Boardwalk Empire 208 – Two Boats and A Lifeguard

This week Nucky’s still alive, he and Eli are still at odds, Owen’s still hot for Margaret, Lucy’s still gone to get some formula, Capone’s still not the smartest gangster, Manny still wants his money, and Angela is still awesome. So what has changed? Well, Jimmy’s become more of a dick than ever before.

But do we care when we get to see him half naked? We do not. Not much anyway.

Look at all this empty space you’re ignoring in favor of the half-naked Jimmy to the left. Empty, empty, empty.

Come inside and read about why he’s half-naked. You know you can’t resist.

We open with Nucky in an elevator with an operator who says, “Some fight, huh?” about a Dempsey fight that Nucky says hasn’t happened yet. He exits into his office and there are people there, his old baseball mitt on a chair, and a child with a shotgun hole in his hand sitting at his desk. There’s also dying deer on the floor making a pitiful honking sound. Nucky’s clearly dreaming and before the kid can shoot him he comes to and we see his doctor checking his hand. Before I can make the stigmata joke, Nucky makes it himself.

Nucky asks about the Commodore — when was the doc going to tell him about the stroke — and the doc claims doctor/patient privilege. Nucky says another privilege is the permit he got the doc allowing him to sell medicinal alcohol. As they start to argue, Margaret interrupts and asks Dr. Carl to check on Emily who has a fever and no appetite.

Elsewhere there are kids running around like crazy. But of course — it’s Eli’s house. He and his wife went with the “cheaper by the dozen” tradition of family planning. One of his boys says there’s a visitor. Dick Halsey — a clerk for Esther Randolph — is paying there to see the sheriff. He’s brought a subpoena and Eli gets pissed and attacks him and throws him out. Meanwhile, his dad is asking what’s going on before he grabs his chest and seems to be having a heart attack.

At the Darmody house, the phone is ringing. Jimmy comes out of the bathroom wrapping a towel around himself as no one else seems to be around to answer. It’s Capone who’s been too busy to call sooner. Darmody wants an explanation for the guy who was supposed to do a job and is now in the morgue. He’s dropping F-bombs left and right until he’s interrupted by a “Jimmy.” He turns to see Angela and Tommy in the hall. They’re dressed for the beach and when Jimmy asks how long they’ve been standing there Angela says “long enough” before they take off. Jimmy, being smarter than the average American male, gets off the phone pronto and starts to follow her. Being naked, however, leaves him to simply punch the wall instead.

On the other end of the line, Capone hangs up and we see that he’s back in Chicago. His boss, Torrio, has a meeting with Remus and makes a joke that “Romulus couldn’t make it.” Capone shows his lack of education by asking if that’s Remus’s partner. Oh Al. Boss then comments that he doesn’t know what’s going on between Capone and Darmody and he doesn’t want to know. He wants to be kept out of it. Torrio, we’re reminding is not a stupid man.

Dr. Carl is checking on Emily. It’s just a bug, nothing to worry about. Nucky asks Owen to get the car. He gives his teacup to Kitty then nods to Margaret, calling her “ma’am.” After he’s gone Margaret asks Kitty if he’s taking his meals there now to which I reply to the television, “No, just double helpings of dessert.” (Not that I would turn him down for a little roll in the hay, myself.)

Nucky’s going out to meet with the prosecutor. Margaret helps him with his tie and says she doesn’t like him going out. He offers to have Eddie come get him and leave Owen here with her. She politely declines that before the phone rings. It was Eli’s wife June. Daddy Dearest is dead. Nucky’s silent for a moment then says “Okay”. He’s still leaving, but he’s clearly upset.

Agent Van Alden is ready for work and waiting for a girl — Ingrid — to arrive to care for the baby. She’s going to be a live-in nanny. He shows her the apartment. She gets room and board plus $18/month, but the job is days a week, round the clock care. When she insists she’ll need some personal time, he grants her one Sunday a month. Wow. So generous. We find out he did settle on a name for the baby: Abigail. He’s about to leave when Ingrid asks if he doesn’t wish to kiss the baby good-bye so he does.

