The Breakdown

The episode opens with George Mueller (formerly agent Nelson Van Alden) delivering flowers from his new boss, Dean O’Banion, to a woman who has just had a baby. He tells her, “Mrs. Grant, Mr. O’Banion sends his congratulations.” At his next stop he also delivers flowers and tells the man answering the door, “Professor Foley, Mr. O’Banion offers his condolences.” But at the last door he says, “Mr. Hurlich,” then punches the man in his face, and tells him, “Mr. O’Banion wants his money.” It’s kind of like the childhood game, “Duck, Duck, Goose!” It seems Mueller can multi-task – he can deliver flowers and do collections for O’Banion (he’s a breath mint, and a candy mint).

Meanwhile, at the Wisconsin home of Richard’s sister Emma, she tells Richard that their aged family dog has run off. Richard thinks he may have gone off to hunt, but Emma reminds him the dog is now “too old to hunt, pretty much blind, can’t even smell.” Richard has a cup of coffee and they talk about their father and the fact that he lied to their mother about his age, telling her he was younger than he really was. Emma comments that she used the false age on his gravestone and isn’t about to correct it. She proceeds to describe their father’s funeral as small, just she and her husband Gerald. Emma comments, “Orphaned in April, married in May, pregnant in August, widowed in November, and they say nothing happens in Plover.”

Boardwalk Empire - ResignationEmma tells Richard, “I’m not going to ask you where you’ve been or how you’ve lived. I just need to know one thing – are you staying?” Richard tells her he has to go into Milwaukee for the day. She asks him, “Do you still read?” He replies, “everything you sent me.” She gives him a book and tells him, “If you don’t come back this time, don’t come back at all, I couldn’t bear it.” Then she leaves to look for the dog. After she’s gone Robert opens the book and discovers a past due notice on the property taxes.

Eddie is having trouble preparing and serving Nucky his breakfast but Nucky doesn’t complain. Eddie spills the coffee, and the eggs are overcooked, but Nucky says “it’s all right.” Eddie protests and says, “It’s inedible” and Nucky asks, “Then why did you serve it?” Eddie confesses, “I do not know, I do not know why I do anything.” (sounds like my ex-wife). Eddie tells Nucky he hasn’t packed Nucky’s bags yet for his upcoming Florida trip. Nucky asks him, “Do you need some help?” They have a brief discussion about what Eddie is capable of, and plan on Eddie driving Nucky to the construction site later.

Mueller is in O’Banion’s hot house trimming flowers when O’Banion and one of his men come in. Mueller turns over the money he’s collected and tells O’Banion, “Mostly everyone paid.”

O’Banion asks Mueller how many kids he has, and when Mueller tells him “I have two,” O’Banion replies, “There’s some extra cabbage coming your way” before directing Mueller to go work for Al Capone in Cicero so he can keep tabs on him. O’Banion doesn’t want that gang moving into Chicago.

Boardwalk Empire - ResignationChalky gives the parents of his daughter’s fiancé a tour of the Onyx club. He tells them that the wedding ceremony is going to take place, “Right Cheer” (right here) – that this is his wedding gift to them. He excuses himself for a minute and talks to Dunn who tells him “We ain’t found that woman,” referring to Dickie’s wife who ran away after watching Dunn kill him. Chalky is upset that Dunn hasn’t found her yet.

At the construction site of a new city development, Mayor Bader is making a speech to reporters. He sees Nucky’s car pull up and he brings his speech to an abrupt halt, going over to the car to see what Nucky wants. Nucky is there to collect “his cut”. At first Bader protests, saying, “this is directly through the dioceses.” Nucky asks Eddie, who is driving the car, to clarify Nucky’s role for Bader, to which Eddie says, “Mr. Thompson is part of every-sing. He’s in za sky, he’s in ze dreams of children at night. He is all that zere izz, forever!” Why, it almost sounds biblical. Bader gets the picture and tells Nucky, “You’ll have it first thing tomorrow.”

Richard, now in Milwaukee, asks Dolph Liebling if he knows a guy named Carl Billings. The man says, “We were partners. We were going to make a fortune together, but Carl just got in the way.” Richard tells him, “I met him on the train, heading west from New Jersey. He paid me to kill you, and Werner, and the men you sent after him.” Leibling offers Richard double what Billings is paying him if he doesn’t kill him. He reaches in his desk drawer as if he’s going for cash, but Richard slams the drawer shut on his hand before he can pull out a gun.

