Catching It.

It was a dark and stormy night…

I was slightly apprehensive about “Kennedy and Heidi. I wasn’t sure I wanted to watch Chris’ death again, but I didn’t want to skip any episodes either, no matter how many times I’d seen them.

It turned out to not be as bad as I remembered, which is not to say that I had my nose pressed to the screen as Tony smothered him on the side of the road. It actually turned out to be different from how I remembered it: I could have sworn that he’d dragged him out of the car first, instead of reaching through the window. Still, my recently acquired sensitivity to death and gore made me a little squeamish about watching this part.

In a scene that recalls Tony and Adriana’s car ride in “Irregular Around The Margins,” Christopher and Tony drive through the rain on a dark, seemingly deserted road. Their conversation runs a little deeper than the one that he had with Ade, as he and Christopher discuss the latest Leotardo bullshit.

The DVD’s closed captions have Christopher calling Phil’s recent appointment as head of the family “the fly in the ointment,” forgetting his penchant for malapropisms. What he actually says is “the flying ointment.”

Fly
If my ointment had wings.

After flipping through the radio (“What is this, Make Believe Ballroom?”), Chris pops in the soundtrack for The Departed.  Comfortably Numb plays, a subtle nod to Chris’ altered state of mind.

Tony tries to shift the conversation away from work, asking Christopher about a party he threw. Christopher responds by stepping on the gas, sending them speeding. They swerve to miss an oncoming car, driven by the steering-wheel clutching Heidi. Christopher’s car flips as the music stutters and finally dies. Behind them, Heidi sails down the dark road.

Shaken but physically unscathed, Heidi’s friend, Kennedy, suggests they go back. Heidi quashes that idea since she’s on her learner’s permit after dark. She would be like, sooooo grounded.  She’d have to delete her Myspace and everything. The two girls, who can’t be more than sixteen, remain unaware of their brush with the other side of the law. What would they have found if they had returned to the scene of the accident? A bigger crime than they left behind, for sure. They probably wouldn’t have been permanently grounded by Tony, if you know what I mean, but their night would have been capped off in a very different way. They might have chanced to meet again in Melfi’s office.

There’s kind of awkward cut between the shots of Chris breathing in, then lying with his head on his shoulder. It’s meant to convey the passage of time (Tony doesn’t exactly jump out of the passenger side with speed or agility of a varsity athlete), but the more I watch it, the more it bugs me.


As is always the case with Gandolfini, it’s all in the eyes with Michael Imperioli in this scene. With only ragged breath sustaining him, Christopher eyes Tony warily, as he slips in and out of consciousness.  He coughs up blood before he asks Tony to call him a cab instead of an ambulance, to avoid legal repercussion.

Tony takes out his phone to call 911 but flips it closed after a moment’s consideration. I’m just impressed that his rinky-dink phone still has service! His eyes darken as he mentally prepares himself for what he is about to do. Standing at the window like a cop during a traffic stop, Tony reaches in and puts his hand over Christopher’s nose and mouth. Stone cold motherfucker.

byebye
I caught a fleeting glimpse out of the corner of my eye…

Christopher’s eyes open in panicked awareness and utter helplessness. Tony expertly tilts his head back so that he will choke on his own blood. The camera pans over the back seat, resting on Caitlin’s empty car seat littered with branches, giving us a clue as to where Tony’s, and possibly Chrissy’s, thoughts are.

Then, just like that, it’s over.

Tony makes the necessary calls. News travels fast,  and rent-a-mob are soon gathered at Tony’s bedside the next day while Carmela visits Kelly’s parents.

Even Sil’s and Carm’s at-home looks are stylish.

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Check out the fine stitching on that shirt.
Carmelane
Haven’t I seen you on the side of a Grecian urn?

Paulie breaks his own heart regretting time spent fighting and acting the pusher. “Maybe I didn’t do right by him,” he concludes sadly. Tony brushes him off (quite coldly, after extending his support in “The Ride), with a dismissive “it’s over.”

