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Recap / The Sopranos S 3 E 4 Employee Of The Month

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Season 3, Episode 04

Employee of the Month

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Tony gets a call from Irina one night, inquiring about her cousin Svetlana's prosthetic leg, which was stolen by Janice. Tony is more concerned that Irina would call his home phone out of the blue. Meanwhile, Dr. Melfi is shown to be back together with Richard La Penna, the father of her son whom she had previously divorced. Though they share an easy rapport, Melfi has little patience for Richard's constant concern about the public perception of Italian-Americans.

In Tony's therapy, Melfi returns to the possibility of ending their sessions and sending him to the next stage of his treatment in behavioral therapy. Tony bristles at the prospect and accuses Melfi of trying to pawn him off. She then proposes bringing Carmela into therapy, which similarly unsettles him.

Ralph Cifaretto attempts to bond with Jackie Jr., as he is now dating Jackie's mother Rosalie. When traditional attempts to relate to him are unsuccessful, Ralph brings Jackie along to strong-arm the brother of a mob associate who hasn't been satisfying Ralph with his kick-ups. The confrontation escalates, and Ralph and Jackie team up to brutally beat the man. This seems to thrill Jackie to an extent. Tony meets with Ralph the next day and, despite Ralph's expectations that he will be made captain of the former Aprile crew, Tony informs him the position will be given to Gigi Cestone. Ralph is crestfallen. Meanwhile Tony is surprised to learn that Johnny Sack and his wife Ginny have moved into a large home in New Jersey. Tony pays them a visit and gets Johnny's assurance that he won't interfere with how Tony runs his family.

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While leaving her office one night, Melfi is attacked in the parking garage by a stranger, and raped on the stairwell, leaving her horribly traumatized. As she is tended to in the hospital, Richard and their son Jason rush to her side, both feeling impotent rage at the attack on her. They are informed that a suspect has been apprehended, and Melfi is put off when Richard reacts negatively to learning the man is named Jesus Rossi and likely Italian. Later as Melfi begins to convalesce at home, Richard calls the detectives working the case and learns that due to mismanagement of chain of custody, Rossi has been let off on a technicality. Melfi is horrified, and her mental condition is only made worse when, visiting a sandwich shop, she sees that her rapist is that shop's employee of the month.

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Russian goons break into Livia's house while Janice is alone one night, striking her and forcing her to retrieve Svetlana's prosthetic leg from the locker where she's keeping it. Later Tony visits her in the hospital, and Janice seems to have undergone a total personality shift, with the supposed trauma of the encounter with the Russians leading her to become a born again Christian. Tony leaves, bemused, after promising to enact retribution on the men who attacked her - more out of duty than any actual desire for revenge.

Melfi has a dream in which her rapist attacks her in her office, only to be viciously mauled by an attack dog. Deconstructing the dream in therapy with Dr. Kupferberg, she realizes that it represents an unconscious desire to have Tony kill the rapist. In their next session, Melfi writes off her bruising and need for a crutch as being the result of a car crash, but shows clear signs of trauma. When Tony expresses a more open mind to ending their sessions and moving to behavioral therapy, Melfi reacts negatively and then begins to cry. Tony, clearly sensing something is wrong, comforts her, then asks if she wants to tell him something. Melfi regains her composure and simply says "No".

Tropes:

