Friday, May 04, 2007

Sopranos episode guide #28: Proshai, Livushka

US Transmission Date: 4 March 2001

Writer: David Chase • Director: Tim Van Patten
Cast: Nancy Marchand (Livia Soprano), Vincent Pastore (Pussy Bonpensiero), Nicole Burdette (Barbara Giglione), Ralph Lucarelli (Cozzerelli), Peter McRobbie (Father Felix), Tim Gallen (Mr Zachary), Marcia Haufrecht (Fanny), Vito Antuofurmo Sr (Bobby Zanone), Dimitri De Fresco (Young Man), Ed Vassallo (Tom Giglione), Carlos Lopez (FBI Tech #1), Michael Strano (FBI Agent).

Storyline: Late at night a garbage truck is blown up. Next day the Star-Ledger reports this is the second explosion in a sanitation war, with further retaliation expected. A copy of the paper lays on the breakfast bar in the Soprano’s kitchen. Lying on the floor is Tony Soprano, who has collapsed. Carmela comes home with groceries and discovers him on the floor and asks what happened.

Everything does a fast rewind back to Tony coming downstairs. He finds Meadow rewinding a videotape of the 1931 gangster film The Public Enemy. She brought a classmate home to watch it because someone stole the VCR at Columbia. Her black classmate emerges from bathroom and introduces himself to Tony as Noah Tannenbaum. While Meadow goes upstairs to get a CD, Tony asks about Noah’s background. Noah is half Jewish, half African-American. His father is an entertainment lawyer in Los Angeles. Tony warns Noah to stay away from Meadow in future. Noah and Meadow go back to Columbia. Tony gets food out of the fridge, opens a kitchen cupboard and then collapses.

Back to real time and Carmela warns Tony not to play the race card against Noah, it will only backfire on him. She will talk to Meadow about Noah. Tony visits her mother at her home. Svetlana has shifted in to be Livia’s carer. Tony asks his mother not to testify against him about the illegal airline tickets, but Livia doesn’t respond. Tony walks out, frustrated and angry.

That night Tony is watching The Public Enemy on video. Meadow comes home and demands to know what her father said to Noah. Carmela calls her upstairs. Tony goes outside to smoke a cigar. When he comes back in, Carmela, Meadow and AJ are all waiting for him in the dining room. Svetlana called - Livia has died in her sleep. Tony and Carmela go to Livia’s house. Svetlana says Livia died of a massive stroke. She did not suffer.

At the Soprano’s home, AJ is struggling to understand a poem by Robert Frost. Meadow explains that snow symbolises death. When she leaves, AJ hears noises in the house. He calls out to see if it is Livia, but nobody replies. Tony calls his sister Barbara with news of their mother’s death. She volunteers to call Janice in California. Tony suggests they meet at Cozzerelli’s Funeral Home the next day but Barbara says Livia did not want a service. Tony says they’ll pick an urn instead. Tony, Carmela and Svetlana toast Livia.

When Tony and Carmela get home Tony’s crew are waiting for him. Everyone says they’re sorry and Tony notes that his mother didn’t suffer. Carmela’s parent arrive as Tony gets a call from Barbara that Janice is refusing to come home. Tony phones Janice and demands she return to New Jersey. He offers to pay her airfare. He tells her that everyone believes her dead fiancée, Richie Aprile, has disappeared into the FBI’s witness protection programme. That night Tony can’t sleep. He gets up and watch more of the old film, which shows a gangster’s happy relationship with his living mother.

Next day more of the Family come to pay their condolences. Tony takes Ralphie Cifaretto, Albert Barese and Gigi outside. He demands to know who gave the order to torch one of Albert’s garbage trucks. Ralphie says it was retaliation for Albert lighting up two of his dumpsters. Ralphie talks about his crew, but Tony points out that Ralphie hasn’t been made captain of Richie Aprile’s old crew yet. The dispute is over who will get an upcoming garbage contract for Reardon township. Ralphie says the Reardon recycling manager, Mr Zachary, is threatening to bust them all with the Environmental Protection Agency and Albert backs this up. Tony tells Ralphie to fix Zachery but forbids anyone from starting any more fires.

Tony, Barbara and Janice gather at Cozzerelli’s. Tony says Livia didn’t want a service, Barbara wants a priest to be there and a tearful Janice worries about how it will look if they don’t have a service. Tony eventually agrees to having the works and pay for it himself, just to shut everyone up. Janice wants a time for people to share remembrances at Livia’s wake but Tony rejects the idea as California bullshit.
At Livia’s house Janice is tapping the walls looking for loot in the basement when Tony arrives. Janice has been going through their old possessions. Livia kept all of Tony’s stuff, a baby shoe and communion certificate of Barbara’s, but nothing from Janice’s childhood.

Everyone prepares for the funeral in different ways. Silvio has a temper tantrum because he will have to miss the Jets’ first home game to attend. Furio, Christopher and Adriana smoke and snort various drugs. Captain Raymond Curto meets with his FBI handler. He offers to wear a wire to Livia’s funeral.

