The Sopranos Christmas Episode is a Beautiful Dose of Holiday Comfort Food
I’ll just come right out and say it: The Sopranos “To Save Us All From Satan’s Power” (season 3, episode 10) is terribly underrated. Maybe it gets overshadowed by its popular neighbor, “Pine Barrens,” though I personally prefer this episode. Or perhaps you’re just the Grinch and hate the holidays as a whole. In that case, lucky you! “That’s where the money is,” or so I’ve heard. Either way, The Sopranos Christmas episode is a beautiful dose of holiday comfort food, and here are some more of my thoughts on why.
The Ghost of Christmas Past
At the episode’s opening, Tony’s walking on the Asbury boardwalk before pausing to watch the waves crash onto shore. It was only one year earlier that he killed Big Pussy Bonpensiero on the water after confirming he was working with the federal government. That sounds like a no brainer when it comes to the mafia, right? But there was something much deeper when it came to Puss.
To be sure, Puss’s cooperation with the government didn’t just hurt Tony because of the potential business and legal implications. It also hurt to be deceived by someone who actually meant something to him. In other words, “Him, you loved.”
"It's Christmas, and he wants to talk about medical waste?"
In fact, it’s in this episode where Tony realizes Puss was wearing a wire at a previous Christmas party. Specifically, he was wearing a wire while playing Santa at the Christmas Party and handing out presents to neighborhood children. How’s that for a Sopranos twist?
Indeed, hindsight is 2020. But it’s also humans we’re dealing with here, and we know that humans aren’t always so objective. After Puss went M-I-A for a sitdown with Junior in 1995, the excuse he gave involved being with his goomah and her mom at the hospital. Though I personally found that to be pretty farfetched, why would Tony and the others want to think Puss was with the FBI? He was their FRIEND, for goodness sake, and we like to give our friends the benefit of the doubt. But friend or no friend, the threat of going to prison for decades has a way of swaying one’s decisions.
There's No Place Like Home for the Holidays
Meanwhile, at the Soprano home, appearances can also be quite deceiving. From the outside looking in, it’s the most wonderful time of the year, complete with the magnificent tree and new angel, cozy winter outfits, sparkles, and good cheer. Wait, you mean there’s more to it than that?
Truthfully, we all know those families—perhaps maybe our own—that go overboard with holidays and other family occasions. But sometimes, beneath the wrapping paper, there’s a ball of resentment collecting the dust of family dysfunction that’s accumulated over many years. The Soprano family isn’t unique here, but during the holidays, it’s all magnified.
For example, with Carmela and Meadow, we have multiple ugly truths beneath the surface. There are Tony’s ongoing romantic affairs, Jackie Jr.’s constant lies to Meadow, and the tension present year-round over how Tony makes a living. But it’s easier to push that kind of thing to the side over the holidays, especially when it comes with gorgeous jewelry and gifts.
"I Call it Stressmas."
Not surprisingly, this most wonderful time of year can also come with a whole lot of agita. In Tony’s own words, as he describes a near-panic attack to Dr. Melfi, it’s “That feeling of gingerale in [his] brain.” I imagine many of us can relate, whether that feeling of panic or dread feels like gingerale or something else. Also not surprising is when Tony immediately walks out of his appointment with Dr. Melfi after she tries to bring up his “old friend” (Pussy, not booty!)
With all of that said, I should clarify by noting that I happen to love the holiday season. When I mention some of these messier components, that doesn’t mean there isn’t lots to celebrate or that it’s all a scam. Just like we see on The Sopranos, multiple things can be true at the same time. Where there’s dysfunction, there can also be love, joy, and laughter. As The Sopranos masterfully demonstrates, it’s complicated.
"The boss of this family told you you're going to be Santa Claus."
On the other hand, as we know, “To Save Us All From Satan’s Power” is full of comic relief. For example, when the guys ask Bobby Bacala to play Santa Claus for the Christmas party, he says he’s too shy. Huh? On one hand, that sounds ridiculous. Bobby’s too shy to play Santa Claus for some kids, but not afraid to work with these lunatics? “F*ckin’ ho hum if you ask me.” On the other hand, I think we can all relate. As humans, we have our unique strengths, weaknesses, and habits, however rational or irrational they seem.
"Who is she? Bada Bing Crosby?"
Another comedic moment in “To Save Us All From Satan’s Power” involves Tony, Sil, and Paulie eating dinner at Vesuvio. When they start acting all flirtacious with Charmaine, she tells them that FBI agents are dining at a nearby table. Most people wouldn’t have the guts to joke about the FBI with a mafia boss. For Charmaine, however, I think that was her form of comic relief.
To Save Us All From Satan's Power Easter Eggs
Of course, my thoughts on a Sopranos episode would be incomplete if I didn’t point out a couple of “connections” I observed. One is when Puss says “$5,000 bucks a week, no way off.” Though he’s talking about the Dawn Princess cruise, it sounds an awful lot like the mafia, too, similar to the 6G minimum Christopher owes Paulie at the end of each week.
Plus, I can’t forget the Ajax! While making a song with boyfriend Aaron Arkaway, Janice says “What are we selling, Ajax?” I immediately think back to “Denial, Anger, Acceptance” (S1, E3) where Adriana tells Christopher he can’t let Meadow go to Jefferson Avenue to buy crystal meth because “they’ll sell her Ajax.” I know, a bit random, but such is life, both on The Sopranos and in the “real world.”
Conclusion-To Save Us All From Satan's Power - The Sopranos Christmas
Finally, as we arrive at the conclusion of “To Save Us All From Satan’s Power,” the scene closes out to the ocean waves, just like it did in “Funhouse” (season two, episode 13). In “Funhouse,” Tony looked like he was nearly on death’s door. This time, he’s holding his Billy Bass Christmas present and likely has that familiar “Gingerale feeling” in his skull. Anyway, four dollars a pound.
With all of that said, what do you think about season three, episode 10, “To Save Us All From Satan’s Power”? I’d love to hear your thoughts. Plus, if you’re interested, here’s a To Save Us All From Satan’s Power quiz!
P.S. Other Funny Moments
- Valery the Russian says “Oh, higher level. Shhhhh…”
- When Aaron Arkaway says “That’s a great mother-jumping lyric, Jan.”
- When Tony and Furio are about to beat up the cab driver, they go back and forth about who’s the “designated driver.”
- Tony’s face while Jackie and Meadow are all touchy-feely on Christmas morning.
- The kids chant “1, 2, 3, 4, open up the stupid door!” while waiting to see Santa.
- When Sil and Paulie tell the little boy to say sorry to Santa (Bobby) after cursing at him.
- When Paulie says “That was different. That was a paranormal event” when Tony questions him on why he freaked out about ghosts when Christopher was shot.