Tony has always had a conflicted relationship with Paulie. He loves him as he would an older brother. But Paulie and his mouth and his thinking represent everything that Tony would like to leave behind in his life, if only he could, and devote himself to his tomatoes.
Paulie is a threat to Tony, and on some level, both men understand this. But I can't believe Tony would for even a minute seriously consider killing Paulie just as a way of keeping him quiet. Tony has never killed anyone in such a pro-active way, and it certainly didn't make sense that he would embark on that course tonight. At the very time when he's thinking more and more of what life would be like without the business, killing Paulie just to keep him quiet on general principle would be about the worst piece of business Tony ever did.
Still, the day on the boat in Florida was suspenseful.
Meanwhile, Uncle Junior, who did put a bullet into Tony, is doing the best he can in his institution. Which isn't very good. He tries to get a card game going, to bring back some of the old zing, but of course that doesn't last. He has a choice of being drugged and docile or cheating on the drugs - which makes him incontinent. Not a good place to be.
And as tonight's episode ends, we're still in a status quo. But one which is slowly simmering to a boil. Phil's back in power. And Tony will be his competition.
Which he'll face with his imperfect, fraying relationships with all his top guys - Paulie, Christopher, Bobbie - with the exception of Silvio.
Who in fact may pose the greatest threat of all to Tony, since Silvio was the one who killed Ade...
Naked Bodies, Three Showings a Week, No Commercials:
The Sopranos as a Nuts-and-Bolts Triumph of Non-Network TV my 2002 article, published in David Lavery's This Thing of Ours: Investigating The Sopranos
reviews of other episodes this final season: The Sopranos: First of Nine, Second of Nine, Fourth of Nine, Fifth of Nine, Sixth of Nine, Seventh of Nine, Eighth of Nine, Ninth of Nine
listen to free podcast of this review, and reviews of all the other final nine episodes