Boardwalk Empire 2.04 — What Does the Bee Do?

This week’s episode was full of adult content. There’s some great nudity and some cheeky humor. But the truly adult content lies in the emotional moments. There’s some T&A inside tonight’s recap, but there’s also some scenes that are so honest they hurt.

A little ragtime music and a warehouse full of barrels and boxes of booze. We hear Jimmy before we see him. He’s complaining about needing more space. It seems they’ve got all the booze confiscated from McCoy’s ships. Jimmy and Richard get in Jimmy’s car and head out in the night.

The Commodore is at home, eyes closed waiting for what turns out to be Gillian doing a half-naked interpretive dance to “The Pipes of Pan.” She’s “Diana, daughter of Jupiter.” She tells him he should have come to watch her perform at least once. He replies that he didn’t like the idea of her naked in front of other men. She tells him he could have married her; she had a boy to raise.

As she continuous her sensuous dancing she says it means a lot to her that he’s taking care of Jimmy now. The Commodore wants her mouth, but not talking. He keeps calling her over while she keeps dancing out of reach. She tells tales of Diana then strips completely as he says, “Get your ass over here.” Then he starts to shake and something’s clearly wrong. She’s yells “Louis! Louis!” but doesn’t really do anything (not that there’s anything she could do, but still).

At the Schroeder/Thompson home, little Emily is singing at the breakfast table:

What does the bee do? Bring home honey.
What does the daddy do? Bring home money.
What does momma do? Lay out the money.
What do children do? Eat up the honey!

Nucky comes in and greets the family. He won’t be joining them for breakfast or dinner. It’s Mayor Ed Bader’s birthday and there will be a party that evening. Mr. Sleater comes in and Nucky says “Top o’ the mornin’” which leads to some not so witty stereotypes about the Irish that Sleater is actually witty in response to. Margaret gets all serious and makes it clear that she is not amused.

Sleater leaves and then Kitty takes the children to get them ready for the day. When both are gone Margaret comments to Nucky that Owen is “a bit cheeky”.

Nucky’s got a little cash bonus for the help this week. Margaret says they should be saving and then she says the servants don’t need it because they steal — that’s what the help does. And Nucky says yes, and they (the wealthy) pretend not to notice. Margaret comments about how she never got a bonus when she was in service and I roll my eyes at the petulance. She’s done a one-eighty since Kitty’s comment last week.

At Chalky’s house, he’s at the breakfast table with the family. His youngest daughter comes running in and his older girl, Maybell, asks when he got home.  The little one asks for daddy to check her homework. He says to let their mother do it. It’s clear the younger daughter doesn’t know he can’t read, but there’s the suggestion through the camera that the his son, Lester, and Maybell have figured it out.

We learn that Maybell has a beau, Samuel, and he’s coming to dinner the next evening. He’s planning to study medicine; Chalky calls him an educated “buck.” Lester looks a bit uncomfortable; afterall, he’s “an educated buck” too. But Chalky agrees to the dinner and says he’s been craving “hoppin’ John” for ages.

At the Darmody home, Angela is hammering into the wall when Richard comes knocking. He’s there to pick up Jimmy and Angela had assumed Jimmy was with Richard. She says his mother called late the night before. Angela has a painting to hang on the wall. She puts it up and Richard comments “very bold.” It’s an original by Angela.

Richard mentions an artist whose work he saw in Paris. The man painted cityscapes barren of people and he was clearly moved by the emotion evoked by the images. Angela is familiar with the artist and talks about the paintings he also did of people to look like mannequins. She then asks him if he’s ever posed and he says no, and seems embarrassed. He says he drew as a child, that it was relaxing. Angela says it can also be maddening. The looks between them are so serious. And it’s clear that he’s smitten with her, but not necessarily in a romantic way. He so wants this life he sees her and Jimmy living.

We learn that the Commodore has had a stroke and his right side is paralyzed. Gillian claims that she found him like this when the doc asks if he was agitated or excited beforehand. The Commodore is able to eat but cannot speak, though he tries. He draws Eli in and tries to talk and the best translation after multiple attempts is “cock f***er,” but that’s just my ear. They all leave the room and Eli calls him a vegetable. Gillian’s deluded that he’s going to be fine. She’s also insistent that everything’s normal as far as she and Jimmy are concerned — Jimmy will handle it. Eli’s pissy and impatient about selling the booze. He leaves in a huff because they’re $70k in.

