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It's tough times in Jersey for Tony Soprano. The sluggish economy hasn't been good for the family business. His wife Carmela is angling for more financial security. Some longtime lieutenants aren't happy with Tony's recent decisions. A rival boss wants a bigger piece of the suburban pie.
A Sopranos is actually heading to trial for the first time in decades. At least one child seems to have lost interest in higher education. And the ducks aren't coming back anytime soon.
01 - For All Debts Public and Private
As the new season opens, the overarching sentiment in both Tony's families is: there must be more money.
Tony still meets with Junior in Dr. Schreck's office and lately the old boss' main preoccupation - aside from flirting shamelessly with Schreck's comely new nurse - is his growing stack of legal bills. Junior's trial is fast approaching and by his estimate, it's going to cost a million dollars to keep from spending the rest of his life in an orange jumpsuit. "We need to change our arrangement," he tells his nephew. But Tony has a different take on the situation. Junior's financial problems are of his own making, and Tony's advice to his uncle is to reorganize and "get your shy running right."
Tony finds that fiscal concerns are foremost at home as well. After seeing Angie Bonpensiero handing out sausage samples at the supermarket, Carmela fears for her own future and demands that Tony let her know the state of their finances. She wants Tony to do some serious estate planning - i.e., make some legitimate investments - but he demurs. "We don't have those Enron-type connections," he argues, and tells Carmela that there's plenty of money, although none of it is stashed in the house. But even though Tony assures her she's better off being ignorant, Carmela is far from blissful about it.
In the literal sense, Tony was telling the truth; the money's not in the house - it's tucked beneath the floor of the utility shed and into bags of duck feed. Junior and Carmela have given Tony cause for concern, however, and he calls a meeting of his capos to make those concerns known. "I want to know why there's zero growth in this family's receipts," he snarls at the guys who are supposed to be his top earners. (The only member missing is Paulie, who's in jail on a gun charge and, unknown to Tony, making collect calls to Johnny Sack.) This thing of ours is supposed to be recession-proof, he reminds them, and things had better improve.
One improvement is that Junior, taking Tony's advice to heart, decides to promote Bobby Bacala, putting him in charge of his loan shark business. Tony then generously offers to "help" his uncle by buying an old warehouse from him - conveniently omitting the fact that, as the result of a government-sponsored development project, the property's value will soon skyrocket. But Junior's too distracted to be distrustful; he just found out that Schreck's comely nurse is actually an undercover agent who will likely testify at his trial.
And the nurse isn't the only federal agent in the family's midst. Adriana's new best friend, Danielle Ciccolella, is really Special Agent Deborah Ciccerone. She's been hanging out with Adriana a lot, even accompanying her to Tony and Carmela's house. Christopher can't stand "Danielle" and gives her the bum's rush whenever he sees her. But Christopher's too distracted by his own worries to be polite - he's afraid that Tony distrusts him for questioning his handling of Jackie Junior. He warns Adriana, "I may be on the endangered species list," and relieves his stress with interdigital heroin injections.
But Christopher's got it wrong; Tony's got other plans for him. He wants to "bond him to me inseparably," and, to that end, Tony gives Christopher the address of Lt. Detective Barry Haydu, the man Tony claims murdered Christopher's father. Christopher subsequently breaks into Haydu's house and puts two 9-milimeter bullets in his skull, making Haydu a corpse and himself a cop killer. Later, Tony explains to Dr. Melfi that he doesn't want to end up like Junior, 72 years old with legal bills "that would make you gargle Drano." It's become too dangerous to operate his business directly, and from now on, he'll issue orders only through a blood relative -meaning Christopher. When Melfi asks Tony why he's telling her this, he pauses a moment and replies, "I don't know...I trust you."
But, in Tony's world, just what does that mean?
02 - No Show
Tony's finding out that his plan to protect himself by shunting more responsibility to Christopher, while sound in theory, lacks something in the execution. The problems start when Tony decides that while Paulie is in stir, the Gualtieri crew needs an interim capo. Everyone agrees that this is a good idea, until Silvio announces that the guy getting the bump is going to be Christopher - not Patsy Parisi, who has seniority, or Little Paulie Germani, who is Paulie's nephew. Blissfully oblivious to the mood of his new subordinates, Christopher jokingly tells Silvio, "The first thing I'm doing is getting wings in my hair." But Silvio, who sees his place within Tony's inner circle being usurped, is not amused. Neither is Paulie; since he went to jail, nobody's been to visit his mother.
