I’m struggling to put into words my feelings after watching the quasi season finale of the Sopranos. Maybe it’s because this episode wasn’t originally meant as the “final episode” since HBO decided to split its expanded 22 episode season into two chunks. Or maybe the writers are just holding back the big guns for the final 8. Either way, this was a pretty mediocre episode as is, and as a season finale, it just left me scratching my head. Nothing really happened and it didn’t really answer any questions. Or maybe my whole ambivalence about the episode is based on the fact that it took place at Christmas time. I’ve hard a hard and fast rule all my life to never watch a Christmas movie or Christmas themed episode of a TV show outside of the Christmas season. It’s just not natural. As much as I love Bing Crosby, he needs to be in storage during the summer months. Alas my TVgasm recapping duties forced me to break that rule. TVgasm has a way of slowly corrupting you….The show opens with Carlo dumping the last of what remains of Fat Dom down a sewer drain. His head to be exact. They stored it in the freezer. This makes me rethink buying a veal parm from a shady looking Italian meat market. How do you know if you’re eating veal or the remains of a corpulent middle aged Italian mobster who shoot his mouth off one too many times? Yeah I’m sure he tastes delicious too, but he’s probably twice the calories of a nice slice of veal, so I need to know these things going in. I mean sausage I get. You need the high fat content of a Big Dom to make that work, but for a sandwich? No way. That’s just gross. After Carlo shoves Big Dom’s head down a sewer drain, he calls Silvio to tell him that was the last of it. Meaning the last piece of Fat Dom’s body they had to get rid of. As to where they put the other parts of fat Dom, lets just say I would avoid the ball pit at any Chuckie Cheese in the Northern Jersey area for a while. Carlo then asks him if the “barbecue” at Sheepshead bay is still on. Silvio says he isn’t sure yet.
We then cut right to Sheepshead Bay (a neighborhood in Brooklyn and hometown to coach Vince Lombardi. TVgasm entertains and educates) where Phil is bringing his mistress. You may remember Phil as the devout catholic murdering mobster with a mistress who decided to beat a man to death because he was a homosexual and it was a sin. The man of course was Vito, and even though he was a homosexual, one of the few things looked down upon in mob circles, he was still a made man. You do not kill a made man without repercussions. Phil and his floozy are getting out of their car next to a store named, in perfect subtle Sopranoish style humor, “Sheepshead Hair Design”. Phil is bringing her to their “wire room” which is just a fancy name for a gambling den with bookies that take bets over the phones. Apparently, even though it’s illegal, many people will bet money on the outcome of various sporting events. As they get close to the door the entire thing explodes, hurling Phil and his juicy tomato to the ground. Across the street, Benny Fazio watches it all and once its done makes a phone call. We see Tony in a hotel room with one of his new goomar’s (I guess the whole thing with him appreciating Carmela more and not cheating on her has passed) and answers the phone. Benny tells him that it’s done.
The next day Tony is signing the final papers selling one of his properties to Jamba Juice. After they sign the papers, Tony takes Julianna aside and apologizes about the other night when he decided not to have sex with her and instead be faithful to the wife that laid at his bedside when he was in a coma. He tells her he won’t make that mistake again and wants another shot at banging her. She turns him down flat.
The next morning Carmela tells Tony about Liz La cerva, Adrianna’s mother. She tried to kill herself the other day after getting a form letter addressed to Adrianna. It was from Sarah Jessica Parker, President of the Butterface Society of America, asking Adriana for her yearly dues *. This gets Carmela upset. She has been thinking more and more about Adriana ever since she went missing 2 years ago. She is still under the impression that she ran off, but the truth was she got whacked because she was talking to the feds.
It’s Thanksgiving Day at the Soprano household. Tony, Bobby Bacala and Christopher are watching football on a huge plasma screen TV (it’s good to be the king). When A.J. is sent to go check on the bird, Tony asks Christopher about his new goomar. Tony has been noticing all the phone calls and has figured out that he’s got a new girl on the side, even though he’s got a pregnant wife at home. “Playgrounds closed. Man has his needs” he tells Tony. “Good point.” Tony says. Apparently in the mob if even the walk to the fridge takes to long you are allowed to use that as an excuse to cheat on your wife. When Tony asks why he hasn’t brought her around at all, Christopher says its because she is black. “You’re banging a shine?” laughs Bobby Bacala, keeping the morality play that is the Sopranos rolling along. Christopher says he doesn’t want to have to deal with Paulie’s comments. Paulie being the most vocal of all the racists in the crew. And that’s saying something.
