BLOGGER'S NOTE: This recap contains spoilers, so if you haven't seen the episode yet, move along.
By Edward Copeland
"Things seem to be changing faster than I realized," a character says at one point in tonight's episode of Boardwalk Empire. While this may be true in terms of the storyline, as for the series itself, it isn't and that's the main reason I find myself enjoying the show as much as I do. First and foremost — thank whatever higher power came up with the concept of screeners. My M.S. causes fatigue issues that prevent me from writing as fast as I used to, so when I pick a show to recap, it's because I have a real interest and without being able to see that week's show early, I can't do it, especially with a series such as Boardwalk Empire, where they rarely have a scene that isn't vital or might come into play later. (Bless HBO for all its support over the years, especially on Treme this year. I wanted badly to do recaps of Breaking Bad, but I'm not good enough for AMC though they still feel free to flood my email with press releases.) That's why my recaps grow so long — I don't want to risk leaving out something that might come prove pivotal down the road. For instance, tonight's episode brings back a character playing a crucial role who hasn't been mentioned since the very first episode. Recaps have become very prevalent on the Web, but it's almost a misnomer: I seem to be one of the few who actually tell what happened in the episode, sprinkling commentary throughout. The many characters and plots can prove complicated — even for me at times — so I try to help any confused fans there might be out there.
That being said, while I admit that I think Breaking Bad is the best series on television, Boardwalk Empire also is great and I love both shows for completely different reasons. It's not as if I can only pick one as in those silly debates where you can only love Chaplin or Keaton, Astaire or Kelly — as if they all can't be appreciated for their separate gifts. The same goes with great TV dramas. Breaking Bad is well acted, directed, written and plotted, as is Boardwalk Empire, but the shows appeal to me on completely different levels. Recently, Breaking Bad has been the narrative equivalent of the crystal meth Walter White manufactures (or did) and I love every minute. Boardwalk Empire also is well acted, written, directed and plotted (with some historical context tossed in), but I feel as if I'm luxuriating as I watch it. If Breaking Bad has been meth the past few weeks, Boardwalk Empire might be something like Dilaudid, easing your pain and letting you relax. Making a non-drug analogy, Breaking Bad is smart and visceral while Boardwalk Empire is cerebral and intuitive, rewarding those who pay close attention. It's similar to The Wire, not in terms of quality but in its novelistic approach where its fictional characters constantly cross paths with real people. It's as if E.L. Doctorow or Gore Vidal decided to create a TV series instead of writing another historical novel. As a writer, I love words and obviously Terence Winter, even if he's not the credited writer of the episode, sends out the memo, because scenes go on without becoming boring and with language that's just a pleasure to hear. For instance, on tonight's episode, the first 10 minutes essentially cover a mere three scenes. On a DVD commentary, David Duchovny says what a pleasure it is when actors get longer scenes that let them dig into the material and the character. You can tell by how much better actors are when they get those moments. Before I begin my recap of tonight's episode "Ourselves Alone," I want to go back to something pertaining to last week's episode "21." In the great sequence where Nucky addresses both black and white church congregations, telling each one what they want to hear, some questioned that word would get around that Nucky was speaking out of both sides of his mouth and that surely a newspaper would report it. I agreed at first but thinking more about it, it makes sense. It was 1921 after all and the races practically lived separate existences. There still was a high illiteracy rate because of the terrible schools blacks had to attend and African-American communities often had newspapers of their own for those blacks who could read. Besides, no white reporter would have dared stepped into the black church with what was going on and vice versa. I'm sure Nucky didn't pick his audiences by accident and there wasn't enough interracial mingling for word to get around unless Eli shared it with the Commodore or someone else.
"Ourselves Alone" was written by Howard Korder and directed by David Petrarca and adds some interesting layers to the plots going on right now, even if it isn't as kinetically exciting as the premiere, but it does have great moments once again for Michael Kenneth Williams as Chalky, good stuff for Kelly Macdonald as Margaret and the welcome return of the phenomenal Michael Stuhlbarg as Arnold Rothstein. Honestly, someone should do a spinoff movie on Rothstein that stars Stuhlbarg. The episode opens on Valentine's Day, so we have an exact date in 1921 where we are, as Margaret rises for the day and comes down the stairs to find her maids Katy (Heather Lind) and Pauline (Amy Warren) congregating with the children's nanny Lillian (Jacqueline Pennewill) at the first floor landing looking over a newspaper. She asks if the children are up and Katy tells her they are breakfasting. Margaret starts to walk away, but stops and asks the servants if that is this morning's paper. Pauline whispers that she's going to find out anyway and hands her the paper. It bears the headline, "TREASURER THOMPSON ARRESTED." Pauline asks if they will be having dinner and Margaret asks why they wouldn't. Margaret tells Katy to make sure that the hallway rug is taken out and beaten before Mr. McGarrigle's arrival that night. She then goes into another room to use the phone and calls Eddie. Kessler tells her the paper is a lie because they left out that Mr. Thompson is innocent, but he can't talk because it's mayhem at the Ritz suite as he watches an investigator slice open the bottom of the couch in Nucky's office. Katy sticks her head in and Margaret asks her what kind of coat she has.
