Well, once again – I apologize for the delay. Numerous issues over the past week and a half have been conspiring to prevent me from getting this done. Not the least of which was the fact that I was somewhat underwhelmed by this episode. I respect David Chase’s commitment to ignoring the conventions of serial television, but every so often, I wish he would just the audience what they want. I had many of the same complaints about Joss Whedon back in his “Buffy” days, even though that was my favorite series of all time.
ANYway… so here we are, in the final episode of the first half of the last season. (Wow, that is confusing, isn’t it?) A lot of people are referring to it as “finale” – umm, no, not when there are 8 more episodes this season. (They will start in January 2007.) As such, it should not be judged by the usual season/series finale criteria: rather, it’s a significant mid-point, but we know we’ll be seeing new shows in 6 months, which in Sopranos term is just a slight hiatus.
So, let’s see how we leave off the boys in Jersey. Make sure you read to the very end, where I give my prediction about how the series will wrap up. And be sure to either email me your own thoughts or post them in the forum.
Previously on The Sopranos:
- Carmela talks to Tony about seeing Adrianna’s mother
- Meadow tells her parents that she’s moving out to California with Finn
- Vito makes contact with Tony and asks to get “back in”
- Phil finds out about Vito, and is convinced that Phil is directly challenging his authority
- Fat Dom Gamiello talks smack to Carlo and Silvio, until Carlo stabs him to death
- Tony gets a construction job for AJ, and forcefully makes him point that not showing up is not an option
Episode 77: Kaisha:
Directed by: Alan Taylor
Written by: Terence Winter & David Chase & Matthew Weiner
Carlo pulls up to an empty house in… well, somewhere near the ocean, I think. He pulls a package out a fridge in the garage, which contains the head of Alfredo Garcia. No, no – I’m kidding. Of course, it’s Fat Dom’s head. Looking a rather unhealthy shade of blue. (Of course, not as unhealthy as the fact that it’s not attached to the rest of his body.) Carlo drives up I-95 with it, and drops into a sewer (of course, it can’t go smoothly – it gets stuck, and Carlo has to kick it a few times to get it to fit through. Lovely visual.) He calls Sil and lets him know it’s done. (Oh, it was in Connecticut.)
We then shift to Sheepshead, where Phil is playing some kind of evening activity with his little blonde housekeeper. It probably didn’t include a huge explosion: but that gets on the itinerary in a hurry, when Phil’s wire room blows up in a huge ball of flame. (Phil and the blonde are still outside when it goes up.)
Tony, apparently visiting a new goomah (who we do not get a good look at), gets a call from Benny letting him know about the Sheepshead job. Benny even holds his cell phone out the car window, so Tony can hear the ambience. Benny also lets Tony know that Phil was nearby, and “got knocked on his keister.”
Tony signs the official papers for the real estate sale to Jamba Juice, and apologizes to Julianna for what happened the night he signed the last set of papers. Julianna excepts his apology, but declines his offer for dinner.
Christopher and Kelli are picking out colors for the baby’s room, but Chris is very nervous about doing it so early. Kelli: “Honey, I’m not Adrianna. I’m healthy, our baby’s healthy.”
Carmela is walking down a hospital corridor, holding flowers. We find out that she’s there to visit Liz LaCerva (Adrianna’s Mom). And in an interesting twist, Liz has wrist restraints on (and looks to be heavily sedated). Back at home, Carmela tells Tony that Liz tried to kill herself (“pills”) because she got a letter from the Salvation Army for Adrianna, and it set her off. Tony: “Her daughter couldn’t stand her, so she moved away!” Carm: “That’s what you say to me two weeks after our own daughter moves away to California?” Carmela apologizes, but blames it on all the stress in her life: the spec house, the dreams about Adrianna, Meadow moving, etc.
Thanksgiving day at the Soprano’s, and Tony, Chris, and Bobby are watching football on TV. Tony starts giving Chris a hard time about finding a new goomah while his wife is pregnant. Chris: “The playground’s closed! A man has his needs.” Bobby asks why Chris doesn’t bring her around, and Chris tells them that she’s black, and he wouldn’t want to listen to all of Paulie’s “racial bullshit.”
We get to see AJ on the job – and holy crap, he’s actually working (apparently as a laborer). Paulie makes a visit, and picks up a check from Blanca Selgado, the Hispanic administrative assistant on the jobsite. And it’s immediate obvious that the appropriate word for AJ’s reaction to her is “smitten”.
