Sunday, October 09, 2011
Boardwalk Empire No, 15: A Dangerous Maid, Part II
BLOGGER'S NOTE: This recap contains spoilers, so if you haven't seen the episode yet, move along.
By Edward Copeland
Flemming reports to Nucky in his office about what Lolly told him and Nucky says to let him know that shipments of scotch, rye and rum arrive that evening. Eddie announces that the attorney general is on the phone. Nucky picks up the phone while Damian stands in the middle of the office. "This isn't to be critical, but you need to start picking up on people's signals," Nucky says to Flemming. He nods as if he understands, but doesn't go anywhere. "I need to take this call, Damian," Nucky emphasizes. Flemming finally gets it, apologizes and exits. "Mister Attorney General," Nucky greets Harry Daugherty (Christopher McDonald) on the phone. In the first season episode "Hold Me in Paradise," Daugherty was Warren Harding's campaign manager and Nucky helped Harding win the long-shot GOP nomination for president as long as he didn't pick the double-crossing Sen. Walter Edge as his vice president. Nucky also hid Harding's mistress Nan Britton and their alleged love child in Atlantic City until after the election. In other words, Harding and Daugherty owe Nucky. Nucky asks Daugherty how he is settling in and Harry says that Harding had to have the entire White House fumigated — it was filthy. "Not nearly as dirty as when you fellas get through with it," Nucky says. Thompson gets right to his problem and that it's time for that favor. Daugherty says, "I don't know." Nucky steams. "You don't know what? I hope it's how to thank me and not whether a bastard kid would have cost your boy the election." Daugherty claims that since it's a state election and not federal, he can't really intervene. When Nucky suggests Harding could pull strings, Daugherty instead invites Nucky to D.C. for dinner at the White House, maybe even an overnight stay. "How does that sound?" Harry asks. "Sounds like you're fucking me over," Nucky replies. Daugherty offers another platitude. "Swell, Harry. Meanwhile, I'll try to stay out of jail." Nucky tosses his phone across the room. If somehow you missed Part I of the recap, click here.
Lansky and Luciano enter a restaurant where Rothstein and another man sit at a table facing them as they come in. "Meyer, Charlie, I believe you know Mr. Masseria," Rothstein says, waving his hands to indicate the two young men should sit, "and perhaps you also know — though it is news to me — that a card game you operate in territory that Mr. Masseria considers to be his — " Masseria (Ivo Nandi), whose accent still indicates his first generation Italian status, interrupts, "Not considers — is mine." Rothstein tries to keep things cool. "My thinking is — before any more blood is shed — that a compromise be made." Lansky and Luciano look at each other with puzzlement since they are unaware of the incident in the park between Jimmy and Masseria's two men. "More blood?" Lansky asks. "My nephews," Masseria replies making the motion of a knife across his throat. Luciano also expresses his ignorance and Rothstein explains that Masseria's two emissaries were murdered shortly after leaving their game. Lansky admits running a card game, though he calls the location "a gray area" and Luciano calls the murders "a coincidence." "On my streets — no coincidence," Masseria insists. He then points to Luciano. "This little prick — since he was 10 he causes problems." Trying to steer the talk back to a negotiation, Rothstein suggests, "It seems to me you boys should extend a token of goodwill toward Mr. Masseria." Rothstein proposes $2,000 to the families of his dead nephews and a tax of 10 percent on future card games. Luciano starts to explode, but Rothstein calms him with a simple, "Charlie." Masseria agrees to 10 percent — for now. Rothstein and Masseria shake on the deal and Masseria gets up to leave. While he puts on his coat, he says to Luciano in Italian, "What are you doing with these Christ-killers? Come with me, I'll make you rich." Luciano responds in the same language, "With your other hand in my pocket." Masseria stares at him and warns, "I'm watching you, boy. Every fucking step." Once he's gone, Luciano reverts to English. "Two thousand is bad enough, but 10 percent." Lansky isn't any happier as Rothstein gets ready to leave. "We already pay half the take on the game to you," Meyer says. Rothstein leans over Lansky and Luciano. "Yes — and now you boys know why."