Rothstein is talking to a Max Hirsch at a horse barn about a racehorse. It sounds a little fishy to me, but we shall see. Meyer and Luciano show up and AR wants to know the word from Philly. AR comments that Nucky’s still alive and asks if anyone knows what’s up with that. Meyer mentions a beef between Nucky and his brother and AR suggests it might be Darmody instead. Lucky says Darmody doesn’t have it in him, but he’s not a very convincing liar.  AR clearly doesn’t believe it and comments that he smells shit, “But what do you expect when you conduct business in a stable?”

Nucky and his attorney are meeting with AUSA Randolph. She says Nucky’s like an onion, the more layers they peel… Nucky would rather think of himself as an artichoke. They turn to his shooting and Nucky asserts his innocence. They ask if he knows John Torrio and he says no and then they say yes he does to which he says “Then why did you ask?” It seems him shooter lived in a building owned by Capone. Oh Al. You are an idiot times two so far this week.

Next up on the list is Mrs. Schroeder. Ms. Randolph is curious how they met and you just know she’s got to have info on this in her files from Van Alden. Nucky’s response is that she’s asking questions she already has an answer to and that he’s not going to do her job for him. She points out that her assistant — Mr. Latham — is the one who saved his life and that a thank you might be in order. Then they quickly depart the office.

Ah, the beach. Not much has changed in the last 90 years beyond bathing suit styles. There are umbrellas and chairs, families galore, children playing in the sand and surf. Angela sits near the boardwalk and a lady comes by and reprimands the girl on a blanket next to hers, telling her to pull her skirt down. By <I>law</I> the skirt can be no higher than seven inches above the knee. Angela leans over and says, “They actually measure” when the girl looks at her like “is this lady for real?” So apparently it’s not just the <I>style</I> of swimwear that has changed over the years. Wow. The girl — Molly Fletcher — receives a summons from the matronly beach monitor. The fine is $10 and she can pay it or go to jail. She’s new in town from San Francisco. The monitor calls a cop comes over and Angela intercedes, telling him Molly’s her cousin and paying the fine. The monitor chick makes Angela cover the girl up.

Well, well. Molly isn’t Molly after all. She’s Louise. Molly’s a character in a book she’s writing. Ah, a bohemian writer and a painter meet on the beach. Could this be the start of another Sapphic romance for our Angela? Here’s hoping so.

Jimmy and Mommy Dearest are at the Commodore’s (where else) to greet our dear butcher, Manny Horvitz, and Mickey Doyle (whose name I cannot remember and refer to as “idiot boy” as I make my notes). Harvey seems a little enchanted by Gillian, but he’s a businessman, so he’s not too enchanted. He paid $5k and hasn’t received his alcohol yet and he’s going to keep bitching about it until he gets his delivery. He suggests Jimmy’s not worried because he’s got his own money, evidence this huge house. Manny tells a story about a man bringing him a deer, asking him to cut off the head. He says he offered to butcher it and Doyle interrupts to ask if that’s kosher “on account of Santa Claus, with the reindeer” and giggles. Dear lord, save us from morons like him. Manny continues as though uninterrupted — the man didn’t care about the butchering. His friend had killed the animal for him so that he could have the head for a trophy on his wall. Manny suggests that Jimmy is the same. He’s hiding behind his daddy who “pulled the trigger.” In other words, Jimmy’s a wimp. That accusation’s not going to sit well with Jimmy, of this I am certain.

At the Schroeder/Thompson home, Nucky sits reading the paper. Margaret comes in and offers condolences on the death of his father and is surprised when Nucky says he doesn’t care. She then changes the subject when he won’t budge and asks about the prosecutor. He tells her that Randolph knows about Margaret, about them, about his dealings. Margaret asks if she’ll be going to jail — he says no, that she’s done nothing wrong. She asks him if it’s not greed for him to fight to keep things as they are when he has so much (not just money, but her and the kids too), that maybe this is a sign from God. He tells her a joke about the drowning man who turns down help from two boats and a lifeguard (see title) because he’s waiting for God to save him. That when he gets to heaven god asks what kind of help he expected since he’d sent the boats and lifeguard. Margaret doesn’t laugh and says she’d be more amused if he were more worried. He promises they’ll get through this.

Jimmy goes home to find Tommy down for a nap while Angela smokes out on the beach. He goes outside and sits beside her. She asks why he married her. He says because he loves her and she challenges that as not being true. He says he could ask her the same questions. She doesn’t hesitate: “Because we have a child together. It’s what society expected from me. Because you kept pushing it.” Wow. Nice answer.

