Previously on Boardwalk Empire: Gyp Rosetti proved to have a short temper, Margaret acquired some new extracurricular activities, Gillian found a replacement Jimmy, and Van Alden became indebted to the Irish mob in Chicago.
We start with a close up of TF’s face, and damn, that mask is kinda creepy when you see it full on like that. He’s standing impassively, listening to Gillian, Leander, and an undertaker (I guess) discuss the coroner’s report over Replacement Jimmy’s coffin. Cause: accidental drowning. They’re exercising a bit of discretion, obviously. Gillian weeps that she couldn’t seem to keep her son off the dope. Undertaker offers her a few more minutes but Leander tells him they’ve already said their goodbyes. Gillian asks TF if he wants to say something. Damn, Gillian. It’s bad enough to make him part of your crazy plot (because surely TF realises this is not Jimmy in the coffin) but to make him speak too? Lay off, lady. TF’s response? ‘Jimmy deserved better than this.’ The coffin is slid into the wall at what is, apparently, a crematorium. We just start to see the flames kick up as the door closes. Farewell, Replacement Jimmy.
Van Alden’s wife, Sigrid, watches while O’Banion and some other guy give Van Alden a crash-course in making homemade hooch. This will be Van Alden’s job now, to pay off his debt over that whole body-disposal thing a couple of episodes back. They also want Van Alden to join them for a meeting the next day.
Nucky’s in his office with Sleater and Eli, making plans over the phone to go to New York. He hangs up and asks Sleater where they are on a pony he wants to give Emily for her birthday. Eli points out that the kid can barely walk, which I think is why a pony might be helpful, Eli. Though, careful, Nucky. There’s really no way to top a pony for most little girls. What are you going to get her for Christmas, a living carousel? Sleater, who knows everything about everything, suggests a Morgan or a Shetland and promises to get this taken care of. In comes Eddie, who announces that Jimmy is dead. For real—there’s an obituary in the paper and everything, saying Jimmy drowned in the bath at his mother’s house. All the guys hilariously give each other WTF looks.
Chicago. Torrio is talking about how awesome and old Italy is. Al shows up and welcomes him back before telling him they’re going to have to meet with O’Banion, who’s sort of annoyed that Al beat one of his guys to death. I don’t think Torrio likes that he’s getting ambushed here, but he’s embracing a certain Italian joie de vivre, so he shrugs it off.
Leander sits down with Gillian and brings up the matter of Tommy’s upbringing. Leander’s a bit old fashioned and doesn’t think that a whorehouse is the best place to raise a young boy. Gillian retorts that the place is a health resort. Sure, a health resort where people OD on heroin. Nice try, Gillian. Before this fascinating talk can continue, Nucky arrives to find out just what the hell is going on. Leander makes himself scarce at Nucky’s request. Nucky offers his condolences and Gillian pours them both drinks. Nucky accepts his as they continue the pretence that Jimmy has actually just died, and then Gillian unloads her glass in Nucky’s face and tells him they should stop the charade. She knows Nucky had Jimmy killed, though he denies it. He tells her that, whatever she’s trying to pull, she only exists in AC because he allows it. I think he thinks he’s bigger than he really is.
Margaret, the doctor, and Sister Mary Ignoramus discuss the class: SMI’s concerned about upcoming talks on ‘the act itself’. Margaret and Doc promise it will be conducted with the utmost discretion. She takes off and the doc jokes that every time they talk she brings it around to sex. In comes Mrs. Schearer, she of the tragic miscarriage, who asks to talk to Margaret. When they’re alone, she confesses that her husband won’t stay off of her and she doesn’t want another baby. She didn’t want the one she lost either, so she deliberately drank unpasteurised milk in an attempt to cause the miscarriage. Margaret clearly feels for her, but she says they’re not allowed to discuss this, and all she can offer is a pamphlet on the rhythm method. Mrs. S says she doesn’t need a pamphlet or some man to tell her what she already knows. How remarkable this episode is airing right before the election, which has made these matters so important all over again. She wants a diaphragm, which only a doctor can give her, and no doctor will give her one because they only seem to listen to rich ladies, like Margaret.
Van Alden listens to the steady drip of his makeshift still, which is keeping him up. Sigrid tries to soothe him to sleep, but sleeping with steady dripping going on is hellish.
Nucky and Esther are meeting in New York and discussing what they do for fun. She, apparently, runs naked through the pages of the United States Criminal Code. So, that’s how she stays in such good shape. Good to know. Their third wheel—Means—finally arrives so they can all get down to business. He tells Nucky that Mellon’s in Manhattan for the day and will be lunching at the Union Club. He also advises Nucky on how to sneak in. Esther chimes in with some info on Mellon: he’s superrich and hates Daugherty. Means adds that Mellon’s a majority shareholder in a distillery in Pennsylvania that’s currently gathering cobwebs.
