I Dream of Jeannie Cusamano (Season 1, Episode 13, The Sopranos)
Written by David Chase
All of the threats in Tony’s life are about to be resolved – whether it’s members of the crew who have flipped or those involved in his assassination attempt – the body count is likely to be high by episode’s end.
The episode opens with the crew wrapping up a meeting at Satriali’s. Junior gives Tony the OK to take out Jimmy Altieri. Tony has shared his suspicions that Jimmy is wearing a wire and Junior concurs, urging Tony to take care of it in a manner that will send a message.
Facia bruta (ugly face) is a term Livia uses in reference to her sister Settimia, when she appears at the Soprano house – evidence of the onset of dementia.
This episode deals with revelation, what’s behind the mask, and one’s reaction to the discovery.
When Dr. Melfi tries to shed light on Livia’s ‘facia bruta’ – her joylessness, her inability to show love and compassion, her splitting behavior – Tony violently comes to the defense of his mother, smashing Melfi’s table and grabbing her by the throat.
It takes the undeniable evidence presented by FBI Agent Frank Cubitoso, who makes his first appearance in this episode. Cubitoso is proud of the fact that in spite of others believing it to be a waste of time, he had Green Grove bugged. With agents Harris and Grasso, Cubitoso plays the tape of Livia and Junior talking for Tony, – leaving no doubt that it was Livia who led Junior to take the hit out on him.
Is Livia’s dementia feigned or sincere?
Both Carmela and Dr. Melfi believe that Livia’s dementia is just a little too convenient.
Later on in the episode, Dr. Melfi, even as she slips a scissors up her sleeve (a gesture so impotent it’s endearing) and dials 911, is willing to give Tony another chance – in spite of his threat to break her face “into fifty thousand pieces.” Like Carmela, she believes that he is the way he is because of his family, especially his mother, and sincerely believes that between “today’s pharmacology” and therapy Tony can live a better life.
There is so much going on that it’s easy to forget about Father Phil popping up throughout this episode – in fact we see him in five different scenes. We see him first at Vesuvio, about to enjoy a free meal thanks to a parishioner who has given him a gift card. Carmela invites him to join her and Rosalie.
As they talk and wait for their food, Rosalie asks him how the watch is working out. Carmela is taken aback and blurts out, “Is that Jackie’s watch?” Rosalie nods yes and tears up, only to be immediately consoled by Father Phil. The camera lingers on his hand (with Jackie’s watch on his wrist) upon Rosalie’s, and then to Carmela’s face.
Father Phil appears again, this time in church counseling Artie Bucco. The last time we saw Artie he was pointing a rifle at Tony, furious that Tony had burned down the old Vesuvio (once again Livia sharing information that incites the listener). Now he is side by side with Father Phil explaining to him that he’s lost faith in everything and is full of rage over his restaurant being burned down.
Father Phil is counseling Artie to tell Charmaine about his suspicions since she will ultimately find out when the insurance company investigation begins. Artie then admits he hasn’t told the insurance company. Father Phil encourages him to be strong and to do the right thing. Face value, this is exactly what you’d expect your parish priest to recommend. But it strikes me that Father Phil must know that Artie is talking about Tony.
The next scene with Father Phil is when Carmela arrives at the church, with a pyrex pot full of ziti, only to see Father Phil in the chapel with Rosalie, sharing a dish that she has brought him. Carmela leaves without them seeing and dumps the ziti in the first garbage can she passes.
The fourth time we see Father Phil, he’s at the Vesuvio with yet another gift certificate and Artie lets him know that he has changed his mind about “the man” that had so outraged him. Artie says to Fr. Phil: Is this man complicated? Yes. Is he “too comfortable outside the law?” Yes. It is easier for Artie to let it go, to let Charmaine remain happy, to let the new restaurant succeed, and to turn a blind eye to his suspicions about Tony.
The final time we see Father Phil is at the Soprano’s house. Clearly feeling familiar, he’s been hanging out alone for a bit when Carmela comes home from grocery shopping. He shares with Carmela that he had hoped recent events would have “caused Tony to re-examine his life.” This sets Carmela off and she points out that she thinks he manipulates spiritually thirsty women and is attracted to the “whiff of sexuality that never goes anywhere.”
While it feels good to have Father Phil called out, Carmela is not innocent in all of this. And as fans of the show, in a way, we are like Father Phil – vicariously enjoying Tony’s lifestyle without have to worry about personal violence, or having him take over our motels, burn down our burning down our restaurants or beating us until we agree to embezzle from our employers.
The final episode of the season is not without a long list of victims. Jimmy Altieri, who Tony believes to be wearing a wire, is lured to the Marriott Marquis by Christopher and is dispatched by Silvio at the very beginning of the hour.
Tony also puts out the order on Junior, Mikey Palmice, and Chucky Signore (who he kills himself).
Junior escapes with his life only because the FBI arrests him before Tony can get to him. Mikey Palmice doesn’t fare as well.
After chasing Mikey in the woods, Christopher and Paulie don’t shoot him right away. Perhaps catching their breath, Christopher reminds Mikey that he killed Brendan, a friend of Christopher’s, while he was naked in a bathtub. While Christopher is stoking his own rage, Paulie on the other hand is freaked out about running through poison ivy complaining that the itching has already started and shoots first seemingly motivated by the annoyance. Christopher then pulls the trigger and empties his gun into Mikey.
Notes and Quotes:
“Pussy! Booty! I don’t know his last name.” Dr. Jennifer Melfi
“Even your mother treasures the memory of Vesuvio!” Arthur Bucco
I love how Mikey Palmice’s final sneering words to his wife are “Take a Midol!” but following his death, a tearful JoJo tells local reporters “…he told me that he loved me and that he would be right back.”
“Even after just last week I told you I’m not a big Renee Zellweger fan.” Carmela Soprano (Dimes to donuts, following his argument with Carmela, Father Phil brings the Renee Zellweger DVD over to Rosalie Aprile’s…)
Watch along with me: The Sopranos: The Complete First Season
- Isabella (Season 1, Episode 12, The Sopranos)
- Nobody Knows Anything (Season 1, Episode 11, The Sopranos)
- A Hit is a Hit (Season 1, Episode 10, The Sopranos)
- Boca (Season 1, Episode 9, The Sopranos)
- The Legend of Tennessee Moltisanti (Season 1, Episode 8, The Sopranos)
- Down Neck (Season 1, Episode 7, The Sopranos)
AV Club: http://www.avclub.com/articles/isabellai-dream-of-jeannie-cusamano,43026/