Previously on Boardwalk Empire: Jimmy, for some reason, allowed himself to get peer pressured into putting out a hit on Nucky, which failed, of course, because they’re not going to kill off the show’s lead in the second season. Margaret tried to reconnect with her family, but she didn’t get a very warm welcome from her brother. She did, however, get a very warm welcome from Sleater back in AC. A tough-as-nails new prosecutor’s in town, delving into Nucky’s life, and when Nucky tries to get Van Alden to help him out with her (in return for paying off Lucy), Van Alden instead hands over his extensive files on Nucky.
Nucky’s going to have a rough day, you can tell. For starters, he’s stuck in an elevator with a whistling attendant who comments on a fight that hasn’t even happened yet. Ahh, dream sequence. Nucky gets off on a floor that’s resounding with the sound of a screaming baby. Every last member of the cast we’ve met so far is waiting for him at his office, and the baseball glove that was so important to him when he was a kid is sitting on a chair. At his desk sits a young boy, who holds up a hand to show a large wound that might be from a bullet or might be from a hot poker wielded by a terrible father. “Daddy eats first,” Nucky intones. In front of the desk, a stag struggles to get to its feet. The boy pulls out a shotgun and fires at it.
Nucky comes to with a start as a doctor’s taking his bandage off. He jokingly calls his new scar his stigmata, then observes that few people are shaking that particular hand these days. He asks the doctor about the Commodore (I guess there’s just one doctor in AC, or maybe just one doctor worth calling) but the doctor demurs, saying he can’t say anything because of doctor-patient privilege. Nucky reminds the doctor that he got the man his license to sell medicinal alcohol, which helps line the doc’s wallet considerably, and Nucky’s pissed the doctor didn’t tell him about the Commodore’s stroke. Doc apologizes, and Margaret comes wandering in to break the tension and ask the doc to take a look at little Emily, who seems to have a fever and no appetite.
At Eli’s House of Many Children, he’s eating breakfast when one of the kids shows in Dick Halsey, a clerk for Prosecutor Randolph. He’s delivering a subpoena, which pisses off Eli so much he bundles the guy out, driving his dad straight into a heart attack from the stress.
The phone’s ringing at Jimmy’s house. He answers and it’s Al, who he’s been trying to get in touch with for a while. Jimmy angrily tells him that the assassin he sent sucked and is dead now, which bothers Al not a bit. Jimmy starts cussing at him, not realizing Angela and the kid have walked in. She stomps out, upset, and Jimmy hangs up with Al. Back inChicago, Torrio asks what’s up with Jimmy and Al shrugs that AC’s too chaotic to deal with. Torrio tells him Remus is coming for a meeting, because there’s a big shipment coming in. He adds a bit of advice: keep him out of whatever Al has going on in AC, and don’t be stupid.
Little Emily’s got a temperature, but the doctor says it’s nothing to worry about. Sleater comes wandering in, drinking coffee, and Nucky tells him to go get the car. Once he’s gone, Margaret asks Katie if he’s taking his meals at the house now? Katie says it’s just coffee. Margaret goes to help one-armed Nucky with his tie and asks where he’s going. Nucky has to go see his lawyer. I’ll bet he does. The phone rings and Margaret picks up. After listening for a few moments, she stiffly says she’s very sorry, then hangs up. She slowly turns to Nucky and tells him his father died. Well, that’s a shame, isn’t it? Nucky seems rather stunned as he puts on his jacket and departs.
Chez Van Alden, Nelson’s looking at the baby in her bassinette. Little maybe-Abigail seems happy, gurgling to herself as babies do. There’s knock on the door and he goes to let in a young woman who’s evidently come to be the baby’s nurse. He gives her a quick tour of the apartment, including the Victrola. She asks what the baby’s name is and we learn it is, in fact, Abigail. He goes to leave and she asks him if he wants to kiss the baby goodbye. He obediently removes his hat and does so. As he leaves, the nurse rocks the baby and sings to her in, I think, Swedish.
