If you’ve read my recaps of “The Gates,” you know I’ve used a variation on this title before. I’m not trying to be stale, it’s just wholly, WHOLLY appropriate here, as well.
Everyone wants attention this week. Attention, validation, amusement, what have you. Everyone succeeds, to an extent, but almost none of the results are favorable. Everybody gets what they want, but only two people get what they need. I really enjoyed this episode – my only complaint was the lack of love scene/pillow talk between Gillian and Lucky. I know there are others who will share my disappointment, so please accept this photo as a placeholder until the next episode:
Okay, now we can start.
It’s a grey, cold dawn in AC as Margaret wakes next to her sleeping children. She peeks out her window to see men unloading barrels into a garage behind her home, and apparently thinking nothing of it, heads to the kitchen and sets happily to work preparing something that involves sifting flour.
Hmm… biscuits for someone special?
At the Ritz, Nucky and Elias are riding the elevator, and the morning-after cynicism that infected the day after his birthday is still going strong for our hero as he denounces the upcoming St. Patrick’s holiday. As far as he’s concerned, they can sell it for scrap. Eli comments that their dad says it’s because Nucky hates being Irish. It’s not that he hates being Irish, it’s that he hates the crying, fighting and public displays of drunkenness that go along with it. Fair. I love being Irish, too, but I could do without skin that fried to the consistency of pork rinds after ten minutes in direct sunlight. Also the British.
The brothers sit down to coffee and Elias is offended when the Ritz waiter only asks Nucky if he’d care for breakfast. He throws a minor tantrum at the server before revealing that he doesn’t even want any breakfast, and pouts until Nucky asks him what the hell that was all about. Nucky does live at the hotel, after all, and he’s a big tipper, but Eli won’t be consoled. He insists he’s been shunned while Nucky insists that he hasn’t, and thankfully that overripe exchange ends there. But I have a feeling Eli’s inadequacy complex is going to be even more of a recurring theme this episode than it usually is.
Nucky announces that he’s pushing the tomorrow’s Celtic Dinner up to 7pm – at last year’s dinner one of the older guests started snoring during the Attorney General’s speech. Elias snits, “You don’t gotta be old for that to happen,” and mentions that he’d like to say a few words this year. Nucky’s eyebrows rise all the way to the penthouse when Elias announces that he’s been taking speaking lessons at the YMCA and he’ll be taking advantage of his captive audience of movers and shakers that night to make a reelection speech. He hands Nucky a brochure on public speaking by Dale Carnagey, and he’s so adorable in this moment I cringe at his inevitable humiliation. Shockingly, Nucky is not at all responsive to this idea, and keeps trying to talk his brother out of it – it’s enough he’ll have their father to look after at the party. Now there’s a man I want to meet…
But Eli is insistent. Reformers are looking to unseat him come the reelection, and he’s not going to give up the opportunity to say his piece. When it becomes imminently clear that the tantrum he just threw in front of the waiter is going to pale in comparison to the shitstorm he will throw if not allowed to speak, Nucky reluctantly agrees to the plan, muttering, “Daniel Webster” at his brother to make sure everyone understands his opinion of this idea.
Not in favor.
Just then, Margaret arrives at work and Elias spots her peeking at Nucky. It’s time for his eyebrows to rise (maybe not to the penthouse, but high all the same) as he announces, “The Widow Schroeder,” no small amount of curiosity lacing his voice. Looks like Margaret’s coming out at Nucky’s party didn’t go unnoticed. “The Widow Schroeder,” Nucky agrees, but it’s not curiosity in his voice.
Margaret pops over and greets both men with a smile. Apparently she was just on her way to Nucky’s office – she offers him some soda bread she thought he might like – it’s from an old family recipe. Aw, she’s got a wee crush. Uncharacteristically Nucky tells her she can leave it with the front desk and they’ll see that he gets it. When she humbly mentions that she’s sure he got many fine things for his birthday, Nucky doesn’t even allow her to finish. He coldly cuts her off telling her he’s late for a meeting, and doesn’t even have the courtesy to leave first. He just stares at her expectantly until she walks away, humiliated. Damn, even Elias is all, “Dude. Harsh much?” Well, actually he says, “Not a bad looking woman,” but same diff. Nucky mutters that he has enough complications and they exit. Looks like last week when Nucky was deciding which stressors he needed to eliminate in order to survive Prohibition without a heart attack, Margaret was on the top of the list. She watches them from the shop window, scorn building within her like a slow storm. She turns away and dumps the soda bread into a trash can before changing for work. Nucky: 1 Margaret: 0.
And so too follow her dreams.
And not it’s time for a meeting of the Little People Union at the boxing ring, and the members aren’t happy. They’re digging through boxes of leprechaun costumes, preparing for their roles at the Celtic Dinner. The clothes are filthy, and they’re understandably grouchy at not only what they’ll be forced to wear yet again, but that they’re expected to exploit themselves in that manner at all. Apparently it’s a dangerous job, the Celtic Dinner. There’s blood on one of the costumes because a drunk tossed one guy off the boardwalk into an ashcan last year. And if you want to remain a politically correct, non-sizist person (or just someone who understands the definition of appropriate laughter), do NOT visualize that. The group comes to a pretty unanimous decision to boycott the event, and Carl, their apparent leader, begs them not to. What’ll Nucky do without his army of tiny showmen??? More importantly, what will they do without Nucky’s favor? This is one important dinner… He promises to go to Nucky and ask for a raise, which greases the wheels considerably. The gents’ll do it for ten bucks, but not for five.
