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Recap / The Sopranos S 3 E 5 Another Toothpick

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Tony and Carmela attend their first therapy session with Dr. Melfi together. During it, Carmela is bothered by Tony and Melfi's rapport and apparent criticism of her, feeling ganged-up on. This leads to an argument, and Melfi can only offer that she sees they are both very angry. While Carmela and Tony drive home she cries complains about the session, and Tony loses his temper, not realizing he has surpassed the speed limit. He is pulled over by Officer Leon Wilmore, an upstanding by-the-book cop who writes Tony a ticket and responds negatively to Tony's attempt to bribe him. Tony calls up corrupt Assemblyman Ronald Zellman, who is in his pocket, and has the ticket voided.

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A small-time goon named Mustang Sally has a fight with his girlfriend near a pair of contractors. When Sally's girlfriend approaches one of the contractors asking for a ride, Sally assaults the man unprovoked, cracking his skull open with a golf club. Unbeknownst to Sally, the victim is Brian Spatafore - brother of Vito, a member of the Aprile crew. As the crew sit with Vito and a comatose Brian at the hospital, Tony arrives to make sure a plan is in motion. Gigi, head of the crew, resolves to have Mustang Sally killed. Jackie Jr. volunteers, but is quickly shut down and chastised by Tony for associating with made men. Ralph Cifaretto volunteers as well, but is also shown to be disrespectful to Brian, Vito and Gigi, cracking jokes and taking Gigi lightly when he orders him to stop.

At the funeral of Carmela's Uncle Febby, Tony sees that Bobby Baccalieri is accompanied by his father, Robert Sr. After the funeral Tony and others are disturbed to see the extent of Robert's deteriorating health. Janice comments "another toothpick", which upsets an aloof Uncle Junior. Gigi comes up with the idea to have Robert kill Mustang Sally, as he is the man's godfather, but Robert's physical state calls the feasibility of this plan into question.

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Now that Christopher is a made man, Adriana abruptly resigns from her job as a hostess at Vesuvio's. Artie, who is attracted to Adriana and has also grown attached to her, is upset by this. He drunkenly confronts Christopher while he eats there with Tony, and after antagonizing him nearly provokes Chris to stab him in the eye with a fork. Tony de-escalates the situation and is more amused than anything to learn of Artie's infatuation with Adriana.

Bobby, deeply concerned for his father and certain that a hit on Mustang Sally will endanger his life, asks Junior to speak against the decision on his behalf, as Junior is still the official boss of the family. Junior makes an effort, arranging for Johnny Sack to broach the subject as well. While Johnny has dinner with Tony and Ralph, questioning the decision, Tony quickly shuts him down, seeing that Gigi is not getting the respect a captain warrants, endangering the structure of the family.

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Tony and Meadow remain antagonistic regarding his racism, a conflict reignited when Tony learns Meadow's bike was stolen and tauntingly speculates as to who could have done it. Meadow leaves and returns to college - taking the bugged lamp with her and unceremoniously putting an end to the FBI operation. While shopping at a pottery store, Tony runs into Officer Wilmore. Amused by this, Tony taunts him and learns that after the incident with the ticket Wilmore was transferred to the property office, losing his overtime and forcing him to work a second job. Tony is a bit remorseful, and calls Zellman asking about it. Zellman reveals some details of Wilmore's transfer, explaining that he had a temper problem and possibly depression. Tony seems troubled, but when Zellman offers to quash the investigation into Wilmore he refuses, saying Wilmore "got what he deserved".

Tony offers to go into business with Artie, combining the Satriale's and Vesuvio's businesses. Artie is open to the idea but Charmaine quickly shuts it down, pointing out the obvious dangers of going into business with a mobster. They argue in the middle of the restaurant, in front of many patrons, and when Artie asks mockingly if Charmaine will divorce him, she announces that their marriage is over. Following this, Artie gets a single ear piercing and asks Adriana to share a "farewell dinner" with him. As Artie becomes increasingly physical during the dinner, Adriana realizes what's going on and quickly excuses herself.

