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

###

“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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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

###

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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Concert Review: Chris Robinson Brotherhood, Paradise Rock Club, Boston, MA, 11/8/12

What more can be said about the Chris Robinson Brotherhood? Or more specifically, what more can I say about the Chris Robinson Brotherhood? After all, I’ve already spilled a ton of virtual ink reviewing both of their 2012 albums (Big Moon Ritual & The Magic Door) and one of the shows I’ve attended (11/19/11).

And yet I feel compelled to write more about the CRB because they deserve the attention. Sure, they sold out the Paradise Rock Club, but this a band that should be selling out the Orpheum. I guess it’s time for us music nerds to accept that rock music has really become a niche genre, like jazz or classical, appreciated by a few but ignored by the masses.

Well, for those of you who still care about real music performed by genuine artists, here are some reasons why you need to check out the CRB:

The Singing: Having seen Chris Robinson many, many times over the last 20 years I have to say that he’s in great voice these days. Whatever he’s lost in range he’s gained in phrasing and confidence. His voice was incredible last night on every single tune. It’s most noticeable on the covers, with his “Do Right Woman” rivaling both Gram’s and Aretha’s versions and his “Tom Thumb’s Blues” elevating Dylan’s composition greatly. Of course, originals like “100 Days of Rain” and “Star or Stone” also highlight his instrument.

The harmonies, a secret weapon of this band (and underemphasized on the LPs), were spot on as usual. Neal Casal is one of the best in the business (playing the Chris Hillman role), occasionally doubling Chris’s lines for maximum impact. Muddy Dutton does a great job with the high harmonies. And when Adam MacDougall jumps in for the a capella breaks it’s just perfect. Singing is often a weakness for rock bands – particularly for jam bands – So it’s a real treat to hear a band that can consistently nail the vocals.

The Sound: I’m doubling down on my theory that the CRB are psychedelic rockabilly band (but not a psychobilly band – big difference!) Before there was rock music there was rockabilly. It was the earliest fusion of country and blues. It featured a driving rhythmic beat and a clean finger-picked electric lead guitar with slap-back echo. CRB still features the chug-a-chug-a beat courtesy of George Sluppick, but the psychedelic aspect is achieved by replacing the Scotty Moore-style guitar with a more Jerry Garcia-esque sound from Neal. Throw in Muddy dropping bombs on the bass all night long and Adam’s trippy work on the Moog and Hammond and you’ve got something that sounds new and classic at the same time. Non-album tracks like “Try Rock N Roll”, “Jump the Turnstile” and “Meanwhile in the Gods…” really bring that psychedelic rockabilly sound to life.

The Vibe: When I go to a show I don’t really care if the band talks to the audience or not. I’m there for music, not comedy or pandering to the locals (“Hello Cleveland!”), but I do think that a show is enhanced when it appears like the band is having a good time and wants to be there. Like Phil Lesh always says, there’s a connection between the band and the audience, a infinite loop where the positive energy is reflected from the band to the audience and back to the band. Last night you could tell they were having a great time.  Watching how much Chris loved Adam’s long spacey solos, like during “Vibration & Light Suite” gave the feeling that there was no place he’d rather be, which made the audience feel the same way.

The Dead: Speaking of Phil, the Dead are still strong with this band. Aside from Neal’s Garcia-like tone, they somehow were able to transform “West L.A. Fadeaway” from a piss-break song into a monster (admit it, “West L.A.” was always a piss-break when the Dead played it). Also, there was a new arrangement of “Mother of Stone” that I’m absolutely convinced was built on top of the rhythm line from “The Other One”. Come to think of it, they should probably work “The Other One” into the rotation.

The Arrangements: Including “Mother of Stone” there were three New Earth Mud songs in the set (also “Sunday Sound” and “Silver Car”) and all featured different arrangements that perfectly fit the players in the CRB. It’s instructive to compare Mud versions to the CRB versions to get a sense of the evolution of Chris’s sound. Also getting a radically different arrangement was “Tornado”, perhaps the best Black Crowes b-side, which went from being a great country-folk acoustic number to a funked up reggae tune. (I’m not saying that it was better than the original version, but it worked quite well.) The CRB has a gift of taking songs – whether originals, covers, or old Chris tunes – and making them sound fresh and perfectly suited for their sound.

The Value: Not that it should matter, but tickets, including fees, were $33. They played for 2 and a half hours. I spent more money on Schlitz tallboys than I did on the show. The Stones are charging $750 for good seats at their 50th anniversary shows. I’d rather see the CRB.

If you’re a fan of great music – especially if you’re a deadhead – you owe it to yourself to check out the Chris Robinson Brotherhood. The songs are strong. The covers are great. The playing is exceptional. The vocals are tremendous. Most of all, it’s a real good time.

