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Vinny Valenti
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Joined: 17 April 2004
Location: United States
Posts: 6637
Posted: 03 April 2019 at 11:02pm | IP Logged | 1 post reply

And Re: Christopher, I felt they were being a bit too meta, playing off of the accusations at the time that THE SOPRANOS portrays Italian-Americans in a bad light.
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Tony Tower
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Joined: 25 August 2004
Posts: 638
Posted: 08 April 2019 at 3:10pm | IP Logged | 2 post reply

Yep, I really would like to see a miniseries detailing Paulie’s days in jail. 
_____

My fantasy at the time was that Sirico would transfer over to the then-running OZ for a few episodes. But there was no way that would have happened back then. 
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Greg Kirkman
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Joined: 12 May 2006
Location: United States
Posts: 15660
Posted: 11 May 2019 at 10:25pm | IP Logged | 3 post reply

“The Weight”.


A fun episode which concerns the snowballing consequences of Paulie’s little nugget of info regarding Ralphie’s joke at the expense of Johnny Sack’s wife. Lots of fun moments, and the story manages to balance horror and humor quite deftly. Horror, in that Johnny nearly beats a member of Ralphie’s crew to death to defend his wife’s honor, and dark humor, because both Johnny and Ralphie are both nearly killed because of one stupid fat joke.

That whole sequence is quite good, too. Johnny avoids being killed because he forgot a sweater, and Ralphie comes literally within feet of his would-be-killer mere seconds after the hit is called off. The sequence where Junior arbitrates the dispute is a lot of fun, as is the meeting between Chris, Silvio, and the elderly hit crew.

Seeing the softer side of Furio was quite a surprise, as is his growing flirtation with Carmella, and Dr. Peter Bogdanovich’s unknowing run-in with Tony. Speaking of the latter, Dr. Melfi and the therapy sessions have been very much in the background for awhile, and so it’s nice to see more of her, lately. 


Edited by Greg Kirkman on 11 May 2019 at 10:26pm
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Greg Kirkman
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Joined: 12 May 2006
Location: United States
Posts: 15660
Posted: 31 May 2019 at 10:53pm | IP Logged | 4 post reply

“Pie-O-My”.


A fun episode which finally brings Adriana—and her growing paranoia over being pressed into service as an informant—to the foreground. It’s an interesting character beat in that her forced observation of Christopher and the others’ criminal activities is actually causing her to really see and think about who and what she’s involved with, perhaps for the first time. 

Seeing Tony become a Horse Whisperer is quite a fun little subplot, as is his stubborn desire to avoid signing off on Carmella’s proposed irrevocable trust. I find myself wondering how this will all play out, since the Sopranos’ marriage has been pretty darn unstable for quite some time, now.

Meanwhile, Janice—ever the professional parasite—continues to be my “love to hate” character on this show. She’s the worst, yet is somehow still very entertaining to watch. Unsurprisingly, she’s now sinking her hooks into the recently-widowed Bobby, which is low even for her.

The biggest laughs in this one all come from Uncle Junior. First, he does his Mr. Rogers impression. Then, he’s extremely unhappy with how his likeness has been depicted by the courtroom sketch on news. The best and biggest laugh, though is that slow zoom-in shot of Junior glaring at the artist in the courtroom the next day. The camera move and Junior’s expression give the moment as much weight as a majorly dramatic event on this show would normally be given, and it’s absolutely hilarious.
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Greg Kirkman
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Joined: 12 May 2006
Location: United States
Posts: 15660
Posted: 18 June 2019 at 10:49pm | IP Logged | 5 post reply

“Everybody Hurts”.


A really good and moody episode (ably written by Michael Imperioli and directed by Steve Buscemi) which subtly focuses on the suffering, guilt, and inadequacies of numerous characters.

First and foremost, we have Carmella unknowingly dropping the huge bomb of Gloria’s suicide on Tony, and the bulk of the episode concerns Tony trying to A) purge himself of his guilt; B) convince himself that he’s not a “toxic person”. Lots of great, subtle moments from Gandoflini, here, as Tony struggles with his guilt and horror. There’s also a nice poignancy in AJ’s friends asking why his family isn’t uber-rich (as AJ’s girlfriend is revealed to be), since we see that Tony is will to take financial hits for the sole purpose of unburdening himself of his guilt...and to prove that he’s not “toxic”. 

Of course, Artie’s financial sense is, as usual, even worse than Tony’s, and his attempt at acting like a gangster is appropriately pathetic...and hilarious. The perfect button to the subplot is that silent shot of Furio subsequently being sent to retrieve the money.

I was a bit concerned that the episode was going to dispense with Gloria completely offscreen so the showrunners could avoid having to pay Annabella Sciorra. But, no, to their credit, they worked her into Tony’s properly bizarre nightmare.

Meanwhile, Carmella is trying to purge herself of her own guilt over her attraction to Furio by setting him up on a blind date...and then she feels jealous over it. AJ finally gets some time to shine, too, although he’s made to look stupid, as he often is. The bulk of the main cast doesn’t get a lot to do in this episode, but they do have some nice little moments. Christopher’s slow descent into all-out drug addiction is slowly moving to the forefront of the story. And Janice literally sucking the marrow out of bones seems particularly appropriate for her character.
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Greg Kirkman
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Joined: 12 May 2006
Location: United States
Posts: 15660
Posted: 17 July 2019 at 5:07pm | IP Logged | 6 post reply

“Watching Too Much Television”.


This episode kicks off with the triumphant return of Paulie...and highlights his growing dissatisfaction with his recent treatment by Tony. Glad to see Paulie again becoming an active player, since he’s one of my favorite characters.

More pressingly, Adriana continues to look for an escape from being an informant. Her being inspired by MURDER ONE (There’s a blast from the past!) to expedite her marriage to Chris manages to be both humorous and pathetic. And Chris continues to slide deeper into drug addiction and fits of rage. Interesting to note just how important it is to him that his family name be carried on by a son, too.

Nice to see Vondie Curtis-Hall guest-starring. The whole housing scheme plotline is very amusing, and the rousting of the crackhouse—the centerpiece of the episode—is very darkly funny. The best joke in the episode is probably AJ’s joyful exclamation, “So that’s a crack whore!” during Tony’s attempt to instill some motivation and pride in his idiot slacker son.

Meanwhile, the flirtation between Carmella and Furio continues to be strangely sweet, in its own way. Furio is a violent thug, of course, but seeing his shy and tender side is rather charming.

The end of this episode may seem to come out of left field, but it’s very much within Tony’s emotional playbook, and is hinted at throughout the episode. He affirms to Dr. Melfi that he’s been controlling his anger. He expresses a care-free attitude about Assemblyman Zellman seeing Irina. But we know better. Tony’s already been deeply stressed about Gloria’s suicide, and Irnia has caused him plenty of headaches in the past. He has a habit of sublimating his rage until it explodes, and so Zellman randomly becomes Tony’s whipping boy/pressure valve. Yikes.
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Greg Kirkman
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Joined: 12 May 2006
Location: United States
Posts: 15660
Posted: 07 August 2019 at 4:32pm | IP Logged | 7 post reply

“Mergers and Acquisitions”.

A very fun episode which focuses on the ramifications of Tony’s recent successes and failures in both business and pleasure. Flush with the money afforded him by Pie-O-My, he ends up involved with Ralphie’s latest girlfriend. It’s quite humorous to see Tony trying to justify the affair while also becoming fixated on the notion of...er...going where Ralphie has gone before. To the point of bribing Janice for information on her own intimate history with Ralphie. Yikes.

Meanwhile, you can see the plot points slowly coalescing and moving toward the season finale. Furio’s feelings for Carmella are growing more intense...and bumping Tony off would certainly clear the way for a romance with Carmella. And, as Carmella struggles with her own feelings for Furio, of course she finds Valentina’s broken nail in Tony’s clothes, and proceeds to loot his money stash as revenge. Nice touch by having Father Phil cameo in this episode, since he represents Carmella’s first brush with potential infidelity.

The subplot with Paulie mediating the relationship between his mother and her friends in the nursing home is fluff, but great fluff. The funniest moment in the episode has to be that shot of Paulie’s thugs chasing Cookie’s son through the school after he fails to get Cookie to lighten up on Paulie’s mom. And then there’s that follow-up scene, with the kids trying to threaten Cookie into backing down by hinting that they’ll ship her off to a Salvation Army facility. 
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Greg Kirkman
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Joined: 12 May 2006
Location: United States
Posts: 15660
Posted: 22 August 2019 at 10:10pm | IP Logged | 8 post reply

“Whoever Did This”.


A great episode. Opening with Uncle Junior getting knocked down the courthouse stairs by a newscrew’s boom mike got things off to a fine start, since I’m an already easy mark for a Junior scenes. Junior working to fake dementia symptoms (only to then exhibit real ones) is also a lot of fun. Indeed, this episode is full of humor...which gets increasingly blacker as it goes on.

And that leads me to the core of the episode. As things played out, I found myself feeling sympathy for Ralphie after his son became a vegetable, and I also began reflecting on all of the ups and downs of his relationship with Tony...

...and then Tony beat and strangled Ralphie to death for killing Pie-O-My to collect the insurance money.


An incredibly shocking-yet-satisfying moment, to be sure. I see that Joey Pants won the Best Supporting Actor Emmy for this episode, and it’s well-earned. We get a glimpse into his life and his past with the introduction of his ex-wife and son. And we’re also reminded at the end of what a scumbag he was, with the picture of the murdered Tracee on the wall of the Bada Bing!. The scene where Tony implies that Ralphie was behind the fire gives Joey Pants a lot to work with, as Ralphie at first seems sympathetic, then slowly reveals his true colors. On the one hand, I miss him already, but at least he was given a fantastic and memorable ending. 

At first, I thought Paulie might somehow have been involved with the burning of the stable, so as to create discord between Tony and Ralphie as revenge for Ralphie’s darkly hilarious prank call to Paulie’s mom. But, no, Ralphie was behind it, despite his sympathetic portrayal in the first half of the episode. An obvious case of misdirection, that.