  • Actor Allusion: Dr. Melfi is raped by Jesus Rossi, or J. Rossi. In Goodfellas, Lorraine Bracco's character also has a nemesis named J. Rossi (Janice Rossi), with whom her husband is having an affair.
  • All Girls Want Bad Boys:
    • Dr. Melfi has a pleased look on her face when Tony notices she's wearing a low cut skirt.
    • She also admits to Dr. Kupferberg that she separated from Richard despite, no BECAUSE, he embodied the ideal traits for a male partner.
  • Answer Cut:
    • Richard expresses frustration that he can't act out his desires to exact private justice on Dr. Melfi's rapist. The camera cuts from Richard's tightly clenched fists to Tony chopping wood with an axe. A very obvious highlighting of the fact that Melfi does have a resource to pursue revenge against her rapist, and she is thinking of using it.
    • Dr. Melfi expresses a certain satisfaction in the knowledge that she could, if she wanted to, have Rossi "squashed like a bug." Guess who appears in the next frame? Like you need to ask? Of course it's Tony.
  • Anxiety Dreams / Opinion-Changing Dream: Dr. Melfi has a dream that potentially has elements of both. The dream features Jesus Rossi trying to rape her, but Tony (symbolized by a Rottweiler dog) brutally mauls him. It is open to interpretation whether the latter part persuades Melfi against pursuing revenge.
  • "Awkward Silence" Entrance: Tony and the guys are having fun with fat jokes at Ginny Sack's expense. They immediately fall silent and look sheepishly at one another the moment Ginny's husband, Johnny Sack, walks in on them.
  • Big Brother Instinct: Zigzagged. Tony fully intends to exact revenge on the Russian thugs who beat Janice. But Tony makes it clear it feels like a burden to have to do so on account of Janice. Tony will get it done, not so much because he cares about Janice (which is debatable enough as it is), but because the code of La Omerta demands it.
  • Blatant Lies:
    • Janice still tries to keep up the fiction that Livia's record collection has sentimental value for her. Tony sees right through it.
    • Johnny Sack tries to assuage Tony's concerns by saying that his wife wanted to move to Jersey, and that he's not there to "stick my beak in". It turns out, his very motivation for buying a house in Jersey is to "stick his beak" into Jersey mob business, and in ways that will benefit his own plans.
    • The most sympathetic one. Dr. Melfi tells her patients, Tony included, that she was in a car accident to explain away her injuries and cancelled appointments, and to hide her pain and shame over having been raped.
  • Boomerang Bigot:
    • Richard's reaction to learning that Jennifer's rapist is Italian is suggestive that he is one.
    • Jennifer outright accuses him of being one during their argument, after learning that the rape charge is being dropped. She tops it with a Precision F-Strike.
  • Can't Kill You, Still Need You: Well, in this case it appears to be "Can't Send You To a Behaviorist, Still Need You." Dr. Melfi apparently still believes that having Tony as a patient is therapeutic for her.
  • Close to Home: Tony, firmly believing Dr. Melfi's lie about having been in a car accident, tries to sympathize with her with dialogue about careless driving and the natural emotional responses to it causing an accident. The description of the accident itself is almost a spot on depiction of how the rape itself unfolded, and the emotional reactions almost perfectly describe how Dr. Melfi herself feels about it. She has a visibly uncomfortable reaction to what Tony says.
  • Comically Missing the Point: It turns out that the bug planted in the basement lamp is working despite Tony's precaution of having the furnace fans go full blast. In less than a minute, the FBI agents stationed in the van hear everything that they could possibly need to bust at least Chris and Jackie Jr. for the Rutgers campus robbery. But the agents never make the connection, and instead get totally hung up on Chris referring to Jackie Jr. as "Lord Fuckpants" as though it were some kind of code speak.
  • Confess in Confidence: Subverted. Dr. Melfi accidentally breaches her obligations of confidentiality by slipping Tony Soprano's name during her therapy session with Dr. Kupferberg, but nothing comes of it.
  • Continuity Nod: Tony notices Dr. Melfi limping on a cane, and then tells her he knows a woman with only one leg (i.e. Svetlana).
  • Corrupt Politician: The news announcement about the upcoming Esplanade project, combined with Paulie lampshading the bribe, establishes beyond all doubt that Assemblyman Zellman is in bed with the crime families on both sides of the Hudson River.
  • Crapsack World: Hearing about his mother's rape stirs Jason to condemn the whole world as filled with crime, evil and injustice.
  • Dreaming the Truth: Dr. Melfi has a dream which leads her to realize that she can, if she wants to, have Tony punish her rapist — though she chooses not to.
  • The Driver: We see Furio taking on this role for Tony.
  • Employee of the Month: The episode offers a much, much darker take on this. When Dr. Melfi goes to the sandwich shop, she recognises the titular Employee of the Month..as her rapist who got Off on a Technicality
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Tony is aghast when Dr. Melfi breaks down during their session, and does everything in his power to comfort her short of picking her up and rocking her like a baby.
