Boardwalk Empire recap: Awkward Family Moments

Previously on Boardwalk Empire: Nucky hating Senator Edge twisted the AG’s arm to force him to try Nucky for real. Nucky’s liquor deal with Philadelphia almost went south when Jimmy confronted the convoy out in the woods, but Lucky and Meyer talked him down and struck a deal of sorts to get into the heroin business. Margaret realized her heart belongs to Sleater, and Lucy gave birth to Van Alden’s daughter before receiving a visit from Mrs. Van Alden herself.

We open in the middle of a boxing match, and some poor sucker’s getting the crap kicked out of him. The one with the upper hand (so to speak) is Jack Dempsey, who’s now training in AC, as Nucky once suggested. He fields some questions from the reporters before inviting one of the boxing midgets into the ring so they can fake spar for a minute.

Once outside the ring, Nucky draws him aside and asks him to do some promotion for the fight ahead of time. One of the reporters comes over and asks what Nucky was talking about with the AG recently. Nucky dodges the question and climbs into his waiting car.

Chez Van Alden, Nelson returns home and finds Lucy lazing about listening to the record player. She tells him the baby cried for five hours straight, despite having been fed. She asks Van Alden what the Mrs. said and he informs her Mrs. V-A’s gone to stay with a relative and won’t speak or write to him. Lucy seems eager to have this worked out, because apparently it’s causing Van Alden to get behind on his payments to her. He’s aware, but he explains he doesn’t have the money just yet. The baby, of course, starts squalling but Lucy ignores her and demands to know when she’ll get her $3,000. Van Alden says he doesn’t know, and furthermore he can’t think with the baby screaming, so he takes off. Lucy chases after him briefly, reminding him that this is his kid, bought and, well, not exactly paid for. Think she does layaway?

Jimmy, Meyer, Lucky, Two Face, Capone and a few others are gathered at the Commodore’s place to discuss their new business arrangement. Lucky complains about the butcher, Manny, bugging him for the $5K they owe him from the liquor shipment. Jimmy agrees to cover it. Meyer prompts him to get started and Jimmy sits down in an armchair and starts to talk about how things have changed in the last year. He says that AC’s coast guard is in his back pocket, which puts him in a good position. Before they can get further, Gillian escorts Eli in, and Eli bitches about them having started without him. Jimmy makes the introductions—egh, Mickey Doyle’s there too—and there’s a little tension between Eli and Lucky before Jimmy continues, reassuring everyone they’ll have no trouble, controlling the police and the coast guard the way they do. Capone says Torrio’s all set with suppliers these days and Jimmy asks Capone what he plans to do for himself. Someone asks about Nucky and Jimmy says Nucky will be in jail soon and he’ll have his own straw man in the mayoral seat. Capone suggests they start blowing some heads off, prompting a brief spat with Lucky, but Jimmy doesn’t want to make things so messy, particularly where Nucky’s concerned. There’s no love lost between the Thompson brothers, though, so Eli suggests Jimmy just kill Nucky already. Jimmy tightly suggests they discuss this later, but Capone, Lucky and Meyer are all for putting Nucky down. TF seems a little disturbed by the idea that Eli would kill his own brother, but of course Eli will do nothing of the kind and is ok having someone else do it. Jimmy thinks about it for a minute, then asks Capone to call someone.

Van Alden arrives at his office to find a woman speaking on his phone and several agents combing through files. He demands to know who the woman is and is told she’s speaking with the AG. She hangs up and introduces herself as Esther Randolph. She’s an assistant U.S. attorney assigned to Nucky’s case and she’s there to carry out an investigation. Van Alden blusters and tries to get her to leave, but this woman didn’t get to this position in 1921 without learning how to break a few balls, so she refuses to be cowed. Van Alden has no choice but to back down. He tells them that they don’t stand a chance against Nucky but I’m pretty sure Esther thinks otherwise, and she knows exactly what she’s dealing with.

Margaret’s taken a little day trip to lovely, lovely Brooklyn, where she definitely stands out in her fancy clothes. She finds the building she’s looking for, goes inside, and knocks on a door. It’s opened by a young girl who greets her in some language neither Margaret nor I can decipher. Gaelic, maybe? The girl switches to English as she’s joined by her sister (I guess). A slightly older girl joins them and stops dead in her tracks when she spots Margaret. Margaret happily greets her as Ula and Ula recognizes her. She clears out of the way so the final sibling (or maybe her husband, Margaret’s brother?) can arrive and greet his sister. She mentions having written, thanking him for answering, so apparently they were all expecting her. Margaret is finally allowed into the apartment, which is tiny and reminds me of the itty bitty place she used to live in before Nucky came into her life. She gives them a box of saltwater taffy, and everything’s really awkward and uncomfortable, even after the brother hugs Margaret and tells her they’ll be having roasted potatoes for dinner. How very stereotypical of you.

