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Recap / The Sopranos S 4 E 3 Christopher

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As Columbus Day approaches, Soprano family members and associates learn of planned protests by Native American activists. Silvio in particular is offended by the prospect that the activists would desecrate the image of an Italian historical figure, placing great stake in his heritage. The Soprano wives attend a dinner hosted by Father Intintola, where a speaker comments on stereotypes that all Italian-Americans are criminals. This draws looks from the crowd, to the chagrin of Carmela, Rosalie and particularly Gabriela Dante, Silvio's wife. After the dinner she tells off Father Intintola, accusing him of staging the event to publicly embarrass Carmela because of resentments over their awkward history.

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Driving home from this event, Bobby Baccalieri's wife Karen is suddenly killed in a car accident, which coincidentally causes a traffic jam that delays Bobby in attempting to run an errand. Bobby bad-mouths Karen to his son while stuck in the traffic jam, but upon learning the truth he is inconsolably grief-stricken and guilty, blaming himself irrationally for Karen's death.

Soprano associates continue attempting to halt the Columbus Day protests. Without Tony's blessing, Silvio attempts to break up a protest where an effigy of Columbus is being hanged, bringing along Patsy Parisi, Little Paulie Germani, Artie Bucco and others. A violent fight breaks out during which Little Paulie is injured and Artie hides in the car. Tony chastises Silvio for potentially drawing attention to the family business with this incident, but makes an effort to break up the protests through his influence over Assemblyman Zellman. Meanwhile, Ralph attempts to blackmail the protest organizer, Del Redclay, with the information that Native American movie icon Iron Eyes Cody was actually Italian-American. Meanwhile Ralph invests in a racehorse called Pie Oh My, to which Tony takes a liking. While visiting the stables with Hesh Rabkin, the topic of the Columbus Day protests comes up, and Hesh seems to abruptly end his friendship with a Cuban friend named Reuben over identity politics.

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Still feeling undervalued by Tony, Paulie Walnuts tries to ingratiate himself to John Sacrimoni and New York by informing him of the fat joke Ralph Cifaretto made about his wife Ginny. Johnny is infuriated, but keeps the information to himself for the time being. However, when he runs into Ralph at Karen Baccalieri's funeral, he brushes him off without speaking to him.

As Bobby grieves and cries openly at Karen's funeral, the mob wives comment that he was the only made man in Jersey who never took a goomah. This leaves an impression on Janice Soprano, who is seeing Ralph on the side while he continues to date the widow Rosalie Aprile. Rosalie takes Karen's death roughly as well, and the emotionally detached Ralph grows increasingly disinterested with her, feeling more attracted to Janice, who indulges his sexually submissive side. Ralph and Rosalie finally break up. Janice, meanwhile, speaks to her therapist about her disillusionment with Ralph, and the therapist encourages her to break up with him with the civility she is "known for". As Ralph rushes to Janice's house to announce that he is now committed fully to her, Janice quickly loses her temper with him and pushes him down the stairs.

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In the interest of putting the Columbus Day situation to bed, Tony speaks to an Indian chief - a white-skinned, blue eyed man named Doug Smith who has minimal Native American ancestry - about quelling Del Redclay. Smith ultimately does nothing to prevent the protests, but invites Tony, Silvio and others to his casino with exclusive treatment. After this, as the protests continue through Columbus Day, Silvio plots to escalate the situation with Redclay. Tony finally shuts Silvio down completely, dismissing his obsession with Columbus and Italian heritage in favor of a more individualistic view of life. Tony also reveals that the whole situation with Smith now has them indebted to arrange for Frankie Valli to book a show at Smith's casino, and assigns Silvio to the task.

Tropes:

