Monday, April 09, 2007

Sopranos episode guide #6: Pax Soprano

US Transmission Date: 14 February 1999
UK Transmission Date: 19 August 1999

Writer: Frank Renzulli • Director: Alan Taylor
Cast: Vincent Curatola (Johnny Sack), Freddy Bastone (Barman), William Conn (Old Man), Maurizio Corbino (Waiter), Sylvia Kauders (Old Woman), Salem Ludwig (Mr. Capri), Prianga Pieris (Mechanic), Salvatore Piro (Sammy Grigio), Christopher Quinn (Rusty Irish), Dave Salerno (Card Player), Donn Swaby (Guy on Bridge), Sonny Zito (Eggie)

Storyline: Tony is becoming obsessed with Dr Melfi. He still has Detective Makasian tailing the psychiatrist but gets no new information about her. Tony starts bringing coffee for Dr Melfi and himself to their sessions. Junior’s assistant Mikey Palmice breaks up a high stakes card game on Junior’s orders, because the organiser doesn’t pay a slice of its earnings to the acting boss. Junior gets himself measured for a new suit by his tailor. The tailor is unhappy because his grandson committed suicide after buying designer drugs, and the dealer is still walking free. Later Junior visits his sister-in-law at Green Grove retirement community. She suggests he should tax Hesh.

Tony can’t get an erection with his Russian mistress Irina. They argue and she throws a burning candle at him. Hesh seeks Tony’s help. Junior wants to tax Hesh’s loansharking business and Hesh is unhappy at the amount demanded. Tony agrees to see what he can do. Despite his impotence, Tony is having erotic dreams about Dr Melfi. During a wedding anniversary dinner with Carmela, Tony has a meeting with Johnny Sack, a representative of the New York Mafia. He agrees to help Tony resolve the situation between Hesh and Junior. Carmela is furious that Tony used their wedding anniversary to discuss business. They are not having sex and she resent his relationship with Dr Melfi.

Dr Melfi tells Tony she cannot any gifts from him, not even a cup of coffee. She has to interrupt their session because of a problem with her car’s starter. Tony admits to suffering from impotence. Dr Melfi suggests the cause may be psychological rather than physical. Tony gets home to find a load of furniture being delivered. He argues with Carmela, who has been on a shopping spree in recent days. Junior, Tony, Hesh and Johnny Sack have a meeting to discuss the tax. Junior agrees to a smaller percentage and only $250,000 in back taxes. Tony tries to have Irina dress like Dr Melfi but she misunderstands his suggestion and gets insulted.

Tony retells what happened to Dr Melfi, but substitutes his wife’s name for that of his mistress. Tony says he wanted Carmela to dress like Dr Melfi. He kisses the psychiatrist but she pushes him away. Melfi’s car problems mysteriously resolve themselves. A mechanic tells her a new starter has been fitted. Mikey Palmice and an associate murder Rusty Irish, the drug dealer blamed for the suicide of the tailor’s grandson. Tony is visited by the other captains, who complain about Junior not sharing the proceeds of his new wealth as acting boss. Rusty Irish was Larry Boy Barese’s biggest earner. Tony agrees to tries and intercede. He visits his mother and asks for her help, but Livia says he has to talk directly to Junior.

Carmela seeks Father Phil’s counsel about her problems with Tony. Up to now she felt she could deal with his mistresses and viewed them as a form of masturbation for Tony. But Carmela feels challenged by Dr Melfi, as if Tony is cheating on her for the first time. Father Phil says Carmela is not without sin in this matter, she needs to pray for guidance and forgiveness. Tony admits to having Dr Melfi’s car secretly repaired. He says he is in love with her. The psychiatrist says his feelings are a result of the progress they have made and the role she has played in therapy. She fulfils the things he feels are missing in his wife and mother. Tony says he understands her.

Tony suggests to his uncle that it would be better to share the wealth with the captains. Junior agrees and shares Hash’s $250,000 back taxes among the captains. Tony gives his slice back to Hesh. Carmela and Tony resolve their differences about Dr Melfi. Junior is given a celebration dinner by the Family. Everyone present is photographed covertly. Later, in an office, the photographs are arranged on a pinboard to show the new structure of the Family, with Junior replacing the late Jackie Aprile as acting boss. Federal law enforcement is closing in…

Mobspeak: Livia says Junior smells like a French putan’ (short for puttana, whore) because he wears Canoe aftershave. Junior decides to tax (take a percentage of someone’s earnings) Hesh. Tony wonders whether Junior realises he already gets money from Hesh’s shylock business (loansharking). The other captains complain that Junior eats alone (keeps everything for himself). Tony tries to discuss the situation with his uncle, ending by saying capice (do you understand?). Junior says Tony has been acting mezzo morte (half dead) lately. Junior agrees to take one and a half percent of Hesh’s shy (the interest charged on loans by loansharks).

