Tony almost kills Adriana, and Chris loses it
As the illustrious philosopher Keanu was known to have said on many occasions, ''Whoa.''
Finally, an episode worthy of La Famiglia. Once again there's brilliance in those moments -- the barely perceptible spaces between impulse control and absolute chaos. It's the second between Tony and Adriana kissing or being interrupted by Sack's capos; the hesitation before Tony pulls the trigger on Christopher or saves his suffering hide. In holding back, ''The Sopranos'' unleashes its full emotional range. Nice of it to return.
It is impossible, it seems, for the universe to get through to Tony. Basic human decency eludes him, then he lies, not about what he does precisely, but about what he feels, so as to make himself seem less thuggish to his own conscience. In the past, everyone let him get away with it: Carmela turned a blind eye; Christopher looked on him as a hero. But no one's buying it anymore. They only smile and nod out of obligation -- not because they actually like, admire, or even believe the guy. And, irony of ironies, one of the few times he actually tries to do the right thing (a breakthrough, says Dr. Melfi), he gets as much crap as if he had just gone ahead and done what he was trying not to do.
Tony's greater problem is that his family -- like that mole on his forehead -- is cancerous; rotting from the inside. Like him, everyone's coked out, drinking, and out of control and, like Adriana, untrustworthy and full of crap. Literally. (Between ''The Sopranos'' and the Coen brothers' ''The Ladykillers,'' Irritable Bowel Syndrome has never had such a pop culture platform. But I digress.)
All of this is fodder for the final showdown -- whenever that happens. There have been deep disagreements about which side Chrissie would favor if he knew about Adriana's chats with Feebie. It has to be obvious at this point that Chrissie's emotional tie to Adriana, if it doesn't completely trump his bond to Tony, at least jeopardizes it. She's the one to watch. And since Drea de Matteo just nabbed a role on the ''Friends'' spinoff ''Joey,'' the cataclysmic moment may happen sooner than we think.
How like this show to unleash so much fury and passion, and then cork it before it escapes. As the episode ends, everyone is essentially ordered to make nice. Tony orchestrates an evening out that is so staged a piece of social theater, it's more reminiscent of ''The Age of Innocence'' than a Family sitdown at a red sauce ristorante. The production is for the sole effect of having everyone see Christopher, Tony, Adriana, and Carmela behaving like adults. It works insofar as it forces the ancillary players to act like they accept Tony's version of that fateful car ride. But will it really fix what's ailing Tony? Not on his life.