Previously on Boardwalk Empire: Nucky decided to go to war with Masseria and was left to it by all the other east coast bootleggers.
It’s summer in AC and the beach and Boardwalk are hoppin’. There’s a particularly fancy show with some guy dressed as Neptune (accompanied by pretty girls dressed as lobsters—just go with it) which is being watched by Julia and Tommy while they build sandcastles, waiting for TF to return with their ice cream cones. Aww. Meanwhile, bottles of whiskey start washing up on shore, much to the extreme delight of the beachgoers. A few of them start spreading the word, and I’m surprised they didn’t keep their mouths shut and grab all the bottles they could. Neptune’s crowd—and then Neptune himself—rush to accept this apparent gift from the gods.
That whiskey was apparently Gyp’s, from a couple dozen crates that went overboard from one of his boats. As you can imagine, he’s not happy about this. One of the guys suggests rogue waves were to blame. Gyp knows nothing of such things, and though one of the goons tries to shut the guy up (the guy’s his first cousin), Gyp asks him to explain. He does, and Gyp gets mad at goon for not knowing about the rogue waves. Ohhh, someone’s gonna die today.
Chicago. Van Alden shows up in a Norwegian bar to peddle his homemade aquavit. The bartender’s interested, especially when he hears it’s been made by a real Norwegian. He takes a taste, declares it good, and they start to barter. A deal is struck. Van Alden’s much better at selling this stuff than he was at peddling irons, I’ll give him that. Barman tells him to come back later and he’ll buy more.
In AC, Nucky reads a newspaper article about Remus giving up Jess Smith. Eddie scolds him for not taking some medicine and Nucky dismisses him so he can get on the phone with Means. Means tells him Smith’s been acting kind of nutty lately and getting ready to spill all kinds of dirt on Nucky, Means, and everyone else. The man needs to be quieted, clearly. Means’ll do it, for $40K. Nucky’s displeased by the price tag but promises to pay Means when he sees the results.
Owen’s getting ready to head out and Katie’s fishing for confirmation of his relationship with Margaret. Doesn’t miss a trick, this girl. She wonders aloud if Nucky knows his wife fancies the help. Owen tells her there’s nothing going on and he’s just doing his job. She tells him to prove it, so he proposes. Smart, Owen. Good luck getting out of that one gracefully. He leaves and she smiles blissfully. Oh dear.
Owen arrives at the Ritz and finds Margaret talking to Eddie. She asks him what’s up and guesses he comes bearing secrets. He tells her Katie’s birthday is the next day and he doesn’t know what to get her. Margaret invites him to come in and discuss the possibilities and dismisses Eddie. Once they’re alone, Owen warns her that Eddie sees and knows more than she thinks, but she’s not too worried, because she’s planning on hitting the road with Owen sooner rather than later. They start making careful plans, aware that things could get very dangerous very quickly if Nucky finds out. Margaret will leave first and Sleater will follow about six weeks later. She doesn’t like the long separation but asks him what their destination—St. Louis—is like. She also asks what he’ll do about Katie. Just up sticks and leave her, apparently. Sleater, you disappoint me.
Nucky is meeting with Eli, Mickey, and some other guy who looks vaguely familiar, but I’ll be damned if I can remember his name. He’s annoying Nucky with a palindrome, but luckily Owen comes in so we can get down to business. New Guy tells Owen Masseria goes to the Turkish baths every Thursday. Is there only one Turkish bath in all of New York City? I doubt that. Oh, wait, he mentions it’s on Christie Street. That should narrow it down. Mickey asks if the place has mineral baths, like he’s considering membership or something. What’s he doing there? Owen’s being sent up to take care of Masseria. Eli offers to go as backup but Nucky won’t have it, because he needs Eli to go to Chicago and get Torrio on their side. Wow, Eli really has been let back into the fold, hasn’t he? Since Torrio’s pretty much Nucky’s last shot at an ally, that’s a pretty important task there. Mickey’s being sent to Mellon’s distillery to get it up and running again. He’s also going to be taking over Remus’s operation and using the Mellon place as a base. Ohh, ok, we finally learn that New Guy is that agent Nucky has in his pocket. That’s right, he was the one who told them where that getaway driver was holed up, some episodes back. He’ll go along with Sleater, flash his badge, and buy him some time. How has this guy not been taken down yet, with all the illegal activity he seems to be connected to? Nucky wonders if Owen should take some more guys with him, but Owen says that more men mean more opportunities for mistakes. This isn’t a job for an army. Nucky sends them all on their way.
