Bust Out (2.10)

Tony preys upon Davey Scatino’s sporting goods store while Carmela gets closer to Davey’s brother-in-law.  Tony gets
unnerved upon learning that there was a witness to the Bevilaqua murder.

EPISODE 23 - ORIGINALLY AIRED MARCH 19, 2000
WRITTEN BY FRANK RENZULLI AND ROBIN GREEN & MITCHELL BURGESS
DIRECTED BY JOHN PATTERSON

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This is sort of a “worker bee” episode, it comes in and tells its story competently without all the heavy philosophical and mythological and religious stuff that we’ve seen in other episodes this season.  The opening scene almost feels like something out of a classic police procedural show, like Dragnet or Law and Order: a good citizen identifies Tony to the police as the man he saw at the park where Matt Bevilaqua’s body is found.  But the typical procedural rarely ever delves deeply into the emotional, private lives of its characters as this series often does.

In those classic TV shows, a clear line divides the good guys from the bad guys – and this can line can only be drawn if the bad guys are not shown in their full human dimension.  Tony, in this episode, is humanized from his very first scene: he wants to aid a child lost at the mall.  The crying child reminds him of Matt Bevilaqua, who cried when he realized Tony was going to kill him.  Tony resolves to be a better father to AJ, who may make the same missteps as Matt, and become a lost child himself, if Tony doesn’t take a more active role in his life.

We also see a human dimension of Carmela that we’re not familiar with.  She’s got the hots for Vic Musto (played by Joe Penny with a solid but sensitive masculinity).  His sister, Christina Scatino, tries to get him to cool his jets, reminding him that Carm has a ring on her finger: “…especially that ring, probably came off a dead person’s finger.”  (She may not be far off the mark – last season, we saw Tony stumble a little when Carmela asked if her wedding ring was legitimately purchased.)  But Christina’s remark is also significant because of the edit it generates:

davey scatino

Chase cuts from her mention of a dead person’s finger to her suicidal husband, who may become a dead person himself with just a twitch of his finger.  Davey seems to come very close to pulling the trigger but bails out when he’s interrupted by his wife.  This episode exposes the particular way that the mob performs a “bust out,” getting its claws into a business and consuming it from the inside out.  More importantly, “Bust Out” shows how the mafia eats up its victims, like Davey Scatino, from the inside out.

The next scene also features a gun, albeit in a more humorous context.  The camera slowly circles around to reveal the gun (and the joke):

Richie gun fetish - sopranos autopsy

Janice, despite her feminist posturing in previous episodes, is willing to indulge Richie’s gun fetish.  Jan is willing to debase herself so that her man can get his kicks.  In spite of her disturbing subservience to Richie here, we know that she wields great power in their relationship.  She tries to goad him into making a power-grab against Tony, even though she knows it would probably lead to the death of her brother.  This season, Janice and Richie represent the mortal threat to Tony that Livia and Corrado personified in Season 1.  Just as we ponder the homicidal similarity between Janice and her mother, Livia makes a startling entrance into this episode:

Relying on the mechanical Stair Lift, Livia seems like an elderly, suburban Darth Vader in this scene – more mechanized monster than maternal matriarch.  Up to this point in Season 2, we had only seen her at the hospital, “recovering” from her supposed stroke.  Her reentry into the domestic space of the Soprano family here is simultaneously humorous and menacing.

Janice, Richie and Livia are certainly threats to Tony, but he is most worried right now about the eyewitness to the Bevilaqua murder.  Melfi recognizes that he is genuinely scared, and justifiably so.  His crew are doing all they can to identify the witness but are not making any leeway.  (In one of those great Sopranos moments that inject humor into tense drama, Furio (still learning the idiom) suggests that Tony make an escape: “Maybe you should lamb chop it for awhile.”)  But Tony doesn’t have to worry, because the reputation of the mob protects him.  When the eyewitness is told by his wife that Matt Bevilaqua was a mafia associate, he decides to abruptly withdraw his involvement in the investigation.  Several TV elements (wardrobe, set design, props, diagetic music) all come together to quickly give us a sense of the couple’s relationship, their marital history, their politics, their self-perceived role in society, and their fear of the mob.  Writers Burgess and Green have always been adept, going back to their Northern Exposure days, at conveying personality with just a few lines of dialogue.  I marvel at these 70 seconds of televisual efficiency:

The intellectual do-gooder suddenly loses his motivation to do good, and Tony finds himself safe from the Damocles sword that has been hanging over his head.  But there is also something else that has been threatening Tony this hour, though he doesn’t quite realize it: his wife is developing a crush on Vic Musto…

VIC MUSTO
The previous episode ended with a hot-and-heavy scene between Tony and Carmela, as the camera moved in close to capture their physical intimacy (in a scene that may have been a reference to From Here to Eternity).  In “Bust Out,” however, the only physical contact between the two is when Carm attacks Tony, flailing her arms against his bulk.  We should not have expected their newfound warmth and passion from the previous episode to last long, because we could be reasonably sure that Tony would continue his philandering.  But surprisingly, it is Carmela here who seeks intimacy outside the marriage.

tony and carm and vic

Vic Musto has Tony’s mass and broad shoulders, but the similarities end there.  He is a hard-working man in a legitimate business, bonded and state-certified – a far cry from Tony’s employment status.  Vic is a Wallpaper Man, someone who can redo and revitalize Carmela’s domicile, while Tony constantly jeopardizes the household with his criminal and extramarital activities.  Maurice Yacowar notes an important way that Vic is the Anti-Tony: Tony’s exploitation of Davey Scatino’s gambling addiction has depleted Eric’s college fund, and it is Uncle Vic who decides to step in and pay Eric’s tuition himself.  (“Uncle Vic” is the answer to the question that was asked on the soap opera that Corrado was watching: “What about little Eric?”)  Once Vic learns that it is Tony Soprano who is behind Davey’s latest (and largest) blunder, he squashes the burgeoning relationship with Carmela.

“…SUCH A DEAL…”
While Christina is telling Carmela, during lunch at Vesuvio, just how bad her husband’s gambling problem is, Artie happily arrives at their table with some bottled water.  It is not the brand that they asked for, but Artie says, “I got such a deal on this Ramlosa.”  We know, of course, that he got “such a deal” from the bust-out of Scatino’s store.  By drinking the water, Christina is inadvertently filling her belly through the destruction of her family’s livelihood.  Tony and the Mob’s activities have, in a sense, pushed Christina into cannibalizing her own family.

In the following scene, Tony presents AJ with an upmarket rod-and-reel while parroting Artie’s words: “I got a great deal on it.”  It’s safe to assume that “the great deal” consisted of little more than swiping it off a rack at the bust-out store.  The Soprano family profits at the expense of others.  Now that the eyewitness has back-pedaled out of the Matt Bevilaqua investigation, society must bear the cost of Tony’s crime.  Similarly, when Tony gives $50,000 to mob victim Beansie, he buys peace-of-mind for himself but the violent criminal who crippled Beans is left free to wreak havoc upon society.  The idea that the rest of us have to pay for the Mob’s actions is a fundamental truth of The Sopranos, and the final scene of the episode wryly rephrases it when Tony and AJ (finally spending some quality time together to put the appropriated rod-and-reel to use) obliviously flip a smaller boat with the Stugots’ wake.

stugots carelessness

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ADDITIONAL POINTS:

