The Legend of Tennessee Moltisanti
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|"The Legend of Tennessee Moltisanti"|
|The Sopranos episode|
|Episode no.||Season 1
|Directed by||Tim Van Patten|
|Written by||David Chase
|Cinematography by||Phil Abraham|
|Original air date||February 28, 1999|
|Running time||49 minutes|
"The Legend of Tennessee Moltisanti" is the eighth episode of the HBO original series The Sopranos. It was written by David Chase and Frank Renzulli, directed by Tim Van Patten and originally aired on February 28, 1999.
- 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.
- Vincent Pastore as Pussy Bonpensiero
- Steven Van Zandt as Silvio Dante
- Tony Sirico as Paulie Gualtieri
- Robert Iler as Anthony Soprano, Jr.
- Jamie-Lynn Sigler as Meadow Soprano
- and Nancy Marchand as Livia Soprano
Also guest starring
- Al Sapienza as Mikey Palmice
- Tony Darrow as Larry Boy Barese
- George Loros as Raymond Curto
- Joe Badalucco Jr. as Jimmy Altieri
- Frank Santorelli as Georgie
- Sam Coppola as Dr. Sam Reis
- Brian Geraghty as Counter Boy
- Will McCormack as Jason LaPenna
- Ed Crasnick as Comedian
- Joseph Gannascoli as Gino
- Barbara Hass as Aida Melfi
- Timothy Nolen as Jeffrey Wernick
- Barbara Lavalle as Band Leader
- Robert Anthony Lavalle as Band Leader #2
- Frank Pando as Agent Grasso
- Annika Pergament as News Anchor
- Brooke Marie Procida as Bride
- Matt Servitto as Agent Harris
- Bruce Smolanoff as Emil Kolar
At Larry Boy Barese's daughter's wedding, Larry Boy informs the DiMeo crime family members present that his source at the FBI has told him that the FBI is going to begin handing out indictments to New Jersey associates involved with mob activity. The capos gather around and question whether they should take a break from business. Junior says that they should not. Tony is asked his opinion, causing Junior to become agitated. Tony agrees with Junior and reaffirms Junior's authority, and implies that Junior would want everyone to undertake some "spring cleaning". During the wedding dinner, the capos gather their families and leave prematurely to dispose of or hide any incriminating evidence in their possession. The stunned bride is reduced to tears.
Upon arriving home, Tony and Carmela remove cash and guns from their hiding places. Carmela is upset when Tony asks for her jewelry, claiming he does not have receipts. When she expresses shock when he asks for her engagement ring, Tony allows her to keep it. Meadow and A.J. observe what is happening, and Meadow tells A.J. to delete the pornography from his computer, lest the FBI find it and alert his parents. Tony's crew undertakes similar precautions: Pussy and his wife burn all their papers in a barbecue grill, and Silvio enlists Christopher and Georgie to search for bugs in the Bada Bing!'s restroom.
Meanwhile, Tony asks Carmela to take Livia out for brunch so that he can hide the money and guns in her assisted living apartment unit at Green Grove. Tony successfully completes the task and leaves before Carmela and Livia return. The following day (during comedy night at Green Grove), Junior visits Livia, who tells him that Tony is seeing a psychiatrist, a fact she learned from A.J. in the prior episode.
At their therapy session, Tony tells Dr. Melfi he may not be at the next appointment. When she asks why, he explains that the situation is complicated and that he may be going "on vacation". Melfi gets the point, having seen a newscast that the DiMeo family, in particular Junior, would likely be indicted. Previously, Dr. Melfi and her family have discussed her "Italian" patient. While Melfi's ex-husband does not know the patient is Tony Soprano, he suspects the patient is connected to the mob. He is irate that approximately 5,000 mafiosi have given 20 million Italian-Americans a bad name, and suggests that she drop the patient. Melfi's son points out that mobster movies have become an icon of American cinema. The rest of the family nod in agreement.