###

Chris Robinson Brotherhood
08 November 2012
Paradise Rock Club
Boston, MA

- Set One -
TRY ROCK N ROLL
JUMP THE TURNSTILE
MOTHER OF STONE
STAR OR STONE
TORNADO
GOODBYE WHEELING
ROLL OLD JEREMIAH
DO RIGHT WOMEN
TULSA YESTERDAY

- Set Two -
MEANWHILE IN THE GODS…
TOMORROW BLUES
100 DAYS OF RAIN
SUNDAY SOUND
WEST L.A. FADEAWAY
VIBRATION & LIGHT SUITE
SILVER CAR
ROSALEE

- encore -
TUMBLEWEED IN EDEN
TOM THUMB’S BLUES

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Kibbitzing About TV: Boardwalk Empire, “The Pony” (S3E8)

“The Push”

(Please note that CJ has decided to be all fancy and title these essays. Like Bork Bork, I will support my man no matter what…MB)

After last week’s deeply religious episode, this week’s installment of Boardwalk Empire delves into the dark recesses of the cast’s souls to see what happens when they get pushed to their limits. As is often the case when one is trapped or cornered, the animalistic impulses that are common to all of us rise to the surface.

Let’s start with our man Nucky. Having been threatened and slighted by Dougherty, Nucky will go to any length to bring down the AG. With the lukewarm support of Esther Randolph and the fake i.d.-wielding Means, Enoch poses as successful cattleman in order to approach Secretary of the Treasury Andrew Mellon.

Side Note: Gaston Means is apparently a man who can get you whatever you need for a price. He’s like a 1923 cross between The Shawshank Redemption’s Red and Fast Times at Ridgemont High’s Damone. I wouldn’t be surprised if he offers Nucky and Esther front row seats to Cheap Trick.

Secretary Mellon, as we learned at that seemingly random Congressional hearing a couple of weeks ago, hates both The Volstead Act and income tax. Today, this would make him a viable candidate for Governor of New Hampshire. On the show, it makes him the perfect target for Nucky’s little scheme. It seems that Mellon, who is the jelly to Andrew Carnegie’s peanut butter, has a brewery in Pennsylvania that has been lying fallow lo these many years of Prohibition. Nucky endures another round of being called a nobody by a public official and then uses Mellon’s brewery as leverage to get him to indict Jess Smith.

That accomplished, he heads back to New York City and beats the shit out of Billie’s actor friend because the guy called him “sir.” See, that’s what happens when you think you’re important and somebody who actually is important tells you that you’re not. You go and pound on the guy who really is less important than you. Then, badda-bing, you’re important again. All this fighting causes Billie to change her hair color, lose her earrings and revert to her given name. Just in time to get blown to smithereens. Looks like the role of Nucky Thompson’s showgirl mistress has roughly the same life expectancy as second in command on the Death Star.

In Margaret’s case, getting pushed to her limits drives her to seek out a two-for-one sale on diaphragms. Seriously, BE writers, are we just using the Margaret-Owen-Young Doctor storyline to goose female viewership? ‘cause I’m pretty much done with Maggie and her mewling fascination with Owen. Fuck her! Fuck her sanctimony! Fuck her women’s classes! Fuck her childhood stories! Fuck her driving lessons! And fuck the damn pony!

See, that’s what happens when I get pushed to my imaginary TV fandom limits. Let’s move on to more interesting characters.

Nelson Van Alden. I love this guy. I really do. The dichotomy between his overly proper, uptight demeanor and the insane amount of violence the he is capable of is intoxicating. And I don’t just mean that because he now has a still in his home. So, now he’s paying off his debt to O’Bannon by making a little homebrew on the stove. (How much whiskey do you have to make in order to be even for disposing a body? Two cases? Ten? Can somebody look this up?) He’s also become O’Bannon’s “muscle,” which basically means that he has to carry that heavy trunk full of steam irons around. One thing, though. Muscle guys aren’t supposed to know the date of the Vesuvius eruption and the subsequent burial of Pompeii.

And speaking of irons and eruptions, the least surprising explosion of the week was NVA getting pushed too far and martinizing that guy’s face. Of course, Sigrid saves the day (and another midnight run) by siphoning off some aqua vitae for her Norse countrymen and selling it in Cicero’s world-famous Little Scandanavia District.

I’m going to admit something to you here because I feel like we’re close. I have a bit of a crush on Sigrid. Now, I never had much luck with the blond/blue-eyed set. But, maybe after a few more years with the pasty Van Alden, Siggy might go for a swarthy dude like me. What do you think? Do I have a chance?

And finally, we come to Gillian.

“Do you have anything to say?” she asks Richard at the cremation of fake James. “You were his friend.”

“Jimmy deserved better,” he grunts.

And with that pithy retort, he at once displays his disdain for Gillian and honors his dead friend. Mr. Harrow, I am frankly in awe.

Even mutton chop guy gets in on the action when Gillian asks for an extra minute with the body.

“I think we’ve bid our adieus,” he sneers.

In other words, “Cut the crap, lady.”

Gillian, now able to secure a loan against the house, pushes Charlie out of the whorehouse business. However, Gillian gets pushed by Nucky in the ultimate powerplay.

“You only exist in Atlantic City because I allow you to.”

Nice.

