In another unfortunate scene, Hesh, his Puerto Rican aide, Tony, Christopher and the nephew of Paulie Walnuts are talking in the horse barn at Hesh's place. The conversation about Columbus day degenerates into a free-for-all in which each guy vouches for his ethnicity while calling attention to the historical shortcomings of the ethnicities of everyone else. I understand Chase's point - that once you tattoo yourself with identity politics, you can't divorce yourself from your chosen interest group when it becomes inconvenient - but the scene really felt contrived, and not at all within the bounds of what we might expect from the characters involved (Hesh, for instance, has never been the ADL card-carrying Jew. If anything, he's been self-deprecating. For him to start throwing out anti-Semitism charges at his aid for likening Columbus to Hitler rang really hollow). I was really disappointed that we didn't see more from the ex-husband of Melfi, Tony's therapist. David Chase has used the guy numerous times in previous episodes as the microphone for Italian-Americans fed up with both the mob image, and the mobsters who make that image possible. He would've been the one guy in the show who could speak on the subject and remain within the context of his character. Yet we don't see him until the end, and even then, he merely flips on a television and displays his disgust at the Columbus Day showdown.
That's not to say there weren't a few redeeming exchanges on the topic.
In the episode's opening scene, the boys are all lounging on the sidewalk in front of Satriale's meat shop when Bobby Bacala first reads of the protests in the newspaper. The fellas' in turn all weigh in on the injustice being done to Columbus when Furio - the only first-generation Italian in the bunch - says he loathes Columbus. Columbus, it seems, was from North Italy. The northern Italians have all the money, and so turn their noses up at the south. Furio spits on Columbus and his northern descendants. It was a nice - and wholly believable - turning of the tables, and a reminder that every ethnic group, no matter how loathed, can find a subset ethnic group to loathe even more.
The other saving dialogue comes at the end and, unsurprisingly, is delivered convincingly and passionately by Gandolfini. He admonishes Silvio for his constant griping about the "discrimination faced us Italians." "Look at you," Tony says, "you got a smart kid at Lakawana College, you own the best strip club in Jersey. You got a wife who's a piece of ass - or at least she was when you married her. Did you get all of that because you're Italian? No. You got it because you're you, because you're smart, because you're...whatever the fuck."