'Boardwalk Empire' recap, 'Ging Gang Goolie'

"There's gotta be easier ways to make a buck." -- Nucky Thompson

This week's episode of "Boardwalk Empire" was a sleepy affair. If you had told me before the season started that we'd see Nucky thrown in jail for violating prohibition, I'd assume we were talking about a whopper of a season finale.

Instead, we have a slow crawler with Nucky being fined five dollars for possessing a flask's worth of hooch and kids reciting the state capitals. This is what happens when Gyp Rosetti sits out a week.

"Ging Gang Goolie" focuses on the "Clue"-esque mystery of who started the fire in the Thompson's greenhouse. Whether compost can spontaneously can combust is up for debate, but either way Owen Slater is on the case. Was it the puca, the gypsy, or just Teddy, pyromaniac-in-training?

Who, or whatever is responsible, it works for me because it gets Margaret and Owen back together. Maybe Kelly MacDonald is just great with everyone, but after their dalliance last season, the distance between those two was quite a downer. Since they both "know how to keep a secret," they decide to start a fire of their own in the greenhouse. Wink wink, nudge nudge.

Meanwhile, Nucky and George Remus (whose third-person schtick never gets old) find that their avenue to bribing the Attorney General has gone missing. That avenue, as we learned earlier in the season, is Gaston Means, a foppish and creepy gent who apparently hides in closets and watches people eat breakfast.

The pressure on Jess Smeith, Attorney General Daugherty's man, is beginning to be too much to bear. Smith blubbers during a rousing rendition of the song "Ging Gang Goolie" by Boy Scout Troop 14 from Laurel, Maryland.

At a different point in the episode, Nucky refers to Teddy as a "brave little Scout." Between this episode and "Moonrise Kingdom" it's been a big year for period pieces and scouting.

"Boardwalk" has never been a show to take sides on the issue of prohibition. The "bad guys" love prohibition because it makes them rich. The "good guys" hate it because it's absurd to justify and impossible to promote.

As the night court judge points out, "this entire undertaking is sort of a joke." One of the good guys who soldiers forward on behalf of the letter of the law is Esther Randolph, who nearly brought down Nucky at the end of last season.

After Nucky pays his fine for possessing what amounts to 68 bucks in 2012 dollars, he tries to make an unlikely ally in Randolph, offering up her boss Daugherty alongsideRemus as a potentially career-saving case.

It's clear that a major bootlegging case needs to be made, and Nucky is scrambling to make sure he's not in the defendant's chair.

Not surprisingly, creepy ol' Gaston Means has information for him, at a hefty price. It's unclear who Means is playing for a fool at this point, but my bet is on a smart con man like Means bleeding both Nucky and Daugherty dry until one of them runs out of cash and ends up in front of a judge.

Of course, Harry Daugherty was a real person, so you could always use the internet if you're looking for a clue as to which way this one is going to go.

Elsewhere, Richard Harrow is now hanging around the disgruntled vets at the American Legion. After sympathizing for a drunken Phillipine-American war vet, Paul Sagorsky, Harrow meets his conveniently-aged and attractive daughter Julia. For at least a little while, let's hope that Harrow now has some ambition beyond ruthless murder and occasional babysitting.

Speaking of inappropriate caretakers, Gillian is out to literally replace Jimmy with the first handsome young guy she can find who has that same weird haircut.

Poor Roger from Indiana doesn't know what he's gotten into. She's going to call him James, she explains after recreating her incestual fantasy, because "he was a king." Well, almost a king, anyway

Three random facts from "Ging Gang Goolie":

-- "Birth Control Review" was a real publication that was published from 1917 to 1940. You can read the issue that Margaret was browsing here.

-- The medal Julia Sagorsky's brother was awarded was the French Croix de guerre.

-- If you couldn't understand Owen's brogue in the last scene, he was making a joke about Katie (a grown woman) owning, and naming, her Kewpie dolls. Warning: they are creepy-looking.

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