Monday, May 14, 2007

Sopranos episode guide #38: Amour Fou

US Transmission Date: 13 May 2001

Teleplay by: Frank Renzulli • Story by: David Chase • Director: Tim Van Patten
Cast: Isaach De Bankole (Father Obosi), Paul Mazursky (Sunshine), Victor Truro (Dr. Rotelli), Joanie Ellen (P.A.), Anna Mastrionni (Woman In Car), Michael Lee Patterson (Martin), Stephen Peabody (Service Manager), Anthony Zayas (Cholo #1), Freddy Martinez (Cholo #2), Cesar Deleon (Cholo #3).

Carmela and Meadow visit an art gallery. Carmela is having problems with bleeding outside her usual period. She chides her daughter about poor grades at college. Meadow says her relationship with Jackie Jr is over, but will not elaborate. Carmela starts crying in front of a painting. Gloria approaches Tony in a car park. She apologises for her behaviour. Tony agrees to see her later. He goes to therapy with Dr Melfi, who says Tony and Gloria have what the French called ‘amour fou’ – crazy love. The therapist suggests Gloria is drawn to Tony like a moth to a flame.

Jackie Jr and Dino Zerilli meet with Ralphie. They give him $350, a cut from the proceeds of their activities. Jackie Jr whines that Tony did not intervene to stop him being kicked out of college. Tony and Gloria meet in a hotel room for sex. Gloria complains about her strained family relations. Jackie Jr and Dino chase three customers who insist on smoking out of the Ooh-Fa Pizza parlour. Christopher comes in and offers them part of a truck heist. The pair say they have aligned themselves with Ralphie.

Carmela is getting her Mercedes serviced but no courtesy cars are available. Gloria overhears the name Soprano and gives Carmela a lift home. Gloria politely grills Carmela for information about the Soprano family while driving her home way too fast. Jackie Jr and Dino are having a midnight snack at the Aprile household when Ralphie comes in. He tells them an anecdote about how Tony and Jackie Sr broke into the big time by robbing a card game run by a made guy. Carmela watches TV. She finds herself crying at dog food commercials.

Tony visits Gloria at home. Her car’s tyres have been slashed. Tony wonders if Irina could have been responsible but dismisses the idea. He says he slapped the piss out of her last time something like this happened. Gloria is intrigued but goes mad when Tony offers to get her new tyres. Jackie Jr and Dino decide to hit a card game run by Eugene Pontecorvo, a made guy under Ralphie’s protection. Jackie wants to include Carlo Renzi, who has a shotgun. The pair go inside to call Carlo but are distracted by TV.

Carmela goes to confession with Father Obosi, a priest studying for his doctorate in psychology. She worries she may have ovarian cancer, which killed her cousin. She is too scared to go to a doctor. The priest says she could be pregnant. Carmela says her life is a lie, financed by Tony’s crimes. Father Obosi suggests she learn to live off the good part of her husband. She should also go see a specialist for her medical concerns. Carmela tells Tony that Meadow and Jackie Jr have split up. Gloria phones Carmela while Tony is there, under the pretence of selling her a car. Tony hears about Gloria’s recent contact with Carmela. He goes to the car dealership and tells Gloria the relationship is over – in no uncertain terms.

Carmela gets her ovaries scanned by a doctor. Jackie Jr goads Dino into calling Carlo about hitting the card game. Carmela, Rosalie Aprile, Angie Bonpensiero and Gabriella Dante have lunch. Carmela says the doctor diagnosed a small thyroid problem, nothing serious. The four women discuss the break-up of Jackie Jr and Meadow. Young women of today seem to get over heartache much quicker. They discuss how much First Lady Hillary Clinton had to put up with from her husband.

Gloria phones Tony at the Bada Bing. She’s sobbing and hysterical. He goes to see her at home. She just wants things back the way they were. He says that’s impossible. Gloria uses the same phrases and tactics as Livia to attack Tony. He recognises what is going on and warns Gloria to stay away from his family. He chases her around the room, picks her up by the throat and throws her to the floor. She spits in his face and begs Tony to kill her. He starts throttling her but regains control of himself. Tony gets up and walks out. Jackie Jr, Dino, Carlo and Matush pull up outside the card game. Carlo is eager to get on with it but Jackie Jr is having second thoughts. He offers them a way out. They collectively decide to rob the game before the drugs they took earlier wear off. Matush stays with the van as getaway driver while the other three go inside, armed with pistols and Carlo’s shotgun.

