Saturday, April 21, 2007

Sopranos episode guide #18: Big Girls Don't Cry

US Transmission Date: 13 February 2000
UK Transmission Date: 9 November 2000

Writer: Terence Winter • Director: Tim Van Patten
Cast: Linda Emond (Dahlia), Stephen Payne (Dominic), Lydia Gaston (Rosie), Sasha Nesterov (Russian Man), Elena Antonenko (Russian Woman), Oni Faida Lampley (Cynthia), Scott Lucy (Acting Student), Ajay Naidu (Omar), Robert Prescott (Mitch), Phyllis Somerville (Brenda)

Storyline: Christopher calls at a local whorehouse to collect protection money, but the owner is short for the third week running. Tony, Paulie and Silvio have a meal at Artie Bucco’s Vesuvio restaurant. Tony asks Artie if he’ll hire Furio as kitchen staff to prevent any problems with immigration. Tony will pay Furio’s salary. Artie reluctantly agrees. Christopher goes to a class called Acting For Writers, which Adriana got him as a birthday present. He gives a false name, Chris MacEveety. Tony asks Paulie to collect Furio from the airport. He also says Paulie is being promoted, from now on Pussy and Furio will report to Paulie and Silvio.

Melfi tells her therapist about the dream where Tony crashes his car. Dr Kupferberg suggests that treating a mobster gave her a vicarious thrill. She swears at her psychiatrist and walks out of the session. Tony gets a phone message for his sister from the bank. Janice is trying to get a loan secured on Livia’s house. Tony becomes enraged, smashing the phone and throwing into a dishwasher. He rushes round to Livia’s house but the door is answered by Richie, wearing just underwear. Richie and Janice are sleeping together again. Tony argues with Janice about the loan before disowning his sister. In acting class Christopher is given a scene from Tennessee Williams’ ‘The Glass Menagerie’ to prepare as homework.

The Sopranos host a welcome party for Furio. Pussy is unhappy about the new arrival. Tony is unhappy with Christopher’s lack of focus. Carmela slams the door on Junior when he arrives to welcome Furio. Christopher isn’t happy with his scene and doesn’t find Tennessee Williams’ characters credible. He decides to get a different scene to act. Tony visits Hesh on a business pretext. He wants advice about his blackouts. Hesh says Tony’s father suffered from the same symptoms. Christopher talks the teacher into giving him a new scene. Tony takes his mistress Irina to his boat. But he gets into an argument with the Russian couple on a boat in the next mooring. Tony rushes over and nearly crushes the man’s testicles before rushing away.

Late at night Tony retells these events to Hesh, who is trying hard to stay away. They end up talking at cross purposes, ignoring what each other says. Christopher wows the acting class with his efforts as James Dean’s character in ‘Rebel Without A Cause’. He spontaneously cries while acting the scene. Embarrassed, he rushes out of the room. Paulie and Pussy are having lunch at Vesuvio. They are joined by Furio from the kitchen. Pussy teases the Italian about his name. New York mobster Johnny Sack arrives and Paulie asks Pussy to leave the table while they talk. Afterwards Pussy meets with his FBI contact, Skip Lipari. They commiserate with each other about being passed over for promotion.

Dr Melfi tells her therapist she is thinking about taking Tony back as a patient. She thinks it will be very therapeutic for her. Dr Kupferberg points out that this is her therapy – Tony is her patient. Tony sends Furio into the whorehouse to beat a warning into the late-paying owner. Melfi calls Tony on his car phone and invites him back into therapy. He is not sure he needs her help. At acting class Christopher is paired with Mitch, the student who played his father in the ‘Rebel Without A Cause’ scene. Mitch says one word and Christopher starts punching him before stomping out of the class. Later Adriana speculates that the class raised uncomfortable feelings in Christopher about his father’s early death.

Tony takes up Melfi’s offer of a session. He wants to be in total control but she says this is impossible. Tony tries to goad her but the psychiatrist gives as good as she gets. In the early hours Christopher gets up, unable to sleep. He junks his screenplay, throwing the print-outs and floppy discs into a dumpster.

Mobspeak: Tony tells Paulie that he is getting a bump (promotion).