Last week, Nucky had Eli arrest Chalky for his own protection. Today, the two men find themselves sharing a jail cell. "You understand you are in a precarious situation," Nucky tells Chalky as the two men light up smokes. Thompson explains he had Chalky jailed to keep him safe, but it can't be coincidental that they suddenly came after him as well. "The Klan could have come for me any time," Chalky says. "Not as long as I was there to protect you," Nucky insists. Chalky asks why they thought Nucky suddenly wouldn't be there. Nucky asks where Chalky was on election night. "In the basement of the A.M.E. Church, handing out dollar bills to every able-bodied negro who came in," he replies. Thompson inquires about the whereabouts of his ward bosses that night, but White has no idea — he wasn't in the wards. Nucky quizzes him about the bosses, but Chalky has little to say about any of them except Neary. "Neary's been a sonuvabitch ever since I ran numbers" in Georgia, Chalky tells Nucky that Neary would come around for collections and enjoyed using his nightstick while taking them. Nucky continues to go down the list of his alderman, but Chalky interrupts. "You askin' the wrong question. Not one of them pikers got it in 'em to put up a squeal unless someone put 'em to it." The jailer arrives to tell Nucky that his lawyer Isaac Ginsburg has put up his bail. As Nucky gets up to leave, he advises Chalky to be patient. "I get my own Jew lawyer," White says.
"I won't pretend you're inclined to be warm to me. I won't insult you like that because before anything else, I have great respect for you, your wisdom, your achievements," a sharply dressed Jimmy says to Arnold Rothstein (Michael Stuhlbarg) who sits at the desk in his New York office, Lucky Luciano (Vincent Piazza) standing at his side. Rothstein takes a sip of his milk and smiles. "You're better spoken than I expected," he tells Jimmy. Darmody mentions that's because they have never really met, but Rothstein brings up that he and Luciano are acquainted. "We have someone in common," Jimmy admits, referring to Gillian. Rothstein turns to Luciano. "You hear, Charlie — discretion. Charlie volunteered to absent himself from this meeting. He felt his presence might be disruptive, but I counseled what?" he asks Luciano. "Never let the past get in the way of the future," Luciano responds. Jimmy tells Rothstein that they are all learning to which Rothstein inquires what he can learn from Darmody. "That things are changing in Atlantic City. If you are in the market for quality liquor coming in off the beaches at a reasonable price and in good supply, I can get it for you," Jimmy offers. It seems with each episode not only does the character of Jimmy Darmody mature but so does the acting of Michael Pitt as well. Then again, it never hurts to be playing opposite Stuhlbarg's Rothstein who seems as if he were born for the role. He's so damn great that the initial amazement that he played Larry Gopnik in the Coens' A Serious Man vanished long ago. I don't know Stuhlbarg's exact age, but where has he been hiding? (I know — the theater.) How he missed out an Oscar nomination for A Serious Man boggles my mind when it managed a best picture nomination. He deserved Emmy consideration here as well, but with such a large cast and a flawed award, that's more understandable, though still infuriating. Rothstein asks Jimmy if he personally can do that and Jimmy assures that he and his associates can and explains how he's expanding his business "and you are precisely the type of discerning customer I'm looking for." Rothstein asks about Nucky, who Jimmy insists is "like a father to me." After a momentary pause, Rothstein poses a question that Jimmy seems not to expect. "Who are you, Mr. Darmody?…You show up well dressed with a silk cravat and a bold proposal. A year ago, you were a brigand in the woods. Who are you?" Rothstein repeats the question. "I'm a businessman, a veteran. I just got married," he replies to which Rothstein congratulates him. "I have a son. He's almost four." Rothstein interjects smiling, "Cart before the horse." Jimmy asks Rothstein if he has any children. "No, but I'm told they often say unexpected and amusing things," he replies. He tells Jimmy that he appreciates him coming to him with this offer. "I applaud your own destiny and I give you my word your offer remains in this room," Rothstein says before telling him that Luciano will show him out. Before Jimmy has left the office, Rothstein speaks again to him. "Mr. Darmody, don't you find it curious that neither of us has mentioned that Nucky Thompson spent last night in jail?" Jimmy appears to be surprised by the news. "He did?" "Election fraud, apparently," Rothstein informs him. "Things seem to be changing faster than I realized." Mystified by Rothstein's lack of any response to his proposal, Luciano tells Jimmy once they are outside the office, "He doesn't like to say no." Jimmy says it appears he doesn't like to say yes either. "Not unless he has to," Lucky responds. Luciano asks if Jimmy plays poker, inviting him to a game downtown, but Jimmy suspects a setup. Luciano assures him it's Meyer Lansky's game. "That doesn't make me a simp," Jimmy tells Lucky who shows a bit of his hot-headed nature, declaring, "Go fry a fuckin' egg, Farmer John" and begins to walk off. Jimmy stops him and asks him to just give him the straight dope. Lucky hands Jimmy a card. "Meyer thinks we should meet."