So, Gillian does what any crazy lady, son humping, murderess would do. She calls in Gyp, who hardly needs to be pushed at all before he snaps, and tells him where Nucky and AR are going to be dining that evening. And, just like that, boom goes the dynamite.

Last, but not least, Big Al is making a push to take over now that Johnny T. seems fond of snowbirding in Italy.

It’s only a matter of time before push comes to shove.

Until next week.

- C.J. Kaplan

###

“Acting & Acting Out”

This week’s episode finally saw a few of our favorite characters acting out…blowing off a little steam, if you will (sorry). We all knew that Nelson Van Alden would eventually snap, but who could have imagined such a gruesome scene? I guess this proves that the iron actually works quite well and that poor Treasury agent died in vain.   Bork Bork has easily locked up “wife of the year” honors with her calm demeanor and fragrant orange slices in the homebrew. And Nelson already has a new job acting as O’Bannon’s enforcer.

On the other side of town, Johnny Torrio comes home and Al gets nervous that he’s in trouble with the boss. After fearing for his life in the meat-packing district the happy truth is revealed: Ol’ Torrio is ready to retire and is confident with Al’s leadership. It looks like Al won’t suffer the same fate that befell Jimmy, another one of the Muppet Gangster Babies that wanted more power.

Nucky both acted and acted out plenty this week, first by feigning ignorance to Gillian over Jimmy’s death (setting in motion her Gyp-fueled revenge), secondly by pretending to be a cattleman in order to speak with Secretary Mellon (setting in motion his political revenge plan on Daugherty and Remus), and thirdly by beating up Billie’s actor friend for smirking and/or disrespecting sheiks. But his finest performance was still to come – giving Billie a lifetime annuity while seemingly setting her free, trying to convince her (and himself) that he’s really a good guy after all.

Of course, Nucky’s thespian skills ultimately saved him, AR and Lucky, as he humored an annoying acquaintance on the boardwalk and avoided the bomb at Babbette’s. Come to think of it, Masseria isn’t going to take Gyp’s failed assassination attempt well.

I’m totally on-board with Margaret’s attempt to turn her boring lectures into an underground planned parenthood, but where exactly is this relationship with Owen going? If they were smart they’d ride that pony back to the old country, because things won’t end well for them in AC.

One final interesting thing to note: both Nelson’s and Nucky’s victims ended up with bloody damage on the left side of their faces, in the same spot where Richard wears his mask. What, if anything, does this symbolize?

- Mitch Blum

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Kibbitzing About TV: Boardwalk Empire, “Sunday Best” (S3E7)

It’s Easter Sunday. A day of remembrance. A day of resurrection. But, who will rise from the dead and who will be buried forever? To answer that question, the writer’s of Boardwalk Empire present to you Four Dysfunctional Easter Dinners, or: The Most Biblical Episode of BE Ever.

Dinner #1-Nucky and Margaret go to Eli’s house

In what must have been an uncomfortable conversation for both men, Eli and Nucky are convinced by their wives to have Easter dinner together. Nucky, Margaret, Emily and Teddy (who may or may not have been carrying a switchblade in his Buster Browns) show up for a good old-fashioned egg hunt and talent show. (I’m Jewish, so forgive me for this next question: I know about Easter Egg hunts, but is there forced performance art on Easter as well? I thought you just had to wear a funky hat.) While the children hunt for eggs in the shrubbery, Eli beats around the bush with Nucky until he finally gets him alone in the workshop. When Eli asks for more responsibility and a better position, Nucky reminds Eli (now playing the role of Judas) of how he betrayed Nucky in ways that can never be forgiven. So, Eli tries to “kill himself” as Judas did by offering Nucky a gun. But, of course, St. Nucky forgives him.

Meanwhile, Margaret and June are getting all chummy in the kitchen over pineapple upside-down cake. Maggie feels so close to June that she confesses Nucky’s affair. June (playing the role of Polyanna) chooses to ignore that sordid talk and offers only a silent hand on Margaret’s shoulder in comfort. Then, we are treated to after-dinner theatre.

The opening act is one of Eli’s seventeen children who plays a little tune on a something that sounds like a theremin, which is used most often in…wait for it…ghost stories. Nucky headlines with a juggling trick, which leads to the awkward “I-didn’t-know-you-could-juggle” conversation between Nucky and Margaret. Clearly, Nucky can juggle women, which is what Margaret tries to get him to admit. But, Nucky brashly offers to teach her. Margaret says that it’s too late and if Nucky had been paying attention to her song about how “the boys can’t leave her alone,” he wouldn’t have been so cavalier.

In the end, Nucky calls Eli to tell him that he’s now co-manager of the warehouse operation with Doyle. After going through hell, Eli is born again.

Dinner #2-Richard and Tommy break bread with Archie Bunker

Richard is smitten with Julia Sagorsky and he brings young Tommy along on the date so Gillian can do other things (we’ll get to that later). Richard brings Julia a bouquet of lilies, which though appropriate at Easter are often given at funerals as well. Julia’s father, who has lost all faith (Doubting Thomas), mocks the pre-meal grace. He baits Richard and even Tommy with pointed questions about the war and why we raise young men as Christians and then send them off to die (martyrs).

