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Only a few episodes left to the Sopranos season and the whacking tally is abysmally low. Don’t get me wrong, it’s been a good season, with sharp, funny writing all along. But when the only real mob hit you can sink your teeth into is Frankie Valli, it leaves a void. Sure we all loved watching Lauren Bacall get punched in the mouth, but it would have been so much more satisfying to see Christopher or Tony dump a body in a wood chipper. It’s like going to a Celine Dion concert and she doesn’t sing My Heart Will Go On. Sure you had a great time, bought some t-shirts, even met up with all your friends from the CelineDion.com message board, but you still feel like something was missing.
Well, this week’s body count was fairly small as well but some plot developments are set in motion that make the impending season finale look more and more interesting.The show opens with Tony getting his morning paper. Sal the local greenskeeper comes over to talk to him. He wants to know how long he is going to have to keep doing the Sacramoni’s lawn for free. If you want to know why he’s doing that it’s kind of a long story involving him getting beaten up by just released gangster Feech La Mana, played by Robert Loggia, who then was sent back to prison on a scheme to violate his parole because he was muscling in on Tony’s turf, yadda yadda. It’s complicated. This show is Byzantine in its characters and plot lines. If you really want to know you will probably have to do some research.
Tony is pissed that Sal wants out of doing Johnny Sack’s lawn for free. He calls him a selfish prick and that he better keep doing his lawn and stop complaining. You see, just when Sal thought he was out, they pull him back in.
In the clink, Johnny Sack’s lawyer is talking to him about his impending trial and whether or not he is willing to cooperate. Johnny refuses, saying that him being a rat is like asking his lawyer, who is Jewish, to be a Nazi. Or asking David Blaine to actually do a magic trick. His lawyer is glad to hear it, saying he doesn’t represent rats. Only humans and porpoises. (ZING!)
Over at Satriale’s Janice is being her usual wonderful self and complaining to Tony that they didn’t save her stuffed pork loin that she ordered special. It was instead given to Carmela. “You get what you pay for,” Tony says, meaning that she doesn’t buy any meat but instead expects it all for free.
But bitching abut meat is only the preamble. Janice is just getting warmed up. “I don’t know why you can’t just admit that you blame us for getting sho,t” she snaps at him. Tony, not taking the bait, simply says, “I only have myself to blame.” Janice, in an amazing display of “see you next Tuesday”-ness snaps back. “So obviously you’d like to blame somebody.” Holy crap, that is a woman picking a fight. And we soon find out what fight she wants. You see, Janice married Bobby Bacala, the borderline retarded idiot. Up until a few years ago all he did was watch over Uncle Junior, and he barely did that competently. Now the only reason she married him was because she was hoping that would help get him a promotion to captain and get Janice richer. Janice, you see, is exactly like Tony’s mom. A soul sucking harpy witch.
Tony tries to explain to her that the reason Bobby isn’t a captain has nothing to do with her, but more to do with the fact that he is a grown man who plays with model trains. “Oh and it’s OK for Neil Young?” is her defense. “He owns Lionel!!” Tony yells.
When Janice sees that the yelling tact not working, she switches to the guilt trip. Bringing up the fact that she’s his sister, she cried for him in the hospital, and blah, blah, blah. Tony still doesn’t take the bait. While he appreciates her sitting with him in the hospital, “We both know, no matter how much help I gave, you’d still be here fucking complaining.” And he says it all with a smirk. I love Tony.
Over in gay Pleasantville, Vito is hanging out in the library pretending to write his book on Rocky Marciano (his cover story). He is found out when his boyfriend Jim finds him sitting there doodling motorcycles and huge penises on a notepad. This leads to their first big fight. Jim wanted to take their relationship to the next level, and move in, but now that he found that Vito has been lying to him all this time he isn’t so sure. Vito pleads with him, saying it’s complicated. He’s running out of money, and he ran out on his wife and kids because “some shit went down.” He doesn’t however, mention the fact that he is a hood, a thug, a ne’er do well. Jim says that he can try and get him some work on a construction job.
The gangster’s wives meanwhile are surprising Johnny Sack’s 400 pound wife Ginny on her fiftieth birthday. That watermelon sized heart made it to fifty and it’s still pumping. Truly a miracle. When they are inside chatting all Janice can talk about is how much she likes her house. When they wave a huge piece of cake in Ginny’s face she says “Oh no, I can’t.” Carmela then says “It’s your birthday” but by the time she even forms the B on Birthday, the cake is in Ginny’s hand.
