The focus this week was on the Thompson household, in an episode that featured Season 2′s characters pretty exclusively, and it all started with a fire in the greenhouse.And who but little Teddy to notice it first, standing awkwardly/creeply in his mom’s bedroom waiting for her to wake up. Once Sleater arrives on the scene, he questions Teddy who has apparently seen a gypsy man hanging around the house.
Of course, the previews at the beginning of he episode were quick to remind us that Teddy has garnered a fascination with fire thanks to Nucky, and the (unanswered question) that lingers throughout the episode is: did Teddy do it? Is the gypsy man a schizophrenic hallucination for a kid who doesn’t seem to be all there? We get several short glimpses into his tormented minds, from being found in the neighbor’s garage with firestarting gear to his disjointed handwriting to sleeping with a knife under his pillow – for self-defense, of course. Unless these were all just red herrings in an episode that was all about deception and manipulation.
With the ashes still smoldering in his literal backyard, Nucky was in Washington focusing on putting out a fire of his own: having been stood up by Means in New York, he went straight to the source looking for some answers. Daugherty is, of course, working up a plan to get Nucky in jail for bootlegging (following last week’s Senate hearing) and he has few qualms about it. After defiantly asserting that he would bring Daugherty down with him, Nucky gets pinched at the gas station for possession of liquor. He spends the night at the police station and shows up to court in the morning, where none other than Esther Randolph is the prosecutor. She tries to get on Nucky’s case but the judge who is apparently bored out of his mind doesn’t really care for Randolph’s vendetta and lets Nucky go with a $5 fine. Always quick on his feet, Nucky invites Randolph over for breakfast: she could be instrumental in prosecuting a case against Daugherty, which he is going to mount with a little help from flip-flop mercenary Gaston Means.
The latter apparently likes to hang out in Daugherty’s closet but more importantly offers his services to Nucky after being visibly peeved by Daugherty’s aide’s breakdown, sensing that the rats are abandoning ship. He did tell Daugherty that he would help him take Nucky down, but who knows with this guy. He’s already presented himself as a Thompsonite. And Nucky makes a pretty good case to Randolph that high level corruption is a much bigger problem than slinging booze; though sweet Esther seems a bit gunshy at first, there’s no reason for us to think that she won’t take up Nucky’s offer (“… flattered?”).
At the end of the day, Sleater had apparently caught the gypsy man (probably not really, since the extra security detail remained in place) and Nucky was indulging himself with Billie Kent. Margaret, who doesn’t know anymore whether she unconvincingly spanked her kid for the good reasons, decided to indulge herself in the greenhouse with Sleater, after she heard some noises in the yard and went there with her gun loaded (you know, metaphorically). Also, they totally left the lights on while doing the deed.
Sleater brings up that the púca may have been responsible for the fire, which is typical parent-talk to appease their children. Honestly though, if the púca is Donnie Darko is the Boogie Man is the Gypsy Man is Gyp Rosetti, everyone knows it’s going to take more than a bedtime story to put it to rest. If you ask me, this is just a double-layered diversion: Rosetti has used his book of matches as a decoy to beat up an old man in the first episode then set the Tabor Heights sheriff on fire, sure; but in both cases that resulted in a death. I don’t think he would bother with smalltime subtle scare tactics such as setting a greenhouse on fire if he wanted to take care of Margaret and the kids. The real question we should ask ourselves is: what is the guy up to right now??
Funny side-note while we’re at it, because it’s a PERFECTLY written moment: Randolph says of Nucky that he likes to be a pater familias, which he doesn’t understand, because he “didn’t go to law school.” Obviously, Nucky doesn’t understand what it is to be the father of a family, since he is cheating on his wife; and he is patronizing his mistress figuratively speaking, and patronizing Randolph literally. Meanwhile, Margaret is finding a father figure in Sleater, when she really needs a husband but in their phone conversation we see that she doesn’t want him in that way. And he DOES want to be a pater familias and he pretends to be one. But Nucky doesn’t understand.
Continuing the theme of make-believe, Gillian’s house of classy prostitution is still in shambles. After a painful reminder from Luciano that it belongs to Jimmy, she starts hiding the pictures of her son and hits the Boardwalk looking for a Jimmy look-alike. Using ye olde charm, she gets the man home and enjoys some horrifically shameless makeshift incest, calling the man “baby” and generally feeling him out for what I expect is her grand scheme of things: saying good-bye to Jimmy, and later finding the man dead on the beach and pretend it’s her son’s corpse. I certainly respect the hustle.
Richard Harrow is seen hanging out at the Legion Hall with other vets, including an old pugnacious Pole who gets into a fight with a man younger than him over some politics bs. They settle their differences in a bare knuckle fight, won by the young stud of course. Richard always roots for the underdog though, and he helps the elder get back on his feet, only to discover that he has a charming ass daughter who doesn’t seem to be scared of him in the least. It turns out her father is angry-sad over the loss of his son (her brother – Jimmy was Richard’s brother – he misses his sister) and this was a narrative decoy so he could fall in love again. Maybe he will settle down for good and cease to be so teasingly under-utilized by the writers.
Other than that, an extremely quick look in Tabor Heights where Eli and Doyle are checking on the Rosetti situation – he disappeared. At least according to the new sheriff, who was on his payroll after all – either out of greed or convenience, it doesn’t matter, I don’t trust a word he’s saying and neither is Eli. I will start using “Don’t take any wooden nickels” as my new parting words from now on.- Gnou