Strange days are afoot in Atlantic City.
If you were any smarter…you’d still be a moron.
Fade in on an overhead shot of a lot of booze. Jimmy drones that you can barely move and he’s with Mickey the Roach, expositing that it’s McCoy’s confiscated liquor. They chat about nothing except for Jimmy to show some hubris, assuming they’ll be the biggest distributors in the northeast by the end of the year. Jimmy leaves with Richard and we see Mickey’s warehouse is a barn in the woods.
Close up on the Commodore’s face and it should come with a parental advisory because no one should look at that many sagging skin folds without consent. He’s cranky because Gillian’s surprising him and he’s impatient. She’s wearing one of her “educational showgirl” costumes. Before he opens his eyes he hears the pan flute and responds like any right thinking human would, calling it a “goddamned cat in a rain barrel.”
He opens his eyes to see she’s wearing the sheerest toga with one breast out and calls her a “humdinger.” Ewww. Gillian tells him to shut up. Then she goes through her spiel about how she’s Diana and no man shall gaze upon her nakedness. Except the ones who pay. And the Commodore. They bicker about how he hated her being a showgirl and she tells him she had Jimmy to raise. Gillian sounds understanding about why he never married her but remembering she was 13 when she first met the Commodore and got pregnant only adds to the disturbing nature of this scene.
Don’t look the crazy in the eye.
Having successfully navigated the Commodore’s ego, Gillian says without a trace of foreshadowing that they’re all together now and the Commodore will take care of her. He’s not listening because he’s horny. She slips off her toga and shoots the Commodore with a toy arrow but something’s not right. He starts blinking and shaking and Gillian’s properly freaked at this point, never realizing the destructive power of her boobs before.
This scene is broken up by Emily reciting a nursery rhyme that gives us the episode title What Does the Bee Do. I’m sure it’s not symbolic that it features the lines “What does Father do? Bring home money. What does Mother do? Lay out the money.” Everyone’s proud of her and it’s a happy family tableau where Nucky calls the children “munchkins,” which is a nice call back to the first season when Margaret was reading The Wonderful Wizard of Oz to them, and Margaret asks about him not sleeping while fixing his cuff links. I’m sure this isn’t meant to be foreboding or anything.
Katie asks if Nucky will be joining them for breakfast and he says he won’t nor will he be there for dinner, either. Margaret asks why and he tells her it’s the mayor’s birthday, boldly lying that it will be a small dinner in his honor, like Nucky can do anything small or tasteful. Before Margaret can cast her disapproving eyes on Nucky, Katie comes running in like she won the lottery to let them know that Owen Sleater is there. Make him earn it, Katie. Everyone appears to be in a good mood until Owen makes a leprechaun joke that amuses Katie and Margaret continues her transformation into Rose Van Alden by saying “Surely it isn’t that funny.” First of all, I didn’t even know she was a bitch.
Chicks dig sociopaths
Katie’s properly embarrassed and the room is brought back down to Margaret’s mood, so Nucky lets her know Owen’s his new driver. Owen excuses himself to wait for Nucky at the car and Margaret finally gets off her disapproving look at Katie as Owen bids her a rather familiar goodbye. Poor girl can’t catch a break. Margaret orders her to have Lillian get the children ready.
With her judgment warmed up, Margaret turns to Nucky calling Owen “cheeky” and asking what his purpose is. Nucky’s like, “His purpose is my business,” and gives Margaret the household expenses, including the staff’s wages with a $2 bonus for each woman. Margaret asks why, and Nucky says it’s to let them know they’re appreciated. Margaret says they shouldn’t be frivolous with their money. Nucky doesn’t seem bothered by Margaret’s sudden mean streak, even when she points out that they’re stealing from him. He just p’shaws her and says “It’s what everyone does.” Then she whines she never got a bonus when she was a servant, and with that attitude it makes sense.
Chalky’s home and having a nice breakfast with the family. Lenore serves him coffee as he eats, and in addition to their son Lester they have two daughters who are happy, if nameless, to see Chalky’s home. When the younger one asks Chalky to check her homework, Lester practically does a spit take before he asks “You’re asking Daddy?” I believe this week’s vocabulary word for Lester is “impertinent.” Chalky maintains a lightheartedness with the little girl, but Lester knows he’s skirting close to trouble. Still, Lester gets in another jab, because I find it’s always best to rattle your father’s cage when he’s in a mood.
