In the finale of Season One, Nucky Thompson infamously stated, “We all have to decide how much sin we can live with.” It's a quote that may now be haunting Nucky as he becomes less involved with the business aspects of his life and is forced to confront his personal demons through the first three episodes of Boardwalk Empire.
“Episode 3: Bone For Tuna” begins in a dream sequence in which Nucky grows impatient with the phone, hears bacon frying and appears to shoot a young boy in the same spot he shot Jimmy Darmody. The image of the boy with a bullet wound stays with Nucky throughout the episode – especially in the church, where Nucky is honored as the Knight Commander of the Order of St. Gregory for his donation to the hospital – as he deals with a heavy dose of loneliness and trouble sleeping.
During business hours, Nuck is on his game. He first deals with Gyp Rossetti, who, in Episode 2, jacked all of Nucky's trucks by holding Owen and his crew up at a gas station, and dropped another classic line, “I got a gun, he got a gun... Everybody's got guns!” They settle an agreement – after disagreeing on whether business is personal – that keeps Rossetti floating for a month and a night out in Atlantic City on Nucky. “This is where you shake my hand,” Nucky concludes.
While Rossetti terrorized Nucky to get back at him for only selling liquor to Rothstein, “Episode 2: Spaghetti and Coffee,” sets up the back story for Eli Thompson and Chalky White. Eli, who finally gets out of jail after keeping his mouth shut about his brother, is picked up by Mickey Doyle. “He sent you?” Eli asks. It gets worse when Eli finds out he is now working for Doyle moving liquor.
We then get a look into Chalky White's personal life, as his daughter Maybelle is being courted by Samuel, who’s studying to be a doctor. Sam asks Chalky for permission to marry Maybelle. Chalky thinks it would be excellent for the family to have a doctor and tells Maybelle she will marry him. Maybelle is not down with the plan, as she's looking for someone more interesting. Someone like Chalky.
She finally begins to tell Sam that she is not in love with him at a bar, when a couple repeatedly bumps into their table. The man slices Sam in the face after he objects to their invasive dancing and is quickly beaten viscously, almost to death, by Chalky and one of his men. “Am I interesting now?” Chalky asks his daughter.
In New York, Lucky Luciano and Meyer Lansky are dealing heroin. One of their runners is attacked, getting the message, “Joe Massario says hello,” but Lansky saves the kid and shoots one offender.
Nucky also attends to business in New York, bribing a federal official, Gaston Means, with money in a fish bowl. It's a strange set up, as Means speaks primarily in double speak and double entendre. Whether he will be a friend or foe remains a mystery.
In Chicago, Van Alden gets clowned on by his new colleagues with an exploding pen, who eventually convince him to head to a speakeasy and get some drinks. It looks like Val Alden is about to be dealt another bad blow when prohibition officers raid the bar in the name of my good friend Andrew Mellon, but his neighbor, a prohibition officer, offers to take a bribe. Since Van Alden is not George Mueller, as he is posing, he takes the easy out.
After Margaret Thompson plays the Dr. Landau for a fool in a conversation with the Bishop, who gives his blessing on her women's hospital to teach pre-natal care, Richard finds out Micky Doyle is taking credit for his murder of Manny Horvitz.
He captures Doyle, brings him to Nucky, forces the cowering Doyle to confess his lie and details how he killed Horvitz. In a very Omar Little moment, he lets Nucky know he and his family are safe for being good to him.
The action starts when Rossetti takes up the night in Atlantic City with Nucky. Nucky reminisces about Jimmy and Rossetti discusses his upbringing. They toast in Italian, “Per la nostra bon fortuna,” Rossetti says. “To our good luck.”
Nucky drops Rossetti off at Gillian's brothel, coldly ignoring her. She warms up to Rossetti, who's very interested in the redheaded seductress, and tells him, “His own brother tried to have him killed, that's what they say,” poking holes in Nucky's defenses.
Later, Rossetti picks up his liquor and gets a message, rather than an appearance, from Nucky. “Bone for tuna,” Owen badly mispronounces the Italian.
Rossetti seethes over the phrase on the car ride home. “Who is Nucky Thompson to wish me luck, like he's rooting for me to get back on my feet? I need his blessing to make my way in the world?”
Rossetti returns to the gas station where they held Nucky's trucks up and meets with the sheriff, who couldn't have chosen poorer words when he wishes Rossetti good luck. Rossetti snaps, grabs the gas pump, douses the sheriff and lights him on fire.
In the end, a troubled Nucky finally gets some sleep and wakes up to bacon frying. It's not another nightmare as he fears, and he's comforted by his new girl, Billie. “You're not alone anymore,” she says softly, while Nucky holds her, as he tries to deal with his growing level of uneasiness.