Saturday, April 07, 2007

Sopranos episode guide #4: Meadowlands

US Transmission Date: 31 January 1999
UK Transmission Date: 5 August 1999

Writer: Jason Cahill • Director: John Patterson
Cast: Mark Blum (Randall Curtin), John Arocho (Kid #2), Michael Buscemi (Lewis Pantowski), T. J. Coluca (Jeremy Piocosta), Guillermo Dias (Salesperson), Daniel Hilt (Kid #3), Ray Michael Karl (Teacher), Theresa Lynn (Stripper), Shawn McLean (Yo Yo Mendez), Sal Patraccione (George Piocosta), James Spector (Kid #1), Corrine Stella (Woman), Anthony Tavaglione (Lance)

Storyline: Adriana picks up Christopher from hospital, where he has been recovering from the mock execution. He is deeply paranoid, believing it was ordered by Tony because Christopher gave amphetamine to Meadow. Adriana and Christopher go to Brendan Filone’s apartment, where they discover his dead body in the bath. Anthony Jr. gets into a fight with former friend Jeremy Piacosta at school. AJ’s shirt is badly ripped in the confrontation. Tony arrives for a session with Dr Melfi and almost bumps into Silvio Dante, who sees a dentist in the opposite office. Tony gets worried about how safe it is for him to be treated by a psychiatrist. Christopher accuses Meadow of telling Tony about the amphetamine, which she emphatically denies. Meadow says she hates being a Soprano.

Carmela discovers AJ’s ripped shirt. He promises to get $40 to replace the shirt, which was a gift from his grandmother. Tony visits Livia at Green Grove. He tries to persuade her to take part in activities at the retirement community but she would rather be a martyr. Outside Tony meets with Detective Vin Makasian, a corrupt policeman. Tony wants information about Dr Melfi’s background and daily routine. Tony and his crew are visiting acting boss Jackie Aprile on his deathbed. Christopher arrives and says that Uncle Junior has had Brendan executed. The crew speculate that Mikey Palmice carried out the hit on Junior’s orders. Tony goes to the Sit-Tite Loungette to confront his uncle. Outside he pauses to attack Mikey Palmice. Inside Tony and Junior argue. Junior says Christopher should work for him from now on, but Tony rejects the idea. Junior warns his nephew that if he comes back, Tony should come armed.

Detective Makasian and a colleague follow Dr Melfi, who is on a date with a friend called Randall Curtin. Makasian pulls Curtin over and beats him up. The detective thinks Tony and Dr Melfi are having an affair. He tells her not to sleep around. Next day Makasian reports his findings to Tony. Dr Melfi is dating Randall Curtin. She’s divorced with one child, aged 19. She sees a psychiatrist herself. Tony discusses the leadership crisis over lunch with three other captains from the Family – Larry Boy Barese, Raymond Curto and Jimmy Altieri. Tony tries to get Curto to take over as acting boss when Jackie dies, but Curto declines. The other captains say the job will have to go to either Tony or Junior.

AJ tries to get the $40 from Jeremy Piocosta and they start fighting again. The pair are pulled apart but resolve to settle the matter the next day.
Tony collapses in the kitchen at home after forgetting to take his medication. Carmela asks whether he discusses their marriage with the psychiatrist. Tony is considering quitting therapy because of the security risk. Carmela says their marriage is at stake if he abandons therapy. At his next session Tony discusses his problems with Junior. Dr Melfi suggests a book about coping with elder family members. She says sometimes they need to have the illusion of being in control, just like children do. Christopher tries to collect his regular payment from a street corner dealer called Yo Yo Mendez. Yo Yo says Junior’s boys already collected from him – they have taken over control of the corner. Christopher attacks Yo Yo, saying he still controls the corner.

Jeremy Piocosta surrenders before he and AJ can begin fighting. He gives forty dollars to a bemused AJ. A TV news bulletin announces that Jackie has died of cancer. At the Bada Bind, Tony and his crew toast their dead leader. Christopher bursts in, demanding Tony go to war with Junior after the latest skirmish. Tony nearly throttles Christopher and then leaves to confront Junior. The crew contemplate the bleak prospect of a gang war. Tony visits Junior at the Sit-Tite and offers him the position of acting boss, in exchange for two of Junior’s territories. Junior agrees and they embrace. AJ seeks Meadow’s advice about Jeremy Piocosta backing out of their fight. She shows him websites about gangsters on her computer.

Dr Melfi goes to Randall Curtin’s for a date but he is scared to go out after being attacked by Detective Makasian. She recommends a therapist who specialises in post-traumatic stress disorder. At Jackie’s burial, Tony and his crew discuss making Junior boss. All the key decisions will still be made by Tony but Junior is a lightning rod for any attacks from outside. Government agents are photographing the event for their files. AJ watches all this from a new perspective…

Mobspeak: Christopher describes Brendan’s execution as a message job (shooting a bullet into a body to sent a specific message to that person’s crew or Family) through the eye (meaning we’re watching you). Tony’s crew discuss message jobs. Silvio says that through the eye means the guy was a rat. Junior warns his nephew that the next time he comes in, Tony should come heavy (carrying a weapon). Tony, Jimmy Altieri, Raymond Curto and Larry Boy Barese discuss who should succeed Jackie as acting boss. Jimmy asks if Junior is stubborn enough to go to war. Raymond says no one’s going to the mattresses (going to war with a rival clan or Family) in this day and age. Tony says one of the captains (a Family member who leads a crew) needs to step up and restore order to the whole Family. Yo Yo Mendez tells Christopher there’s no one to who he’d rather give his ten points (percentage of income from criminal activity).

