BOARDWALK EMPIRE RECAP: Lies Make Baby Jesus Cry

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This is a Recap of Boardwalk Empire, Season 1, Episode 11, entitled “Paris Green”. We’ll get to the ‘cappin in a sec, right after a quick pause for commercial…

This Christmas…

[Cue Music]:

He’s finding out… the BOARDWALK EMPIRE… never prepared him for the WORKSHOP EMPIRE…

Alright, alright, stop the Boardwalk Empire “Christmas Trailer” joke — that Brian Setzer video is really just way too awesome on its own. Can we all just watch it on repeat and skip recapping the rest of this episode? No? Alright, fine, here’s some words and pictures that happened:

This week’s episode begins with a very Sopranos-esque “Crazy opening shot…turns out to be something pretty normal” close-up on the magician Hardeen — the Billy Baldwin of his day — escaping from a straight jacket upside-down. Hardeen later joins Nucky, Margaret, Margaret’s mistress friend Annabelle, and Annabelle’s fat money-giver-toer Harry in the parlour for some after-magic magic, and Harry eventually breaks down and admits he lost all his fatting money and storms off.

Annabelle comes calling to Nucky asking for help, and Nucky hands her a wad of cash and exchanges some not-too-disguised flirtation just as Margaret the Walking Record Scratch is entering:

Margaret continues growing increasingly uneasy about her position as the nice lady who accepts money and things from the bootlegging murder-orderer, and she and Nucky finally have a giant blowup argument where Nucky essentially admits that he killed Maragert’s husband then shatters her birth control vagina-liquid against a mirror and storms out.

Nucky then visits with Eli, who claims that Margaret is a liability that needs to be dealt with and Nucky’s letting his emotions get in the way of common sense:

Nucky snaps back, “The thing about Hardeen is, if he weren’t Houdini’s brother, no one would give a f*ck.” Eli’s like, “Oh yeah? Well yo momma’s so fat, when she sits on a boardwalk plank the taffy shop goes flying into space.” Nucky’s like, “We have the same mom. You’re fired, Eli.” Nucky appoints that chubby and obviously incapable blond dude as the new sheriff so he can mess something critical up next episode.

Jimmy, meanwhile, is called to his father’s deathbed, and after his father tries to convince him that he should be running the Boardwalk instead of Nucky, Jimmy leaves, goes to a mirror, and throws up. When this occurred, I was prepared to rant in this recap about how the “anxious character puking on screen” has become such a tired narrative device in shows and movies over the last 10 years or so, and how it happens 100x more frequently in fiction than in real life, etc etc, but lo and behold, there’s another reason why Jimmy was throwing up:

The Commodore’s doctor had luckily collected a hair sample to run a routine “See if there’s ghosts in his humors” check, and he informs Jimmy that someone’s been slipping arsenic in Commie’s cookies. Jimmy finds the above can of poison, and is all like, “Uh, Mom?”

So who’s poisoning The Comm? I’m gonna sayyyyyy…John Gotti. Is he in this show yet? He will be. And he’ll be played by Phil from The Sopranos. Jimmy’s mother, meanwhile, explains her unusual relationship history with the man 40 years her senior, and shows Jimmy the first photograph ever taken:

Back on the lesbian front, Angela has decided to take Mary up on her offer and escape with Tommy to Paris, and leaves a note for Jimmy that says “Going to Paris with Tommy SUCKKKAHHHHH and you can’t kill me because I am already gone! You’d kill me if I were here but I’m not cause I’m probably like on top of the Eiffel Tower as you’re reading this and also you SMELL!” But when she and Tommy go to the photo shop, it’s already been vacated, and they sheepishly return home to find that Jimmy’s already there and the note’s already gone. Welp, she’s dead.

Speaking of dead, Agent Baby is back on duty, but Van Alden keeps grilling him about the witness shooting and doesn’t buy his story no matter how many times he tries to explain it:

Not only does something in the story “not add up,” but Van Alden is also extra-skeptical of Agent Baby because he’s Jewish and thus doesn’t share the proper respect for hellfire and church pants. I know being Jewish in the 20s is tough, dude, but don’t worry – the century gets WAY better for your people.

To re-establish Agent Baby’s cover, Nucky gives him the location of a bootlegging operation and tells him to bust it, but when he and Van Alden go there, all they find is a group of people performing a bootlegged copy of O Brother Where Art Thou. Van Alden exchanges pleasantries with a group of black Christians in the midst of being baptized by a deacon, and later in the episode, realizes he can baptize Agent Baby to force the truth out of him lest he face judgment from above (doin’ things by the book for 20s law enforcement.)

He asks the deacon if he can perform the baptism himself, and the deacon agrees, as long as he’s not completely f***ing nuts and devoted to his job in a dangerously obsessive fashion. Van Alden’s like “Nope, I am cool, my brother.” (This interaction would later grow up to be the film Bringing Down The House.)

The baptism proceeds pretty much without incident:

Van Alden looks up at the deacon and delivers the one-liner, “Looks like Baby just got aborted.” He walks back through the horrified crowd, having — despite his best efforts — actually served a twisted form of justice.

In general, this week’s Boardwalk Empire included some of the season’s tightest, best-acted, and most interesting scenes — the Nucky / Margaret argument, the Nucky / Eli argument, and the tense moments when Angela returned to Jimmy — but man, the entire Van Alden / baptism subplot was absurd, giving the episode a weirdly uneven feel, like a sandwich that’s half a great sandwich and half totally absurd [Ed Note - Improve this analogy.]

Although, I’m probably just bitter because this ends my Agent Baby jokes. But man did I get some mileage out of that Baby Detective Stock Photo I bought from Getty Images with our VH1 account:

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