Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Sopranos episode guide #33: Second Opinion

US Transmission Date: 8 April 2001

Written by: Lawrence Konner • Director: Tim Van Patten
Cast: Sam McMurray (Dr. John Kennedy), Frank Wood (Dean Ross), Mike Nichols (Dr. Krakower). Ilene Landress (Dr. Laurens), Ismail Bashey (Dr. Mehta), Peter Davies (Paxton), John Fiske (FBI Man), John Freudiger (Chooch), Lorenzo Gregorio (Miles), Tony Hale (RN Collins), Zachary Knower (Dr. Enloe), James Shanklin (Anaesthesiologist).

Storyline: Junior goes under the knife to remove his cancer. His surgeon, Dr John Kennedy, is in a rush to complete the operation. Afterwards he tells Tony and Bacala that he removed a tumour the size of a fist from Junior’s stomach. Tony offers Dr Kennedy a favour but the surgeon brushes it off. In the back office at the Bada Bing, Christopher beats Paulie at pool but Paulie refuses to pay the agreed stake. Christopher bitches about having to pick up the tab for Paulie too often. Paulie takes umbrage and demands the recently made man strip naked so he can be checked for wires.

Carmela’s parents, Hugh and Mary, join the Sopranos for Sunday dinner. AJ is trying to get out of a school trip to Washington but his parents insist he go. Tony is called away on business and AJ goes to his home to finish homework before the trip. Mary criticises Tony after he has gone and chides Carmela for not marrying a more respectable husband. Carmela reminds her parents that both of them have done well financially thanks to Tony’s efforts.

Tony arrives at the Bada Bing back office and find a novelty mounted fish called Billy Bass on his desk, which Georgie brought in. The fish starts singing and reminds Tony of having to whack his friend Pussy. Tony beats Georgie with the singing fish. Carmela has a solo therapy session with Dr Melfi – Tony has decided not to attend. Dr Melfi thinks the joint sessions have stirred up Carmela’s feelings and recommends a colleague who may be able to help Carmela.

Dr Kennedy tells Junior there may still be some malignant cells that the surgery missed. He recommends Junior have another operation and rushes him into making a decision. Junior is like a humble peasant, accepting whatever Dr Kennedy says as gospel. Angie Bonpensiero deliberately bumps into Carmela in a supermarket. Angie pleads poverty since Pussy’s disappearance and says her poodle Cocoa needs a $1200 operation that she can’t afford. Tony helps her with money but Angie says it isn’t enough for extra emergencies.

Christopher brings home two bags of stolen designer shoes for Adriana, but they are the wrong size. He complains about his treatment by Paulie. Christopher is holding back from giving Paulie a full share of his profits. Tony arrives home late for dinner. Carmela is unhappy with him. She says the Dean at Meadow’s college has invited them to lunch. Tony thinks the college just wants a donation from them and refuses to attend. Carmela mentions Angie’s money troubles, pushing Tony into a rant against Pussy for turning rat and joining the witness protection programme.

Paulie and Patsy Parisi visit Christopher and Adriana at home at two in the morning. Paulie confiscates the designer shoes as part of his payment and begins searching the apartment. Christopher sees Paulie sniffing a pair of Adriana’s panties. Carmela visits Meadow in the dorms. She brings laundry and home-cooked food. Carmela wants to know how Meadow is doing after being dumped by Noah. Meadow blames Tony for what happened with Noah.

Junior is making a tuna fish milkshake at home but only succeeds in spraying himself and the kitchen in milk and fish. Tony arrives, sneaking in through the basement so as not to endanger Junior’s bail conditions. Tony is shocked to hear about the need for another operation. He suggests his uncle get a second opinion, but Junior doesn’t want chemotherapy. Bacala arrives with shopping. Junior finally agrees to let Tony arrange for a second opinion.

Tony visits Angie. He sees that she has a new-looking Cadillac in the drive – hardly the sign of a poor woman. Tony attacks the car with a baseball bat and warns Angie not to use Carmela to get more money from him again. Carmela has lunch with Dean Ross. He praises Meadow’s work and asks for a donation of $50,000 towards a new student centre for the college. Carmela and Tony discuss the amount that night in bed. Tony offers just $5000, which he counts from a wad in his trouser pocket.