Over to a strangely Italian-looking area of Chicago. Al and his fat friend, Jake (I believe), are getting ready to meet Torrio and O’Banion in the stockyards. Al’s worried that Torrio’s angrier than he’s letting on and tells Jake to keep his ear to the ground. Torrio arrives and slags off the area. O’Banion pulls up, accompanied by a couple of flunkies and Van Alden, who looks seriously uncomfortable. Torrio notes the new face and O’Banion introduces him as his new muscle. They ask what’s in V-A’s suitcase and he answers honestly: irons. Van Alden, you have a long way to go before you’re ready for this world. O’Banion gets down to business and tells Torrio he’s been patient, waiting for him to get home. Torrio starts talking about how great it is in Italy, where people take it easy and realise life is short. O’Banion takes that as a threat and pretty soon he and Al are verbally going at it. Torrio brings up Pompeii and how the people there were destroyed in an instant, unsuspecting. O’Banion doesn’t care and asks Torrio what’s going to happen here. Torrio says Al’s going to take care of this mess. He takes off to get another espresso or something. Al suggests they bury the hatchet and O’Banion seems fine with that. Guess he never liked that guy who got killed.
Sleater thoroughly checks out a beautiful little pony at a farm as Margaret looks on. She comments on how serious he is about this and asks if his old village had a horse fair. Yep. She talks about some old horse they had when she was a kid, until her father drank him away, and how much fun she used to have at the annual horse fair. They’re cute and flirty when they’re nostalgic. Owen approves of the pony but tells the owner Margaret wants time to think it over.
Billie, all sausage curls and sass, arrives for her screen test and complains about the lighting being too strong. A director suggests she thinks she’s too good for movies, which he thinks is common amongst theatre folk, but she says she’s not too good for anything. He asks what she loves about the movies and she says she likes sitting in the dark and forgetting who she is. The director introduces the man she’ll be screen testing with—Gil—who takes a seat with her, gives her a couple of pointers, and tells her they’ll be kissing. They start the scene, the director telling Billie to keep her face forward. She does well, cracking all the men up.
Cut to Nucky, looking rather sour. Heh. He’s at the Union Club, taking the measure of Mellon, who asks a steward to turn off the stock ticker going in the background. The steward obliges and Nucky senses his opening, approaching Mellon and getting right to the point by telling Mellon they have an enemy in common: Daugherty. Nucky straight-out admits that he and Daugherty have been working together to circumvent the Volstead Act. But those arrangements are now at an end, and he thinks it’s terribly wrong for the AG to be engaged in illegal activities. Mellon thinks Daugherty’s just a shabby huckster and that government, income taxes, and Prohibition all suck and are stupid. Nucky suggests Mellon arrest Remus, with Nucky providing the evidence he’ll need to indict him. Nucky also offers to get Mellon’s distillery going, running it himself and just sending Mellon the profits. Mellon responds by calling one of the stewards over and asking him to kick Nucky out.
Owen and Margaret have gotten caught in a sudden rainstorm at the farm. He drapes his coat over her as they make a run for the car. Once inside, Margaret comments that it’s foolish to get a pony when they don’t know what the future holds. She wonders who’ll look after it and Owen suggests they get Teddy involved. Dear god, don’t give that budding sociopath a pony! Don’t give him any animal! I’m worried enough about the poor dog!
She asks him not to talk about good things and bad things, because those words don’t mean much anymore, and then she suddenly asks him to teach her how to drive. But not right now, after the sexing.
Cut from that to one of Van Alden’s co-workers demonstrating the steam action on the irons they sell. Heh. He’s showing off his pitch for the boys, to stay sharp, and he’s pretty good. Everyone applauds the guy (Ralph) and then call Van Alden forward to take a turn. He tries to beg off but they insist and call forth Phil to pretend to be the customer. Phil’s kind of a dick and starts in on Van Alden right away, pretending to be a horny housewife who asks if he’s selling dildos. Charming. The other frat boys think he’s hilarious but Van Alden, of course, is not amused. Very, very not amused. He’s also a crap salesman. Phil keeps hamming it up, as the others cackle, and tells Van Alden that if he screws as badly as he sells irons, he should sell dildos, because his wife is gonna need it. And, at this point, Van Alden turns into the frigging hulk and presses the iron right against Phil’s face, holding it there while everyone screams and scatters. Van Alden proceeds to run around trashing the place like a complete maniac while Phil screams and sobs in pain. The others watch and cringe in fear from a nearby room. Van Alden calms down a bit, puts on his hat, and leaves.
