Soprano Sue's Sightings

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The making of the "Pine Barrens" episode

In January 2001, The Sopranos, embarked on an ambitious road trip north over the New York State line into Orange County (near the Rockland County border) to film one of the greatest episodes every aired.  

The crew                thetrail is cold

The episode I am referring to is the "Pine Barrens" episode which was written by Terence Winter and Tim Van Patten (which by the way both won a WGA Award for outstanding achievement in television writing for this episode) and brilliantly directed by Steve Buscemi.   


The original plans for filming, the location was to be in New Jersey in the South Mountain Reservation located in Essex County, New Jersey.     Due to a conflict with an "controlled deer hunt (I call deer "rats on stilts"). County officials denied The Sopranos request for filming at the park. 



The result was production was moved to a filming location in New York State. Orange County was happy, since The Sopranos production crew and cast stimulated the local economy.     The Sopranos production budget included lodging expenses for the entire cast and crew, necessities such as food, laundry, fuel, and any other incidental that was required.  


The Caterer made a purchase of tires for one of the trailers he travels with to be on location with his equipment.  Harriman State Park received a donation which will be used to improve the park facilities for future generations.   


The story line for this saga basically goes as follows.    Silvio Dante (Steve Van Zandt) is owed a debt by Valery (Vitali Baganov), a Russian immigrant.    Silvio who was blindsided by a raging virus, can't leave his home to make the collection.  


Tony Soprano (James Gandolfini), delegates the responsibility of collection to Paulie Walnuts (Tony Sirico), who is getting his nails done at Gloria's Nail Salon.    Paulie decides to bring Christopher Moltisanti (Michael Imperioli) to assist in a simple errand of picking up the moneys.  


They arrive at the Russian's house and things don't go exactly as planned. Paulie and Valerie's attitudes aren't exactly on the same plateau (perhaps since Paulie had been expecting to have his nails done and take his mother Nucci (Frances Esemplare) to the local Social Security office) and things don't go exactly as planned.    A struggle breaks out and now they might have a dead comrade on their hands.  


Paulie and Chris roll Valery up in a carpet and the simple plan is to dump the body somewhere deep in an area of New Jersey referred to as the Pine Barrens.     Driving off in Paulie's treasured green Cadillac, the boys head to the woods.     Paulie, wanting to get back quickly, plan is to get gas, do the job, and get back.    Christopher is hungry, doesn't matter, let's just get on the road.

Well things didn't go exactly as planned.    The Russian, is not dead.  The get lost.    If the possibility of the battery going dead on the cell phone wasn't bad enough, they find themselves lost in the woods, and the nearest cellular transponder is miles away.   The get to a tick infested, snow covered, remote region of New Jersey, and the fun is just beginning.   


Tony, hoping to spend some time with Gloria Trillo (Annabella Sciorra), who recently returned from Morocco, is plagued with calls from the dynamic duo calling for help.  


Meadow Soprano (Jamie-Lynn Sigler Discala), is having problems of her own. Jackie Aprile, Jr.  (Jason Cerbone), her latest love interest, raises Meadows suspicions, when he claims to take his mothers car for inspection late at night.


And Bobby Bacala (Steven R. Schirripa) saves the day by  useing his outdoor skills learned from his father, to save the day.    

From The Bada Bing Blog

Take a truly fictional visit to New Jersey's "Pine Barrens" this Sunday Night.

One of my favorite Sopranos episodes will be airing this Sunday night. The episode "Pine Barrens" is scheduled to air was written by Tim Van Patten and Terence Winter. Unbeknownst to me at the time of filming, Steve Buscemi directed this episode, so I find that in some of the camera shots reminiscent of the 1996 film “Fargo”. Steve Buscemi, also directed the episode, “Everyone Hurts” (season 4, episode 45) which was written by Michael Imperioli. "Pine Barrens" is episode 38 so that means there are 14 more weeks of decent television on Sunday night.

A lot has been said about the misinformation in this episode. So let me set the record straight. New Jersey is one of the more civilized states where it is illegal to pump your own gasoline. Paulie Walnuts (played by Tony Sirico), is shown filling his gas tank (he should have gotten arrested on the spot, there were a lot of State Police there that day, but we make exceptions for lost mobsters) , before going to the area of New Jersey called the “Pine Barrens”.

Also in that scene, Christopher Moltisanti (Michael Imperioli) is moaning that he is famished and wants to go to that “Denny’s” over there and get a “Grand Slam” breakfast. The rest area on the Garden State Parkway where this was actually filmed does not have a Denny’s. It features a Burger King and a Dunkin Donuts. I was there the day they filmed at the Montvale Rest Area and an interesting thing was they only closed off one set of pumps to do the filming. The other gas pumps were fully operational and my thought was of this family who had traveled down from Rye, New Hampshire, this poor kid, Kelby, looking out the window at what was going on and saying to their parents, “there really is a New Jersey Mafia”. I also imagined Paulie Walnuts looking over and saying something like “Welcome to New Jersey now get the #$&# out of here”.

Another intentional mistake that was made was that they were traveling to a single digit exit number on the Garden State Parkway. Exits with the low numbers (they are according to mileage markers) are located at the very southern end of the roadway in Cape May County, which is an area outside the Pine Barrens region of South Jersey. An exit with the number 55 or in that range would have been more accurate. So they were not in that area. The scenery we see in the episode shows a deciduous hardwood forest (the trees we see are barren of leaves). Deciduous forests lose their foliage in the fall. The Pine Barrens, forests are mainly of a species of trees called the scrub pine. Scrub Pines rarely grow over the height of 6 feet and thrive in the poor sandy soil in this region. We see a mountainous area in the background, the Pine Barrens region in New Jersey is a very flat area, with very low elevations above sea level.

Paulie Walnuts repeatedly phones Tony Soprano and experiences poor cellular service. Let me set the record straight. Where this was filmed in Harriman State Park in New York State, there was NO service, and where Tony receives many of the calls, at his residence, there is also no service. So there is no such thing as poor service in these areas, I call it no service.

Thank God, Bacala, (played by Steven R. Schirripa) meets with Tony to save the day. When he arrives at Uncle Junior’s (Dominic Chianese) house, Tony laughs uncontrollably at Bacala’s attire. Should I say non attire, what you don’t see in that scene is Bacala is actually standing in his underwear and James Gandolfini (Tony Soprano) can’t stop laughing. Finally the mission to save the Tony’s two lost sheep begins, and they arrive in the area portrayed as the Pine Barrens. Bacala relies on the knowledge he has gained from his father for survival. Bacala also mentions that this area is populated by a clannish group referred to as the “Jackson Whites”, wrong again. People who are native to the Pine Barrens region of New Jersey refer to themselves as “Pineys”. The Jackson Whites refers to a group of people of mixed decent who live in the Ramapo Mountains of North Jersey mostly in the Mahwah area. So maybe Bacala wasn’t totally wrong since that area is within a 15 mile radius of where they were filming on location.

Regardless of the inconsistencies, I still love this episode!

-written by Soprano Sue

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