Like most men, Nucky Thompson dreams about bacon. Unlike most men, he also dreams about dead choirboys. Yes, the whole "assassinating your surrogate son" thing is finally starting to catch up to Nucky, and it's blinding the patriarch of Atlantic City from the chaos brewing around him.
As an episode, "Bone for Tuna" belongs to the chief agent of said chaos, Gyp Rosetti. His one-man blockade of the highway between Atlantic City and New York has finally caught Nucky's attention, but his one-man assault on the English language and social convention wages on stronger than ever.
The problem with making Rosetti happy is that you have to have a conversation with him in order to do so. The problem with having a conversation with Rosetti is that things like idiom, metaphor and common colloquialisms throw him into a murderous rage. It's a good bet that Rosetti and Joe Pesci's gangster characters come from the same village in Italy. Nucky speaks for the viewer when he asks "are we starting with this now?" as Gyp takes offense unnecessarily for the 1,436th time in three episodes.
Rosetti's worldview boils down to lighting people on fire when they wish you good luck (or "bone for tuna," if you speak phonetic Italian). After the gasoline bath Rosetti gave the poor Tabor Heights sheriff, let's just assume that every minor character he meets is going to be executed within two episodes.
Still, Gyp Rosetti's chaotic evil seems to be evolving into something resembling a plan. "Life's better with friends," he contritely admits to Nucky, right before strolling into Gillian's establishment to find a way to repay Nucky where it will hurt him. Psychopaths seem to migrate to one another on "Boardwalk Empire," and in the category of the delusional and unstable, Rosetti and Gillian Darmody are a match made in heaven.
Speaking of the divine: Hallelujah, Margaret is back to using her cunning and wits on behalf of the diocese. Scheming Margaret is infinitely better than Fretting Margaret, and her plan to get a pre-natal clinic in the hospital comes together like a well-orchestrated hit. Getting the meeting with the bishop was child's play for her, but trapping Dr. Landau into agreeing with her in front of a his holiness was a cold-blooded move that would've made Nucky proud.
Not only is a craftier, competent Margaret a welcome refrain for the series, but getting Steve Buscemi and Kelly MacDonald together again as co-conspirators or at least acquaintances is a treat for the viewer. Given how heartsick Nucky seems over Billie Kent, it does seem that the romantic part of their relationship is dead, but hopefully "Boardwalk" will find more ways for them to team up.
Meanwhile in Chicago, Nelson Van Alden/George Mueller's life is turning from "Death of a Salesman" into an episode "The Office." His goofy co-workers are making him the unwitting target of pranks and banter when all the man wants to do is sell irons and look creepy.
Since the first episode when Van Alden stumbled accidentally into an opportunity to rejoin the bootlegging game (albeit on the other side), we've just been waiting for the final straw to push him out of his workaday suburban life. Thanks to his frisky Scandinavian bride and a humiliating speakeasy bust that finds him on the wrong end of eighteenth amendment, we're through another week of "Boardwalk" still waiting for him to get back in the game.
The outliers in "Bone for Tuna" are Lucky Luciano and Meyer Lansky, who continue to pioneer heroin sales and distribution in New York City. The tandem of historically significant gangsters only retain a tangential connection to the main Atlantic City crew, mainly through Luciano's role as a silent backer in Gillian's brothel.
Anatol Yusef has been brilliant as a young Lanksy, who is famed in real life for his brains rather than braun. However, getting to see him throw a few rounds from his pistol at Joe Masseria's guys was a welcome turn.
Mickey Doyle's transition to the role of tough guy doesn't go as smoothly as Lanksy's. Seeing an opportunity to earn some street cred, he takes credits for Manny Horovitz's murder, which is pretty despicable considering Manny seemed to be the only one who actually liked Mickey.
This, like most things, does not sit well with Richard Harrow. Operating with limited job responsibilities as the caretaker of Gillian's cathouse, Harrow has plenty of spare time to be the spectre of armed justice in Atlantic City. After literally catching Doyle with his pants down, Harrow presents Doyle to Nucky like a terrifying hall monitor turning in a classmate for breaking the honor code.
High comedy — Mickey's blubbering terror and confession — turns to incredible drama between Nucky and Harrow. Beneath his quivering smirk and iron mask, Harrow explains with cold distance how he killed Manny Horovitz and why. It wasn't for Jimmy's death, after all, but for Angela's, an innocent casualty of Jimmy's power grab. "Jimmy was a soldier," Harrow explains, "he fought and he lost."
Maybe Jimmy Darmody was the first man Nucky had actually killed himself. Maybe he was just the first one that mattered. Either way, Nucky is still unable to shake Jimmy's ghost, and Harrow confirms that it doesn't get any easier.
In a fantastic finish to "Bone for Tuna," Nucky asks Harrow how many people he's killed. "Sixty-three," Harrow answers plainly (he's the type of guy who keeps track of that sort of thing). More importantly, Nucky wants to know if he still thinks about any of them. "You know the answer to that," Harrow answers, one killer to another.
Three random facts from "Bone for Tuna":
•••• Nucky is made a Knight Commander of the Order of St. Gregory, which is the same ranking attained by Bob Hope. Knight Commander is the second of four possible ranks in the order.
•••• The poem that one of Gillian's girls reads for Gyp is "Dream-Love," by the Italian-English poet and artist Dante Gabriel Rossetti. No relation, we're guessing.