  • A Day in the Limelight: Silvio gets sort of one in this episode, as his intense pride in being Italian American combined with the Columbus Day protests drives him into actions and decisions that are quite out of character for him.
  • Bad Boss: Tony gives Patsy a Dope Slap for publicly getting himself arrested during the Escalating Brawl with the Native American protesters.
  • Bondage Is Bad: Well, BDSM, at any rate. Played very straight with Janice and Ralph, who's, um, love scene is definitely presented to make you think less of them both.
  • Batter Up!: The street brawl features at least one bat-wielding Italian-American. It's probably a tribute to Joe D.
  • Celebrity Paradox: Doug Smith's price for 'trying' to deal with Del Redclay is that Tony has to get Frankie Valli to sing at Smith's Native American Casino. Want to guess who plays Rusty Millio starting season 5?
  • Character Title: Inverted. The "Christopher" in the title refers to Columbus, not Moltisanti, who barely appears in this episode (although Michael Imperioli did write the teleplay).
  • Chekhov's News: Silvio learns about the Columbus Day protest when Bobby reads out the news article about it from the paper to the rest of the guys in front of Satriale's. It kicks off the main plot of the episode as it stirs Silvio to oppose the protests.
  • Coincidental Broadcast: An episode of the Montel Williams show comes on as Carmela and Furio are sharing coffee and pastries. The episode features both Del Redclay and an Italian anti-defamation advocate, each providing the vastly different views of Christopher Columbus by way of Exposition.
  • Country Matters: Ralph calls Janice one after getting pushed down the stairs.
  • Disposable Woman: Karen Baccalieri was introduced a few episodes ago purely so that we would have a background for Bobby's loss.
  • Disapproving Look: Carmela and the other Mafia wives have a table unto themselves. The guest speaker delivers a speech that emphasizes that most Italian Americans are too good and honest and hardworking to justify The Mafia stereotypes. Some of the other ladies in the room, notably Charmaine, turn around and begin glaring at Carmela and company. Rosalie even Flips the Bird at one of them.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: Janice is seeing a Shrink of her own. The first session itself, right down to detailed references to her questionable taste in men, and an Oedipus Complex towards either Johnny Boy or Tony himself, is a dead ringer for several sessions Tony has had with Dr. Melfi.
  • Dude, Not Funny!: The general reaction to Artie's attempt at humor with Chief Doug Smith:
    Smith: I had business in Manhattan, anyway.
    Artie: Oh, not again.
  • Enemy Civil War: The first shot is fired when Paulie tells Johnny Sack about the fat joke.
  • Escalating Brawl: Between the Italian and Native American groups of protesters.
  • Feminine Women Can Cook: Subverted hard in the case of Janice. Other members of the extended family bring Bobby plenty of home-cooked meals grounded in Italian American cuisine to console him over his loss of Karen. Janice brings over some Kentucky Fried Chicken, which in her case amounts to a gender-flipped version of Dads Can't Cook. Also doubles as Foreshadowing, as her road to winning over Bobby doesn't end up a particularly smooth one.
  • For Doom the Bell Tolls: Karen tells the other Mafia wives that she's gotta go to pick up a new crown. Just as she and the others get into their cars, the church bell rings loudly, but then gradually fades out. Want to guess what happens next?
  • Get Out!: Janice throws Ralph down the stairs, then out of the house for wearing his shoes in the house. But really so she can start moving in on the new widower around the corner, Bobby.
  • Grievous Bottley Harm: Little Paulie gets a bottle smashed over his head, and he's bleeding rather badly from it afterwards.
  • Gut Feeling: Both Silvio and Tony have a sense that somebody is saying too much to the Lupertazzi family in New York. They're entirely correct of course.
  • Head-Turning Beauty: Ralph has this reaction to Del Redclay's T.A. She has a Squick reaction.
  • Heritage Disconnect: Doug Smith's Native American heritage is questionable to begin with, but it becomes obvious that he's only in it for the perks that being chief and head of a casino provides him. Tony even shows a definite Hyper-Awareness by lampshading that Smith staking a claim to Mohonk ancestry apparently coincides with the passing of legislation authorizing the casino.
  • Honor Before Reason: How Silvio flies into another episode of acting quite out of character. His behavior and role has up until now been utterly cold and rational as The Consigliere. Here we seem him fly hard in a direction not unlike going from The Spock to The McCoy almost overnight. His ethnic pride in being Italian American and the Native American protests really send him in directions ruled by his emotions that he otherwise would never go in. If he stopped to apply his usual cold calculating thought processes to them, he'd realize that they'd have troubling repercussions for the business. Even Tony lampshades it: "What the fuck's with you? I count on you to be the most level-headed guy I got!"
  • Improvised Weapon: The street brawl also features prominently one thrown glass bottle.
  • I Resemble That Remark!: The mob wives are offended that Father Intintola would have as a speaker someone who speaks so disparagingly of ... guys like their husbands.
