- Main: The Ivory Tower
This recap of "The Ivory Tower" features a detailed section on each scene of the episode.
A church bell tolls as thousands of people gather for the funeral of Big Jim Colosimo in Chicago. Among the crowd are several reporters. Johnny Torrio and Al Capone trail behind Colosimo’s casket as pallbearers bring it out of the church. The reporters, including Chicago tribune reporter Eddie Corrigan, quiz Torrio about his involvement in Colosimo's murder and he denies having any at all. Capone tells the reporters to back off.
In Atlantic City, Treasurer Nucky Thompson gets his shoes shined in his suite at the Ritz Carlton Hotel. He looks at a photo of his deceased wife Mabel and reminds the servant, Harlan, to watch his socks. Nucky then asks Harlan if he has a family and learns that he has a wife and four children. Nucky's assistant Eddie Kessler enters and announces that Prohibition Agent Nelson Van Alden has come to see Nucky. Van Alden bursts into the office as Eddie is still talking and introduces himself. Nucky offers Van Alden a shoe shine, coffee or something stronger. Van Alden does not laugh and Nucky jokes that it is nice that the prohibition agents have a sense of humour. Nucky pays Harlan as Van Alden complains about having to wait to see Nucky. Nucky tells Van Alden that he is his own man keeps unusual hours, like Atlantic City itself. Van Alden has come to discuss the murders in Hammonton. Nucky knows that the murders were committed by Capone and Jimmy Darmody when they botched the hijacking of a shipment of liquor on its way to New York crime boss Arnold Rothstein. Nucky did not know about the hijacking before it happened but nevertheless took a share of the profits and covered up the murders by framing Hans Schroeder. Nucky tells Van Alden that they can rest easy now that Schroeder is dead. Van Alden finds Schroeder an unlikely suspect as he worked as a baker's assistant for 11 years and has no criminal record beyond a citation for public drunkenness in 1912. Nucky remembers writing the summons himself when he was Sheriff. Nucky recommends that Van Alden speak to the current Sheriff and Van Alden points out that the Sheriff is Nucky's brother Elias Thompson. Nucky recommends the Hottentots show if Van Alden has spare time and offers to find him a date if he has no-one to go with. Van Alden changes the subject to Hans' widow, Margaret Schroeder. He has been to her house but could not find her. He asks if Nucky knows where she is. Nucky, aware that Margaret is in hospital after being severely beaten by Hans, changes the subject and asks if Van Alden is working outside of his remit by investigating murders. Van Alden says he is also his own man. Van Alden leaves and Nucky chastises Eddie for letting him in. Nucky instructs Eddie to get Eli on the phone.
Jimmy Darmody carries a package down the boardwalk and is stopped by a Ku Klux Klan recruiter. Jimmy does not take his leaflet and goes to a jeweller’s window to admire a necklace.
Nucky departs the Ritz Carlton and is stopped by cutlery salesman George Baxter. Nucky needs Eddie to remind him of Baxter's name. Baxter introduces his new girlfriend Claudia. Nucky is eager to leave but wishes them well. Claudia tells Baxter she wants to go roller-skating. After Nucky leaves she is suitably impressed with Baxter's connections.
At the hospital Margaret Schroeder reads The Ivory Tower by Henry James. A nurse tells Margaret that a Mr Thompson has come to visit and she says she will be ready for him in a moment. Margaret ties her hair in a ribbon and is visibly disappointed when it is Eli, and not Nucky, Thompson that enters. Eli introduces himself and says that Margaret is looking well. Eli has come to question Margaret about Hans' involvement in bootlegging. She tells Eli that Hans was not involved in any way. Eli reminds her that Hans beat her and she claims that he was not a murder. Eli reminds Margaret that she lost her baby after Hans beat her. Eli asks Margaret if she ever followed Hans and she admits that she did not. Eli insists that Hans could have been involved without Margaret's knowledge and primes Margaret to tell any investigator so. Eli implies that Margaret could lose custody of her children, Theodore and Emily. She apologises to him and tells him that she did not mean any disrespect. He shushes her and leaves her with an envelope full of cash from Nucky. He asks her to keep their discussion in mind.
