Down Neck (1.07)

Through flashbacks to 1967, we see possible parallels between a young Tony Soprano and his delinquent son AJ.

Episode 7 – Originally aired Feb 21, 1999
Written by Robin Green & Mitchell Burgess
Directed by Lorraine Senna Ferrara


The title of this episode may be performing double duty.  “Down neck” is the nickname for the working class neighborhood in Newark where Tony grew up (so named because of the nearby curve or neck of the Passaic River); it may also refer to the significant way in which AJ and Tony shove various consumables down their throats (necks) over the course of the hour.

In the first scene, AJ and his buddies drink the sacramental wine they’ve stolen from their school’s chapel.  Normally, it would be easy to dismiss such behavior as childish hijinks.  But since it is the Soprano boy, the implications are more serious; is it an early indication that he will follow his father’s footsteps into criminality and violence?  The wine they imbibe is not the stuff that their parents drink with dinner, it is sacramental; according to Catholic tradition, it transubstantiates into the very blood of Christ.  To steal it, engorge on it and then vomit it is disrespectful to the faith—and may even qualify as host desecration.  St. Jude looks down upon them with disapproval:

stealing wine

Dr. Galani, the school psychologist, reads the faculty’s assessment of AJ to his parents: “Anthony sometimes has trouble following the rules, weighing consequences, at times doesn’t think before he acts.”  Tony listens sheepishly to this, knowing that he’s guilty of the same behavior (and Galani’s use of “Anthony” rather than the nickname “AJ” may drive the knife even further into the father).  But Tony perks up at the mention of A.D.D.  He may not be such a bad influence after all—AJ’s actions may stem from a psychological disorder.  Carmela later almost seems to hope that AJ is diagnosed with the disorder so that she too can bail herself out responsibility for AJ’s misbehaviors.  She is, however, more honest about her culpability than Tony is—“I have two eyes!” she cries out, insinuating that she has seen the criminality of her husband (and her own acceptance of it) but has not done enough to shield her children from it.

I am normally not a big fan of the flashback, it can be a simplistic and trite way of dealing with backstory.  For example, there are a couple of contrived (and unnecessary) mini-flashbacks in this hour that replay a conversation that Tony and Meadow had back in “College.”  But I think the larger flashbacks—the ones to Tony’s childhood—are handled in an admirable way.  First of all, the flashbacks are narratively justified—it makes sense for us to see Tony’s childhood so that we can better understand whether AJ’s actions are just simple hijinks or are actually part of a transgenerational criminal impulse.  Secondly, the flashbacks are managed with great attention to detail.  One small example: as Tony slips a Prozac down his throat, the first flashback begins and it is scored to Jefferson Airplane’s “White Rabbit”—a neat detail, because the song came out in 1967 and Tony is flashing back to the same year.  (The riots on Springfield Ave definitively date the flashback.)

While these extended flashbacks do provide some insight into Tony’s personality (and by extension, AJ’s as well), they do not give us definitive answers.  Does Nature or Nurture play the greater role in Tony’s development?  Hmm, its hard to say.  Is Johnny Boy’s criminality or Livia’s psychotic mothering the stronger influence on Tony?  Who knows.  Were Tony’s childhood misbehaviors simply “kid’s play” or were they part of a deeper pathology?  Hell, I dunno.

Tony wonders throughout the hour how much his son may know about his “career” and how he may feel about it.  Tony takes an opportunity while changing a flat tire with AJ to broach the issue.  Even though the subject matter of the conversation is very uncommon for a Father/Son talk, the structure of the conversation is very typical.  This is how fathers and sons talk to each all around the world everyday: circuitously, dancing around the main topic, unwilling to risk complete honesty for fear of embarrassment or emasculation.  My own dad was no gangster—he was a social worker—but we must have had a dozen conversations just like this, in which we didn’t (or couldn’t) come out and say what we wanted to say.  This moment between Tony and AJ just feels real to me.  I think Chase takes a similar realistic approach when shooting the setting of this scene:

chase's pulaski skyway

This area, with the Pulaski Skyway soaring in front of smokestacked factories, is one of the most visually striking locations in New Jersey.  Painters such as Robert Hendrickson and Rackstraw Downes have given it their treatment.

pulaski painting1

pulaski - downes jpeg

These painters have removed all that is unsightly, focusing solely on those glorious pieces of industrial engineering that sit prettily between skies and waters of blue.  Chase, on the other hand, leaves in the banal and dull: chain link fence, yellow school bus, beat-up cars.  A slight shifting of the camera would have removed the ugly light pole, street signs and bulky yellow concrete block that appear so prominently in the foreground (just left of center in my screengrab).  But The Sopranos does not shy away from depicting the banal—the series looks and sounds much like the real world looks and sounds.

