"Boardwalk Empire" Under God's Power She Flourishes (TV Episode 2011) - Plot Summary Poster


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  • A series of flashbacks dramatizes Jimmy's meeting Angela at Princeton and explains his dropping out to fight the Kaiser. Mickey hopes to inveigle Van Alden into a raid, Margaret's new-found sense of sin and God's retribution gets a rise out of Nucky, and Jimmy's mother finds new ways to be destructive.

  • With Margaret pondering the consequences of sin, Nucky prepares her for a worst-case scenario as Esther Randolph plays out her trump cards. Jimmy revisits his college days with Angela and Gillian ; Mickey Doyle chafes at sharing his liquor profits; Eli refuses to cop a plea. Nelsonʼs past comes back to haunt him, tipping the scale in Nuckyʼs favor.

  • Jimmy's experiences at Princeton are seen in flashback, Margaret tries to deal with her guilt, and Doyle tries unsuccessfully to wheel and deal.


The synopsis below may give away important plot points.


  • We see Jimmy in bed with Angela, who has long hair. They're in Princeton, and it's soon clear that we're seeing them in the past. Jimmy's mother is coming for a visit, and Angela has to sneak out when Jimmy's roommate, Cal, says the dorm mother nearly caught them.

    Nucky's new lawyer, Fallon is having trouble with Esther Randolph and the judge isn't buying his hints. He says Randolph is "betting big on the capital case," wanting him in the news for Hans Shroeder. Eli isn't talking to anyone. He also reports they're putting Van Alden on the stand. Nucky asks how bad it is and Fallon says, "A prudent man might want to get his finances in order." Nucky is annoyed by his butler, Harlan, standing around. Harlan finally says what's on his mind, and he reports on Van Alden's guest appearance at a revival on the river, and tells Nucky that Van Alden "drowned that fella, in front of us all." He's referring to Agent Sebso.

    Van Alden is at home getting his breakfast and coffee from Sigrid, and engages in some chit chat. He talks about his parents and says they don't talk. His parents were followers of a preacher who prophesized the second coming and gave away his farm in anticipation. When it didn't happen, he was shattered and, Van Alden says, "somehow the mere fact of my ongoing existence was more than he can bear." Sigrid says Jesus will still come. When Van Alden asks her if that worries her, she tells him, "You are a good man, Mr. Van Alden. There is nothing to be afraid of."

    Emily is fitted for her braces. She quickly falls when left on her own to stand, but the doctor, Margaret and Father Brennan encourage her. The doctor tells Margaret that Emily will need to learn to support herself by developing her other muscles. Father Brennan takes Margaret outside the hospital room and tells her she needs to support Emily. Margaret's suggestion that Emily needs to support herself prompts the priest to tell a story of a man who visited heaven and hell. He went to hell first and saw the tormented souls sitting at tables laden with food, but they were starving because the spoons were so long they couldn't get them into their mouths. That was their torment. In heaven, the man saw the same scene, but the souls of the blessed were well fed despite having spoons the same size as those in hell. They were all fed because they were feeding each other. He tells Margaret that her donation is going toward the building of a new parish hall. It provided enough for the walls and floor and they're now praying for a roof. Margaret says she can do something more, but Father Brennan tells her that's not what he was asking for.

    A sheriff's deputy is questioning Gillian about the double homicide. She wants to speak to Eli. When the deputy asks Richard Harrow, who is there, if he knows about Jimmy's whereabouts, Gillian covers for Richard by telling the deputy that he's a simpleton who doesn't know anything. Richard excuses himself after the deputy leaves and Gillian tells him that Jimmy needs to come home. Richard goes tot he scene of the killings and gets emotional when he sees Angela's blood on the bedroom floor.

    We see Jimmy back in Princeton, in a class where he's struggling in a reading session. Reading from Webster, the professor asks for thoughts on the passage. Jimmy says the character's "mother taught him things that aren't of any use." Others are getting rich around him, and he can feel it "like he's hungry, like he can taste it." A solider in uniform from the reading group says he won't be in class the following week because duty calls, and Jimmy mocks him. The soldier questions Jimmy's patriotism and when another student says his brother died on the Lusitania, Jimmy apologizes. The professor holds Jimmy behind and Jimmy explains that where he comes from "people sort of come out swinging." He explains that he's from Atlantic City and the plan, according to Nucky (who he calls his guardian) and his mother, is that he'll go back there after Princeton. Jimmy worries he's screwing it up, and the professor tells him "people like us" need to work harder. He says his father's a working man and is proud of him, but has no clue what he does.

