Boardwalk Empire: We Didn’t Start the Fire

Previously on Boardwalk Empire: Nucky failed to keep his business under control, a hit on Gyp failed miserably, and Harry Daugherty came under investigation.

Margaret wakes in the middle of the night to find her son, Teddy, standing next to her bed, flatly informing her there’s a fire. She looks out the window and sees the greenhouse in the garden aflame.

Later, the fire’s out but she’s still a bit nervy, as you would be. Sleater pokes around and reports that nothing seems out of sorts. Margaret’s friend comments that compost can spontaneously combust sometimes.

Sleater and Margaret sit down with her son—you remember, the kid who was playing with matches last season?—and ask him what he saw. He claims he just saw the fire and went and woke his mom. He mentions a gypsy who was outside the house that morning. Sleater asks if he saw the man again that night and Teddy shakes his head. Margaret sends him off to bed. Sleater doesn’t think too much of the alleged gypsy. Margaret gets a little flirty as she asks Sleater what brought him to the house at 2 a.m. He says Nucky’s out of town and he’s been tasked with looking after things. Margaret then asks if the fire was set by Gyp but Sleater doubts he’d bother with such petty, unbloody revenge. They trade old Irish ghost stories stories as Teddy listens from the stairs.

Tabor Heights. Eli and Mickey meet with one of the local cops—don’t they know better than to trust these guys at this point?—who tells them the place was swarming with state police not long ago. They exposit that Gyp’s flown the coop and the cop—who’s actually the local sheriff—tells the guys he and the others were told Gyp was just going to rob that convoy, not start up a complete bloodbath. Really? You believed the guy who burned your boss to death when he said he just wanted to stage a little robbery? Mickey overlooks that and asks if Rosetti left any of their booze behind. Nope. Eli tells the sheriff to let them know if Gyp shows back up again.

NYC. Nucky goes to meet with Means again and finds only the maid in the room. She tells him nobody’s staying in the room; the last guest checked out the previous day. Nucky’s soon joined by George Remus, who wonders if they came on the wrong day. He suggests they call Means, because he, unlike Nucky, has the phone number. Nucky suspects something’s very wrong and brings up the senate subcommittee sniffing around. The maid comes back in and bitches at him for using the telephone in the room, so Remus huffs out and Nucky hands her a tip before departing himself.

In Washington, Daugherty’s addressing a crowd of Boy Scouts, engaging them with an ‘honest Injun’ story about honesty and bravery. Beside him, the guy who met with Means last week sweats and looks nervous. Daugherty asks if he’s ok, but the man says nothing. He bursts into tears, finally, and sobs that he and Daughterty stole and it’s all so very, very wrong. Means gets up and hurries over to him while Daughterty excuses him, claiming the man’s not feeling well.

Margaret checks Teddy’s homework while he watches some of the servants clean out the burned up greenhouse. Margaret calls him over and reassures him there’s nothing for him and his sister to worry about. Teddy brings up the gypsy again, saying he thinks the gypsy started the fire because Nucky’s not there. He asks if Owen can move in and Margaret says that’s totally out of the question. She tells the kid they need to be careful, so no accidents happen again and the kid robotically tells her it’s not going to happen again.

Lucky is at Gillian’s offering one of her girls some post-coital heroin, which is an all-new experience for her. She snorts a bit, and right on cue, Gillian bursts in and sends the girl away and scolds Charlie for bringing dope in. She has standards at the House of T&A. He suggests she start having the girls flash a little skin if she wants to make money. Gillian gets petulant and fires Charlie’s girl, despite Charlie’s objections. He reminds her that the place isn’t really hers, it’s Jimmy’s, and she thoughtfully tells him he’s right.