Later over drinks, the family mourns Christopher’s relapse. They are led by the coroner’s report to believe that he might have survived if he had been wearing a seat belt. (Which I think Tony undid before the ambulance arrived?) Christopher’s mother turns away, grief-stricken. Tony gets up from the table. Carmela follows. Assuming that he is also grieving, she pats him sympathetically on the shoulder.

We now take in the scene through the window, the panes cutting across their features. Carmela purses her lips; Tony smiles, the corners of his eyes crinkling in their usual way. From the outside, it looks to a casual observer like any ordinary scene of heartbreak. To Carmela, Tony appears to be in mourning like the rest of them, albeit privately. He is, but we still know better. He is also struggling with a deeper regret that is his alone. The shot represents how Tony continually frames his own version of  events, reorganizing them to his liking until they appear the way that they should.

window
Cuties.

This show follows the “show, don’t tell” rule  well. So well, in fact, that it’s taken me multiple viewings (at least three in total) to realize that the scene with Melfi where he confesses to murdering Puss, Tony B, and Chris is just a dream. It was an easy mistake: Melfi plays it characteristically cool in the face of his admission, and this isn’t the first time Tony has called therapy bullshit or turned on a dime. It had me completely fooled. It changes my original interpretation, but only by a smidgen.

Assuming the therapy session was real, I thought that the hard cut from her office to the Sopranos’ bedroom meant that he was coming out of an unseen nightmare about Christopher. Instead of watching him explain the lingering trauma of his death to Melfi, I thought we were seeing the impact that it had on his sleep.

This still fits: dreams continually play an important role in Soprano Land. They often reveal truths, confirming a character’s deep-seated fears. (“Someone should tell your friend she’s dead.” RIP everyone.) Christopher is added to the roster of those who have gone before, whose shadowy midnight presence sheds light on the darkest areas of Tony’s brain. This is exactly the kind of psychological mumbo-jumbo that Tony rejects, but it does seem that his dreams are wishes or representations of repressed urges.

Dream Tony opens up to Dream Melfi (who is clothed this time). He tells her that watching Christopher die in his arms was difficult. This was one of the reasons I thought it was real. He is vague about the cause of death, framing it almost romantically by telling her that Chris died in his arms. This is what he truly wants to believe, what he needs to have others believe.

I did think it was weird that he was suddenly admitting to murder while she just sat there, which should have been my first clue that it was not really happening. But wouldn’t it be a relief to him if he could tell her the truth? Assuming she could keep it from the authorities, Melfi would be the one person above all others whom he could trust with his secret. Carmela would cut his dick off for real if she knew. 

I think his pain is genuine, even if the incident isn’t, which is why even his dream self rushes to renege. “This is bullshit” – exactly what he says to her  in real time a few episodes ago, in “Walk Like A Man,” and as far back as season 4’s “Calling All Cars.

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Any time Tony gets too close to the uncomfortable truth—be it his own emotions, or the repercussions of his actions– he checks out. Backtracks. It’s kind of like a psychological edging. It’s probably why he was able to recognize Paulie’s anxieties so well in “The Ride,” when he told him that he was too fearful of everything.

Like Paulie, he either lashes out or buries anything he can’t immediately understand. One of the easiest ways to cope is by re-telling the tale in his own words. However great the strides he has made in therapy (baby steps for him equal strides), he is still his own greatest fear. So, he lies to himself. Christopher gets blamed for being a “tremendous drag on [his] emotions,” when he would have had just as much heartache and paranoia if Chris had been a sober top earner, and not formerly engaged to a rat. Tony doesn’t seem to realize (or remember) that you can love a person but hate their behaviour, which has been the case with Christopher all along.  Keep lying to yourself, T. Whatever helps you sleep at night. Or doesn’t.

Jerking awake, he asks Carmela if he was talking in his sleep. He is relieved when she tells him he was just snoring. Snoring isn’t snitching.