On the boardwalk Nucky’s talking to Kessler about the Mayor’s birthday celebration. They enter the Ritz and head up to his office. He asks for some eggs to be sent up and to get Rothstein on the phone.

We then get to see Rothstein’s home, where he takes the call. A brief conversation with his wife informs us that he has a stomach problem and I can’t decide if it’s a throwaway detail or if it will be important down the road.

On the call, Nucky’s mentions his change in circumstance — he needs a port to land some cargo. The Coast Guard’s locked him down in Atlantic City. Rothstein offers Long Island first, but that’s too far. He says Philly would mean cutting in Waxy Gordon (at 20% for him and 20% for Rothstein). Rothstein can sweeten the offer though, by giving him Luciano to oversee the operations. They hang up with an agreement on Philadelphia. (Poor Charlie doesn’t even get consulted before his services are offered.)

Chalky is at a gathering of members of the black community who have concerns that need addressing. It seems some complaints have piled up since he was in jail. A little old lady – Mrs. Mayhew — stands up and talks about the couple next door to her who are partying a little too much for her comfort level. There’s a hint that maybe they don’t cover their windows either. It’s amusing, but nothing major. Then Travis Elkin who has been in the Ritz kitchen for 6 months has some more serious complaints about the labor practices there and the quality of the shift meal the men are being given. Chalky says he’ll take care of Mrs. Mayhew’s situation and look into practices at the Ritz.

He’s about to leave when a woman stands up asking about her husband — a man who died when the Klan came to the warehouse. Three other women stand regarding the same issue. Chalky says he’ll take care of it. The first woman wants to know when — she says he takes from everyone’s plate and gives nothing back “except a summer clam bake and a Christmas turkey” (which is more than some people are getting from the criminals looking out for them, but hey, I get that she’s pissed). I feel bad for Chalky here, though, because we know he’s upset about what happened but his hands are tied. He cared about losing those men; we’ve seen it. But you have to feel for these women too — women who have lost sons and husbands.

Van Alden is busy in his office tracking seized funds in a ledger. There’s something sketchy (again) about Van Alden’s insistence in logging and strapping all the cash himself. You can tell that Agent Clarkson is suspicious and when Van Alden goes to the WC he talks to Zewisky (whose first name we learn is Stan) about something strange going on and the number of agents who take bribes. Clarkson tailed Van Alden the month before and saw him go to a bar. Now he’s threatening to tell the world. Van Alden comes back and says “heads will roll.” Apparently someone wrote “Van Asshole” on the restroom wall. Ha ha! That’s wonderful, although Mr. Asshole himself doesn’t think so.

Oh great. Margaret informs the staff that they have to scale back and she’s suggesting they might need to have a wage cut in the future. But this week she has a $2 bonus for each of them. They’re speechless and she forces them to say thank you. They’re upset though at the prospect of a pay cut because they were expecting a raise based on something Nucky had said a few weeks earlier (when he “may have been drinking”) and they have other family members they’re supporting with their wages. Margaret says, “It’s a special kind of fool who relies on the promise of a drunkard.” Wow. Last week she was drinking with them, this week she’s being a bitch. We know it’s because of Kitty’s comment, but good grief she doesn’t have to give them all crap.

Just a few days ago she was drinking with us. Now she's cutting our pay? WTF?

In Philly, Jimmy is being introduced by Mickey Doyle to Manny Horvitz, a butcher who clearly does more than chop up meat in accord with halakha. Jimmy pleases him though when he manages to slowly recite a single line of Yiddish: It’s nice to meet you. Horvitz asked looks behind Jimmy and blunty asked what happened to Richard who replies that he put his nose where it didn’t belong.

They talk a bit about business practices in Philly while Horvitz chops up some liver that makes me want to gag. Jimmy asks what Horvitz’s problem is and we learn it’s Waxy Gordon (who Nucky will have to work with to bring liquor into Philly). Horvitz isn’t a fan of Waxy. They’ve heard Jimmy is flush with hooch, however, and they’ve got the money to buy it. He needs 100 cases a week to supply 30 to 40 speakeasies, with possible growth from there. Jimmy insists on cash in advance but they can do the delivery any time, next day if Horvitz wants. They shake on it and Horvitz let’s Jimmy know his icebox is filled with guys who’ve tried to fuck him over. Jimmy’s calm when he says he’s just got “creamsicles” in his icebox. They shake again and Jimmy says Richard will be in touch.

