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Greg Kirkman
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Joined: 12 May 2006
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Posted: 25 April 2018 at 4:59pm | IP Logged | 1 post reply

“Do Not Resuscitate”.


An episode with a lot of moving parts, in regards to progressing and setting up subplots. The reveal that Big Pussy really IS a rat is a shocking one. Nice surprise to see Bill Cobbs appear as Reverend James, Sr., and it’sperhaps an even bigger surprise to learn that Tony and Reverend James, Jr. consipred to together to create the race-riot as an extortion tool. This is not the first time that the series has tackled the Italian/Black mob dynamics of New Jersey, and I have a feeling it won’t be the last.

The sight of Junior in the judge’s chambers—on oxygen, looking to get out of jail for flimsy medical reasons—is hilarious. Perhaps topped only by Janice’s fantasy image of Livia falling down to the stairs on the “in case of fire, use stairs” sign at the hospital. Not that it wasn’t already obvious, but Janice is very much a manipulative golddigger, and uses Tony’s anger against him to get exactly what she wants: a DNR for Livia. And, of course, she expertly ingratiates herself with Livia (and even brings out a pleasant side of her we haven’t seen before, to the point where she actually wants to return to the nursing home), until AJ innocently(?) spills the beans about the DNR. 

Lots of moving parts, here, and I’m only two episodes into the season. I’m eager to see where it all goes!
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Greg Kirkman
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Posted: 27 April 2018 at 11:53pm | IP Logged | 2 post reply

“Toodle-Fucking-Oo”.


Here we have the introduction of Richie Aprile to the show, and he’s quickly proven to be a major wild card in a show already brimming with tensions d subplots galore. He’s arrogant, casually violent, greedy, completely loyal to Junior, and still has the hots for Janice. Yikes. His extended assault on Beansie is both horrifying and quite funny in its level of overkill (complete with Richie playing “Shave and a Haircut” on his car’s horn before running Beansie down). And he’s also Adriana’s uncle.

Meanwhile we get some fun dynamics within the Soprano household, as Meadow pulls one over on her folks in regards to her punishment for trashing Livia’s house, with Tony and Carmella humorous discussing the nature of good parenting. Lotta great moments in this particular subplot.

Even funnier is Dr. Melfi’s run-in with Tony at the restaurant, and her subseqent dream of his car crash. This show is great at picking music to juxtapose against various scenes, and the choice of music from THE WIZARD OF OZ for the dream sequence is just perfectly surreal.

A really fun episode which lays a lot of groundwork that will no doubt later prove crucial, in terms of character dynamics and relationships. Richie has his fingers in a lot of pies, and his release from prison will clearly complicate an already tense situation.
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Marc M. Woolman
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Posted: 28 April 2018 at 3:36am | IP Logged | 3 post reply

The mob boss of New Jersey and his wife,
lying in bed discussing how they need to
hide the fact from their daughter, that as
parents they are powerless to discipline
her, is one of my favourite scenes. :)

Edited by Marc M. Woolman on 29 April 2018 at 12:36am
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Petter Myhr Ness
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Posted: 28 April 2018 at 8:18am | IP Logged | 4 post reply

You make me want to watch the show again, Greg (it would be my third time...). So many great moments and characters. Richie Aprile... excellently played by David Proval. 
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Greg Kirkman
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Posted: 28 April 2018 at 9:27am | IP Logged | 5 post reply

The mob boss of New Jersey and his wife, 
lying in bed discussing how they need to 
hide the fact from their daughter, that as 
parents they are powerless to discipline 
her, is ine of my favourite scenes. :)
+++++++

One of the best scenes in the entire run, thus far!
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Greg Kirkman
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Posted: 28 April 2018 at 9:29am | IP Logged | 6 post reply

You make me want to watch the show again, Greg (it would be my third time...). So many great moments and characters. Richie Aprile... excellently played by David Proval. 
+++++++

Interesting to learn that he originally auditioned for the role of Tony. I can see how that would have worked, but Chase apparently rejected him for being “too perfect”. Gandofini brings something less stereotypical and more charmingly eccentric to the role. Proval is still really good as a character who is pure force of will, though. 
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Marc M. Woolman
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Posted: 29 April 2018 at 12:35am | IP Logged | 7 post reply

Jim Gandolfini brought something to the
Tony Soprano role that I don't think any
other actor could have.
He makes Tony, a tough-guy who is somehow
very likeable and not-scary, even though
the show never lets you go that long
before you see Tony (and all of his
associates) ARE very scary.

