- Main: Boardwalk Empire
This recap of "Boardwalk Empire" features a detailed section on each scene of the episode.
A fishing boat Captain, Bill McCoy, checks his pocket watch. His vessel is at anchor in thick fog. A trio of smaller boats approaches manned by Davey Murdoch, Simon and three other men, all working for New York organised crime boss Arnold Rothstein. McCoy asks them to hurry, worried about the coastguard. Murdoch tells him to get on with it. McCoy reveals his cargo, crates of Canadian Club Whiskey from Ontario. Simon keeps track of the number of crates loaded on a notepad and Murdoch tells him they are transporting liquid gold.
The camera rises above the fog and the bright light and music of the boardwalk are seen and heard. A caption announces the year, 1920, and the place, Atlantic City.
Once ashore Murdoch takes watch with a shotgun as Simon oversees the loading of the crates into trucks. Murdoch tells his men they are driving straight to New York. Later they take the road into Hammonton, New Jersey and pass a deer. They are surprised to find an overturned car blocking their path. They stop and get out. Simon checks the driver and finds him still breathing. Murdoch does not care and instructs his men to move the car and driver out of the way. As they turn the car back onto its wheels they are surprised by two masked hijackers carrying shotguns. Murdoch asks if they know who the shipment belongs to and one of the hijackers says it is obviously theirs now and strikes Murdoch in the face with the butt of his shotgun.
Mrs. McGarry, leader of the Atlantic City Women’s Temperance League reads a poem she has written about the evils of liquor. A caption announces that the narrative has moved back to 3 nights earlier. She reminds the audience that prohibition begins tomorrow (it is January 15, 1920) and announces their guest speaker – Atlantic City Treasurer Enoch “Nucky” Thompson. Thompson tells the audience the tale of a family driven to desperation in the winter of 1888 by the father's drinking. He describes the family's young son searching for food and resorting to killing wharf rats. He ends the story with the reveal that he was the young boy drawing cries of sympathy from his audience. Nucky's driver, Jimmy Darmody, watches from outside the room and, as Nucky heralds the arrival of the woman’s right to vote, whispers to Nucky. Nucky ends by saying that good women like those in the league are responsible for the success of men like him.
Outside Jimmy marvels at Nucky having to eat rats and admits that he ate dog meat while serving in the trenches during World War I. Nucky tells Jimmy that the first rule of politics is to never let the truth get in the way of a good story and takes a swig from a hip flask. Jimmy uses a handkerchief to open the door of Nucky’s blue Rolls Royce limousine.
A boardwalk barker enthrals a crowd with his advertising patter for a troupe of dancing girls from Paris, France. He notices two young girls in the crowd and jokes that their parents should take them to a more suitable attraction.
Nucky and Jimmy walk from the Ritz Carlton Hotel to Babette's Supper Club along the Boardwalk. The Boardwalk is packed with people buying, selling and drinking alcohol and Nucky receives warm greetings from several of the revellers as they pass. They pause as a band, wearing black face makeup, marches before a mock funeral procession for an oversized whiskey bottle named John Barleycorn. Nucky greets the bouncer at Babette's and calls him ace.
Inside the band is in full swing and the dance floor is packed. The owner and manager, Babette, greets Nucky and takes his coat. Nucky asks if his brother (Eli Thompson) has arrived and Babette tells him he is upstairs with the rest of Nucky's party. Jimmy declines to give up his coat.
The group eat dinner together. Eli, wearing his Sherriff's uniform, makes jokes. Nucky stands and begins a speech. His audience includes the Mayor Harry Bacharach and several city council members; Nucky tells them that they are set to profit hugely from prohibition. One Alderman, George O'Neill, is doubtful that prohibition will inflate liquor prices as much as Nucky hopes. His colleague Jim Neary jokes that O'Neill pays for worthless prostitutes all the time. O'Neill worries about law enforcement and Eli tells him that he will prevent any involvement. Nucky dismisses the danger of federal prohibition agents. Nucky details the factors driving demand and notes that people will want alcohol more after prohibition, Ward Boss Damien Fleming jokes that the federal government may as well have outlawed smoking. Nucky instructs the Ward Bosses that they will be responsible for taking orders and collecting payment from businesses in their areas while Eli and his Deputy's will review the orders and make deliveries. Nucky announces the return of Darmody to work after his military service and announces that Jimmy will be working for Paddy Ryan who will be the new Clerk of the fourth ward. Jimmy is disappointed by the news.
