Friday, April 13, 2007

Sopranos episode guide #10: A Hit is a Hit

US Transmission Date: 14 March 1999
UK Transmission Date: 16 September 1999

Writer: Joe Bosso and Frank Renzulli • Director: Matthew Penn
Cast: Bokeem Woodbine (Massive Genius), Bryan Hicks (Orange J.), Nick Fowler (Richie Santini), Gregg Wattenberg (Vito), Chris Gibson (Bass Player), Ned Stroh (Drummer), Bray Poor (Squid), Robert Lupone (Dr. Bruce Cusamano), Jim Demarse (Jack Krim), James Weston (Randy Wagner), Phil Cocciletti (Eric), Terumi Matthews (Rita), Dan Morse (Mullethead), Alexandra Neil (Wendy Krim), Ken Prymus (Manager), Saundra Santiago (Jean Cusamano), Jessy Terrero (Gallegos), Elizabeth Ann Townsend (Barb Wagner), Cedric Turner (Police Officer)

Storyline: Paulie, Christopher and Pussy surprise a drug dealer who has been trespassing on Soprano territory. They net thousands of dollars in cash from the hit, which they share with Tony. Tony gives a box of illegal Cuban cigars to his neighbour Dr Cusamano as a thank you for the referral to Dr Melfi. In return Cusamano invites Tony to play with some friends at their private golf club. Christopher takes Adriana to a Broadway show. On the way home they stop for burgers and meet gangster rapper mogul Massive Genius. He invites them to a party at his house. There he asks Christopher to arrive a meeting for him with Hesh about some outstanding royalties owed to a relative of Massive.

Tony and Carmela are invited to a barbeque by neighbour Barbara Wagner. Carmela worries about how she could pay for Meadow’s college education if something should happen to Tony. Adriana wants to get into music management. She is friends with the lead singer of a band formerly known as Defiler. Adriana wonders if Massive Genius would help. Christopher agrees to bankroll Adriana’s new career. Massive Genius and his crew meet with Hesh, Tony and his crew at Hesh’s stud farm. Massive wants Hesh to pay $400,000 in reparations to the surviving relatives of a dead singer called Little Jimmy Willis, who had hits on Hesh’s F-Note Records in 1950s and 1960s. Dr Melfi goes to a dinner party held by the Cusamanos, where the Sopranos are a major topic of conversation.

Adriana and Christopher take Massive to see Defiler – now renamed as Visiting Day – in concert. The gangster rapper says he’s interested, but his interest mainly seems to be in Adriana. Tony and Carmela go to the barbeque at the Wagner’s house. Tony is frozen out of conversations by the men but Carmela picks up a stock market tip. Christopher pays for Visiting Day to make a demo CD but the sessions are troubled. Christopher tries to get lead singer Richie back on drugs to enhance his performance, then smashes a guitar over Richie’s back. Carmela buys 5000 shares of the company recommended to her. Tony plays golf with Dr Cusamano and his friends at the private course. Everyone keeps pestering Tony with questions about famous mobsters, making him feel very uncomfortable.

Adriana plays the Visiting Day demo CD to Massive and he is enthusiastic. Christopher plays it to Hesh, who hates it. Hesh calls Massive Genius and refuses to pay reparation. The gangster rapper says he will sue, so Hesh threatens to counter-sue over a sample lifted from an F-Note Records disc. Massive says he’ll see Hesh in court. Christopher tells Adriana that Visiting Day sucks and Massive only wants to get in her pants. They argue and she storms out. Carmela’s new stocks split three ways, tripling her investment overnight. Tony gets his revenge on Dr Cusamano. He asks him to look after a mysterious package for a while, which is actually filled with sand. The Cusamanos stare suspiciously at the box, wondering whether it contains drugs, guns or something worse…

Mobspeak: Tony tells Christopher he should invest in stocks and live off the juice (interest, usually referring to money from loansharking). Tony describes the Wagners as mayonnaises (Italian-Americans who have assimilated into suburban culture). Christopher tells Adriana he is arranging a sit-down (a meeting to settle disputes) between Hesh and Massive Genius. Tony tells Dr Melfi that Dr Cusamano is what his father called a Wonder Bread Wop (same meaning as mayonnaise). Tony approaches Dr Cusamano, saying he needs a little solid (favour).

