Boardwalk Empire Recap: Confession

Rattled by his deputy’s terrible injuries, Van Alden considers confessing his sins while unbeknownst to him, Lucy’s in labor at home. Margaret also has to face her sins and admits to her priest that she’s got a bit of a crush on Sleater. Jimmy finds out about Nucky’s dealings in Philadelphia, resulting in yet another showdown in the woods.

Previously on Boardwalk Empire: Word of the Commodore’s incapacity started leaking out, leading Eli to try to cut and run back to his big brother (unsuccessfully) and Jimmy to assert himself with some of the Old Guard (gruesomely and successfully). Two Face almost decided to pack it all in, but some woodsmen and a dog convinced him to give living another try.

Ahh, Van Alden’s back! He’s sitting in his crappy little apartment, reading the Bible as Lucy calls out for him to pick up some lemons on the way home from work. How very wifey of her. He puts the Bible aside and prepares to leave. She’s about a zillion years pregnant and complains that she can’t get comfortable. He tells her that his deputy’s in the hospital with third degree burns and can’t get comfortable either. Geez, Van Alden, just acknowledge that she’s in one of the worst stages of pregnancy, will you?

Speaking of near-marital relationships: Nucky and Margaret are meeting with the priest and Margaret’s son, who’s preparing for his First Holy Communion. The priest is grilling him and quite literally putting the fear of God in the poor kid, as well as Margaret, who looks a little nervous when she finds out she’ll have to confess along with her son, to better prepare him.

In the emptiest courtroom ever seen on television, lawyers and prosecutors (I assume) are laying out the case for Nucky’s charges to be tried at the federal level. The judge holds up proceedings to sneer at the lawyer’s choice of truly unfortunate pea-green footwear. The lawyer lays out the case, just as he said he would: Nucky brought prostitutes over state lines to sway voters. The judge agrees with the lawyer, Thoroughgood, so things are looking up for Nucky, I guess.

Nucky, meanwhile, is having his shoes shined and signing over a Bible he plans to give Teddy as a gift. The shoeshine guy congratulates Nucky on “his nephew’s” Communion before taking his tip and leaving. Eddie comes in right after and tells Nucky that George Remus is on the line. Remus is still doing that bizarre thing where he talks about himself in the third person, which is so annoying I almost find it difficult to focus on what he’s saying. He’s calling Nucky to thank him for getting him in touch with that government official who asked about him last week. The intro is allowing Remus to buy his liquor permits straight from the source as often as he needs to. Remus foolishly brags about how rich he is, so Nucky holds his hand out for a finder’s fee, which Remus refuses to pay out, because he’s annoyed with Nucky for not covering some phone charges when he was in AC once. Man, talk about petty. And stupid—does he really want to piss off someone who’s in so tight with the Attorney General, not to mention other powerful people all up and down the east coast? They hang up angrily, and Nucky sticks a $50 in the Bible for Teddy. Wow, score, kid!

Uncle Junior’s at the Commodore’s, reading a book about Alexander the Great to Jimmy, the Commodore, and Gillian. He finishes and hands the book to Jimmy, who asks about Nucky. Junior tells them about the ploy with the AG and admits it’s a smart move. The Commodore tries to say something, but he still can’t speak, and Gillian tells him to settle down and take his medicine. A manservant comes in and wheels him away. Once he’s gone, Junior says he’s glad to see Jimmy keeping his chin up, though he doesn’t think that scalping was necessary. Jimmy lies that he had nothing to do with it, even though Junior clearly doesn’t believe him. He warns Jimmy that he’s alienated some powerful people. Gillian coldly says she doesn’t like what he’s implying, so Junior asks to speak to Jimmy privately. Gillian obligingly leaves, because she knows Jimmy will tell her everything anyway.

Now alone, Jimmy asks Junior how he’d have handled last week’s problem. Instead of answering, Junior talks about Nucky and how, from the very beginning, he thought bigger than all of them, creating a machine that constantly paid out. Junior asks Jimmy if he’s finding it easy, being in charge, and Jimmy says nothing, which says everything you need to know. He tells Junior he started something and he intends to see it through. That’s not precisely what Junior wanted to hear: he wishes Jimmy genuinely wanted to win this thing, not that he’s just doing this because he thinks he has to.

