Kibbitzing About TV: Boardwalk Empire, “You’d Be Surprised” (S3E5)

So, what did we learn from this week’s episode other than the fact that Gyp Rosetti and Nelson Van Alden will someday appear together on HBO’s Real Sex 137-Gangsters Get Freaky. I mean, wow! I may have to revise my “two-bit dime store hood” assessment of Mr. Rosetti from the beginning of the season. He’s turning into a full-fledged Brett Easton Ellis character. If the writers could somehow work Jamie Gertz into the action, the parallel would be complete.

Despite Gyp’s, um, weakness, he still manages to get the best of Nucky, who had another up and down episode. First, Enoch gets out and out punked by Arnold Rothstein. After issuing one of the greatest New Jersey slams in the history of anything (“…I’m here in a state that I neither like nor care about instead of back in New York where things actually matter),* AR lets Nucky know that they’re not friends but merely acquaintances out of the necessity of business. Then, Rothstein sticks Billie in Nucky’s face just for good measure. If you wanted a lesson in Gangster Diplomacy 101, Arnold just delivered it.

However, Nucky rebounded with his power play on Eddie Cantor. And thank heavens for that because it necessitated the appearance of one Mr. Chalky (not Milky) White, who has been sorely missed these past few weeks. There is never a dull moment when Chalky is on screen. Where Gyp has the potential for cartoon violence at any moment, Chalky is a seething volcano. The looks he gives people are absolutely withering. Chalky making that putz Cantor sing and dance for him must have been worse for the vaudeville actor than a straight beating. At least Eddie would have recovered from that.

The Gillian storyline is getting sadder and sadder. At this point, I’m rooting for Lucky to bang her and then kill her (or kill her and then bang her—whatever works for him). Somebody has got to put her out of her misery and it’s not going to be the old mutton-chopped sideburns dude. If I may invoke my English major card once again, Gillian is living in a hell only Sartre could have designed. In her world, “the air is perfumed and nothing ever changes.” Why else would she be writing letters to her dead son/lover? It’s like she’s trapped in this House of Pleasures that for her is a House of Torture. We can only wait and see what level of crazy she’ll sink to next.

Margaret, by contrast, was apparently living in a world of denial. Catching Nucky in her former employer’s dress shop with Billie was just stupid luck. And she had the stones to look surprised and disappointed.  A look she duplicated when her doctor friend introduced his fiancée to her. I’m guessing this won’t stop Maggie from making a play for him. In the end, it was satisfying to have Nucky go to Margaret’s room and make his insincere apology. Then, when she tried to get indignant with him, he said, “If I were you, I’d ask myself some practical questions, Margaret.” In other words, “Where are you gonna go, honey? Back to the row house on the shore? Knock yourself out.”

This episode also treated us to a continuation of the Nelson Van Alden story arc. Paranoid as ever, he fears that the Fed from the speakeasy is going to ID him as the former prohibitionist enforcer on the lam. Except this time, his wife, the Swiss Miss, brings the hammer down. Frankly, that was the biggest surprise of the episode. But, it was oddly touching as well. Whatever baggage NVA is carrying (even if it’s full of steam irons), this chick loves him. And it conveniently lets Nelson get involved with the Irish mob.

Back to AR: He doubles down on his gangster cred by having a sit-down with Rosetti and then using the information he gleaned to order a hit on Gyp. My only quibble is that he uses the mercurial Bugsy to carry out the deed. Bugsy mows down everybody in the joint except Gyp, even taking an extra moment to off the paperboy. But, even though he didn’t seal the deal, AR sent a message to Rosetti: You’re in my fuckin’ way!

So, now we’ve got all out war about to happen between the uneasy Thompson-Rothstein-Luciano axis and the Rosetti-Masseria coalition. This isn’t going to be pretty.

It’s going to be beautiful.

Until next week.

- CJ Kaplan

* That’s gotta sting, eh my New Jersey-born friend?


New Jersey-born? You might want to get your facts straight, son. I was born wearing skinny jeans, drinking PBR and calling indie rockers ‘sellouts’ at Caledonian Hospital in Brooklyn. Never you mind where I set up my crib a few days later.

This was definitely an episode about the ladies. Margaret deftly pointed out Nucky’s attraction to damsels in distress, ironically enough in the very shop where he helped her get back on her feet. And while AR certainly eviscerated Nucky, the burn of the night goes to Margaret for doing the spin move and giving Billie the women’s health clinic flyer.

Ah, poor pathetic Billie. She was giving off a serious Mrs. Charles Foster Kane vibe in that terrible performance. On the plus side, Eddie Cantor was much better on stage than he was singing for Chalky and Dunn. Then again, Eddie was probably wise not to bust out his best “schvartze” material.

Picking up the theme from last week, once again Nucky tried to play gangster but instead of straightening out Gyp and keeping his customers satisfied, he was focused on rescuing Billie, aka the next Lucy Danzinger. You’re really disappointing me this year, Enuch.

At least he’s warming up to Eli again. He’ll need as many allies as possible soon enough.

Of course the performance of the night goes to Bjork Bjork, whose support for Nelson is unwavering. From confidence-building sex, to enabling his rationalizations, to unnecessarily killing federales, she’s pretty hunky dory with whatever needs to happen to protect her family.

The big reveal this week was that Gyp is under the protection of Masseria. That explains why no one has put that rabid dog down yet. But Gyp’s look of realization when seeing the dead paperboy showed that he already realizes that AR was the one who put the hit out on him; so much for the uneasy truce between Rothstein and Masseria.

Anyway, I’d love to say more about Gillian, Uncle Junior and Jimmy James, but I’ve got to run. I think the paperboy is at the door.

-Mitch Blum


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