“The Telltale Moozadell” Review
“The Pit and the Pendulum”
When an actor steps behind the camera to write, it is always a noteworthy occurrence. In The Sopranos, Michael Imperioli is the only member of the main cast who contributed to screenwriting. “The Telltale Moozadell” is the second episode written by him, and the results are somewhat of a mixed bag. It’s an installment in which nothing too important happens, but it contains several scenes with sharp, crackling dialogue.
It’s interesting that Imperioli’s life somewhat mirrors his own character, who has scriptwriting aspirations of his own. Nevertheless, the storylines in Imperioli’s scripts usually aren’t what you’d expect — there’s not a lot of Christopher Moltisanti. For example, even though “From Where to Eternity” (Imperioli’s best episode) is centered around Chris’ near-death experience, the chapter is focused on how the characters deal with the fallout. Likewise, Chris is only featured once in “The Telltale Moozadell,” with most of the episode focused on AJ Soprano, Gloria Trillo and Jackie Aprile Jr.
Even though “The Telltale Moozadell” is probably the least memorable episode of season three, I wouldn’t specifically blame Imperioli. After all, the writing itself is strong throughout. The more likely culprit is series creator David Chase, who never allowed an underling — especially one as unproven as Imperioli — to handle any important material. As a result, “The Telltale Moozadell” can sometimes feel inconsequential for inconsequentiality’s sake.
The majority of the episode focuses on Tony’s burgeoning romance with Gloria Trillo. Credit to actress Annabella Sciorra for (purposely) making Gloria so unlikable. She’s beautiful, sure, but her seductive negativity is absolutely repulsive. I’d choose Irina or Svetlana any day.
Speaking of comares, Tony was already sleeping with Irina when the series began, which is why their affair was much easier to accept. We never were privy to the beginnings of their relationship. On the other hand, the courtship between Tony and Gloria is wicked as sin — more adulterous, as ironic as that sounds. “The Telltale Moozadell” is a continuation of their flirtations from last episode. The natural next-step: tantric sex at the zoo.
The best way to enjoy Gloria’s presence is to view her as a phantom Livia, thus giving deeper meaning to her nihilistic tendencies. “Poor you,” she mocks. I guess you could say that this is Tony’s most “important” affair of the series, thematically speaking. But I’d rather he just get down to root causes already and be done with it.
Dr. Melfi seems to feel the same way. She knows that Tony and Gloria are seeing each other and is disgusted that neither of them can admit it during therapy. Melfi confesses to her son that she hates every single one of her patients and that quitting her job doesn’t sound like such a bad idea.
Despite some “boring” storylines, 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 vandalizing 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 nightclub The Crazy Horse — makes 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.” He’s elated to find out that his status on the freshman football team allows him to avoid the consequences of his actions. Meanwhile, sister Meadow is falling deeper in dummy love with Jackie Jr. She’s so head over heels that she even does his homework for him (a term paper on Edgar Allan Poe).
But when I think back on “The Telltale Moozadell,” 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.
Carmela has fallen by the wayside for much of season three, often 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 in the first place. Once again, the money sweeps all her marital problems under the rug.
The episode ends with Tony and Carmela once again sitting in silence in the kitchen, similar to the ending of “Guy Walks Into a Psychiatrist’s Office.” But this time there is less trust and more urgency between the two. Clumps of leaves fall past the window (AJ’s punishment was to clean the gutters), symbolizing Tony’s world crumbling apart. It’s a poignant conclusion. And the Ben E. King soundtrack works wonders.
Nevertheless, “The Telltale Moozadell” is the weakest installment of season three. The whole episode sort of feels like a B-sides extension of last week’s installment — “He Is Risen” Part II, in a sense. It’s an episode that could have really benefited from more Ralph Cifaretto.
Instead, the episode gives ample screen time to Jackie Jr., who is an even bigger douchebag than his soon-to-be stepfather. Jackie spends the hour trying to act like Vito Corleone, but quickly finds out that his last name carries little weight. He’s more of a Fredo anyways.
Full of minor storylines, the overall goal of “The Telltale Moozadell” is to expand the scope of several side characters, all of whom are among the most unlikable on the series. The episode succeeds in its objective, but it certainly isn’t among The Sopranos‘ standouts.
- Only a select few Sopranos actors will end up directing an episode: Peter Bogdonavich, already an established filmmaker, who plays Dr. Elliot Kupferberg, and Steve Buscemi, who won’t appear onscreen until season five. Michael Imperioli is the only member of the main cast who contributes to screenwriting.
- Chris gifts Adriana her own night club, of which she’ll be the manager and event organizer. The first band to play at the Crazy Horse is called Miami Relative. Pretty good sound, sort of an imitation of Mazzy Star and Liz Phair. A lot better than Visiting Day, that’s for sure.
- Apparently Davey Scatino is now in a “mental health facility in Nevada.”
- A funny, random exchange – Jackie Jr.: “You know who my father was?” Matush: “The golfer? U.S. Open?”
- Bocelli’s “Con te partirò” is once again heard in the background, this time during Carmela’s birthday party.
- Emphasizing the sinfulness of their affair, a snake is seen in the background when Tony and Gloria have sex in the zoo’s reptile house.
- “The Telltale Moozadell” was written by Michael Imperioli and directed by Dan Attias.
FAMOUS LAST WORDS
- “Don’t tell me you were happy when she was going out with that Jamal Ginsberg. The Hasidic homeboy.”
- “Snakes were fucking themselves long before Adam and Eve showed up.”