Lucy lumbers around the apartment, looking well and truly uncomfortable. And then, because this is TV, her water breaks and signifies the start of labor. She tearfully collapses onto a chair.

Cut to Eddie popping the cork on a champagne bottle. Not subtle, but heh, nonetheless. Nucky, his lawyer, and Thoroughgood are celebrating Thoroughgood’s victory, which is all the more remarkable because it’s Thoroughgood’s first time in front of a judge. Nucky, meanwhile, is on the phone with the AG, telling him the good news. AG’s happy to hear it, and also thanks Nucky for the intro to Remus, which seems like it was good business for all involved. AG asks Nucky to take care of Thoroughgood and Nucky promises to do so before hanging up. Nucky asks Thoroughgood what he wants, and Thoroughgood says he’s a red-blooded American man, so Nucky orders him up some apple pie. Thoroughgood proves to be a total all-around dork by trying to be suave and saying he prefers cherry pie, a la mode, “if you know what I mean.” “I don’t, actually, but Mr. Kessler will set you up in a suite,” says Nucky, who doesn’t really have time for this idiot. Even Eddie hates this guy.

Sleater delivers Margaret and Teddy to her house and flirts with Katie for a minute before leaving. After he’s gone, Margaret takes Katie into the sitting room and says she knows there’s something going on between her and Sleater, and she doesn’t at all approve.

Van Alden’s at the hospital, presumably waiting for Lucy to deliver. A nurse comes out and tells him he can go in, and he does, but the room he goes into isn’t Lucy’s it’s his toasty deputy, Agent Clarkson’s. Psyche! The other deputy and, I believe, Van Alden’s boss come in as well, and Boss marvels that Clarkson’s even still alive. Van Alden says it’s because he believes in the Lord. Boss scoffs and Van Alden scolds him before starting to pray. As he speaks, Clarkson suddenly regains consciousness, turns to Van Alden, and croaks: “I see you. I know what you did.” I have to say, between this guy and Two Face, the makeup people sure are earning their paychecks this season. Van Alden leaves to, ostensibly, find the doctor, but once outside the room he gasps for air and then freaks out when he notices a flickering overhead light.

Nucky, Rothstein, Chalky, Lucky, Meyer and a few others are sitting around the suite, discussing an incoming shipment. Tensions are running a bit high, but it seems like they come to an agreement.

Lucy’s made it to bed, where she manages to make it through a contraction. Once it passes, she sees a little boy across the way and yells to him through the open window, asking him to get his mother. He looks a little freaked out and just closes the curtain. She sinks back against the pillow, crying in pain and fear.

The Boardwalk’s hopping. Angela and Jimmy are strolling along, talking about buying a radio, but when he sees Nucky and a few of the others coming out of the hotel, Jimmy suddenly kisses her hard, to hide his face until they pass.

Van Alden calls his wife, despite the late hour, and tells her about Clarkson’s injuries. I’m just curious: why wasn’t this brought up last week? This gap in time seems awkward. Anyway, he tells his wife there are things she doesn’t know about him, and she immediately launches into a cheerleading routine, telling him he’s eradicating the evils in the world. Almost tearfully, he tells her that everything he’s done has been for her, which rightly freaks her out. He goes on to say his deputy burned for his sins, and he’s not fit for his office or his marriage. He gives her one last “I love you” before slamming down the phone.

Margaret and Nucky are having some really, really unsexy sex. Wow, I feel a little uncomfortable just having watched that. Afterwards, Nucky lights up a cigarette while Margaret lays there, looking incredibly unsatisfied. After a few moments, she asks him if he finds her unattractive. He tells her he thinks she’s plenty attractive, and she admits it feels like he’s somewhere else a lot of the time. He sets the cigarette aside and kindly asks her what’s on her mind. She tells him she has to make a confession in preparation for Teddy’s communion. Nucky asks her what she plans to say and, a little playfully, she says that’s between her and God. Nucky reminds her that there’s a priest involved here, and she tells him the priest won’t say anything, because what’s said in the confessional is sacred and secret. She slides out of bed to go to the bathroom, and Nucky suddenly asks her how Catholic she is. I thought this was going to be another discussion about her use of birth control, but no, Nucky wants to know just how much of their shared history she plans to share with the priest. She advises him to see a priest himself, if he’s feeling guilty.