FYI, "capo" means "head" and Christopher had better start using his. He's constantly busting the crews' balls and in one of his first official acts, he gives Patsy tacit approval to boost some valuable fiber optic cable from the Esplanade construction site. When the contractor complains to Tony that he's not getting the protection he pays for, Tony calls his new capo on the carpet. "You're drawing heat to a quarter billion dollar job. Think, Christopher, think!"
But instead of setting Christopher on the right track, Tony's rebuke makes him defensive and resentful. "Like he never heard of a learning curve, " Christopher complains to Adriana, as he's getting high. But Tony's not the only one Christopher resents. His aversion to Danielle has been growing, and he warns Adriana, "She's trying to fuck us up." So when he's in the back room of Crazy Horse, making out with Adriana, what's his hand doing clamped on Danielle's thigh?
Adriana chooses to believe Christopher's version of that incident, i.e., that Danielle "took my hand and started rubbing it on herself." So it's the end of her relationship with Danielle Ciccolella, personal shopper - and the beginning of one with Deborah Ciccerone, Special Agent. Shortly after the disputed grope, Adriana is picked up by Agents Ciccerone and Harris. In an FBI meeting room, she's told she can either become their informant or the defendant in a drug possession case. "And when you make bail," bureau Agent Harris tells her, "you can explain to Tony Soprano why you brought an undercover federal agent into his home during Sunday dinner." Adriana's response, though non-verbal, is strikingly eloquent: she throws up on the FBI's conference table.
Meanwhile, Tony and Carmela are having a serious problem with their firstborn. She's spent the entire summer lying by the pool and now, five days from the start of classes, she still hasn't registered. Whenever Carmela confronts her, Meadow stops the discussion by wailing, "My ex-boyfriend was killed." But eventually she tells her parents the real reason she hasn't signed up for classes: she's going to go to Europe, where she hopes to work on a film for a friend of a friend who "hangs out with Dogma." When a psychiatrist that Meadow visits endorses this plan, all hell breaks loose. During a nasty, knock-down-drag-out with her parents, Meadow makes the mistake of looking her father in the face and sarcastically calling him "Mr. Mob Boss." Infused with equal parts of anger and hurt, Tony slowly walks to his daughter and dares her to say what she's really thinking: "Are you inferring to me that I didn't do everything I could to keep that kid from fucking himself up? That I didn't try to protect Jackie Junior?" Caught in her father's gaze and in a voice that belies her bravado, Meadow responds that she's made her decision. She then leaves the house.
If that weren't enough, Tony finds he also has to deal with his older sister - who was herself once a young woman who went to Europe "find herself." Janice is now enjoying a budding romance with Ralph Cifaretto, despite Tony's warning that he's no good for her. While Janice informs her brother that her love life is none of his business, Tony thinks otherwise: "It is...considering I had to haul your last boyfriend out of the kitchen in a Hefty bag."
As it turns out, when Meadow leaves home, it isn't to head for the airport. So if Tony is afraid Meadow will become Parvati, Junior, he can breathe easy - for now, at least. Meadow ends up at Columbia, registering for classes. While all of her first choices are filled, she does manage to get into an especially pertinent philosophy course:
"Morality, Self and Society."
03 - Christopher
It's October and at long last, time for opening arguments in the case of the United States v. Corrado John Soprano. But even though it's the first Soprano family trial in sixteen years and Junior could very well be sent away for the rest of his life, Tony's crew is preoccupied with charges being leveled against another Italian: Christopher Columbus. Columbus Day is only days away and the New Jersey Council of Indian Affairs is planning to disrupt the annual parade. At Satriale's, the feeling is unanimous: indignation at the Native Americans' effrontery. Silvio pretty much speaks for everybody -- even Furio, who dislikes Columbus because he was northern Italian -- when he asserts, "Ultimately, it's anti-Italian discrimination, " he says, "Columbus Day is a day of Italian pride, it's our holiday, and they want to take it away."
But while Silvio orchestrates a campaign to disrupt the disruption, Bobby Bacala is suddenly faced with a far more personal crisis: his wife, Karen, is killed in a car accident. A devastated Bobby weeps inconsolably at Karen's casket, a fact that's not lost on the wives who are present. That kind of naked emotion -- especially towards a wife -- is an anomaly in their world. Awestruck, Gabriella Dante whispers that she once overheard Silvio on the phone, "talking with somebody about how Bobby was the only one of them who didn't have a goomara. They were laughing at him."