* I also greatly enjoyed that Meadow,
despite being quite happy with how she
outwitted her parents regarding
punishment, comes up with her own suitable
atonement, and commits to it.

Edited by Marc M. Woolman on 29 April 2018 at 12:39am
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Greg Kirkman
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Posted: 29 April 2018 at 12:46am | IP Logged | 8 post reply

Jim Gandolfini brought something to the 
Tony Soprano role that I don't think any 
other actor could have.
He makes Tony, a tough-guy who is somehow 
very likeable and not-scary, even though 
the show never lets you go that long 
before you see Tony (and all of his 
associates) ARE very scary.
+++++++

Exactly. Gandolfini gives the impression that everything would be great, but for all of these other people mucking things up for Tony and both of his families. He plays Tony as if he’s a long-suffering guy who just wants things to go smoothly, and is constantly irritated because they don’t.
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Greg Kirkman
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Posted: 03 May 2018 at 12:15am | IP Logged | 9 post reply

“Commendatori”.


A great episode which has a lot of interesting subplots and side-stories. We get that fun little vignette of the Mercedes’ theft, then cut to Tony looking at Polaroids of stolen cars, which highlights how removed Tony is from the street-level consequences of his criminal activities.

Meanwhile, it’s a hoot seeing the gang go to the motherland, and there’s some lovely Italian location filming in this episode. It’s neat to see the culture clash between the Italian-American mobsters and the Italian mobsters, and even Tony and his crew take pause at the casual violence they witness against a mother and her son on the street. And then there’s Christopher staying in a room and shooting up heroin for the entire trip, and Paulie trying to explore his roots, but ending up mostly indulging in food and hookers.

Tony’s flirtation with the lovely Annalisa (played by Sofia Milos of CSI: MIAMI fame) provides an interesting dynamic. They’re both attracted to each other, but Tony is smart enough not to mix business with pleasure, and, by the end, he is literally (and symbolically) holding a blue ball in the car on the way to the airport. Of course, the fact that it would be adultery doesn’t even enter the equation, since Tony is a serial cheater.

Speaking of which, there’s also Carmella’s subplot, which might be my favorite of the episode. The mob wives’ meeting—and Angie’s announcement that she wants to divorce Big Pussy—clearly touches a nerve with Carmella, and she spends the rest of the episode standing up for the sanctity of marriage, even when Janice (of all people) raises some good points. The final scene, in which Carmella has ambivalent feelings about Tony’s return from Italy (mirroring Angie’s confession that she wishes that Pussy had died rather than come home from Costa Rica) speaks volumes, and is a perfect ending for the episode. Angie’s confession has obviously planted the seed of divorce in Carmella’s head, but it’s a possibility she’s afraid to confront.

And then there’s Big Pussy, who protects his role as an FBI informant (and it’s a great touch that the episode begins on a freeze-frame of the FBI video-duplication warning on the boys’ bootleg DVD of THE GODFATHER, PART II) by...violently murdering Jimmy, the made-man Elvis impersonator who accidentally bumped into Pussy and his handler. With a hammer. Yikes. 


Edited by Greg Kirkman on 03 May 2018 at 2:58am
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Tony Tower
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Posted: 04 May 2018 at 2:57pm | IP Logged | 10 post reply

You make me want to watch the show again, Greg (it would be my third time...). So many great moments and characters. Richie Aprile... excellently played by David Proval. 
+++++++

Interesting to learn that he originally auditioned for the role of Tony. I can see how that would have worked, but Chase apparently rejected him for being “too perfect”. Gandofini brings something less stereotypical and more charmingly eccentric to the role. Proval is still really good as a character who is pure force of will, though. 

****

Where'd you read Proval auditioned for Tony, Greg? I've seenseveral places that Michael Rispoli - Jackie Aprile - read for the role(as did Steven Van Zandt), but never heard this about Proval. . .

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Greg Kirkman
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Posted: 04 May 2018 at 4:41pm | IP Logged | 11 post reply

http://ew.com/article/2000/02/18/david-proval-evil-genius
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Greg Kirkman
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Joined: 12 May 2006
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Posted: 06 May 2018 at 9:34pm | IP Logged | 12 post reply

“Big Girls Don’t Cry”.