Bright Lights, Baked Ziti: At Vesuvio Artie serves Tony, Paulie and Silvio a new dish, Quail ala’ Bucco – baby quail stuffed with fennel sausage. Tony says that Furio makes the best mozzarella and suggests Artie hire him. Tony eats slices of ham while watching the news on TV. He dips the slices into an open jar of mayonnaise. AJ is carrying his lunch on a plate when Tony rips the telephone off the wall after hearing about Janice’s loan application. Richie is cooking eggs at Livia’s house when Tony arrives. Carmela serves a finger food buffet at Furio’s welcome party. Junior brings a box of pignoli cookies but she slams the door in his face. Irina feeds Cheese Doodles to the ducks at the dock until Tony stops her. Paulie and Pussy are eating pasta at Vesuvio when Johnny Sack arrives. Paulie has a waitress keep Pussy’s food warm so Pussy can leave the table. Pussy eats steak and sweetcorn with Skip Lipari at a diner. Dr Melfi says she is putting on weight. Her therapist warns her to watch intake of sugar and sugar substitutes.

Mobbed Up: Christopher tells the acting class that he wants to write for the movies, citing ‘Goodfellas’ as an example. Tony meets Paulie at the Lou Costello Memorial, which is dedicated to half of the famous comedy duo Abbott and Costello who starred in eleven films between 1945 and 1955. Melfi recalls her dream which had a song from ‘The Wizard of Oz’ as its soundtrack. She compares Tony to the character of Oz himself, a powerful and dominating male. She recalls watching the film on TV at her parents’ house, hiding under a blanket with her sister. At the acting class the teacher gives out scenes from films for students to perform, including ‘Barefoot In The Park’ and ‘The Glass Menagerie’. Christopher can’t cope with being the Gentleman Caller in the latter and manages to get it swapped for the James Dean role in ‘Rebel Without A Cause’. He fancies the idea of playing a Joe Pesci role and imitates the actor’s performance in ‘Jimmy Hollywood’. Furio is surprised to have seen Oscar-winning Italian film ‘Two Women’ starring Sophia Loren on American TV, because it features a rape story. It would not be shown in Italy. His favourite TV show is ‘NYPD Blue’.

How Do You Feel?: Tony tries to turn Hesh into his therapist, without much success. He tells Hesh about a weird dream and his blackouts. Later he says he feels an aversion to his swimming pool. It depresses him so much he finds himself avoiding the backyard. Tony initially rejects Dr Melfi’s offer of a return to therapy. But he does go back. He tells her about Furio beating the owner of the whorehouse and said he wished he had been there. The therapist whether he wanted to be giving the beating or taking it – Tony doesn’t answer.

How Do You Feel, Doctor?: Dr Melfi interprets her dream about Tony as meaning she abandoned her patient. Dr Kupferberg suggests she treats Tony to get a vicarious thrill. Melfi swears at him and walks out of their session – exactly as Tony did during several sessions with her. When she returns to therapy a week later, she recognises her actions are imitating those of Tony. This brings her close to tears. She is thinking about taking him back as a patient. Melfi says it will be very therapeutic for her. Dr Kupferberg points out the contradiction of this statement. Melfi says she doesn’t have sexual feelings for Tony but she does have personal feelings for him. ‘He can be such a little boy sometimes.’

I Dream of Jeannie Cusamano: Melfi retells her dream about Tony passing out while driving and crashing his car into a truck, as seen in #16. Tony tries to tell Hesh about a dream. In it Tony was at the beach, but he had a suit and shoes on. Hesh interrupts before Tony can say anymore.

Quote/Unquote: Richie says he and Janice have history, but Tony doesn’t think that’s a positive: ‘Yeah, Israel and fucking Palestine.’ Janice tells her brother that she is quite capable of getting a job. ‘With your Carpal Tunnel Syndrome? How you gonna hold a beggar’s cup?’ he says. Christopher shows a lot of sympathy to a character’s physical disability in ‘The Glass Menagerie’: ‘She’s a fucking gimp, for Christ’s sake!’ Pussy complains about new arrival Furio: ‘If ever there was a guy in desperate need of a fucking nickname!’

Soundtrack: ‘Touch It’ by Monifah. ‘Big Girls Don’t Cry’ by Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons. ‘You’re Out Of The Woods/Optimistic Voices’ from the Wizard of Oz soundtrack. ‘Rock The Boat’ by the Hues Corporation. ‘White Mustang II’ by Daniel Lanois. 'You're So Fine' by The Falcons.

The Verdict: ‘There’s no cure for life.’ Furio arrives in New Jersey and makes an immediate impact, while Tony promotes Paulie and sidelines Pussy. Meanwhile Dr Melfi is drawn into taking Tony back as a patient. This is a gem of an episode, packed with crackling dialogue and character moments. There are further intriguing revelations about Dr Melfi’s state of mind and Christopher has to confront some demons of his own. The funniest moments come from Tony’s attempts to turn Hesh into a substitute therapist as the two talk at total cross purposes. Great stuff.

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