Saturday, May 05, 2007

Sopranos episode guide #29: Fortunate Son

US Transmission Date: 11 March 2001

Writer: Todd A. Kessler • Director: Henry J. Bronchtein
Cast: Joseph Siravo (Johnny Boy Soprano), Rocco Sisto (Young Junior Soprano), Tony Lip (Carmine Lupertazzi), Laila Robins (Young Livia), Peter Byrne (Security Guard), Megan Curry (Punked Out Co-ed), Steven Grillo (Pizza Customer), Kevin Janicelli (Joey Del Guercio), Mario Lavanderia (Male Student), Steve Mellow (Bill Owens), Peter Napoliello (Football Dad), Sal Petraccione (George Piocosta), Frank Savino (Operator #1), Paul Reggio (Operator #2), Jessica Ripton (Pizza Customer #2), Johnny Spanish (Junkie), Brian Anthony Wilson (Warren Dupree), Lou Bonacki (Francis Satriale), Mark Damiano II (Young Tony Soprano), Juliet Fox (Young Janice), Elxis McLaren (Young Barbara).

Storyline: It’s football season, the busiest time of year for the Family. Christopher gets a call to prepare for the ceremony where he will become a made man. He tells Adriana this means she will have to quit her job as a hostess at Vesuvio restaurant. Paulie and Silvio collect the very nervous Christopher and take him to the ceremony. Tony performs the ceremony on Christopher and another prospective Mafia member, Eugene Pontecoruo. During the ritual Christopher is perturbed by a black bird which appears at a window.

When the ceremony is completed the Family holds a celebration meal. Paulie gives Christopher his sports betting business. All Christopher has to do is give Paulie one tenth of his take every week, with a minimum payment of six thousand dollars. Tony talks with New York Family man Carmine Lupertazzi, who asks about the progress of a riverfront esplanade project planned for Newark, New Jersey. Tony says his man in the State Assembly reports that the matching funds are very close. The development agency has added plans for a City of Newark Museum of Science and Trucking. Johnny Sack is hovering in the background, trying to listen to their conversation. Carmine asks how Tony is doing with his panic attacks and psychotherapy. Tony is unhappy that everyone seems to know about his health problems.

Tony and Janice discuss her 19-year-old fiancée Drew, who is still in California. Janice plans to stay in New Jersey until Livia’s estate is settled. Tony suggests she move back into Livia’s house. He says Svetlana will be moving out soon. Christopher and his associate Benny Fazio go to the Ooh-Fa Pizza Restaurant, where they run into Jackie Aprile Jr and Dino Zerilli. Dino congratulates Christopher on being made, which Jackie reluctantly endorses. He is thinking of dropping out of Rutgers University. Dino says they are thinking of hitting a coffee house on the campus. Jackie gets into a shouting match with a customer who bumps into him.

Tony tells Dr Melfi he wants results from the therapy or it ends. She says the next step is for him to consider cognitive behavioural therapy. They trace his latest anxiety attack to Tony taking some capiccola sausage from the fridge. Christopher takes a heavy loss on the points spread from a football game. The betting parlour manager, Warren Dupree, says Paulie used to load off some of the action to other bookies, to spread the risk. Christopher has a tantrum – he’s going to struggle to pay Paulie the six thousand dollar minimum.

Tony barbeques meat for a big Sunday family dinner. Tony asks Christopher to look out for Jackie. The guests include Carmela’s parents Mary and Hugh, Christopher and Adriana, plus Ralphie Cifaretto and Rosalie Aprile. Ralphie is dating the wife of the late Jackie Aprile Snr. Jackie Jr is also meant to be at lunch but he phones and rudely tells his mother he won’t be coming. Carmela says she’s ask Tony to have a heart-to heart with Jackie Jr. Meadow phones from Columbia but doesn’t want to speak to her father. Christopher gives four thousand dollars to Paulie – only two thirds of what he owes. Paulie taxes him another two thousand dollars, so Christopher has to find another four thousand in the next two days.

Tony has a lunch meeting with Jackie Jr at Vesuvio. He tells the surly Jackie that Richie was rat who has gone into the witness protection programme. Tony says Jackie’s dad never wanted the mob life for his son, and Tony feels the same way about AJ. Tony goes to see AJ play at a school football game. AJ comes on as part of the defensive line in the closing minutes of the final quarter and grabs a crucial turnover by jumping on a fumbled ball. Tony is very proud. Janice shifts into Tony’s old room at Livia’s house because Svetlana is sleeping in Janice’s old room for a few more days. Svetlana still won’t give Livia’s records to Janice, she says possession is nine tenths of the law.

