Fade in on women whispering in gossipy tones as Margaret comes down stairs to see the household staff huddled over a newspaper. When they see her they hide the paper and become silent as only people who’ve been caught knowing something they shouldn’t become. Margaret’s made of tough Irish stock, though, so she just marches on down the stairs asking if the children are awake.
Despite wearing a pink satin robe with drapery tassels next to her boobs (?) Margaret commands the staff’s attention so when she asks if they’re reading today’s paper they briefly panic but Lillian the housekeeper has one of the underlings hand Margaret the paper to see that Nucky was arrested. Margaret doesn’t give anything away. She just asks about the weather and tells the staff what clothes she wants the children to wear. As she walks off Lilian hands her a Valentine’s Day card from the children and I’m reminded that the mute girl is Emily. She’d be more memorable if she’d set stuff on fire. The maids ask if there will still be dinner and Margaret is confused but Pauline the older maid explains that they’re having guests. Margaret rolls her eyes to herself and then tells Katie the younger maid to take out the rug and beat it. I think she wanted to say something else, though.
Tasseled robes for the Catholic stripper.
At the Ritz, Eddie watches anxiously as the agents tear apart Nucky’s suite. The phone rings and it’s Margaret trying to speak with Eddie about Nucky, but he’s such a loyal if dim valet that he says the article was wrong. Margaret blandly asks if Nucky wasn’t arrested but Eddie just says the article didn’t mention he’s innocent. I wonder why? She tries to get more details and says she’s going down to the jail, but Eddie’s so nervous he tells her quickly that Nucky’s being bailed out “ass ve shpeak” and hangs up. Margaret’s briefly thrown but when Katie comes up with her rug beater Margaret just asks what kind of coat she has.
No time for answers, though, Nucky’s confabbing with Chalky down at the county jail. He’s explaining how Chalky’s in a precarious situation and when Chalky has an inscrutable look on his face, Nucky goes on to explain that it means uncertain, causing Chalky to snap that he knows what it means in a tone that says he had no idea what it meant. Nucky’s still justifying why they arrested Chalky for his own good but he’s all butt-hurt that it happened at his house and wondering why the Klan even came after him since it’s not like he’s been operating in secret. Nucky says they let him be as long they thought he could help Chalky which leads to Chalky wondering what changed.
Precarious this, bitch.
Which segues nicely into Nucky wondering where Chalky was on election night since someone ratted him out and the guy currently sitting in jail and likely to be charged with at least manslaughter is as a good a place as any to start looking. Chalky says he was in the basement of the A.M.E. church handing out money to everyone who came to vote which leads them to discussing which of the aldermen is disloyal. Chalky doesn’t even hesitate to finger Neary because, come on, look at the guy. If you pour salt on him he’d melt. But Chalky also cuts off the questioning by pointing out that none of them would step out on their own, that whomever did it (Neary) was pushed. And Nucky knows the Commodore’s behind it. With that settled, the day player comes in to tell Nucky his lawyer’s bailed him out. When Chalky asks about himself Nucky tells him to be patient and Chalky says he’ll get his own lawyer in a way that breaks my heart. Then he calls Nucky precarious proving he didn’t really know what it meant.
Olde timey piano plays as a title card flashes New York City over a moving post card of what I’m assuming is Central Park but could be Amsterdam for all I know. Jimmy’s droning to Rothstein in a way that sounds both sincere and like he’s shining Rothstein on when he says he respects Rothstein, and Rothstein is so creepy that he sits there and smiles and points out that while he doesn’t know Jimmy well, that Jimmy knows Luciano. Understatement! Jimmy drones that they “have someone in common,” and tired of toying with Jimmy, Rothstein needles Luciano with a “Do you hear, Charlie? Discretion.” Then he lectures some more and Jimmy tries to cut him off by saying they’re all learning. Bemused by Jimmy, Rothstein asks what he could learn from Jimmy and Jimmy says plainly “That things are changing in Atlantic City.”
Please to touch my monkey?
Jimmy then makes his pitch to start dealing directly with Rothstein. When Rothstein asks about Nucky, Jimmy admits that Nucky was like a father to him and Luciano says he’s barely spoken to his real father in five years. Jimmy says “Sorry to hear that,” in his usual detached monotone and confuses Luciano. This is not relevant to scene, it was just really funny.
