Friday, April 06, 2007

Sopranos Episode Guide #3: Denial, Anger Acceptance

US Transmission Date: 24 January 1999
UK Transmission Date: 29 July 1999

Writer: Mike Saraceni • Director: Nick Gomez
Cast: Ned Eisenberg (Shlomo Teittleman), Chuck Low (Ariel), Sig Libowitz (Hillel), Sasha Nesterov (Russian Man), Bernadette Penotti (Nurse), Slava Schoot (Russian Man), Angelica Torn (Woman at Party), Joseph Tudisco (Trucker), Jennifer Wiltsie (Miss Marris)

Storyline: Christopher and Brendan return the truck Brendan hijacked in the previous episode. Uncle Junior is still fuming about the hijack. Comley Trucking gives the credit for this to Tony Soprano, which only infuriates Junior further. Tony is intrigued by a painting in Dr Melfi’s waiting room, which shows a farm with a barn and a tree on it. He believes it’s a trick picture, designed to mess with his mind. Tony and his crew visit Jackie in hospital, where he’s undergoing chemotherapy for recurring cancer of the intestine. Silvio says a Hassidic Jew, Shlomo Teittleman, is having problems with a son-in-law, who won’t agree to a divorce. The son-in-law wants 50% of a family-run motel. Hesh counsels against getting involved.

Meadow and her friend Hunter are feeling the pressure at school, trying to cram for S.A.T. exams and rehearse for their choir. Carmela and Tony visit Artie and Charmaine Bucco in their new, small home. The pair had to move house after losing their restaurant, Vesuvio, which Tony had firebombed to prevent a hit happening there. Tony meets with Teittleman and agrees to intercede, in return for 25% of the motel. Paulie and Silvio visit the son-in-law, Ariel, but he will not change his mind. Paulie beats Ariel with the reception desk bell at the motel to try and persuade him – without success. Carmela hires Artie and Charmaine to cater a fund-raiser for a paediatric hospital. While Charmaine is visiting the house, she sees Carmela beckon for a maid with a wave of her fingers.

Meadow and Hunter ask Christopher to get some amphetamines, to help them stay away for studying, but he refuses. When they go, Christopher’s girlfriend Adriana asks him to think again. If the two girls try to get the drugs from street dealers they could get raped, killed or poisoned. Tony arranges for Jackie to get a very special sponge bath in hospital from one of the exotic dancers at the Bada Bing strip club. At a therapy session Tony argues with Dr Melfi about the significance of the painting in the waiting room. He storms out of the office. Christopher gives Meadow the drugs she wanted, but warns her never to tell Tony. If she does, Christopher is a dead man.

The fund-raiser is a big success, thanks to the catering. During the evening Carmela beckons to Charmaine with her fingers, just as she did to her maid earlier. The former school friend is insulted, but hides it. Tony sneaks away from the party to visit his mistress, Irina. But he is summoned away by Silvio and Paulie, who need help dealing with Ariel. All three of them threaten to kill Ariel, but he is not scared of death. After consulting with Hesh, Tony opts for threatened castration as a fresh approach. The morning after the fund-raiser, Charmaine gets her revenge. Charmaine tells Carmela that she dated and slept with Tony before he and Carmela were married. Teittleman tries to renegotiate the deal with Tony after Ariel agrees to a divorce.

Tony responds with violence and Teittleman calls him a living golem. Junior visits Livia at Green Grove retirement community. He seeks her advice about how to deal with Christopher and Brendan. Jackie’s condition is getting rapidly worse. Tony is down after seeing his friend. He tells Dr Melfi about being called a Frankenstein monster, but doesn’t respond when she asks if he lacks human feelings. After the session Tony goes to his daughter’s concert and is cheered by seeing Meadow sing and sharing the experience with Carmela. Meanwhile Junior makes his move. Christopher is handcuffed, beaten and subjected to a mock execution. Mikey Palmice murders Brendan, shooting him through the eyeball.

Mobspeak: Silvio says Teittleman is offering 25 large ($25,000) to get his son-in-law to sign divorce papers. Tony asks if the insurance company think Artie Bucco is mobbed up (connected to the Mafia) when Artie says there is to be a second arson investigation. Meadow asks Christopher to score some crystal (amphetamine) for her and Hunter while they study for their S.A.T.s. Tony describes Ariel to Hesh as his non-shellfish eating friend (Jew). Christopher identifies his two attackers as friends of Tony’s goomah (Mafia mistress).