That night Vito and Jim have made up. We know this because when Vito gets into bed Jim gently rubs his man boobs and they French kiss. Then Jim turns him around and goes to work. Hmm, I never would have guessed Vito for a power bottom.
The next day Bobby Bacala is in his garage playing with his toy trains and wearing his conductor helmet. And he’s not a captain yet? He asks his kid if he wants to join him. Amazingly, he doesn’t want to. A 16-year-old kid in 2006 doesn’t want to play with toy trains? What has this world come to!?. Why, in my day… well, we hated playing with trains to. We had Intellivision for god’s sake. That thing was dope. You could switch out gamepad inserts!
At the Soprano’s, Tony notices Carmela is moody and asks her what the problem is. She’s pissed about her spec house. He was supposed to talk to the inspector weeks ago and still hasn’t done it. Tony says he sent little Paulie but the inspector is being a hard ass. He says hell get Silvio on it. He promises. Now can he watch some damn television in peace?
When he goes to tell Silvio at the Bada Bing, we find out that he forgot completely. Then a knock on the door. It’s Johnny Sack’s nerdy optometrist brother-in-law Anthony. He is there with a proposition. Johnny is a “silent partner,” wink wink, nudge nudge, on a heavy equipment leasing place in New Orleans. He heard that Tony has some connections post-Katrina. “Let’s just say Dick Cheney for president. Of the f*cking universe,” is Tony’s answer. So that’s where Cheney’s 12 percent approval rating is coming from. Anyways, Anthony wants to help him convert the assets into cash because of John’s “liquidity problems.” No that’s not some weird digestive ailment, it just means that the Feds are seizing all of Johnny Sack’s assets and he needs access to some off the books cash. Also, Anthony says, he doesn’t want Phil Leotardo to know about it.
In New Hampshire, Vito is working construction on a country home that looks just like the one from the movie Holiday Inn with Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire, only without people singing in blackface (seriously, I saw the movie this Christmas and almost shat myself when I saw that scene). But since Vito is used to the mob captain way of working a construction scene, meaning sitting on your ass all day and eating, he is exhausted within hours. When he goes off to the barn to sneak a nap, he gets caught by the owner.
At Dr. Melfi’s office Tony is complaining about Carmela and her spec house project. It’s proving to be a real pain in his ass. He says that after their reconciliation, Tony and Carmela had an understanding. She would lok the other way about his job and other “recreational activities,” meaning racquetball and banging strippers. In return he would give her money to start up her spec house. The conversation then drifts to Janice. He agrees that he does make fun of Bobby and Janice a lot, but can you blame him. It’s like having an albino midget with a stutter for a brother and not making fun of him. When Melfi tries to point out all the things that Janice does that can be construed as acts of kindness, Tony snaps back saying the only thing Janice does is “acts of Janice.”
To illustrate his point he tells Melfi a story about how one time when they were young and their parents were out they left Janice in charge. She then proceeded to tape a fight Tony had with his sister Barb and held it over his head for a month, extorting him. That’s our Janice!
In prison, Ginny’s brother Anthony is trying to to explain to him what went down with Tony. Anthony is trying to talk with him in code about what he talked about with Tony but he’s not so good at it. He tries to tell him about the “man with the stomach.” Tony asks him if it’s the man near their house our outside of town. No, no. the man with the stomach who has the “coffee with the chicory.” After a few minutes with this Johnny gets fed up and just has Anthony tell him what the hell he is talking about. Tony wants a 10 percent finder’s fee instead of 7. Johnny is in no position to say no so he agrees. Which reminds me, I’d just like to tell J-Unit that the plane’s banana has not been painted with glitter yet. I repeat, the plane’s banana has not been painted with glitter yet. Remember to bring the deodorant to your mom’s attic.