Anyway, Rothstein decides that he hasn’t sufficiently pissed off or creeped out Jimmy so he asks, without the least bit of foreshadowing, “Who are you, Mr. Darmody?” then he uses words like “cravat suit” and “brigand” tweaking Jimmy’s PTSD. As Jimmy becomes more agitated Rothstein becomes more fey and when Jimmy mentions he just got married but has a nearly four-year-old son, Rothstein says “Cart before the horse.” Jimmy is doing everything in his power not to pull out that fancy knife of his. Then Rothstein basically calls Jimmy an impudent punk and tells him he won’t tell Nucky about the meeting but he says it in such a way that Jimmy’s like “the hell you talking about?” But Rothstein’s done so Luciano walks Jimmy out. As Jimmy reaches the door, Rothstein mentions that it’s curious neither of them has mentioned Nucky’s arrest and this is the first Jimmy’s heard of it. But since Jimmy’s practically dead inside, he just blandly says that he guesses things in AC are changing faster than he thought.
I’d be pissed if I knew what the hell a brigand was.
Outside Rothstein’s office, Luciano tries to be oblique like Rothstein, asking Jimmy if he plays poker and inviting him to Lansky’s game, but Jimmy just assumes it’s a set up which pisses Luciano off. He starts to walk off when Jimmy calls him back. Jimmy’s like “Dude, just tell me what you want,” and Luciano says Lansky thinks the three of them should talk. Was that so hard, Charlie? People only tolerate crazy talk from Rothstein because he’s rich.
Nucky’s cleaning up to meet the throng outside the courthouse and his lawyer is expositing about how the Governor’s behind this and that Bishop will try very hard to put Nucky in prison. In a moment that’s not supposed to be symbolic at all, Nucky’s shaving and cuts himself on the neck when he hears the word “prison.” Eddie’s standing nearby with a towel for Nucky to clean his straight razor and that really is a thankless job. After a drive-by beratement of Eddie, Nucky jokes about how Bishop is poor but honest and the attorney exposits some more about Bishop being “not so poor” since he’s married to a Whitney and says “as for honest,” with a shrug like he’s Uncle Lenny. Then he lets Nucky know that they don’t have a copy of his indictment, yet, but that he believes Nucky has traitors in his midst as Confidential Witnesses #1 and #2 have direct knowledge of exactly how Nucky rigged the election.
You think your job sucks.
With his exposition for the rest of the season done, the lawyer tells Nucky there are reporters waiting outside and asks if he wants him there. Nucky says that’s what a guilty man would do and the lawyer leaves. Eddie tells Nucky that Margaret knows about the arrest. Nucky’s not happy but not really responding and Eddie explains about the situation at the suite and how they’re banished. Then he gets peeved because, “There were men touching your possessions in ways I consider offensive.” Yes, the honor of Nucky’s settee has been violated. Nucky just asks if there’s a Treasurer’s office somewhere.
Bishop’s sitting at Nucky’s desk in Nucky’s suite reading Nucky’s indictment when an agent comes in telling him a woman is there. Bishop goes to the hallway to meet with her…and it’s Margaret, looking like she did in the pilot when she went to see Nucky and asking Bishop if he’s “Mr. Thompson.” HA! She’s playing up the “fresh off the boat” role and acting like she’s just a poor, downtrodden and pregnant (?) immigrant. Bishop couldn’t give a rat’s ass but the nameless agent feels sympathetic. Margaret starts crying and talking about how she walked all the way from Bungalow Park and holding her not-at-all-pregnant belly and the agent rushes to her side. Bishop finally realizes he looks like a dick and says to get her some water. Margaret asks if she can “use the facilities” instead and Bishop seeing her as no threat agrees as the agent escorts her back to the bedroom. Double HA!
Oh, I couldn’t possibly be shining you sir. I’m just a poor, pregnant immigrant.