The episode ends with an incredible succession of four short scenes:

  1. Tony confronts his mother, charging that if she had allowed Johnny to move the family to Reno in pursuit of a solid business opportunity, perhaps all their lives would have been better (i.e. they might have been living within the law rather than outside of it)
  2. Tony and Carmela are dismissive of the pencil-neck school psycholgist who reaches a wishy-washy diagnosis of AJ (“Fidgeting of the hands and feet” is indeed considered one of the symptoms of A.D.D.)
  3. Tony watches the History Channel while exercising in his basement
  4. Tony and AJ make ice cream sundaes in the kitchen

These final four scenes gather threads that have been running through the episode, but David Chase doesn’t finally tie these threads into a pretty little bow.  Instead, they interact in complex ways: sometimes interlacing, sometimes running parallel, sometimes pulling against one another.  Looking closer at these four scenes is instructive.  We feel sympathy for Tony when he confronts his spiteful mother (scene 1), as we realize that he is the product of an unfortunate upbringing.  But in defense of Livia, she may also be a victim of bad parenting or a psychological disorder.  We find ourselves further in alignment with Tony when he mocks the laughable findings of Dr. Galani (2).  But Tony and Carmela’s summary dismissal of the school psychologist can also be seen as a parallel to the irresponsible way that Johnny and Livia acted as parents.  When Tony watches the History channel while exercising (3), we hope that his interest in history—his own history—will help him avoid making the same mistakes with his son that his parents made with him.  But when he whips up gigantic sundaes in the next scene with AJ (4), we see that he is squandering the health benefits of all the exercise he did just moments before—and perhaps any lessons that he has learned from history are being squandered as well.  Then again, making gooey sundaes together may be just what the boy needs—Tony is treating AJ like a kid, not like some incarnation of inevitable evil.  Tony and AJ playfully shoot whipped cream down neck” as “White Rabbit” plays for the second time.  (The first time it played, Tony was slipping a Prozac, not whip cream, down his throat.)

Whipped cream - Sopranos Autopsy

The song is used ironically in this episode.  “White Rabbit” became a clarion call of the late ’60s, appealing to the counterculture’s interest in socio-political issues, drug use and Eastern philosophy.  When Grace Slick exhorted her listeners to “Feed your head” in 1967, she was telling them that the use of mind-expanding psychotropic drugs was a good way to increase their awareness of the world they lived in and of their place in the universe.  Tony and AJ certainly do not have such high-minded aspirations when they “feed their heads” with prescription drugs and dairy product out of a can.  They’re just a father and son doing what fathers and sons do.


I think we can see a bit of a parallel between AJ and Christopher Moltisanti throughout much of Season 1.  They’re hot-headed and impulsive at times.  They can be dim-witted.  They are both “problem children” that make life more difficult—and dangerous—for Tony.  In this hour, Chris robs a FedEx truck (a federal crime) while AJ (inadvertently) endangers Tony by telling his grandmother that Tony sees a therapist.  (Livia will feed this info to Corrado as part of her strategy to eliminate her son.)

AJ and Christopher are formally connected in “Down Neck” through a swish-pan edit, a type of cut in which the camera creates a blur as it quickly pans out of one scene and into another.  (This is one of the few times—perhaps the only time—in the entire series that this particular type of edit is used.)  The swish-pan begins at the construction site where Tony has to control hot-head Chris, and ends at the school where Tony is meeting with administrators over his troublemaking son:

swish pan - Sopranos Autopsy
Both AJ and Chris will continue to be burdensome to Tony for years to come.  Interestingly, it is in this hour that another “problem child” makes her first appearance of the series: Janice Soprano.  Valerie Palmer-Mehta, in a footnote to her essay “Disciplining the Masculine: The Disruptive Power of Janice Soprano,” notes that one of our first glimpses of the girl is of her shooting a bird at Tony (and all of us viewers, I might add):

Janice Soprano middle finger

Yup, that’s our Janice alright.  She won’t become a regular part of The Sopranos until Season 2.  (That’s still six episodes away, so enjoy her absence while you can.)