At midnight the party pauses and counts down to the beginning of prohibition. A married couple in the audience cries. Nucky dances with his girlfriend Lucy Danziger. Jimmy is not in the mood to party and leaves, telling Nucky his stomach is bothering him.
Jimmy eats breakfast with his son, Tommy, and his common law wife, Angela. Jimmy is annoyed by a news story about boxer Jack Dempsey and his reasons for avoiding the draft. Jimmy doubts Dempsey's claims and believes he avoided the draft because he had too much opportunity at home. Angela gives Jimmy a pointed look and he tells her that his acceptance to Princeton was not the same. She urges him to go back to college but he does not think he has the time. She offers to work and he asks what she would do, mentioning that her painting hobby would not provide much income. She asks Jimmy about working with Ryan and Jimmy is dismissive of the opportunity. He plans to talk to Nucky about another job but worries about his lack of skills on leaving the military.
Nucky's assistant Eddie Kessler enters Nucky's bedroom and finds him asleep with Lucy. Nucky sleeps and works in an office suite at the Ritz Carlton hotel. Eddie wakes Nucky and tells him that a pregnant woman wants to talk to him; a Margaret Schroeder who saw him speak to the temperance league.
Big Jim Colosimo and Johnny Torrio are welcomed to the Brighton Hotel by the manager. Torrio's driver Al Capone trails behind them and Agent Van Alden watches from across the lobby. Torrio introduces Colosimo to Arnold Rothstein and his associate Charles “Lucky” Luciano.
Margaret flicks through Vogue magazine as she waits. Eddie announces that Nucky is ready and shows Margaret in to Nucky's office. As they go through Chalky White asks Eddie to remind Nucky that he does not have all day. Nucky invites Margaret to sit and offers drinks and food. She awkwardly declines. Nucky notices her Irish accent and she admits that her husband tells her she sounds like an immigrant. Nucky says they are all immigrants and pauses when he notices that she has a faded black eye. He asks what he can do to help and Margaret says she would not normally ask for anything but was moved by his speech to the temperance league. Nucky asks about her pregnancy and her family and learns that she has two children already. Margaret asks if Nucky has a family and he points to a picture of his wife, Mabel Thompson, and says that he lost her to consumption before they could have children. Lucy emerges from the bedroom and Nucky introduces her but does not know how to politely describe their relationship. Nucky asks about Margaret's husband and learns that he is a baker's helper but is out of work until the tourist season; Margaret asks Nucky to give her husband a job. He says he cannot until tourist season but gives her cash instead. She offers to name her child after him in thanks and he says no-one could be so cruel as to burden a child with the name Enoch.
Downstairs, Nucky asks Jimmy to drive Margaret home. Jimmy takes Nucky aside and tells Nucky that his friends from Chicago (meaning Torrio and Colosimo) and New York (Rothstein and Luciano) have arrived. He tries to speak to Nucky again but Nucky dismisses him. Nucky takes a stroll along the boardwalk with the newspaper. He pauses before a shop front to look in; watching the nurses inside care for premature babies using new incubators. He smokes a cigarette and looks out over the sea.
The arrival of the limousine is greeted with excitement by the children in Margaret’s neighbourhood. She asks Jimmy to drop her off before her own home. She is angrily met by her husband Hans on the porch. He interrogates her about the car and her destination.
