaards' house, at about the same time Jerry is on the phone, Jean sits alone watching a morning TV show. She hears a noise and looks up at the sliding-glass door in the back just as Carl comes up the steps to the back deck, wearing a ski mask and holding a crowbar. He peers through the window as if looking for someone, steps back, and smashes the glass door with the bar. Jean screams and tries to run for the front door, but Gaear suddenly barges in through the front door, also wearing a ski mask. He grabs her wrist and she bites his hand. She runs up the stairs as Carl enters. Gaear lifts up his mask, looks at the bite, and tells Carl he needs unguent. Jean takes a phone into the second floor bathroom and locks herself in, trying desperately to call 911. The cord is under the door. Carl and Gaear yank the phone out of her hands before she can finish dialing. The door frame starts to break as Carl uses the crowbar to get through. Sobbing hysterically, she frantically tries to pry the screen off the second-story window to escape before the men get in. The door busts open, and the two men stand there looking at an empty bathroom, the window open. Carl runs to go outside to look for her, and Gaear raids the medicine cabinet for some salve. As he is about to put it on his hand, he looks up into the mirror and sees the shower curtain drawn on the tub. He pauses for a moment and realizes where Jean is. Jean, hiding in the tub, begins thrashing and screaming and takes off, blindly hurtling through the bathroom and down the hall. She runs screaming, trying to throw off the curtain, and she trips and falls down the flight of stairs and lands hard at the bottom. Gaear calmly follows her down the stairs and nudges her body to see if she is alive.
At the 2:30 p.m. business meeting, Stan Grossman (Larry Brandenburg
) and Wade tell Jerry that the deal is looking good. They ask him what kind of finder's fee he is looking for. Jerry seems confused and tells Stan and Wade that they would be lending all the money to him to proceed with building the parking lot. They explain that while Jerry will get a finder's fee of around 10% of the $750,000, Wade and Stan will oversee the rest of the development of the parking lot with the rest of the money. Jerry (realizing that $75,000 is nowhere near what he needs to pay back his massive debit to GMAC), tries to convince them to give him all of the $750,000 so Jerry can invest it himself... with neither Wade nor Stan overseeing his work. Stan tells Jerry they thought his asking for $750,000 was merely an investment he brought to them, and states that they are not a bank. Jerry insists that Wade and Stan give him all of the 750 grand and he will pay them back the principal and interest when the deal starts paying, but Wade and Stan insist on running the deal themselves. Jerry desperately guarantees them their money back if they let Jerry run the deal and let him have all the money, but both Wade and Stan say they are not interested and that they would like to move on the deal independently. Jerry goes out to his car alone and vents his rage and frustration with the ice scraper on his frozen windshield.
Jerry walks into his house later that day. He surveys his empty house, where there are obvious signs of a struggle during the kidnapping. He practices the fake desperate and sad phone call he will make to her father.
Later that night, Carl and Gaear are driving with the sobbing Jean, now covered with a blanket in the back seat of the car. They pass a huge statue of Paul Bunyan and the welcome sign for Brainerd. Gaear, smoking and looking out the window as usual, is annoyed by Jean's whimpering and tells her to shut up or he'll throw her in the trunk.
"Geez, that's more than I've heard you say all week," Carl tells him. Gaear gives him a hard, cold stare and turns away. It is then that a Minnesota State Police cruiser behind them flips on its lights and pulls them over. Carl realizes they're being stopped because he failed to put temporary vehicle registration tags on the car, and he tells Gaear he'll take care of it. He tells Jean to keep quiet or they'll shoot her. Gaear stares at him expressionlessly. The trooper approaches Carl's window and asks for a driver's license and registration. Carl gives the trooper his driver's license, but does not have the car's vehicle registration or insurance. He then tries unsuccessfully to coolly bribe the trooper, who tells him to step out of the car. Nervously, Carl hesitates, and Jean makes a noise in the back seat. The trooper points his flashlight at Jean. Quickly, Gaear reaches across Carl, grabs the trooper's hair, slams his head onto the door, pulls a pistol from the glove box, and shoots him in the head, blowing his brains out. Carl sits stunned, the trooper's blood having splattered across his face, and an angry Gaear tells him to ditch the body.
