Boardwalk Empire: A Vague Feeling of Unease

be-ep-7-1Previously on Boardwalk Empire: Knox had trouble getting J Edgar on board with his notion of a nationwide criminal network; Daughter Maitland had an affair with Chalky while Nucky started one of his own with Sally down in Florida, and Al vowed revenge after his brother, Frank, was gunned down.

The camera irises out on a policeman reading about the Leopold and Loeb case. Al walks right up to him, shoots him point-blank in the head, and hops in a getaway car. Ok, then. Guess that’s one way to contest a parking ticket.

Eli brings Knox’s hankie—the one with the initials that don’t match Knox’s given name—to Nucky and tells him there’s something off about this guy. Nucky thinks there’s nothing to it and goes about buttering his toast. Eli suggests getting Knox’s boss on the phone to try and check things out, so Nucky calls for Sid, his replacement Eddie, to get Fred Elliot at the Treasury Department on the phone. Sid’s kind of an idiot, but he goes to do Nucky’s bidding. Eli asks about Nucky’s black eye. Apparently gossip about Nucky’s roughhousing with Sally has gotten around. Sid comes back and reports that Elliot doesn’t work at the Treasury Department anymore.

Down in DC, Knox, Esther Randolph, and Hoover have George Remus in to give information. Apparently Remus has decided his best move is to become a cooperating witness, and he’s most likely right about that. Knox asks for confirmation that Remus was working with criminals all over the country, and he does, but Hoover is more interested/annoyed by Remus’s irritating habit of referring to himself in the third person all the time. He threatens to have him transferred to Leavenworth if he doesn’t knock it off. Knox asks about Nucky’s business in Tampa, but Remus knows nothing. He’s dismissed to get the pancakes he whined for earlier. Once alone, Knox asks if Hoover’s satisfied. Hoover isn’t sure whether or not to believe Remus, and he’s reluctant to commit too much to building a conspiracy case at this point. Esther, knowing Hoover’s sweet spot already, tells him dozens of arrests in one fell swoop would garner some great headlines, but he’s concerned with the headlines he’d get if he failed. Knox says he’s working on getting another in with Nucky’s organisation, then leaves to take a call. Esther tells Hoover the Attorney General thinks this plan is a great idea, so he should get on board.

Al reports to Torrio, who immediately lights into him for the cop killing. Al’s seriously wired and ready to move on the Chicago police force and O’Banion, for sending the police who killed Frank. Torrio tells him to chill out, because they can’t go to war with the entire Chicago police force. Plus, Torrio has business with O’Banion, which he doesn’t want Al getting in the way of. Al stomps out like a child.

In New York, some guy is trying to sell some other guy on something called the Anaconda Realty Trust. A trust named after a predator that suffocates its prey to death before swallowing it whole? Yeah, who wouldn’t want in on that? The patsy is uncertain, but along comes Margaret, now going by Mrs Rowan—hi, Peggy!—who works at the office. It quickly becomes clear that she and the boss have a routine worked out, as he asks her to confirm that he put her husband in the way of Anaconda the previous year. She says he tried, but her husband didn’t bite because she talked him out of investing, and they lost a potential fortune. She ends with some well-placed sexism, telling Patsy that women really should remain in the home and let their menfolk handle the business. Patsy, who was reluctant to invest because his wife has these pesky things called ideas, asks for more info on Anaconda.

Elsewhere in New York, Lucky reports for a meeting with Masseria, who’s got Sandrelli and some other guy with him. They ask him about this Tampa deal they’ve heard about and Lucky says he’s not in business with them after all. Masseria wants Lucky to go back to Tampa and talk to Petrucelli about the heroin trade, which apparently he’s into pretty deeply.

And in Philly, Doris is post-coitally reading about the Leopold and Loeb case too. Makes sense, it was immense news at the time. Hell, it even inspired a Hitchcock film. A good one. Doris reads that the murderers read Nietzsche and thought they were supermen. They so totally weren’t. She mentions having read him herself and then asks Will if he believes in God. He says he does, of course, and then starts to get uncomfortable and gets ready to leave. She pulls him back down onto the bed and asks if Will’s heard from Pencilneck since he got arrested. Will gets back up and gets pissy, telling her all this talk of murderers and such is getting him depressed. Guess it would be a mood killer. Well, that and his massive guilt.

Margaret’s boss swings by her desk, tells her they reeled the Patsy in, and hands her a $10 tip for her help. That was a hell of a tip back then.