Julia, in a gesture that was supposed to be kind, exiles Richard to the kitchen to eat his meal. Curiously, Richard’s pre-meal prayer is “to be ever mindful of the needs of others.” When he returns to the table, it is Tommy who sets the true action of the dinner in motion.

After using the upstairs bathroom, Tommy opens the door (rolls back the stone) from Julia’s brother’s room/shrine and lets his spirit free. When the old man finds Tommy in the room, he explodes in rage and after Richard threatens to kill him, retreats back into the room to spend the remainder of the day with his son’s ghost.

Then, Jesus, Joseph and Mary (Tommy, Richard and Julia) hit the boardwalk and walk among the freaks until they are immortalized in a picture. Richard, fast becoming Atlantic City’s pre-eminent scrap-booker, places it in his holy book of memories. Can I get an Amen?

Dinner #3-Gillian and Roger in a mini version of “Tales from the Crypt”

Who better to play Mary Magdalene on Easter Sunday than Gillian? The original MM was both a prostitute and, get this, mother of James. (Look it up.) Gillian has not been able to come to terms with Jimmy’s death in the absence of his body. So, she decides to recreate his demise in her own way. (Credit to Mitch for predicting this last week.) After a little sex and ham, Roger wants to take Gillian like a sacrifice right there on the dining room table. But, Gillian wants him to take a bath, a ritual cleansing, before they have at it again. Like Mary Magdalene, she anoints Roger/Jimmy/Jesus in purifying oils. Unlike MM, she sticks him with about 20ccs of heroin. As he slips beneath the water, his last words resonate in the bath chamber. “Am I dreaming?” Unfortunately, no.

In one final creep-tastic gesture, Gillian drapes Jimmy’s dog tags over Roger’s lifeless head. With that completed, she finally admits out loud for the first time (to Richard, as it turns out), “My son is dead.” In 3 of the 4 gospels, Mary Magdalene is the first to witness the resurrection of Jesus. Perhaps Gillian thinks she will be the first as well.

Dinner #4-Dinner with the Rosetti’s

In a sterling balance of comic and tragic, we find the terrifying Gyp Rosetti in a cramped New York apartment meticulously primping for an Easter Dinner. But here, instead of being feared, he is the object of his mother and sister’s derision. They chide his clothes and his manners and even his manhood. Even though Gyp eats the marrow from the roast lamb, it is he who is being bled dry by these women.

Following dinner, Gyp engages in a classic “Why hast thou forsaken me?” monologue at the local parish. After getting no answers, he does what any supplicant would do. He knocks off the church to make up the difference in his weekly envelope to Joe Masseria. I could only smile when I thought about the episode of The Sopranos when Paulie Walnuts rolls an old lady in his mother’s nursing home to impress Tony with a fat envelope.

 “What did you do? Rob a bank?” asks Tony.

“Yeah, something like that,” replies Paulie.

So, Gyp takes the pennies and nickels from the collection plate and brings it to Masseria. But, here’s Gyp’s problem. Joe “The Boss” has had it with Rosetti’s cowboy act. When Joe gets up to leave and the dark shadows step forward, it looks like dog collar sales in the Manhattan area will be taking a significant dip. But, Gyp has his own resurrection act. He offers to kill all of Masseria’s enemies—The Irish Mob, The Jewish Mob and any Italians who run with The Jewish Mob (watch your back, Lucky). And what does he say?

“When I’m finished, they won’t call you Joe ‘The Boss.’ They’ll call you Joe ‘The King.’

The King of Kings, perhaps?

My sermon is over. Until next week, peace be with you.

- C. J. Kaplan

###

Wow, I’m impressed with your religious knowledge (I never read the sequel). Not as impressed as I am with myself for predicting Roger’s fate, mind you, but impressed nonetheless. There’s not much that I can add to your distillation of the symbolism, so I’ll stick to the plot and over-arching themes.

This week we find the various factions inching closer and closer to war and yet peace temporarily breaks out. Rosetti continues to be a rabid dog, but at least he’s on Messeria’s short-leash. You would think it would be wise to get rid of Gyp after the Tabor Heights debacle, but it’s got to be pretty hard to turn down a sincere offer to have all of your enemies killed. So we’ve got the weakened Italian mob on one side and the uneasy Jewish-Irish alliance on the other side. Someone’s going to end up controlling both the liquor and the (lovely) heroin trade, but it won’t come easy.

And while it seems like we’ve largely transitioned from politicians to gangsters, we’ve still got the looming issue of Esther Randolph versus Attorney General Dougherty. It’s a reminder that the serious money is always taken with a pen instead of a gun.

Or perhaps with an iron, lest we forget the developments in Chicago, where Van Alden has unwittingly hooked up with the gang of Capone’s chief rival. Johnny Torrio isn’t going to be able to keep Little Al under control for much longer, and things are going to get messy in the Midwest.

But perhaps the most tragic wars are the emotional ones: Nucky and Margaret’s estrangement, Gillian’s loss, and Richard’s on-going attempts to convince himself that he’s deserving of a loving family and a normal life.

