Monday, November 08, 2010
Boardwalk Empire No. 8: Hold Me in Paradise
BLOGGER'S NOTE: This recap contains spoilers, so if you haven't seen the episode yet, move along.
By Edward Copeland
There's a new man in a new suit occupying the chair in Nucky's office. Actually, it's just Eli, who sits in for his older brother when he's out of town, in this case off to Chicago for the 1920 Republican National Convention. Eli, as usual, is annoyed thanks to his low self-esteem because the usual line waiting to see Nucky is nowhere to be seen. Deputy Halloran comes in to inform him that the one person who almost came in to see him was just a drunk in town for the GM convention who had stumbled on to the wrong floor. Eli's pissed: "You don't think I can do this what he does? The gladhanding? The backslapping? I'll buy a nickel joke book at the five-and-dime, I'll be the toast of the town myself," he tells Halloran before ordering him to fix him some coffee. Ward Boss O'Neill pops in and almost turns around, saying he forgot Nucky was in Chicago, but Eli makes him stop. What did he want? He can handle it. O'Neill wanted to see about getting someone else to cover for him on his Friday collections because his daughter is getting fitted for her leg braces. Eli asks who usually takes over. That's the problem. It's usually Neary, but with his pending indictment... Eli tells him to go ahead and take the day off. "Are you sure?" O'Neill asks. "I just said it, didn't I? Why would I not be sure?" The decision is the humanitarian one, but it will end up having an unforeseen consequence for Eli himself when he agrees to take on part of the divided up duties. More importantly, this week's episode gets the series back on track after last week's rare bumpy outing.
As Nucky arrives at his hotel in Chicago, Eddie assures his boss that he reserved the presidential suite for him but the hotel employee tells him that the suite has been set aside for General Wood, one of the leading contenders for the GOP presidential nomination, but they do have the ambassador suite which is very nice. Nucky says that the general is being very presumptuous since he's not the nominee yet, let alone the president so he should move Wood's things to the ambassador suite and put Nucky's in the presidential suite. The hotel employee seems reluctant, but Nucky explains to him the difference between General Wood and himself. While Wood is a war hero, a former Army chief of staff and a shoe-in for the presidential nomination, Nucky on the other hand is a magnificent tipper as Thompson proceeds to pull out a large wad of bills from his suit and hands it to the young man who says he will set things up for him in the presidential suite right away and he should wait in the restaurant until things are ready. As he and Eddie take their seats, Sen. Walter Edge happens to wander by their table and joins them. Nucky asks Edge jokingly what brings him to Chicago and the politician says he heard the Republicans were having some sort of gathering. Nucky surmises that Edge is angling for the vice presidential slot on the ticket. Edge asks Thompson if he can do him a favor. Could he meet with Warren Harding's campaign manager, Harry Daugherty, at an event that night? Edge has a pressing engagement. "Don't press her too hard," Nucky retorts. "You know me too well," Edge laughs. "I do indeed." Edge tells him that when he takes this thing, the sky's the limit, but Thompson isn't interested in the sky, only roads.
Margaret and Annabelle are lunching at the Ritz where Margaret shows off a new bracelet that Nucky has given her, one that quite impresses Annabelle, who is wearing a reddish wig. "Either he knows more about jewelry than any red-blooded American man should or someone is doing his shopping for him." Margaret gives Annabelle a good laugh when she suggests Eddie, prompting her friend to wonder what Nucky's manservant has hidden under his woolens. Margaret whispers, "The Kaiser's mustache." Annabelle laughs again and says that Margaret is a terrible influence on her, which is quite an unusual idea given where Margaret began at the start of the series. Margaret inquires as to how Annabelle's Harry is to which she replies, "My hairy's fine. How's yours?" It's so hard to transfer verbal jokes into written words, but what happens next certainly isn't funny for anyone concerned as Madame Jeunet rushes to Margaret, seeking her help. It seems Lucy is trying to buy something expensive and she won't accept her explanation that Mr. Thompson has cut her credit line. Lucy isn't far behind and she isn't in the best of shape, though it isn't clear what kind of altered state she's in because she seems more drugged out of her mind than drunk. "Stop whispering. Americans don't whisper," Lucy insists, before referring to Margaret as Mrs. McDougall. Margaret corrects her that her name is Schroeder. "Is that Irish for bitch?" She then sees her old friend Annabelle. "You wouldn't lead me wrong, would you?" she slurs. Annabelle insists she wouldn't. "You are as phony as that wig." Then Lucy's aim focuses squarely back at Margaret. "You think you understand him?" "And what if I do?" Margaret responds. "Then you are as dumb as a door," Lucy spits, prompting Margaret to give her a good slap across the face and promising that next time it won't be as pleasant before marching out of the Ritz.
