Tony breaks the tension momentarily by cracking wise about how Billy Budd is the ship's florist. The smart money drops the subject at this point, but Meadow, in the proud tradition of twenty-year-olds since time immemorial, has to show her mother how much more than Carmela she knows. In a voice dripping with condescension, she tells Carm that Leslie Fiedler has written a great deal on gay themes in literature over the last forty years, and on Billy Budd in particular. I think Meadow used Fiedler deliberately to set a trap for Carmela, and here's why. 1) Carm reads bestsellers, not lit crit; she probably wouldn't have heard of any cultural critic Meadow had chosen to name, and Meadow knows that. 2) Meadow also probably knows that Carm is likely to think a Leslie is a woman, which will allow Meadow to show up her mother's ignorance that much more dramatically. 3) A twenty-year-old Sars used to land-mine conversations with her mother exactly the same way at Meadow's age. Sars proceeded to take heavy artillery fire from her mother's honors English degree and wound up with an ass full of shrapnel, but it's an obnoxious debate tactic even when it doesn't work. Predictably, Carm falls into the trap, squalling that "she doesn't know what she's talking about," and Meadow is thrilled to tell Carm in a tone usually reserved for fractious toddlers that "she is a he, mother, and he's lectured at Columbia, as a matter of fact." Shut up, Meadow. "Well, maybe he's gay, you ever thought of that?" Carmela snaps. Um…yeah. Sorry, but -- shut up, Carm. Meadow pulls a face. AJ, Colin, and Alex stare at their plates. Carmela sips her wine angrily. Tony, unconcerned, wipes his face.
The restaurant. Workers sift through the damage. Carmine glares at the genitalia on his beloved mural.
Bing back room. Paulie is bitter that Little Paulie trashed Carmine's restaurant, because Little Paulie works for Paulie, not Tony. "Eh, what do I know, huh?" Silvio shrugs as he tabulates receipts at the desk. More than Paulie, Paulie points out miffily: "Everybody does." Silvio thinks for a second, then decides to go "off the record" about why Paulie's out of the loop lately, even though he probably shouldn't: "I think certain people are startin' to wonder…where your heart is." "People who, Tony?" Paulie wants to know, and swoops down next to the desk. "What the fuck's that supposed to mean?" Silvio points to that response as typical of Paulie's "attitude lately," and Paulie bitches that he spent four months in jail, so he has the right to an attitude, but Silvio tells him, "You're only as good as your last envelope -- you know that!" He mentions how much Albert kicked up the week before, and Paulie gets pissed off, calling Albert a "fucking parakeet" and saying he'll never have the relationship with Tony that Paulie does, "no matter how far he sticks his tongue up Tony's ass." Thanks so much for that image, Paulie. Really. Kisses. Silvio, who probably knew Paulie would flip out like this, shrugs, "All right. Fuck this," and goes back to work. Heh. Paulie gets defensive, saying that "every friendship has its peaks and valleys," and he and Tony have hit a valley, but things will pick up and he's not going to worry about earning and blah blah blah. "So there you go then," Silvio snarks. Paulie bites his head off for "that smart-alecky shit," reminding Sil that he goes back as far as Johnny Boy Soprano with the family, "before you even," then blames Sil for the flapdoodle with the missing Russian that got him in trouble with Tony. Silvio, getting annoyed, suggests that Paulie "accept some responsibility for a change," so Paulie calls him a "wormy cocksucker." Silvio jumps up all "ohhhhh" and snarls that he's just telling Paulie "how [he's] bein' fuckin' perceived," but Paulie tells him to worry about how he's perceived instead: "Nobody knows what the future holds, my friend." He slams out of the back room.