Let’s Not Lose Our Heads Over This – A Recap of Boardwalk Empire’s “Gimcrack and Bunkum”

[Note:  For those of you looking for a Gossip Girl Recap for “The Fasting and The Furious,” check back around this time tomorrow (October 26th) and it should be up by then.  Sorry for the delay! :)]

NUCKY:  “Mirror, mirror on the wall.  Who’s the most badass of them all?  I am, because I beat the crap out of my own brother in the Garden Room.”

JIMMY: “I scalped some old dude in his house, while forcing him to eat a Native American Breach Cloth.”

NUCKY: “DOH!”

Let’s be honest.  Many of us watch gangster dramas for the WHACKINGS. . .

Not THAT kind of whacking . . . 

Sure, we might pretend to be all “evolved and mature” about these shows.  We might even talk a good game about how impressed we are with the “adult things,” like the “cinematography,” and the “symbolism,” and the “character development.”  Yet, in reality, most of us are just secretly waiting for the moment when the character we always knew was a goner anyway, gets murdered in a highly creative and equally disturbing way . . .

And a good gangster drama doesn’t just whack people, wily nily.  There’s got be a build up to the murders . . . some anticipation . . . and longing. So, when the killing actually arrives, you, the viewer, feel rewarded . . . like you’ve earned it.  In short, gangster dramas treat whackings, like teen dramas treat kisses between soulmates.  Technically speaking, both should happen ALL THE TIME, in EVERY episode.  But because they don’t . . . and because you are taunted and teased with the prospect of them, each week, when they DO happen, it is a true Thing of Beauty.

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That’s what “Gimcrack and Bunkum” was to me . .  . a true Thing of Beauty.  Sure, it had good “cinematography,” “character development,” and Richard Harrow being lifted out of an existential crisis by a dog, who tried to eat his “face” off.  But more importantly than all of that, it had two truly spectacular whackings . . .

Let’s review, shall we?

Public Speaking 101

“I’m picturing all of you naked, right now . . . especially you, Jimmy *winks*”

It’s Memorial Day in Atlantic City.  What better day to publicly humiliate a World War I veteran, right?  Apparently, this is what Nucky thinks, when, after saying a few words about the brave men, who fought for his country, Nucky decides to call Mr. Man of Few Words, Jimmy, to the stage for an impromptu speech, and the reading of the names of some dearly departed soldiers.

Jimmy is clearly neither that confortable, nor that experienced with public speaking.  And this, undoubtedly, is precisely what Nucky was counting on, when he made this tactical political and psychological maneuver.  Nucky’s silent message to his former protege turned nemesis is clear: If you can’t even make a simple speech in public, how can you possibly run an entire city?  At first, Nucky’s plan seems to have paid off.  And we watch for a few uncomfortable moments, as Jimmy shakes, sweats, and blinks silently at the waiting crowd.

“I will not puke on the podium . . . I will not puke on the podium . . . I will not puke on the podium, and if I do, I’ll be sure to puke on Nucky.”

But then something happens to Jimmy, as he stands on that stage.  In those few seconds, he transforms from the runty kid, whose father didn’t care about him, and who’s mother used to inappropriately make out with his winky, into a soldier.

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And though Jimmy’s words, may be just as politically motivated, as those of his predecessor, they ring true, in a way that Nucky’s did not, simply because he IS a veteran.  So, when Jimmy talks about fighting for his family and for America . . . and when he pauses in the reading of the names to remark on a fallen soldier he knew personally, we believe him, and find ourselves eating out of the palm of his hand, just like the rest of the watching crowd.

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Match point.  Jimmy: 1, Nucky: 0

Poor Richard (Poorer Squirrel)

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Meanwhile, Poor Richard is looking through his damn “Families are Awesome.  My Life is Sad” scrapbook again.

He then packs himself an apple for lunch, and heads out in the woods to eat bullets from his gun.

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I probably would have eaten the apple, instead.

I’ll never understand why people choose “blowing brains out,” as their preferred method of suicide.  I understand that it’s more error proof than taking pills, or drowning, or shooting yourself in the heart.  But really, I can’t think of a more awful and grotesque way to send one’s self out of the world.  Can you?