 

 

 

melfioffice
Please don’t make me hide the gun in my underwear again.
dream
“You want sex?”

 

 

The next morning, Tony shuffles into the kitchen for some coffee. Ignoring the espresso machine from Paulie, he grabs a cup from the mug tree, making me miss my own mug tree a little. It’s the promotional mug from Cleaver. He carries it outside, pausing at the edge of the walkway before throwing it into the trees. For a change, he has used the very weapon, his hands,  to throw away the reminder.

cleaver.png
Sell it on eBay with a story about a curse.

Back inside, he speaks with Carmela. I really like where she took their conversation, thinking of Christopher as a child. We were led to do the same with Tony in “Down Neck” with his flashbacks to the fair. Tony deflects her sentimentality with a crack about the Moltisanti schnozz living on in Caitlin. Carmela berates herself for ever suspecting him of murdering Ade. “Obviously, he was violent as an adult… his upbringing. But he adored Ade. He could never let himself take her life.” Death makes saints of us all.

Carmela turns out to be half-right. Technically, Christopher only ordered the hit on Adriana. Silvio is the one who takes her life. Christopher did try to choke her to death in the apartment beforehand, but couldn’t bring himself to. Semantics, I know! That’s the argument Tony would use if ever confronted with the truth.

Still reeling from the dream, he sets about bringing Carmela onto his side as much as possible without revealing everything. His voice is careful as he tells her that he thought she sounded relieved when he called to tell her Christopher had died. He is hoping that she will be as “fuckin’ relieved” as he was in the dream. She is horrified: “You don’t know what you’re saying!”

But he does, and he isn’t exactly wrong. A tearful Carmela admits that maybe she was, but only because it was him and not Tony. The thought of living on the end of a hospital bed again is overwhelming.

He tells her with measured cruelty that Caitlin would have been “mangled beyond recognition” had she been in the baby seat behind them. This is his way of justifying to himself why he killed Christopher. It was for the greater good, he silently maintains. It was better him than anyone else. I did the right thing.  Carmela had just said that she couldn’t stop thinking of Christopher when he was young; Dream Melfi says that he was “just starting his life.” The true beginner is Caitlin Moltisanti. He thinks this will also be of some consolation to Carmela, but she flees the conversation.

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C’mahhhhn! What’d I say?

In (true) therapy, he tells Melfi that he only meant to make her feel better. What he means is, he meant to make himself feel better.

Best line: “I was fuckin’ prostate with grief!” (about Tony B)

Looking at it from a solely professional angle,  I can understand why he killed Christopher. Chris was next in line and angling for his position. He was young. (Tony is approaching 50, an age that Christopher hypocritically predicts he will never reach because of his lifestyle.) He had a family to support.  He was a professional pain in the ass who cost him time and money and would have, as their leader, run the crew into the ground in due time. It only makes sense to kill the incompetent competition.

JULIANAAAAAA. CARMELA MEETS ANOTHER GOOMAR. I detect a flicker of suspicion in Carmela when Juliana says she used to buy her meat at Satriale’s. If she went there often, then she knew Tony well, too. And what does Tony do with every woman he meets? To skew their familiarity, he intentionally flubs her name, introducing her as Juliana Skiffle, not Skiff.

 

eh goomar.png
Juliana Wifflebat. Uh, Swiffer. Uh…

As they make their way into the viewing room, Carmela remarks that Juliana is a good-looking woman. Unusual coming from Carm, this is probably more of a comment on Chrissy’s taste, but I also took it as a subtle jab at Tony. Said as nonchalantly as possible, it’s as if she’s asking, “isn’t she, Tony? Wouldn’t you love to have her?” knowing that he has, or has thought about it. Having learned that silence is golden, Tony does not respond, and she does not pursue it. Is this newfound bliss in ignorance?

I thought I saw a tear glistening on his cheek when he was talking to Carmela. It was just light reflecting off the burn. Oops.