  • The stair thing: Perhaps Livia had a Stair Lift installed to allay her fear that Janice would toss her down the staircase [a fear we learned of in “Do Not Resuscitate” (2.02)].  Stairs on The Sopranos are often places of menace, callousness and pain, going all the way back to 1.02 when Tony told Melfi of Livia’s laughter when his father fell off some steps.
  • The suicide thing: Suicide and suicidal ideation are somewhat common occurrences in SopranoWorld.  Davey comes close to ending it all here.  Previously on The Sopranos: depressed Chris discusses suicide in 1.08; Ally cuts her wrists in 1.09; Makazian takes a header off the Goodkind Bridge in 1.11; depressed Tony ponders suicide in 1.12; and Melfi is upset over her patient’s suicide in 2.03.
  • Faith & Firearms: We see in Janice and Richie’s sex scene that he’s got a gun in his right hand and a large tattoo of the crucifixion on his left arm.
  • Tipsy with alcohol and worry, Tony shares a sweet moment with his daughter.  He admires how sharp she is.  He is correct in saying that nothing gets by Meadow – she seems to suspect Carmela’s extramarital desires when she overhears her mother on the phone with Vic.
  • I think the scenes in Melfi’s office are particularly good in this hour.  I especially love how Tony now defends the statement Annalisa Zucca made to him in Italy—“You’re your own worst enemy”—against Melfi’s charge that it’s a cliché, although Tony himself told Annalisa it was a cliché back in “Commendatori.”  Melfi has to finally concede that the point of psychotherapy is to get patients to understand that “you are your own worst enemy.”
  • Tony essentially dodges two bullets in this episode: he isn’t prosecuted for the murder of Matt Bevilaqua, and he doesn’t get cuckolded by Carmela.  (In both cases, his status as a mobster protects him.)  Maurice Yacowar notes that the powder room in the Soprano house ties these two plot-points together: Tony breathes relief in the powder room when he learns that the eyewitness has reneged, and it is in this same room that Carmela and Vic shared their one—and only—kiss.

26 responses to “Bust Out (2.10)

  1. No mention of the coolers all over the episode? What was that symbolism?

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  2. How about the red colour symbolising blood haemorrhaging from the business?

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  3. What about Carmela scene waiting Vic phone call? IMO its beautfull, Carmela happily daydreaming at the table inflated by the camera, wating a phone call from the telephone in the center of screen, looks like a naive teenager, (or maybe alice in wonderland)
    Also, maybe not just coincidence, “Con te Partiro” is playing as back music…

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  4. Other interesting points, the oposition of tony’s and eric’s father ways of holding the pressure. Tony is obviously worried about the prison, but keeps “working”, provides a secure money to his family, says to Dr. Melfi he is his worst enemy aknowledging himself as the source of his own problems, he is aware of his own nature as scorpion… on otherside, Eric’s father gets complete consumed by pressure, he cant work, thought of suicide, throw away all the money of putting his family in danger, he dont recognizes HIS own faults blaming tony, his wife and Vic by not stop him of gambling (even, when Tony stop his tries TWICE), he cant see his own nature as a frog.

    Its really ironic the analogy of the mafia as termites eating the business after the “rotten tree” thing in the first season.

    Do you think we can make connections with, counting 3 guns (or 4, if the black phone in that looks like a gun does count)?
    Do you think the tony dreams of him as roman soldier fucking a woman, his association with paganism is possible as a “futuresight”…

    [SPOILER ALERT \/ ]

    …of Richie and Pussy’s death (pussy is catholic which said jesus keep making good things in his live, and numerous times this season is associated with cristianity, richie have his tatoo of jesus in the cross, Paulie, who think is unprotected by the church and jesus stay alive forever =P)?

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  5. More about Vic’s profession: a wallpaper man. He comes into the house that blood built and covers up the walls, much like Carmella sees him as the ‘honest man’ only to find that this is a facade when he cowers to the possibility of getting on the wrong side of Tony.

    I also like the scene with Carmella and Mrs. Scatino in Vesuvio. Artie comes to them and insists that they try this new sparkling water that he got such a great deal on. Look familiar? This is the same water that is being wheeled in crates through Scatino’s store at the beginning of the episode. Tony tells the delivery person to put three crates in his car. Thus, just as Mrs. Scatino is talking to Carmella about how thankful she is that the store is in her name and is therefore safe from Mr. Scatino’s disease, she is served a product that she has unwittingly already purchased under the direction of her lunch-mate’s husband, and will be part of her ultimate financial demise. Just classic.