The following morning, Jimmy’s having breakfast when the phone rings. Angela hands it off to Jimmy, who sends Angela and his son off when he realizes it’s his butcher buddy fromPhiladelphia. Jimmy immediately lights into him, because one of the men he saw with Nucky the night before on the Boardwalk was Butcher’s buddy, Herman, the guy Jimmy met at the Butcher’s shop the last time. Jimmy figures Butcher’s screwing him over and going to Nucky for his booze, reneging on his deal with Jimmy. Butcher knows nothing about this, and he’s pretty pissed. Butcher says he’ll call back. I think someone’s about to get served up as porkchops and stew meat.

Sleater arrives at Margaret’s and oh-so-casually asks if Katie’s there. She sharply tells him Katie took the kids out, and then she gets an attitude with him for mistakenly calling her Mrs. Thompson. He apologizes and goes on to say that the flirting with Katie was all his fault, and she shouldn’t take it out on the maid. Margaret asks him if he’s in the habit of toying with women and he laughs and says he wouldn’t call it a habit. Just as things start to get nice and sexually charged, Nucky comes in and takes Sleater away.

Poor Lucy’s still all by herself, somehow standing up and brushing her hair. This must be a seriously slow labor—it’s been, what? 24 hours now? And if she can get up to brush her hair, can’t she waddle across the hall or something and get some help? She yanks the blankets aside on the bed, lays down a towel, lays on top of it, and gets back to work.

In DC, Walter Edge arrives for a surprise meeting with the AG. Edge wastes no time accusing the AG of putting the bureau of veterans’ affairs in the hands of someone who’s just going to use it for profit. And Edge has a powerful constituent calling for a subcommittee to be called to look into this matter. As it just so happens, that same constituent hates Nucky, so he’ll drop the investigation into the veterans’ bureau if the AG actually prosecutes Nucky. I knew this jerk was going to end up screwing Nucky over in the end.

Jimmy’s gone all the way over toPhiladelphia, where the Butcher leads him into his meat locker, where Herman’s all trussed up, hanging with the sides of meat. Even Jimmy’s shocked by this treatment. Herman begs for help, but Jimmy recovers and just looks away. Butcher’s already gotten a confession out of Herman: Herman was working for Waxy Gordon, the gangster Nucky’s dealing with now, and spying on Butcher. As the Butcher starts ominously sharpening some knives in the background, Herman tells Jimmy about the ships Nucky’s got coming in that very night. Jimmy asks what Nucky needs Gordon for and Herman tells him he needs protection. Butcher figures Nucky and the others are scared of them.

Now they’ve gotten all the info they can out of Herman, it’s time to do away with him. But Butcher can’t do it, because Herman’s injured, and it’s just not right to kill an injured man, you know. Butcher’s got principles. Jimmy tries to turn down this dubious honor, but Butcher essentially calls him chicken, so Jimmy takes the knife and slits Herman’s throat.

In the church, parents and kids are all lined up on the pews next to the confessional. It’s Margaret’s turn, and in she goes. For those interested, it’s been four years since she last confessed. Wow, that’s quite a long time for a practicing Catholic. She says she has nothing to confess, even though she’s sinned. The priest urges her to unburden her soul, so she can repair her relationship with God. Margaret admits that there’s a man in her life whom she knows is bad, but she’s drawn to him. She’s not talking about Nucky.

Nucky’s getting rejected from all sides. He’s on the phone with the AG, learning just how thoroughly he’s about to be screwed. While he’s on the phone, AG Dougherty’s getting his shoes shined as well. Kind of a leitmotif this episode. I guess if you really reach you can kind of tie it to the whole confession aspect—shining your soul, getting it all nice and clean and new again. Nucky is not happy about this situation, but it looks like the AG’s done helping him.

Nucky takes it out on Thoroughgood, who’s in bed with a couple of ladies when Eddie walks in and tells him he’s got five minutes to clear out.

Lucy’s still in labor, straining and pushing and wailing. How thick are the walls in this place? Can’t anyone hear her? Finally, she manages to deliver the baby all by her lonesome. It screams and she stares down at it in a kind of horror.