“That’s romantic,” he replies and she just says it’s honest. He says he hasn’t lied but she says he hasn’t told her anything and she mentions him being gone at all hours and “god knows” what he’s been doing. “Selling booze,” he finally says. She asks about Nucky and he admits he was behind trying to have him killed. Then he says he didn’t want to, but he did. She asks why and he’s amazingly open about everything — the motivations, the plans, what Nucky’s really like, and how complicated it all is (especially his involvement). He even admits Mommy Dearest changed his mind when he didn’t want to do it. Angela thanks him for telling her before walking away.

A fancy car drives into the Atlantic City armory. It’s Nucky’s car. He buys off one of the armory guys to tell his “tail” that he’s already left. Inside, Rothstein and Torrio are waiting for him. Nucky informs them about their boys’ involvement in the attempt to kill him. Rothstein says Darmody had come to him trying to sell him liquor and that he can’t vouch for Lansky and Luciano not being involved too. But he shares what he does know: that one of Waxy Gordon’s men was killed during a failed hijacking that Nucky hadn’t been told about. They talk about what they should do. Rothstein’s advice is to do nothing, to be patient. He’s a gambler by trade and he says when you have no play, you “wait, plan, marshal [your] resources” and when there’s a bet to make you bet it all.

On the boardwalk, there’s a he/she “freakshow” far more amusing than I’d expected from the gawker. We have a person split down the middle — half dressed as a woman, half as a man. It’s a great costume. Nearby, Van Alden and Zewicky are getting food from a vendor who says policemen eat free. Van Alden says they’re federal agents and such a bribe is against the law. He then quotes a little Latin about wrong doings. Zewicky asks if he can speak freely — when he first joined the bureau he believed in the cause, but the difficulty of enforcement… He trails off without finishing. Van Alden says they should be going and rather than paying the bill, he crumples it up. Adultery one day, breaking federal employee rules the next. How daring. Next he’ll be adding a bit of Irish to his coffee.

Angela’s at a beach house with her new friend, Louise. There’s a party going on. They’re mostly performers, Louise says before introducing her to Arthur, a hoofer who asks Angela to dance. Louise says, “No cutting in.” Hallelujah, it’s a date. Louise takes Angela’s hand and tells her not to worry, they’re accepted here. Later, out on the deck, Angela leans in for a kiss. Huzzah!

Maraget’s playing a board game with her children and Nucky who is lost in thought. It’s his turn and Teddy gets his attention by saying “Uncle Nucky” repeatedly. Nucky snaps out of it and says he’d like them to start calling him Dad. Oh.

Old man Thompson rests in an open casket. Nucky’s the only one in the room when Eli comes in behind him. Eli’s surprised he’s there and Nucky suggests the real surprise to Eli is that it’s not him in the box. Eli says he had nothing do with that then says the Feds came for him with a subpoena. Nucky asks why the wake wasn’t at the house and Eli says because of the kids. Nucky’s reminded of their Uncle Clarence and how Eli had to kiss his body at the wake, which he clearly doesn’t remember but apparently disturbed him greatly at the time.

Nucky, it seems, came early to avoid Eli. And he came not for himself but out of respect for Mother and for Susan (who at this point I’m guess must be a dead sister — maybe this was revealed in season 1 and I’ve forgotten?). Eli says they’re all together now and Nucky says even if there were a heaven, “that son of a bitch” wouldn’t be there. Eli is clearly upset and doesn’t think Dad was as bad as Nucky makes him out to be, that what he did made them the men they are today. Nucky isn’t as impressed and reminds Eli that “we” don’t run this town, he does. Eli says Nucky has “no capacity for forgiveness.” Eli leaves him and Nucky goes up to the casket, looks down at the rosary in his father’s hands and the shoes on his feet, which are untied. He leans in to tie the left boot and breaks down in tears. I’m glad to see him letting it out because even if he’s not grieving (which I don’t believe), he’s clearly got feelings of some sort that are bursting to get out of him.

A deliveryman enters the post office with a fruit basket for Mr. Lathrop, “You’re a peach. Thanks for saving my life,” the card reads. On close-up we see the basket is all peaches. Hey, Randolph did tell Nucky he should thank Mr. Lathrop.