  • Irony: If you didn't laugh out loud when Janice's therapist referred to "the civility [she's] known for," you have not been paying attention.
  • Knows a Guy Who Knows a Guy: Tony connects with his friend Hesh, who points in the direction of his Jewish friend named Marty, who in turn introduces Tony to Chief Doug Smith.
  • Know When to Fold 'Em: Tony decides to pull the plug on the whole Columbus Day thing after Del Redclay essentially causes a Threat Backfire. Silvio would like to expose Redclay as sleeping with his own graduate student. But Tony remains firm that it's time to put the whole thing to bed.
  • Lame Pun Reaction: How Del Redclay and his T.A. react when Ralph makes an obvious pun about "spear-headin" a protest.
  • Long-Haired Pretty Boy: Some of the Mafia wives think Furio is this, with Adriana being the notable exception. Also doubles as Foreshadowing with respect to the Unresolved Sexual Tension that will escalate between Carmela and Furio.
  • Manly Tears: Bobby sheds a LOT of them at Karen's wake.
  • Mistreatment-Induced Betrayal: Paulie, motivated by simmering resentments against Tony, tells Johnny Sack about Ralph's fat joke at Ginny's expense, as well as Tony's score off the Freelingheysen Avenue property. The former kicks off a brief Enemy Civil War, while the latter costs Tony money.
  • Mouth of Sauron: Carmine doesn't even bother speaking to Tony directly about the Freelingheysen Avenue property score, even as he's sitting a few seats away at the same dinner table as him. He has Johnny Sack do it for him.
  • Murder Is the Best Solution: Silvio openly expresses the thought, after other tries have gone nowhere, that they should whack Del Redclay. Tony shuts it down hard.
  • Native American Casino: Tony and the guys spend a day in one, with the entry free of charge. Of course, the latter bit is part of a ploy by Doug Smith.
  • No Such Thing as Bad Publicity: Subverted. Tony is angered over the media attention given to the Escalating Brawl between the Italians led by Silvio and the Native Americans, particularly with Patsy being publicly arrested for public disturbance. It raises more than one pragmatic concern for Tony. One, he feels the publicity compromises the ability of the mobsters to remain Hidden in Plain Sight. Second, the media circus itself might contribute to Uncle Junior's legal problems, just as his trial is getting started, in the form of Convicted by Public Opinion.
  • No Sympathy: How Ralph treats Rosalie while she's reeling from a Trauma Conga Line. It precipitates their breakup.
  • Not So Above It All: The Coincidental Broadcast of the Montel Williams show sees Montel side with Gotti against Redclay on the basis that Redclay is being too sensitive, and not appreciating the good that Columbus' discovery has led to. Williams in his own turn becomes offended and sensitive when Gotti uses the term "Middle Passage".
  • Not So Different: The Native Americans are not portrayed as significantly more moral or law-abiding than the mobsters in this episode.
  • O.O.C. Is Serious Business:
    • Silvio has a turn with this for the second straight episode. He has arguably been Tony's most loyal and reliable underling. But his pride in being Italian American combined with the Native American protests stir him into letting his emotions drive his actions, and at the expense of rational performance of his role as The Consigliere.
    • A.J. starts to show a glimmer of intellectual capacity and critical thought when he actually starts reading about Christopher Columbus and questioning how members of his own Italian American community have valorized the explorer.
  • Patriotic Fervor: A major and recurring theme in this episode, with plenty of other examples besides the obvious one that pits the main characters and the Native American protesters against each other. Heck, even Hesh, who previously told Self Deprecating jokes that played into Greedy Jew stereotypes in order to score points with his Mafia buddies, has a moment of Jewish pride that results in a severed friendship.
  • Pay Evil unto Evil:
    • An example that overlaps with the Not So Different noted above. The Native American protesters try to draw attention to historical atrocities against their people, with Christopher Columbus as the symbol of their outrage. But then their own actions are often very harmful and violent.
    • Janice pushing Ralph down the stairs so she can pursue better options.
  • Political Correctness Gone Mad: Played with and a matter of perspective.
    • Tony and the rest of the crew regard the Native American protests against Columbus Day as an example of the trope. These protests are actually a pretty frequent thing. And it's not without reason that the protesters make an association between Columbus Day and historical atrocities inflicted on their ancestors as well as current conditions. Assemblyman Zellman won't touch it precisely out of fear of a political correctness blowback, "sensitive stuff".
    • Silvio also regards the names of sports teams like the Cleveland Indians and the Atlanta Braves becoming a politically charged issue as an example of the trope. But again, a lot of Native Americans do feel sincerely offended by the names in question.
  • Politically Incorrect Villains:
    • Imagine any negative stereotypes you can possibly think of with respect to Native Americans, lazy, ungrateful for handouts, Addled Addicts, etc. Silvio and the others bring up all of them to express their resentments towards the Columbus Day protesters. Even Bobby of all people gets into it.
