The SopranosNow here's a week when the whacking fans and the character-development fans can all play nice and agree. (Somebody

has to, for crying out loud; god knows no one else is on this show.) For here we have an hour that's a fair mix of the stomach-turning violence the whackers so love, plus the more meditative stuff we character-loving guys yearn for. Representing the former, we have the garbage-hauling thugs beating that poor driver to death in front of his son, then we've got Paulie putting on his own one-man show as he tosses his ma/aunt's TV out the window, smashes Jason's knee and kicks him in the lower back for good measure. Oy.

But being a happy part of the latter group, I'll spend a little more time on the character stuff. We're off to a rollicking start, with Tony asking the prayer people what happens if the same folks protesting birth control start going after Viagra. (An aside: Tony and Carmela might want to read up on the prayer-healing thing.) Then there's Hal Holbrook trying to explain quantum physics to a roomful of gangsters and rappers, and Tony trying to explain to Christopher how if the Empire State Building were the age of the Earth, humanity's only been around long enough to be a postage stamp at the top. "Do you realize how insignificant that makes us?" Tony asks. "I don't feel that way," Christopher solemnly replies. Christopher also laid claim to the laugh-out-loud line of the night when presented with the born-again theory that Earth is only 6,000 years old, dinosaurs were around when humans were, and evolution is Satan's plan to deny God: "No way. T-Rex in the Garden of Eden? Adam and Eve would be running all the time, scared s--tless. But the Bible says it was paradise." Who can argue with that logic? Still, Tony may well be a little bit born-again himself, though not in the way the Evangelicals would have it. Oh, and one more thing: judging by what befell Jason, woe to whoever else has a loving mother Paulie knows about. All right, one other thing: anyone who talks to Bobby for more than two seconds and still believes him when he says he's an expert marksman deserves to be shot in the ass.