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'Boardwalk Empire' Season Five Episode 2 Recap: "The Good Listener"


Eli Thompson is on a downward spiral/Al Capone is now a celebrity


Having become increasingly frustrated with being estranged from his family, Eli Thompson has become a drunken mess. His son Willie has clearly distanced himself from Eli and his Uncle Nucky. So much to the point where he aspires to become an assistant United States attorney. Once US attorney Robert Hodge ends Willie’s interview after learning of his family association, Willie explains why his family troubles would make him perfect for the job. After meeting with Nucky in New York, Willie lies to him point blank when Nucky asks whether his name was ever brought up in the conversation with the attorney.


Eli’s drinking has clearly has affected his work. He falls asleep on the job working at one of Al Capone’s hideouts while it is raided by the one and only Eliot Ness, who manages to seize $20,000 from Al’s operations. But despite his recent financial hit, Al Capone has an official stranglehold on the city of Chicago and almost everything in it. While being interviewed by Variety Magazine, Al summons his new right hand man Mike D’Angelo, who informs Al about the raid. Al is not at all happy with this, and D’Angelo tells Mueller that he and Eli have 24 hours to recover that $20,000, or else.Photo: Macall B. Polay/HBO


Mueller, while trying to be somewhat attentive to his badgering son and grammatically challenged, chain-smoking wife, grabs his gun and later proceeds to rob two of Al’s men wit Eli. The botched robbery leaves two of Al’s men dead, but the only thing Mueller cares about is coming out of this alive. My question is, won’t Al eventually notice two of his associates are dead and money is missing? Right after Ness vows to take on Capone and the Chicago mob to the press, it is revealed that D’Angelo is an informant hired to infiltrate Al and his gang.



Nucky starts digging for clues on who tried to have him killed, while trying to arrange one last score


Nucky has returned from Cuba and visits Johnny Torrio in New York. Now retired from his life of crime after an attempt on his life that almost killed him in season 4, Torrio tells Nucky he has his suspicions as to who tried to have him knocked off, wondering perhaps if it was Al Capone. In turn, Nucky asks Torrio if he knew whether new boss Salvatore Maranzano arranged the hit on him in Cuba. Torrio isn’t sure, but he tells Nucky he can arrange to have a sit-down between the two. While he’s at it, Torrio also suggests that his post-underworld life is rather enjoyable, and that perhaps Nucky follow his lead and call it a day. Torrio eventually arranges the meeting, and Maranzano assures Nucky he had nothing to do with the hit.


While dodging attempts on his life, Nucky visits the Mayflower Grain Corporation (while Rockefeller Center is literally being built outside) in hopes of securing a partnership for his North American distribution for Bacardi. No longer having access to former business associates who can’t do him favors (besides the Senator), Nucky needs business backers. However, they almost scoff at the notion that Nucky is a reputable businessman and basically tell him to hit the road. All is not lost, however, as one of the associates meets up with Nucky as he is leaving and tells him he will pay him a visit the next time he comes to Atlantic City.



The return of Gillian


Seven years after her grandson was sent away, Gillian has been moved from the correctional facility (where she was incarcerated at the end of season 4) to what seems to be some kind of rehabilitation center (ie: an institution). This was made obvious after one particular woman threw an absolute fit when the "The Good Listener" radio program was turned off during bath time. The chain reaction that was set off amongst the other woman who followed suit was rather unpleasant.


After the warden comes in to restore order, it becomes apparent that Gillian can wheel and deal no matter where she is residing. The body language Gillian and the warden give off suggest something is going on sexually between the two, but we later discover Gillian is just helping her with her wardrobe in exchange for letter writing privileges.


Two questions remain, however. One, who is Gillian writing to? And two, is there really a place for her on this show anymore?



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In this week’s flashbacks, Nucky’s sister Susan succumbs to her illness. The Thompson family can’t even afford to even have her body removed, so Nucky’s father decides to bury her in their backyard. When Nucky shows up late for work, the Commodore begins to give him a hard time about it, until Nucky tells him what has transpired. The Commodore stops by the Thompson residence and gives Nucky’s father the money to give Susan a proper burial. He takes the money, then returns with a shotgun and mutters something to the Commodore about not getting a fair deal. The Commodore responds by telling him nobody made him sell his land. While matters are still unclear what this exactly pertains to, we gain a little more insight as to why Nucky’s father despises the Commodore so much. Despite taking the Commodore’s money for the funeral, Nucky’s father still buries her in their yard- and makes Nucky do the digging.  



Vintage Nucky resurfaces


After meeting with Maranzano, Nucky arranges a meeting with Tonino Sandrelli, former henchman (and killer) of season 3’s Gyp Rosetti, as well as last week’s killing of Joe Masseria. Sandrelli, who is now doing favors for Maranzano, tells Nucky that not only are Meyer Lansky and Lucky Luciano not on the outs, but they arranged the hit on Nucky while he was in Cuba. Moreover, Lansky and Luciano want to take out Maranzano as well. Nucky tells Sandrelli he wants to arrange a meeting with Lansky the next morning and to relay the information to Nucky’s bodyguard. As Nucky leaves, the waiter notices Billie Kent’s photo on the beam next to the table where Nucky and Sandrelli had their meeting. In case you don’t remember, Billie was Nucky’s girlfriend was was killed by Rosetti (with help from Sandrelli) in the boardwalk explosion in Season 3.


Moments later, Sandrelli’s body is dumped at the establishment where Lansky is frequenting. There’s a  knife in his back with a postcard from Havana stuck through it. Yep, Nucky has a long memory. And no matter what happens from this point, there’s no way he’s going quietly.


Final Thoughts:


Nucky knows his time as the big cheese has essentially passed. He has no crew anymore. Whether it’s Eli, Chalky or even Eddie, all of them are either on the run or dead. The game has changed, and although Nucky wants one more big feather in his cap, he is coming to grips with the fact that it may cost him his life. Truth be told, this has been going on since the end of season 3. Nucky is no longer respected to the same degree he once was. The Mayflower Corporation saw him as nothing more than a bootlegger, and they don’t want to get their hands dirty by associating with him. In five seasons of Boardwalk Empire, Nucky’s always found a way to survive. But with six more episodes left, you wonder if he’s got any more tricks up his sleeve.

Contact Joe Vallee at jvallee@philly2philly.com


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Photo: Macall B. Polay/HBO