Christopher is stressed out, shouting at Adriana and fretting about how he will pay Paulie. He believes the bird sitting outside on the windowsill at his ceremony was a curse. Adriana says a bird inside the house symbolises death. Svetlana wakes up. Her artificial leg is missing and so is Janice. She calls Tony to come round. When he arrives his old mistress, Svetlana’s cousin Irina, is at Livia’s house. Tony doesn’t want to talk to Irina but agrees to contact Janice about the missing leg. He gets some capiccola from the fridge and it triggers a memory from his childhood.

He recalls seeing his father and Uncle Junior demand payment from Francis Satriale, the original owner of Satriale’s Pork Store. Johnny Boy Soprano chopped off one of the butcher’s fingers with a meat cleaver. That night Tony’s father says what he saw was a lesson – a man honours his debts. Johnny and Livia have an amorous moment when she gets the roast meat out of the oven. When the meat is being carved, young Tony faints in the kitchen – his first anxiety attack.

Tony tells Dr Melfi what he has remembered. She recalls the attack which led to Tony beginning therapy, happened when he was cooking meat. She says his very first attack happened when he short circuited after witnessing his parents’ sexuality, the violence and blood associated with the food he was about to eat, and the thought that some day he would have to bring home the bacon like his father. Melfi relates this to an experience of writer Marcel Proust, which inspired a seven-volume classic. She says understanding root causes will make Tony less vulnerable to future attacks. The therapist asks Tony to keep a log of any further thoughts he has about all this.

AJ and Tony are watching football at home while Carmela prepares a care package to take to Meadow. AJ goes with her but Tony stays at home on Carmela’s advice so he doesn’t further alienate Meadow. At Columbia Meadow and Noah are waiting for Carmela and Tony to arrive. Meadow knows what her father said to Noah and wanted to confront him about it in front of Noah. Carmela tries to placate Meadow. Svetlana’s boyfriend Bill Owens helps her move out of Livia’s house as Janice is moving in. Janice claims to know nothing about the disappearance of Svetlana’s leg. The Russian woman swears vengeance on Janice.

Christopher and Benny visit Jackie Jr at the pizza restaurant. Dino has been arrested for possession. Jackie says they were going to rob a benefit concert for Amnesty International at Rutgers University. Christopher and Benny adopt the plan with Jackie as getaway driver. At dinner AJ says he doesn’t want to go to college. He was perturbed by his visit to the Columbia campus and doesn’t think he’s smart enough to attend. Christopher and Benny rob the concert box office, while Jackie stays in the car. He pisses his pants because he dares not leave the car to urinate.

Next day Christopher gives Paulie the four thousand dollars. He talks about Jackie helping him. Christopher is finding being a made man a lot tougher than he expected. Paulie gives Tony his weekly cut and reports about Jackie helping Christopher at the Rutgers robbery. Tony says newly made guys are subject to strip searches for surveillance wires. At football practise the coach makes AJ defensive captain of the team. The teenager passes out, just like Tony does…

Deep and Meaningful: There are two very insightful moments in this episode. Dr Melfi and Tony make a breakthrough in tracing his panic attacks back to an incident from his childhood. In Season Two Tony learned discovered that his father had also suffering from the same problem. As the episode ends, AJ is unexpectedly given a position of responsibility and leadership. In reacts in the traditional Soprano male fashion – he passes out…

Mobspeak: Tony wants to know why Jackie Jr is doing hanging out with a mortadella (loser) like Dino Zerilli.

Mamma Mia: Tony says the only time you could count on his mother being in a good mood was when the weekly meat delivery from Satriale’s showed up, or sometimes when fresh vegetable came from Fusco’s. He says it was probably the only time his father got laid.