Nucky watches the catch of the day attraction. He meets with Bill McCoy. They joke about McCoy's recent visit to Canada. McCoy tells Nucky that he can supply Canadian Club Whiskey at 100 dollars a crate. Nucky offers to buy a 500-crate shipment for $35,000 every week. McCoy agrees and Nucky tells McCoy that Eli will be in touch about the particulars. McCoy stops Nucky from leaving, saying that he was expecting them to go for a drink. Nucky makes him smile by saying they have nothing to talk about now that Nucky has what he wanted. Jimmy approaches Nucky and again tries to ask him about an alternative to working for Ryan and is again dismissed.
Jimmy drives Nucky to an out of town funeral home. Inside, the mourners are surprised to see Nucky. The widow is disbelieving when Nucky tells her that her husband was a fine man and that they spoke a month ago; her husband had a laryngectomy.
Nucky and Jimmy are led down to the basement by the funeral director and find Philadelphia criminal Mickey Kuzik watching as a mortician prepares a female corpse. Mickey jokes that the woman is his wife and that she is quiet at least. He notices that Jimmy is not amused and asks if he has ever seen a corpse, Jimmy quietly explains that he has seen several. Mickey moves a panel aside to reveal the entrance to his moonshine operation.
Mickey tells Nucky that he has 10 shiners and expects to produce 2000 crates a week. They are using fermented potatoes to bring up the proof of watered down liquor. Mickey explains that they use dyes to approximate the colour of the required spirit and carbonyl to give the appearance of the bead for whiskey. Mickey explains to Jimmy that the bead is the bubbles on the surface and is an indication of strength. Mickey offers Jimmy a drink and laughs when he spits it out, revealing that the glass contained only formaldehyde. Jimmy attacks Mickey and Mickey draws a gun, accidentally firing a shot into the funeral home above. Nucky breaks up the fight and sends Jimmy outside. When Nucky chastises Mickey and calls him a bohunk Mickey says that he has changed his name to Doyle. Nucky wonders if the change was motivated by someone looking for Mickey but Mickey claims that it sounds better. Nucky quotes Shakespeare; “A Rose by any other Name” but Mickey does not understand the reference.
On the porch of the funeral home Nucky asks Jimmy what is wrong. Jimmy finally tells him that he does not want to work for Ryan and asks for a position with more responsibility. He compares his life to Nucky's and points out that Nucky was assistant Sherriff at his age. Nucky reminds Jimmy that before getting that position he spent 8 years working for The Commodore. Jimmy has worked for Nucky since he was 12 but Nucky is angry with Jimmy for the last 3 years; when Jimmy left college and joined the military. Jimmy thinks Nucky is punishing him for wanting to serve his country. Nucky tells Jimmy only fools die for their country and asks Jimmy to slow down as Jimmy is so newly returned from the hospital. Jimmy tells Nucky that the war has changed him and Nucky offers him a wad of cash. Jimmy refuses the handout and tells Nucky he wants an opportunity. Nucky ends the conversation by snapping that no-one is stopping Jimmy from making his own.
Hans continues to quiz Margaret about the limousine as she prepares dinner. She has made up a story involving fainting outside a church. He feigns sympathy and then grabs her hair and asks her where the cash he found under the mattress came from. He accuses her of prostituting herself and backhands her in front of their children. Hans pockets the money and eats his dinner as his family cries.
Colosimo and Torrio are driven to the Traymore Hotel by Capone. Nucky and Jimmy arrive right behind them. Torrio introduces Nucky to Colosimo. As they enter the lobby, Van Alden and his partner Agent Sebso look on as they greet Rothstein and Luciano. Sebso is confused while Van Alden can easily identify all of the party.
Nucky entertains the gangsters with a joke about a divorce. Colosimo does not understand. They talk about Rothstein not drinking and his massive success at gambling, and Colosimo's restaurant and prostitution businesses in Chicago. Torrio reminds Nucky that he is expecting a matchmaking fee and then begins a verbose introduction. Luciano is eager to get straight to business. Luciano tells Nucky they will buy up to 200 cases a month. Nucky rebuffs him and notes that young people have no appreciation for conversation. Luciano goes to the bathroom and Rothstein makes a more subtle request to buy alcohol. Rothstein agrees to pay $60,000 for the shipment Nucky has bought from McCoy.
