The Knight in White Satin Armor (2.12)

Richie and Janice’s marriage plans suddenly get scrapped.
Tony’s
goomar Irina attempts suicide
after he tries to end their relationship.


Episode 25 – Originally Aired April 2, 2000

Written by Green & Burgess
Directed by Allen Coulter

__________________________________

The episode starts off with a surprising scene, almost surreal in its grace and beauty.  We rub and blink our eyes, unsure if we’re actually watching The Sopranos or if there’s been some weird mix-up. 


Our disorientation is reduced when Tony and Janice enter the room, but we are still unsure who—or what—the dancers were.  Ghosts?  A hallucination?  We soon learn that it is just Richie’s son and his dance partner.  Reality trumps fantasy.  Director Allen Coulter says that he instructed Gandolfini to come in “ass first” in order to give his entrance a humorous impact and undermine the scene’s surreal quality.  The reality of Tony’s ass intrudes upon the fanciful moment.

This episode is all about the intrusion of reality upon the mythologies and fantasies of several characters.  Even the centuries-old, romantic idea of “the knight in shining armor” is mocked and demythologized: first, by the malapropism of the title; and later, through Tony’s storyline. (He is this episode’s knight-errant.)

We first heard Russian goomar Irina mix and mangle cultural references to produce the phrase “knight in white satin armor” back in Season One’s “College.”  (She is obviously combining the chivalric “knight in shining armor” with The Moody Blues’ “Nights in White Satin.”)  Irina has deluded herself into believing that Tony can be her hero and provide her with all the love and security she requires.  She tries to evoke his jealousy, but in his emotional distance, he feels none.  Tony bucks against the obligations that his needy mistress tries to saddle upon him.  When he ends their relationship, she downs 20 sleeping pills in a suicide attempt.

Pussy has also deluded himself.  He is suffering from something like Stockholm Syndrome, trying to bond himself with the FBI, even giving himself the handle “Fat Man.”  He actually believes he can be employed by the Feds once he testifies against Tony.  Reality comes crashing in while he is tailing Christopher and loses control of his car, smashing into a passing bicyclist.  Of course, the delusion can potentially go both ways—FBI agents are vulnerable to improperly bonding themselves with mafioso.  In several episodes, we see the Feds get chummy with Tony and the mobsters.  Here, Agent Cubitoso warns Agent Lipari, “You can get too close,” while scarfing down tasty morsels from the gift basket Tony has sent him for his birthday:

chief eating

Big Pussy uses Agent Lipari to unburden his frustrations regarding Tony Soprano.  Pussy feels disrespected by Tony.  He is still smarting over being treated like some errand boy, asked to find AJ’s teacher’s car last year (“46 Long”).  Chase cuts from this scene, in which Pussy feels betrayed by Tony, to a scene in which another of Tony’s loved ones feels betrayed by him:

2 betrayals

Carmela picks up the scent of her husband’s infidelity.  Like Big Puss, Carmela is driven by her pain to counter-betray Tony.  She seeks out Vic Musto under the pretense of wanting to thank him for his good judgment, but we get the sense that Carm may actually be trying to ignite a romance (or at least keep the option of a future romance open).  The pounding of the paint machine at the store where Carm and Vic meet sounds a bit like an old-school Tommy Gun, and so the sound adds a threatening undertone to the two scenes which it connects: the paint mixer links the scene in which Richie enacts a plan that threatens Tony’s life to the scene in which Carmela enacts a plan that threatens Tony’s marriage:


Carmela has long been aware of her husband’s infidelity but she has tried not to let it infringe upon the dream of happy, comfortable domesticity that she lives in.  Reality, however, comes calling—Irina calls Tony at the house with words of love and a tone of apology.  This intrusion is more than Carmela can face, and she storms out of the room.  She still thinks that some kind of relationship with Vic is possible but Gabrielle Dante clears up her delusion, saying that Vic didn’t stay away from her because of his good judgment, but because he’s scared of Tony: “Face it, Carmela.  Use your head.  He pissed his pants.”

Carmela tries to warn Janice that as a mob wife, she will soon have to accept Richie having a mistress.  Janice is not worried about this, because she’s sure no goomar would be willing to allow Richie to hold a gun to her head during sex.  There has been an interesting comparison made between Carmela and Janice over the course of this season.  In the early episodes, Janice (though a moocher and a welfare queen) has a level of autonomy and independence that Carmela doesn’t have.  As she gets closer to becoming a mob wife, she gives up much of her independent-mindedness (and jettisons her “Parvati” persona).  Although she allows herself to be put in a demeaning, subservient position during sexplay (something we can’t imagine Carmela ever agreeing to), Janice still remains a willful and strong personality.  She is an extremely complex and contradictory woman.  The “mirror scene” here underscores her multi-dimensionality:

janice in mirror

Allen Coulter says that he shot this scene through the mirror because of the cramped conditions of the location.  This may be true, but the convention of using a mirror to express the dual nature of a character is one that goes back to the early days of film (and was used extensively in 1940s film noir).

