Top Ten Favorite Episodes

Would you like to post a list of your favorite episodes? I posted my personal top ten list below and included some commentary for each episode. Please feel free to post your favorites - with reasons or without. You don't need to post exactly ten. Post as many or as few as you like. These kinds of lists are a great resource for people to have. They enable us to browse through a list of superior episodes and chose the ones we'd like to see. That's why it would be great if you could post some reasons or commentary, but you don't have to go crazy like me. Just a line or two would be fine.

1) Whitecaps #52
2) Chasing It #81
3) University #32
4) Luxury Lounge #72
5) Commandatori #17
6) Cold Cuts #62
7) Blue Comet #86
8) Whoever Did This #48
9) The Two Tonys #53
10) Cold Stones #76

1) Whitecaps #52

I love this episode. I think it's a masterpiece for many reasons. For one thing, it contains my all-time single most favorite line. Tony is talking on the phone with a lawyer and he says, ...

"You must tink I'm a fucking tug."

Most of us are used to Tony's pronunciations, but hearing him say the two words ("tink" and "tug") like that, was just perfect Tony Soprano. When you say "tink" and "tug" like that, how could anyone ever doubt whether or not you are a thug?

But the most interesting thing about this episode, was that Tony got exactly what he wanted (the return of his deposit) without ever having to resort to any thuggery. He got his deposit returned simply by using his brain and it was all so very simple and easy.

But Whitecaps is a masterpiece mostly due to the acting of Edie Falco. I think this episode may be her standout performance of the whole series. It was a showcase for her talent. She provided us with a complete tour de force. Not only was her acting ability on display in the way in which she acted her emotions of deep hurt and anger, but the underlying writing showing how her subconscious mind was at work in battling Tony for her share of their marital property. This episode was just brilliant and completely meshed with her acting. All in all, it was quite possibly the single most exciting, most awesome display of acting talent that I've ever seen on TV or in film. I don't know if Edie won an Emmy for this episode, but I certainly do hope that she did. In my opinion, she richly deserved it.

2) Chasing It #81

This episode also contains one of my most favorite lines. After Tony hears that Lil Vito had been accused of hanging a neighbor's cat, Syl (who didn't know about the cat) suggested Lil Vito's mom should get him a dog to help him improve his behavior. Tony replies, "I don't think that's a good idea." JG delivered this line with masterful understatement.

Suppose you were able to measure how much "happens" in a given episode (from a plot development standpoint). If you were to take any 3 average episodes, it seems to me that more happens in this episode than in any 3 other average episodes combined. To try and demonstrate this, I'm going to list just some of the plot points here:

. Tony sustains a long losing streak at gambling and arranges a $200K "bridge loan" from Hesh.
. Lil Vito and a friend are caught vandalizing a cemetary.
. Marie Spatafore comes to Tony and begs him for $100K to move her family to Maine
. She tells him that Lil Vito has been accused of hanging a neighbor's cat.
. After losing a large wager, Tony goes on a rampage in The Bing and destroys some of the club's property
. Nancy Sinatra makes an appearance and sings "Big Boss Man" at a dinner for Phil.
. Tony pays a visit to his friend Hesh and tells Hesh how nice it is to be able to visit with him to relax during a busy day
. Tony arranges for Phil to have a talk with Lil Vito to try and help straighten him out.
. Melfi warns Tony about his missed appointments and lets him know it has to stop.
. Carm and her father meet the building inspector at her "spec house" and it passes the inspection
. Carm phones her father during a rainy night as she is unable to sleep over worry about the wood used in the spec house.
. Tony also meets with Lil Vito to try and help straighten him out.
. AJ arranges for a waiter to deliver an engagement ring to Blanca during a dinner out. She accepts.
. Hesh comes to the Bing for a visit and there are some ugly exchanges between him and Tony re the $200K loan.
. At a session with Melfi, Tony discusses Jews and talks about Hesh and his affinity for money.
. Carmela sells her spec house and makes $600K profit.
. Tony tells her they "absolutely cannot get hurt if she was to wager a portion of her profit on a Jets game. But she refuses.
. We are shown Phil meeting with Lil Vito to try and help straighten him out and then shown Tony meeting with him for the same purpose.
. Hesh sees Tony and Bobby come to his door and orders Renata to the bedroom and lock the door.
. For the 3rd time, Tony gives Hesh $3K interest and there is another awkward exchange between Tony and Hesh.
. Lil Vito takes a dump in the boys shower at school.
. Tony decides to give Marie $100K but wagers it on a football game and loses.
. Blanca meets AJ at the Puerto Rican day parade and gives him back his engagement ring and breaks off their engagement.
. Tony sees the two Arabs who used to hang at the Bing and reports them to the FBI.
. Tony apologizes to Carm about the fight but they can't even come close to agreeing about the cause.
. Renata dies and Tony visits Hesh and pays him back the balance of the $200K loan.

