Dear Jeff and Tim,
What an episode. But as we say in television: More on that after this.
First, I'm compelled to defend myself against an offensive and demeaning mischaracterization in Jeff's otherwise kind introduction. I was appalled to read Jeff's description of me as a "troubled visionary." Anyone who knows me can tell you I have never been a visionary. While I indeed played a role in modern music while a teenager wearing tight-fitting khakis in California (I really did have a friend named Rhonda and badly needed her assistance), in the years since, I've devoted my life to journalism and the search for a really good sausage sandwich.
I am humbled to be present and share this space. My bona fides are these: Born and raised in New Jersey, I once attended a wedding reception at Snuffy's in North Jersey with a full capo in attendance.
An important biographical note: While living in Jersey, I was a fireman in the town where I grew up. Many of the members of my volunteer fire department were police officers by day, and many of them did home repairs to make ends meet. I never knew any of them to pay less than retail for drills, sanders, or circular saws. I still visit the state, via public roads, to see my father, and so I just wanted to make that clear.
But back to my bona fides. I later covered the Scarfo trial in Philadelphia, and had the same exposure to Gotti as most reporters in New York did in the late '80s and early '90s. My devotion to The Sopranos is total. I can quote the price of gasoline at the Sunoco station in the opening sequence, I have eaten at Pizzaland and have been to the Bing. Full disclosure: During the shooting of a feature on the show a few weeks ago, I learned stuff. No one will ever get it out of me. Even if they held me down, took my shoes off, and ... well, never mind.
So now it gets darker. Tony's annoyance is palpable, Christopher discovers that clean living in a dirty line of work is a crippling oxymoron. Paulie freelances at landscaping, and A.J. freelances in the family business.
David Chase continues to exercise his ear and his eye. He knows that no man can grill near another man without offering grilling advice. We hear enough low-flying aircraft noise to know exactly how close Christopher's house is to EWR. The Dido music (coupled with the couple playing tonsil hockey at the pizza restaurant) forces A.J. to throw in the apron. Carmela is reading Fred Barnes. We got to see John Wayne as Red Adair, we got to see Tony's post-Sept. 11 patriotism in full bloom, and while we worry that the feds have infiltrated AA, we now learn Christopher may not need the motivation of a RICO charge to spill what he knows. Nobody drops Sammy Bull's name casually. Oh, and memo to Dick Wolf: That next script you're waiting for may be a little late. Speaking of corporate alliances, is it possible HBO made a product-placement deal with NBC (Leno and Law and Order, plus NASCAR is on TV at the Bing) that I didn't know about?
By the way, for those of you on Judaica Watch: Where did "tsoris" come from during Christopher's impromptu stairwell AA after-meeting? I was rocked by it. Was I alone?
Other noteworthy moments: Carm's near-poetic use of "loved and lost ... ," which was so beautifully lost on Tony and A.J., Christopher's tip of the hat to Dunkin Donuts' centennial celebration (which many of us thought did not get the media coverage it deserved at the time), and Tony's Tom Friedman-esque distinction between Arabs ... and Arabians.
The chenille throw under which A.J. watched television (in the "fetus position") was yet another reason to erect a monument to the set designer.
For those of you on Malaprop Watch: We're into double digits. "Mellifluous box," and " ... all that it entrails" were this week joined by ostrafied.
God, it's good to see Meadow again. I say that as the father of a college freshman. The smiles exchanged by Tony and Carm, warmed by the thought of their children trading the usual barbs at the family table, mask the trouble beneath the surface.