Pine Barrens (The Sopranos)
|The Sopranos episode|
|Directed by||Steve Buscemi|
|Teleplay by||Terence Winter|
|Cinematography by||Phil Abraham|
|Original air date||May 6, 2001|
|Running time||60 minutes|
"Pine Barrens" is a highly acclaimed episode of the HBO original series The Sopranos; it is the 11th of the show's third season and the 37th overall. The teleplay was written by Terence Winter from a story idea by Winter and Tim Van Patten. It was the first of four episodes for the series directed by Steve Buscemi and originally aired on May 6, 2001.
"Pine Barrens" is regarded by some as one of the show's best episodes.
- James Gandolfini as Tony Soprano
- Lorraine Bracco as Dr. Jennifer Melfi
- Edie Falco as Carmela Soprano
- Michael Imperioli as Christopher Moltisanti
- Dominic Chianese as Corrado Soprano, Jr.
- Steven Van Zandt as Silvio Dante
- Tony Sirico as Paulie Gualtieri
- Jamie-Lynn Sigler as Meadow Soprano
- Robert Iler as Anthony Soprano, Jr.
- Drea de Matteo as Adriana La Cerva *
- Aida Turturro as Janice Soprano *
- Steven R. Schirripa as Bobby Baccalieri
* = credit only
- Tom Aldredge as Hugh De Angelis
- Vitali Baganov as Valery
- Jason Cerbone as Jackie Aprile, Jr.
- Oksana Lada as Irina Peltsin
- Annabella Sciorra as Gloria Trillo
- Suzanne Shepherd as Mary De Angelis
- Frank Ciornei as Slava Malevsky
Tony is on the outs with Gloria when, on his boat, he is drunk dialed by his former mistress, Irina. Gloria answers first and is furious when Tony tries to lie to her about the call. However, the pair later reconcile when Gloria gives him a djellaba she bought from Morocco, and they make love. Tony asks Paulie and Christopher to make a collection from a Russian mobster named Valery on behalf of Silvio.
Tempers flare when Paulie, already angry because he doesn't want to do the job, mocks Valery and destroys his universal remote control. The confrontation escalates to violence, and Paulie chokes Valery with the cord of a floor lamp. Valery ends up severely injured with a cracked wind pipe. Panicked, Paulie and Chris wrap him in a carpet and wheel him out to their car. While trying to figure out what to do with him, Paulie suggests that they dump him somewhere along the Garden State Parkway in the Pine Barrens. Chris wants to stop for breakfast at a Roy Rogers Restaurants first, but Paulie insists that business must come first.
In the woods, Paulie and Chris open the trunk to find that Valery is still alive and has chewed through the duct tape. They lift him out of the car, present him with a shovel, and force him to dig his own grave. When the pair are distracted, Valery assaults them with the shovel before fleeing. Paulie and Chris give chase, but are amazed when Valery survives a shot to the head and runs into the woods. They try to track his blood and footprints in the snow, but the trail suddenly disappears; a camera shot suggests that Valery is hiding in a tree. Still on the hunt, the pair hear something and run, firing some shots. Paulie slips down a slope and loses his shoe. They discover that they killed a deer. They are unable to find Paulie's car, and soon realize that they are lost. Paulie uses his cell phone to call Tony for help, but communication is limited by poor reception and static.
Tony learns that Valery is a deadly ex-special forces operative and tells Paulie. But the poor phone signal causes Paulie to misunderstand Tony's message. As the night draws nearer, the pair become more desperate to find their way to food and warmth. When Tony fails to show up on time for dinner with Gloria, the pair have another heated argument. After they make up again, Tony gets a despairing phone call from Paulie. Left with no other option, Tony tells Gloria that he has to leave for an emergency and can't eat, causing her to become angry and trash her dining room.
Meadow has a cold and spends time with Jackie at her college dorm. Jackie leaves early after Meadow refuses to have sex with him. Later, he calls with a poor excuse not to see her and then fails to call later as promised. Suspicious, Meadow gets a ride to Jackie's place. When she and her friend see Jackie walking down the street with another girl, Meadow gets out of the car and confronts him. The two women leave in their car, with a frustrated Jackie behind. Dehydrated from her cold, Meadow is taken to the hospital wing for treatment. She is surrounded by her friends, who try to convince her that Jackie, although attractive, was not suited for her. Meadow tells her friends they can't understand her feelings.