    This is my tenth time through the series, and little elements like this make it watchable again and again. There are so many details that run through the series. Almost every episode has some element that I had not noticed before.

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  6. I found it remarkable that, at about 7 minutes in, Riche grabs a sandwich and starts eating it. He finishes it in about 11 seconds (at least, the sandwich is gone after that), which is (almost) impossible. But since food is connected to ‘evil’ (bad things always happen when food comes around), maybe this proves Richie is one of the meanest/hardest gangsters?

    Also when Davey is trying to shoot himself in the basement, his wife walks down and we see this thing on the wall “Easy Does It”. Which could mean that Davey shouldn’t be losing his ‘temper’ and shoot himself? Or should his wife relax and let him shoot himself? What does it mean!??!!?

    When Furio and Paulie are giving new info to Tony, they tell him “It’s not a rat”. Pussy responds immediatly with “Thank God!”. Which could refer to the former episode where Tony and Pussy are eating in the pub. This time, god has been good to Pussy. Otherwise he would had ended up dead for being a rat.

    When Melfi says “Maybe we should stop”, it cuts to the Sportstore that is being Busted out. Maybe Tony ‘should stop’ busting the joint, since he is crushing Davey’s family by doing this.

    The witness is reading the book “Anarchy, State and Utopia”. When he finds out that this criminal is actually a boss of a mafia-family, he backs out. I haven’t read it, but on the internet it says “Nozick argues in favor of a minimal state, “limited to the narrow functions of protection against force, theft, fraud, enforcement of contracts, and so on.””. So he wants the state to protect his citizens against the gangsters, but he is not willing to be a part of it. That is what Tony meant about those “suckers”. They don’t have the balls to do anything because they are afraid of the Mafia. Just like Vic eventually leaves Caremela alone, because he is (probably) afraid of Tony.

    At the end, we see the store getting closed. This means Davey has lost his business and his family is ruined. Then the scene cuts to Tony and AJ on this big speedboat, they are enjoying this wealth because Tony wreck other people’s lives.

    And Matt, this is my fourth run. I hope I will reach my tenth run sometime :D!

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  7. The red cooler Carmela tries to give Vic is from the bust out too, I’m guessing. The red ones sell, says merchandising maven Richie Aprile.

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  8. I just wanted to say that I’m loving these write ups. I’m watching through the show again at the moment and finding much more food for thought than I did all those years back, but these recaps are very well rounded and give me even more to think about – good work.

    As a side note: that poster on the wall as Davey’s wife coming down the stairs reading “Easy Does It” seemed incredibly familiar when it whizzed pasy. Is it possible that FX’s Fargo was referencing this with Martin Freeman’s poster “What If You’re Right and They’re Wrong?” It’s positioned at the bottom of the stairs, has an inspirational quote and is seen when the man of the house is in the middle of a violent emotional conflict. Might not be anything in it, but it would be a very nice and subtle nod from the makers of Fargo if I’m right.

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  9. “Easy Does It” is a slogan from 12 Step programs, including Gamblers Anonymous. From Vic’s conversation with Davey, we learn that the latter was in Gamblers Anonymous, but fell off the wagon. “Easy Does It” is meant to serve as a coping tool, a reminder to stay calm and control destructive impulses. In this case, it doesn’t seem to be helping.

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    • Kinda interesting that a poster for the 12 Steps would be found near a staircase… I’ve always found steps and staircases on The Sopranos to be evocative/symbolic places…

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  10. When Carmella and Christina have lunch at Vesuvios the song playing in the background is “Cast Your Fate to the Wind” by Vince Guaraldi. In a way that’s what Carmella does in the powder room. Of course this is also another reference to wind.

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  11. How about the Journey song playing twice in the episode? “Wheel in the sky keeps on turning”? Early sun reference (stronger sun.references later in the series)

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  12. The lawyer talks about getting ducks in a row.

    In a previous episode Tony told Dr. Melfi how he feels about the pool in relation to the ducks, and that he doesn’t even want to be in the backyard anymore.
    Now we see him and A.J (his duckling) around the pool. Then he gets a phone call and never joins a.j in the pool.
    Later he will do the same when Tony forgets about A.J’s swim meet.