This is the first episode that husband-and-wife team Robin Green and Mitchell Burgess get writing credits for.  They worked with David Chase previously on Northern Exposure as both writers and producers.  Their sensibility is perfectly suited for The Sopranos, and that is why they lasted as writer-producers for this series all the way into the sixth season.  (David Chase fired virtually all of the writers from Season One besides this duo and Frank Renzulli at the end of the first season because they lacked, according to him, an understanding of the “East coast bullying” mentality that exists in New Jersey.)  Chase has distanced himself from Northern Exposure, telling Allen Rucker (The Sopranos: A Family History) that the program was “too self congratulatory…it was propaganda for the corporate state.  What I mean is, it was ramming home every week the message that ‘life is nothing but great,’ ‘Americans are great,’ and ‘heartfelt emotion and sharing conquers everything.'”  Chase clearly tried to make the series edgier when he came on as Executive Producer for its final two seasons, but in some ways, I think the series suffered from his efforts. 

When I first began watching The Sopranos during its initial HBO run, I was struck by how much it reminded me of Northern Exposure—and this is before I had any idea that the two shows had David Chase and Burgess and Green (as well as other writers and directors) in common.  Both series, at times, share a certain tone and style and humor, particularly in the dialogue.  But their greatest commonality, I would say, is that they both occupy a middle space in the “gender-spectrum” of cultural works; they each come to that middle space, however, from opposite directions.  The Sopranos feminizes the Masculine, so to speak: it takes the blood-and-guts world of the Mafia and focuses on interpersonal dynamics and social issues within that world.  Northern Exposure masculinizes the Feminine, approaching subjects such as art, community, and relationships with a bawdier humor and frankness than one would expect from a 1990s CBS show.  It is very telling that both series were ultimately syndicated on A&E (the Arts and Entertainment network); The Sopranos is too artsy for SpikeTV For Men, and Northern Exposure is too butch for Lifetime Television For Women.



  • In one of Tony’s flashbacks, the family is watching The Rascals perform on The Ed Sullivan Show.  Perhaps the clip comments on the central question of the episode: are AJ’s misdeeds simply the doings of a young “rascal” or do they point to a larger issue?  More interestingly, the clip may be a clever in-joke: Chase was so impressed by Steve Van Zandt’s screen presence while inducting The Rascals into the Rock-N-Roll Hall of Fame that he decided Steve must have a role on The Sopranos.
  • Lost opportunity: If Tony and Carmela and the Verbum Dei school had collaborated in a more proactive way here for AJ, maybe he wouldn’t have become the flaky, suicidal criminal-wannabe that we find in later seasons.
  • Lost opportunity: David Chase’s father, a draftsman/designer, had a good opportunity to build printing presses in California, but Chase’s mother did not allow the family to move.  (This perhaps worked to our benefit.  Tony says here that if he hadn’t been part of a Mafia family growing up, maybe he would have become a patio salesman in San Diego.  Likewise, if David Chase had had a happier, more secure childhood, maybe he would have become an accountant or a pharmacist instead of the brooding genius of American television—but then The Sopranos would have never come into existence.)

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55 responses to “Down Neck (1.07)

  1. Another interesting point in the beginning of Tony’s flashback to 1967; the lyrics of the song begin with “One pill makes you larger and one pill makes you small. And the ones that mother gives you don’t do anything at all”. Tony is swallowing a pill that should make him feel better (large and in charge) and considering Tony and Livia’s relationship the line about “the ones mother gives you” is very telling.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. There is also some foreshadowing in this episode when young Tony is playing catch with Junior. He gets distracted by his mother and is almost hit in the head with the baseball, and Junior tells him “heads up”. This is a pre-cursor to the failed hit later in the season, orchestrated by Junior and his mother. Also in ep 9, Boca, when Junior and Mikey are discussing Tony talking to a shrink and what to do about it, Junior mentions that he taught Tony how to play baseball.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. “The Sopranos feminizes the masculine..” Even the name, Tony Soprano – ( defines Soprano as “the highest singing voice in women and boys.”)