Angela keeps herself busy painting her latest work, a lovely nude, whose opinion she seeks from her young son Tommy, who think she's pretty. Gillian arrives with the news that Angela's bill at the grocery is overdue to the tune of $11. She says she also checked the mailbox and once again, there was no letter from Jimmy. Gillian suggests that perhaps it's time Angela get a job and suggests she work for a company that sells perfume door-to-door. Angela says her friend Mary has suggested she get a job, but that type doesn't sound like one for her. Besides, Mary says there is an art dealer in Greenwich Village in New York that Mary knows that has expressed some interest in her art. She knows it's not definite, but it's a possibility. Once again, you can hear the skepticism in Gillian's voice each time the word "Mary" leaves her lips. As a closer, Gillian suggests she could always take a stenography class. In a short scene, we do get an answer I asked about in last week's recap as Van Alden opens a letter addressed to Angela and looks at the money inside and then tosses it in a drawer with all of the other letters full of cash that Jimmy has been sending his common-law wife from Chicago. Later in this episode, when Jimmy and Nucky run into each other, (What? Did you think the show would have both of them in Chicago and not have them meet?) Jimmy tells Nucky that he writes Angela every week but she never writes him back. Surely that would mean that one of those letters contained some sort of a return address and now that Van Alden has an eyewitness to link Jimmy to the murder in the woods, why hasn't he had an agent in Chicago pick Darmody up and arrest him for the crimes?
The 1919 World Series continues to haunt Arnold Rothstein as his lawyer informs him that the district attorney has pulled in Chicago White Sox players for questioning. Rothstein, of course, is quite curious as to which ones and when he hears the names, he sees the law's plan: Go after the farm boys. He also tells his lawyer that if one player gets on the stand, he'll fold easily. Just to be prepared, the pair rehearse again what Rothstein would say, if it should come to that, and he is questioned about any possible scheme to fix the World Series, even getting down to nitty gritty details of how the word "besmirch" plays better than "degrade." Part of the strategy is to admit that people brought the scheme to him, but he refused to take part and didn't even bet on the series after that and that people bring him hare-brained ideas every day. "Certainly suffering fools can't be illegal," Rothstein says. His lawyer laughs and tells him it's not too late for him to go to law school, but Rothstein says he prefers to make his living honestly.
Nucky delivers his regrets for Senator Edge to Harry Daugherty (Christopher McDonald) and tells him how much of a long shot he thinks his man Harding is, though Daugherty tries to sell Thompson on the idea that neither Wood nor Frank Lowden have enough support to get the nomination and eventually the delegates will look elsewhere and a Harding/Edge ticket could be the winner on a later ballot. Daugherty then introduces Nucky to the Ohio senator (Malachy Cleary) and his wife Florence (Jacqueline Knapp). Nucky compliments Harding on a speech he gave, though Daugherty has to correct the somewhat dimwitted candidate on where he gave the speech. As Harding bloviates about stability and "America first," Nucky keeps being distracted by a young woman (Virginia Kull) trying to enter the party with a crying baby. Daugherty tells Harding that there is someone else he needs to meet and leads him away and Nucky congratulates his wife Florence who says it's a "terrible, wretched thing." Nucky is confused, but Mrs. Harding explains that a fortune teller told her that Harding will die in office. Nucky takes his freedom as an opportunity to escape and follows the woman with the baby to the elevator. He compliments her on her beautiful child. "A young Republican, I presume." She tells him she's there as a friend of Senator Harding and asks Nucky if he has any kids. He said he had a son, but he died, the first time we've ever heard Nucky say such a thing and Buscemi delivers it the same way he does when he speaks of Mabel. There's been much speculation that Jimmy is really his son, is he referring to him? My good friend Matt Zoller Seitz believes the photo of his late wife Mabel they show is the actress Molly Parker (Alma on Deadwood), wondering if this means we'll see her in flashbacks or if somehow Mabel isn't really dead. Now telling this stranger the story about a dead son, I'm not sure what to think.
