Sy receives a call at dinner from Ike, who has stationed himself in the phone booth that he was asked to call from – the same booth where he watched his father get killed by Sy almost four decades earlier. Ike tells the Chicago boss of the deal with Castro and offers him every bit of the profit he’ll be making from the arrangement in exchange for control of the Miramar. Sy bristles at the terms, citing Ben’s assurances that the gambling bill will pass the Florida Senate, thus making the Miramar a hot property. Ike tries to say that it’s a margin business at best without the bill passing and makes an attempt at get $1 million from Sy, for what he claims is cleanup costs relating to the livestock kept in Cuban casinos. (In actuality, he wants the money to pay Castro in order to gain control of three of the top casinos in the country. Good faith money, they call it.) Sy hangs up.
This is especially dangerous for Ike, because if Sy talks to Ben about Ike making a move, the hotelier (and his family) will be in quite a bit of danger. Stevie is making plays of his own at Ben’s poker game, as he bets (and eventually wins) a 2000 DJ convention for the Miramar from a short-handed red-headed ventriloquist at the table. The convention, a strong income generator that will have the hotel booked solid for four days in what is typically their slowest month, However, when he brings the good news to Ike after getting two hours of sleep, he gets rejected on account of the convention (typically held at the Americana) being awful for PR, generating sizeable cleanup costs, and resulting in arrests. The other men in Ike’s camp think it could be feasible, though, but Ike isn’t budging, not even when Stevie reminds his father that he never asks for anything.
While Vera has continued to inject herself to keep her energy up, impressing her choreographer with her stamina and how closely she resembles her old self, Eddie has come to Ben’s to complain about Ike’s resistance to his takeover of the Miramar. The Butcher suggests using a false ceiling like the one he has in his home rather than a ladder man to catch potential cheaters and promises Eddie that things will be taken care of. Mercy and Danny, for their part, are on decidedly different paths; she’s getting more in touch with her homeland thanks to Antonio introducing her to Cuban cigars and he’s being sucked further into the orbit of Jack Klein, thanks to seeing the mountain of evidence the attorney has against his father. When the two finally get some time together, following Mercy being sick in the bathroom, he expresses discomfort at her not working at the Miramar anymore. However, she mentions that she wants to focus on helping the wave of Cubans who have recently arrived in the city and doesn’t seem too interested in him not wanting her to leave.
Theresa overhears Bel delivering money to Senator Sloat, money that is meant for his colleagues and should help the gambling bill pass. She jots the names down with her eyebrow pencil while in the bathroom and stores them away for the next time she sees Ike. Meanwhile, Vera lets her nerves for the impending opening of Havana Fire impact her appetite, resulting in Ike having a nightmare where he finds her bleeding and she jumps off of the balcony, and Lily opens a secret compartment in Ben’s study where stacks of money are located. Careful not to make too much noise, she takes several of the stacks and puts them into her purse; just when she thinks she’s gotten away, she runs into Nicky in the hallway, where he’s having a disagreement with one of Ben’s staff members over cigars. She sends the staff away and Nicky mentions that money suits her and asks her if she still walks around without any panties on. He tries to see for himself when the staff member comes back with the cigars, allowing Lily to leave. She ends up in a closet where she stores the money she took and chronicles her additional income in a journal.
Inez comes to Ike’s office, panicking that Arthur has been gambling all of their money away in the bolitas. Ike goes outside to talk to him and his father mentions that the lottery, to him, is sacred and something above all the corruption and darkness that has been invading their city recently. The hotelier then gets an idea and goes to call Minister Nunez; in order to drive the gangsters out of Cuba and recoup some of the money they’ve taken from her, they’re going to institute a Cuban National Lottery.
Ben catches Lily in the closet she stores her money in and she just barely manages to keep everything hidden, as he nearly takes down the boxes that hide the vent she’s using. Before long, he’s interrupted by Bel, who brings news of Ike seeking the million and control of Cuban casinos. Back at the Miramar, Nicky’s at the Atlantis commiserating about the woman he claims broke his heart. He tells Stevie about the way they met (she used his cigarette to light hers one night in Hernando Beach) and what she told him when they met (that she was the wrong woman), two things that Lily did with Stevie; he goes on to mention her “Ava Gardner” beauty, confirming to Stevie that Lily had a thing with Nicky.
The night of Vera’s performance, the Cuban arms deal in Hialeah is broken up thanks to Ben, who calls his federal contact and gains some brownie points in the process. Danny goes along for the ride with Jack and the rest of the attorney’s office and amid the flurry of arrests, sees a Cuban man he locked eyes with shot in the back with a shotgun while trying to run away. He ends up not showing at the Miramar, furthering distancing himself from Mercy, who already has her eye on Antonio. For her part, Vera was rather nervous about taking the stage and after talking with Ike, she comes out with guns blazing in her performance. Beforehand, Ben let Ike know that he knew about the million, but during, all eyes were on Vera channeling the Vera Cruz of yore with a routine that started sparse and conservative (both in attire and movement) before running wild. The curtain behind her dropped, more background dancers filled the stage, and she took off her librarian-ish clothing to reveal an almost tribal ensemble underneath that went along with her curled mane. She receives a wonderful reception and gets flowers from Lauren for her effort.
In Senator Sloat’s hotel room, Theresa is in the bathroom trying to write down more names, only for Bel to bust the door open and kill her with a punch to the face.
Additional thoughts and observations:
-Although flashbacks aren’t always a guarantee of good storytelling, I think they added a lot to the Ben/Sy/Ike dynamic, in that Ike has had to align himself with the man who killed his father in order to eliminate Ben from the Miramar. That’s almost Shakespearian in scope and depth, another sign of how good this season has been.
-Seeing Ike not fall all over Stevie’s plan was interesting, if only because I don’t think that tension will go away and could manifest itself in other ways later this season. (As will Danny’s experience in the arms raid, which will either send him running back to Ike or firmly cement him in Klein’s camp.)
-Here’s some information about Farouk of Egypt, who Ben mentioned tonight while in the pool.
-What do you think about Mercy’s illness in the bathroom? Related to the cigars from Antonio? Or could she be pregnant? With all of her newfound national pride, I get the feeling she’ll head with Antonio to Havana and join the rebellion like her mother did.
-So Olga Kurylenko is a beautiful, talented actress who can work a stage quite well, apparently. I thought her performance was fun and cross-cutting between it and Danny’s ordeal was visually (and thematically) strong. (Case in point: seeing the Cuban’s body on the ground, fading into Vera being held up in the same position by her background dancers.)
-Is Lily looking to accumulate enough money to make a run for it? After the confrontation she and Stevie had before Vera’s performance over Nicky, I think she might have to go it alone.
-Ike was introduced to Miami News man Tim Cox and Elizabeth Moore of WMIY Radio by Meg, members of the Secret Six. Is the combination of Cuba, Sy, and Meg going to be enough to bring Ben down?
-Next week on Magic City: Ike and Meg grow closer, while Vera has a revelation about her dancing career and Ben makes Stevie a tempting offer.