“That was only war...this is Atlantic City.”
Who better to start off with this week than everyone's favorite psycho Nelson Van Alden! The good agent sits down to what he thinks will be a peaceful breakfast when all of a sudden Lucy decides to interrupt. Apparently Ms. Danziger wants to be the social butterfly she once was, but Van Alden won't have it. Van Alden's resentment of Nucky Thompson (as well as the currently gestating Van Alden 2.0) is the only thing keeping keeping Nelson with Lucy, and Lucy can't stand it. Nothing a Victrola and a bit of watching his gal dance can't settle.
Meanwhile, Nucky and Margaret have a heart to heart that entails Margaret telling Nuck that she's returned some frivolous items he's bought her in the past. She figures that the attention drawn by said items would be a little much. (Basically, Margaret is the anti Lucille Bluth.) Nucky reassures her that everything will be ok... as she finds an envelope from the Pinkerton Detective Agency in her mail. Nucky offers her and the kids a trip to Paris, once everything dies down. He tries to expedite this favor by calling in a favor from the newly elected Attorney General, who we last saw in Season 1 when Nucky promised to keep Warren Harding's bastard child under wraps. Apparently helping get a man elected president doesn't entitle one to a favor of their own, as The Attorney General refuses to play ball. (Despite saying “The Babe ain't got nothin'” on him.)
As if this wasn't enough, Margaret continues to go down the path of the not-so-righteous as she investigates what was inside that Pinkerton envelope. What was it? A report about her family from Ireland who have immigrated to Brooklyn. Unfortunately for her, the woman we're introduced to as her sister, Peggy, is dead. This drives Margaret to drink... literally, she sits down with the house maids and has a shot of whiskey to calm her nerves. At the very end of the episode, we find out why she might be a little prone to the bottle...Margaret's real name just might be that of her “sister”.
Damian goes to collect at one of Nucky's casinos, and notices that the envelope is light. One of the dealers gives Damian a lesson in Casino Business 101, and highlights that Nucky's liquor isn't cutting it. He's only got the cheap stuff and apparently this doesn't promote much gambling. Now who could be responsible for that? Oh right, The Commodore, who we finally see Nucky step up to as they run across each other at Babette's. The walls are closing in, and not only does Nuck disown The Commodore, but he publicly disowns Jimmy. Who's there to step in and take the reigns as Nucky's loyal enforcer? Owen Slater, who's more than eager to clean up the streets on Mr. Thompson's behalf. (He more than proves this as he prevents a shipment from Jimmy's new company, thanks to some well timed violence and a Mexican Standoff with Richard.)
And what better time for Al Capone to show up on Nucky's doorstep! Capone reluctantly delivers Torrio's message. Chicago isn't going to be dealing in the Thompson liquor business. Nuck knows something's up, and he pumps Capone for information. He doesn't have to play him too hard, because as we remember Capone wasn't all that jazzed about the idea anyway. Nucky refuses the extra money Torrio provides him and Capone asks him about Jimmy. Which leads him to pay a visit to the Darmody residence, leaving Richard a little in the cold when it comes to the best friend market. He learns of the plan to take Atlantic City with the eventual arrest of Nucky, but as reluctant as he may be, Capone isn't above suggesting that Nucky get plugged in the head. We also gain some insight into the differences between Jimmy and Al. The former is looking to eventually get out of the business, and the latter can't think of any other life.
In other news, Eddie Cantor's back, kids! Lucy invites him over to Van Alden's nest, and he comes bearing booze! (Everything a growing baby needs!) Margaret tells her story, and for once she actually feels sympathetic. Her insecurities in the spotlight, she's tired of being used for sex and wants to actually matter to someone. But Eddie's brought her salvation in the form of a little play called A Dangerous Maid. Lucy still has her dreams and hopes, and as long as she's with Van Alden, she's never going to be able to live them out. We see her breakdown big time and contemplate falling down the stairs in order to miscarry, but just as she's about to take the plunge, a gift arrives. It's a Victrola, courtesy of some business dealings with Van Alden and Mickey Doyle. We get a two-fer in this storyline: We see Van Alden continue to succumb to the evil Liquor trade he so vehemently abhors, and we also see poor Lucy under Nelson's tight grip. As annoying of a character as she can be, Lucy really managed to illicit some emotion in her corner this week.
A couple good B stories developed this week as for the first time, we see Elias' home life. His father, who wasn't exactly in Nucky's corner when we last saw him, is upset by the proceedings of the case against him. What's worse, in a fit of anger he shouts something to the tune of “Elias can't do anything right”. Here he is, the man that raised him bad mouthing him in his own home, after HE was labeled the favorite son. If anyone were to snap at the end of the season, I'd say the money's on poor Elias.
The other side story of the week was in New York City, where Rothstein has found out about the after hours poker game Lansky and Luciano have been running and the two Italian mobsters that Jimmy sent to Hell in the park. Rothstein, being the old school businessman he is, tries to broker a deal with the Italians to sort the mess out: $2000 and 10% off the back end of the card game. It saves them temporarily, but it clearly shows that Rothstein doesn't trust the young blood in the operation to run things properly. The growing rift between the old school “gentleman’s club” and the all out street war that Capone and his generation would engage in rears its ugly head more and more with each passing episode.
Overall, everyone had daddy issues this week. In the case of Elias, his own father is shifting his favor towards the son that he seemed to hate last season. In the extended metaphorical cases of Luciano and Capone, they're looking to change the marketplace with their new school of thinking, thus creating a new breed of mobster. Most importantly, in the case of Jimmy Darmody, he's got two fathers he has to live up to. One actually raised him, one stepped in when he saw an opportunity to seize power. It'll be up to Jimmy to not only choose his own fate, but quite possibly the fate of Atlantic City.
* See Chalky start to lose his patience!
* See Van Alden's men question their boss's intentions!
* See Jimmy make some friends in Philly.
* See Eddie Cantor judge Atlantic City's First Annual “Gam-A-Rama” Pageant!