Previously on Boardwalk Empire: Chalky lost 10% of his club to Narcisse, Nucky considered a business opportunity in Florida, and Two Face started to put his killin’ days behind him.
Two rather menacing looking men escort Nucky down a dark corridor and into a fairly palatial hotel room. Nucky takes a minute to check out the mural on the wall, which I’m going to assume is Xanadu or something like it, since that seems to fit, and then goes over to the window where he stands, looking out at the sea, which is a bit bluer than it is in AC.
His next stop is the garden cafe, where he’s meeting with McCoy, the rumrunning captain who used to work for Nucky. Or maybe he still does, it’s not entirely clear. He welcomes Nucky to beautiful Tampa, though Nucky does not seem terribly enamoured of it or of the fruity accompaniments to his booze. We learn that McCoy had a huge shipment intercepted and confiscated, which sucks for him. So he’s moving on to real estate. He’s the one who brought the prospective land deal to Nucky’s attention, but Nucky isn’t ready to commit. He’s more interested in a hot shower and a nap before meeting with McCoy and some guy named Tucker that evening. McCoy tells him that Tucker’s very excited to meet Nucky. ‘Most people are, until they do,’ Nucky responds. Heh.
In less hospitable climes, Richard buries his pistol in a little grave near the barn…
…While over in Harlem Narcisse is delivering a little speech about the importance of education to a small group of well-dressed and attentive young black men. A secretary comes in and signals to Narcisse, who dismisses the men before welcoming Owney Madden and Arnold Rothstein. Arnold does not look comfortable here, but this is business. The men all sit—and I’m not at all surprised to see Narcisse wears spats—and Arnold gets right to it: he hears Narcisse is interested in getting into the heroin trade. So, on the one hand he talks about elevating his race, while on the other he peddles the very stuff that will plague it for generations. Awesome. Narcisse intends to specifically target black buyers and asks if Arnold can guarantee a supply. For 20 pounds uncut, Arnold demands $80K in large bills. Narcisse gets a bit annoyed at Arnold for assuming he’d try and pay in small bills, and Arnold backpedals slightly. They get back on track and Arnold says his associate, Mr Diamond, will be in touch. Business concluded, the men shake hands and Arnold leaves, after which Narcisse wipes his hand with a handkerchief.
Once they’re alone, he asks to borrow a performer named Daughter Maitland who’s currently performing at the Cotton Club. Madden says that’s fine and asks for Dickie Pastor to send over a replacement. Narcisse tells him Pastor’s out of play.
Emma and Richard have a visitor: her rather blowhard-y brother-in-law, Hugh. As he goes to leave, Hugh suggests coming up that weekend to help clear out the barn. Emma, clearly wanting to get rid of this guy, who seems nice enough, though a tad annoying, says Richard’s going to do it and suggests Hugh call before he comes over. Once he goes, the siblings make fun of him a little, though Emma says he and his parents are good people. She starts chattering about nursery arrangements, as Richard takes some cash out and lays it on the table, telling her it’s for the taxes. Confused, Emma says she paid the taxes already, and she’s not paying them twice.
In Tampa, a storm’s blowing in. Nucky, now refreshed, sits downstairs, listening in as some young whippersnapper sells some land to a big fish with the promise that he can double his investment in no time. Why, just recently some guy came down and didn’t even have to leave the train station to sell his. He managed the whole transaction in the washroom. And here I always thought urinal chatter was poor form. Big Fish takes off and Nucky compliments the kid on his great racket, quickly making it clear he realises this is a fairly worthless investment opportunity. The kid, Skeeter Walsh, joins Nucky’s table and says they’re just selling people what they want, and what they want is seemingly worthless swampland at $100 an acre. Woah. Nucky orders them both up some drinks and asks the kid how this whole thing works. They take 10% of the purchase price to hold the land, which is about to be very heavily developed, supposedly.
Back north, Eli’s son, Will, is attending a college lecture in which he and his fellow students are just listening to a recorded speech about how important it is to own your own home and to become rich by thinking rich. What class is this, The Gift 101? Actually, they’re listening to Acres of Diamonds by Russell H. Conwell, a speech that did, in fact, make Conwell rich. It’s a bit rowdier at the back of the class, where Will is. Some douchebag hits up a pencilneck for cigarettes and scolds pencilneck for calling him by his nickname, Bucky. Two girls come in and Bucky tries hitting on them. They’re not interested in his parties or anything, though, because they want to go somewhere they can score some booze. Will speaks up and says he can get some. The girls agree to show up, on the understanding this had better be a wet party.
Gillian and Roy are touring an apartment, but he doesn’t like it. She asks if he’s always so indecisive. Only in his personal life, he says. After a brief pause, he asks Gillian to pose as his wife during a dinner with an executive from A&P. Gillian agrees, and then tells the realtor that the apartment won’t do.