The funeral home does a brisk trade in people coming to pay their respects to Livia and her family. The FBI’s Newark office has sent a sympathy wreath. Junior arrives, all out of sorts. He is accompanied by Bacala, who says his own father is very ill too. State Assemblyman Zellman makes an appearance, as does Reverend James Jr. Junior tells Tony that Ralphie wants a bump up to Captain. Junior says Ralphie has been a top earner since taking over Richie’s crew, pulling it into shape. Ralphie watches as his men beat Mr Zachary.

After Livia is buried, Janice tells Svetlana to vacate Livia’s house by the weekend. The Russian woman says Tony told her she could stay longer. Janice demands the return of Livia’s record collection, which Svetlana claims was given to her as a present. Janice says the records are worth a fortune to the right collector. At Livia’s wake Carmela is hitting the booze heavily. When Tony opens a mirrored cupboard in a hallway, Pussy Bonpensiero is reflected in the mirror for a moment.

Tony stops and looks around, as if he caught the ghostly apparition out the corner of his eye. Paulie and Furio are standing near Tony at the time, but they do not notice.
Janice gathers everyone to share remembrances and feelings about Livia. They all stand or sit, silent and awkward. Hesh says the dead woman didn’t mince words. Livia’s best friend, Fanny, says she would always call with news if someone they knew had died or gone into hospital. Tony walks out in disgust when a guest says that at least Livia didn’t suffer.

Outside Tony talks with his old friend Artie Bucco, who is catering the wake. Artie has been remembering Livia telling him that it was Tony who had the original Vesuvio restaurant burnt down. Artie threatens to share this secret with the gathering. Tony follows him inside but before Artie can say anything Carmela speaks her mind. She says the wake is a crock of shit and describes Livia as terribly dysfunctional.

Carmela’s mother tries to hush her but Carmela’s father Hugh demands to his turn. He says they suffered for years under the yoke of Livia, who spoiled numerous family events and holiday gatherings. Barbara’s husband endorses this view. After a painful silence, Artie invites everyone to tries some of the desserts. When everyone has left or gone to bed, Tony watch the end of The Public Enemy. He cries as the film finishes – but for whom is he crying?

Deep and Meaningful: The whole remembrance scene is excruciatingly awkward and cringe-making in its accuracy. Almost nobody has a good thing to say about Livia but some manage to concoct a few platitudes. Janice uses the occasion to be the centre of attention and act the role of grieving daughter. It takes a half-cut Carmela to unleash a little truth. Pray your wake isn’t like this!

Mobspeak: Tony has a clutch of slang expressions to describe black people including ditsoon, charcoal briquette, mulignan and butterhead. Junior talks about Richie going into the program (Witness Protection Programme).

Mamma Mia: Livia makes her final appearance as a CGI apparition, with her head cut from previous episodes and grafted on to the body of a double. Her dialogue in the short scene with Tony is also culled from the archives and sounds like a selection of Livia’s greatest moans. She wishes the Lord would take her now. She supposes she should have kept her mouth shut, like a mute. She doesn’t like swearing, it upsets her. Livia also manages to roll her eyes or her head half a dozen times, gets in three dismissive hand gestures and a couple of hankie waves.

Bright Lights, Baked Ziti: When Tony regains consciousness after collapsing, his first words are ‘Uncle Ben’, referring to a brand of rice the Sopranos have in their kitchen cupboard. It was the last thing he saw before passing out. Just before that, he got a packet of capiccola sausage slices out of the fridge to eat. Carmela’s father Hugh brings a box of pastries when he and his wife come round to offer their sympathies for Livia’s death. Tony watches the famous scene in The Public Enemy where James Cagney pushes a grapefruit into his girlfriend’s face. Next morning Tony is eating cereal straight from the box when members of the Family arrive to sympathise. Tony tells Vito Spatafore to eat a Shfiadell pastry while the others go outside to talk business. Outside the funeral home Tony says people can drink, eat some gorgonzola cheese and yak about Livia at the wake. At the wake Artie remembers taking Livia food in hospital. Artie caters the food at the wake, which includes a finger food buffet and desserts by Vesuvio’s new pastry chef. Janice says everyone could take a break from eating for five minutes. Carmela berates her own hypocrisy at ‘evading, smiling and passing out Cheese Puffs’ at the wake.

Mobbed Up: Nearly half a dozen scenes from The Public Enemy are shown during this episode. Tony says it’s a great movie. Noah credits director William Wellman with inventing the gangster film genre, rather than Howard Hawks whose film Scarface was released a year later. Noah says Cagney was barbarity in The Public Enemy. Noah and Meadow are studying the film as part of a course entitled Images of Hyper-Capitalist Advancement in the Era of the Studio System. At the wake Furio talks with Paulie about the TV reality game show Survivor, which was a big hit on US television in 2000.

