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Recap / The Sopranos S 3 E 13 Army Of One

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Season 3, Episode 13

Army of One

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A.J. and his friend Egan Cosmo hide out in the boiler room of their school Verbum Dei until closing to sneak into a classroom and fabricate passing grades on a test they had both flunked. While hiding in the boiler room, both boys pee on the wall. Very shortly afterward, the dean of Verbum Dei meets with them, taking note of their identical A+ test scores. He then claims their DNA was found in the urine from the boiler room and expels them both. Egan just breaks down crying, while A.J. attempts to shift the blame away from himself.
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Jackie, Jr. hides out in a housing project in Boonton, living with a single father and his chess enthusiast daughter, who refer to Jackie as "Mr. X" when he refuses to give his name. Though his hosts make an effort to teach him chess, Jackie grows frustrated and gives up on it quickly. Meanwhile, Mob associates quickly identify Jackie's location, but Ralph, the captain now responsible for Jackie's fate, procrastinates making a decision, as letting the kid live would diminish his respect, but he's dating Jackie's mother. Jackie calls Tony at home crying and begging for forgiveness, and Tony quickly shuts him down. This uncomfortable exchange prompts Tony to meet with Ralph, ordering him to make a decision sooner rather than later. Ralph makes the call and his button man Vito Spatafore shoots Jackie in the back of the head while he goes for a walk.

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At Tony's office, Paulie tells him Carmela has called and is crying. Tony expects that she has learned about Jackie's death, but is blindsided to find out that A.J. was expelled from Verbum Dei. Tony loses his temper and goes on a tirade at home, abruptly deciding that he will send A.J. to military school. When A.J. talks back to Tony, he hits him. Carmela, though angry with A.J., is horrified by this. Later as the three of them sit at a table going over brochures for military school - a subject about which only Tony is enthusiastic - Carmela answers a phone call and learns that Jackie Jr. is dead. She is shocked and A.J. is stricken as well. Tony feigns surprise, but quickly maneuvers to use the situation as a warning to scare A.J. straight about his irresponsible behavior. Later, A.J. calls Meadow to tell her the news, but gets sidetracked when she thinks he's calling about his expulsion and tells him that the supposed DNA found in his pee was a bluff. Eventually when A.J. gets around to telling her Jackie is dead, she drops the phone in shock.

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Paulie moves his mother, Marianucci, into Green Grove, the retirement community/nursing home where Tony sent Livia. Marianucci, a sweet old lady, is moved to tears by her son's kindness in sending her to such a nice living environment, but the cost of keeping her there weighs heavily on Paulie's finances. He requests a sit-down with Tony and Ralph, demanding a higher percentage of a lucrative job Ralph pulled off based on Paulie's tip, but Tony settles on giving Paulie a quarter of what he asked for.

As Junior's cancer is in remission, making him physically fit for a RICO trial, the FBI mobilizes against the Soprano family once again. After the death of Big Pussy and the fiasco of the lamp microphone in the Soprano basement, they need a new plant close to Tony. Harris identifies Christopher, who has been rapidly ascending in the ranks, as a promising lead. Deborah Ciccerone, an attractive younger agent, is assigned to befriend Adriana undercover as another glamorous big-haired Jersey girl.

Tony decides on Hudson Military Institute as A.J.'s next school. A.J. meets with Major Zwingli, the head of the institution, and is totally out of his depth when confronted with the level of discipline Zwingli promises he will face. Zwingli then meets with Tony and Carmela. He impresses Tony with his masculine and straight-shooting attitude, but Carmela remains reluctant to send A.J. to a military school, as she believes it will train him to kill. That night Tony and Carmela have a volatile argument about the subject and end up sleeping in different rooms, with Tony repeatedly slamming a door in frustration and A.J. attempting to drown the noises out with his headphones. The next day the family attends Jackie Jr.'s wake. Meadow grieves openly while Carmela is unsettled by the sight of the dead man not much older than A.J. That night she relents to Tony's military school decision, opting to "try it his way".

Meadow is at odds with Carmela in the aftermath of Jackie's death. When Meadow suggests that an upbringing connected to the mafia had something to do with Jackie's death, Carmela shuts her down and claims Jackie did it to himself. Jackie is buried, with Rosalie screaming in grief during the funeral. During the burial a minor sting is carried out on the mob for their sports book over Superbowl weekend, with Silvio and Christopher getting arrested, Paulie frantically running away and a paranoid Junior making a scene as he flees. Afterwards, when the group of mourners bring Rosalie home, Meadow shares a drink with Jackie's sister Kelli. When Kelli expresses a disdainful skepticism regarding the story that Jackie was killed by black drug dealers, when the police report implicated a heavyset white man, Meadow becomes defensive of the family, alienating Kelli.