Enjoy it while it last, Chalky.
Lenore restores the peace as Chalky asks his other daughter how she’s doing. She says Lenore invited her boyfriend over for dinner. Chalky’s not thrilled, but Lenore believes it’s important to stand on propriety otherwise people will gossip about them because he’s an illiterate gangster. That last part was implied. The daughter proudly mentions that Samuel is studying medicine. Chalky says it should be fine, and even perks up saying they’ll have dinner with all the fixings then tells Lester he’s been craving hoppin’ john for a while. Lenore makes a face like he asked for turd pies and goes on eating her breakfast. Geez, spend a couple of weeks in jail and your family thinks they’re too good for you.
Angela’s pounding a nail in the wall when Richard shows up. He asks for Jimmy and Angela assumed Jimmy was with him as she hasn’t seen him since the night before. Richard asks if everything is all right, and Angela, without a moment’s hesitation, admits that she hasn’t a clue especially with Nucky who won’t even look at her when they pass each other on the boardwalk. Angela hangs one of her paintings in the sun room and Richard compliments her. He compares her to an artist he saw in Paris who painted cityscapes. Angela says “de Chirico” and, clearly taken with Richard’s sensitivity, Angela asks if he’s ever posed. With his half face that he’s clearly self conscious about.
The scene is very sweet and awkward because bless Richard’s broken little heart, he can’t see that Angela’s as lonely as he is. Instead, Richard gets shy and Angela apologizes immediately, but Richard decides to open up about how he used to draw when he was growing up. They bond over their mutual love of drawing and as Angela looks at Richard with sincere affection, he just looks away at her painting. And a million tumblrs were born.
The only thing Jimmy picked up in Paris was the clap.
Over to the Commodore’s where we learn that Gillian’s mighty boobs gave the geezer a stroke. The doctor asks if anything agitated him and as Gillian says “As I said, I found him like this,” Eli looks at her mighty boobs showing that he might not be a complete fool. Jimmy thinks the best option would be to put the Commodore in the hospital, but Gillian has plans which don’t include people knowing he’s sick so she “sweetly” says no one can look after him like his family. The Commodore beckons Eli over and as everyone gazes at them hopefully the Commodore manages to croak out “cock…cock…COCKSUCKER.” HA! The mind is able even if the body is unwilling.
Eli storms out barking that the Commodore is a vegetable and Gillian is still in Stepford mode as she says the Commodore can hear him. Jimmy’s mumbling about what to do next as Eli’s getting more agitated by the minute about losing the Commodore’s political connections and Gillian’s finally had enough it. She and Eli go at it about how she didn’t spend her life one step above a whore to end up in the poor house and he has eight kids to support and Eli finally says what the audience has been thinking that what Gillian and Jimmy have with each other and the Commodore isn’t normal. Although, to be fair, it is if you live in a Greek tragedy or a Shakespearean drama.
Gillian shoots back that it is normal to her and Jimmy and the Commodore and Jimmy’s sitting in the background rubbing his eyes letting us know she miscalculated, but she doesn’t notice because she’s too busy letting Eli have it. As they continue their fight in the library, Jimmy looks like he’s considering maybe having Richard pay a visit to both Eli and Gillian.
Even the bear knows they’re screwed.
They continue to argue with Eli being understandably freaked that they’re $70K in the red to the Commodore’s cronies but Gillian and Jimmy are soigné, saying they’ll be fine once they sell the booze. Of course, neither has a plan for how to do it since the city’s flush and they don’t have any other contacts at the moment, but rather than give Eli that one inch and admit he might not be wrong to freak, Jimmy sasses him on exactly how Jimmy should sell it, door to door? Eli’s had enough of this oedipal scene and tells them to work it out.
With Eli gone Jimmy admits to Gillian it probably was stupid to bring a bull like Eli in to see the Commodore so soon after the stroke. Gillian gets Jimmy to thinking that Eli might be right that they’re not normal when she apologizes for getting heated and kisses him on the lips.
Richard says you should only kiss your sister like that.
