'Boardwalk Empire' recap: Nucky bites on Tampa land deal; Emma saves Richard

Seeking to expand his ill-gotten wealth, gangster Nucky Thompson (Steve Buscemi) gravitates to sunny/rainy Florida like a moth to a flame in “Acres of Diamonds,” Episode 39 of HBO’s “Boardwalk Empire.”
First Nucky endures coconut drinks and a syrupy sales pitch from transplanted bootlegger Bill McCoy (Pearce Bunting), the middleman in a Tampa real estate deal. Then Bill introduces Nucky to August Tucker (Andrew Howard), a redneck land baron who runs the local rackets.

Turns out Bill owes August big bucks for a Scotch shipment seized by the authorities, but all is forgiven if Nucky invests in the questionable land scheme.

“Sorry, boys. You’ll have to find yourselves another partner,” Nucky announces, enraging August and devastating Bill.

FULL COVERAGE: Fall TV preview 2013

Nucky changes his mind, however, after bonding with speakeasy owner Sally Wheet (Patricia Arquette), who philosophizes that anyone who says money doesn’t buy happiness “doesn’t know where to shop.”

“Tell your hillbilly friend Tucker I’m in,” Nucky says to Bill. “But he answers to me. Understood?”

Actually, August won’t answer to anyone. That’s because he was just killed with a whack to the forehead when Bill demonstrated that machetes cut more than coconuts.

Up the Atlantic coast, gangster Valentin Narcisse (Jeffrey Wright) lectures about the importance of elevating African Americans through education and culture. At the same time he’s poisoning his Harlem neighborhood by profiting on the heroin trade with mobster Arnold Rothstein (Michael Stuhlbarg).

FALL TV 2013: Watch the trailers

Valentin also increases his cash flow by booking a sexy jazz singer at the Onyx Club in Atlantic City. Daughter Maitland (Margot Bingham) is an easy sell to nightclub operator Chalky White (Michael Kenneth Williams), who’s smitten by the beautiful chanteuse.

“We are partners, Mr. White. And that girl is a star,” Valentin declares.

“White folks seem to like her,” Chalky observes.

If Valentin gets his way, Chalky won’t be a partner much longer. With the aid of disloyal thug Dunn Purnsley (Erik LaRay Harvey), Valentin intends to topple Chalky by hooking him on heroin.

PHOTOS: Hollywood Backlot moments

Among the Onyx Club guests is former cathouse madam Gillian Darmody (Gretchen Mol), who’s posing as the wife of Roy Phillips (Ron Livingston) so he can impress a potential business partner. Roy is obviously attracted to Gillian’s looks. She likes his money.

“A nickel for your thoughts?” Gillian asks demurely.

“I was thinking we make a pretty swell team,” Roy responds, unaware Gillian needs a drug fix in the ladies room.

At Temple University in Philadelphia, Nucky’s nephew Willie (Ben Rosenfield) tries to impress his sophisticated classmates by scoring booze for a party. But first he must convince gangster Mickey Doyle (Paul Sparks) to part with a case of rye whiskey.

PHOTOS: Celebrities by The Times

“Are you deaf or just stupid?” Mickey asks Willie, refusing to hand over the alcohol. Mickey relents, however, and the college bash is a hit — until red-faced Willie gets caught making out with a cute coed.