"Bone For Tuna"

 

           Well, we knew it was going to happen sooner or later. There was no way that Nucky Thompson wasn’t going to be grappling with the ghost of his surrogate son, Jimmy Darmody. He is, after all, the person who murdered him.

            This week’s episode, “Bone For Tuna,” (more on that cryptic title later) begins with a haunting and eerie dream sequence for Nucky. Jimmy appears to him as the young boy he once guided and molded through childhood. Little Jimmy’s face is marred by a bullet hole – the mortal wound caused by Nucky’s real-life murder of the grown-up Jimmy.

In the dream, Nucky is on the phone, desperately trying to get the operator to connect him to a call. What’s going on? he asks the operator. He can’t get through to his party. The “operator,” replies: “The only thing you have to worry about is when you run out of company.” You’ll recall those were the last words Jimmy uttered to Nucky before Nucky pulled the trigger on him. In the dream, bacon is sizzling in a pan; Nucky can hear it and smell it. By the time he awakens and realizes it was only a dream, we already know that Jimmy's words ring true. Nucky is running out of company, and old ghosts have come calling. If you were a fan of HBO’s other hit show, “The Sopranos,” as I was, you’ll immediately recognize the bizarre and yet riveting dream sequence as a calling card of darker things to come in real life.

Meanwhile, New York mobster Gyp Rosetti and Nucky meet in Atlantic City, ostensibly to make peace. Rosetti, outraged that Nucky now will be selling bootlegged whisky only to New York rival Arnold Rothstein, Rosetti has found a way to corral Nucky into rethinking his decision. They meet, and Nucky offers to sell Rosetti a one-month supply of booze. That mollifies the explosive Rosetti somewhat, but make no mistake: He still is not happy. Nonetheless, the two drink to the deal, with Rosetti offering the Italian salute, “Buona Fortuna” (Good Luck). Nucky – an Irishman, is tickled by the saying. More on that later.

Rossetti makes a stop at Gillian's Artemis Club, (a thinly-disguised brothel) before he heads back to New York. And there he learns from sly Gillian that Nucky’s brother, the disgraced former Sheriff Eli Thompson, had tried to have Nucky killed. You can almost see the delight in Rosetti’s face as he digests that tidbit. This is Gillian’s sneaky way of avenging the death of her son, Jimmy Darmody.

While this is going on, Nucky is blissfully unaware that mobsters Lucky Luciano and Meyer Lansky are bank-rolling Gillian’s place of business to sell pounds of heroin in Harlem. Things for the boys seem to be going well, until one of their men is unexpectedly ambushed by the gang of New York rival Joe Masseria. As the shots fly willy-nilly, Lansky gets off a “lucky” shot and fatally wounds one of Masseria’s men. This promises to be the beginning of another gangland war.

Nucky still has to play family man and pillar of the Atlantic County community. Margaret coerces him to leave the warm bed of his mistress Billie Kent to return to Atlantic City from New York and personally accept the St. Gregory Award from the Catholic Church, making him a “knight” of the church. During the ceremony, Nucky looks over at the choir boys – and believes he sees Jimmy, as a boy, with the bullet hole in his cheek. I can honestly say this is the first time I’ve ever seen Nucky show fear – real, bone-chilling fear. He feels he can control his empire here on Earth, but when you’re dealing with the hereafter, anything goes. I have a feeling “Jimmy” will be haunting Nucky for a long time. With any luck, writer Terence Winter may bring the wonderful actor Michael Pitt (Jimmy) back for some future dream sequences.

Margaret uses the awards ceremony to push through her project of a prenatal clinic for women at the local hospital. She catches the Bishop’s ear, and gets his approval, although he warns her to be careful to follow the church’s teachings. In order words, the Catholic Church doesn’t want women learning about contraception, which is against the faith.

Disgraced former federal agent Nelson Van Alden is having a rough time. First he gets pranked by his fellow salesmen at the iron company, when they rig his inkwell. The straight-laced Van Alden is a fish out of water among these laid-back dudes. So when they prod him into accompanying them to a speakeasy after work, he relents, hoping to be “one of the guys.” In what can only be called a cosmic joke, the speakeasy is raided by G-men. It doesn’t stop there. Call it good fortune or bad, but Van Alden is shaken down by a corrupt prohibition agent. He pays up, and escapes unscathed by the skin of his teeth.

Back to Gyp Rossetti, who explodes at the very hint of an insult or slight. So when it’s time for him to collect his booze, he’s insulted that Nucky himself did not come, but sent his men instead. Nucky might as well have slapped him in the face. Rosetti is fuming. On the ride home to New York, one of Rosetti’s men opens a note from Nucky and reads it to his boss. It reads: “Bone For Tuna,” Nucky’s sloppy way of saying “good luck.” Whether he deliberately misspelled the saying or was merely being phonetic doesn’t matter much to Rossetti. By now he is ablaze with anger, shaking, as he declares, “He’s going to wish ME good luck?”

Rosetti’s gang stop at Tabor Heights, the last place to gas up in New Jersey before New York. It is the local sheriff’s bad fortune to stop by just then. When he warns a still seething Rosetti he shouldn’t be smoking near gas tanks – well, you just know what’s going to happen next. Rosetti grabs a gas pump, douses gasoline over the sheriff and sets him ablaze. Poor guy was in the wrong place at the wrong time. Come to think of it, being around the volatile Rosetti at any time is perilous. He can erupt at any moment. That’s what makes his character so frightening, if not appealing. And it turns out he’s not happy at all with just a month’s worth of hooch.

            Meanwhile, Richard Harrow, the physically and emotionally scarred war hero-turned gangster, overhears one of the rum-runners say that Micky Doyle is spreading a rumor that it was he (Micky) who killed Manny Horvitz. Harrow – who offed Horvitz himself – takes it upon himself to bring Micky to Nucky, gun pointed squarely at Micky’s temple. It’s a time to clear the air, so to speak. A terrified Doyle declares he was “just blowing smoke,” when he bragged about killing Horvitz. Nucky lets him go, but wonders who, in fact, did kill Horvitz. He then realizes it was none other than Harrow.

            Oddly, instead of questioning Harrow why he killed Horvitz, Nucky asks him, “How many people have you killed?” Without hesitation, Harrow replies, “Sixty-three.”

            “Do you think of any of them?” Nucky asks.

            “You know the answer to that yourself,” he answers cryptically.

            Nucky is desperate to get ahold of Billie. When he can’t reach her by phone, he drives up to her New York apartment. She isn’t home, so he falls asleep on the sofa waiting for her. By dawn, he awakens to the sound of bacon sizzling. Is it that cursed dream? He tentatively shakes the sleep from his eyes and walks into the kitchen, where Billie is frying bacon. You can almost feel the relief wash over Nucky as he put his head on Billie’s shoulder.  “I had a bad dream,” he tells her. “I was alone.”

            “Well, you’re not alone anymore,” Billie answers.

            Truly, folks: Is there anyone who truly believes this is the end of Nucky’s nightmares?