I will probably have to scratch my head over this episode for a bit before I understand its meaning. Titled after a palindrome (“A man, a plan, a canal, Panama.”) that Eli is having a hard time understanding, I suppose it brings us kind of full circle, back to the very beginning of the series, a process I noted in last week’s episode. To wit: Nucky, Eli, Micky Doyle, slanging booze. But legally, this time, as Doyle is sent to Pennsylvania in order to oversee Remus’ operation.
Also, we have an awful lot of flip-flopping going on. Let’s start with Gaston Means: he’s a historical character, so if you have googled his name you probably have a sense of what the guy is about. Even if you haven’t, his last stunt was selling his services to Nucky in order to take Daugherty (his own boss) down, so we kind of knew what kind of guy he was. During this episode alone, he charged Nucky AND Daugherty $40,000 to kill Jess Smith (his “friend”), convincing both that he was liable to rat on them, all the while convincing Smith to destroy some evidence and drive the man completely mad, to the point of shooting himself as Means was about to kill him.
Also in the turncoat department: Rosetti who seems to take the comments of a muscle man in stride for a minute; Nucky giving the cold shoulder to Chalky who is trying to open a fancy club in Babette’s place, because he has other fish to fry right now (and also because he’s black); Margaret somewhat giving up on her women’s clinic advocacy because that doctor is no longer a prospect – even though he seemed about to flip-flop on that; Nelson Van/George Mueller informing on O’Banion after he gets caught selling booze in one of Capone’s bars; Luciano and Lansky going to Joe Masseria after Rothstein turns them down for the heroin trade, and the very same Luciano offering some insider information to Masseria in order to make his deal happen; and finally Owen Sleater who is still sleeping with Katie and even talks about marrying her to appease her, and in the next breath he is discussing plans with Margaret to move to St. Louis (or live with the Indians, whichever works best).
Speaking of Sleater, he was flip-flopped into a box, shipped and white-glove delivered to Nucky at 4 in the morning. Honestly, the entire episode is really leading up to his death – somewhat mirroring the way Rosetti drags on putting a beating on the guy who’s being smart at the beginning of the episode. But by the time that box was delivered, as much as I did not want to see the guy die, there was, really, nothing else this box could be. And to make matters worse, we get a quick narrative flashback to Margaret refusing to give him a parting kiss before he goes on a mission to kill Masseria and announcing to him that she is pregnant with his child. As if her waking up in the middle of the night to see her lover beat to a pulp wasn’t heartbreaking enough.
Now, maybe someone will be able to explain to me how Masseria knew that he would be attacked while at the bath house. Clearly Luciano knew that Nucky was going to war, but he knows an awful lot of details about a plan that was devised that very morning in another city. Anyway, Rothstein is (of course!) the wise one staying out of this scuffle, as Masseria has claimed Nucky’s Knight and has very few pieces left to move. Then again, way back when Jimmy tried to take Nucky’s business, it didn’t take too long for Nucky to get back on his feet – he still has some hella weasely pawns in his arsenal, like the guy currently providing booze to Rosetti. The latter’s outburst of violence and loss of two crates of booze at sea is clearly a sign that has not changed one bit, he’s still a big sloppy dummy, and if it comes to him vs. Nucky, what’s a goon to a goblin, you know?
I suppose the Masseria episode is setting the stage for the plotline of Season 4, so we’ll see where that is going. Clearly neither him nor Nucky is going to die anytime soon, and Masseria is getting too much screen time to just magically disappear once Rosetti is taken care of. Richard Harrow, on the other hand… I mean he had a really good day, besides fighting with his girl’s drunk father, but it started at the beach carnival with little Tommy Darmody, and it ended with a kiss around the fire, on the same beach. Now, unless that means that the two lovebirds are going to magically fly away to new horizons, it is probably a sign that Harrow will at least have one last battle to fight before the end of this season. Interesting detail: Rothstein is seen playing pool, while Masseria is playing bocce – two games of skill and strategy with their own little subtelties; in his office, Nucky’s playing peg solitaire.
We should probably also note a LOT of racial tension in this episode, the least of which was Nucky’s “dividing line” comment regarding Chalky’s club (a classy joint “with tuxedos and Chandelabras”); there was also his plant in Rosetti’s operation comment about Italians (oh, if he ever called Rosetti an Italian, how fast his cover would be blown). Masseria is obviously not too fond of the Jews, but he’s willing to compromise a bit if that means he can make some money and/or save his own ass. And also Capone’s not the greatest fan of Irishmen, unless they’re Jimmy (I haven’t talked about this long anticipated meeting between Capone and Van/Mueller because really it wasn’t the brightest spark in the sky, but it cannot be too insignificant at this point). It’s a bit weird that we only touch on these subjects without really delving into what makes these men tick so much – it’s not just about the money, and especially with all these double-reading characters, family and ethnic ties are playing a huge role in the dynamic of alliances. Sometimes I wonder if HBO or the writers are being timid or just cautious about these things.- Gnou