Boardwalk Empire: Valentine’s Day

Previously on Boardwalk Empire: The Commodore and Co. hit Nucky hard by sending the Klan to attack one of Chalky’s warehouses. Because Chalky’s not the type to take that sort of thing lying down, he killed a Klansman and had to be placed under arrest for his own safety. While he was locked up, Jimmy and Two Face cleaned out the warehouse and sold the hooch on to Mickey Doyle. Van Alden and his wife had some quality time together before she went home to her prayers and he went home to his pregnant one night stand. The evening ended with Nucky being arrested for election fraud, forcing him to stand up Margaret and the kids at the movies.

Margaret comes down the stairs early in the morning to the sound of three ladies—her maid, her cook, and one other woman not in uniform—whispering together. They spring apart when she appears and she asks what’s up. The cook hands over the newspaper, which has a big headline on the front page about Nucky being arrested. Margaret holds it together to an almost creepy extent and asks about the weather and chats a bit out the kids, clearly freaking her staff out. The ununiformed woman—the nanny, apparently—hands Margaret a Valentine’s Day card from the kids, and the cook asks if a dinner party planned for that evening is still on. Apparently Margaret thinks it is, because she tells the maid to beat one of the carpets before the guests arrive.

Nucky’s offices are being ripped apart, literally, by the investigators. Eddie watches, horrified, before the phone rings to distract him. It’s Margaret, calling to find out what the hell is going on. Eddie reassures her that the papers have exaggerated what’s happened and that Nucky’s being bailed out as they speak. Margaret starts to ask him something, but he hangs up before she can get it out, and as Margaret hangs up the phone on her end, she asks the maid what kind of coat she has.

Nucky and Chalky are in a jail cell together, which I can only assume is due to Nucky specifically requesting it. Nucky tells Chalky that he (Chalky) is in a precarious situation and he had him arrested for his own safety. He realizes that it’s no coincidence that the attack on Chalky and his own arrest came so close together.

Nucky and Chalky chat about election night, and Chalky thinks Neary is the crony who might have turned on Nucky, just because he’s a dick. But both Nucky and Chalky know that none of the cronies would turn without someone giving them a bit of a push. And there’s only one person in Atlantic City who could do that.

Jimmy’s taken a field trip to New York to make nice with Rothstein and Luciano. He sucks up to Rothstein a bit, and Rothstein notes that Jimmy’s more well spoken than he would have expected. Jimmy tells him things are changing in AC, that he’s expanding his business and can supply Rothstein with all the booze he needs. Rothstein asks where Nucky stands in all this and Jimmy evasively says Nucky’s like a father to him. Rothstein asks just who Jimmy is: a year ago, he was a brigand in the woods, and now he’s talking about having a business and approaching Rothstein, all nicely dressed. Jimmy says he’s a veteran, a businessman, husband, and father. Rothstein applauds Jimmy’s audacity and reassures him his offer will remain in the room, which isn’t exactly the answer Jimmy was hoping for, but it’s all he’s going to get for now. Luciano goes to show him out, and Rothstein calls after him that it’s odd, isn’t it, that neither of them has mentioned that Nucky spent the previous night in jail? Jimmy plays dumb, but he and Rothstein both know what’s going on down in Atlantic City.

Outside Rothstein’s office, Luciano asks Jimmy if he likes to play poker, because Meyer has a game going on downtown. Jimmy, clearly remembering that he and Charlie didn’t part on the best of terms last time they met, thinks this is a setup, which gets Luciano’s hackles up, but he calms down enough to tell Jimmy that Meyer thinks the two of them should work together.

Nucky’s giving himself a quick shave before facing the press outside the jail, with his lawyer and Eddie in attendance. The lawyer tells Nucky this is all coming from the governor, and that the state’s attorney, Bishop, is gunning for Nucky big time, The lawyer hasn’t seen the indictment, but he’s heard gossip that Nucky’s ship is leaking, though they don’t know who the leak is. He takes off to get to work, and once they’re alone, Eddie tells Nucky that Margaret knows about his arrest. What’s more, the state police have barred Eddie from the suite, but not before touching Nucky’s things in a way Eddie found offensive. I don’t even want to know what the hell they were doing to offend Eddie, who used to walk in on Lucy in all sorts of undress without batting an eye. Nucky thinks for a minute and then remembers that, as treasurer, he must have another office somewhere.

Bishop’s sitting at Nucky’s desk, going through his things when one of his minions tells him there’s a lady there. Bishop goes to the door and finds Margaret, dressed up all poor, playing the exact same role as when she first met Nucky. Clutching her belly, she piteously tells the men she’s got two small children at home, and Nucky promised to help her out. The men don’t know what to do with her, because pregnant women are a total mystery to manly men. Bishop tells the minion to get her a glass of water, but Margaret asks to use the facilities instead. Bishop waves her through.