    Great point – its right there in his name!


  4. Great analysis, as usual. I have nothing profound to add here, just two little tidbits. First, I would just like to take the oppurtunity of his initial appearance in the series to recognize Joseph Siravo for his excellent portrayal of Johnny Boy Soprano. My second tidbit pertains to a funny glitch in this episode that confounds me every time I watch it. During the scene in the back room of the Bada Bing where Tony, Silvio, and Pussy are discussing the trials and tribulations of raising children while Pussy and Tony get some billiards practice in, a random guy appears sitting behind the desk with the computer monitor on it !!! He can be seen clearly right at the 20:15 mark. He is initially obscured by Vincent Pastore’s profile but comes into plain view for a second as Pussy heads back to the opposite end of the pool table to hand the cue to Tony right before Christopher makes his entrance with the stolen watches. I’ve always wondered who he is and why he wasn’t edited out of the scene. Unlike Pussy’s fleeting appearance in the mirror in Proshai, Livushka, this display seems to be unintentional given that: a) this person is an unfamiliar face to viewers of the show and b) he is sitting very stiffly and at a very odd angle, almost as if he is making an effort to shrink out of the scene. The look on his face conveys doubt about the success of that endeavor. Freaky and funny at the same time !!!!

    Liked by 2 people

  5. St. Jude also is a patron saint of desperate cases and lost causes. I don’t know how popular saint he is in catholic churches since I am not catholic myself, but I could see the statue as some kind of notion that AJ is destined to fail in both criminal and normal life.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh yeah, I remember Sean Connery saying that about St. Jude in The Untouchables. Perhaps a related AJ-St Jude connection is that if AJ believes it’s all a Big Nothing, as Livia will tell him next season, then he will also believe that everything he ever attempts or cares for or wants is ultimately a lost cause…


      • That poor kid. It’s very easy to hate AJ in the later parts of the show, but seeing these first 2 seasons the viewer is reminded that such selfish, useless and unhappy screw-ups are generally made, not born. It’s almost quite tragic if you immediately go from season 6 to any of these very early episodes, seeing this seemingly happy, relatively well-adjusted kid.


    • I think one of the major ideas in The Sopranos is the male characters holding on to this glamorous idea of the mob— classic Godfather type stuff— that no longer exists.
      Chase touches on this idea in this episode when Johnny Boy and Junior get arrested at ‘Rideland’ and are thrown into the paddy wagon alongside a clown. Earlier in the season, we get the sense that Junior laments how things in the mob just ain’t like they used to be… but I think Chase added this little tidbit to suggest that mob antics were just as foolish 30 years prior.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Jens – And how right you are!


  6. Lost opportunity: “If Tony and Carmela and the Verbum Dei school had collaborated in a more proactive way here for AJ, maybe he wouldn’t have become the flaky, suicidal criminal-wannabe that we find in later seasons.”
    You hit the nail on the head here- a major reoccurring theme is Tony was not wanting AJ to ever be involved in mafia activities. I think this is one of the most important points you have touched upon and perhaps of the entire series. We seen this during “Made in America” as Tony helped get him a job so he didn’t join the Army. After seeing the last episode I found myself asking, “how long till AJ fucks up his good forutune?” He also has stated he doesn’t have the personality and wouldn’t last long in his world. Also, he comes from “little people on Carmela’s side” lol. Perhaps if Tony and Carm took more initiative to get AJ on track he wouldn’t have turned into the person we seen at the end of the series. During the scene with the therapist at the school, we see Tony reacting like an adult AJ to what is being said. He obviously wanted to pummel that asshole doctor. Good point on looking towards AJ having ADD to overlook their shortcomings as parents, I didn’t see that one.
    I like the parallels between young Tony and AJ. The transition from present day (1999) to 1967 was done well, the Prozac, look into mirror, music, etc. This episode was necessary as I feel we gain more sympathy for Tony Soprano. Chase takes us into the “golden era” of the mob, or at least the tail end of it and we get to see a rich portrayal of Tony’s dysfunctional life as a child. Hats off to Joseph Siravo’s awesome portrayal of Johnny Boy Soprano. After watching him play this character over and over again throughout the series its impossible to imagine anyone else playing this man. He was definitely no treat to live with that’s for sure. Unlike Tony, Johnny Boy never kept Tony away from mob life and most likely wanted him involved, the complete opposite of Tony’s feelings for his son. This was a fun episode with bits of dark humor. The whole young Uncle Junior character just cracks me up- its safe to say Corrado was sporting the same look since World War 2.
    Favorite line, when Livia tells young Tony the cops just “pick on the Italians.”

