Boardwalk Empire 2.03 — A Dangerous Maid

Agent Van Alden begins his morning by buttering his toast and praying. By the time he finishes praying the toast is no doubt cold. Lucy begins her morning by coming into behind him and saying, “It was kicking again.”  Van Alden corrects her that “it” is the “the baby.”

Lucy tells him that the neighbor invited them to dinner, but he’s not allowing her to go anywhere or talk to anyone. She complains that there’s no music in the apartment and nothing to do. She feels like she’s in jail. But she’s got some lovely lace maternity lingerie. And an arrangement that suggests Van Alden will be keeping the baby. How’s he plan to explain that one to the Missus?

“Say what you want about Nucky. At least he was fun,” Lucy says as Van Alden leaves for work.

At the Thompson/Schroeder home, Margaret tells Nucky she’s had the maid return some of her expensive clothes and such so they can conserve their resources. Nucky, however, wants to keep up appearances. This is not the first time we’ve seen that she’s smarter than him.

When Nucky leaves we see that Margaret’s got an envelope in her hand from Pinkerton’s National Detective Agency. I’m thinking it’s related to her family after mentioning last week that they’re “apparently” all in the US now.

Damien’s out collecting kickbacks and dealing with a cranky Lolly (the casino boss) who expresses some discontent at not having any good booze to serve his gamblers. We see that this is where Nucky arranged for Sleater to work as he’s in the background, watching and listening while preparing for the evening. Lolly says he wants the good stuff. Without it, the high rollers go elsewhere to play. And without the booze, he can’t pay his kickbacks either. Finally he threatens to go elsewhere for his supply.

Jimmy, Eli, and the Commodore are meeting with a liquor supplier — Bill McCoy. They want him to shift his business from Nucky to them. McCoy says he thought Nucky and the Commodore had a deal years ago and now the Commodore is fucking Nucky over. McCoy says won’t be pushed around, but the Commodore has a plan to contact the Coast Guard. We can already see how that’s going to play out.

At Nucky’s office, Capone is waiting at the window. He tells Nucky, “My office is in a cathouse.” He’s there’ to deliver a message from Torrio. I guess he finally figured out what to say from two weeks ago. Nucky doesn’t particularly care for the news: “With regret, Chicago will no longer be buying alcohol from Atlantic City.”

Nucky assures Capone that his business is still fine but Capone, who obviously doesn’t read the newspapers, has no idea what Nucky’s talking about. Capone says this isn’t personal. Nucky pushes to know who the new supplier is. Capone tells him they’re buying from Remus in Ohio, that Jews in Canada are shipping across the lake. Nucky dismisses Capone telling him that next time Torrio has a message to be delivered in person, he should actually deliver it in person.

Before leaving Capone asks after Jimmy and Nucky says he’ll have to talk to Jimmy himself. Then Nucky asks how business is in Chicago and Capone says [of the competition], “We’re killin’ ‘em.”

Back at the saddest house of sin ever, Lucy has a visitor — Vaudeville guy Eddie Cantor. He’s brought a bottle of booze and he’s sweet and lovey with her. She’s miserable and he tries to tell her that a baby’s a good thing. During their conversation we learn that Van Alden’s using the name “Mr. Mueller” on the mailbox. Lucy and Eddie drink and smoke and she cries and whines. Eddie asks if Nucky knows.

At Jimmy’s house, Richard and Jimmy come home to find Capone in the living room playing with Tommy and singing in Italian. Jimmy comes into the room and they wrestle a little, with Tommy piling on. It’s a sweet moment. Then the scene shifts time and the men are talking. Jimmy tells Capone about them taking the city over again and that the plan is for Nucky to be in jail by fall. Capone says to just have “Frankenstein drill a hole in his noggin” but Richard says he won’t do that. Conversation stops for a minute. Capone doesn’t understand and Richard doesn’t explain.