Rosalie Aprile is hit especially hard by Karen's death. "There's no release," she tells Ralph, "I'm surrounded by death . . . my husband, my son, my friend . . . " Ralph, ever the caregiver, responds by telling Rosalie that he wants out of their relationship. In short order, he shows up at Janice's, happily declaring, "Now I can devote myself completely to you. Now there can be no guilt, no fear . . . just sex." But Janice has been having misgivings about her relationship with Ralph and a visit to the grief-stricken Bobby only confirms them. She tells her therapist, "I was so moved by him. Then I look at Ralph . . . " So the next time Ralph shows up at her house, she breaks up with him -- by shoving him down the stairs.
Ralph's popularity is taking a lot of hits lately. Johnny Sack is openly hostile towards him, even going so far as to knock an envelope of cash -- a nursing school graduation gift for Johnny's daughter -- out of Ralph's hand. "Stick it in your ass," the normally unflappable Johnny hisses at him. Why the animosity? During one of his clandestine collect calls to Johnny, Paulie informed him of a disparaging remark Ralph made about Ginny Sack's weight. He also let Johnny know about the money Tony made re-selling Junior's old warehouse. Carmine wants a taste of those profits, since, as Johnny puts it, "the property's hot because of the Esplanade, (and) we share the Eslpanade." Tony agrees to "work something out," but he's clearly furious, at one point telling Silvio, "Somebody's talking too much. And it's costing me money."
Meanwhile, back on the cultural heritage front, Tony's guys try everything they can think of to rescue Columbus from the red man's revenge. Ralph threatens to expose Iron Eyes Cody as an actor of Sicilian ancestry, but that turns out to be unfounded. Tony tries to get Councilman Zellman to intervene, but he begs off. Chief Doug Smith, CEO of a Mohonk casino, tells Tony he'll stop the protest, but he also fails. Ultimately, both the parade and the protest take place. And where was Silvio?
Enjoying the blackjack tables at Chief Doug's casino.
04 - The Weight
Forget the Feds. Never mind marital problems, Meadow's meltdowns and Junior's RICO trial. Right now, the biggest problem facing Tony is . . . Ginny Sack's rear end. Not literally, but Ralph's now infamous remark about Ginny's weight* has created a situation that could have the direst of consequences.
It all starts with Johnny Sack accosting Donny K. - a member of Ralph's crew - on a dark street in Manhattan's Little Italy. Johnny saw Donny laughing in a bar and assumed it was about Ginny. His self-control diminished by several cognacs, Johnny attacks Donny, beating him with his fists until he crumples to the pavement. "Lemme buy you a drink," Johnny snarls at the unconscious Donny; he then unzips his pants and urinates on him.
When Tony meets with Johnny the next day, the New York under boss initially dances around the issue. Accusing Ralph of cooking the books for the Esplanade, Johnny complains that he's "more creative than Spielberg" and that the "cute cocksucker could wind up dead." But Tony knows that Johnny wouldn't clip a guy over a few thousand dollars. Something else is eating him, and eventually Johnny reveals what it is: "That woman is my life, to think she's being mocked...I don't know if I can get past this."
In short order, Johnny asks for - and is denied - Carmine's approval for a hit on Ralph. He then walks out on two sitdowns about the situation. After the second walkout, Tony gets a phone call from Carmine. The old Boss tells him that Johnny's not listening to reason, and the Esplanade deal could be threatened because of it. "I don't want that apple cart upset," Carmine warns Tony. When Tony suggests, "someone should do something," Carmine's response is as chilling as it is brief: "I appreciate your thoughts."
So now Tony's in the position of having to kill one of his best friends in order to save a guy who, "If he was drownin', I'd throw him a cinder block." But Ralph is one of Tony's captains and he has no choice but to protect him. On Junior's advice, he sends Silvio and Christopher to engage the services of Lou DiMaggio and the Atwell Avenue Boys, some old pros who can dispose of a guy "as silent as a mouse pissing on cotton."
It may seem like it, but open season on wise guys is not the only thing going on in Tony's world. Although Meadow is safely back at Columbia, she's started volunteering at the South Bronx Law Center, an organization that provides legal help to the underprivileged. Tony's concerned that she'll abandon her - that is, his and Carmela's - plan to become a pediatrician in order to help "indigenous types who got plenty of money to gamble and buy crack."
And while Tony's keeping an eye out for Ralph and Johnny, maybe he should be paying closer attention to Carmela and Furio - who seem to have eyes for each other. One afternoon, with A.J. in tow, Carmela "drops by" Furio's new house. Furio, sweaty from yard work and ponytail askew, looks like he stepped off the cover of a romance novel. He tells a rapt Carmela that he once worked as a landscaper, and he was never happier than when he was digging in the dirt and growing olives. "Sometimes," he says, "I get the smell of olives, in a restaurant, in the store maybe. It makes me very sad." Carmela's decision to have A.J. accompany her may have been smarter than she knows.