Nucky’s lawyer hands over the information on Esther, who apparently is a woman who seriously means business. Nucky grouses at the lawyer for suggesting they move this case to federal court in the first place, and the lawyer was expecting this particular attack and manages it with aplomb. He doesn’t seem all that concerned. Eddie comes in and tells Nucky he’s got a visitor: Lucy and Lucy Jr. Woah, bet he wasn’t expecting that.

The lawyer makes himself scarce and Nucky immediately reminds Lucy that they haven’t seen each other in more than a year, so he knows the kid’s not his. She puts the baby down on his desk and he restarts, congratulating her and telling her she’s glowing. No, she’s not. Lucy sits and admits she thought about trying to shake him down, but she feels that’s no way for a mother to act. She reminds him that they had some good times (returning to her creepy “daddy” nickname). Nucky agrees, but he says that things change. She knows better than anyone how true that is. She flat-out tells him she needs money. He asks why the kid’s father isn’t stepping up, guessing she doesn’t know who said father is. She says she knows exactly who he is, and Nucky might know him too.

That father is sitting in the post office, watching Esther and her team continue to go through his files and interview Neary. Neary tries to wiggle out of the questions, so Esther threatens to make his life very, very miserable. Van Alden gets a call and tells his deputy that he has to go.

Back in Brooklyn, family dinner’s still plenty awkward. The oldest of Margaret’s sisters tries to loosen things up by asking about Margaret’s children. Her brother asks after Margaret’s husband and Margaret tells them he’s dead. Brother asks how she lives, then, getting a bit aggressive and suggestive about it. He goes on to say that the older two sisters work, and implies that the younger one only gets to go to school because they’ll send a truant officer around if they don’t let her go. Margaret hesitantly offers to help, not wanting to offend them, but her brother refuses.

In other uncomfortable relationships: Gillian’s trying on dresses for Jimmy, asking for his opinion. They talk about how people used to think Jimmy was her brother when he was younger. I’d believe that. He asks her if she knows what’s going to happen the next day and she dismissively says it’s not important. It is to Jimmy. In 24 hours, someone’s going to put a bullet in Nucky’s head, just because Jimmy told him to. Gillian thinks it’ll show the world what kind of a man Jimmy is. Jimmy hints he might call it off and she tells him that his friends won’t like it, and it wouldn’t do him any good to seem indecisive to them. Jimmy still doesn’t want to do this, but she smilingly says it’s already been done. She urges him to make her proud, then heads out for a girls’ night. Yikes, this woman’s scary.

Apparently Van Alden’s phone call was from Nucky, because he bursts into Nucky’s office, where Lucy’s relaxing and smoking a cigarette. Nucky asks her to excuse them and she saunters out with the baby. Nucky offers him a drink, which Van Alden refuses. Nucky offers a toast, then offers some help. Van Alden tightly tells Nucky that his finances are none of Nucky’s concern. Nucky agrees: his concern is Esther Randolph. He wants to know everything she does in Van Alden’s office. In return, he’ll make Van Alden’s cashflow problem go away. He asks what the baby’s name is and Van Alden admits she doesn’t have a name yet. Nucky suggests he go with something from the bible, then urges him to think about the proposition, and to consider the cash Nucky gave Lucy a gift, with no strings attached.

Now that awkward dinner and dessert are over, it’s time for Margaret to have an awkward conversation with her brother. The sisters depart, leaving the older siblings alone. Brother tells her their mother died, which she knew, thanks to another relative. He goes on to say that she asked for Margaret, at the end. Half to herself, Margaret says she did what she had to. The brother brutally says that’s what they all say. Margaret asks if he would have preferred to see her sent off to the Magdalene Sisters. Yikes!  The things they used to do to girls back then. Makes your skin crawl. Brother asks her who the father of the kid she miscarried on her way over was and she admits it was some local barrister’s son. At the time, she claimed it was rape, which apparently wasn’t true. She counts off some bills and hands them over to the brother, explaining she’s paying back what she stole at the time. He reminds her it was stolen from their mother, but apparently it was money meant to pay for the brother’s passage to America, so in a sense she’s paying back the right person. He asks if that’s why she came to Brooklyn and she tells him she wanted to be with those who know her.

Well well, looks like Gillian and Lucky have rekindled the romance that was so rudely interrupted last season. Lucky thinks this might be a bad idea, but Gillian’s got some plot up her sleeve. Lucky’s not nervous enough not to go for round two. Or three or…whatever.

Van Alden returns home, where Lucy’s absent, but one of the neighbors is rocking the baby and singing her to sleep. She explains that Lucy went out for formula about 20 minutes ago. I’ll bet she did. Van Alden goes back into the living room, where he finds a dirty nappy spinning on the record player, the title page from the play A Dangerous Maid pinned to it. I don’t think Lucy went for formula, do you?

Margaret’s helping her sisters clear off the dinner table. Brother’s gone, probably to work, so the tension’s relieved somewhat. One of the girls asks after Margaret’s beau, and the youngest one immediately, and almost creepily, starts to figure out exactly what Nucky’s like. She even deduces that he has minions and that he has a secret tragedy. What is this kid, a fortuneteller? One of the older girls dismisses this as another of the kid’s fantasies and Margaret offers to send her some books. They hug her goodbye and Peggy goes to leave. The youngest runs out after her, saying she was only joking about the man. Margaret smiles and says it’s no big deal. Brother comes out of the apartment, dressed for work, and sends the child off to bed. She begs Margaret to send her some books, anything with a horse, before running upstairs.

