Previously on Boardwalk Empire: Van Alden made contact with the Capones, Nucky promoted Eddie to the position of full-on sidekick, and Nucky got involved in a land deal in Tampa.
In Chicago, a fat guy hauls himself slowly and sweatily up some stairs to make a collection. He makes it to the top, gets his money, then seems to have a heart attack and tumbles back down the stairs. Not a good day for this guy.
Over in Washington, Knox is schooling other agents on the movers and shakers on the AC criminal scene. They’re all men we’re familiar with, of course. Knox goes on to say that they have connections across the country, so this is a nationwide conspiracy, and he shows Hoover and the agents various cities and tells them about how Rothstein and others have been paying Nucky visits lately. Hoover wonders if they’re just buddies, because criminals have friends too, you know. The image of Rothstein and Nucky getting together for a barbecue just popped into my head and really amused me. Knox promises to get proof of this conspiracy by finding the weakest link in Nucky’s organisational chain.
Nucky arrives home and gives Eddie a few orders that are now beneath him. He reminds Nucky of this and Nucky alters his instructions. Eddie asks if he wants to take a look at the books, but Nucky trusts him. He also tells Eddie to take out $10K and meet someone coming off the Broadway Limited and give him the cash. Nucky asks if he can handle this and Eddie shows him a weapon he has strapped to his arm, promising to protect it with his life. ‘Don’t be so dramatic, it’s only money,’ Nucky tells him gently. Awww.
Onyx. Maitland is rehearsing with a lone pianist. Chalky comes wandering in and listens for a bit. Maitland notices and asks how she sounds. He has no complaints. She tries fishing for a compliment and Chalky tells her to just keep singing what the people want to hear. For someone so enchanted by her singing, he sure is chilly when she speaks. He goes into the bar area, where Dunn’s waiting to have a word. He says his mother’s sick and needs to see him. He asks for permission to go to Baltimore. After some hesitation, Chalky tells him to go ahead and tend to his family.
In Chicago again, Dean O’Banion’s childishly shooting flowerpots outside his shop, making Van Alden set up fresh ones. And then, because he’s a complete douchebag, he purposely misloads the gun before handing it off to some other guy to try out, and of course it misfires and the guy screeches in pain. One of Dean’s other minions arrives with the word of the Capone collection guy’s accident, so Dean dispatches Van Alden with some day-old daisies. Van Alden tries to get out of it, since the last time he threw in with the Capones he got his ass kicked, but Dean fires into the air and VA decides to take his chances with some unstable sociopaths who use pipes instead of guns.
Eli finds Will asleep on a book and tells him knowledge doesn’t just soak in. Will’s reading Tess of the D’Urburvilles, and not enjoying it. Can’t say I blame him, that has to be one of the most endlessly depressing stories ever committed to print. Eli asks him how school’s going and Will says his grades are fine, but he’s not happy there, with a bunch of stuck up jerks from New York and Philly. Eli tells him he’s the only boy from AC anyone needs to know, and he needs to make something of himself, for his mother. He tells Will to try harder and remember what he’s doing there. Good talk, dad!
The Capones are visiting Mr Collection in the hospital, and they’re being pretty nice about the fact that he’s laid up for a while, missing collections. Al and Brother Capone (Frank?) reminisce about doing collections back in the day and decide to take over the guy’s route for the day themselves, for old time’s sake. VA shows up and Al’s insulted by the crappy flowers. He presses Van Alden for some info on Dean, but VA doesn’t give up the goods, so they switch to Menacing Mode.
At the Onyx, Nucky shows the Florida land deal to Rothstein, Meyer, and Eli. Rothstein thinks Tampa’s played out, but Nucky tells him this land is ¾ surrounded by water, which’ll make it easy to unload and load boats and ship north. Nucky needs a partner with a level head and a lot of money. Rothstein’s not sure, but Nucky goes to work on him and Rothstein promises to consider the deal over a poker game. He invites Nucky to join him, and Nucky says he’ll consider it later. Rothstein and Meyer leave and Eli asks Nucky if he trusts Rothstein. Doesn’t matter, Rothstein has the cash, and he’s the only one who has it that they know.