Over at the Onyx, Chalky’s giving Dunn busboy work to do. I knew he was going to make him squirm for costing Chalky a percentage of the club. And on that subject, in comes Narcisse, with a lovely young lady whom he introduces as Daughter Maitland, a marvellous singer. Chalky knows, because he’s heard her on a record. Narcisse has decided she’s going to be performing there a while and directs her to the dressing rooms. Narcisse observes Dunn setting out chairs and kind of asks what’s up. Chalky says he’s doing as he’s told. ‘When men make themselves brutes, best to treat them as brutes,’ Narcisse agrees.
Will and Pencilneck pull up at Mickey’s warehouse, where Pencilneck promptly starts to panic. The two boys head inside and find Mickey, who’s not at all impressed by Will’s connections and tells them both to get lost. On their way out, Will tries to grab a case of rye, but one of the drivers notices and calls Mickey over. Mickey slaps the kid hard and threatens to call Eli, but Will freaks and begs him not to. Mickey backs down, tells him not to rob people, and lets him take a case with him as he leaves. How long before this gets back to Eli and bites both of these guys in the ass?
Richard’s working on cleaning up the barn and finds some old trophy and toys he and Emma must have played with as kids, as well as a book aptly named ‘Good Times.’ He pauses for a moment in a shaft of sunlight filtering through a hole in the roof, and he removes his mask and enjoys the feeling of it for a little while before putting the mask back on.
Behind him, a man steps into the barn, somehow now holding the trophy, and reminds Richard of who he is: Carl Billings, the man who hired Richard to do his most recent rash of killings. His sidekick comes in, pointing a gun at Richard as Billings reminds Richard that he didn’t finish his job, and now Billings is a bit concerned that Richard might be growing a conscience that could lead him to reveal certain things about their conversation. Sidekick takes Richard’s wallet and tosses it to Billings, who notes that Richard hasn’t spent any of the money he was paid. Billings snorts that it doesn’t make him honourable, it makes him stupid, and you can’t trust a stupid man.
Sidekick’s briefly distracted by a bird taking off, so Richard guts him with a blade he’s had hidden in his hand. In the ensuing scuffle, Richard’s mask comes off. He rights himself, only to be met with Billings’s pistol. Billings takes a look at Two Face’s face and says he’s doing the man a favour. He goes to pull the trigger, and there’s a shot, but it’s not Two Face who gets spattered all over the barn, it’s Billings, because he just got Emma’d. Man, she’s like Annie Oakley with that rifle. Though I guess it makes sense that she’d be a pretty good shot, just like her brother. Richard looks up at her in amazement as she sits down, looking a bit devastated.
Nucky shows up for his evening meeting, which is being held in a roadhouse run by Patricia Arquette. He joins McCoy and Tucker and Patricia brings drinks and joins their toast before Tucker tells her to get lost. Tucker brings up their proposed land deal and Nucky informs him that this land is worthless, because the whole area’s going to be built up soon. Apparently, their plan was to buy up 14,000 acres in the middle of nowhere where they can discreetly offload their liquor and truck it out. McCoy tries to talk Nucky around, and Tucker begins to get upset, because he thought this was a done deal, but Nucky’s out. Tucker snarls that he doesn’t like having his time wasted and Nucky reminds him that he’s not the one who spent more than a day on a train to come down to Tampa. He thanks the proprietress for her hospitality and takes off into the rainy night.
Over at the Onyx, Gillian and Roy are enjoying their night out with Mr and Mrs A&P while Daughter Maitland sings Somebody Loves Me onstage. Chalky watches too, looking entranced. The Grocery Gang chat about hometowns—the A&Ps are from Evansville, IL, which is where Replacement Jimmy from last season was from, so Gillian gets a bit uncomfortable. Talk turns to the ‘coffee’, which is apparently of the Irish sort, and then Gillian excuses herself to freshen up/get high, but Mrs A&P spoils her plans by tagging along. We track with them to the back of the room, where Narcisse and Chalky are standing. Narcisse asks if he was right about Daughter and Chalky only allows that the white folks seem to like her, before peeling off.
At the college party, a girl’s drunkenly Charleston-ing while Pencilneck regales some other chick with the story of their daring raid on the warehouse. She’s only interested in the drink he’s pouring. A few of the guys compliment Will on his outstanding hooch-grabbing abilities and ask where he got it. He only says it’s from a friend. Meanwhile, Henry, the bully from earlier, is getting pretty handsy with Doris, who breaks away from him and tells Will she wants to leave. She grabs his arm and they head out of the basement where the party’s being held. As they head for the door, she tells Will she wants to show him something in the library. They head up and she starts showing him her tonsils, which he seems pretty happy with.