Eddie assists Nucky with his shave as Ginsburg (Peter Van Wagner) gives his client a rundown of what he knows about his legal situation thus far. The lawyer tells Thompson that it all stems from Gov. Edwards seeking to make a splash. As for Solomon Bishop, the state attorney: "The man is going to try very hard to put you in prison," Ginsburg tells him. "Fine. Tell me he's poor but honest," Nucky says. "He's married to a lesser Whitney and set his salary at one dollar anum, so he's certainly not poor. As for honest…you want to ask about the indictment. I do not have a copy of it yet. However, I gleaned from the court clerk that your ship is leaking," Ginsburg informs his client. Thompson wants to know who. Ginsburg can't provide names, but says there are two confidential witnesses prepared to testify to direct knowledge of voter intimidation, fraud, theft of ballot boxes and bribery. Ginsburg warns Nucky that reporters are swarming outside and asks if he wants a reporter by his side. "That's what guilty men do," Nucky responds. Ginsburg tells him he'll get to work. Eddie informs Nucky that Margaret has read the newspaper. Nucky asks about the children, but Eddie says she did not say. "The state police have banished me from the suite," Eddie tells his boss. "They were touching your possessions in ways I considered offensive." Nucky wipes his face, his shave completed, and asks Eddie, "Don't I have a treasurer's office somewhere?"
Nearly a century separates Walter and Skyler White of Albuquerque, N.M., on Breaking Bad and the couple Enoch "Nucky" Thompson and Margaret Schroeder of Atlantic City, N.J., and while both women certainly began their introduction (to us as television viewers at least) as moral, law-abiding citizens, both Skyler and Margaret have become embroiled in the seedier if not downright criminal side of the life of their respective mates. While Skyler still likes to get on her high horse and thinks she's smarter than she is, think how much better off Walt would be if his partner in crime were Margaret who has taken to the role as if it's her second nature. After hearing Eddie's brief description of the state investigators tearing up Nucky's suite at the Ritz, as soon as she was off the phone, she asked her maid Katy for her coat. Now, we know why. Solomon Bishop sits comfortably in Nucky's office chair reading documents when another investigator, Talmer (Alex Cranmer), tells him there's a woman outside. He goes to the office door to find Margaret who has dressed herself down and given the look of some poor downtrodden women who might be with child. When Bishop shows up at the opening to the office, she meekly says, "Mr. Thompson?" The deputy state's attorney says that no, he is not Mr. Thompson. She asks when he will return. "Do you read the papers, ma'am?" Bishop asks. "On Sundays, when the neighbors are done with it," she replies. Talmer suggests that she borrow their paper today, adding that Nucky's been arrested. Margaret starts putting on the waterworks, telling the men that she'd been told that Mr. Thompson might be able to help with her "wee ones." She begins to double over and Bishop suggests that Talmer get her a glass of water. "I think she may be with child," Talmer says as he tries to hold her up. She tells him what she really needs is to borrow their facilities and Talmer helps her in and toward the bathroom.