With his parents in agreement, A.J.'s future seems set in stone. Reluctantly he puts on the uniform for Hudson, but even as both Tony and Carmela attempt to reassure him that it will be a positive experience, he suffers a panic attack and collapses. Tony later speaks to Dr. Melfi about his son's panic attacks, revealing that when A.J. collapsed on the football field at Verbum Dei they chalked it up to dehydration. He becomes tearful and emotional, and when Melfi tries to get him to divulge his feelings, he can only express this dismay that military school is no longer an option, asking "How are we gonna save this kid?"

Several Soprano family members and associates convene at Vesuvio's for a dinner following the funeral. Paulie meets with Johnny Sack outside and, disillusioned with Tony's treatment of him, offers to give John information about the Soprano family. Christopher and Silvio make bail and arrive at the gathering as well. When Junior, a few drinks in, begins to sing, a drunk Meadow mocks him and throws bread at him. Tony drags her outside, demanding to know the cause of her disrespect, and she refers to the proceedings as "bullshit" before running across the street. Tony returns inside and watches Junior sing with Carmela and A.J.


Tropes:

  • Abusive Parents: Tony smacks A.J. hard when he mouths off.
  • Adult Fear:
    • Tony, after exhausting any possibility he can think of including Military Academy, is at a loss for how to salvage anything even resembling a hopeful future for A.J.
    • Rosalie is absolutely devastated at Jackie Jr.'s burial.
  • Alas, Poor Villain: A few characters Speak Ill of the Dead, but Meadow is devastated by Jackie's passing and suggests to her mother that he was more hurt by his parents' hands-off approach to raising him than he ever let on.
  • Boom, Headshot!: Jackie Jr. gets one from Vito Spatafore.
  • Broken Pedestal: The source of Paulie's disillusionment with Tony.
  • Call-Back: Paulie moves his mother into Green Grove, saying he chose it because Tony moved his mother there.
  • The Chains of Commanding: Tony really struggles with these in this episode. Paulie has previously been one of his most loyal capos, and he cites compelling financial needs with respect to his mother. But he doesn't earn as much as Ralph. Ralph on the other hand, is a Bunny-Ears Lawyer who's necessary to get the Esplanade project, and who's bringing in plenty more than Paulie. Furthermore, Tony had to force Ralph's hand in getting rid of Jackie Jr. and that leaves him hesitant to alienate Ralph even further. The sit-down sees Tony sympathetic to Paulie, but ultimately having to rule squarely in Ralph's favor. However, that leads to a whole new arc on its own based on Paulie's Mistreatment-Induced Betrayal.
  • Character Development: Meadow takes another solid step towards becoming a true Mafia Princess when she chastises Kelli for discussing the particulars of Jackie's murder in front of an outsider (i.e. not Italian).
  • Comically Missing the Point: A.J., when the Dean informs him that his DNA is an exact match for the urine found in the boiler room, at least initially thinks he's getting busted for vandalism. It takes a little while for it to sink in that the real significance is that he's getting busted for cheating. Also, when asked if he has any questions, wonders why spies and soldiers use military time.
  • Commonality Connection: Deborah plays on Adriana's heightened sense of fashion to make initial progress with her.
  • Continuity Nod:
    • If someone had told little Leena that Jackie Jr. could only manage words like "poo" and "ass" at Scrabble, she might have saved her time trying to teach him chess.
    • Tony derives amusement from watching the now completed commercial that Dr. Freid was trying to shoot during the previous episode, but got interrupted when he had to provide Back-Alley Doctor services for Furio.
    • Johnny Sack tells Paulie this time that he's not in New Jersey to "stick my beak in."
    • He also tells Paulie that Carmine asks about him, a mirror reverse of when he told Ralph that Carmine doesn't even know who he is.
  • Culture Blind: Somehow, A.J. doesn't know that it takes weeks to get a DNA test's results.
  • Deadly Euphemism: Tony and Ralphie have a Double Speak conversation in which Ralphie says he wants to give Jackie Jr. a pass and Tony, while appearing to agree with him, makes it clear through intonation and facial expression that he is in fact ordering exactly the opposite. Made clear when he says, essentially, that Ralphie is free to do what he wants, but what really matters is that it be taken care of quickly.
  • Death Is Dramatic: Subverted hard. Jackie Jr. receives arguably the briefest, most boring and least dramatic death in the whole series. It ultimately punctuates that he was never anything more than a case of Small Name, Big Ego, and from that point onwards the other mobsters barely regard him as an afterthought, that is if there's ever any moments where they can even bother to remember him.
  • Despair Event Horizon:
    • A.J. regards the prospect of being forced to attend Military Academy as one.
    • When it turns out that A.J. can't go to Military Academy because he'll only suffer panic attacks and possibly worse, Tony has one of his own. He's at a loss for how to salvage anything resembling a future for A.J.