Johnny's vendetta against Ralph is eventually resolved in a way that makes things easier for Tony. After catching Ginny with contraband Twix bars, Johnny decides to call off a hit he ordered on Ralph. And not a moment too soon - Ralph gets on an elevator with the hit man just as he gets the call canceling the contract. Johnny tells Tony that a simple apology from Ralph will close the books on the incident.
What could she be thinking about?
(* Ralph joked to some wise guys that Ginny Sack had a 90-pound mole removed from her derriere.)
05 - Pie-O-My
Tony Soprano...horse whisperer?
As unlikely as it may seem, when Ralph buys a filly named "Pie-O-My," Tony discovers he has a knack for horseracing strategy. At the track to see Ralph's new acquisition, Tony off-handedly suggests that the jockey hold Pie-O-My - normally a frontrunner - back with the pack, in order to "keep something for the finish." Although the trainer rejects Tony's strategy, it turns out to be the winning one: Pie-O-My is bumped by another horse leaving the gate and comes from behind to win. Ralph, flush with good will and forty G's in winnings, insists on giving Tony a taste. "Fluke...whatever the fuck," Ralph tells him, "She ran your race, you called it." Although Tony's gratified to have the cash, for him the greater thrill is simply being around Pie-O-My. He's smitten with her; he hollers encouragement when she races and his tough-guy demeanor softens whenever he strokes her muzzle.
Relations at home are considerably cooler. When Carmela asks Tony for ten thousand dollars to invest in a stock that her cousin, Brian, recommends, he refuses. Later, Tony manages to dig himself out by agreeing to sign papers so that Brian can make future stock investments. But when Tony stops short of authorizing the life insurance trust - the investment that Carmela wants most - he's back in the hole. Tony's accountant, Alan Ginsberg, warned him that the trust is a "big red flag" because its only advantages are to Carmela, in the event of Tony's death. "But present day, if something unforeseen should arise?" Ginsberg says, "Divorce, say? That type of trust is irrevocable." But judging from the way Tony and Carmela were regarding each other, they could use some irrevocable trust right now.
While Tony and Carmela try to determine whether they still have a relationship, Janice is hard at work trying to initiate one with Bobby Bacala. As fate would have it, Janice and the Baccilieris are neighbors, and with the aid of binoculars she can effectively surveil the comings and goings of Bobby's well-wishers. When she spies Jojo, the widow Palmice, heading to Bobby's with a casserole and a new hairdo, Janice springs into action. She shows up in Bobby's kitchen, thanking Jojo for the chicken Marsala and all but pushing her out the door. Once Jojo's gone, Janice tries to make room in Bobby's freezer by pulling out a pan of ziti. "Karen made that," Bobby tells Janice, "That's her last ziti before she died." Then he starts sobbing - and Janice is more than happy to console him.
Jojo's chicken Marsala ends up at Junior's. While Janice drops it off, she queries Junior about Bobby's place in his organization. Junior, preoccupied with his trial, tells her he's tired of Bobby's "moping." He complains that Bobby's "supposed to be taking care of something for me!" The "something" is strong-arming a shop steward into voting the way Junior wants him to in an upcoming union election. Janice urges Bobby to get back into the swing of things, telling him that if he doesn't do his job, Junior will find somebody who will. Bobby grudgingly takes Janice's words to heart. He finds the shop steward in a dingy bar and, over a shot of Wild Turkey, tells him that, "...if it was me, and I wasted my votes...I might as well put a bullet in my head here...here...and here." Later, Bobby thanks Janice for helping him and she suggests they eat Karen's ziti. When Bobby demurs, Janice tells him she understands - but she's clearly looking forward to the day when the Baccilieri house is clear of leftovers.
While Janice is putting the squeeze on Bobby, the Feds are tightening their grip on Adriana. Agents Harris and Sanseverino (Agent Ciccerone has been replaced, for Adriana's protection) have been phoning Adriana, as well as picking her up for impromptu interrogations. Adriana finds herself simultaneously trying to stonewall the FBI and convince Christopher they should leave New Jersey. But Tony's plan to bind Christopher to him is working - Christopher tells Adriana that after what Tony did for him, "I would follow that man into hell." Eventually Adriana, exasperated and scared, gives the agents some information about Patsy Parisi. "See?" Agent Harris asks her, "How hard was that?" Hard enough that one night soon after, a rain-drenched Adriana comes home and, with Cosette on her lap, shoots some of Christopher's heroin.