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hey Ron- just wanted to add what kind of a mother would send her son out into the streets with a baseball bat during the Newark riots? Tony didn’t stand a chance with a mother like Livia.


  7. Andy the English guy

    The use of White Rabbit to underscore a gangster and his protege shamelessly gorging on the fat of the land is entirely apposite.America missed the target of those lofty 60s ideals by a long long way.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. The point that I think people are missing is that these people aren’t protective of their children. In the 60’s parents weren’t so worried about how the children feel. My Italian american parents never really worried about my was their way and that was that. Also, remember that they aren’t suffering any guilt over the way they live, and that carrying a bat is just a part of life…you have to be able to protect yourself. I think that a little bit of this would have helped Anthony Jr. Both parents, but especially Carmela are so guilt ridden and ashamed of their life, they completely have no footing in being able to discipline the kids. But Tony’s parents had no such qualms. This was life as they knew it and that’s how he grew up. It was what it was….and I think it was more honest in a way.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. David J Noone

    Johnny Boy: “Ba Ba Ba Ba Ba, nonstop! Don’t ya get sick of yourself?!” May he his best line!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Tony will use this same onomatopoeia when describing Paulie in “Remember When.” Children emulating their parents? Maybe it’s more common than I realize, but I don’t know very many people who use that particular vocable to demonstrate “this guy won’t shut up.”

      “White Rabbit” is also about a perceived hypocrisy of Baby Boomers’ parents’ generation. Grace Slick has said something to that effect in the past. They popped pills (as Tony does in the beginning) and read their kids Alice in Wonderland, and then were shocked when they explored psychedelics in the mid-60s. Ties in a bit with Tony’s concerns about AJ being “like” him.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Ah interesting about the song… White Rabbit has become a bit of a rabbit hole itself, there are so many ways to dive into it and see where it takes you…


  10. Hello, I’m Brazilian and I’m one of the biggest fans of “The Sopranos”, I’ve watched the show about ten times and I keep watching and every time I watch something new in the series, I am absolute certain Chase thought the smallest details.

    My english is still not ideal, so I ended up using google translate, sorry haha

    In this episode for example there are several facial expressions that call my attention, as well as small details that help to understand what happens in Tony’s family circle.

    In the flashback scenes, shortly after Livia threatens to stick Tony with a fork, she is in the room ironing clothes, the TV notices a fire with 11 dead and more than 600 injured, Tony tells her mother that she will play in the street and she only tells him to take the baseball bat when Tony then goes out into the street and hides in the trunk of his father’s car that will take Janice to the park and you can hear sirens from the fire engines passing by local.

    That is, Livia who had just threatened to stick Tony, knew there was a fire in the area and when Tony says that he will play in the street, she does not care to stop him, pretending that he would not care if something happened to Tony . And in the following episodes, when Livia talks about mothers who killed their babies, she sometimes cites a “big fire.”

    In the park of several Johnny is arrested and when Tony comes home, Livia is sitting on the sofa smoking a cigarette and with a happy expression on his face, tells Tony that his father will not come home. She really seemed to be very happy with Johnny’s arrest and when he gets home soon after, the frustration in Livia’s face is noticeable and she asks him what he did to get out of jail so fast.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I’m a bit conflicted about the scene where the Soprano parents dismiss the ADD discussion. Yes, a more cooperative approach is always ideal. But AJ’s diagnosis was that he did not have ADD. “Close”, but no cigar. And yes, one of the 5 attributes was fidgeting. I would think that if Chase were trying to point out Tony and Carm’s dismissiveness, he would have given AJ 6 of the 9, meaning he does qualify as ADD, but then have T and C give their rebuke over the fidgeting. To me it seems Chase is giving a bit of commentary on the labeling mentality in modern education, and the idea that every kid having some trouble must have a condition or a disease, when they might just be a kid. Of course AJ develops some pretty serious issues, but like with Tony, it’s not as simple as just labeling him with a condition and giving him a pill to pop (as is often done with ADD). Brings White Rabbit in again as well.


