Previously on Boardwalk Empire: Margaret started to slowly get her women’s clinic off the ground, Al went a bit crazy on a bully in Chicago, and Gyp went a lot crazy on an entire convoy of Nucky’s booze.
A minion sits in the hallway, shuffling cards outside a hotel room while, inside, Gyp and the waitress from the diner engage in some erotic asphyxiation. For the record, he’s the one being choked. He makes her keep going until he passes out, then he asks for a wet towel and smiles.
Eli is reporting the story of the ambush to Rothstein and Nucky. Rothstein’s not happy about the holdup in his shipments, and he’s also not happy that Nucky has no Plan B. Eli admits that the roads they have to use are lousy, and with all these odds stacked against them, it’s not looking too good. They toss Eli out and Rothstein tells Nucky that Gyp is under Masseria’s control, and causing problems with Gyp could cause problems for Rothstein with Masseria. Everyone’s in bed together, trying not to steal too much of everyone else’s blankets, got it? Rothstein dismisses the others and takes Nucky to task for sucking at business these days and tells him, in no uncertain terms, that he’s not going to war with Masseria in New York to help Nucky with his problems in New Jersey. He tells Nucky that he looks weak these days, because all he wants to do is run up to NYC to shag some showgirl. Nucky doesn’t take that well and calls Rothstein a little weasel with a good poker face who’s dead below the waist.
Lucky and Sleater eye each other outside Rothstein’s office until Arnold comes out and collects Charlie so they can attend to other business. Sleater goes and asks Nucky if there’s anything he needs to know. Nucky only asks when Billie’s rehearsal is and orders Owen to take him to the house.
In Chicago, Van Alden’s reading a magazine in the office. One of the others tells him the boss wants to see him, allegedly because they heard about him being busted in that speakeasy a few weeks back.
Van Alden duly goes in to see the boss, who tells him he’s had a call from Internal Revenue. He asks Van Alden where he worked before this, and Van Alden tells him he had a wheat farm. We have just a few seconds of him squirming before the boss tells him his tax return’s just incomplete, so it’s no big deal, actually. He also gives Van Alden a card some guy who met him at the speakeasy left. It’s from the Probie who shook him down.
Uncle Junior arrives at Gillian’s House of T&A and doesn’t look overjoyed at what he sees. He and Gillian chat a bit before she gets down to business. He boils it down before she can really get started: her costs are exceeding her income. Apparently, he’s her bookkeeper. She starts listing all the things wrong with the house and asks for his help securing a loan to get them through to the summer. He tells her to speak to her partner. She paints the place as a house of fantasies, but he’s not sold. She gets businesslike again and offers to use the house as collateral, but she doesn’t own it. He tells her she has no credit or ownership until Jimmy’s declared dead. Her face falls. No loan for her today.
Margaret shows the flyer for the health clinic to her friend who thinks it’s awfully dry. “I can hardly say, ‘come, discuss your vagina,'” says Margaret. Oh, but you should. You really, really should. The friend suggests she dress it up with some kittens. Yeah, who doesn’t love kittens juxtaposed with sexual health? Not bizarre at all!
At that odd moment, Sleater comes in, removing his hat, followed by Nucky. Margaret goes to speak with him and he tells her he has business out of town for a few days and he just wanted to make sure she was doing well. She immediately accuses him of checking up on her and asks if they’re going to have bodyguards again. He tells her to ease up and says there’s no cause for concern, the bodyguards are just a precaution. He asks after the kids, hears they’re out, and gives up, handing her two comic books for them and heading outside. As Sleater passes, Margaret catches him and asks what’s going on. He just says that Nucky worries sometimes.
Treasury Secretary Andrew Mellon is being called before a congressional committee, presumably about the whole Teapot Dome matter. He’s asked for his views on the state of Prohibition: he thinks it’s stupid because it costs too much to police. Waaay too much. The committee asks him how much his bureau’s work is being undermined by the Department of Justice and he reminds them that they’ve been provided with stats on arrests and convictions. A committee member asks Mellon if they’re looking at corruption within the Justice Department. Is the Treasury Secretary really the person to ask about this? Isn’t that kind of like asking the school librarian if the maths teacher is grading fairly? Mellon suggests that there’s a strong possibility that’s the case.
Outside the meeting room, Means, the wierdo now acting as Dougherty’s go-between, gets an update on Mellon’s testimony from one of the attendees. Attendee says Mellon’s discussing Doughterty’s dirty hands.
