Do you remember Jimmy Altieri?
Was he a rat or not?
The Glorified Crew Sopranos Blog breaks down one of the lingering questions from the series.
Keep reading, Wise Guy!
Was He A Rat Or Not?
It’s season one, episode 11, “Nobody Knows Anything.”
FBI agents arrest Sopranos soldier Salvatore “Big Pussy” Bonpensiero and Captain Jimmy Altieri at a pool hall owned by Jimmy.
The FBI pokes and prods around the pool hall, eventually discovering a large arsenal of guns hidden beneath one of the pool tables.
One of the more memorable moments of the series happens during this scene.
Big Pussy hilariously tries eluding the earnest FBI agents.
Puss scrambles out the pool hall’s side exit.
He runs, but he doesn’t make it very far.
Big Pussy was caught by the agents down the block and arrested.
In a later scene, Uncle Junior, seated upstairs at the Bing, fires off this infamous line: “We don’t run; it’s embarrassing!”
Meanwhile, in season three.
Jimmy Altieri Sopranos House Scene
Tony, Carmela, Meadow, and Anthony Jr. are seated at their kitchen table for dinner.
AJ is stuffing his face with a fork full of what appears to be Carmela’s famous spaghetti or lasagna.
Tony threatens to knock out Anthony Jr.’s teeth when AJ reminds Tony, for whatever reason.
The doorbell rings.
AJ indignantly skedaddles from his kitchen-table chair to find out who’s interrupting dinner.
The young Soprano opens the front door.
“It’s Uncle Jimmy!”
Tony springs from the kitchen table and walks over to the front vestibule.
“Let him [Jimmy] in,” Tony tells AJ.
Jimmy walks into the Soprano home on 14 Aspen Hill Drive in Caldwell, New Jersey.
That’s West Caldwell. (Make sure you enunciate.)
Clearly happy to see Jimmy, Tony wastes no time asking Jimmy how he managed to get out of jail so fast.
“Long story,” Jimmy says.
Jimmy asks Tony if there’s someplace they can talk [in private].
Tony leads Jimmy to the basement stairs.
Once in the basement, Jimmy tells Tony he’s “got a problem.”
“I know,” Tony says, “I’m working on it.”
The Moment Tony Realizes Jimmy Altieri Is The Rat
The next scene in this episode is a pivotal turning point.
Jimmy inquires about Tony’s so-called “problem.”
You could assume “Uncle Jimmy” is wired for sound while at Tony’s home.
“You better lay low with that safe house money,” Jimmy tells Tony as Jimmy fiddles with the paper tag on Tony’s hot water heater.
(The Soprano family basement hot water heater is a significant prop in the season three opener, “Mr. Ruggerio’s Neighborhood.”)
The rat Alteria tells Tony the FBI asked him “a lot of questions” when they picked up Jimmy earlier at the pool hall.
Jimmy says the agents asked him whether he knew about the dead Columbian in the apartment.
(Paulie killed the Columbian.)
Look at Tony’s face in the photograph below.
Study Tony’s reaction.
Tony subtly looks around the room. He looks at Jimmy with a blank and befuddled stare.
At this very moment, Tony realizes Jimmy Altieri is a rat!
What Tony says and does next is telling.
Tony pauses to consider what he’ll say.
Tony presumably figures that Jimmy is wearing a wire.
“You look good,” Tony tells Jimmy.
(Tony Soprano’s uncanny intuition about people, especially rats, is a consistent theme throughout the series.)
“You know, you’ve got an amazing ability to sum up a man’s whole life in a single sentence,” corrupt Newark Police Detective Vin Makazian, played by the late John Heard, told Tony in season one, episode 11, “Nobody Knows Anything.”
Back to Jimmy and Tony in the basement.
“I told em’ the pool table there when I first rented the joint,” Jimmy said.
And what Jimmy asks Tony next is a dead-fucking giveaway.
“So, uh, what are you going to do with the Columbian money?”
What would Jimmy care about what Tony does with the money?
Tony says nothing and shrugs his shoulders because he figures Jimmy is wearing a wire.
Jimmy tells Tony the Columbian money was marked.
In turn, Tony tells Jimmy he’s “a lucky man.”
Think about it: Jimmy is pinched for a gun charge (a serious crime), and he’s out on bail?
“Well, you’re out on bail on that conspiracy thing, right?” Tony says.
Another of Tony’s distinct qualities is sniffing out bullshit and playing passive-aggressive with whomever he’s questioning.
Skeptically, Tony tells Jimmy, “A lucky prick like you gets pinched with a gun while he’s out on bail for something else and still be out in time for dinner.”
Once more: Who in the fuck gets released from jail so quickly after getting pinched on a serious gun possession charge – while on bail for criminal conspiracy?
Nobody, that’s who.
The FBI wants Tony; they could give a shit less about Jimmy Altieri.
Remember, it doesn’t take long for the FBI to flip someone.
The FBI probably offered Altieri some deal or immunity.
Then they wired Jimmy up and sent him over to Tony’s home.
You’ll remember, too, that the FBI has been building a major RICO case against Tony Soprano for years.
Both Tony and Jimmy are trying to tease out an incriminating statement from one another while trying to stay in character to avoid suspicion.
Tony wraps up his and Jimmy’s powwow in the basement and offers him some lasagna.
Jimmy passes (another dead giveaway; Jimmy is a fat fuck) and tells Tony that he has some collections to make from people late on payments.
“I gotta make sure they see my face, so otherwise, they think they’re off the hook.”
Pay attention now.
Jimmy’s last line is brilliant.
He has to save face.
Otherwise, “people think they are off the hook.”
Tony says, “Yeah! I know how that goes.”
Jimmy Altieri Rat: Analysis
The last few seconds of Jimmy and Tony in the basement is genius writing.
Tony’s implying that Jimmy showed up at his house that evening, after getting pinched, to save his ass.
Jimmy speaks matter-of-factly about Tony’s interest in appearing like a trustworthy partner while goading Tony to acknowledge the illegal assets he’s referencing.
Meanwhile, Tony speaks in detached pleasantries to appear happy that Jimmy was released from jail while outlining the flimsiness of Jimmy’s story.
Jimmy tried tripping up Tony – but Tony knows better.