Bacala Sr. carries out the hit against Mustang Sally. He enters the home under the guise of informing Sally that he got him a way out of trouble with the mob, then attempts to shoot Sally from behind while at the sink, but Sally's friend, also present, spots this, leading to a violent scuffle. Robert manages to kill Sally along with his friend, but has a severe coughing fit from the physical exertion of wrestling with Sally. He drives away from the hit still coughing and covered in blood. As he drops his inhaler and attempts to recover it, he loses consciousness and his car swerves into a billboard, leaving him dead at the wheel.

Bobby is devastated to learn of his father's death. When he informs Junior, the latter asks if Robert died of his cancer or the car crash, then suddenly has a violent breakdown. Meeting with Tony afterward, Junior reveals that he himself has stomach cancer. Tony is shocked at first, but then gradually discovers that Junior's machinations regarding the Mustang Sally hit were all out of a superstitious belief that cancer deaths "come in threes", and he hoped that Robert would be the third such death after Livia and Febby, sparing Junior. Junior requests that Tony not tell anyone about his cancer, but Tony promptly calls Janice. They drink, and Janice reminisces that "another toothpick" was a saying Livia would use to describe cancer patients as they withered away. She speculates that Livia's constant negativity was the root of her own superstition, as she felt any positivity or kindness would invite sudden death. As Robert's wake is about to begin, Bobby finds Junior watching television in his pajamas, not wanting to attend, hurting Bobby's feelings. In order to get Bobby off his back, Junior reveals his cancer to him. Bobby leaves, to shocked to respond.

Tony returns to the pottery store, offering Officer Wilmore a hefty cash payoff for his troubles. Wilmore refuses and returns to his job.

Tropes:

  • Alcohol-Induced Idiocy: After having a few too many wines, Artie gets confrontational with Chris over Adriana. Considering this is made guy Chris, Tony's son in all but name, it amounts to a really dumb example of Tempting Fate.
  • Asshole Victim: Nobody still alive in-universe is going to shed a tear or miss Mustang Sally in any way.
  • Awful Wedded Life: Artie feels that he is trapped in this, calling Charmaine a nasty name to Tony to boot. Confirmed by their toxic arguments later on in the episode.
  • Axe-Crazy: Mustang Sally, obviously.
  • Badass Old Guy: Robert Baccalieri, Sr.
  • Baldness Angst: Artie feeling he has no hope with Adriana brings on a bout of struggling with this trope for him.
  • Being Good Sucks: Officer Wilmore gets nothing but grief for dutifully upholding the law in the face of corruption.
  • Better to Die than Be Killed: Subverted. Bacala Sr. tells Tony outright that "if things go wrong," he doesn't care, given that he's dying anyway.
  • Blood from the Mouth: Bobby Sr. coughs up a lot of blood when he visits Bobby Jr. and Uncle Junior. A particularly gruesome way of lampshading that Bobby Sr.'s days are numbered on account of lung cancer.
  • Boom, Headshot!: How Bobby Sr. finishes off Mustang Sally.
  • Bribe Backfire: Officer Wilmore just walks away without a word when Tony tries to give him a generous "tip", leaving Tony stunned.
  • Close to Home: Uncle Junior loses it over Bobby Sr.'s death, because the two had been good friends over the years. However, it's hinted that an additional reason is that what happened to Bobby Sr. is now serving as a scary reminder to Uncle Junior about his own stomach cancer.
  • Corrupt Politician: Assemblyman Zellman at multiple points.
  • Crazy Jealous Guy:
    • Mustang Sally irrationally sticks to the conclusion that Bryan is taking an interest in his girlfriend, despite comments from Bryan himself indicating that he clearly wasn't. So Sally takes a golf club to his head, and taunts him for wanting to do the girlfriend.
    • Chris blows up at Artie, and threatens to stick a fork in his eye, when Artie taunts him over Adriana.
  • Dead Man Honking: Bobby is suffering from an Incurable Cough of Death as he's driving away from the hit on Mustang Sally. He loses hold of his ventilator. He passes out and falls face first into his horn. The car crashes with the horn on full blare. The scene concludes with a now very dead Bobby Sr. in the driver seat.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Both Carmela and Tony really turn it up during their therapy session with Dr. Melfi.
  • Death Seeker: Played with. Bobby Sr. happily takes on the Mustang Sally hit job, and he fully intends to carry it out and come out on top if he can. But if Sally wins, death will free Bobby Sr. from suffering from lung cancer.
    Uncle Junior: This is an outrage! He can't have you clip someone in this condition!
    Bobby Sr.: Junior, I wanna do it. Eight years sitting on my ass. It'll feel good feeling useful for a change.
    Uncle Unior: This Sally's a tough kid, Bobby, what if things don't go your way?
    Bobby Sr.: If they don't, they don't. What the fuck? I'm dead anyway.
  • Determinator: Bacala Sr. kills two men while coughing his lungs out.
  • Disproportionate Retribution:
    • Even if Bryan was taking an interest in Mustang Sally's girlfriend, and he clearly wasn't, cracking his skull open with a golf club was by any measure really going overboard.
    • Ralph also relates that Sally some time ago threw a hotdog vendor off the second mezzanine for serving his dog with too many onions.
    • Officer Wilmore suffers a Punishment Detail for doing his job by the book and giving Tony the speeding ticket.
    • Chris almost stabs Artie in the eye with a fork for making lustful commments about his girlfriend and would have done so if Tony didn't intervene.
  • Divorce Is Temporary: Artie's and Charmaine's temporary separation starts this episode.
  • Dude, Not Funny!:
    • How everyone else in the hospital room reacts when Ralph cracks a tasteless joke about Bryan not being that smart to begin with.
    • Bobby Sr. gives Mustang Sally a disapproving look when the latter cracks a joke about yelling "fore" the next time he uses a golf club as a weapon.
  • Dude, Where's My Respect?: Bobby Jr. indicates to Uncle Junior that he wants to request to Tony that Bobby Sr. be taken off the Mustang Sally hit job. Uncle Junior ends up reacting sensitively, by asserting that he's still the official boss of the family, since the request acts as a reminder that the family at large considers Tony the de facto boss of the family.
  • Dying Moment of Awesome: An unusual example, as Bobby Sr. went out as a Dead Man Honking. But many fans of the show consider him as getting one, as it was still on the heels of him taking out an absolute Hate Sink of a character in Mustang Sally.
  • Even Evil Has Loved Ones:
    • It's hard to call Bobby evil per se, especially when you see him alongside the vast majority of the characters in the show. But he's still a member of The Mafia who does their bidding. He does everything he can to get Bobby Sr. out of the hit job on Mustang Sally once he learns that Tony has put his father on it. He really breaks down with Manly Tears after his worst fears are realized.
