Is the mob series finally back on track? Bruce Fretts applauds the show's writers for returning to several dangling plot threads and moving them forward
Michael Imperioli, The Sopranos
Credit: Sopranos: Barry Wetcher
James Gandolfini

Is the mob series finally back on track?

Well, better late than never: After spending the better part of the season killing time with peripheral story lines, ”The Sopranos” is finally back in the zone. It took the show’s four best writers (Terence Winter, Robin Green, Mitchell Burgess, and creator David Chase) as well as ace director Alan Taylor to pull off ”The Strong, Silent Type,” an episode that tied together almost all of the dangling plot threads.

The drama returned to top form as Christopher hit rock bottom. First, the smack addict accidentally whacked fiancée Adriana’s pooch, Cosette, by sitting on her in mid-nod. Then he got carjacked by a gang of thugs while desperately cruising for a fix. But he broke the last straw when he slapped Ade around for giving him a pamphlet about Hazelden rehab clinic (although it was actually her FBI handler who placed him on the facility’s mailing list).

Despite Uncle Junior’s advice to put Chris down like a rabid dog, Tony staged an intervention — ”Sopranos” style. He enlisted a recovering alcoholic ex-con (the hilariously pathetic Elias Koteas) to organize the ”care-frontation,” which began inauspiciously with Ade announcing to Chris’ closest friends and relatives that because of his H habit, he could ”no longer function as a man.” The event rapidly devolved into an old-school beatdown after Chrissy called his own mother ”a f—in’ hoo-a.” Yo, you kiss your mama with that mouth?

The Family’s ass-kicking must have whipped some sense into Christopher, because he checked into a Pennsylvania detox center. Maybe he’ll be safer in there, since it looks like all hell is about to break loose on the outside. Tony poured more fuel on the ready-to-ignite firefight with the New York mob by pinning the blame for Ralphie’s death on them. He didn’t want to give Carmine’s crew a cut of his latest Newark land swindle anyway, and the accusation throws suspicion away from Tony for committing the murder.

Not coincidentally, Paulie drove another potential wedge between himself and his boss by disobeying an order to burn a valuable painting of Tone with his beloved racehorse, Pie-O-My. Even after he had the portrait redone with a Napoleonic figure, Paulie still felt the general’s eyes watching him behind his back.

On the home front, Tony and Carmela’s marriage continues to deteriorate. He cheated on his wife (not to mention on his mistress, Valentina) by getting horizontal with Uncle Junior’s one-legged Russian nurse, Svetlana. (She blew him off afterward, explaining, ”I’ve got my own problems.”) And Carm inched closer to an affair with Furio, confessing her feelings to Ro and apparently sneaking out for a romantic pasta dinner at the Italian stallion’s cucina.

Okay, so a few subplots remained unaddressed: Uncle Junior’s trial didn’t progress, and we still don’t know what’s up with Bacala and Janice (they were seen in the preview for next week, however). But ”The Strong, Silent Type” did cover a lot of ground. Hell, there was even a reference to that long-lost Russian in the woods.

Do you think ”The Sopranos” is back on track?

James Gandolfini
The Sopranos
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