Nucky emerges from the jail and starts cracking jokes to the crowd of reporters outside. Unusually, all he hears are crickets when he’s done. And when he tries to speechify about the men in Trenton wasting their tax dollars on a political vendetta, they shut him down and ask if AC’s really dirty. Nucky gives up and climbs into his car.

Nucky’s cronies have run to the Commodore’s to freak out and wonder what’s going to happen next. The Commodore wanders in and tells one of them to pick up a huge tusk, which the man can’t do, so the Commodore does it instead. So we all understand who the toughest guy in the room is. I think we get it, Boardwalk. And while we’re at it, no more lingering shots or mentions of that stupid bear the Commodore shot that one time. We. Get. It. The Commodore, Eli, and some of the cronies dump on Nucky for a while, but then one of them (Fleming, the one who was supposed to get Nucky’s dad’s house last season) reminds them all that Nucky’s slippery and likely to escape this indictment. Fleming’s clearly not comfortable screwing Nucky over, which suggests he’s twice as smart as any of the other cronies in the room. The Commodore reassures everyone that Nucky’s going to jail, thanks to the future testimony of Neary and Patrick Ryan, and once he’s gone, the booze business will be wide open. The Commodore just so happens to be president of the yacht club, with a firm hold over the Coast Guard, which puts them in a good position to take that lucrative business right over.

Bishop’s assistant takes Margaret down in the elevator, and she walks out the front door of the hotel with nobody giving her a second glance.

Chalky’s wife is visiting him in jail. They talk about their kids a bit, and he tells her it might be a little while before he gets out. She hands him a copy of David Copperfield that their son sent, and Chalky asks her to pass along his thanks. Before she leaves, she reminds him that he has a family waiting for him that loves him. He sweetly calls her his valentine and kisses the back of her hand. Once she’s gone, a man in the cell across the hall whistles after her. Chalky tells the man that’s his wife, and the guy backs off a bit, telling Chalky he didn’t mean any offense. He introduces himself as Dunn Pernsley and explains with quite a bit of pride that he’s in for fighting. Chalky goes to read his book and Dunn asks him what it is. Chalky lies that it’s Tom Sawyer, and Dunn asks him to read it aloud. One of the other men in his cell tell him to leave Chalky alone, and Dunn snaps that he wasn’t talking to him. He asks Chalky what his name is and one of his cellmates says that’s Chalky White. Dunn, who’s an out-of-towner, thinks Chalky’s name is hilarious. Things are already getting tense between these two. Then, of course, the guard shows up with a white guy and tells Chalky he’s going to have to join Dunn and the other boys across the way, because they can’t have races mixing, can they?

Nucky and Eddie arrive at his treasurer’s office, surprising the secretary, who’s clearly never had to do much of anything in this job. Nucky asks her to call up the sheriff and the aldermen from each ward and have them come meet him. He also asks her to find a florist.

Margaret’s getting ready for her party, insisting that Nucky will be there as expected. A large bouquet of red roses arrives for her, with a Valentine’s Day card that’s unsigned. The kids come streaking through, Theodore wielding a hammer, which Margaret grabs before yelling at him for playing dangerously. She sends him away as someone knocks on the door. It’s a man with a thick Irish accent who asks to speak with Mrs. Thompson. He’s come from one of that evening’s dinner guests. Margaret, still holding the hammer, is thrown, and the guy thinks she’s being an idiot maid, so he nudges her along. Margaret collects herself and tells him she’s the lady of the house. He proceeds to further shove his foot in his mouth by mistaking the nanny for one of her daughters, and when Margaret corrects him, he jokes about having dug a hell of a hole for himself. Margaret snappishly asks what he wants and he explains that he’s there to make sure the house is safe for his boss. Margaret tells him she’s not inclined to threaten her guests, and he reminds her that she’s the one holding a hammer.

Back in the jail, Dunn can’t shut the hell up, talking about how he spent years on a chain gang, and then going back after Chalky, making lewd comments about his wife just to get him riled. Chalky tells him he can fantasize all he wants, it’ll just be between him and his right hand, anyway. Dunn stares at him a minute, then cracks up, telling Chalky that the two of them are going to get along just fine. Oh, I’m so sure.

Mayor Bader shows up at Nucky’s crappy treasurer’s office, and Nucky immediately asks him if anyone’s approached him—one of the other cronies, or perhaps the Commodore? Bader gets serious fast and asks Nucky how bad this really is. It’s bad, Bader. The man was arrested. Nucky tells him he’s going to beat this, and when he does, he’ll remember who his real friends were. He shows Bader out, and the secretary tells him it’s safe to go back to his suite at the Ritz.