Tony misses his next appointment with Dr. Melfi because he is detained by the FBI, who arrive at his home with a search warrant. The FBI agent, Dwight Harris, knows that Tony has children and does not want to upset them by using force or barging in. Tony agrees to allow the FBI access to his home, and they proceed to search the residence. They then take A.J. and Meadow's computers and a few items of Carmela's. However, tensions arise when a fellow agent, Grasso, accidentally breaks a glass bowl in the Soprano kitchen and Tony, recognizing Grasso's ethnicity, curses the agent in Italian. Carmela refuses to clean up the broken glass and Grasso is made to sweep the pieces off the floor. Later as the family eats Chinese takeout, Tony complains that Italians are unfairly targeted by the police, and that Italians like Michelangelo and Antonio Meucci have contributed to society. A.J. points out that Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone but Tony disputes this, saying that everyone knows Italian immigrant Antonio Meucci was the real inventor of the device.
At their next appointment, Dr. Melfi tells Tony that he will be charged for the missed session. Tony is enraged by this apparent betrayal, feeling that she was there to help him instead of shaking him down for his money at a time of duress. He throws cash at her, swears at her, and walks out of the office.
Christopher suffers recurring nightmares about the first man he killed, Emil Kolar. In the dream, Christopher serves Emil cold cuts in Satriale's and receives the meat from a severed hand in the meat cooler. Emil warns him that he left evidence from the murder. Awake, Christopher worries about Emil's body and enlists Georgie to help dig it up and relocate it.
Additionally, Christopher is struggling to write a screenplay, based in part on his experience in the Mafia. He complains that he cannot develop a story arc to advance the characters, and expresses concern that his life also lacks a significant event that will prompt him to start a successful arc in his life. Christopher has written 19 pages while his script-writing booklet says a movie should be about 120 pages.
Adriana, Paulie Gualtieri and Big Pussy all try to offer support, but Christopher continues to fall into desperation. The situation worsens when Christopher watches the news and discovers that Brendan Filone is receiving more recognition as a deceased DiMeo "associate" than Christopher is as a living one. Tony calls Christopher to drive over to the Bing and asks him to pick up some pastries on the way. At the bakery, Christopher takes his frustration out on the clerk, shooting him in the foot for making him wait longer for service.
Uncle Junior goes to visit Livia and discusses with her that he may have a "bad apple", and tells Livia not to bring it up with Tony as he has a lot of other problems to deal with. Livia reveals Tony is seeing a psychiatrist. Junior repeats "A psychiatrist?" multiple times as if in disbelief. Livia tells Junior that she doesn't want there to be any repercussions.
When Tony learns of the shooting, he berates Christopher. Concerned for Christopher's mental state, Tony asks him if he has ever considered suicide, which he denies. Tony's tentative attempts to have Christopher discuss his feelings, as Tony himself does in therapy, are met with bemusement and derision. The next day, Christopher receives a call from his mother, who tells him that his name is featured in a Star-Ledger article on the Mafia. While his mother is disapproving, this is the recognition Christopher has longed for. Energized, he drives to the nearest coin-operated newspaper dispenser and buys a paper. Upon seeing his name in print, he grabs the entire stack of newspapers and throws them in his car before speeding off.
- Agent Grasso: an agent investigating the DiMeo crime family
- Agent Harris: an agent who specializes in the DiMeo crime family
- Jason LaPenna: Dr. Melfi's college-age son
- Richard LaPenna: Dr. Melfi's ex-husband
- Jimmy Petrille: capo in the Lupertazzi crime family.
- Angie Bonpensiero: Pussy's wife of 24 years who is considered a "mob wife" and is good friends with Carmela Soprano, Gabriella Dante and Rosalie Aprile.
- Gino: Gino is seen in the bakery when Christopher shoots the baker in the foot; he is played by Joseph R. Gannascoli, who will later take on the role of "Vito Spatafore" in season 2 of the series.
The title is a play on Christopher Moltisanti's name and that of noted 20th-century American playwright and sufferer of depression Tennessee Williams. Adriana calls Christopher her "Tennessee William" [sic] when he struggles with his screenplay.
- Joseph R. Gannascoli, who plays Gino the bakery customer in this episode, returns in season two as Vito Spatafore, a soldier in the Aprile crew. Gannascoli, Saundra Santiago and Dan Grimaldi are the only actors to portray two roles in the series. Santiago portrays twins Jeannie Cusamano and Joan O'Connell. Grimaldi portrays twins Philly and Patsy Parisi.
- The actresses who play Pussy and Silvio's wives in this episode differ from those who play those roles later in the series—neither "wife" in this role has any lines or is credited for her appearance. Pussy's wife from this episode also appears in "Guy Walks into a Psychiatrist's Office...". In season two, the role of Angie Bonpensiero is recast with Toni Kalem and that of Gabriella Dante with Maureen Van Zandt, Steven Van Zandt's real life wife.