Richard pushes Liebling’s head onto the desk with the gun pressed against it and asks him, “Do you have any family?” Liebling, not wanting small talk, says, “Put the bullet in, that’s what Carl is paying for, isn’t it?” Richard pulls him up and slams him against the wall and says, “I asked you a question.” Liebling tells him, “Wife, 2 girls.” Richard has decided he’s had enough killing and tells him, “When you see your children tonight, remember it didn’t cost you anything.” Richard releases Liebling and leaves his office. On his way out, Richard picks up the book that he brought with him that Emma had given him. He doesn’t realize it, but he drops the delinquent taxes notice that was in there.

Just before going to Washington, D.C., prohibition supervisor Eliot meets with Nucky at Micky Doyle’s warehouse. For the first time we realize that those two have worked out some kind of an arrangement. Knox is there as well. Eliot says to Nucky about Knox, “He wants to get off on the right foot and make sure of how things work.”

Knox then tells Nucky, “I just wanted to tell you, man to man, that as the new head of the Prohibition Enforcement in Atlantic City, I do intend to take my duties with the utmost seriousness, and enforce the existing laws to the very best of my abilities.” Knox waits for Nucky to say the 1920’s equivalent of today’s “WTF?” and then tells him, “That was a joke, I was joking.” Knox had better keep his day job – none of the men in the warehouse are laughing.

Boardwalk Empire - ResignationNucky asks him, “Where are you from?” and Knox tells him “Iowa. Atkins, Iowa.” Nucky tells him that from now on he is to deal with Eli and not Nucky directly.

Mueller’s wife shows him a new couch she just bought and when he asks her, “What’s this?” she tells him, “It iss the davenport.” Mueller is obviously thinking something like, “Hmm… looks like an F-ing couch to me.” Mueller doesn’t understand why she bought it when they have chairs. She tells Mueller she’s bought $360 worth of additional furniture. You can almost see the steam coming out of his ears when he tells her, “We don’t have the money.”

Mueller’s wife gleefully explains, “It’s on time” and explains they can pay $15 a week for the next year. Mueller tells her that’s half his pay and that it’s all got to go back. She’s not getting the message and babbles on about more stuff she’s bought to pretty up the house. Then she begins a minor bitch-fest complaining, “I live with the walls not painted and the doors not hanging.”

Mueller’s excuse for the state of their home is, “They sent the wrong doors with the kit.” She says, “Nelson, you buy the house that comes in the boxes, you put it together with the hammer and saw…” He tells her, “I just followed the instructions”. His wife tells him “I just want to make the house a home for you and the children.” After this, working for Al Capone is probably looking better and better to George/Nelson.

Boardwalk Empire - ResignationAt the Onyx Club, Chalky is confronted by Dr. Valentin Narcisse with the missing woman, Alma Pastor. Apparently, that’s who she contacted after she fled the hotel where her husband Dickie was murdered, since it turns out that Dickie worked for Narcisse, not Owney Madden. When Chalky asks him “Whatcha doin in the private rooms, Doctor?” Narcisse answers, “What choice am I offered? The Libyan performs in your club, the Libyan serves in your club, but the Libyan may not attend your club.” Apparently, Narcisse has some kind of a hang-up about Libya.

When Chalky tells him, “There’s no Libyans here, “ Narcisse replies, “You yourself are one.” Chalky corrects him, “I’m from Texas.” Narcisse says, “Our roots go deeper than that.” They stop discussing the origin of man, and Narcisse explains that Dickie didn’t work for Owen Madden, he worked for him. “I’m here because your employee slashed the throat of my employee.”

Chalky pretends to be ignorant of the whole matter. He tells Narcisse he hasn’t seen Dickie for 3 days and he should “Ax around Newark” where Dickie was supposed to be after leaving Atlantic City. Although Narcisse came for restitution, Chalky isn’t going to offer any. Narcisse delivers a parting insult to Chalky as he and Alma leave by saying, “I like this room. One looks down in secret and sees many things. You know what I saw? A servant pretending to be a king.”