Nucky’s strolling down the boardwalk with his toadies. They’re discussing the mayor’s birthday party and Nucky specifically says hors d’oeuvres only and Eddie asks about showgirls because we might have forgotten that he told Margaret it was going to be a quiet little dinner. Of course, Eddie’s Eddie and he asks how old the mayor is and Nucky’s kindly says “How the fuck should I know?” But Eddie needs to know for the candles. I love Eddie. But this is a step too far for Nucky and he says not to make a production. Eddie feels he must because it’s the mayor, to which Nucky says “Not the Prince of Wales.” No, because the mayor has a real job. With the party planned, Nucky’s ready for breakfast and to talk to Rothstein.
At Rothstein’s we get to see the Missus, and she’s a robot, too. She comes to tell him Nucky’s on the phone and they have a reasonable, measured conversation about his bowels. He ends with “ A sound elimination is the basis of good health.” And good morning to you, too, Arnold.
I’m soundly eliminating as we speak.
Rothstein practices a “Mr. Thompson” then greets Nucky. He’s a persnickety gangster. Nucky respects him enough not to pretend it’s anything other than Nucky looking for a way to bring his liquor into Atlantic City now that the Coast Guard has his local port locked down. Rothstein has two options, one being Montauk which is a pretty miserable drive even in modern times so it’s a no-go or Philadelphia which is closer but means working with Waxy Gordon. Nucky’s not thrilled with that option, but he has no choice and asks what the terms are. Rothstein’s standard 20% plus 20% for Gordon. Nucky thinks it’s a bit steep, but Rothstein’s 20% comes with Luciano, which isn’t really a selling point for Nucky.
Chalky’s Disrespect Tour ’21 continues, this time at the local church. It’s an informal group of parishioners there to ask for some help. It starts off well enough with an elderly woman asking about her noisy, partying neighbors and Chalky says he’ll look into it. Then a man named Travis mentions that he works 12 hour shifts at the Ritz and every little thing they provide the staff comes out of their pay, and Chalky says he’ll look into it. It seems like the meeting is coming to a close and Chalky’s set to glad hand but a young woman stands up and asks about her husband. Chalky’s taken aback, and she reminds him that her husband was killed by the Klansmen while working for Chalky. He says she’ll be looked after, but the floodgates have been opened and several more women remind him of how their loved ones were killed while working for Chalky. Chalky’s actively avoiding eye contact with the strapping woman next to him as he says “It will be taken care of,” but she demands to know how and when, and even I’m a little scared of her.
The minister tries to restore order, but the young woman who started this all says no one put Chalky in charge and that he has his hands in everyone’s business but doesn’t give anything back but “a summer clambake and a Christmas turkey.” Man, the worm has turned for Chalky.
If I don’t make eye contact maybe she won’t beat me.
Happy days. We’re at the Post Office with Van Alden and the Prohies. They’re logging the monies seized in raids. Clarkson offers to tag his money but Van Alden’s too busy skimming and cooking the books so he can keep Lucy in their apartment in Ocean City so he tells Clarkson to worry about his own duties. Van Alden locks the money, making sure Clarkson sees him looking squirrely then excuses himself to the bathroom.
With the wood statue otherwise indisposed, Clarkson fills Sawicki in on how the New York Herald reported that half of all Prohibition agents are dirty. Sawicki doesn’t want to talk about it, but Clarkson pushes asking if Sawicki hasn’t noticed anything strange about Van Alden. Being in possession of functioning eyes, Sawicki says “Where do I start?” but Clarkson is speaking specifically about seeing Van Alden with Mickey the Roach at Mickey’s booze barn in the woods. Sawicki still won’t believe that Van Alden’s dirty but before they can discuss it further, Van Alden comes back and he’s steaming. It would seem someone wrote “Van Asshole” in the restroom. Heh.
Margaret’s meeting with the staff to give them a song and dance about how tighter circumstances mean she’s considering cutting their wages. That wasn’t part of her conversation with Nucky. The women point out all their responsibilities so Margaret then springs Nucky’s bonus on them, thinking it will smooth things over, but Katie’s like “just this week?” When Margaret confirms it’s a bonus, the staff isn’t exactly overjoyed and Margaret reminds them it’s customary to thank people. Bitch.
And now you know why we don’t trust drunks.