2

Janice’s dress of “white satin” plays into the episode title—Janice is no pushover or doormat, she can be as forceful as a knight when she wants to be.  Richie expects her to play the part of the traditional New Jersey mob wife, but it is not certain that Janice is willing to play this role.  Janice Soprano’s real role in Season 2 is to represent a mortal threat to Tony.  She shares her mother’s murderous impulses.  She nudges her fiancé, who is still stinging over the debacle with the leather jacket, towards committing murder.  Richie goes to Corrado with the homicidal plan and gets some traction—Corrado, needing cash for the cost of his legal defense, is bitter that Tony is not letting him deal cocaine on company time.

Richie and Corrado conspire to put a hit on Tony.  But Richie is not able to sell the idea to the other capos.  Richie is not respected enough for them to buy into his plan.  When he approaches Albert Barese with the idea, Barese—almost mockingly—parrots everything Richie says to him.  It may simply be that Barese has a nutty verbal tic, similar to the one Jimmy ‘Two-Times’ had in GoodFellas.  (Jimmy would constantly repeat his last sentence twice.)  But we suspect—and Richie also seems to recognize—that Barese simply doesn’t have much respect for him.  In Richie’s introductory episode, “Toodle-fucking-oo,” the camera was used to emphasize his “short but tough” persona.  He was shown as a man who could fill the television frame with his presence despite his small size:

tough Richie

But now, after failing to bring the captains on board in the assassination plot, Richie is presented differently.  Chase films him through the kitchen pass-through window, and this frame-within-a-frame shot isolates and diminishes him.  In the reverse shot, naïve Bobby expresses his admiration for Richie’s toughness, but wily Corrado has moved past his admiration for the diminutive man.  Corrado decides to turn his back on Richie and ally himself with Tony instead.

richie framed2

Corrado cements himself to Tony by revealing Richie’s assassination plot to him.  (By pinning the plot entirely on Richie, Corrado essentially frames him, perhaps allowing a new reading of the frame-within-a-frame shot.)  Upon learning of Richie’s betrayal, it doesn’t take consigliore Silvio very long to reach the conclusion that he must die:


Five seconds is all Silvio needs.  There is something tragic, and yet funny, in how these characters find human life so disposable.  Of course, the Universe can be tragic and funny in this regard too: Fate steps in and disposes of Richie before Tony even gets the chance.  In his essay, “Mangia Mafia!” Michael Grynbaum explores the tension between Janice and Richie that leads to his death.  Janice is a “masculinized woman”—this is established in her first scene of the episode, when she hauls a couch into the house and reveals she once worked as a mover.  Grynbaum analyzes how this “masculinized woman” violates the feminine norm in the moments leading up to her shooting of Richie:

  • She complains about spending all day “in this house cooking your fucking dinner…”  A true mob wife would never gripe about spending time in the kitchen. 
  • She slips her mother a couple of sleeping pills so that she and Richie could perhaps have sex.  “In initiating sex, Janice plays the aggressor, a traditionally male role.  Richie becomes irate as the gender roles in his household are further subverted…”
  • Janice is slow to serve Richie dinner, prompting him to go into the kitchen and serve himself.
  • Janice expresses her belief that it would be perfectly acceptable for Richie’s son—his namesake—to be gay.

This final transgression earns Janice a punch in the mouth.  We know that Richie believes he has the right to beat his woman—in 2.03, he told Chris it was ok for him to hit Adriana as long as he put a ring on her finger first.  But this is not something Janice can abide.  She had deluded herself into believing that prison had transformed Richie into a thoughtful man, but reality smashes her in the face.  Janice returns to the dining room with a gun and puts a bullet in Richie’s chest.  He crawles backwards into the kitchen (the same kitchen where we first saw them as a couple in episode 2.05 and Tony mocked their relationship as “Ozzie and fuckin’ Harriet over here”).  Janice squeezes the trigger once more and finishes him off.

I think there is an important point that needs to be emphasized about Richie Aprile: he was an asshole.  Sure, he was a sociopath and a murderer and a misogynist and a homophobe, but his most salient characteristic was his assholery.  It is primarily because of this characteristic that he couldn’t get the other mobsters to join him in a plot against Tony, and why Silvio is so quick to agree that he must be whacked, and why Janice doesn’t hesitate to destroy him.  In a sense, Richie’s ugly personality is part of Chase’s commitment to portraying “the fuckin’ regularness of life”—people like Richie are simply an inescapable part of everyday life.  There is not one person among us that hasn’t had to deal with an asshole at work or an asshole in the family or an asshole around the neighborhood.  Asshole Richie is the prototype for future SopranoWorld assholes Ralph Cifaretto, Feech La Manna and Phil Leotardo.

