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Meanwhile there's garbage to manage, as well as construction, protection, extortion, and loan-sharking to consult about. And the deadbeat who works for an HMO that maybe they can use to launder money through dummy clinics. And a free Caribbean cruise, courtesy of the Kitchen and Restaurant Workers' Union. And the firebombing of Vesuvio's. And rico, which Bracco mistakes for one of Tony's business pals. Not to mention the gay Hispanic lovers who steal the high-school science teacher's car; the girls, including Meadow, who score amphetamines to keep themselves awake all night while studying for the SATs they need to ace to get into Berkeley; and the Hasidim who want to hire some local muscle to encourage a divorce.

This is of course pulped fiction. While it's funny -- pork sausage and Masada jokes -- it's also violent. Considering how Tony really feels about his Shelley Winters of a mother, when he dreams a transference dream during which she morphs into his therapist, we have a right to fear for both women. (Didn't his father die "squeaking like a gerbil"?) But so far, Sopranos seems to be suggesting rather more gently that there's not much to distinguish between the Mafia and, say, an HMO. Nor, for that matter, between, say, Willy Loman and a "waste-management consultant." At the strip joint, at the shrink's, in the bedroom, or out-of-doors at any of the many barbecues where these made men in Bermuda shorts char and sauce their roadkill Gandolfini (Get Shorty), intimating his own mortality, is a marvel of baffled machismo -- as it were, a ruptured duck.


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