They hedge but Margaret tells them to spill, and Katie, because she so very young and naïve about the world, tells Margaret they were expecting raises since Nucky promised them one a few weeks back. Lillian the housekeeper isn’t quite so young or naïve and she says it’s possible Nucky was tanked at the time. You don’t say. Margaret responds that it’s a special kind of fool who relies on the promise of a drunkard,” and damn. She just bitchslapped the staff by shittalking Nucky.
Mickey, Jimmy and Richard are down in Philadelphia and Mickey’s dropped the Irish shtick to introduce Jimmy to Manny Horvitz aka William Forsythe aka one creepy-ass bastard. He’s a butcher with a big bloody knife, but he seems avuncular when he calls Jimmy a baby. Jimmy busts out some Yiddish and Manny’s happy with the effort. Things continue to go swimmingly when Manny asks Richard what happened to his face and Richard finds his sense of humor and says “He put his nose where it didn’t belong.”
One of these guys won’t be screwed in the morning.
Manny decides to make the men feel at home by frying up some liver and onions and I have to remind myself it’s 1921. Manny continues on in his pleasant ways talking about his beautiful daughter and his loving wife and “Waxy Gordon is a cocksucking piece of shit.” That took a turn. Jimmy’s still smiling asking why and Manny tells his tale of how he worked for Waxy and basically got screwed out of everything and asks “Where am I now.” It’s Jimmy’s turn to joke and Manny says “I like you boychick,” while sharpening his blade and is it possible for William Forsythe not to spook me?
Jimmy and Manny talk about Jimmy supplying 100 cases a week but Manny doesn’t want to pay upfront. Jimmy guarantees delivery anytime, anywhere but he still needs the cash. Manny reluctantly agrees but lets Jimmy know that his “ice box is filled with pieces of people who tried to fuck [him] over.” Jimmy responds that his is filled with Creamsicles. Heh. I’m sure this exchange wasn’t foreshadowing.
It’s Bader’s birthday party and Jack Dempsey is there, being the Bieber of the 1920s. Boss Hague lets him take a moment then ushers Dempsey into the Ritz for that small, quiet dinner for the mayor. Or not, as we crane up to Nucky’s suite where we see a bevy of half-naked dominatrix hookers stroll around the room as Eddie sings a little German ditty. The mayor is blindfolded and stripped down to his boxers and everyone’s having a debauched old time. Dempsey and Hague show up to give us some real-life back story on the friendship between Dempsey and Bader, but it’s all to establish that the hookers at the party are from Philadelphia and have been in Atlantic City since the election where they boned for Bader. Nucky’s attorney shows why he gets the big bucks by taking Nucky aside and telling him he found a way to get the case dismissed because moving hookers across state lines is a federal offense.
Told you prostitution was a victimless crime.
Van Alden looks to sneak a smoke but his phone rings. It’s Rose to spread her special brand of gloom. She’s worried about Nelson because she called his boarding house five times the night before, which Nelson suggests was excessive, but she was told he no longer lived there. And in case we didn’t already have a good idea about Nelson’s corruption, he bald-face lies to Rose, saying it’s not true and he’ll get to the bottom of it. Rose tries to engage him in conversation but he can’t get her off the phone fast enough. She tells him she’s lonely and doesn’t like the way he sounds and he’s all FML but tells her to take care and God bless.
Nucky’s meeting with Chalky because enough people haven’t crapped all over Chalky this episode. Nucky says they’re making slow progress and Chalky isn’t having any of it, because he has four dead associates. Nucky says their families will be compensated but that’s not what Chalky wants, he needs revenge on the Klan. Nucky sighs and tells him to sit tight, and Chalky says his ass is sore from sitting tight. Nucky mocks Chalky saying the silk cushions should make his ass less sore, but when Chalky balks at it being about money, Nucky points out everything’s about money and it cost a lot of it for Nuck’s attorney to get Chalky out on bail. Chalky swallows his pride if not all his anger and asks if he hadn’t thanked Nucky and Nucky says he can thank Nucky by “being a good boy.” Umm.
Chalky fumes, but when Nuck tells him to save his strength and enjoy his family Chalky loses it and says he has four other families looking to him for justice. Nucky isn’t about to be intimidated and says Chalky’s not the only one looking to settle scores. It’s a bad week to be Chalky White.
