Boardwalk Empire 2.7 – Peg of Old

AUSA Esther Randolph

Previouslies are lengthy this week, but it looks like we might get a lot of little things addressed. And I expect progress where we’ve been waiting notably on Margaret’s family, the Nucky/Eli relationship, and Jimmy’s plan with Meyer Lansky and Lucky Luciano regarding Nucky’s booze. We’re not disappointed.

Also, there’s a new prosecutor in town and she’s not to be messed with.

We open with some boxing. I guess Jack Dempsey decided to come train in AC after all, because they’re on the beach. Reporters are all around — one asks what Dempsey says when people accuse him of dodging the draft (according to Wikipedia he worked in a shipyard during the war and had attempted to enlist, but had been turned down by the military). He replies that he doesn’t say anything, because people don’t ask him questions like that. He’s a cocky sumbitch.

One of the local little people is put into the ring to spar with him a bit, because midget boxing was funny back then. After the little moment of fun, Nucky tells Dempsey that if he stops fighting there’s always Vaudeville. But seriously, they want him to do a little promotion Friday night at Babette’s. At the last minute another reporter comes up with one final question — this one for Nucky. What did he and the attorney general discuss at the Seaview Golf Club on Memorial Day. Well, well, well. Nucky turns his head to Owen as if to use him as a bodyguard then changes his mind and says, “Sand trap. It’s a doozy.” The reporter pushes: “Nothing about your election case.” Nucky smiles and says, “Show us your left hook, Jack.” Dempsey not so subtly guides the reporter away.

Van Alden is home. From the hallway you can hear music playing. Lucy’s in the kitchen smoking a cigarette. He asks where the baby is and she says sleeping, finally, that the bay cried for 5 hours straight and he asks if she fed her. Of course she did. And she calls him on being an ass. He says he has a headache. It seems he tried contacting Rose who according to neighbors has gone to visit an aunt in Milwaukee. She won’t speak to him or answer his letters. Van Alden tells Lucy they’re all being “tested.”

Lucy doesn’t care about being tested. She wants to know about their arrangement — he owes her money. I guess she’s not as attached to the baby as it seemed last week. The baby starts crying in the other room and Lucy ignores it; she’s focused only on her money. $3,000. “Lord knows what I was thinking,” he says to her. She gets more pissed off that he made her go through this. “This is your baby, you bought it,” she says and we learn that they still haven’t named her. It’s not exactly a mommy and daddy dearest moment, in either sense of the expression.

Jimmy and Capone are at the Commodore’s. The camera pulls out and we see Meyer, Lucky, Richard, and Jimmy Doyle are also there. Lucky bitches about Manny aggressively seeking his money and Jimmy reminds him that he agreed to pay upfront. Jimmy takes a seat at the head of the room and speaks of how things are changing — that the big wigs come to them now when they have a problem. He says he’s got the Coast Guard in his pocket. Gillian comes in with Eli who is annoyed they started without him. Gillian excuses herself with “the men talk, the geisha retires” and I feel (not for the first time, nor surely the last) embarrassed for Jimmy.

Jimmy continues that there are no limits to what they can bring in. Meyer wants to know how they’ll handle Nucky. Jimmy says he’s going to jail and then Jimmy will get the mayor to appoint someone they can work with. He says they have to continue to keep people happy and by people he means business owners. (Apparently, Jimmy knew nearly a century ago that corporations are people.)

Capone is not impressed with this plan and says the way to show their strength is with guns. Jimmy’s of a different mind, fortunately. Things here are different than New York and Chicago, he reminds them. He starts to talk about Nucky and Eli interrupts to say, “Jesus Christ, just kill him” to which Capone gestures in a “See, he gets it” kind of way. “What’s he, King Fucking Neptune?” Eli asks. Jimmy says they can talk about it later but Eli pushes for now. Capone says he doesn’t see the angle of dealing with Nucky; Jimmy says it’s because he’s not from there.

When Meyer comments that Nucky’s old, Jimmy says so is Rothstein. That doesn’t fly though, with Meyer responding that they can discuss that when Jimmy comes to his house. Apparently they’re not discussing all the business today. Richard asks Eli if he would kill his brother and he says, “No, someone else will.” Capone says he can bring in a paisan to do it. Everyone seems in agreement with the plan except Jimmy who’s clearly uncomfortable but finally tells Capone to make the call.

