For me, the most reliable first-sign indicator that the proverbial shark has in fact been jumped (excepting of course the dorsal fin and ominous da-dum da-dum soundtrack) has always been the clip show. I mean, let's face it, when not even sitcoms can be bothered to slap together yet another tired twenty-two minute romp through the trusty old "oh, I thought YOU were gay" sub-genre, you pretty much know it's time to put them out to pasture. It's kinda like StR -- the less real content contained in the episode, the higher your trajectory over the shark. The scant seventeen minutes of actual Survivor contained in this week's Survivor season finale should be making Mark Burnett the second tourist in space at any moment. Insert your own Destination Mir joke here. Or into the Pacific ocean, whichever is easier. All this does, however, beg the question (except that it really doesn't) of whether or not this week's episode of The Sopranos can be said to constitute a clip show, and if so, should I be looking around for a hammerhead with tire-tracks? After all, there's no plot to speak of; a lot of old, forgotten characters reappear to do nothing but spout subtle shout-outs to the show's chronology; and there's even (gasp!) an OJ joke or two. It's not quite the decline and fall of Eastern civilization just yet, but the barbarians may well be storming the gates of New Jersey. Oh, please. Like they haven't been camped out in Newark for years now. ["I was going to say…the barbarians are the gates of New Jersey. Heh." -- Sars]
Anyway, previously on The Sopranos: So much happened that the show's opening logo shot actually had to be truncated to squeeze it all in. Which is odd, because this week's episode was only forty-six minutes, so it's not like they were hurting for time. Or hurting for back-story, for that matter, since as I've already stated (seventeen times before the second paragraph), nothing happens this week. Hell, even the credits are boring, with Vincent Pastore completely failing to reclaim his old spot. In fact, he's not even listed at all, which is also odd, given that he was in all the promos, and it's not like this was a surprise. Did I mention that nothing happens this week?
Well, I suppose at least a few things happened. I should probably tell you about them, huh? All right, then. This week opens with Tony striding down the boardwalk in Asbury Park (at least that's where I think he is. But the Jersey people already hate me for the barbarian thing, so it doesn't really matter if I'm wrong). He pauses at the railing to look out at the waves, and as I wait in vain for a trio of hockey-playing demons to attack, we do a slow push-in towards Tony and dissolve into our first flashback of the evening.
Now, unlike certain other television producers who have shows on Sundays at 9:00 (and who also have a C as their last initial), David Chase chooses to eschew any sort of graphic or hip, squiggly font (tm djb) to let us know we're in flashback-land. Instead, he pans down from a TV news report about the OJ Simpson civil trial to a considerably more hirsute Tony and a clearly-not-dead Jackie Aprile Sr. (who will obviously be known as "The Late Lord Fuckpants" for the remainder of the recap). And when you stop to think about it, using the OJ trial to "frame" the episode is actually pretty damn funny. The boys are seated in a booth in some diner off the boardwalk, and since I don't recap OJ jokes (though I'm apparently not above making them), we'll just move on. They're joined by Big Pussy, and oh how I've longed to write those words this season. In any context. Pussy grunts and grabs his ever-troublesome bad back as he sits, this time blaming the injury on "Fucking ValuJet. Trying to save $50." I'm so forwarding a copy of this tape to the MBTV accounting department along with a copy of my most recent expense voucher (and incidentally, those Vegas bills to The Chicken Ranch were for research on the whole "little hookers giving little blowjobs" thing. That's a perfectly legitimate business expense, and I've got dirty pictures of anyone who says otherwise). Pussy proceeds to explain that he flew down to Boca to meet with Junior, who's apparently afraid that The Late Lord Fuckpants wants him dead for some reason. For the record, "Boca" is the only episode title mentioned this week, so I guess David Chase thought it was a pretty good recap too. Thanks, Sars. ["Thank you." -- Sars]