Previously on Boardwalk Empire: Nucky realized his ship was leaking worse than the Lusitania, and that Eli and Jimmy were a part of it. Margaret, however, proved she was 110% on Nucky’s side, the lucky guy.
It’s morning in the poorer part of town, and Van Alden’s sitting down to breakfast. Lucy comes in dressed in a negligée and tells Van Alden the baby was kicking. That’s really just an opening for her to ask him to let her outside every once in a while, because she’s going seriously stir crazy. He’s not at all ok with that, because she’s his big bad secret. He takes a swig of coffee and gets ready to go to work. He tells her she’ll be free once her baby’s born. How nice of him. He reminds her to eat something before he heads out.
In a nicer part of the city, Nucky’s looking contemplatively out the window of his and Margaret’s house. Margaret joins him and tells him that she’s returned a few things to the Belle Femme, because she figured it would be a good idea to conserve resources. Nucky tells her that it’s more important than ever that they put on a good show and asks her to have the maid get her things back, because everything’s just fine. He goes to get dressed and Margaret picks up the mail, swallowing hard when she finds a letter from a detective agency.
Fleming arrives at one of the casinos to pick up Nucky’s kickback, but the envelope’s seriously light. The proprietor says it’s because they have no booze to push on their customers, and if Nucky wants fat envelopes, he’s going to have to come up with some hooch. Sleater, our new Irish buddy, looks on. Apparently Nucky managed to find him a job after all.
The Commodore and his crew are having a meeting with one of the rumrunners, trying to work out a deal with him. The runner realizes what the Commodore’s doing is fairly personal. It doesn’t seem like he’s willing to play ball with the Commodore, so the Commodore gets ready to call the Coast Guard on him.
Nucky rides the elevator up to his office, where he finds Capone waiting. Nucky asks him what brings him to AC, and Capone breaks the news that Torrio will no longer be buying liquor from AC. Nucky thinks it’s because of all the chaos in AC and reassures Capone that he’s still very much in control. Capone doesn’t know what he’s talking about and says this is nothing personal. Nucky realizes Torrio has a new supplier, and Capone confirms it before handing over an envelope of cash to make up for the loss. Nucky refuses to accept it. Capone tucks the envelope back in his jacket and asks after Jimmy. Nucky shortly replies that Capone will have to ask Jimmy himself. He then asks how Torrio’s handling the competition for the liquor business in Chicago and Capone says they’re killing it. I’m pretty sure he means that literally.
Lucy answers the door to find that stand-up comic we first met last season. He tries to cheer her up, even pulling out a bottle of good liquor, but she’s despondent. And by the way, she has the fakest fake pregnancy belly I’ve ever seen. She wails that she feels like she’s missing so much, but he tells her she’s not missing a thing and she should be happy, because a baby’s a hell of a meal ticket. She says the father’s married, and that he’s a prohibition officer she met in a speakeasy. She explains that after Nucky dumped her she stopped caring and wasn’t careful, and you know how that works out. But Van Alden promised to pay her and take care of her until the baby was born. Comedian sweetly tells her she should have come to him if she needed cash. Struggling to find the words, she admits she wanted to feel important to someone and be more than just a sex object. She changes the subject, asking him how vaudeville is, and he tells her about some lame play he’s been handed called A Dangerous Maid. So, if that’s a new play that hasn’t been performed yet, that means we’re sometime before March 21, 1921, which is when A Dangerous Maid premiered in AC. Which means Lucy would only be about five months along, six tops. I’m no expert, but she seems pretty enormous for someone at that point in their first pregnancy, particularly someone who isn’t eating much. Also, for those of you who love musical theater trivia, A Dangerous Maid didn’t even last a month and was one of the very few Gershwin musicals not to make it to Broadway, so I guess it was as lousy as Comedian thinks.
