Kibbitzing About TV: Boardwalk Empire, “A Man, A Plan…” (S3E10)

“Run Like Hell”

I’m in a Pink Floyd sort of mood today. Fall always does that to me. As soon as the leaves turn, I find myself listening to The Wall and Dark Side of the Moon with increasing frequency. So, when Mr. Kessler wakes Nucky up at 4am to tell him that there is a delivery, I couldn’t help but think of the lines from “Run Like Hell.”

And if your

Takin’ your girlfriend

Out tonight

You better park the car

Well out of sight

‘Cos if they catch you in the back seat

Trying to pick her locks

They’re gonna send you back to mother

In a cardboard box

Seems to apply to poor Owen Slater, whose only crime (outside of all the murder/hit man stuff) was lousy decision-making when it comes to women. Margaret has her moments, but Katie is relentlessly hot. And though I’ve been highly critical of this storyline, I’m sorry to see Mr. Slater go the way of the Pooka. Although I did loathe the revelation that Margaret is pregnant with Owen’s baby. Way too soap opera-y for Boardwalk. Leave that crap to The Young and the Restless, BE writers. It was enough that Margaret and Owen were planning to run away together, you didn’t have to throw a baby into the mix. (Did anyone else find it amusing that Margaret got a diaphragm after the Pooka was out of the barn, so to speak?) But, more importantly, with Mr. Slater gone Nucky is more vulnerable than ever.

Owen was ultimately done in because Charlie and Meyer ran like hell to Masseria after Arnold Rothstein turned down their heroin deal. AR’s billiards analogy “a shot to nothing,” or a “safety” as we used to call it when we played 8-ball on our basement pool table, proves why Rothstein is always one step ahead of everybody else. “Deals will always wait,” he cautions, “and fools will always rush in.”

Lucky and Meyer, a couple of fools, trade information in exchange for the deal and Masseria (no fool himself) continues to run the whole show unopposed. Nucky is now no more a threat to him than Eddie Cantor is to subtle comedy.

It’s funny that both Nucky and Dougherty run to Gaston Means to get rid of Jess Smith, a man who had a nervous breakdown at a Boy Scout jamboree. While Means manages to extort money from both men for the same job (in advertising, we call this “double booking”), it turns out that he doesn’t even have to pull the trigger himself. Jess does the deed for him. I did enjoy seeing a cornered Means try to prattle his way out of being shot while never losing his 5-star vocabulary or finishing school elocution. Now that’s a pro.

Nucky sends another man running to Tabor Heights under the guise of cutting a deal with Gyp Rosetti. Gyp, however, is far more interested in learning the ways of the sea from sons of fishermen. (Question: If you had ever seen how Rosetti operates, would you ever, under any circumstances, offer up information that might make him appear uneducated on a particular subject? Neither would I.) The similarities between Gyp and a rogue wave, two entities that inflict rage and destruction without warning or pattern, is lost on the man himself. Watching Gyp kill people in newer and more horrifying ways is getting a little old even for the most bloodthirsty viewer. We get it. Gyp is a functioning sociopath. Inventing different ways for minor characters to insult his intelligence and turn themselves into cannon fodder is a redundant effort. And, frankly, this week’s beach golf bludgeoning didn’t advance the story at all.

Al Capone, on the other hand, is a man who knows how to use violence to his advantage. Maybe that’s why he is arguably the most famous gangster in history while Gyp Rosetti is someone only a pretentious writer could have created. Al could have simply killed Van Alden after catching him aqua vitae-handed. But, Al uses the opportunity to gain information about his north side rival O’Bannon. Al and Gyp do share the “cat who likes to play with a mouse before he kills it” trait (Gyp with his shovel, Al with his fork and blueberry pie) except that Capone’s threat of violence is far more menacing than Rosetti’s tangible act. Al will now use NVA to advance the turf war in Chicago. And thank goodness for that. I couldn’t stand to lose Owen and Nelson in the same week.

Chalky runs to Nucky with a plan to replace Babette’s with a high-end jazz club similar to the ones that are flourishing in Harlem. Nucky dismisses him far too quickly and is in danger of losing his last key ally. “You ain’t the only one whose been thinking,” Chalky warns. I wonder if Nucky would have been so hasty if he had known about Owen at that point.

And finally, Richard has the inevitable run-in with Mr. Sagorsky who can’t stand to see his daughter dating what he calls “a side show freak.”

“Would you pay a dime to see this?” asks Richard removing his mask with one hand and strangling Sagorsky with the other.

For a guy who doesn’t usually get more than two-dozen words an episode, Richard has uttered some of the most memorable lines in the series. I will always root for Richard no matter what he does.

Until next week, I think I’ll go for run. (Not really. I can’t stand jogging.)

-       C.J. Kaplan

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“How to Get A-Head in Business Without Really Trying”

It looks like I owe Nucky an apology. Last week I chastised him for focusing on Gyp Rosetti when Joe Masseria was clearly the real problem. This week, Nucky apparently came to the same realization and sent Owen and Agent Sawicki on an assassination mission. Unfortunately for the home team someone forgot to draw up an actual plan of attack. What happened to the ruthlessly efficient IRA man Owen Slater who could kill someone while peeing in a bar?

Nope, the new Owen is full of half-baked schemes. He inexplicably chooses naggy Margaret over hot nanny Katie, while pretending to propose to Katie. Was that really necessary Owen? Then he plans to kill one of the biggest gangsters in NYC by walking in the front door of a public bathhouse. That’s the whole plan? Just walk in with your gun and start shooting? You, Sir, deserved to die.

Unlike the little sailor boy (not Tommy) who taught Gyp all about rogue waves and was given the Creepshow sand burial treatment in return. Gyp must have a hell of a benefits package in order to retain his workforce. Seriously – who would work for that lunatic?

One man who knows how to work it is Gaston Means, getting $40k from both Daugherty AND Nucky for pulling a Kevorkian on poor Jess Smith. I wonder if that ruins the case against Daugherty, taking out Remus, but saving the AG.

Good news for Richard this week, who managed to get a little action under the boardwalk after assaulting his girlfriend’s drunken father. She’s a keeper Richard!

Since dropping Van Alden in Cicero at the end of last season we’ve been waiting for the meeting of Van Alden and Capone. Aside from a little fork in the face I’d say the two of them hit it off pretty well.

So the table is set for Van Alden to switch to Team Capone and I’m still predicting that Harrow will go work for Nucky (he can take Owen’s cube at the office). Surprisingly, Lucky and Meyer threw their lot in with Masseria after being frustrated by AR’s patience.

I’m sensing a pattern with BE where Nucky hits his nadir in episode 10, setting the stage for an improbable comeback in the season finale. Once again it seems like Nucky has few options and fewer friends (why piss off Chalky now?) but I suspect that things will work out well in the end for him, Maggie and Baby Owen.

- Mitch Blum

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