There’s some frantic autograph signing outsize the Ritz by someone named Jack. Then upstairs the mayor’s birthday party is going strong. Between Gillian getting naked earlier and the room full of whores teasing the mayor and his guests, we’re finally getting the T&A we’ve been missing so far this season. There’s even a mistress in charge with gorgeous red hair, wearing a leather corset and wielding a riding crop — that’s my kind of party favor.

Some of the girls get the mayor’s pants down and we sees he’s been blindfolded while they toy with him. Then gets a nice spanking before he blows out his candles. They tell him to make a wish and with a smile he says, “This was my wish.” Oh, Mr. Mayor, what a naughty boy you are.

Happy Birthday, Mister Mayor.

The celebrity from out front comes in and we learn that he’s Jack Dempsey, the famous boxer. The man with him is the mayor of Jersey City. They talk about Dempsey’s training and Nucky says he should train here, in Atlantic City. And then as a side note, we find out that the ladies in attendance aren’t AC natives. It turns out they were trucked in from Philly during the election to persuade certain people to vote Republican. (Is that how the GOP does it? I’m so liberal the Dutch seem conservative to me, but even I might vote Republican for the right sexual favors.)

Nucky’s lawyer picks up on the Philly reference and pulls Nucky into the next room. It turns out that moving whores across state lines is a federal charge. Well, we know what that means. Get that charge added on and they can get the attorney general involved.

At Van Alden’s office, his frigid wife Rose is calling. She tried calling the boarding house five times the night before and was told that he didn’t live there anymore. She was frightened and worried something had happened. Van Alden assures her he still lives there and he’ll get things straightened out. I wonder how he’ll manage that since he really isn’t at the boardinghouse anymore. Hmm. Rose is agitated and clearly seeking something to say, so she mentions that the attic mice have been very active recently. She wants to know when he’ll be coming home for a visit. She cries a little and says she’s lonely and doesn’t like the way he sounds. He doesn’t really make her feel better, hanging up after a rushed “take care and God bless.” There’s no “I love you” or “I miss you” or even a believable comment that he’ll come home soon. And it’s not really surprising.

Chalky and Nucky are meeting about the dead men. Nucky wants him to sit tight, but Chalky wants action. It took money from Nucky and his lawyer to get Chalky out of jail and you know Nucky’s going to hold that one over his head for as long as he needs to and then some. Nucky says he’s given Chalky his word, to relax and enjoy his family. Chalky reminds him he’s got four other families looking to him for justice.

The state’s attorney is meeting with three of the whores, including my hot redhead, taking their sworn statements that they were brought from Philly specifically to have sex with men they were to influence to vote for specific candidates. The SA is pleased because the charges keep piling up. You can tell the whores are amused because even if they don’t know exactly why they’re doing this, they know it’s not for the SA’s benefit.

Richard is sitting for Angela. He’s looking at her and Jimmy’s wedding photo while she sketches him and blurts out, “He loves you.” Richard carefully moves only his eyes to look at her and Angela asks if he’s ever been in love. My heart just keeps breaking for him. He has a sister, Emma, whom he cares about, but he’s never been in love the way Angela means. He talks of he and Emma being inseparable as children growing up on a farm. Angela asks if he visits her often.

He explains that when he came back from the war, Emma nursed him and treated him no different than before. But he felt different, empty. Angela looks like she’s breaking as much as me. When Richard was better he moved to Chicago to get lost in the city and he hasn’t spoken to her since. He then looks like he might be wiping tears away, but instead he’s removing his glasses and mask, with his head turned away. You see only the profile of his “good side” but then he turns and faces Angela full on so she can see his wounds and she takes a new piece of paper to sketch. (At this moment I really want these two to get together. I don’t care if it’s adultery.)

In some cellar, Owen is building a bomb and explaining his past mission of building a bomb a week in Ireland. He’s using blasting gel because it’s more stable and he clearly knows what he’s doing. Nucky looks nervous and uncertain as Owen finishes it off and says, “Somebody’s going out of business.” It’s going to be Mickey Doyle.

Charlie Luciano and Meyer Lansky are at the card room and Rothstein shows up. Meyer tells his boy to bring Rothstein in before he plays cards and breaks the house. Rothstein is looking snazzy. There’s a little polite conversation and then down to business. He tells the boys he’s made a deal with Nucky to offload his liquor in Philly. He wants the boys to be the muscle. Charlie says they have some business going on. Rothstein pointedly mentions that he had dinner with Masseria who left him with the impression he’d still like them dead and basically says, sometimes you do stuff you don’t want to. Get over it. Charlie is not pleased at having to get over it.

