I, too was confused about the liquor heist. Second (and third ) viewings helped.
The show opens with Rothstein's men picking up the liquor from the "fisherman" dude that Nucky made the smuggling deal with. (We see this deal later in the show -- it happened 2 days earlier. [I think.]) Once the trucks are loaded, one of Rothstein's guys says "Better piss now, we're not stopping until we get to New York."
Jimmy, Al, and some guy named "Tommy" with a sporty yellow roadster waylay the liquor trucks. High-jacking ensues.
Cut to three days earlier: Jimmy's pissed because Nucky's made him a go-fer for Paddy Ryan, fourth ward clerk. During the scene at the dinner table with the local bosses, Paddy wouldn't meet Jimmy's eye or toast him. I can't decide if it was a deliberate diss. Jimmy cuts out of the "Prohibition Party" in a huff. Say's it's his stomach. Heh.
Next day, Jimmy drives Nucky to the wharf where he witnesses fisherman guy and Nucky make the deal for the Canadian Mist.
That night, during the Out-of-town bosses meeting, Jimmy bonds with Al. He's obviously comparing his situation with Luciano's and feeling left behind. Luciano's his age, has half-a-mil and a seat at the big boys' table. During the same dinner, Nucky sells the booze to Rothstein as a show of good faith in their new bootlegging enterprises.
Next day, Jimmy tries to talk to Nucky about his dissatisfaction and ambition, and Nucky blows him off and goes in to the funeral parlor/distillery. Creepy Mickey Doyle plays a bad joke on Jimmy, and makes him look and feel foolish and "weak." Jimmy goes off on the dude.
Outside the funeral parlor, he asks Nucky for a bigger role, and Nucky tells him to make his own opportunities. Jimmy refuses Nucky's money.
That night, Jimmy meets Al at the midget boxing match (I never thought I'd type those words) and they make the high-jacking plan.
Next day, Jimmy calls in sick. Nucky learns that Rothstein has screwed him for the price of the booze and another $30,000 on top of that. I don't know if Jimmy knows this -- he's not around to hear about it as it happens, anyway.
The Internal Revenue guys pick Jimmy up. We are left to assume that Jimmy feeds the feds the info about Doyle's distillery. Gets even with Doyle and creates a diversion for his real plan.
The night of the heist, we're supposed to think the feds are closing in on Jimmy & co. until we see them busting the funeral parlor.
Nucky and Eli figure out that Jimmy's responsible for the high-jacking. No matter what Nucky says, Rothstein will think he's behind it, so their new partnership is off to a very rocky start.
Nucky tells the Commodore that Jimmy is behind the heist. The Commodore seems oddly delighted that Jimmy "had it in him."
Jimmy catches up with Nucky and gives him a share of the heist. Says he can help him with the "half-a-gangster" thing. Nucky says he can have him killed, and Jimmy says, "But you won't." Now instead of taking money and being a flunky, Jimmy's following Nucky's own advice and making his own opportunities.
Edited to add: Al drove the liquor to Chicago. They showed him pulling into a warehouse, where Johnny Torrio (one of the bootleggers at the bosses' dinner and Al's boss) hugs him and pats him on the back. I think that's how Jimmy got his share of the loot, Torrio paid him his share before he left AC.
*On a completely different note: When Mr. Schroeder confronts Margaret about the money Nucky gave her, she's slicing bread. When he approaches her, she hangs on to the knife for a couple of seconds. Puts it down reluctantly. I think it's a hint that she's not completely meek. I wonder what would have happened if the children hadn't been there.
Edited by vadafaith, Sep 24, 2010 @ 10:29 AM.