Like many episodes of Boardwalk Empire, this one waits until the last two minutes to punch you in the gut. If you haven’t yet watched “A Man, A Plan…” then be warned: spoilers ahead.
We open on Richard at the shore with Julia and Tommy, his faux family. He bears ice cream cones, and the three settle into a cozy tableau to watch the festivities on the beach. The party is interrupted when swimmers spot bottles of whiskey washing up in the surf, and the shallows become a splash-filled free for all, as bathers shove one another out of the way to claim the precious, illegal cargo. Then we move up the shore to Tabor Heights, where Gyp is, per his usual state, foaming at the mouth as he tries to understand how so many crates were lost. Franco, the cousin of one of Gyp’s soldiers, and the son of a fisherman, suggests a rogue wave might be to blame for the crates washing overboard. Oh, Franco. Gyp is not a man to whom you volunteer information.
Next we get a glimpse of the man I now like to refer to as Nelson-George, or NG. NG has settled nicely into his role of aquavit peddler. A Norwegian barkeep gladly assures him of repeat business. Life is looking up for our failed iron salesman.
Meanwhile, Nucky discusses with Gaston Means (god, I love Stephen Root) the problem of Jess Smith, Dougherty’s subordinate. Jess is…unstable, and could implicate them both if he breaks down in the aftermath of Remus’s arrest. It is decided that Jess should be “dealt with.” Gaston agrees to take care of it, for a handsome fee. When Nucky suggests he could find someone for a fraction of the price, Gaston quips, “I hope you don’t choose a surgeon on the same basis.”
Another thing that can get messy? Extramarital affairs. Katie has her suspicions about Owen’s dedication to the Thompson family, and she doesn’t hesitate to throw them in Owen’s face. To placate her, Owen mentions proving himself “at the alter,” to which Katie’s eyes grow wide and you can actually see her suspicions float away on a misty white veil. Margaret, however, is another story. She is now a woman of the world. She will not indulge herself in romantic fairy tales, but wants practical assurances that their plan to run away to St. Louis is actually doable. She loves Owen, that is clear, but she has become accustomed to not trusting the men in her life.
Nucky, feeling the need to strike quickly at Masseria, holds a meeting with Owen, Eli, Mickey Doyle, and the rat-like Agent Sawicki. They have intel that Masseria will be at the Turkish baths, and decide that will be a good time to strike. Slater is given the task, and believes it best to keep it small…only himself and Sawicki as back-up. Nucky also meets with an Irish colleague who he orders to Tabor Heights to strike some kind of deal with Rosetti, all for the purpose of figuring out more about his set-up there. When this man has his meeting with Rosetti, Franco once again speaks up about the waves. Talk about if looks could kill…Franco, seriously! Will you never learn?!
Charlie and Meyer are trying to sell their heroin scheme all over New York. First to Rothstein who declines, telling them the timing isn’t right. Then to Masseria, who is also on the verge of declining when they tease him with what they know about Nucky’s plans to take him down. His ears perk up, and he agrees to go in with them on the heroin venture for a substantial cut of the profits and all the info they have on Nucky Thompson.
“A Man, A Plan” is all about plans…and one by one these plans fall apart, almost without fail. Franco, who could not keep his mouth shut, is buried in the sand by Rosetti, who planned to let him drown as the tide comes in. When his cousin begged for mercy, Rosetti agreed to be merciful, Rosetti-style, which meant bashing his head in with a shovel instead. Gaston planned to shoot Jess in his sleep, but instead got a gun turned on him by a wide-awake and paranoid Jess. But instead of shooting Gaston, Jess tremblingly turns the gun on himself, blowing his brains out. Margaret planned to bring health education to the women of Atlantic City, but the bishop decided it’s not worth their resources and cancelled the class. Chalky has big plans for the spot Babette’s used to occupy on the strip–a club with white patrons and black performers, like in Harlem. But Nucky isn’t interested, and curtly dismisses him. And after NG’s first round of success with the Norwegian barkeep, he returns for more business but is betrayed and delivered to Al Capone, who interrogates him about his work for the Irish and brandishes his fork like a switchblade. So much for NG and wife’s plan for an aquavit side business.