Oh no, the plot thickens. Nucky is at the Commodore’s house, and they’ve wheeled the poor man out in his chair. Gillian, of course, does the talking at first. Nucky refuses a drink as he won’t be staying. Instead he’s seeking some kind of peace. “Life is woefully short. My father passed on Monday. You gentlemen should know that.” The Commodore, who is clearly on the mend, manages to get out, “I’m sorry” (and if Dabney Coleman isn’t nominated for an Emmy for his performance this season I will be shocked). Old White Man #1 (aka Leander Whitlock, aka mutton chops) also extends his condolences. Nucky says his father’s death and his recent near miss along with his new family have made him want to retire. He says, “You built this town and now you can have it back” and that he spoke to the mayor and is giving his full cooperation. They can choose whomever they like as his successor as Treasurer.

He turns to leave but is stopped by Jimmy. “Nucky… Good luck to you.”

“And to you too, James.”

Van Alden comes home to the sound of Nanny Ingrid singing and rocking baby Abigail. He wordlessly walks past her, goes into his room, and closes the door. He pulls out a bank bag of cash and hides the money behind the mirror on the wall.

Nucky looks out over the boardwalk and beach from his office window. Eddie announces Mr. White is there. Nucky eases his arm from the sling before nodding for Chalky to be sent in. He clearly doesn’t want to look as injured as he is. They each have a drink and Nucky toasts “to the future.” Chalky is worried, but not about his legal case. He’s worried about his people. Nucky says it’s time for justice and reminds Chalky that he has economic power in all the people who follow his lead. Nucky encourages him to call a strike. It’s tourist season and it will cost the town a fortune. Easy for Nucky to say. In 30 minutes it won’t be his problem anymore — he’s called a press conference. Chalky looks at him like he’s maybe lost his mind, but then nods before leaving. Eddie helps Nucky into his suit coat (sans sling).

At Babette’s Eli and others are upstairs drinking and partying and reading from the paper. James Neary has been named interim treasurer. Jimmy congratulates him and the party rolls on. Richard is there, quiet and not quite looking at any of the ladies. Jimmy says, “We did it” and Richard congratulates him. Jimmy reminds him that he was part of it and anything he wants is his. Sadly, I don’t think Jimmy is actually going to grant want Richard seems to want.

Whatever Richard wants or will admit to wanting, no one else has a problem expressing their wants. They all want a moment of Jimmy’s time. Manny is there along with Mickey Doyle, asking after the booze. Eli wants a word. And then the whole room is begging for a speech. He complies:

It wasn’t all that long ago that most of us sat in this very room and listened to empty promises made by Nucky Thompson. But as we learned talk is cheap… My father, the Commodore, had a vision. A kingdom on the ocean, rising up from the sand. Well I got a vision too. To share that kingdom with it’s court. It’s a new day and the war is over. And to the victor go the spoils.

There’s a toast to “Prince James, long may he reign.” Manny looks at James while James looks on at everything. There is a coldness in his eyes.

Nucky comes home to see Margaret and Owen chatting in the hallway. Margaret heads to bed and Owen joins Nucky in the parlor, pouring them both a drink. “There’s something we need to discuss,” Nucky says. He asks where Owen was the day of the shooting and Owen says he’d run into a friend. Nucky asks if the friend was from Ireland. Owen is slow to answer and then says he’s not sure what Nucky means. “You know exactly what I mean,” is the response. “The Cause, Owen. You’ve never left it.” He says that’s why Owen stayed in AC and Owen finally admits it. Nucky wants him to set up a meeting with John McGarrigle in Ireland and they’ll set sail immediately.

Back at Babette’s the party continues. Dancing and drinking and everyone all around seems happy. Upstairs Doyle reminds Jimmy that he needs the booze and Eli barges in between them. Eli reminds Jimmy that Nucky is smarter and a lot more dangerous, he’s not to be underestimated. Jimmy says, “Fuck you.”

Doyle is immediately in his face again asking about the booze. Jimmy says Capone’s got a connection with Remus. They’ll get the booze. Manny is downstairs looking up and Jimmy gives him shit he can’t hear because of the music including calling him a “Jew bastard.” Doyle warns him not to go there and Jimmy ends up throwing him over the balcony as Manny motions for them to come down and join the party. Manny and Jimmy stare at each other for a moment before Jimmy turns and walks away.

We close with the same dream from the beginning of the episode then Nucky waking in bed alone. He rolls over to see Margaret in a chair by the window, holding Emily who is whimpering. Her fever is back.