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Hey, Don't Whack the Messenger

The day of reckoning approacheth for the
The day of reckoning approacheth for the "Sopranos" characters portrayed by James Gandolfini, Robert Iler, Edie Falco and Jamie-Lynn Sigler. (By Craig Blankenhorn)

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Spoilers making the rounds this week came in various sizes and shapes. While all lacked the whimsicalness of our favorite fantasy spoiler posted by a chatter on NBC-owned Web site Television Without Pity -- AJ forgets how to breathe and dies. Carmella gets a diamond ring so big it crushes her to death. Meadow hooks up with OJ Simpson and dies. OJ is charged but has a get-out-of-jail-free card . . . [Tony] relaxes by his pool and the bear comes back and eats him. . . -- they were nonetheless good reading at least.

"Sopranos" creator David Chase helped weed out spoilers last Sunday by drastically thinning the herd in the penultimate episode. Silvio Dante garroted Burt Gervasi -- bye-bye, Burt -- because Burt had been playing both sides -- New Jersey and New York.

Then Silvio was gunned down outside the Bing when Phil Leotardo (of the New York family) decided to take out Tony and his chief officers and absorb whoever is left on the Jersey side. When we last saw Silvio, he was clinging to life but not looking good.

Phil's guys also gunned down Bobby Bacala while he was model-train shopping.

One possible spoiler still standing after all that carnage had Phil whacked at a gas station, Tony making a deal with the FBI to go into the witness protection program with his wife and kids, the Soprano family heading to the airport with Agent Harris, boarding a plane, bidding Jersey adieu and living happily ever after.

I know -- too Spielberg.

Our personal favorite is much more ambitious. It has Tony's wife, Carmela, being blown up via car bomb, annoying Soprano daughter Meadow being shipped off to safety with Tony's recently widowed sister Janice, whiny deadbeat Soprano son A.J. joining Dad in hiding, the ever-popular Phil-gets-whacked-at-gas-station scenario, Agent Harris walking in on loser A.J. pointing a gun at Dad/Tony and plugging A.J. in the chest (hooray!), A.J. dying in Tony's arms, Tony left all alone in the world -- which, according to many of the people who participated in that Fairleigh Dickinson U. poll is punishment enough (geesh!), and Tony's former shrink Dr. Jennifer Melfi (she dumped Tony last week, having just figured out he's a sociopath who uses therapy to validate his killings) reading all about it in a newspaper at an ice-cream parlor.

Like the Jerry-and-gang-move-to-L.A. "Seinfeld" finale, we think this humdinger is the one to beat for Chase. He's apparently not talking, and HBO issued the following statement:

"Not since the Kennedy assassination have there been so many theories floating around. And knowing David Chase, I'm sure that after the series airs, the theories will continue. Oliver Stone, look out."

* * *

Isaiah Washington is not coming back to ABC's "Grey's Anatomy" in the fall, ABC Television Studio has confirmed.

Washington, you'll recall, set off internecine furor among the cast when he used a slur against gays in reference to fellow cast member T.R. Knight. Washington apologized and then backstage at the Golden Globe Awards used the slur again by way of telling a room packed with journalists that he had never used the expression the first time around. He later recanted that story, apologized again, and not long thereafter cut a PSA in which he told us slurs are bad.

In a statement released yesterday that was quickly picked up by many news organizations, Washington said only, "I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take it anymore," borrowing his line from the mad prophet anchorman in the classic film "Network."

Interestingly, ABC's in-house studio confirmed that Washington's contract option was not renewed to some news sources but not to ABC News, which on its Web site cited "two sources with knowledge of the situation."

Washington's departure is not entirely surprising; in the show's season finale during the May ratings sweeps, Washington's character, Dr. Preston Burke, walked out of his wedding, packed his bags and high-tailed it.

News of Washington's non-renewal comes on the heels of word that Knight is returning to the show. That May finale also had opened the door to the possibility of his departure when his character, Dr. George O'Malley, failed his intern test. But Knight is coming back, with a pay raise that reportedly gives him $125,000 per episode. When reporting that earlier this week, Entertainment Weekly also quoted one "insider" as saying Washington also was coming back but, apparently to atone for his sins, without a similar pay hike.

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