Mickey's allegiances change even more often than his last name as he walks into a spot, telling Van Alden the location and security for another speakeasy. Van Alden calls him Mr. Cusick and Mickey corrects him that it's Doyle now. "Your file says Cusick," Nelson tells him. "Then it's wrong. I've already been arrested under the new moniker," Mickey replies, followed by his annoying little giggle. Van Alden suggests that he arrest him again and sees if the new name sticks this time, but Mickey declines holding out the paper with the addresses of the speaks but when the agent reaches for it, he pulls it back and asks for cash up front. "You gotta pay the piper." Van Alden tosses some bills on the desk and takes the slip of paper. "Any chance you want to sell back any hooch that you might happen to confiscate?" Mickey asks. "Are you admitting to me you are a bootlegger, Mr. Cusick?" Van Alden inquires in return. Mickey tells the agent he can't get a read on him. He notices him glancing at a painting of a nude Ruben-esque figure. "Oh, so that's what you like," Mickey guesses. Van Alden insists that he's a happily married man and has no interest in women like that. As the agent prepares to leave, he stops. "Let me ask you Mr. Doyle, would you consider Nucky Thompson fun?" How long can Mickey Doyle's run last when he's willing to work for anyone for a price before someone finally decides the only place you can trust him is in a grave?
Margaret has the maid Katy call the phone number the detective agency sent and ask for a Peggy Rowan. She stands nervously while Katy makes the call, finally getting someone and some news. When she gets off the phone, Katy informs Margaret that the man she talked to told her that Peggy Rowan died 12 years ago.
As Nucky continues to stew in his office, Eddie comes in to pass on an invite from Mayor Bader for he and Margaret to have dinner with his wife. Thompson tells him to make an excuse why he can't. Eddie notices the phone lying in the middle of the floor. "I wondered why the phone had not rung," he says as he starts to pick it up. "Just leave it!" Nucky shouts. Sleater enters the office and asks for a moment of Nucky's time. As Nucky motions him to take a seat, Eddie puts the phone back on the desk anyway. Owen re-introduces himself and explains he's been tending bar at Lolly's. Assuming he's there about the booze, Nucky again launches into the tale that a shipment will come ashore that night. Sleater says that's good, but that's not why he came to see him. "I'm here, sir, because I read the papers and, more importantly, I read between the lines," Owen tells Nucky, who asks what he has concluded. "That my talents are being wasted." Nucky asks, "What are your talents, Mr. Sleater?" Owen get serious. "Making people stop." Thompson inquires what he makes people stop. "Whatever it is you don't want them to be doing," Owen replies. "What makes you think I require a man with those skills?" Nucky asks. "Well, if you need me to tell you, sir, you need me more than I thought." Eddie rushes into the office with an urgent ship-to-shore message from Bill McCoy: "The Coast Guard is seizing his ships." Sleater thanks Nucky for his time and leaves.
Katy carries a bunch of folded linens through the hallway of Nucky's Margate estate when she hears a noise. She peeks through a crack through the door to the master bedroom and sees Margaret sitting on the edge of the bed crying.
With the camera focusing on her bare feet, we see Lucy stand at the top of the stairs, looking as if she's contemplating forcing a miscarriage. The arrival of a delivery man (Mike Lubik) interrupts her with a package from a Mr. Mueller, the false name Van Alden rented the house under. He sets up the box's contents and shows Lucy how it works: It's a Victrola.
The Thompson servants — Katy, Lillian and Pauline — sit around a table in the kitchen, having some drinks, laughing and gossiping when Margaret surprises them by appearing. They all are apologetic, assuming they are in trouble, but instead Margaret asks if it's a private party. She joins them and asks them to pour her a drink and to pour themselves another one. "If the first drop doesn't kill you, then no harm in the last," Margaret tells them. She asks Katy if she were born in Ireland, but the maid says no, she was born here. "If you had been, you'd have left the place," Margaret declares. The servants keep insisting on referring to Margaret as "ma'am" or "Mrs. Schroeder," but she insists they call her Margaret. "Why put on airs?" Nucky wanders in, puzzled by the sight. He asks Margaret to get dressed in something nice — he's taking her out to dinner.
Van Alden comes home and seems fascinated — or at least speechless — as he watches Lucy sway and swing to the music emanating from the gift he bought for her.
