Previously on Boardwalk Empire: Nucky struck a deal with Bacardi Rum down in Cuba to become the sole US importer, but was having trouble attracting extra money to the project. Margaret hit money troubles of her own: Mrs Rothstein’s getting ready to sue her for more than $100,000. In Chicago, Mueller/Van Alden’s in deep with an increasingly insane Capone.
In 1884, the summer season’s coming to an end. Little Nucky finishes sweeping the verandah, then moves inside the now empty hotel and starts poking around, marveling at the grandeur of the place. He goes to sit on a sofa and is caught by the manager, who takes him to the Commodore’s office. Commodore shows him the photos of half-dressed young girls he’s arranging on his desk as he unrolls his grand plans for Atlantic City and schools Nucky on attracting investors so one doesn’t gamble all of one’s own cash on any venture. Commodore tells Nucky that his services are no longer required, since summer’s over. Nucky begs to keep working for the man but Commodore is unsympathetic and just tells Nucky to leave his uniform before he goes home.
In 1931, Nucky wakes, hungover, and overhears Margaret giving his bodyguard, Archimedes, an English lesson in the next room. He joins them, a little confused, and learns that his flight to Havana that day has been cancelled because of the weather. He sends Archimedes off to try and make other arrangements, then asks Margaret what the heck she’s doing there. She breaks the news about her boss’s suicide, his embezzlement, her arrangement with Rothstein, and the incoming lawsuit. Nucky decides he needs some coffee before he can deal with this.
Capone and his minions watch a newsreel about him, cackling madly while, in the back, Lucky rolls his eyes at this cartoonish child now running things in the city. While Al’s become crazier, Lucky’s definitely got his hotheadedness under control and just does not have time for this nonsense. When the newsreel’s shut off, one guy cackles a little too long at a joke and Al immediately starts intimidating him for no reason, until Lucky tiredly tells him to lay off the guy. Mueller comes in and Lucky spots him. His face says, ‘don’t I know you?’ Al wants to rewatch the newsreel, but Lucky excuses himself to go take a bath and get some rest, wryly saying he’s sorry he’s going to miss ‘the cartoon.’
Little Nucky returns home and finds Eli locked out of the house. He peeks into a window and sees his father having sex with a woman (maybe their mother, maybe not, we can’t actually see more than her legs). Little Eli tries to look, but Nucky pulls him away and wrestles him to the ground, then offers to buy him a cornball. I don’t know what that is, but it sounds gross.
Nucky gets on the phone and tells Sally he’s rained in. She’s annoyed, because Ronis the Bacardi guy was expecting his good faith money, and there have been rumbles near the city that have brought the army out. Nucky promises to wire the money down so she can meet with Ronis herself. Sally notes he sounds cranky and tells him to go have his coffee.
Nucky goes back into the sitting room and finds Joe Kennedy chatting and joking with Margaret. Nucky focuses on their feet, which he clearly thinks are too close together. Joe breaks the news that he won’t be going into business with Nucky. As he leaves, he offers Margaret a ride back to New York in his private train car, complete with oysters to ‘keep them occupied.’ Uh huh. Nucky poutily says he thought she and he had something to deal with and Margaret gets the hint and tells Joe her husband wants her to stay. Joe bids them farewell and tells Nucky there’s ‘safety in numbers’.
Little Nucky and Little Eli sit on the beach and Eli asks Nucky to help him out with his second-grade work. Nucky says he has to start figuring things out for himself, because Nucky’s going to figure out how to be a rich person. He gets pretty worked up about it and Eli gets scared and says he’s yelling like their father, before sniffling and asking if they can go home.
Sally meets with the bank manager, who goes on about an art exhibit he saw recently and how he sees the city as a beautiful pearl and how she’s gorgeous. She gets bored and asks for her money already. He goes to answer a knock on the door and she sees him talking to some soldiers outside before one of them closes the door.
Little Nucky takes Little Eli to the hotel so he can show him some of the wonders inside, like a flushing toilet.