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A Don does not cry at funerals.

I liked Chris’ funeral. It was pretty realistic, as far as TV funerals go: the solemn nods, the way Carmela collects herself before approaching the coffin. Nice and understated. In my experience, all Italian men look like mafiosi when they attend a funeral, whether they actually are or not. I’ve never been to one with a professional mourner, but I’m still young.

I’ve written before about how much I love AJ, but you don’t know that yet because I’m posting my notes out of order. Right now, I fucking hate him. The attack on the Somalian man was disgusting. He turns to AJ for support, hoping he would be the voice of reason. Instead, he of the delicate stomach stands by, unable to act. He holds the most clout in his group, and he does nothing with it. In any other situation where he benefits, he is happy to exploit his name and his wealth.

As with the acid attack, AJ’s reticence reveals his true nature. He’s definitely Carmela’s son, with more than a dash of the occasional sensitivity we see in Tony. He only acts the tough guy, knowing that the world expects him to be the next Mr. Mob Boss.But when things get real, he freezes, ignoring the option to fight (fairly) or flight. With the quick flash on his face as he separates himself from the fight, we are meant to understand that he inwardly condemns their actions, but his inaction outwardly condones it.

 

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More is lost by indecision than a wrong decision.

 

In therapy, he goes on a Tony-style rant about the state of the world, concluding that it would depress anyone who didn’t have their head up their ass.  That’s ass-tute. (Sorry.) It’s probably not fair to compare the way he uses his status at clubs to the way he handles real life crises, since they are completely different situations. One involves his private self, the other his public projection. We already know that he’s nothing like Tony, but keeps trying to be. He can only pull it off so far before it starts to wear on him.

His therapist, who barely knows him, asks him what exactly he’s talking about. AJ responds, “why can’t we all just get along?” Aware of the clear racial motivations of the attack (which would be accurately labeled a hate crime today),  AJ indirectly answers his therapist’s question with the oft-misquoted Rodney King plea. Before you tell me that this is the writer speaking and not AJ, don’t forget his newfound interest in politics and social justice. He’s bound to have come across it at some point, especially with Meadow as his sister.

Tony’s trip to Vegas always seemed like a separate episode. They’ve already crammed so much into the first half, it feels like the whole hour has gone by.

Of course, he fucks Chris’ old one-night-stand. Nice socks.

socks.png
Bow chicka wow wow

With the nonsense controversy stirred by the flip phones in “Hello” still fresh when I watched this, I laughed at Phil snapping his phone shut on Tony. “This is me hangin’ up!” Tony says, but Phil beats him to it. Now that’s how you end a call.

booyouwhore
That guy is so in love.

Okay, not to be Paulie, but I noticed that Tony’s pendant touches the inner rim of the toilet bowl when he throws up after taking peyote. Lysol that shit.

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I’m serious, clean it up.

He and Sonya make their way to the casino. Tony wins on roulette. He watches the wheel spin through heavy-lidded eyes, while Sonya moans and slumps against him. When his number comes up, he laughs. “He’s dead.”

Sonya and the croupier look on in confusion as he falls to the floor, helpless with laughter. The croupier has a trained, vaguely sympathetic expression on his face, that says he’s been there, done that, bought the t-shirt. All in a day’s work. Moments like this make me think again about all of the nameless characters who have crossed Tony’s path, often unaware of whose presence they are in. It’s kind of amazing when you think of the number of background players who have come into contact with him in some way in the course of their lives, even from a lucky distance.

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Dawn.

Somehow, Sonya and Tony make it out to the desert. This is one of the most beautiful locations they’ve shot in: pink sky, hazy, half-shadowed trees and mountains on the horizon. I feel like I’m in a Don Bluth movie.