Van Alden is arriving at work because just because your baby’s crying and her mother hates you, is no reason to be late to the office. There’s a woman at his desk speaking on the phone and he wants to know what’s going on. Zewicky tells him that the woman at his desk is on the phone with the attorney general, as though that explains everything. After she hangs up she introduces herself as Esther Randolph then points out Chief Investigator Lathrop, and her clerks Pratt and Halsey. Van Alden asserts that this is his office and she was at his desk. She says the “investigation” necessitated “ad hoc arrangements.” Van Alden is neither impressed nor amused; he’s also not particularly pleasant. Guess he’s still got that headache.

So who is this Ms. Randolph? Why, she’s the assistant US attorney (AUSA) prosecuting Nucky. I sense that she won’t be bought with working girls and whiskey. She informs Van Alden that he and Zewicky will practice discretion in anything they hear in the office. He’s pissed that Justice didn’t give him any notice and that he and Zewicky have been pushed to the back of the room. He tells Randolph that she’ll be “eaten alive” by Nucky because the “scales of justice are weighted with graft.” Ms. Randolph is neither cowed nor surprised at the assertion. After all, that’s the whole reason she’s there to begin with, right?

Margaret is motoring around town in a cab. But it’s not AC. She’s in Brooklyn. The street is filled with workers and kids; laundry hangs from lines stretched between buildings. She seems to know exactly where she is and enters a particular building and heads up the stairs. She reaches a door, removes her hat, and knocks three times. A young girl answers and greets her in Gaelic, which she doesn’t understand. Another girl approaches and Margaret’s not sure at first but she thinks this is Beth. And she’s correct. The girl who opened the door is Ailish. We learn quickly that Margaret has been expected; I guess she called to say she was coming. There’s an older girl — Nuala — and then a man Eamoinn who calls her Peg. She thanks him for replying to her letter. She finally enters the apartment after all the reintroductions. She’s brought a gift of Boardwalk taffy.

It’s awkward and no one has anything to say. Finally Margaret and Eamoinn hug and he says there’s dinner. It seems that they really are her siblings.

Nucky is meeting with his lawyer. He’s irritated. He’s not the only one in town worth coming after, but his lawyer points out he’s the only one they are coming after. Kessler interrupts because there’s someone there to see him. Lucy comes in carrying the baby in a basket. Before she even says anything Nucky points out, “You and I have not seen each other since May 23rd of last year.” She steps forward and says, “Don’t start that way” in a voice that’s somehow less whiney than usual from her.

She’s dressed up nicely and wearing heels, but her face looks tired. Nucky congratulates her, tells her she’s glowing, and she doesn’t just demure, but says she looks like shit and she knows it. The baby, however, she calls cute and the close-up proves her right. She had thought of shaking him down but knew she’d fail. She calls him “Daddy” and reminds him of their good times and her job back then of making him happy. But things have changed, now she’s got someone else to make happy. “She’ll always be mine. That’s the best part,” she says. Then she says she needs money to do it right though.

Nucky asks about the father, suggesting she doesn’t know who he is. She says she knows and he might too. Well… sounds like she’s going to get Nucky’s help shaking down Van Alden. Good for her. No one ever said Lucy wasn’t resourceful.

At Van Alden’s office, they’ve got a wall between the AUSA and Van Alden’s new space. He’s listening in as they depose Mr. Neary and record it with what is no doubt one of original models of the Dictaphone. Van Alden gets a phone call about a serious situation. Meanwhile, in the outer office, Mr. Neary says he’d made a deal with the previous prosecutor. Randolph tells him that deal is void then reminds him she can make his life very difficult.

Back in Brooklyn, it’s a quiet dinner until Ailish asks Margaret how she travelled there — she thought she came by boat from Ireland. She says she lives in Atlantic City and updates them on having children and being widowed. Eamoinn asks how she’s able to live, who’s caring for her children while she’s travelling into the city without them. He seems bitter that she’s got the luxury of having someone to watch the children. All of them work except Ailish who’s in school because if she doesn’t go they send a truant officer out. Margaret says she knows he works hard and she could offer help. He says, “We haven’t asked” and it’s clear he doesn’t plan for that to change.

Oh, Gillian’s in her underclothes. And Jimmy’s there. Surprise. She tells him to cover his eyes while she dresses and he asks when she started getting modest. I crack up. Then I crack up more that her response is “This isn’t a flattering light.” No problem being naked in front of the kid if the lighting is good. She wants his opinion on her dress. He says she doesn’t age; that people on the beach always thought they were siblings.