  • Evil Gloating: Dr. Melfi, of all people, gets a well-deserved rant about what she could do to the rapist if she chose to, when talking to Dr. Kupferberg. She doesn't. But for a minute you can see shades of Evil Feels Good in her eyes.
  • Evil Mentor: Ralph, for his own motivations, brings Jackie Jr. along for a collection from an associate. Ralph deliberately escalates the encounter in order to provoke the associate into attacking him. The result is that Ralph and Jackie Jr. together give the associate a No-Holds-Barred Beatdown. He also gives Jackie Jr. a cut from their victim's wallet. Ralph is actively cultivating Jackie Jr. into the mob life, and against Tony's express wishes.
  • Evil Parents Want Good Kids: Tony steps up his efforts to keep his promise to Jackie Sr. to keep Jackie Jr. out of the mob life, by becoming even more abrasive with Jackie Jr. and Chris than usual.
  • Fat Comic Relief: Johnny Sack's wife, Ginny, becomes this for Tony and the crew at Satriale's.
  • Foreshadowing: Tony mulls for a moment over the sight of Johnny and Ralphie having a private discussion. The link between these two will have some impact later in the season.
    • Tony tells Janice, "Don't mess with the Russians". Turns out he was right.
    • Ralph indicates to Jackie Jr. that Meadow is becoming a "little mink". Jackie ends up agreeing and starts seeing her.
    • Tony and the guys at Satriale's use Johnny Sack's wife, Ginny, as Fat Comic Relief. The next time they do that, it will have tremendous storyline repercussions.
  • Gold Digger:
    • Janice really wants that record collection.
    • She is also shown looking for any valuables Livia left behind by scouring the basement with a metal detector, just to show that Janice's Greed is Up to Eleven. Tony calls her out on that as well, with characteristic Deadpan Snark.
    • Also implied to be a motive for Ralphie dating Rosalie Aprilie, widow of Jackie Sr.
  • Good Victims, Bad Victims: Richard starts to zigzag this trope when he gets into an argument with Dr. Melfi in the wake of the rape charge getting fouled up. More specifically, he's the first person to say she didn't deserve the rape in any way whatsoever, and yet he lets out the suggestion that she should have had a security guard escort her in the garage.
  • Hate Sink: Jesus Rossi, "The Employee of the Month", managed to become one of the most despised characters in the show in a matter of minutes after brutally raping Dr. Melfi in a parking garage. What makes this even worse is that he is eventually released after being arrested simply because there was not enough evidence. Melfi has a chance to hire Tony to assassinate him in revenge but she decides not to which makes Rossi one of the few characters in the show to be an outright Karma Houdini.
  • Hope Spot: Dr. Melfi is attacked at her car, and for a second, it looks like she'll get away.
    • In a meta sense, most people who watch this episode probably expect her — possibly even hope for her — to lose it and tell Tony about the rape.
  • Hypocrite: Ralph calls out the Arabian associate for calling him a wop, even though he had earlier threatened to stick a "shish kebab" up the associate's ass.
  • It's All My Fault: Dr. Melfi to a degree blames herself for the rape. Lampshaded when Melfi admits to Dr. Kupferberg that the vending machine in her dream symbolizes the self-blaming.
  • Karma Houdini: Jesus Rossi, the rapist.
  • Little "No": One of the most powerful moments in the series occurs when Dr. Melfi tells Tony "No" when he asks her if there's anything he can do when she starts crying in a therapy session. It's powerful, because she'd been raped earlier in the episode, and had seriously contemplated telling Tony and using her connection to him to have the rapist killed.
  • The Mafiya: It turns out that Svetlana has connections of her own, and she calls on them to make good on her threat from the previous episode. A couple of Russian thugs break into Janice's house, beat her to a pulp, and force her to give back Svetlana's leg, without the record collection in exchange to boot.
  • Male Gaze: Both Jackie Jr. and Ralph ogle Adriana while she's working waitress as the new Vesuvio restaurant.
  • Manipulative Bastard:
    • Both Richard and Dr. Kupferberg flat out tell Dr. Melfi that Tony is playing her to get the better end of the bargain during their therapy sessions.
    • Ralph also tries to insinuate himself to Jackie Jr. as an Evil Mentor and False Friend, with his own interests at heart.
    • Johnny Sack buys a house in Jersey to make his plans, based partially on playing the Jersey mobsters as his pawns, easier to initiate.
    • Janice, after the Russians put her in the hospital, puts on an Atoner act as a brand new born again Christian. Tony doesn't buy it for a second, and actually worries about the inevitable repercussions.
  • The Mole: One of Tony's justifications for appointing Gigi a capo instead of Ralph. He wants Gigi to be his eyes and ears in the Aprile crew.
  • Mood Whiplash: Melfi's having another tedious argument with Richard about Tony as she walks to her car, not even really noticing the young man who passes her in the stairwell, and then ...
  • Nervous Wreck: Dr. Melfi is one in the immediate aftermath of her rape. The sight of the same garage stairs spooks her. The sound of her cane dropping on the floor sends shudders of fear through her body.
  • Nothing Is Scarier: Deliberately subverted. The camera never flinches from the rape, and it's horrifying.