The Commodore has invited more officials to join his conspiracy against Nucky — all of his ward bosses: Boyd (Edward McGinty), Damian Flemming, Jim Neary and George O'Neill (William Hill) — and all four showed, discussing things with Eli in the Commodore's grand living room as they await the Commodore's arrival, that seven-plus foot grizzly overseeing the proceedings. "This is Nucky's town, Eli," Damian says as they question who takes over if Thompson goes away. Eli borrows the Commodore's line, telling them that Nucky was weaned on the Commodore's teat. "That's what I'm saying," Flemming continues. "It's a young man's game." At that moment, the Commodore enters, having dyed his white hair black. "How old are you, Damian?" he asks. Off to the side on a couch, Boyd whispers to O'Neill, "Is that shoe polish?" referring to whatever the Commodore used to color his hair. "Thirty-eight," Flemming answers the Commodore. The Commodore tells Flemming to pick up the large animal tusk that rests on a sofa table. Damian struggles with the bulky piece of bone but when the Commodore challenges him to lift it above his head, he can't do it. The Commodore takes it and raises the tusk over his head as if it were a broom. "You're half my age, son, I'm twice your age," the Commodore gloats. "I trust I made my point. You all showed up which says to me we all feel the same about a certain individual — the arrogance, the selfishness, the neglect." Neary interjects, "Let's me take the fall on Saint Paddy's Day." Eli piles on, "Such is his method, Jim, then a wave of his hand — 'All is forgiven.' Makes me sick — and I say this as a blood relation." Flemming remains skeptical, suggesting that it's just an indictment and Nucky's smart and could beat it. The Commodore smiles and shows the legal cards that he's holding. "Nucky Thompson is going to jail thanks to Jim Neary and —" he pauses, getting stuck on the name of the other man in the room who isn't a ward boss. "Patrick Ryan," the man (Samuel Taylor) says. "Patrick Ryan as eyewitnesses which nails him dead to rights on the election," the Commodore concludes. Again, Boardwalk Empire reaches into its past to reward viewers who pay attention, in this case, going all the way back to the very first episode. Ryan was the man who at that first meeting, celebrating the imminent start of Prohibition, was named the new senior county clerk by Nucky, an appointment that peeved Jimmy because he felt that he should start being more than Nucky's driver, indirectly leading Jimmy to his botched hijacking in the woods with Capone. "Which leaves the booze," Eli says. "How are you gonna handle that?" Hill asks. The Commodore explains that his role as president of the Yacht Club along with a solid guy working for them in the Coast Guard will take care of that. "What we ship comes in. What Nucky ships doesn't," he adds, telling them that his son Jimmy will run the operation. "Now this isn't going to be easy, but nothing worthwhile is," the Commodore says, winding up with the equivalent of a coach's half-time locker room speech. "Ask the man inside of you this: When you come face to face with destiny do you want to be the bear or do you want to be the one holding the shotgun?"
Lenore comes to visit Chalky at the jail saying their daughter Maybelle has a request: Her beau wants to call at the house. She asks when would be a good time. Chalky tells her a few days — he's awaiting advice of counsel. "Is he competent?" Lenore asks. Chalky tells her that he's a Hebrew gentleman. She says Lester was quite insistent about visiting him, but Chalky and Lenore agree that the teen shouldn't see his father behind bars. He sent his father something to read anyway: Charles Dickens' David Copperfield. We learn Chalky's real first name as the jailer tells his wife it's time for her to go and she says, "Albert, you have a family that loves you and is waiting." After Lenore has left, a prisoner (Erik LaRay Harvey) in the cell across from Chalky's starts whistling and asks, "Who is that fine piece of lambtail?" Chalky inquires if the man likes her looks to which he replies he surely does. "I'll tell my wife then the next time I see her," Chalky declares. "Meant no offense," the man says. "Got a pair of eyeballs. Can't help but use them. Name is Dunn Purnsley from Baltimore." Purnsley asks what he is reading and for the first time, we learn Chalky can't read. "Tom Sawyer." Purnsley says that he and the other men in his cell could use some entertainment, why doesn't he read to them? One of Dunn's cellmates tell Purnsley to leave him alone explaining that he is Chalky White, as if that will mean something to someone from Baltimore. "I had no idea," Purnsley replies sarcastically. "You tellin' me…walking around here like some old zip coon, fine high yellow bitch at his side — he called Chalky White 'cause that be the most bunk for a nigger horseshit I ever heard. What you say to that, Brother Tambo?" Chalky continues to pretend to read. "I say you heard my name." Purnsley shoots back, "I know you heard mine." The jailer returns with a white prisoner and tells Chalky that he must move to the other cell since they can't mix races so White joins Purnsley and the four other men.
Nucky and Eddie walk into his treasurer's office, shocking the secretary (Trisha McCormick) who Nucky mistakenly greets as Enid. She corrects him that her name is Eunice. He tells her to call the aldermen, the sheriff and the mayor and tell them to come at once. He then goes into his office and closes the door. After a moment, he opens it and adds, "I also need a florist."
