Directed by John Patterson | Written by Frank Renzulli, Robin Green & Mitchell Burgess | 59 min
Anarchy, State, and Utopia
By Colin Hart
9.0 / 10
Ten episodes in, and season two’s slow-boiling plot is starting to move incrementally forward—incrementally because it is once again by way of “nothing happens” fare. Yet there is nothing wrong with increments (or “nothing happens” fare), especially when it comes to The Sopranos. “Bust Out” is another great episode that relies on character development and comedy.
A witness comes forward to the police, able to identify Tony and “a husky accomplice” (Big Pussy) as the murderers of Matthew Bevilacqua. It immediately sends Tony’s world into a tailspin. As Melfi observes, Tony is scared — desperately shouting at Paulie to find out who the witness is, setting aside money in case he needs to make a quick getaway, and trying to squeeze in some last-minute quality time with neglected son AJ.
Tony remains distant throughout the episode, never letting on to Carmela or the kids that the FBI may finally have him right where they want him. He misses AJ’s swim meet (AJ? Swimming?), remains arrogant and cold toward Carmela and becomes a golem to Davey Scatino. But, considering the amount of stress he’s under, who can blame him?
I wasn’t too big of a fan of AJ in season one, but the character has made steady improvements here in season two. First off, he got rid of the bowl cut. Second, the extremely played-out trope of moody teenager suits him. It gives him less dialogue, for one, but it also reflects how bad of a father Tony has been.
Tony tries to connect with AJ throughout the episode, but he doesn’t break through until the final scene—father and son purposely capsize two men in a canoe as they go for a ride in the Stugots. The wheel in the sky keeps on turning.
Tony also offers this heartfelt reflection during a therapy session with Melfi— “I just gotta stay around a little while longer for the kids. Especially my boy. Once he’s out of the house, the government can do whatever the fuck they wanna do. Give me life, give me the fucking chair, whatever they want.”
Even with a possible murder charge hanging over his head, Tony’s mob business does not stop. The titular “bust out” happens to Davey Scatino (former happy wanderer) and his sporting goods store. Tony, Richie and the gang bleed the business dry from the inside out, “like fucking termites.” Not too dissimilar to what Tony and crew did to Schlomo Teittleman’s hotel.
So, golem, termite, same thing, but Tony’s just doing his job. Let’s not forget, Davey Scatino is in major, major debt to the wrong, wrong people—was it inappropriate for me to laugh at his darkly, darkly comic near-suicide?
Carmela spends the hour smitten with her interior decorator, Vic Musto (brother-in-law to Davey Scatino). Considering how distant Tony has been throughout the episode, who could blame her?
While this plot may sound like the sudsy shit of daytime soap, it is the episode’s best. Carmela only wants to be wanted, which is something Tony is not providing, and her brief fling with Vic only highlights how lonely she really is.
It is the most empathetic and emotional plot of the hour—Carmela crying after a stolen kiss showcases Edie Falco at her best.
It also gave me a new euphemism: “wallpapering my dining room.”
The tension caused by the legal threats is felt throughout the entirety of “Bust Out.” It is finally resolved when the witness discovers that the guy he’s finking on is Tony Soprano. He quickly recants his testimony.
It is true to The Sopranos and David Chase that this storyline—possibly the most exciting of the season so far—is concluded with an almost frustrating anticlimax. But, as The Sopranos, Chase and Journey know, people (and TV shows) never change.
The wheel in the sky keeps on turning.
- Janice and Richie have one of the most disgusting sex scenes in TV history. The two of them do it doggystyle, while Richie holds a gun to Janice’s head as she talks dirty to him: “Oh Richie! You’re the boss! It should be you!” Richie takes that last line as a slight.
- In their post-coital talk, Janice floats the idea that “it should be you” to Richie, telling him that “my Uncle Junior still has friends.” Richie starts to float the idea of eliminating Tony (again) to Uncle Junior.
- Carmela once again listens to Bocelli’s “Con te partirò” after her encounter with Vic.
- Carm knows of Tony’s many infidelities, but she remains incredibly loyal (and racked with guilt) throughout the series. Her “sinful affairs”—Father Phil, Vic, Furio in season four—are based in emotion rather than physical contact, sensual as opposed to sexual, which is why they hit so hard.
- The avant-garde piano composition by Anton Webern featured in this episode are his Variations for Piano (1936). I tend to prefer the serialism of his contemporaries Schoenberg and Berg, but Webern is worth checking out if you’re into that sort of thing. As Lisa Simpsons would say, “You have to listen to the notes [he’s] not playing.”
- There is only one other time in which a Journey song will be used in a Sopranos episode—the infamous series finale, of course. If we’re talking about anticlimaxes…
- “Take it easy? How about I put a bullet in that stupid fucking boar’s head of yours!”
- “Get the fuck back in your fucking hole! Now!”
- “Hey, you’re not the first guy to get busted out. This is how a guy like me makes a living. This is my bread and butter.”
- “What is with you, Tony? This whole week, you’re like an alien lifeform among us.”