Tony sits on the rock, watching the sunrise. The winking light pulls us back to the mysterious beacon that he saw while in the coma, pulsing cleanly in the sky like the signal from a radio tower. In what inarguably became one of the most famous scenes of the series, Tony stands up (much more steadily than Sonya, I might add), clasping his hands behind his head. With real tears in eyes this time, he yells, “I GET IT!!!!!” The echo makes sure everyone else within earshot gets it, too.

But do I get it? What does he get? I’m finding that hard to work out. Whenever I think I’ve worked out a theory I’m happy with, I think,  maybe there’s more.  Is there even anything to work out?

Honestly, it might just be an excited, drug-exaggerated reaction to seeing the same thing from his coma dream in his waking life. He’s high, he’s alive, and maaaan, I saw the coolest thing that time I almost died… Now he’s tripping in the desert, far from home, far from responsibilities and his wife, with a beautiful woman at his side. What more could he ask for? This is all he’s ever dreamed of. Maybe it goes no deeper than this selfish joy.

On a grander scale, it could mean that he has solved or come to terms with some sort of existential crisis. This trip (both types) is his answer from the universe, which he just referred to in the casino when he tells Sonya that the wheel is designed to mimic the orbit of the solar system. Is he able to let go of his fear of death? Or of life? When he was navigating his alternate universe as Kevin Finnerty, he was afraid to enter the Christmas party. He refuses to give Bellhop Tony B his suitcase because it holds his very identity.  He knew something was pulling him back, but didn’t know what. Something now tells him that he is meant to be here, still.

One of the episodes just ahead of this, “Chasing It,” opens with Tony gambling and losing. In an argument with Carm, he explains the powerful pull of addiction. “You start chasing it, and every time you get your hands around it, you fall further backwards.”

Since Chris’ death, he has been falling ever deeper into the chasm he has never really climbed out of.  He can mouth platitudes about being carried across the sky by a great wind, but he is still chasing freedom from his own conscience. (I think he has one!)  He has admitted to some sadness, but only as much as he’ll allow himself. The rest gets buried or expressed in anger toward Chris and everyone else who mourns him.

For the better part of his recent life, Tony has been on a personal losing streak. Every action of his is a gamble. At any minute, his carefully laid plans may go awry. They come close to crumbling each time his life is threatened, starting from the time his mother and uncle plan the hit on him They fall apart in smaller ways along the way: Jackie’s death, Junior’s Alzheimers, leaving therapy (then going back…. then leaving…), his separation from Carmela, AJ’s suicide attempt, to name a few.

He sees this as an ending to all of that, one that he can revel in because it’s purely symbolic, and does not require his own demise. Chris is gone. He is here. He’s got a crew to return to. He doesn’t have to admit anything to Melfi; they’ve already talked it out in their limited way. He’s back with Carmela. He has slowly but surely watched the obstacles in his way disappear, either by circumstance or his own doing:  Livia (dead), Philly (dead),  Chucky (dead), Mikey Palmice (dead), Junior (locked up; may as well be dead), Tony B (dead), Ralphie (dead), and now Chris. The future looks blindingly, glitteringly perfect. He’s in control again, and his stars have aligned. Everything’s comin’ up Milhouse.

But…

For how long?

I feel like there’s  a greater connection to the finale here, but I don’t know what. Send me flowers.

The Ride: Paulie’s not-so-charmed hour

Life, it’s ever so strange
It’s so full of change
Think that you’ve worked it out
Then BANG
Right out of the blue
Something happens to you
To throw you off course
And then you

Break down
Yeah you break down
Well don’t you break down
Listen to me
Because

It’s just a ride, it’s just a ride
No need to run, no need to hide – Jem, The Ride.

Lil churchgoers.

Internal communication is de rigueur among this crew. But what about messages from the other side?

Finally, a Paulie-centric plot. He and Patsy are in charge of securing space and funds for the annual church festival to honor St. Elzéar, which he has been in charge of since the days of Johnny Boy Soprano, and don’t you forget it!