Bright Lights, Baked Ziti: Christopher takes Adriana to dinner at Le Cirque but she’s embarrassed to be hungry again afterwards. They order a couple of burger baskets from a fast food outlet. Tony eats ham from the fridge and drinks bottled mineral water while discussing the cost of college education with Carmela. The Cusamano’s host a dinner party, where the food served includes chicken and asparagus. Visiting Day’s lead singer Richie once got third degree burns when he tried to grill a trout with a downed power line. At the barbeque Randy Wagner is cooking sausages from a little place in Garfield. All the men drink bottled beer.

Mobbed Up: Massive Genius’s associate Orange J calls Christopher ‘Donnie Brasco’ outside a burger bar to get his attention. At Massive’s house, the gangster rapper says he has seen ‘The Godfather’ two hundred times. He thinks ‘The Godfather Part II’ was definitely the shit, but a lot of people didn’t like the third film in the series. He thinks it was just misunderstood. On the golf course Tony does his W. C. Fields imitation. His playing partners ask him how real was ‘The Godfather’.

How Do You Feel?: Tony tells Dr Melfi he wants to branch out and make new friends, but he’s afraid of the reaction from his crew. At a subsequent session with Dr Melfi, Tony recalls how he and his friends pretending to like a guy called Jimmy Smash, who had a cleft palette. Tony likens this to his golf game with Cusamano and friends, who treated him like a dancing bear. He thought his neighbour was becoming his friend – now he knows better.

Sleeping With The Fishes: An unidentified drug dealer, executed by Paulie in a Newark apartment for trespassing on Sopranos territory.

Always with the…: Adriana despairs when Christopher mouths off in a crowded burger bar. ‘Always with the attitude, Christopher.’

Quote/Unquote: When Massive Genius says he wants Hesh to pay reparations for stealing royalties, Christopher thinks it’s unlikely Hesh will agree: ‘I’ve heard his opinions about giving back pieces of Israel. I can only imagine what he’s gonna say about this shit.’ Carmela wonders what she should do if something ever happened to Tony, but he is unconcerned: ‘You dig out my blue suit. You call up old man Coletti. You tell him not to put too much make-up on my face.’ Carmela despairs of Tony’s attitude, likening him to a multiple choice question: ‘I can’t tell if you’re old fashioned, paranoid or just a fucking asshole.’ Who could forget the soulful lyrics of Defiler? ‘Stay out of our way, don’t be so gay. We’re coming to defile, defile you.’

Soundtrack: ‘You Give Love A Bad Name’ by Bon Jovi. ‘De Cara A La Pared’ by Lhasa. ‘Defile You’ by Defiler. ‘Erase Myself’ by Visiting Day. ‘Why?’ by Annie Lennox. ‘Nobody Loves Me But You’ by Dori Hartley. 'A Dreamer's Holiday' by Ray Anthony & His Orchestra. 'DJ Keep Playin' (Get Your Music On)' by Yvette Michele.

Surveillance Report: The songs by Defiler and Visiting Day were written especially for this episode by Nick Fowler and Gregg Wattenberg, who play the lead singer and guitarist of Visiting Day. The band and its songs were designed to be astoundingly average. Christopher talks about Silvio having owned rock clubs in Asbury, New Jersey. Silvio Dante is played by Steven Van Zandt, guitarist with Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band – New Jersey’s most famous rock group. Tony’s revenge on Dr Cusamano with the mysterious box is an homage to scene in ‘The Godfather Part II’ where Bruno Kirby gives Robert De Niro guns to hide, which leads to the young Vito Corleone becoming a gangster.

The Verdict: ‘I think you should mentally prepare for the fucking possibility that Visiting Day sucks.’ Christopher tries to establish Adriana up as a music manager as Hesh is haunted by his actions as a corrupt record producer forty years ago. Meanwhile Tony finds making new friends difficult. This episode about the shadier side of the music industry has its funny moments but Junior and Livia are very conspicuous by their absence. Even Tony is reduced to the role of comic relief in the Wonder Bread Wop sub-plot. The scenes with Visiting Day are cringe-inducing because they are so well done. Adriana truly believes in the band and truly has no clue just how mediocre it is. This episode would have fitted better earlier in the season but just three weeks from the grand finale, ‘A Hit Is A Hit’ feels slightly irrelevant.

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