"Boardwalk Empire" The Ivory Tower (TV Episode 2010) - Plot Summary Poster

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  • Prohibition agent Nelson Van Alden turns up unexpected at Nucky's office. He tells Nucky that he is investigating Saturday night's shooting, because he doesn't believe that Hans Schroeder was the murder. As soon as Nelson has left, Nucky starts cutting off all ties that could connect him to the case. His brother, Sheriff Eli Thompson, visits Mrs. Schroeder at the hospital, where she is laying in a bed, reading "The Ivory Tower" by Henry James. He tries to convince her that her dead husband was involved in bootlegging, and tells her to maintain this explanation, if someone would ask her about it. Jimmy Darmody uses his share of the robbery to buy presents for his family and for his mother, a nightclub performer. When he turns up at Nucky's office, Nucky tells him that he is fired, and that he should pay him 3 grand within 48 hours for the trouble he has caused. To be able to do this, Jimmy steals back the valuable necklace he has given to his mother. Arnold Rothstein phones Nucky, and says that Nucky owes him 100 grand for the load of liquor that wasn't delivered, but Nucky just brushes him off.

  • Investigating a crime which he feels has been pinned on a scapegoat, straight-arrow Agent Nelson Van Alden pays a visit to Nucky and leaves convinced that the Treasurer is "as corrupt as the day is long." Nucky quickly does damage control, enlisting his brother, Sheriff Elias Thompson, to close ranks with their underlings. Nucky discusses the upcoming election with his aging mentor, Commodore Louis Kaestner, with whom he debates the women's vote issue. Later, before heading out for a night on the town, Nucky rebukes an irate Arnold Rothstein over the phone, then meets privately with Margaret Schroeder, who asks him for help in providing for her children. As a long day ends, a traveling salesman named George Baxter, in town for a few days with an unwilling young beauty named Claudia, makes a startling discovery while on the road home to Baltimore.

  • The Feds begin to look into Nucky's affairs, his brother Eli looks to buy off Mrs. Schroeder, and Nucky essentially fires Jimmy Darmody as his chauffeur.


The synopsis below may give away important plot points.


  • Church bells ring as Big Jim Colosimo's mourners huddle in Chicago for a look at the boss' casket. A reporter asks Johnny Torrio about having been questioned by the cops about the hit on Big Jim. When Torrio says they "is like brothers," the reporter quipped, "Like Cain and Abel?" The reporter notices the flower arrangement from Nucky Thompson on the Hearse.

    Back in Atlantic City, Agent Van Alden shows up at Nucky's place for a chat. Nucky offers Van Alden a shoeshine, coffee, "something stronger, maybe?" Van Alden isn't in the mood for jokes. When Van Alden tells Nucky he's been waiting since 9:00 a.m. to see him, Nucky replies, "Both I and the City of Atlantic march to our own drummers." Van Alden says he is investigating Saturday night's shootings, and when Nucky mentions that Hans Schroeder is found dead (and is the suspect, according to the city), Van Alden challenges what a baker's apprentice with hardly any criminal record would be doing killing four guys in the woods.

    Van Alden presses Nucky on Schroeder, asking if Nucky knew where he might be able to find Hans' wife, who isn't home. When Nucky suggests that Van Alden should stick to his duty to fight alcohol, Van Alden says, "I suppose I march to the beat of my own drummer, as well." Then he leaves.

    Jimmy walks along the boardwalk and, ignoring a KKK recruiter's flier, pops into a jewelry store. Meanwhile, Nucky meets up with a city official named Baxter who is hoping get over with a young lady he is trying to impress.

    Margaret is still in the hospital reading "The Ivory Tower" when a nurse tells her Mr. Thompson is there to see her. Margaret prepares herself and seems a bit let down to see it is Elias, not Nucky. Margaret defends her husband, but Elias pressures her and suggests she didn't "really" know what he was up to. He suggests "he could have been involved," and asks her to keep that in mind if anyone else comes asking. He gives her an envelope containing cash from Nucky.

    Van Alden meets with his boss, giving him the lowdown on Nucky's lavish lifestyle, saying, "He's corrupt as the day is long." The people love him, Van Alden says, "the darkies, especially." Nucky is getting paid by every type of business in town and alcohol "hasn't slowed down a bit." When Van Alden's boss asks about Arnold Rothstein, Van Alden says he thinks Nucky is the bigger fish.