Nucky’s rushing out of the courthouse assuming he’ll be greeted by a throng of admiring reporters waiting to lap up his brand of blarney. He thought wrong. After his first joke tanks Nucky regroups and starts giving a stump speech about how the fat cats in Trenton can’t stand that there’s anyone in New Jersey who stands up for the poor, the working man, “by God, even the colored man,” and the reporters aren’t there for a speech, either. Nucky loses his temper briefly and then barrels off, telling them he won’t be tried by the press but he will have his day in court and put the charges where they belong, in the trash. Then he gets in his not at all ostentatious baby blue Rolls and has Eddie drive them off.
That damn bear leads us into a meeting at the Commodore’s (brick?) house and the aldermen and Eli are discussing the situation when Eli shows he’s all muscle, no brain when he repeats that Nucky was “weaned on the Commodore’s teat,” which, ew, and Neary agrees. Fleming gets a thought in his head about how running Atlantic City is a young man’s game and as he’s pointing out that the Commodore isn’t any younger now than he was when Nucky took over AC the Commodore walks in asking Fleming how old he is…and what the HELL did he do to his head? It’s like he painted hair on. Random alderman asks O’Neill if he fell into the shoe polish just in case a viewer missed it.
The Commodore, feeling his manhood questioned, tells Fleming to lift the elephant tusk. Fleming’s confused but the Commodore insists so he does. Then the Commodore demands he lift it over his head but he can’t so the Commodore does, feeling this proves that he’s not a geezer who rubbed shoe polish all over his head to look younger. Eli gets a sinking feeling that this might be a mistake but he’s not good with independent thought so we move on.
Big man with a tusk
With his virility confirmed, the Commodore calls the meeting of the He-Man Nucky Haters Club to order and they all bitch about how mean Nucky is to them, except Fleming because Fleming is only borderline corrupt and loyal to Nucky and points out that they shouldn’t be dancing on Nucky’s grave when he’s only been indicted. But the He-Man Nucky Haters Club will brook no defense of him so Neary implies that Nucky burned down the house he promised Fleming, who is still under the impression it was an accident, and the Commodore exposits that Neary (duh) and Patrick Ryan, the guy who got Jimmy’s promotion back in the pilot, are the confidential witnesses. Then they rehash about how they’re going to be the only booze trade in town and take back Atlantic City. As the Commodore goes off on another self-aggrandizing tangent Eli gets a nauseated look.
A quick swipe to the Ritz shows Margaret walking through the lobby with a purpose, clutching her stomach. Hmmmm.
What an interesting bump you have there, Margaret.
And then we swipe back to the jail, as a woman’s voice is speaking. It’s Lenore and she’s asking Chalky specifically about when she can tell someone to come by the house, but she’s really trying to get answers as to why this is happening. Chalky’s voice is meek and formal and his answers are evasive. Then Lenore says their son Lester wants to visit, but they both think that’s a bad idea, so she hands him a copy of David Copperfield that Lester thought Chalky would like. Chalky says “It’s a good one,” but he says it in a way that signals he has no idea what it’s about. He tells Lenore to thank Lester and the guard comes to take Lenore out. As she’s about to leave, she tells “Albert” that his family loves him and he calls her his “valentine.” Sweet.
After Lenore leaves, a day player named Dunn Pernsley from Baltimore starts auditioning for recurring status as he overacts his lines about how fine Mrs. Chalky is. Then he explains how he got arrested and Chalky couldn’t care less. He sits and starts reading his book but Dunn Pernsley hasn’t had enough face time so he starts overacting some more asking Chalky what he’s reading. Chalky says Tom Sawyer and while I’m wracking my brains trying to figure out the symbolism, I’m starting to wonder if Chalky can’t read. But no fear, Dunn Pernsley still here to overact some more asking what Chalky’s name is. When he hears it’s “Chalky White” he feigns knowing who he is, but launches into a speech that might have been written by August Wilson because that shit is Shakespearean. And really rude. Chalky’s still all “Whatever, bitch. I’m reading,” but an officer comes down with a white inmate and has to move Chalky to the communal cell because they “can’t be mixing the races.” Seriously? Even in jail?
Should this go on my dramatic or comedic reel?
Nucky and Eddie go to his Treasurer’s office and his secretary, whom he calls Enid but whose name is Eunice, is startled from reading her magazine because no one ever actually goes to the Treasurer’s office. He even needs her to tell him which is his. Then he asks her to call Eli, the aldermen, and Mayor Bader and that he needs to see them as soon as possible. Then he asks for a florist.
To send a lovely vase of roses to Margaret for Valentine’s Day. But she’s busy nitpicking Katie about how to set a table for a formal dinner. When she takes a moment to look at the flowers Katie fairly asks if they’ll need a setting for Nucky and Margaret’s like “You’re not paid to think. Just set the table with a place for Nucky at the head.”
Margaret opens the card with the roses and it isn’t signed, but it’s not like she’s anyone else’s mistress so she knows they’re from Nucky. But her moment is broken when the sounds of Teddy playing “Indian” and Emily playing scared come into the room as Teddy is waving a claw hammer over his head like it’s a tomahawk. As Margaret is scolding Teddy someone is knocking on the door. She sends the children off and answers the door.
It’s some guy with a pokey Irish accent named “Owen Sleater, John McGarrigle’s man.” Assuming Margaret, who is wearing an apron and wielding a hammer, is the help, he tries to be sassy and clever and is pissing the hell out of Margaret. She tells him she is the lady of the house and he’s all “guh…duh..” and apologizes. She points out that he’s early but he has the attention span of a cat with a laser pointer and when he sees Katie and Emily giggling behind Margaret asks her if they’re her daughters. Still wielding that hammer, Margaret informs him that “only the little one” is her daughter and he realizes he’s just sinking deeper but hoping his pokey Irish accent works its charm and she doesn’t hit him. He finally tells Margaret he’s there to secure the property for McGarrigle.
Back to the jail and Dunn Pernsley’s audition reel where he’s talking about how he served three years “in ankle chains” and that it wasn’t nothing but he bets “Old Chalky White” is probably more pampered reading (not) Tom Sawyer. Chalky’s like whatever, but when Pernsley suggests he join Chalky and take care of Lenore, Chalky’s like “Do what you want, you’re just going to be doing it with your right hand, anyway,’ which HA! Pernsley laughs and overacts and says “That’s how you play it, gentleman,” then he starts whistling which what? He makes no sense.
Nucky’s gazing meaningfully out his office window wondering where have all the aldermen gone when Mayor Bader rushes in. Not used to being powerless, Nucky tries to throw what little weight he has left and asks what took so long. To his credit, the mayor continues to treat Nucky like he has some weight to throw around and explains how lousy his own day has been. Nucky asks him straight out if he was approached and Bader is clearly in the dark, wondering how bad this is and if it will affect him. Considering it was his election that answers a big, fat yes and he’s as deep in it as Nucky, but Nucky lets the mayor know he won’t forget his loyalty when he beats the charges. Nucky sees the mayor out of the office and Eunice informs Nucky that he’s allowed back in the suite at the Ritz. Phew, Nucky was going to get public space cooties if he stayed any longer.
Wistful…melancholy…gassy? So inscrutable.
The aldermen are meeting in some storage area and while O’Neill is confused, Fleming continues to defend their loyalty to Nucky as Neary smarms that Nucky’s damaged and losing control and this is becoming too much work for him because he just wants to go around collecting money, not getting shot at on the boardwalk. Fleming’s still on Nucky’s side saying he shouldn’t go to jail but Neary’s hell-bent to convince everyone to jump ship to the Commodore because he’s in control now. When Fleming asks, fairly, what happens when the Commodore comes at the aldermen, Neary’s just not getting it and keeps spouting about how there’s no downside and they have no choice but to work with the Commodore.
Jimmy shows up at Lansky’s office and it’s a run-down tailor shop. Lansky explains how he’s known around the neighborhood as Rothstein’s protection and Luciano explains that they have “other enterprises.” When Jimmy asks if Rothstein has a piece of those endeavors, Lansky tells Benny the day player to go buy some Halvah. On his way out, Benny makes weird, cartoon noises at Jimmy and Jimmy begins rethinking this whole thing but just asks Lansky WTF? Lansky understates that “he does funny things some times,” then Luciano starts speaking Yiddish and this goes uncommented on.