Then we cut to the construction yard where A.J. is working. Paulie pulls up and before they can have a conversation A.J. is transfixed by a woman coming out of the office van. A beautiful Puerto Rican girl named Blanca. He stares her down like a bear does to a pic-a-nic basket. Over on the other side of town Christopher is banging his goomar. But she’s not black like he said she was. It is in fact Julianna, the real estate agent Tony has been trying to get into bed. Christopher is playing with fire. But I’m sure he’ll come out unscathed. The one thing Christopher is known for is sound judgment. During the after sex talk we find out that we’ve now moved forward a month or so into the Christmas season. Christopher tells her that “I can’t stop thinking of how hard you make me cum.” Wow. That was very Jane Austen of him. In fact one of my fondest memories from reading Pride and Prejudice was the part where Mr. Darcy tells Elizabeth how when he is around her he feels completely and perfectly and incandescently happy, then adding that he also loves how hard she makes him cum. Gotta love the classics.
Tony meanwhile is having a sit-down meeting with the NY family regarding the recent goings on regarding the wire room, Vito, etc. Unfortunately the meeting is being run by Little Carmine, whose an idiot. After a few back and forths with a “cocksucker” this and a “Mother f*cker” that (this is HBO after all), Little Carmine then suggests that they wipe the slate clean and move forward. Just when they are all in agreement Little Carmine then opens his big mouth (seriously, he looks like a grouper) and mentions Phil Leotardo’s brother, who was killed by Tony’s cousin last season. This sends Phil into a rage and he walks out of the meeting, with the agreed upon truce now in shambles. “Jesus Christ Carmine, why would you possibly bring that up?” Tony says to him.
That night A.J. is grabbing a beer with some fellow construction workers. When he notices Blanca dancing in the corner he tries to play it cool. Blanca comes over and pretty much asks him out on date. A.J. is blinded by hormones and agrees on the spot, even after she says she has a kid. Is A.J. finally growing up?
At the office Julianna gets a phone call from Tony. He says he has a business proposition for him. He is offering to fix up a warehouse for one of her clients so he can then have her sell it for a profit. She is hesitant at first but the offer is too good for her to resist. Another thing that is hard for her to resist is heroin and booze. We cut to a flashback with Julianna in an AA meeting recounting her first encounter with Tony after he walked out on her. She then spent the rest of the night drinking a bottle of Cristal. Outside Christopher strikes up a conversation with her and then asks her if she wants to get coffee. Before you know it, bada bing, bada boom, they are doing it in the front seat of his car.
Tony is at home eating his ice cream and watching the history channel when Carmela comes home. She was talking with people about Adrianna, and they suggested that she hire a private investigator to track her down. Tony is trying to dissuade her, since Adrianna is now cut into about 20 pieces and distributed all over northern New Jersey. Tony then goes to Silvio and tells him to lean on that building inspector about the spec house. Even though Tony told Carmela he didn’t get anywhere with him, the truth was he never bothered. But now that she is getting more and more obsessed with Adrianna, he needs it to distract her.
That night Christopher and Julianna are talking about Christopher’s crappy movie Cleaver, when the conversation turns to Tony. Christopher says its still a little weird “being where he’s been”. Being called sloppy seconds to her face pisses off Julianna (shes a sensitive type) so she tells Christopher that she’s not a parking spot. Instead of apologizing Christopher just grabs her hair from behind, turns her head and starts kissing her. Julianna responds by pushing him down to the couch and starting to take her pants off. But since this is HBO and not Cinemax, the scene ends there.
Over in Brooklyn, Phil and his crew are stewing. Killing fat Dom was retaliation for Vito. But then torching the wire room was going too far. Butch DeConcini, one of Phil’s captains, says that Phil indulges Tony too much. He compares the burning of the wire room to 9/11. Now that Tony got their attention its time for them to wipe them off the planet. Seeing as how Osama isn’t dead yet it’s not exactly a good idea to compare Phil to Bush and Tony to Osama. Unless Butch is trying to tell Phil to ignore Tony and attack the Pennsylvania mafia. Or maybe he is trying to tell him that Tony is like the Shiites, and Phil is like the Kurds. Or wait, maybe he means Tony is the Kurds and Phil is the Sunni. And Carmela is the interim government. Man these metaphors are confusing. Phil says he won’t whack a boss. “Then pick somebody over there” Butch tells him. Oh boy! oh boy! More whacking!!