    Nucky goes to the jail to tell Mickey Doyle he is "out." Not out of jail, out of business because he broke the cardinal rule of getting caught. Mickey is upset, saying he's been set up, but Nucky says the feds were on to Mickey and he couldn't risk getting caught up in it. He leaves him in jail.

    Christmas comes late to the Darmody household as Jimmy surprises his wife and son with a tree and gifts, saying Nucky had given him a bonus. His boy upwraps a toy truck and Jimmy gives Angela a bracelet. He tells her to let him worry about the cost. He also gives her a "vacuum sweeper." Its noise scares young Tommy.

    Back in New York, Lucky Luciano brings Frankie Yale to see Rothstein. Frankie is back from Chicago, where he says he was visiting a friend. Lucky suggests it is a lousy visit for Frankie's friend (a suggestion that Frankie had something to do with Colosimo's murder, which we know he did). Rothstein proceeds to tell an amusing story about how he once tricked a sideshow entertainer into choking himself to death on a cue ball to win a $10,000 bet. He tells Frankie the moral of the story is that if he was the type of person who'd cause a stranger to choke to death for his own amusement, "what do you think I'll do to you if you don't tell me who ordered you to kill Colosimo?" Frankie says nothing.

    Back at Jimmy's place, he and Angela are getting frisky, but Angela says it is "not a good time." As she proceeds to take a different approach (French style), Tommy wakes up and interrupts them. Jimmy leaves and goes to a theater where a burlesque show rehearsal is happening. He pays particular attention to one woman who, during a break in the rehearsal, is over the moon to see Jimmy there. She jumps into his arms and he gives her the nicer of two necklaces from the jewelry store. It is his mother, and the necklace is like one his father had given her years before that she'd "sold to keep a roof over my head." Jimmy, in passing, mentions he didn't have a father.

    Jimmy then goes to Nucky's and begins preparing for his work day by pouring himself a drink. Nucky reminds Jimmy that the events of the past few days have changed their relationship. Nucky wants to know what happened the other night. Jimmy explains that he and Al Capone had gotten to talking and he says Torrio had sanctioned the heist only after Jimmy suggested it. He apologizes to Nucky and says it should never have been traced back to him. Nucky then tells Jimmy that Van Alden is asking questions. Jimmy says a deer had spooked Al but Nucky is still upset that the result is that they killed four guys. Jimmy thought it was five. Jimmy apologizes again, but Nucky says that Jimmy no longer works for him. He then tells Jimmy, "If you want to be a gangster in my town, you'll pay me for the privilege." He also says Jimmy is $3,000 short on Nucky's share (based on the payment Jimmy gave Nucky previously). He says Jimmy has 48 hours to come up with it.

    Back in Chicago, the reporter from the Colosimo funeral goes to a brothel where Al Capone is tending bar and asks him for a statement on the record. When the reporter tells Al he is going with a story linking Johnny Torrio to the Big Jim murder, Al smashes a bottle over the reporter's head before kicking the hell out of him as he lies helpless on the floor. Johnny comes around the corner and asks what is going on. "I'm making a statement," Al says, before landing another vicious stomp onto the reporter's head.

    That night, Nucky is trying to avoid Rothstein's calls, but finally takes picks up. Rothstein explains that he never received the whiskey delivery he'd arranged. Rothstein then tells Nucky he owes him $100,000.

    "It's bad enough you sold my load to Chicago," Rothstein tells him, then adds that his sister-in-law's nephew was one of those drivers. Nucky says he didn't sell the load to anyone, "and I don't care if your mother is one of the drivers."

    "Is this the way you do business?" Rothstein asks.

    "You want to see how I do business?" Nucky says. "Show your face again in Atlantic City." Then he hangs up.

    Jimmy gets home late and quietly pulls an envelope of cash out from behind a radiator. Angela wakes up and he tells her to go back to sleep, not saying what he is doing. He counts the cash which he'd been paid upon his honorable discharge from the military.

    Margaret walks into her home and, still bruised on her face, sees the mess that resulted from the beating her husband gave her. She pulls a ribbon from her hair.

    Van Alden knocks on Margaret's door and she welcomes him in, apologizing for the mess by explaining she'd just returned from the hospital. Van Alden silently watches her pick up the kitchen a bit. She says nothing when Van Alden offers his condolences and says, "I'm sure your husband was a fine and decent man." He says he thinks her husband is a patsy, but he isn't yet sure who'd set him up. She touches her hair and realizes her ribbon is missing. Van Alden asks about her relationship with Nucky Thompson. She seems surprised by the question.

