TV Club

How the New Jersey Mob Curried Favor With John Gotti

Jeff, Jerry:

Even after reading your reactions to my initial words about last night’s episode, and receiving feedback from other observers who are wont to express their differing opinions to me every Monday morning, I still think it was a damn good episode.

As a certified tabloid guy, I generally do not appreciate long convoluted setups involving Tony’s personal family situations as opposed to his crime-family intrigue, but I thought last night’s effort hung together very well. Maybe excellent is too strong a word, but unlike last week’s effort, which seemed to drag at several points, last night’s moved quickly for me.

I enjoyed Junior Corrado being an irascible old coot and immediately ruining the surprise element of Carmela’s father’s 75th birthday party. I enjoyed the insertion of the obnoxious, arrogant Italian-American blueblood character (Dr. Russ Fegoli) who almost made lowlife reprehensible Mafia boss Tony Soprano come off like a breath of fresh air. I laughed at Tony’s “Oh, a doctor like Henry Kissinger” line. If I were Tony, I would have used the shotgun as a baseball bat to smash Fegoli’s head when he made his condescending remark that Beretta, the Italian gun manufacturer, never exports its best weapons to the United States. And I enjoyed Carmela’s diatribe against her mother after she correctly determined that her mom really didn’t have her failing marital situation in mind when she tried to convince her to not invite Tony to the party.

In the end, I thought the screenwriter used the Tony B. character very effectively in developing and expanding the story lines of both of Tony Soprano’s families.

I also think the subplot in which Tony drags Angie Bonpensiero, Pussy’s widow, into his dispute involving Phil Leotardo and his damaged car, bears mentioning. It was effectively used to paint Tony—the guy who killed Angie’s husband—as an evil, lowlife cheapskate who deserves a few cheap shots to his head, say, from behind, with the butt of a gun. Though the writers keep making Tony out to be a fun-loving father who often dotes on his kids—witness his joking around with Meadow and joining with A.J. to toss a fully clothed Carmela into the pool—it’s getting harder to buy in to the show’s original premise, that Tony is torn between his family and the Family. It’s becoming increasingly evident that he’s a liar and manipulator with few if any redeeming qualities. How many more anxiety attacks and false confessions are we going to have to endure before there’s some action that brings this mess to a denouement?

By the way, there is much evidence that the real-life New Jersey family (the DeCavalcantes) were instrumental in helping out one of Jerry Shargel’s former Mafia boss clients (John Gotti) back in 1989, when Gotti’s gangsters were having a difficult time finding and killing Fred Weiss, a Staten Island businessman Gotti felt was a threat to Gambino family operations. The New Jersey crew, in an effort to ingratiate themselves with Gotti, who was then at the top of his power and influence, did the job. And even though they did, and many DeCavalcante wiseguys were convicted and sentenced for it, the feds have also charged a few Gambino guys with taking part in the conspiracy to kill Weiss. They are set for trial on June 1.

Be back at you next week, Jeff. Take care, Jerry, and perhaps we can convince you to come back and join us again at least one more time before the season ends, hopefully after an episode that has enough action for you.