Outside Jimmy talks to Capone about Chicago and their service during the war. Jimmy asks about the fortunes of Rothstein and Luciano and is amazed at how much they are worth. Capone reveals that Luciano is involved in Heroin distribution and went to prison, but only served 6 months because he bribed a judge. Jimmy asks if the Chicago outfit is going to get into liquor and Capone tells him that Colosimo wants to stick to prostitution despite advice to the contrary from Torrio.
The next day Jimmy takes his family to watch a silent comedy at the cinema. As they walk along the boardwalk afterwards Tommy runs into Dittrich's photography but Angela pulls him out. They are stopped by Agents Sebso and Van Alden, who ask Jimmy to accompany them to their office. Jimmy sends Angela home and goes with the agents.
At the Prohibition Agent's office, Supervisor Elliot has Jimmy's war record and is impressed by its content. Van Alden asks why Jimmy is working for Nucky, given his criminal enterprises. They offer Jimmy a job despite his leg injury. Van Alden tries to convince Jimmy of the godliness of the profession.
Eddie interrupts Lucy and Nucky having sex because Nucky has a phone call. Lucy is livid and storms into the bathroom. Casino manager Lolly Steinman is on the phone for Nucky. Steinman tells Nucky that Rothstein has been playing non-stop and has won over $90,000. Nucky asks Eddie to instruct Jimmy to bring the car around. Eddie tells him that Jimmy has called in sick. Nucky tries to get into the bathroom to get dressed but Lucy has locked the door. Nucky has Eddie try to break the door down.
Eddie drives a fully dressed Nucky to the Oceanfront Men's Association. Nucky enters the casino and is greeted by Steinman. Steinman tells Nucky that Rothstein is cheating the casino and if it were not for his history, he would be dead in the alley. Rothstein is eating breakfast with Luciano. Nucky approaches and after exchanging pleasantries explains that the casino is a small house that can no longer handle Rothstein's action. Rothstein offers to take credit from the house and Nucky suggests they should wait until they know each other better before getting into loans. Luciano is outraged at Nucky's refusal and stands up when Nucky jokes about his age; Rothstein restrains him. Rothstein takes the price of the alcohol from his $93,000 dollar winnings and calculates that Nucky owes him $33,000. Nucky instructs Steinman to cash out Rothstein.
As Nucky goes to leave he is interrupted by Hans Schroeder, who is gambling with cash. Hans asks Nucky about his relationship with Margaret. Hans determines that the cash was from Nucky and then throws it in his face. Nucky grabs Hans and bashes his head against the side of the table. He leaves the cash on the floor for the customers and instructs the staff to throw Hans out.
Jimmy, looking rather well and out on the boardwalk, tracks Capone down enjoying a midget boxing match. Jimmy jokes that he should bet on the little guy. Jimmy and Capone discuss the liquor shipment Rothstein has bought.
A tense montage brings the action up to the same time as the prologue and reveals Darmody and Capone as the hijackers. Eddie Cantor performs jokes to a packed theatre with Lucy and Nucky in the audience. Darmody and Capone prepare their ambush for Rothstein’s men; they overturn Billy Winslow's car to block the road. Van Alden prays with a group of prohibition agents as they prepare for a raid. They drive out of town and stalk through the woods. Davey Murdoch oversees the loading of Rothstein’s shipment. Later he approaches the overturned car and is hit by Capone.
Murdoch threatens Capone and his accomplices. Capone is startled by the sound of a branch breaking. A deer runs across the road and Capone and Jimmy open fire on Rothstein's men, killing Murdoch and two of the others. The prohibition agents are revealed to be elsewhere – raiding Mickey Doyle’s still in the basement of the funeral home. Simon and another of Rothstein's men escape into the woods; Capone pursues Simon while Darmody chases the other man down and kills him. As Darmody returns to the road a single gunshot is heard and Capone emerges from the woods. Jimmy dismisses their accomplice, Billy Winslow, and Capone and Jimmy get into the trucks.