I hope you all appreciate how difficult it was not to make cheap midget jokes whilst recapping that scene.
With that, we return to Chicago. Pearl’s up, but not about. She’s propped up in bed while Jimmy squeezes fresh OJ for her. He paints a picture of California for her, oranges in the winter, wading in the ocean and tells her it’s just a sleepercar away… She gazes at him and tells him she loves him. Well, Jimmy just doesn’t know what to do with that. It’s not that she’s freakish, it’s that she’s become another person he needs to take care of, and that’s just not gonna work for Jimmy right now. But how to break it to her… ? Fortunately there’s a loud bang that scares the crap out of her, so he doesn’t have to right that minute. Pearl freaks out, but Jimmy calms her down, telling her someone just slammed a door. She’s not to worry, he whispers – he isn’t going to let anything happen to her.
Uh… too late?
A master at changing the subject, Jimmy tells her the doctor thinks she’s doing well, but she needs to stop messing with her bandage. She complains that it itches, and asks him if his leg itched badly in the hospital. It did, he confirms, but it’s all better now. Except for the limp. And the scarring. And let’s face it, Pearl’s screwed. He hands her orange juice and she waggles it in front of him asking for more laudanum. He picks up the empty bottle on her bed and asks her what happened. She just smiles and says, “Poof!” Don’t really blame her for a second. If I were her I’d be sinking to the bottom of some liquid heroin, too. Jimmy warns her that she has to go easy on it, but still pours her some anyway. She takes a sip, closes her eyes and floats away.
If you whisper that you want to break up with her while she’s asleep, it doesn’t count, Jimmy. Don’t even think about it.
Nucky’s up in his little treehouse at the Ritz, drinking, cavorting and counting the week’s considerable take with the Waspia (Wasp Mafia – you’re welcome). They’re all having a grand old time remarking how profitable cultural alcoholism has turned out to be. Guess there is one thing Nucky likes about St. Patrick’s Day. Monetarily, Prohibition has been a huge success – bars that used to do good business are now just straight packed every night. Nucky reiterates once more his simple, but historically effective business strategy – the people want what they can’t have. And what about the green beer? A ward boss pipes up that the food coloring arrived that day, and they’re dying the brew at that very moment. Nucky insists the Celtic dinner be flush with it, so everyone can get “good and lubed” for Eli’s reelection speech. Oh, Nuck. Lay off your brother before he goes all Fredo on you and you have to take him… sailing. Nucky does not listen to me in that instant as he announces how hilarious it is that Eli’s taking Dale Carnegie lessons, and the “good-natured” ribbing ensues. Eli tells everyone to fuck off and Nucky comments that the Irish are a surly lot. But they drink a lot, so as long as they pay, all’s well.
The scene ends with a Mr. Neary riffing a pretty good spoof of Danny Boy changing it to Nucky Boy, and with that for a transition, we’re off to Margaret’s Temperance meeting.
And it’s just as much fun as the last one, but with less people. Dana Ivey(!) is back as Mrs. Highest of all High Horses McGarry, lecturing the women that it would be folly to think that with the passing of Prohibition, all drinking would end. Margaret walks in just at that moment, and apparently whatever the group’s fearless leader was saying wasn’t important enough to refrain from pausing to greet Margaret and comment on her recent absences in front of the entire group. It’s been some time since Margaret’s last meeting, and Mrs. McGarry wondered if she’d been ill. Like from the beating? Or the miscarriage? Seems plausible… Anyway, Margaret good-naturedly avoids engagement and just quietly responds that she’s been working. As she moves to a free seat, another attendee asks her who’s looking after her children? Woman’s pretty life or death about it, too. Margaret shows more restraint than I, when she answers that the kids are with a neighbor. That question would have gotten a sarcastic response from me, somewhere along the lines of, “Oh, the kids? They’re fine – I left them with a nice tramp I met when I was cutting through the train tracks on my way home – the children do so love playing in the boxcars.”
I have a desperate need to verbally bitchslap people who ask stupid questions. How about you?
The judgmental, awkward part of the evening now over, Mrs. McGarry resumes her talk. Drinking is still a cause the Temperance Movement must fight, and another member, Mrs. Bettyanne Mulhaney is going to tell them why. A relative in Nebraska wrote her about a woman in town who had fallen on hard times and thus, to temptation. With six children to look after on her own, she decided to get a recipe for homebrewing gin from a farmhand and partner up with him to sell booze at a profit in town. Hmmm. Where I come from that’s not “giving into temptation” as much as it is “taking care of six children when you can’t work to feed them or afford birth control.” Different strokes, I guess. Anyway, when the fallen woman was brewing her rent check in the bathtub, one of her kids got curious, climbed in to play and got CRUNK. Just totally soused and then ran around naked in front of company, humiliating the whole family. Nah, just kidding, she died – alcohol poisoning. And, seriously? That is a crock of shit if I’ve ever heard one. It took me till way into my teens to even tolerate the taste of White Zinfandel, much less bathtub gin at an age when I would have been stupid enough to drink something out of a bathtub (0-4 yrs).