Outside an NA meeting Christopher is telling Murmur, his sponsor, about his relationship with Julianna, and the fact that she is a recovering junkie. Murmur says he shouldn’t have anything to do with it. After his last slip with the festival, if he gets caught again Tony will have him whacked. He then tells Christopher that the two of them together could be bad. They could become enablers. Julianna meanwhile is having pretty much the same conversation with her sponsor.
We see A.J. over Blanca’s house watching a movie. When some neighborhood kids start hanging out outside with loud music and 40′s in paper bags on the stoop outside (how is that fun exactly?) she complains to A.J. that her ex used to kick their ass but now that he is gone, they are back. Well, since A.J. is about as intimidating as Aaron Carter at the MTV Video Music awards, he can’t really go out there and kick their ass, so he comes up with a plan B. He goes out and bribes them with his brand new bike. The plan works and soon Blanca is giving him the ride of his life. And by that I mean sexual intercourse. Later in the after sex talk, or as I like to call it “the five minutes when a guy doesn’t want to get laid” he asks her if she’s bothered by the fact that he’s much younger. She isn’t, and he isn’t bothered by the fact that she has a kid. We may have a love connection here, and all it took was a bicycle.
Julianna has a cold. Normally she’d just take cough medicine but since she’s a recovering junkie she can’t. Cough medicine apparently has dextramasomethingorother so shit’s a no no. Christopher insists but she is adamant. Then she tells him that instead he can go get valerian tea. If you put ten tea bags in one cup it acts like a Valium she says. Also, you can get a really great high from drinking pop rocks with coke, but be careful, it might kill you like it did Mikey from the LIFE commercials.
At the Soprano household things are looking up as Carmela gets the news that her spec house has now been cleared for construction. The same cant be said for the Leotardo home as Phil is rushed to the hospital after feeling some tightness in his chest. The doctor at the ER just tells him that its probably just gas. So they dodged a bullet. So they think.
Back with Christopher and Juliana, they are proving that old saying “if you give a mouse a cookie…”. In another parallel with Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice they’ve moved on from valarian tea and are now freebasing heroin in a parking lot. Because when you’re high on heroin, the atmosphere isn’t a high priority.
That night at the Leotardo household Phil has taken a turn for the worse. Phil’s gas wasn’t gas, but a precursor to a massive heart attack. He is rushed to the hospital. When Tony hears the news at the Bada Bing he orders drinks all around. After the scene at little Carmines, he’s happy to see Phil on the way out.
Bobby Bacala is at the nursing home visiting Uncle Junior, whose slipping further into dementia. He admits to being the shooter on the grassy knoll, and amazingly, the guy who came up with the idea for “New Coke”. No wonder everyone shuns him. Bobby is only there to return a gift Junior mailed him. He wants nothing to do with him anymore and tells him that.
As Tony is walking the neighborhood he sees Christopher talking to Julianna in her car. Christopher tries to come up with a cover story but its clear that Tony isn’t buying it. Later that night he is over Julianna’s apartment, which has now become nothing more than a crack den. Strike that. Nothing more than a Kirstie Alley decorated crack den. It’s two parts heroin chic, one part Pier 1 Imports. Christopher is proud about how they have managed to integrate heroin into their lives, yet still having mastery over it. Julianna agrees. This is as good as it gets! Christopher then says he thinks he needs to tell Tony that they are together. He doesn’t want him to suspect because he might find out he’s using again. Then Julainna crawls to the corner of her apartment and vomits into a wastebasket. They truly are a magical couple.
That night Christopher tells Tony that he’s been banging Julianna. He shrugs it off like its no big deal, but later at Melfi’s office he is bemoaning the fact that his “reward” for not cheating on Carmela for a week is to have Christopher get what he couldn’t get. Melfi tries to introduce some sanity into the conversation by telling Tony that “You don’t have to f*ck every girl you meet.”