    On the boardwalk, Nucky runs into Baxter and his young lady. When she goes to buy some salt water taffy, Baxter tells Nucky about the lengths he's gone to in an effort to bed her, but nothing is happening. When she returns, Nucky tries to help out, telling the girl -- who is 19 -- that he is thinking of sponsoring a beauty contest in Atlantic City and that she could be a contestant. He then mentions that Baxter would be one of the judges. She seems intrigued and, as Nucky walks away, he tells Baxter, "That ought to warm her up."

    At a bar, Jimmy goes to a pay phone where an operator has finally connected him to Al Capone in Chicago (he'd been waiting half an hour). Jimmy asks Al to wire him $500 and Al pretends he can't hear him over the phone. He hangs up, laughing with a floozy who was at Al's elbow listening.

    Nucky meets with Commodore Kaestner who is counting money Nucky has given him. Nucky tells the Commodore he let Jimmy go, which Kaestner thought might be good for Jimmy -- "toughen him up a little bit." In other news, Nucky says Senator Edge and Frank 'I am the law' Hague from Jersey City are coming out for his birthday. He says he is hoping to pin Edge down on some road appropriation money. They talk about Edge's aspirations of heading to Washington. They talk about how Edge could "go all the way", and Nucky notes that "the ladies love him". With the women's vote in the front of his mind, Nucky says there could be a hell of a lot of votes. Kaestner laughs and Nucky tells him, "A vote's a vote, isn't it?"

    To prove a point, Kaestner calls in his maid, Louanne, and asks her what she thought of the League of Nations. She says she doesn't know what that is. He quizzes her some more and she apologizes and says she is "not versed in these matters." As she leaves, he tells Nucky, "That's your women's vote."

    Back at the burlesque theater, Jimmy waits in the wings for all the girls to go on stage so he can sneak into the dressing room and steal the necklace he'd given his mother earlier.

    In his hotel room, Van Alden writes a letter to his wife Rose. He says important agency business will keep him from home longer. He gives instructions on how to keep the water pipes from cracking in the winter, then crushes out his cigarette and pulls Margaret's hair ribbon out from his desk. He winds it around his hand, then puts it up to his nose to breathe in her scent.

    We next see Margaret sitting alone in the kitchen when her daughter comes in, laughing as she tries to walk in her dead father's shoes.

    Back in Nucky's bedroom, he blows off Lucy's suggestion that he grow a mustache "like Douglas Fairbanks." Eddie comes in and says Margaret is there to see him. He tells Lucy to wait in the car with Eddie. It is almost midnight when Nucky sits down with Margaret. She hands him the money he'd sent through Elias. She says she doesn't know what it is, or what it is for, but "it is weighing too heavily on my conscience." She starts to talk about her husband being gone and Nucky tells her he understands what she is going through. Margaret asks about Nucky's deceased wife and he tells her his wife was 28 when she died. "She was a beautiful and loving woman," he says. Margaret reminds Nucky that when she first went to see him she was only looking for employment for her husband, not money. He says the money is "the charitable thing."

    "Charity degrades those who receive it, and hardens those who dispense it," she says, quoting George Sand.

    "He is a poet," Nucky says.

    "He is a she, actually," Margaret replies, clarifying that Baroness Armatine Lucile Dupin is the woman behind the pen name. She is well read, having worked for a barrister before coming to America. She says she just wants to provide for her children, and when Nucky says he'd like to help, she asks him what she should do. "What do you want from me?" she asks.

    "I want you to vote Republican," he says.

    Baxter is frustrated as he still is getting nowhere with his young lady, who slaps him when he tries to "get fresh." He says he is driving her back home to Baltimore.

    Nucky is yukking it up with friends at dinner when Jimmy shows up with the $3,000 he'd scraped and scrounged up. He asks Nucky if they are square.

    "As a block of ice," Nucky says, before retreating to the roulette table. He casually puts Jimmy's $3,000 on black. The ball comes up red, and just like that, Jimmy's cash is gone. Nucky wryly turns to Jimmy and quips, "Not my night, apparently."

    Baxter is driving the girl to Baltimore, lecturing her about all the things he's done to please her and how he's received nothing in return. She is fed up and tells him to pull over. He stops in the woods and we see they are in Hammonton, N.J., the site of the whiskey heist and subsequent shootout.

    She relents and lets Baxter kiss her. Then she tells him to unbutton his trousers. She reachs over and begins pleasuring him. As she does, a bloodied man staggers towards the car in its headlights, apparently clinging desperately to life. Baxter and the girl both scream as the man falls onto the hood.

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