The rubble of Babette's Supper Club is still smoking and the echoes of last week's blast are still ringing in Nucky Thompson's ears.
An episode like "The Milkmaid's Lot" could have gone down a very reflexive road. This might have been Nucky's episode to dream he's a different person while he recovers from his wounds (looking at you, Tony Soprano).
Instead, Steve Buscemi turns in a stellar performance as a shell-shocked Nucky who just wants all his rivals dead and a pony for his stepdaughter.
Buscemi plays Nucky confused, irritated, disoriented, manic and vulnerable. It's a kaleidoscope of a character we so often see wrapped in singular purpose and calm control. He forgets his friends' faces, along with most of the details of recent events. The one thing he can focus on is Gyp Rosetti.
Yes, like MacArthur returning to the Philippines, Rosetti has returned toTabor Heights. His first act of business is to reaffirm the universal law that being the sheriff of Tabor Heights is the equivalent to being the drummer in Spinal Tap.
Surprisingly, Sheriff Ramsey isn't quite dead, and Rosetti's small army has made encampment in the town like Revolutionary War general "Mad" Anthony Wayne before him.
Nucky attempts to from a coalition of the wiling against Rosetti, calling in all the major players of the Eastern seaboard to unite against Gyp and his benefactor Joe Masseria.
Shaken after finding Billie's missing earring from last week, Nucky gets a pep talk from Margaret and rallies to deliver a focused performance under duress. His effort is not unlike Michael Jordan scoring 38 points in Game 5 of the 1997 NBA Finals with a serious flu.
His plea, however, falls upon deaf ears. If Nucky is going to fight a war with Rosetti and Masseria, he's going to have to do it alone.
While things are going bad on the gangster front for Nucky, the political side of life is looking up. George Remus becomes the scapegoat of the Volstad Act, leading prohibition agents on a Benny Hill-worthy chase in his bathrobe. Agent Randolph's use of Remus' trademark third person? Gilmore thinks it sublime.
On the relationship front, Margaret and Owen sound more than speculative about running away together, and Richard Harrow's grown-up date with Julia Sagorsky is awkward and touching. Would it be insensitive to wear a Richard Harrow mask with lipstick on it for Halloween next year? Asking for a friend.
Maybe being raised in a brothel worked out for James Brown, but it's probably not a viable situation for Tommy. With Lori from "The Walking Dead" conceding the race, Gillian is making a strong case for Mother of the Year, putting her "son" down with rum after letting him play hide and seek in a cathouse.
The final image of "The Milkmaid's Lot," Gyp Rosetti in General Wayne's hat, might be the best image of season three. The pieces are now in place for the all-out Nucky vs. Rosetti war that's been brewing since the beginning of the year.
Given the mental states of the two "generals" in this conflict, it's going to get ugly real fast.
¿ General "Mad" Anthony Wayne has plenty of Americana named after him, part of which is the city of Fort Wayne, Indiana. The NBA Development League has a team in Fort Wayne called the "Mad Antz" (get it?) complete with a freakish mascot colloquially known as "Nightmare Ant."