And then we get into this fascinating, 15-minute sequence of Tony and Christopher disposing of the body, complete with the punchline revelation that Ralphie was wearing a wig all along. The humor is deliciously macabre (they put his head into a bowling ball bag), but it also reframes the focus of the show back onto the relationship between Tony and Chris, with Tony calling out Chris for his drug problem, and Chris tiptoeing around the fact that Tony obviously killed Ralphie. And, of course, the title of the episode becomes humorously ironic, given Tony’s admonition to Paulie earlier in the story to leave Ralphie alone.

A great end to a character (and actor) I’ll miss, but it’s also a satisfying and organic conclusion to several seasons’ worth of development. Well done.
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Vinny Valenti
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Joined: 17 April 2004
Location: United States
Posts: 6637
Posted: 22 August 2019 at 11:28pm | IP Logged | 9 post reply

I've been waiting for you to get to this one, as it's one of the major episodes in the entire series. I could swear I've read that Joey Pants intentionally played his endscene as if he actually didn't set the fire. Doesn't mean he didn't, but he had that notion in his head when he acted it out so it would appear to be more ambiguous. The DVD commentary for this episode had the 2 writers participating, one of them saying "I don't think he did it", and the other writer replying along the lines of "Hmm, that's interesting." I remember devouring the commentary track, hoping to finally get an answer to that question, but I ended up being even more frustrated. I don't think I'm spoiling anything for you by saying that even by the series' end, an answer is never given. Given that the writers couldn't be bothered to reveal the answer and Pantoliano's approach to the scene, I feel justified in assuming that Ralph actually didn't set the fire. His line was "No.I.Did.Not! But so what?" If he really did it but wanted to cover his tracks, I'd think he would have left the "so what" part out. Or if he really did it but didn't care what Tony thought, he would have just said "Yeah, I did it. So what?" Plus I feel that adds some delicious irony to the situation - of all the terrible things that Ralphie had done to deserve being killed over, he instead gets killed for something that he actually didn't do.

During my first viewing, I did immediately pick up on Tony's "She was an innocent creature, what did she ever do to you?" as a not-so-subconscious reference and double-meaning to Tracey in addition to Pie-O-My, which I thought was pretty brilliant. I took it as Tony still seething with rage over that incident, and once the fight broke out, he used it as a vehicle to finally let it out. And it was well thought out that it took the assumed-murder of an animal to set Tony off in ways we hadn't seen before. Even from the pilot, he has shown an affinity to animals ("Those goaddmn ducks"), so I completely bought him snapping once and for all.
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Greg Kirkman
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Joined: 12 May 2006
Location: United States
Posts: 15660
Posted: 23 August 2019 at 12:00am | IP Logged | 10 post reply

The way Joey Pants plays the scene gave me the impression that Ralphie was initially feigning ignorance, but became more and more frustrated by Tony’s inability just to let it go and be done with it. So much so that he let his feelings slip out enough to confirm (without confessing) that he did it, due to his casual disregard for the life of a horse (...or a stripper, for that matter). I may have to rewatch the scene and do some research online to look at it from different points of view. Based on Ralphie’s comments about it being “just” a horse, and his calling Tony out for not caring where his money comes from, I hadn’t questioned Ralphie being responsible, ‘till now. You’ve given me food for thought. Thanks!

If Ralphie really was innocent, then it says much about Tony’s character that he’d be paranoid enough to jump to the conclusion that Ralphie burned the stable both for the money...and perhaps as revenge for stealing his girlfriend. That being said, such an act would not be at all out of character for Ralphie. It works both ways.

Ambiguity with something like this is great, because it adds to the verisimilitude. There are no easy answers in life, sometimes. Of course, Tony himself also seems somewhat unsure at the end, but silently justifies his actions by looking at that photo of Traycee. Despite the pains this episode took to humanize Ralphie, he was still a scumbag and a murderer, after all.

Of course, so is Tony. But there is that fascinating affinity he has for animals. Almost as if he’s sublimating all of his guilt and rage over the actions of various people (including—and especially—himself) into a sort of fatherly devotion for “innocent” creatures. The ducks are a stand-in for his family (which he fears losing), and Pie-O-My is a stand-in for the murdered Tracee. Brilliant, subtle storytelling, there.
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Greg Kirkman
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Joined: 12 May 2006
Location: United States
Posts: 15660
Posted: 23 August 2019 at 12:07am | IP Logged | 11 post reply

..jeez, I’m already going down the rabbit hole on this. Plenty of interesting online discussions on this question. Lots of valid points raised to support both possibilities!
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Vinny Valenti
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Joined: 17 April 2004
Location: United States
Posts: 6637
Posted: 23 August 2019 at 7:51am | IP Logged | 12 post reply

Oh, and one other thing before I forget....when I watched it "live", I remember thinking that they were trying to fake us out about Ralph being dead. I was expecting him to wake up....until the meat cleaver. Then the writers made sure that we saw that Ralph was really truly dead by showing us his severed head!
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