In the aftermath of Richie’s murder, needy Janice is conspicuously paralleled with needy Irina.  In this episode, both Irina and Janice call Tony in their moments of desperation, despite having felt the utmost anger towards him earlier.  Both of them have scenes in which they physically cling to Tony—their knight in white cotton undershirt—as they beg him not to leave. 

irina parallel

janice parallel

Tony does truly come to Janice’s rescue here, not only in cleaning up her murderous mess, but also defending her against Livia’s cruel words.  Sitting in the staircase (a place of menace and callousness in SopranoWorld), Livia hurls pointed insults at her daughter.  Tony comes to believe that Livia genuinely doesn’t know how hurtful she can be: “You don’t know, do you?  You don’t have a fucking clue.”  (In the previous episode, Corrado told her in a similar context, “What you don’t know could fill a book.”)   Moments later, when Tony stumbles off the front steps, Livia cannot contain her laughter.  She laughs at him just as she laughed at Tony’s father when he fell off some steps many years ago.

menacing steps

HELLO CORRADO And LIVIA, GOODBYE RICHIE And JANICE
I noted previously that Richie and Janice seemed to be “substitutes” for the indisposed Corrado (incarcerated) and Livia (recovering from a stroke) in Season 2.  Now that Corrado is out of prison and Livia is back to form, Richie and Janice have outlived their narrative/dramatic function.  To remove Janice from the narrative, Chase avails himself of the “Put on a bus” trope, a convention commonly used to get rid of unnecessary characters.  At the bus station, we realize how delusional Janice can be: she actually believes Tony’s idyllic description of Richie’s final resting place on a hill among sweet scented pines.  (We know the reality: Richie’s funeral preparations were made at Satriale’s Pork Store, and he’ll spend eternity in a Hefty trash bag.)  Janice is not gone for long, however—she returns early in the next season.  Her return was probably hastened by the death of Nancy Marchand (Livia) two months after Season 2 ended.  Livia’s death in SopranoWorld occurs in episode 3.02, from which point Janice takes a permanent place on the series.

FOOD AND FIREARMS
In this episode, Richie provides two of the most explicit links that The Sopranos has made thus far between food, garbage and violence.  The first is found in some of Richie’s dialogue.  Angry at Tony for ruling against him on a business bid, Richie says, “He don’t give a shit about anybody but himself.  This country is goin’ through boom times, there’s more garbage than there ever was—and he won’t let me eat.”  There is arguably no Sopranos line that so “poetically” tethers our country’s wealth and consumer culture with garbage and food as this one does.  Richie provides the second link in death: his bullet-laden body is sliced into little pieces with the food processing equipment at Satriale’s, then stuffed into a garbage bag.

THE DARK KNIGHT
Tony is something of a hero here, albeit a deeply flawed one.  He does what he can for the women in his life.  He not only throws Janice an engagement party, he protects her after she commits murder, and then shields her from their mother’s insults.  He rushes to the hospital to comfort suicidal Irina, uses his connections to help her find work, and generously gives her $75,000 to end their relationship.  The $75k leads us to believe that he has very definitively said goodbye to Irina, which Carmela would be very glad to hear.  But of course, he can’t actually tell Carm this.  Carmela uses Tony’s infidelity to essentially leverage a trip for herself to Rome with Rosalie.  Tony silently assents—what else can he do but agree?  The camera holds on Tony as The Eurythmics “I Saved the World Today” starts up and continues over the credits.  Tony may have heroically saved his world—and the women he shares it with—from breaking to pieces, but everyone still feels hurt, betrayed and angry in the end.

___________________________________

JUNIORS
There is a bit of a contrast made here between mobster sons Richie Jr and Jackie Jr.  Lorena Russell points out in her essay, “Defense-of-Family Acts: Queering Famiglia in The Sopranos,” that in this episode’s opening scene, Tony is…

…quick to mock Richie Jr’s gender expression and sexuality, which contrast with the more acceptable forms of male behavior modeled by Jackie and his gang of cigar-smoking, football-watching friends.  From the beginning, the episode establishes that there is a “right way” and a “wrong way” of being a man…

2 Juniors

Richie Aprile smacks Janice in the mouth because she essentially blurs the line between the “right” and “wrong” ways of being masculine by suggesting it would be okay for Rick to be gay.  Richie’s excessive response comes out of the “gay panic” that characterizes SopranoWorld.  (A similar gay panic prompted Corrado to smash a pie in Bobbi Sanfilippo’s face last season, and homophobia becomes the central concern of a few episodes in Season 6.)

