A high-stakes poker game convinces Nucky Thompson (Steve Buscemi) that New York mobster Arnold Rothstein (Michael Stuhlbarg) and a Florida land deal don’t mix in Episode 40 (“All In”) of “Boardwalk Empire,” recently renewed by HBO for a fifth season.
“What I require is a partner with a level head,” Nucky says when inviting Arnold to invest in Tampa real estate. With water on three sides, the property is ideal for offloading illegal rum shipments from the islands.
But Nucky and Arnold have a troubled history and trust is lacking. That’s why Arnold won’t part with his money until he gets a better grasp of Nucky’s character.
“I find you don’t really know a man until you play cards with him,” Arnold says.
Nucky is far luckier at poker than Arnold, who borrows $200,000 in a reckless attempt to recoup his losses. He blows that money as well – and doesn’t lose gracefully.
After witnessing Arnold’s disturbing behavior, Nucky withdraws the Florida offer. This provides an opening for mobster Meyer Lansky (Anatol Yusef), an associate of Charles “Lucky” Luciano (Vincent Piazza).
“Last year we made more money than the president of the United States,” boasts Meyer.
Although skeptical, Nucky agrees to partner with Meyer if he comes up with $500,000 in 48 hours. Done and done, Meyer assures him.
Nucky’s criminal connections are a hot topic in Washington as federal agent Warren Knox (Brian Geraghty) briefs the Bureau of Investigation’s J. Edgar Hoover (Eric Ladin).
“I’ll find the weakest link in Thompson’s chain,” Warren vows, “and I’ll break it.”
That link is Eddie Kessler (Anthony Laciura), entrusted by Nucky with delivering $10,000 to gangster Ralph Capone (Domenick Lombardozzi). Before Ralph takes the train home to Illinois, he revels in a songfest with Eddie and his German drinking buddies.
“Come to Chicago,” Ralph says to Eddie.
“To new lives, Mr. Capone,” Eddie responds in an exuberant toast.
Eddie’s new life takes an unexpected turn, however, when he’s detained by the feds.
“Don’t make a scene,” warns Warren, eager to interrogate Nucky’s “wet nurse.”
As for the other Capone brothers – Al (Stephen Graham) and Frank (Morgan Spector) – they take over money collections when obese hood Jake Guzick (Joe Caniano) collapses with a heart attack. Needing some extra muscle, the Capones force Nelson Van Alden (Michael Shannon) to ride along.
Nelson works for gangster Dean O’Banion (Arron Shiver) but maybe not for long. Dean pays decent wages, Nelson points out, but he’s a disrespectful prankster who “takes things too far.”
Loyalty is put to the test when Al orders Nelson to shoot one of Dean’s men. Nelson obliges, firing two rounds before his revolver jams. Al gleefully finishes the job with a Tommy gun.
At the Onyx Club in Atlantic City, Dunn Purnsley (Erik LaRay Harvey) lies to boss Chalky White (Michael Kenneth Williams) when requesting a two-day leave. Instead of visiting his sick mom, Dunn delivers heroin proceeds to Harlem gangster Valentin Narcisse (Jeffrey Wright).
Valentin feigns anger when drug money is brought to the headquarters of his Universal Negro Improvement Association. But as soon as Dunn leaves, Valentin happily pockets the cash.
At Temple University, Nucky’s nephew Willie (Ben Rosenfield) exacts revenge on snobby rich student Henry (Josh Caras) by spiking his drink with a homemade laxative then locking the restroom door – with predictable results.
“You know, most kids are out of diapers by college,” Willie sneers.
But the laxative was far more powerful than intended. After spending an agonizing night on the toilet, Henry is found dead.
Willie’s parents want him to become a successful scholar. Instead, he’s become an accidental killer.