Bright Lights, Baked Ziti: Adriana is making cheese dogs when Christopher gets to call about his ceremony. After he has been made, there’s a vast buffet laid on for all the mobsters. Tony and Carmine help themselves to the food. Janice is eating crisps and drinking a beer when she and Tony talk. The manager of the Ooh-Fa Pizza Restaurant orders a free large O.F. pizza and soft drink of choice for Christopher to celebrate his being made. Tony barbeques various meats for the Sunday family dinner. Carmela serves roast pumpkin and string beans with parmesan cheese. Tony and Furio has lunch at Vesuvio. Tony tells Artie that Meadow is always coming home from Columbia to haul food away. After the football Tony takes AJ to have some hotdogs. That night Tony, Carmela and AJ eat a roast dinner at home together. Tony asks Svetlana is Janice has put any food in Livia’s fridge yet. Svetlana says Livia’s weekly meat delivery is still coming. Tony eats some capiccola sausage from the fridge, triggering his flashbacks. Dr Melfi says Marcel Proust’s inspirational flashbacks were triggered by eating a Madeleine, a kind of tea cookie. AJ and Tony eat crisps while they watch football on TV. Carmela is taking Meadow some of her homemade brasciole. Tony, Carmela and AJ have a meal including pasta, salad and bread. Tony is having steak for lunch at Vesuvio when Paulie arrives.

Mobbed Up: Adriana is worried that Christopher will be whacked instead of being made, as happened to Joe Pesci’s character in Goodfellas. Christopher says she’s seen too many movies. When Christopher arrives at the ceremony unscathed, Silvio accuses him on one ass cheek for the whole journey. Tony uses the same line on Christopher that he used on Adriana. Janice watches a TV show which mentions how Jayne Maynesfield broke into Hollywood with a single phone call. Christopher and Benny wear masks from the film Scream as disguises when they rob the benefit concert’s box office.

How Do You Feel?:
Tony says it wasn’t traumatic seeing his father cut off Satriale’s finger – it was a rush for him to witness the violence. When Dr Melfi makes the connection between meat, violence and his parents, Tony says he doesn’t want to think about any of this. He protests that his head is spinning when the therapist starts talking about Marcel Proust.

I Dream of Jeannie Cusamano:
Tony has two consecutive flashbacks to the late 1960s which show his first anxiety attack and how it relates to meat.

Quote/Unquote: New York mobster Carmine Lupertazzi confuses religion with shame when discussing psychiatry with Tony: ‘There’s no stigmata these days.’ Janice extols the virtues of her young fiancée Drew: ‘He’s 19, actually, and he can go all night.’ Carmela tells her daughter that Tony is outside. ‘Burning a cross?’ Meadows replies. Dr Melfi explains how Marcel Proust was inspired to write a seven-volume classic by biting a tea cookie, which unleashed a tidal waves of memories, but Tony is not impressed. ‘This sounds very gay.’

Soundtrack: ‘I See You Baby (Full Frontal Version)’ by Groove Armada. ‘All Good’ by De La Soul. ‘Rock and Roll’ by Led Zeppelin. ‘The Happy Organ’ by Dave “Baby” Cortez. ‘The Good, The Bad and The Ugly’ by Hugo Montenegro. Johnny Boy Soprano sings ‘All Of Me’ to Livia in flashback. ‘Sally Go Round The Roses’ by Jaynettes. ‘Since I Met You Baby’ by Ivory Joe Hunter. ‘Ain’t Talkin’ ‘Bout Love’ by Van Halen. ‘Where’s The Money’ by Dan Hicks. ‘A Little Peculiar’ by Heather Sullivan. ‘Never Change Baby’ by Greg Ginn.

Surveillance Report: Joseph Siravo (Johnny Boy), Laila robins (Livia) and Rocco Sisto (Young Junior) all reprise the roles they first played in the first season episode ‘Down Neck’. But the young Tony and Janice are played by different child actors in this episode. Also returning are Sal Petraccione as George Piocosta (last seen in the first season episode ‘Meadowlands’ and Tony’s former mistress, Irina, played by Oksana Babiy.

The Verdict: ‘Take away Tony Soprano, he’s a zero with shoes.’ Christopher finally gets his wish and becomes a made man, but soon finds it brings much greater stress and responsibility. As he gets on the wrong side of Paulie, Janice riles Svetlana and Tony alienates Meadow with his racism. Several significant stories begin or develop here which will resonate through the rest of the season, such as Jackie Jr’s attraction to the mob life and AJ struggling with adolescence. This episode shows many of the show’s younger character having problems coping with the onset of adult responsibility. Season Two episodes suffered from the sidelining of Livia and Tony’s sessions with Dr Melfi. Livia’s death could have made matters worse but it has actually freed the show from its past and enabled the creative team to move forwards into fresh territory…

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