Jimmy and Two Face arrive at Darmody Manor to find Capone sitting in the living room with the kid on his knee, singing a song in Italian to him while Angela looks on, smiling. Capone hands the kid off to Ange and he and Jimmy wrestle a bit by way of saying hello. Later, the three men sit down and talk about Jimmy and the Commodore’s takeover of the city. Jimmy says they’re taking over the liquor business and Nucky should be in jail by fall. Capone laughs that he should just have “Frankenstein” drill a hole in Nucky’s head, but TF stiffly says he won’t do that. There’s some talk about Capone’s affairs—he’s got 20% each of the whorehouse and the brewery, so he’s doing fairly well for himself too, just like Jimmy. Angela comes in with pastries and Capone thanks her in Italian. She responds in kind and Capone laughs about how he married a “Mick” and Jimmy married an Italian. Al mentions his recently deceased dad, who was a barber and wanted his son to follow in his footsteps. Jimmy’s own son calls him over to help tie his shoe, and Capone looks on a bit wistfully. TF asks him how Odette, the girl he slept with last season, is doing, and Capone’s face briefly registers that he knows TF has a little crush that needs to be, well, crushed, so he meanly tells him she’s a prostitute, that’s how she’s doing. Aww, poor TF looks sad.
Eli returns home and is greeted by his 900 children and harassed wife, who tells him that his father’s being a problem. Apparently he won’t let her in to change the bedclothes or shave him. Eli goes up to take care of it, and finds his father upset about the stories about Nucky’s indictment in the newspaper. He worries about Nucky, shockingly, because he thinks Nucky might need him. I think at this point he mistakes Eli for Nucky and tells him to help his brother, since he doesn’t know what he’s doing. So, maybe he thought the newspaper stories were about Eli all along. Either that, or I missed something in there.
In her bed at night, Margaret pages through what the detective agency sent to her. It’s a bunch of photos of kids, but we don’t know what they’re all about yet. Nucky returns home and she quickly tucks the pictures away before he gets upstairs. They make small talk for a little while but he notices she’s upset and asks her what’s up. She parries for a bit, while sweetly helping him with his cufflinks, but then she pulls the pictures out and tells him they’re her brother and sisters, who are apparently now living in Brooklyn. He notices there’s a phone number and asks her what she plans to do. She’s not sure yet, because they didn’t all part on good terms. After a brief pause, Nucky offers to take Margaret away to Paris once the current mess has blown over. She smiles and tells him that sounds lovely, but she’s quite happy where she is. He’s glad to hear it, but says it’s important to have things to look forward to.
Gillian’s giving Jimmy a manicure and some advice about a dinner Jimmy and the Commodore are going to be having with the governor. Jimmy remembers Jillian calling the Commodore “the Lech” once upon a time, and now she’s all sweet and gentle and admiring of him. Jillian shrugs that she was mad at him back then, but then she grew up, learned forgiveness, and got over her child rape. She tells him it means a lot to her that Jimmy stood up for her honor. Jimmy mentions Capone’s dad the barber and wonders if he might not be more suited to a simpler life. Jillian pooh poohs that, telling Jimmy he’s a natural leader. He asks what she is and she smilingly replies that she’s a woman who loves her family.
Lucy, smoking like a chimney, is reading the script aloud to herself when Van Alden returns home and immediately asks her what she’s doing. Like the child she is, she says “nothing,” but when he asks, she hands over the script. He asks her what this is and she spills that her friend Eddie, Eddie Cantor, you know, came by and gave her the script because he thought she might be good for the part. Van Alden, of course, doesn’t approve, but Lucy breaks down and tells him that she needs to have something in her life or she’s going to go crazy. Van Alden firmly tells her this isn’t possible, because she’s pregnant, which is a sacred charge from God as well as a financial arrangement between the two of them, and what she wants doesn’t really matter. Lucy starts to weep and he adds a perfunctory “sorry.”
Fleming reports in to Nucky to tell him about the light envelope. Nucky tells him the booze will arrive that night and everything will be fine. Eddie comes in and tells him the Attorney General is on the phone, so Nucky dismisses Fleming and tries to call in the favor the AG owes him for helping to get Harding elected. The AG jerks him around and basically refuses to help him out, though he does offer Nucky and Margaret an overnight White House visit. Looks like Nucky’s on his own.