Angela comes in to serve some coffee and pastry. Richard watches her and I ache for him again. Capone and Angela exchange a few words in Italian. After she leaves Capone says, “I married a mick, you married a daygo, what’s that about?” I love the continued references to culture/ethnicity. It feels very appropriate to the characters and the setting.

Tommy can’t get his shoes tied and in a very sweet moment, Jimmy excuses himself to help his son. Capone watches with an interest that is hard to gauge. He’s on his way to New York to settle his father’s affairs and presumably he’s thinking of his own son or else his own childhood here. The moment is broken when Richard asks, “How’s Odette?” and Capone replies “She’s a whore. That’s how she is.”

At Eli’s house, there are kids running around out of control, his wife is trying to wrangle them, and apparently Eli’s dad is upstairs in bed and refusing to change or leave the bed.  When Eli gets to the room, his dad has the paper and seems pissed about what’s being done to Nucky. Eli tries to help him get out of his clothes and cleaned up, but Pop is worried about Nucky needing him and wants Eli to help him.

That night in bed, Margaret opens the letter from the Pinkerton’s and there are photos inside of a man and two little girls. A fourth picture is a young woman who strongly resembles her. There’s also a letter we can’t see close enough to read.

Nucky comes in the front door and leaves his coat with the maid. As he comes into the bedroom, Margaret puts the papers in the bedside table and opens a book. Nucky tells her that Chalky’s going to make bail and be home soon. He can see something’s wrong with her, but she dismisses it. He doesn’t give in so she says maybe it’s the book she’s [not] reading.

He comes to her side of the bed and has her remove his cufflinks. As she does he asks again for her to tell him what’s wrong. She calls him on his always worrying about her, when he won’t let her help him (not that his refusals tend to stop her from doing what she wants). He says she is helping though.

Finally, she mentions her brothers and sisters who were in Ireland and tells him they’re in Brooklyn now. She pulls out the photos and letter and lets Nucky look through it all. There’s a telephone number in the letter, but she’s not sure what she’s going to do. She says they didn’t part happily.

Nucky tries to cheer her. He wants to take her to Paris when everything blows over. She says she’s very happy here — ever practical and realistic — but he wants her to have something to look forward to. He’s even willing to take the children.

Gillian is prepping Jimmy for dinner with the governor by giving him a manicure and talking to him about the importance of first impressions. “You used to call him the letch,” he says, referring to her past hatred of the Commodore. She says she grew up and learned forgiveness. He says by that logic he should forgive Nucky. Angela comes in and says “Forgive Nucky what?”

After Angela leaves, Jimmy mentions Capone’s father being a barber and says he sometimes wishes he had a simpler life. Gillian says he’s a natural leader and she’s a woman “who loves her family.” In other words, grow up and do what your mother tells you to do.

Back at the house of freaks, Lucy’s all made up, talking to the mirror. It sounds like she’s running lines for this new play Eddie had brought with him and then yes… The camera pulls back and we see that she’s reading from a script and she’s dressed in a fur-trimmed purple robe. Wow.

Uh oh. Van Alden’s home. He makes her hand over the script and wonders why she was reading it. She tells him about Eddie visiting and thinking she’d be good for the part. It seems that Van Alden grew up in a home where even Christmas pageants were forbidden. He says her carrying the baby is a “sacred charge” from the Lord. And a financial arrangement with him. What she wants cannot be allowed. He keeps the script, closes her in her room, and she cries. I’m creeped out even more than before. Van Alden has never been especially sane, but there’s something about him locking away a pregnant woman that makes me more uncomfortable with him than usual.

In Nucky’s office, Damien is informed that they’ve boats coming tonight with Scotch, rum, and rye. Given the earlier seen with Bill McCoy, I’m predicting something bad is about to happen.