At the Department of Prohibition’s New Jersey office Agents Van Alden and Sebso submit a report on Nucky to Supervisor Elliot. As they speak a montage of scenes involving Nucky unfolds. They describe Nucky’s lifestyle including his suite at the Ritz Carlton, tailored suits and his chauffeur driven blue Rolls Royce. Nucky gets a massage in his suite and then goes out in the car. Van Alden details Nucky’s involvement in protection rackets and payola for public jobs. Nucky and ward boss Damien Fleming make a collection from a bar owned by Abe Klein. Van Alden describes Nucky receiving payments from aldermen and the emergency services. Ward boss Jim Neary gives Nucky and envelope full of cash for the ice fund and the fire chief gives Nucky a roll of cash and is jokingly reprimanded for forgetting the envelope. Elliot is surprised that Nucky has managed to win re-election and Van Alden explains that he is popular, particularly among African Americans. Nucky and Alderman Boyd deliver cartons of cigarettes to African American kitchen staff. Sebso tells Elliot that Nucky is involved in casinos. Nucky makes a collection from Lolly Steinman at the Oceanfront Men’s Association casino. Sebso goes on to detail Nucky's financial interest in whorehouses and a wire service for racing results. Elliot asks his agents about alcohol and they tell them it is practically out in the open. Elliot reminds them that their original target in Atlantic City was Arnold Rothstein and asks about their progress on him. Van Alden believes that Nucky Thompson is a better target; Elliot looks doubtful.
Nucky meets with Eli at the jail and they discuss Eli's visit to Margaret. Eli reports that she took the money but was defensive about Hans. Nucky chastises Eli for not leaving Hans on the side of the road to allow an easy identification as Nucky wanted. Eli remembers Nucky's instructions differently and points out that Hans' body was both found and identified. Nucky is annoyed at the risks Eli took by dumping the body at sea, explaining that the corpse could have drifted out to sea or been disfigured by sea life. Eli goes outside leaving Nucky to talk to a prisoner, Mickey Doyle. Doyle was arrested after Van Alden raided his moonshine operation.
Nucky tells Mickey that he is out and Mickey assumes he means out of jail. Nucky clarifies that he meant that Mickey is out of business and tells Mickey that Chalky White is taking over Mickey's role as a supplier of alcohol. Mickey wants to know why and Nucky explains that it is because Mickey was caught and is now known to the Department of Prohibition. Mickey claims he was set-up (he was indeed, by Jimmy Darmody in order to create a distraction for the Hammonton hijacking). Mickey asks for Nucky to pay his bail and Nucky refuses, not wanting to leave a link between them. Mickey complains about his Chinese cell mate and Nucky tells him to think of the imprisonment as a way to broaden his horizons.
Jimmy Darmody stares out of his window at home. His wife, Angela, and son, Tommy come home. Jimmy wishes them a Merry Christmas and takes Tommy to see the decorations he has bought. Angela points out that it is late January. Jimmy tells her Nucky gave him a bonus and says he did not want to wait until next December. Jimmy gives Tommy the package to unwrap – it is a toy truck. He gives Angela an expensive bracelet. She is concerned about the cost and he asks her to leave their financial worries to him. He reveals his next gift, a vacuum sweeper, which was difficult to obtain. Tommy is frightened by the sound of the vacuum cleaner and Angela takes him to bed.
In New York City Arnold Rothstein plays pool in a large games room. His assistant announces the arrival of Charlie Luciano. Luciano has brought Frankie Yale with him. Rothstein greets Yale and tells him he knows that he has been to Chicago. Yale claims to have been visiting a friend and Luciano says that the visit went badly for Yale’s friend. Rothstein offers Yale a drink and tells him a story. Rothstein once knew a small time short con artist who would bet players at a pool hall that he could swallow a ball. The man could perform the feat and was able to regurgitate the ball. Rothstein had seen him succeed with the con several times. Rothstein bet the man 10,000 dollars that he could not swallow a ball of Rothstein's choosing. The man agreed which Rothstein took as a sign the man thought Rothstein stupid. Rothstein selected the cue ball and the man choked to death. Rothstein knew that the cue ball was larger than the others. Rothstein tells Yale the story as a warning not to treat him as stupid. Rothstein demands to know who ordered Yale to kill Colosimo.
Jimmy and Angela kiss passionately in their bed. Angela stops Jimmy, telling him it is a bad time and asks if they can do something else. Jimmy suggests intercourse the French way. Angela does not understand but assumes Jimmy means oral sex. She complies with his request after checking that Tommy is asleep. Jimmy tells her that he often fantasised about her while away. Tommy wakes up and calls for Angela. Jimmy jokes about Tommy's timing. Angela asks if Jimmy is hungry and he tells her he needs to go out.
