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Boardwalk Empire Watch: Season 3, Episode 4 - Blue Bell Boy

"Drive fast. Flash the pistol. I mean, who wants to get killed over a few crates of booze?"

The previews for this week's episode of Boardwalk Empire were a little bit misleading. While the brief snippets of assembled footage made it seem like "Blue Bell Boy" was going to be an explosive showdown of sorts, it was actually another relatively slow-paced installment. However, it did feature a few really fantastic scenes (some surprisingly emotional, some oddly humorous), even if they only inched the story forward through mostly less bloodless conversations. Mostly. Come on, what would an episode of Boardwalk Empire be without racking up at least a few bodies? A few favorites didn't get any screen time (Richard!) this week but "Blue Bell Boy" still made the rounds, visiting Atlantic City (and the outskirts), Tabor Heights, New York and Chicago.

"Hit me, tough guy. Come on. Come on, hit me!."

Chicago. A good a place to start as any and the location of a few of those surprisingly emotional sequences. I guess it should come as no surprise that things with Al Capone get a little emotional, he has never been one to keep them in check, but I didn't think tears (as in mine) were ever in the cards for one of his storylines. The writers did a great job creating parallels within the one location - his hearing impaired son and Smelly Jake both being bullied - even though were only there for a handful of scenes. Near the beginning of the episode, Al's wife tries to conceal a fresh bruise on their son's face courtesy of one of the school's bullies. Boys will be boys and his has to toughen up.

Meanwhile, another one of his boys doesn't need to toughen up (although that wouldn't hurt) but clean up because his hygiene is not only starting to cause Capone some concern but it's even starting fights with the O'Banion thugs. Well, that's not exactly fair, especially since the man can't help himself, but in any case it doesn't take long for the already emotional Al to go exact revenge. At least he pays for the guy's funeral, right? The two scenes on either side of the bar beat down were the ones provoking those tears I was talking about, with the attempt to toughen up his son ending instead in reassuring hugs and a song to put him to sleep. Calling back to how his son has to hold onto his throat to 'hear' was a great final touch. "Have a seat. It has your name on it."

We don't get to New York until about half way through the episode and, after what happened between Meyer and Joe Masseria's men, that seems life forever. When we finally do catch up with Lucky, Meyer and Benny we learn that the former has been summoned to a meet with Joe to settle the dispute (while the latter, unsuccessfully, wants to be included). Lansky obviously cannot go with him, us heartless Jews aren't warmly welcomed on the best of days let alone shortly after putting a few slugs in Italian soldiers. Lucky arrives at the meet and finds himself not only stuck sitting at the window but pretty far from coming to an agreement with Masseria on the drug issue. Could things be heading for all out war? Or will Lucky be a good pizzano and have a change of heart?

"Well. Let's hope our evening students aren't quite so sensitive."

After a rocky beginning of the season, at least in terms of finding her something to do since the rift with Nucky, Margaret's storyline is finally blossoming as is the chemistry between her and Dr. Mason. The first scene that featured the two trying to get the Nun's approval on, well, everything from what words to use to the parting gifts for the expecting female students was perhaps my favorite of the night, adding a bit of humor and light into an otherwise a dark episode as well as highlighting the absurdity of the Church's stance and Margaret's place at the forefront of feminism. Go sanitary napkins! Margaret's soon down promoting her class on the boardwalk and runs into the woman who helped start the revolution and secretly sneaks her the information before her old fashioned (brutish) husband shows up. Finally, she sees that Claire Duncan, the female pilot she admires, has crashed and burned on her historic flight. Quite the downturn for Margaret's thread.

"It's a fucking ambush!"

Before Nucky gets sidetracked, he pays Mickey's a visit to pass along the latest instructions for handling Tabor Heights and Mr. Rothstein's increasingly late shipments. His orders, however, are not well received initially and his underlings looking to Owen for confirmation, something that certainly doesn't help reassure the already uneasy leader of his position atop the mountain. The writers have starting working in a lot of parallels between Owen and Jimmy (now that the two are becoming quite close) and the appearance of the charismatic young Roland Smith helped drive that message home. Especially once Nucky put a bullet in the his head even though it seemed like he was going to let the kid go (or at least bring him into the fold). Too bad, Smith seemed like a good fit for the show not to mention that Nucky's operation could certainly use someone with his skills right about, oh, now.

Based on those aforementioned "Blue Bell Boy" previews, I thought Nucky and Owen were hiding from Gyp in a basement in Tabor Heights, not stuck some random store house ducking the 'Prohibs' with a big mouth kid. However, that doesn't mean that the Italian gangster whose taken over the outskirts of Atlantic City didn't get into the action. You see, Mr. Rothstein, whether Nucky is indisposed or not, wants his alcohol and Mickey is stupid enough to try and drive it through Gyp's territory despite the initial orders and Eli's ongoing pleas. Hell, the former sheriff even figures the whole plot out in time to save the shipment (and a dozen lives) but because of Mickey's leadership it's all for naught. Well, I shouldn't say that. The situation does seem to have brought the brothers Thompson a hair closer and will only stoke the fires for next week.

Boardwalk Empire returns with Episode 5, "You'd Be Surprised," next Sunday at 9 p.m. ET on HBO. Created by Terence Winter, it stars Steve Buscemi, Kelly Macdonald, Michael Shannon, Shea Whigham, Vincent Piazza and Michael Stuhlbarg.