Christopher is gettin’ busy with his new goomah, and oh – she’s not black. In fact, she’s Julianna, the real estate agent. Well, no wonder he doesn’t bring her around the guys much. They get into an immediate uncomfortable discussion. Julianna: “How can you even like a person who sleeps with a married guy?” Chris: “Can we not talk about it? I rushed in with her. I thought I wanted it.”
Tony and Phil have a sitdown, which is mediated by… Little Carmine? Oh, this should be precious. “Certain incidents have expired recently that, in addition to being dangerous, could have an adverse reaction to our bottom lines.” Phil: “I know Vito’s bottom was impacted, if that’s what you’re referring to.” Tony reminds Phil that Vito was a Captain, and a good earner. This brings up the topic of Fat Dom Gamiello, who both Tony and Sil claim to know nothing about. Phil: “As coincidence would have it, he was last seen in New Jersey.” Tony: “So was the Hindenberg. Maybe you want to look into that too.” Carmine reminds everyone that all of the trouble is costing everyone money, and both Tony and Phil agree to move forward. Carmine, not knowing when to just shut up, starts mentioning all of the things that should be ignored: “the no-shows, the Wire room, Vito.” And then Carmine really screws up by mentioning Phil’s brother Billy, “whatever happened there.” This absolutely sets Phil off, who storms out of the room. Tony: “Jesus Christ, Carmine – what the f*ck? Why would you possibly bring that up?”
AJ is hanging out at a bar after work with some guys from the jobsite, and catches site of Blanca, who comes over to talk to him. She basically dares him to ask her out, and he accepts. She then informs him of her three year old son, Hector – which AJ takes in stride. So, she writes down 6 numbers of her phone number: “You want to find me, you’re gonna have to work for it.”
Tony calls Julianna at her office, and asks about a warehouse that’s for sale. “I’m thinking: if you get the seller to knock something meaningful off the asking, I fix it, you flip it.” J: “You’re serious about this?” T: “What, you never do shit like that?” J: “I’ll get back to you.”
Then, we switch to… hmm, looks like an AA meeting (or something similar). Julianna is talking about the night with Tony – confessing, really. She also admits to having done “junk” in the past. The camera pans around the circle of folks, and – well, hey, there’s Christopher. Oooh – it’s a flashback. Chris introduces himself to her outside. (She mentions that she’s never heard Chris talk in one of the meetings – guess that’s not too surprising.) She somewhat recognizes him, and he reminds her that he was sitting outside Satriale’s when she first introduced herself to Tony. Chris invites her out for coffee, and she accepts. I’m not sure they actually make it to the coffee itself, though – we see them going at it just outside a diner in her car.
Carmela comes back from some sort of Christmas toy drive, and tells Tony that she talked to someone there who works for a private investigation firm. She then suggests that they hire professionals to track down Adrianna – obviously, Tony is less than thrilled with the concept. “Did you ever think that maybe it’s an intrusion into Aid’s personal life?” She presses the issues — enough that Tony immediately goes to visit Sil, and tell him to fix any problems with her spec house. “For all our sakes: my wife needs a career.” While there, he also gets holiday well wishes from Ahmed and Mohammed. (Okay, first – do these guys ever leave the Bada Bing? And secondly, when is something actually going to happen with their storyline? They better turn out to be Feds, or actual terrorists, or something)
Julianna and Tony meet at the warehouse, where they spend a few moments discussing the building – before Tony starts inquiring about Julianna’s fiancee. She tells him to forget all about it, and “move on” – then storms out of the building.
Well, it looks like Chris has shared his “Cleaver” script with Julianna – who actually seems to like it. She asks how similar the boss in the storyline is to Tony Soprano, and Chris says it’s just “a jumping off point”, though there are some similarities. Chris mentions that he’s somewhat uncomfortable about her past with Tony, though she insists that nothing ever happened. She gets upset; he walks up behind her; she says: “I’m not a f*cking parking spot.” He responds by yanking her around by her hair and kissing her – which she responds to by tossing him down on the couch, kneeling between his legs, undoing his belt, and…
Next scene, we see Phil and his Capos talking about what to do with Tony. One of the Capos, Butch DeConcini, is completely ready to start a war: “Far as I’m concerned, this is like 9/11. Tony wanted our attention? Fine, he got our attention. Now we wipe him off the planet.” Phil agrees to a point, but backs off the idea of killing Tony, a Boss. Butch: “Eye for an eye then, huh? Pick somebody over there!”