Lots of development in this one. Artie and Charmaine have now involved themselves in Tony’s business by taking Furio on as an employee. The sequence where Furio leans on the tanning salon’s proprietors (with his break-in all filmed in one intense take) is both horrifying and darkly funny.

Meanwhile—surprise, surprise—Richie and Janice are back together. It’s not hard to see why Tony is prone to fits of rage, given the pressures and annoyances he’s facing on all sides. The scene where he...um...handles...the Russian gent on the neighboring boat is also horrifying and hilarious. The genius of Gandolfini’s performance is how he can whiplash from charming, likable guy to violent jerk without ever entirely losing empathy. He’s a killer and a crook who delights in exerting power and control over people (and, as he reveals in this episode, absolute control is what he wants), but he somehow never becomes totally unlikable. Unlike Walter White, who was slowly and deliberately transformed into a monster (and was also driven by a need for control) as a sort of moral Rorschach test for the audience, the problems and pressures that Tony faces make his anger and desire for control relatable, even if we don’t agree with his violent and illegal behavior. 

The subplot with Christopher’s acting classes (and his subsequent abandonment of his dream of being a writer/actor) provides some interesting insights into the demons that drive him. There’s obviously more going on with him than appears on the surface, and I’m sure it’ll be explored.

Perhaps most interestingly, we have a complete reversal of the first season, as Dr. Melfi continues seeing Dr. Peter Bogdanovich, and (as she hereself points out) storms out when he hits an emotional sore spot. The notion that she’d eventually reach out to Tony to resume their sessions has been telegraphed by her past behavior. These two have a strange connection, and she’s obviously willing to fabricate any number of excuses to see him again, and naively thinks that she’s out of danger. Even more interesting is the way in which she tried to resume their sessions in a very formal, professional manner...while now openly and casually discussing Tony’s criminal activities.
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Tony Tower
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Posted: 07 May 2018 at 12:09pm | IP Logged | 13 post reply

http://ew.com/article/2000/02/18/david-proval-evil-genius

***

Thanks for sharing! If you want to see Mr. Proval playing WAY against Richie Aprile-type, check him out as Richard Schiff's rabbi on THE WEST WING: (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PDcCHRbix74, WW at the 2:50 mark).


Edited by Tony Tower on 07 May 2018 at 12:11pm
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Greg Kirkman
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Posted: 07 May 2018 at 12:09pm | IP Logged | 14 post reply

No problem!
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Greg Kirkman
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Posted: 18 May 2018 at 9:57pm | IP Logged | 15 post reply

“The Happy Wanderer”.


I’ve been sick all week, and haven’t been in much condition to watch—much less enjoy—any episodes, ‘till now! Anyhoo...


A great episode, and, from what I’ve read, the first to net Gandolfini an Emmy for Lead Actor in a Drama Series. Deservedly so. Tony is mired in the usual stuff, here: he always tries to keep things on an even keel, but the difficult attitudes and bad decisions of the people around him constantly throw monkeywrenches into the works. 

Case in point: Davey Scatino (played in a memorable guest-turn by the great Robert Patrick), who exploits his friendship with Tony to enter the high-stakes card game (...which includes Frank Sinatra, Jr.!), and, unsurprisingly, ends up in deeper and deeper debt. Is it any wonder that Tony is constantly stressed? Tony is being a wise and good friend when he advises David to stay out of the game, but then finds himself in the position of being owed a heck of a lot of money. And so he ends up having to smack David around and threaten him, which is something he clearly never wanted to do.

Tony Soprano is a killer and a thief, yes, but he does have a code of honor (and considerable street smarts), and would be far less stressed, but for the poor choices of everyone around him. As a result of having to deal with all of this avoidable frustration, he seems positively disinterested at the effect that his acceptance of the SUV as a partial payment has on both the Scatino family...and his own.

We also have Richie again showing his ugly side (as well as Janice whispering poison into his ear), Silvio showing his mean side, and Christopher employing his usual dirty tactics to get a discount when he’s assigned to cater the card game. Good times.

I was also impressed by how the seemingly-unrelated Meadow/Eric Scatino (played by John Hensley, who would go on to star in NIP/TUCK) subplot perfectly dovetailed with the main plot involving Tony, David, and the card game. Very smooth and economical storytelling, there. 
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Vinny Valenti
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Posted: 19 May 2018 at 12:57am | IP Logged | 16 post reply

I think i read that the part that Ray Liotta turned down was for Scatino, which I could see given Robert Patrick's similarities to him.
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Greg Kirkman
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Posted: 19 May 2018 at 8:54am | IP Logged | 17 post reply

I can totally see Liotta in that part!
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Greg Kirkman
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Posted: 26 May 2018 at 4:03pm | IP Logged | 18 post reply

“D-Girl”.


A great episode which provides interesting insights into Christopher and Big Pussy. Chris’ brush with moviemaking (complete with a cocaine-fueled pitch-meeting with Jon Favreau) is quite hilarious. It’s rather shocking to see how hurt he is when his fling with Amy falls apart. It’s clear early on that she’s drawn to his bad-boy machismo, but it could also be argued that she was just being opportunistic, and shaking him down for script ideas. It’s an interesting tug-of-war regarding audience sympathies: Chris comes off as reprehensible for cheating on Adriana (and later taking his anxiety and frustration out on her), but becomes something of a tragic figure when Amy calls it quits, and Tony threatens him for being too distracted from Family business.

Speaking of tragic, Big Pussy’s subplot is heating up. The whole sequence with him struggling to put the wire on in the bathroom (and subsequently getting into a literal fight with his estranged wife) is wrenching. So is the story about how Tony was there for him when his sister died. The final shot of the episode, with Pussy sobbing over his betrayal of his closest friend, is quite moving.

Of course, the icing on the cake of this episode is AJ’s existential angst and subsequent rebellion. Some big laughs come of it, particularly during his discussion of philosophy with Tony and Carmella. 
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Marc M. Woolman
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Posted: 26 May 2018 at 6:39pm | IP Logged | 19 post reply

So glad you're back at this Greg! I
enjoy reading your insights into my
all-time favourite show.

I loved all the jokes at Jon
Favreau's expense in the episode!
The writers (or somebody) was having
a little fun with him.
His voice cracking when Chris puts
him in a headlock, lmfao.

Edited by Marc M. Woolman on 26 May 2018 at 6:39pm
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Greg Kirkman
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Posted: 27 May 2018 at 9:39am | IP Logged | 20 post reply

Slow and steady wins the race. I haven’t had the time to watch episodes as frequently as I’d like, but I intend to get in at least a few a week.


And all of Favreau’s scenes were gold.  I think my favorite bit was when he subtly tried to wipe his fingerprints off of Chris’ gun.

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Greg Kirkman
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Posted: 08 June 2018 at 11:32pm | IP Logged | 21 post reply

“Full Leather Jacket”.


A really strong episode. Carmella’s subplot is interesting, as she goes to great lengths to keep Meadow from going to Berkeley. Just being the wife of Tony Soprano allows her to implicitly threaten people, although she’d surely never act on such threats. Edie Falco gets to play a wide range of emotions in this episode, and she plays them well. 

Everything with Richie in this episode is gold. His reluctantly agreement to send his goons to make Beansie’s house handicap-accessible is hilarious. So is his priceless reaction when he sees that Tony has given the titular (and hideous) leather jacket to the Sopranos’ maid’s husband. 

I had a feeling that Matt and Sean would become more prominent, sooner or later. Their idiocy and ineptitude is very entertaining, but their bungled assassination attempt on the newly-engaged Christopher in this episode is a real shocker of an ending. Just jaw-dropping.
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Greg Kirkman
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Posted: 10 June 2018 at 11:21pm | IP Logged | 22 post reply

“From Where To Eternity”.


A great episode, written by none other than Michael Imperioli. The story provides a lot of insight into several of the principal characters as Christopher’s condition forces them to contemplate theology and the consequences of their actions.

Tony’s chat with Dr. Melfi crystallizes what I’ve suspected from the start: He’s so focused on honor among thieves, loyalty, and the traditional mob code because he sees himself as a solidier. He rationalizes his evil acts as those of a soldier working for the good of his Family business. There’s also a fierce streak of pride in his Italian heritage which motivates him. He firmly believes that he and Christopher aren’t evil enough to be denied entry into Heaven. Gandolfini’s perfomance is subtle enough to show that, underneath all of that righteous anger, Tony probably doesn’t believe in his own rationalization. Still, he sanitizes Chris’ vision when describing it to Carmella, and insists that only the worst of the worst go to Hell. These are clearly the rationalizations of a man who knows he’s evil, but can’t quite come to terms with it.