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  13. “Wheel in the Sky Keeps on Turning- reference to Davy’s gambling? Like a roulette wheel? Or possibly the cycle of addiction he’s caught in. Also, the coolers in the episode- a metaphor for Tony possibly landing in “the cooler” over the Bevilaqua murder. Also noteworthy is the pretentious “non-music” the witness and his wife are listening to- it sounds like musical anarchy, not melodic order and structure, in much the same way as the epi plays out, with the do-gooder reneging on his eye witness testimony and the murder goes unpunished. Law and Order: 0. Anarchy: 1.

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  14. David J Noone

    Tony and Richie working as business partners….oh god! I like your points relating to the water and the fishing poles. “Such a deal.” If people only knew how these things happen. Davy’s wife thinks because the store is in “her name” that they are immune to any financial woes or the fact he could gamble it away. But Tony and the mob are smarter than that and have been doing this probably hundreds of times over. Davey really fucked up here didn’t he? Robert Patrick was great in his role of Davey and showed a great deal of emotion and depth of this dark troubled character. We were introduced to this man a few episodes ago, successful and a bit cocky. Now he is basically reduced to a man who has nothing, all within a few weeks. I suppose “easy does it” was not applied in this case. Seeing the mob bust out his business was pretty interesting. More or less everything and anything in the store is up for grabs. (I thought Paulie swipes a pair of shoes) If memory serves me right we see these goddam coolers popping up into season 5 at least. I am not sure of any significance of the coolers but someone made sure that they were part of the dialogue and scenes. Perhaps it’s the idea that something as simple as a cooler is something of value to these guys. One cooler may fetch them 5-10 dollars, but when they sell 10,000 of them profits add up. I think its a reminder that these guys are always on the hustle and trying to make a quick buck no matter what the case. As you pointed out very clearly, it’s others who are worse off or lose out, not Tony. And sometimes he gets out of situations due to his mob status. Perhaps the person who ends up effected the most is Eric. I seen this as an eye opening episode and one of my favorites of the series. Not much action but the story line is quite interesting and unique.

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    • Yes, very unique… It’s kind of surprising that Chase’s mob series doesn’t spend too much time showing us the inner workings of mob schemes, but this one does, and it’s a refreshing change.

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  15. I am very much enjoying the “autopsies”, and I really like the pacing of this episode. You mentioned “Full Leather Jacket” as a personal favorite, and I think this is nearly its equal. The whole second season has a “pop” that is more consistent than the first season. You can tell the whole crew, having gotten through the first season, now has their feet fully under them and the momentum of the entire season is unstoppable (culminating in the searing “Funhouse”).

    The scene in the small bathroom with Vic and Carmela is the turning point, about 2/3 of the way through. It’s the “axis” on which the structure turns. Tension builds up to this point, their kiss is the peak, and the tension rapidly releases and then unwinds all through the rest of the episode as the various threads play out.

    Concepts can be conveyed to the viewer not only by calling them out explicitly, but also showing them by their similarities, their absence, or their opposites. In this case the vertical stripes convey the impression of the “gray bar hotel”; jail, or prison, to be specific to Tony’s case. Dramatic irony is used in that Carmela is unaware of the peril of prison that her husband faces, but the wallpaper stripes clearly show it to us, the viewer. If Tony were to go to prison, Vic represents the type of temptation that Carmela would undergo the entire time her husband is incarcerated. For a brief moment, when the door is shut (with its wallpapered back), they are surrounded by symbolic prison bars and they are at risk of being incarcerated themselves, in a potentially doomed romantic fling that would result in seriously bad outcomes for both Vic and Carmela. After they kiss, and both come to their senses, Carmela “busts out” (opens the door and releases them both from their “cell”).