Christopher tells Murmur outside of an NA (Narcotics Anonymous) meeting about his involvement with Julianna, and also tells him that she’s a former heroin user. Murmur: “That last run you went on, beginning with the Feast? How hard you had to work to get back from that? Civilians – their bosses find out they slip they get a plane ticket to Minnesota. Tony will f*cking mulch his roses with what’s left of you.” Christopher insists that he’s better with her (“she won’t even let me drink Red Bull”), and that they’re helping to keep each other clean.
Meanwhile, Julianna is meeting with her sponsor, and talking about the same situation. “Another married man?” Julianna admits that he’s connected, and it turns out the sponsor is from north Jersey: “Those people, like his boss – they are sociopaths. Murderers, actually.”
AJ and Blanca are at her place, watching “The 40 Year Virgin” on DVD, when loud music starts playing outside. Blanca worries that it’s going to wake up her son – which of course, it does. Turns out there are 3 punks out front with a radio: “My ex used to go down and kick their asses, but… now they’re back.” AJ is unable to ignore this direct challenge to his manhood, so he puts on his boots and jacket, storms outside… and sees that he’s outnumbered. So, he goes to his car… and offers the three of them his bike if they hang out somewhere. They accept, and move on – hey, good business sense kid. And AJ gets his payment from Blanca with some hot female-on-top lovin’.
Christopher decides that Julianna is way too sick (very bad cold) to go out, and offers to go buy her some Robitussin. She refuses, since it’s got dextromethorphan, a form of narcotic, in it. (That’s true – if you’re an alcoholic or recovering junkie, there are certain drugs you can’t take – Robitussin, Nyquil, etc. Frighteningly enough, getting high off of Robitussin is more common than you’d think – it’s called “tussin'”. I would very seriously NOT recommend it – I know a guy who ended up paraplegic after taking too much and passing out bent backwards over a bathtub.) She suggests picking up some valerian tea instead: she claims that putting 8 or 9 tea bags in a cup is equivalent to taking a valium.
Tony and AJ are putting up the family Christmas tree, when Carmela walks in and finds a letter from the building department, letting her know that her spec house can being work again. “Tony, is this you? This is the best Christmas present I could ever get!”
Phil and his wife are discussing plans for the Christmas meal, with Phil asking her not to bug him: “I got a tightness in my chest, up by the esophagus.” Apparently, it gets bad enough that he checks himself into the emergency room, where the doctor insists that he’s fine, and that it’s probably gas.
Chris and Julianna meet…umm, somewhere very desolate. And, it appears the ability to stay clean has gone away – shown very clearly by the fact that they are smoking heroin in the car. Well, I guess Murmur was right about the “enabling” possibility.
Phil’s wife wakes up in the middle of the night, to discover him gasping for breath: “I’m dyin’! My heart!” She ruses him to the emergency room, where he collapses in the arms of the same doctor he talked to the last time.
Murmur finds Tony, Paulie and Sil at the Bada Bing, and lets them know about Phil’s heart attack (“a big one, apparently”). Tony decides to actually celebrate, and buys everyone a drink. Even Paulie is shocked.
Uncle Junior gets visited by Bobby Bacala at the asylum, and is thrilled to see someone. However, Bobby is only there to return the money Junior sent as a gift for the holidays. Bobby insists he can’t accept it, and really shouldn’t even be there. And obviously, Junior’s mental state hasn’t improved much. Junior: “I know a few things you don’t. Like maybe I wasn’t acting alone.” Bobby: “Junior, JFK was 40 years ago!” Junior: “That’s all I’ll say about that.”
Tony catches sight of Chris talking to Julianna outside of Satriale’s. Chris says that she’s a friend of “Kaisha”, his new black goomah. Chris: “She was just now asking me what to get Kaisha for her birthday.” Tony: “What’d you tell her.” Chris: “Luthor Vandross, the box set.”
Back at Julianna’s place – well, these two are really, really freaking high. They have a very stereotypical addict conversation about how great it is that they’re leading normal lives, and can still use. Julianna: “For one thing, we don’t use needles.” Umm, yeah – just a matter of time, babe. Christopher decides that telling Tony about the two of them would be a good idea, to stop Tony from looking into the matter too serious (if he finds out they met in AA, then starts to think Chris might be using again, etc.) So, he does just that, outside the Bing. Chris: “Point is, I want everything above board, as always, with you and me.” BWAAHAHA… how does he manage to say that with a straight face?