Luciano and Meyer have been called for a verbal Come to Jesus meeting with Rothstein and Masseria, who’s pissed about a) the card game operating in his territory and b) his two dead nephews. They don’t know what he’s talking about with regard to the murders, but it doesn’t matter. Rothstein orders them to pay $2,000 as restitution for the families of the dead men and fork over 10% of the take from the game to Masseria going forward. They hate the arrangement, but they’re stuck with it. As he goes to leave, Masseria asks Luciano, in Italian, to join his crew, but Luciano’s not willing to do so. After Masseria leaves, Meyer complains about having to pay 10% of the game when they already pay 50% to Rothstein, but Rothstein tells him to suck it up.
Van Alden reports to Mickey Doyle’s warehouse for tips on which speakeasies to raid. Hmmm. Doyle even gives him information on the kind of security the place has. He writes down the details and Van Alden hands over some cash. Doyle asks if Van Alden’s interested in selling back any of the booze he confiscates. Give him time, Mickey. He will. He notices Van Alden eyeing a painting of a naked woman (a surprisingly classy one, I might add, considering this is Mickey Doyle we’re talking about) but Van Alden claims not to be interested in that sort of thing, being a married man and all. Remembering something Lucy said to him earlier, Van Alden suddenly asks Mickey if he’d consider Nucky Thompson a fun guy. As you might imagine, Doyle’s a bit confused by that.
Lucy looks at herself in the mirror, completely naked, and weeps. What is it with this chick? Does she have a nudity clause in her contract or something? I’m kind of tired of seeing her in the buff so often. It does not impress or interest me at all.
Margaret has Katie the maid in the living room and is having her call the number the detective agency gave her. Katie’s nervous since she doesn’t often speak on the phone. She manages to ask for any occupant of apartment 2A. When she gets someone on the phone, she asks for Peggy Rowan, only to hear that Peggy Rowan’s dead and has been for 12 years. Peggy, you say? Isn’t Peggy a nickname for Margaret? When Katie reports what she heard, Margaret suddenly hurries out of the room, looking crushed.
Nucky’s staring moodily out the window, drink in hand, when Eddie comes in and tells him Bader stopped by and invited him to dinner. Nucky tells him to make his excuses. Eddie notices the phone off the hook and thrown onto the floor, but when he goes to pick it up, Nucky tells him to leave it. Sleater shows up just then and reminds Nucky that he’s working behind the bar at the casino that’s got such a liquor-flow problem. Sleater’s not there to ask about the booze, though. He’s there to offer his services as, well, a sort of Two Face for Nucky. Oooh, this is going to be good. No sooner does he have that proposition out of his mouth than Eddie comes running back in to tell Nucky that the bootlegger who was meeting with the Commodore earlier is on the phone—the Coast Guard is seizing his ships. Sleater takes this as his cue to leave.
As she’s putting away some clean towels, Katie overhears Margaret weeping in her room like her heart’s been broken.
Lucy, still crying, hovers at the top of the stairs of the apartment building, clearly trying to work up the courage to throw herself down. She’s stopped at the last minute by the timely arrival of a phonograph, which has been sent by Van Alden. Aww, who’d have thought he’d have it in him?
Margaret heads down the stairs to the kitchen, where the cook, maid, and nanny are sitting around having a drink and a giggle. Margaret asks to join them, even asking for a drink of her own. Wow, never thought I’d see the day. She asks Katie the maid if she was born in Ireland, and Katie says she wasn’t. Margaret says that’s good, because the place sucks. Nobody knows what to say to that, so I guess it’s good that Nucky comes in and asks what’s going on. He asks Margaret what’s wrong and she tells him she’s fine. The servants scatter, and he tells Margaret to get dressed up, because he’s taking her out.
Van Alden comes home and is greeted by the sight of Lucy dancing around to the record on the phonograph. He actually manages to smile a tiny bit, which may be a first for this show.
Nucky and Margaret hit Babette’s, of course, where the governor’s having dinner with Jimmy and the Commodore. The Commodore hands the governor a bribe and the three joke and chat a bit. When Nucky comes in, accompanied by Bader and his wife, Babette looks seriously uncomfortable, and Bader suggests they go elsewhere when they spot the Commodore. Nucky firmly says they’re going to eat here and marches determinedly towards a table.
