Previously on Boardwalk Empire: Nucky thought he buried the hatchet with Gyp, but Gyp’s way too insane for that. Margaret played Dr. Landau in order to get her women’s clinic, Meyer and Lucky fell afoul of Masseria, and Van Alden got a little more pathetic.
In a nice bookend to last week’s episode, we open with a phone ringing, interrupting the morning quickie of Sleater and Katie the (former?) maid. She answers, and it’s Nucky looking for Sleater. Nucky shortly asks if Owen’s read the paper (no, of course not) and Nucky tells him to read one and come meet him. But first, Sleater has a few things to finish up with Katie. And for those who love their insane trivia, Little Owen is apparently called Mr. Pouffles.
In Chicago, Al looks down at his kid, reading on the floor of the living room. He asks his wife why the boy isn’t at school and she says he has a bellyache. Al goes to check the kid out and finds a big bruise on his cheek, which, naturally, upsets him. His wife sends the boy off and tells Al the boy’s being bullied at school by some new kid. She thinks it’s a boys-will-be-boys situation and Al snaps that the kid has to toughen up.
Doyle Distillery. Nucky arrives and tells everyone that the sheriff of Tabor Heights has died from what the newspapers are calling a ‘tragic accident’, but Nucky knows what the real deal was. He announces that all shipments to New York will be taken via back roads, despite the ice and lack of gas stations. Mickey stupidly asks Sleater if he thinks this is a good idea and Nucky jumps down his throat and tells him this is how it’s gonna be. Furthermore, Mickey’s to go to Tabor Heights and find out what’s going on. Owen, meanwhile, is to track down Roland Smith, the guy who robbed the warehouse back before the season premiere and was supposed to be offed by the late Manny Horowicz. Nucky’s in a very touchy mood these days, so everyone pretty much scatters and does his bidding.
As Nucky goes to leave, Eli pulls him aside and tries to get Nucky to give him a better job now he’s out of jail. Nucky basically tells him he’s lucky to even be alive and sweeps out.
Margaret and Dr. Mason are discussing terms (as in, vocabulary) for the new women’s health clinic with a nun who’s the most uptight human being ever. She has a problem with several words, such as vagina (she’s never liked the sound of it), and striking those words out of the vocab is going to make it nearly impossible to run the clinic effectively. You can only take a doctor who uses the word ‘hoo hoo’ seriously for so long, after all. Mason thinks this is all sort of hilarious, which I guess it would be, if it weren’t so very, very sad. The nun vetoes “pregnant” and “menstruation” and announces she’ll be attending their class to make sure they comply. Before she leaves, she checks out some gifts the ladies attending the class will receive: some Kotex pads, which were quite a new thing in the early 1920s. She throws the box down like they were all used and storms out. Jesus, lady.
Nucky , Sleater, and several others arrive in some little town someplace, where one of Nucky’s Fed contacts tells him Smith is hiding out. They all walk up to one of the houses, find it locked, and bust on in. Inside, they find a giant stash of whisky, only half of which is actually Nucky’s. Well, it’s all Nucky’s now. He asks if the Fed’s contact in the Philly office, who put them on to this hideout in the first place, might be working with Smith, seeing as how he’s never bothered to arrest the guy. Fed says nothing. Once they’re all sure the man’s not there, Nucky tells Sleater to call him when the guy shows up. Sleater offers to take care of the job himself but that’s not what Nucky wants. Nucky pays off the Fed and takes his shoulder chip and leaves.
Eli’s up in Tabor Heights, trying to get the local police to tell him what really happened with their boss. They remain tightlipped, having either been terrified or paid off. Or both. Mickey hands a wad of cash to the new sheriff and tells him they have a load coming through the next day. He says it’ll be fine, they can conduct their business as usual and he’ll see to Gyp. He’s so dead. Or he’s lying. Once he’s gone, Eli tells Mickey he doesn’t feel right about this. Mickey, of course, thinks everything’s going to be fine.
Chicago. Al arrives at the whorehouse and receives his cut from some guy who’s counting out the cash. Al takes the opportunity to tell the guy he smells. The guy essentially ignores him, finishes counting the cash, and goes to use the facilities.
Sleater and some guy wait for Smith to show up, which he finally does, only to be surprised by two unexpected, armed visitors. Sleater asks Smith who he is and he starts naming celebrities, earning himself a few good kidney punches. Sleater gets on the phone to Nucky.