When Paulie and Patsy enter the church, Patsy is the only one who genuflects at the altar. Paulie breezes past, stopping at the statue of St. Elzéar. “Could use a coat o’ lacquer,” is all he says, before being welcomed into Father José’s office for the showdown. You’d expect a guy as prone to panic as Paulie is to be as scrupulous about his soul as he is about his health.

Surprisingly, Paulie has always been easily spooked by the paranormal. I think this goes hand-in-hand with his panic attacks, which at one point, we learn, required therapy. Paulie has a fear of the unknown, of that which is unexpected, which is about 99% of life and death. In From Where To Eternity, Christopher comes out of his coma with a message from the now-dead Mikey Palmice for Paulie: “Three o’clock.” The witching hour! Mikey is a little vague on the meaning, leaving it to the living to speculate. Tony thinks that Christopher’s dream is a byproduct of the morphine he was given in the hospital. Who should know better than Christopher what drugs can do to your mind? Even with such a rational explanation, Paulie is freaked out. While he tries to convince Chris that what he experienced was purgatory (“a stop on the way to paradise”), and not the eternal furnace, he is soon plagued by nightmares where he is being dragged to Hell. His dreams wake him at that famed hour when the veil between the living and the dead is at its thinnest, adding to his fear.

So, what does he do about this? Does he return to therapy? Beg Tony for a referral to Melfi? Start popping Prozac like it’s candy?

Mr. Gualtieri, the doctor will see you now.

Nope. He goes to see a psychic! Well, actually it’s “Ted Hughes” who goes to the psychic: After all, a man with Mr. Gualtieri’s reputation can be easily scammed. It wouldn’t take a second sight to rattle off a list of details about his life. Using a pseudonym, Paulie winds up in a living-room full of believers sitting in a circle around a man who is in deep conversation with Gregory, a spirit whose son, Daniel, is a member of the group. Gregory apologizes for the fact that his son had to be the one to find his body after he killed himself. The psychic gets a suitably religious image of Daniel in the lion’s den. Anyone who finds their dead father’s body probably feels as if they themselves have been thrown into a pit of lions to die. The psychic tells Dan to move on, becoming his saving grace, as God was for the Biblical Daniel.

Stripes (that’s what I’m going to call the psychic from now on) then stands and makes his way over to Paulie, who has been watching with unusual conviction. And sympathy! He’d be biting his nails if they weren’t freshly manicured, and you know they are. Stripes addresses the wall behind Paulie (who is wearing blindingly white shoes – is it okay for a mobster to dress like Seinfeld?), comforting a spirit who is angry and afraid. Nervous, Paulie asks, “Who the fuck are you talkin’ to?”

’bout to break some walnuts.

Stripes tells him it’s Charles, and it ain’t Prince Charlie. He’s talking to Charlie “Sonny” Pagano, Paulie’s first ever victim, way back in the sixties. “He says he was your first,” Stripes intones, “but I feel there are many more.” Paulie has Stripes by the collar when he is asked to leave. In a wide shot, we see that the room is slowly emptying. One woman reluctantly makes her way toward the door, unable to tear herself away from the spectacle but unsure if she’s about to see someone cross over before her own eyes. Funny.

Paulie declares it “satanic black magic. Sick shit!” before throwing a chair and calling them “fucking queers.” I took this in the most literal sense, as witness to something strange and suspect, not as a slur, even if he is a known homophobe.

Back to The Ride. 

Let’s cut to the chase. The last thing you expect to see when you enter a strip club in the middle of the night is the Virgin Mary. But at 3 A.M, all sensible bets are off.

in ur strip club scaring the hell out of u
in ur strip club scaring the hell out of u

When he finds himself in times of trouble, Mother Mary comes to Paulie, sans wisdom, accompanied not by an angelic choir, but by a grinding guitar that that reminds me of Helena’s theme on Orphan Black. Love that split-second squeal. That’s the metallic sound of blood running cold.

