Season One, Episode Nine — “Boca”
By Brandy Dykhuizen. Perhaps “Boca” isn’t the most riveting episode of The Sopranos thus far, but the various pop-up plots and sudden story twists provided ample opportunity for super silly jokes (mostly at Junior’s expense) and for Chris to share some screen time with a confused but generally unruffled Golden Retriever.
The on-the-nose action kept a toe in Morality Play territory for much of the Tony v. Coach Hauser conflict, but so much was out of the blue that it was difficult to become as enraged as one should about the travesties. Even the backroom response at the Bada Bing was a predictable bunch of simian chest-thumping, and the line of questioning in Tony’s weekly appointment (“Why do you always feel like it’s your responsibility to take care of the situation?”) was something more on par with a BD Wong character than Lorraine Bracco’s Dr. Melfi.
Regardless of the unforeseen (and oddly rabid) interest in girls soccer, and the introduction of a random outside-the-family conflict to show us that Tony doesn’t have to be a big ol’ bully every day, the primary focus of “Boca” was all talk. With lips flapping at all ends, Junior battles the intimidating ring of nail parlor gossip, and Tony’s reputation is sent up against Mikey’s all-too-eager insistence that he must be the one talking to the Feds. These mighty men, so used to solving their problems with fists and bullets flying, are paralyzed into a paranoid silence until this indictment ball gets rolling.
WHAT WORKED: Operating as antagonistic forces to each other, Junior and Tony are once again forced to tackle the same existential dilemma: whether or not to set aside ego in favor of what’s reasonable. Junior, of course, fails miserably and shuts Bobbi up with a humiliating pie in the face (though given his history of violence, things could have gone much worse for her). Tony, on the other hand, has to chip away at his rage by literally disabling himself (via pills and booze) before he could topple the pride and send it crashing down into a sing-songy heap on the living room floor. Tony had to enter an entirely different state of being in order to pull the plug on whacking such a deserving scumbag, but he rose (or in this case fell) to the occasion. Was it the right thing to do? Does anyone trust the justice system enough to let it handle a rape case against a privileged white man? Maybe not, but we see here both the power of Melfi’s suggestion and the power Tony is beginning to have over his rage.
WHAT DIDN’T: Much like House of Cards takes something as mind-numbingly boring as the day-to-day operations of Congress and casts it in a sinister and riveting tone, “Boca” flipped expectation on its head and stripped much of the shock and rage out of an underage sex crime plot. Have I been desensitized by SVU, or did this episode borrow a page or two from that Tennessee Moltisanti script?
“Those dogs could start foaming at the mouth!” – Liv, warning AJ of the dangers of spontaneous rabies.
Tony: “No, no hired help. This is personal.” Silvio: “I’m very happy to hear you say that. We’ll give him a real after-school special.”
“I didn’t hurt nobody!” – A very drunken Tony, happily slurring to Carmela about his small victory.
BEST MOMENT: Carmela might have picked up some pointers from her middle school-aged son in the joke department, which served to epically break apart yet another fantastic Soprano family meal. Between Carm’s girlish giggling, Junior’s utter confusion and Liv’s refusal to participate, Tony’s attempt at restoring order was about as effective as forbidding Meadow from rolling her eyes.
EPISODE’S MVP: Junior. Dominic Chianese portrays Junior’s rage, impotence and frustration with expert anger and intimidation. This is a man who is slowly losing his grip as leader of the DiMeo crime family, but don’t confuse the slowly shifting tide for weakness. He remains as scary as ever, and you know you don’t want to be anywhere in the room when all that bottled-up anger finally pops.
– “Boca” is Spanish for “mouth,” giving the episode’s title a three-pronged relevance.
– Is now the time for Tony to consider reeling his fury in? When his daughter could potentially be in trouble? No.
– This show is full of subtle (and not-so-subtle) segues and scene shifts. “Boca’s” best is the fade from Tony and the guys cheering on the soccer match (“Good job, girls!”) straight into a typically topless scene at the Bada Bing.
– Livia’s gotta know what the men are up to, all moving their mother’s into the same assisted living facility, right?
– In the most serious, dramatic scene of the episode, in which Meadow blurts out that Coach Hauser is having sex with one of her teammates, Carmela has to roll into the room in gold chains and an aqua, cinched-waist track suit befitting the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man on a Miami vacation.
– Michael Imperioli scores another comedic scene stealer, when his tiny punk ass is sent to kidnap the Hauser family dog. Because really… what else can that kid do?
– They slipped a little Steven Van Zandt into the soundtrack – “Can’t You Feel the Fire” was playing at the Bing when they guys invite Coach Hauser there for a celebration.
– We also received an appropriately ’90s Morphine fix, when Meadow and Allie watched the video for “Buena” and again at the end over the closing credits.
– Jukebox Hero: “A-Hoy” by B-Tribe, “Can’t You Feel the Fire” by Little Steven, “Frente A Frente” by Rocio Durcal, “Little Joe” by The Spaniels, “Buena” by Morphine.
6.5 out of 10
Next: “A Hit is a Hit”, soon.
Before: “The Legend of Tennessee Moltisanti”, here.