Tony is unaware of Adriana's - and by extension, his - dilemma. At the moment he has someone else to worry about. Pie-O-My is sick and the vet refuses to treat her until Ralph's unpaid bills are settled. Ralph's maid calls Tony, claiming she can't locate Ralph to handle the problem. (In reality, Ralph's the one who gave her Tony's number.) It's the middle of the night and the rain is falling in sheets, but Tony manages gets to the to the stable. He pays the vet and then goes in to see Pie-O-My, who's lying down in her stall. Soaked and exhausted, Tony sits on an overturned bucket next to the filly and pulls out a cigar. As the rain continues to fall, he reaches out, strokes her neck and tells her everything will be all right.
06 - Everybody Hurts
Christopher's at home, on the sofa - and on the nod - when he gets a call from Tony. He wants to see Christopher right away, which gives him all of twenty minutes to put down the syringe and get himself straight. When he shows up at the rendezvous point, both Tony and Furio notice that he's more than a little under the influence. "You been drinking?" Tony asks. Christopher tells him that he and Adriana had "a little wine" that evening, an explanation that Tony seems to accept. Then he gets down to business. "More and more I'm gonna be givin' my orders through you," he tells Christopher. Although one of the other guys might seem like a logical successor, they all have one insurmountable drawback: they're not blood. So Tony tells his heroin addict heir apparent, "You're gonna take this family into the 21st century."
It certainly doesn't look like Tony's progeny are up the task. Even if there weren't the obvious disqualification of gender, Meadow's more interested in her internship at the South Bronx Law Center than anything her father's up to. As for Tony's namesake, he's currently preoccupied with his new girlfriend, Devin Pillsbury, a pretty blonde whose Picasso-filled home makes casa Soprano look like a quaint bungalow. Devin is thrilled to be "a gangster dude's girlfriend," but admits she was a little disappointed that A.J. doesn't live in a compound like the Corleones.
Tony has barely made this step towards securing his future when his past comes back to haunt him in a particularly abrupt and cruel fashion. One night, as she and Tony are getting ready for bed, Carmela shares some gossip. While at Globe Motors she heard that Gloria Trillo, "that nice sales lady," had committed suicide. Tony, to put it mildly, is upset. He goes to the dealership himself, where a salesman tells him that Gloria hanged herself and didn't leave a note. As for her motive, all he could offer was, "I got the impression she wasn't very lucky with men."
Tony, drunk and furious, shows up at Dr. Melfi's hurling accusations. "Why the fuck didn't you help her?" he screams. Melfi is afraid, but holds her ground. "I give my patients everything I've got," she tells Tony, "She slipped through everyone's grasp." When he's calmed down, Tony reveals what's really torturing him. With genuine sorrow in his voice he confesses, "She reached out...for me to care...and I wasn't there for her."
From that point, Tony does everything he can think of to prove that he's not a "toxic person." He makes Carmela happy by signing the papers for a living trust. He helps Carmela's cousin Brian score some significantly discounted designer suits. He takes Carmela, Brian and his wife, and Furio and his blind date to a Billy Joel concert. (Furio's date was arranged by Carmela; but when she saw him put his arm around her, she looked like she regretted her efforts.) He even treats Janice to an expensive dinner at Vesuvio, where he bestows his good wishes on her relationship with Bobby Bacala. In a rare moment of sibling intimacy, Janice tells Tony what he most needs to hear: that no matter what happens between them, "You always seem to reach out when it counts."
But when Tony reaches out to Artie Bucco, the results aren't so satisfying. Artie attempts to borrow fifty thousand dollars from Ralph so that he, in turn, can act as a shylock to the brother of Vesuvio's beautiful new French hostess. Ralph turns him down, explaining that if Artie fails to pay him back, "I ain't gonna be able to hurt you." When Tony finds out, he's the one who's hurt that Artie didn't come to him first. He lends Artie the money - at a half-point lower interest than Ralph. But when the Frenchman defaults - and beats Artie up, to boot - Artie becomes despondent. He swallows an overdose of pills and booze and then calls Tony, sobbing, "I love you and I'm sorry I let you down." Tony hangs up and calls 911.
When he sees Artie in the hospital, Tony is angry - because of what Artie did to him. "Suppose I come over to your house and I find you dead? How am I supposed to feel?" Tony shouts. He then tells Artie that he'll assume the Frenchman's debt - vig included, of course - if Artie wipes clean his six-thousand-dollar tab at Vesuvio. In his next session with Dr. Melfi, Tony is philosophical about Gloria and Artie. "One suicide is bad enough," he says, "But two? They can go fuck themselves. I made a donation to the suicide hotline in her name. That's it." So the past is past, and Tony Soprano can focus on the future...