Tampa. McCoy tells Nucky that he owes Tucker almost $200K, because when his ships got confiscated they had Tucker’s scotch on board. Tucker promises to forgive the debt if McCoy brought Nucky in on the land deal. Nucky’s not interested in partnering with some hillbilly just because McCoy screwed up, even if McCoy insists Tucker’s a big man around Tampa, not that that’s saying much. Nucky is unimpressed and reminds McCoy this is a crappy deal. McCoy tries guilting Nucky by whining that he thought Nucky was his friend and Nucky firmly tells him that if he’d come to him as a friend, things would be different. But as things stand, looks like McCoy’s screwed. McCoy puts his drink down, collects his hat, and leaves.
Gillian and Roy repair to a diner to laugh over their evening and all the lies they had to tell to pretend to be married. Roy comments that they make a pretty swell team and Gillian looks pleased, but then a young man stops and recognises her. He was friends with Replacement Jimmy. Small world. Gillian claims not to know what he’s talking about and tells Roy the kid’s making her uncomfortable, so he sends the young man away, then asks what that was about. Gillian claims not to know, then heads to the ladies’ room, where she shoots up in her leg (can’t have trackmarks for Roy to find, I guess). When she finally emerges, Roy asks if she’s ok, and she realises she was gone for ages, because their ice cream has completely melted.
Will and Doris are getting hot and heavy when in come Henry and a bunch of the other guys, plus a few girls, to ruin the evening. Will shoves Henry, knocking him over, and threatens to break the jerk’s nose, but Henry manages to get the upper hand by pointing out Will’s erection. The other kids laugh, because they’re all 12 years old, and Will rushes out, humiliated.
Nucky returns to the roadhouse where he and McCoy and Tucker had their meeting. There’s only one customer there now, passed out on a table. Patricia, whose name here is apparently Sally, is cleaning up and gets Nucky talking about how happy he was before Prohibition came along and he started wanting more, more, more! And she basically tells him to stop whining, because he’s rich and money can sure as hell buy happiness. He says it’s his son Teddy’s birthday the next day, and he wonders if he should send him something, or just let his absence be his gift. She tells him it’s mighty convenient that the best choice seems to require the least effort and Nucky asks why she’s not sympathetic, like bartenders are supposed to be. He asks her about Tucker and she seems unimpressed with him. He’s a Georgian, son of moonshiners, and while he could kill someone, he’s not terribly smart. Nucky asks how someone like that gets into a position of power in Tampa and she says that enough money and the right connections basically give you carte blanche to do whatever you want.
Dunn’s clearing up at the end of the night at the Onyx when Narcisse joins him. Dunn, being Dunn, threatens to use a switchblade on him, but Narcisse calmly tells him that won’t be necessary. He has a business proposition for Dunn and butters him up by telling him that Chalky offered to give him up in exchange for Dicky Pastor. Dunn agrees that Chalky’s never been a friend of his, though until recently it seemed like they were getting along quite well. The two men sit down together and Narcisse pulls a pouch of heroin out of his pocket. Dunn correctly identifies it and Narcisse tells him this is freedom, power, and control over men like Chalky.
McCoy’s in his room, drunk and feeling sorry for himself. And who should show up, but Tucker of course. He hammers on the door and demands he and McCoy settle this, so McCoy gets up and lets him in, which is only sensible. Tucker comes in and, despite being a good half a head shorter than McCoy, manages to start strangling him.
Harrow Farm. Hugh asks Richard how he hurt his hand (it was hurt in the barn scuffle) and Richard says it happened while he was clearing out the barn. Hugh seems like he wants Richard to try and get Emma to move in with her in-laws, but Richard makes no reply and she comes out of the barn and joins them. Richard’s got his stuff packed up, because he’s hitting the road again, probably mostly for his sister’s safety. Richard tells her that, in France, he’d dream of the wonderful day he’d come home, with medals, in his dress uniform, with Emma and his parents waiting. But sadly it didn’t work out that way. Emma asks him to send her an address, so she knows where he is, and then calls him over for a hug. As they embrace, she whispers that he needs to call himself to account. He nods and gets into Hugh’s truck for the ride to the station.
Porters arrive at Nucky’s room for his bags and deliver a toy for him: a small stuffed alligator for Teddy, from Sally.
Nucky walks through the lobby, where you can hear the land speculators at work, and pauses at the phone to call McCoy. When McCoy answers, Nucky tells him he’ll take the deal after all. Really? Why? He insists he’ll be the one in charge, though. McCoy says fine and hollowly thanks him, and once they get off the phone, we see that Tucker’s dead, a machete rather gorily embedded in his skull. McCoy sits down and weeps as, up on the ceiling, a moth oh-so-symbolically flutters around the naked light bulb.