So, already, I’m watching this scene through my fingers, hoping we won’t have to see the actual Brain Explosion.  (They never show it on TV.  But that doesn’t ever stop me from fearing that, one day, they will.  This is HBO, after all.)  Fortunately, for us, and Richard, some adorable, but slightly mangy looking dog, interrupts the suicide attempt to play fetch with the Poor Guy’s face mask.

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If you look closely at the dog, he sort of looks like he’s got a mask on one side of his face, similar to Richard’s.  YAY for parallels (and for adorable mask-eating, suicide preventing dogs)!

Now, realistically speaking, you would think that the guy who was about to explode his FACE with gun powder, would no longer have much use for a face mask.  But Richard decides to put off offing himself, to chase the dog, anyway . . .

Richard eventually loses the dog.  But all that running, and NOT killing himself, has made him tired.  So, he chills out by a tree for a bit.  It is there he is discovered by a creepy, but ultimately well-meaning, hunting dude, and another guy who may be his dad, or just  an elderly friend of his.

Just a bunch of guys . . . chilling out . .  . chewing off the heads of rodents . . . 

These two dudes invite Richard to their little bonfire to drink booze and feast on squirrels.  I’ve never seen a roasted squirrel before.  And it surprises me how much they look like pink versions of the Geico Gecko, when de-furred.

“Please don’t eat me.  I give good rates on car insurance.”

It’s gross . . . and sad.  But not as gross and sad, as a headless Richard.  So . . . yay for that . . . I guess.

Oh, and the dog’s there too . . . with Richard’s mask, which now looks a bit more like a doggy chew toy, than half a face.  If I were him, I would have rinsed it off with the alcohol, before putting it back on.  Because, really, who knows where that dog’s mouth has been?  Anyway, apparently, the dog does not belong to either of the two men.  Rather, he is a SOLDIER *cough symbolism / foreshadowing cough*, and a fighter, who survives, by living every day, as if he is at war.

Richard Harrow’s new mascot. 

One of the guys who found Richard might just be a little psychic, since he somehow seems to know instinctively that Richard came to the forest to kill himself.  He lectures the younger man, about how these woods are FOR LIVING .  . . Yeah, dude . . . tell that to the roasting naked squirrels . . .

Judging YOU . . . 

All sarcasm aside, I’m glad Richard decided not to blow his brains out, and that he has found a new purpose for his life . . . More on that, in a bit.

Meanwhile, back at Vegetable Commodore’s house . . .

Never Mess with Old People Carrying Canes

One of these two men will be minus one scalp by the end of the episode.  Bet you can’t guess which one! 

Jimmy and Eli are meeting with those Old Dudes, led by Uncle Junior from the Sopranos . . .

When did Uncle Junior turn into Santa Claus? 

 . .  who are none too pleased with them, about their 70,000 having recently been eaten up by that fire Owen Sleater set last week, at Mickey’s distillery.  Jimmy tries to reassure the men, that the money will be forthcoming.  But with the Commodore no where in sight, the men are becoming restless, and suspicious about the safety of their investments.  When one particularly ornery old man in a wheelchair publicly suggests that the Commodore is either dead or dying, Jimmy mouths off at him, causing the dude to whack him in the face, with his cane.

It was kind of funny.  I’m not going to lie.  Like most Old Dudes, this one thinks that Young People, like Jimmy, need to learn to respect their elders.  And he is going to beat that respect into every last youngster,  if it is the last thing he does.

Silently seething, Jimmy storms out (probably so his mother can kiss his winkie and make it better).  Eli follows after him, to yell at him for not keeping his cool, and to warn him that, without the Commodore, the two of them are pretty much screwed.  Jimmy doesn’t really think he needs advice from Boardwalk Empire’s version of Fredo, and tells Eli as much.

Later, while Jimmy’s Mommy is cleaning his wound,  she not-so-subtly tells Jimmy he shouldn’t take this being caned, lying down.  “We will not be respected . . . Do what needs to be done,” she scolds him.

Of course, as we learned from last week, when Gillian Darmody tells you to do something, you DO IT.  Because she has a really nasty right hook . . .

Just ask THIS GUY . . . 

Speaking of women (and men) not to be trifled with . . .

“Hey Bro, sorry about the whole Betrayal Thing . . . wanna wrestle?”