That night Jim and Vito are woken from their cuddling by Jim’s beeper. Jim’s a volunteer firefighter and his skills are needed. Vito wants to come with him. He loves watching his man. Turns out there is a pastor stuck in a flooded basement with electric wires hanging down. Wow. Even their emergencies are quaint. This town is so cute I bet there’s a small family of animated talking mice living in Jim’s house and they get into all sorts of shenanigans when the lights go out. When Vito hears that i’ts an electrical emergency, he tells the other firefighters that he spent years as a contractor with electrical experience. He thinks he can help. The next shot shows Vito climbing a ladder and cutting a few wires. This causes the assembled crowd to cheer. Quaint New England towns don’t see much excitement. I was in Nashua, New Hampshire once in 1987 and someone lit off a Roman candle. They talk about it to this day.
Back in Jersey Bobby Bacala is picking up his take from a local bookie late at night. When he is walking home he gets jumped and beaten by some 15-year-old thugs. They try to shoot him but since they’re amateurs they just graze him and he gets hit in the eye with shrapnel. Bobby pleads for his life and cries like a girl, disgracing the reputation of 40-year-old model train enthusiasts everywhere. When Paulie calls Tony later that night to tell him what happened to Bobby, he also tells him the results of his bi-OP-sy from last week. It turns out it was cancer. He is going to be starting some chemo to make sure it hasn’t mastasticized.
The next day at the Bada Bing all the guys are talking about Bobby and his run in with the Little Rascals. Bobby made sure even in his one eyed condition to make sure he made his weekly quota. The guys are impressed but Tony isn’t. He’s still looking down on Bobby. Bobby was an idiot for going into that neighborhood at night anyway. Even the cops don’t go there. Later Tony is over the Bacala’s house (drinking a delicious Sam Adam’s. Crisp and refreshing). While watching TV he witnesses Bobby’s son acting like a snot and Janice is there to put out the fire. She uses her evil for good and bullies him into doing his homework. This causes Tony to start to rethink how he feels about Janice. At Melfi’s office he is again going over his relationship with Janice. “She creams over the misery,” he says. Ugh. When Melfi asks where their once close relationship went wrong, Tony says that he resents her for leaving. She always had it easy. She had a fight with their mother and just took off. Now that she’s back she wants her piece, but Tony says that he was the one who stayed. He is the one that bears the scars, so it’s his.
That night Vito is planning a romantic evening with Jim. He’s cooking him some “Pasta Badan” macaroni and potatoes, and pork and vinegar peppers. Very northern Italian. When Jim comes up behind him while he’s cooking he puts his hands on his shoulders. “You gotta wait for that,” he says. Jim can’t hold it in any more. He tells him that he loves him. “I love you too Johnny Cakes,” Vito says as he looks longingly into his eyes.
Well, now that Vito has found his bliss you would think everything would be great from now on, wouldn’t you? Well you forgot to take into account Vito’s hatred of honest work. The next day he doesn’t even make it three hours before he flips out and walks away from the whole thing. He disappears that night, takes all his clothes and starts driving back home to Jersey and imminent death. I feel the same way when it’s Saturday afternoon and you realize your Sopranos recap is a week late and counting.
While Vito is driving to Jersey he is also drinking himself into a stupor. When he crashes into a man’s car on a quiet country road he tries to settle it there by paying him in cash. The man refuses saying they should call the police and make a report. As he is walking back to his house Vito takes out a gun and kills him from behind. He is a man at the end of his rope. When last we see Vito, he is driving by Satriale’s meat store.
In the clink, Johnny Sack is talking with his attorney and it’s not looking good. The Feds made their final offer. 25 years and 4 million of his assets. Johnny resists because he doesn’t want to do the allocution. His lawyer says that the allocution is the whole point. Finally he agrees and we see him in court admitting that he was a member of the Cosa Nostra. This sets his NY crew on fire. They can’t believe it. The one thing you never do is admit the existence of the Cosa Nostra. First rule of Cosa Nostra, don’t talk about Cosa Nostra. Things get worse for Johnny when Tony comes back to him with new terms for their deal. He’ll get the New Orleans guys to sell but he is now demanding that Johnny sell his house to Janice at half price. Knowing he can’t say no, Johnny agrees.
That night at dinner when Tony is in the basement putting some wine away Janice comes down to thank him. She starts blubbering like a fool and when Carmela comes down she asks what’s the matter. “She’s happy,” Tony says, as a small hint of a smile comes over his face.
So not a whole lot happened plot-wise this week but with the New York family now without a leader and Vito back in town, this week’s episode should be a real gore fest. I’m hoping we get at least two good whacks. What does everyone else think?