"Pine Barrens"
The Sopranos episode
Episode no.Season 3
Episode 11
Directed bySteve Buscemi
Story by
Teleplay byTerence Winter
Cinematography byPhil Abraham
Production code311
Original air dateMay 6, 2001 (2001-05-06)
Running time60 minutes
Episode chronology
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The Sopranos (season 3)
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"Pine Barrens" is an episode of the HBO series The Sopranos; it is the 11th of the show's third season and the 37th overall. The teleplay was written by Terence Winter from a story idea by Winter and Tim Van Patten. It was the first of four episodes for the series directed by Steve Buscemi and originally aired on May 6, 2001. It is widely regarded as one of the greatest episodes in the history of television.

Starring

* = credit only

Guest starring

Synopsis

Jackie is with Meadow in her room but she has a cold and explains she cannot have sex. Jackie looks at his watch, says he is tired, and leaves. The next night he makes a feeble excuse for not seeing her. A friend drives Meadow to Jackie's place, and she sees him leaving with another girl. Meadow confronts him and tells him they are finished. She and her friend then drive away, the other girl walks off, and Jackie is left alone.

Gloria comes back from Morocco and goes to meet Tony on his boat. She starts an argument and storms out, leaving him baffled. They reconcile and have lunchtime sex in a hotel. She invites him for dinner in her house that night but, delayed by family obligations, he arrives very late. She is hurt, but they reconcile again and have sex, and she cooks dinner again. Then, just before eating, Tony receives a phone call and has to leave on urgent business. She yells at him, throws his dinner—a steak—at him, and trashes her dining room when he has gone.

Tony tells Dr. Melfi that he is seeing Gloria. In the first session, he speaks of how happy they are together; in the second he complains of her changing moods. Melfi says Gloria is depressive, unstable, and impossible to please, asking Tony if that reminds him of anyone. Tony shakes his head.

Tony instructs Paulie to make a collection from Valery, a Russian, on behalf of Silvio, who is ill. He goes with Christopher. Paulie needlessly provokes Valery and starts a fight. Though drunk, Valery fights skillfully but the other two manage to gain the upper hand and throttle him with a floor lamp. Shocked at what they have done, they wrap him in a carpet and wheel him out to their car. Paulie suggests that they dump him somewhere in the Pine Barrens. He calls Tony, but this call and others later are hampered by poor reception and static. Slava, who launders Tony's money, tells him that he and Valery, a trained commando, are closer than brothers.

In the snow-covered woods, Paulie and Chris prepare to dump the body but find that Valery is still alive. They walk him some distance, give him a shovel, and make him dig his own grave. While both are distracted, Valery hits them with the shovel and flees. They chase him, shooting wildly. Paulie thinks he has shot him in the head but he keeps running and goes out of sight. They follow his track, but it ends: Valery has vanished.

After some time wandering in the woods, Paulie and Chris realize they are lost. Paulie slips down a slope and loses a shoe. Long after nightfall, faint with cold and hunger, they find an abandoned van where they take refuge. Light-headed, they blame each other for what has happened; Chris says Paulie intends to choke him while he is asleep. They fight, Chris pulls a gun on Paulie, then breaks down in crazy laughter. They agree to stay together.

In the middle of the night, Paulie calls Tony, who receives the call in Gloria's house. Paulie manages to tell him where they parked the car and pleads for help. Tony drives out with Bobby, an amateur outdoorsman. They reach the parking spot but Paulie's car has vanished. They wait until dawn to look for Paulie and Chris, who have left the van and are walking in a random direction. Paulie's makeshift shoe falls off, and he shoots it in a fit of crazed frustration. Tony and Bobby hear the shots; Bobby fires an answering shot, and the pairs soon meet.

Paulie gives a false version of what caused the fight with Valery, and Chris backs him up. The money they collected was in Paulie's car. Tony stresses to Paulie that if Valery ever turns up again, Paulie will have to take care of it. They head back to north Jersey in silence; only Bobby has peace of mind.