Nucky takes Margaret to that Italian restaurant where he took Joe and tells her a funny story about one of his recent trips to Cuba. Her response is distinctly lacking in humour. Jesus, Margaret, you’re asking this guy to back you up to the tune of $111,000 in 1931, the least you can do is laugh at his joke. She asks why Nucky’s being so nice to her (would you prefer he be mean?) and guesses it’s because he’s jealous of Joe. What do you care, Margaret, as long as you get his help? Nucky claims not to care about Joe and changes the subject to whether Margaret got a cut of Rothstein’s portfolio. She did not. He tells her that was kinda stupid. Well, now she knows. He also warns her that Caroline’s likely to keep shaking them down. She doesn’t know what else to do. He pours her some wine and they toast to being partners in crime.
Al, Lucky, and the boys chat after lunch, catching up on news of Torrio. Lucky gives Al a gift: a pewter statue of the Empire State building, which was brand new at the time. Al dispatches it to his desk and gets down to business, asking Lucky what he’s in Chicago for. Lucky wants them to work out a way to run their crime organisations the same as a business consortium, arguing that they’ll be far more powerful together. Al doesn’t understand underworld game theory and isn’t interested. In the middle of making his argument, Lucky suddenly remembers where he’s seen Mueller before and tells Al he’s employing a prohie. Mike, the treasury agent who’s deeply undercover in the organization, takes a giant swig of his coffee while he absorbs that. Al doesn’t believe Lucky at first, but then shouts for Mueller to be brought to him to answer to this accusation.
Little Nucky chills in a hot bath, until Little Eli points out the sheriff, standing with the manager in the doorway. Sheriff tells him to get his pants back on, then has a word with the manager, lectures the boys on trespassing, and tells them to come with him.
Nucky and Margaret have shut the restaurant down, and Margaret’s quite lit. She says that Prohibition was the worst thing that ever happened to her. I’d argue that her first husband was the worst thing that ever happened to her, since the guy beat her into a miscarriage and was the reason she wound up with the temperance folks, eventually crossing paths with Nucky. If not for that asshole, absolutely none of this stuff would have happened to her. Nucky agrees that Prohibition sucks, and she scoffs that it’s made him rich. He admits that the Crash kind of took care of that. He admires the fact that she managed to shake down Rothstein and asks if she’s had anyone else in her life. She has not. They talk a little bit about their past infidelities and agree to be friends.
Mueller’s been brought before Al and the other guys and claims not to know anything about Atlantic City. He lies quite convincingly that he moved to Cicero from Minnesota, where he had a wheat farm that went belly up because of brown rust. He’s been practicing this story for a while, hasn’t he? Al decides to put all of this to the test and has Mueller kneel so he can put a gun in his mouth. Mike tries to talk Al down, but Al just reminds him that they have maid service. Al, I don’t think there’s a tip big enough to cover this. Mueller tries to talk, so Al takes the gun out of his mouth and gives him 30 seconds to talk his way out of this. Mueller reminds him that he’s been loyal all these years and then, brilliantly, turns this around on Lucky, telling Al that this guy’s coming into Al’s house and trying to tell Al what to do, and that’s just disrespectful! It works. Man, that’s some serious grace under pressure. Mike sees Mueller out and observes that he’s got a serious set of monster balls. Mueller goes to seek a men’s room, because he’s pretty sure he just shit himself. Understandable, under the circumstances.
Sally goes to Ronis’s and is a bit disturbed to learn his wife’s packing up and going to Paris. She brings up a recent rebellion near his cane fields and asks if he’s thinking of leaving town anytime soon. He promises he’s not, so she hands over the cash and asks to use his phone. She calls the former Babette’s and gets Mickey on the phone. After some playful banter, she asks him to tell Nucky that the payoff’s been made. She then watches as servants carry trunk after trunk out of the house. Yeah, just a quick jaunt to Paris! Where they won’t have any clothes at all!
Back in 1884, the sheriff takes Nucky and Eli to his home, sits them in the front hall, and goes to tell his wife about the additional dinner guests. Eli wonders if they’re being kidnapped, and then a maid comes out and tells the boys to go scrub their hands.