  • Didn't Think This Through: Jackie Jr. wonders why his days are numbered while Tony, Silvio and Jackie Sr. got rewarded for their robbery. Tony challenges him to figure out the difference. Nobody got hurt when Tony and company pulled their job, and they also had sponsors like Richie and Johnny Boy to shield them from the repercussions. Jackie Jr.'s resulted in Sunshine's death, gunfire at made men, and Furio getting wounded. Also, Jackie has no one to sponsor him out of it, especially with his father passed away.
  • Disapproving Look: Captain Delauny gives a withering one to A.J.
  • Double-Meaning Title: "An Army of One" was a slogan used in United States Army recruitment advertisements in the early 2000s, and was discussed by the Sopranos when they met with officials at the military school they considered sending A.J. to. It could also refer to Jackie's self-directed efforts to get himself into the Di Meo crime family.
  • Due to the Dead: Subverted in more than one way during Jackie Jr.'s funerary wake, and Rosalie notices each one.
  • Dumbass Teenage Son: A.J. was always this, but he takes it to new levels with his cheating stunt, mouthing off to his parents, and otherwise just being apathetic, lazy and unmotivated.
  • Even Evil Has Loved Ones: Tony's efforts to send A.J. to a military school are an attempt to protect him from being killed. He becomes teary even thinking about A.J. dead.
  • Even Bad Men Love Their Mamas: Paulie, despite the considerable financial setback, wants the best retirement and living conditions possible for Nucci.
  • Evil Cannot Comprehend Good: Tony's interpretation of "An Army of One" is to wonder why guys don't refuse orders or even kill their superior officers.
  • Evil Parents Want Good Kids: Tony, on the heels of getting rid of Jackie Jr., now feels this more than ever. He sees hope for Meadow. A.J., not so much, being a Dumbass Teenage Son who doesn't really seem capable of well...anything ...
  • Exact Words: Tony makes clear to Paulie that while he did move his mother to Green Grove, he never "recommended" it.
  • Failures on Ice: Happens to Furio, who's having to walk around using a cane after having been shot in the leg.
  • False Friend: Deborah's job is to become this for Adriana, with the FBI hoping that Adriana provides a route to get to Chris.
  • Flipping the Table: Downplayed, but essentially how Jackie Jr. reacts to not being able to play chess.
  • Forgotten Fallen Friend: Uncle Junior notes that a lot more people would have attended the funeral and subsequent funeral party had Jackie Sr. been still alive, implying that attendance would have been seen as necessary not so much on account of Jackie Jr. himself, but rather to be seen as respectful to Jackie Sr. as "acting boss". But the sparse attendance punctuates that Jackie Jr.'s death will barely be remembered if at all by anyone thereafter.
  • Gendered Insult: Major Zwingli gives Carmela a sly one when she makes it known she does not agree with hard-nosed military discipline for A.J. "Mothers seldom do."
  • Head-Turning Beauty: The FBI guys take a moment to spruce up when the lovely Special Agent Deborah Ciccerone is called into the office.
  • Heroic BSoD: Meadow has one after hearing about Jackie's death, and it sets up a new conflict with Tony.
  • Hypocrite: Tony follows Meadow outside with the intention of tearing a strip off of her for being disrespectful at the funeral party with her Produce Pelting and drunken behavior. Meadow hits him with a Wham Line before he can even start: "This is such bullshit!" She knows it's totally hypocritical of Tony and the other mobsters to pretend to be giving Jackie Jr. what is Due to the Dead even as they arranged for his murder.
  • Inadequate Inheritor: Tony flat out says A.J. just doesn't have what it takes for life in The Mafia.
  • Insistent Terminology: Even long after Livia has passed away, Tony still insists that Green Grove be called a "retirement community".
  • In the Blood: A.J. passes out in response to a highly stressful situation, just like Tony. Tony even calls it "that putrid, rotten, fucking Soprano gene".
  • Jerkass: Ralph goes out of his way to antagonize Paulie every chance that he gets.
  • Little "No": A.J.'s facial expression and sigh amounts to this when he learns that the military school's regime involves getting up at 5:30 a.m. every morning, and not a minute of television allowed.
  • Loophole Abuse: Paulie didn't just provide the tip on the strongbox job. Little Paulie was also supposed to come along for the job itself. But Ralphie deliberately left him behind so that he could claim the lion's share of the prize should there ever be a dispute over the matter.
  • Manipulative Bastard: Johnny Sack senses that Paulie is ripe for the picking, and approaches him in a parking lot. He tells Paulie that New York boss Carmine Lupertazzi asks about him, in order to milk confidential information about the Jersey family from Paulie.
  • Meddling Parents: How Meadow sees Carmela and Tony.
  • Military Academy: Tony and Carmela disagree vehemently over whether to send their son A.J. to a Military School after he gets expelled from his original Catholic school, Verbum Dei. It turns out that A.J. gets panic attacks like his father—and, it seems, like the whole Soprano line going back generations—and couldn't go to military school for health reasons.
