Pax Soprano (Season 1, Episode 6, The Sopranos)
Written by Frank Renzulli
After ‘College,’ which focuses so closely on Tony and Carmela with a minimal number of supporting characters, settling in to ‘Pax Soprano’ I was thankful to have Junior and Livia back (we don’t get much from Christopher this week).
Junior is flexing his muscles as the new boss. Mikey Palmice roughs up the host of a poker game, announcing that Junior is not respecting old arrangement – only problem: the game is connected to Jimmy Altieri. Then, based on hearing the sad fate of his tailor’s grandson, Junior tasks Mikey with taking care of Rusty Irish, who sold the designer drugs that led to the grandson’s suicide. Irish is tossed into the Falls – only problem: Irish is one of Larry Boy Barese’s best earners. Then, Junior takes Livia’s suggestion to tax Hesh – only problem: Hesh has a special arrangement with Tony as he had with Johnny Boy Soprano.
To solve the problems Junior is causing, Tony talks with John Sacrimoni (who we meet for the first time). The result is an elaborate but fake sit down where everyone except Junior is in on the deception. The strategy is all Tony’s: Junior gets points and back tax from Hesh (though less than he originally asked for) and he shares it with the five bosses.
The second main plot line is Tony and his women. Having been on Prozac for a while now, Tony is experiencing diminished libido which, in addition to unsolicited fashion advice, is causing friction between him and Irina. Carmela is upset with him because he excuses himself from their anniversary dinner to have a quick chat with John Sacrimoni. And, Dr. Melfi (who is still being followed by Vin Makazian) is appearing in Tony’s dreams.
Dr. Melfi suggests that maybe by coming clean with her (an Italian woman) Tony is coming clean with the other Italian women in his life (Meadow, Carmela and Livia). But is he? Later on in the episode, when talking to Melfi, he tells her it’s Carmela who’s responsible for the burn he got when Irina threw the candle at him.
Tony turns the question around on Melfi, “Why do you have me as patient? Most legit people I know, they’d go a hundred miles out of their way not to make eye contact with me. But you…you didn’t flinch.”
It’s an important question. Is Dr. Melfi (like the audience) being seduced by a sociopath?
Towards the end of the episode, we see Tony and Carmela sitting by the pool. It’s a beautiful day. They’re not fighting. Carmela tells Tony is that the reason that she is jealous of Melfi is that she wants to be the person in his life that helps him. Tony, hanging on her every word, announces, “Carm, you’re just not in my life – you are my life.” I’m watching and I’m hanging on Tony’s every word and I believe what he’s saying. And, then I remember, he just recently professed his love to Melfi, “I love you. I’m in love with you. I dream about you. I think about you all the time.”
It’s a natural as breathing for Tony Soprano. The deception is breath taking.
We’re given an alternative interpretation that Tony’s declaration of love for Melfi is the result of the therapy from Melfi herself. What he’s feeling is a natural result of her listening and being gentle and giving him what he doesn’t get from the other women in his life. And as much as I want to believe that what he’s saying to Carmela is true, Tony is a man of appetites (remember he was willing to drive like a maniac chasing down Petrulio in ‘College’ even though Meadow was in the car and obviously freaked out). While he may even believe that Carmela ‘is’ his life in the moment, he is saying what needs to be said in order to keep the peace.
Pax Soprano contains a surreal encounter between Carmela and Father Phil. Carmela, seemingly having wiped from her hard drive the overnight encounter with Father Phil, shares that she is jealous of Dr. Melfi because if not a sexual relationship, it is an intimate relationship. Father Phil also seems to have forgotten the treacherous waters into which his ‘ziti jones’ led him and counsels, “You know Carm, we reap what we sow.” He won’t allow her to continue talking about divorce, encourages her to pray and notes “You’re not without sin in this Carmela.” Really, Monsignor Jughead?
No Good Deed Goes Unpunished
The biscotti Tony brings Livia in this episode gets a slightly warmer reaction than the macaroons in ‘Meadowlands’ – once she’s determined they have almonds. I love the way she yells, “Bring the cookies!” when she and Tony head down for coffee.
When Tony asks Irina how work is going, she’s completely bewildered and asks, “Since when do you care about my job?” to which Tony responds, “Can’t I be nice?” Throughout the series, there are several examples of how Tony just really isn’t interested in the details of other people’s lives. Irina seems to understand at least this much about Tony.
After the anniversary dinner fight, Carmela buys a truckload of Roche Bobois furniture. Tony always ‘pays’ for his mistakes with Carmela. We’ll see this again when Meadow is off at college and Carmela meets with the Dean.
“These guys today…they want to be buried in their jogging outfits.” Junior Soprano
“How much complaining can you do? Eventually they find you with a broken hip.” Livia Soprano
“If you were a dildo, we wouldn’t be fighting.” Irina Peltsen
“I’ve eaten more queens than Lancelot.” Salvatore “Big Pussy” Bonpensiero
“Chasing skirt your average was .500.” Junior Soprano
College (Season 1, Episode 5, The Sopranos)
Meadowlands (Season 1, Episode 4, The Sopranos)
Denial, Anger, Acceptance (Season 1, Episode 3, The Sopranos)
46 Long (Season 1, Episode 2, The Sopranos)
The Sopranos (Season 1, Episode 3, The Sopranos)
Watch along with me (affiliate link): The Sopranos: The Complete First Season