Monday, October 15, 2012

Wordy Old Men on Boardwalk Empire: Season Three, Episode Five "You'd Be Surprised"

Nucky and Rothstein meet to discuss the Tabor Heights situation. Capitol Hill takes aim at the Daugherty and Harding's crooked Justice Department. Nucky gets more careless and tied into Billie Kent's career. Nelson and Sigrid finish off Prohee Coughlin.

Old Man Duggan: Given Mickey's absence from the episode, it would seem that the concern I had that perhaps the dimly lit corpse in the truck in Tabor Heights at the end of "Blue Bell Boy" was unnecessary. Mickey Doyle did get got [I hope]. Since I'm in transit, I'll let you take the reins here, fella. Shoot away.

Wordy Ginters: Nice opening scene. Even better than seeing Tony Bennett sing "God Bless America" during the Seventh Inning Stretch of the Giants vs. Cards game. As the episode began, and the camera tracked down the hallway, I was certain Gyp would be in the room sawing some asthmatic prick in half. I was half right. Of course the only way Gyp can get off is via erotic asphyxiation. I wasn't quite sold that his character was a sick twisted remorseless monster, but now I get it. As we know from the history books, "safe words" weren't invented until the early 1960's, so Gyp was actually quite fortunate he didn't loose his mortal coil chasing an orgasm. Regardless of how odious, obvious, or ham-handed scenes with Gyp may hit you, he blows up the screen. The menace that dude brings is impressive. Sexual or otherwise.

On Liberty [and Spotters]
OMD: So I had to resort to watching the episode in fuzzy standard definition by way of coaxial cable plugged into the back of a HD TV in a Holiday Inn Express in Downtown El Paso. If there was a blessing in disguise in all that, it's that the depraved sex acts that Bobby Cannavale was called upon to perform for the role in this episode were grainy and bereft of the detail that you High-Def motherfuckers (of which I am usually card-carrying member) were subjected to. If Gyp Rosetti were temporally displaced into the present day and was to start a band, their name would be Sexual Menace. That saucy, belt-wielding minx is the very same waitress Gyp professed an interest in at the close of the last episode, right? While it's a long-established fact that the advent of the safe word wasn't established until after the Great Chicago Scarfing Death Epidemic of 1964, clearly spotters were in use before this, as we were first introduced to their necessity in J.S. Mill's On Liberty.

WG: Director Timmy Van Patten kept things cranked to 11 by transitioning directly to a long time coming dust up between Rothstein and Nucky--by the way, am I the last person in the world to realize that Van Patten played Salami on The White Shadow? Rothstein drops some unpleasant observations on Nucky's head, namely that he's not holding up his end of their business arrangement, and that he's playing the rube by chasing after Billie like he's been sprayed with Love Potion Number 9. Speaking of Van Patten, more than a subtle nod to his previous job on The Sopranos when Rothstein brought up the New York vs. New Jersey theme. Still, it was jarring to see Nucky put in his place or more accurately that he's merely a "convenience" in the broader world. Quite a change from when he had a direct hand in engineering Harding's nomination as the Presidential nominee at the Republican National Convention, or getting tangled up in the Irish War of Independence like he did in Season Two. Now, he's reduced to third nipple status in the relationship between Rothstein and Masseria.

OMD: I had no idea that Van Patten had been on The White Shadow, though my exposure to that show is extremely limited, and by limited I mean that I have seen roughly ten minutes in passing on ESPN Classic when they were re-airing it in what must have been the late 90s or early Aughts. The confrontation between Rothstein and Nucky was fulfilling. Someone needed to call out Nucky for letting himself be led around by his dick while not paying proper attention to the business operations. Early on, it seems like Season Three is arcing in such a way that this is could be known as The Transition of Nucky. Challenged by Jimmy when at the crossroads at the terminus of Season Two, he chose the path of being the thug, and his influence in the legitimate world has waned in accordance. Without real sway, without the immediate power of political office, Nucky only has his criminal enterprise and its successes/failures from which to measure his influence. His power is essentially tied to the geographical proximity of Atlantic City to New York and his Irish connect. The growing pains and slowness with which he is adjusting to his new place in the world are surely jeopardizing his future at least as much as Gyp Rosetti is.

WG: Old Man Duggan, I'd like to see you take a crack at cranking out some copy for Margaret's pre-natal night school. "Come discuss your Vagina" has a certain forthright authenticity, but it might draw the wrong type of crowd. Attendance is flagging.