Jimmy asks her if she understands what’s going to happen tomorrow. That a man’s going to get off a train and put a bullet in Nucky, “Just because I said so.” She thinks the world’s going to find out what kind of man Jimmy is, and that his friends won’t be happy if he cancels it. It’s like she’s in another world where this isn’t murder but part of the job description for her son to become somebody. She says he shouldn’t ever let his friends and partners see him be indecisive. He thinks that’s a stupid reason to let Nucky die and that this isn’t what they’d talked about. He doesn’t want to do this; she says it’s already done. “Make me proud of you,” she says and I sigh. Poor Jimmy.

Van Alden barges into Nucky’s office and Nucky asks Lucy to give them a moment alone. That’s the important call he’d received. Lucy starts to say something and Van Alden cuts her off with, “We’ll discuss this at home. Dear.” Ha! He doesn’t discuss, he dictates. Nucky offers him a drink, saying, “If there was ever a time.” Van Alden calls Nucky on the blackmail, but Nucky says he’s just trying to help him. He asks how he can handle all his obligations on a government salary. Van Alden says that’s not Nucky’s concern and Nucky counters that his concern is knowing everything regarding Esther Randolph. “And in exchange?” Nucky says his problems go away and no questions about how the situation came about.

Nucky asks the child’s name and suggests something from the Bible is always good. When Van Alden realizes Nucky gave Lucy money he kind of freaks out.

In Brooklyn, Eamoinn and Margaret are left alone to chat while the girls are sent out. Their mother is dead, but Margaret already knew from a cousin. We find out that Margaret was the first of the bunch to leave. They didn’t come over together. He asks her if she’ll weep now and she says, “I did what I had to.” They talk about how she would have been sent away, that the priest had decided — for what we don’t know. She was clearly to be punished for something. And then there it is… “Who was the father?” I thought that might be it. A barrister’s boy knocked her up, not by force. She lost the baby on her crossing to America, and for that, at least, her brother is sorry.

She puts money on the table to pay back money she’d stolen to pay for her passage. He doesn’t want it and accuses her of visiting solely to repay her debt. She argues that she wanted to be around those who know her.

Oh good grief. Gillian’s afternoon with some ladies who lunch (as she’d told Jimmy when trying on the dress) is actually a meeting with Luciano. I forgot how well the two got along last season. Now he’s torn her dress and he’s going to tear it more as they have some aggressive sex. He’s going to ride her “like a philly at Belmont.” How romantic.

Van Alden arrives home to the soft sound of singing by a voice that is most definitely not Lucy’s. He moves down the hall, clearly expecting Rose, but instead finds a neighbor rocking the baby. Lucy went out to get some formula — no breastfeeding with those moneymakers. Van Alden moves back to the front room and stops at the Victrola, which is spinning but without music. He just stands there for a moment then sniffs. Finally, he lifts the cover and inside is the first page of the script “A Dangerous Maid” from weeks ago on top of a poopy diaper. Nice.

As Margaret helps the girls clean up, they ask how she will get home. She says she has a car she’s hired for the day waiting. They seem to know she’s got a man taking care of her, but Ailish freaks Margaret out when she says he’s “very powerful” and then “he has minions.” Margaret agrees, but then Ailish says he has a secret tragedy — that his heart was broken — and that creeps her out more. Beth and Nuala say she’s always got her nose in a book, so her comments were story, but she’s right. Margaret leaves and the girls seem sad. As she’s heading down the stairs, Ailish runs out and says she was only joking. Because of when Margaret left, they didn’t really know each other so she reintroduces herself as Margaret Kathryn Sheila Rohan. Ailish shakes her hand and then Eamoinn comes out and calls her back inside. He’s off to work. Before she goes inside she tells Margaret to send her books.

Van Alden is holding the baby and paging through a book for names. Deborah, Hannah, Abigail. He looks down at his baby girl. I’m a little terrified for that child. The next scene he’s entering his office, his usual grim yet determined look on his face. He addresses Miss Randolph, asking to speak to her in private. Her assistants leave and he tells her he’s a married man. “There goes my dream,” she replies with a straight face that is quite admirable. He then confesses that he has a daughter born out of wedlock and he says it so she’ll know that in his heart he is honest. He then hands over a file he’s been keeping on Nucky for the past sixteen months. It’s got gambling, extortion, and even murder.

Randolph asks why he sat on that information and he says he was ordered to focus only on illegal alcohol. She asks if he’ll testify to the accusations in the file and he says he will. Guess he’s not going to be blackmailed by Nucky after all. She says she’ll help him sort out his domestic situation as long as he doesn’t go telling everyone.