Jimmy watches the rehearsal for a burlesque show at the Cafe Beaux-Arts nightclub. The dancers are supposed to be the sirens from the odyssey. The director is annoyed when the sound for the crashing of waves is not forthcoming and calls for a break. Jimmy waits for one of the dancers backstage. She jumps into his arms and kisses him. She is Jimmy’s mother, Gillian Darmody. She continues to kiss him and admonishes him for not writing. She asks him when he got home and he admits that he has been back for a month. Jimmy asks her to put on clothes and then gives her a gift – the necklace he was admiring in the window. She is moved by the gift and shows it to her colleagues. She tells them it is similar to a necklace that she was given by Jimmy’s father. Jimmy says he has no father but tells the other dancers that she sold the original necklace to avoid losing their home when she was raising him and that he promised to replace it. She says she is speechless just to have Jimmy back.
Nucky reads the paper in his suite. Jimmy arrives and pours himself a drink. Nucky asks Jimmy what he is doing and Jimmy says he is clocking in. Nucky becomes increasingly annoyed and says that he thinks their relationship has changed significantly. He asks Jimmy to tell him what happened with the Hammonton hijacking. Jimmy goes to sit down and Nucky stops him. Jimmy begins by saying he was speaking to Al Capone. Nucky interrupts, not sure who Capone is, and learns that he is Torrio’s driver. Nucky asks if Torrio sanctioned the hijacking and Jimmy admits that Torrio was not involved until afterwards. Jimmy claims to have apologised and Nucky asks when that was. Jimmy apologises and claims that they thought the job would be easy with no violence and no connection left to Nucky. Nucky complains that Van Alden has already questioned him. Jimmy goes on to explain that Capone started shooting when startled by a deer. Nucky is disbelieving that four deaths resulted from this. Jimmy remembers that there were five men and Nucky tells him there were four bodies recovered and not to quibble over small details. Jimmy rationalises that they could not leave witnesses and admits that he made mistakes. Nucky calls Jimmy an idiot and Jimmy offers to work extra hours to make it up to Nucky. Nucky tells Jimmy that he no longer works for him because of his actions. Nucky tells Jimmy to go and be a gangster but that he will have to pay if he wants to do it in Atlantic City. Nucky has calculated that Jimmy’s payment to him for the hijacking was 3000 dollars short. Nucky demands the money from Jimmy. Jimmy tries to explain that he has spent most of his share but Nucky is insistent and gives him 48 hours to pay.
At the four deuces brothel in Chicago Al Capone is tending bar. Corrigan enters and asks for a statement about Colosimo’s death. Capone remembers Corrigan from the funeral, charges him 3 dollars for the whiskey and claims his name is Al Brown when asked. Corrigan orders another drink and tells Capone he is going to write a story linking Torrio to Colosimo’s murder. Corrigan asks Capone for a statement a second time and Capone agrees, picks up the whiskey bottle and smashes it over Corrigan’s head. Capone comes around the bar and kicks Corrigan repeatedly as he lies on the ground. Torrio is disturbed by the noise and asks Capone what is going on. Capone tells Torrio that he is making a statement before stamping on Corrigan’s face.
Nucky works late into the night. Eddie announces another phone call from Rothstein. Nucky tells Eddie to wear a black suit as he will be driving later. Eddie asks about a chauffeurs cap and insists that he needs one. Nucky takes Rothstein’s call, telling Rothstein it is a pleasant surprise. Rothstein has called several times about his missing shipment. Rothstein says he is willing to call the loss of the shipment a misunderstanding but wants 100,000 dollars to cover it. Nucky is shocked. Rothstein says that Nucky has sold the shipment to Chicago and murdered his men including his sister-in-law's nephew. Nucky denies having any involvement and tells Rothstein he does not care if his mother was one of the drivers. Rothstein asks if this is how Nucky does business and Nucky threatens to show him how he does business if he returns to Atlantic City before hanging up.
Jimmy returns home and retrieves cash hidden behind a radiator. Angela wakes up and asks him what he was doing. He tells her he was getting something and asks her to go back to bed.
Margaret returns home, still bruised from Hans' assault. She takes off her hat and removes the ribbon from her hair. Agent Van Alden arrives at the door seconds after she gets in. She lets him in and he asks if it is a bad time. She tells him that she has just been discharged from the hospital. She offers him a seat and clears the dishes from the table. Van Alden offers his condolences on Hans' death and tells her that he is sure that Hans was a good man. Van Alden tells her that he believes Hans was set up for the Hammonton hijacking. Margaret notices her ribbon is missing. Van Alden lights a cigarette and asks Margaret to explain her relationship to Nucky.
Nucky passes midget boxer Carl Heely on the boardwalk and presses him into a joke about his short stature. Nucky sees George Baxter getting a push chair ride with Claudia. Claudia goes to buy salt water taffy and Baxter complains that despite taking Claudia out for dinner and to a show she has not given in to his advances. Nucky tells Claudia that she is perfect for a beauty contest he is planning and that Baxter will be one of the judges. He whispers to Baxter that she should warm up now as he leaves.