The governor asks Jimmy if he plans to follow in his father’s footsteps. Jimmy replies that he likes to think he’s his own man, but he wants to learn all he can. Governor asks what he’s learned so far and Jimmy answers that nothing’s free. You had to learn that? A waiter refills their glasses and the governor comments that he always thought the Volstead Act was stupid and caused a lot of trouble. The Commodore non-sequitors that when Nucky’s “brought to justice” they’ll have a huge party. The governor says he’d be happy to attend.
At his table, Nucky glares at Commodore and co. over the edge of his glass. Margaret tells him she’s happy to eat somewhere else, but Nucky’s going to stay. When they go to order, Margaret finds out the lobster she wants isn’t available. She doesn’t care, but Nucky spots a lobster on the table in front of the Commodore and that’s the straw that breaks the camel’s back. Nucky gets up, strides over to the table and flips the lobster onto the floor, informing the Commodore he’s had his last meal at Babette’s. With a fake smile, he asks the governor what brings him into town. The governor gives Nucky his sympathies for his current problems and Nucky coldly wishes him a long political career. Nucky next turns to Jimmy, asking him what the Commodore promised him. “More than you ever did,” Jimmy answers. Nucky spits that he actually keeps his promises, and he makes a new one, vowing to ruin every last one of them. The Commodore calls him a child, and Nucky rounds on him, commenting that the Commodore’s the expert on children, isn’t he? Oooooh. Valid, but wow. As a final blow, Nucky tells Jimmy that the Commodore didn’t even know Jillian’s name. He just pointed to the one he wanted and the rest was understood. Excuse me, I need to go shower now. Ick. Jimmy’s ready to start a brawl by the Commodore verbally holds him back. Nucky wishes them a good dinner and returns to their table.
The casino owner’s taking an order of booze that’s being delivered by TF when Sleater comes out and informs everyone that they won’t be taking this hooch, because they only take booze from Mr. Thompson, and these aren’t Mr. Thompson’s men. He and TF size each other up, and Sleater realizes the guy must have been a soldier. Well, no shit, Sleater. There aren’t too many other ways to lose half your face. Sleater brushes past him and tells the men unloading the truck they won’t be taking the booze after all. One of the guys sneers that he doesn’t take orders from a “paddy” and Sleater grins and says, “of course not, this is America,” before headbutting the guy and taking the second man out with a well-aimed punch before pulling a gun and ending up in a face-off (so to speak) with TF, who’s pulled his own weapon. Sleater tells TF he has no quarrel with him, they just aren’t buying any liquor. TF lowers his weapon and Sleater walks off. That was pretty awesome.
Late that night, Jimmy’s home, drinking alone. Ange wanders in and helpfully observes that he’s home. She asks how dinner with his father was. “Which one?” Jimmy asks her. She kisses the side of his face and leaves him to his thoughts. Jimmy looks at his manicured nails with deep disgust.
Margaret and Nucky return home, and as soon as they’re in the door he grabs her and lays a hell of a kiss on her. She asks him what that was for and he tells her he doesn’t ever want to see her sad again. She smiles delightedly. Nucky asks Katie to lay out a suit for him for the next day, then heads upstairs. As Margaret goes to follow him, Katie grabs her hand and asks if she’s Peggy Rowan. She promises not to tell, but their camaraderie from earlier has come to an end, and Margaret tells her she’s done for the night.
So, we’re a few episodes into the season now, and here’s how I feel: I’m on Nucky’s side. I’m sure I’m supposed to be, but it’s not even a close contest. I not only want him to win, I want him to totally pulverize his opponents. Except Two Face—can he turncoat and join Nucky? Really, what’s there to like about the Commodore Crew? It’s made up of a pedophile; a whiny, ungrateful brat of a brother; and Jimmy, who I feel has been really bland lately. He’s boring the life out of me—there’s just nothing going on with him. There’s supposed to be all this internal conflict, but I’m not feeling it. It’s like the actor’s sleepwalking through the role. I’m still interested in Rothstein and the crew in New York, though we haven’t seen much of him, and it looks like Sleater’s going to be an interesting addition to the cast. We’ll have to see how it all pans out.