Poor Richard. Richard Harrow is perhaps the most fully realized character in the Boardwalk Empire universe and I’m sure it’s no coincidence that he’s one of the few characters not hamstrung by historical events. Richard is terrifying and tender. Unfailingly sincere (“I had a lovely time at dinner”), Richard can’t lie to others or himself. He recognizes both the sin and the potential for salvation in his soul. He’ll kill without hesitation but will remember each and every victim. Are we defined by our actions or our intentions? It’s a question that Richard openly struggles with but can easily be applied to every member of the Boardwalk Empire familia.

In closing, here’s my Halloween salute to Richard…

- Mitch Blum

Kibbitzing About TV: Boardwalk Empire, “Ging Gang Goolie” (S3E6)

“The Fire Down Below”

You’re damn right I just referenced a Bob Seger song! Not only was the fire in the greenhouse the plot catalyst in this episode, but two of Boardwalk Empire’s central female characters had a fire burning down below as well.

Gillian is in a headlong death spiral right now. She’s so far gone that she’s picking up stray men by offering them cigarettes (fire!). After catching Charlie (her only living boy toy) snorting a little H with one her girls, she hits the boardwalk and snares Kansas farm boy Roger with his military background and slicked back hair (sound familiar?) and lets him take her back to his crash pad. While they are en flagrante, she calls him “baby.” But, not in the sexy Telly Savalas saying “baby” kind of way. More in the creepy cougar-cradle robbing-Oedipal kind of way. Yeesh! And then, to top it off, she tells Roger that she’s going to call him James. Roger is excited because it’s the first time he’s done a woman older than him. Oh Rog, I mean James, you have no idea what you’re in for.

Meanwhile, Margaret apparently has a little fire starter on her hands (and not the kind Prodigy sang about). When Teddy tells her it was a gypsy (“Gyp” Rosetti, maybe?) and she later discovers the oilcan and matches in his bag, she does what any good mother would do. She gives Teddy three ineffectual swats on the butt and then has sex in the burnt out greenhouse with a former lover who currently works for her husband.

Wait. Let me back up a second.

Fire is, indeed, the central theme here. And while most people think of fire as destructive, an equal number regard it as cleansing. Especially the devoutly religious. In Judaism, for example, before a kitchen can be declared Kosher, it needs to be cleaned. Not with soap and water, but with fire. In many religions, fire washes away sin in a way that no other form of absolution can. Why do you think witches were burned at the stake?

With the greenhouse turned to cinders, Margaret’s slate has been wiped clean. All the sins of her past, real and imagined, have gone up in smoke with the potted palms. Now she is free to start sinning again. Enter Owen Slater (Get it? Clean “slate.”). Mr. Slater represents the incarnation of the fearsome Pooka, a malevolent Irish fairy who comes out at night to take his share from the local farmers. This is not to be confused with Owen’s Mr. Pouffle, who also comes out at night to get his share.

Frankly, this re-coupling surprised me. I thought Owen had as much contempt for Margaret as I do, but apparently he just can’t quit her. Katie must not be paying enough attention to Mr. Pouffle because it isn’t out of loyalty to her that Slater first rebuffs Margaret. He’s thinking of his boss rather than his girlfriend when he says no. In the end, Maggie gets her way and they both rise like phoenixes from the ashes.

A brief word about Teddy-boy here. I’m glad to see he’s graduated from fire to knives. They’re much easier to conceal after all. The only question left is who he shivs first (Or is it shanks? I still don’t know the difference.) My guess is that it will be one of the anonymous nursemaids who refuses him a lemon drop and gets a cold, steel blade for her troubles. We’ll see.

Down in DC, Nucky finds himself at odds with the man he helped install as the Attorney General. When Nucky confronts him and threatens to expose the whole operation, AG Dougherty puts him in his place.

“Who are they gonna believe? The United States Attorney General or a liquor bootlegger from Atlantic City?”

It seems that big-time gangsters and big-time government officials are fond of tagging Nucky as a small-time crook. Not good for the Nuckster’s street cred. However, it does precipitate the reunion of Nucky and Esther Randolph. The surprisingly fetching DA can’t get Nucky’s possession charge to stick, but she is willing to listen to his proposal of how to take down her boss. Esther correctly points out that Nucky always wants to be the father figure. He’s certainly done it with Lucy, Margaret, Billie and Jimmy. He even did it with Gillian to a certain extent. Although that was more in a Billy Ray Cyrus pimp/dad sort of way. At any rate, Nucky thinks he has Means in his pocket. But, he doesn’t know that Means was in the closet when he was fighting with Dougherty. When Nucky tells Esther that he has the juice to oust the AG, he’s only half-right at best.

Gaston Means (played by Stephen Root) is emerging as a truly engaging character. He appears to be available to the highest bidder. Whether he can play both ends against the middle remains to be seen. By the way, Stephen Root’s most memorable TV role? Jimmy James on News Radio. Gillian will be pleased to know that, somewhere out there, Jimmy James rides again.