    • Yes, modern mental health is so much about finding the “right” category to put a person into and then prescribing the “right” pill for them. I think Chase, like most great artists, takes a much more complex view of humanity than most mental health professionals do. I go a little deeper into this in the 5.01 write-up…


      • Ron – Typically, a psychologist will work with the patient (or ‘client’) in order to determine the best course of treatment before suggesting a diagnosis. If necessary, the client will then be referred to a psychiatrists for possible medical treatment (i.e., medication). Mental health is a long-studied profession that relies upon scientifically-tested and/or proven data. Don’t underestimate the efficacy of mental health treatment!

        Liked by 1 person

    • Matteo – I’m sure that the school psychologist was well-aware that AJ’s father was a mobster and that the Sopranos were paying a large annual fee to educate the kid. Consequently, he may have been not only very uncomfortable, but also unwilling to diagnose AJ as ADHD. The Sopranos’ scorn toward the psychologist was their pathological attempt to deny the fact that AJ’s behaviours and life were anything but normal. They were always contemptuous of those who challenged them, and their faults.

      Liked by 1 person

      • P.S. Carmela told the school psychologist that she didn’t want to pay for AJ’s psychological testing. Why? Because he did not provide a diagnosis for the kid! I think that she wouldn’t have had a hissy fit if AJ was diagnosed with ADD, depression, or even a cognitive issue (i.e., learning disorder, low IQ, etc.).
        Dr. Melfi saw her car get ‘stolen’, but didn’t report it (to the police)?! (Also, she should have addressed Tony’s ‘gift’ of coffee the first time he brought it to her.)
        Dr. Melfi allowed Tony to invade the ‘doctor-patient boundary space’ between them by not immediately putting up her hands right before he kissed her. This is cause for concern, especially as this ‘boundary’ continues to be violated throughout this series.
        After Tony wakes up from his ‘naked Dr. Melfi’ dream, he touches Carmela’s shoulder, and she asks, “You want sex?” Sad.

        Liked by 1 person

  12. Here’s something funny I noticed re-watching this episode: Johnny Boy calls Livia a “f$%7king albacore around my neck!” meaning albatross, I assume.

    (I switched my WordPress screen name again, this should be the last time.)

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Max Khachapuri

    This episode is horrible….worst thing the show ever did. Literally half of it is therapy scenes recounting what just happened in the non-therapy scene.


    • It’s not one of the strongest episodes of the series, but that’s a bit harsh. Honestly I wouldn’t characterise any whole episode of The Sopranos as “horrible”. I wouldn’t *remove* anything from the show except all the New Hampshire scenes. I actually think “Pilot” might be the weakest episode (especially if you watch anything after season 2, it seems positively cartoonish), which is totally understandable for any series.

      Interestingly, when I first introduced a friend to this show, she wasn’t really interested in continuing the show after seeing the Pilot, but when I reintroduced her to the show starting with “46 Long”, she was immediately hooked.


  14. Just watched this episode. Did you notice the ducks painting on the wall in Livia’s residential community when Tony and Junior stop by to visit?

    Liked by 1 person

  15. I also think it’s interesting how we hear that Johnny Boy got arrested, but how nothing ever came of it…it just sorta went away…

    There are many people involved in organised crime whose rat~detection instincts would have started twitching here, don’t you think?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Tony got arrested a few times in the course of the series, and when we see him at the cop shop the first time, it’s clear that this is old hat to him. He was never in custody for long before his lawyer got him sprung. I wouldn’t read much into the fact that there was no follow-up about Johnny Boy’s arrest. Between a lawyer and cops on the take, he probably never had to worry too much. Things got dicier in later years, when the mob got heavily into dealing hard drugs and guys were facing serious time. That’s when there started to be more rats, people like Pussy, who was facing a lot of years for dealing heroin.