As Carl lifts the dead trooper by the arms, a pair of headlights starts towards them down the highway. He freezes in the lights, holding the obviously dead man in his arms by the police car. The two people in the car stare as they pass. Gaear quickly climbs into the driver's seat and takes off after the other car. He is briefly puzzled when its tail lights vanish in the dark, but quickly spots the car turned over in the snow on the roadside. Gaear stops and jumps out of the car. The driver is limping and trying to run across the snowy field. Gaear fires once, striking the man in the back. He falls face-first and dies. Gaear then walks over to the upside down car and looks inside, where a young woman is lying awkwardly in her upside-down seat. He leans back, aims his pistol, and the screen cuts to black as he shoots her.
A little later, the phone rings at the home of a sleeping couple, Brainerd police chief Marge Gunderson (Frances McDormand
) and her husband Norm (John Carroll Lynch
). As she gets out of bed we see she is very pregnant. Norm makes her some breakfast before she goes out to the scene of the shooting.
That morning, Marge arrives at the scene of the overturned car driven by the collateral shooting victims. Marge is observant and quick-working, and she determines from the size of the footprints that the shooter was a heavyset individual. She surmises the events we've already seen - the trooper pulled over a motorist for a traffic violation, said motorist shot him. The second car came driving past, and the shooter, realizing they'd seen him, chased them down and shot them.
Marge then looks at the trooper's unit, parked several hundred yards up the road and sees a set of smaller prints by the trooper's body, lying in the snow by the roadside. Here, Marge deduces that a second, smaller man was involved. From the fact that the trooper's car's lights were turned off, Marge deduces that the accomplice was warming up in the cruiser while the heavy person was chasing down the two witnesses. As Marge and the other officer, Lou (Bruce Bohne), drive away, Lou notes that the trooper's notebook was lying on the floor of his car, which the killers apparently overlooked, and they find their first clue: the officer had partially filled out a ticket at 2:18 am for a tan Cutlass Ciera with a license plate number starting with DLR. Marge realizes that this is not the beginning of a license plate number, but an abbreviation of the word "dealer" which is an indication that the car was stopped because it had dealer plates that hadn't been changed yet.
At a restaurant in Minneapolis, Jerry, Wade, and Stan Grossman sit and discuss Jean's kidnapping. Jerry tells them that the kidnappers called him and expressly told him not to call the cops. Wade is angry and insists on calling the police. As a surprise to Jerry, Stan sides with Jerry and says they should not call the police or negotiate with the kidnappers and that they should give them the ransom. Jerry tells Wade the men asked for one million dollars (obviously planning to give Carl and Gaear their $40,000 and to keep the rest for himself to pay off his debits). Jerry also says he needs the money ready by tomorrow. Stan offers to stay with Jerry and wait for a phone call from the kidnappers, but Jerry tells him the men said they'd deal only with him. Stan asks Jerry if Scotty will be okay. It seems to suddenly dawn on Jerry that this will affect his son, and he seems visibly upset or at least surprised that he had never thought about his scheme affecting Scotty before.
At home, Jerry tells Scotty about the kidnapping, and the boy cries and asks if Jean will be okay. Jerry nods and doesn't offer much comfort. He tells the boy that if anyone calls for Jean, he should just say she is visiting relatives in Florida.
That afternoon, Carl and Gaear pull up to a cabin by a lake, and Gaear opens the back door to guide Jean inside. She is hooded and tied at the wrists. Jean squeals and tries to run away; Gaear reaches to catch her, but Carl stops him and watches her running blindly in the snow, laughing hysterically. She falls, and Carl laughs hysterically. Gaear, staring expressionlessly, goes to get her.
Downtown in Brainerd, Marge goes to the police station to eat lunch, and her husband Norm is waiting there for her with food from Arby's. As they eat, Lou pokes his head into Marge's office and tells her that the night before the shootings, two men checked into the Blue Ox Motel with a tan Ciera with dealer plates; apparently, "they had company."
Marge goes to a bar to interview the two women who Carl hired to have sex with him and Gaear in the motel. The two ditzy women, whom work as strippers at the bar during the evening hours, are not very helpful in describing the two men. The first one describes Carl, the "little fella," as funny-looking, and the other describes Gaear, the "big fella", as an older man who didn't talk much but smoked a lot. The women tell Marge that the men told them that they were headed to the Twin Cities.
In the cabin, Carl is banging the top of the staticky TV, cursing at it. Jean is tied to a chair, the hood covering her head and her cold breath steaming through the fabric. Gaear sits with the same emotionless expression, watching silently as Carl screams and bangs on the TV, trying to improve the reception.