Agent Van Alden makes a rare trip home to visit his wife. They hold hands in prayer before they begin their meal. After the amen, Van Alden comments about the sad shape of the garden with the tulips looking a little ragged, prompting Rose (Enid Graham) to break down in tears. Her husband tries to calm her, telling her this happens every month. Rose cries that she's not fully a woman because every 28 days, she bleeds. She wants to bear him a son. She's been talking with her friend Naomi Ellsworth, which gets Nelson annoyed, asking if everyone must know of their personal affairs. Naomi had a surgery in New York that fixed her inability to conceive. "Surgery?" Nelson says with exasperation. "It's God's will." "If the Lord wanted us to die of appendicitis, he wouldn't have given us the ability to treat it," Rose responds. "That's Naomi Ellsworth talking," Van Alden replies. He's even more taken aback when he learns the surgery costs $270, when his salary barely meets expenses as it is. Needless to say, Van Alden offers little comfort to his wife, though he tells her he just wants her to be happy.
Though he might not be able to get anyone to come visit him in Nucky's office seeking favors or asking about business, Eli makes sure that the office doesn't go unused. He's set up the space to show vintage pornographic films to Deputy Halloran and most of the ward bosses. As one would expect, the men act like juveniles giggling and making adolescent comments as they watch the silent black-and-white images of women dressed as nuns performing sexual acts with and on various men. The early, hand-cranked projector isn't the best piece of equipment, so the film plays in fits and starts before the celluloid finally burns up and catches fire, forcing one of the aldermen to toss a blanket over flames. Eli makes a joke about it just being too hot to watch. As they turn on the lights, he does actually conduct some business, making certain that all the routes are being covered. It is agreed that Flemming will do half of them and Boyd (Edward McGinty) will take the other half. Someone asks who will do the pickup at the casino and Eli volunteers. He has to take his wife June (Nisi Sturgis) to a wedding, so he'll swing by after the reception.
In Chicago, Eddie and Nucky pay a visit to Torrio's whorehouse, though not for the usual reason. Both are subjected to a weapons search before Torrio spots them. Torrio apologizes, but he can't be too careful these days. Nucky mentions what happened to Sheridan. Torrio is surprised he heard about that but praises Nucky's boy Jimmy, then corrects himself and says "my Jimmy." Torrio takes them into the bar area where Eddie enjoys the attention of one of the working girls while Torrio immediately starts hitting Nucky up about where the booze is. Apparently the ladies are big fans of something called a Mary Pickford cocktail which contains rum. Nucky informs the mob boss that the bootlegged stuff tastes like shit but a shipment is making its way from Biminy as they speak. Nucky asks what he knows about Harry Daugherty or Warren Harding, but he hasn't heard of either of them, but when Nucky mentions Ohio, says, "Why didn't you say so? You don't know everbody." He invites Judge Graves (Christian Kauffmann) over. Graves tells Nucky that Harding was a puppet of the moneymen in Cleveland, but Daugherty is a slick operator and these Ohio fellows know how to get things done: five presidents since the Civil War. Graves' lady arrives, so he excuses himself. Soon after, Nucky sees Jimmy tossing out a customer who was making trouble upstairs. Jimmy spots Nucky and is shocked, asking if everything is OK. "I've been coming to Chicago since before you were born," Nucky tells him. "Who do you think started that fire?" Torrio tosses in. Nucky compliments his suit and tells Eddie to call for a cab. Jimmy offers to drive them, but Nucky says they've been doing just fine without him, adding that the next time he thinks of buying a new watch, send the money to his wife instead.