    Vic certainly isn’t going to be the one to “bust out”, at least until later in the episode when he finds out who is responsible for Davey’s predicament. Carmela has – perhaps subconsciously – selected Vic as a very easily-attained target for her sexuality. Carmela may not have set out to have an affair with this man (who was essentially a random encounter), but she is impulsive in her own way. Perhaps she is more of a kindred spirit to her husband than she would care to admit. She is a beautiful woman to begin with (freely admitting to an Edie Falco crush here), and she has gone to some length to make herself extra-attractive. She has previously noted that Vic had “a sadness about him” and upon finding out he is a widower who was devoted to his late wife, she knows (on some level) that he must suffer terribly from loneliness and longing for his absent wife. Being early-middle-aged with two kids, Carmela is likely less confident of her ability to attract a man than she was in her younger years. But, for Carmela, Vic is like shooting fish in a barrel – she has essentially no risk of rejection.

    It’s interesting, as you reference above from Maurice Yacowar (although I haven’t read his stuff) that Tony experiences his “release” in the same jail-themed room that Carmela successfully “busts out” from. Again the concept of confinement (or the lack of confinement) is conveyed through the wallpaper (Vic’s domain).

    Couple of other delightful turns of phrase and ironies. Vic tells Carmela that the vertical stripes are “a lot for the eye to handle in a such a confined space”. With a delightful pause in his delivery for the double entendre. Obviously in that moment they have eyes only for one another and each one of them is a lot for the other to “handle”. The “confined space” is literal, but beyond that, refers to confinement by incarceration.

    When Janice and Richie come to visit Uncle Junior, shortly after the “what about little Eric?” moment, Richie bends down near Junior to talk, distracting him from his soap opera. Junior remarks of one character, “she’s a putana, this one – fucked an arson investigator last week”. Hey Jun’, you want to know who “fucked” an arson investigator? Your little nephew Anthony, that’s who. And it wasn’t last week, it was last season – in 01.13 “I Dream of Jeannie Cusamano”. And not just “an” arson investigator, but two. Tony tells Artie “two arson investigators gave that fire a clean bill o’health” (29:34).
    You have to love it!

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    • Thanks for posting this, it’s insightful stuff… I would think that the episode title as it pertains to Carmela’s storyline here would be that Carmela wants to have a romantic fling in order to “bust out” of the monotony of her marriage and domestic life. I’m primed to see it this way because I think the desire to escape banality is one the major Sopranos themes (and no episode explores this theme more fully than the very next hour, “House Arrest”). But you read the title, as it relates to Carmela, in the opposite way: the fling itself would be a prison, and Carm is able to “bust out” of it here before it traps her. That’s a valid way of looking at it too. The fact that these opposing viewpoints both seem legitimate attests to how rich and ambiguous and complex The Sopranos is…

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      • Thanks for the kind words. I agree about multiple interpretations being equally legitimate, and that it’s because of the depth and interlocking detail in the series. I often wonder if all of these mysterious details were put in intentionally, or are mere coincidence, or perhaps a byproduct of the immersion that the series creators and writers have in their fictional world. Someone with more insight than I is going to have to answer that one.

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  16. Another fun prop note: Junior is also seen drinking a Ramlosa when he is talking with Richie. I’ve looked for other Ramlosa appearances in the episode but I don’t believe there are any others.

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  17. A bit of irony: david scatino’s wife nearly catching david offing himself and she says, “i know how concerned you are about ruining the felt.” Blowing your brains out on the pool table would definately do a number on the felt!

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  18. This is my first time of viewing the show so I’m aware that there are subtleties, plot twists, developments ahead in the story that I don’t know about and that might subsequently affect how I view various characters.

    Having said that my initial and overwhelming reaction to this episode was thank god Vic didn’t go back to the Soprano household and take things with Carmela any further.

    She’s an attractive woman and the temptation must have been huge, but I’m glad that a combination of principle and fear of the consequences made him ‘do the right thing’. I was worried throughout that he was going to come to a sticky end at Tony’s hands and very relieved that (so far at least) he didn’t. Vic seems to me currently as a rare example of a decent, good man, seldom seen in the world of The Sopranos, almost the ‘anti-Tony’.

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