Van Alden returns to the hospital, where Boss is sitting by Clarkson’s beside, smoking and keeping him company. Van Alden explains he’s been in the chapel all night. He says Clarkson’s a good, honest man and Van Alden should be the one all horribly burned and in a hospital bed. He gets ready to make a confession to Boss, but then Clarkson looks up at the nurse and repeats his “I see you, I know what you did,” line. She tells the men that Clarkson’s been saying that to everyone he sees. Van Alden reaches out and grabs this lifeline and takes off, telling the Boss what he’d been planning to say wasn’t important.

He returns home with the lemons Lucy asked for and notices the broken plate she dropped in the kitchen when she went into labor. He goes looking for her and finds her in the bed with the baby. Unable to quite formulate the right words, he tells her he brought lemons. Hee! She tells him the baby’s a girl, and he actually starts to smile for a bit before heading out to find a doctor. Lucy smiles sweetly down at the baby and leans in to kiss her on the forehead.

A convoy of trucks moves through the woods late at night, and already we know there’s going to be trouble, because convoys always get into trouble in these woods at night. Sure enough, the lead truck, with Meyer in it, pops a tire and they pull over, guns drawn. Lucky gets out of the next truck and bends down to look at the tire. He realizes this wasn’t due to an errant nail just as shots start to ring out. The apparently bulletproof truck takes the brunt of the gunfire, but then I guess everyone runs out of ammo, and Jimmy calls out for them to drop their guns. Lucky recognizes the voice and identifies Jimmy, telling him who he’s shooting at. Butcher’s out there with Jimmy, surprised that Jimmy knows this guy. Everyone agrees to come out, and Jimmy demands to know what Lucky’s doing and Lucky tells him they’re making a delivery on behalf of Rothstein and Thompson. TF, in his only scene in this whole episode, can’t believe this is happening. Yes, the underworld is amazingly incestuous, isn’t it? It’s almost as if there aren’t that many people capable of carrying out large-scale criminal enterprises in specific geographic areas. Butcher asks Jimmy what he wants to do, but Jimmy clearly doesn’t know. Meyer speaks up, reminding Jimmy that they were talking about partnering up over heroin, so why get into a deadly scuffle over a few trucks worth of liquor? Butcher, who isn’t going to be in on this heroin deal, wants his money from the liquor, so Jimmy suggests Meyer and Lucky advance them the money. Lucky agrees, and Jimmy tells Butcher that it’s not good business to just go killing everyone. Guns are lowered and Jimmy tells the boys to deliver their liquor to Chalky, and they’ll all meet up later and figure out how to steal it all back. One of the drivers worries about Waxy Gordon taking retribution, so Butcher just shoots him. Yeah, he’s not going to be a problem at all. Jimmy closes his eyes for a second, like he just can’t believe the idiots he has to deal with. Lucky and Meyer get into the non bullet-riddled truck and drive off.

Van Alden returns to the apartment with a doctor and notices the lemons have been put in a bowl, Lucy’s water’s been mopped up, and her nightgown’s been left to soak in the kitchen sink. I think we can all see where this is going. He turns and heads into the bedroom, where, of course, he finds his wife tending to Lucy. Yeah, Nelson, you’ve got some ‘splainin’ to do. His wife turns and gives him an absolute look of death before telling the doctor Lucy has a slight fever. She takes Van Alden into the other room for a chat, explaining coldly that she came because he sounded upset on the phone and she was worried, like any sensible person would be. He tells her he did this for them, that the child is for her, like this is some kind of gift or something. Wow, Van Alden, that took some serious balls, to basically tell your wife that you cheated for her. She takes that about as well as you’d expect, freaking out, beating and biting him, and then bursting out of the apartment. Well, at least he’s already got a doctor there to tend to his wound.

Teddy, dressed in a white suit, is posing for a photographer on his communion day. Nucky and Margaret sit by, like proud parents, and Nucky asks Margaret if she’s unburdened herself. She says she has, and then looks nice and uncomfortable as Sleater comes in and says he’ll bring the car around. The nanny brings Margaret’s daughter down and says how sweet Teddy looks. The kid poses stiffly, and the photographer takes the shot, the smoke from his flash curling and dissipating toward the ceiling, like so many relinquished sins.

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