_________________________________

ADDITIONAL POINTS:

  • Furio seems more upset at the loss of Richie’s Cadillac, which must be junked, than he is at the loss of Richie’s life.
  • Chris tells Pussy about his new criminal venture: “I got something hard-edge…Pokémon cards.”
  • Tony’s phrase, “flying down to Rio,” is used as a euphemism for homosexuality, but it is also a reference to a 1933 film of the same name (the first to feature Fred and Ginger as dancing partners).
  • In the very short moment that Jackie and Meadow have some screen time together, we get a sense that Meadow may have a crush on him.  This becomes a major part of the story next season.
  • At one point, Irina tells Tony, “You’re not the boss of me.”  Richie feels the same way about Tony—he feels Corrado is the true, legitimate Boss of the family.
  • Irina’s suicide attempt here is the latest in a long line of suicide attempts, references and ideations on The Sopranos.  (Nembutal—the stuff that Janice uses to knock Livia out—is the same drug that George Sanders, whose suicide was referenced last episode, used to kill himself.)
  • The “Passages” that Silvio alludes to is Gail Sheehy’s book, Passages: Predictable Crises of Adult Life.
  • Janice inadvertently is Tony’s “knight in white satin,” as she kills her fiancé who has made a move against Tony’s life.
  • Carmela and Rosalie’s planned trip to Rome never materializes, as we will learn in “Cold Stones” (6.11).
  • And thank you E.I.C., for leading me as only you could to an invaluable insight about The Sopranos.

36 responses to “The Knight in White Satin Armor (2.12)

  1. I really enjoyed this episode. One thing that kind of puzzled me is how Janice killed Richie just when tony wanted to, it seemed convenient for him and strange for it to be Janice who actually helped him out for once as opposed to trying to have him killed/ using him. Very chase esque to confound our expectations in that way, especially with this bully dying in such an anticlimactic way ( sitting down and in a sense ” not seeing it coming” as he doesn’t believe shes serious, I think he tells her to stop playing, it’s actually interesting how many characters die in the sopranos without really facing up to it, I think this ties in to the final episode)

    I thought the bit where Richie and Janice were arguing and Janice blows up when Richie can’t get her the pool very strong, it confirms every suspicion we had about Janice, that she’s primarily interested in money and mainly using richie for status etc. On the other hand she does seem genuinely upset when he dies, so maybe it’s not that simple.

    That brings us back to another recurring theme in the sopranos, foreseeability and idealisation. Tony repeatedly has insights about his family’s true nature ( that uncle junior tried to kill him, that his mother is pathologically selfish and wants him dead, that Janice just wants to use him for money, that pussy is with the Feds) …..and he always resists them. I think part of it is due to obvious plot purposes ( can’t resolve every conflict) and part of it is tony being self destructive and disowning interpretations as he disowns parts of himself but part of it is about humanity and belief systems, how they keep us trapped in cages of thinking and feeling and we need to break free from our old habits and face reality or keep suffering. ( Carmela was told on her wedding day tony would get bored of her and even after all these years can’t reconcile herself to the fact that tony is unfaithful, if she could just accept he lied and cheated she would save herself so much suffering)

    Also on a personal level I’m really glad Janice left as I despised her character deeply.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thanks for this write-up and for all you’ve written so far.

    With regard to “Janice as mortal threat”, I think Tony was cautious of a potential setup by a teamed Janice and Richie when she calls him, knowing that Richie was already plotting. I think his gun was probably drawn to protect himself first.

    You call attention to Janice and the mirror. I think there were quite a lot of mirror and plexiglas moments in this episode, once even explicitly referred to by Albert. Haven’t followed the logic there yet, but definitely noticed a lot of it. And Albert’s repetition tic is a verbal reflection of Richie’s words.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. also, “One door opens, another door closes” –Richie to Albert. (re the God Janus, god of transitions, doors.). No analysis of this, just noticed.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. There is a parallel between how Janice disposes of a partner she no longer wants and how Tony resolves him problem with Irina.

    It does not take Janice very long to make up her mind about Ritchie and when she does she immediately shoots him without trying to reason or talk over their ‘issues’.

    Tony has been trying to get Irina a psychiatrist and help her help herself. But after Janice shoots Ritchie he has Silvio tell her to get on with life with $75k. It’s almost like he learned the tactic from Janice.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I don’t think Janice wanted to get rid of Richie. She acted instinctively out of anger. She immediately regretted it. I think she cared for Richie, I say cared because I don’t think she is capable of love, She doesn’t expect anyone to punch her in the mouth because she has Tony to protect her, so when that happened she was shocked . Richie doesn’t follow the “rules”. We will see in later episodes how her temper corrodes a lot of her relationships.

      Like

  5. Metallica’s “the memory remains” plays in the background while Tony and Silvio are talking.
    This is part of the lyrics, it mentions many of the elements in this episode.
    “Fortune, fame
    Mirror vain
    Gone insane
    But the memory remains

    Heavy rings on fingers wave
    Another star denies the grave
    See the nowhere crowd, cry the nowhere tears of honor

    Like twisted vines that grow
    That hide and swallow mansions whole
    And dim the light of an already faded prima donna”

    The Prima donna is the leading female soprano in an opera.