The other cronies have gathered in some parade float warehouse to discuss this change in allegiance they’re contemplating. One of them’s all for it, because he thinks it’ll mean more money for less effort. And why would you think that, Crony 1? Illegal activities always come with major headaches, no matter who’s running the show. He goes on to say that Nucky’s not in control, what with the shootings on the boardwalk and the elections that weren’t total landslides. Fleming’s still not sure, but the other crony (I’m guessing it’s Neary) moves into bully mode and tells them that anyone who’s not on the right side here is going to be seriously screwed.

Jimmy shows up at the crappy, lower east side tenement office where Meyer runs the game. Meyer explains that the whole thing’s under Rothstein’s protection, so they don’t have any trouble. Lucky, lounging against the wall and smoking, tells Jimmy that they have other enterprises going as well, with the implication being that Rothstein doesn’t know about them. Meyer dispatches his assistant to get some junk food, and the guy makes some weird birdcall in Jimmy’s face before leaving. Meyer explains that sometimes, the guy does funny things. Uh huh.

Jimmy sits and the boys start to talk business. Luciano says he would have taken Jimmy’s deal, if he was in Rothstein’s place, and Jimmy shortly says he isn’t Rothstein, and he doesn’t need help from Rothstein’s wingman. Lucky asks him what his problem is, and Jimmy brings up his mother, so Lucky tells him that relationship was pretty damn consensual, and it looks like things are going to devolve from there, but Meyer gets between them and tells them to simmer down. They do, and Meyer tells Jimmy that he and Lucky want to work out a trade with Jimmy: They’ll buy liquor from Jimmy, and he’ll buy heroin from them. Woah. That’s a hell of a step up, there.

Sleater, the guard with foot-in-mouth disease, emerges from Margaret’s kitchen and finds her struggling with the rug she had the maid clean earlier. He watches her for a moment, then steps in to lend a hand. Margaret makes small talk about how Sleater’s been traveling around the country with his boss, drumming up funds for their cause, which is, apparently, Irish independence. They’re part of Sinn Féin. He tells her that, once upon a time, he was a livestock inspector, before the rebellion up north. He figures she’s from the west and she tells him she’s from Kerry. He asks if she has family there and she says she doesn’t, and he points out that means she won’t have to choose sides. Because once you move to a different country, you no longer have any interest at all in your homeland, right?

Nucky arrives back at his trashed office and finds Eddie scrubbing at a water mark on the desk. Eddie’s enraged by the damage the men have done, but all Nucky cares about is the ledger and cash he had stashed under his shoes in the bedroom. Both are gone. He takes a minute to absorb that before Eddie comes in and tells him that Fleming’s there to speak with him. Nucky goes out into the office where a very nervous Fleming tells him that he tried to talk the other cronies out of joining up with the Commodore, but all they can see is money, money, money. The phone rings and Nucky answers it. It’s Eli, who asks Nucky how it feels sitting at his fancy desk, all alone. Nucky tells his brother that, if he gets out now, Nucky will help him out, but he has to decide right away. Eli tells Nucky he has nothing, then hangs up on him. Nucky takes a moment before saying he has to be somewhere for dinner.

Eli sets the phone aside in the Commodore’s house, looking kind of depressed. The Commodore chuckles that it feels good to twist the knife, then invites Eli to come meet the men who built Atlantic City. They step into an adjoining room, where a bunch of suited old men raise their glasses to the two of them. It’s not a terribly inspiring sight, if we’re being honest. It looks like Eli agrees with me.

Jimmy’s hustling his poker game a little, while watching Meyer conduct business in the adjoining room. The men he’s speaking with go to leave, and Meyer’s weirdo assistant throws them some insults, then does his weird bird thing until Meyer tells him to lay off. The kid cashes Jimmy out and Jimmy asks Meyer who the guys were. Meyer explains that they were representatives of Mr. Masseria, who apparently thinks he owns the lower east side.

Chalky’s making good headway on his book. It’s not like there’s much conversation to distract him. Dunn asks what Tom’s up to, and Chalky makes something up, so Dunn points to a paragraph and asks what it says there, in a slightly threatening none. Chalky tells him to get his finger out of his face. I think Chalky’s had just about enough of this jerk. Dunn can’t stop swinging his dick around, though, and goes back to talking about Chalky’s fancy suit and fancy wife and how he acts like he’s better than Dunn, when he’s still just another black guy in a jail cell. Then, like a moron, Dunn grabs the book away, leaving Chalky with just a torn page in his hand. And then Chalky is just done.

He starts addressing the other men in the cell by name, and of course, it seems that each one of them owes him a favor of some kind, or they will, shortly. Once the introductions are over, the other men grab Dunn and proceed to beat the ever living hell out of him. Once they’re done, they pick up the book and hand it back to Chalky, who hands it off to one of them to read aloud. Let that be a lesson to you all: if you’re a stranger, keep your damn mouth shut.