The following scene lasts roughly four-and-a-half minutes and certainly ranks as the episode's tensest scene, despite the fact that no physical violence occurs within it. It also sets two groups of characters in the same setting and keeps the flow between them moving wonderfully. It's almost all conversation — and it's riveting, managing great acting moments for Steve Buscemi, Dabney Coleman and Michael Pitt with Kelly Macdonald and others on support. It couldn't have been the easiest scene to pull off, choreographing everything that's occurring on the set of the bustling as always set of Babette's Supper Club. The scene begins with Babette (Tracy Lynn Middendorf) welcoming Gov. Edward Edwards (Wayne Duvall), yet another real character crossing paths with Boardwalk Empire's fictional creations, who she says hasn't frequented the club in too long. He makes his way to the table where the Commodore and Jimmy await, greeting people along the way.
After shaking the governor's hand, the Commodore introduces him to his son Jimmy. "I took the liberty of ordering you an appetizer," the Commodore tells the governor as he hands him an envelope, presumably packed with cash which Edwards nervously slides into his coat pocket. "Don't look so uncomfortable, Ed." The governor smiles and says, "You're not the biggest crook I've been seen in public with, Lou." The Commodore smiles. "Wish I could say the same about you." The governor laughs. "Are we shocking your youthful sensibilities?" Edwards asks Jimmy. "I've heard worse, sir," Jimmy answers. Taking the opportunity to brag on his son, the Commodore informs the governor that Jimmy went up against the Kaiser in Germany for two years. That puts a serious look on Edwards' face. "That's a rough patch of road," Edwards comments. "That was only war — this is Atlantic City," Jimmy says. "Well done, boy, well done," the Commodore compliments his son.
Babette looks up from her greeting post and nervously says, "Nucky, good evening. I wasn't expecting you." He tells her party of four — he changed his mind and decided to dine with Mayor Bader and his wife Kathryn (Tracy Sallows). Nucky then realizes why Babette seemed antsy as he looks across the room and spots the table with the Commodore, Jimmy and the governor. "I'm sorry," Babette says. Bader immediately suggests that they can eat somewhere else. "Relax. We're staying," Nucky insists. As Nucky, Margaret and the Baders get shown to their table, Nucky and the Commodore eye each other during the entire walk. When seated, Nucky looks at the other table and sees the trio laughing about something. Margaret again suggests that they could eat elsewhere and Kathryn Bader even names an alternative restaurant, but Nucky tells them that they will eat there, though his icy glare remains fixed on his foes.
Back at the other table, Gov. Edwards asks Jimmy if he intends to follow in his father's footsteps. "I'd like to think I'm my own man," Jimmy replies. The Commodore says he wouldn't have it any other way. "But I am eager to learn everything I can," Darmody adds. "What have you learned so far?" the governor inquires. "Nothin's free," Jimmy says with a big grin. A waiter refreshed Edwards' drink. "I never thought Volstead was a good idea," Edwards declares. "You will after you see what's in that envelope," the Commodore tells him. "The partisan nonsense it caused," the governor decries. The Commodore, speaking with his mouth full of food, says he and Edwards have become closer and once Nucky Thompson, but his dinner stuffs his cheeks so full nothing but garble escapes his lips so Jimmy feels compelled to step in and finish his father's thought. "Once he's brought to justice," Jimmy says. After the Commodore has swallowed enough of his food to allow an intelligible sentence to escape, he declares, "We'll throw a huge fuckin' gala." Edwards raises his glass and says that he'll be looking forward to it.