Tony takes Junior to see a doctor at a hospital in New York reputed to be the best cancer treatment centre in the world. The doctor suggests chemotherapy, but says there’s no guarantee further surgery will not be needed. He says the case should go before a team of doctors for further discussion. Junior is unimpressed, still preferring the opinion of Dr Kennedy. Junior had a great fondness for the doctor’s namesake, assassinated US President John F. Kennedy. Tony says Junior should not make life and death decisions just because of a man’s name.

Carmela has a sly cigarette outside the Sopranos household. The therapist recommended by Dr Melfi returns Carmela’s call and arranges an appointment for her. Tony finds Carmela outside. They start arguing and Carmela throws the phone at Tony. AJ returns home from his school trip. Once he goes inside, husband and wife start arguing again. Tony still refuses to donate $50,000 to Meadow’s college. Christopher complains to Tony about Paulie’s actions. Tony tells Christopher to act like a man and stop whining.

At the medical meeting to discuss Junior’s case, Dr Kennedy is sulking about his patient seeking at second opinion at a famous New York hospital. He washes his hands of Junior’s treatment and agrees to chemotherapy. Junior starts the treatment but can’t get Dr Kennedy to answer his calls. Tony talks to Paulie about harassing Christopher and Adriana. Tony visits Junior at home. His uncle is having an adverse reaction to the treatment and has to keep vomiting. Junior and Bacala complain that Dr Kennedy never returns calls or messages. Tony decides to get involved. Paulie approaches Christopher and warns him not to go whining to Tony.

Tony tracks Dr Kennedy to a golf course. Backed up by Furio, he frightens the surgeon into giving Junior better treatment in future. Carmela has a traumatic therapy session with Dr Krakower. He pulls no punches and offers no sympathy. If she wants to feel good about herself, she has to leave Tony and take only the children – what’s left of them. The therapist refuses to accept any of her ‘blood money’. He dismisses psychiatrists that allow patients to blame their present situation on some incident from their childhood. Dr Krakower makes sure Carmela understands exactly what he means. What she does now is up to her.

At Junior’s next chemotherapy session Dr Kennedy turns up, all attentive and helpful. He even gives him home phone number to Junior. Tony comes home and finds Carmela sleeping on the sofa. She seems very down and he suggests she try going to therapy on her own. Carmela insists Tony donates $50,000 to the college and he agrees to placate her. Tony suggests taking her out to dinner.

Deep and Meaningful: Carmela gets both barrels from the unforgiving Dr Krakower. He tells her exactly what she has to do to purge her sins and find some inner peace. But she cannot bring herself to do it now. Just saying out loud what Tony does for a living is difficult enough. When the therapist translates her phrase ‘organised crime’ into a single word, ‘Mafia’, Carmela squirms in shame and embarrassment. But the real moment of revelation comes in the final scene. Tony suggests she try therapy on her own, little realising her depressed mood is caused by the truths presented to Carmela in a single session. She can not cope with what Dr Krakower had to say. Instead, she says she hasn’t got time for therapy – an excuse to save her from further harsh truths.

Mobspeak: Tony says the Dean’s request for a $50,000 donation is a shake down (to blackmail or try to get money from someone).

Mamma Mia: Junior hears the voice of Livia amongst many when he semi-conscious and being wheeled to the operating theatre. Carmela tells Dr Melfi she hoped Tony would be better after Livia died, but it hasn’t happened yet. Carmela’s mother Mary seems determined to take on the role of nag now vacated by the late Livia. She complains about the example Tony sets when he leaves in the middle of the Sunday family dinner. ‘The man’s got two speeds – moping and yelling.’ Mary compares Tony to a more respectable man who dying to marry Carmela. He now runs a chain of drugstores.

Bright Lights, Baked Ziti: Tony gnaws on a chicken drumstick during Sunday family dinner. He has to leave before the meal can be completed. Mary asks her daughter what is the secret ingredient in the cooking. Carmela says it is balsamic vinegar. Tom says all cooks seem to be obsessed with balsamic vinegar, but his mother had never heard of it. Bacala asks Dr Kennedy how long it will be before Junior can return to a regular diet. Junior glares at him for asking a food-related question. Tony arrives home too late for a meal with Carmela so he eats it cold. He praises food, especially the pecorino cheese. They discuss Pussy and Tony says Angie should look for her husband at any TGI Friday’s – Pussy loved the wings at the restaurant chain. Carmela takes Meadow a container of home-cooked ziti with the sweet sausage she likes. Meadow is hungry and scoffs the baked pasta down cold. Junior tries to make a tuna fish milkshake, so he can get some nutrition. Bacala returns from shopping. Junior accuses him to stopping to eat White Castle mini-burgers, which have a distinctive smell.