Dunn, instead of visiting Baltimore, has shown up at Narcisse’s in Harlem to personally deliver the cash he got from selling the heroin. Narcisse is annoyed, because this was not their arrangement, and he scolds Dunn for stepping out of line before summarily dismissing him. Confused that none of his daddies seem to like him these days, Dunn leaves.
Eddie’s at the train station, where his contact finds him. Eddie makes him deliver the exact message Nucky told him before handing over the money. The man asks where he can get some decent food and Eddie recommends the Knife and Fork. After a bit of hemming and hawing, Eddie offers to take him there.
Back at Temple, Pencilneck (Will’s roommate, apparently) and Will take stock of how much booze they have left. Just a few bottles, so Will says they’ll just cut it. Pencilneck apologises for what happened at the last party, swearing he had nothing to do with it, and the two make fun of Henry. Will apparently has a special bottle set aside for Henry.
The Capones are taking Van Alden along on their collections, which doesn’t exactly excite him. The door they’re ringing is opened by a sassy woman who gives them some attitude, so Frank takes over and finesses her until she directs them to 2D. Up they go, and a few minutes later Mr 2D comes flying out of his own window, landing on the roof of a car below.
Old white people dance at the Onyx while Eli watches from above and Nucky asks him if he could run things in AC if Nucky went down to Tampa to oversee operations there. Eli’s surprised by the idea that Nucky would leave his family, but he says that, whatever Nucky needs, he’ll take care of it. Nucky asks him to take Rothstein’s money down to Tampa, if he kicks in, and meet McCoy. Eli worries about leaving Will while he’s experiencing these growing pains at school, but Nucky promises it’ll only be a couple of days. Chalky comes in and tells Nucky that Rothstein’s asking him to join the poker game. And it’s a high stakes one, of course.
Will and Pencilneck are in the chem lab, breaking into storage cupboards with the bright idea that they’ll make their own milk of magnesia to dose Henry with. Right, what could go wrong?
Eddie and his contact—who’s Ralph Capone, apparently—are enjoying their dinner. Ralph tells Eddie that if he ever comes out to Chicago he’ll take him to an amazing steakhouse. They chat about their respective jobs and the insanity the previous year, which Ralph was sorry to have missed. Eddie tells him getting all shot up isn’t really that great. The conversation moves to family, and for those curious, Eddie’s sons are, in fact, alive, but now grown and back in Germany. His wife passed away some years before, prompting his move to the US.
Will’s party is underway, but they can’t seem to get Henry’s drink away from him. Doris comes skipping over and tries to flirt, but Will thinks she was in on the joke last week and tells her to get lost. Geez, Will, that was pretty harsh. Of course, she goes and grabs Henry and starts dancing with him, giving Will the opportunity to spike his drink with a lot of homemade milk of magnesia. Henry downs the whole lot a few moments later.
Poker table. Very serious men are playing for very serious money. Rothstein goads Nucky into making a larger bet, and while Nucky considers it, we hear that Rothstein’s been losing all night. Nucky raises.
Dunn lurks outside Narcisse’s and catches him on his way out. Dunn apologises for catching him at his place of business. Narcisse accepts and tells him that Chalky’s day is over. Dunn asks Narcisse what he needs down in AC, which Narcisse refers to as a ‘plantation run by Nordics.’ His idea of paradise is up in Harlem, which is run by fellow black men, but there is an issue with at least one of them. They stop outside a house where a party seems to be going on and Narcisse tells Dunn that the man who lives there is a sort of vampire, sucking the blood from his own people. If only someone was around who could take care of something like that, right? Dunn narrows his eyes, walks up to the house, and beats the hell out of the man while Narcisse watches.
The Capone boys tell Van Alden that he can have all the Cicero action on his homemade acquavit, if he continues helping them bust heads ahead of the election. Al spots one of Dean’s trucks and decides to go boost it. Frank agrees, but Van Alden, terrified of getting killed, begs to be allowed to leave. Al orders him into the truck and they drive off.
The poker game continues. Rothstein remembers their first meeting and describes Nucky as a small timer staring over the fence, wanting a piece of the pie. Nucky shrugs that he doesn’t like pie. Who doesn’t like pie? One of the other players whines about all the chat and Meyer asks if he knows who he’s talking to. Presumably not. Rothstein asks for a marker for $200K and gets it. He bets it all. I thought he was a good gambler? Nucky wins the hand. If this goes much longer Nucky won’t need Rothstein to buy into the Florida deal.