Rothstein’s visiting a stable and discussing some betting scheme with another guy (his lawyer, maybe? He looks familiar). Lucky and Meyer show up and Rothstein introduces them to Max Hirsch, the horse’s trainer. Hirsch makes himself scarce and Rothstein asks what the word is from Philly. Everything’s business as usual, according to the boys. Rothstein asks if they know what happened with Nucky and Meyer brings up the bad blood between Nucky and Eli. Rothstein, of course, knows Jimmy was probably the one behind the hit. Lucky says that’s not the case at all, but Rothstein knows better, because Rothstein knows everything.
Randolph and one of her associates are meeting with Nucky and his lawyer so they can deliver the list of charges they can bring against Nucky, and as one might expect, it’s quite a list. Nucky’s lawyer starts talking plea deal, but Nucky’s not going to deal, because he insists he’s innocent of all charges.Randolphbrings up the recent shooting, which actually is a subject Nucky would like to dwell on, because naturally he’d like to know who wanted to shoot him. Nucky, isn’t it obvious? Don’t you think it was a little odd that Jimmy showed up out of nowhere to say something cryptic to you seconds before you were shot? Randolph and her associate ask if Nucky knows Torrio, because the shooter’s connected to him, through Al. Randolph observes that many of the people closest to Nucky want him dead. Nucky suggests she go after them, and she says she plans to, and has, in fact, already started issuing subpoenas. The lawyer immediately asks to see the transcripts of any interviewsRandolphconducts.Randolphasks about Margaret and Nucky clams up immediately. She takes that as her cue to leave, but before she goes she says that her associate, a Mr. Lathrop, was the man who gunned down Nucky’s shooter and a thank you might be in order.
It’s summertime and the beach his hopping. Angela, dressed in a bathing costume, looks glum until she’s distracted by some matron type telling a nearby sunbather that her bathing suit skirt’s too short. Sunbather, who’s dressed in a red swimsuit that contrasts sharply with the black suits on the other ladies, wonders what kind of a town she’s come to, and the matron writes out a summons for her. This, conveniently, gives the sunbather a chance to provide a name: Molly Fletcher. I imagine we’ll get to know her better as Angela’s next paramour. Angela strikes up a conversation with Miss Fletcher, who’s outraged to learn the fine for too short a skirt on the beach is $10. Damn, that was a good chunk of change back then! Molly doesn’t have it, so Matron gets ready to throw her in jail. Molly gets up to protest, and the guys gawk at her, because I guess knees were enough to drive a man crazy back then. Angela steps in and pays the fine, pretending that Molly’s her cousin. Matron takes the money and snaps at Angela to cover Molly up. Angela drapes a towel around Molly, and we’ve got the beginning of a beautiful friendship. Also, Molly’s name is really Louise, and she’s a novelist. Oh, of course she is. You know those artsy types and their refusal to adhere to the rules. Angela introduces Tommy, who’s totally uninterested in mommy’s new Special Friend.
Just ahead of a meeting with the Butcher at the Commodore’s place, Jimmy gets a mini lecture from Gillian about how the failure of the Nucky hit was his fault. The Butcher arrives and is introduced to Gillian, who flirts a tiny bit before leaving the boys to their business. Micky’s there too, for some reason. He really hasn’t done much at all this season, has he? Everyone sits down and Jimmy immediately claims not to know anything about the attack on Nucky. Butcher doesn’t really care about that, he cares about the $5K he spent on alcohol he never received. Jimmy says he doesn’t have it yet, so Butcher starts looking around and observing that Jimmy’s got some pretty opulent surroundings. Jimmy tells him this isn’t his house. Butcher starts talking about some dick who brought a deer into his shop so the Butcher could cut the head off. He didn’t want the meat, just the trophy. I hate people like that. If you must hunt, then hunt, but at least eat what you kill. Otherwise, you’ve just killed something for absolutely no reason at all. Butcher feels the same way I do. Jimmy figures out what he’s saying and says he’s not just some asshole out for a trophy, he wants the meat of what AC has to offer. I guess. This is a little tortured, in my opinion. Whatever Jimmy says, the Butcher’s clearly losing patience and respect for him.