In the Schroeder household, Hans brutally beats Margaret and staggers out of the house. Margaret lies inside clutching her belly and crying in pain.
At Babette’s, Nucky eats dinner with Lucy, Jim Neary, and a companion. Nucky gets a phone call from Eli who tells him about the hijacking. At the hospital Deputy Halloran holds off the press as Nucky arrives. Inside Nucky gets the details from Eli - four dead bodies have been found and the truck is missing. Eli also tells Nucky that the prohibition agents have their hands full with the funeral home raid and have not gotten involved. Nucky tells Eli about Mickey's name change. Eli notes the coincidence of the timing of the raid and the hijacking. Nucky suspects Rothstein himself is responsible. Eli reviews those who knew about the liquor shipment and Nucky lists Torrio and Rothstein. Eli realises that Jimmy also had the relevant knowledge and the opportunity, given that he called in sick for work. Nucky reluctantly asks Eli to bring Jimmy in.
Eli goes to Jimmy and Angela’s apartment and finds that he has been out all night. Angela is concerned and asks Eli if it could be related to Jimmy being picked up by Van Alden.
At Nucky's suite, Eddie is fending off calls from reporters as Nucky and Eli discuss Jimmy’s potential involvement in the hijacking. Rothstein calls and Nucky refuses to take it. Nucky leaves, claiming he needs air.
Outside the hotel Nucky is met by Mrs McGarry. She gives him a framed copy of her poem and tells him that Margaret Schroeder is in hospital, having lost her baby. Out of sight, Nucky tosses the gift into a trashcan.
Nucky visits Commodore Louis Kaestner at his home. Nucky's arrival is announced by The Commodore's maid, Louanne. The Commodore has worked out that the story in the paper relates to Rothstein’s men. Kaestner shows Nucky a copy of Henry Ford’s The International Jew and blames Rothstein for their problems. Nucky tells Kaestner that his problems go beyond world finance and confesses that it is the anniversary of his wife’s death. Kaestner recalls that he had just been released from prison then. Nucky worries about a federal investigation and Kaestner tells him to set someone up. Nucky tells Kaestner that Jimmy is responsible and he is amused by the notion.
Back on the Boardwalk Jimmy approaches Nucky. Jimmy admits his involvement in the hijacking, apologises, and tells Nucky that it did not go as planned. Nucky chastises Jimmy for his stupidity. Jimmy tells Nucky that his service in World War I has made him into a murderer and that he believes he is going to hell. Jimmy claims that he wants to live well before he does. Nucky tells Jimmy that he is foolish to underestimate him and warns him that he could have him killed. Jimmy does not believe Nucky would go that far and tells Nucky that he "can't be half a gangster." Jimmy gives Nucky a share of his take from the hijacking, asks Nucky to let him help more with their business, and leaves. On his way back to the hotel, Nucky passes a fortune teller’s shop and pauses outside.
Back at the hotel Eddie shaves Nucky.
Hans is picked up by Eli and Deputy Halloran and bundled into their car. Eli and Halloran take Hans out to sea on a small boat. Eli beats Schroeder and they throw him into the sea.
Colosimo returns to his restaurant in Chicago. He plays a record and does not notice as Frankie Yale approaches from behind him. Yale shoots Colosimo in the head.
Capone delivers the hijacked liquor to Johnny Torrio and is warmly greeted by Yale. Hans' body is caught with a haul of fish brought in as part of a seaside attraction. The crowd is shocked when his corpse spills out of the net. Later, a reporter dictates a story about Schroeder's suspected involvement in the truck hijacking. Jimmy plays with his family at home. Nucky unexpectedly brings Margaret flowers in the hospital.