Nucky comes home from a strenuous morning of kissing some lawyers’ asses to find, much to his dismay, that Margaret has let his brother into the Garden Room.   Eli’s totally working this Fredo angle, hardcore.  He’s crying and blubbering, and begging Nucky for forgiveness.  His nose is so far up his brother’s butt, that it’s practically popping out of the older man’s mouth.

After making a few cracks about how the lord distributes his gifts unequally (Yes, Nucky, clearly, you got the looks in the family.) . . .

. . .  and hearing Eli admit, both that he knows the names of the men testifying against Nucky, and that the Commodore has had a stroke . . .

. . . it really does seem that Nucky is going to take pity on his brother, and let him back into his inner circle.  And  . . . then he doesn’t.  Nucky boldly asks his brother to get on his KNEES AND KISS HIS FEET.  Eli seems genuinely shocked.  I suspect he really thought this was going to work out.

“But . . . you have really smelly feet!” 

Next thing you know, the two middle-aged men are wrestling on the floor . . . and, suddenly, I’m having flashbacks to that episode of The Sopranos, where Tony and Bobby Baccala started beating the crap out of eachother at the Lake House.

Ahhh, brotherly love . . . 

It’s kind of awesome, and unintentionally hilarious at the same time.  But then the men start grabbing for concealed weapons, and I’m genuinely beginning to get worried about their safety.

But wait .  . . SOMEONE has just put a rifle to Eli’s head, and it’s not Nucky.  It’s . . . wait for it . . . MARGARET!

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My hero!  Holy crap!  This woman has done it again.  She leads a shocked Eli out the door, with a simple and calm expression of a single word.  “Enough.”  And I’m pretty sure Eli just crapped his pants.

Once he’s gone, Nucky has the NERVE to tell the woman who just SAVED his ass, that she should have LOADED the gun, before she shoved it in Eli’s face.  HELLO, by the time she LOADED the gun, you’d probably have brains seaping out of your ears, ASSHAT!  A simple “thank you,” would have sufficed.  Just sayin . . .

Those are some BUSY prostitutes .  . .

Later that day, the Attorney General, Nucky’s lawyer, and that Senator Guy we keep seeing, pop by to explain, once again, how those election fraud charges SHOULD eventually be dropped against Nucky, once the case is removed to federal court, on account of the federal prostitution charges that are ALSO cleverly being lodged against Nucky.  And yet,  we’ve spent so MUCH time on the rather technical legal nuances of this storyline, that I can’t help but wonder whether all of this is going to end up blowing up in Nucky’s face.

Nevertheless, the same whores who initially got him out of State court, are back to bone the Attorney General and his pals in Nucky’s by-now-surely-disease infested “study.”  Part of me thinks, the only reason they keep showing these ladies is so that Boardwalk Empire meets it’s weekly Boobie Quotient . . .

Speaking of Boobies . . .

Dangerous Maid Gets Dangerously Laid

O face . . . 

Margaret awakens in the middle of the night, to the sound of a scream.  She runs into Maid Katie in the hallway, who claims she hasn’t heard a thing.  Later, of course, we learn that the scream came from Katie, who has been boning Owen, down the hall .  . . Way to go, Katie!  Now, Margaret’s not the only lady with a little Irish in her, if you catch my drift . . .

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Meanwhile, at Fredo-Eli’s house . . .

By George, he’s got it!  (And by IT, I mean a wrench in the face)

“May I have this dance?” 

Eli is hanging out with one of his 85,000 kids, when Alderman George comes by, asking some surprisingly on-point questions about the Commodore’s health.  In fact, the Alderman wants to go down to the Commodore’s house, to make sure he’s not a vegetable, or something.  Eli assures George that the Commodore is fine.  But George isn’t buying it, and threatens to go back to Nucky, if Eli isn’t honest with him.

So, Eli freaks out, and crushes George’s windpipe with his monkey wrench.

Well, that’s not good!   Now, George is definitely going to go to Nucky . . . if he’s ever able to speak again.  Eli can’t have that, so he hits him with the monkey wrench in the face . . . again . . . and again . . . and again.

Batter up . . . 

Remember earlier, when I was talking about how I never wanted to see what someone’s head looks like, after it’s been blown off.  Well, now, I know what someone’s head looks like, when it’s been smashed to bits by a monkey wrench.  And, let me tell you, it’s not pretty.  For those of you who have never seen something like this, I’ll attempt to provide you with the necessary visual.  Imagine drop-kicking a watermelon . . .

