I have neglected to tell my readers this in my previous Boardwalk blogs, but it is something worth mentioning as an aside: I am related to Steve Buscemi, albeit distantly, through marriage. A great-great-aunt of mine married a Buscemi in 1927. If you trace my family tree, you will find that my father and Steve Buscemi share mutual second cousins. Fun fact of the day, I guess. But I have never met him, nor has he been at family gatherings or anything, so I don’t think I can get you tickets to early Boardwalk premieres or red carpet tickets to any movies that he appears in.
Back to the task at hand: I got the feeling that this week’s episode, despite plenty of comic relief and brilliant screenwriting and directing throughout, is the foreboding calm before the storm. Gyp Rossetti does not make an appearance, although it feels like he is always lurking just off screen. The cards are starting to fall in Washington DC, which has the potential to cause huge ripples throughout the criminal underworld. And in a time of need, Nucky stumbles upon an old adversary by chance who could help him out in a big way.
In the opening scene, Margaret is awoken by her son Teddy, who tells her that there is a fire outside in the greenhouse. The fire was small and is quickly put out. Margaret and Owen suspect that Teddy, who has a habit of playing with matches, set the fire. Teddy says that a “gypsy” started the fire.
This reference obviously brings to mind Gyp Rossetti. Once Margaret sends Teddy up to bed, she asks Owen if Gyp may have been behind it. Owen doubts it, knowing that the relatively harmless fire does not quite fit Rossetti’s violent modus operandi. Still, Margaret is not sure, considering that she is being placed under protection.
However, Margaret’s fears are confirmed when her neighbor finds Teddy in her garage with matches and lighter fluid. She spanks him and sends him up to her room. Clearly, Teddy is disturbed, and even asks Margaret if Owen could come live with them, putting her in an awkward position considering her latent attraction to him. However, Owen comes by later on and tells Margaret that they caught the person responsible for the fire, but declines to speculate further, making us wonder still who was behind it.
Eli and Mickey Doyle go to Tabor Heights, where Gyp has apparently skipped town. The sheriff doesn’t know where he is, but promises to let Eli know if he comes back. Before they go, Mickey drops perhaps one of the funniest one-liners of the entire series: “One more question…is it true Rossetti was wearin’ a dog collar?” followed by his signature laugh.
Nucky is in New York making a money drop for Gaston Means, but he doesn't show up. George Remus arrives shortly after. Both men are concerned why Means is not there, and Nucky, fearing the worst from a Senate hearing on bootlegging and Justice Department corruption, goes down to Washington DC to confront Means and Attorney General Dougherty.
In one of the funniest and most incredibly ironic scenes of the season thus far, the corrupt Dougherty gives a speech at a Boy Scout banquet, telling an anecdote about an Indian chief that extols the virtues of honesty. His assistant, Jess Smith, is on the verge of tears, remorseful for his crimes. Once Dougherty sits down, Smith is unable to keep his composure and starts to cry. In a brilliant piece of directing, Dougherty trying to prevent Smith from totally losing it and confessing to their corruption is contrasted with the scoutmaster making a speech about the integrity of a Scout and how one of the young Scouts could become the next Andrew Carnegie, Babe Ruth, or Warren Harding.
Nucky arrives in DC, but Dougherty refuses Nucky’s suggestion that he implicate Remus to take the fall in the inevitable scandal. Nucky is insulted, feeling that the amount of money that he has earned for Dougherty, plus securing New Jersey for Harding in the 1920 election back in Season 1, should insulate him from any fallout.
As Nucky is buying a bottle of liquor, he is caught by Justice Department agents sent by Dougherty and is arrested for possession. He is thrown in a holding cell for a day, and is brought before a judge. To his surprise, Esther Randolph, whose murder and corruption case against Nucky collapsed last season due to lack of evidence and the killing of a key witness, is the federal prosecutor. Despite Esther’s attempts to get Nucky sentenced to a year in jail and fined $2,000, the judge clearly sees the prosecution of the Volstead Act as a waste of time, slapping Nucky on the wrist with a $5 fine. In another brilliant one-liner, Nucky asks the Court Clerk if he could break a $100 bill for him to pay the fine, showing the absurdity of the fine and Prohibition.
Nucky confronts Esther after she leaves work in the early morning hours, inviting her to have breakfast with him at a local diner. However, this is an intelligent ploy by Nucky that proves the old adage of “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” to be true. He recognizes that Esther is only doing her job, and holds no ill will towards her. He reveals to Esther that her boss, the Attorney General, is corrupt and so are the men surrounding him. Esther feels that she was left out to dry by Dougherty when she was tasked with prosecuting Nucky for murder and corruption, so the two agree to an uneasy alliance.
Nucky then phones Margaret at the train station, but she is not pleased. She tells him that they need to have a talk when he gets back, implying that a divorce may be on the horizon. Unsurprisingly, Nucky heads to New York to see Billie Kent. Gaston Means calls him at Billie’s apartment, demanding a bribe in exchange for information on Dougherty. Seeing that Means will sell out anyone for a buck, Nucky agrees to the deal.
Gillian Darmody is pretending that James is still alive, but deep down knows that he is dead. She finds a man named Roger visiting on the Boardwalk from Indiana who bears a striking resemblance to Jimmy, and hinting at the incestuous relations she had with her son, Roger and Gillian make love. She really is a creepy, disturbing woman who makes me sick. An observation I made watching Gillian: Gretchen Mol does an excellent job playing a character that you love to hate. However, I can’t help but think that Marcia Cross, the actress who played Bree in Desperate Housewives, would have been an excellent choice to play Gillian as well.
Richard Harrow is frequenting an American Legion hall, and helps out a veteran who got into a fight. The vet’s daughter thanks him, and is non-judgmental about Richard’s appearance. She reminds Richard of his twin sister back in the Midwest, who he used to be close to but felt no love for her after he came back from the War and left her .
The episode ends with Margaret noticing a disturbance in the greenhouse, which she goes to investigate, gun in hand. It’s only Owen keeping an eye out on the behest of Nucky. Realizing that the two are alone, they rekindle their feelings for each other in the greenhouse.
Tune in next week as Nucky tries to protect both his marriage and business interests, and as Gyp comes out of the shadows ready to strike.