...at least for the present.
07 - Watching Too Much Television
After four months as a guest of the Ohio State Correctional System, Paulie is once again a free man. As custom dictates, Tony and the guys throw him a "welcome home" party at the Bing, replete with booze, women and some cash to get him back on his feet. In addition to the regulars, Brian Cammarata is in attendance, enjoying the festivities so much that the following morning he wakes up on the stage, sans pants. Brian accompanies Ralph and Tony to breakfast, where Ralph asks the young financial adviser for investment tips. Brian lays out a way to use bogus real estate deals to con money out of the Federal Department of Housing and Urban Development, but he's not serious about pursuing it.
It turns out, however, that Tony and Ralph are very seriously interested. They enlist the aid of State Assemblyman Ron Zellman and his old friend from his activist days, Maurice Tiffen, to create a federally funded windfall. During one of their meetings Zellman confesses to Tony, with trepidation, that he's been seeing Tony's old goomara, Irina. Tony surprises him by giving his blessing. "Frankly," he tells Zellman, "I'm glad to have her off my payroll." Later, Tony surprises the Assemblyman again by changing his mind and beating him with his belt. (Imagine what he'd do if he knew that Furio phoned Carmela to request that she look for his sunglasses - the ones he just put in his glove compartment.)
Carmela's not the only one receiving furtive communications - Adriana's still being contacted regularly by the FBI. But one night a television courtroom drama gives her what could be the solution to her problem: if she and Christopher were married, she couldn't testify against him. So Adriana pops the question and, despite his concern that Adriana might not be able to have little Moltisantis, Christopher eventually consents. Adriana's pre-nuptial bliss is short-lived, however, because she learns that there are circumstances to which spousal privilege doesn't apply.
Paulie, too, has grown concerned about keeping his utterances private. Over lunch with Johnny Sack, Paulie complains that Tony and Ralph have an exclusive deal going with Zellman. But while he appreciates being able to air his gripes about Tony, Paulie wants Johnny's assurance that "this shit don't leave the table." Johnny's response is classic Sacramoni: "I'm hurt that you even have to ask."
But is that "yes" or "no"?
08 - Mergers and Acquisitions
By his own admission, Tony may not be the most moral man on earth, " . . . but I do have rules." And one of those rules is that you don't move in on another guy's goomara. So when he and Valentina La Paz, Ralph's latest, discover a mutual attraction, Tony makes it clear it can't go anywhere - well, anywhere beyond the hotel room where they've already spent an afternoon together. Besides, Tony tells her, "I don't like to go where Ralph Cifaretto has been." It's then that Valentina tells Tony something very unsettling about Ralph: he doesn't have sex - not as Tony defines it - with women. Creeped out but curious, Tony consults Janice. For three thousand dollars she confirms that Ralph doesn't have regular intercourse and "can't even get a hard-on unless he's in some kind of pain." So according to Tony's rules, Valentina is fair game.
Furio, in Naples for his father's funeral, is faced with a similar - but far more serious - situation. When he confesses to his uncle that he's in love with his don's wife, the old man bluntly tells him to stay away from her. "The only way you could have her is if you kill the man," he warns. But back in New Jersey, the object of Furio's affections finds that she likewise fantasizes about romance between the two of them. She also finds the cash Tony stashed in the duck feed bin and helps herself to enough to make some substantial independent investments.
Carmela's feelings for Furio aren't the only unrequited pangs in the Garden State. Paulie's mother, Nucci, moves into Green Grove and finds that despite her best efforts, she can't get the other "girls" to accept her. The clique's ringleader is Cookie Cirillo, a matron from the old neighborhood, and Paulie determines that she's going to be Nucci's friend. To that end, he pays a visit to her son, Chucky, and asks him to intercede. But Cookie hangs tough, forcing Paulie to get even tougher: he sends his nephew - Little Paulie - and Benny Fazio to break Chucky's arm. Shortly afterward Cookie sees the error of her ways.
The next time Tony opens the feed bin, he notices an error, too - an accounting one. And somebody's going to pay for it.
09 - Whoever Did This
Junior was having a rough day. His trial went overtime, so he missed the Early Bird Special. Then, while hurrying through a swarm of reporters, he was hit on the head by a boom mike and sent tumbling down the courthouse steps. But that knock on the head may turn out to be a golden opportunity: his attorney decides to use it to get the charges against him dismissed, via a claim of reduced mental capacity. As Tony puts it, all Junior has to do is "act oobatz" and his legal problems will be over.