Jimmy phones Al Capone in Chicago, complaining to the operator that they took so long to connect him. Jimmy asks Capone for help – a loan of 500 dollars. Capone pretends he cannot hear Jimmy and hangs up. Capone laughs with one of the prostitutes.
Nucky visits Commodore Louis Kaestner at his home to deliver his share of the collection money. As the commodore counts the money he wonders aloud why it is cold. Nucky explains that it was in his coat and that he walked over to the Commodores having let Jimmy go. Nucky explains that he thinks it is time for Jimmy to find his own way. The Commodore thinks it might be good for Jimmy. The commodore complains about his stomach and asks for a cognac. The Commodore asks about the news from Trenton, New Jersey’s legislative capital. Nucky tells him that Senator Walter Edge and Jersey City Mayor Frank Hague will be visiting Atlantic City for Nucky’s birthday. The Commodore laughs at the idea of Nucky throwing his own birthday party and Nucky jokingly asks if he should cancel the prostitute he has booked for The Commodore for the occasion. Nucky tells The Commodore that he is hoping to convince Senator Edge to commit road appropriation funds to Atlantic City. The Commodore believes that Edge will be open to a deal because he is looking to advance in the next election and Nucky could help him. Nucky believes Edge has potential particularly given his popularity with women and the impending women’s vote. The Commodore finds women voting a frightening prospect. Nucky sees a vote as a vote. The Commodore calls for his maid, Louanne, and is irritated when she does not come. He rings a hand bell, annoying Nucky. Louanne eventually arrives and The Commodore berates her for being slow to respond. The Commodore asks Louanne to tell Nucky her thoughts about the League of Nations and she is unable to comment. The Commodore moves on to the Halliday Act and she apologises for not being versed in such matters. The Commodore was using Louanne to make a point to Nucky about how ill informed he believes female voters are.
Jimmy sneaks into the dressing room at the theatre where Gillian works and steals back the necklace he gave her.
Van Alden composes a letter to his wife, Rose. He wishes her well and informs her that he is unsure how long he will be working in Atlantic City. He asks her to run their faucets twice daily during the winter, worried about the pipes. He takes Margaret’s ribbon out of a desk draw and winds it around his fingers before bringing it to his face and inhaling deeply.
Margaret sits alone at her dinner table in a dressing gown. She is lost in thought as her children, Emily and Teddy, play.
At Nucky’s suite, Lucy recommends that Nucky grow a moustache like the actor Douglas Fairbanks. Margaret arrives to see Nucky. Lucy asks who the visitor is and Nucky ignores the question and asks Lucy to wait in the car. Nucky goes through to his waiting room and greets Margaret. She apologises for the hour and he asks who is caring for her children, learning it is her neighbour. Margaret gives back the money Eli gave her. She tells Nucky she did not know what the money was for and that it weighed on her conscience. Margaret expresses concern about losing Hans. Nucky tells her he understands and takes her hand. Margaret asks if Nucky’s wife, Mabel, was very young when he lost her. He is taken aback and then tells her that Mable was 28 and recalls her good qualities. Margaret promises to pray for Mabel and then asks for a job rather than for charity. She quotes George Sand to illustrate her point “Charity degrades those who receive it and hardens those who dispense it”. Nucky does not recognise the quote and Margaret tells him that it was by Sand, actually a pen name for a Baroness, and that she learned it while working as a parlour maid for a barrister. The barrister’s home was filled with books; Nucky believes that she would have read them all. She asks Nucky to help her to find work to provide for her children. She asks what Nucky wants from her. He hesitates and then asks her to vote republican.
In his own hotel room Baxter makes further sexual advances on Claudia and is again rejected. She threatens to scream if he continues. He decides to drive her home to Baltimore.
Nucky entertains a group of gamblers at Steinman’s casino. Jimmy enters and gives Nucky the 3000 dollars he demanded. Nucky takes the money to the roulette table and bets it all on black. Jimmy watches as Nucky loses the money he scraped together. Lucy comforts Nucky and Jimmy is left alone at the table.
In his car Baxter complains that the trip to Atlantic City was a waste of time. He tells Claudia that lots of women would have been pleased with the trip. As they enter Hammonton Claudia asks Baxter to pull over and offers to let Baxter kiss her. She tells him to undo his trousers and then begins to manually stimulate him. The couple are shocked when Simon, the fifth man shot in the Hammonton hijacking, stumbles out of the woods.