OMD: Here goes:

Ladies, Women, Madames, Mademoiselles,
    St. Theresa wants to acquaint you with your PLEASURE BOXES, as the HEALTHY and WELL-OILED VAGINA is the pathway to a FULLER EXISTENCE. Kindred spirits have come from hither and yon to GAIN KNOWLEDGE both to ENSURE the WELL-BEING of the FAMILY. The WELL VAGINA is the GATEWAY to the WELL FAMILY.
    Brunch served with classes. Nun unfortunately present, but we shall overcome.
    French Stewart-looking cad, Dr. Mason knows your lady parts and will forbid you from drinking raw milk.

WG: "I believe your left shoelace is in a state of dishabille." Gaston Means, another great character. That syrupy, self-assured, no-place but every-place dialect could breath meaning into the most asinine text. I'd pay to hear him read David Brooks columns.

OMD: Thank Eric Hosmer (ca. 2011 and hopefully 2013 and beyond) for Stephen Root.

WG: Van Alden Mueller! Sigrid! A twisted little couple. When the unfortunate prohee Coughlin slid his card underneath the door, did you notice Van Alden Mueller was framed by the bars of the baby's crib in the foreground? Nice touch. Not sure if it foreshadows the crossbar hotel in Mueller's future, or just added to the growing sense of claustrophobia around his character's situation, but either way, I get a kick out of that kind of cinematic flourish when I notice it. I also thought the scene in which the Van Alden Mueller's snuffed out Coughlin had some parallel's to Gyp's opening scene. It would have been seamless if Gyp would have also said "avert your eyes."

OMD: The influence of German Expressionism rearing its head once again. Man, if there's something I did not see coming it was Sigrid clubbing the crooked Agent Coughlin to death. I also loved the reveal that Coughlin was there to complain about the shitty irons he purchased. His dogged pursuit of Van Alden over faulty irons is pretty fucking hilarious. Nelson/George has always been in his own personal prison, hence the violent self-flagellation. This development obviously would seem to put Van Alden not only in O'Banion's debt but also likely his employ. As for the parallels, this episode could just have easily been called "Stop Breathing."

Chalky and Purnell's Cup of Tea
WG: Even though Rothstein called out the error of his ways, Nucky keeps self-destructing over his fixation with Billie. Tellingly, the first words out of his mouth after the meeting with Rothstein were "when is rehearsal." Margaret busts him dress shopping with Billie at the Fashion Bug. Only after his mea culpa, does he appear to begin to get his footing. After Eddie Cantor brushes him aside, he flexes his muscle and has Purnell and Chalky pay Eddie a visit. Awesome. Nights at the speakeasy have left them immune to Eddie's brand of entertainment. They acted like they were at Branson.

OMD: Nucky should look to Rothstein as the paragon of self-neutered restraint and should attempt to emulate that. It would certainly seem that he has designs (at least in part) on rebuilding Rothstein's empire in his own image, but as long his dick is a divining rod to self-ruination, his designs are on the back burner. The weird thing about Nucky's struggles to readjust to his new place in the world would seem to have manifested themselves in his apparent loss of self-awareness. Hopefully for Nucky's case (though probably not for Billie Kent), Rothstein gave him a wake-up call. Can you imagine how horribly Eddie Cantor's brand of entertainment would play today?

WG: And although the planning and plotting happened off-screen, evidently Rothstein and Nucky conspired to have Gyp knocked off. I believe that was Benny Siegel, who earlier had been scolded by Meyer Lansky for slacking off on his gun registration number filing homework, who went with the old paper boy gambit and shot the shit out of the Kinneret Lodge. And the luckless paperboy, for the thrill of it. Maybe Lansky is acting on his own? Gyp taking over Tabor Heights fucking with his smack distribution as well? How did you read it?

OMD: Oh, it was Young Bugsy all right. I love it when a show plays with off-screen planning like Boardwalk did here. I definitely took this as Rothstein choosing Nucky over Gyp. For all of Nucky's dalliance-related shortcomings lately, he's still more useful to Rothstein as his Irish Connection than Gyp Rosetti. Even if Rothstein took that meeting in Tabor Heights in earnest, Gyp's interaction with the paperboy could well have been the final nail in the coffin of their potential business relationship. I definitely don't think Meyer Lansky would step out of line an make that play on his own. Rothstein is a pragmatist, and his scolding of Nucky was a pragmatic attempt to scare him straight, but there's no world in which Gyp is the better business partner, even if Gyp is in league with Joe Masseria.

WG: How great was the aftermath of that scene? Shot from overhead, with Gyp hanging dong and taking in the carnage with a belt still looped around his neck? You could splice that into a Mike Vick dog-fighting video and maintain narrative continuity, piece of cake. They should show those two scenes in high schools to combat erotic asphyxiation. It's gonna end up being the death of you Gyp!

OMD: I'd love a back-and-forth video cut of the two together. Given Gyp's constant craving for choking out while choking out, wouldn't it be great if after all this build-up that Gyp dies with a belt 'round his neck?

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