Billie’s in the middle of her rehearsal, which Nucky’s watching from the stalls. Eddie Cantor joins him, sitting a row or two behind and slags off on the show, though he plans to tell Schubert it’s not bad. Nucky asks about the director, and Eddie quickly guesses Nucky’s worried about Billie getting some extracurricular action. He reassures Nucky he has nothing to worry about.
Van Alden’s trying to finish his paperwork and correct his wife’s English. He’s a multitasker, that one. Someone knocks on the door, waking the kids, and a note is slipped underneath. Van Alden looks through the peephole and sees the Probie walking away. The note is the man’s card, with a big question mark on the back of it. Mrs. V-A asks him if everything’s ok and he sits her down for a talk. He admits he hasn’t been entirely forthcoming about his past. She knows, and she doesn’t care. She doesn’t believe he did any of the things people accuse him of. He goes with that version of events.
At the new health clinic, the doctor’s trying to explain how conception works without using such hot-button words as “pregnancy”. One of the women says she wishes someone had told her all of this at 13, because she thought she was dying. Wow, her mother seriously fell down on the job, didn’t she? The ladies all file out and Margaret and Dr. Mason discuss the class: he wishes the crowd were bigger. Margaret says she’s had new flyers made. Despite the slow start to the class, he admits that he misjudged her. She thanks him and there’s just a bit of a spark there, so she tells him she’ll see him the next evening, during class. A woman arrives at the door and Mason introduces her as his fiancée. Great timing, lady.
Owen and Nucky are relaxing together at the Ritz, I believe. Nucky realises that Sleater’s nervous, because of a little tic he has. What a bromance there is between these two.. Owen admits he doesn’t like that things are out of their hands, and Nucky tells him that, if things don’t go their way, it’s not their fault. If you say so, Nucky. Eddie comes in and announces Billie, so Owen makes himself scarce.
Billie’s clearly rather down and immediately pours herself a big drink and announces Schubert’s closing down the show. Nucky says it’s her co-star, not her. He thinks the choreographer should be doing the show with her. She says neither he nor she are anyone’s idea of a star. Nucky offers to talk to Schubert on her behalf, but Billie doesn’t want him to. She just wants to unload and go to sleep.
Rothstein and Lucky are at the Tabor Heights diner, meeting with Gyp. Gyp admits he said some things at Nucky’s New Year’s party he shouldn’t have, and Rothstein reassures him there’s no offense taken. That’s because he’s now interested in establishing a partnership with Gyp to supply booze to New York. Gyp calls over a paperboy and asks for the day’s paper. The kid hands one over and Gyp pretends to get all mad and scary, because all the news in the paper happened yesterday. The kid, who’s probably as terrorized as the rest of the town considering all this psycho’s done lately, very nearly craps himself before Gyp lets him off the hook. Rothstein doesn’t seem to find this funny but holds his peace. Gyp tells them a shipment will be coming in the next day and they can come and sample it for themselves.
Eddie and Nucky are having lunch at Babette’s. Nucky presents him with a bottle of vodka and pours them each a drink. Nucky brings up Billie’s show and says it needs a star like Eddie in it. Eddie says he can’t do it because he’s in Kearns’s new show (presumably Stepping Stones, which was a hit, so good call, Eddie). Nucky, as is his wont, offers to pay Eddie for the inconvenience, but Eddie says this isn’t about money, it’s about him having given his word. Nucky doesn’t understand this concept, but Eddie tells him this is the way it is, so Nucky backs off. For now. Eddie reassures him Billie will come out just fine, because it’s not like she wrote the crappy show. Nucky wishes him luck on the new show and sends him off with his vodka.
Meyer unwraps a bunch of buddha statues filled with packets of heroin while Benny files down the serial numbers on a handgun. Benny whines about having to do it but continues with his work.
Margaret’s back on the boardwalk, trying to hand out her flyers, but it’s not going well at all. She decides to try a different tactic and heads into Mme Jeunet’s store. Mme falls all over herself saying hello but, alas, the store is closed because the new spring dresses are arriving. Margaret doesn’t care—she just wants to leave some flyers for Mme to hand out to her customers. Mme is only too happy, if it’ll get Margaret out of the store, and then Nucky comes out with a slinky dress to ask Mme for something else. He spots his wife and it’s as awkward as you can imagine. Of course, Billie comes clomping out of the dressing room and Margaret immediately recognizes her. Nucky suggests they discuss this later and Margaret coolly tells him there’s no need. Before she goes, she hands Billie one of her flyers, though she doubts the woman’s free in the evenings. Ooooh, that was kind of awesome.