    • Uncle Junior absolutely loses it and becomes enraged after hearing of Bobby Sr.'s death.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Both Uncle Junior and Bobby think it was really callous of Tony to send the aging and painfully ill Bobby Sr. on the job to take out Mustang Sally. More so after their worst fears are realized.
  • Evil Cannot Comprehend Good: Tony is left scratching his head at how Officer Wilmore continues to stick by his morals despite all the setbacks it's gotten him. Especially apparent in the end when Wilmore refuses Tony's generous and practically charitable tip.
  • Evil Gloating: When Tony finds Officer Wilmore working at a pottery store.
  • Evil Parents Want Good Kids: Tony turns down Jackie Jr.'s offer to go after Mustang Sally, honoring the promise to Jackie Sr. to keep him out of crime.
  • Foreshadowing: Artie and Charmaine get into a massive argument over whether Artie should branch out into brand-marketed products with Tony's help. Artie will in the future find himself in over his head when he tries to go through with a similar scheme.
  • Flat "What": The FBI and likely the audience's reaction to learning that the bugged lamp had been "neutralized."
  • Gang of Bullies: Carmela feels that Tony and Dr. Melfi pulled this on her.
  • Gilligan Cut: Uncle Junior asks Tony not to tell anyone else about his stomach cancer. Tony promises repeatedly that he won't. Cue the next scene of Tony calling up Janice to tell her about the cancer.
  • Golf Clubbing: Mustang Sally on Bryan.
  • Hollywood Mid-Life Crisis: Artie.
  • Hope Spot: Bobby Sr. tells Mustang Sally that Tony has given him a "pass". It works as Sally lowers his guard, allowing Bobby Sr. to sneak up on him and get in the first and crucial shot.
  • Hypocrite:
    • Uncle Junior accuses Tony of going on power trips, forgetting that he himself was Drunk with Power during the first season, which was why the capos preferred Tony in the first place.
    • Tony tells Artie that Adriana is too young for him, despite the fact that Tony himself enjoys Goomahs who are young enough to be his daughters.
  • I Can't Believe a Guy Like You Would Notice Me: Averted over the course of the episode, with Artie clearly having a hopeless thing for Adriana.
    • The first instance overlaps with Self-Fulfilling Prophecy since Artie hasn't yet directly communicated his desires to Adriana. Tony's laughter when Artie admits to having a thing for Adriana suggests that he thinks Adriana is clearly out of Artie's league. Artie's drunken behaviour suggests that he agrees.
    • Then Artie does try during a dinner with Adriana. The aversion of the trope is completed when it turns out Adriana definitely isn't interested in him, recoiling from his attempts to hold hands and using the "I have to go to the Ladies' room" excuse to get out of the dinner.
  • I Have to Wash My Hair: Or rather, "I have to go the Ladies' room" is the excuse Adriana uses to get out of the dinner with Artie.
  • Improvised Weapon: The golf club that Mustang Sally uses to crack Bryan's skull open.
  • Incurable Cough of Death: Bobby Sr. has spent the whole episode coughing and wheezing from his lung cancer. It goes Up to Eleven when he's driving away from the house where he took out Mustang Sally and his friend. Any lingering doubts of how it will play out vanish when he loses hold of his ventilator and he passes out.
  • In Love with the Gangster's Girl: Artie towards Adriana.
  • Jerkass: Mustang Sally. Sweet Christ on a cracker, Mustang Sally. He puts poor Bryan Spatafore in a coma without provocation, and has the nerve to crack a joke about the situation after he gets a "pass" from Bacala Sr.
  • Kill the Ones You Love: Subverted. Bobby Sr. makes it obvious he actually has nothing but contempt for his godson, Mustang Sally, and looks forward to taking him out. The only reason he ever agreed to becoming godfather was because Sally's father asked it of him as a favor.
  • The Last Dance: Bacala Sr. seems enthusiastic to carry out a hit even if it kills him.
  • Lawful Good: The officer who tickets Tony. Some might argue that he showed shades of Lawful Stupid.
  • Legitimate Businessmen's Social Club: Charmaine's refusal to cooperate with Artie's desires to branch out with the help of Tony is that it will turn the restaurant into a front for the Jersey mob.
  • Loads and Loads of Characters: This episode fits nearly the entire main cast into no less than five subplots, with two notable guest stars to boot.
  • Manly Tears:
    • Bobby Jr. sheds them and leaves the room when his father admits to taking on the Mustang Sally hit job at least partly out of Death Seeker motivations.
    • He sheds them again after having to identify his father's body.
  • Mugging the Monster: Mustang Sally will come to regret targeting somebody who turns out to be the brother of a made man in the Jersey mob.
  • Must Have Nicotine: After taking care of business, Bacala Sr. helps himself to a pack of cigarettes. In spite of the fact that he is currently dying of lung cancer.
  • Never My Fault: Both Carmela and Tony take this stance during their therapy session.
  • One Last Job: Bobby Sr.'s hit on Mustang Sally.
  • One Last Smoke: Bobby Sr. enjoys one after finishing his hit job, and continues it into his last car ride.
  • One-Way Trip: Bobby Sr. knew this was a distinct possibility even when accepting the job to whack Mustang Sally.