The vision is not as creepy to me as it is to others, but if I think about it happening in real life, I’d probably shit myself. A few theories surround its meaning, centered on the significance of it hanging by the stripper pole. A redditor suggests it looks like Gloria, who is literally hanging over his head, but I don’t think that’s a sound theory, even if it is fun. Why would she appear to Paulie? If she’s meant to be the archetype of all of the women who have passed through those doors and their lives, I think she’d show herself to Tony. Maybe they figured he’d been through enough with the coma dreams. Let’s give the little chooch a break.

The best interpretations draw on the Madonna-Whore complex, and the significance of Mother Mary appearing in connection with Marianucci, whom he visits at the end in an act of wordless reparation. The Madonna-whore complex boils down to women being divided into two camps: the saintly, good-girl Madonna, who is sugar and spice and everything nice, and the whore, who is someone you use once and, hopefully only figuratively, destroy.

This fits pretty well with how the men on The Sopranos view women.  Paulie’s newly complicated relationship with his ma/aunt supports this. When he thought Marianucci was his ma, he worshiped the ground she walked on. Additionally, Paulie’s real mother, Dottie, was a nun, the supposed pinnacle of purity. (“How could you be a bad girl? You’re a nun.”) Finding out that she was really a “whore” who had him out of wedlock turns his world on its head. Identity is incredibly sacred to anyone; when you’re part of “this thing of ours,” it is imperative. Paulie now sees himself as yet another unknown.

Nucci tells him that all of these misfortunes have befallen him because he has sinned against God. Angered by Father José’s refusal to settle for the usual $10, 000 donation, Paulie had cursed the statue on his way out of the church after the meeting. “Fuck the hat!” he says, referring to St. Elzéar’s golden hat, made from melted-down wedding rings that belonged to the area’s Italian immigrants. On the day of the procession, Elzéar makes his trip through the streets without his famous chapeau. Paulie also cursed his real mother upon her confession. You don’t have to be a Roman Catholic to know what happens to someone who even thinks about siccing the malocchio on a nun. As he did with the psychic, Paulie outwardly dismisses this as “voodoo,” but deep down, he knows he must atone.

Every time I see the episode title, the song I quoted at the beginning runs through my head. Turns out, the lyrics sum up Paulie’s trials of late: his entire life has been thrown into question by the discovery that his mother isn’t who he thought she was. Now he may have prostate cancer. Left without a biological family or a sense of self, the news hits hard. On top of that, his frickin’ frugal (sorry, couldn’t resist a Golden Girls line) ways with the fair rides may have caused an even bigger catastrophe and resulted in death. If Janice or her kids had been killed or seriously injured, Paulie would’ve caught it in the walnuts and then some. All things considered, there is compelling evidence that he has been butted out of the line leading to the pearly gates. Such are the heavy thoughts bearing down on those little white wings.

Toward the end, Tony corners him in the bathroom at Vesuvio and tells him to settle “this shit with Bobby,” who sprang at Paulie when he found out that he was the one who caused the accident. Paulie tells him about his biopsy, understandably upset.

Good place to talk about the ol’ prostate.

I love that Tony is the one who tries to calm him down. The former king of pessimism has turned over a new leaf, although this is not too far out of left field: remember how he bore his own cancer scare, pre-life-changing coma. He’s doing his duty as a long-time friend, and boss, but he’s doing it with unexpected compassion. He tells Paulie he’s too susceptible to everything. believing that danger is in everything from dirty toilet seats to psychic messages. The things that scare him the most are things that he can’t see to point his gun at, or immediately make sense of. I thought Tony was going to trot out his now-beloved Ojibwe saying about going around in great pity for oneself. Instead, he puts it more simply: “You don’t know shit yet. … Get a grip.” He even takes a holistic view, adding that stress could have brought it on. Melfi would be proud.

Just rock a little all the time, and you won’t die.

Slowly, oh so very slowly
Accept that
There’s no getting off
So live it, just gotta go with it
Coz this ride’s, never gonna stop