The trio burst in to find a game laden with made men, including Furio, Christopher, Bacala and Eugene Pontecorvo. Dino freezes up and can’t talk, so Jackie Jr shouts orders. The dealer, Sunshine, infuriates Jackie by spouting old adages. Another card player emerges from the toilet and Carlo blasts at him with the shotgun. Outside Matush hears the shot and drives off. Inside, Sunshine starts another saying and Jackie shoots the dealer repeatedly in the chest, murdering him.

The small room turns into a shooting gallery. Christopher shoots Carlo through the head, while Jackie shoots Furio in the thigh. Jackie and Dino run out the door but the getaway van is gone. Jackie hijacks a passing car and drives off, leaving Dino by himself. Christopher and another card player catch Dino. He pleads for his life, saying he is with Ralphie. They shoot him anyway. The card players leave the crime scene at speed, taking Furio.

Dr Fried is making a commercial for his penile implant business when he gets a phone call from Tony asking for help. Furio can’t be taken to a hospital for treatment because he’s an illegal immigrant. Dr Fried operates on Furio, who swears profusely in Italian throughout the procedure. Christopher tells Tony the other robber was definitely Jackie Jr. He wants to kills Jackie himself but Tony forbids it. Christopher is infuriated and calls Tony a hypocrite for protecting Jackie Aprile Sr’s kid. Tony lays down the law to Christopher, who runs off.

Tony meets with Ralphie in the back office at Satriale’s. He leaves the final decision about what Jackie Jr to Ralphie, who is torn about what to do. Tony discusses Gloria with Dr Melfi. She says the relationship with Gloria was about Tony reliving his relationship with his mother. The therapist doesn’t know if Gloria poses a threat to Tony in the future. Patsy takes a test drive with Gloria. He pulls a gun and warns her to stay away from Tony – or else. She gets the message.

Ralphie goes home to Rosalie and tells her Jackie Jr has a serious drug problem. He says he will do his best to save her son. Carmela is reading about how to get into selling real estate when Tony comes home. He notices she is no longer wearing the ring he gave her. Carmela lies, saying it is being resized.

Deep and Meaningful: There are several great, character-defining moments in this episode. The confrontation between Tony and Christopher about Jackie Jr is prime stuff, with all Tony’s rage revealed in its terrifying ferocity. But the best is perhaps when Tony puts the final decision about Jackie Jr’s fate into Ralphie’s hands. Ralphie realises it was his anecdote about Tony and Jackie’s father robbing the card game which led to this crisis. Tony asked whether Ralphie schooled Jackie Jr as best he could. Ralphie says he spoiled the young man. Ralphie walks out of the meeting and stands on the street, alone. He has to decide whether or not to obey the mob code and have Jackie Jr slain…

Mamma Mia: Gloria all but morphs into Livia during her final confrontation with Tony. He protests that his life is no picnic. ‘Poor you,’ says Gloria, reviving one of Livia’s catchphrases. She also wonders aloud if she should be like a mute and says nobody cares if she’s alive or dead. All this jolts Tony to a crucial realisation: ‘I didn’t just meet you. I’ve known you my whole fucking like.’ He says Gloria is just like him mother, a bottomless black hole.

Bright Lights, Baked Ziti: This action-packed episode has little time for food. Jackie Jr pulls a gun on the smokers in the Ooh-Fa Pizza parlour, telling them to go find a Taco Bell – a chain of Mexican fast food restaurants. Jackie Jr and Dino are eating spaghetti when Ralphie tells them anecdotes. Ralphie looks for marshmallows to put into his hot chocolate. Tony has cereal when he and Carmela discuss Meadow and Jackie Jr. Dino scoffs pizza as Jackie Jr goads him into calling Carlo. Carmela, Angie, Rosalie and Gabriella have pasta for lunch at Vesuvio. Rosalie complains about Artie’s cooking. Carmela is cooking lemon snaps for the bake sale at church when Tony comes home as the episode draws to a close. He says they smell good.

Mobbed Up: Jackie Jr and Dino are transfixed the film Basic Instinct when it is screened on TV. Jackie says the sequence where Sharon Stone crosses her legs to reveal she is wearing no panties is his favourite part. Patsy warns Gloria not to attempt any Fatal Attraction-style antics with Tony or his family, or he will kill her. ‘It will not be cinematic.’

How Do You Feel?: Tony says he and Gloria are like leather and lace or a burning ring of fire. They push each other’s buttons. He likes the fact that she’s a very independent woman, unlike Irina who was a helpless baby. After he nearly kills Gloria, Tony wonders to Dr Melfi if the relationship was a set-up from the beginning. He now sees Gloria as just another Irina with a college degree. The therapist asks why Tony is drawn to dangerous relationships. He suggests he’s looking for a way out of his marriage? Dr Melfi says he will never leave his wife – it’s the one good decision he has made about women in his life. However, Carmela might leave him. Tony starts getting angry at this and doesn’t enjoy being told he’s a very conventional man, in spite of everything else.

How Do You Feel, Carmela?:
Carmela thinks her whole life is a lie. She worries she will die outside God’s mercy because of her complicity in Tony’s crimes. Carmela tells Father Obosi that it seems so right when a psychiatrist told her to leave Tony. She loves her husband and she loves God, but her life is financed by crime. The priest looks at the massive sapphire finger on her hand and Carmela covers it up, ashamed. She decides to take his advice and try to live only on the good part of her life.

Sleeping With The Fishes:
This episode has a body count of three – easily the highest of the season and all confined to a few minutes of the show. Card dealer Sunshine dies first, shot repeatedly in the chest by Jackie Jr for spouting old adages. Carlo Renzi gets it next, shot in the head by Christopher. Last, but not least, Dino Zerilli is executed by Christopher and another card player.

Ralphie dismisses Jackie Jr’s complaint that Tony should have tried to save Jackie’s college status: ‘He should break the Dean’s legs ‘cos you’re too lazy to read a fucking book?’ Carmela thinks it’s terrible the English government didn’t tell people sooner about mad cow disease. ‘Probably didn’t want to create a stampede,’ Tony quips. Gabriella Dante sums up the life and career of Hillary Clinton: ‘She took all that negative shit he gave her and spun it into gold.’ Tony lays down the law to Christopher: ‘You don’t gotta love me – you will respect me.’ Patsy Parisi gives Gloria her final warning about Tony while they test drive a new Mercedes: ‘You call or go anywhere near him or his family, you’ll be scraping your nipples off these fine leather seats.’

Soundtrack: ‘Sposa Son Disprezzata’ by Cecilia Bartoli. ‘Return To Me’ by Dean Martin. ‘Walk Like An Egyptian’ by The Bangles. ‘Return To Me’ by Bob Dylan. ‘Affection’ by Lost Boys. ‘No Hay Problema’ by Pink Martini.

Surveillance Report: Dr Melfi says she is not charging Tony for his sessions because he overpaid last month. She will not accept gifts from Tony. This resolves a minor dangling plot thread from #35, ‘The Telltale Moozadell’. Carmela says Noah is moving to India for the United Nations. During a phone call Tony conveniently recaps what’s happening with his legal status. The authorities could prosecute him on simple fraud charges over the airline tickets but they want to roll that into a major RICO predicate case. Lewis Stadlen reprises his role as penile implants specialist Dr Fried, last seen in #19, ‘The Happy Wanderer’. Also returning from the same episode is the card dealer Sunshine, played by Paul Mazursky. Mazursky is an actor, writer and director, best known for the films Bob and Carol and Ted and Alice, An Unmarried Woman and Down and Out In Beverly Hills.

The Verdict: ‘Kill me, you fuck!’ Jackie Jr’s attempts to jumpstart his mob career goes horribly wrong, while Tony finally recognises Gloria for what she really is. Carmela perhaps finds a new way forward from her moral quandary. After the outstanding Pine Barrens, The Sopranos follows this with another cracking episode. On the face of it, Amour Fou seems like a rerun of elements from Season Two. Jackie Jr and Dino replace Matt and Sean as the wannabe mobsters whose plans go wrong. Tony dumps his mistress in the penultimate episode. Carmela has a crisis over her relationship with Tony. Yet the result is more exciting because so much more is at stake this time. Gloria represents much more of a threat then vodka-sodden Irina. Jackie Jr’s actions threaten to destabilise the entire Family. Carmela comes closer than she has ever done to walking out on her marriage and Dr Melfi tells Tony it is a real possibility for the future. The scene is set for the final episode of Season Three. But how on-going plotlines will it resolve, and how many will it leave for the fourth – and potentially final – season of The Sopranos?

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