Late at night at the Gundersons' house, they turn off the TV to go to sleep. The phone rings for Marge, and it's Mike Yanagita (Steve Park
) calling; apparently an old acquaintance of hers from high school, he tells her that he's in the Twin Cities and that he saw her on the news in the story about the triple homicide in Brainerd. Marge makes brief but polite conversation as the man chatters.
The next morning, Jerry is half-heartedly selling a car as he gets a phone call from Carl in his office. Carl tells him that he will be arriving tomorrow to pick up the ransom, but demands more money so he and Gaear can leave the country because of the shootings. He demands the entire ransom of $80,000, unaware that Jerry told Wade the ransom is $1 million. As soon as Carl hangs up, Jerry gets another phone call from the man at GMAC, telling him he never received the serial numbers for the vehicles in the mail as Jerry told him the previous day. Jerry, again being elusive about the subject, maintains that the documents are still in the mail. The man at GMAC sternly tells Jerry that he will refer the matter of the accounting irregularities to the company's legal department if he doesn't get the VIN numbers of the vehicles by the close of business the very next day. After the man at GMAC hangs up, Jerry flies into a rage as he realizes that his control over the situation is fading fast.
In Brainerd, Marge and Norm sit in a buffet restaurant eating lunch together. An officer comes in with some papers, and tells Marge he found phone numbers from two phone calls that were made that night from the room at Blue Ox Motel where the killers stayed, both to Minneapolis. The first one was to a trucking company, and another to the residence of Shep Proudfoot. Marge tells the officer and Norm that she'll take a drive down to Minneapolis to investigate.
At night at the Lundegaards' house, Jerry, Wade, and Stan are sitting around the kitchen table. Wade is telling Jerry he wants to deliver the $1 million himself to the kidnapper, and Jerry is upset, saying that they wanted to deal only with him. Wade (clearly distrustful of Jerry) says that if he can't deliver it, he'll go to the authorities.
The next day, Carl leaves Gaear behind at the lakeside cabin to look after Jean, while he drives alone to Minneapolis to pick up the ransom money. Carl first drives to the Minneapolis airport. He drives the tan Ciera up to the roof of the parking garage and steals a Minnesota license plate off another snow-covered car so he can replace the dealer tags (to prevent him from being pulled over by the police again). At the exit booth of the garage, he tells the attendant that he has decided not to park there and that he doesn't want to pay. The friendly man explains that there's a flat four dollar fee. Carl doesn't want to pay, but the polite parking attendant insists that he pay. Carl gets upset and insults him by saying: "I guess you think, you know, you're an authority figure, with that stupid fucking uniform. Huh, buddy?" he sneers. However, he gives him the money anyway and drives off.
At the dealership garage, Jerry goes to talk to Shep only to find Marge questioning him. Marge is questioning Shep about the phone call made to him from the Blue Ox Motel a few nights ago by one of the suspects of the three murders in her town. Shep claims that he doesn't remember receiving any phone call. She reminds him that he has a criminal record and currently is on parole, though nothing in his record suggests him capable of homicide, so if he had been talking to criminals and became an accessory to the Brainerd murders, that would land him back in prison. She then asks him cheerfully if he might remember anything now.
Marge then goes to visit with Jerry in his office. He is clearly antsy as he nervously doodles on a notepad. She tells him that she is investigating three murders in her upstate town of Brainerd and asks him if there has been a tan Cutlass Ciera stolen from the lot lately, but he dances anxiously around her question by changing the subject. He eventually tells her there haven't been any stolen vehicles, and she leaves. When he sees Marge leave, Jerry pick up his office phone and tries to call Shep in the garage, but another mechanic tells Jerry that Shep has just left; he just walked out after talking with Marge.
That evening, Marge goes to eat dinner at the Radisson Hotel restaurant; she apparently has spoken to Mike Yanagita, the man who called her late at night, and he meets her there. He is chatty and a little odd, and he is obviously and awkwardly trying to hit on her. He tries to change seats so as to sit next to her in the booth, but she politely tells him to sit back across from her, saying, "Just so I can see ya, ya know. Don't have to turn my neck." He apologizes awkwardly and clumsily launches into a story about his wife, whom he and Marge both knew from school but has since died of leukemia. He starts to cry, telling Marge he always liked her a lot. She comforts him politely.