Mobbed Up: Adriana tells she once gave head to television magician Penn, the tall guy from Penn and Teller.

How Do You Feel, Carmela?:
Carmela bursts into tears when she attends a solo session with Dr Melfi. She says she’s frustrated that Tony has been out of sorts for so long and there’s nothing she can do about it. Dr Melfi suggests Carmela seek therapy for herself and recommends Dr Krakower. He proves to be no solace and instead reduces her to tears again. Carmela admits to feelings of shame and guilt. Dr Krakower says she will never feel good about herself until she leaves Tony and his blood money.

I Dream of Jeannie Cusamano: Junior slips into a dream when he is given a pre-op sedative. He imagines the FBI offers him a deal – give evidence against Tony in exchange for a total cure from cancer. The front page of a newspaper spins to a halt on screen. The headline screams SOPRANO WINS FREEDOM: INDICTS NEPHEW. Underneath, another heading says ‘Star Witness Weds Angie Dickinson’ and there is a photo of Junior with the film and television actress. This refers back to a comment by Junior in #13, ‘I Dream of Jeannie Cusamano’, when he told the FBI he wanted to fuck Angie Dickinson. Tony has a brief flashback to a dream from #26, ‘Funhouse’, when he imagined Pussy as a talking fish.

Quote/Unquote: Junior displays his faith in Dr Kennedy with a scatological example: ‘You tell me to take a crap on the deck of the Queen Mary, an hour later they’re hosing it down with disinfectant.’ Tony tries to joke his way out of being late for dinner: ‘That’s why they invented microwaves – for inconsiderate husbands.’ Junior remonstrates with Tony: ‘If you’re going to lie to me, tell me there’s a broad waiting in the car to tongue my balls.’ Junior worries that his nephew has a hidden agenda for suggesting he get a second opinion: ‘Anthony is a cunt hair away from owning all of New Jersey – I am that cunt hair.’ When Carmela throws a phone at Tony, he asks for her reasons. ‘I’ll write you out a list,’ she replies. Furio sums up golf: ‘Stupid-a facking game.’

Soundtrack: ‘Mysterious Ways’ by U2. The Billy Bass fish sings Al Green’s soul stunner, ‘Take Me To The River’, and the Village People’s camp classic ‘YMCA’. A muzak version of Billy Joel’s ‘Just The Way You Are’ by Pat Longo plays in the grocery store where Carmela and Angie meet. ‘Goldberg Variations’ by Glenn Gould. ‘Black Books’ by Nils Lofgren. ‘Soleil’ by Greg Wells.

Surveillance Report: When Carmela is sitting in Dr Melfi’s waiting room, the scene is set up to exactly resemble the very first scene of the very first episode – the nervous patient seen through the legs of a statue of a woman. Just as that image began Tony’s journey into therapy, so Carmela begins her own such journey from the same position. For the second episode running, Bada Bing barman Georgie gets a beating. This time Tony does the hitting, using a Billy Bass singing fish. Poor old Georgie is still wearing an eye-patch from last episode’s violence.

The Verdict: ‘One thing you can never say, that you haven’t been told.’ Carmela tries solo therapy and gets a rude awakening. The trouble between Christopher and Paulie continues to escalate while everybody wants money from Tony. This episode could have been called The Trouble With Doctors. Junior is having a tough enough time coping with cancer, but his beloved Dr Kennedy proves himself to be no saint. Carmela has her first and final session with therapist Dr Krakower and is forced to face some harsh truths. Her injuries are not fatal but, like Junior, she finds the cure tougher than the illness. In the midst of all this, the sparring between Paulie and Christopher offers some welcome comic relief – as does the scene where Tony goes to bat on Angie’s Cadillac. At least Angie’s dog got out of the episode unscathed…

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sopranos seasons said...

I am a huge fan of the sopranos.I think Second Opinion is the best of all sopranos episodes of season 3.It had all in one episode.The direction in this episode has really been immaculately well.