Valery's fate

Shortly after Valery escapes into the Pine Barrens, Paulie shoots him, apparently in the head, but he still vanishes. The camera shifts away from Paulie and Christopher to an aerial viewpoint, suggesting that Valery was watching them from a tree. In addition, Paulie's car is missing when they return. Valery was never seen again. Series creator David Chase has said that he never intended to have Valery return and that the story is richer and more realistic with some mystery to the plot. HBO listed Valery as "Deceased?" in promotional materials.

On the fate of Valery, Terence Winter said:

That's the question I get asked more than any other. It drives people crazy: "Where's the Russian? What happened to the Russian?" We could say, "Well, he got out and there's a big mob war with the Russians," or "He crawled off and died." But we wanted to keep it ambiguous. You know, not everything gets answered in life.[1]

David Chase said:

They shot a guy. Who knows where he went? Who cares about some Russian? This is what Hollywood has done to America. Do you have to have closure on every little thing? Isn't there any mystery in the world? It's a murky world out there. It's a murky life these guys lead. And by the way, I do know where the Russian is. But I'll never say because so many people got so pissy about it.[1]

In 2008 Chase said in an interview at the Actors Guild:

OK, this is what happened. Some Boy Scouts found the Russian, who had the telephone number to his boss, Slava, in his pocket. They called Slava, who took him to the hospital where he had brain surgery. Then Slava sent him back to Russia.[2]

In an interview with Sam Roberts, Chase said:

You mean the Russian? People came to me...He never went up a tree...He collapsed and he was found by some boy scouts. And they got in touch with his...somehow he was carrying a piece of I.D., which led them back to his boss. Slava the Russian guy. He was put in a hospital, and, ummm...you know, like he was completely, is, massive brain trauma. And he was sent back to Russia.[3]

Discussing the episode in a June 10, 2007 New York Times article titled "One Final Whack at That HBO Mob", Imperioli depicted the lack of closure regarding Valery as an example of the series' overall subversiveness:[4]

This show was never what people expected.

In the same article, Sirico said that Chase wrote a sixth-season scene where Christopher and Paulie chanced upon Valery outside a bar and promptly shot him to death but it was removed from the script, possibly by Chase:[4]

I think David didn't like it. He wanted the audience just to suffer.

Title reference

The Pine Barrens is a protected wilderness area managed by the New Jersey Pinelands Commission in Southern New Jersey. This is where Christopher and Paulie try to "dispose" of what they assume is Valery's body.

Cultural references

Production

Music

Accolades

References

  1. ^ a b EW.com: Chase 'n' the Russian
  2. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2011-12-04. Retrieved 2008-11-23.((cite web)): CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  3. ^ "David Chase Finally Explains the Sopranos Pine Barrens Episode - YouTube". YouTube.
  4. ^ a b "One Final Whack at That HBO Mob". The New York Times. June 10, 2007. p. 2 of 2.
  5. ^ a b c d Martin, Brett (2007-10-30). ""This Thing of Ours": Creating The Sopranos Universe". The Sopranos: The Complete Book. New York: Time. p. 178–. ISBN 978-1-933821-18-4.
  6. ^ "Sopranos: A Pine Barrens oral history". ew.com. May 13, 2007.
  7. ^ "The Sopranos banned from County Property". The New York Times. December 17, 2000.
  8. ^ The Sopranos: The Complete Third Season, DVD commentary
  9. ^ The Sopranos: The Complete Third Season DVD commentary
  10. ^ Time: The Best of the Sopranos
  11. ^ EW: The all-time 10 best "Sopranos" episodes
  12. ^ Dagbladet: - Har du en yndlingsepisode i Sopranos?
  13. ^ D'Arminio, Aubry (April 2–15, 2018). "65 Best Episodes of the 21st Century". TV Guide.
  14. ^ "Writers Honor 'Gosford Park,' 'Beautiful Mind'". The Los Angeles Times. March 3, 2002.