Liane Bonin
January 13, 2007 AT 05:00 AM EST

Adriana won’t be needing witness protection

Adriana La Cerva, R.I.P.

God knows we’ve seen her unfortunate demise coming for ages (and not just because the actress who portrays her, Drea de Matteo, is signed on for the ”Friends” spin-off, ”Joey”), but that didn’t make it any easier to see our favorite Jersey girl on her knees, crawling and weeping as Silvio stalked her like she was a pesky rodent he’d found in his basement. A rotten, undignified way to go, but hey, knowing Ade, she probably would have opted for the bullet rather than being bloated, flatulent and moon-faced on her wedding day.

It’s crazy, but I have to admit that right up until the moment Tony called with news of Christopher’s ”suicide,” I had my fingers crossed thinking that maybe, just maybe, Adriana would somehow avoid Big Pussy’s grim, sleep-with-the-fishes fate. Despite the chaos her survival would have created for every other character on the show, it would have been a kick to see her run off to hide in Hollywood with Christopher by her side (and it could have worked, since being a lousy screenwriter in L.A. is about as close to invisible as you can get).

Adriana and I clearly weren’t the only googly-eyed optimists thinking Chrissy might ditch the family business, but what the heck was Agent Sanseverino (Karen Young) thinking? I almost felt sorry for the dunderheaded agent when, sitting in her boss’ office, she tried desperately to convince everyone that Adriana had hopped a slow boat to China instead of meeting the wrath of Tony Soprano. She may have actually wanted to believe that fantasy, although whether that was out of any honest concern for Adriana or simply to assuage her own guilt I’m not sure.

While Adriana’s big send-off may have been the focus of the show (and give de Matteo props for perfectly capturing her character’s agonizing roller coaster ride of panic, hope, fear, and despair), it would be unfair to underplay other seismic shifts currently afoot in Tonyland. And, to paraphrase the end credits ditty, they couldn’t be happening to a better man.

Tony knew he was taking a risk by lying to Johnny Sack about Tony B’s whereabouts on the night of Joey Peeps’ murder, but I doubt he could have guessed how fast the bad karma would boomerang back to knock him on his butt. Bitter from betrayal and drunk with power, newly anointed don Johnny is shaping up to be a fearsome adversary, and it no longer seems like even the head of Tony B. on a spit will appease the guy.

Watching Tony trying (and failing) to humble himself before his former friend in negotiating his cousin’s method of death was uncomfortable, so it was a rush to see our lumbering black bear suddenly roar up and tell Johnny Sack where to stick it. It was macho, it was cathartic, and man oh man is Tony going to pay for it.

Speaking of paying for it, did anyone else find Tony’s negotiations to reunite with Carmela to be vaguely creepy? Carmela has always been a sucker for creature comforts, but for her to make a six-acre lot one of her terms for reconciliation made me wonder if she hadn’t come up with a sliding pay scale for all her wifely activities (ironing = Gucci belt, fresh coffee = a Rolex, sex… you get the idea). Granted, Carmela (like Adriana) has just about run out of options when it comes to getting out of this marriage, but A.J. was right, their reunion was weird, as well as loveless and businesslike.

The one moment that suggested the spark might be back — their spontaneous love-making — still felt off, as Tony pushed Carmela into the closet until she disappeared under a sea of shirts. I wonder how long it will be before Tony is lying awake at night wondering why the hell he wanted to go home so badly, and Carmela is wishing she hadn’t made him take a vow of fidelity.

Not that Tony deserves a Ward Cleaver home life after the way he treated his badly burned girlfriend Valentina. Granted, she seems like a high maintenance nightmare, but as funny as the line was, even she didn’t deserve to have Tony hold up his cell phone and say, “I gotta take this” after she announced she was going to kill herself. Still, she’d be smart to take Tony’s advice — get a short ?do, forget he ever existed, and find someone else. Knowing this show, she’ll probably be back next season with a lopsided haircut, lurking in the bushes behind Tony’s house scaring the squirrels.

Forget Valentina, though. Tony has enough problems to worry about right now with his formerly favorite cousins, Christopher and Tony B. A mourning, drinking and drugging Christopher can only be a liability as the family inches ever closer to all-out war, and Tony B. still seems clueless to the fact that every day he remains alive the more ugly the Johnny Sack/Tony situation is likely to become. We have to wait two weeks for it, but I’m guessing the upcoming season finale is going to be a knock-down, drag-out battle to the end that will make Adriana’s passing look positively peaceful.

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