First off, it seems I owe the HBO promo department an apology. For while Melfi was indeed faced with a Choice That Could Change Everything, it turns out that those guys deserve a ton of credit for not only keeping the "A" plot a secret, but also crafting a promo that was significantly less gratuitous than it could have been. I can only imagine what the real WB editors would have conjured from this week's episode, but I'm fairly certain it would have involved Dawson and Joey getting back together. And hopefully getting whacked, as well. Do you think AOL Time Warner CEO Gerald Levin ever gets whiplash when he surveys the breadth of his vast mega-corporate empire? Sopranos to Seventh Heaven (with a stop at Sports Illustrated) is a long way for anyone to go, especially on a single balance sheet.
Secondly, as anyone who saw this episode can attest, it's not exactly something that lends itself well to a whimsically humorous recap. Especially not when said recap is being written by a guy who considers Rolling Stones puns to be the height of hilarity. I guess what I'm trying to say here is, hold on tight, kids, because this one could tattoo you.
As part of our ongoing crusade to make MBTV the only source of information you'll ever need in this crazy, mixed-up world of ours, we've recently taken to assigning letter grades to each of the episodes we recap. You can't see them yet, but won't you just sleep better at night knowing they're out there? Anyway, this episode obviously gets an A+, but it's also gotten me to thinking about how I could develop a purely objective criteria for ranking episodes. See, some people like the show for the humor, others for the strippers, and still more for the frank and honest portrayal of one man's version of the American dream. Heck, some people even watch The Lone Gunmen. Go figure. Anyway, it finally hit me: Start-to-Robe. See, you take the number of seconds from the end of the credits to the first appearance of Tony's robe, and that's the episode's score. The lower the score, the higher the grade. That way, it's fair for everyone. Also, bonus points (for you, not the episode) if you can correctly identify where I stole the idea from. So what was this week's Start-to-Robe (or StR, as we industry insiders like to call it)? 2.3 seconds. That's a new world record, by the way, and the real reason this episode gets an A+.
So what happens in those 2.3 seconds? The phone rings, and Tony "Roberto Benigni" Soprano steps off the back of Steven Spielberg's head long enough to answer it (had to get an Oscar joke in there somehow). It's Irina, and she's drunk, flirtatious, and wearing some fairly revealing lingerie. Except she looked a lot better last week, when she was dressed conservatively. Go figure. Anyway, she pretends to be calling about Svetlana's leg, but Tony correctly points out that she's really "drinking and dialing." And also fingering her glass in not at all lady-like fashion. He tells her to never call the house again and hangs up, all the while glancing around for Carmela.
You know, it's the little things that make me love this show. After the sight of a knife slicing meat sent Tony into therapy last week, we now cut straight to a knife slicing vegetables. And who's wielding this knife? None other than Tony's polar opposite on this show, Richard La Penna (a.k.a. Richard "Protocol" Romanus, a.k.a. the ex-husband that comes sniffing around Melfi every now and then). This guy's been with David Chase since The Rockford Files. Pretty much the entire scene here is about explaining who he is again. Basically, he's a crusader for the accurate portrayal of Italian-Americans in the media so people don't think they're all mobsters. Or maybe he's a professor. Or a doctor. Or possibly an astronaut. Who knows? Needless to say, he's not too fond of Melfi's treating Tony. It's quickly established that they got back together at about the same time that Melfi took Tony back as a patient, "and don't think the synergy hasn't escaped [him]." Or AOL Time Warner, for that matter. They banter some more about why she should "pink slip" Tony, during which Richard refers to Tony as being "alixithymic," and I defy anyone to post an accurate definition of that word to the forums, because I've looked, and there doesn't seem to be one. Do a search on Google though, and you'll get bonus points for correctly identifying where this week's writer stole it.