The next day at Satriale’s one of the homeland security FBI guys stops by for a sandwich. He’s there to give Tony a message. He still has friends in the FBI working the organized crime unit and from what he hears, Tony is not very popular in Brooklyn right now, and someone he knows may be in danger. He doesn’t have any names but he says that its being discussed at the highest levels. My whacking sense is tingling.
That night at a diner Christopher and Julianna are talking. They have finally realized that living in a sea of their own sick is not the best way to go through life. Christopher realizes that he doesnt want a family with the woman he married. But he’s not really sure what he wants. Then they both work up the courage to go to a meeting. Or maybe they don’t. The whole thing is left ambiguous.
Tony is at the hospital to visit Phil and he gets a chilly reception from his captains. When he gets some time alone with Phil he tells him about his near death experience. He says that when he was in a coma he went to place he doesn’t want to go back to, if ya know what I mean. “Nobody ever laid in their death bed thinking they wish they made more no show jobs”. He says that he should get better but when he gets back, he should focus on the good things like grandkids. And in a last dig at him, as he leaves he says “Stop crying now”, a reference to Phil’s disgust at Johnny Sacks weeping at his daughters wedding.
The show then ends on a quiet note with the Soprano family Christmas. Think Nick and Jessica without the amazing singing and dancing. A.J brings over his girlfriend and her daughter. Tony and Carmela aren’t too thrilled at her Puerto Rican heritage, but A.J. is finally asserting himself. With Sinatra singing Silent Night in the background we are given a shot of the family gathered around the tree…
Then there is a noise outside, when Tony goes to look he is shot through the head and drops to the floor. BAM!. Phil’s crew rushes into the house and they slaughter everyone in a hail of bullets. Carmela dies as she rushes to help Tony. A.J. dies cowering in the corner and Christopher manages to take out on of Phil’s men before he is finally shot through the head. Fade to black.
OK, just kidding. Nothing happens. We just leave them there having a nice Christmas. All in all an uneventful episode. It wasn’t bad, but it was definitely not something you should tout as any kind of season finale. I’ve seen more excitement in a Seventh Heaven episode. Ah well, see everyone in 2012 for the final 8 episodes!
* So the butter face joke was something that took a while to construct. Not so much the joke (the character Adrianna, is a classic butter face, where everything on the girl is good…but her face. Rimshot!), but the punch line. Who should I use as my go to butter face girl? I originated with Penelope Cruz, who I think is a classic butter face, what with that gigantic Jimmy Durante nose of hers. Yet in asking some friends for assistance I sparked quite the firestorm of emails that lasted throughout the morning. A mutual friend of both sg-dub and mine (friend-dub) and sg-dub’s beautiful wife (Mrs. dub) didn’t think that she was a butter face at all. Mrs. dub even went as far as to put Shannon Elizabeth in the butter face category, saying she had a horse face. Nonsense, I told her.
sg-dub went with Martina Hingis. While true she is a butter face, I felt using an obscure tennis player would go over the heads of most TVgasm audiences. sg-dub you remember is the man who made a joke about the Fibonacci sequence, so he likes to get obscure. But he also had a few choice additions with both Sandra Oh and Eric Roberts.
Then Mrs. dub fired back with some good ones, Beth O, Howard Stern’s girlfriend. Good, but also too obscure. Then sg-dub’s brother (brother -dub) came up with a great one. The snaggle toothed gnome who answers to the name “Kirsten Dunst”. A woman I have long declared my mortal enemy. And then friend-dub said Tara Reid, who isn’t so much a butter face as a butter body, what with that deformed stomach and all. Plus friend-dub is notorious for having a crush on Martina Hingis and being on record as thinking Anna Kornakova is “a pig”, so as a result he barely even gets a vote. He can however write all 43 presidents names, in consecutive order, on a bar napkin within 5 minutes. That’s gotta count for something.
At this point in the debate I decided to go with Sarah Jessica Parker. The classic butter face. The woman who started it all. But then brother-dub quibbled with that choice saying that she is a horse face and not a butter face, saying that there is tehnically a difference. Then the debate centered on the criteria that makes a girl a hose face or a butter face. I won’t bore you with the details but the end result was, I went with Sarah Jessica Parker, with Kirsten Dunst a close, close second.
And the punch line to all this? The four of us all have fairly important corporate jobs, yet this is how we spent our Thursday morning. And it’s all because of a magical place called TVgasm.