Good news, everybody! Lucy Danziger is back and still a complete mess of a human being! She's chafing in captivity at Van Alden's boarding house, and a visit from a surprisingly sweet Eddie Cantor just underlines it for her: life with Van Alden is no fun. She's so despondent about her dull life and fat body that she's contemplating throwing herself down the stairs, until she's surprised by a surprise delivery of a jazz record from Agent Nelson "Party Animal" Van Alden.
The Commodore continues to implement his plan, meeting with boat captain McCoy about slopping the flow of Nucky's liquor. And when McCoy proves uncooperative, he calls in his Coast Guard favors to get Nucky's latest shipment impounded. This squeezing is felt at the ground level by people like the casino owners, who are thinking about getting their liquor elsewhere if Nucky can't provide. (This at the same time as Capone arrives with news for Nucky that Torrio won't be buying his liquor either.) Working at one of the casinos is Owen Slater, who's pretty perceptive about what's going on, and he convinces Nucky to hire him as muscle, leading to a confrontation with Richard Harrow where Slater successfully keeps the Commodore's liquor at bay.
Elsewhere, Rothstein brokers a summit between Lansky and Masseria over the murders Jimmy perpetrated last week. The terms are wildly pro-Masseria, driving a bit of a wedge between Rothstein and his young guns.
The Commodore continues to groom Jimmy, to Jimmy's continued ambivalence. When a father-son meeting with the Governor at Babbette's ends up crossing paths with a Nucky/Margaret/Mayor Bader dinner, Nucky finally gets fed up and makes a scene in front of everyone. Nucky makes his intentions toward Jimmy clear: "I will ruin you."
Margaret, it seems, has hired the Pinkerton detective agency to track down the siblings she referred to with Slater last week. It seems they immigrated to the States some years ago and now reside in Brooklyn. But when she -- and Katie the maid -- try to call Peggy on the phone, they learn she died twelve years ago. Margaret is pretty crushed, though she rebounds by boozing a little with the maids, which is awesome. But after Nucky's BMOC moment at Babbette's, she regains a bit of her lady-of-the-house mojo and re-asserts the upstairs/downstairs dynamic with the help.
We open on Skid Row in Ocean City, NJ (which, Wikipedia alert, remains a dry county to this day). This is Agent Van Alden's boarding house, where poor Lucy is wasting her legendary charisma while Van Alden loudly butters his toast and chastises her about calling the baby in her belly "it." He also gets mad to hear that she spoke to a neighbor lady earlier. All Lucy wants is some company, some conversation, maybe some music. The family across the way has a Victrola to play Jolson with, for Pete's sake. Boy, it's really been from penthouse to outhouse for Lucy since Season 1. And vice-versa for Margaret. Would that ever drive Lucy nuts to think about. Lucy says she feels jailed, that she used to be out every night. Van Alden scoffs that, for a murdering election-rigger, Nucky probably showed her a great time. "I can't live like this!" Lucy whines. Van Alden assures her that once the child is born, she won't have to. That was the agreement. "Say what you want about Nucky," she whimpers at him. "At least he was fun."
Right now, Fun Nucky is pondering matters in his bathrobe. Margaret approaches him to say that she returned some of her clothes to La Belle Femme, in order to be thrifty in these challenging times. Nucky frowns at this -- they have to keep up appearances now more than ever. Plus he wants her in fancy things that he buys for her. He tells her to go buy them back and that they're fine. After Nucky leaves, Margaret checks the mail and sees one letter of particular interest: something from the Pinkertons. PINKERTONS! I made reference to this on Twitter and nobody really knew what I was talking about but: Deadwood connection! I may be the only person who remembers huge chunks of the first two seasons being Al Swearengen fretting about the Pinkertons getting all up in his biz.
At one of Atlantic City's fine casinos, Fleming has come to collect the weekly kickback from proprietor Lolly, played by Broadway's Danny Buerstein, who I just saw deliver an amazing performance in Follies, so I'm already predisposed to him. We also see that Owen Slater is wiping down glasses in the background. Guess Nucky found him that job. After engaging in some casual anti-Chinese racism (another Deadwood connection!), Lolly hands over his envelope, which he admits is light. "Light?!" Fleming goggles, "it's a damn dirigible!" Lolly's like, "You making that joke a lot lately, huh?" He doesn't even bother to be abashed about the short payment. Instead, he gives Fleming a tutorial on how the casino biz works: players lose money, get mad, get free drinks, get happy, win money, get more free drinks, get drunk, lose it all back. It's the economy, stupid. And the whole fucking equation depends on alcohol. Fleming gets testy, says Lolly just got a shipment of alcohol. "Yeah," Lolly returns, "the cheap shit!" Fleming snaps back that times are tough. "Nucky's fightin' for his life!" Lolly: "Ah, we're all fightin' for our lives!" Boy, ain't that the truth. As one famously lightweight drinker once said, they're ignoring your pain because they're too busy dealing with their own. Anyway, now that I've done the impossible and tied Boardwalk Empire to Buffy, Lolly says he's gonna need the booze from Nucky ... or from somebody else.