Nucky is reading the morning paper. The headline reads, “Attorney General Daugherty Resigns – President Coolidge Takes Action – Calls Daugherty ‘Embarrassment’ to Administration.” Eddie brings in Nucky’s breakfast and his service has greatly improved. Everything is perfect and he doesn’t spill the coffee this time. He gives Nucky a package of money and says, “From Mayor Bader.”

Eddie then hands Nucky another envelope and says, “From me.” It’s his resignation. He tells Nucky, “You do not treat me seriously.” When Nucky asks, “What do you want?” Eddies tells him “Respect, I wish for you to demonstrate.” Nucky reaches for the Mayor’s packet of money to give to Eddie, but Eddie turns it down. Nucky asks, “Are you quitting or asking for a promotion?” Eddie says, “Zis vill be for you to decide.” Then he leaves him to mull over that.

Back at the farm with his sister, Richard is fixing a piece of plowing equipment when Emma asks him for his help. She has found the dog and wants Richard to put him down. She doesn’t want to do it with her shotgun, which has no bullets in it anyway. Richard has that nice pistol with the silencer, perfect for dispatching thugs, rats, and aging family pets. But despite having killed hundreds of humans, Richard doesn’t have the heart to kill their dog. Emma takes his pistol and does the deed herself.

Boardwalk Empire - ResignationIn Cicero, Mueller has joined Al Capone, and his first task is join a group of Al’s thugs and give some local Democrats a beat down. But before they do that, Al, being the gracious host that he is, invites his men to dine, “There’s chow, so fill your holes.” (I must remember that phrase for my next dinner party.)

While the hole-filling is going on, Capone and his brothers pull Mueller aside to question why he’s there. After a few tense moments trying to ascertain exactly why O’Banion sent Mueller there, Frank Capone tells Mueller to “Go grab a sap and a sandwich, George; you’ll need both.”

While Chalky and Dunn discuss Narcisse’s recent visit in Chalky’s office, Chalky walks over to the window and looks down below. He sees a commotion among the employees and asks, “Where the m-f band?” “Where the F everybody at?” Then there’s a knock at the door. It’s the tap dancers. They tell Chalky that Dr. Narcisse owns a piece of their act and won’t let them dance in the club anymore, telling Chalky, “He owns a piece of everybody.” One of the dancers gives Chalky a note that says, “A servant is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who dispatched him.” It’s a bible quote from Dr. Narcisse, “who knows his Gospel.”

Nucky gets a background check result from Gaston Means via telephone that he had requested on Agent Knox. It doesn’t contain much, and Means tells Nucky, “I’d say your Agent Knox is a hayseed of the purest variety.”

At the election meeting the Democrats are having, Al Capone’s men break in and start beating up everybody. Mueller sees Frank Capone grappling with three men; he goes over and helps him before they beat him up, earning his gratitude and respect.

Alma is seated in a room with Dr. Narcisse, describing her “rape” and Dickie’s murder by Dunn to Chalky and Nucky. Then she excuses herself to use the powder room. Nucky asks him, “How did Dickie know what hotel they were at?” Narcisse shrugs the question off by explaining, “Dickie was a resourceful man.”

Boardwalk Empire - ResignationWhen Nucky says there’s no proof of Dunn’s guilt, Narcisse says “that’s on you.” He’s basically indicating that, since it involved a white woman and a black man, any court would find him guilty. Chalky cuts to the chase and tells Narcisse, “Just say how much.” Narcisse bristles at Chalky’s directness and says to Nucky, “You see why I wish to deal with you?” Nucky says, “I don’t think I do,” and Narcisse starts that King-Servant crap again and says, “Only Kings understand each other.” (This guy’s got more arrogance than a one legged man at an ass-kicking convention.)

When pressed for a precise figure, Narcisse throws it back to Nucky, while Chalky loses patience with him and his attitude. Before Chalky has a full-fledged conniption fit, Nucky offers 10 percent of the club in exchange for “the acts come back and the other problem goes away.” Alma returns and Narcisse tells her, “We’re done here, dear.”

Supervisor Elliot is in Washington in a special meeting with the acting director of the newly formed Federal Bureau of Investigation. The puckey begins to hit the ventilation shaft when Elliot is informed that Knox is really an uncover agent with the FBI and answers to one of the interrogators in the meeting, young J. Edgar Hoover. Elliot doesn’t care for Hoover and refers to him as “this child.”