Eli parks his car outside Lolly's casino, with June sleeping in the passenger seat. Inside, a record on the phonograph player has reached the end and is just making scratching noises. It's the first sign to Eli that's something is amiss. He sees Lolly hunched over a gaming table, the night's proceeds in a bag in front of him. He starts to ask what the hell is going on and notices the other employees bound and gagged behind Lolly. Unfortunately, he doesn't notice a masked Leo D'Alessio approaching him from behind with a gun and before Eli can reach for his piece another D'Alessio brother opens fire on the sheriff and leaves Eli bleeding on the floor as they grab the bag and flee to a waiting getaway car out front. The D'Alessios did what Rothstein had asked them to do through Luciano. It will remain to be seen if it's enough to impress him. June sleeps through the whole thing.
Edge and Nucky are dining on steaks with the senator declaring that while Chicago may have the reputation for the best steaks, he prefers the Occidental in D.C., when Eddie comes and whispers the alarming news about Eli into Thompson's ear. He asks when and how bad and excuses himself, saying he has to make a phone call. Once Nucky climbs into a telephone booth, he awakens Margaret and tells her about Eli's shooting. He says he needs her to do something for him. She assumes he wants her to go to her brother, but no, Nucky wants her to watch over his office. She suggests perhaps one of his aldermen should do this, but Thompson says he's not sure what's going on and he needs someone he can rely on so he wants her and her kids to move into his suite until he gets back. He also wants Margaret to get the ledger out of his desk drawer, keep it closed and put it in a hidden compartment in the closet. It's quite amazing, not just to Margaret but to this viewer as well, how much trust Nucky is willing to place in Margaret so fast. He says he's taking the first train back in the morning. Margaret asks Nucky how he is doing. "I don't know."
During the long wait for the morning train, Nucky returns to Torrio's whorehouse where he sits at the bar, staring at his watch. Finally, Jimmy comes down to see him, telling Nucky he assumes this isn't a social call. Nucky asks who the figure is standing in the shadow and Jimmy introduces him to Richard. Nucky tells Jimmy that he needs him to come home. They are under siege. Someone has the idea that he's weak and has no way to fight back. Eli has been shot when the casino was robbed. They hit Chalky's and killed one of his men and mugged O'Neill right out on the Boardwalk. Things are going to have to be done that he's not prepared to do himself or have Eli do, especially in an election year, Jimmy expresses skepticism, saying he's doing well for himself there and when Nucky was there that afternoon, he looked at him like he was something he scraped off his shoe. Nucky asks Jimmy how far he thinks he can go with Torrio and his people, being an Irishman in the midst of Italians. Jimmy points out that his suit cost $70 and that Al bought it for him. "You are about as subtle as a kick in the teeth," Nucky says before offering him 5% of everything that comes by boat and 10% of everything that comes by wheels. Jimmy asks Nucky what to do about his situation with Van Alden and Nucky says he'll take care of that. Jimmy says he'll think about it. "You do that," Nucky says as he puts his hat back on to leave, "but don't ever keep me waiting again."