Torrio’s gone to see O’Banion and swears Al’s under control. O’Banion promises he wasn’t the one who sent the police to the factory and had Frank killed. Torrio accepts that and they start to talk business. O’Banion wants to sell Torrio a brewery, and Torrio agrees, even accepting the extreme price of $500K. Torrio does, however, refuse to give O’Banion territory in Greektown that he wants, though, so the meeting doesn’t end on quite as chipper a note as one might hope.

Back in AC, Roy’s tending Gillian while she goes through one hell of an awful detox. Wow, is this guy a keeper or what?

At the Onyx, Daughter sings Everybody Loves My Baby, which goes over a lot better than her blues torch song last week. Even the musicians seem to be having more fun. Gaston Means watches from the upstairs office while Nucky looks over the dossier he’s brought along on Knox, which is suspiciously thin. Means says there’s just nothing more to know. Nucky brings up the JMT handkerchief, and Means suggests it stands for the John Muir Trail. That’s so completely random I almost want it to be a shout-out to the fact that this is the Year of Natural Scotland and John Muir is everywhere just now. Means tells Nucky to relax. Nucky asks about Elliott and hears he retired and sold his house, left no forwarding address. Yeah, that’s not odd at all. Nucky admits he has a very uneasy feeling, despite the good front he put on for Eli.

Downstairs, Chalky watches Daughter as she finishes up. The crowd cheers. He barely cracks a smile. Because he’s Chalky and he’s too cool for that.

At the Anaconda Office, Margaret’s summoned to the boss’s office, where she’s introduced to Abe Redstone, who turns out to be Arnold Rothstein. The two of them freeze in surprise for a moment, and then Rothstein recovers and pleasantly says he has the feeling they’ve met somewhere. Margaret’s so thrown she can’t even perform for the boss, and she stumbles out of there as soon as she possibly can.

At the Onyx, Chalky hands over Narcisse’s cut, and Narcisse happily observes that Daughter’s a real success. Chalky only says that she’s ok, but he does ask for her run to be extended. Narcisse says she’s already committed in Louisville. But he’ll consider it, if he can open a chapter of the Universal Negro Improvement Association on the city’s north side. Chalky has no problem with that, since it seems congenial enough. And giving Narcisse another toehold in AC couldn’t possibly turn out for the bad, could it?

Will’s attending a literature lecture/dramatic reading of Poe’s William Wilson. The professor asks Will for his thoughts, but Will is almost completely checked out. And then he gets up and checks out physically, leaving the classroom.

Margaret’s boss comes over to her desk and asks what’s up with her. She apologises, but he’s not too upset, because Rothstein put $150,000 into Anaconda and left her $100. The man himself then calls her and thanks her for her discretion, promising to do the same for her. What is Rothstein’s deal? Is he losing his grip? He’s always been portrayed as so careful, never making a bet he didn’t know the outcome of ahead of time, but lately he’s been incredibly reckless.

Gillian’s a bit better, and still being tended by Roy. He tells her that, since he met her, he’s found himself less driven in business matters. She worries that she’s caused his affairs to suffer but he tells her she’s more important than all that. They kiss.

Torrio and O’Banion are wrapping up their deal at the brewery when the cops just happen to show up for a raid. Torrio accuses O’Banion of setting this up, but O’Banion points out that he’s in cuffs too. Hard to argue with that.

Dunn’s reluctantly presiding over a meeting at the Baptist church on Chalky’s behalf. It seems less meeting and more ‘opportunity for community griping.’ The better off folk from the north side are not happy about the illegal drinking, gambling, and drug use they’re seeing around the neighbourhood. Dunn promises to see to this and the others ask where Chalky is, seeing as he’s missed three meetings in a row now. They think he’s too busy up on the Boardwalk to see to their problems. Deacon Cuffey stands up, quiets them down, and tells Dunn they really need to look into the heroin problem and get rid of whomever is peddling it. Narcisse breaks in and agrees that there’s a scourge in their community in the guise of heroin, alcohol, and the apathy of their leaders. He agrees that Chalky’s purpose has been clouded by ambition. Luckily, Narcisse, with Dunn’s help, is ready to breathe new life into the community and help everyone move forward. The crowd laps it up.