We find out how Tony really feels about that in Melfi’s office, when he complains about actually not having an affair, and then having his nephew sleep with her. She tells him that the fact that the story didn’t end with an episode of violence towards Christopher is actually a good sign. Tony (finally) makes the connection that he seems to be attracted towards a certain type of woman: “dark complexion, smart, they smell a little bit of money..”
Agent Harris drops by Satriale’s for a sandwich, and makes sure that Tony knows he’s around. Harris talks about Phil Leotardo, and lets Tony know Leotardo’s family might be looking to seek revenge on someone close to Tony. Tony thanks him for the info (“It’s Christmas”).
Chris and Julianna are sitting in a diner, while Chris takes a call from his (pregnant) wife. Julianna catches the little kiss he blows at the end of the call, and doesn’t look happy about it. They get into a conversation about the oath Chris took when he became a made man, and how he chose to use that oath as his “higher power” in AA.
Chris: “But the problem is, nobody lives it no more. Not Tony, not nobody.”
Julianna: “They let you down.”
C: “Whatever. Here I am.”
J: “Are you breaking up with me?”
(Please say yes. Please say yes. C’mon, Chris, for once in your freaking life, make the right decision. SAY YES!)
After much hesitation, they decide to go to a meeting. One moves, then pauses and waits for the other to do something, who moves, then pauses and waits, etc. Christopher decides to follow her, rather than taking one car.
Tony goes to visit Phil in the hospital, who isn’t looking real strong, but does manage to spit out, “Finally got you to come to Brooklyn, cocksucker.” Tony gets confessional, and tells Phil that he “went someplace” in his coma, and he doesn’t want to go back. “Believe me, nobody laid on their death bed, wishing they shaved more no-show jobs. You take your time. You get better. You get out of this f*ckin’ place. But when you do, you focus on the grandkids, the good things. We can have it all Phil – there’s plenty for everybody. Stop cryin’ now.” On Tony’s way out of the room, Butch purposefully walks in his path: “We gotta stop meeting like this, eh?”
And it’s Christmas day at Casa Soprano. The biggest reaction comes when AJ brings his new girlfriend Blanca, and her son. Carmela’s reaction: “Ten years older than him, and she’s Puerto Rican?” Tony: “Dominican. Maybe. At least she’s Catholic.” Meadow calls from California (so, she’s not making home – nice). We end up with everyone (Tony and Carmela; Bobby, Janice and the kids; Christopher and Kelli; AJ, Blanca and Hector) sitting in the living room, listening to Frank sign “Silent Night”.
Blanca: “You have a gorgeous home.”
Carmela: “Thank you. We do.”
(Yes, seriously – that’s how it ended. Now, do you understand why I said I was “underwhelmed”?)
So, what next?
Well, that’s the big question: how is this all going to end? I’ve seen various theories over the past year or so, almost all of them concentrated on what happens to Tony. Does he get killed, does he go to jail, does he go into witness protection, etc? He’s the boss of the family, so there’s simply no other way for him to get out of his current life – no matter what kind of self-awareness he may go through. And while some people may admire how he handled the situation with Phil, I can guarantee that will be seen as a sign of weakness by New York.
So, we may not get a full-out war, but I think some sort of attack will be coming Tony’s way. But my theory is – it won’t be directly at him. Instead, it will be at those closest to him. Christopher is an obvious choice, but I think he’ll be used in a different manner: Chris is going to end up being flipped, most likely after a heroin bust. There is absolutely no chance that Christopher will be able to handle a 20+ year sentence. It was one thing for him to turn down the offer of going into witness protection when turning it down meant killing Adrianna: it’ll be quite another when the only ways out are death or serious prison time. He’ll flip, then get down to trying to write his screenplay about life in the mob.
My hope is that they are going for a truly tragic, Shakespearean ending: one where Tony will truly have to pay for all of his sins. Or, more accurately, the ones he care about the most will have to: his children. It is entirely possible that AJ will get himself into a bad situation, and ends up with a few dozen rounds in him. But, I think there are still enough people to consider him way too annoying to be truly moved by it. But Meadow? Oh, that’s another story altogether. Her death may very well break Tony: psychologically, physically, or both.
That, I believe, would be a proper ending to the best-written show in the history of television. Agree? Disagree? Email me your own thoughts, or post them in the forum.
But do I think that’s actually going to happen? Well, since the show almost never goes in the direction I actually expect: no, probably not. But I’m rooting for it, right up until those final credits.
See you all back here in January.