You REALLY ARE obsessing about Jerry Shargel. I am sure he wishes he would have had as great an impact on the federal jury that convicted Peter Gotti as he has had on your psyche. But looking at the bright side, at least there's a thread of continuity in your writing about The Sopranos, as opposed what's been happening on the show this season. I'm beginning to think that the narrative arc that was supposed to start the first week and end at Week 13 has been altered a bit. It will end at Week 23, after next season. I guess HBO/David Chase need 10 more shows, along with a couple dozen more plots and subplots, to recoup the extra bucks that James Gandolfini and the other actors realized during the re-negotiations that we read about last year. (Not that there's anything wrong with workers earning more money, mind you.) It seems that whatever grand finale Chase had envisioned for Week 13 will be delayed a bit.
As for last night's show, I'm now rooting for Johnny Sack. Not only is he from New York, he's the only Mafia boss in sight who's behaving like a real gangster—telling Tony Soprano to fuck off, with his words, and by his deeds. First, he took the shipment of Vespa scooters and didn't share the load with the Jersey guys, then he let them stew all night as they waited for the load that never came. Then, during his meeting with Tony, who complained that the scenario at the Port of Newark couldn't possibly have happened the way Johnny Sack had explained, Sack dismissed Tony completely: "A lot of things didn't happen that seemed like they happened. Your cousin didn't whack Joey Peeps. The Vespas never got into my hands," he sneered, giving more respect to the guy who had just washed his car than to Tony. Carry that scene out to its logical conclusion, and cousin Tony Blundetto gets whacked next week.
Meanwhile, as Tony S. wimps out in his escalating feud with Johnny Sack, he's all lovey-dovey with one cousin (Tony B.) who has dragged him into a no-win feud with a New York mob boss, and he's abusing Christopher, who was formerly his No. 1 Cousin, driving him to the brink of cooperating with the FBI. But he behaved like a tough guy by smacking the pool table in the Bada Bing; with the hapless bartender/stooge at the strip joint; and as you said, Jeff, with his poor screwed up sister Janice, whose outbursts, both at the soccer field and at her therapy session, did provide some comic relief. (And now that you mention it, Bobby Bacala does seem to have gained some intelligence this season.) But I can't agree with you that poor Janice is the "least pleasant character" in the cast. That's got to be her brother Tony.
And while I've always been an outspoken fan of Dr. Melfi, her sessions with Tony, except for an occasional funny line, just aren't working for me any more. She keeps trying to extract whatever is left of Tony's conscience, which, like his brain when it comes to his Mafia business, seems to have shrunk to the size of a pea.