      Liked by 1 person

  16. Rewatching the series once again… and even though i’ve read all your analysis up to S6 part 2, i’m back for more.
    Wanted to mention a small connection I noticed between this episode and College. In College, during the death scene of Febby, attached to his little trailer are two lines of pennants.. those colorful flag things you can find at automalls. The camera is positioned in such a way that when Tony is killing Febby, those pennant lines are on both sides of the screen clearly visible.
    In Down Neck, Tony takes a trip in the trunk of his fathers car on the way to the fair/carnival.. when he gets there and looks through the fence to see his father arrested, pennant lines can be seen. This is the moment Tony realized his dad is not like other dads.
    In College, Meadow realized the same.. and so did we as we saw Tonys darkest side.
    Not sure if they’re present in any of season 3, as Tony takes a couple trips to an automall.. but I’m sure these pennants are just some of that good ol connective tissue.
    I guess the benefit of seeing the series so many times is you can start focusing on those littlest details that are not necessary but are truly appreciated.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. In the scene down neck, when Big Pussy, Tony, Silvio and Christopher are in the backroom of Bada Bing. Pussy moves to the end of the pool table to set up a shot on the pool table. In the background, seated in the office chair is a guy leaning back not moving. What was the deal worth this guy?

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Sorry – this is in response to your comment from above: “Yup, that’s our Janice alright. She won’t become a regular part of The Sopranos until Season 2. (That’s still six episodes away, so enjoy her absence while you can.)”
    I LOVE Janice! She is the epitome of an adult Daddy’s Little Girl – the world owes her everything and she expects to do as little as humanly possible to get what she wants. (I am one of 4 girls. Daddy’s little girl, the eldest, is 50 years old, divorced, and lives at my parents sitting on her ass doing nothing.) Janice is completely relatable.
    In your analysis of “College” you wrote “I’ve been arguing all season that The Sopranos is a new type of gangster drama, in large part because it focuses on the domestic/feminine dimension of life far more than previous works in the genre have.” How boring would Sopranos have been without these women in his life? Italian families are generally huge and everyone is in everyones business (I know, I am a Jersey Italian and married to a Jersey Italian as well). Tony’s character needed a busy-body sister to make this Italian-American family more relatable. As far as the series, Janice is the almost comical antagonist – nails on the chalkboard – and we NEED her for that comic relief in otherwise depressing or uncomfortable scenes (ie “Most of you will probably remember I have an extraordinary visual sense” at Livia’s funeral reception; “I need to watch my weight – I need to snag another husband” right after Bobby’s death; and EVERY scene with Richie and Ralphie. LOL
    Watching Aida Turturro was something special. She brought a lot to the Sopranos. The scene between her and Richie in “The Test Dream” is some of her best work on the show as well as the final scene in “Cold Cuts.” OMG – the way she and Tony fed off each other – his baiting her for a reaction that turned violent – their brother/sister/sibling chemistry felt DEAD ON!!! I also think she really shined in season 6, specifically “Soprano Home Movies” and “Made in America.” Janice thought she was *trying* to break the cycle after having her own child and being left responsible for Bobby’s children – she was failing but she seemed genuine in her efforts.
    I read that Aida Turturro walked into the audition for Janice Soprano – Season 1 was airing (or already aired) – and there were serious heavy hitters in the audition room going after the role of Janice. Marcia Gay Harden auditioned for the role and was rejected by Jim Gandolfini because, per Harden “Janice Soprano couldn’t be played by someone he’d want to sleep with.” I could not imagine anyone other that Aida playing this role.
    I think casting got it right! Janice is one of my favorite characters on the show.

    Liked by 1 person

    • CORRECTION: he scene between her and Richie in “The Knight in White Satin Armor” is some of her best work. Sorry about that.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Michelle – Love your overview of Janice! I agree – her character was perfect in her imperfections! We loved to despise her, but knew that she was able to provide just enough drama (and dark humor) to really balance out the rest of the cast. Her ability to rub salt on everyone’s wounds and screech like fingernails on a chalkboard was perfect indeed. Aida is truly a talented and remarkable actor! 🤩

      Liked by 1 person

  19. I meant to mention this before- why in God’s name would cops shoot into a playground/ carnival full of children? Even in the 60s that seems hard to believe!