    Like

  6. Regarding the contrast between Jackie Junior and Richey Junior at the beginning of the episode, Jackie Jr. and his friends are not drinking at some university pub or a frat house, blowing off steam between classes as they prep themselves for a better life. They’re drinking early in the day as house sitters, watching what has to be a meaningless sporting event. They’re going nowhere. While Richey Jr. is embarked in a hobby that’s literally taking him around the world, as he later plans on a trip to Europe. In fact, this is also Tony’s takeaway at first. He immediately expresses his disappointment about Jackie slacking off in school, and how Jackie Sr. wanted him to be a professional instead of a gangster. Of course, he comforts himself by pointing out he’s not as bad as Richey’s son, who’s, “flying to the Rio”. Most with so much as a room temperature IQ might choose Rio over the New Jersey suburbs.

    Liked by 3 people

    • > “Most with so much as a room temperature IQ might choose Rio over the New Jersey suburbs.”

      Live in a city with one of the worst crime/murder rate in the world due to drug trafficking/gang violence and open water that’s contaminated with raw sewage and other pollutants? I think I’m good where I live in the New Jersey suburbs, thanks.

      Liked by 2 people

  7. “Assholery”…perfect. Richie was indeed an asshole. Quick to take offense, homicidal, no real sense of humor to speak of, bossy, obnoxious, he checks all the boxes. The scene with Albert is sort of odd, I always saw Richie’s laughing over the facelift line was extremely disingenuous, too hard of a sell. And who the hell would want to work under Richie Aprile?

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Ritchie was my favourite character. He served time for the mob. When he came out no respect was given to him. It showed how loyalty to a the crew aren’t always rewarded. He ended up being betrayed by corrado, his gf and the mob. had his brother been alive be would’ve done well. It was sad for me to watch him go. He was one of my favourite character. He had a good heart for his family and didn’t take Tonys shit.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I always assumed “I Saved the World Today” was about Janice saving the world from further pain by offing the scumbag Richie Aprile. She saved Tony the trouble of doing it and possibly even saved Tony’s life by doing it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thant’s interesting, because I took that song to mean that Tony saved the world for Janice because he covered up her crime and got rid of her to boot. But now that you say that, I can agree with that assessment also. They both saved the world. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  10. I don’t think that Janice gave much thought to killing Richie. She lost her temper, simple as that. Something that cause the Sopranos to make mistakes. I believe she was genuinely sorry after it happened. Also, you could see that she is in competition with Tony and his lifestyle, when she says, “He’s just mad that our house is going to be nicer than his f’ing house” Then goads Richie by telling him that Tony doesn’t want him around the kids. She is truly poisonous.
    What gets me about it is that they can be killed at any time, especially Richie….so volatile and horrible. Imagine what a marriage that would have been. What a horrible woman..yet I love watching the character. This was a great episode on many levels. Even Carmela…with her sanctimonious judgement, doesn’t really blink when she figures out that Richie is dead. “That was not a marriage made in heaven”….Understatement.

    Like

    • That’s an interesting point about Carmela. While there never seemed to be any close friendship between her and Richie, they did seem to get along well (he even brought her some of the tripe that she loves). But it takes her less than two seconds to accept Richie’s death. It’s possible, though, that this may be saying more about Richie’s assholery than about Carm’s callousness.

      Liked by 1 person

      • But at the time when she’s reacting to RIchie’s death, Carmela is feeling especially angry abut the whole setup in which the mob husbands have their goomars and the wives are just supposed to grin and bear it. She’s pissed about Irina and quarrels with Tony about her a couple of times in this episode, and she tries to throw some cold water on Janice’s pre-wedding excitement by warning her that in a year, tops, Janice will have to accept a goomar. Richie is another entitled Mob male like Tony to Carmela at that point, tripe or no tripe.

        Like

        • Good point as always

          Like

        • Another point about this, including another “knight” joke: Carmela is in a “men are pigs” mood at that moment also because Vic Musto, the manly interior decorator, has turned out not to be her knight in white satin finish armor. When she tells Gabriella that at least there’s one man you could respect, Gab tells her that Vic never showed that day out of fear of Carm’s husband. Meanwhile, Vic had let Carmela thank him for being strong and honorable when she might have been weak in a sort of echo of Casablanca, when Ilsa tells RIck, “You’ll have to think for the both of us.” I feel sure that was deliberate on the writers’ part and maybe at least semiconsciously intentional on Carmela’s part. Movie lover that she is, she might call on a romantic scene like that to help her plan what to say when she sees Vic. Then Vic, by saying nothing, lets Carmela continue to believe in her version of things until Gabriella rather meanly crushes it and Carm sees the supposedly honorable man as another lying (by omission) asshole and a coward. So now there’s not even one man you can respect. Not that I blame Vic. He couldn’t exactly tell her the truth. But after Gab pops Carmela’s romantic balloon, Carmela must have felt like she’d made a fool of herself in the paint store. I’ve always wondered how Gab knew why Vic hadn’t come that day. Or did she just guess because she didn’t have stars in her eyes?