Of course most of the women buy the story hook, line and sinker, one woman piping up that illegal stills are everywhere – even in Atlantic City! Well-aware of this problem, Mrs. McGarry, motions that they need to stop the frigging clucking about the fact that there is alcohol running rampant and do something about it – preferably for St. Patrick’s Day.
Does anyone here know how to make a pipe bomb?
Someone suggests marching, but that gets shot down pretty quickly considering the drunker people get, the funnier Temperance marchers become. Mrs. McGarry urges that with the city officials obviously looking the other way at the rampant, rampant disrespect for sobriety overrunning the city, they need to do something that stops the alcohol at its source. Confidence bolstered by all the good things happening in her life, and perhaps indulging in a little spite toward a drinking man who shunned her that very morning, Margaret pipes up. Why she saw dozens of barrels of beer being loaded into a garage behind her house earlier that day – perhaps Mr. Thompson (Enoch) could be of some help? He is, after all, a friend. When the entire meeting does a collective double-take at Margaret’s (obviously inappropriate) relationship with the Atlantic City Treasurer, she quickly clarifies that he’s been of great assistance since he had her husband killed. Mrs. McGarry, not terribly pleased that Margaret’s horse might be getting higher than hers, but not about to waste the opportunity at hand, asks Margaret if perhaps she could arrange a meeting? Excitement at some more personal attention written all over her face, Margaret offers to try.
Deny my baked goods, will you?
Hey! It’s Rothstein! Looks like the World Series is catching up with him. He’s at the barber’s reading an article about him in the paper, and the supposed nefarious meeting he may or may not have taken at which he may or may not have discussed the fixing of the 1919 World Series by bribing the players of the Chicago White Sox. His lawyer is there to discuss the hypothetical nitty-gritty, and after confirming that his client’s answer to any direct questioning along that line would be a resounding “Did not!”, confirms that the article and the implied accusations therein amount to horseshit. Rothstein’s happy to hear that, but wonders what to do about the article itself. Big fan of the shit jokes, Lawyer tells him if one gets horseshit on their pants, one doesn’t rub it in. One waits for it to dry and then simply brushes off the flakes. Elegant. Rothstein nods, but argues that the World Series was months ago, and the shit still ain’t dry. All the lawyer can do is shrug, and it looks like Rothstein needs to go attorney shopping.
What, you’re out of metaphors all of a sudden?
At Nucky’s office the next morning, Carl Healy, the plucky little boxer from the LPU has stopped by to chat. Nucky’s obviously busy and in no mood for what’s probably going to be a ridiculous five minutes, so as soon as Carl begins any small talk, he cuts him off at the knees and tells him to get to the point. Someone’s ass is chafing from all that kissing. The leprechauns want a raise, see? $5 a man is just too little to undergo all that humiliation. Even Nucky’s heart, bleeding when it comes to women, Germans and African Americans, is not open to understanding the plight of the tiny human. What Carl calls humiliation, Nucky calls entertainment, and it’s hilaaaarious how he isn’t even trying to be marginalizing or offensive – he really doesn’t get why Carl, a human being, might feel taken advantage of at being asked to pretend to be a tiny elf for the amusement of drunken giants.
What? You really look like leprechauns! How is that a bad thing?
Nucky points out that Carl and his friends don’t mind kicking the crap out of each other in the boxing ring, but Carl (and the fact that he even has to make this point is funny) mentions that the men at the dinner are twice their size, and when drinking, get pretty rough. Nucky tries to assure Carl that with Prohibition there’ll be no booze, but that goes over with Carl about as well as water balloon through a brick wall, and it appears it’s time for Nucky to make a deal. He tells Carl to tell his boys that he would only go up to $7, and Nucky’ll pay Carl an extra $12 for his silence. Thus saving Nucky $12 dollars off of the orginal $80 Carl was asking him to pay (8 men at $10 each), and making Carl two more clams than he expected. Mmm, clams…
Carl takes roughly two seconds to think about the pros and cons of selling out his friends, then his hand swoops in and swallows the bills off Nucky’s desk like a tiny sea monster. Off he goes with a smooth, “Hello, Ladies,” to Margaret and Mrs. McGarry, who are on their way in.
Shut yo mouth!
They’ve arrived to discuss the important matter of the barrels of beer Margaret witnessed being unloaded behind her house the morning before. The morning before Nucky dissed her soda bread being the most important unsaid part of that sentence. Oh, and P.S., not only did he diss it, when Margaret slyly asks him if he enjoyed said soda bread before the three of them sit down, he lies and says yes! Caught!
Objection, Mr. Thompson! I move that you could not have enjoyed said soda bread, because after ourparting the previous morning when you so rudely sent me on my way, I threw the offending gift in the trash. What say you to that?!