To my mind, this is the largest list of events to happen in a single episode that I've ever seen. This episode is just jam packed with events.

There are some other interesting aspects to this episode:

We are shown a series of verbal exchanges between Tony and Hesh concerning the $200K bridge loan Hesh made to Tony. Each man comes away from these exchanges having heard and seen exactly the same events, yet each of them seems to feel the other one was "busting his balls" because of the loan. This presents a fascinating picture of how two different people can both experience the same events, yet come away with opposite opinions as to their meaning. I call it fascinating because I see it happen very often.

This episode contains one of the most powerful fight scenes I've ever seen on TV or in film. It was over the $600K profit Carm made on the sale of her house. Tony tells her "we can't get hurt" if she was to take a portion of that money and wager it on a Jets game. Carmella laughs him off but the Jets win big and Tony is very angry about it. I think the major source of his anger was that he felt Carmela lacked faith in him in his primary area of expertise (gambling) and that she should have shown some faith in him - especially in that area. From Tony's perspective, it was as if she questioned his manliness, and as hard as that is to explain, the result for Tony was just maddening. But I doubt that Carmela could ever see things in that way. On this issue, they had almost no chance of seeing things in the same way.

Anyway, the fight grew to such dramatic and serious heights that it made for electrifying TV. Both actors did a fantastic job of conveying their emotions and the drama of the fight. When Tony screamed that her spec house, "will come crashing down and kill that unborn baby and now you can't sleep", it was almost as if he had punched her in the belly with all his might. I cannot think of any other scene between these two actors that was more powerful or more dramatic.

Consider the difference between the meeting with Phil and Lil Vito versus the one with Tony and Lil Veto. The difference provides some valuable insight into the characters of the two men.

3) University #32

This episode most clearly reveals Ralph's true nature. But the reason it's one of my favorites, is that it shows us that Tony has a tender and loving side to his nature although he seems to run into terrible trouble when he tries to display that side.

In this episode, we meet Tracee - a very sweet and innocent young girl. She's only 20, but already has a baby of her own. Tracee works as a stripper and seems too naive for her own good. She seeks out Tony on more than one occasion and begs him for his friendship. But Tracee is romantically involved with Ralph. Tony refuses her, knowing it would not be a good idea. Tony feels sorry for Tracee which displays his tender side. He has absolutely no interest in taking advantage of her sexually. But he certainly doesn't want to see Ralph abuse her.

The reason this is one of my favorite episodes is that it shows us that Tony has a tender and loving side to his nature - and it's not just for ducks and horses. Unfortunately, he is unable to display this tender side in a healthy and constructive way.

Ralph and Tracee get into a fight and Ralph beats her to death in a rage fueled by alcohol and cocaine! Tony is then overcome with rage as a result of Tracee's death and lays a beating on Ralph - something which is a big no-no in the Mob. So, when we see Tony's tender side toward Tracee, we see it in light of his losing his temper and beating Ralph. That could hardly be thought of as Tony's tender side. Yet it is this apparent conflict that makes the episode so enjoyable for me.