In the celebrity room at another hotel, Carl sits at a table with another prostitute. He hits on her awkwardly as they watch Jose Feliciano on a small stage. In the hotel room later, they are having sex. Suddenly, she is flung off from on top of him by Shep, who has somehow tracked Carl down and is angry at Carl for nearly getting him in trouble with Marge. He kicks the escort in the rear as she runs screaming and naked down the hall. Shep beats Carl, first punching him and then throwing him across the room and hitting him viciously with his belt.
Sometime later, Carl, cut up and bruised from the beating, calls Jerry at his house. He is humiliated and extremely agitated. He tells Jerry to bring the ransom money to the Radisson Hotel parking garage roof in 30 minutes or he'll kill him and his family. Wade, listening on the other line in the house, immediately leaves with the briefcase full of the million dollars. Jerry almost asks Wade if he could come along, but being afraid of his antagonistic father-in-law, he chooses to say nothing. As he drives, Wade reveals he has brought a gun in his jacket and practices what he will say to the kidnapper. Jerry leaves soon after him to see what will happen.
On the roof of the parking garage, Carl sits waiting in his idling Ciera as Wade pulls up. Carl demands to know where Jerry is, and Wade demands to see Jean. Carl demands that Wade give him the briefcase with the money in it, but Wade refuses unless he sees his daughter Jean. Surprised and angry by Wade's demands, Carl shoots Wade in the stomach without hesitating and goes to snatch the briefcase from his hands. Wade shoots Carl in the face as he leans over. Carl reels back and grabs his wounded right jaw after being gazed by the bullet. He quickly lethally shoots Wade multiple times. Clutching his bleeding jaw while screaming in agonizing pain, Carl grabs the briefcase, gets into his car, and drives away. As he speeds through the garage, he passes Jerry. Both of them take a quick notice of each other, but Carl continues driving on. He drives up to the garage attendant and, holding his bloody jaw, tells the man to open the gate. At the same time, Jerry continues up to the roof and finds Wade lying there, shot dead. Jerry casually pops open his car trunk (to put his father-in-law in the trunk of his car).
As Jerry leaves the garage with Wade in his trunk, he sees that Carl has killed the attendant with a bullet to the head and smashed through the exit gate, breaking it off. A distraught Jerry goes home, and Scotty tells him Stan Grossman called for him. Jerry tells Scotty everything went fine, and he goes to bed without calling Stan back.
In Brainerd the next morning, Officer Gerry Olson (Cliff Rakerd), one of Marge's deputies, stops by the house of a chatty older man, named Mr. Mohra (Bain Boehlke), who is shoveling snow off his driveway. The man had apparently reported an incident at his bar, and he tells Olson that a few days ago "a little funny-looking man" (obviously Carl) asked him where he could "get some action in the area" (hookers). When he refused, Carl had threatened the man and stupidly bragged about killing someone. He also says that Carl mentioned that he was staying out near a lake. The bar had been near Moose Lake, he tells the officer, so he believes that that is the place Carl was talking about. Officer Olson politely thanks the neighbor for the tip and leaves.
Meanwhile, Carl is stopped on the side of a snowy road, a bloody rag pressed against his wounded jaw. He looks inside the briefcase and is astounded at how much is inside; he had expected $80,000 and instead got the million that Jerry had been planning to keep mostly for himself. After thinking for a minute, Carl takes out the $80,000 that Gaear apparently would still be expecting and throws it in the backseat. He closes the case, fixes his rag, and takes it out into the snow beside a fence. He looks right and left, seeing only fence and snow, and he buries the money. Carl sticks an ice scraper into the snow on top as the only marker besides the bloodied snow he'd dug aside (presumably to come back later for the rest of it), and he drives away.
In Minneapolis, Marge sits next to her packed luggage in her hotel room talking on the phone to a female friend. She tells the friend that she saw Mike and that he was upset from his wife's death. The woman tells Marge that Mike never married that woman, that he had been bothering her for some time and that she is still alive. She tells Marge that Mike has been having life-long psychiatric problems and he has been living in an insane asylum for a few years now and that he is now living with his parents. Marge then checks out of the hotel, buys a breakfast sandwich from a Hardees restaurant, and silently ponders her next move and she contends driving back to Brainerd having gotten nowhere with her investigation. But then a thought pops into her head as she remembers something.
