Kibbitzing About TV: Boardwalk Empire, “The Milkmaid’s Lot” (S3E9)

“The Rhinoceros is Waiting for the Train”

I love the fact that Richard gets Tommy’s drawing when nobody else does. It speaks so highly of Richard’s character. To the world, he is reticent, almost creepily so. But, the fact of the matter is that Richard doesn’t waste words. He is so thoughtful that when he speaks it is only after he has carefully considered what the other person wants to hear. His judicious responses are in sharp contrast to a concussed Nucky’s wild ramblings.

Nucky is seeing double and hearing a constant ringing in his ears while he convalesces in his suite at the Ritz-Carlton. I feel you, Nucky. I once split a bottle of Night Train with a friend right before sitting third row at a Metallica concert. My head wasn’t right for nearly a week. Nucky’s concussion is clearly messing with his memory. (Although Roger Goodell stopped by to say that HBO is exercising every caution to make sure Nucky is okay before taking the stage again. After all, the league cares about the safety its actors first and foremost.) Nucky’s shakier moments are filled with images of Billie and flames and hummingbirds. But, when he’s lucid he’s smart enough to know that he needs to get rid of Gyp. And that he can’t do it alone.

Curiously, Nucky’s instability finally causes Margaret to become a real mob wife. When Nucky asks her to stay for his conversation with Eli and Owen in which he describes in graphic detail what he wants to do to Gyp, Margaret comes to terms with her husband’s true occupation at last. And even though she and Owen are plotting to run off together, this is as much character as Margaret has shown the entire season. It is she who steels a weakened Nucky before his meeting with the other bosses.

“You need to go and take care of your business,” she tells him.

Good for you, Margaret. You may live most of your life in denial, but for once you were a stand-up guy.

As for those cowards who joined Nucky in his office, their reluctance to help him seems very short-sighted. If Gyp is controlling the shore and the only route to the city, they’re going to have a hard time running their bootlegging operation at a profit. As the sole supplier, General Gyp sets the price. And that’s not good for anybody’s business.

Side Note: Gyp in the tri-cornered hat at the end was priceless. Now that he’s retaken Tabor Heights, Rosetti is at the height of his power. Masseria, using the stone analogy, tells Gyp that he might make a good general. In time. Never one to wait for anything, Gyp anoints himself (Napoleon style) commander-in-chief. I suspect, though, that if Masseria had told him he’d make a good engineer, Gyp would have shown up in a Choo-Choo Charlie hat. I wonder if the general’s hat will clash with the dog collar. But, that’s a discussion for another time.

Richard acquits himself well at the Legion Hall with Julia. With her help, he turns his fellow lodge members’ scorn and condescension into actual applause. And even though his night ends with Gillian blaming him for Tommy walking in on his prostitute/babysitter in the act, he’s finally realizing that he can be happy.

A couple of things about this sequence of events:

1.    Does Tommy only have a closet full of sailor suits? Seriously. It’s the only thing we’ve ever seen him in. Who is he? Pop-eye?

2.    Shame on those other working girls for setting up Tommy to walk in on Josephine and her client. Even if it was more out of hatred of Gillian than animosity toward Tommy. What ever happened to hookers with hearts of gold?

3.    Gillian, you’ve officially sunk below Margaret on the despicable scale. If you don’t want your grandson to hang out with whores, don’t run a whorehouse.

When Richard wakes Tommy and asks him if he’s all right, Tommy says that he wants to go home. Just like the rhinoceros waiting for the train. Tommy is the rhinoceros. You are the Egg Man. I am the walrus. Koo-koo-ka-choo.

And last comes the takedown of Remus, who is apparently living like Jay Gatsby in a house filled with marble fountains and giant birdcages. I really enjoyed Remus pleading in his third person affectation, “Remus kept the receipts.” And then Esther shooting back, “Well, then Randolph wants to see them.” The only thing that would have made this better is if the King of Third Person Self-Reference, Rickey Henderson, had been tapped to play Remus.

“George Remus just wants to play ball. George Remus is the greatest. George Remus had a teammate like you once in Toronto. Or was it New York?”

Until next week, Kaplan is done writing.

- C.J. Kaplan

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You’re crazy, my friend, Gyp Rosetti-crazy, if you think Rothstein was wrong to abandon Nucky. AR is a businessman. He already (rightly) chastised Nucky for ignoring his business while mooning over Billie. Now Nucky calls a meeting (against Eli & Owen’s counsel) with every major gangster in the tri-state area when he can barely stand or utter a complete sentence? Why does Nucky deserve to be the capo di tutti capi? He doesn’t have the muscle to take down Gyp and he’s not bringing the political protection anymore. Nucky is just lucky that Chalky didn’t show him how his Daddy builds bookshelves.

AR sees the big picture. Nucky is worried about Gyp when the real issue is Joe Masseria. The only reason that Gyp feels empowered to wear that snappy tri-cornered hat is because of Masseria. You take care of Masseria and the Gyp problem will solve itself. Without Joe’s muscle all Gyp has is a snappy suit and a lot of loud sisters. Tabor Heights isn’t the problem – Little Italy is.

But why focus on the negative when love was in the air? Seeing Richard get some action at the American Legion Hall was truly one of the sweetest scenes of the whole series. (“Hrrm…scrapbook finally coming true…”) and I’m totally on-board with Margaret and Owen making the plan to split town. For an episode that was rife with bad decisions, that’s a damn good one.

Aside from the escape plan, Margaret confused me this week. It doesn’t seem in character for her to support Nucky after learning, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that he’s a murderer. Obviously Nucky was confusing Margaret for Billie throughout the episode (hence why he let her stay in the room while discussing business – Billie’s his gangster moll) and that played into her decision, but as a good Catholic she would not condone or encourage murder.

In retrospect, I think the Billie story arc turned out to be a good one. It established Nucky as being a little fat and lazy in his business and Billie effectively drove a wedge between Nucky and Margaret, rekindling her affair with Owen, and setting up runaway story. I don’t believe for a second that Margaret will actually leave (Nucky needs her moral counter-balance) but one can always dream. The only problem with the Billie character was that they rushed the beginning of their relationship. He was too in love with her too soon. If they stretched out the set-up a little more I think it would have been even more effective.

I’ve also come full circle on Gyp. Similar to Nelson Van Alden’s character development, somehow they’re able to push a character to mustache-twirling levels and pull them back at the last minute to make them somewhat believable but wholly enjoyable. And you’ve got to love any show where Nelson is only the third craziest character (behind Gyp and Gillian).

I always appreciate a show that can make the mundane seem terrifying, and that birthday party had me on the edge of my seat.  The tension reminded me of the “Fly” episode of Breaking Bad. Walt – don’t tell Jesse about Jane! Enuch – don’t stab Emily with the cake knife!

In closing, I think I’m in love with Randolph. ‘Nuff said.

- Mitch Blum

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