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Sopranos Review of Episode 4, Season 4

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The title of this episode was “The Weight.” May as well have been “The Tease.” Writer Terence Winter tickles us with not one, but two potential hits, and a scurrilous affair between Carmela and Furio. In the end, we get nothing. Johnny “Sack” Sacramoni cancels his hit on Ralphie Cifareto at the very last moment. Johnny Sack himself comes around on making Ralphie’s unfortunate comment about his wife a hit-worthy offense. The episode ends with Johnny informing Tony that he “accepts Cifareto’s apology.” It’s not entirely clear if Tony cancels the hit on Sack. As for Carmela and Furio, she takes great pains to put checks on her lustful ambitions. She brings A.J. along, for example, when she visits Fioro’s house, and instructs him to stay close by. The episode ends with an awkward and uncomfortable lovemaking session between Tony and Carmela.

This episode was mostly an effort to subvert public fantasies about mob life. We see Johnny Sack display the kind of chivalry we sort of delude ourselves into thinking exists in the underworld. Yeah, wiseguys gun one another down. Yeah, they take mistresses, deal dope, and embezzle. But the do have a moral code, right? They value loyalty. They may cheat on their wives, but they still love them. They take vows of fidelity to the Family, and they respect other made men. This episode rocks those alleged foundations.

Sack’s love and respect for his wife earns him nothing but grief from his fellow mafiosos. Ralphie’s crack about the size of her ass was by no means the first time someone’s made a joke at Ginny Sack’s expense. And when Johnny demands that Ralphie get whacked for the crack, not only does Carmine, the boss he’s served most of his life not oblige, but Carmine then turns and orders a hit on his number one guy? Why? Because “there’s millions of dollars at stake.” Winter’s reminding us here that the motivating factor in the underworld isn’t loyalty or chivalry or Family, it’s money. And not even a lot. Sure, the Newark waterfront project is worth “millions,” but it isn’t as if Ralphie is the only guy who can manage it. At most, it’d cost a few thousand to reposition a new capo to oversee the operation.

Tony’s then put in the position of arranging a hit on a guy he respects in order to protect a sleazebag he doesn’t respect in the least. But as a don, he has no choice but to protect his capos. He has to kill a guy who stuck up for his wife in order to spare a guy who just walked out on his best friend’s widow and who’s been sleeping with his sister. So, again, money trumps all the other values Tony would like to think he holds dear.

This of course brings lots of cries and calls about “the way things used to be.” “Used to be a crack like that about another guy’s wife would get him killed,” Uncle Junior says. But the old guard isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, either. Let’s not forget that Carmine, who ordered the hit on Johnny Sack, was himself a member of the “old guard.” And Winter’s takes more shots at “the way things used to be” when he sends Sil and Christopher out to Rhode Island to hire a squad of geriatric assassins to carry out Johnny Sack’s hit. They come on Uncle Junior’s recommendation, but they prove to be doddering old fools with bad or no eyesight.

In the end, Winters seems eager to emphasize that there’s really nothing redeeming about this lifestyle. Fittingly, the episode ends with Tony coming home and throwing himself onto Carmela, the half of his life he (usually) finds rewarding.

But even that side of life is tainted by the mob side. The theme of money trumping other values again rears its ugly head. In an earlier argument with Carmela, Tony offends her when he pays no heed to her questions about the family’s financial health should something happen to him. She breaks into tears when he mocks her concerns. Angry, he scolds her for “equating love with money.” Of course, he’s projecting. It’s Tony who binds love and money, and Carmela quickly points this out to him. That’s the way his Family works (it’s all hugs and cheek kisses with his capos — until the spigot stops flowing — then he gets angry), so that’s the really the only way he knows to run his small-“f” family as well. Just before his argument with Carmela, in fact, Tony had paid a surprise visit to Meadow while he was in New York. They too get into an argument when Tony raises his concerns over Meadow’s newfound interest in a campus legal aid society. When Meadow erupts and says, “you know, the world doesn’t revolve around you,” Tony folds. “How ’bout we visit the bookstore,” he says. “I bet you could use a new sweatshirt.” Likewise, Tony precedes his amorous come-on to Carmela with the gift of a slinky new Nieman-Marcus cocktail dress.

I had some problems (as did the Slate crew) with the plot coincidences in this episode. Seemed a little farfetched that Meadow and Tony’s shrink Melfi’s son and Melfi’s shrink Elliot’s daughter all go the same school. Even more farfetched that Meadow and Elliot’s daughter would have met over a common interest in legal aid. Even more farfetched that Melfi’s son and Elliot’s daughter would have dated (especially considering the cartoonishly lesbian appearance of the latter). Even more farfetched that Elliot would have been visiting his daughter the same day Tony was visiting Meadow, and that the two would have bumped into one another in the parking garage. Eep.

That said, this was still the most fun episode of the new season. Lots of intrigue and suspense. The turnaround hit ordered on Johnny Sack was a welcome twist. Furio’s best impression of a harlequin romance hero was priceless. And Edie Falco’s less-than-enthusiastic coitus session with Tony was some marvelous, marvelous acting.

Best lines:

“Maybe it was the feds…you know…trying to sow the seeds of dysentery between the families.”
–Christopher, speculating on who’s leaking Soprano Family secrets to the New York family.

“He thinks he’s all high and mighty, like a regular Sir Walter Raleigh.”
–Ralphie, referring to Johnny Sack.

“He needs to remember who makes the money to keep that fat bitch in Devil Dogs.”
–Ralphie, again referring to Johnny and Ginny Sack.

“Ralphie wants to fuck Ginny?”
–Carmine, misinterpreting Johnny’s complaints about Ralphie “dishonoring” his wife.

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About Radley Balko

  • Terry

    Does anyone know the title and artist of the song that Carmella and Furio dance to at Furio’s house-warming party? Thank you very much.

  • Adam Lounsbery

    “Seemed a little farfetched that Meadow and Tony’s shrink Melfi’s son and Melfi’s shrink Elliot’s daughter all go the same school.”

    Actually, they don’t. Meadow and Saskia (Elliot’s daughter) both attend Columbia, but Melfi’s son Jason attends Bard College (David Chase’s alma mater).

  • Boris

    The music from that episode, for those who are
    interested, was from a band from Naples,
    Spaccanapoli. Their only CD, containing those and
    other songs is available from Amazon.

  • http://www.ozemail.com.au/~mrmob/index.html MrMOB

    The “doddering old fools with bad or no eyesight” were handed a photograph of Johnny Sack & Tony and told that their target was the guy on the left. I suggest there’s a chance that when the hit is finally done, they might go for the wrong person: after all, it is the whacko son who’ll actually carry out the contract, and he didn’t look too bright. And he’s being led by senile old fools who can’t see. This could lead to a very amusing and confusing set up some time down the track.

  • Nelson Donley

    The Sopranos series supplies what was missing in the Godfather trillogy. I have yet to see a series half as good as The Sopranos. Bravo to Tony Soprano. He’s presented as a king; even the clothes he wears are kingly. In stature he resembles Eduard Manet’s painting “The Rag Picker” in that he is a common man with royal attributes. Tony Soprano is a very nice, down to earth guy. You’d love him as a neighbor. And just like a king, he’s powerful in many ways, yet impotent in many other ways. That’s why he sees a shrink.

    Nelson Donley

  • stanley

    what date did the season 4 sopranos