The Unsung Zero Of The Sopranos

Everyone knows 'Pine Barrens' is an all-time-great episode. No one remembers Jackie Jr.'s contributions.

I submitted "Pine Barrens" to the Extra Hot Great Canon in Mark 1 of the podcast; I came to Tara and Dave's apartment/recording bay with a veritable sheaf of notes and supporting documentation, maybe 10 percent of which I really needed, because it's one of the best Sopranos episodes going and probably in the top 25 of TV episodes all-time. But it's easy to forget -- as I consistently do, despite having close-watched it half a dozen times and regular-watched it half a dozen more -- that it isn't just a Paulie/Christophuh bottle episode, a dark journey into the heart of their simultaneously paternally fond and competitive relationship via a struggle to survive on frozen condiments.

There's also Tony/Gloria agita, culminating in La Trillo winging an entire flank steak at Tony's head. And there's the demise of Meadow's relationship with Jackie Jr. when a suspicious Meadow busts him cheating on her with a busty, combative blonde.

Prior to that is Jackie's legendarily poor and enduringly hilarious Scrabble play, another bit I always forget is in "Pine Barrens" and not a different episode, and it's a great example of how precisely Jackie's particular brand of post-adolescent entitled-Guido douchery is written and portrayed. He objects almost angrily to Meadow playing a "Spanish" word, "oblique," having already played "poo" and "ass" himself, and appended a weak joke about "giving [him] some" to the latter...and, when it's clear a flu-y Meadow isn't going to, Jason Cerbone flawlessly acts Jackie Jr.'s shitty acting when he says he's tired and peaces out, as it turns out to tap another ass elsewhere.

Ditto Jackie's feeble excuse for why he can't come and hang out with Meadow the next night: he has to get his car inspected. That he goes with this lie instead of just pretending he's sick himself is not only right on point for Jackie (i.e., he's a bonehead); it's right on point for the very specific type of Jerz douche Jackie is. The tight white sweaters with no shirt underneath; the gel, glistening on the points of his Tintin like dew; the probably actually knowing a guy who does do inspections at night, because it's Jersey; and last but certainly not least, the "metro" choice of scent: Calvin Klein.


One of my first boyfriends was basically a Jackie Jr. -- a few cosmetic differences, and as far as I know the dude wasn't assassinated in the Boonton projects, but functionally That Guy. We both wore Calvin Klein Eternity. I saw the guy do this exact spritz in the mirror while lying to the person on the other end in that exact oleaginously blatant way, and it's so well done by Cerbone and David Chase et al., it's like watching a documentary. About horse's asses.

This isn't the highlight of this legendary ep, of course; it's probably not even Jackie's Jackiest moment (I'd probably give that to him and his friend sinking into the couch, childlike in their too-big coats, to wait for the scene in Basic Instinct when you can see Sharon Stone's wonderfulness), and it's not the one people might remember him having in "Pine Barrens." But the spritzing with the CK One while preparing to cuckold a crime boss's daughter contains all the dingleberry seeds of his tragic douchestruction.

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