In the Tabor Heights diner, Gyp’s going over some shipment plans with a couple of cronies. He pauses to hit on the waitress. Multitasking at its finest.
Nucky’s made it to that craphole town to have his face-to-face with Roland. Roland—who’s really just a kid, only about 16 years old—smartasses all over the place. Nucky asks if the kid knows who he is and Roland does, because Nucky once gave his family a Christmas turkey. Nucky asks if the kid thought stealing from him was a good repayment. Smith answers he didn’t think Nucky would mind, and anyway, most of it’s Waxy Gordon’s. Sleater goes over to Nucky and asks him what he wants to have happen here. He’s willing to do anything, and even takes the blame for letting things get this far. Really, Owen, the blame should go to Mickey for letting the robbery happen in the first place. Nucky looks at the kid, stamps out his cigarette, and offers one to the kid. Smith, not being aware of execution protocol, looks relieved.
Before things can get any further, though, a whole bunch of Philly Probies show up and start arresting Nucky’s men. Smith identifies one as being in Waxy Gordon’s pocket. The cops outside start shooting, execution-style, and storm the house. By the time they get inside, Sleater, Nucky, and Smith have hidden themselves in the cellar. One of the Feds comes down, but somehow manages not to see them.
Al’s smelly friend goes into a bar to collect a payment and is recognized by one of O’Banion’s men, who introduces himself. Smelly cracks a weak joke, which O’Banion’s guy takes offense to, because at some point in the past Smelly called O’Banion a liar for claiming he had no idea he was selling on Torrio’s territory. O’B’s man beats the hell out of Smelly.
Back in PA (presumably) the Probies pack up all of Smith’s liquor while Nucky and crew wait it out down in the flooded basement. Nucky suddenly starts to worry about the car and whether it can give them away, but Sleater’s got that covered: the car’s clean and the plates registered in someone else’s name. Ahh, the days before computerized records. Smith offers them some fake plates while they’re there and, in the course of their conversation, reveals he thinks his partner was nabbed by the Feds.
In New York, Meyer coaches Benny in the fine art of cutting heroin with laxatives. Lucky comes back with news for Meyer and Benny puts up a fuss, insisting on staying around for the chat. They send him away anyway and Lucky tells Meyer he’s been summoned to meet with Masseria. Meyer lays out the terms they should offer and advises Lucky to sit away from the window. Meyer watches him go apprehensively, like he doesn’t know if this is the last time he’ll ever see his friend, which is actually true.
The Tabor Heights police watch Gyp’s guys playing dice and make their plans for that night: basically, tie all the goons up. Yeah, that should help.
Al has decided the time has come to toughen up his kid—by making him hit his own father. Awesome parenting. The kid’s terrified and confused and bursts into tears when Al starts to get frustrated and yells. Al softens immediately and hugs the kid and it’s actually really sweet, especially when Al starts to get a little weepy himself.
Back in AC, Eddie gets off the phone and tells Eli that nobody seems to know anything about Nucky or his whereabouts. Meanwhile, Rothstein’s order is getting loaded up. Eli warns Mickey not to go through with this, but Mickey won’t listen, of course.
Nucky’s still trapped in that basement, because two Probies are sitting on his car, waiting for someone to come back for it. Smith’s asleep in a corner and Owen remembers more than few nights spent like this back in Ireland. Rather suddenly, Owen reassures Nucky he knows who’s in charge here, and Nucky snarks that Owen may not be too happy about that. Owen says his satisfaction doesn’t matter. Why is Nucky being so pissy with him? Doesn’t he have bigger issues just now? He wonders what he’s done to earn Owen’s loyalty and Owen reminds him that he made a place for him. Also, he pays him handsomely. Nucky accepts that and offers Owen a pull from his flask.
Al plays his mandolin for the girls at the whorehouse and is shocked when Smelly shows up, beaten to a pulp. Al asks what the hell happened and gets the whole story. Smelly tells Al the guy made a crack about his smell, which is not something he can help, apparently. That’s all Al needs to hear. He’s out of there like a shot.