Elsewhere, Richard Harrow has a new woman to obsess over and/or stalk. Julia Sagorsky is the lovely daughter of a man who is chasing ghosts. She and Richard have so much in common, it seems they were made for each other. My guess is that dad won’t approve. Until Richard makes the bartender disappear, that is.

And finally, Eli and Mickey pay a visit to the new sheriff of Tabor Heights, a.k.a. the next guy Rosetti sets on fire (See, again with the fire!). Eli is asserting himself more and more. But, we’ll see how much that improves his standing with the Nucky, the only guy he really wants to impress.

Remember, kids, don’t play with fire. You might get burned.

Until next week,

- C.J. Kaplan

###

First, let me correct your assertion about the great Stephen Root. While he was consistently brilliant on News Radio as Jimmy James, his standout role was (is) as the gun packing Judge Mike Reardon on Justified. He was also wonderful as sad vampire Eddie Gaulthier on True Blood. One could say that he has the work ethic of an old Michael Caine.

You know, when I first saw Gillian pick up New Jimmy I thought she was going to seduce him, kill him, burn him (again with the fire!) and use his corpse to finally legally declare Jimmy dead and take ownership of the house. But then things went wrong.

Seriously, Boardwalk, we were weirded out long BEFORE you had Gillian call him James. That was really unnecessarily gilding the lily.

Bringing back Esther – this time as a potential Nucky ally – was genius, however. I love how she instantly went for the kill in her opening statement at court. It was a suspenseful rope-a-dope for the viewers but the long-term prospect of taking down Dougherty is much more intriguing than getting Nucky on possession of a pint.

(Side note: I always thought the “two bacon and egg sandwiches” special at the South Street Diner was a solid late night deal, but Esther got a killer meal for just 20 cents. How did a businessman like Nucky pass that up?)

I like how the show is rotating storylines and characters this season. Just when we miss Chalky we got him intimidating Eddie Cantor last week. Just when I was missing Richard we get introduced to his new love interest – plus a surprisingly exciting bare-knuckle brawl at the VFW. I disagree with you about the stalking charge – Richard is a good man and he’ll woo her in an appropriate manner (by killing her father’s enemies).

Poor Little Teddy is just misunderstood. His “father” isn’t around anymore and he’s just trying to protect his sister. He even wanted Owen to move into the house. Of course, as the old saying goes, “people in glass houses shouldn’t have sex with the sexy help when their kids are watching out the window”. I think Teddy might have a different spin on what “Pooka” means.

And Mickey Doyle speaks for all of us when he says, “I heard Gyp was wearing a dog collar. Tee hee hee!” Well played, Mickey.

We’ll sweep out the ashes in the morning,

- Mitch

###

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

###

Kibbitzing About TV: The Walking Dead, “Seed” (S3E1)

Ever since The Walking Dead premiered I’ve been wondering about the weaponry. While guns seem like the best choice for killing zombies, the constant need for fresh ammunition and the horde-attracting noise makes them a not-so-great option. Darryl’s crossbow is pretty bad-ass, but let’s be honest – he’s been using the same three magic arrows for months now, and there probably aren’t too many qualified fletchers left in the world. T-Dogg’s silence is a powerful dramatic weapon but certainly not the best way to kill a zed.

I figured out early on that a sword would be pretty sweet – they’re silent, deadly and keep the corpse at arm’s length. Best of all, chicks dig a swordsman – at least according to that Antonio Banderas movie. So I’ve been waiting for someone to bust out a blade or two. Lo and behold, the mysterious Michonne showed up this week wielding a samurai blade. Between her sword skills and her armless/jawless zombie slaves, she’s a strong addition to the show.

Also nice was the emergence of tough Carl, a significant upgrade from deer-petting Carl. It makes perfect sense that he’d be an asset instead of a liability after living in Zombie-land for almost a year. Hell, my twelve year-old was ready for zombie-killing action after a weekend spent playing Left 4 Dead.

Rick’s best decision was to secure the prison as a new home base. His worst decision was to throw away the cat food. Didn’t he ever see that episode of Chopped where the guy made that beautiful braised owl with catfood au vin?

Then again, Rick also made the terrible decision to go tag some prison walls with Glen and Herschel. Why exactly is the old man, the closest thing the group has to a doctor, going on offensive raids anyway?

But the best thing about this week’s very good season 3 premiere episode was that there was only one woe-is-me speech by Lori, and this time I actually agreed with her. Newborn babies are terrible to begin with, but stillborn zombie babies killing you from the inside are even worse.

A good start for the season, although TWD has historically started and ended seasons well. Let’s hope it continues.

###

Kibbitzing About TV: Boardwalk Empire, “Blue Bell Boy” (S3E4)

If this week’s episode had been written by a 19th century sentimentalist who was paid by the word, it would have been called “A Tale of Two Gangsters”. On one side we have Nucky Thompson, who we called out last week for losing his grip on the people and operations that he had previously ruled with an iron fist. On the other we have Al Capone, a goonish triggerman who has always been prized more for his brawn than his brains. Despite the discrepancy in their current standing, it is clearly Al’s star that is on the rise while Nucky is struggling to hold on.