The meeting begins and Mrs. McGarry informs Nucky that Mrs. Schroeder has seen something that she feels compelled to reveal. Margaret repeats the story of the beer barrels to Nucky, but this time makes sure to mention that the man supervising the operation seemed familiar to her, but she couldn’t quite place him. If Nucky was under the impression that he could sweep Margaret under the rug quite so easily, he isn’t anymore, and the resounding subtext of their conversation that follows is as clear as glass. Allow me to illustrate:
Margaret: I saw beer barrels being unloaded behind my house yesterday morning (before you shunned both me and my soda bread), and the man supervising the operation was someone I recognized but couldn’t quite place. (Perhaps someone I glimpsed drinking champagne out of a prostitute’s shoe at your birthday party?)
Nucky: That’s outrageous. (You’ll want to take the opportunity to be mistaken about all of this. Right now.)
Margaret: I saw it with my own eyes. (You can take your fecking opportunity and shove it up your girlfriend’s pooch. I spent two hours making that soda bread.)
Nucky: I’m sure you must have been appalled. (I get it. You’re upset about the other morning. I mean, the other, other morning.)
Margaret: I was. Quite. (You’re damn right I’m upset.)
Nucky: I’m afraid my birthday party must have been quite difficult for you. At Babbette’s – the night club. (Well, I’m sorry you’re upset, but do you really think this is the most appropriate way of dealing with your frustrations? This hypocrisy of yours demeans us both. I find it surprising none of the rampant boozehounding at my birthday party seemed to bother you.)
Mrs. Schroeder: (Babbette’s! Whore! Delilah! Why wasn’t I invited?)
Margaret: I was there on an errand for the dress shop. (Oh, nice. Real nice. Way to spoil a perfectly lovely evening.)
Nucky: It was a very celebratory atmosphere. Some champagne and whiskey may have even been drunk. (Maybe you should think about that next time you force me to sit down with Battleaxe McSober over here.)
Mrs. Schroeder: I’m sure your class of acquaintance drinks only in moderation.
Nucky: If they drink at all. (You need to get laid. And badly.) Mrs. Schroeder, thank you for this information. Eddie, get the sheriff on the phone. You give the details to my brother and we’ll shut down that garage before the tide is out. (Happy now? You like forcing my hand?)
Mrs. Schroeder: Mr. Thompson, we are grateful as always.
Margaret: I truly do appreciate it. (Oh, Enoch, I never meant for things to get ugly. Thank you for seeing me.)
Nucky: This isn’t a personal favor, Mrs. Schroeder. (I’m not the one who made things ugly, but here we are. I said good day!)
Margaret: Yes. I realize that. (I’m sorry, it won’t happen again. Unless of course you inexplicably deny me your friendship and attention once more.)
SCENE Nucky: 2 Margaret: 0
Nucky sighs as he watches her leave, and it’s sad. It probably would be pretty cruel of him to indulge in a relationship with Margaret given that she knows next to nothing about his corrupt activities. It’d probably go pretty far in breaking her heart into infinite pieces to find out that he’s Crime Boss Numero Uno. But the temptation of paramouring with a woman who can have a conversation about something other than shopping and her own boobs makes Margaret much more tantalizing to him than Lucy will ever be. This is all not to mention the awesomely manipulative streak Margaret just demonstrated in his office, which, while frustrating and dangerous, probably makes her even more attractive to him. What it’s probably going to come down to is what Nucky’s willing to put up with. When Lucy gets upset, she goes crazy – loudly and publicly -, locks herself in the bathroom at inconvenient times and makes his life a little harder. But she’s fun. When Margaret gets upset, she pulls some shit like she just did, possibly making his life waaaay harder than Lucy could ever think to. But she’s probably the first woman he’s started to have real feelings for since he lost his wife. The man did say he expected to have everything…
And unfortunately the chance of a three-way is ZIPOLA.
It’s time to revisit Chicago and poor, cut up Pearl. Jimmy’s lovingly feeding her soup, which she refuses to eat because it doesn’t contain tickets to the Hotel California. He tells her she can’t live on laudanum and she tells him to watch her. He doesn’t get the chance, though, because Johnny Torrio stops by, and breaks my heart at how happy she is to see him. He asks how she’s feeling and she answers truthfully, “Swell.” I mean, she’s high as a kite. She could be missing a limb and she’d probably be humming gospel music.
Johnny and Jimmy step out into the hall to talk. Johnny, pretty horrified at Pearl’s appearance even with the bandages on, tells Jimmy she’s gotta go. Jimmy protests that it’s not that bad, and Johnny says that if she were a philly, they’d shoot her. Ouch. He points out that he’s running a cathouse, not a hotel, and that if she’s not earning, he’s losing money. Jimmy offers to cover her stay, until Johnny reveals that that amount is 100 smackeroos a day. Agog, Jimmy remarks, “She earns that much?” “She did,” Johnny spits back. He sadly says she’s got till Friday, and walks away. And you know what? Fuck you, Mafia. One of the common themes in all organized crime stories is that the killing and the violence is somewhat justified by the fact that the participants are soldiers – they all know what their getting into, and they’re all fighting some honorable, albeit criminal fight. And the family takes care of its own. Remember when Richie Aprile ran over Beansie on “The Sopranos”? Tony gave Beansie a fatass envelope and Beansie got to retire at a club in Miami. But nooo, not the ladies. I have no real love for Pearl, but she probably brought in more cash than most of Torrio’s men, and he’s shoving her out the door all the while comparing her to a horse. Ass.
