In the spring of 1985, an event occurred which outraged millions of Americans, left corporate executives red-faced and ashamed, and provided a near-perfectly apt metaphor for this season of The Sopranos. I'm speaking, of course, not of your erstwhile recapper's first real kiss, which also occurred in said spring, but rather of the ignominious introduction of New Coke, a product launch sure to be writ large in the annals of history as one of the greatest blunders ever made by anyone not named Bill Buckner. But maybe, just maybe, it wasn't quite the mistake we all remember it to be. See, one of the little known true facts of the whole New Coke fiasco was that in blind taste-tests, Americans actually preferred New Coke to the original by an almost two-to-one margin. It wasn't until they actually saw the labels that the vitriol came (if you'll pardon the pun) bubbling to the surface. It's (sort of) the same with The Sopranos this year. The show is a little deeper, a little more introspective, and perhaps a bit more flavorful than previous incarnations, but people don't seem to be enjoying the slightly different taste. This week's episode, however, with it's fast-paced mob infighting, naughty-little-boy Tony, and more clearly defined good and bad guys (again, sort of) was just like The Sopranos Classic we all know and love. So is it wrong to change a good thing? Is it possible to improve upon perfection? Was the show really ever all that perfect to begin with? These questions (and many more) likely won't be answered for another six weeks. They certainly won't be answered in this recap. But in the meantime, you should pour yourself a nice frosty, carbonated beverage, sit back in your favorite comfy chair, and start thinking up your own "taste test" jokes. You're gonna need 'em in about three paragraphs.
This week opens on a young man who's clearly been enjoying one of the Coca-Cola company's scant few rejected marketing gimmicks: Powdered Coke. It does look a little different from the regular stuff, but it packs a much stronger kick than plain old caffeine. As the guy presses his glow-in-the-dark fraternity face-paint right into the lens, Roommate Cait comes down the steps behind him. She's decked out in a cowboy hat and green and orange glowy eye make-up, and oddly enough looks better than she ever has on this show. She spots Meadow and squeals in delight, rambling on about how sweet Meadow is and how she's totally not depressed anymore. At first I made a mental note to get myself some of whatever Caitlin's been getting from the Columbia medical center, but it turns out she's just been buying Ecstasy from Meadow's conveniently-arriving-out-of-nowhere friend Jackie Jr. The girls head out into the hall, and as most girls seem wont to do, they gush about Little Lord Fuckpants's ostensible cuteness. Jackie's got a friend, by the way, and he's wearing a yarmulke, which in and of itself is not an unusual sight for New York City. What is unusual, however, is that Jackie Jr. is wearing some sort of a scarf that looks exactly like a tallis. Jewish viewers across America watched this scene and wondered if these guys just wandered in from a minyan somewhere. Since the scarf has a co-starring role in this episode, and I think it's a pretty safe assumption that there's at least one Jew on the set of The Sopranos at all times, I gotta figure that's intentional in some way, but I have absolutely no idea how. Anyway, Meadow refreshes our memory about how she knows Jackie, and then some random guy comes up and starts rubbing himself on Caitlin. She seems to like it though, and gives the best line reading of the phrase "I choose you" since the immortal Ralph Wiggum rendition.
Meadow now joins Jackie in a back room somewhere, and the lighting and costuming crews deserve major credit for getting the clothes and the room to match perfectly with the black lights and the glow-in-the-dark paint, not to mention Jackie Jr.'s newfound interest in Judaic fashion. They banter a bit about his fraternity allegiances, and then Meadow betrays her cool by asking if there's any more "X" in a way-too-eager tone of voice. "For you, the first hit's free," smarms Little Lord Fuckpants as he passes her the pill. Perhaps realizing his character's somewhat more than superficial resemblance to Brendan Filone, he cautions her not to tell Daddy. "I don't even talk to him anymore," she replies, and downs the drug. I have to say that while my knowledge and experience of various illicit pharmacopoeia is vast indeed, I've actually never tried Ecstasy. It does look like fun, though. ["No, it doesn't. Drugs are bad." -- The MBTV Legal Staff]