Mamma Mia: Livia’s mask slips for a moment when Tony brings her macaroons. She looks joyful then swiftly rejects them as too sweet, rather than give her son any pleasure. She doesn’t like the people at Green Grove and she doesn’t want to go on a trip to New York for dinner and a show. Livia says that city is full of grown men soiling themselves and mothers throwing their babies out of skyscraper windows. Tony says she isn’t making the most of her opportunities but Livia asks what does he care? As long as she’s out of sight, she’s out of mind. Tony asks whether she wants the macaroons as he’s leaving. Livia says she doesn’t care but tells him to leave some out for the lunatics.

Bright Lights, Baked Ziti:
Christopher offers to buy Meadow a Happy Meal from MacDonalds, like he did when she was little. Tony takes his mother some of her favourite biscuits, macaroons, but she rejects them. Livia suggests he leave some out for the other residents of Green Grove. Outside the retirement community, Detective Makasian mooches some of the macaroons off Tony. Junior and his cronies are eating pasta at the Sit-Tite Loungette when Tony confronts his uncle about what happened to Christopher and Brendan. Tony shares a massive lobster dinner upstairs at the Bada Bing strip club with three other captains from the Family. Junior is having a coffee and a sandwich when Tony returns to the Sit-Tite to offer him the position of acting boss.

Mobbed Up: Big Pussy calls the killing of Brendan a Moe Green special. He says that in ‘The Godfather Part I’, Moe Green’s eyes got too big for his stomach so they put a small calibre in his eye. Paulie quibbles whether getting shot through the eye is actually a message job. He believes the film’s director, Francis Ford Coppola, just framed the shot that way for the shock value. As the conflict between Tony and Junior escalates, Christopher says this isn’t the time for negotiation. He suggests Tony recreate the finale in ‘Scarface’, where Al Pacino has a bazooka under each arm. ‘Say hello to my little friend.’

How Do You Feel?: Tony is nervous, after nearly bumping into Silvio outside Dr Melfi’s office. He is concerned about security. If somebody seems him going into a therapy session, it could have dire consequences. After Tony has another panic attack, she prescribes Xanax to get him over short term stresses. Dr Melfi suggests Tony let his mother and uncle believe they are in charge. As the episode draws to a close, Tony tells Dr Melfi he feels fine, the Xanax is helping. He is no longer has doubts about therapy. Tony says he gets a lot of good ideas at the sessions.

Sleeping With The Fishes: Giancomo ‘Jackie’ Aprile, from cancer. His death leaves a power vacuum. With boss Ercoli ‘Ekley’ Demeo serving a life sentence in prison, the Family needs a new acting boss.

Always with the…: Tony despairs of his mother’s attitude to New York city. ‘You’re always with the babies out the windows.’ Silvio says Christopher is always with scenarios when the latter suggests the bazooka climax of Scarface as a way of resolving problems with Junior.

I Dream of Jeannie Cusamano: Tony has a cryptic dream at the beginning of this episode. He sees himself in Dr Melfi’s office when Hesh walks by the window outside. Melfi says Hesh has a three o’clock appointment. Tony goes out into the corridor. AJ is watching him through a partially open doorway. In a waiting room, Silvio is having sex while Pussy and Paulie read newspapers – Paulie’s paper is in Japanese. Tony returns to Melfi’s office and asks what’s going on? Melfi is at in her chair but facing away from Tony. Jackie Aprile sits up on a hospital bed in the corner of the office, smoking a cigarette. He says there are thunderstorms and he can smell rain. Melfi turns around, but she is actually Livia dressed as Dr Melfi, complete with a wig and glasses. Tony wakes up with a start!

Quote/Unquote: Tony worries that his notoriety could lead to unwanted celebrity, but Dr Melfi is unimpressed by his concerns: ‘I thought we made some progress on your narcissism.’ Livia opts for high drama when Tony says she has not been forgotten by him or his family: ‘I wish the Lord would take me now.’ Tony dismisses a suggestion that the Family be run by a council, because it was established as a paramilitary organisation: ‘We need a supreme commander at the top, not the fucking Dave Clark Five.’ Tony complains about his mother’s attitude to Green Grove retirement community: ‘I pay four grand a month for this place and she acts like I’m an Eskimo pushing her out to sea.’

Soundtrack: Randall Curtin says he has a song by the Doors, ‘People Are Strange’, stuck on a loop in his head. ‘I’m Just a Prisoner Of Love’ by Perry Como. ‘Looking Down From The Bridge’ by Mazzy Star. ‘Fired Up’ by Funky Green Dogs.

Surveillance Report: Adriana’s sunglasses keep appearing and disappearing off her face during the scene where Christopher interrogates Meadow. This episode introduces Detective vin Makasian, played by American character actor John Heard. He has previously appeared in films like Home Alone, In the Line of Fire and The Pelican Brief. Makasian mentions Melfi’s psychiatrist, Dr Elliot Kupferburg, who will be a recurring character in Season Two.

The Verdict: ‘I’ll never forget where I was this day.’ AJ makes a shocking discovery about what his father does for a living, while the death of acting boss Jackie Aprile brings the Family to the verge of an internal civil war. This episode is the concluding chapter of a trilogy charting a significant power shift in the Family. The scenes between Tony and Junior are very tense, while the moment when Tony offers his uncle the job of acting boss is a genuine twist. Tony may not be able to sort out his family problems in therapy, but it is helping him resolve some of his Family problems. We also get our first meaningful glimpse behind the professional mask of Dr Melfi. Meadowlands is a gripping episode, peppered with humour and pathos. It’s the best the show has been since the pilot, at least in part because it pays off plot lines built up over the two preceding episodes.

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