Knox is brought in and drops an envelope full of cash in front of Elliot who asks, “What the hell is this?” Knox says, “That’s the cash you gave me yesterday, sir – after our meeting with Nucky Thompson.” Eliot calls Knox a few names then says “I want to speak to my lawyer.” J.Edgar says, “No, no lawyers, no call, no telegrams, no carrier pigeons, no smoke signals, no alerting Nucky Thompson or anyone else.”

Eliot acts outraged and says, “I know how this game is played” and stands up as he tells Hoover, “I am not some Bolshevik under some bed.” Then he is arrested and leaves the room with 2 escorts. Hoover tells Knox, “Good beginning, Jim.” Knox tells him, “I won’t let you down, Edgar.”

On the ride out of town, Alma wants to know what is going to happen to Dunn. Dr. Narcisse asks her, “What would you like to happen?” He knows she lied about being raped, and asks her if she thinks Dunn should be hung; she doesn’t disagree. Narcisse’s driver stops the car, pretending the wheels need to be checked; he and the other man that work for Narcisse get out of the car. The driver opens Alma’s car door, pulls her out, wraps a rope around her neck and kills her. They leave her body at the new construction site, presumably so that it can be readily found.

Nucky gives Eddie his first set of instructions following his promotion, directing Eddie to open up a safety deposit box in Eddie’s name, and to put the money from the Mayor in there. He tells him there’ll be plenty more to put in there. To further assure Eddie of the promotion he tells him, “From now on, Tom can bring me my meals”. Then he catches a train to Tampa, Florida. Eddie looks pleased.

Richard is at the farm house and the phone rings. He answers it and the man on the line asks for his sister. Richard tells him Emma isn’t home and that he’s her brother. The man on the other line says, “I’m with the county assessor’s office.” Liar liar, pants on fire! He’s not with the county assessor’s office – he is Carl Billings, and is in Liebling’s office. He has killed Liebling, finishing the job that Richard failed to do. He’s holding the delinquent tax notice that fell out of the book Richard had with him when he met with Liebling. Billings tells Richard “there are three years back taxes owed, and the sooner we get that straightened out, the better.”

Back at the construction site, Alma’s body is discovered by some workers. Her identity is not known at this time, and when the Mayor arrives he tells his man to keep the reporters back and get the body out of there. Poor Alma, her precious hair is all out of place.


Boardwalk Empire - ResignationFormer Prohibition Agent Van Alden, now mobster henchman, is getting deeper and deeper into the crime scene. Maybe it’s a good thing, given all of the things that have happened with his old unit since he left. He may have been the only semi-honest man in the entire unit. His replacement Agent Sawicki took pay-offs and was set up to be killed by Agent Knox. His boss, Supervisor Elliot, it turns out, is in bed with Nucky Thompson, and gets arrested by the FBI after Agent Knox, an undercover FBI agent, testifies he took bribes from Thompson and gave him half the day before.

All in all, Van Alden, now Mueller, is probably safer with Al Capone then he was working for the Feds. The only real risk he now faces is going to debtors’ prison because of all the spending his wife is doing. She’s out of control and – unlike his first wife – he can’t seem to dominate her.

We’re glad Eddie spoke up and got a much deserved promotion, but when he started going through the list of everything he’s done for Nucky for the past 11 years, I almost expected him to break into song and either start singing “Respect” by Aretha Franklin or “Do You Love Me?” from Fiddler on the Roof. He’s the closest thing to a real friend that Nucky has, and I believe after he got shot Nucky realized as much.

What’s happening to our favorite anti-hero Richard? He didn’t kill Liebling; he couldn’t kill the dog. Is he going soft? I hope not. Now we have to worry about Billings coming after him.

Dr. Valetin Narcisse is rather annoying. He is from Trinidad but he speaks “the Queen’s English”, and frequently quotes the bible when he’s not putting down the local Libyans. His only redeeming act was when he had Alma killed.

Agent Knox is a piece of work. OK, I can accept that he’s an undercover agent for the FBI, but he starts out his new assignment by setting his immediate supervisor up to be killed. There are so many imperfect characters in this series, which is probably why it is so compelling.