Nucky’s at home, drinking beside the fire. Margaret joins him and gently takes his hand, saying she’s sorry about his father. “People die,” Nucky shrugs. Margaret’s a little surprised to hear him care so little, which suggests she has a really short memory. Frankly, I think Nucky showed restraint by not going and dancing on the guy’s coffin. Nucky’s tired and tells her he doesn’t want to pretend to be upset when he’s not. Not with her. She accepts that and asks how things went with the prosecutor. He tells her thatRandolphknows about Margaret. I don’t think that’s surprising, considering they’re living openly together. Margaret asks if Nucky’s going to jail, and he says he’s not sure. She then asks if she’s going to go to jail and he reassures her she won’t. She wonders how long he can keep going before he gets killed and suggests they just chuck it all and be safe and happy together. He tries to relieve the tension by cracking a joke, but she knows things are about to get bad. He kisses her and tells her they’ll get through this together.
Jimmy returns home the next day to find Tommy asleep in his and Angela’s bed and Angela out on the beach smoking. He joins her and notes that she’s started smoking. She asks him suddenly why he married her and he hollowly and unconvincingly says he loves her. He’s not even looking at her as he says it. She asks if that’s what he tells himself, because it clearly isn’t true. Jimmy turns it around and poses her question right back at her and she says she did it because they have a kid together and it’s what society expected of her. Well, isn’t this pleasant? She asks him to just be honest with her and he claims not to have lied to her. She says he hasn’t told her anything. He goes out, sometimes for days, without telling her where he goes, returning bloodstained. She asks point-blank if he tried to have Nucky killed and he admits he did. She asks him why he’d do such a thing, since he used to love Nucky. Jimmy understates that things are complicated. She catches that he didn’t want to have Nucky killed, and she wonders what changed his mind. “My mother,” Jimmy answers. She absorbs that for a second, thanks him for talking to her, and goes inside.
Nucky arrives at theAtlantic Cityarmory, where someone in charge tells him his guests are inside. Nucky informs the man that in about 5 minutes some Feds are going to arrive. He hands over some cash and tells the man to tell the Feds Nucky was there, but he left. The man agrees to do so. Nucky notes the crates full of heavy weaponry and the man explains that they’re surplus left over from the war and he’s got a whole basement full of them. I’m sure that won’t ever become important at all.
Nucky goes inside, where Rothstein and Torrio are waiting for him. Nucky waits no time asking the other two men to get their idiots in line. Capone’s involvement in the attack is news to Torrio, but he’s not surprised to hear it. Rothstein tells Nucky that Jimmy came to him months ago, offering to sell him liquor, and he can’t really vouch for Lucky and Meyer anymore. He also tells Nucky that one of Waxy Gordon’s boys was killed during a failed hijacking not so long ago. Nucky sighs that the pups have sprouted some fangs and it’s going to get ugly. Torrio suggests he kill Jimmy, but Nucky reminds him that he’s got the Feds all over him right now. Rothstein advises Nucky to sit tight and do nothing, because he doesn’t have any moves at the moment. Better to wait and marshal his resources and make a move when the time’s right.
Van Alden’s having lunch with his one remaining sidekick at a place on the boardwalk. The owner tries to comp the meal, but Van Alden’s got his stick wedged far up his ass today and informs the man that it’s against regulations for him to accept free meals. The owner obliges and writes out the bill. “Malum in se,” Van Alden intones, out of nowhere. Off his sidekick’s confusion, he expands that it means evil in itself, like a murder. Not to be confused with some other Latin phrase that means a wrong prohibited by statute, like them accepting a free lunch. Glad we got all that sorted out. Another wrong prohibited by statue is people selling whiskey. Sidekick asks to speak freely and, after getting permission, admits that when he first joined the Bureau, he thoughts they were doing the right thing, but now it all seems kind of stupid and futile.