As Margaret helps Katy with proper placing of the silverware, Pauline brings her a bouquet of roses for Valentine's Day, though the card isn't signed. Any joy at the gift doesn't last as Emily's shrieks interrupt the activities as her brother Teddy chases her with a hammer. Margaret grabs it and sends the boy to his room. Lillian comes in panting, saying they were building a birdhouse. A persistent knocking occurs at the back door. When Margaret answers it — hammer still in hand — a man with a thick Irish brogue (Charlie Cox) raises his hands in surrender. "I'm not a burglar, though I do confess to climbing out a window or two." He mistakes Margaret for a servant and asks for Mrs. Thompson. When told that there isn't one, he asks for the lady of the house and Margaret tells him that he's speaking to her. He introduces himself as Owen Sleater and says he works for Mr. McGarrigle. "You are quite early," Margaret declares. After Sleater puts his foot in his mouth a few more ways, Margaret asks what exactly he wants. "With your kind permission, I'm to ensure your house is secure for Mr. McGarrigle this evening," Owen replies. "We're not given to threatening our guests," Margaret tells him. "You do have a hammer." Margaret explains her son thinks it's a toy. Sleater asks where he is. "In his room," Margaret answers then, realizing that Sleater is making a serious inquiry. "He's seven." Sleater rules Teddy out as a threat and begins to survey the premises.
One cellmate's wheezing bothers a fellow prisoner, but the inmate doesn't get what he's saying at first. The wheezing inmate says he can't help it — he's catching a cold and asks where he's supposed to go. "He's got you there," Purnsley declares. "We're all in this together." Dunn describes the little place in his head where he goes that no one can get to and credits it for doing "three years in ankle chains like I was takin' a nap. Chalky White knows what I'm talkin' bout, don't he?" Chalky remains silent, keeping his book open as Purnsley continues. "I bet he up there right now, all soft and pillowy. Honeybee wife fetchin' plates of greens, roast beef, reading Tom Sawyer. Ain't that so, Chalky White?" Purnsley sits on the lower bunk next to Chalky who simply says, "Well, it could be." Purnsley deepens his voice to a threatening whisper, "Maybe I climb up there with you, jazz that woman up while you're lickin' the plate." Chalky calmly closes the novel. "You do what you want," Chalky says before turning and looking Dunn straight in the eye. "Just gonna be your right hand anyway." Purnsley pauses briefly before laughing and slapping Chalky on the arm. "That's how you play it, gentleman," Dunn proclaims as he stands. "Oh yeah, we gonna get along just fine."
Looking nervous, angry and hurt, Nucky looks out the window of the treasurer's office. He turns around as Mayor Bader rushes in asking, "Am I late?" Nucky isn't in good spirits, sternly inquiring, "Where the hell have you been?" Bader says he came as soon as he got the message. "Ninety minutes?" Bader tells him there are reporters everywhere and investigators snooping around. He's not proud to admit it, but Bader confesses that he's been hiding in his garage. Seeing only he and Nucky, he asks Thompson where everyone is. "I need you to tell me if you were approached about turning against me," Nucky states. The question stuns Bader who tells Nucky that he knows he's with him because of their business interests. "We're building things," Bader says. "Nobody came to you — not Neary, any of the bosses, not the Commodore?" Nucky asks. Nucky's nervousness infects Bader. "How bad is this?" Nucky admits he doesn't know yet while Bader wonders if they'll come after him. Nucky tries to calm Bader's worry about that. "I'm gonna beat this, Ed, and when I do I'm gonna remember who showed up here today and who didn't. Depend on that," Nucky tells him. As Nucky shows Bader out, Eunice tells him that Eddie called and that it's safe to return to the Ritz office.
After the meeting at the Commodore's, the four ward bosses hook up in an out-of-the-way spot to discuss the plot against Nucky. Neary remains the gung ho ringleader and Flemming the cautious naysayer with Boyd and O'Neill seeming to have no opinion of their own other than to end up on the winning side. "I don't see why things gotta change. Everybody's getting by," Flemming says. "Is that all you want from life, Damian?" Neary asks. "What else is there?" Flemming replies. "A pair of balls," Neary counters. Boyd questions Neary if there might be something more in it for him, but Neary says he'll get the same as everybody — "Less headaches, more green." O'Neill hasn't seen any problem with Nucky keeping the jack flowing. "Where were you last year?" Neary asks. "Armed robbery, shooting on the Boardwalk — that's not a man in control — and the election." O'Neil reminds him that they won. "Too goddamn close," Neary comments. Flemming doesn't see why a change in leadership means that Nucky has to go to jail. O'Neil wonders about the roads project that all of them have a stake in. Neary claims that will go on under the Commodore. "But it's Nucky's deal," Flemming says. Neary tells Flemming to get it through his skull — they aren't in charge. "The Commodore wants Nucky next to that fuckin' grizzly. That's what's gonna happen," Neary declares. "What's to keep us from winding up with him?" Flemming asks, referring to possible jail time. Neary assures them that the Commodore will put the fix in. Neary looks to each of the men. O'Neill and Boyd reluctantly nod that they are in while Flemming lights his cigarette and stays mum. "Damian, just say, 'Please' and 'Thank you,'" Neary tells him.