Nucky spends the majority of this week’s episode in a rat-infested basement with a lieutenant who doesn’t respect him and a street punk who doesn’t fear him. (And, of course, Mr. Pouffle, who appears to be indifferent to the situation.) This is literally and figuratively the low point of Nucky’s career.

Side Note: The creative team behind BE is given to grand symbolic visual gestures when they want to hammer home a crucial plot point. Remember when Jimmy was having sex with Gillian (a.k.a. his mom) in his dorm room and a train thundered by into a tunnel as the bed shook? You didn’t need to be Dr. Freud to see the connection. So, putting Nucky in the depths of a shotgun shack while he is at the nadir of his power is no accident. And my parents thought being an English major was a waste of time. Pffft!

Meanwhile, on the south side of Chicago, Al Capone is starting to round into the figure who will become the archetype for all future gangsters. A violent, manic-depressive, fiercely loyal (like Sasha Fierce-level loyal) family man/whorehouse manager, Al is writing the scripture that all mobsters both real and imagined would follow. Today’s lesson, made famous by Sean Connery as Jimmy Malone in The Untouchables: They put one of yours in the hospital, you put one of theirs in the morgue.

Yes, the parallels between Al’s deaf son being bullied and his fat henchman being beaten are a bit heavy-handed. Although it’s interesting that his first thought for his son is to teach the boy how to defend himself (a lesson that goes horribly wrong) and his first thought for his kapo is revenge (a lesson that is horrible, but not wrong). The two fight scenes in the bar are so different that you can’t help but notice. When Al’s collector gets beaten up, the people in the bar barely notice. They keep drinking and chatting as if this is a regular occurrence. When Al lays the smack down, the bar patrons cower against the walls in terror. They shrink away from him in stunned silence as he finishes the deed with a barstool. Al has taken a big step toward real power. He is now feared.

Nucky, by contrast, finds himself in a precarious position. The more time he spends with the kid in the basement, the more we are led to believe that he’s going to let the kid off the hook and mentor him as he begins a lucrative career in organized crime. But, I knew that kid wasn’t making it out of the house the first time Nucky offered him a cigarette.

(Think of the brilliant scene in True Romance when Dennis Hopper realizes that Christopher Walken is going to kill him whether or not he reveals where Christian Slater is hiding. What does Hopper do before he launches into the transcendent Italian heritage story? He asks his eventual killer for a cigarette. Game over.)

Nucky shooting this kid in the back of the head wasn’t the bravest thing he’s ever done, but it did do something we’ve never seen before. It knocked the unflappable Owen Slater off balance. And, in that moment, Nucky has begun to pull himself out of the basement. Now, he has to apply that same thinking to Gyp Rosetti. And Gyp ain’t no street punk. Nucky wasn’t half a gangster this week, but he was still half a coward.

Elsewhere, Arnold Rothstein didn’t get a lot of screen time this week. But, the few moments that he did get were memorable. One day, I would love to open a phone conversation with the words, “Why am I talking to you?” It’s so shamelessly asshole-y that you can’t help but smile. It’s the kind of thing an overstuffed Creative Director would say to a hapless junior account executive who screwed up a conference call dial-in number. I bet the person who wrote that scene used to work in an ad agency.

Of course, the other big plot line was Lucky having a sit down with Masseria. Where Al Capone is dumb like a fox, Lucky appears to be dumb like a moron. Going in with a ceiling of 5% and having Joe the Boss demand 30%, Charlie Looch displays the worst poker face in the world. And Joe is right, when the world comes crashing down 30% is going to seem like a bargain. One quibble: Joe comments about Lucky’s partners: “I’ll say this about your Jews. With them, it’s nothing personal. It’s strictly business.”

Are you fucking kidding me? My mother alone has been holding grudges since the third grade. It’s always personal.

Until next week.

 CJ Kaplan

###

I’m glad that you brought up The Untouchables because all I could think about this week was the iconic image of Al Capone taking batting practice at his conference table. It was a brilliant choice for Boardwalk to humanize Capone, transforming him from the violent bat-wielding psychopath into a guy more apt to play catch with his son. The scene of him singing “My Buddy” to his boy may have been the most emotional moment in the series to date, and provided a beautiful segue to Eli’s rapprochement with Nucky.

Of course Capone IS a psychopath, but his violence is rooted in defense of his people, as opposed to Gyp, whose violent tendencies are driven by the offense of his ego. Big difference.

I agree with you that Nucky was half a coward and I took his killing of Rowland as a sign of weakness, not strength. He’s trying too hard to prove that he’s a gangster. Look Nucky, we’ve seen gangsters before and you’re no gangster. A real gangster would have spared the kid and killed Gyp (or at least squashed a grapefruit in his face), instead of appeasing him with a month’s supply of booze-a-roni.

I’ll admit that I tend to root for the home team of Jewish gangsters – and by extension Lucky – so I was a little worried that he was going to get “moidered” sitting in front of that window. Of course that can’t happen historically, which means the show is doing something right by creating tension where there should be none.  As we’ve discussed many times the past the Jews and the Italians should be friends – our two cultures are the only ones that know how to run a good deli.

