Okay, so when Sars first considered letting me recap The Sopranos, she asked but one question: "What do you know about New Jersey?" I, of course, did what any struggling writer would do in that situation, and lied like the dog that I am. To be perfectly honest, the sum total of my New Jersey experience comes from the time I spotted Mike Tyson in line next to us at a tollbooth on the Jersey turnpike. And while I'm sure this has caused me to miss out on any number of quaint little details (a la the whole "can't pump your own gas" thing), I do in fact know the only thing there is to know about New Jersey that actually matters to anyone living in any of the other forty-eight superior states this nation has to offer (and yeah, Ohio, I'm looking at you). You want me to tell you what it is? Well, all right then. You suckers are going down. Yeah, that's right. You heard me. Penguins in seven. And if Scott Stevens so much as blinks at Mario Lemieux, why I'll…I'll…I'll post a nasty message to the Devils forum at ESPN.com. Yeah. That oughtta teach 'em. ["Get out. Now." -- Sars]
Anyway, Steve Buscemi opens this week's show with a firm demonstration of his directorial mettle, having the balls to fade up on an empty "Stugots," with Van Morrison warbling "Gloria" in the background. Perhaps not surprisingly, Gloria herself is in the background, having just arrived at the pier in her chic little Mercedes and scary 70s Moroccan Cowboy-Pimp clothes. I don't necessarily agree, but I can totally see why some people think she looks like a hooker. Or a hoor. Whatever. As she makes her way onto the boat, Mr. Morrison helpfully reminds us all of how to spell her name. Hey, how come there's been no goofy nicknames for Gloria on the show? Little Lady Lithium, perhaps? Anyway, once she gets inside the "Stugots," I start thinking to myself that it would be funnier if the music were actually playing in the scene rather than on the soundtrack. David Chase provides immediate gratification by having the phone ring, and Gloria reaches over to turn down the stereo. Heh. It's Irina and her drunken insecurities on the phone, and she lies and says she's from AJ's school. Tony walks in, along with Contrivance and the bag of ice they seem to have stepped out for (despite the fact that the song had just started), and quickly takes the phone. Irina babbles about leaving something on the boat, and Tony ends the conversation and hangs the phone up so fast you'd think it was made of gabbagoo (it's the Soprano kryptonite). Foreshadowing, incidentally, sits in the corner and practices his Russian language tapes. Gloria (G-L-O-R-I-A) asks if everything is okay with AJ, and Tony describes the problem as "attendance shit." I don't know what (if anything) that's a witty reference too, but I'm betting it's something. It pretty much always is. "Two weeks and no hello?" asks Gloria, and Tony quickly walks over to give her a kiss. Then he moves back to the bar and confesses that it was really an ex-girlfriend on the phone. Gloria goes nuts and starts screaming about Tony lying and her feelings and all the other reasons she's unhappy and deserves attention, and I gotta side with Tony on this one. Maybe I'm just a guy, but I thought he handled a potentially awkward situation pretty well. At least he was honest, which is certainly more than he gives Carmela. Gloria proceeds to storm off the boat, but not before tossing Tony's present into the water and getting off one last withering, "Merry Christmas." Perhaps to his credit, Tony doesn't respond, "Get out. Now."
Okay, so there's Furio in red leather pants, and then there's Paulie getting a manicure. It's the same basic shtick (i.e. manly men and their girly gear), but it just seems to work better on Furio. Paulie's quirks are funnier when they're quirky, not funny, if that makes any sense. I think you know what I mean, though. He interrupts his "satin finish" application to answer his cell phone. Tony, ensconced at the Bing, instructs him to go make one of Silvio's pick-ups from some Russian guy. Silvio has apparently taken ill with a bad case of "filming that Bruce Springsteen special" and won't be able to participate in this week's festivities. Paulie objects to the assignment for a number of reasons, including having to take his mother to social security (and her I'd like to see), but Tony eventually orders him to do it. "I don't even know why we're in business with these people," wonders Paulie, but when Tony makes him guess, he's right on the first try. "They make us money." Back at the Bing, Tony hangs up and watches a sniffly Silvio depart, looking for all the world like a successful, respectable businessman dealing with his underlings.