Blue Bell Boy: Nucky’s Costly Detour

Boardwalk Empire’s 4th episode of Season 3 “Blue Bell Boy” opens up with a birds-eye view of Owen Slater’s thóin (Gaelic for ass). He’s in bed with Katie when their morning romp is interrupted by a phone call. Lovely Katie answers the phone giggling like mad. While Owen learns he needs to read the morning paper and get his thóin to work, Katy does her best to keep Owen and “Mr. Poofles” from leaving.

Nucky is already at Mickey Doyle’s warehouse and Owen arrives late, earning him a quizzical look from Nucky, who announces the news of the fiery demise of Sheriff Sickles in Tabor Heights. He says the Atlantic City Press has deemed the death an accident but the only witness was Gyp Rosetti. That means there will be no more shipments through Tabor Heights. Mickey Doyle is not down with icy back roads and asks where they will get gas. Nucky says it’s his problem and Doyle looks to Owen for input: “You sure this is a good idea?” This really burns Nucky up. The Kingpin has spoken and doesn’t give a shit what Owen thinks of the idea.

Nucky confronts Owen with another detour: Rowland Smith, the thief that Horvitz was supposed to take down in Resolution before Harrow blew his face off. Somehow Owen didn’t realize he was supposed to follow that up which annoys Nucky even more. Nucky tells him to track down Smith with the aid of crooked Prohibition agent Stan Sawicki, if necessary. Owen stupidly questions the wisdom of this. Nucky says Sawicki needs to earn the money he’s getting. “Any more second-guessing?” he asks pointedly. Owen backs off.

Owen and Nucky meet up with Sawicki at a house where the Philadelphia Treasury Office believes Rowland Smith lives. They find it packed with not only their booze but plenty that formerly belonged to Waxey Gordon, too. “It’s all ours now,” Nucky says, and pays off Sawicki, whose stupid jokes aren’t worth his time. “Go buy yourself a personality,” he deadpans.

When Rowland Smith (the Blue Bell Boy) shows up, Owen ambushes him, demanding to know his name: “Lon Chaney,” the boy responds. Another punch brings the answer: “Norma Talmadge?” and when Owen puts a gun at his temple, Rowland claims to be Baby Peggy! Owen calls the Ritz, much to Rowland’s amazement. When Nucky shows up, Rowland asks him for a cigarette during his interrogation and Nucky asks how old he is. He claims to be turning 16 very soon. Nucky says he shouldn’t smoke. Hilarious. He shouldn’t steal other people’s liquor either, eh? Rowland says he doesn’t smoke but just wants to “see what all the fuss is about.” Nucky wants to know if Rowland is trying to charm him. Rowland has a wisecrack for that and everything else. Nucky and Owen cannot help but be amused by the brash teenager. Owen offers to do any dirty work involving Rowland, but any such plans will have to wait as some prohibition agents show up and knock off two of Nucky’s guards outside. Nucky, Owen and Rowland hide in the basement, while the agents search the place. Then they set about hauling off the booze.

Nucky notices they left a car in plain sight but Owen assures him there’s nothing incriminating in it. Rowland seizes the opportunity to inform them he has around 50 license plates he swaps around on his trucks to throw off the feds. Slater wants to know why the feds are there if it’s such a good system. Rowland points out he wasn’t that easy to find. He also says the feds knocked off his partner, Nate, and they don’t bother to inform him that they did it. Nate sleeps the sleep of those who don’t worry while Owen tells Nucky about his Ulster hitman days. What Nucky really wants to know if Owen knows his place in his operation. Owen assures him he does and respects Nucky as his boss and source of income. (Except when he’s lusting after the boss’s wife).

When the prohis leave, Rowland says he wasn’t scared. “I was,” Nucky admits, and Rowland obligingly says he was, too. Then he offers to fry up some bacon and eggs. On the phone, Owen finds out the shipment for Rothstein is on the way via Tabor Heights because the roads were cleared. Owen again tries to convince Nucky he can keep his hands clean while Owen dispatches Rowland if that’s what he wants. Rowland tries to convince Nucky to put him to work. “Ain’t I cool in a tight spot?” he asks. Nucky admires his moxie. Rowland tells the truth about his age. He’s 19 and legally able to drive. Then he gives himself away in a second lie by pulling out a pack of cigarettes. He brushes off his earlier disclaimer. When a car drives up outside, Owen says it’s Eddie Kessler, Nucky’s driver, but suddenly a gunshot rings out. As Owen spins around with his gun drawn, he sees Rowland hit the deck, dead as a doornail. “I thought you were letting him go,” Owen questions. “Why would you think that?” Nucky answers.

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This little sojourn into testing Owen’s loyalty left Mickey Doyle in charge of the shipment.

Eli Thompson wanted his brother to give him a more important role, but Nucky shot him down. “Let me earn, Nucky,” Eli begged. “I did my time like you asked.” Nucky responded that allowing Eli to simply go jail is the last gift he’ll ever get from him. Eli travels to Tabor Heights to see what he can learn about how Sickles really died. Acting Sheriff Ramsey says they’re going to handle “these dagos.”

In the local diner, Gyp Rosetti and his thugs discuss the best way to utilize the area for their purposes. Rosetti roughly grabs a red-headed waitress and tells her that he plans to take her in the back and teach her how to make sauce. What a flirt! She says she doesn’t know how to cook. “You stir,” Gyp says, “I’ll provide the heat.” Sounds much more menacing than fun.

Eli has done his best to convince Mickey Doyle that he is making a mistake and has Eddie Kessler tryring to track Nucky down. But Eddie is unsuccessful and he has even tried the “chippie in New York,” as Eli refers to Billie Kent. Arnold Rothstein calls Mickey Doyle to ask him why he’s talking to him. Mickey says because Rothstein called him. But Rothstein is angry that he even has to make the call and warns Mickey in so many words that he doesn’t want to have to make another. Mickey promises morning delivery.

Eli drives up to Tabor Heights alone to see what is really going on and observes that the Tabor Heights police and Rosetti are in cahoots. Eli tries to head off the convoy but they have been told not to stop for anyone, not even the law. Eli may not be the law anymore, but he is anyone and they don’t stop for him. They are all killed. While the bodies are disposed of, Gyp asks his man which waitress at the diner is cuter: the blonde or the redhead. The man thinks the blonde is. “I’m gonna f*ck the redhead,” Gyp says.

As you know, one time-honored way for gangsters to be killed in films is while in bed with a woman who becomes collateral damage. No offense to the redhead, but that would be one cool way to get rid of Gyp, wouldn’t it?

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