Speaking of Boardwalk’s heavy-handed symbolism, what about Margaret’s inspiration, Carrie Duncan the aviatrix, crashing right after Margaret’s unsuccessful trip to the Boardwalk?

Your buddy,

Mitch

Kibbitzing about TV: Boardwalk Empire, “Bone For Tuna” (S3E3)

Old friend (and Jews Clues co-author) C.J. Kaplan recently penned this wonderful analysis of the latest episode of one of our favorite shows, ‘Boardwalk Empire’. I convinced C.J. to allow me to post an unexpurgated version and added a few thoughts of my own at the end. Maybe we’ll keep doing this for the rest of the season. Maybe not (we’re lazy.)

First of all, Richard you are one cold-blooded motherfucker!

“Jimmy was a soldier. He fought and lost. You have nothing to fear.”

I mean, shit, that is straight-up tough. If Richard, Chalky and Owen Slater ever decide to team up, they will flat-out own Atlantic City. Those are three men with tunnel vision when it comes to achieving their goals. Nothing stops them—not women, booze, money or, least of all, fear.

I wish the same could be said for Nucky. Facing up to Richard was the one manly thing he did in this episode. Otherwise, you may as well have set him up with a cosmopolitan and a pair of Jimmy Choos.

When did Nucky become Lady MacBeth? Out, out damn…bacon grease? He’s mooning around after Billie. He’s seeing visions of young Jimmy. And he’s letting Margaret (fucking Margaret!) drain his wallet. And he’s not even getting sex from her anymore. (“Perhaps some warm milk will do.”) Hey Maggie, Remember when Nucky had your abusive husband reconstituted into fish food? Remember that?!?

Nucky, my man, when your biggest problem is Gyp Rosetti who, in the immortal words of Gordie LeChance, is nothing but a two-bit dime store hood, you are sitting pretty. Bone for tuna, indeed.

I’m re-characterizing Gyp now. He’s like a souped-up version of Joe Piscopo in Johnny Dangerously. “My father put me in a closet once. Once!” That said, all Nucky had to do was show up and see him off with his shipment of hooch and all would have been swell. Instead, he pissed off Gyp so much that he went and charbroiled a fat cop. (Note to fat cop: If a guy is pointing a gas hose at you, back up a few paces. The hose only goes so far.)

Just not a good episode for Nucky. “Do you keep seeing the people you killed?” he asks Richard. “I think you know the answer to that,” replies Richard.

Nucky, didn’t you see the tagline this season: You can’t be half a gangster.

Briefly, in other parts of the Empire, Gillian is so creepy and twisted now that she taking on Norman-Bates-as-his-mother type qualities. You know it’s getting weird when Nelson Van Alden looks normal by comparison.

Speaking of NVA, it’s nice to see him getting some tail. You know, without all the self-flagellation and stuff.

But, back to the main story. Nucky has just got to pull it together or he’s going to become Atlantic City’s biggest doormat.

Until next week,

 -C.J.

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Speaking of self-flagellation, it appears that the Boardwalk universe requires at least one character who borders on caricature. In the first season it was the aforementioned Agent Van Alden, he of the public baptism-murder. This year we have thorny Gyp who takes offense at every kind word and callously fries pigs (while Nucky dreams of frying bacon). I’m predicting that Gillian and Lucky will have a falling out (foreshadowed in the argument over the leaking roof) which will lead to the formation of the 1923 all-crazy team co-captained by Gillian and Gyp. Hopefully they cleared the Commodore’s spear collection out of the mansion.

Then again, Boardwalk also has a knack for redeeming seemingly hopeless characters. They managed to turn Jimmy from the stupidest gun in the East into a sympathetic victim of incest, and they’ve done the same with poor iron salesman George Mueller. Margaret could take a few lessons from Bjork Bjork about how to make your man feel better after a tough day at the office.

On Margaret: it was good to finally see the return of clever Margaret, who’s been hiding under a veil of sanctimony since saving Nucky’s diary in the beginning of season 2. Note to Margaret: acting superior and giving away Nucky’s blood money doesn’t make you a good person; it makes you a hypocrite. You’re still living in a fancy mansion paid for by the same bootlegging and murder.

But the table is now set for open conflict: AR is going to be pissed at Nucky for missing his delivery date. Lucky, Meyer and Bugsy are about to go to the mattresses against Joe Masseria over the heroin trade, and George is getting angry in Cicero. Gyp, as mentioned, is always ready to rumble.

And while I’m not buying Nucky’s hopeless devotion to Billie (at least she doesn’t call him “Daddy”) I am glad to see his remorse over killing Jimmy. Sure, Jimmy was an idiot, but he was Nucky’s idiot.

Finally, let us celebrate – with a creepy giggle – the continuing survival of Mickey Doyle, Kama Sutra aficionado. I suspect that keeping Mickey alive against all odds is a running joke among the writers. It’s a good one.

Until next time,

Mitch

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