But while things were looking up for Junior, they got as bad as it gets for Ralph. His 12-year-old son, Justin, is gravely injured while playing with a bow and arrow. In response, a grief-and-guilt-stricken Ralph does some serious soul searching, even going so far as to visit Father Intintola. He tells the priest, "I've done things in my life that I shouldn't of done and (God's) making my son pay for it." In an attempt to make amends, Ralph asks Rosalie Aprile to marry him (she declines) and starts a scholarship fund in memory of Jackie Aprile, Junior.
Is this change for real? Possibly. But Ralph's not around long enough to tell. After a suspicious fire at the stable causes the death of Pie-O-My, Tony is certain that Ralph is responsible. He shows up at Ralph's place, accusing him of having Pie-O-My killed for the insurance money. Although Ralph vehemently denies it, he's not exactly shedding tears over Pie-O-My's demise. "It's an animal," he tells Tony, "This is a hundred grand apiece."
While the Lord may mete out punishment by proxy, Tony Soprano delivers his directly. He launches his fist into Ralph's face, so hard it knocks Ralph across the room. Ralph comes back at him and the fight the two of them have long been spoiling for finally happens. It's down-and-dirty and to the death...of Ralph.
Tony enlists Christopher to help dispose of the body, explaining that when he came to Ralph's place, he was already dead. Even though he's high as a kite, Christopher realizes that Ralph's disappearance could have serious consequences. "People could take it the wrong way," he tells Tony. Locking him in his gaze, Tony says, "You're the only other one that knows about it."
But, in Tony's world, just what does that mean?
10 - The Strong, Silent Type
Where is Ralph Cifaretto?
If there were a "New Jersey Wiseguy's FAQ," that's the question that would top it. Ralph hasn't been seen in days - not even at the hospital, where his son is still on a respirator - and not everybody's convinced that Tony's as equally in the dark as they are. In fact, while sharing a meal with Silvio and Patsy, Albert Barese dares to say out loud what the others won't: "What next? We get clipped for wearing the wrong shoes?"
So while Ralph remains officially AWOL, but Tony's Neapolitan soldier is back from his father's funeral. Furio shows up at the Soprano house, bearing souvenirs for A.J. and "Maedo," but, to her great disappointment, nothing for Carmela. Even though Furio's trying to keep his distance, Carmela finds herself ever more drawn to him. "He looks at me like I'm beautiful," she tearfully confesses to Rosalie Aprile. But having been down that road herself - she once cheated on her late husband - Rosalie gives her friend some sage, if unwanted, advice: "If you haven't slept with him yet, don't."
Carmela's not the only one being told what she doesn't want to hear. Christopher's heroin habit can no longer be ignored. Junior, considering what Christopher might tell the FBI if they got hold of him, advises Tony to "put him out of his misery." But Tony opts instead for an intervention, led by an old acquaintance who is a recovering alcoholic. When the confrontation ends up in a brawl, Tony takes on his nephew alone. He explains to Christopher that the only reason he's still alive is because, "you're my nephew and I love you...anybody else would've had their fuckin' intervention right through the back of their head." Christopher promptly checks into a rehab center in Pennsylvania.
And what about Ralph? Tony eventually comes up with a plausible and adroit explanation - courtesy of Johnny Sack. The New York under boss tries to shake Tony down for a share of the proceeds of the H.U.D. scam. Tony, in response, gathers his guys together and tells them that he thinks he knows who's responsible for their missing capo:
"It was New York."
11 - Calling All Cars
Tim Van Patten
Robin Green & Mitchell Burgess and David Chase and David Flebotte
The mood in the back room of Carmine's social club was anything but social. Carmine and Johnny had just informed Tony that they wanted forty percent of the H.U.D. scam take. "We share Zellman," Carmine tells him, "Therefore any of the fruits of Zellman we're entitled to." Tony storms off, but later phones them with an offer of five and a half, which Carmine deems "unacceptable." To emphasize his point, Carmine has his guys rough up Tony's building appraiser. Angry and exasperated, Tony goes to Miami to discuss the matter with Carmine's son, Little Carmine. Lupertazzi the younger assures Tony that he appreciates his dilemma and will "look into" the situation. "Fair enough," Tony tells him, "But . . . if the proper response isn't forthcoming, and in a businesslike time-frame, my next move will not be further conversation."
Back in Jersey, things aren't looking so good for Junior. Judge Runions denies his claim of mental incompetence, meaning the trial will continue. Bobby Bacala assures his boss that he has everything under control. "We'll get to a juror," he says, "We're working very hard." But as stable as Bobby is professionally, he's having trouble on the domestic front. His grief for Karen is unabated and Janice is tried waiting for him to let go of "his dead, idealized wife." She manipulates Bobby into believing it's time to move on - and so in a symbolic gesture, he finally agrees to let Janice serve Karen's last baked ziti.
