Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Sopranos episode guide #32: University

US Transmission Date: 1 March 2001

Teleplay by: Terence Winter and Salvatore J. Stabile
Story by: David Chase & Terence & Todd A. Kessler and Robin Green & Mitchell Burgess • Director: Allen Coulter
Cast: Ariel Kiley (Tracee), Michael Garfield (Len Tannenbaum), Daniel Booth (Waiter), Yvette Mercedes (Homeless Woman), Richard Verdino (Police Officer), Michette Ardente (Mandee), Luiza Liccini (Stripper #1), Marie Athanasiou (Stripper #2).

Storyline: Tony is approached by Tracee, one of the topless dancers at the Bada Bing. She wants to thank him for suggesting she take her child to a doctor. Tracee has baked Tony some bread, which he politely refuses. She wants to be friends but Tony doesn’t think that’s a good idea since she is seeing Ralphie. Ralphie and Rosalie join the Sopranos and Carmela’s parents for Sunday lunch. Jackie Jr turns up to collect house keys from his mother after locking himself out of their house. He ignores Ralphie, who is dating Rosalie. Jackie asks after Meadow, who is spending Sunday at Columbia.

Meadow and Noah are spending a lot of time together and becoming much closer. They are kissing passionately in Meadow’s dorm room when Caitlin walks in and interrupts them. Caitlin is pulling her own hair out and is on medication from the university medical centre. Noah leaves to write a paper and Meadow soon follows him. She joins Noah in his room. He advocates patience with Caitlin. Meadow is impressed with his sensitivity. They have safe sex – it is Meadow’s first time. Meadow goes home to visit. She is full of joy but still blanks her father.

There is a VIP room at the Bada Bing. Georgie is the bouncer. He only allows the dancers inside if they give him fifty bucks and a blowjob later. Tony is in a sideroom getting a blowjob. Ralphie arrives and starts winding everyone up. He kisses Gigi on the mouth and hassles Georgie for never having seen Gladiator. Silvio and Paulie warn Ralphie to behave but he ignores them. Ralphie pokes Georgie with a pool cue, then starts swinging a chain above his head. It strikes Georgie in the eye socket, injuring him badly. Tony emerges and orders Ralphie to take Georgie to a hospital.

Meadow returns to her dorm room after spending the night at home. Caitlin is more clingy and obsessive than before. Meadow goes to see Noah. He suggests taking Caitlin out for her birthday. Noah and Meadow have sex. Tracee approaches Tony at the Bada Bing. She wants to show him the braces on her teeth. Silvio gets her up on stage to dance. He loaned her $3000 to get her teeth fixed.

Meadow and Noah take Caitlin out on the town. She wants to give money to a homeless woman, but the baglady drops her pants to reveal she has pages of the Daily News up her butt. In a sideroom at the Bada Bing Ralphie fucks Tracee from behind while she sucks a cop’s penis. Caitlin is still in shock from the baglady incident and starts drinking vodka. Noah leaves to meet a friend with whom he is going away for the weekend. He lies about having previously told Meadow about the trip.

Meadow goes home and talks with Carmela about Noah. Meadow indicates she is sleeping with Noah but will not elaborate. Tracee approaches Tony outside the Bada Bing. She is pregnant with Ralphie’s baby and wants advice. He suggests she have an abortion. Noah is working on an important paper in his room when Caitlin arrives, looking for Meadow. She talks her way into stopping in his room. Silvio discovers Tracee has been off sick from work for three days. He goes in search of the dancer.

Noah is pissed about getting a C- on his paper and blames Caitlin. This will lower his grade point average and hurt his chances of making law school. Silvio tracks Tracee to Ralphie’s place. He drags her out and slaps her face when she talks back to him. Ralphie stays inside, laughing. Noah and Meadow have a meal with Noah’s father, Len Tannenbaum. He’s an entertainment lawyer and quite jaded about his clients. He asks what Meadow’s father does for a living. Later Noah and Meadow go to see a film. Meadow feels guilty for not including Caitlin but Noah says his father is getting a restraining order against her. Meadow thinks this is a joke but Noah says Caitlin is ruining their lives.