How Do You Feel?: Tony complains that Dr Melfi offers no condolences for the death of his mother, but then says it is a relief she hasn’t – everyone else is all bullshit about it. Tony says he is glad Livia died. In fact, he wished she’d die. He says relief flooded into his veins when he heard the news, because she could have testified against him in court. Now he feels guilty, because no good son should wish his mother dead. He calls his mother a fucking demented old bat and a selfish, miserable old cunt who ruined his father’s life. Dr Melfi says Tony is still letting his mother off. Tony is hopeful that the death of his mother means his therapy is done, but Dr Melfi doesn’t agree.

Sleeping With The Fishes: Livia Soprano, killed by a massive stroke in her sleep. Dead at last, but definitely not forgotten…

I Dream of Jeannie Cusamano: Artie Bucco has a flashback to the day he visited Livia at the Green Grove nursing unit (#13, ‘I Dream of Jeannie Cusamano’), when she told him Tony had Vesuvio torched. The ghostly appearance of Pussy reflected in a mirror happens so quickly most viewers in America only caught it on repeated viewings of this episode. Does Tony notice? He pauses for a moment after it happens, as if unnerved by what he saw in the mirror…

Quote/Unquote: Carmela warns her husband against playing the race card, as it will only drive Meadow into Noah’s arms. ‘Not if I cut off those fucking arms,’ Tony says. AJ is befuddled by Robert Frost’s use of snow as a metaphor for death: ‘I thought black was death.’ Tony dismisses Janice’s fears about being implicated in the disappearance of Richie Aprile: ‘Jesus, that case is colder than your tits.’ Carmela’s father, Hugh DeAngelis, demands his wife Mary give him a chance to speak his mind at Livia’s wake: ‘Goddammit, who are you – the Minister of Propaganda?’

Soundtrack: ‘Closer to Home (I’m Your Captain)’ by Grand Funk Railroad. ‘If I Loved You’ from the musical Carousel. ‘I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles’ by Les Paul. ‘Eyeless’ by Slipknot. ‘Shake It (Like You Just Made Bail)’ by Shawn Smith.

Surveillance Report: ‘Proshai, Livushka’ is Russian for ‘Goodbye, Little Livia’, according to Svetlana. She uses the phrase to toast Livia’s memory. Marcia Haufrecht returns as Fanny, the friend Livia run over way back in #02, ’46 Long’. Fanny had her hip broken in the auto accident – now she attends Livia’s wake in a wheelchair. Also returning in this episode is Father Felix (played by Peter McRobbie), the priest Paulie berated for failing to secure him divine immunity in #22, ‘From Where To Eternity’. The Public Enemy uses the song ‘I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles’ as its theme tune. The song was subsequently adopted by fans of London’s West Ham United football club. Watch out for the mystery man who appears on the stairs behind Tony during the remembrance sequence, then disappears back upstairs again. This detail caused endless speculation on the internet as hardcore fans tried to discern the identity of this individual, who looks a little like Uncle Junior. Eventually someone from the show’s production team said the mystery man was merely an extra who wandered into shot, decided to avoid the sharing of remembrances and retreated back upstairs again. Ralphie Cifaretto is played by Joe Pantoliano, who has starred in hit films The Matrix, The Fugitive and Bound. He was Guido the Killer Pimp in 1983 film Risky Business with Tom Cruise. State Assemblyman Ronald Zellman is played by Peter Riegert, who starred in Local Hero and The Mask.

The Verdict:
‘I wish the Lord would take me now.’ Livia finally gets her wish and everybody else has to deal with the fallout. Meanwhile Tony’s racist attitude and comments alienate his daughter, driving her away from the family. This episode was necessitated by the death of actress Nancy Marchand, who played Livia Soprano in Seasons One and Two. Alas, the CGI sequence just doesn’t work. The special effects company which did the work said it cost a six figure sum – David Chase should ask for his money back. It is easy to say in retrospect, but the show would have been better served by Tony having the same conversation with Livia over the telephone. Despite this glitch, the episode is an inspired effort as Tony wrestles with his feelings for his dead mother. Several significant characters get their introduction and crucial plot lines for the rest of the season are begun.


Anonymous said...

You say 'Reardon' but as far as I remember from today's episode, it is Raritan. I'm from the area 'tony' lives in.

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gavin said...

It definitely is'nt an extra , David Chase would'nt just allow an extra to enter a scene . Also at the funiral as the camera goes past
Tony you see the same man wearing a top hat and glasses looking over
Tony's left shoulder . The man also look like the actor that is used in Tony's flashbacks of his father and Juniour .

gavin said...

It definitely is'nt an extra , David Chase would'nt just allow an extra to enter a scene . Also at the funiral as the camera goes past
Tony you see the same man wearing a top hat and glasses looking over
Tony's left shoulder . The man also look like the actor that is used in Tony's flashbacks of his father and Juniour .