Nucky arrives in D.C., brushes past a few guys hovering around waiting to see Daugherty, and bursts into a meeting with Daughterty, Remus, and Nervous Guy (many apologies—I haven’t been able to catch his name yet. Smith, maybe?). Nucky’s pissed off about this backroom dealing and demands some answers. Daughterty dismisses the others and tells Nucky he’s just going through a witch hunt right now, no biggie. Nucky’s savvy enough to ask him who he’s planning to feed to the wolves, because he knows Daugherty’s got to sacrifice someone to save his own skin. Nucky urges him to indict Remus, but Daughterty won’t because Smith, his lackey, would be implicated as well. Nucky reminds him that he delivered New Jersey in the presidential election and threatens to bring Daughterty down if he gets thrown into the fire. Daughterty blusters that nobody will believe some ‘washed up bootlegger from New Jersey’ but Nucky will not be cowed. He leaves and Means pops out of an adjoining room, observing that Nucky’s a bit feisty. Daughterty says he’ll have to be reined in.

Back in Jersey, Two Face walks into a meeting of disgruntled vets who have all been denied benefits. They can’t believe TF was refused and he croaks that he was told his injuries didn’t sufficiently prevent him from securing ample employment. Technically that was true, but damn, that’s awful. What would he have to do, lose his whole face? One of the men suggests starting up a petition and an older vet demands a drink and grouses how he had to fight for a sugar conglomerate in the Philippines. He calls the others a bunch of saps and sets up a fight with one of them. Good meeting, guys!

Nucky is intercepted at the train station by two men from the Justice Department. They declare the tiny bottle of either liquor or cough syrup Nucky has on him to be a violation of the Volstead Act. They belt him in the stomach and drag him off.

Margaret’s review of the latest birth control literature is interrupted by the arrival of her friend, who’s brought Teddy home after finding him on her property. She pulls Margaret aside and tells her she found the kid in her garage with some kerosene and matches. She’s being awfully nice about this and offers herself as a good listener if Margaret ever wants to talk. Margaret sees her out and goes in to see her son, who immediately denies burning down the greenhouse. She asks him why he was in the garage and he claims the gypsy was going to light another fire. Margaret shows him the matches and tells him he’s going to end up hurting someone. When Teddy doesn’t respond, she rather awkwardly spanks him and sends him to his room. You might want to remove all flammable materials first, Meg.

The vets, meanwhile, are having their very own meeting of Fight Club. Well, that’s one way to work out frustration. Unsurprisingly, the younger vet wins, and while the others go off to celebrate, TF looks down at the bloodied, laid-out loser.

Nucky’s in a very crowded jail cell, making friends with a fellow prisoner who tells him he’s a wholesaler in the liquor business who got caught with a large haul. Nucky asks him if it’s worth it, because there have to be easier ways to make a living. The guy doubts it.

TF tends the Philippine vet, who was also the fight loser. Aww. The man sadly asks for his booze and TF obligingly hands him a bottle. The guy comments that not being allowed a drink after having served one’s country is total BS. His daughter then arrives to take him home and is none too pleased to see him in this state again. She and TF help him into the car and she introduces herself as Julia. TF shakes her hand and watches her drive off, seeming somewhat enthralled. He notices the man’s coat on a step and picks it up, uncovering a war medal underneath.

Gillian’s. She goes through the house taking down the many, many pictures of Jimmy she’s got scattered around. She stashes them in a secretary (the furniture, not a person).

Apparently, Volstead violations get heard en masse and are prosecuted by none other than Esther Randolph. Good to see her again! She’s apparently not been at this work for long, because she’s shocked to hear that the fine is only $5, and is also shocked when Nucky gets shown in. She gets a bit flustered, but then pulls herself together and tells the judge that Nucky’s a well-known bootlegger and she wants a hefty fine and a year in prison. The judge lazily applies the usual fine and sends Nucky away. As he’s uncuffed, he can’t help but give her a ‘heh’ sort of look.

Gillian wanders out to the boardwalk at night, immune to all the merriment around her. She looks around and spots a handsome young man and heads his way with purpose. Do I really need to tell you he bears slightly more than a passing resemblance to Jimmy? His name’s Roger. She wastes no time picking him up by talking about how nice it is to live in a dream world where one’s surrounded by love and family.