          Liked by 2 people

  11. I always felt that Carmela is phony when it comes to Tony’s associates. He wasn’t an asshole to her, actually that was a thoughtful thing to bring food (a very Italian thing to do), Especially when he brought that “Tripe” dish, and she says the kids will love it or something to that effect. Tripe is the stomach of the cow, and the Soprano children would rather die than eat it.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. David J Noone

    Enjoyable episode but also pissed me off. I can say I was very upset to see Richie go out the way he did. He is basically dead because Rick Jr. is “flying town to Rio.” That being said, I don’t think anyone would have guessed the manner in which Richie would be killed. This completely caught me off guard. I was expecting a show down between Tony and Richie, sort of how it played out with Raphie, or Richie ends up back in jail. Adding to Phillips comment I agree that Richie was one of my favorite characters, and my favorite “asshole character.” He spelled trouble the first time we see him telling Adriana he “wants to walk.” He was out of control since his introduction. David Proval’s portrayal of Richie is one of the main reasons I enjoy season 2 the most. It could be this type of personality is the typical mafia type of guy. Not someone you’d care to deal with at all costs. The Gandolfini/ Proval scenes are just fantastic, full of emotion and depth. It’s kind of sad how some of these characters have little regard for human life- Albert, Silvio, Carmela, Corrado, Furio, Richie, Tony, we can go on and on. It’s interesting how you point out by the end of this season, we are almost back to where we left off the end of season 1 in regards to Corrado and Livia. They both weaseled their way back into their homes and are potential problems for Tony. I thought the use of camera’s during the scene in Corrado’s house with Richie and Bobby was excellent. After reading your analysis Richie is very diminished from Toodle-fucking-oo. Its possible everyone was sick of him being such an asshole, lol.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Yeah, we all have to deal with assholes from time to time, but in mob-land, the assholes they have to deal with all have guns and a history of violence. It was inevitable that Richie would have to go, one way or the other…

      Like

      • They are pretty much ALL assholes except for Bobby. I disagree that Richie doesn’t have a sense of humor. He had me chuckling when he was helping junior get his hand out of the drain. “You’re flexing!”