Just ain’t right.
Jimmy heads back into the bedroom and sits down. Pearl nervously asks what Johnny wanted, and Jimmy lies, telling her something about Johnny needing him to work the door that night. Pearl knows damn well what a crock of shit that is, and realizes that she’d better hang onto Jimmy for dear life if she knows what’s good for her. She sweetly smiles and tells him she’d like some soup.
And a place to live…?
It’s another dark dawn in Atlantic City, and Margaret’s woken once more by noises outside her home. Not quite believing what she’s hearing, she goes out to investigate to find yet another truck and more beer barrels. When she inquires as to just what the men outside the Hiawatha Garage are doing, a portly gentleman says they’re unloading a truck – gotta tint it green by tomorrow, after all. I must say, people are shockingly honest about breaking the law on this show. How about you’re unloading barrels of pickles or something? The fact that they’re unloading the truck shocks and angers Margaret enough to ask for whomever’s in charge – and that would be Mr. Neary (not Leary, like I thought – sorry!). He recognizes her and tries to charm her with some banter about Ireland, but she’s not having it. Like, at all. She asks if Mr. Thompson didn’t speak with him, and Neary can’t think why he would have. Uh-oh. Looks like Margaret got some lip service. Neary is totally unaware of Margaret’s general disapproval of their whole operation and the fact that she personally asked Nucky to have it shut down earlier that afternoon, and he promises her that they’ll be out her hair by the next day – why, most of the beer is for Mr. Thompson’s own Celtic Dinner! What a coincidence!
You’ve got to be bloody kidding me.
He tells his men to keep down the noise since it’s so late, and offers her a beer on the city. Margaret just gives him a scowl and heads back to her house. Mildly confused, Neary just returns to the business at hand, probably thinking something along the lines of, “Women. Go fig.”
You can’t keep a good woman down it seems. Having failed massively in her attempt to secure Nucky’s favor once more by self-righteous manipulations, now it’s time to go another route.
The sexy route.
She gets all dolled up in her stolen negligee, a pretty purple dress and some fuck-me lip rouge and heads out to try again. At this point, I’m not sure what she’s trying for, and she probably isn’t either. I don’t think she had any real romantic intentions for Nucky until maybe just after his birthday dinner, but it didn’t seem like she was fooling herself into thinking they were realistic. But, when a dream goes from a tiny bit possible to totally impossible, it makes you even more desperate to chase it. Been there.
More phonograph music plays as she waits outside his office, swinging her feet. The elevator opens to reveal Mr. Neary, who brushes past her and gains immediate entrance to what appears to be a lively “meeting.” Before the door closes, Nucky can be heard welcoming him by name. A second later, probably before Margaret can really process how much she’s been summarily dismissed, Eddie pops his head out and says regretfully Mr. Thompson will be taking no more meetings that day. “But he knows I’m waiting, ” she protests, shocked. Eddie apologizes and explains that an urgent matter has come up. He then returns to the office, insulting laughter and merriment escaping into the waiting area. Nucky: 3 Margaret: 0.
Back at home, sufficiently humiliated, Margaret changes out of the dress and rips the negligee to pieces in anger. This is looking worse and worse for Nucky.
She’s not gonna be ignored, Nuck.
Next stop, Van Alden’s post office office! He and his team are busy sticking little flags in addresses on a map of AC that they know are serving, storing or in possession of booze. He glimpses Margaret through his office window, and stands up, the map forgotten. Looks like Margaret’s becoming a lean, mean scorned machine. She asks if the post office is in charge of Prohibition now, and Van Alden, impervious to humor answers, “No, ma’am.” Realizing that an ice breaker is probably as unnecessary as it is ineffective, she gets to the point. She has information, and he told her once that if that were the case, she should come to him. The moment he’s been waiting for having just arrived (Why I just sniffed your ribbon again this very morning. Twas fate that brought you to my doorstep this fine day.), Van Aldan snaps to attention and orders his partner to roll down his shirtsleeves, put on a jacket , go outside the door and keep watch. I’m surprised he doesn’t rub his hands together in excitement, but it’s probably a some kind of sin in his religion to rub yourself for any reason, so his hands remain firmly at his sides.
Warmth comes only from the Lord.
He and Margaret sit down across from each other, and she wastes no time in revealing that there’s a garage behind her house that is storing a large quantity of beer barrels. She gives him the address and asks him to shut it down immediately – for the children’s sake of course. Van Alden disappointedly goes to his map and sticks another pin at the address she’s given him. The information he’s wanted from Margaret is something that implicates Nucky. At this point all she’s given him is more work. He tells her that there are now over a hundred pins in his map, and they’re all places that are storing or distilling liquor. They operate with impunity, and he doesn’t have the resources to shut even ten percent of them down. Margaret understands, but Van Alden’s not finished. He may not have reeled her in, but he’s at least partially hooked Margaret Schroeder and he’s not going to waste his opportunity to turn her against the whale.