    • Even Tony takes up the argument over the Suppressed History of Christopher Columbus with A.J. In the course of the argument Tony ascribes to the viewpoint that the Indigenous peoples Columbus did enslave were just a bunch of primitive savages not worth making a fuss over, therefore there was no injustice that could have been committed, therefore Columbus couldn't possibly be anything less than a Hero. It verges on Insane Troll Logic by today's standards.
  • Punishment Detail: Tony over the course of the episode becomes irate at Silvio for tying the crime family to the Columbus Day parade in ways that were questionable for the family business. So Silvio is assigned the task of contacting Frankie Valli to play at Chief Smith's Native American Casino.
  • Running Gag: Like it wasn't bad enough that Georgie got the shit beat out of him by Tony like how many times? Now the cops give him a good beating too during the protest demonstration.
  • Self-Made Man: Tony invokes this trope, along with some praise for Gary Cooper, to try and talk Silvio into easing down a notch or two from his ethnic pride as an Italian American.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here!: Played for laughs, suddenly tough-guy-wannabe Artie Bucco sees real violence kick off and spends the rest of the street brawl cowering in the back seat of a car, doors locked.
  • Screw Your Ultimatum!: How Del Redclay responds to Ralph's threat to expose Iron Eyes Cody. "Knock yourself out."
  • "Shaggy Dog" Story: What Silvio's agita over Columbus Day turns out to be, since when it came right down to it, he forgot which day it was and was out of town gambling at an Indian casino when the march he was so opposed to happened.
  • Shame If Something Happened:
    • Gabriella is fuming after Father Intintola's choice of a keynote speaker. So she enters his office and implies that she and the other Mafia waves can convince their husbands to cut off the financial support that keeps his parish going.
    • How Ralph attempts to get leverage over Del Redclay. It's based on a threat to reveal that Iron Eyes Cody was actually Italian American without a drop of Native American blood. Although Redclay blows off Ralph, he afterwards admits to being worried about the PR implications.
  • Single Woman Seeks Good Man: Janice moves from having a thing for bad boys like Richie and Ralph to becoming fascinated with Bobby after seeing his genuine love for Karen and his devastation at losing her.
  • Suppressed History: Christopher Columbus is the subject of the History when it comes to this episode's use of the trope. It's a given that the Italian characters have a more flattering view of Columbus (possibly excepting Furio and A.J.), while the Native American protesters have a more negative view of the man. Whether he was the great hero and mover and shaker the main characters view him as, or whether he was the racist murderer and rampager and slave trader the protesters cast him as, is not a question that the show even tries to provide any answers for. It's enough to bring out the different viewpoints by way of gradual Exposition in order to set up the story arc for this episode.
  • Suppressed Rage: Johnny Sack is in this mode towards Ralph over the fat joke at Ginny's expense.
  • Survivor Guilt: Truckloads of it for Bobby, amplified by the fact that he was angry at Karen when she died.
  • Tear Jerker: Disposable Woman or not, you can't help but feel for Bobby. He's obviously devastated.
  • Threat Backfire: Del Redclay ultimately blows off the threat to expose Iron Eyes Cody, likening it to Italian Americans finding out that James Caan isn't Italian. It wouldn't exactly be an earth shattering scandal if the public at large knew.
  • Trauma Conga Line: More than one character.
    • Rosalie has lost Jackie Sr., Richie, Jackie Jr. and now Karen. Feeling older doesn't help either.
    • Bobby, in addition to being a regular Butt-Monkey for the other mobsters, has lost his father and now Karen too.
  • Useful Notes on Italy: Furio provides some exposition to his Italian American friends. North Italians look down their noses at Southern Italians, and have for centuries. And the way he describes it will sound eerily similar to how race relations in America could be described. Furio himself, and a great many Italians from the southern part of the land of the sun, therefore do not necessarily view Christopher Columbus as a hero worthy of acclaim or adoration, as he was from Genoa.
  • We Hardly Knew Ye: Karen, obviously.
  • You Owe Me: Chief Doug Smith plays Tony like a fiddle: he completely fails to do anything about the demonstration, but the fact that he "tried" now obligates Tony to do what he can to get Frankie Valli to sing at the Native American Casino.
  • Your Cheating Heart:
    • Janice and Ralph are carrying on kinky role play behind Rosalie's back. Rosalie's calling Ralph in the middle of it lampshades that Ralph hasn't officially broken up with her yet.
    • There's plenty of budding Unresolved Sexual Tension between Furio and Carmela, to the point that Carmela is on a very real level emotionally cheating on Tony. Heck, the scene where she's sharing pastries and coffee with Furio could easily be slipped into any Romantic Comedy or Chick Flick and not look out of place as an intended date scene.
    • Not Bobby, apparently. This perks up Janice's interest in him, the poor bastard.
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