At the White residence, it’s dinnertime with Samuel as a guest. Mrs. White asks him to lead them in saying Grace. Chalky interrupts twice before he can begin regarding the duck on the table versus the meal he had requested. Remember Chalky wanted “hoppin’ John” (rice and beans) and Mrs. White says that’s not proper food for a guest. Samuel says he’s always enjoyed “that type of food.” Uh oh. We’ve got some definite class strain going on here that’s worlds apart from Margaret drinking with the help last week. Chalky’s pissed in both senses of the word and feels they’ve insulted his country ways; his country ways, which, he reminds them, put food on the table. Maybell is in tears; his wife and son are fairly frozen. Then Chalky goes one more step, commenting to Samuel, “Eat inside the house” then “Pretty clear who the field nigger is” before getting up and storming out. Oh Chalky, get over yourself.

Left to right: Mrs. White, Lester, Samuel, Chalky, Maybell, younger daughter.

Angela’s nearly finished with her sketch. We see it over her shoulder and it’s gorgeous and accurate and Richard looks so handsome even with his wounds. He asks if that’s really what he looks like and I ache to think he doesn’t see himself that way in the mirror. He wants to pay her for the sketch, but she says no, it’s his if he wants it.

Jimmy comes home just after with Tommy sound asleep in his arms. While he puts the kid to bed, Richard puts his mask back on. Angela quietly thanks him, which is really nice. Jimmy comes back in and tells Richard they have to go to Philly tomorrow before Richard leaves.

Jimmy’s kind of surprised that Richard sat for Angela. He tells her that he’s never sure what’s going on with Richard. Well, Jimmy, I’ll tell you what’s going on — the man is in love with your family.

Margaret has the newspaper while Nucky talks about how great an idea it was — the prostitutes have made the cover page. Margaret says it’s nothing to be proud of. Nucky smiles and says he’s violated the Mann Act and they can roll his case into federal law. She’s not pleased. Nucky assures her he had no relations with any of the women and she believes him. That’s not the problem. Then she blurts out that she needs a hundred dollars for clothes for the children. He pulls out a stack of bills and counts out cash for her and hands it over. He clearly believes her, but I want to know what she’s really doing with that money as she heads off to bed.

Clarkson is driving Zewicky to a place he claims has a still owned by Mickey Doyle. I can already see it coming. They get out of the car and walk towards a shack and then BOOM! Sleater’s bomb goes off and one of the guys is aflame. We soon see Stan Zewicky putting out the flames and then a close-up on Clarkson shows he burned pretty bad. Zewicky scoops him up and carries him away.

Margaret is in her dressing room tucking the money away in her vanity table. It seems she’s got quite a thick envelope of cash. So is she hoarding it to help Nucky when he blows through everything and is still in legal trouble? Is she preparing to leave? Or is there something else that hasn’t become obvious yet, but is waiting just around the corner. We still don’t know about the people in the other three photographs.

At the White home, Lester’s playing the piano while the family and Samuel gather around all looking happy. All except Chalky, that is. He’s out back in the garage with a knife, whittling himself a walking stick and looking angry.

And we round out the evening at the Commodore’s home. Gillian is feeding him and pushing him to eat more, insisting he needs nourishment. She looks like she’s about to break and the Commodore looks no better. At least she gets to take a few sips of booze.

She steadies herself then brings up the night they met, how she remembers his smile that, and that she sees it in Jimmy sometimes. I don’t know if she’s going to nurse him or kill him for a moment. Another drink and she talks about that first night, the Commodore plying her with wine until she fell asleep. How he carried her to his bedroom then went and said good night to his guests. How she lay in his bed dreaming of the beach and then suddenly he was crushing her; she opened her eyes to find him on top of her smelling of whisky and tobacco and holding her mouth closed as he groped her.

“Do you remember that?” she asks. He tries to answer, but cannot speak. She still has nightmares about it some nights. Again she asks if he remembers. And then she slaps him hard. “I asked you a question.” Another slap and then another and another. She’s near hysterics and he’s crying and using reaching up to his face with his left hand. She’s hitting the side he can feel. It’s awful and while what he did to her was too, I am shocked and not a little upset by the whole moment. It’s a very emotional ending to an episode filled with tension.

What does the bee do? Make honey? Pollinate flowers? No, sometimes the bee stings you.

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