Jimmy heads to the Lower East Side where Meyer Lansky (Anatol Yusef) has set up an office for his continuous poker game behind the name of the business Schenkel & Bro. Darners & Weavers. Before he, Jimmy and Luciano begin their discussion, Meyer sends their teen worker Benny (Michael Zegen) out for cheese. The youth makes some odd noises, prompting Jimmy to ask if he's OK. Lansky assures him that he's fine, he just makes noises like that sometimes. Benny's last name happens to be Siegel. In the 1930s, he'll acquire a nickname he hates: Bugsy. Lansky tells Jimmy he runs the house for the poker game round the clock under Rothstein's protection. Luciano says that they have other enterprises as well. Jimmy asks if Rothstein has part of those, but the two remain silent. "You met with A.R.," Lansky says. "He can be a difficult man to read." Luciano chimes in. "That thing of yours this morning — I'd have said yes to that." Jimmy tells Luciano that he wouldn't have asked him though. "I need Rothstein, not the fella who carries his water," Darmody says. This sets Jimmy and Luciano off again, bringing Gillian into the conversation with Luciano saying she was "begging for it" and forcing Lansky to physically separate the men. "Gentlemen — I'm running a business here," Meyer tells them as they finally return to their corners. Lansky takes the seat on the other side of his desk next to Jimmy. "Charlie and I have learned a great deal from Mr. Rothstein as I'm sure you have from Mr. Thompson," Meyer says, "but nobody wants to be in school forever. As I see it, we have a lot in common. If we put aside our differences, things could happen." "Such as?" Jimmy asks. "Trading partners. We buy liquor from you, you buy something from us," Lansky answers. "What would that be?" Jimmy inquires. "We're thinking of getting into heroin," Luciano speaks up. Meyer cocks his head as he tells Jimmy, "When you run the numbers, it starts looking very attractive."
Margaret tries to straighten the rug in the entry hall herself, unhappy with the job Katy did when Owen Sleater wanders by and lends a hand. She asks the Irishman if he's been traveling around the U.S. much. "With Mr. McGarrigle. Filling the coffers. New York, Boston, Philadelphia," he tells her of their journeys seeking support for the cause back home. "Ourselves alone," Margaret says. Sleater informs Margaret that her Gaelic translation is a bit off. "Sinn Féin — we ourselves. That's a bit closer," Sleater remarks. "Either case, that's what we're about — who else would fight for us?" Margaret inquires about what it is he does exactly for McGarrigle. "As you see — clear the path," he replies, adding that he was a livestock inspector prior to the rebellion, then he went to fight in the north. "I make you for the Lonesome West," Owen guesses about Margaret's Irish origins. She tells him she's from Kerry actually. He asks if any relatives remain in Ireland. "No — here apparently," she answers. "Then you won't have to choose sides."
Almost as soon as Nucky gets back to the Ritz, he makes a beeline for his closet but when he removes the false panel, he finds that both the ledger and the moneybag are missing. Eddie calls to him, announcing that Ward Boss Flemming has arrived to see him. Nucky returns to his office. "Nuck, I tried talking to them. I said they were making a mistake. I told them you were too smart to get sandbagged by something like this, They wouldn't listen. All they can see are dollar signs," Flemming tells Nucky. The phone on Nucky's desk begins to ring, but Flemming continues talking and Thompson seems in no rush to answer it. "It's like the Commodore has cast some voodoo spell on them," Damian says as Nucky answers the phone, "Yes." "All alone big brother?" Eli's voice can be heard. "How does it feel sitting at your fancy desk all by yourself?" Nucky speaks as calmly as he can muster. "Eli, please listen closely. If now, right now, you tell me you want to get out of this, I will help you.…I'm prepared to hear your side of it. I will help you — if you tell me right now because in a minute it's going to be too late." Silence. "Are you there?" Nucky asks. "The funny thing," Eli says, "nobody takes power. Nobody has to give it to them. Look around, big brother. What have you got?" Eli hangs up. Nucky tells Eddie and Flemming that he's late for a dinner engagement. Part of what pissed Eli off was when he was removed from the ballot for sheriff after his shooting at the casino. What would Eli think if Nucky told him that it was the Commodore who advised him to remove Eli from the party ticket even though Nucky felt it cold-blooded to do to his brother who was still recovering from a bullet wound? Eli made his phone call to Nucky from the Commodore's, with the Commodore watching. After he hangs up, the Commodore says, "Feels good to twist the knife." Eli smiles weakly. The Commodore tells him that now it's time for him to meet the men who built Atlantic City. He leads Eli into another room where about four bald and white-haired men sit. "Gentlemen, may I present Sheriff Elias Thompson," the Commodore announces. Leander Cephas Whitlock stands and raises his drink and says, "Propinate nobis similibusque," a Latin toast that translates to "Here's to us and those like us — damn few left." For regular viewers of The Sopranos, even with our first close-up of Dominic Chianese and his first spoken lines, albeit they are in Latin, you still can't spot Uncle Junior hidden anywhere within those muttonchops and behind that beard and mustache.