While Janice is forging a new relationship, her brother is ending one. In a session with Dr. Melfi, Tony is more disillusioned by therapy than he's ever been. Although Melfi points out the progress he's made in their four years together - the easing of his panic attacks and severest bouts of depression - Tony remains unconvinced. "You're no longer interested in changing?" she asks him, "In finding a way out?" After a thoughtful pause, Tony answers:
"No. I guess not."
12 - Eloise
It wasn't the first time there was an I-won't-be-coming-to-work message left on the Bada Bing's answering machine. But it was the first time there was one from Furio. What he said was that he was returning to Italy - and not coming back. What he didn't say was why: that his growing affection for Carmela was inspiring murderous impulses towards his boss.
But his boss can ill afford to lose one of his top guys right now, even one who fantasizes about killing him. Tony's plan to use Little Carmine to smooth things with the elder Carmine backfired, and relations between New York and New Jersey are rapidly deteriorating. When Carmine refuses to compromise on the H.U.D. split, Tony has the old don's new restaurant "redecorated" with spray paint and box cutters.
While Tony contends with Carmine, Carmela faces a more personal crisis. Furio's departure leaves her depressed and angry, causing her to pick fights with her family, especially her daughter. When Carmela and Meadow go to the Plaza Hotel to have tea beneath the portrait of Eloise - an annual tradition - they have a large helping of recriminations with their finger sandwiches. Carmela berates Meadow for the "superior attitude" she's adopted since going to Columbia. Stung, Meadow gives as good as she gets. "Would you rather I go to Montclair State?" she asks, "Then maybe I could drop out like you did."
There is fighting among the members of Tony's professional family as well. When Silvio warns Paulie that "certain people are starting to wonder where your heart is," Paulie's response is to call Silvio a "wormy cocksucker" and storm off. He then goes to see Carmine, but is mortified to discover that the New York boss doesn't know who he is. Now desperate to get back on Tony's good side, Paulie burglarizes the home of an elderly woman he knows keeps large sums of cash. To Paulie's dismay, she catches him in the act and he quiets her by smothering her with a pillow. The next day, he delivers a fat envelope to Tony.
Tony can certainly use the money, since Carmine retaliated for the restaurant vandalism by shutting down construction of the Esplanade. But Johnny Sack is hurting, too, and he has a solution. "Carmine won't bend," the frustrated under boss tells Tony, "But if something should happen to him..."
13 - Whitecaps
Robin Green & Mitchell Burgess and David Chase
"I have no choice but to declare a mistrial."
With the possible exception of "Hi, I'm Angie Dickinson and here's my phone number," those are the nine sweetest words Junior Soprano could ever hope to hear. And ironically, after months of complicated - and expensive - legal maneuvers, Junior ultimately gained his freedom the old-fashioned way: by threatening one of the jurors.
Junior's not the only member of the Soprano family getting a new lease on life. Fresh out of rehab, Christopher is clean and sober, with "strengths I have that I didn't even know I had." He's going to need those strengths, because Tony and Johnny Sack have taken on a huge project: eliminating Carmine. Eager to usurp the old don, Johnny offers Tony some attractive financial inducements to help him. So Tony instructs Christopher to get it done.
With Christopher managing the Carmine project, Tony can focus on domestic matters. Carmela has been sick and depressed, and Tony decides to snap her out of it by buying a house at the shore. "It's for the family," he tells her. Genuinely touched, Carmela begins to come out of her funk - until she gets a phone call from Tony's old goomara, Irina. "Tony loves me," Irina sobs, "If it wasn't for his kids, you would be out on street."
When Tony gets home, his golf clubs have been thrown onto the driveway and Carmela is fully prepared to do the same to him. "You've made a fool of me for years with these whores," she screams, "And now it's come into our home?!" All of Tony's usual tactics to mollify her are useless. He ends up moving into another part of the house, sleeping - or trying to - alone, on an inflatable bed.
The air mattress and his disintegrating marriage aren't the only things keeping Tony awake nights. Uncomfortable with the plan to kill Carmine, Tony phones Christopher and calls it off, explaining, "Our friend's a little too quick to hand off the ball." When Tony breaks the news to Johnny, the New York under boss is furious. "John," Tony says, "I still consider you a dear, dear friend." It's clear, however, that those feelings aren't reciprocated.
But, by far, Tony's most endangered relationship is with Carmela. The season ends with Tony moving out of their home and into a hotel. Where he goes from there remains to be seen.