Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Sopranos episode guide #8: The Legend of Tennessee Moltisanti

US Transmission Date: 28 February 1999
UK Transmission Date: 2 September 1999

Writer: Frank Renzulli and David Chase • Director: Tim Van Patten
Cast: Richard Romanus (Richard La Penna), Sam Coppola (Dr. Reis), Brian Geraghty (Counter Boy), Will McCormack (Jason La Penna), Ed Crasnick (Comedian), Joseph Gannascoli (Bakery Customer), Barbara Haas (Aida Melfi), Timothy Nolen (Jeffrey Wernick), Barbara Lavalle (Band Leader), Robert Anthony Lavalle (Band Leader #2), Brooke Marie Procia (Bride), Bill Richardone (Joseph Melfi)

Storyline: Christopher is haunted by a man he murdered, Emil Kolar. At a wedding reception for Larry Boy Barese’s daughter, word spreads that federal indictments are coming soon. Junior orders the captains to sit tight and, at Tony’s prompting, suggests everywhere hide the evidence of their illegal activities in case of surprise searches by the FBI. Christopher is struggling to write his film script, provisionally entitled ‘Made Man’. A TV news show confirms that the indictments are imminent. A pundit speculates part of the investigation will focus on the murder of Brendan Filone, who is described as a Soprano family associate and soldier. Christopher is outraged by this inaccuracy, as he is still waiting to be promoted to soldier.

Dr Melfi has dinner with her parents, son and ex-husband Richard. She lets slip that she is treating a mobster. They debate whether Italian Americans are denigrated by their frequent portrayal as mobsters in films. Richard is involved with the Italian American anti-defamation lobby. He says a recent study showed that the Mafia had less than 5000 members at its peak, out of 20 million Italian Americans. Christopher is sent by Tony to get pastries for the crew while they sweep the Bada Bing strip club for surveillance devices. Christopher is forced to wait in a long queue and finally shoots the counter boy in the foot to get served. Carmela takes Livia away from Green Grove for a surprise brunch. In fact, this is a ruse so Tony can secrete illegal guns and cash in Livia’s room while she is away from the retirement community.

Tony warns Dr Melfi he may miss an appointment because of a ‘vacation’ which could happen at short notice. She connects this with TV news reports about the forthcoming federal indictments. Christopher complains to Paulie and Pussy that he has no character arc or identity. Brendan is now famous in death but Christopher is still unknown. He is also worried that the nightmares are a warning about some problem with Emil Kolar’s corpse. Christopher and Georgie from the Bada Bing dig up the corpse and move it to a new location. Dr Melfi and her ex-husband decide to sell a block of land they still own together to support their son, Jason. Melfi chides Richard for obsessing about her patient and his profession. Tony confronts Christopher about his recent actions, warning him to get his act together. Christopher denies being depressed or suicidal, but does say he worries about getting cancer like Jackie Aprile.

The FBI search Tony’s house for evidence of illegal activity. As a result Tony misses his therapy appointment. After the FBI has gone Tony and his family discuss all the good done by Italians and Italian Americans. Tony and Dr Melfi argue about whether he should pay for the missed session. Tony throws cash at the psychiatrist before stomping out. Junior tells Livia he is worried there is a bad apple in the organisation. She says Tony is seeing a psychiatrist. Christopher gets a message that his name is mentioned with other gangsters in the New Jersey Star-Ledger newspaper. He rushes out and buys a whole stack, overjoyed at public recognition.

Mobspeak: Christopher believes the FBI will be looking for him because he’s O.C. (FBI shorthand for Organised Crime). Tony suggests all the captains should do some spring cleaning (hiding evidence of illegal activities). Christopher is angered when Brendan is described on TV as an associate (someone who works with the Family but is not a made man). Tony berates Christopher for shooting a civilian (a member of the public). Meadow asks her father who invented La Cosa Nostra (the original name for the Mafia, which roughly translates as our business or our thing – hence the phrase ‘this thing of ours’), before attributing its creation to Charlie ‘Lucky’ Luciano. Tony talks about Francis Albert (Frank Sinatra).

Mamma Mia: At the wedding reception, Livia embarrasses Larry Boy Barese by asking whether he is still an adulterer. Carmela pays a surprise visit to Livia as Green Grove to take her out for brunch. Livia assumes something must be wrong. She asks if Meadow is suffering from an eating disorder or whether Tony is being unfaithful to Carmela. Despite previous protestations of ignorance about the mob, Livia says she is worried about the effects of the coming indictments on her son. Junior visits Livia at Green Grove. He is worried there’s a rat in the Family. Livia says that Tony is seeing a psychiatrist and could be telling them anything, but she forbids Junior for causing any repercussions.

Bright Lights, Baked Ziti: In Christopher’s dream Adriana and Carmela eat sausage. Emil Kolar asks for a salami sub without mayo, then changes his meat order to black forest. He says repeatedly that Christopher will have Czech sausages. At the wedding reception the captains and their families have to leave before they can enjoy the starter course. The extended Melfi family have a meal of pasta and meatballs, with green salads and bread. Jason praises his grandmother’s ginzo gravy – pasta sauce. Richard complains that pizza and mob movies are all that most Americans associate with Italian Americans. Christopher goes to Russo’s Bakery to get a box of shfooyadell, cannolis and other pastries for the guys at the Bada Bing. Another customer tries to order two Neapolitan loaves. Christopher forces the counter boy to load a box with free pastries for him. After the FBI has searched the house, Tony and the family have Chinese takeaway food for dinner, including crispy duck, ribs and Mu Shu.