Jimmy has done well at Lansky's poker game, so he asks Benny Siegel to cash him out. He takes note of two men having a heated conversation with Meyer in his office. When they exit, one of the other players invites the pair to join the game as they are always looking for new victims. The taller Italian, Incrocci (Mario Macaluso), asks, "Why's every kike got to be a wise ass?" Benny fires back, "Why does every dago have to be dumb as fuck?" Incrocci threatens to bury Benny in his diaper and he starts making clucking noises again until Lansky comes out and says Benny's name and gets him to stop. Jimmy hands his chips to Benny who gives him a large wad of bills which he slides into his pocket. The other Italian man, Scarpelli (John Cenatiempo), distinguished by his hat and his silence, continues to stay mum. Lansky tries to keep the situation on a strictly business level, thanking them for their full and frank discussion. Incrocci isn't impressed. He's more interested in Lansky respecting the terms and tells Scarpelli they need to get going — "This place smells" — and report back to his uncle. Jimmy asks who they were after the men leave. Lansky explains that they represent Masseria. The name means nothing to Darmody. Benny describes him as a fat ass who thinks he owns the Lower East Side. "Just a simple misunderstanding," Lansky insists. Jimmy slips a tip to Benny and leaves.
*SPECIAL NOTE: Thanks to Mr. Barthelemy Atsin, who was kind enough to help me by telling me which actors played each of the other cellmates in the following scene with Chalky and Dunn Purnsley. In addition to acting, Atsin also is an artist so you might check out his website.
It's fairly clear that Purnsley, so well played by Erik LaRay Harvey, has keyed in on the fact that Chalky can't read so he decides to rub it in his face. Dunn asks Chalky, "What's that scamp Tom up to now?" Chalky points to an illustration in the copy of David Copperfield and says that Tom met this little one and they had a sweet time chatting and then she played the piano. Purnsley then sticks one of his digits into the text on the opposite page and asks Chalky what it says. It's the closest we've seen Chalky come to losing his cool with this man. "It say get your finger out of my face." Dunn places his hands on the top bunk and leans in to Chalky. "Know what I don't like about you? That fuckin' winged suit and that bright-skinned bitch you have with that uppity way you tell the world you better than Dunn Purnsley when all you be is a jigaboo in a jail cell," Purnsley sneers, ripping the book from Chalky and tossing it across the cell, leaving only the page with the drawing in Chalky's grasp. Chalky stays quiet for a moment, then a peaceful look crosses his face along with a smile. "Harold C. Madison, how your daddy keepin'?" Chalky asks. The inmate closest to Chalky with a sling on his arm (Omar Scroggins) stops leaning on the bunks and steps forward. "Tolerable, sir. He thanks you for the doctor bills," Harold says. "Noah Hookway, how are things going down at the Gold Room?" Chalky inquires. The prisoner wearing a wool cap and standing in the corner to Chalky's left moves to the center of the cell. "Supposed to be at work today," Noah (Bartelemy Atsin) tells him. "I'll talk to them," Chalky promises. Purnsley, standing in the cell's exact center, begins to realize what is happening. "Timothy. Cornelius," Chalky addresses the last two inmates who stand against the bars. "Mama grateful for the turkey, sir," Timothy (Truck Hudson) says. The four men have Dunn surrounded. "Alrighty then," Chalky declares. Purnsley isn't intent to wait and starts swinging, but it doesn't take long for the four inmates to overpower him, beating and strangling him unmercifully against the bars until he finally falls as a bloody heap to the floor. Cornelius (Jonathan Baston) retrieves David Copperfield and returns it to Chalky. "Which of you boys knows his letters?" Chalky asks. "I do," Noah replies. Chalky hands him the book and he begins to read as the camera remains glued on Michael Kenneth Williams' face.. "David Copperfield by Charles Dickens. Chapter One. I am born. Whether I shall be the hero of my own life or whether that station will be filled by anyone else…" It could be argued that these scenes with Dunn Purnsley added little and didn't forward the overall story, but look how many layers these jail scenes added to our understanding of Chalky White. Boardwalk Empire also knows how to add new shadings and depths to its characters through scenes that otherwise might not be essential to its ongoing plots.