Billie, her friend Vi, and Gil are celebrating her success with some music, dancing, and booze in her apartment. There’s much merriment, so of course Nucky has to show up and ruin the mood. He sees Billie—who calls him Gus, for some reason. I never noticed that—acting a little flirtier than he’d like with Gil and his mood worsens. Billie suggests Nucky get a drink and Gil offers to pour it, calling Nucky ‘sir.’ Apparently Nucky’s been around Gyp Rosetti too long, because he immediately takes offense to that and tells Gil to get the F out. Gil tells him to watch his language, sir, so Nucky punches him in the face. Gil recovers and hits back and soon the boys are brawling. Nucky finally gets the upper hand, even as Billie screams at him to stop, and he begins waling on Gil’s face. Billie finally manages to pull Nucky off and Gil freaks out that his nose may be broken. He threatens to sue Nucky, who couldn’t care less, as Billie desperately apologises and hustles Gil and Vi out. Vi doesn’t want to leave her friend with Nucky but Billie insists she’ll be fine. Once they’re alone, Nucky nonchalantly asks her what the movie’s about. A gangster and a showgirl, of course. How apt. He angrily says he doesn’t like looking the other way on her personal life, so she calls him on his total hypocrisy. He offers to take care of her, but that’s not how she operates. Unlike Nucky’s usual girls, she doesn’t need rescuing. He suggests her career will be in the toilet soon but she refuses to take the bait. Good for her. She tells him he’s no fun this way and he asks what she wants from him. She says she wants him to be her gangster, which is just kinda strange. He grabs her and roughly kisses her. Strange foreplay these two have.
It’s the middle of the night in Chicago, but Van Alden’s packing. His wife wakes and asks what he’s doing and he tells her they have to leave ASAP. He offers to take her anywhere except New Jersey, New York, and Illinois. She hushes him, sits him down, and gives him a drink. He asks what it is and she tells him it’s the whisky for O’Banion, which she’s been making all day every day while he’s been at work. And she’s made a little extra so they can sell it on the side during some Norwegian Independence Day festival that’s coming up. Clever woman. Van Alden seriously traded up with this lady.
Gillian’s not particularly pleased to find Lucky sleeping in one of the rooms at the House of T&A. She asks him what he’s doing there and he tells her he’s there on business, to meet with Nucky. She shortly tells him she needs the room, because the roofers need to come in. Now that Jimmy’s dead, she owns the house and was able to take out a loan. A very sizeable one too, because not only is she able to get the roof fixed, she can also buy Lucky out of the business to the tune of $4,500. Damn. Lucky is unimpressed by the check, so she tosses his clothes out the window.
Margaret intercepts Dr. Mason at the hospital and asks him for a pair of diaphragms: one for Mrs Schearer and one for her, because she’s not giving up on that hot, hot Sleater action anytime soon.
At the House of T&A, Gillian regales Gyp and his minion with tales of her childbirth. Awesome. Way to turn a guy on, Gillian. No wonder this place has a cash flow problem. She asks Gyp if he has children. Two girls, his princesses. Minion chimes in that they’re beauties, just like their mother. Yeah, we saw all of those beauties last week. Talk about a kind exaggeration.
TF approaches and Gillian introduces him to Gyp. He reports that the bar’s been restocked and Tommy has been put to bed. Gillian dismisses him and gets down to business with the others: she tells them Nucky, Rothstein, and Lucky will be dining at Babette’s that evening. Gillian’s eeeevil.
In yet another pointed cut, we go from that to Nucky looking at a paper with the name of a life insurance company emblazoned across the top. Subtle! Eddie tells Nucky that someone’s on the phone for him. Nucky picks up and it’s Mellon agreeing to their deal. Remus is to be arrested in a couple of days and Nucky will get the distillery working within the month. Nucky agrees.
He moves on to the bedroom of the suite, where he finds a newly blonde Billie looking for a lost earring. They playfully roleplay at being different people for a bit, and then Nucky hands over the paperwork he was just looking at. Not a life insurance policy after all, but an annuity for Billie, so she’ll have guaranteed income for the rest of her life. When a girl says she doesn’t want to be rescued, he really doesn’t hear it, does he? She hands the papers back and he reassures her there are no strings attached. She thinks this is a breakup gift but apparently it isn’t. She accepts.
Norwegian festival. Van Alden’s selling booze like it’s going out of style while his wife watches the parade with the kids. He observes that, unlike irons, this stuff practically sells itself.
Torrio hangs a new painting on the wall of his office as Al comes in and invites him out for drinks. Torrio’s going home—it’s osso bucco night, and yeah, that’s better than a drink any day. Al drops off a wad of cash from Greektown and asks if Torrio needs anything else. Nope. Torrio says it seems like Al has it all under control. He props his feet up on the desk and leans back as Al looks at him thoughtfully.
Billie trails Nucky, Rothstein, and Lucky as they stroll down the Boardwalk and talk business. They’re interrupted by the arrival of Baxter, that gross idiot from season one, and Nucky can barely get a greeting around his clenched teeth. Baxter doesn’t notice and starts chattering about his latest sales line—radios. Nucky sends Billie ahead into the restaurant, telling her they shouldn’t both have to suffer, and she skips off, idling just outside the door, waiting. Rothstein turns away like he can’t believe he has to deal with these people sometimes. While Baxter natters on, Nucky stares at Billie, and things start to get all slow motion and dreamy, the way they do right before something bad happens. Sure enough, the restaurant erupts into a huge fireball. Woah.
Nucky finds himself on the boardwalk, dazed, surrounded by broken glass and debris. His hearing’s shot, at least for now. He looks around, sees Lucky helping Rothstein to his feet, and then passes out next to Baxter. So, how many times is Nucky going to almost get killed going to this place before he starts eating elsewhere?