Monday, October 04, 2010


Boardwalk Empire No. 3: Broadway Limited

BLOGGER'S NOTE: This recap contains spoilers, so if you haven't seen the episode yet, move along.

By Edward Copeland
The not-so-dead fifth victim of Jimmy and Capone's ambush in the woods is rushed through the halls of the hospital. Nucky, with Jimmy by his side, demands to know from Eli how this man could have survived all this time with that kind of blood loss and belly wound. Eli says apparently the fact the man was fat and the cold temperatures combined to keep him pulsing, but it doesn't look good for him. Nucky tells Jimmy that he better hope he dies and Eli assures him that he'll take care of it.

Nucky pays a visit to a livery where a horse-drawn carriage delivers some Canadian Club to his new partner in the mixing business, Chalky White. Chalky warns his workers that he's going to do a bottle count as soon as he's done and if any drop goes missing, he'll "take a drop of blood out of every one of you all's asses." Nucky calls him Simon LeGree. "Don't give a fuck if they agree or not," Chalky replies. Then, Chalky and Thompson decide to get down to numbers. Chalky says he can take 500 bottles and turn it into 3,000, but he wants to know the split. Thompson says, assuming it goes well, it will be 80-20. He'll supply the liquor and Chalky will work the magic, the same deal he had with Mickey Cusick. "Did you know that motherfucker changed his name to Doyle?" Chalky inserts before suggesting 60-40, since he deserves more than Mickey got. Nucky says he didn't realize White was so sensitive. "Smooth as a baby's ass motherfucker." Nucky counters with 65-35 and Chalky agrees that they have a deal. As Nucky and Eddie leaves, Nucky whispers to his valet, "What is a motherfucker?" Eddie thinks it's a "schvartze" word. It's so great to see Michael K. Williams in a series again (though he's going by Michael Kenneth Williams now, the third variation on his name the actor has used in credits), especially in a role that's miles removed from Omar on The Wire, just so you are able to see his range. His first lengthy scene with Buscemi is a comic wonder and I can only hope there will be more down the road.

Margaret is gathered around her table with her children and her neighbor Edith (Barbara Tirrell) who has been watching the kids while she's been hospitalized. Her daughter asks when the baby is going to arrive and Margaret tells her that the stork must have lost his way. A knock comes at the door and Edith makes it her business to answer it. It is Ward Boss Neary (Robert Clohessy) with news that Nucky has arranged a job for Mrs. Schroeder. She sees it's French and at the Ritz Carlton. Edith asks how she knows an important man like Mr. Thompson and Margaret says she met him at a temperance league meeting. The ever-nosy Edith asks what kind of job it is and Margaret says she guesses it is some kind of shop.

Back at the hospital, Eli, despite the doctor's objections, gets the medical staff to leave under the pretense of having to question Rothstein's surviving man about the incident in the woods. The patient in the neighboring bed wants to know what the man did, but Eli urges him to be quiet and puts up a divider between the two ailing men. Eli then grabs a pillow and proceeds to try to smother the man to death but whatever will to live kept him surviving in the frozen woods as long as he did struggles with Eli as well, so much so that he makes enough noise to get the other patient's attention again asking if he's OK. Eli tries to cover the noise with typical investigative questions such as, "Did you see who did this to you?" However, between the other patient's interruptions and the wounded man's fight for life, Eli just isn't having any luck sending him to his maker. To make matters worse, Van Alden and his men barge into the room. Eli quickly acts as if he's fluffing the pillow and puts it under the man's head. Van Alden wants to question the man, but Eli assumes the doctor's stance, saying he's too weak. Van Alden says they are across the Pennsylvania border and it's not Eli's jurisdiction. "Then get a warrant," Eli spits. Van Alden tells one of his men to guard the door and he'll be back.

Lucky Luciano has a painful doctor's visit to check on progress with his private parts. The good news is that the treatment seems to have cured his gonorrhea for good. Unfortunately, as he hesitantly tells the physician, he can't seem to hold an erection. Worse for the doctor, he tries to keep notes for a medical history and Luciano tells him that he best not do that.