At the Bada Bing’s VIP Tracee criticises Ralphie in front of the other mobsters. He follows her outside and they argue. He teases her by suggesting he’ll support her and the baby. Tracee spits in his face and punches him. Ralphie punches her back so Tracee taunts Ralphie. He beats her to death. Ralphie goes back inside and plunges his knuckles into a bucket of ice. He says Tracee fell while they were arguing. Tony and his crew go outside where they find her corpse. Tony has Ralphie brought outside. Ralphie says its not his fault Tracee was a klutz. Tony starts beating Ralphie and has to be pulled away by the others. Ralphie is furious at Tony – a made man does not lay hands on another made man without permission. The crew clean up the crime scene.

Noah and Meadow are studying in the college library. Noah dumps Meadow. He says she is too negative and there’s an underlying cynicism about her. He returns to studying, leaving her quite stunned. Carmela and Tony have another joint therapy session with Dr Melfi, but Tony says almost nothing. Eventually he explains this by saying a young man working at Barone Sanitation has died. Meadow comes home in a foul mood. She slams doors in the kitchen before stomping upstairs to her room. At the Bada Bing the dancers discuss what happened to Tracee. They agreed it’s better not to know. The dancers go on stage and life goes on…

Deep and Meaningful: Ralphie shows his dark side in this episode. Up to now he has been obnoxious and a jerk, but his behaviour has been acceptable in the context of his world. However, beating to death a young woman pregnant with your child puts him into a category all of his own. She humiliated him, so Ralphie killed her. Afterwards he shows absolutely no remorse. He claims that she was clumsy and fell, when the truth is obvious to everyone. He does not even bother to rationalise his actions as being part of upholding a code of honour or protecting the Family. Ralphie is a true sociopath.

Mobspeak: Meadow slips into euphemism when Noah’s Dad asks what Tony does for a living, saying her father is in environmental clean-up.

Bright Lights, Baked Ziti: Tracee bakes a date and walnut breakfast bread for Tony as a gesture of thanks. He tips it into a bin when she’s gone. The Sopranos, Carmela’s parents, Rosalie and Ralphie have roast meat and vegetable for Sunday lunch. Carmela has just baked a cake for a fundraising event when Meadow comes home from college full of joy. She says it smells delicious. Tony comes into the kitchen and eats ham from the fridge. Christopher complains about having to work so hard now he’s made. If he had wanted 18 hour days, he could get a job at a Denny’s Restaurant. Carmela cooks AJ waffles for breakfast. He says the family is out of syrup. Meadow says that’s because he uses a whole gallon at a time. Tracee heats up a poptart for Ralphie to eat. Rosalie and Ralphie have Tony, Carmela, Silvio and his wife Gabriella over for dinner. They eat a cake baked by Rosalie for dessert. Everyone compliments the cooking. Tony is eating cereal for breakfast when Meadow comes home from college after being dumped by Noah. She slams doors to cupboards and the fridge before shouting that there is nothing to eat in the house.

Mobbed Up: Ralphie and AJ discuss several ultra-violent scenes from the film Gladiator during Sunday lunch at the Soprano house. Carmela’s mother Mary DeAngelis says she prefers Erin Brockovich which was a nice movie. Her husband Tom says he didn’t care for it. When Jackie Jr turns up Tony hails him as the ‘Fresh Prince of New Jersey’, a reference to the TV comedy The Fresh Prince of Bel Air starring Will Smith. Caitlin is upset after seeing the 1932 film Freaks. Ralphie quotes Gladiator twice in the Bada Bing’s VIP room. His favourite line of the day: ‘I have come to reclaim Rome for my people!’ Ralphie watches Spartacus after having it recommended to him by Christopher as a great gladiator movie. Ralphie is especially unimpressed with Kirk Douglas’s hair - they didn’t have flat-tops in ancient Rome. Len Tannenbaum complains about having to listen to five hours of whining by actor Tim Daly on the flight from Los Angeles. Len did the deal for Daly to star in the new TV series of The Fugitive. Len never watches his client’s films if he can help it. He is in town to meet with Dick Wolf, producer of the TV series Law and Order and SVU. Noah and Meadow go to the cinema to see Dementia 13, a 1963 film directed by Francis Ford Coppola – one of his earliest works.