    Meyer, Lucky, Al and Mickey are checking out the inventory. They've all done their parts, but Jimmy's inventory is still there. When they question whether he'll ever come back, Mickey tells the group that Manny Horvitz killed Angela. Al tells him to sell Jimmy's share "and be done with it." Mickey asks what he should do when Jimmy comes back looking for his money, and they tell Mickey to pay Jimmy out of his share. They threaten and mock Mickey, with Lucky telling him Rothstein holds a half-million-dollar insurance policy on his life and they could kill him and split. Al gives Mickey a couple of friendly slaps on the cheek for good measure. Mickey isn't laughing, but says, "My share will do."

    Nucky doesn't understand the heaven and hell spoons parable when Margaret tries to explain it to him. He says he doesn't believe in divine retribution.

    Eli's lawyer shows up in his jail cell. Eli doesn't want to hear about Halloran's testimony because he says it's all a lie. He wants bail, but his lawyer says he's a flight risk. The lawyer tells Eli that Randolph is positing that Eli killed Hans Shroeder at Nucky's command. He says she's willing not to pursue the death penalty if he cooperates.

    Gillian visits Jimmy in Princeton (again, in the past). They catch up a bit and then share a bottle of whiskey, with Jimmy taking some at Gillian's encouragement.

    Randolph and Lathrope are trying to figure out how Margaret went from being a widow with three children to living on the eighth floor of the Ritz. Randolph asks Van Alden, who's sitting in the same office, and he says, "She left no impression on me one way or another."

    Back at Princeton, Gillian and Angela meet at a social mixer. Gillian calls Angela "simple, restrained," and adds, "I like it." Later, Jimmy sees his mother socializing with his professor and is distracted while Angela is trying to get his attention. She tells him she's pregnant. He says they'll get a place and it'll be "swell." She asks if it's a marriage proposal, and he says it will make getting a lease easier. When she tells him he hardly knows her, he says he knows she's a good person.

    Nucky tells Margaret at home that night that Eli will testify against him to save himself. He says Eli will say enough to get him convicted, "maybe even put me in the chair." Nucky goes on to say that his money can be seized, but he can hide it and make sure it's helping the people who matter to him. She questions his motives, saying he thinks Nucky needs to believe that something good could come out of it. He's annoyed, then explains there's roughly 160,000 acres mostly held in a company that Ed Bader's brother is president of. The voting stock belongs to Nucky, though, and he's transferring it to Margaret. She then lays back and stops listening.

    Back at Princeton, in the past, Jimmy and Angela are in a dark hallway where Gillian comes out fixing her dress. She says, "I thought we were just flirting." Jimmy confronts his professor and punches him in the face. He tells Jimmy to walk away and he'll pretend it didn't happen. "It is happening," Jimmy says, and he continues to beat the professor.

    Van Alden arrives for a meeting with Mickey Doyle. Mickey invites Van Alden to sit and when Van Alden refuses, Mickey tells him, "Please. I don't like the way you loom." Mickey tells Van Alden about how he set up this whole operation and he's getting screwed. He says they're soon going to split up the money and hints that Van Alden and some federal agents might want to be there. Van Alden asks what he wants in return and Mickey says, "Half." Mickey says they're talking about $300,000 -- $150,000 in Van Alden's pocket. "A lot better than the envelope you've been getting, huh?" Mickey extends hand to shake, and Van Alden says, "I'd prefer not to." He gets up and walks out, telling Mickey not to contact him under any circumstances."

    At Princeton, Gillian is wasted when she and Jimmy get back to her hotel room. Jimmy says he did enough to the professor to get himself expelled. She asks Jimmy if he loves "that skinny girl," and when he says he doesn't know, she asks him to promise he won't do anything stupid. He helps her undress and she's stumbling all over the place. She says she hates for him to see her "like this," and he tells her she won't remember anything. Jimmy lays his mother in bed and she says he knows how to take care of her. In an extremely uncomfortable scene, she pulls him in and kisses him hard, telling him the whole time, "There's nothing wrong with any of it."