Angela’s found Louise again, and her new buddy’s taking her to a party full of other pretentious artsy people. Seriously, it’s like the most obnoxiousBrooklynstereotypes have all gathered on the beach for this one party. Louise introduces Angela to a “hoofer” named Arthur, who’s the type of guy who insists absolutely everything, including other people’s dreams, is about his penis. He’s a charmer. Louise chases him off, because Anglea’s all hers. A little later, while listening to some guy strum a ukulele and sing meaninglessly, they kiss. Well, that was predictable. And yay, another Angela lesbian subplot, which was so incredibly interesting the first time around. I can’t wait!
Nucky, Margaret, and the kids are playing some board game. One of the kids lands onSouthampton, so there’s a little talk about how Margaret took a ship from there to come over toAmerica. What? Why did she go all the way toSouthampton? She could have just as easily taken a ship from one of the ports inIreland, like Queenstown. She actually traveled backwards to get toAmerica, which makes no sense.
Her son talks about how he wants to pilot big ships someday, as Nucky starts focusing on the image of a steamship on the game board. Teddy tries to tell Nucky that it’s his turn, referring to him as “Uncle Nucky”. Nucky shakes himself out of his reverie and tells the kids he wants them to start calling him “dad.” Since their real dad obviously didn’t make any sort of good impression, they’re fine with that.
Nucky’s own dad is now laid out at the funeral parlor and actually being visited by his eldest son ahead of the funeral. Eli finds Nucky there alone and Nucky drily asks if he’s surprised it’s not Nucky in the box. Eli claims to have nothing to do with that, and Nucky says he had nothing to do with stopping it either. Eli sits down and tells Nucky he’s been subpoenaed. Nucky refuses to address that, instead saying he only came because he didn’t think Eli would be there so early. Eli says he’s surprised Nucky came at all. Nucky says he’s there for their mother, and for Susan. Who’s Susan? Someone dead, evidently. Not Nucky’s wife, her name was Mabel. I think there’s a story here. Eli intones that they’re all together now, and for the first time Nucky actually turns and looks at him, incredulously asking him if he really believes their father is in heaven. Eli cluelessly asks if their dad was that bad. “You’ve obviously overlooked key events from our childhood,” says Nucky. “I turned out ok,” says Eli. Wow. Really, Eli? You beat a man to death just a couple of episodes ago! Not to mention all the other stuff you’ve done! He goes on to say that, whatever their dad’s faults, he made them the men they were today, implying that he did an A-ok job of parenting. This is a level of self-cluelessness I don’t think I’ve ever come across before. Eli goes on to say that the two of them run the city and Nucky tells him that “they” don’t run anything, and Eli needs to grow the hell up. Eli snivels that Nucky has no capacity for forgiveness. I don’t think you really deserve it, Eli. You were complicit in almost having him killed. Nucky harshly tells him to take some responsibility for a change, and Eli leaves in a sulk. Once alone, Nucky goes up to the casket and notices that his father’s shoes are untied, so he sets his hat aside and starts to tie them, but them breaks down and finally starts to cry.
Lathrop gets a special delivery at his office: a fruit basket and a “thanks for saving my life” letter from Nucky. Never say the man can’t show appreciation.
At the Commodore’s, a meeting of the brain trust (Jimmy, Gillian, Uncle Junior, and the Commodore) is interrupted by the arrival of Nucky, who they’ve been expecting. Nucky remains standing for his speech, which boils down to: life is short, and he doesn’t want to be involved in all this crap anymore. He plans to sell off his properties and retire. He’s already spoken to Mayor Bader and told him to support the Commodore’s Cohort in whatever they want to do. With that, he turns to leave. Jimmy wishes him luck before he goes and Nucky returns the sentiment.
Van Alden arrives home to find the nurse singing again to the baby. He breezes right past them and closes himself in his bedroom so he can count a big wad of cash and hide it behind the painting over his dresser. Where’d that come from?