The family and the boys sit down for their meal and it quickly becomes apparent that these people are both nice and quite functionally affectionate. Nucky notes what the others do with their napkins and mimics them as the daughter starts serving dinner, kindly asking the boys if there’s anything they won’t eat. Whatever they don’t like isn’t on the menu, so they’re all good. The son nicely asks Nucky about his job at the hotel, and then he and his sister start playfully teasing each other until their mother calls a halt and asks her husband to talk to the temperance ladies about some of the terrible scenes he’s witnessed, thanks to drink. He agrees, under pressure from the ladies, and his wife smilingly thanks him. Little Nucky, faced with this scene of functional family affection and tranquility for perhaps the first time in his entire life, actually begins to cry. He apologises, and the sheriff reassures him it’s ok. The son puts everyone at ease by cracking a joke.
Margaret and Nucky walk along the boardwalk the Commodore built and he admits he’s had his fill of the crime world. He won’t elaborate, though. She asks about the practicalities of the strippers at the club (do they take everything off?) and they both reminisce about the first time they met after that temperance meeting all those years ago. He admits to wanting to save her (no surprise there) and she thought he seemed really lonely. She impulsively kisses him, then backs off, hesitates, and asks if he’s going to kill Caroline Rothstein. He accuses her of having a dark turn of mind. She asks what the solution is, then, and he says that Caroline will agree to take 25 cents on the dollar, but it’ll be up to Margaret to make the deal, because Nucky is washing his hands of it. She ruefully calls him a bastard and then thinks about going home. He reminds her that it’s late and she’s drunk and calls a minion over to take her to a hotel for the night. He says he’s happy to see her, and then just walks away.
Mike goes through the files of federal agents until he finds Van Alden’s, which includes the information that he’s wanted for murder. Well, that should make things interesting. And I’ll wager he’s wanted for a lot more murders now.
Lucky’s getting ready to head home, but not before he asks Al for his thoughts on Lucky’s proposal. Al says they’ll see how things play out. Lucky departs, and as soon as he’s gone Al spits on the floor and starts cursing him out. That poor goon from earlier unwisely joins in, calling Lucky a jerk, which is not ok with Al (who’s taken a moment to do some blow). Al immediately lights into the guy for daring to say something mean about a guy Al’s known for years. Just as the guy’s starting to shit himself, Al laughs uproariously and makes it seem like he was just messing around. But as the others depart, Al viciously attacks the guy, beating him to death with the pewter Empire State, clearly taking out his rage at Lucky on this poor sap. Covered in blood, he summons Eli so he can call Nucky.
Sally drives back to Havana at night, only to be stopped at a checkpoint. The officer in charge asks her where she’s coming from and she says she was just seeing some friends in Mirimar. He informs her there’s a curfew, as of that afternoon, because of all the trouble. He tells her she’s not getting to Havana that night, so she offers him a bribe to go home. That turns out to be totally the wrong thing, because he orders her out of the car. When an officer orders you out of the car, you know shit’s about to get real. The car is searched but the only thing they find is her lipstick. She’s searched next, and the officer finds a pistol tucked into her garter. She explains she owns a bar and needs to protect herself. She then offers to treat all the guys right there some day soon. Lady, I think we’ve already established that offering these guys bribes of any sort is a bad idea. The officer asks who she knows in Mirimar and she namedrops Ronis. The officer is not cool with the fact that she’s doing business with a guy who pays his workers next to nothing and accuses her of being what’s wrong with Cuba. She’s bored of all this and moves to get back in her car and return to Mirimar. Two of the men jump at her, and she stupidly grabs one of their pistols, aiming it at all of them as she backs away. One of the more nervous men shoots her right in the chest and gets smacked by the officer, because she was an American and now this can get downright messy. Farewell, Sally. I never really liked you as much as I feel I should have.
Eli puts a call through to Nucky, putting Al on the phone. Al informs Nucky they have a problem brewing with Lucky.
In 1884, the sheriff takes the boys home. Nucky asks if the sheriff can take care of his father, who hurts their mother. The sheriff informs him that laws against spousal abuse were pretty weak in the 1880s, so that’s not going to do much good. Nucky suggests the sheriff take care of his dad permanently and the sheriff says he only does that sort of thing for the Commodore. He warns Nucky not to get himself into any trouble and then says they’re going to go inside and the sheriff is going to tell their father that Nucky worked for him that day. And thus, a new friendship/mentorship is born.