        Liked by 1 person

  13. I think it’s clear that Janice was created partly as this season’s Livia, and she functioned well in that role. But the genius of Chase is that he built the character of Janice as a Livia substitute but, like a magician using indirection to pull off a magic trick, set her up to provide a head-spinning plot twist that no viewer probably saw coming as we waited for a final confrontation between Tony and Richie.
    I’ve already written some about Janice, in my comments on “Bust Out.” This time through “The Knight in White Satin Armor,” I found myself focusing more on Richie and started making a case for him as a tragic figure in the classical literary sense. He’s an asshole for sure, unlike most classic tragic heroes, but that seems fitting for The Sopranos, which subverted TV tropes by having the protagonist be an antihero.
    In terms of a literary tragic figure, Richie’s tragic flaw is that, despite the yoga and some New Age speak, he’s old school and can’t adapt to change. He’s just spent ten years in prison, during which time things changed a lot in the outside world, including the political and economic conditions in which the Mafia had to operate. But when he’s released, Richie seems to expect to pick up where he left off, as if the world had stayed the same while he was in the can. He can’t accept that Beansie has moved on, he has difficulty accepting that Tony, who used to be his younger brother Jackie’s buddy and his old girlfriend Janice’s kid brother, now has authority over him, and he doesn’t seem to understand that he has to start small and work his way up. Even when he’s told these things point blank, he fails to Nobody is holding ten years’ worth of lost profit for him. The jaacket a few episodes back is a perfect symbol of how Richie is trying to live in the past: It’s very meaningful to Richie, who gives it as a form of tribute to Tony, his boss, presumably to curry favor, but it only bemuses Tony. Richie tells the story of taking the jaacket off Rocco diMeo to Tony and later, using exactly the same words, to the guys at Satriale’s. It was Richie’s moment of glory, his claim to tough-guy dominance, but it was a long time ago, and nobody is impressed now. Making this point visually, the jacket is wildly outdated in style, even somewhat ridiculous to modern (year 2000) eyes, and Tony, who would never consider wearing it in public, soon gives it away, which Richie considers a slap in the face when he happens to find out.
    Richie gravitates toward Junior because Junior is old school too and something of an elder. Richie can imagine giving fealty to Junior in a way he can’t manage with Tony. Meanwhile, throughout the season, Richie struggles with the tension between his old-school duty to follow the rules and the difficulties of operating in this unfamiliar world in which he can’t sell coke on the garbage routes because of what must sound to him like blah-blah about the feds. “It’s just a little blow,” he says, as though Tony hadn’t just explained to him why dealing drugs on the garbage routes is a problem. In the old days, presumably, they could have bought someone off, but the feds are cracking down harder on drugs now and Richie can’t seem to grasp that. He also seems to be sticking with dealing, despite repeated instructions not to, because he doesn’t seem to have any new ideas for earning. Nowadays, especially with garbage down, as someone points out in Season 1, the other guys are cooking up stock scams and phone card scams and MRI scams. Richie has some measly garbage routes, a poker game or two, some loan sharking using startup money from Tony that Richie learns from Janice wasn’t all that generous, and drugs. Only during the Scatino bust-out, which is probably a familiar situation for him, does Richie seem relaxed and in sync with Tony and his guys. Maybe he should have done some truck hijacking with Christopher, but Richie probably wouldn’t stoop to going on a job set up by young guys who aren’t even made yet.
    Another thing that changed while Richie was inside was women and their expectations. His niece Adriana wants her own career, and his old girlfriend Janice has spent years traveling around the world and living in unconventional ways. We find out in the next episode that she worked as a mover when she was young, which is well outside the norm for women of the culture she and Richie grew up in. She may be reinventing herself as Mob Wife in Training, and she is using Livia-style manipulation to try to get Richie to be more ambitious and even move against Tony, but Janice still has her feminist, West Coast, countercultural ideas. Richie must know that, but it probably seems like female foolishness, nothing for him to be concerned about. Once they’re engaged, he expects subservience, ordering her to put his dinner on the table and shut up. (I found that more debasing than the gun-to-the-head sex.) When they have the argument in the dining room, Richie is already feeling somewhat emasculated by Tony and worried that Junior didn’t have the balls to stand with him against Tony and being nagged about female things like home decor and wedding details. When Janice attacks his manhood (as Richie would experience it) by saying it wouldn’t matter if Richie’s only son and namesake is gay (when it obviously matters quite a lot to Richie, who won’t even look at his son and stood stone-faced when Little Ricky toasted him at the engagement party), it’s one blow too many, and from a woman. That’s when he punches her, in a masculine dominance move. But instead of being taken down a peg as he no doubt expected, Janice threatens him with what must be his own gun (hello, Chekhov!). In another mistake based on his old-school beliefs, he can’t believe that Janice, a woman, would really shoot him, as shown by the casual way he blows her off. If he had taken her more seriously in that moment, she might not have pulled the trigger. (Compare Tony talking Artie down when Artie threatened to shoot him in Season 1.) But Richie is old school, and he’s an asshole, and he dies. All through this season, Richie has based his choices on his old-school understanding of the world, unable to adjust to the year 2000, and the result is failure to be respected by his fellow mobsters (it’s telling that the only person standing with him in this episode is his callow young mobster-wannabe nephew) and death at the hands of a woman. Hence the tragedy of Richie Aprile, something I never would have imagined myself saying. I have to say, Ron, that your analyses and those of some commenters are inspiring me to really pay attention and think more deeply this time through the series.
    As I suggested in comments on “Bust Out,” I think that Janice’s fantasy of being the smart modern feminist (the gun during sex thing is just fetishistic, she says airily to a more conventional Carmela, like garter belts and nurses uniforms) who can have an equal partnership with a powerful mobster is destroyed when Richie punches her and then acts like it’s no big deal. Turns out he wasn’t her knight in shining yoga pants, just an old-fashioned asshole. I was struck, this time, by the look on Janice’s face when she shoots him. She doesn’t seem enraged when she points the gun at him so much as in shock, perhaps still not quite able to believe that her soulmate actually socked her in the mouth and then mocked her. That’s not how this was supposed to go. I suspect she doesn’t know she’s going to pull the trigger until she actually does it. And again, if he had taken her seriously instead of doubling down on his dismissive attitude, things might have gone differently.
    Speaking of knights, the recapper in the “Soprano Sessions” book suggests that Janice is the “knight in white satin armor.” He doesn’t develop the point in detail, but I can see an argument for it: By killing Richie, Janice (earlier seen in a white satin wedding gown, as he points out) unwittingly either saved Tony’s life because Richie was no longer around to kill him or saved Tony from having to kill Richie and potentially stir up trouble in both families. I hadn’t thought of the episode title that way before and thought it was interesting.
    In any case, I’ve always admired Aida Turturro’s portrayal of Janice, especially in this season. But this time around, I’ve been especially impressed by the strength of David Proval’s portrayal of Richie. As someone said, although Tony looms over Richie in a lot of their scenes together, and James Gandolfini was an amazing, amazing actor, David Proval matches him in those scenes, as well as pretty much all his scenes. Richie is the guy you love to hate, and I really couldn’t stand him back when I saw this season for the first time, but I think as played by Proval, he’s a lot of what made this season so strong.
    Having said all that, what really blew me away (so to speak) this time around was the scene with Livia when she descends from upstairs on her motorized throne and lets loose with a contemptuous, self-justifying tirade against her own children (“Babies are like animals. They’re no different than dogs,” etc.), then pivoting to “Now I suppose you’re not going to kiss me” as Tony (Gandolfini is also superb in this scene) looks at her with horrified bewilderment. She accuses him of being cruel and then, when he trips down the front steps, she laughs maliciously. Nancy Marchand is amazing in that scene. It’s her next-to-last scene with Tony while she was alive, and IMO possibly her best work as Livia.
    On a minor note, I love the way Janice’s hair at the bus station is back to her old untamed mass of curls. Maybe it’s just because she let it dry naturally after her shower instead of taking the time to style it into the smooth and wavy do she’d being sporting in her “Jan Soprano” persona, but I’m sure it was a deliberate choice by the writers to have her look the way she did early in the season: leggings and sandals, big old shoulder bag, frizzy hair. The Mob wife fantasy is over. She doesn’t belong anymore. She’s going back to Seattle. But I think Tony ends up with more compassion for her than he had before, after the scene with Livia — at the same time that he’s no doubt glad to have her off his hands.
    Of course, there’s so much more that happens in the episode, including several important scenes in the Pussy subplot, the Irina stuff, Carmela and Vic, Carmela and how she reached the decision to change some of the terms of her marriage, the first appearances of Jackie Jr. and Svetlana. It never ceases to amaze me how much the writers packed into each episode in the early seasons. In the later seasons, it seemed like there was a lot less happening per episode. Maybe I’ll feel differently when I get to them this time through.