Margaret’s working the boardwalk, trying to get the word out about the health clinic. It doesn’t seem like she’s having a ton of luck, but then one of the women she approaches is Mrs. Shearer, the woman who miscarried. Margaret tells her about the clinic and the woman insists she knows it all already and Margaret says she used to think the same thing, but then she realised she’s fairly ignorant. She tells Mrs. S that they have a doctor who’s going to speak and urges her to come. They’re joined by Mr. S, who asks who Margaret is. Mrs. S just says she’s a woman from the hospital. He thinks this is about their bill but, off a look from Mrs. S, she lies and says she was just saying hi. It quickly becomes clear that this is not a very good marriage, but Margaret keeps out of it. She does look a bit depressed after the encounter, though.
Lucky arrives for his sit-down and, of course, is made to sit right in front of the window. Masseria promises nothing will happen to him and goes on to demand a cut of the heroin. Lucky offers two percent in the territory, but Masseria wants two percent everywhere. He notes that Lucky’s a bit jumpy and remembers how he used to be: ambitious, but respectful. He clearly believes this change was brought about by Lucky’s new Jewish partners. Masseria settles for three percent in the territory and warns Lucky that Rothstein and Meyer will stab him in the back, because they’re not his people. And when Lucky comes crawling back to his own, Masseria will want 30 percent.
Rothstein is on the phone with Mickey and is not happy to be so. He informs Mickey that he’s expecting his shipment right now and doesn’t ever want to have to talk to Mickey again. Mickey promises the shipment will be there the next morning. Mickey hangs up and relates the conversation to Eli, who once again tells Mickey he’s an idiot for deciding to go through Tabor Heights. Mickey says they can’t take the back roads until May at the earliest and he has to take this shipment or incur Nucky’s wrath. Mickey grabs one of the drivers and tells him to go straight through to New York, stop for gas in Tabor Heights, and that’s it.
Al waits in that bar in the Irish area of Chicago for the guy who beat up Smelly. When the guy shows, Al jumps on him with such ferocity, he winds up beating him to death in front of everybody. Good luck explaining that one away. At least he leaves cash to pay for the guy’s funeral. And wow, the beer in that place must be great for people to keep coming back after two horrible beatings within a couple of days of each other.
Still in the basement, Nucky asks Sleater what the Feds outside are saying. I guess Sleater has bat hearing or something, because he correctly realizes they’re wrapping things up. The Feds leave and everyone breathes a sigh of relief. Nucky and Smith both admit they were scared and Smith offers them bacon and eggs. They all troop back up.
Eli’s on the road, heading for Tabor Heights, where he parks near the gas station and eyes all the goons gathered there. He sees the cops move in and shake hands with Gyp before taking cover and talking about keeping the road blocked. The convoy’s heading right into an ambush.
Sleater gets off the phone and tells Nucky the shipment’s on its way, via Tabor Heights. The two of them eye the kid and Nucky asks Smith what he’s learned. The kid says it’s time to find a better hideout and admits he’ll be doing this again in the future. He offers to come work for Nucky instead and Owen scoffs, but the kid says he knows all the best places to lie low and keep a stash in the area. Uh, all evidence to the contrary, kid. Nonetheless, Nucky seems to be considering it, until he catches the kid in a minor lie (turns out he does smoke, and he’s 19, not 15). They hear a car pull up outside, and when Owen goes to check who it is (it’s Eddie), Nucky shoots the kid in the back of the head, nearly scaring Sleater to death. Well, look who’s no longer half a gangster!
Eli sits by the side of the road until the convoy approaches. He tries to flag them down and warn them about the ambush, but they ignore him and speed right on down the road. He climbs back in his car and tries to follow, but of course the thing won’t start. He gets to hear the shots fired at the convoy from a distance, and it sounds like one hell of a bloodbath.
Yep, sure enough, Tabor Heights is now up quite a few bodies (I can’t help but wonder what the other residents of this town think of all this). Nucky’s men have been slaughtered. Gyp observes the damage and asks one of his guys which of the waitresses he likes best.
Al returns home and wakes his kid so he can play his mandolin and sing for him. The boy drapes his arms around his father’s neck so he can feel him singing. Awww, see, even psychos can be adorable! Well, not Gyp, but others!
Nucky walks down the Boardwalk and is pulled aside by Eli.
In bed, Margaret reads the paper and sees an article about Carrie Duncan’s plane crashing. Annnnd commence the broken dreams metaphor.