Another slow and relatively uneventful episode begins interestingly enough with Tony and his crew hitting it big at the roulette table. Are Tony’s financial problems (which have been hinted at in several earlier episodes and most recently last week) finally clearing up? Does this mean that his luck is finally turning around?
No, no it doesn’t.
Unfortunately for Tony, while his group does include several men who would kill for him, it doesn’t include that one guy who gets drunk and then slurs "Just walk away, just walk away right now, man. You’re up, what, like 23 dollars? Take it and run, man! Don’t give it back to the Man. No, seriously, we’re going back to the hotel room NOW!" in your ear while you’re playing any game in the casino (you know the guy). So Tony loses his new found wealth approximately fifteen seconds after winning it by letting his earnings ride. Not the smartest decision in the world. Well, ok, so you lost, it’s not the end of the world. At
least no one else is looking for a handout, right Tony?
Well, that’s not the case either as the widow Marie Spatafore calls on Tony to deal with problems with her son, Vito Jr. And while Vito Jr. rebels against his family much in the same fashion that many of today’s high schoolers do, dressing up as Robert Smith from "the Cure", flipping over gravestones, and pooping in public showers, his mom believes there’s a much deeper problem. Because apparently reading about your father’s brutal, hate-crime death
in the newspaper might be somewhat damaging to a child. Go figure. Her plan is to move her family to Maine, somewhere where they can start over and no one knows them or their history. And all Tony has to do is provide 100,000 dollars to set them up. Well, how generous they are to allow him to do such a thing! Needless to say, Tony is not exactly thrilled with the idea and tries, in vain, to get Marie to talk to Phil and have him chip in for the move. Marie balks at the idea and Tony comes to the slow realization that he’s probably going to
be the one responsible for all this. Well, ok, so you lost a bunch of money at the roulette table and you’re gonna have to foot the bill for 100 grand. But at least you don’t owe anyone else money, right Tony?
Wrong again, as we discover that longtime Soprano ally and Jew (as that fact was beat over our heads for the remainder of the hour), Hesh loaned Tony 200,000 dollars and doesn’t think the "Cleaver" baseball cap Tony got him quite evens things out. So now, much like Sallie Mae and our student loans, Tony has to make payments to Hesh, which he is none too pleased about. But hey look on the bright side Tony, at least you can say your gambling debts aren’t mounting up, right?
Well, that’s not entirely true either, as we discover that Tony’s gambling debts are way out of control as expressed both by fury over his lost wager on Buffalo (The lesson? The Bills cannot be trusted in any gambling situation) and his slow, stunned reaction to the second place finish of "Meadow Gold", a horse he had picked to win (The lesson? Your kids aren’t lucky and probably don’t even love you). He’s chasing his losses instead of just cutting and running. Why is this man, who has no doubt seen countless lives (like the T-1000’s for example) ruined by gambling letting the same thing happen to his own? In a oundabout way, Tony reveals to Dr. Melfi that his addictions (and in a larger sense, his lifestyle as a whole) is about "risk vs. reward". It’s not so much about the payoff as it’s about the thrill of the game and keeping up the illusion of the lifestyle. Unfortunately, Tony realizes (too late maybe) that this mentality is finally catching up with him, giving him yet another reason to leave the life behind.
To make matters worse, Phil is now the boss of New York. Phil’s first act of business (well, his first act of business after making love to an ancient Nancy Sinatra with his eyes) is to deny Tony’s request to help out with money for Marie. Needless to say, this does not go over well with Tony, who is more incensed at Phil for this act than for, say, killing Vito, Tony’s top earner, which indirectly helped to put Tony in his current financial crisis.
Phil is not totally heartless, however, and decides to have a heart-to-heart talk with the child whose father he brutally murdered, in an attempt to set him straight. With "straight" being the key word here as Phil’s talk with Vito Jr. basically boils down to "Don’t be gay." Some outstanding parenting there. Vito Jr. is less than receptive to Phil’s words, despite the fact that Phil bought him a sundae to make up for beating his father to death. That should count for something, shouldn’t it? Later in the episode, Tony tries his hand at talking some sense into Vito’s troubled son, but it goes just slightly better than Phil’s
attempt. Clearly there’s no reaching this boy. Tony doesn’t want to spend the money to move the Spatafore family and yet, the problem just isn’t going to go away. Or is it? Thankfully, Tony apparently saw "Brat Camp" on ABC last summer because he decides to send Vito Jr. to such a camp partially to help the boy but mainly because spending 18,000 dollars for admittance there is much less than spending that aforementioned 100,000. So Vito Jr. is dragged away by several burly men in plaid (something his father no doubt dreamt about on a regular basis) most likely never to be heard from again. Problem solved.
Too bad Tony didn’t use the same tough love on his own son A.J. who (according to the previews for next week’s show) is about to turn into a quivering mess. It was an up-and-down episode for A.J., as he was flying high after proposing to his girlfriend, who kinda said yes while at the same time casually searched for the closest exit out of the corner of her eye to make a run for it. Probably not the best sign in the world. Later on, of course, she returns the ring, saying that while she originally thought she loved A.J., she actually
didn’t know if she ever did and probably doesn’t at all. Ouch. At least she had the decency to break the kid’s heart in a quiet, secluded place right? Sure, if you think the middle of a Latino Pride Day parade is a quiet, secluded place. You almost have to feel sorry for A.J. until you realize that he’s pretty much the least likable character on the show. And then you laugh really hard.
Rounding out the episode was some new information about Carmela’s spec house. That fucking spec house. While some key plot lines have received little to no attention at all in the last few episodes (Wasn’t Christopher back on heroin in the first half of this season? Didn’t we see A.J. using in the bathroom of a club? Wasn’t Meadow getting married?) and some have disappeared without a trace, the spec house has been lingering around for a few seasons
now. But at least it finally past inspection and is sold, for a profit of 600,000 dollars. Tony wants to take some of that money and use it to bet on the Jets. Carmela wisely says "No" because if there’s one thing that should raise some possible red flags that a person close to you has a gambling addiction it’s hearing "Jets", and "sure thing" in the same sentence. Apparently though, the Sopranos live in some sort of bizarro world where the Jets can demolish the Chargers (because the Chargers QB had a hairline fracture and apparently
LaDainian Tomlinson doesn’t exist) and Tony’s bet would have come through big-time. This leads to a fight between the couple, as Carmela expresses concern that she doesn’t want to end up like Ginny Sack (as in, penniless if Tony goes to prison, not morbidly obese). The fight doesn’t last too long, however, as the pair talk about their concerns. Again, the root of the issue comes down to money and Tony assures his wife that if anything happens to him, she’ll be taken care of and provided for. He also reassures her that there’s a good chance that the worst (surviving the gunshot wound) is likely behind them. This probably means something even worse is right around the corner, but for now the pair seems content.
As Tony and Carmela make up, however, it’s Hesh’s relationship that takes a hit, mainly because Renata, his significant other, dies in her sleep. Tony visits the old man, handling the condolences in the most appropriate way: giving Hesh the rest of the 200,000. Because nothing says "I’m so sorry for you loss" than a J.C. Penny bag full of cash.
Tony walks out of Hesh’s house with a look on his face that says either "Well, I don’t have a lot of money anymore and maybe I’ll have to change my ways if I want to survive, but at least I have my health, at least I have my loved ones" or "Where the hell did I buy this suit? Jesus, I know I like pissing money away, but this is ridiculous. I look like a fat pimp." It really could go either way. The only thing we know for sure is that with five episodes left, it’s just a matter of time before all hell breaks loose for the Soprano family.