Margaret’s dinner party is going ahead as planned, even though Nucky’s not there. The guests are a Mr. McGarrigle, Sleater’s boss, and the gravel guy from last week. Margaret asks McGarrigle why he’s not eating the lamb, and he informs her that he does not eat meat that walked on a cloven hoof. So, he keeps kosher, then? Odd. Margaret apologizes, saying she was not aware of his preference, and he proceeds to be a bit of a dick by saying it’s not a preference, it’s an ironclad principle. Gravel suggests it has something to do with the devil having hooves, I think, and there’s an allusion to the fact that AC’s a bit of a devil’s town, what with its reputation for pleasure. McGarrigle sniffs that he can see the whole country’s beset by licentiousness and turpitude, and Margaret snits that this is clearly something else not to his liking. He starts talking about how all he cares about is driving the English invaders from Irish soil, no matter what the cost. Margaret calls that an extreme position, and he tells her it only seems that way to those who’ve forgotten where they came from. Man, rude much? You’re in her house, enjoying her hospitality, you jerk! Show some damn manners! Margaret snaps that she knows where she’s from, and he tells her she’s plainspoken “for a woman.”

Thankfully, Nucky shows up just then, apologizing for being late. McGarrigle calls him out for having a Protestant name and asks if they can get right to business. Nucky wants to eat first. Margaret smiles that there’s definitely plenty of lamb. Heh.

As Jimmy’s leaving his poker game, he takes a minute to remove his skullcrusher knife from his boot and tuck it into the back of his waistband. He wanders over to a park, where he stands in front of a temple housing a fountain and statue of Temperance. As he stands there, Masseria’s two men close in on him, guns drawn, and tell him to hand over the cash he won in the game. Jimmy tells them the money’s in his boot, so one of them bends to get it, like a moron. In an instant, Jimmy’s pulled his knife, stabbed one, slashed the other’s throat, and stabbed the first guy in the back, just for good measure. Damn. He leaves them there, bleeding out in the white marble temple.

Nucky and the gentlemen have repaired to the living room after dinner. Nucky offers more port all around, but McGarrigle refuses, which means Gravel has to regretfully pass on seconds as well. McGarrigle asks for money to support the cause of Irish independence, and Nucky willingly writes him a check, asking Gravel to remind his Irish friends that Nucky’s on their side. McGarrigle hands the check off to Sleater, who tucks it into his jacket pocket. Gravel and McGarrigle then ask Nucky if he can help Sleater get a job, because he’s going to be sticking around for a while. Seems he has no stomach left for the fight. Is it really that, or is he just a few steps ahead of a magistrate in Ireland? Only time will tell. Nucky promises to see what he can do. He tries to get rid of the men so he can settle down and think, but now McGarrigle’s gotten what he wanted, he’s happy to accept another glass of port.

Margaret’s helping the maid clean up, and the maid’s surprised to hear that Margaret used to be in service. As they move plates, they catch sight of Nucky showing the men out, and Sleater takes a minute to give the maid a flirty look, which she returns. Margaret doesn’t seem too happy to see that.

Margaret joins Nucky in the living room, where he’s sitting in front of the fire. He calls her over and tells her he knows they need to talk, so she asks flat out if there’s a good case against him. He admits there is, and that all the ward bosses except Fleming are against him. He’s pretty sure Jimmy’s with them too. She asks about Eli, clearly aware that Eli’s betraying him, and Nucky admits that’s true. Sounding tired, Nucky says he keeps people satisfied. Margaret knowingly says they won’t be satisfied. Clearly. Nucky mentions the ledger and the missing cash, figuring the investigators found it. He guesses they got their hands on about $20K. Damn, Nucky, find a bank! Just make sure you get your cash out of there before 1929.

Margaret figures that’s not too much money, in the grand scheme of things, as she wanders over to a table and pulls the ledger and cash wallet out of a locked drawer. As Nucky looks at her in shock and a little awe, she tells him that he’s smarter than his enemies, but he’s not thinking clearly right now, and he needs to focus. He asks her how she got her hands on the cash and ledger and she tells him she paid a little visit to his suite. She hands him the cash, but tells him the leger has to be burned and any future business committed to memory. He nods in agreement and she tosses it on the fire. She sits beside him, taking his hand and tenderly observing that he looks exhausted. He sort of apologizes for not signing her Valentine’s Day card, but she tells him she knew who the flowers were from. She kisses him on the forehead and tells him to come up to bed. Nucky, seriously, marry this woman. What’s keeping you? She’s a great asset!

2 thoughts on “Boardwalk Empire: Valentine’s Day

  1. Your efforts here are just fantastic. Thank you. I couldn’t follow some of the Irish conversation and was perplexed by the cloven hoof dialog and in trying to understand why a Catholic would keep kosher, stumbled upon your blog. I will follow you anywhere! This really helps clear up some of the little details I can’t make out. Plus, I just cannot get enough BW. Thanks again.

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