University Episode 32

Directed by: Allen Coulter
Written by: Teleplay by Terence Winter and Salvatore Stabile, Story by David Chase & Terence Winter & Todd A. Kessler and Robin Green & Mitchell Burgess

One day Tony’s sitting in the Bada Bing when one of the dancers approaches him. Her name’s Tracee and she’s baked him a loaf of date bread, a thank you for some advice he gave her about her son. Taken aback, Tony explains – gently but firmly – that her gift is inappropriate. “What we have is an employer/employee relationship,” he tells her Silvio, intervening, is more direct. “Let’s go, Betty Crocker,” he says as he shoos Tracee away from the Boss.

What’s with this girl? She’s a twenty-year-old mother who dances naked for a living, but she acts like some kind of Brady Bunch wannabe. Case in point, Tracee borrows three G’s from Silvio – for braces, of all things. “Usually it’s fake tits they want,” Silvio shrugs. And despite Tony’s clarification of their relationship, Tracee still follows him around, asking “to be friends.” But Tony has enough trouble figuring out how to be a father to his own flesh and blood daughter; he can’t play papa for an emotionally needy pole dancer, too.

Currently, however, the flesh and blood daughter won’t give Tony the time of day. Meadow is still seeing Noah; in fact, their relationship has escalated to a level required to use condoms. Fortunately, Tony is unaware of this new development. But when Carmela asks Meadow whether she’s in love with Noah, she cryptically replies, “At this point, I’d better be”

It might be better if she weren’t. Because not long after that, while Meadow and Noah are studying in the library, he casually breaks up with her. “You’re too negative,” he informs her, and goes back to his book. Meadow takes the news calmly, but then shows up at home, slamming doors and spewing invective at everyone who crosses her path.

Meanwhile, Tracee is MIA from the Bada Bing. It turns out that she’s pregnant and the father is none other than Ralph Cifaretto. For three days she’s been holed up in Ralph’s apartment, playing him with Fresca, cocaine and Pop Tarts in an attempt to demonstrate her homemaking skills. But when Silvio shows up to drag her – by her hair – back to the Bada Bing, Ralph only stands by and laughs.

Later, at a party at the Bing, Tracee retaliates by insulting Ralph in front of a roomful of made guys – including his immediate superior, Gigi. Then she goes outside for a cigarette, Ralph right behind her. Seemingly contrite, Ralph assures Tracee that he wants to raise their child. But then he drops the act and tells her that if the baby’s a girl, “she can grow up to be a cock-sucking slob like her mother.” Hurt and furious, Tracee makes a few swipes at Ralph, who takes it in stride – until she draws blood. In a brutally thorough beating, Ralph hammers Tracee with his fists and then rejoins the party, leaving her lifeless body in the parking lot.

Inside, Ralph tells everyone that Tracee “slipped.” But when Tony sees her, his order to Paulie is simple: “Go get him.” When Ralph emerges, Tony backs him against a fence and puts it on the line, “You disrespect this place…you don’t think…that’s the reason you were passed over.”

At this point, Ralph’s smartest move would have been to keep his mouth shut. But Ralph Cifaretto, ever the wise ass, looks Tony directly in the eye and says: “Is it my fault she such a clutz?”

And that’s when Tony does something no made guy is ever supposed to do to another made guy and hits him. And hits him. And hits him – launching Ralph into the chain link and leaving him spitting blood. Should Tony have restrained himself? With characteristic understatement Paulie assures his Boss:

“He was way out of line.”

Posted in Season 3, Sopranos.

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