How Do You Feel?: Tony says he is saddened by the ‘work related death’ of the ‘young man’ in his employ.

How Do You Feel, Carmela?: Carmela says she and Tony seem to talk more since the first joint session.

Sleeping With The Fishes:
Tracee, beaten to death by Ralphie with his bare hands behind the Bada Bing strip club.

Quote/Unquote: Caitlin pinpoints one possible cause for her homesickness: ‘I think I miss my ferrets.’ Silvio says most of his dancers want money for fake tits but Tracee only needed her teeth fixed: ‘Kid’s a thoroughbred but Madonn’, those choppers – fucking train wreck.’ Caitlin refuses to go back to the university medical centre for help and opens a bottle of vodka instead. ‘No more drugs,’ she vows. Tony thinks Tracee should get an abortion: ‘Believe me, with Ralphie as the father, you’ll be doing this kid and the next three generations a favour.’

Soundtrack: ‘I’ll Remember April’ by Bobby Darin. ‘You Shook Me All Night Long’ by AC/DC. ‘Takin’ Care Of Business’ by Bachman Turner Overdrive. ‘Powder Your Face With Sunshine’ by Dean Martin. ‘Living On A Thin Line’ by The Kinks. ‘The Dolphin’s Cry’ by Live. ‘Emily’ by Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons. ‘Everybody’s Jumpin’’ by the Dave Brubeck Quartet. ‘Inside My Love’ by Minnie Riperton. ‘Thou Swell’ by Sammy Davis Jr.

Surveillance Report: This episode sets a record for having the most writers’ names attached to it – seven in total. It also generated a lot of controversy with the brutal murder of Tracee. During the first two seasons of The Sopranos, violence was almost always directed at men. But Season Three changed that with the rape of Dr Melfi and the slaying of Tracee. Creator David Chase says in interviews this was a deliberate move to show what Mafia life is really like. Rumours circulated before this episode aired that the homeless woman would be seen with a specific page of the Daily News up her butt, featuring an image of a particular newspaper columnist who had leaked Season Three plot details. Like most rumours, this proved groundless. The scene where Noah dumps Meadow raises some intriguing questions. Why did he dump her? Was it because Meadow is too negative, as he suggested. Did Noah’s father pressure him to dump Meadow because she is the daughter of a mobster? Or did Noah decide he had got what he wanted from Meadow – deflowering an apparent virgin – and then cast her aside once the novelty had worn off, once the chase was over? Certainly by dumping her when he did, Noah remained in control and did not risk getting hurt or involved. One more question to ponder – did Noah sleep with Caitlin? In the scene where she joins him in his room, the image fades to black as she come in. According to Noah they spend six hours together while he worked on his paper. He subsequently got only a C- for the paper and his father was trying to get a restraining order on Caitlin. Could all this be because he had sex with her?

The Verdict: ‘Watch those braces, honey.’ Ralphie shows his true colours and Meadow’s boyfriend Noah proves to be no saint. Young woman suffering at the hands of men is the focus of this episode. Meadow gets a harsh lesson from Noah, seemingly surrendering her virginity only to be dumped soon afterwards. Topless dancer Tracee suffers far more. She gets pregnant by Ralphie, who just considers her a cheap whore. When she wants more from him, he beats her to death. Tracee reaches out to Tony for help but he spurns her. When she is murdered, he feels guilt and remorse for what has happened. But that won’t bring her back. Worse still, Tony has broken a Mafia code of conduct by striking another made man without permission. There will be a price to pay…

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

DeAngelis, the father's first name is Hugh, not Jon.