4) Luxury Lounge #72

Another of my favorite moments occurs when Martina (sp?) gets caught stealing Amex account numbers from Vesuvio's. I wished we could have spent more time getting to know Martina. But everything we did learn was just delicious - the way she took every opportunity to lie, cheat and steal her way to the top of the American dream. I can't imagine that many Americans can even conceive there are so many ways to lie, cheat and steal. And yet the way she got caught was so incredibly stupid - by walking around with $600 sandals when she is working at a near minimum wage job. It was fabulous.

Martina getting caught comes from episode 72 or (6.7 if you prefer) - Luxury Lounge. That episode also makes it onto my list for a few other reasons. Just having Lauren Bacall make an appearance is good enough. I've always been a huge fan of Bogart and Bacall. I guess it's deja vu for me because Lauren Bacall was also in two Rockford File episodes (it was actually a two-part episode). Amazingly enough, the scene she was in (where she gets mugged and falls down and hurts herself) is very similar to the scene in the episode from TRF (LIONS, TIGERS, MONKEYS AND DOGS). Anyway, not only does Lauren Bacall make an appearance, but so does Sir Ben Kingsley. I thought the work done by Lauren Bacall and Sir Ben Kingsley in this episode was much better than some of the other celebrity appearances or cameos - especially that of Nancy Sinatra. Oh! I can't forget DC also appears in this episode - although in a true cameo.

Dang, I don't want to write several pages here, but there is just so much more to be said about this episode. I really enjoyed the glimpse we got of Hollywood celebrity wrt the Luxury Lounge and how celebs get all this stuff for free. Then we see the emergence of Christopher's subconscious "true self" when he goes bananas over the prospect of getting some free stuff. And who can forget all the malapropisms from Chris and Little Carmine when they try to pretend they know how to talk with Sir Ben and just make themselves look like fools in the process. It never occurred to them to try and just talk with him as a friend? Or even better, as a stranger? It would have eliminated so many of those awkward moments.

5) Commandatori #17

Another favorite moment occurs over the span of many moments. It is the time they spent in Italy. Episode 17 (2.4) Commandatori. Seeing Paulie try to behave outside of his element was very telling. He was completely inept and an embarrassment to Tony. Like Paulie, Chris' behavior was also very telling. He reverted to his true nature - a junkie - enough said about both Paulie and Chris. You think we got a good glimpse into Mr. Chase's opinion of Paulie and Chris? Perhaps it was also a good glimpse into both of their futures? In one way, they seem to end up very differently, but in another way, they are both kind of useless to Tony and wind up essentially dead to him.

Although Paulie and Chris were completely inept, Tony had few problems adjusting to a different culture and even a different continent. He had no experience dealing with business people like those he met and seemingly little or no experience dealing with a woman like Annalisa. But in both cases, he was able to quickly learn how to successfully deal with them. It was fascinating to see how Tony was able to handle Annalisa. I very much enjoyed seeing that. It was also very telling that Tony arranged to take Furio (a highly competent performer) back to NJ to be part of his crew. It is not clear if Furio was the best of the bunch from Naples - or perhaps NJ was just filled with incompetents and anyone from Naples would have become a standout in NJ. Although Annalisa did call Furio something like "her best man".

In large part, this is a favorite episode because it takes place in Italy. The culture, the architecture, the language and most anything else that was peculiar to Italy made a deep impression on me. I was very happy to spend some time in Italy and to soak up as much as I could. I have to say that the plain fact of having this episode take place in Naples, was a large part of the reason it was a favorite episode. I loved seeing all the cultural differences going on between the people in Naples and Tony and his NJ crew. Unfortunately, whenever Carmella came on the screen (representing the people back in NJ), the episode just felt like it sank down to my ankles. I found almost everything that took place back in New Jersey to be very weak. I just didn't feel there was much interest in what went on in NJ when all of Italy lay just outside Tony's hotel room door.

6) Cold Cuts #62

I really enjoyed this episode and I'd guess that anyone who had cantakerous relationships with siblings while growing up would likewise enjoy it. In this episode, Janice takes Bobby's daughter Sophia to a soccer game and gets into a fight with one of the other soccer moms. In typical Janice style, her fight can't just be an ordinary fight. Her fight escalates to the point where she winds up under arrest and ordered by the court to attend anger management classes.