Nucky gets a phone call and idiot Damien can’t figure out he needs to leave the room until he’s told straight out. That boy is very, very thick. It’s the attorney general (Harry Daugherty) calling Nucky back. Harry’s still moving into his office in DC and Nucky’s calling in a favor for getting him there. Harry, however, is not sure he can do anything — he has no jurisdiction. Nucky says maybe he could get Harding to step in and Harry dismisses him. Instead he says Nucky and his lady should come down and visit the White House. That’s not really going to help him any.

In New York City, Charlie and Meyer have a meeting with Arnold Rothstein. When they arrive, Masseria is with him. There seems to be a problem — Meyer’s card game is going on in Masseria’s territory.  But that’s not the worst of it — two of his guys were murdered after visiting Meyer’s game room. Rothstein says they need to start paying a tax of 10% on their games to him and a one-time fee of two grand each to the families of the dead men. Despite Charlie and Meyer not really wanting to agree, Rothstein and Masseria declare an agreement has been made. Before leaving, Masseria speaks to Charlie in Italian asking why he consorts with these “Christ killers” and says he should go work for him. After Masseria is gone, Meyer complains to Rothstein they’re already giving part of their take to him and Rothstein replies, “And now you know why.” This shit could get gory.

Van Alden is visiting Doyle (now calling himself Mr. Cusick) who’s giving up locations of speakeasies in exchange for cash. He then asks if Van Alden would like to sell back any of the booze he confiscates. During the exchange, Van Alden can’t avoid repeatedly looking at a picture of a naked lady on the wall. Doyle comments on it and Van Alden says he’s a married man. (Because that means so much. It’s as though he doesn’t even acknowledge his part in Lucy being pregnant and held prisoner in his apartment.) Van Alden asks if Doyle would consider Nucky Thomson to be fun. The man is living in another universe.

Speaking of that universe… Lucy’s crying as she stands naked in front of the mirror and looks at her body from all angles. If the actress isn’t pregnant, that costume and makeup departments did a really good job with her. (I should not here that this isn’t what most of us had in mind when we were hoping for T&A this season. Not that there’s anything wrong with pregnant bodies, but where are all the other boobies? Come on. It’s HBO!)

Margaret has the maid make the phone call to the number in the Pinkerton’s letter. When the maid gets off the phone she’s a bit upset. The info she was given is that “Peggy Rowan is dead” and died twelve years ago. Margaret is upset and leaves the room.

At Nucky’s office Eddie says the Mayor dropped by and invited him to dinner. He says to make something up. The phone is off the hook on the floor and Nucky tells Eddie to leave it. Then Mr. Sleater comes in, pressing Nucky for a word with him.

Eddie puts the phone back on the desk, because that’s what Eddie does — what Nucky needs him to do whether Nucky knows what he needs or not.

Mr. Sleater is grateful for the job tending bar and Nucky says there’s a shipment coming tonight. He assumes (reasonably so) that Owen’s there because Lolly sent him to complain. But that’s not it at all. Owen says he reads the papers and his “talents” are being wasted. It seems that his “talents” are making people stop “whatever you don’t want them to be doing.” Well then. He sounds a bit like the Irish version of Richard.

There’s a ship-to-shore message from Bill McCoy — the Coast Guard is seizing his ships. Owen thanks Nucky for his time. I thank Owen for his timing.

Margaret is crying in her room and the maid sees her through a crack in the door, but does what the help should and walks away.

Lucy’s barefoot and distraught and wobbling at the top of a flight of stairs. She shifts her feet to the edge of the top step and is clearly on the verge of “slipping” down them when we hear a voice saying hello. There’s a delivery for her — a Victrola. It’s from “Mr. Mueller.” With the Victrola set up, she’s back in the apartment and slowly starting to smile.

In the kitchen at the Thompson/Schroeder house, the staff ladies are talking and laughing at the table when Margaret comes in. She tells them not to get up, instead joining them at the table and asking them to pour her a drink too and more for themselves. She’s come a long way since we first met her at a temperance society meeting.