    Liked by 3 people

  14. Perhaps my favorite episode of the whole series, albeit the one where my favorite character ( because of his assholery), Richie, gets clipped in a most unexpected way. My scream of Nooooo! was probably heard throughout the neighborhood as Janice pumped bullets into him.
    One hangup I had about this intense scene is that the label on the bottle of Ruffino tan label wine moves from front to back and to front again as the shot ( pun could be intended) from Richie to Janice back to Richie.
    The fact that such a minute editing flaw is the only criticism I can find, illustrates the complete awesomeness of this and every other episode.

    Liked by 1 person

    • And just behind the bottle of wine, you can see a production assistant’s hand trying to keep Richie’s chair from falling too quickly. Of course, as far as production gaffes go, these are not too bad. (Certainly nowhere near as bad as a Starbucks cup sitting in front of the Khaleesi…)

      Like

      • I haven’t noticed that about the PA. I will have to look again. I do notice that sometimes food is in different spots on the plates. When Tony is telling Carmela about Pussy’s wife and how it his fault she’s alone..the food is in a different spot in every shot!! I never noticed that coffee cup in GOT!! Shoddy editing.

        Liked by 1 person

  15. “Gabrielle Dante clears up her delusion, saying that Vic didn’t stay away from her because of his good judgment, but because he’s scared of Tony: ‘Face it, Carmela. Use your head. He pissed his pants.'”

    That’s still good judgment…especially in SopranoWorld, where people often make perilous choices.

    This may be a facile observation about this show, and I could have stuck it anywhere on this blog. But I’ve noticed that a major theme is simply that people need someone to talk to. Obviously, the show’s conceit is that Tony talks to a shrink. But look at so many characters…Pussy and Adriana talk to the FBI. Paulie talks to Johnny Sac. Carmela talks to her priest. Christopher vents to everyone. Even Dr. Melfi unloads on her shrink. They’re all using these people as surrogates for an actual friend or confidant.

    Again, it may be a very basic observation, but it made me wonder: What if these people had real friends whom they could trust?

    It reminded me of a story about Richard Nixon. (I posted in the Hal Holbrook episode about Watergate under the name Little Earthquake.) I remember reading that while in the White House, Nixon’s staff decided that he needed a friend. They talked to Nixon, researched his life and brought in some old high school chum from Yorba Linda. On the day they were to bring him in, they told Nixon about it, and he said, “that guy? Never liked him.” So the official presidential “friend” was sent back to California.

    Remembering that episode years later, someone, I think it was John Ehrlichmann, said something like “a friend like that might have saved him.”

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Great analysis and comments, everyone. I took Gabriella’s claim that Vic “pissed his pants,” as her just trying to placate Carmella. Vic made out with Carmella even after finding out who her husband was, and he made the lunch date, knowing who her husband was. His change of heart might have been from revulsion at what the Soprano family did to his family. I think it was, at least in part, finding out and understanding the consequence of getting involved and just didn’t want to have anything to do with it. Not necessarily fear, but good sense. Gabriella seems to be very protective of the mobsters and of Carmella. Gabriella’s the one who gave support to Carmella, by giving the priest a piece of her mind after the Italian-American lecturer criticized the unfortunate image the mob gives to Italian-Americans.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s