Nucky waits for Esther outside the court and jokes that, if she hauls him in a few hundred more times she might actually make a dent in his bank account. She’s not amused. He invites her out for breakfast and she accepts, mostly because, as he says, it’d be interesting. Over coffee and eggs, she observes that he seems to view himself as a sort of paterfamilias. Boy, does she have him pegged. He tells her that they have a common enemy: Harry Daughterty. Daugherty’s got her toiling away in night court, after all. Plus, he set her up to fail in AC and then blamed her for bungling the case. Nucky tells her Daughterty’s going to indict him in order to save his own skin and starts buttering her up. He offers up George Remus, though she knows Daugherty would never let that case go all the way. Nucky tells her that, if it was sanctioned by a higher authority, Daugherty couldn’t stop it, and she’d have a career-making case. He leaves her to think it over.

Gillian’s got her new boytoy in bed, and after he finishes, she tells him he takes her back to how she used to feel. Oh, dear God. They make small talk for a bit and she hears he’s running low on money. She promises to ask around for a job for him and then dials up the creepy to eleven by telling him she’s going to call him James.

Over breakfast, Margaret quizzes the kids on state capitols. Her daughter’s doing really, really well. Sleater comes in and Margaret goes to speak to him. He tells her that they caught the vagrant who was wandering the neighbourhood and that he apparently lit the fire to keep warm and it got out of hand. But it’s all been taken care of and he won’t be coming around again.

TF goes to the veteran’s house to return his coat and medal. Julia comes to the door and receives both. TF asks after her father and she rather shortly says he’s asleep. TF goes to leave, sensing she’s not in a hospitable mood, and she softens and explains that her father’s going through one of his moods and she doesn’t want to set him off. She explains that the medal was her brother’s, and that he died just before the Armistice and her father can’t accept that. TF understands the man’s difficulty coping. Julia asks if he has a family and he tells her about his sister. She says she’s lucky to have him back.

Nucky calls Margaret to reassure her that he does, in fact, care about what’s going on there. She tells him a vagrant lit the fire, but it’s been taken care of and they can get the greenhouse repaired. He asks if the kids are ok and she says they’re all fine, but the two of them need to have a conversation when he gets back, because things can’t keep going on like this. He says his train’s being called and she tells him to get on his way, then.

After hanging up, she goes out the front door and dismisses the bodyguard.

That night, the kids whisper in the dark. The little girl begs Teddy to tell her a creepy story and he goes to tell her about the magical gypsy man who burns people he doesn’t like. And he knows daddy isn’t there to protect them. But Teddy’s there, with the knife he keeps under his mattress. Creepy kid!

Nucky goes right to Billie’s and gets an earful for missing her opening night. Apparently it went well, at least. She got a business card from a movie director and everything. The phone rings and Nucky picks up to find Means on the other end. Means reveals he knows all about Nucky’s breakfast date with Esther. Means is calling to offer his services as a font of information on Daughterty. All it’ll cost is $40K. Despite the steep price, Nucky agrees to a meeting the following night in AC and tells him to bring everything he’s got on Daughterty.

While Margaret gets ready for bed, she hears a noise outside and goes to look out at the greenhouse. She sees nothing but rings Sleater’s apartment, only to get a sleepy Katie on the  phone and learn that Sleater’s not there. So, Margaret fetches a shotgun and gets ready to protect herself.

TF looks at some family photos, lingering on one that is, presumably, him and his sister back in 1916. He sets it out on his desk and looks at it.

Margaret ventures downstairs, gun leveled, only to find Owen out in teh greenhouse, stupidly poking around in the middle of the night. He gestures for her to lower the gun and tells her Nucky called him, concerned about her and the kids. He tells her that the greenhouse, at least, is safe and suggests she put a lock on it. She asks him if the vagrant was real (he was) and admits she thought Teddy started the fire and she punished him for it. He tells her the kid will get over it. She mentions Katie and he tells her about her decidedly unsexy Kewpie Doll collection. He goes to leave and Margaret tells him to wait. He knows what’s up and breathes that this is a bad idea. She says they both know how to keep a secret and starts to kiss him before leading him back into the greenhouse for some late-night lovin’.

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