- This is the first episode directed by Tim Van Patten, who would become a regular director on the series.
- This is the first episode to have Phil Abraham as cinematographer.
Other cultural references
- When describing a character with a story arc to Paulie, Christopher mentions Richard Kimble (protagonist of The Fugitive) and Keanu Reeves' character in Devil's Advocate. Big Pussy later jokes Noah had an ark.
- Richard Romanus plays Dr. Melfi's ex-husband, Richard LaPenna, and he talks to Dr. Melfi (played by Lorraine Bracco) that the American culture is giving Italian-Americans a bad name, and mentions Goodfellas to Melfi. Both Richard Romanus and Lorraine Bracco co-starred in a Martin Scorsese film, Romanus co-starred in Mean Streets and Bracco co-starred in Goodfellas.
- Christopher's explanation of his sense of malaise to Paulie Gualtieri prompts Paulie to share: the writer "with the bullfights blew his head off". Paulie is referring to Ernest Hemingway, who committed suicide. Hemingway's bullfighting pieces include both non-fiction (e.g., the Toronto Star article "Pamplona in July; World's Series of Bull Fighting a Mad, Whirling Carnival", and the book Death in the Afternoon (1932)) and fiction (e.g., the short story "The Capital of the World", and the novel The Sun Also Rises (1926)).
- Christopher's shooting the bakery employee in the foot mirrors an "innocent" Spider's getting shot in the foot in Goodfellas. Michael Imperioli plays both Spider and Christopher.
- Anthony Jr. plays the Nintendo 64 video game Blast Corps right before Anthony's house being searched by the FBI agents.
- The song played when Christopher has a nightmare about Adriana and Carmela is "You" by The Aquatones.
- The song played when Larry Boy tells Paulie about the possible indictments is "Wind Beneath My Wings" by Barbara Lavalle.
- The song played when Jimmy tells Christopher about the possible indictments, and Tony, Junior and the other capos discuss the situation is "Turn the Beat Around" also by Barbara Lavalle.
- The song played when the capos pull their families out of the wedding is "Summer Wind" by Robert Anthony Lavalle.
- The song played when Tony hides his guns and cash in Livia's room is "Welcome (Back)" by Land of the Loops. It was previously played in the pilot episode, which was the first ever song to play on the show.
- The song played when Paulie visits Christopher's apartment is "Summertime" by Booker T. & the MG's.
- The song played when Christopher steals the newspapers and into the end credits is "Frank Sinatra" by Cake.
In a retrospective review, Todd VanDerWerff of The A.V. Club was positive. While he opined that the story with Melfi's family "has a tendency to stop the show dead in its tracks" in that "no one watching really cares what Melfi's ex-husband thinks", VanDerWerff listed Christopher's conversations with Paulie and Tony among his favorite scenes from the entirety of The Sopranos and argued that "the series shows it has a certain affection for these characters, these scumbags." Alan Sepinwall also praised the scene between Christopher and Paulie as "remarkable [...] as it illustrates the folly of trying to model your life on your favorite movie and TV characters", but wrote that the dialogue in the scenes with Melfi's family about the popular image of Italian-Americans "grows a little didactic at times".
- "The Sopranos - 1.08 - The Legend of Tennessee Moltisanti Synopsis". HBO. Retrieved 2014-05-08.
- O'Connor, Mimi (2007-10-30). "The Sopranos: Episode Guide". In Martin, Brett. The Sopranos: The Complete Book. New York: Time. ISBN 978-1-933821-18-4.
- Weber, John; Kim, Chuck (2003-05). "Do You Have the Patience to Wait?". The Tao of Bada Bing! Words of Wisdom from The Sopranos. United States: Carhil Ventures LLC. pp. 88–89. ISBN 1-56649-278-5. Check date values in:
- VanDerWerff, Todd (June 30, 2010). "The Sopranos: "The Legend of Tennessee Moltisanti"/"Boca"". The A.V. Club. Retrieved April 19, 2017.
- Sepinwall, Alan (July 22, 2015). "The first ‘Sopranos’ episode to address the show’s critics, before they even saw it". Uproxx. Retrieved April 19, 2017.