At this point in Boardwalk Empire, most everyone is operating under the assumption that Nucky Thompson (Steve Buscemi) is, for all intents and purposes, a dead man. Trapped in his own city with few places left to hide, and, seemingly, even fewer friends, the most powerful man in Atlantic City has once again seen his authority tested by interlopers – namely, Gyp Rosetti (Bobby Cannavale).

So, what’s a gangster to do when outsiders barge in, hell-bent on taking things over? Well, he brings in additional interlopers, in the hope that, when the dust settles, there will be something left to reclaim. The sudden appearance of Eli (Shea Whigham) is enough for Nucky to think that the cavalry has arrived, but once Al Capone (Stephen Graham) steps out from behind the wall of men he’s brought along, the conversation immediately changes. Capone is, as Gillian Darmody (Gretchen Mol) might put it, “an unexpected surprise.”

There are quite a few unexpected surprises layered throughout ‘Two Imposters.’ Most notably, the realization that although he’s spent much of the season feeling alone, abandoned and isolated, Nucky still has plenty of people by his side. Sure, one of them conspired to have him killed last season, but the other one is Chalky White (Michael Kenneth Williams), who twice makes reference to solidarity and the responsibilities that come from powerful associations. “We all take care of each other, son,” Chalky says to his future son-in-law, but his words are meant more for Nucky to understand help and trust is a two-way street.

Moreover, Nucky’s desire to keep Eddie (Anthony Laciura), his devoted manservant, safe and alive, and the spring in his step when his nephew may be in danger both speak volumes about what the would-be ruler of Atlantic City holds dear: Faced with losing everything, the people he’s taken for granted suddenly become most important. Much of that unspoken sentiment is very similar to the season’s other highpoint, ‘Sunday Best,’ but considering the two unwelcome surprises Nucky received last week when Owen (Charlie Cox) showed up at four in the morning, whether or not Margaret (Kelly Macdonald) is still on that list remains to be seen.

Though fast paced, tense and one of the season’s best, the episode is primarily focused on characters finding their place, and whether or not they’ll fight to protect it. Gillian spells it out most blatantly by telling Richard (Jack Huston) wanting things that were never yours to begin with will always end up hurting you – then she goes on to say some really insulting things. Of course, she’s talking about Richard’s burgeoning romance with Julia Sagorsky (Wrenn Schmidt), but her words seem to be more about the situation everyone is in due to the actions of Gyp Rosetti.

Perhaps it is Gyp who is one of the two ‘imposters’ mentioned in the episode’s title. As more of a bully and emotional wreck than crime boss, he certainly fits the bill. Gyp’s sudden expropriation of Atlantic City, the Artemis Club, Nucky’s desk and (once more) his dog, are all things Gillian was pointing out to Richard earlier, but on a grander scale. The question now is: who is the other imposter?

In a way, everyone from Nucky to Al Capone could easily be made out to look like another imposter. Which of them hasn’t been, at one time or another, shown to be something other than what people expect? Come next week, it looks as though we’ll find out what each of them is made of.

Various other items:

  • A Horatio Alger novel says a lot about Nucky’s beginnings. Also, Nucky’s mother had exquisite handwriting.
  • “We’ve been on the road for 18 hours. I need a bath, some chow, and then you and me sit down and we talk about who dies.”
  • Given Al Capone’s opinion of bullies, it’d be great to see him have a discussion with Rosetti.
  • Lucky Luciano (Vincent Piazza) getting caught in a sting operation by two undercover cops is another nice nod at the idea of imposters running around.
  • Come next week, it looks like the Artemis Club is going to be infamous for another reason.

Boardwalk Empire concludes its third season next Sunday with ‘Margate Sands’ @9pm on HBO. Check out a preview for the episode below: