Right, I'm off to Bristol for the weekend to attend a comics festival and pimp my new book, THRILL-POWER OVERLOAD. Talk amongst yourselves until I get back, and try not to leave any stains on the carpet. To tide you over, here's a triple helping of episode guides from season three of The Sopranos. These includes perhaps my absolute, all-time favourite episode of the series, Pine Barren...
#35: The Telltale Moozadell
US Transmission Date: 22 April 2001
Written by: Michael Imperioli • Director: Daniel Attias
Cast: Joe Bacino (Little Joe), Frank Bongiorno (Guiseppe), Charles Trucillo (Cop #1), David Warshofsky (Cop #2), Cyndi Ramirez (Girl), Richard Petrocelli (Rocco De Trollio), Gregory Russell Cook (Club Kid), Jay Boryea (Bouncer), David Ross (Janitor).
Storyline: Tony gives Carmela a ring with an enormous sapphire surrounded by diamonds for her birthday. AJ gives his mother The Matrix on DVD while Meadow turns up with a voucher for Carmela to be treated to a day of pampering at a New York beauty parlour. Meadow is also booked in so they can go together – all charged to Carmela’s credit card.
The Lollipop Club in New Jersey gets new owners after Rocco De Trollio runs up gambling debts with the Soprano Family. Furio and Christopher take over as silent partners. The extended Soprano family gather for Carmela’s birthday. Jackie Jr turns up and presents Carmela with a bottle of wine. AJ asks if he can spend the night at the home of his friend Egon and his parents agree. Christopher presents the club to Adriana – she will be manager with Rocco now reporting to her.
Carmela suspects Tony’s motives for the extravagant gift and asks if he has something to tell her. She notes that he never bought a Mercedes. Tony says he did like the car. Carmela says neighbour Jeannie Cusamano calls them mid-life crisis cars. Carmela worries about Meadow dating Jackie Jr. She wants her daughter to take advantage of all the opportunities living and studying in New York can offer. Tony reassures her, saying Jackie Jr is a good kid. He agrees to talk to Jackie Jr about Meadow.
Meadow gives Jackie Jr a paper on Edgar Allan Poe she has written for him. They have sex in Jackie’s car. AJ and friends break into the swimming pool at his school, Verbum Dei. They break into an office and throw a desk and chair into the pool. One of the teens smashes the pool’s trophy display case and throws awards into the pool. Meadow asks her parents for a car but they are unconvinced by her arguments. Tony points out that Meadow turned down a car last year.
The school principal is shocked by the vandalism at the pool. The janitor finds a pizza box amid the debris, two slices of pie still inside. The police use the box to trace its origins to La Pizza store. The manager says the pie is a custom-made special which only one person orders. Carmela confronts AJ, who has been sent home from school after being busted for the vandalism. A sleepy Tony enters and is shocked by the news. He slaps AJ in the head and warns him that a promising football career is fast going down the drain. They all have to see the Verbum Dei principal.
Carmela and Rosalie Aprile have lunch at Vesuvio. Rosalie is very happy that Jackie Jr and Meadow are dating. Rosalie is shocked that Charmaine Bucco has hired a lawyer as a first step to divorcing Artie. Tony visits Gloria at her workplace and brings her a gift. She refuses to take the afternoon off but arranges to see Tony at the zoo.
Tony meets with Jackie Jr in the back office at Satriale’s Pork Store. He warns Jackie to be very careful in how he treats Meadow. Jackie boasts that he has just gotten an A on his English Literature, but neglects to mention that Meadow wrote the paper for him. Opening night at Crazy Horse, formerly known as the Lollipop Club. Adriana introduces the first band to perform there, the Miami Relatives. A drug dealer called Matush is selling Ecstasy in the men’s room. He is caught by a bouncer and ejected from the club, with Furio kicking his balls on the way out.
Tony meets Gloria at the zoo. She talks about some of her Buddhist beliefs. They go into the reptile house and fuck in front of the snakes, fully dressed and standing upright. Matush and his friend Carlo Renzi come to Jackie Jr for help. Matush used to sell drugs at the Lollipop but he is been banned by the new management. Carlo understands that Soprano made man Christopher Moltisanti is involved and asks Jackie to intervene. Jackie agrees to help.
Verbum Dei Principal Cincotta tells Tony and Carmela that the school has a zero tolerance policy towards vandalism, which means immediate expulsion. But the school is going to suspend this sentence for AJ, in views of his academic performance and extra-curricular activities. He is not going to be kicked off the football team either. The principal suggests Tony and Carmela punish AJ. Afterwards Carmela is furious – it’s clear the school has let AJ off because he’s too valuable to the freshman football team. She accuses Tony of being complicit in the whitewash.
Gloria has a session with Dr Melfi and says it’s been a wonderful two weeks. She lies to the therapist about the man’s voice Dr Melfi heard during a phone call the previous week. Melfi does not believe her and Gloria pretends to be offended. Jackie Jr approaches Christopher at the Bada Bing, seeking permission to Matush to deal ecstasy at the Crazy Horse. Christopher refuses – the drug is now federal territory and too much trouble. Jackie scampers away when he sees Tony coming towards them.
Jackie tells Matush he can deal at the club, but only outside. He also demands a weekly payment for his involvement in brokering the deal. Carmela and Tony lay down the law to AJ. He is denied video games, DVDs, skateboards and computer access for a month. He will also have to do more chores around the house, like clearing the gutters and drainpipes.
Outside the Crazy Horse Matush is caught dealing drugs and gets a severe beating from Furio and friends. Jackie Jr visits Matush in hospital, but is mostly worried that his name has been mentioned by the drug dealer. Worried for his own safety, Jackie Jr gets a gun from Ralphie for his own protection. Tony and Gloria meet in an expensive hotel room. Gloria says she expects nothing from Tony, expect kindness.
At Tony’s next therapy session, he quotes one of Gloria’s Buddhist sayings. Dr Melfi recognises the source of this new wisdom. Tony is feeling very positive about therapy and gives the therapist a cash bonus with his monthly payment. She can always give it to her favourite charity, Tony says. Dr Melfi’s son calls from college – he needs cash to buy a couple of expensive textbooks. She looks down at the extra money Tony just gave her.
Tony visits the casino and sees Jackie Jr at the tables gambling. He confronts Jackie and sends him away. Next morning Carmela says she has changed her mind about Jackie Jr. He seems to be the perfect gentleman. Tony keeps his own counsel. Leaves fall past the window as AJ struggles to clean out the guttering and drainpipes…
Deep and Meaningful: Tony gets his first hint that all is not well with Gloria Trillo when they are at the zoo. He complains that she plays mind games. ‘Poor you,’ she says in mock sympathy – just like his mother Livia used to. The moment jolts Tony to his senses for a moment. But the pair are soon humping in the reptile house, watched by snakes. Talk about your Adam and Eve symbolism…
Bright Lights, Baked Ziti: There’s a large birthday cake for Carmela’s special day. Tony later eats a slice of the cake in bed, sharing a forkful with Carmela. Tony eats a bowl of cereal for breakfast when Meadow asks for a car. The custom job pizza features double meatballs, pepperoni, sausage, peppers, onions and extra mozzarella cheese. It proves to be AJ’s downfall. Artie serves Carmela and Rosalie a special dish of cheese and string beans at Vesuvio to go with their ham starter. He specially imported the cheese from Italy via FedEx. It is more subtle and smooth than mozzarella with an almost nut-like flavour. Artie says the crispness of the beans contrasts with the smoothness of the cheese. Rosalie is unimpressed and says the cheese still tastes like mozzarella. She wants hot antipasto. Ralphie shows the best way to finish cooking sauce and macaroni. You should put a spoonful of sauce and some butter in with the cooked pasta and then reheat it for forty-five seconds. That way the pasta absorbs the flavour, instead of just being coated with it. In the final scene Tony gets some of the previous night’s cannoli out of the fridge for a snack.
Mobbed Up: AJ gives Carmela The Matrix on DVD. She has never seen it. The birthday gift is plainly a present AJ has really bought for himself. One wonders if either of them will notice Ralphie (actor Joe Pantoliano) appearing as a traitorous character? Tony lies on bed watching W. C. Fields in the 1934 film It’s A Gift.
How Do You Feel?: Tony is very happy after a very good week. He thinks all the therapy sessions are paying off now. He says he visited the zoo. ‘Sometimes you’ve got to stop and smell the gorilla shit.’ He skirts attempts by Dr Melfi to discover if he is seeing Gloria.
How Do You Feel, Gloria?: Gloria tells Dr Melfi that she has not been having the usual nightmares. Gloria lies about not having a social life. Dr Melfi tries to get to the truth but Gloria acts offended. The therapist says she asked because Gloria was referred to her after attempting suicide when a relationship broke up.
How Do You Feel, Doctor?: Dr Melfi tells her son that she hates all her patients. They all lie to her face. She says quitting doesn’t sound like a bad idea.
I Dream of Jeannie Cusamano: Gloria tells Dr Melfi she had a wonderful dream about lighting the big torch at the Olympic Games.
Quote/Unquote: Janice’s prayer group friend Aaron declines alcohol because the good lord doesn’t approve. Tony points out that Jesus drank wine but Janice has an answer to this: ‘He was Jesus, Tone – we can’t make comparisons.’ The owner of La Pizza is appalled that one of his pizza pies was found at a crime scene: ‘My pizza never hurt nobody.’ The owner’s son says the pizza is a custom-made special order. The police want more information about who made the order: ‘This pie fit a pattern?’ Paulie prefaces Tony’s trip to the reptile house by saying snakes have both male and female reproductive organs.: ‘That’s why we call someone a snake – how can us trust a guy who can literally go fuck themselves?’ Tony mishears when Carmela says Jackie Jr. has taken Meadow to see Aida, Elton John’s Broadway musical: ‘I eat her?’
Soundtrack: ‘State of Main’ by The Miami Relatives (see Surveillance Report for this episode). ‘Con Te Partiro’ by Andrea Bocelli. Tony and the family sing ‘Happy Birthday’ to Carmela. ‘Girl’ by Vue. ‘Make No Mistake’ by Keith Richards. ‘I (Who Have Nothing)’ by Ben E. King. ‘Black Hearted Woman’ by All Brothers Band. ‘I Will Follow Him’ by Percy Faith & His Orchestra.
Surveillance Report: Real life band Scout appears as The Miami Relatives in this episode and receive acting credits as Ashen Keilyn (Lead Singer), Nigel Rawles (Drummer), Rimas Remeza (Bassist) and David Weintraub (Guitarist). Janice may have become a born again God-botherer, but she still snorts cocaine when the mood takes her.
The Verdict: ‘How do you vandalise a swimming pool?’ AJ gets busted for a teenage prank gone wrong, but gets let off by his school. Jackie Jr is also playing with fire by dating Meadow while trying to establish himself as an associate of the Soprano Family. Writer Michael Imperioli contributes another cracking script for this episode, although it is not quite the equal of his work on From Where To Eternity in Season Two. Male characters court danger in this zinger-packed episode. Tony is smitten with his new mistress Gloria, ignoring the warning signs. Jackie Jr manages to convince Carmela that he is a gentleman with her daughter, but Tony’s good opinion about the wannabe mobster is rapidly diminishing. AJ is also endangering his future with bad boy antics. How long before that suspended sentence of expulsion becomes reality?
#36: To Save Us All From Satan’s Power
US Transmission Date: 29 April 2001
Written by: Robin Green & Mitchell Burgess • Director: Jack Bender
Cast: Jana Januskova (Dancer), Joe Pucillo (Beppy), Matt Cerbone (Young Jackie Jr), Dominick Charles Carbone (Kevin Bonpensiero), Domenica Galati (Mother), Tyler Gulizio (Little Boy), Loulou Katz (Little Girl), Rosie Chavolino (Second Dancer), Larry Clark (Cop), Capathia Jenkins (Store Employee), Diego Lopez (EMT), Michael Rispoli (Jackie Aprile Sr).
Storyline: Tony goes to the seaside to have his boat winterised. He arranges a meeting with Paulie on the boardwalk, prompting memories of another meeting he had there with Pussy and the late Jackie Aprile Sr in 1995. There was conflict between acting boss Jackie and Junior over a truck hijacking and Pussy had been to Boca to persuade Junior to have a sit-down with Jackie. Pussy moans about money troubles. Jackie says Pussy can always come to him for help and Tony warns Pussy not to deal heroin – it’s too risky.
Back in the present, Tony and Paulie discuss Pussy. Paulie has no time for the friend who turned rat. Instead he bitches about a strike organised by Ralphie which is costing Paulie money. Tony promises to speak with Ralphie. Carmela hassles Tony about Christmas preparations, prompting him to have a panic attack. Janice wants to cook Christmas lunch for the family and she needs Tony to fix the fuse box at Livia’s house. Tony admits to Dr Melfi that he has not been taking his medication regularly. He talks obliquely about having to deal with Pussy.
At Livia’s house Janice is composing a Christian rock song with Aaron. Tony and Carmela arrive to help with preparations for Christmas day. Janice can’t clean because of nerve damage to her wrist. She tells Tony the injury dates back to being beaten by the Russians. He adds dealing with them to his list of things to do. Janice is backsliding on her born again beliefs but is enthused about the Christian contemporary music scene – it’s the fastest growing market in the business.
At Satriale’s Pork Store Tony’s crew get out the Christmas decorations. Every year the store hosts a party for local children with presents and a Santa. The tradition was started by Tony’s father, Johnny Boy Soprano. Pussy always played Santa, which prompts more discussion about the dead rat. Raymond Curto is among those present. He says he wishes he could have been along for the ride when Pussy was dealt with. Tony refuses to play Santa.
Tony visits a Russian friend, Slava, who launders his money. He gives him $250,000 to be cleaned and transferred to a bank account in the Isle of Man. Slava has a drunk friend, Valery, propping up a bar. Tony asks Slava to locate the Russian who beat Janice. Silvio dreams about finding Pussy’s corpse in the Bada Bing. Silvio tells Tony he has been dreaming about Pussy ever since they dug out the Santa suit. Silvio realises Pussy was probably being flipped when he missed the sit-down between Junior and Jackie Sr in 1995.
Silvio, Tony and Paulie have a meal at Vesuvio. They discuss what Christmas they are giving their respective mistresses. Tony says Gloria has gone to Morocco for the festive season and she bought the ticket herself. He thinks she’s too good to be true. Paulie is impressed with the ass of a new waitress at Vesuvio. All three men are shocked when the waitress turns around – it’s Artie Bucco’s estranged wife, Charmaine. She jokes with them that the FBI are in the restaurant. Her and Artie are still at each other’s throats. Tony gets a phone call telling him where to find the Russian who beat Janice. The culprit is Igor Parnasky, a mini-cab driver.
Tony and Furio take a trip with Igor as their driver. Tony gets home and discusses the new look Charmaine with Carmela. At the Satriale’s, preparations for the party continue. Baccala arrives with presents from Junior and is nominated to be Santa. He doesn’t want to, because he is shy. But Paulie orders him to be Santa. Janice sees a news report on TV which shows a badly beaten Igor, who was found under the sleigh in a sporting good store window display. She cries with gratitude at the violence Tony has done for her. Meadow comes home for Christmas. She says Jackie Jr is visiting a friend in hospital.
Tony joins Christopher and Silvio at Vesuvio for a drink. Tony gets into an argument with Charmaine and decides to leave. Silvio suggests they try a rival strip club which has opened near the Bada Bing. At the club Tony sees Jackie Jr getting a lapdance from a stripper. Tony drags Jackie into a bathroom and beats him. He also finds and confiscates Jackie’s handgun. Next morning Carmela and Tony argue about where he was last night. Carmela accuses him of being interested in Charmaine and brings up the fling Tony had with Charmaine during high school.
At a therapy session Dr Melfi tries to turn the conversation back to Pussy. Tony gets up and walks out. The Christmas party is about to begin. When Baccala puts on the Santa suit, Tony realises Pussy was wearing a wire at the 1995 party. Baccala proves to be a very grumpy Santa. One of the children swears at him. Afterwards Silvio says Baccala will have to go to Santa school before next year’s party. Silvio, Tony and Paulie discuss Pussy. They all agree he made a good Santa.
On Christmas Day the Sopranos are opening their presents when Jackie Jr arrives. He apologises to Tony and admits to flunking out of university. He wants to design men’s fashion. Jackie says he got the gun from Ralphie. Tony hasn’t made his mind up what to do about Jackie Jr. Meadow gives Tony a singing Billy Bass as a present. The rest of the family laughs at it sings at Tony. He tries not to pass out again…
Deep and Meaningful: Silvio, Tony and Paulie discuss Pussy after the Christmas party. Silvio is being haunted by the friend he helped murder, and Tony still finds himself thinking about Pussy. Paulie claims he isn’t bothered with such thoughts, but Tony is unconvinced. He remembers how Paulie went to see a psychic after Christopher’s near death experience (in #22, ‘From Where To Eternity’). Paulie says that was different because Christopher was shot: ‘That was a paranormal event.’ Despite their hatred at Pussy for becoming a rat, all three still miss him.
Bright Lights, Baked Ziti: In a flashback to 1995, Jackie Sr is eating pasta at a boardwalk café when Pussy returns from Boca. Tony is keeping a Christmas list on things to do. It includes the words ‘Transfer Cannolis’ – this proves to be a reference to money laundering. Carmela says Janice is insisting on cooking a goose for Christmas Day. The Sopranos always have shellfish on Christmas Eve. Janice has roped Carmela into making lasagne and gravy for Christmas Day. Tony, Paulie and Silvio eat pasta at Vesuvio. Artie brings them plates of ravioli. Charmaine says Artie’s cooking has been shit lately. Janice is preparing the goose when she sees the news report about Igor. Tony and Carmela argue about Charmaine while Carmela is preparing the lasagne for Christmas Day.
Mobbed Up: Tony turns on the TV and is dismayed to see Frank Capra’s Christmas perennial It’s A Wonderful Life being broadcast. ‘Enough already!’ Next day Tony’s crew discuss the origins of the Santa myth. Tony suggests The Grinch Who Stole Christmas borrowed elements from the myth. Silvio is appalled at the idea that Dr Suess ripped off the concept. Christopher says The Grinch film starring Jim Carrey grossed $200 million. During a flashback to 1995, Tony notices that Pussy has arrived already wearing his Santa costume. He suggests Pussy is trying to get into character, like method actor Al Pacino. This prompts Silvio into an impersonation from The Godfather Part II: ‘It was you Fredo!’
How Do You Feel?: After the panic attack Tony says he had been feeling good but all of a sudden he’s back to square one. Failing to take his medication regularly is just another thing to feel bad about. He admits part of the feelings may be driven by what happened to Pussy.
I Dream of Jeannie Cusamano: There are several flashbacks to 1995, when Jackie was acting boss, OJ Simpson was in court and Tony still had most of his own hair. Pussy talks about wanting a house by the ocean and says perhaps it will be in another life. This seems ironic, as Pussy was later murdered and his body dumped at sea by Tony, Silvio and Paulie. Silvio dreams that the Bada Bing is being troubled by petty thefts. He goes into the stripper’s dressing room to investigate and finds Pussy’s bloody body behind a rack of costumes.
Quote/Unquote: Dr Melfi says everyone is under a lot of pressure in the festive season: ‘I call it Stress-mas.’ Janice ponders the lyrical content of a Christian song she is writing with Aaron called ‘His Blood Cleans Stains’: ‘What are we selling here – Ajax?’ When Hesh and Christopher unpack the Christmas decorations at Satriale’s, Hesh says there’s a branch but he doesn’t see the rest of the tree. Christopher misunderstands his meaning: ‘Fuck that philosophical shit!’ Paulie thinks Tony is banging a stripped and is stunned when told she has done to Morocco for Christmas: ‘Who is she, Bada Bing Crosby?’ A small boy criticises Bacala’s festive efforts: ‘Fuck you Santa!’
Soundtrack: ‘Santa Baby’ by Eartha Kitt. ‘White Christmas’ by The Drifters. ‘Christmas Don’t Be Late’ by The Chipmunks. ‘Cycle’ by Virgo Merlot. ‘I’ve Got A Feeling’ by The Campbell Brothers feat. Katie Jackson.
Surveillance Report: This Christmas episode broke American television tradition by being broadcast in late Spring – either four months late or eight months early, depending on your perspective! This episode was unusually short with a running time of just over forty minutes. Episode lengths do vary on The Sopranos because commercial-free HBO does not demand dramas meet a very specific timing. But this episode was nearly ten minutes shorter than any of the previous instalments, causing mystification among fans on the internet. They speculated that scenes had been cut from the broadcast version for reasons unknown. The official HBO website for The Sopranos lists seven characters for this episode who are not listed in the credits of the show that was broadcast. These include FBI Agents Harris and Cubitoso, Dino Zerilli and four others. The HBO website does have minor inaccuracies, but never to such an extent. Were the FBI agents featured in a scene cut from the final version? Only the production team on The Sopranos knows the answers to that question… Michael Rispoli reprises his role as Jackie Aprile Sr, appearing in the flashbacks to Christmas 1995. Also back from the dead for this show are Vincent Pastore as Pussy Bonpensiero and Joe Badalucco as Jimmy Altieri. Tony realises Pussy became in Christmas 1995. This apparently contradicts what FBI Agent Skip Lipari said in Season Two, when he indicated that Pussy had been nurtured by the fed for two years.
The Verdict: ‘It’s the miracle of Christmas.’ Tony and his crew are haunted by the ghosts of Christmas past but this is no Dickensian morality tale. Nobody becomes a reformed character and all men go not receive peace and goodwill. In terms of plot, very little happens in this episode to advance the underlying stories of this season. Instead it concentrates on what The Sopranos does best – character moments and interplay. The script is packed with great lines and neatly captures the highly stressful nature of the festive season. One character ends this episode in a worse position than he start it. Jackie Jr can count himself unlucky to be caught by Tony enjoying a lapdance. The level of coincidence required for this does jar a little, but not as much as Jackie Jr’s balls after Tony has finished with them…
#37: Pine Barrens
US Transmission Date: 6 May 2001
Teleplay by: Terence Winter • Story by: Tim Van Patten & Terence Winter • Director: Steve Buscemi
Cast: Crystal Fox (Nurse), Dayna Gizzo (Rita), Deepa Purohit (Ambujam), Anya Shetler (Llana).
Storyline: Gloria returns from her Christmas holiday in Morocco. She goes to visit on his boat with a present. He is not around when she arrives but the phone is ringing, so Gloria answers it. Tony’s former mistress Irina is calling. She pretends to be from AJ’s school. Tony walks in and gets rid of the call from Irina. Initially he lies to Gloria, then tells her the truth. She gets angry at his deception, throws his present into the harbour and stalks off.
Paulie is having his nails done when Tony calls. He asks Paulie to collect $5000 from Valery, Slava’s drunken friend. The collection is on behalf of a flu-ridden Silvio, whom Tony is sending home to bed. Paulie protests that he has to take his mother to the social security office the next day but Tony is adamant. Tony and Carmela attend a joint therapy session with Dr Melfi. She notes that the couple seem to be less argumentative with each other.
Meadow is also down with the flu. She plays Scrabble with Jackie Jr in her dorm room, but his vocabulary proves very limited. Once he realises he is not going to get sex from Meadow he makes an excuse to leave. Next day Paulie and Christopher visit Valery, who is drinking first thing in the morning. Paulie is rude to the Russian and breaks his universal remote control. The pair get into a fight. Christopher tries to intervene and Paulie throttles Valery with a lamp-stand. The two mobsters think the Russian is dying. They wrap him in a rug and throw him into the boot of Paulie’s car.
Gloria and Tony meet in a hotel room at lunchtime. Gloria apologises for her behaviour. She gives Tony a Moroccan robe as a present. They start fucking but are interrupted by a phone call from Paulie about the Valery problem. Tony tells Paulie to use his own judgement. Gloria has to go back to work but invites Tony to dinner at her place tonight. Paulie puts petrol in his car while Christopher whines about being hungry – he had no breakfast. Paulie decides the best thing to do is dump Valery’s body in the Pine Barrens of South Jersey – a deserted area. Christopher reluctantly agrees.
Tony tells Melfi he is having an affair with Gloria. She makes him happy. Paulie and Christopher arrive at a deserted part of the Pine Barrens. When they open the boot Valery is still alive. They march him into the woods at gunpoint and order him to dig his own grave. Valery hits Christopher with the shovel, pushes Paulie over and runs off into the snowy woods. They chase him, shooting wildly. Paulie manages to shoot Valery in the head. But when Paulie and Christopher reach the spot where Valery was, he has disappeared.
Paulie phones Tony with news of what’s happened, but the mobile phone connection keeps breaking up. Tony is furious – he has a meeting with Slava and he could be walking into his own murder. Paulie and Christopher try to retrace their steps to Paulie’s car. Tony goes to see Slava to launder $200,000. The Russian says he and Valery were soldiers in Chechnya. Valery saved his life but is now a drunk. Slava says he would do anything for Valery. Afterwards Tony calls Paulie with more news about Valery. The drunk is an ex-commando from the Russian Interior Ministry who killed 16 Chechen rebels single-handedly. But the message gets gabbled on the bad phone connection.
Christopher thinks he sees Valery and gave chase. Paulie follows but loses his right shoe. Christopher succeeds in shooting his quarry, which turns out to be a deer. Jackie Jr calls Meadow, who is still sick. Jackie invents a lame excuse for not seeing Meadow. Afterwards she is suspicious. Paulie and Christopher find an abandoned truck and shelter inside for the night. Paulie’s shoeless foot is frozen, while Christopher thinks he may have concussion from the shovel blow to his head.
Tony has dinner with Carmela and AJ. Carmela’s parents, Hugh and Mary, arrive unexpectedly. Hugh has been diagnosed with glaucoma and may need an operation. Tony had planned to go see Gloria but now has to stay at home for several more hours. Paulie calls and admits to Tony they are lost. He tries to put the blame for what happened on to Christopher. Meadow gets a college friend to drive her around to the apartment where Jackie Jr is staying while a friend is in Israel. They wait outside.
Tony finally gets to Gloria’s place – three hours late. He apologises. Paulie and Christopher bicker about what happened and what they should do next. Paulie calls Tony for help. He agrees to come find them. When Tony prepares to leave Gloria goes ballistic. She calls him names and throws a hefty piece of cooked meat at him, hitting Tony in the back. He walks out and she starts smashing her own possessions.
Tony goes to Junior’s place where he is going to meet Bacala. Tony borrows a shirt from Junior to replace the one Gloria hit with meat. Bacala arrives, dressed like an oversized Elmer Fudd hunter. Tony can’t help laughing. Meadow sees Jackie Jr come outside with another woman. A heartbroken Meadow confronts and dumps Jackie.
Tony and Bacala drive to the Pine Barrens. Tony apologises for laughing earlier. Bacala used to go hunting with his hitman father every year. Bacala envies Tony for having Junior as an uncle. Tony and Bacala reach the place where Paulie left his car – it’s gone. Tony phones Paulie but reception is poor. Christopher and Paulie are at each other’s throats. Christopher threatens to shoot Paulie and says he overheard Paulie trying to shift the blame. Finally, Christopher can’t help laughing at their predicament. He promises not to leave Paulie behind in the woods.
Meadow is admitted to the college medical centre. She is dehydrated and running a temperature. She is distraught about Jackie Jr. Next morning Tony and Bacala begin searching for the lost mobsters. Paulie and Christopher start walking. Paulie has fashioned a makeshift shoe from carpet in the van but it soon comes loose. He snaps and starts firing his gun, which alerts Tony and Bacala to their presence. The lost pair are soon located and taken back to Tony’s car where he has food for them.
Tony gives Paulie the choice – to stay and search for Valery, or to go back to North Jersey. Paulie opts for the latter and Christopher backs up Paulie’s version of events. Tony says if Valery survives, the consequences will all fall on Paulie. He drives everyone home. Paulie is very unhappy and looks at Tony with genuine hatred.
Tony discusses Gloria’s erratic behaviour with Dr Melfi. She asks what attracted him to Gloria in the first place, or to Irina before? Both were depressive personalities, unstable and impossible to please – does that remind Tony of any other woman? He knows Melfi means his mother, but he says nothing…
Deep and Meaningful: After nearly 24 hours in the Pine Barrens, Paulie and Christopher snap. Christopher accuses Paulie of planning to murder him and Paulie lunges at him. They grapple and Christopher pulls a gun on Paulie, screaming: ‘I’ll leave you here, you one shoe cocksucker!’ All their conflicts throughout the season have been building to this moment. Finally, Christopher starts laughing – he can’t help himself. After a day of constant bitching, he can only find their ludicrous situation funny. The moment passes and afterwards Christopher supports Paulie’s version of events when questioned by Tony. The two have bonded in the unlikeliest of circumstances.
Bright Lights, Baked Ziti: Gloria invites Tony to her place for dinner. She asked if he likes London broil. Christopher moans through the whole episode about being hungry. He doesn’t have breakfast before coming out with Paulie and lives to regret it. He tries to convince Paulie to stop at a Roy Rogers restaurant, but Paulie wants to dump Valery’s body first. When they are lost in the woods, Christopher wants to eat some local berries but Paulie says they are probably dangerous. Christopher finds half-frozen sachets of ketchup when they shelter in the abandoned truck. Paulie suggests mixing ketchup and relish for maximum flavour. Paulie has a packet of Tic Tacs which he keeps to himself. Christopher decides to eat the berries, poisonous or not. ‘At least I won’t die hungry.’ At dinner Tony, Carmela and AJ eat pasta. Tony only picks at his food because he is saving space for dinner with Gloria, but claims he had a late lunch when questioned by Carmela about his lack of appetite. Carmela offers her parents food when they arrive but Mary turns it down. Gloria throws the London broil of meat at Tony, splattering him with aromatic beef juices. When Paulie and Christopher try to walk out of the woods next morning, they decide Denny’s Restaurant should be their first stop. Christopher wants to have five Grand Slam breakfasts. When they finally get to Tony’s car, the pair scoff a box of burgers he has brought for them. Paulie gets mayonnaise down his chin, which Tony points out.
Mobbed Up: Paulie says Russians can’t be trusted, citing the Cuban missile crisis as an example. Christopher thought the crisis was just a bullshit movie. Tony tells Dr Melfi he likes Gloria because she’s smart, sexy and Italian. He believes you should stick to your own kind. Melfi compares his attitudes to a hit musical and movie of the past: ‘What is this, West Side Story now? Christopher worries about Valery, who is trained for hanging around in the woods. He likens their situation to the Die Hard movies.
How Do You Feel?: At a joint session with Dr Melfi, Tony attributes the lack of arguments between himself and Carmela to therapy paying off. But he comes clean at a later solo session, admitting he is seeing a fellow patient, Gloria. Dr Melfi says this means Tony’s improved relationship with Carmela is predicated on a lie. ‘Predicated on my ass, what’s the difference?’ He says he feels content and relaxed. He feels he is a better husband and a better father. Being with Gloria makes him happier then all the therapy and Prozac combined. Tony changes his tune after Gloria throws the beef at him. He calls her a fucking lunatic and wonders why everything has to be so hard.
Quote/Unquote: Valery rants in Russian at Christopher and Paulie when they joke that he must be cold in the snowy woods: ‘You think the cold bothers me? I wash my balls with ice water!’ Paulie uses oblique language on his mobile phone while telling Tony what has happened with Valery: ‘The package hit Chrissie with an implement and ran off.’ Christopher suggests they are lost. ‘Stop getting cunty!’ Paulie replies. Paulie mishears when Tony says Valery was an assassin for the Russian Interior Ministry who murdered 16 Chechens single-handedly: ‘He killed 16 Czechoslovakians – guy was an interior decorator.’ Christopher is surprised: ‘His house looked like shit.’
Soundtrack: ‘Gloria’ by Van Morrison. ‘Coffee and TV’ by Blur. ‘Sposa Son Dispressata’ by Cecilia Bartoli.
Surveillance Report: This episode is directed by film actor and director Steve Buscemi, best known for starring in movies like Fargo and Reservoir Dogs. His character spent much of Fargo stumbling around in the snow, making the setting for this episode very reminiscent for viewers. There is an overhead shot when the camera looks down on Paulie and Christopher, just after Valery has disappeared. It cleverly prompts the viewer into thinking the Russian is hiding in the tree branches and he will jump down on the mobsters at any second – he never does. New Jersey fans of The Sopranos complained about factual errors in this episode. The scenes set in the Pine Barrens were actually shot in New York state and the landscape shown apparently bears little resemblance to the real Pine Barrens. Also, one of the characters is shown pumping petrol into his own car. But the state of New Jersey does not allow self-service at petrol stations. Jackie Jr’s vocabulary is limited, judging by his best efforts at Scrabble – the, ass and poo. By comparison Meadow scores highly with oblique, which Jackie thinks is Spanish.
The Verdict: ‘How can we be lost like this? We’re in Jersey.’ Paulie and Christopher have an unhappy adventure in the Pine Barrens while the honeymoon is definitely over for two budding relationships. Writer Terence Winter comes up trumps with one of the best episodes of Season Three. Tony discovers Gloria is prone to erratic behaviour while Meadow learns that Jackie Jr is an immature, self-centred shit. The warning signs have been obvious to viewers for weeks, now the characters are catching on. For Tony the tide is just turning, while Meadow gets wise and dumps Jackie. But the centrepiece of this gem is the farcical efforts of Paulie and Christopher to deal with a drunken Russian ex-commando. Will Valery come back? And how much has this incident soured Paulie’s relationship with Tony?