He goes on to tell her that all of those pins together are nothing compared to the ships coming in loaded with booze from Canada that’s diluted, mixed with poison and sold as part of a burgeoning criminal enterprise. A criminal enterprise, he growls, staring her down, for whom murder is second nature, and one that has no qualms about knocking off innocent baker’s apprentices. Oh yeah, he went there. Margaret as she asks if he means to be cruel. Stepping back a bit, Van Alden responds that he meant only to be honest. She tosses back a question about the law that creates the criminal, but, as Van Alden very astutely points out, that’s the very law she’s just asked him to enforce – for the safety of her children, unless he’s misunderstanding her intentions. It’s pretty clear that Van Alden will not be used as a toy for Margaret’s personal vengeance, unless her vengeance is going to take down something bigger than the Hiawatha Garage. Something Nucky Thompson-sized is what he’s looking for.
Realizing she might not have the stones for this kind of game, Margaret snits that she’s been lectured to a great deal that day by men who speak boldly and do nothing. She gets up to leave, but Van Alden stops her, and asks her who did the lecturing. Well, you for one, Swifty. She asks why that would be of his concern, and he answers that it’s because she doesn’t want to tell him. When she wonders if he’s going to arrest her in the post office, he calmly says only if she’s committed a crime. Like obstruction of justice, for example. It dawns on Margaret that’s she’s in way too deep at this point, and she caves. She gives him Mr. Neary’s name, which leads Van Alden to deduce that he’s the Alderman from the Fourth Ward. Margaret can’t confirm that, but she does know he works for Mr. Thompson. And says as much. She looks a little like she’s gone further than she meant to, but she’s committed now.
Shit just got real.
And now onto the horribly awkward scene that was bound to happen the minute Pearl got her face slashed. Jimmy and Al are sitting in the cathouse parlor, ragtime playing in the background, discussing hitting the Irish back on St. Patty’s day, when they’ll be drunk off their asses and totally vulnerable. Oddly, while Al is the only one interested in seeking vengeance for Pearl’s assault, Jimmy’s still wondering if it’s wise for them to do something that Johnny might not approve of. You are a shit boyfriend, Dude. Al tells him he needs to stop worrying about what other people will think – it’ll mess with his head. But before Jimmy can wrap his tiny little brain around that idea, the music stops and the gasps of horror begin. Pearl, bandage free, has decided to join the party. Obviously having taken a little liquid courage in an attempt to come to work, she is stoney baloney, asking if anyone wants to buy her a drink, her nasty scar cutting her face in two. It’s not pretty, Folks. The situation, not the scar. The damage is actually not as bad as I thought it would be. Kind of looks like someone took a marker to her face, but everyone’s still horrified and embarrassed.
I just feel like the lines of her face should be more distorted and grotesque. Maybe they spent too much of the budget on costumes and Gretchen Mol’s wigs.
Jimmy rushes to her side and leads her out, despite her protests that she needs to earn her keep. They head up the stairs as laughter follows, and Pearl’s so out of it she asks what’s so funny. Jimmy brushes it off, telling her someone told a joke. She stops him on the way up to ask, “Who’s gonna love me now?” Unfortunately for Pearl, Jimmy doesn’t assure her that he will.
Shit SHIT boyfriend.
Well that was rough, but thankfully, it’s onto Gillian’s so I don’t know about you, but I’ve perked up. Tommy’s passed out on the floor – literally. Gillian gave him whiskey and milk to help him sleep. Angela’s a little freaked out at this particular parenting method, but Gillian assures her that when Jimmy got overtired and worked himself into a state, it was the only thing that calmed him down. Well, yeah, but it’s sort of cheating. She holds up a magazine cover of a movie star and asks Angela if she thinks the woman is pretty. Gillian works depth and vapidity like she’s ice skating on the edge of a blade and it’s awesome. Angela comments that she doesn’t have much time to see movies these days and Gillian nods in understanding, remembering when Jimmy was little. But then, she had the “other girls” to help with babysitting, so it wasn’t so bad. Dancers or hookers – you decide!
It’s time for Angela to go meet a friend, and she gets ready to leave. Gillian tells her to take in a movie and to watch out for the “lower element” that’s bound to be around the night before St. Patty’s. Angela promises to be careful, and she’s about to head out the door when Gillian remarks, out of the blue, “You could be free, you know.” Obviously ruing her own lost youth, Gillian tosses out the idea that Angela not wait for Jimmy or any man to return to her, and go off and enjoy her youth as an artist. Oh, and she’ll raise Tommy. There’s a “jigga-whaaaattt?” that’s yearning to burst from Angela’s lips like a bullet, but all she can get out is, “You’ll raise my son?” Gillian asks her to think about it, but there’s no thinking that’s going to happen there. Bohemian painter or no, Angela is about as open to this whole idea as she was to the whiskey and milk sedative Gillian just gave her son, and tells the other woman as much. Gillian backs off and apologizes for any offense, and that’s the end of it. Though the vehemence with which Angela reacted to the whole proposition is pretty indicative of the fact that she’s probably considered something similar and feels mighty guilty about even thinking of it.