Mobbed Up: Christopher explains to Adriana how much he loves movies. ‘That smell in Blockbuster, that candy and carpet smell, I get high off of it.’ He mentions that his council Gregory’s girlfriend works for Quentin Tarantino and she says mob stories are always hot. Dr Melfi’s ex-husband complains that most Americans associate Italian Americans with ‘The Godfather’ and ‘Goodfellas’. Their son Jason says they are good films and good movies to eat pizza by. He suggests that mob movies are classic American cinema, like Westerns. Christopher complains to Paulie that he has no arc, like characters in movie scripts are supposed to have. He cites the example of Richard Kimble in ‘The Fugitive’, but quickly dismisses it. ‘His arc is just run, run, jump off a dam, run.’ Christopher prefers ‘The Devil’s Advocate’ with Keanu Reeves and Al Pacino as a better example of a character arc. A comedian at Green Grove makes a joke about a Polish version of Kurasawa’s ‘Rashomon’, where everybody remembers the rape exactly the same. The comedian suggests the retirement community should make a Zapruder film of its salad bar.

How Do You Feel?: When Tony throws the money for his missed session at Dr Melfi, she says she doesn’t appreciate being made to feel afraid. Tony replies that he doesn’t appreciate feeling that he pours his heart out to a call girl, which is how he sees her now.

How Do You Feel, Doctor?: Dr Melfi goes to family therapy with her ex-husband and their son. She admits to being frightened and revolted by Tony.

Sleeping With The Fishes: When Christopher and Georgie dig up Emil Kolar’s body, they are surprised by the corpse having grown a beard and long fingernails.

I Dream of Jeannie Cusamano: Christopher has a nightmare about being haunted by Emil Kolar. It begins with Christopher drinking coffee at Satriale’s in the daytime. He hears the voice of Emil Kolar. Christopher floats through the store. He sees Adriana kneeling to eat a large sausage held by a disembodied hand in the meat display fridge. Christopher looks away and when he looks back Carmela has replaced Adriana. Kolar appears, dead and wrapped in plastic. Suddenly it’s a windy night and Christopher is wearing a bloody butcher’s smock. He makes Emil a meat sandwich. Emil says Christopher fucked up and gives him four bullets. Christopher tries to give them to the hand in the fridge to hide but the hand grabs him instead. Christopher is jolted from sleep, covered in sweat. Later Christopher tells Paulie and Pussy about being haunted in dreams by his victim. Pussy says the more people Christopher kills, the better he will sleep. Pussy had one victim chasing him for months in his dreams.

Quote/Unquote: Christopher complains that he doesn’t have a character arc, but Pussy is unimpressed: ‘You know who had an arc? Noah.’ Dr Melfi’s ex-husband cuts to the core of her dilemma about treating Tony: ‘After a while, you’re gonna get beyond psychotherapy with its cheesy moral relativism, finally you’re gonna get to good and evil. And he’s evil.’ Tony confronts Christopher about shooting the bakery counter boy because the police have a description of Christopher and his car: ‘Why don’t you just leave a urine sample next time?’ Tony asks if he can help Agent Harris find anything when the FBI search the Soprano household. ‘Any incriminating evidence would be nice.’

Soundtrack: A band performs ‘Wind Beneath My Wings’, ‘Turn the Beat Around’ and ‘Summer Wind’ at Melissa Barese’s wedding reception. ‘Summertime’ by Booker T and the MGs. ‘Frank Sinatra’ by Cake.

Surveillance Report: Several characters watch a news programme of television featuring the fictional character Jeffrey Wernick, a syndicated columnist and author of many books about the mob. Wernick is quoted extensively in ‘The Sopranos: A Family History’, an official tie-in book to the series first published in 2000. The scene where Christopher shoots the bakery counter boy in the foot is a sly reversal of a similar scene from Martin Scorcese’s ‘Goodfellas’. In the film Joe Pesci shoots the character Spider (played by Michael Imperioli) in the foot. In this episode the bullet is in the other foot, as Christopher (played by Michael Imperioli) shoots the counter boy in the foot. Several significant characters have their first appearance in this episode. Agent Harris of the FBI makes his debut, as do Dr. Melfi’s extended family. When news of the imminent indictments leaks out, Junior suspects there is a bad apple in the Family – the first person to do so. This storyline will have increasing importance in succeeding episodes.

The Verdict: ‘It’s like just the fuckin’ regular-ness of life is too fucking hard for me or something.’ News of imminent federal indictments sends the Family into a panic while Christopher is troubled by the lack of recognition for his work. The role of Italian Americans in society, and how they are depicted by the entertainment industry, is debated by several different groups in this episode. These discussions cleverly undercut the very same debate which the success of The Sopranos would subsequently spark. The FBI emerges from the shadows to become a real threat to the Soprano Family in this episode, while more intriguing insights into the life of Dr Melfi outside her office are revealed. The various plot strands of this debut series are slowly being brought to the boil…

1 comment:

Tom said...

The way that one ends with Christopher rushing out to get all the papers with his name in and Cake's 'Frank Sinatra' playing had me reaching for the rewind button to play it again.