Mamma Mia: Livia is in a surprisingly positive mood this episode – at least, by her standards. She is almost playful with Junior when he visits her at Green Grove. Livia advises him not to let people take advantage now that he is acting boss. She obliquely prompts Junior into taxing Hesh. He takes this as proof at how angry she is with Tony, but Livia denies it. When Tony visits his mother she declines an invitation to bingo from Molly, another resident at the retirement community. When the woman is out of hearing, Livia describes her as a degenerate gambler. Tony tries to get his mother to intercede with Junior on behalf of the captains, but she says she doesn’t know that world and doesn’t want to get involved. ‘I wish the Lord would take me,’ she announces at random.

Bright Lights, Baked Ziti: Christopher steals some ham from the slicer as he walks through Satriale’s Pork Store. Tony takes Carmela to a restaurant for their wedding anniversary. She complains that the veal is like rubber, but Tony says it tastes alright. The staff bring a slice of cake with a lit candle on top to the table while saying Happy Anniversary in Italian. Tony takes his mother some almond biscuits from Ferrara’s, which she accepts for eating with her coffee later. The captains have a dinner for Junior, to celebrate his promotion to acting boss of the family.

Mobbed Up: Tony feels his life is like an episode of provonesomething, likening it to an Italian version of US TV series thirtysomething. Fellow captain Raymond Curto worries that Tony has turned Junior into a Frankenstein monster by making him acting boss.

How Do You Feel?: Tony tells Dr Melfi that his wife is jealous of her. The psychiatrist asked why Tony chose a female therapist. He said she was the only Italian on the list offered him. He asks why Dr Melfi has him as a patient, when most people avoid him at all costs – but the question goes unanswered. At their next session Tony says he feels good, very good. He may flush his Prozac because he believes it is making him impotent. He becomes increasing obsessed with Dr Melfi. At their next session he says she has a killer body. He admires her for being gentle and sweet sounding, like a mandolin. Tony kisses her but she pushes his away, just as their session is ending. At his next appointment, Tony talks about Carmela’s extravagant spending. Dr Melfi suggests this is a ploy to get his attention. Tony admits having the starter in Melfi’s car secretly replaced. The therapist says it was a violation of her privacy and she has been scared to death. Tony says he’s in love with her and he can’t get excited about another woman. Dr Melfi says this is a by-product of the progress they are making and wants him to return for further sessions. But she still feels someone has been following her on Tony’s behalf…

Sleeping With The Fishes:
Rusty Irish, a drug dealer. Mikey Palmice and an associate throw him from a bridge over the Patterson Falls on orders from Junior. The grandson of Junior’s tailor committed suicide at the same place after buying designer drugs from Rusty.

Always with the…: Tony despairs of Carmela’s attitude at their wedding anniversary dinner. ‘Why do you always gotta be so dramatic?’

I Dream of Jeannie Cusamano: Tony has two sex dreams in this episode. In the first, he awakens in his own bed but the room is lit with dozens of candles. He is getting a blowjob and enjoying himself immensely. The woman giving it to him emerges from under the sheet – it’s Dr Melfi, but she speaks with the voice of Irina, Tony’s mistress. In the second dream Tony is interrupted while urinating in his bathroom. A woman is having a shower. She opens the door – it’s Dr Melfi again and she’s wet and naked. Tony wakes up with a start.

Quote/Unquote: Tony says he might as well be a dildo for all the conversation he gets from his mistress Irina. But she is unhappy with his impotence: ‘If you were a dildo, we wouldn’t be fighting.’ Big Pussy complains about his luck at cards: ‘I’ve eaten more queens than Lancelot.’ Dr Melfi asks Tony when was the last time he had a prostate exam. ‘Hey, I don’t even let anyone wag their finger in my face,’ he replies. Livia rants about the woman in the next room at Green Grove using too much water: ‘She runs the water all day. Water, water, water… I’m living next door to Gunga Din.’

Soundtrack: ‘When The Boy In Your Arms (Is The Boy In Your Heart)’ by Connie Francis. The Green Grove residents sing ‘Whistle A Happy Tune’ from the musical The King and I. ‘What Time Is It?’ by Jive Five. ‘Paparazzi’ by Xzibit.

Surveillance Report: This episode’s title is a reference to Pax Romana, a peace imposed by the Roman Empire. Hesh says he could live off the royalties from six gold records he wrote. Tony points out that two black kids wrote the records – Hesh owned their record company and gave himself a co-writing credit. This will come back to haunt Hesh in a later episode, A Hit is a Hit.

The Verdict: ‘My uncle’s been boss of the Family for ten fuckin’ minutes and already I got agita.’ Junior is making waves as acting boss and everybody wants Tony to intercede. But Tony is having problems of his own in bed and can’t seem to get Dr Melfi out of his mind. Uncle Junior proves to be a fair and surprisingly moral leader, but he is also quite easily led. Dr Melfi is beginning to be drawn slowly into the world of Tony Soprano, but still thinks of him as just a patient. For Tony, the difficulties with Junior are light relief compared to his problems with sex and the women in his life. By the end of the episode he and Carmela resolve some of their problems, but many more still remain…

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