Meyer and Lucky are trying to persuade Rothstein to get into the heroin business. Rothstein, however, says that with war looming, it’s not a good time to venture into new deals. He likes the idea, but the timing sucks.
Means finds Smith in his office and tells him the legal walls are closing in on him. Smith immediately begins to panic but Means tells him that he’ll be ok as long as he burns the marked bills that will apparently eventually lead back to him. Jess rushes off to do that, and Means immediately goes to fetch Daugherty and shows him Smith burning the bills. They agree that the man is ill. Means tells Daugherty he has to give Smith up if he wants to save himself. Means offers to take care of this matter himself, for $40K. Man, he’s cleaning up with this deal.
Margaret arrives at the hospital and tells her bodyguard to wait at teh car. He’s reluctant, but she insists. Inside, Sister Mary Bitcheus tells Margaret and the doctor that the bishop has decided this ‘experiment’ has run its course. Keeping women ignorant, especially of their bodies? Yep, that sounds pretty catholic. Pretty much any very conservative religion run by men. Doc asks what will happen to the women who have been coming and the sister says they’ll have to find their information elsewhere. Yes, because information about sexual and gynecological matters was so easy to come by in the early 20th century. She does admit that she found a lot of what went on there very educational. After she leaves, Doc closes the door and gives Margaret the diaphragms she asked for. He also observes that she’s pale and asks if she’s ok. She says it’s nothing she hasn’t been through before. Oh dear. He looks around the room and says they could keep the classes going elsewhere. Margaret thinks he’ll get into trouble for that but he says that might just mean this isn’t the right place for him. He asks Margaret to think it over, because they worked well together. She agrees that they did, shakes his hand, and leaves.
Nucky has some guy over—Gregori?—because he wants him to go to Tabor Heights and cut a deal. Gregori thinks the deal will be worthless, and it’s clear, by the way, that he hates Italians, so maybe he’s not the best person to handle this job. Nucky doesn’t care about the deal, what he wants is information on the Tabor Heights operation. Gregori agrees to get it.
Van Alden returns to the bar and the owner thanks him for the acquavit, and then apologises as two men come over, put a gun to Van Alden’s head, and escort him outside.
Julia and TF drink tea at Julia’s place and talk about Tommy. She takes TF’s hand and tells him it’s good that Tommy has him in his life. Their time is interrupted by the arrival of Sagorsky, who’s drunk and belligerent as always. Sagorsky calls her a slut and Richard immediately gets up to defend her honour. Julia begs them both to stop, and then just begs TF when he gets her father in a chokehold on the floor and orders him to apologise. Sagorsky manages to choke one out and Richard lets him go and replaces his mask, which Sagorsky knocked off during the altercation.
Lucky’s now trying to cut a deal on the heroin trade with Masseria, who’s enjoying a nice afternoon of bocce. Masseria still hates Jews, but Lucky tells him Meyer’s ok and they can all do business together. Masseria asks them why they haven’t gone to Rothstein and Meyer says Rothstein’s not interested. But this is a big step for all of them and he’s sure time and familiarity will help them along. They need to expand soon and fast, and to get Masseria on their side, they tell Masseria Nucky’s planning on making a move against him soon. They won’t give him any more details until he agrees to a deal. He does and they tell him what they know.
Gyp and his guys go over the plan for an enormous shipment coming in that night. The goon from earlier makes a stupid joke about rogue waves. Gregori’s there—was he always part of Gyp’s crew, or did he just manage to ingratiate himself in record time? How did that work? Apparently he’s going to be captaining the shipment. He promises to get Gyp his shipment safe and on time.
Smith, now in his robe and looking a bit of a mess, is having dinner with Daugherty and reminiscing about some tornado they both made it through when they were kids. Harry says he’s considering retiring, which surprises Smith, who thinks that could be rather nice. He tells Harry his heart was never in this and Harry says his wasn’t either, at first.
Margaret sings her kids to sleep, while Teddy looks at her impassively. When she finishes, he asks her to sing it again. He also asks how long they have to stay in the hotel. She tells him it won’t be much longer now. Soon they’ll go out on a lovely adventure. Nucky appears in the doorway and tells him they’ll go home just as soon as the repairs are done. Margaret kisses the boy goodnight and brushes out of the room, past her husband.