Again, in typical Janice style, her experience with anger management can't just be an ordinary experience. Anger management seems to open the door to a whole new way of life for Janice. It heals all the problems in her past and enables her to become the Janice that she always wanted to be. Although Janice seems to be doing very well on the surface, I got the idea that Tony was fuming on the inside as he didn't believe a word of this. It seemed to me that he would consider most everything that Janice said and did vis a vis her anger management was just typical Janice bullshit.

Indeed, at the Sunday night Soprano dinner, Tony picks a fight with Janice and demonstrates just how easy it is to push her buttons and make her erupt in a rage. He also displays that he is a master at being able to push her buttons - even though she is the older sibling. It seems to me that it is usually the older sibling who is able to control the younger one and pushes their buttons.

The music played over the closing credits was just perfect. It was a song by the Kinks titled, "I'm Not Like Everybody Else". As Tony saunters down the sidewalk after leaving Janice's house, he has a huge smile on his face - knowing that with just a few well chosen words he was able to dismantle all of Janice's bullshit and cause her to lose her temper and prove that all her anger management effort was just a bunch of Janice bullshit and that he was able to control her with ease. I loved this episode the first time I saw it and love it every time I see it again. In fact, I have a great big grin on my face right now just thinking about the first time I saw this episode. Tony Soprano is not like everybody else. That's for sure!

It was interesting that Tony's reaction to Janice's apparent improvements in controlling her temper with her Anger Management classes was the loss of his temper as he erupted in a rage and beat Georgie to the point where he caused the poor mook some hearing loss. Georgie let it be known that he don't want to work at the Bing no more.

7) Blue Comet #86

For a long time, Elliot had tried to push Melfi into giving Tony the boot. Finally, in an outrageous display of unprofessional behavior, both he and Melfi are present at a dinner with about ten psychiatrists and Elliot essentially came out and told the group that Jennifer was treating Tony Soprano. I think this essentially forced Melfi to finally drop Tony. I'm still trying to decide if this was a good thing Elliot did or a bad thing. It may have been good for his patient (Melfi) but bad for his professional ethics.

In this episode, the NY gang has arranged to have the three top NJ crew members (Tony, Sylvio and Bobby) murdered. The contracted killers found Bobby and killed him in a model train shop (Bobby's hobby). Bobby's death was one of the most elaborate and highly staged in the entire history of the series.

They also found Sylvio and Patsi leaving The Bing and managed to shoot at them many times before Syl and Patsi even began to launch some kind of self-defense. In the end, Sylvio was hurt so badly, that we are left with the assumption he will almost certainly die from his wounds.

8) Whoever Did This #48

The entire Pie Oh My chapter was one of the most interesting in the whole show. It showed Tony's soft side with his love for Pie while at the same time showed his ruthless side as he squeezed Ralph more and more until Ralph could not be squeezed any further. It also showed Ralph's nature as he behaved like a miserable prick to every one below him (below him in his workplace hierarchy) while he kissed the ass of everyone above him. This included the vet, the trainer, his maid (the owner of the horse) and basically everyone he came into contact with. Ralph didn't give a shit about anyone except if they were a boss or could make him money or cost him money. Ralph was one of the most contemptable pricks we ever met in this show. He was totally lacking in any kindness or tender qualities and also totally lacking any kind of morality or compassion.

This episode was the only time we ever saw Tony completely lose control of himself (when he killed Ralph - ostensibly over his belief that Ralph killed Pie). We never find out for certain whether Ralph had a hand in Pie's death. But once having killed Ralph, Tony quickly regained his composure and switched into high gear and to handle the aftermath. He disposed of Ralph's body and prepared a cover story that worked to his advantage with all parties concerned. Tony is shown to be a completely ruthless character but a highly efficient and opportunistic murderer. In fact, Tony is probably the best murderer we ever get to see on the show. A real achievement - considering that he was self-taught and all.

9) The Two Tonys #53

- jug of Tide
- can't trust what Tony says
- promises Melfi it will be OK for her to just tell him the truth as to why she don't want to date him
- she tells him he is not a truthful person - he calls her a cunt.