I’m just glad, Eli sent his kid away, before he did this.  Talk about being traumatized for life.

Now, correct me if I’m wrong.  But wasn’t George supposed to be one of the alderman meant to testify against Nucky for Election Fraud.  Well, that should make things interesting  .  . .

Anywhoo, Eli gets his second in command, to help him carry George’s body to his car.  And then Eli buries the poor schlub on the beach.  Oh Fredo-Eli . . . you are SO getting whacked on a fishing boat, sometime soon . . .

Scalp and a Haircut . . .

Back at the Darmody house, Jimmy shares a sweet moment with his wife . . .

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JIMMY: “Just pretend you are making out with that woman you were cheating on me with, last season.”

ANGELA:  “Cool, and you can pretend you are making out with that woman you were cheating on ME with, last season.”

JIMMY: “Which one?  My mom?”

ANGELA: “THE OTHER ONE!”

 . . .  before having an even sweeter one, with Richard.   (As awful as Jimmy can be sometimes, you’ve got to admit, his bromance with Richard is just adorable.)  When Richard comes home late, Jimmy instinctively seems to know that something SERIOUS has gone down.  “I should have gone with you,” Jimmy tells Richard, when the latter claims to have “gone for a walk.”

Jimmy then asks Richard to go on job with him, because even Veterans, apparently, don’t get the full day off on Memorial Day.  “Would you fight for me?”  Richard asks, looking to his companion, much like a son seeking approval from his dad.

“Right down to the last bullet,” Jimmy assures his friend, rubbing his head, in a rather paternal way, much as we suspect Nucky used to do to HIM, back when he was a child.

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With a renewed sense of purpose, Richard rises, with a look of determination on his face.  “Then, let’s go to work.”

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“Scalp, Richard, scalp . . . GOOD BOY!”

Now, we’re at that Old Dude’s House . . . you know, the one who clocked Jimmy.  He’s looking at some Native American Breach Cloth, and making some not-very-PC comments about Native Americans to his butler, specifically, referring to their penchant for public nudity, and belief in magic.  Once Old Dude is alone, Jimmy and Harrow appear, in front of him.  Jimmy straps the soon-to-be-dead guy down to show him, that he is “not to be disrespected.”  “I’m going to teach you something, now” he says maniacally.

Then Harrow appears from behind.  “And who the hell are you?”  Old Dude asks.

“I’m a soldier just like that adorable dog that tried to eat my face,” says Harrow triumphantly, as he grotesquely scalps the Old Dude, and, in doing so, brings meaning back to his life.

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See, don’t you just love a happy ending?  🙂

[www.juliekushner.com][Fangirls Forever]

7 Comments

Filed under Boardwalk Empire

7 responses to “Let’s Not Lose Our Heads Over This – A Recap of Boardwalk Empire’s “Gimcrack and Bunkum”

  1. linda

    A great recap as usual. Richard just makes me wanna cry. The scene with jimmy getting hit in the head by the old man was was so funny i laughed both times i watched it. I think this was the best episode so far this season. Can’t wait until next weeks episode!

    • Hey Linda! I agree with you 100%. This was definitely the strongest episode of the season. I think I felt the same way last season. Boardwalk Empire is a show that takes a bit longer to hit its stride than most series, because it’s so very invested in the development of its characters. But once it gets going, it doesn’t let up, until the final seconds of the finale. That being said, I’m super excited to see where this season is going to take us, especially, now that we know we will definitely be getting a Season 3.

      Jack Huston is just amazing as Richard Harrow. He puts so much heart and complexity into a role that, in the hands of a lesser actor, might come off as hammy. He’s made me cry in just about every episode in which he’s featured. I really do hope Richard finds some happiness this season (a love interest wouldn’t hurt ;)), and that they aren’t setting him up for an even more tragic fall.

      Every episode of Boardwalk has its trademark jaw dropping, yet oddly hilarious, scenes. Two episodes ago, we got the Flying Lobster Thermidor, last week, we got that super weird seduction scene at the beginning of the episode starring Miss Winkie Kisser herself, and this week, Jimmy got caned. It was just so unexpected, you had to laugh. But boy, did Jimmy get that Old Dude back for that! Between this, and that fountain double homicide a few episodes ago, Jimmy is definitely becoming the one guy NOT to mess with on this show.

