“The Telltale Moozadell”
Directed by Dan Attias | Written by Michael Imperioli | 55 min
Distopian Dream Girl
By Colin Hart
8.5 / 10
When an actor steps behind the camera, either to write or direct, it is always a noteworthy occurrence. The results are usually a mixed bag — in the modern era, we have our George Clooneys and Angelina Jolies; back in the day, we had Brando and The Duke. But every once in a while, a Billy Bob Thornton or Greta Gerwig comes out of the blue to deliver a masterpiece.
The same is true of television. Episodes penned by Michael Imperioli are significant because, well, he’s Michael Imperioli, the only Sopranos cast member who really contributed when it came to scriptwriting. In fact, he somewhat mirrors his own character, Christopher, who has scriptwriting aspirations of his own.
Nevertheless, episodes written by Imperioli usually aren’t all that noteworthy. Season four’s “Christopher” is generally considered the worst hour of the entire show. But I would not specifically blame this on Imperioli; after all, the writing itself isn’t the problem. More likely it is David Chase’s auteur presence never allowing for an underling, especially one as unproven as Imperioli, to handle any important material. As a result, the events that transpire in an Imperioli episode tend to be a bit dry — inconsequential for inconsequentiality’s sake.
What can you expect from an Imperioli episode then? Not a whole lot of Christopher, actually. The majority of the episode focuses on Tony’s romance with Gloria and AJ’s suspension from school. Neither of which, I might add, are all that compelling.
I’m sorry, but I find Gloria Trillo to be extremely unlikable. She’s a smoke show, sure, but I’m not a fan of her seductive negativity. Give me Irina or Svetlana any day.
Maybe it’s because Tony was already sleeping with Irina when the series began that it was easier to accept. Maybe it’s because Irina was, in a sense, more innocent. Whatever it is, we never were witness to the beginnings of their relationship. On the other hand, the courtship between Tony and Gloria is ugly and sinful — more adulterous, as ironic as that sounds. “The Telltale Moozadell” is a continuation of their liaisons from last episode. The natural next-step: tantric sex at the zoo.
The only way to enjoy Gloria’s presence is to view her as a metaphorical phantom Livia. Through this lens, her nihilistic tendencies have deeper meaning. “Poor you,” she mocks. I guess you could say that, thematically speaking, this is Tony’s most “important” affair of the series, but I’d rather he just get down to root causes already and be done with it.Thankfully, Imperioli still finds time to have fun with the episode. The title takes its name from a specialty pizza used as evidence against AJ and his friends for breaking into the high school. Later on, a police interrogation sequence with a local restaurateur plays out like a hilarious spoof of Dragnet. Little moments like this — or the brief shot of a spaced-out Artie Bucco dancing at Adriana’s new club, The Crazy Horse — make the low-stakes nature of the episode worthwhile.
AJ vandalizing the school, and his subsequent non-punishment, is not too dissimilar from his trials and tribulations in “Meadowlands” and “Down Neck.” Meanwhile, sister Meadow is falling deeper and deeper in dummy love with Jackie Jr. “The Telltale Moozadell” also takes its name from the Poe term paper that Jackie gets Meadow to do for him.
But when I come back to this episode, the storyline that resonates the most is Carmela’s. Taking place on her birthday, the gifts she receives from her family prove to be selfish and thoughtless — a copy of The Matrix from AJ, two tickets to a spa from Meadow (“I got myself one too, I put it on your credit card”) and a big, guilty sapphire ring from Tony.
She has fallen by the wayside for much of the season, going about her life in oblivious bliss. Her wake-up call in “Second Opinion” didn’t do much to change her stance on Tony’s infidelities, and she is only somewhat skeptical of why Tony got her the ring.
The episode ends — a nice, prestige touch from Imperioli, I might add — with Tony and Carmela once again sitting in silence in the kitchen, similar to the end of “Guy Walks into a Psychiatrist’s Office…” But this time there is more urgency and less trust between the two. Clumps of leaves fall past the window (AJ is cleaning the gutters as part of his punishment), symbolizing Tony’s world crumbling apart, the same effect as last week’s ducks. And the Ben E. King soundtrack works wonders.“The Telltale Moozadell” is the last minor installment of season three. After what has been a brief lull in the action, the final four episodes will be a return to form. Michael Imperioli does his best with the material he is allowed, but this whole episode sort of feels like a B-sides extension of last week’s installment — “He Is Risen” Part II, in a sense.
With a title this great, and a storyline this nonessential, I wanted the episode to be funnier. As much as I hate to say it, “The Telltale Moozadell” could have really benefited from giving Ralph more screen time.
-A few Sopranos actors will contribute behind-the-camera work, though Michael Imperioli is the only member of the main cast to contribute screenwriting. Peter Bogdonavich, an established filmmaker who plays Dr. Elliot Kupferberg, and Steve Buscemi, who won’t appear onscreen until season five, both leave a lasting impression with their directorial work on the series. In fact, Buscemi helms one of The Sopranos‘ very best episodes, and a lot of the credit goes to him.
-The first band to play at the Crazy Horse are called Miami Relative. Pretty good sound, sort of a cross between Mazzy Star and Liz Phair. But would Hesh Rabkin agree?
-Apparently Davey Scatino is now in a “mental health facility in Nevada.”
-A funny, random exchange – Jackie: “You know who my father was?” Matush: “The golfer? U.S. Open?”
-Bocelli’s “Con te partirò” is heard during Carmela’s birthday party.
“Don’t tell me you were happy when she was going out with that Jamal Ginsberg. The Hasidic homeboy.”
“Hey, snakes were fucking themselves long before Adam and Eve showed up, T.”