Will’s gone home, where he wanders smack dab into a debate between Eli and one of his daughters on the merits of higher education for women (for the record, Eli thinks it’s useless). Nucky’s there too, for a family visit, which is apparently a perfect time for Will to announce he’s dropped out of college. Eli is seriously pissed and Nucky advises Will to listen to his father. Eli yells at Nucky to stay out of it, and Will reminds Eli that he’s the one who went out and worked while Eli was in jail. This kid’s heading for a serious ass-whupping. Nucky tries to intervene before things get out of hand, but Eli launches himself at the kid and starts beating him up, until Nucky manages to drag him off. Eli yells that Will’s out of the house, if he leaves school, and Will screams back that he’s leaving the house anyway. Probably for the best, just now.

Daughter and Chalky have some reasonably energetic sex, and once they’re done, she asks if she’s staying. He tells her she is. Chalky asks what Narcisse is like and she tells him he’s smart, and that he looked after her after her mother, a prostitute, was strangled to death by a john. She promises she and Narcisse never did the nasty though, because he’s a decent man.

She then changes the subject completely and asks for a year-long engagement at the Onyx. Chalky says he’ll have to talk it over with Nucky. She gets up and playfully says she’s going to go rehearse, to show him just how much he needs her.

Knox, Hoover, and Esther are at a celebratory dinner in Hoover’s honour. He’s been appointed Director of the Bureau of Investigation. Everyone applauds after he’s introduced by the AG. Hoover rises, thanks everyone, and tells us that he and Knox (whose real last name is Tolliver) were at law school together. He promises to relentlessly pursue criminals and then claims that he has discovered a nationwide criminal conspiracy all by himself. He promises to disband it, but Knox, pissed off at having his ideas yanked, stomps out.

Gillian brings Roy some dinner in bed and he tells her she’s going to spoil him. She promises to do so and says she has a secret. He tells her that secrets undo us, so she asks him to share one of his. He informs her that he filed for divorce the day after he met her. He then asks for her secret and she tells him he’s made her feel happiness for the first time in a very long time. Aww. I’m not terribly invested in Gillian’s storyline anymore, but these two are rather sweet, I have to admit.

Knox, a little drunk, complains about Hoover’s betrayal to Means, saying he’s the one who actually proposed the notion of a criminal network. Means tells him that’s a shame, but on more important matters, maybe he should stop carrying around monogrammed hankies? Is anyone surprised that Means is playing both sides? I’m not. Knox angrily tells Means not to tell him what to do, then calms down and says he shouldn’t be surprised, since Hoover was exactly the same back in law school.

Eli returns home, drunk, and finds Nucky waiting on his porch. Still spoiling for a fight, Eli informs Nucky that this house and family is his, and Nucky is never to lay hands on Eli in his own home. Nucky calmly tells him he wasn’t about to let him just throttle Will and Eli tells him he knows nothing about kids, because he never managed to have any. Ouch, Eli. That was way below the belt, so to speak. Nucky tells Eli he’s going to forget this, but Eli should remember that Will’s like his dad, and sometimes acts without thinking.

Torrio’s been busted out of jail and finds Al at the cathouse. Al tells Torrio that, while the judge levied a $100,000 bond against him, the charges against O’Banion were all dropped. Torrio’s tired of all this bullshit and tells Al to go ahead and kill O’Banion.

Nucky finds Will waiting for him at the Albatross. Will starts off by apologising and Nucky says that, if this is an attempt to impress Nucky, he’s doing a lousy job. He goes on to say that he needs men around him whom he can trust and who can keep their wits. Will promises he can and he will. Nucky tells him to go home, but Will says the scene will just upset his mother, so Nucky lets him stay the night.

Dunn meets up with Deacon Cuffey in the ominously dark church and tells him he knows who’s been running heroin in the neighbourhood. Cuffey knows it was Dunn and stupidly informs Dunn that he’s about to go tell Chalky now. Dunn claims he’s seen the error of his ways, but Cuffey doesn’t believe him. So, Dunn stabs him in the gut, while creepily reciting the beginning of the Lord’s Prayer.

Daughter, too, is praying, just prior to going onstage. Narcisse is in the dressing room with her, and she takes a bowl over to him, kneels by his chair, and begins to undress him, revealing some wicked scars on his chest. She starts to gently bathe his chest and tells him Chalky doesn’t like having to answer to Nucky. In the course of their conversation, we learn that the scars came from Daughter’s mother (she kept a bottle under her bed to deal with unruly customers and used it on the man who killed her), and it seems that Narcisse was the man who strangled her. He cradles Daughter’s face and tells her to go out and sing for him. Creeepy. She obediently goes out on stage and he rebuttons his shirt, closes his eyes, and listens to her sing.

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