I couldn't agree more—Episode 3 was excellent. I thought Paulie Walnuts and Feech LaManna stole the show. Each behaved exactly the way gangsters in similar situations might react to opportunities to make a buck. And the violence displayed by Feech and Paulie certainly "rang true" to me. I thought their back-and-forth scenes were the highlights of the show. Without question, the big losers of the night were the gardeners, the little people caught in the middle.
Feech is a throwback, out of action for 20 years and eager to get back into it, using methods he knew and used before he went away. His explanation to Paulie, a quick study on the gangster life—it started softly and ended in a loud, screaming, and yes, scary, rant—was right on, as he explained why he didn't take any bets from Paulie's longtime customer but was going after the neighborhood gardening business that no one controlled. "What's yours is yours Paulie, but what ain't yours is anybody else's. Now do yourself a f---ing favor and get the f--- out of my office." (Feech's relationship with Tony Soprano's cousin Tony B is curious, but for some reason I can't put my finger on, I think Tony B is going to be more of a thorn to Tony Soprano than Feech.)
And I don't want to spend too much time on this, but Paulie's reaction (as you pointed out, it occurred while he was driving along and listening to Point 2 or 3 of The Art of War on his car stereo)—hitting one gardener in the head with a shovel; taking money from the other; and riding away with the lawnmower in the trunk of his car, the trunk door flapping up and down—was priceless. As was Paulie getting $1,000 for his gardener's injuries at the sit-down with Tony over the dispute and then stiffing him out of half of it.
Glad you touched on Tony's escalating needs to see Dr. Melfi, professionally that is, because I don't want readers to think I have a thing for Lorraine Bracco, like the one you seem to have for Edie Falco. My interest in seeing more of Dr. Melfi, is purely, er, professional. And speaking of professional help, I think Johnny Sack seems to have an even greater need than Tony. He is cracking up big-time, in need of some Valium or Xanax, if not a shrink. His temper and inability to compromise may lead to his long forecasted, but delayed, downfall. He reminds me a little, by his actions, of Luchese boss Vittorio (Vic) Amuso, who went on a killing blitz not long after taking over the family from Tony "Ducks" Corallo in 1987 or so, after Corallo and his entire administration were convicted in the historic commission case and sentenced to 100 years. A few years later, after authorizing the low point of the American Mafia—the attempted rub-out of the sister of a cooperating witness—Amuso was convicted of a slew of murders and is currently serving life.