    Liked by 1 person

  20. R.I.P. Joseph Siravo 2021 (Johnny Boy Soprano)


  21. ‘Down Neck’ facts:
    Tony and his (birth) family lived in an area known as ‘The Ironbound’, a neighborhood in Newark, NJ. Per Wikipedia, “Historically, [it] was called ‘Dutch Neck’, ‘Down Neck’, or simply ‘The Neck’, due to the appearance of a curve in the Passaic River. [It] was an industrial neighborhood in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Today, it is known for being a Portuguese neighborhood … but many are moving to other neighborhoods in NJ”.
    Amazing what you can find on the ‘net! 😎

    Liked by 1 person

  22. Pingback: The Soprano Onceover: #36. “Down Neck” (S1E7) | janiojala

  23. Please "Bear" With Us

    Hi Ron,

    I’ve got no brilliant thesis on this episode. Just a few points I haven’t seen other people come up with. These are all unrelated but maybe some are worth noting.

    1. When Tony confronts Livia about Reno and psychiatry, he’s sandwiched between Livia and a very noticeable white female statue. It looks like an angel on his shoulder. The youth, motherly affection, and serenity exuded by the statue feels like everything that Tony can’t have and is the antithesis of Livia (and the green statue in Melfi’s waiting room).
    2. When Tony says he wants AJ to be anything he wants to be (as in, not following in Tony’s criminal footsteps), he mentions a sausage heir who made millions of dollars “sittin’ on his ass.” I always thought the aggressive way he says that expressed a modicum of disgust at the heir’s laziness, as he spits out the words, even though he’s using the kid as an example of a better lifestyle than Tony’s own.
    3. I liked the line in the first scene where one of the kids says “This is eighth grade history!” about the theft of the sacramental wine. The history and childhood angle that this episode uses as its focus.
    4. Little Michael B. Jordan, who intimidates little Tony when he drops his candy bar wrapper is, strangely, lecturing him like a parent to pick the wrapper back up. He’s likely aping his own parents, which also exemplifies this whole episode, as a bullying method. And then the cops show up and the Black kids run.
    5. Young Junior calling for Johnny is answered by young Tony coming out the door instead. The father and son are interchangeable throughout, in the past and present, during “Down Neck.” That’s cool.

    Okay, and one last thing, I don’t know what to make of the memory of Junior playing catch with Tony, which occurs after Tony is prompted to think of his father. I like that the reason for him thinking of Junior instead of Johnny is not explained. It is surprising, though… and when Tony returns to the memory, little Tony is still standing by the stairs with the catcher’s mitt but Junior seems to have magically disappeared. Johnny and Janice walk down the steps and to the car and Junior is gone. Do you have a take on this? The unreliability of memory? Unlikely to be a continuity error.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s especially interesting that it is not Johnny playing catch in light of MSON. In the movie, Johnny Boy seems kind of distant from all his kids—and this might be one reason why young Tony bonds so strongly with his “uncle” Dickie. (Of course, I don’t think any of the nuances in the relationships we saw in Many Saints would have been in Chase’s head at the time this episode was written…)


      • Please "Bear" With Us

        Great point… I had to shove MSON out of my head during this episode, which was difficult to do. I think you’re planning to write up something on it? Though I admit I personally don’t have plans to go back to it…

        Liked by 1 person

      • I wish some of the characters on Sopranos were on MSON, especially the actor who played the (younger) Corrado and, of course, Joseph Siravo (‘Johnny Boy’). Oh well.

        Liked by 1 person

  24. ▪ I think that this is the only episode where Livia actually showed some genuine affection towards anyone. Her face lit up when AJ went to see her at the nursing … er … retirement home.
    ▪ Tony tells Dr. Melfi about his mother’s threats (i.e., sticking a fork in his eyes), witnessing his father’s arrest at the carnival, and overhearing Livia telling her husband that she would smother their kids rather than move to another state. I’m surprised and disappointed that she didn’t talk with him about PTSD. (He most definitely would have benefited from cognitive-behavioral therapy and an anxiolytic, or medication for anxiety).

    Liked by 1 person

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