    We see Jimmy wake up the next morning in complete shock. He looks out the window and sees a line of soldiers marching. He's next seen enlisting in the Army. He tells the enlisting officer that both his mother and father are gone and says Angela, his fiance, is his emergency contact. When asked why he's enlisting, Jimmy says he lost a brother on the Lusitania.

    Slater finds Margaret in the house trying to fix Emily's braces. One of them is chafing Emily's leg, even though she can't feel it. Slater offers to help. While he's fixing it, he asks Margaret if she thinks about him, "because I think about you," he says. She tells him to stop. He says he can't, and she says she'll pray for him to find the strength to do so. "That'd mean you were thinking about me, wouldn't it?" he asks. Katy walks in on this conversation and immediately leaves.

    Jimmy is shown completely drunk and on the phone with his mother -- now in present time -- who is telling him he needs to come home for his son. Jimmy says he understands, then snorts what appears to be the last of the heroin that Lucky slipped in his pocket last week.

    Fallon pays a visit to Van Alden's office. He's been talking to Randolph, who makes the introduction. The Deacon is there, as well. Fallon holds Agent Sebso's shoes up and Randolph asks Van Alden if he recognizes them. Van Alden says nothing and when Agent Lathrope goes to place Van Alden under arrest, Van Alden shoots him in the foot and makes a run for it.

    That night, Margaret tells Nucky she's been subpoenaed. He tells her to ignore it and says his lawyer can handle it. She reminds him that yesterday he was convinced he was going to jail. He says he's feeling more confident because Van Alden "is not a credible witness." He says about Eli that "blood is thicker than water" and he'll figure something out. She tells Nucky they "began in sin" and they'll end in it unless they change. She says she and the ones she loves are being punished for her sins. She says she's stolen, deceived and cheated. He asks who she's stolen from, and she says her family, her employers. He asks who she's deceived and she says, "Anyone who thinks I'm good." He finally asks who she's cheated on, and when she says nothing, he encourages, "Go ahead, say it." She says, "I live with the man who had the father of my children murdered," He says he had nothing to do with it, he just said Hans deserved it. She tells him she can't go on pretending that she has "not been called to account" -- and she holds up the subpoena. Nucky gets physical when he realizes Margaret is thinking about testifying. He tells her he "will not permit" her to sacrifice him. "And if you don't think I'm as good as my word, you don't know me at all," he says. She asks if he'll strike her, and he takes the subpoena from her hand and crumples it up, saying, "I have given you everything."

    Gillian is calm, almost serene, as she knits and talks to Jimmy about Angela's funeral and how things will have to be with Tommy. She's devising what they'll tell Tommy, and settles on telling him that Angela went off Paris. Jimmy sits there silently, with tears in his eyes as he watches his mother speak. She goes on to say that a month from now, Tommy "won't even remember..." and before she can finish the thought, Jimmy has lunged at her, choking her violently and repeating, "I'll remember." Suddenly, The Commodore comes up from behind Jimmy and stabs him in the back with a spear. Jimmy and the Commodore tussle and the Commodore pins Jimmy against a wall with the spear under Jimmy's chin, but Jimmy pulls his knife from his boot and drives it into the Commodore's stomach. He pulls the knife out and Gillian, who's watched the entire scene unfold, screams at him to finish it. Jimmy plunges the knife into the Commodore's chest. The Commodore falls to the ground, and Jimmy walks away, also collapsing after just a few steps.

    Jimmy wakes up, sitting in a chair, and looks over to see Richard Harrow cleaning up the mess around the Commodore. Richard notices Jimmy watching, and pulls the drapes to the parlor closed.

    Jimmy's asleep again and is awoken by Angela's voice, saying, "Jimmy, I have to leave."

    Gillian brings Tommy over to Jimmy, who rushes to cover up his bloody shoulder with a jacket. Tommy asks, "Where's momma?" Gillian tells him, "I'm here" and adds that he doesn't have to worry about anything.

    Gillian tells Jimmy she knows he didn't mean what he did and he'll soon see that everything will be better. She takes Tommy upstairs and turns to Jimmy to say, "One day soon, he won't be a little boy anymore. It happens, just like that." She tells him she'll be upstairs.

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