Ralph and Eddie are out at a German bar, getting happily wasted with some of Eddie’s friends. Eddie announces he’s been promoted and starts singing some German song I’m unfamiliar with. I hear the word ‘Deutschland’ a lot, so I guess it’s patriotic. It’s nice to see Eddie unwind a bit. Pretty soon, the whole room’s singing, and Ralph’s joining in where he can. Apparently the actor who plays Eddie is an operatic tenor—you can really hear it here. Always nice when shows let the actors show off other talents.
Back at the college party, Henry rushes to the bathroom, but it’s occupied. Will gets the room to urge Henry to show them all the Charleston, and then Henry looses his bowels, sinking to the floor in misery.
In Chicago, Al has Van Alden take the wheel so he can do a quick hit of coke. Or heroin, I guess. He urges VA to try it, but he turns Al down. Al asks if Dean’s treating him well and VA says the man’s a jokester who pays him well but doesn’t treat him with respect. Al offers him a job with his outfit, but before they can enter negotiations, someone starts hammering from the back of the truck. They pull over and Al and Frank pull out guns before opening the back. The man they reveal recognises them all immediately and stammers that he saw nothing and will happily get lost and never breathe a word. Also, it’s the poor man who had the gun explode in his face earlier. Talk about having a bad day. They give the guy a running start and tell VA he’ll have to kill him, to keep him from ratting VA out to Dean. VA obediently opens fire with a pistol, but keeps missing, and then the gun jams. So, Al takes care of the guy with a tommy gun, then cheers gleefully. The guys get back in the truck and car that was following and continue their journey.
In the wee small hours of the morning, Pencilneck summons Will and they both head down the hall to the bathroom, where a crowd has gathered to look at Henry, lying dead, a bloody, gross mess. Jesus.
Nucky has left the poker table, but Rothstein keeps playing. Meyer suggests he call it a night, but Rothstein keeps going. He’s getting sulky, insisting he doesn’t like the feel of the cards and messing with the dealer. Meyer quietly suggests that it’s probably best if people don’t see Rothstein like this, and that gets through to him at last and he leaves the table. But as he’s walking away, the obnoxious whiner at the table calls him Goldstein, so Rothstein comes back and corrects him, then heads upstairs.
Meyer finds Nucky at the bar and asks him not to extend any more credit to Rothstein, who seems to be having a rough patch. Nucky says he’s taking the Tampa deal off the table, because he can’t rely on someone so blinded by his obsession with winning. Meyer suggests he become the partner. Damn, how much is Meyer getting paid these days? Nucky asks him to tell him about himself. Meyer talks about his dad and how he was a weak man, but Meyer was never afraid of a fight, and how he won a local bully’s respect by never lying down. That bully? Lucky Luciano. Nucky says he’ll need the $500K in 48 hours and Meyer says it’s done. They shake on it, but Nucky says that if the money doesn’t show, this conversation never happened, and it won’t be repeated.
The Capones deliver Van Alden to his home and tell him to consider the job with them. He stumps up to the door, looking defeated.
The loudmouth from the card game steps out of a back entrance and promptly gets a massive whupping from Meyer. Wow.
Nucky gets home, pours himself a drink, and calls for Eddie. Instead, his New Eddie appears, asking if Nucky needs something. He says no and goes to sit down with his drink.
Eddie, meanwhile, is finally delivering Ralph to the train station. They’re both still pretty wasted, but Ralph makes it to his train. As Eddie goes to leave, he’s intercepted by Knox and another agent, who take him away for questioning.
Well, I don’t know about the other plots, but here’s how I think the thing with Eli’s kid is going to play out: there’s going to be a massive investigation into Henry’s death (Henry was from a rich family, so either the police will be pressured to work hard on this one, or a private investigator will get involved). And I don’t think it’ll be too hard for anyone to figure out that Henry drank some bad booze at a party shortly before he got sick. Either Pencilneck will ‘fess up to everything and Will will find himself heading to jail for manslaughter, or the investigators will get half the story and think that Nucky and Eli are peddling poisoned booze, which is really going to cut into business. And maybe Knox will get involved, once he gets wind of this, we’ll have to see. Will or Eli (protecting his kid) could very well end up being those weak links Knox is after.