Lansky, showing he’s the brain, starts talking business about how Rothstein can be hard to read (because he’s crazy) and Luciano, despite that whole almost killing him last season, tries to be civil, saying he’d have taken Jimmy’s offer. Jimmy can’t help himself, or read a room, and snots that he wouldn’t make the offer to Luciano because he needs someone like Rothstein not his lackey. This starts another dick measuring between the two that Lansky has no time for so he breaks them up with a determined “GENTLEMEN. I’M RUNNING A BUSINESS HERE. YES?” and since Lansky’s the alpha they both back off.
I’d trust him.
So Lansky lays out that they’re three young, ambitious gangsters who are ready to set out and leave Nucky and Rothstein behind to form their own partnership. They’ll buy Jimmy’s liquor directly and he’ll buy something from them. When he asks what they’re selling Luciano says “We’re thinking about heroin.” Kids. Lansky tells Jimmy that when you run the numbers it starts to look very attractive then he tries to smile but it just looks like an evil ventriloquist’s dummy.
Exposition with Margaret and Owen where under the aegis of helping her straighten the rug, Owen explains why he’s a recurring character by telling us that he travels with McGarrigle in support of Sinn Féin. Margaret misinterprets it to give us the episode title (Ourselves Alone) but Owen corrects her that a more accurate translation is “We, Ourselves.” Then he tries to bond with Margaret over where they’re both from but she’s like, “Yeah, I don’t really have any ties to Ireland,” and he’s like “Bitch,” but nicer.
Nucky storms into the suite and makes a beeline to the office where he sees Eddie noodling over the desk. Eddie explains that they were vandals because they left a water ring on the desk that he can’t rub out. 1920s tagging, yo. Nucky can barely deal with Eddie on good days, so he just walks out and goes to the bedroom, looking for the ledger which isn’t there. Nucky’s face says he is well and truly screwed.
As Nucky ponders life in prison before conjugal visits, Eddie comes in to tell him Fleming is there. Not sure if the day could get any worse, Nucky goes to talk to Fleming, who’s actually there to tell him he tried to convince the aldermen to remain loyal, but nothing doing. Not the worst news Nucky could expect since he still has the mayor and Fleming so of course the phone rings and it’s Eli, looking to step on Nucky’s neck now that he’s down. But Nucky, showing how un-self aware he is tells Eli it’s not too late to back out of his deal with the Commodore to which Eli responds “Nobody takes power. Somebody else has to give it to them. Look around, big brother. What do you got?” Damn, that’s cold. Even for bitter, scab-picking Eli.
Nucky excuses himself for his dinner and the scene shifts to Eli…sitting in the Commodore’s library, while the Commodore hovers. The Commodore gloats as Eli gets that nauseated look, again. Caveat emptor, Eli. With the knife sufficiently twisted, the Commodore takes Eli into his formal room to introduce Eli to the “men who made this city.” One of whom is Uncle Junior in some cray-cray mutton chops and spouting Latin.
I always knew there was something wrong with Uncle Jun.
Jimmy’s still in NYC playing in Lansky’s poker game, and being almost dead inside has its advantages as he’s winning, but he’s distracted because Lansky’s having a heated discussion with two day players. Jimmy cashes out as the day players come out of Lansky’s office and there’s a mild altercation with ethnic slurs and Benny being weird. Jimmy asks what that was about and Lansky says “foreshadowing.”
Back in the jail and Chalky’s still making a big show about reading his book. Pernsley’s reel is almost done but he needs one more scene so he starts back in on Chalky asking him about the book. It’s obvious Chalky can’t read because he just points to the picture that is coincidentally on one of the pages and makes up a story. Pernsley is intent on humiliating Chalky, though, so he spouts another August Wilson speech about how special Chalky thinks he is but in the end he’s down in the dirt with the rest of them. Then he yanks the book out of Chalky’s hand which finally sends Chalky over the edge. Chalky calls all the other men in the cell by name and shows just what his standing is in the city, then he has the other men beat the living daylights out of Dunn Pernsley.
With Pernsley out of the way, the other men hand Chalky back his book and he asks if any of them can read. And now we know why David Copperfield was chosen since it begins with “Whether I shall turn out to be the hero of my own life or whether that station will be held by anyone else, these pages must show.”
My life is precarious.