  • O.O.C. Is Serious Business: Junior goes completely ape when Bobby doesn't know if the cancer or the car accident killed his father.
  • Politically Incorrect Villain:
    • Tony refers to the ticketing officer (out of earshot) as a "Smoke" and an "Affirmative Action cocksucker".
    • Bobby Sr. refers to Sally's Hispanic friend as a "spic" and a "greaseball", the latter just before murdering him in cold blood.
    • It turns out that a Black kid stole Meadow's bicycle on campus. Tony can't help but rub it in, Smug Smile and all, provoking another massive argument with his daughter.
  • Punishment Detail: Assemblyman Zellman has Officer Wilmore assigned to the Property Room. Also, Wilmore can no longer work overtime, forcing him to take a lower-paying second job.
  • Real Estate Scam: Tony starts to flesh out the details of the Esplanade project with Assemblyman Zellman and Johnny Sack.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Tony shows he's capable of being such when he prevents a sudden conflict between Artie and Chris from escalating.
  • Retired Badass: Bobby Sr., at least at the start of the episode ...
  • Revenge: Vito, Bryan's brother and a made man, demands it. The rest of the Jersey mob concurs. Bobby Sr. delivers it to Mustang Sally.
  • Screw the Rules, I Have Connections!: Tony tries this multiple times to get out of the speeding ticket.
    • Tony first plays this by flashing a business card meant to suggest to the ticketing officer that he has connections with higher ups in the police force. It doesn't work.
    • His subsequent attempt works. His call to Assemblyman Zellman not only results in his ticket getting cancelled, but also a Punishment Detail for Officer Wilmore.
  • Shoot the Shaggy Dog: The bugged lamp, after a whole episode chronicling its planting in the Soprano basement, is nullified as an operation when Meadow takes it to college.
  • Slasher Smile: Bobby Sr. wears a rather gleeful one after taking out Mustang Sally and his friend.
  • Social Climber: Ralph offers to take on the hit job, promising a Cruel and Unusual Death for Mustang Sally to boot, in order to score points with Tony. He gets turned down.
  • Soundtrack Dissonance: Bobby Sr.'s Incurable Cough of Death and then passing out before crashing in his car is quite a contrast to America's "Sister Golden Hair" playing on the radio.
  • Standard Evil Empire Hierarchy: Tony does his best to support Gigi as captain, and against challenges from either Ralph or Johnny Sack, in order to preserve the structure of the Di Meo crime family.
  • Superstition Episode: Uncle Junior reveals yet another reason he didn't want Bobby Sr. on the hit job. Cancer "comes in threes". Junior was hoping Bobby Sr. would be the third cancer death, so that he could avoid death by the stomach cancer he now has. Tony's angry reaction mixes Outgrown Such Silly Superstitions with an implicit accusation to Uncle Junior of being self-centered.
  • Tempting Fate: Artie revealing to high-ranking made guy Chris that he has a thing for Adriana, along with a veiled threat that he could poison him, clearly qualifies.
  • The Friend Nobody Likes: Ralph, every scene that he's in.
  • The Starscream: Ralph's open challenges to Gigi shows that he desires to supplant Gigi as capo. And his ambitions won't end there.
  • The Topic of Cancer
  • Title Drop: Via Janice, who claims that it was Livia's go-to way of referring to victims of cancer.
  • Trojan Horse: Tony's selection of Bobby Sr. for the hit on Mustang Sally definitely falls within this theme. Bobby Sr. is Sally's godfather. And it turns out that Sally, after two days Off the Grid, has called Bobby Sr. for help.
  • Undying Loyalty: Uncle Junior rather harshly informs tells Bobby Jr. that Bobby Sr. won't be taken off the Mustang Sally hit because anyone who's made in the mob has made a Blood Oath for life, and knew that going in.
  • Unperson: Uncle Junior is afraid he'll become this amongst the crime family if word of his cancer gets out.
  • We All Die Some Day: Invoked more than once. By Bobby Sr. as a justification for taking on the hit job on Mustang Sally, and by Sally's friend as a justification for his smoking habit.
  • Wham Line: "I have cancer."
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Tony gives one to Artie for picking a fight with Chris over Adriana.
  • With Due Respect: Ralph openly challenges Gigi's authority as capo multiple times over the course of the episode, as he's still angry over having been Passed-Over Promotion.
  • Yandere: Adriana quitting from the restaurant sends Artie into this territory for a time.
  • Your Cheating Heart: Artie clearly has a thing for Adriana despite being married to Charmaine. It leads to friction with Chris.
  • Your Days Are Numbered:
    • The fact that Mustang Sally went Off the Grid after his brutal attack on Bryan shows that he knows that attacking the brother of a made man was a stupid thing to do. Pleading for help from his godfather, connected to the same mobsters whose cross-hairs he's now in, is more a matter of desperation than real hope.
    • Bobby Sr. knows that lung cancer isn't going to leave him long for this world, and that knowledge fuels his actions in this episode.
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