Bishop’s meeting with the Philly hookers explaining that their depositions confirm that Nucky procured their services in Pennsylvania and brought them to New Jersey to “performing sexual favors… in order to influence their voting blocs,” but the hookers don’t speak legal prig so Fleming translates it into simpler English. They agree that they boned for Bader and Bishop feels superior. Fleming actually manages to play this whole thing perfectly and ends with an “It’s not like he doesn’t have it coming.”
Not as dumb as he looks.
Tight close up on Richard’s pretty eye and flawless skin and another million tumblrs are launched as we see that Angela is drawing him. He looks at their wedding photo and tells her Jimmy loves her. She brushes him off with a “There’s love and then there’s everything else.” He’s nervous and awkward and thinks he was wrong to speak, but Angela’s fine with it. She asks him if he’d ever been in love and Richard says not like she means but that he was very close to his twin sister Emma and gives us his back story about growing up with her on the farm in Wisconsin and how close they were and that “whatever love is, that’s what he felt for Emma.”
As he tells his story about how she nursed him while he was in the hospital the camera keeps focusing on his eye or his mouth or his mask or his hands, and this is some serious manipulation but I don’t care. I keep expecting poor Richard to break into a million pieces he’s so damaged by the war. By the end of his story, when he explains that after seeing Emma in the hospital he no longer had any feelings for her so he went to Chicago to disappear and hasn’t spoken to her since, Angela’s chest is heaving because it’s all. So. Sad. Then, feeling a connection to Angela that he doesn’t even feel with Jimmy, Richard takes off his mask. Angela doesn’t flinch, she just takes out a fresh sheet of paper and begins sketching.
Sleater’s in some cellar, explaining how he came by his thuggery skills and showing Nucky and Fleming how to build a bomb. He’s calmly explaining that he uses a gel ignite because it’s more stable than dynamite and doesn’t “sweat” like Fleming, and he’s says it like he’s teaching the multiplication tables to Teddy, all the while assembling the bomb. Once it’s assembled Owen notes that someone’s going out of business and Nucky says “Mickey Doyle.” They pause to let the audience consider exactly how bad this will be for Jimmy and then Owen pretends to throw the bomb at Fleming and laughs. Because he’s a sociopath.
Back in New York and Luciano and Lansky are jibber jabbering in the office when Benny comes in to tell them Rothstein’s there, but Benny’s insane so they don’t believe him, except the door has a window and Lansky sees him eyeing the poker game like he’s a wolf in a Tex Avery cartoon. Lansky rushes Benny out to bring in Rothstein before he wipes the game clean. Rothstein lays out that the deal he brokered with Nucky to bring his liquor into Atlantic City via Philadelphia and Lansky and Luciano will be the muscle protecting it along the way. Luciano’s not happy about it but Rothstein’s a honey badger and he don’t give a shit.
The boys avoid mentioning their own gig with Jimmy, and Lansky tries to schmooze Rothstein by saying what an honor it is that he came down to personally discuss the matter. He was already in the neighborhood having dinner with Masseria who he says would still like to see them dead. Luciano skips that last part and is all “You broke bread with that prick?” Rothstein goes oblique and tells them he was served tripe, which he “can’t abide,” but he ate it anyway to keep the peace, then tells Luciano in a totally not at all vaguely gay way that “Some things, Charlie, you just have to swallow.”
I said swallow, Charlie.
Chalky’s in a foul mood and getting wasted as Lenore calls the family to dinner with Samuel. Lenore asks Samuel to say grace for the family and he tries to engage Chalky who’s sitting there staring at the food. Forging ahead, he begins grace but Chalky asks if Lenore served duck. Lenore says yes and encourages Samuel to say grace but Chalky interrupts again wondering where his hoppin’ john is. They go around with Chalky being belligerent, Lenore saying hoppin’ john isn’t appropriate and poor Samuel trying to say grace. Then Chalky suggests maybe Samuel would have liked it. Samuel thinks he’s being friendly by saying he’s always “liked that type of food,” but Chalky’s drunk and pissed and turns his sights on Samuel. Lenore keeps trying to get Chalky to calm down and apologizes for Chalky’s “country ways” but Samuel looks about to cry as Chalky has a fit that his country ways put the food on the table. Samuel tries to excuse himself but Chalky tells him to stay because that’s where he belongs, in the house. Then Chalky leaves because he knows that he has little in common with his educated family.