Margaret’s still in Brooklyn the following morning. She finds Ailish playing in an alleyway and delivers a book to her. They arrange to have a secret correspondence between them. Ailish asks what “she was like” meaning their mother and Margaret doesn’t really answer, but invites her to visit her in Atlantic City over the summer. Eamoinn runs into them as he’s coming home from working all night. He’s not as impressed as Margaret by Ailish’s interest in reading. Margaret asks him how work was. In response he accuses her of wanting to rescue Ailish to put her own mind at ease. He then returns the money saying he doesn’t know where it’s from. She gives him shit for never taking a stand, never helping or standing up for her when she needed him. He’s not interested in her ability to make their lives better and he tells her to go home. “There’s no one here who knows you.” Ouch. He is so damn bitter. She gets back in the car and breaks down crying. I haven’t felt for her so much since we first met her.

At the Schroeder/Thompson household, the nanny informs Nucky that Margaret is on her way home. He’s looking for Owen, however, and calls the Ritz for him. Kessler hasn’t heard from him either. Where is he?

In a basement bar, apparently. Owen’s sitting alone at a table, seemingly waiting for someone to come in. And someone does. A stranger comes in and sits at the bar and Owen goes over to introduce himself. They have a connection through some relations in Ireland. A bit of Irish politics and dead people discussed. “Free and clear here, aren’t we?” Owen asks. “Stars and stripes forever,” the man toasts in reply. Owen offers to buy him another, saying he misses home. I sense someone is about to die and I’m not wrong. The man hits the head and Owen follows him, wedges a spoon in the door to “lock” it from the outside, and pulls a knife.

There’s quite the struggle before Owen gets the upper hand and beats the man over the head with a spittoon before strangling him with a wire. Someone else tries to get through the door while all this goes on. It takes a while, not like movies usually show. The man’s got his fingers inside the cord holding it away from his throat but Owen manages to pull hard enough that his fingertips are cut off. Then Owen says something to the dead man about being led on for five months and the man being a “traitorous fuck.” He spits on him and leaves him dead, facedown in the bottom of a urinal. Ick. I hope we get a better explanation of this at some point.

It’s Friday. Time to go to Babette’s. Dempsey’s there having to listen to his Doc tell a stupid joke before he goes up to give a speech, not written by him. He starts to read and is clearly insulted that someone would write “For those of you who don’t know me” because after all, he’s Jack Dempsey, heavyweight champion of the world. He plugs his next fight and while he speaks, Jimmy moves through the crowd.

Jimmy approaches Nucky with his hands out to show he’s unarmed. He says he wants to tell Nucky something: “It doesn’t matter if you’re right or wrong, you just have to make a decision.” Then he turns and walks away. A man comes up and shoots Nucky and then another man steps out behind him shooting at the shooter and announcing he’s an agent with the DOJ. Nucky’s on the floor bleeding, but he’s alive. We then see Jimmy walking away from it all and there’s something there, something not right with him. I have to hope that he changed the way things went down from the original plan. Good on him if that’s the case.

Margaret returns home. Katie and Lillian had taken the kids to the beach. Owen comes around a corner though. He seems to be the only one home. They make stupid small talk about the weather and her trip to the city. He follows her upstairs carrying her bag. She asks why he’s not with Nucky, shouldn’t he be making an effort to find him. He asks where she wants him to leave her bag and she says at the foot of the stairs. He asks if she finds things odd here, in this country. That everything is off, including her. “If I vanish now, who’d care? Or even notice?” Wow, the guys’ messed up. She asks if that’s how he feels and he laughs it off as summer days.

She starts up the stairs telling him he should be on the beach with Katie, that he shouldn’t be there. He asks her to tell him to go. “Are you mine to command?” He says yes and she tells him to bring the bag up. He enters her bedroom and she’s removing her earrings. She tells him she’s not how he sees her at all. She lets down her hair and says when they’re “done” he’ll leave and tell no one. He kisses her rather hesitantly only to have her kiss him back with fiery passion and start to work the buttons on his shirt then his pants. Damn, Margaret. She’s way more into this than she was into the sex with Nucky last week. They don’t even get their clothes off and she’s in ecstasy.

I’ll have what she’s having, I think as we roll to credits.

Next week: Jimmy in a suit that looks amazing on him. Capone. Rothstein. And a lot of tension.

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