The other table's waiter (Andrew Kober) asks the two couples if they have any questions about the menu. Nucky gives Bader the signal to go ahead and order. "I think we're all set. The lady will have the veal chop and I'll have the ribeye," Bader says. "Very good, sir. Mr. Thompson?" the waiter asks. "Lobster thermidor for the lady and center-cut pork chops for me," Nucky answers. "I'm sorry, sir. We're just out of the lobster," the waiter informs him. "No," Margaret says as if her heart were breaking. She asks the waiter about other options and as the waiter tells Margaret about other offerings all that Nucky can see is the Commodore shoving a huge lump of lobster meat from the large shellfish on his plate into his mouth. This Buscemi glare transforms into a glower as Nucky storms across the restaurant floor and flips the Commodore's lobster plate up into the air and onto the floor. The Commodore's jaw drops. "You've had your last meal in this place," Nucky promises. Jimmy jumps to his feet and grabs Thompson's arm. "Get your fuckin' hands off me," Nucky tells him. Margaret watches from across the room but it's difficult to tell what sort of reaction she's having to the scene that Nucky is in the process of making in the middle of Babette's Supper Club. Changing demeanor to that of a pretend glad-handing politico, Nucky sets his sights on Gov. Edwards. "Governor, what brings you to our seaside resort?" The hypocritical conspirator tells Nucky, "You have my sympathy for your troubles." In return, Nucky says, "And you have my undying wish for a long political career." In real life, Edward Edwards would, eventually finding his way to the U.S. Senate. "You're looking very respectable, James," Thompson tells his one-time surrogate son who keeps looking downward. "Meet his eyes, boy," the Commodore instructs his son. Jimmy raises his head and looks up at Nucky, "I'd say we're both putting up a pretty good front." Nucky asks Jimmy what his father promised him. "More than you ever did," Jimmy replies. "I keep my promises, James, and I'll make you one now — I will ruin you. All of you." The Commodore lets out a guffaw. "You're acting like a fucking child." Nucky, knowing exactly what button to push, responds, "You're the expert on children, aren't you?" Thompson returns his focus to Jimmy. "He never even asked her name. He just pointed to the one he wanted — the rest was understood." Nucky succeeded at getting Jimmy pissed now as he leaps to his feet and stares Nucky down. "Hey hey hey. Jimmy — you're stronger than that," the Commodore shouts. Jimmy steps aside. "Have a nice evening, gentlemen," Nucky says as he walks away ending a spectacular scene. Buscemi does so much without saying a word and even more when he does. Coleman knows just the right amount of comic spin to put into his lines and action without turning it into camp and Pitt just grows stronger and stronger as an actor as you can see the conflict he has between these two men — Nucky, the man who practically raised him yet delivered his then 13-year-old mother-to-be to the pedophiliac Commodore whose rape of her made Darmody possible. It would have been a great place to end the episode, but three scenes remain and two pack punches worthy of endings as well (and one is the actual ending).
As I said, we aren't finished with "A Dangerous Maid" yet (the Boardwalk Empire episode that is, not the Gershwin musical). Lolly meets with Richard Harrow and tells him he will take 10 cases of rum and 20 cases of rye and whiskey when Sleater shows up on the scene with a different idea. "Peddle your goods elsewhere. We won't be needing your services," Owen informs Harrow. "What the fuck are you talkin' about?" a mystified Lolly asks. Sleater reminds Lolly that they work for Mr. Thompson and that these are not Mr. Thompson's men. "You want the order or not?" Harrow asks. "He does not," Owen answers for his erstwhile boss. "I take you for a soldier, lad." Harrow says that he was once. “And who is it you’re fighting for now?” Sleater asks him. Sleater takes charge of the scene, ordering the men to start loading the cases of booze back on the truck where they came from, even lending a hand. One worker (Greg Harvey) tells Owen, "I don't take orders from no fuckin' paddy." Sleater smiles and says, "Of course you don't — this is America" before head-butting him and beating him to the ground. Unfortunately, he hears a familiar sound and when he stands up, Sleater finds himself in a gun standoff with Harrow. "Why didn't you shoot me?" he asks. "I may yet," Richard replies. "I've got no quarrel with you," Owen tells Harrow. "We're just not buying any liquor." Harrow lowers his pistol and Sleater does the same as he walks off with a very confused Lolly.
Jimmy sits at a table in his darkened house, having a drink and a smoke. After Babette's and the day in general — seeing Al and wondering what a simple barber's life would be like — he looks very contemplative. If his aim was not to disturb Angela or Tommy, he failed on one part as Angela pokes her head in, asking when he got home. "A little while ago," he says. "How was dinner with your father?" she asks. "Which one?" Angela hugs him around the neck, kisses his head and leaves him alone with his thoughts again.
Nucky and Margaret arrive home and Nucky displays surprisingly good spirits, grabbing Margaret and planting a passionate kiss on her. "What was that for?" she asks. "I don't want to ever see sad again," he tells her. Nucky hands their coats to Katy and then lets the maid know which suit he wants her to lay out for him to wear the next day. Nucky then heads upstairs. Margaret begins to follow the same path, but Katy grabs her wrist to stop her. For all of Margaret's talk of not putting on airs, it seems to be an overly familiar move for a maid to make toward the mistress of the house. "Peggy Rowan — that's you, isn't it? I'll never tell. Don't worry," Katy promises. Margaret jerks her wrist away. "That will be all, Katy," Margaret says curtly as she returns to climbing the stairs. She stops about halfway and looks back. I told you that "A Dangerous Maid" had a double meaning, didn't I? That's definitely Margaret Schroeder climbing the staircase, but whose shadow is being cast on the wall behind her?