At his apartment, Van Alden’s paging through the bible, reading out possible names, with the baby cradled in his arms. When he reads out the name “Abigail” she makes a noise and he cutely smiles down at her. I think she’s got herself a moniker.

The next day, Van Alden busts into Esther’s office and asks to speak with her. He awkwardly starts off by announcing he’s a married man. “There goes my dream,” she deadpans. Ha! I like her!  He continues, telling her about the baby so she’ll know he’s honest. Then, he hands over an enormous file on Nucky that contains every little bit of information he has, and man, it looks like a lot. She asks if he’s willing to testify to the accusations in the file. Of course he is.

Margaret’s back in Brooklyn again to deliver some books to her youngest sister. One book, actually: The Girl, a Horse, and a Dog. Margaret asks her to write and tell her about the book. Of course, the idea of a secret correspondence excites the pre-teen. Margaret invites her to come to AC and meet her niece and nephew sometime, which excites her too. Aemon, the brother, shows up just then and sends his youngest sister off to read. Once she’s out of earshot, he asks Margaret if she intends to rescue her sister to ease her mind. Margaret asks him why he hates her and he says he doesn’t, he doesn’t feel much for her at all. Ouch. He hands back her money, saying he can’t take it because he doesn’t know where it’s from. She sasses him a bit, parroting phrases about never speaking up in one’s defense, or in the defense of others, if it goes against those in authority. She offers to make her sister’s life better and he tells her to get lost, because there’s nobody in Brooklyn who wants her there. Damn, Aemon. She gets back in her cab, sobbing.

Nucky arrives home to find the nanny picking up toys. She clears out and he gets on the phone to Eddie, asking him where Sleater is. Eddie doesn’t know, so Nucky tells him to put on his chauffeur’s cap and come get him.

Sleater’s sitting in a bit of a dive bar, nursing a beer as a Hank Azaria-looking guy comes in. Sleater recognizes him and strikes up a conversation. Poor Man’s Hank is Irish as well. They talk about the recent troubles in Ireland and drink a toast to the U.S. Sleater offers to buy the man another drink and he asks for a whiskey. The guy excuses himself to use the john and Sleater follows him in, cleverly blocking the door with a piece of wire or something. He tries to sneak up on the guy at the urinal, but the man’s ready for him and comes after him with a knife, slicing up his vest and shirt nicely. A tussle ensues, resulting in Sleater strangling the man to death as giggling women walk over the grating over their heads. Sleater pulls so hard on the garrote he actually slices through the fingers the guy was using to try and protect his neck. Damn. And what was all that about? I get the impression it had something to do with an Irish political issue, but to be honest, the accents were getting in my way here. I couldn’t understand half of what was said.

Nucky, some radio guy, and Bader are entertaining Dempsey at Babette’s. Dempsey takes the stage and charms the crowd as he talks up his next fight. While he’s talking, Nucky checks out a woman in the crowd, and she flirtily checks him out too. Before he can have too much fun, Jimmy materializes from the crowd and makes his way over to Nucky. He leans in and tells Nucky that it doesn’t make a difference if he’s right or wrong, he just has to make a decision. What? As he moves away, someone else comes out of a crowd and fires a gun right at Nucky. A man clutching a badge fires back as the crowd starts to scream and disperse in a far more orderly fashion than most crowds would in a gunshot situation. Some hurry to help Nucky, who’s alive, having just been shot in the hand.

Margaret plods into her house and pays her cabbie after he sets down her luggage. None of the female servants are around, but Sleater is. He offers to help with her luggage and asks how New York was. She says it was fine, just humid. He senses she’s sad and smiles briefly, but before he can ask anything she hurries upstairs with him close behind. She asks why he’s not with Nucky and he explains he doesn’t know where Nucky is. He asks her suddenly if she finds it strange in this country, because to him it seems like everything’s the tiniest bit off, including oneself. Man, did you pick the right person to say that to. Since he’s hitting a bit too close to home, naturally Margaret has to shut him down, so she heads upstairs and tells him he should really go meet up with Katie at the beach. He hokily says he’ll go if she tells him to. “Are you mine to command?” she asks. “If you like,” he answers.  The sexual tension’s so palpable here I almost feel like I need a cold shower. She continues up the stairs and tells him to bring the bag. He follows her into the bedroom, sets the bag on a bench, and tells her she’s a cool one. Taking her hair down, she says she’s nothing of the kind. All business, she removes her watch and tells him that, when they’re done, he’ll leave and they won’t talk about this ever again. He’s fine with that. He goes to kiss her and things get really hot and heavy really, really fast. I think she even bites him, which turns him on.

Well…ok then. Excuse me, I think I actually do need that shower now.

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