Margaret shows up at her new job at the French dressmaker's shop at the Ritz Carlton managed by Madame Jeunet (Anna Katarina), who explains that Mr. Thompson forced her to let her predecessor go so that Margaret could have this job. Her duties will include helping customers to put on and take off garments and to occasionally model the clothes herself. She also needs to dress more appropriately for the store, bathe at least once a week and, at times, late nights will be required. It is also very important for Margaret to realize that she is to be seen, not heard. Margaret, polite as always, seems to understand these instructions fairly well and Madame Jeunet hands her a dress to go put on as she goes off to greet some customers. Margaret gets a thrill from seeing herself decked out in such fancy threads for the first time. Kelly Macdonald, so good at playing the beaten down Irish woman, really shines as you see the glimpses of a woman who inside really does have a taste for the finer things in life and dreams of what it must be like if Margaret had them. She will find the downside of the job later as she's forced to wait on the already suspicious Lucy who is particularly rude to Margaret in the way she demeans her for not knowing how to dress Nucky's squeeze.

In a private room at the hotel, a preoccupied Nucky has gathered some important friends for a little entertainment, provided by none other than Eddie Cantor himself who sings a period ditty with lyrics that include "The dumber they come, the better I like 'em/the dumb ones, they know how to make love." Cantor hypnotizes the room, including Lucy, but Nucky couln't be less interested as long as one of Rothstein's wounded men still lies in a hospital. So, when Eli joins the party, while everyone else welcomes him to the fun, Thompson quickly steers him away to get the report on the wounded John Doe. Needless to say, Nucky's unhappy to hear that the job didn't get done thanks to the interruption of Van Alden. Eli doesn't seem too concerned because while the man may be alive, he's less than coherent, but that's not good enough for Thompson. He needs him to be less than breathing and he definitely doesn't need him near the feds, so he urges Eli to go back and figure out a way to finish him off. Unfortunately, Eli is a bit late. Van Alden may be morally upstanding, but he's not above a bit of subterfuge himself. He marches back to the hospital and shows Eli's deputy a paper he claims gives him the right to seize the man. The deputy says he better make a call. Van Alden tells him to call who he needs to and proceeds to carry the man out and then pay off the extra men he'd hired for the trick as Van Alden and Sebso whisk the wounded man toward New York because he recognizes him as someone who works for Rothstein.

Jimmy takes young Tommy about town and actually wanders into the photo shop and is surprised to see how friendly the husband and wife that own the store, Robert and Mary Dittrich (Josiah Early, Lisa Joyce) are with him. They ask about Jimmy's wife and he corrects them that they aren't married, just engaged, since he'd been away at the war. When Tommy is reluctant to leave Robert, you can see some suspicion mount in Jimmy's face.

As Van Alden speeds toward New York, Sebso tells him that the man is dying and they won't make it that far and they have to get him to a doctor. Reluctantly, Van Alden decides to pull into Raritan Township, N.J. However, without a ready doctor or hospital at hand, they drag the man into a dentist's office where they evict a young boy from the dentist's chair. Van Alden demands that the dentist give him something to snap his system to shape. The dentist gives the man two shots of cocaine in the mouth and he awakens. Van Alden asks who did this to him. The man responds in Yiddish and the young boy's mother covers his ears. Van Alden demands to know what he said. She doesn't want to say, given the vulgarity, but when the agent insists it's part of a federal investigation, she gives in and tells him he said, "You should fuck your grandmother with your faggoty penis." Sebso adds that she left out, "little faggoty penis." This pisses Van Alden off, who gets in the man's face and asks if he'd rather die there or at home. He still stays silent and then Van Alden shoves his hand into his open wound and resumes his interrogation over the man's screams of pain. Eventually, he shrieks out "Darmody. Jimmy." Before Van Alden can get more, he dies. Van Alden says a Christian prayer over the man, though Sebso rightfully says, "Wasn't he Jewish?" Eli's deputies burst in and Van Alden tells them that they can have him now. Shannon, always great, is superb here, showing a completely different side to Van Alden. His ruthlessness proves frightening. It's clear that Van Alden will not be your straight-forward good guy anymore than Nucky is a straight-forward villain and with the similarities between the two that will develop over time, it only foreshadows a series that will grow more and more intriguing as it goes on.

Given the fact that only Agents Van Alden and Sebso, the dentist and the mother and her young son were present in the dentist's office when the now-dead man named Jimmy, someone has loose lips and quick ones at that. In New York, Arnold Rothstein is playing a high stakes poker game with several men. It's down to him and another man, who raises the bet. Rothstein calls Luciano, who has just arrived, over, asking him if he thinks he can beat him. Luciano says he has no idea without seeing the other man's cards. The man grows impatient. Rothstein sees his raise and re-raises him, asking him how much farm equipment he has to sell in a year to make the amount. The man replies a lot and folds, admitting he was bluffing. "So was I," Rothstein says as he scoops up the giant pot and excuses himself for a private conference with Lucky. It seems that his sister-in-law's nephew survived the original ambush but has since died, but not before naming one James Darmody of Atlantic City as his killer. He would like Luciano to kill Darmody, but not before he gets the name of his accomplice out of him. Luciano assures Rothstein that getting the information before the kill should not be a problem.