Paulie, on the other hand, is totally (and humorously) freaked out by Chris’ vision, and was previously under the impression that donating to his church would get him through the pearly gates. The sequence where he visits the psychic (who is quite accurate in his detailing of Paulie’s murders) is a lot of fun. 

Then there’s Carmella, who prays for Chris’ recovery, and naively believes that acknowledging the consequences of Tony’s evil will somehow protect her family from them. It’s also indicated that Tony’s Brazilian mistress has given birth to his illegitimate child, which is quite a shocker. I find myself wondering if this thread will ever be followed up on, later in the series’ run. 

And, of course, after acknowledging his less-than-convincing belief that he’s bound for Heaven, Tony and Big Pussy brutally murder Matt for the attempt on Christopher’s life. It’s a tense and violent sequence which underscores the fact that Tony Soprano is man who is driven by his passions, and is clinging onto his flimsy justifications so as to excuse his behavior. Traditional mob code may demand an eye for an eye, but Matt’s murder is purely a rage-fueled act of revenge. 

Two-thirds of the way through the second season, and we’ve taken a turn toward introspection and pure drama, rather than the comedy-drama tone of previous episodes. There are still chuckles, to be sure, but I can sense a distinctive shifting of gears that’s occurred. I guess we’ll see if it’s temporary or not!
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Marc M. Woolman
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Posted: 11 June 2018 at 2:07am | IP Logged | 23 post reply

Tony's Brazilian Mistress bearing
Tony's child????
I don't know what you're referring to.
Tony has no Brazilian Mistress nor
illegitimate child.
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Greg Kirkman
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Joined: 12 May 2006
Location: United States
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Posted: 11 June 2018 at 9:41am | IP Logged | 24 post reply

Shouldn’t have watched the episode so late, last night! 

I misheard the dialogue. I just double-checked a transcript, and it seems that Carmella was referring to a mutual friend’s Brazilian mistress getting knocked up, which is what prompts her to tell Tony to get a vasectomy. My initial, mistaken impression was that Carmella was implying there was a possibility that Tony had knocked up some off-camera mistress of his own.
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Greg Kirkman
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Posted: 23 June 2018 at 12:09am | IP Logged | 25 post reply

“Bust Out”.


Another great episode, with lots of emotional complexity. First and foremost, we see many facets of Tony Soprano as he interacts with people while under the stress of a potential prison sentence for Matt’s murder. He tries to bond with AJ, has a nice moment with Meadow, nearly gets into a full-on, physical fight with Carmella, and coldly admits to Davey that he let him into the card game so as to exploit and profit from his old friend’s business. 

The latter is pretty horrifying, since we see the effect that the situation has had on Davey. Watching him contemplate suicide in his basement with an unloaded gun manages to be simultaneously hilarious and pathetic. My favorite moment in the episode, however, is the sight of Uncle Junior—still under house arrest—lazily watching THE BOLD AND THE BEAUTIFUL. 

The big fight between Tony and Carmella is shocking, but not unexpected. It’s an immensely effective moment when the episode cuts to handheld/shaky-cam as the tension between them escalated into violence. Of course, Carmella had previously implored Tony to stop cheating in the previous episode, but here we have her flirting with (and kissing) Victor. It seems that her flirtation with Father Phil in season one was just a warm-up for her own adulterous behavior. Edie Falco really knocks this one out of the park, since we can clearly see so many of Carmella’s facets in this episode, too. Her vulnerability, her righteous anger, her charm, her motherly tendencies. 

The bookend scenes with the witness are comedy gold. The opening paints him as a ridiculous exaggeration of a proactive Good Citizen reporting on the Matt’s execution, whereas the climatic scene humorously tosses all of that out the window once his wife realizes that Tony Soprano is the primary suspect in the case. 

Definitely a lot of great moments and character bits in this episode. This one ran extra long—it’s an hour instead of the usual 45-ish minutes—but it went by at a good clip, and the extra time was not wasted with padding. Lots of good character development, here.
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