Cantor’s busy packing when there’s a knock on the door. He opens it to find Dunn Purnsley on his doorstep, along with Chalky White. Oh dear. They make their way into his hotel room and Cantor realises who Chalky is. They intimidate him and demand a private show. Cantor knows this is about Billie’s show, but they won’t discuss that. Cantor obligingly does a song and dance for them, literally. It’s a tough crowd, and he’s not doing well at all. He finally gives up and agrees to do the damn show. Poor man.
Means meets with some guy about the hearings. The guy wants to know what Mellon said and Means tells him Mellon’s not a fan of the DOJ. The guy freaks out, because he can’t remember all his lies to keep them straight and doesn’t remember where all the money went. Means suggests they put some bootleggers in jail, because that’s what the committee members want.
Margaret’s going through her chequebook when Nucky comes into the bedroom and asks if he may sit. She tells him it’s his house, so he comes in and plops down, without removing his coat. He starts to explain himself, but she cuts him off, so he just says he’s sorry for demonstrating bad form. Well, that’s one way to put it. Margaret tightly says that’s the kind of thing that would bother him, which is making all this rather humiliating. She asks if Billie’s in need of rescuing too and when she hears she’s not, she says that might prove difficult for Nucky. Heh. He offers to look in on the kids before leaving and she asks him not to bother looking in. He makes a veiled threat that I believe alludes to the fact that she’d be pretty hard up without him to foot the bills and heads on out.
Van Alden returns home to find his wife chatting nervously with the Probie. Van Alden asks if the man plans to extort him. Probie tells Van Alden he sold him an iron right before Christmas that turned out to be crap. He goes to pull it out of his bag, but then Mrs. V-A comes out of nowhere and smacks him over the head a few times with a pipe or something. The man slowly expires on the carpet while Van Alden tells her the man wasn’t there to arrest him. Well, what’s done is done. She goes and holds the man’s legs while Van Alden suffocates him. They say you should marry someone who’s willing to help you bury a body, after all…
We fade to Gillian walking slowly towards the camera. She looks in on some of her girls giggling together. One of them observes that it’s slow, so Gillian sends them out on the porch to attract some customers. She then goes to write a letter to Jimmy, begging him to come home, so I guess she really does think he’s still alive. Either that or she’s cracked up. Where’s she sending these letters?
Only a few ladies show up for the next class with Dr. Mason. The nun observes that they’ve lost a student and Margaret tells them they’ll wait a moment. The lady who spoke up the night before says it can be hard to get away in the evening, so Margaret asks what would be more convenient. Daytime, apparently, which would not suit the horrible nun. A nurse pokes her head in and tells Margaret Dr. Mason has an emergency to attend to and she’s not sure when he’ll be free. Margaret turns back to her classroom and promptly takes over. The nun doesn’t like this, because this is not what they agreed to. “Yes, the whole day’s been rather like that,” says Margaret. Ha! She gets started.
Van Alden shows up at O’Banion’s flower shop, and luckily Dean’s there to let him in and recognises him. Van Alden says he needs help getting rid of a body. Not what your typical florist hears of an evening. Luckily, Dean’s no typical florist.
Benny, disguised as a paperboy, shows up at the boardinghouse where Gyp’s staying. He dispatches the bodyguard with a single bullet, and inside the room Gyp, who’s back with the waitress, tells her to untie him as he reaches for the gun that’s juuuuust out of reach. She’s panicking, the guards outside hear the shots and come running in, and Benny finally manages to get into the room. Gyp, like gentleman, uses the waitress as a human shield, so she’s gone, but Gyp finally gets his hands on his gun and runs out of the room after Benny, who shoots the two guards coming up the stairs and then the poor paperboy. Benny goes running out of the boardinghouse, cheering like a nutjob, and jumps into a waiting car. Inside, Gyp stumbles along the passageway, breathing heavily and taking in the carnage.
Word of Eddie’s casting has saved Billie’s show. The choreographer says Eddie will have his own ideas, but they’ll muddle through. She thinks this is completely crazy but he just puts it down to show business. Nucky comes along, so Verne the choreographer makes himself scarce. Billie tells Nucky that Verne has a very cute boyfriend and asks what’s going on. Nucky only says that Schubert’s protecting his investment. She knows he had something to do with this but Nucky stays mum.
She joins Eddie in the wings, where he stands, looking miserable. She tells him how great it is to be working with him, and he takes the moment to extract a little revenge. He asks if she’s ever heard of Lucy Danzinger, and when she shakes her head, he growls that the next girlfriend won’t know a thing about Billie either. Yowch, Eddie! Rehearsal begins, as Nucky watches from the stalls again, not looking terribly pleased. Sleater joins him and delivers news from Rothstein: four dead, none of them Gyp. Why do they trust Benny with anything? He seems to just endlessly screw up.