  • Not So Above It All: Richard and Jason both turn into foul-mouthed revenge seekers after Dr. Melfi's rape; then later, even she veers that way with Dr. Kupferberg.
  • Not Actually the Ultimate Question: Paulie astutely asks how much of a financial burden Johnny Sack has accepted with buying a luxurious house in Jersey. But the wheels spinning in Tony's mind highlight the more crucial question. Why would Johnny Sack buy an expensive house in Jersey despite the obvious fact that it would set him back considerably?
  • Off on a Technicality: After Dr. Melfi is raped, her rapist is immediately arrested and then set free on a technicality. In the end, the doctor chooses to allow him to remain a Karma Houdini rather than call in some Soprano Justice.
  • Parking Garage: Dr. Melfi is raped in one.
  • Passed-Over Promotion: Ralph immediately becomes angry when Tony tells him that Gigi will become capo instead of him.
  • Pet the Dog: When Dr. Melfi is raped and the perpetrator is allowed to go free on a technicality, she feels helpless and betrayed by the political justice system. She seriously considers telling Tony about the attack, enlisting him to exact brutal revenge against the rapist, but ultimately decides against it. At the end of the episode, Melfi breaks into tears during her therapy session with Tony, who gets up from his chair and puts his hand on her shoulder, and asks in the gentlest manner he could manage "what's wrong?" What's notable here is that Tony's strong sexual attraction for Dr. Melfi has been well documented, but there is no hint of lust or other prurient intent here: he's genuinely concerned for her as a human being and surprisingly tender.
  • Police Are Useless: Having the victim be able to identify the rapist is worthless, apparently, if the evidence is mishandled.
  • Politically Incorrect Villain: Ralph tells an associate that he's going to stick a "shish kebab" up his ass. He also calls the associate's brother-in-law as a "Sand Monkey" to Tony.
  • Pragmatic Villainy: Tony plans to retaliate against the attack on his sister, but only for the sake of his image.
  • Properly Paranoid: Tony is suspicious of Johnny Sack buying a house in Jersey as part of an agenda. He's totally correct and justified.
  • Rape as Drama: Possibly one of the best examples ever aired.
  • Rape Is a Special Kind of Evil: Obviously this is also an example of Protagonist-Centered Morality: Tony may be a thug and a murderer, but the most he does to his shrink is to swear at her and break her furniture. Still, Tony would have been much less attractive to the audience — and to Melfi — were he guilty of rape.
  • Ripped from the Headlines: Dr. Kupferberg helpfully connects the vending machine element of Dr. Melfi's dream with what he describes as a story in the news about a someone who rocked a vending machine over onto himself trying to get a free drink.
  • She's Got Legs:
    • Tony notices she's got a cut lower than usual skirt on during their first therapy session.
    • What seems to be foremost on Tony's mind when he learns that Dr. Melfi's knee was injured in her "car accident." This is not lost on Carmella, even when Tony tries to cover it up with talk about how knee injuries can be very serious.
  • She Is All Grown Up: Jackie Jr. mentions beforehand that he and Meadow knew each other as kids. He later on sees for himself that Meadow has become quite the "little mink" (as Ralph had put it). The sparks between them immediately begin to fly.
  • Smash to Black: How the episode ends after Dr. Melfi's What You Are in the Dark moment.
    No.
    [black screen]
  • Stop Being Stereotypical: Richard gets into an argument with Dr. Melfi on the basis that mobsters like Tony bring shame and embarrassment to Italian Americans, most of whom are not mobbed up. He also feels Melfi is drawing the stain on herself by continuing to treat Tony.
  • Suspicious Spending: Tony already knew ahead of time about Jackie Jr.'s involvement with the Rutgers campus robbery. But he makes a point of letting Jackie know that he knows the brand new Chevy Cavalier Z24 was bought with the cash from the robbery.
  • Title Drop: At the sandwich shop, Dr. Melfi sees Rossi's picture up on the wall; he's the employee of the month.
  • Truth in Television:
    • Tony is right about knee injuries: even relatively minor ones can cause life-long problems.
    • That Dr. Melfi is deeply traumatized by the rape, disturbingly so, resonates with the years or even decades long struggles that many rape victims suffer. Self-blaming is frequent too.
    • Rape in practice can also be a very difficult crime to prosecute to conviction.
  • Wham Episode: Not just that Dr. Melfi was raped, but that every excrutiating moment of the rape was shown and the rapist got away scot-free.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: An understated one when Tony asks Ralph why he would take Jackie Jr. along for the shakedown of the Arab associate.
  • What You Are in the Dark: Melfi restrains herself from taking the easy and tempting route of revenge against her rapist.
  • Would Hit a Girl:
    • Rape is inherently an act of violence, but Rossi mixes in a lot of punches to get his way with Dr. Melfi.
    • The Russian thugs that Svetlana sends after Janice beat her to a pulp.
  • Yandere: Irina apparently hasn't gotten over Tony, who isn't pleased.
  • You're Not My Father: Meadow still has some simmering resentment towards Tony for being racist to Noah.

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