The Legend of Tennessee Moltisanti (Season 1, Episode 8, The Sopranos)
Written by David Chase, Frank Renzulli
“You ever feel like nothin’ good was ever gonna happen to you?”
Christopher poses this question to Paulie who answers, “Yeah and nothing ever did. So what?”
In the last episode Melfi and Tony talk about choice and predestination, in The Legend of Tennessee Moltisanti, Christopher yearns to be taken seriously and desires to do more than just survive. In addition to his day job, he’s got a stolen laptop and a script-writing software program with which he hopes to put together a script to share with his cousin’s girlfriend who works in Hollywood.As Christopher struggles with screenplay, he is equally as troubled by his own lack of a story arc in his life.
Plus, he’s having nightmares where Emil Kolar haunts him with the enigmatic “In the Czech Republic, too, we love pork. You ever had our sausages?” as well as a more direct message that Christopher made a mistake in the disposal of the body that will, well, come back to haunt him.
In spite of Big Pussy’s darkly humorous blend of fatherly and murderous advice regarding the nightmare, “the more you do, the better you sleep,” which, not surprisingly, fails to comfort, Christopher sinks deeper into his depression.
He’s also dealing with self esteem issues, not getting the recognition within the crew or from Tony for what he’s done. It comes up in discussions with Jimmy, Georgie, Paulie and boils over when he feels slighted by the young bakery clerk.
Christopher’s arc is, in fact, being developed and it may be that consciously he doesn’t realize it but subconsciously he does. For as his script’s dialogue suggests, “I must be loyle [sic] to my capo,” he is making a choice that will affect his life.
His depression continues to deepen during the episode but Christopher doesn’t seem to know how to express what’s going on – he tells Tony he thinks he may have cancer. Tony recognizes that Christopher is depressed and uses their time in the car to determine if Christopher is suicidal.
Nothing lifts a blue mood than having your name mentioned in the paper. And the way it unfolds with Christopher getting the news from his mother that his name is in the Star Ledger, is very sweetly done.
Larry Boy Barese shares the news that they may be facing federal indictments due to a tip he’s received. The Soprano capos circle around Junior waiting for him to give orders on what the next move should be. They’re all shocked when Junior brushes it off with, “You guys see indictments under your bed at night.” Raymond Curto tries to guide him with a “Better safe than sorry, no?” Junior maintains his position and gets annoyed when they turn to Tony to get some direction. Tony does his best to help Junior save face, with the suggestion that Junior probably wants everyone to do a little “spring cleaning.” An annoyed Junior snaps, “That was my next comment.” On that note, all the capos grab their wives and kids, making a mass exodus from the reception – Big Pussy even grabs back the envelope he gave to the bride and groom.
The indictments serve to prove out Tony’s strategy of making Junior the boss. All of the capos do their spring cleaning, Pussy burning papers at the grill (the actress playing his wife later will be replaced by Toni Kalem) and we get to see Tony and Carmela go through what looks to be a well-practiced drill of grabbing the stashed cash, guns, and jewelry (for which there are no receipts).
“I am nobody’s darling!”
Watching Livia interact is so entertaining. There seems to be no reason for her to be so offended by Larry Boy Barese calling her darling, but she doesn’t back down and asks (almost within ear shot of his wife) “Are you still seeing other women, Lorenzo?”
It’s interesting that Carmela seems to be the only one who can handle her and overcome all the button pushing. When Carmela comes to take her to brunch (in order to give Tony a chance to secretly hide the stash of guns and money) she refuses to be baited by Livia’s fishing as to her motive (speculation that Meadow has an eating disorder, or that Tony must be cheating on her again, or that Tony can’t handle the coming indictments). She sternly brushes them off and points out matter-of-factly that soon the restaurant will stop serving.
With all the activity surrounding the indictment and the number of scenes focusing on Christopher, the most important thing that happens in the episode is Livia finally finding an opportunity to let Junior know that Tony is seeing a psychiatrist. This will have serious implications in the episodes to come.
This episode’s poor you moment (not in a sarcastic way but rather a sincere way) goes to Jason LaPenna, son of Dr. Jennifer Melfi and Richard LaPenna (who are now divorced). The scenes of Dr. Melfi outside the office (we saw her before on a date), are a contrast to the person she is when in the role of therapist. In Pax Soprano, Tony tells Melfi that she’s gentle, soft, “like a mandolin.” Outside of the office, Melfi is windy, loud, and shrill. She doesn’t talk so much as lecture and rant.
Jason LaPenna comes across as a very likable kid. At the dinner table when Richard suggests that all most Americans think about when they hear the word Italian is The Godfather and Goodfellas, Jason softly says “good movies.” When Richard continues with “and maybe pizza” Jason softly says “good movies to eat pizza by.”
And if the family dinners are excruciating, they’re nothing compared to the family counseling session, and Jason earned my complete sympathy when the counselor utters, “Follow up with that Jas…Dad always does what?”
Richard LaPenna makes the comment, “You know you can’t treat sociopaths.” Later he boils this down to once you get past moral relativism, there’s good and evil, and Tony’s evil.
I loved the scene in Down Neck where Livia keeps repeating, “He does not!” when A.J. unwittingly spills the beans that Tony is seeing a psychiatrist. That scene is almost completely re-enacted when Livia tells Junior the news. “Tony? A psychiatrist?” Junior keeps repeating.
Christopher attributing the way he feels to possibly having cancer will be echoed a few seasons later when Carmela tells the priest in confession that she thinks she has ovarian cancer, when actually she is depressed about her marriage.
- I wonder what Paulie means when he tells Christopher he’s “half a wise guy.”
- The exchange between Melfi and Tony about paying for the missed appointment does two things: shows how important money is to the Sopranos and give us an example of what happens when Tony, who used to getting his way, doesn’t get his way. The anger with which he throws the money at her is scary – Melfi to her credit keeps her cool.
- We meet FBI Agent Dwight Harris who is one of my favorite characters.
- I like that A.J. knows that the first American saint was Italian. Verbum Dei has taught him well.
“Half of New York moved to Fort Lauderdale already.” Larry Boy Barese
“You touch a single fucking crust you’re going to wish you took the job at McDonald’s.” Christopher Moltisanti
“This is no time to go on the rag, Christopher. Not with the indictment shit coming down.” Tony Soprano
“Don’t bust my balls with Freud by numbers…” Richard LaPenna
Down Neck (Season 1, Episode 7, The Sopranos)
Pax Soprano (Season 1, Episode 6, The Sopranos)
College (Season 1, Episode 5, The Sopranos)
Meadowlands (Season 1, Episode 4, The Sopranos)
Watch along with me (affiliate link): The Sopranos: The Complete First Season