Back in Atlantic City, Margaret nervously follows Nucky's requests. After putting her children to sleep in his large bed, she takes her place behind his desk, turning on the lamp. She actually, despite her visible unease, looks more like she belongs there than Eli did at the beginning of the show. The phone rings and she answers it but no one responds on the other end after repeated tries on her part. Could that be Lucy trying to reach Nucky again? Back in Chicago, Nucky sets up a clandestine meeting with Daugherty on the convention floor. Daugherty laughs when Nucky doubts that he's unfamiliar with secret meetings. Nucky tells him that he's going to have to leave before the convention even starts but he's talked to Judge Graves and he's decided that his plan will probably work. By the fifth or sixth ballot when neither Wood nor Lowden has secured the nomination, the delegates will be ready for Harding and he's prepared to throw the New Jersey delegation's support behind the move. Daugherty assumes it is in exchange for a Harding/Edge ticket but Nucky corrects him that it would be in exchance for there NOT putting Edge on the ticket. Daugherty is puzzled and asked what Edge did to him. "Edge is a dirty, backstabbing chiseler who gave my road money to Frank Hague," Thompson tells him. Daugherty asks him how he knows this. "Because Hague is a bigger backstabbing chiseler and a friend." Daugherty has a hearty laugh and asks what it is that Thompson does want then. Nucky says he wants to make sure that Harding gets him that road money. Daugherty says he'll try to sell Warren on it, but Nucky says he's confident he can sell almost anything. What Nucky is more concerned about is how he'll handle the girl problem. "Which one?" Daugherty sighs. "There is more than one?" Nucky says surprised. Daugherty says one is blackmailing him. Nucky says he was referring to the one with the baby. Daugherty says her name is Nan Britton, but she's not a problem: She's in love. Nucky offers to put her up in Atlantic City until after the election and have Margaret watch over her. The two scheming pols seal their deal with a handshake beneath the colorful banners of the empty convention site.
Jimmy gives Gillian a call to see how things are going. She tells him he sounds lonely and should come home. He asks her what she knows about this Luciano fellow. "Where do I begin?" she says.
Nucky pays his hotel bill as Eddie hauls their bags toward a taxi. Edge sees him starting to depart and stops him, wondering how he can leave before the convention even starts. He says he'll need Nucky there to get all their ducks in a row. Nucky calls him Wally and says he doesn't have time for his bullshit. "Wally? I'll remind you I'm a United States Senator," Edge says indignantly. "And that's all you will ever be." Nucky finally lets him have it for betraying him on the roads deal. Edge pleads politics and says he'll make it up to him when he's in the White House. "The only way you're getting to the White House is on a guided fucking tour," Thompson spits before leaving Edge dumbfounded.
Jimmy watches from a corner as Torrio, Capone and others play some sort of card game while speaking in Italian and you can tell he's thinking about what Nucky said about his Irish blood always making him an outsider there.
Van Alden gets a letter from his wife and enclosed is a brochure about the joys of maternity and the corrective surgery she'd told him about. We know by now, thanks to Michael Shannon's wonderful performance, that Van Alden is one strange duck. After staring at the brochure for a minute or two, he goes into the drawer with Jimmy's letters to Angela and starts pulling out the cash. We've seen Van Alden cross the line to get what he wants in his pursuit of the law — inserting his fist in a dying man's wound for information, hiring homeless to pretend to be feds and fabricating a writ to take custody of a witness — but would he actually step over legality, morality and ethics to the point of stealing that cash to pay for his wife's surgery?
Nucky and Eddie share their train compartment back east with Nan Britton and her baby. Eddie holds the infant as Nan reads to the men the very first love poem Harding wrote to her. The conductor sticks his head in to announce an upcoming coal stop. Nucky asks if there is any word out of Chicago and learns that Harding got the nomination on the 10th ballot. "That imbecile," he tells Eddie, "is going to be president of the United States."
In a wonderfully edited sequence, Rose Van Alden receives a letter from her husband, but before we can see what's inside we cut to a letter that Angela receives at the same time, an envelope full of all the cash that had never arrived from Jimmy in Chicago. When we return to Rose, she's reading Nelson's words, citing biblical figures and how she must trust in God's plan. She breaks down and cries.
Nucky visits Eli at home where he's being treated and tries to reassure his younger brother that it's only money. He tells him that he's asked Jimmy to come back. The situation has changed. They've been doing this for how long and nothing like this has ever happened.
Back at his office, despite his instructions to keep the ledger closed, Margaret starts looking through the book herself. Things are really heating up as we draw closer to the season's end and after last week's brief stumble, aside from the great parts dealing with Richard Harrow, Boardwalk Empire definitely seems to be picking up steam.
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