Nucky’s back in his office for a meeting with Chalky. Nucky toasts to the future, which gets Chalky a little down, because he’s not sure he has much of a future in his community, considering how many people are losing faith in him. Nucky says this is exactly what he wanted to talk to Chalky about: It’s time to give Chalky’s people the justice they’ve been wanting. He tells Chalky to get his many followers together and get them to go on strike, essentially shutting the city down right in the middle of tourist season and leaving Chalky holding all the cards. Smart. Eddie comes in and tells Nucky they have to go, and Nucky excuses himself, saying he has a press conference.
Over at Babette’s, some of the Commodore’s Cohort are celebrating and reading aloud a newspaper article about Nucky stepping down as treasurer. Neary’s been named interim successor. A few girls show up and start draping themselves over the men. Jimmy notes Two Face looking away from them and he goes over to him to say that they finally took over the town, and a lot of it was because of TF’s contributions. He starts to rather insensitively suggest TF get a nice new suit and a better mask so he can meet a nice girl and settle down. Jesus, Jimmy! Thankfully, we’re saved from more awkwardness by the arrival of Mickey Doyle, and I never thought I’d be grateful to see him enter a scene. Butcher’s there as well for the party. The boys start calling for a speech and Jimmy takes the opportunity to dump on Nucky and talk up the Commodore’s vision of a kingdom on the sea. Uncle Junior raises a glass to “Prince James” and Jimmy sits back with a drink and a pretty girl. The Butcher watches all of this, impassive, and Eli, who’s been trying to get Jimmy’s attention, finds himself sidelined once again.
At the Thompson house, Nucky wanders into the living room to find Margaret and Sleater speaking quietly in the foyer. Margaret goes to kiss Nucky and tell him she’s off to bed. When she’s gone, Nucky invites Sleater to join him in a drink. He observes that he’s a lucky man, which Sleater good-naturedly agrees with. After they’ve each had a sip of their drinks, Nucky asks Sleater where he was the day of the shooting. As we know, he was with Margaret, but of course Sleater’s not going to say that, so instead he says he was with a fried, which isn’t entirely untrue. Nucky, who’s apparently heard about the corpse in the dive bar bathroom, asks if the friend was from Ireland. Sleater tries to play dumb, but Nucky knows that Sleater’s inAtlantic Cityto continue fighting for Irish independence. FromNew Jersey? How? Nucky wants him to set up another meeting with Mcgarrigle, but this time inBelfast. He has a proposition for him.
Back at Babette’s, the Cohort’s partying on the dance floor while Jimmy, looking unsteady on his feet up there on the balcony, is meeting with Mickey, who wants to know where his booze shipment is. They’re interrupted by Eli, who inserts himself in between the two of them in an effort to get Jimmy’s attention at last. He informs Jimmy that Nucky’s smarter than Jimmy and far more dangerous. Jimmy cusses at him and snits that Eli just came to piss all over his party. “Yeah, that’s what I did,” Eli smirks as he walks off. Mickey resumes his conversation with Jimmy, asking him where the liquor’s going to be coming from now. Jimmy reassures him Al’s got a connection—Remus. Mickey’s fine with that. Jimmy turns his attention to Manny the Butcher on the dance floor and asks Mickey why he brought him. Mickey unwisely brings up the cash Jimmy owes the Butcher, and Jimmy starts to get mad and mean and anti-Semitic, shouting down curses and insults at the Butcher that, for the moment, are covered by the music. Mickey warns him to lay off, because they need this guy right now. Butcher calls for Jimmy to come down and join the party, and Jimmy suddenly picks up Mickey and throws him off the balcony and onto someone’s table below. WTF? Jesus, what the hell has Jimmy been drinking tonight? All that just because Mickey brought an unwelcome guest? I know Doyle’s annoying, but he didn’t really deserve that at all. Butcher looks at Mickey, then glares up at Jimmy.
And, we’re right back where we started with Nucky’s dream, except now, instead of the baby crying it’s cooing, and the baseball mitt’s leaning against the back of the chair instead of perched precariously on the chair’s edge. Nucky wakes suddenly and realizes the cooing noise is Emily, who’s cuddled in Margaret’s lap, running a fever once again.