Marge then goes to visit Jerry at the car dealership, obviously having picked up something from his nervous and elusive behavior on her first visit the day before. He sits in his office writing out a new sales form for GMAC, making sure the serial numbers for the non-existent vehicles are again smudged and illegible. He is irritated by her visit. He tries to get her out, but polite and insistent as usual, Marge tells him that the tan Ciera she's investigating had dealer plates and that someone who works at the dealership got a phone call from the perpetrators, which is too much of a coincidence. She asks if he's done a lot count recently, and rather than answer, Jerry yells at her by saying that the car is not from that lot. In a serious tone, Marge tells Jerry not to get snippy with her. Jerry tells her he is cooperating, but it's obvious to us that he is now clearly insane at realizing the depth of the mess he has created and how miserably all his assorted schemes have failed. He jumps up, puts on his hat and coat, and tells her he'll go inventory the lot right now. Marge waits at the desk, looking at his picture of Jean and at the GMAC loan form on his desk. From the window she sees him driving out of the lot. She hurriedly calls the Minneapolis state police from Jerry's desk phone.
At the cabin, Gaear sits in his long johns eating a TV dinner as he watches a soap opera on the fuzzy television. Carl comes in with his bloodied face and the $80,000 he took from the briefcase before he buried it. Gaear looks unfazed by Carl's extensive wound. Carl asks what happened to Jean, who is lying on the kitchen floor motionless, still tied to the chair; there is blood on the stove behind her. Gaear tells Carl she started screaming and wouldn't stop. Carl shows him the money, takes his $40,000, and tells him he's keeping the Ciera and that Gaear can have his old truck and they must part ways. Gaear tells him they'll split the car.
"How do you split a fuckin' car, ya dummy?! With a fuckin' chainsaw?" Carl spits at him, his words slurred from his jaw wound. Gaear tells him one will pay the other for half, so Carl must pay half for the value of the car from his share money so he can take the car for himself. Carl refuses and screams that he got shot in the face and makes an implied threat that he will keep the Ciera as extra compensation. Carl storms out of the front door to the car to drive away. Seconds later, Gaear comes running out behind him wielding an ax. As Carl turns around, Gaear raises the ax and the scene cuts to black as the blade lands in Carl's neck.
A little later, Marge is driving along an isolated road talking on the CB radio to Lou. They are discussing Jean's kidnapping; that a Minneapolis police detective learned from Stan and Jean's son Scotty, and the fact that her father, Wade, is missing. She tells Lou she is driving around Moose Lake, following the tip from the loudmouth bar owner Mr. Mohra. Their conversation reveals that the news has gotten word out on the wire for the public to keep an eye out for Jerry and Wade. She suddenly spots the tan Ciera parked in front of the cabin. Lou tells her he will send her back-up.
When she gets out, she hears the loud roar of the motor of a power tool in the distance. She makes her way around the house towards the noise behind the cabin, and sees Gaear pushing Carl's dismembered foot down into a woodchipper, having chopped up his dead body and disposing of it. There is a huge puddle of blood and the rest of Carl's body in the snow. Gaear works at getting the rest of Carl into the chipper, using a small log to push it down. Marge pulls her gun and yells at him to put his hands up, but he doesn't hear over the machine. She yells again, and he turns around to see her. She points to the police crest on her hat, aiming her gun at him. He turns quickly, hurls the log at her, and takes off across the frozen lake behind the cabin. The log glances her leg, and she fires after him twice as he flees. One shot hits him in the back of his thigh. He falls in the snow, and she arrests him.
Marge drives away with Gaear handcuffed in the backseat. "So that was Mrs. Lundegaard in there?" she asks, looking at him in the rear view mirror. He looks expressionlessly out the window.
"I guess that was your accomplice in the woodchipper. And those three people in Brainerd..." He does not react; she is talking mostly to herself. She tells him there is more to life than a little bit of money. "Don't you know that?" she asks. She pulls over to the side of the road as a fleet of cruisers and an ambulance drive toward them on their way to the cabin. "And here you are. And it's a beautiful day."
Two days later, at a motel outside of Bismarck, North Dakota, two state policemen bang on a room door asking for a Mr. Anderson. The voice inside, Jerry's, tells them he'll be there in a sec. The owner unlocks the door, and Jerry is seen trying to escape out the bathroom window, wearing only a T-shirt and boxers. He screams and flails wildly and insanely as the police arrest him.
That night at the Gundersons', Marge climbs into bed next to Norm. He tells her the mallard he painted for a stamp contest has been chosen to be on the three cent stamp, but another man he knows got the twenty-nine cent. Marge tells him she's proud of him and that people use the three cent stamp all the time. Norm rests his hand on her pregnant belly and says, "Two more months."
She smiles and rests her hand on his, and repeats, "Two more months."