There are a MILLION reasons that wouldn’t work. Not that I would be able to name any of them. I haven’t thought about it. At all. I’ll be back later.
Strains of an Irish song start playing and it’s time for the Celtic Dinner! This promises to be good. A man leads the men in song as Nucky’s father loudly points out Elias’s absence from the head table. Nucky tells him to pipe down for the Carrickfergus, and gets brushed off with an, “Ah, what do I give a fuck?” Awesome. Eli finally shows up and tells Nucky that his boys were using his sash to play Tarzan. Nucky grumbles something about this happening every year and Eli’s ego takes yet another hit. I’m guessing with his speech still on the horizon, it won’t be his last for the evening. The song ends and everyone applauds. The ceremony is turned over to Nucky, and Eli bugs him about when it’ll be his turn to speak. Nucky protests that people are there to enjoy themselves – is a campaign speech really necessary? But for better or for ill, as soon as he gets up to speak, he introduces Sheriff Elias Thompson, which sparks more loud grumbling from their father.
Applause carries Eli to the podium, and Nucky and I cringe waiting for a storm of stuttering and nonsense to escape from his mouth. But it doesn’t… What does escape is a rousing speech condemning the British for their centuries long cultural rape of the Irish people. It’s pretty inspiring, if a little overdramatic. But just when I think Eli might win this episode, it turns out his speech is a little too good. He makes a geography mistake that’s loudly corrected in the audience, and a native Irishman tells the critic to lay off – Eli was born in the States. Already fired (and lubed) up, the Irish-Americans and native Irish start arguing about who’s more Irish, who’s given more to the cause, who’s suffered the most at the hands of the British, blah, blah, blah… Everything almost breaks out into a full-blown fist-fight totally drowning out the rest of Eli’s speech, until Nucky takes control of the podium and manages to calm everybody down with a few Irish jokes and a cuing up of the bagpipes and the leprechauns! The attendees clap like children at the spectacle, and the little guys hand out beer from their “pots of gold.” But what’s this? It’s not green?? Nucky announces that somehow the Feds found their stash, so this year the tradition will not be observed.
Back in Chicago, Jimmy’s squeezing Pearl some more laudanum juice and telling her she needs to go easy on it. Because maybe this time she’ll listen? She whines that they should go to Chinatown for a bowl -so much better when you smoke it – all palm trees and sunshine. He promises they’ll do it, but I can’t tell if he means going to Chinatown or to California. Pacified for the moment, she asks him to tell her a story. “About what?” he asks. Probably anything to distract her from her impending future as a lonely freak, I’d wager. Something happy and about him, is her request. And you know what? Me too. Jimmy is a sad, fucking monkey most of the time, and it’d be nice to see him crack a smile, even if it is just for a memory.
He tells her about a time when he was seven and a man his mother was “seeing” (Mr. Lancaster) took them out on a boat for a sail on the 4th of July. He cuddles up to Pearl and talks about how beautiful his mother was and how Mr. Lancaster taught him to sail. They stopped at Hague island, headed to the beach and Gillian told him to “go away for awhile.” Sex on the beach! He was used to that, apparently, and ran around happy as a clam, pretending to be a pirate. When it was okay for him to return, Mr. Lancaster dug a firepit in the sand to roast lobster and corn, and they ate like kings. When the sun began to set, their host broke out a flag that his father supposedly carried at Gettysburg, planted the flagpole in the grass and led his guests in a round of “My Country ‘Tis of Thee.” Hands on their hearts, they watched the fireworks over the boardwalk and sailed home in the moonlight. It was a good day.
I have to say that has to be like, number three on the mystical list of Top Ten 4th of July Experiences Ever.
Leaning into his chest, Pearl begs him to tell her that Lancaster married his mother. Sure, he says, it was happily ever after. He hands her the juice but spills a little on his new suit. She giggles at the sight and tries to kiss him as he leaves to wash it off. Jimmy indulges for a few seconds, but it’s painfully obvious it’s just that – an indulgence. Pearl pulls away and he practically sprints to the bathroom. It’s terrible. Jimmy’s not a bad guy, but this is essentially what would happen if you met someone amazing and they got paralyzed three-weeks into your relationship. Impossible to stay, but really, really shitty to leave.
But Pearl’s gonna make it easy on him it seems. As Jimmy’s washing out his clothes in the sink, a gunshot goes off. And this time it’s no doorslam. Jimmy slow-motion runs back to their room (in an effort to give an incredibly predictable moment some drama), that last kiss probably replaying in his over and over, to find Pearl dead on the floor. Another girl starts screaming bloody murder as Jimmy slowly kneels next to Pearl’s body, lowers his head to hers, and finally understands how much she needed him.
And it wasn’t for making her laudanum cocktails, that’s for sure.
