Saturday, June 09, 2007

The Sopranos: It's going down

Episode 86: "The Blue Comet"

This expression on the train store figure best represented the whole episode

It's taken me a while to post about this episode, perhaps because I have such mixed feelings about it and what it represents.

As the second-to-last episode of one of the best television shows in history, it was a taut, emotional, nail biting affair on par with some of the best eps in the show's history.

But as a reminder that all things are not going to end well in Sopranoland, and that the end is coming sooner, not later, the show left me with a hollow feeling inside instead of being pumped up to find out how it all will ultimately conclude.

These feelings (could it be, depression?) started with the cop-out killing of Christopher. His death was not unexpected, but the manner in which he departed-with Tony's clammy paw squeezing the final breath out of Chrissy's wrecked body-was such a cheap & easy demise for such a beloved cast member that it left many diehard fans wondering what kind of cockamamie calamities were in store for the rest of the family.

Many of those questions were sadly answered this week when not one but two more key soldiers in the Soprano army bit the dust: Tony's kind-hearted brother-in-law Bobby Bacala, and everybody's favorite second banana, T's quiet & loyal captain, Silvio Dante.

Once again, no real surprises here, especially when early on we witness Phil & his henchmen meeting to discuss the destruction of the Jersey family once & for all.

Stating his utter contempt for that "pygmy thing over there", in his icy calm monotone Phil declares that he's "made a decision" regarding the situation, and that decision is to "decapitate and do business with whatever's left".

And just like that, it's on.

Tony gets tipped off to the contract taken out on him & his crew from Agent Harris after a testy conversation between the two at Satriale's. Harris reveals that Tony's "problem with Brooklyn" could be ready to flare up again, and while Tony brushes off the notion, Harris ensures him the threat is real.

T. realizes that Harris' info is legit after Sil informs him that he had to take out one of the guys in their crew, Gene Pontecorvo, because he was "playing both sides of the fence" with Brooklyn and wanted Sil to join him. Sil gave him his answer in one of his best scenes since he clipped Adrianna, choking the rat with a garrote wire in a terrific & tense intro, yet another Godfather homage.

The buddies enjoy a final moment of camaraderie before the walls come tumbling down

Tony tells Sil & Bobby that they need to hit Phil first, and orders a couple of contract killers be flown over from the mother land (no, it wasn't Furio) to carry out the hit. Paulie is given the word that's he's to run the show, but for some sneaky reason he passes off the assignment to Patsy Parisi. Hmmm...

Unfortunately Phil sniffed out the potential hit and went into hiding, and instead the zip guys offed a Ukrainian Phil look-alike and his daughter, a profound error that will come back to haunt at least one if not all of the Jersey boys.

In the meantime Tony's world is crumbling around him. Upon reading the thesis her shrink told her about regarding treating sociopaths, Melfi decides she's had enough of Tony's crocodile tears and narcissistic behavior and dumps him as a patient.

"You're cutting me loose after my son gets out of the hospital for trying to kill himself?! As a doctor I want to say that I think what you are doing is immoral," he tells her as he exits her office for the last time. Pot kettle, kettle black.

On top of that rejection, Carm & T. are unhappy with Meadow's decision to drop out of med school, and although AJ has left the $2200/day psych ward, he still displays signs of depression (like watching war footage on CNN at full volume).

All of this adds up to the stunning conclusion, as Phil's plan gets put into motion to take out the top three guys in the Jersey crew: Bobby, Sil and the don himself.

In another of the series' long line of heart-wrenching scenes, Bobby is the first to go when he is cornered at the train store buying an $8K 'Blue Comet' set for him and his son. Perhaps it was the fact that Bobby was so damn likable, or that at the time of his demise he wasn't plying hookers or doing blow, he was acting like the caring family man he is, or maybe simply that his killing was so harsh (did they really need to shoot him 21 times? message sent, Phil), but for me the death of Bobby Bacala was one of the sadder moments in series history.

As if that weren't bad enough, the next to go is the ever-likable Sil. Leaving the Bing with Patsy, the two are met by another one of Phil's hit squads in the parking lot, and although Patsy gets away and Sil is shot to within an inch of his life, the scene itself really signified more than any other that this whole thing is really about to end.

For good.

As Tony receives word that his mean are all dropping like flies, he informs Carm to take the kids to a safe place as he and Paulie head to one of their safe houses to ride out the storm. "Families don't get touched, you know that," he tells her, and if that is a whopper from the 'small consolation' department, I don't know what is.

After T. drags a regressing AJ out of bed by his head and screams at him to pack up and help his mother through this, Tony & Paulie head to the safe house where they meet Patsy & Benny. The boys order a piazza while Tony heads to an upstairs bedroom, locks the door, and lies on the bed in the dark, fully clothed, with the assault rifle Bobby gave him for his birthday across his lap, finger on the trigger, ready to shred anything that comes through that door.

And so we wait with him for the finale on Sunday, when we will get to see how this saga all plays out. Theories abound on how it will end on the internets, including Paulie the rat telling Phil where to find Tony, AJ knocking off his father for being the source of all his sadness, to a distraught Janice icing her brother just as she had coolly killed Richie Aprile because she feels Tony is responsible for Bobby's death.