Margaret finds herself playing hostess to John McGarrigle (Ted Rooney) and Ernie Moran alone as Nucky has yet to arrive home. Owen Sleater sits off to the side, not dining at the table but flirting with Katy each time she passes. The sour-looking McGarrigle hasn't eaten much, prompting Margaret to ask, "Is the lamb not to your liking, Mr. McGarrigle?" Solemnly, he replies, "I've no doubt it is properly prepared, but I eschew any flesh that walks on cloven hooves." Margaret apologizes, saying she had not been made aware of his preference. "It's no preference. It's an iron-clad principle," McGarrigle declares. Moran attempts to lighten the mood, saying John is a man with a bit of the devil in him, but McGarrigle misses the humor, insisting he would not tally with the devil at all. "It is a challenge in this town," Moran says and again the joke flies over the Irishman's head. "Mr. Moran refers to Atlantic City's reputation for pleasure," Margaret interjects. "The width of this country seems beset by licentiousness and turpitude," McGarrigle states. At this point, her guest is annoying Margaret. "Another thing not to your liking," she says. "It is none of my concern. My cause is to drive the English invaders out of a land he's occupied for 800 years. I assure you, we will succeed even if we're martyred along the way," the visitor sermonizes. Margaret calls that an extreme position. "Only to those who've forgotten from which they've come," he replies accusingly. "I know where I'm from — and where I am now," Margaret responds. "You're plainspoken — for a woman," McGarrigle says. Before tensions can get much higher, Nucky arrives to break them, apologizing for his tardiness, blaming a busy day. McGarrigle wants to discuss their business immediately, but Nucky tells him he needs to eat something first. "There's certainly plenty of lamb," Margaret grins mischievously.
As Jimmy prepares to exit the Lower East Side, he moves his knife from his boot to the back of his shirt. He must be prescient. As he walks through a park, he's confronted by Incrocci and Scarpelli, who demand his take from the poker game. Jimmy keeps his arms raised as Incrocci keeps a gun trained on him. He tells them he put the cash in his boot. As Scarpelli looks, Jimmy tells him it's in the other one. As Scarpelli switches, Jimmy kicks him hard, pulls the blade out and slits Incrocci's throat before doing the same to Scarpelli, whom he leaves bleeding into a fountain.
After Nucky and his guest have moved to another room to discuss the issues at hand, McGarrigle makes his appeal. "Mr. Thompson, the Irish people are at war against a barbaric form. The English murder us in our sleep. They set fire to our homes. Last month, they put the torch to Cork City and shot the firemen come to fight the blaze. We need guns and the money to buy them. Mr. Moran tells me you are a loyal son of Erin and I call upon that loyalty now," McGarrigle says. Nucky recommends that McGarrigle go to the next meeting of the Ancient Order of the Celts. A disappointed McGarrigle tells Nucky that "cash suits us better." Nucky says, "I say that myself, but today is not the day." Moran speaks up to inform Nucky that there is another matter. McGarrigle speaks of his man and Sleater steps forward to introduce himself. McGarrigle announces that Owen has decided to stay behind in the states. Moran asks Nucky if he might be able to help Sleater find employment. Thompson tells him to stop by the Ritz office tomorrow.
After the guests have left, Margaret sees Nucky slumping in the chair by the fireplace. She starts to leave him be, but he leans around and says they need to talk. Margaret asks if they have a case and Nucky admits that they do. "Who is against you?" she asks. "The ward bosses — all except Flemming. The Commodore is pulling the strings and I think he has Jimmy." Margaret notes that Nucky hasn't mentioned his brother. "Eli — Eli is betraying me," Nucky admits sadly. "I didn't hear a word from you since last night," Margaret says with a bit of anger in her voice. Nucky tells her that he didn't want her to find out. "How could I not?" she ask him. "I just keep people satisfied. That's what I do," Nucky justifies. Margaret tells him that he knows now that that's not possible. Nucky informs her that the investigators turned the suite upside down and some things are missing, including the ledger and about $20,000 in cash. Margaret walks over to a desk and unlocks it and then returns to Nucky, standing before him with the ledger and the moneybag in her hands. Nucky's eyes widen as he sees them in her hands. "You are smarter than your enemies and you will persevere, but you aren't thinking clearly now. You must concentrate and not give over to emotion," she tells him. "Where did you get those?" he asks. "From your closet today," she replies as she hands him the moneybag. She holds the ledger. "This must be burned and future transactions committed to memory, do you agree?" An amazed Nucky nods yes as Margaret pitches the ledger into the fireplace. She tells him he looks exhausted. "I sent you flowers for Valentine's. I never signed the card," Nucky tells her. "I knew who they were from," she says, adding how exhausted Nucky looks. She kisses him on the forehead. "Go get some sleep — in our bed." I told you — how much better off Walter White would be with Margaret at his side?