Back at the Celtic Dinner, which is looking like it’s reached point the leprechauns were afraid of – grown men drunkenly trying to dance Irish jigs with each other and whatnot. Nucky’s making a poor attempt at bucking up his brother, telling him there’s a time and place and he has to know his audience, etc. Didn’t the Carnegie book tell him that? Eli’s too drunk to be consoled at this point, though, and orders another drink. Nucky tells him to slow down – it’s hard to help someone when they’re hammered. “And you’re not?” Eli asks. Then he remembers that this is the one night his brother doesn’t drink. Nucky self-righteously explains that the “kingmakers” his brother was trying to impress this very night sit in judgment of the sheriff every second. They remember a man who show’s good form. Eli lights a cigarette, knowing he isn’t the brother who fills those shoes, and tells Nucky that that particular game is so easy for him. He’ll keep at it, though, and maybe one day he’ll lie as good as Nucky does. And just like Jimmy, Nucky can’t see (or maybe just doesn’t care to see) what his brother really needs, and corrects his grammar. “It’s lie as well as me. If you wanna be taken seriously then learn how to fucking speak.” He gets up and leaves his brother for greener party pastures.
The Commodore, Thompson Sr. and a few others are telling a dirty leprechaun joke when Nucky sidles up, but before he can join in, the doors burst open and heeeere’s Van Alden! It’s the Department of Internal Revenue and they come bearing a raid!! Well, there’s one man who’s not going to stand for that – I don’t know his name, but he’s an attorney and he walks right on up to Van Alden and tells him where he can stick his raid. The Celtic Dinner is a private party for very important people. He goes on to say that the consumption of alcohol was not forbidden by the Volstead Act and POW! Right in the kisser! Van Alden doesn’t put much stock in the legal process it seems, and dropped our little hero like a ton of bricks. He asks if anyone else would like to interfere in the duties of a Federal Officer and the answer is a silent “No, Sir, not at all Sir.”
Really? No one wants to meet my fist? She’s reeeal pretty…
He walks right on up to Nucky and tells him he has a warrant for an arrest – the arrest of a Mr. James Neary. Neary’s next to Nucky, so Van Alden confirms his identity and charges him with knowingly transporting and storing intoxicating liquors – something that IS forbidden by the Volstead Act. He’s got witness testimony to that effect. Neary’s taken away and Nucky and Van Alden eye spend a minute sizing each other up. Then Van Alden announces that the party is over, and the establishment shall be shuttered, so everyone had better file out in an orderly fashion (if they are so able). There’s much grumbling as the guests exit into the cold, March night, only to be greeted by a singing choir of Temperance League members.
Neary’s taken away in front of cameras that are also catching the “kingmakers” being led out of a raid. One of the leprechauns is trampled (and karmically, it should be Carl, but I can’t tell), the Commodore chooses this moment to taunt Elias about being a useless sheriff, and Nucky notices someone he recognizes in the front row of the Temperance group. It’s Mrs. Margaret Schroeder, and it does not escape his him that she is the one thing he and Van Alden have in common.
Nucky: 3 Margaret: 46,692.
The agents lock up the hall and the ladies file away. Eli jokes that Nucky’s sure to have made a fine impression on his republican friends this night, and Nucky just tells him to go him to his wife. He will, but where’s Nucky going? Nucky’s confused by this question and Eli’s apparently incensed by his brother’s refusal to answer, so he takes a swing at him. A swing and a very wide miss, I should add. Nucky asks what the fuck that was for, but Eli leaves without answering.
A softer, sweeter, folkier version of the Carrickfergus starts playing to a montage of everyone heading to some kind of solace. If you haven’t heard this song, you should give it a listen - it’ll set the mood for your reading of the last of the recap. Jimmy finally takes that trip to Chinatown, Angela suspiciously walks the boardwalk alone, and then finally stops at the photography studio owned by those friends of hers Jimmy so disapproved of. Eli is soothed by his pretty, but put-upon wife as he pukes into a toilet. Gillian stares at herself in the mirror and though there are almost no signs of aging on her face, touches her beautiful cheek as though she expects them to appear at any moment. Van Alden watches with a sinister smile on his face as his agents hammer to pieces barrel after barrel of green beer, and then we’re back to Jimmy as he smokes his first bowl of opium.
It’s all downhill from there, buddy.
Finally, we settle on Margaret, lying awake in her bed, unable to sleep on a silent night. Then there’s a rap on her front door. She gets up to answer, in her nightgown, hair down, and finds Nucky Thompson on her doorstep. He steps in without invitation wearing a super-intense look and shuts the door behind him. Oooooh my goodness… She timidly asks if there was something he wanted, and the music stops while he stares her down. He’s got no time for games – no interest in them. Anyone else would have been scared shitless at Nucky Thompson showing up on their doorstep to personally confront them about actively screwing him, but not Margaret. See, he said, “I’ve got no time for games, Margaret,” – first time he’s addressed her by her first name – and all she can do in response is whisper, “Margaret?” knowingly, and smile. All pretense gone, Nucky takes one last look at her and sweeps her up into a kiss that I would have paid good money to be on the other end of. And it’s Steve Buscemi!!! The music swells once more as he pushes her against a wall. His hat falls to the floor as they kiss and hold onto each other for dear life, the game finally over.
It’s a tie.
And if you’re wondering, yes, I am well-aware that I am a hopeless romantic and that last paragraph got away from me a little bit, but it’s really not my fault. Stupid folk music.