In episode four, we’re asking characters “Are you in, or are you out?”
In a boardroom in Washington, D.C., Agent Hayseed is putting pieces together to a room full of a different type of bosses — agents of the newly formed FBI. J. Edgar Hoover, sitting at the head of the table, reminds the room that these people are murderers (not just small time bootleggers), as Agent Hayseed connects the dots from Nucky to gangsters in Philadelphia, Chicago, and New York.
In a line that no doubt sets a season-long arc in motion, Agent Hayseed vows to “find the weakest link in Thompson’s chain, and break it”.
Speaking of Nucky’s chain, former man-servant Eddie is enjoying his recent promotion, taking great care and pride in these new tasks that are only slightly more important than buttering Nucky’s toast. Generally, Eddie has been made responsible for bank deposits but today Nucky asks him to meet the elder Capone brother Ralph and deliver $10,000. When Eddie proudly shows Nucky his piece in order to protect the job with his life, Nucky tells him to “stop being so dramatic…it’s only money.” Interesting how short term Nucky’s memory can be.
At the train station, Ralph and Eddie strike up an instant rapport through the cloak and dagger dramatics of the drop. The two sit down together for lunch and talk shop at a nearby restaurant. But, this is no diner. Eddie shamelessly shows off for Ralph and he returns the favour by claiming to be the brains of the Chicago operation. While the undertones of his bragging actually illustrate his distaste and distance from the blood side of the business, the other Capone brothers throw a man out of a second story window.
Eddie and Ralph have bonded over being the go-fers of the operations and spend the night drinking and singing. But the fun quickly ends when Agent Hayseed takes Eddie into custody for questioning the next morning.
While Eddie is out being self-important, Nucky meets with associates Rothstein and Meyer to talk Tampa. Drinking a glass of milk (naturally, he’s the weirdest and I love it), Rothstein asks Nucky if he knows anyone else with the kind of money (half a million) that Nucky wants Rothestein to invest.
Cut to: Dr. Valentine Narcisse’s Negro Improvement Association office, Dunn Purnsley standing in earnest before him. Under the pretense of a sick mother, Dunn’s left Chalky and the Onyx for a few days to talk business with Narcisse, though what business we’re not sure. Unfortunately, Narcisse is unhappy with Dunn’s exercising of his own mind, and takes the heroin money that Dunn had to deliver without any further discussion, shooing Dunn away.
Not one to take no for an answer, and craving more of Narcisse’s attention, Dunn waits for him outside of his office. Now that Narcisse can control the situation, he allows Dunn until 27th street to plead his case. Instead, the well-spoken leader uses the opportunity to manipulate Dunn into beating the shit out of a shabbily dressed black man by telling Dunn that men like him need to be instructed on the uplifting of the race. Whereas Dunn uses fists, Narcisse uses people.
This season, we’ve followed Eli’s son Willy’s exploits as the first Thompson to be able to attend college. He’s a welcome addition to the cast because he serves to remind us of the theme of the changing of the guard (plus, he has a really nice face). Willy shows his Thompson side by cutting a remaining three bottles of booze with water, but saving a special bottle for the dude-bro (whose name is probably Chad or Biff or something equally as repulsive) who embarrassed him. A business man with a vendetta – sounds about right.
Willy breaks into the chemistry lab and mixes up a cocktail of linoelic acid and milk of magnesia for Biff’s (or Chad’s, or Flick’s…) drink, then locks all of the bathroom doors. Willy gets his wish as Dudebro epically shits his pants in front of the whole party. Until this moment, the skull and cross-bones of the bottle seem foreboding considering the genes Willy shares with his father and uncle. But this is kid’s stuff. Or it was, until later the boy’s dorm finds Chad/Biff/Flick on the bathroom floor, dead, the red blood stark against youthful face and white porcelain tile.
Speaking of kid’s stuff, Mueller/VanAlden has been intimidated into joining brothers Frank and Al Capone for the day while delivering flowers to “greasy thumbs” Guzik from O’Banion – a slap in the face to both greasy thumbs and Capone. Armed with a grudge and a penchant for violence, they’ve spent the day collecting debts the Capone way.
After stealing one of O’Banion’s booze shipments and finding his other thug in the back of it, Mueller/VanAlden is put through an initiation of junior high proportions. Hanging out with the cool kids is hard — they egg him on to gun O’Banion’s thug down. Not willing to risk the doofus ratting about Mueller’s role in the shipment heist, he takes aim. Al cleans up the mess by spraying the man with bullets from his Tommy gun.
After almost losing his cool (and hundreds of thousands of dollars), Rothstein, in rare form, has spent the night trying to prove a point to Nucky. Silent and stoic associate Meyer gets him to retire to his room, to avoid further damage to his reputation. Given the open window, Meyer propositions Nucky on the Tampa land deal. Meyer (who literally spent the entire episode in Rothstein’s shadow) reminds Nucky that he’s no protégé, he’s the real deal. Recounting his beginnings in the biz as being initiated into Lucky Luciano’s gang after only three days of a stiff upper lip, he convinces Nucky to make the deal with him instead. He’s in, Rothstein is out.