S3 Ep 11: Pine Barrens
Written by Teleplay by Terence Winter, Story by Tim Van Patten & Terence Winter
Directed by Steve Buscemi
It started out simple.
Laid low by a virus, Silvio can't make a collection from a Russian named Valery. So Tony tells Paulie to do it. Although he'd promised his mother he'd accompany her to the Social Security Office, Paulie grabs Christopher and heads for the Russian's. All they have to do is knock on the door, get the money and go.
But when they get there, they find that in addition to the money, Valery's carrying a big load of attitude - which Paulie only exacerbates by cracking wise about rubles and Russian toilet practices. When Valery responds with an unprintable epithet, a nasty, sloppy brawl erupts; it eventually culminates into Paulie throttling the Russian with a floor lamp.
Christopher is understandably alarmed that Paulie's turned a routine collection into a hit. But Paulie, unruffled, says they'll simply bury the expired expatriate in the South Jersey Pine Barrens. "Twenty minutes from A.C.," he tells Christopher, "We'll get a room...play a little blackjack...the day won't be a total loss." But when they get to the woods and open the trunk they find something they weren't counting on: Valery's still alive. Not to worry, Paulie again assures Christopher; since the Russian is still respiring, he can dig his own grave. But unbeknownst to Paulie and Christopher, Valery is a former Russian army commando. With practiced efficiency, Valery uses the shovel to hit Christopher on the head, then Paulie in the groin; then he runs into the woods. A stunned Paulie and profusely bleeding Christopher go after him, guns blazing. But despite being hit - in the head, no less - by one of Paulie's shots, Valery manages to get away. And it turns out Valery's not the only thing Paulie and Christopher have lost: they can't find their way back to the car.
At least they have a cell phone. But when they call Tony, he, to put it mildly, is not amused. Valery works for Slava - the Russian who launders Tony's money - and so, Tony warns Paulie, "This guy cannot come back to tell this story." Tony then hangs up, leaving Paulie and Christopher to solve the problem on their own.
Tony, unfortunately, has his own problem to handle. Gloria Trillo, the woman Tony told Melfi makes him feel better than "your Prozac and therapy bullshit combined," is turning out to be less perfect than he'd thought. er moods turn on a dime and when she's feeling neglected she throws things, notably the London broil that smacks Tony square on the head. It started so easy and uncomplicated - what's with unstable women and meat, anyway?
And Tony's relationship isn't the only one going south; Meadow's is, too. One night, when Jackie tells her he's having his mother's car inspected, she catches him with a woman who is definitely not a mechanic. Back at her dorm, Meadow's girlfriends counsel her to forget him. "He's a drip," they tell her. And although she defends him, saying, "You don't know what it's like to grow up where we did," Meadow can't help thinking that maybe her friends are right.
Meanwhile, back in the Pine Barrens, the Outward Bound experience is not going well for Paulie and Christopher. They still haven't found Valery - dead or alive - or the car. They spend the night in an abandoned van, dining on ketchup packets and blaming each other for their predicament. Fortunately the next morning Tony and Bobby Baccala locate their half-frozen comrades and head back to civilization. On the way, Tony lets Paulie know the consequences of his sloppiness: "Let's be clear on this right now...he's your problem, not mine...you take the heat...you pay the price." Paulie considers, then replies, "Fine."