The way Chase has thrown curve balls all these years, I'm not even going to speculate how it all goes down. I don't believe that Tony will be alive when the dust settles, but I do know one thing... matter how it all ends, who lives & who dies, the hardest part of all is going to be hearing that theme song for the final time and realizing that at 10:00 pm EST tonight, one of the greatest cultural phenomenons in entertainment history will leave our Sunday viewing schedule forever.

And you can guarantee that it will go out with a badda bang.


Thursday, June 07, 2007

Spurs turn King James into a pauper in Game 1

You gotta love this look Duncan shoots James; it says 'you know you want what we got, and you ain't gonna get it this year'.

Game 1 NBA Finals: San Antonio 85, Cleveland 79
POINTS: Gibson- 16/ Parker- 27
REBOUNDS: James- 7/ Duncan- 13
ASSISTS: James- 4/ Parker- 7

The San Antonio Spurs welcomed LeBron James to the NBA Finals by showing him and his fellow greenhorn teammates what it's like to play on the game's largest grandest, most important stage.

Needless to say the experience wasn't pretty for the league's anointed savior.

The Spurs carved up James & his Cavs like butter-soft prime rib
, with the Batman & Robin duo of Tony Parker, a.k.a The Luckiest Man on Earth, doing his best Steve Nash imitation, and Tim Duncan rejecting LeBron so much he must have felt like Anthony Michael Hall in a John Hughes flick.

LeBron was a miserable 4-16 from the field, tallying just 14 points, and although he did grab seven rebounds, he had only four assists and one steal while turning the ball over six times.

Those TOs were the result of poor, cross-court passes that the Spurs guards intercepted like DBs snare lazy laterals, and whenever his highness did try to go to the basket, he was met by a phalanx of security forces that cut off his path and/or shoved the ball back in his face.

While it took James until nearly halfway through the 3rd period to score his first basket, Parker & Duncan were having their way with the over matched Cavs from the get-go.

, who is marrying actress Eva Longoria one month from today (7/7/07), played like a man who is about to win his third (championship) ring and then hand his first (wedding) ring to one of the hottest women on the planet. He scored 13 points in the first half, most of them on speedy, twisting trips through the lane, a-la Nash, and if he wasn't scoring then he was completing picturesque bounce passes in traffic to his teammates for roof-raising assists, another forte of the man they call Nashty.

Much like this loose ball, a Game One victory was out of James' reach

By the time James scored his first bucket San Antonio had turned a 5-point halftime lead (40-35) into a 15-point bulge (74-59), and although the Cavs didn't go down without a fight (they cut the lead to 7 with a few minutes to go but couldn't get over the hump), the fight was taken to them tonight, and they played the role of Coco jaw to Tony Soprano's foot.

Game 2 is in San Antonio on Sunday night, so LeBron, coach Mike Brown and the rest of the Cavs have a couple of days to come up with a gameplan that either forces James to be more aggressive in his game, or that will enable his teammates to make some of those shots that he can't.

One good place to start is to give electric rookie guard Daniel "Boobie" Gibson more PT.

After his coming out party vs. Detroit (31 points in Gm 6), Gibson saw limited action in this game, but did manage to lead the Cavs in scoring despite playing only 28 minutes.

Plus, who doesn't want to see more boobie? Sorry, that was poor.

Oh, and another piece of advice for Cleveland: downplay that poster-job of LeBron over Duncan.

After all, that play came during the regular season.

When the ball doesn't taste nearly as bad.


King James ready to take the NBA Finals by storm

New school LeBron and the Cavs take on the retro, Tim Duncan-led Spurs in a Finals straight out of an ABC Sports executive's wet dream.

You can bet Tim Duncan has heard enough about this dunk already.

The popular thinking among "those in the know" is that the veteran, savvy, playoff tested Spurs should have little trouble defeating neophyte Cleveland for its fourth title in nine years.

After all, San Antonio plays smart basketball, has a 1-2 combo of Parker & Duncan that's as good as any in the league, and will have Bruce Bowen & co. will clamp down on LeBron James like Mike Vick's pit bull on Paris Hilton's chihuahua, which will force the Cavs supporting cast to help win games without LeBron having to score 48 points every night.

Or so the train of logic goes.

But wasn't that what was supposed to happen in the Eastern Conference Finals, when the bigger, badder & more experienced Pistons were going to dispense of Cleveland in quick time in order to make its predestined (according to the 'experts') date with the Spurs in the Finals?

One historic performance by LeBron later and here we are, with James doing things at his age and experience level that have not been matched in decades, besides the run of Dwyane Wade and the Heat last season.

I believe the reason the Cavs have a chance against San Antonio is exactly why they were able to knock off the Detroit despite spotting the Pistons a 2-0 series lead- that youth, hunger and determination can sometimes overcome things like age, experience and the "been there, done that" factor.

Now do I think the Cavs are going to win the series? No. San Antonio is a much more disciplined and cohesive team than the Pistons, and you can guarantee that Bruce Bowen won't allow LeBron any unchecked jaunts to the basket like Detroit did numerous times in that fateful Game 5.

But I do think that they've got a shot at winning it, and with LeBron James on the court, that one shot can sometimes be good enough to get it done.

Just ask Rashweed Wallace.

Because sometimes the upstarts are ready to unseat the higher ups.

And let a new kid take the throne.

MY PICK: Spurs in 7