10) Cold Stones #76

I am currently revising my opinion of Cold Stones. I think my previous opinion was entirely off base and I will rewrite the following reasoning. My new understanding of the episode is that we are given the opportunity to see just how out of place Carmela and Rosalie are in Paris and how totally inept they are to find any kind of enjoyment or appreciation of the city or its culture or history. It's a valuable way to see things because although they may feel that they are some kind of important figures in NJ, the truth is that they are completely uncouth and would embarass themselves at their lack of culture and education but they don't have what it takes to understand that.

Just as Commandatori is a favorite because it takes place in Naples, Cold Stones takes place in Paris and the richness and history added by that city is a major factor in making this episode a favorite. I felt very overwhelmed as Carmela and Rosalie marched through the streets of Paris and tried to grapple with the local culture and architecture. They seemed very inept at interacting with the culture. Consider that Rosalie's biggest cultural experience was picking up some young French biker? That was very bizarre.

I intentionally used the word "grapple" because they seemed to be almost inept in the way they made their way through this vacation and I felt a lot of that trying to watch them. For some reason, I found it extremely difficult to enjoy any of the rich cultre and beauty of the city because I had to perceive that through their receptors. And their receptors seemed to be very faulty. The things that Carmela and Rosalie did appreciate were the kinds of things they would have appreciated in any large city. I don't think they appreciated anything that was essentially Parisian about their trip - except perhaps for the faulty impressions they had of the city owing to their own inability to understand Paris (like the story Carmela made up about the market worker who helped fight the Nazis - it was a complete fiction she made up in order to avoid appearing like a dummy to Rosalie). They wound up acting very much like they would have acted had they stayed at home - even to the point of Carmela picking at Rosalie about her willingness to admit her feelings of loss and sorrow over the death of her son. Why would Carm wait until they came to Paris in order to do that?

They didn't seem to have much of a clue about the architecture or history of the city. One of them relied on the other to read some sign explaining the significance of a landmark and predictably, she got it all wrong. I must admit that I didn't really understand very much as to the significance of most of the landmarks (like the market where some worker helped combat the Nazis in WW2). Travelling with Carm and Rosalie through Paris seemed like a real drudge. They just didn't seem to gain anything by being in the City of Lights. Not from the local heritage of the city and not from the beauty of any of the art there. As a matter of fact, they could have just as easily been transported to any other major city of the world or to some big shopping center in Dallas - such as Neiman Marcus or Bergdorf-Goodman.

The things that seemed important to them were running around after a lost glove or a mistake in a travel arrangement. It was as if they had nothing better to do - perhaps because they had no idea how to find anything better to do. Face it. They were just clueless and their trip was just a waste of time. So, looking back on it, it seems like it was just a waste of time for these two clowns to have travelled anywhere. They were completely inept and out of touch with their environs. Even the appearance of Adriana seemed like a complete waste of time and effort. What was the point? Just to keep a spark alive in Carm's mind that something was not right with the way Ade disappeared? But, in a way, I enjoyed seeing these two being held up to the light of reality. Back home in Jersey, they fancied themselves as Lah De Dah Grand Dames. But here in Paris, they are revealed to be one step away from sewer rats and they can't even see it. It was a wonderful revelation for me and that is the reason it is one of my favorite episodes. I don't understand what David Chase was after with this appearance by Adriana. It sure didn't make any sense - especially if they actually flew her over to Paris to appear in this episode. Can anyone tell me the point?

Heh. As a matter of fact, the more I write, the more convinced I become that maybe this episode shouldn't be on my list of favorites. But it's really a close decision because I truly did enjoy seeing how these two bananas got a smackdown at every turn in Paris. I don't think anyone actually laughed in their faces - not like in Naples where even the waiters got a good laugh at Paulie's expense and basically joked with others about what an imbecile he was. Still, what did the two of them actually take away from their trip to Paris? I think they could have had the same experience shopping at any other expensive fashion store most anywhere in the world. Bottom line? I am mightily puzzled by this episode. But I'm leaving it on my list because I loved Paris and loved seeing how the two girls floundered in Paris.

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