  • Mirror Character:
    • Tony's angst over A.J. is largely fear over his son going down Jackie Jr.'s road of self-destruction, seeing as how the two boys started out from essentially the same place in life. This same point is also enough to convince Carmela to change her mind and support sending A.J. to Military Academy, at least temporarily.
    • Carmela points out that A.J. being a Spoiled Brat is not that different from Tony's enlarged sense of entitlement.
  • Mistreatment-Induced Betrayal: After getting chewed out one too many times, and having the sit-down go squarely against him (he only got a quarter of what he wanted), Paulie is left asking himself Dude, Where's My Respect?. He starts to feed information confidential to the Jersey family to Johnny Sack in the eventual hopes of joining the Lupertazzi family.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Vito seems to have this reaction silently after returning from assassinating his cousin Jackie Jr, sitting down and appearing visibly disturbed by what he just did.
  • Not Now, Kiddo: Tony essentially does this to Paulie when he asks about the sit-down, on the basis that Jackie Jr.'s funeral is not the best time to discuss business. It ends up becoming a contributor to Paulie's Mistreatment-Induced Betrayal.
  • Not So Above It All: Meadow has previously tried to distance herself from the criminal activities of her family, both immediate and extended. But then she tears a strip off of Kelli for discussing family business in front of an outsider.
  • Off the Grid: Jackie attempts this to hide from Tony and his underlings. It doesn't work for very long.
  • Phoney Call: Ralph has Vito send him one, to get out of having to deal with Paulie's demands for a greater cut of a strongbox job, and Silvio's demands that he hurry up with whacking Jackie Jr.
  • Produce Pelting: Combined with The "Fun" in "Funeral". Meadow indulges in a little of this, due to her simmering anger over Jackie Jr., and helped along by being pissed. Ralph is one of her noticeable targets.
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: Tony and Carmela take on this dynamic for a time, as they are clearly not on the same page in the immediate aftermath of A.J.'s expulsion from Verbum Dei.
  • Rejected Apology: Tony shuts down Jackie Jr.'s tearful attempt at an apology and shuts it down hard. He also coldly walks away from Chris when he tries to apologize for his outburst during the previous episode.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here!: Both Paulie and Junior, upon realizing the FBI is making arrests at Jackie Jr.'s funeral.
  • Singing Voice Dissonance: To hear Uncle Junior's speaking voice without seeing him, you can still pretty much guess that he's a grumpy old man. But at the funeral party he reveals he is more than capable as a tenor singer whose voice can keep the entire crowd awed and enthralled. The actor, Dominic Chianese, is after all an accomplished tenor with multiple recordings. And when even Johnny Sack is moved to Manly Tears ...
  • Speak Ill of the Dead:
  • Spoiled Brat: Both Tony and Carmela agree that A.J. is one, but they disagree markedly on who is to blame and how to handle it.
  • Suspiciously Apropos Music: The title of the song that Junior sings is "Core 'ngrato", which is Italian for "Ungrateful Heart". Almost everyone displays various takes and shades on the theme during the episode, and well frankly, over the entire run of the show.
  • Title Drop: Major Zwingli, referencing the U.S. Army's recruiting slogan of the day.
  • Tough Love: Major Zwingli is firmly of the belief that this is the proper way to raise the next generation. In fact, he makes no bones about his belief that a lot of issues plaguing society, such as numerous people with addictions issues, can be blamed on kids having too many choices as a result of Hands-Off Parenting and Political Correctness Gone Mad. Tony for his part is in agreement, at least initially.
  • Wham Episode: While Jackie Jr's death was pretty much expected at this point, what wasn't expected is Meadow finally denouncing her family and running off, AJ's sudden panic attack, the FBI choosing Adriana as Pussy's replacement, and Paulie turning against Tony.
  • Wham Line: Meadow to Tony, "This is such bullshit!"
  • You Are What You Hate: Meadow is building some simmering anger towards Tony for his role in Jackie's death, and yet chastises Kelli for discussing the matter with somebody who is not part of the crime family.
  • Your Days Are Numbered: There was never any doubt Jackie was going to bite it. Jackie himself knows it when he's in tears while trying to apologize to Tony. It was only a question of when in the episode Ralph was finally going to get around to it.
  • You Did Everything You Could: Tony's attitude about Jackie's demise. He initially appears to be admitting to It's All My Fault to Dr. Melfi, but then falls into the trope indicated by telling it to himself as a form of self-assurance when he asks, "What the fuck you gonna do?"

 
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Jackie's Funeral

Rosalie and Meadow break down, sobbing heavily as they struggle to cope with the death of Jackie Aprile Jr, who happened to be Rosalie's son and Meadow's former boyfriend.

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