Margaret asks if Katie (the maid who made the phone call for her and saw her crying) was born in Ireland. She also tells them to stop calling her “ma’am,” to call her Margaret. “Why put on airs?”

Nucky comes in and is confused to find her there. He asks what’s wrong, she says nothing and the maids scurry away. He tells her to dress for dinner, he’s taking her out.

Van Alden comes home to the sound of music through front the door. Inside, Lucy is shifting to the music with her hands in her hair. She doesn’t see him as she moves so that her booty’s swaying in his direction. It’s very sensual and he watches her for a moment then looks down at the Victrola. I can’t decide if he sent it or if maybe Eddie arranged it but used Van Alden’s phony name. Either way, Van Alden is transfixed.

At Babette’s, Jimmy and the Commodore are dining with the Governor. The conversation is flowing and Jimmy seems to be making a good first impression, especially when he jokes (not without some truth) that war was easier than Atlantic City.

While they’re dining, Nucky and Margaret along with the Mayor and his wife arrive much to Babette’s surprise. She wasn’t expecting them and apologizes as he notices the Commodore. The Mayor suggests they go elsewhere but Nucky says no. They get a table situated across the room so that they must walk past Commodore to be seated. They pass behind Jimmy’s back but nothing happens.

At the Commodore’s table Jimmy tells the Governor that one thing he’s learned from his father is that “nothing’s free.” Nucky’s watches them from his table and Margaret, always the sensible one, says she’d be happy to eat elsewhere. But no. The Mayor orders and then so does Nucky. Unfortunately, the Commodore got the last lobster thermidor that Nucky tries to order for Margaret.

While Margaret is disappointed, she asks what they might suggest instead. Nucky, however, doesn’t care about other options. He gets up and marches across room and tosses the Commodore’s plate of Lobster onto the floor. Jimmy jumps up to calm him at first. Jimmy says both he and Nucky are “putting up a good front.” My heart breaks for the problems between them when Nucky looks at Jimmy and says he keeps his promises. About Jimmy’s mother, Nucky says the Commodore “never even asked her name, just pointed.” Ouch.

Outside the casino, Lolly is trying to buy booze from Richard when Owen comes up and says he works for Mr. Thompson and Richard is not one of Nucky’s men. One of the men calls Owen a “Paddy” and Owen headbutts him and punches another guy before turning around, gun drawn to find himself in a face-off with my dear Richard.  He’s got no quarrel with Richard, he says, just that the business isn’t buying any liquor from him. Richard being practical and really quite peace-loving despite his skill with a gun, is relaxed and okay with leaving. It’s a cool moment and I hope we see more interaction between these two because they play off each other nicely.

At home, Jimmy’s drinking at the table and looking quite sullen. No doubt he is reliving Nucky’s words about Gillian. Angela comes in and asks, “How was dinner with your father?”

“Which one?” he replies. Indeed.

She kisses him then leaves him alone. And hearts across the world are breaking. Oh Jimmy.

Across town, Nucky lays a big kiss on Margaret in the foyer as Katie comes in. He asks for his suit to be laid out for tomorrow then heads upstairs. With only Margaret left, Katie gets a little too personal. As Margaret starts to walk away, Katie reaches out and grabs her wrist. She says Peggy Rowan is Margaret but she’ll never tell. Margaret pulls her arm back and says “That will be all.” They’re not all drinking together in the kitchen now. And they probably won’t be ever again.


Thoughts — I wasn’t surprised by Katie’s revelation, only that she figured it out herself. Peggy, after all, is a common nickname for Margaret. And the resemblance in the photo was way too strong. What I do want to know is if the man and two girls are a husband and two children or if the three really are siblings. More than that, I want to know why she left.

How long will Jimmy continue like this? I think bigger things are coming for his relationship with his two daddies. And what about Eli, with his Pop’s delusions about Nucky needing their help? We shall see.


Next week: Revenge is on the table. And it looks like Chalky’s out of jail.