Mamma Mia: Livia only makes one appearance this episode but it is a telling one. Junior visits her at Green Grove to help put up some pictures, and tells her about the rapid decline in Jackie Aprile’s health. Livia asks what is really on his mind. Junior seeks her advice about dealing with Christopher and Brendan. He says they’re hiding behind Tony. Livia doesn’t want Christopher killed, saying she loves him like a son. She suggests he could use a little talking to. Livia sentences Brendan Filone to death with just a shake of her hand. Junior says she has a lot of sense for an old gal. Livia absolves herself of any guilt by saying that she is just a babbling idiot. ‘That’s why my son put me in a nursing home.’

Bright Lights, Baked Ziti: Uncle Junior and Mikey eat a soup-based dish at a restaurant. Later, Mikey is at Jackie’s bedside when Tony and his crew arrive to visit, bringing gift-wrapped boxes of food. Jackie jokingly asks his wife to bring him back a plate of brasciole from the cafeteria. As Mikey leaves, Tony asks for a quart of vinegar peppers Junior owes him. As Artie prepares food for the fund-raiser, Charmaine berates him for squeezing the quail too hard. The food is a big hit at the event, especially the little veal tonatas, and the arancin. In the kitchen Tony argues with Artie, so the chef throws a slice of prosciutto ham which sticks to Tony’s forehead. The pair have a food fight. Silvio is eating a massive ham sandwich when Tony arrives to help sort out Ariel. Tony declines Silvio’s offer of something to munch on.

Mobbed Up: Junior and Mikey discuss the situation with Christopher and Brendan. Mikey gets very agitated but Junior calms him down by saying they’re not making a Western here. When Tony puts the squeeze on Teittleman, the Jew calls Tony a Frankenstein monster.

How Do You Feel?: Tony gets paranoid about the painting in Dr Melfi’s waiting room. To him it says that psychiatrists are smart and its asks what he thinks of the spooky depressing barn and rotted out tree in the picture. Despite this, Tony says he’s having a real good week. Then he reveals that a friend of his in hospital with cancer. Later he questions Dr Melfi about Jackie’s prospects and gets angry when she suggests it doesn’t sound very good. Dr Melfi says Tony is getting closer to confronting his true feelings. There’s nothing in the picture to indicate the tree is rotted out, she adds. Tony takes this as proof of trickery and storms out of the office. When Jackie deteriorates, Tony returns for another session. He admires the Hassidic people for having their beliefs and not being afraid of death. He denies being afraid of death, but is troubled by the accusation that he is a Frankenstein monster, lacking humanity.

Sleeping With The Fishes: Brendan Filone, who dies in the bath. He is shot through the eyeball by Mikey, while Uncle Junior looks on happily. Christopher thinks he is going to be executed by the Russians but they just scare the shit out of him – quite literally. Tony, Paulie and Silvio almost kill Ariel but instead use of the threat of castration by bolt-cutter to get their way.

Quote/Unquote: Artie Bucco contemplates becoming a plumber. Tony says there’s only one concept to master: ‘Shit runs downhill’. When Tony visits his mistress, he asks Irina what a painting on the wall means to her. It shows water splashing in a swimming pool, as if someone had just dived in. Irina shrugs and reveals a passing knowledge of British 20th Century painters. ‘It just reminds me of David Hockey.’ Facing death from Tony, Paulie and Silvio, Ariel tells them about the Masada – 900 Jews who held their own against 15,000 Roman soldiers. Ariel asks whatever happened to the Romans? ‘You’re looking at them, asshole,’ Tony replies. Tony ponders the big philosophical issues of life, death and self awareness in its his own, inimitable style. ‘If all this shit’s for nothing, why do I got to think about it?’

Soundtrack: ‘Tenderly’ by Chet Baker. ‘Happy Feet’ by Eight and One Half Souvenirs. Meadow and her school choir sing ‘All Through the Night’. Closing credits – ‘Complicated Shadows’ by Elvis Costello and the Attractions.

Surveillance Report: The closing scenes juxtapose Meadow and her choir singing with the execution of Brendan and the mock execution of Christopher. This is an homage to The Godfather films, which often juxtapose a series of brutal killings with a family or religious event.

The Verdict: ‘When a Jew gets a divorce, even the altar sheds tears.’ Tony makes an ill-advised foray into the world of Hassidic divorce brokering, while Carmela alienates a childhood friend with her high-handed patronage. Death permeates events like a black cloud. Acting boss Jackie Aprile is dying from cancer, Brendan Filone gets executed by order of Uncle Junior and Tony confronts his own mortality. For the second episode running he storms out of a session with Dr Melfi. Much of the episode is dealing with the fallout from previous events, or setting up plotlines for later development. But the Hassidic divorce subplot provides welcome comic relief, as well as giving food for thought to Tony.

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