Julia and TF are back on the beach, next to a little fire. She asks him if anyone was waiting for him after the war. His sweetheart apparently married someone else while he was away. Julia opens up about a man she almost married—a widower with children—but then her brother died and her father fell into that deep, deep hole he’s in, so she gave the man up. TF says he wishes he could kiss her and she leans in and kisses him. Aww again!
Nucky’s in his office, playing a game, when Eddie comes in and announces Chalky. Chalky begins by making sure Nucky knows who he is this time. Once that’s settled, he tells Nucky he wants to open up a club in the space formerly known as Babette’s. Let’s have a moment of silence for Babette’s (and, presumably, Babette herself, whom we haven’t heard a word of sinec the explosion).
Back to Chalky. He’ll bring in all the good jazz acts and pack the crowds in. Nucky thinks it’s a bad idea because AC’s still fairly racist and divided and tells Chalky he’s got too many things on his mind right now. This is a no-go. Damn, Nucky, that was pretty stupid of you. Chalky is not pleased, and he’s not a man I’d want displeased with me. Especially at a time when I’d need all the friends I could get.
Van Alden’s been brought to Al, who’s not pleased that VA’s been selling booze in his territory. VA says he made a mistake and that this is all being done behind O’Banion’s back, so it’s not like there’s some kind of conspiracy here. Al wonders what he’s going to do with VA and VA starts to freak out and recite Job. He appeals to Al’s sense of family, but Al responds by stabbing him in the cheek with a fork and telling him he’s going to pay him back and tell him everything he knows about O’Banion’s operation.
In the dead of night, Means steals into Smith’s room, only to be surprised by a gun-wielding Smith, who asks what Means is doing there with a gun of his own. Means rambles as he tries to talk his way out of this, but Jess knows he’s there to do a hit, and he knows Harry’s behind it. He starts to weep at the realisation that his friend wants him dead. Means puts his gun down and raises his hands and admits, when Jess asks, that he’s never actually killed anyone before. And he’s still charging $40K? Seems like a lot for a novice. Jess offers to show him how easy it is, and then shoots himself in the head. Wow. So, will Means still get paid?
Masseria’s guys leave word at the baths that nobody else is to be let in. As they head inside, Owen and the agent show up.
Nucky finds Margaret sitting alone in the dark and sits down with her, telling her this craziness should all be over soon. He admits he’s mucked everything up, takes her hand, and promises to make it up to her. He urges her to get some rest and leaves her alone.
All 1200 cases of Gyp’s shipment have arrived safely, which means Rogue Wave Guy must now be punished for knowing something Gyp didn’t. He’s been buried up to his neck in the sand to wait for high tide. Jesus, why is anyone still loyal to this nutjob? The goon he’s related to begs for mercy, and Gyp grants it…by hammering RWG in the head with a shovel. Repeatedly. Par for the course for this character. Brutal but boring. He caps it off by telling the goon who’s just had to watch his first cousin get beaten to death that he owes him. For what? Not letting the guy drown? Because being beaten with a shovel is a better death?
Eddie wakes Nucky in the middle of the night to tell him he has a delivery. It’s a huge crate which Nucky crowbars open. Margaret comes out just as he’s prying the lid off to reveal…Owen. GAH! NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO! Dammit, show, I actually liked him and found him interesting! I can’t believe we have to keep putting up with goddamn Gyp when Owen gets killed. Margaret loses her mind, screaming, sobbing, and flailing at Nucky with her fists. She flees the room and Nucky looks from her retreating figure down to Owen’s bloodied body. I don’t think it’ll be long before he puts two and two together if he hasn’t already.
Julia and Richard are curled up under a blanket under the pier, fast asleep in the sand as bottles continue to wash up on shore.
Margaret sits in the dark again, as Nucky knocks on the door and asks to be let in. She cries and remembers her last conversation with Owen. We see a little more of it than we did before—she asks him if he’s lying to her and if he’s really different from Nucky. He leans in to kiss her, but she stops him and tells him she’s pregnant, and the baby’s his, of course. It takes him a minute to absorb that, but then he seems pretty ok with it. And he’s hoping for a boy. It’ll be interesting to see how Nucky deals with this.