Paulie and Chris find an abandoned van in the Pine Barrens, where they spend the rest of the night. When Chris blames Paulie for their predicament, the two have an angry confrontation. Paulie attacks Chris and begins choking him, so Chris pulls a gun on Paulie. After a few moments, Chris breaks down in laughter. Paulie tells Chris to promise not to abandon him and assures him he would never try to kill him.
Tony asks Bobby, a skilled outdoorsman, to help him find Paulie and Chris. When they reach the Pine Barrens, Paulie's car is missing. Tony and Bobby wait until dawn to look for Paulie and Chris, who have left the van and continue to struggle some distance away. Paulie's makeshift shoe falls off and he shoots it in a fit of crazed frustration. Tony and Bobby hear the shots and head toward their source, calling for Paulie and Chris. They soon meet up with one another. Paulie and Chris are grateful to have been found, but Tony is irritated as Paulie has caused him problems with Slava and has lost Silvio's money. Paulie gives a false version of what caused the fight with Valery, and Chris backs him up. Paulie decides to give up looking for Valery and head back to North Jersey.
During sessions with Dr. Melfi, Tony confesses he is seeing Gloria and talks about his problems with her. Melfi tells him that his new mistress is not the only one who was "impossible to please", "difficult", and "depressive", using his words for Gloria. She asks, "Does this remind you of any other woman in your life?", referring to his mother. After a thoughtful pause, Tony shakes his head slightly and shrugs.
Fans and reviewers speculated about the fate of the Russian gangster Valery. Shortly after he escapes from Paulie and Christopher in the Pine Barrens, Paulie hits Valery with a bullet, apparently in the head. But the pair cannot track down the Russian. The camera shifts away from Paulie and Christopher, showing a viewpoint looking down from above the two gangsters, suggesting that Valery was watching them from high up in a tree. In addition, Paulie's car is missing when they return. Valery was never seen again. Series creator David Chase has said that he never intended to have Valery return, and believed that the story is richer and more realistic with some mystery to the plot. HBO listed Valery as "Deceased?" in promotional materials.
On the fate of Valery, Terence Winter said:
That's the question I get asked more than any other. It drives people crazy: "Where's the Russian? What happened to the Russian?" We could say, "Well, he got out and there's a big mob war with the Russians," or "He crawled off and died." But we wanted to keep it ambiguous. You know, not everything gets answered in life.
David Chase said:
They shot a guy. Who knows where he went? Who cares about some Russian? This is what Hollywood has done to America. Do you have to have closure on every little thing? Isn't there any mystery in the world? It's a murky world out there. It's a murky life these guys lead. And by the way, I do know where the Russian is. But I'll never say because so many people got so pissy about it.
In 2008 Chase said in an interview at the Actors Guild:
OK, this is what happened. Some Boy Scouts found the Russian, who had the telephone number to his boss, Slava, in his pocket. They called Slava, who took him to the hospital where he had brain surgery. Then Slava sent him back to Russia.
In an interview with Sam Roberts, Chase said:
You mean the Russian? People came to me...He never went up a tree...He collapsed and he was found by some boy scouts. And they got in touch with his...somehow he was carrying a piece of I.D., which led them back to his boss. Slava the Russian guy. He was put in a hospital, and, ummm...you know, like he was completely, is, massive brain trauma. And he was sent back to Russia.
Michael Imperioli and Tony Sirico discussed the episode in a June 10, 2007 New York Times article titled "One Final Whack at That HBO Mob".
"That episode was like a little one-act play," Mr. Imperioli said. "Like a different version of Waiting for Godot." Ever since, viewers have been waiting for the mobster to return, ready for revenge. But he has never reappeared. "This show was never what people expected," Mr. Imperioli said.
In the same article:
Mr. Sirico said a tease had been in the works. "We had a scene this season when Chris and I are talking in the bar about whatever happened to that Russian guy. And in the script we were supposed to go outside and there he was standing on the corner. But when we went to shoot it, they took it out. I think David didn't like it. He wanted the audience just to suffer."
- The Pine Barrens is a protected wilderness area managed by the New Jersey Pinelands Commission in Southern New Jersey. This is where Christopher and Paulie try to "dispose" of what they assume is Valery's body. The Pine Barrens make up approximately 25% of New Jersey's land area, and is one of the largest wilderness areas in the most densely populated state in the U.S.
- Tim Van Patten dreamed about the idea of Paulie and Christopher getting lost in the woods, and discussed it with Terence Winter; they presented the concept to David Chase.
- The forest scenes for the episode were filmed at Harriman State Park in New York after the production team was denied a permit to film in New Jersey at the South Mountain Reservation. Essex County executive James Treffinger said The Sopranos "depicts an ethnic group in stereotypical fashion". Treffinger was later convicted and imprisoned for corruption. The New Jersey Pine Barrens have a significantly different landscape than the area where the show was filmed. The barrens are forested primarily with pine trees (hence the name) and flat, but the woods shown in the episode were on hills and had fewer trees.
- There was an unexpected snowfall just before the shoot. Both the cast and the crew agreed that the snow added to the emotional effect of the episode.
- The interior of the truck was shot on a sound stage. The actors' freezing "breath" was added in CGI.
- Director Steve Buscemi successfully threw the steak at James Gandolfini's head in the scene of Tony's argument with Gloria Trillo; neither Annabella Sciorra nor the prop handlers had been able to hit Gandolfini.
- "Pine Barrens" took 12 days for shooting, setting a record for the longest episode shoot in The Sopranos at the time.
- The HBO documentary James Gandolfini: Tribute to a Friend (2013) includes an anecdote by Steve Schirripa about the shooting of the scene where Tony picks Bobby up at Junior's house. When they were shooting Tony's reaction to Bobby's hunting outfit, Schirripa surprised Gandolfini by entering the kitchen wearing a strap-on dildo. Tony's response and laughter, pointing at Bobby and then doubling over the sink, is the take of Gandolfini seeing the strap-on.
- The song played during the opening scene, where Gloria arrives at the docks, is Them's "Gloria".
- The music video A.J. is watching on the living room television is "Coffee & TV" by Blur.
- The song played during the final montage/closing credits is the aria "Sposa son disprezzata" ("I am wife and I am scorned") from the opera La Merope by Geminiano Giacomelli, sung by Cecilia Bartoli. This is the same music that opens the next episode, "Amour Fou".
- This is widely regarded as one of the best episodes in The Sopranos series, due largely to the offbeat and dark comedy between Paulie and Christopher.
- Former Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg lists this episode as his favorite in an interview with the Norwegian newspaper Dagbladet.
- In his acceptance speech for Outstanding Directing for a Drama Series at the 59th Primetime Emmy Awards, Alan Taylor thanks Steve Buscemi for his work on "Pine Barrens."
- For its 65th anniversary, TV Guide picked this as the fourth-best episode of the 21st century.
- Terence Winter and Tim Van Patten received an award from the Writers Guild of America for their work on this episode.
- VanDerWerff, Todd (January 19, 2011). "The Sopranos: "Pine Barrens"". Onion Inc. Retrieved December 27, 2016.
- EW.com: Chase 'n' the Russian
- "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2011-12-04. Retrieved 2008-11-23.
- "One Final Whack at That HBO Mob". The New York Times. June 10, 2007. p. 2 of 2.
- Martin, Brett (2007-10-30). ""This Thing of Ours": Creating The Sopranos Universe". The Sopranos: The Complete Book. New York: Time. p. 178-. ISBN 978-1-933821-18-4.
- Martin, Brett (2007-10-30). "Welcome to New Jersey: A Sense of Place". The Sopranos: The Complete Book. New York: Time. p. 32. ISBN 978-1-933821-18-4.
- The Sopranos: The Complete Third Season, DVD commentary
- The Sopranos: The Complete Third Season DVD commentary
- Time: The Best of the Sopranos
- EW: The all-time 10 best "Sopranos" episodes
- Dagbladet: - Har du en yndlingsepisode i Sopranos?
- D'Arminio, Aubry (April 2–15, 2018). "65 Best Episodes of the 21st Century". TV Guide.