At dinner with Margaret and Mr. McGarrigle. He’s a joy as he’s as judgmental as he is dull and says he does not eat any meat that “walks on cloven hoof.” When Margaret calls it a preference he gets snippy and says it’s an “ironclad principle.” Ernie the investor tries to ease the tensions and jokes about McGarrigle having a bit of the devil, but McGarrigle’s sphincter tightens up as he lights into how awful America is, full of “licentiousness and turpitude” and when I looked those words up found out he called us wicked and horny. To which I say, and…?
Margaret agrees as she snides “Well. Something else not to your liking.” HA! The beauty of smack-talking a humorless person is they don’t get the joke so McGarrigle just goes on about how their cause is to drive the English out of Ireland after 800 years even if they have to be martyred along the way. Margaret fairly says that’s an extreme position and McGarrigle says “Only to those who’ve forgotten from whence they come.” Things start to spiral as Ernie tries to ease the tensions and Margaret considers that claw hammer, and Nucky comes home just in time.
How to win friends and influence people through judgment and zealotry.
Margaret’s glad but concerned, Ernie’s all “where the hell were you?” and when Nucky introduces himself, McGarrigle points out that Enoch’s “a rather Protestant name.” Just winning friends and influencing people the world over. Nucky lets it slide and explains he’s named after an uncle. Nucky sits and says they’ll discuss business once he’s eaten so Margaret takes a moment to tell him there’s plenty of lamb, which gets a chuckle out of Sleater.
Jimmy’s leaving Lansky’s place but takes a moment to move his fancy knife to a back pocket for easy access. He walks over to a fountain named “temperance” to have a smoke and is followed by the two goons he saw at Lansky’s. They’re trying to jack his winnings off him. The goon with the gun hits Jimmy when he refuses but Jimmy says he put it in his boot, and while the other goon lifts Jimmy’s gun and bends down to grab the money allegedly in his boot, Jimmy pulls his fancy fighting knife out of his back pocket and slices the goon with the gun’s throat then stabs the other goon in the back. Then walks off. Who does he think he is? Reese?
You won’t like Jimmy when he’s angry.
Nucky’s in his parlor with McGarrigle, Ernie and Sleater and this is the most boring meeting Nucky’s ever had. McGarrigle will only have one glass of port, which means Ernie and Sleater are done and Nucky needs way more than liquor to get through this. McGarrigle states his case that the cause needs guns and the money to buy them so to get this dullard out of his office Nucky grabs his check book. McGarrigle has no problem looking a gift horse in the mouth and tells him he’d rather have cash and Nuck’s like “dude,” then they exposit that Sleater’s going to be a recurring character and to come by the Ritz to pick up next week’s script.
While the men are still in the parlor, Margaret’s helping Katie clean the table. Katie asks if Margaret was in the service and Margaret seems stunned that she comes off as to the manner born. A filler scene follows where Katie and Sleater makes eyes at each other and Margaret wonders if she was that stupid when she was that age. No, Margaret. You were not.
Nucky’s sitting alone in the parlor thinking about how well and truly screwed he is when Margaret joins him. She’s about to leave but Nucky says they need to talk. She joins him and asks if the state has a case. He says yes and she wants to know exactly who they’re up against, which is everyone except the Mayor and Fleming since they’re all working with the Commodore. Nucky’s still pained about Eli but Margaret pulls it out of him. Then she gets righteously angry that he didn’t call her.
Nucky has a sad.
Nucky gets to the heart of his problems in that he thinks the State’s Attorney found his ledger and $20,000 in cash he had in it. Margaret blithely says that it wasn’t that much in the grander scheme of things, and walks over to a side table as Nucky still pretends it’s not bad. Then, OMG…gangster Margaret pulls out the ledger AND the money that she lifted while she was playing the pitiful immigrant. She tells Nucky he’s smarter than his enemies but he’s not thinking clearly, then she hands him the money and tells him the ledger must be burned and all future transactions are to be kept in his head where they won’t become evidence. Nucky, speechless, agrees and she burns the ledger.
Bow down, bitches. Margaret’s running things.
So, yeah. There was a tidy ending scene but who cares. What did everyone think, other than that Margaret rocks so hard? And does anyone else think that there may be some symbolism to how the cast’s names are presented in the opening credits? Or am I becoming one of those kinds of fans?