      He’s been making Al Capone look like a puppy dog! 🙂

  2. MarBar

    Loved this episode! And your recap was awesome as always.

    I’m glad you made note of my favorite scene of the episode. Richard asking Jimmy if he’d fight for him was so touching. Jimmy is his family now. His younger brother in a sense. He’ll do anything for Jimmy and now he knows he’ll get the same in return.

    Why isn’t Angela’s hair growing out!? It’s been “months” since she chopped it all off in rebellion.

    I thought I’d have a bunch to comment but after reading your kicka$$ it’s safe to say you covered it all. =)

    Oh yeah! One more thing! I’m jealous of Katie because she got to get it on with cutie (with a just as cute personality) Owen.

    • Hey MarBar! Thank so much for stopping by and commenting. I’m so glad you enjoyed the recap. This really was a fun Boardwalk Empire episode, wasn’t it? 🙂

      And what a great point you make about Angela’s hair! It’s been almost a YEAR, and it hasn’t grown an inch. Perhaps, now that Jimmy’s on the Commodore’s payroll (well, at least, he WAS), Angela can afford to get her hair re-trimmed, every month. 🙂 If that’s the case, then, realistically, Angela’s hair should start getting long again soon, since that money well has clearly run dry. 😉

      I loved the scene between Richard and Jimmy too. Though they are about the same age, I think Jimmy really does feel like a father figure to Richard. And Richard looks up to him, in the same way.

      The subtle emotionality of the two men in that scene was extremely poignant. And it really served to drive home the soldier / dog metaphor established for Richard’s character in the first half of the episode. Most of us would seek to avoid the trauma of war. But for Richard, being a soldier, and having a comrade like Jimmy to fight for, puts meaning into his otherwise lonely existence, and, actually gives him a reason to keep on living.

      Oh, and as for Katie, I’m a little jealous too! Owen is pretty darn easy on the eyes. I actually prefer his oddly antagonistic, but still sexually tense, chemistry with Margaret, to his basic flirtations with Katie, though. I wonder how long it will take before the sparks start flying between THOSE two.

      Watch out, Nucky (and Katie)! It looks like you both might have some competition on your hands!

      • MarBar

        Well I had never really noticed the tension between Margaret and Owen. Whenever I think of those two I remember Owen thinking Margaret was Katie’s mom! I loved the look on our dear Margaret’s face when he said that. Bet Margaret wasn’t feeling so hot then. But now that I think about it, Owen is just the type to say something like to play on a girl’s insecurities to get her to put out. Smart

        There’s one scene in a previous episode that I loved so much I watched it about three times to let the awesomeness of it sink in.

        Remember when the Commodore was having dinner with Jimmy and Nucky walked over to confront them? … and Nucky turned to speak to Jimmy and the Commodore had to tell him “Meet his eyes boy.” Yeah. That was just epic. I have no
        other words to describe that moment. I’m sure you appreciated it too because you’re awesome like that!

  3. Hedgehog

    Love, love, love your recap! This was my favorite episode, yet. Richard’s scenes were amazing – especially when he asks Jimmy if he would fight for him. Let’s just say that I may have burned out my PVR from rewinding that scene so much. I love the Richard character – the sweet, tender man performing such vicious acts… makes for the most interesting character on the show. Love it! Thanks for your awesome recap! Oh, and I agree – the bromance between Jimmy and Richard ROCKS.

    • Hey Hedgehog! Thanks so much for stopping by and commenting. I agree with you 100%. The loyal, and oddly sweet, bond between Jimmy and Richard is one of the most fascinating elements of this season. And no where was it more apparent, than in this episode. (Of course, the fact that both actors are pretty easy on the eyes . . . Harrow’s grotesque facial makeup notwithstanding . . . certainly doesn’t hurt ;))

      You bring up a really great point about otherwise kind men perfoming vicious acts. I think this week we saw a bit of insight into how Richard can justify those two seemingly inconsistent aspects of his personality. By viewing himself as a soldier, Richard can psychologically distance himself from the violence that he performs. I suspect he does this by viewing what he does, both as a job, and a means of showing loyalty and love to his comrades.

      It’s possible that this is how Richard, Jimmy, and many other soldiers are able to survive the psychological scars of war. Very interesting! 🙂

      I’m so psyched to talk Boardwalk with you this season, Hedgehog. Thanks again for reading!

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