Gillian pays a visit to the fortune teller, but it's really just a pretext for a clandestine meeting with Nucky. He tells her she could have come to see him, but she says she didn't want to raise questions and proceeds to ask why he's not living up to his side of their agreement and looking out for Jimmy. Nucky argues that he's an adult now and that he can only do so much. She wants to know why he didn't keep him in Princeton and out of the war. Thompson tells Jimmy's mother that he advised Jimmy not to enlist, but there was only so much he could do. Gillian also wants to know what kind of trouble Jimmy has found himself in that he could afford to buy her an expensive necklace only to have to steal it back a few hours later. Nucky gives her no answer as far as that is concerned.

Mickey Cusick nee Doyle finally has found his way out of jail thanks to being bailed out by the D'Alessio brothers, who turn out to be the financial backers behind his now defunct boozemaking enterprise. There are nine brothers, so Mickey has a hard time keeping them straight, even the three he's meeting in a dark and rainy bar, demanding to know how they'll get their $7,000 investment back. The leader of the brothers seems to be Leo (Max Casella), who is accompanied by brothers Pius and Ignacious (Nicholas Alexander Martino and Edoardo Ballerini). Mickey tries to keep things light with his nervous laugh, reminiscent of the weak chuckle Judge Doom's henchweasel voiced by David L. Lander had in Who Framed Roger Rabbit, but the brothers aren't in a laughing mood, especially when Mickey tells them that Nucky gave his operation over to Chalky. The brothers not only want their money back, they take personal offense at the idea of white men losing business to blacks.

Van Alden calls Elliot with the news of the last victim's death, but that he did give him a name and since Sheriff Thompson can't be trusted, he needs to handle the arrest of James Darmody himself. Elliot tells him to slow down and wait until he talks to the U.S. attorney. He advises Van Alden to go home to his wife and he'll call him in a day or so but he's done good work.

Those loose lips that got the fact that the feds had Jimmy's name to Rothstein so quickly also found their way to Nucky who calls Jimmy into a meeting in his office along with Eli. Nucky expresses the regrets he has because he had such high hopes for Jimmy. He tells him the story of when Jimmy was a boy and President Taft came to town and Jimmy asked him what a fella had to do to become president. Nucky told him they had to study, learn about the world and study hard. The young Jimmy responded, "Is that all?" The elder Thompson hands Jimmy some cash that he says is for his wife and child and says for everyone's sake, he has to get out of Atlantic City. Eli, with bitterness evident in his voice, tells Jimmy that if it were his decision, they wouldn't be having this conversation. When Jimmy gets home later to pack, he looks again at the photo book and sees some of the poses Angela took and accuses her of having an affair with the photographer and asks if Tommy is really even his. Angela doesn't deny anything, but just says she thought he was dead when he didn't write and the Dittriches were nice to them. Jimmy just grabs his gun and exits the apartment.

At the livery, Chalky steps outside to let his workers do ther magic and makes a grisly discovery. Scratched on his Packard are the words LIQUOR KILLS with a rope that leads to a young black man hanging from a noose. Soon, Nucky and Eli arrive to try to calm things down. Nucky says they can't afford a race war right now, being an election year. The boy was just 18, Chalky tells him. Nucky suggests they say he was caught having an affair with another man's wife. "For the time being," Chalky says, though he still seems unmoved, until he finally utters his price for calming his people and going along with the plan. "50 percent." Nucky reluctantly agrees. Eli then steps forward and fires a shot into the dead man's body, prompting screams from some of the women in the livery.

Meanwhile, sounds of the Broadway Limited train to Chicago gives Jimmy flashbacks to his time in the war. He smiles at a young girl and then tries to concentrate on the book he's brought along for the ride: Free Air by Sinclair Lewis. When Nucky finally makes it back to the hotel and gets into the elevator, he notices that he's dragged mud from the rain-soaked livery across the entryway floor. The cage of the elevator shuts on Nucky, a visual representation of how he feels the world closing in around him.

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