Angela finishes her sketch of Richard and shows it to him. He’s surprised and asks if it’s expensive. He seems relaxed and Angela gives it to him as a gift. At that moment Jimmy comes home and as Angela goes to greet him, Richard remembers he’s not wearing his mask and just like that, he’s awkward, brittle Richard again. Angela goes to the door and has a happy, relaxed vibe so Jimmy, always looking for that fly in the ointment, asks her what she was doing. She tells Jimmy she was sketching Richard and like the ray of sunshine he is, he responds by saying he’s putting Tommy down to sleep. Angela goes back into the sun room to put away her supplies and thanks Richard, who was rushing to put his mask back on, like they were caught doing something wrong.
Only Richard would consider this cheating.
Jimmy comes in and Richard just lurks in the background as Jimmy kisses Angela and explains why Tommy’s so tired. Jimmy tells Richard they need to go to Philly in the morning and Richard takes his leave. Jimmy snickers a little that Richard sat for Angela, but it’s not derisive so she smiles and asks if it surprises him. Jimmy goes morose and says he never knows what’s going on inside of Richard. Angela looks like she feels the same way about Jimmy.
A headline lets us know about Nucky’s hooker problem, but he’s rather chipper since his lawyer figured out this loophole to make it a federal case. Margaret seems rather disgusted by the whole thing but Nucky thinks it’s just because she doesn’t understand and explains the situation to her. He misreads her and condescends to her saying that “this is how things work,” and “I had no relations with those women,” sounding familiar. Nucky tries to gloat about how the tide is turning, because people weren’t talking about jinxes and karma in the 20s, but Margaret just shuts him up with an “I need $100. Clothes for the children,” and Nucky hands her the cash. With that out of the way she heads off to bed. That was a short honeymoon phase.
Agents Sawicki and Clarkson are driving through the woods to Mickey’s barn. Clarkson’s certain it’s a still and that if Van Alden’s dirty they’re going to just raid Mickey’s operation on their own. Clarkson sends Sawicki around back and he takes the front, setting off Sleater’s trip wire and blowing the whole barn and himself sky high. Sawicki comes running around the corner to see his friend on fire and puts him out, but Clarkson’s burned badly. This isn’t going to end well for anyone.
Boom goes Jimmy’s plans to take over the northeast.
A piano leads us into Margaret’s bedroom where she’s stashing the money she just took off Nucky in a fat envelope she hides under her jewelry. Well, she did tell Nucky she’s a practical woman and that all servants steal.
We continue to follow the piano to Chalky’s house where his family and Samuel are gathered around the piano as Lester plays. Chalky is out in the garage, drunk off his ass and bitch-whittling. It’s been a bad week for Chalky.
Country my ass.
We’re back almost where we started with Gillian at the Commodore’s house, only this time she’s trying to feed him. He’s fighting and she’s exasperated. She seems to soften to his plight and starts reminiscing about how they met and how he plied her with wine that first night and how exciting that was for her and that he carried her off to bed when she fell asleep on the divan and left her to say goodbye to his guests. It seems like she’s having a sweet memory about drifting off to sleep dreaming about the beach but she comes back around to talk about how he returned to her room to rape her. She wants him to acknowledge this but he literally can’t speak. So she tells him that even after all these years she still has nightmares about that night, and wants him to admit he remembers it.
He tries to grunt something and Gillian asks him one more time if he remembers. As he mewls she just hauls off and smacks him. He looks terrified and she looks possessed so she slaps him again. Then again. As he breaks down sobbing we fade out on her beating the daylights out of him to the strains of devotional music.
Will not be ignored.
Gillian’s going off the deep end and everyone’s in for a world of pain between Owen blowing up a federal agent and Jimmy no longer having any liquor for Manny. Chalky’s lost all respect in the community, Margaret’s miserable and Eli’s Eli. This was clearly the end of the “first act” of this season, and I apologize for a lack of humor but that was an intense episode.
Any thoughts on who’s going to sink the deepest or how (if?) Jimmy and Richard will get out of this predicament alive? Because shit’s messed up.