Big Girls Don’t Cry (2.05)

Dr. Melfi invites Tony back into therapy.
Furio’s arrival in New Jersey affects the
pecking order within la famiglia.
Christopher cries at an acting class.

Episode 18 – Originally Aired Feb 13, 2000
Written by Terence Winter
Directed by Tim Van Patten


We always knew that Tony would end up back in Dr. Melfi’s office.  The two are reunited for therapy by the end of the episode, but not before we see what drives them toward each other first.

Dr. Melfi’s mobster patient is the subject of much discussion in her own therapy sessions.  Her dream of Tony suffering a catastrophic car accident is a particularly rich mine that she and Dr. Kupferberg excavate, looking for meaning and clues.  This may possibly be the dream that Lorraine Bracco refers to in a 2007 Vanity Fair article:

Chase makes himself available to the actors if they have questions, although he doesn’t always answer them.  Once, recalls Lorraine Bracco, she asked Chase about a scene in which Melfi discusses a dream she’s had with her own therapist.  “I said, ‘David, you gave me this huge dream—what does it mean?’ He said, ‘Absolutely nothing.’ ‘But David, you want me to play this scene, how can I?’ ‘Well, sometimes you dream and it means absolutely nothing.’ ‘I know, but I’m a psychiatrist—dreams mean things.’ ‘Nope, this dream means absolutely nothing!’ ‘Okaay!’  It’s the way he doesn’t tie everything up in a bow after the 60 minutes.”

She may be drawn back to Tony because she feels a professional obligation to him, but it may just as much be because she has personal (perhaps even sexual) feelings for him.  Kupferberg suggests that she may be missing the thrill of treating a dangerous man (which touches a nerve and causes her to storm out of the office, much like Tony has stormed out of her office in the past).  We can’t know for sure why she resumes therapy with Tony.  Certainty is often impossible on The Sopranos, and meaning is as ambiguous as the abstract paintings on Kupferberg’s walls.

Melfi may also be sympathetic to Tony because he can be like a child at times.  She must become the “big girl” (of the episode title) to his “little boy.”  As soon as she describes Tony in this way to Kupferberg, Chase cuts—with irony—to a scene that emphasizes Tony’s brutality:

little boy

Little boys play games with baseball bats, but the bat that Tony hands to Furio in his car is put to more sinister use.  It is while he sits and smiles at the sounds of Furio’s brutal rampage inside the brothel that Melfi happens to call Tony to invite him back to therapy.  There may indeed be something childish or immature about Tony Soprano that rouses Dr. Melfi’s sense of professional obligation, but he seems more like a sociopath here than “a little boy.”

It is easier to understand what it is that drives Tony back into Melfi’s office: the stress in his life only seems to grow.  When he finds out that Janice is secretly trying to take out a loan on their mother’s house, Tony convulses with anger.  Last year, in the second episode of the series, we saw Tony twice explode with a telephone in hand.  He does it again here.

Two phones sopranos autopsy

tony destroys phone

Suffice it to say, Tony doesn’t handle bad news over the phone very well.  When he goes over to Livia’s house to confront his sister, he sees something that multiplies his stress: there’s a new psychopath in the family—Janice has hooked up with Richie Aprile.  Tony recognizes the absurdity of this domestic scene.  “Oh, look at this, Ozzie and fucking Harriet over here,” he smirks.  (The first time we see Janice and Richie together as a couple, they are in Livia’s kitchen; their relationship ends in this same kitchen towards the end of the season.)

richie, janice, ozzie and harriet

Without the therapy sessions to act as a release valve, Tony’s temper boils like a pressure cooker.  He goes after a Russian guy’s stugots at the marina after a minor sleight.  Tony tries to relieve some of the pressure by talking to his old friend Hesh.  But Hesh has problems of his own, and is unable or unwilling to play the role that Tony needs him to play.  So of course Tony takes Melfi up on her offer.  At his first session back, he does act rather like a little boy.  He basks in the fact that it was she who called him back.  He smugly dismisses the psychological roots of his fainting spells, chalking it up to genetics (having recently discovered from Hesh that his father had the same problem).  With a mischievous grin, he reminds the doctor how powerful and dangerous he is:

Tony:  I was outside a whorehouse while a guy that works for me was inside beating the shit out of a guy that owes me money.  Broke his arm.  Put a bullet in his kneecap.
Melfi:  How did that make you feel?
Tony:  Wished it was me in there.
Melfi:  Giving the beating or taking it?

The smugness falls out of Tony’s grin.  If anyone else had made such a pointed remark to him, their own kneecaps would be in danger.  Melfi is reestablishing herself as Tony’s fearless guide into his own conscience.


Furio Giunta’s arrival on American shores causes a bit of a shakeup in Tony’s crew.  Paulie gets bumped up, but Pussy doesn’t.  Pussy complains to his FBI handler, who is sympathetic (or at least pretends to be) as he too has suffered similar injustices within the bureaucracy of his own organization.  Pussy is getting pulled closer to Skip Lipari and further from Tony Soprano.

Chris Moltisanti is being pulled away from Tony and the business as well.  He still has hopes of becoming a successful screenwriter.  He has to hurry his collection visit to Dominic’s massage parlor/cathouse lest he be late for the “Acting for Writers” class that Adriana has enrolled him in.  Tony recognizes that Chris isn’t fully committed to the business as he should be.  He decides to substitute Chris with Furio for the collection job:

It is Furio’s playful gesture for the kids—hey, look at me remove a finger—that sparks Tony’s decision to send Furio to the cathouse: even his pantomimes for children carry the threat of violence.  Furio’s violence at the brothel is all the more shocking because of the way that it contrasts to Chris’ earlier trip.  Chris sauntered in, ogled the girls, made a Pillsbury Doughboy joke to Dominic, then tried to intimidate him with a fairly benign arts-and-crafts paintbrush.  The only thing that got broken was a model racecar when Dominic was pushed on to the desk.

chris at cathouse

Furio’s visit is a helluva lot more dramatic.  He smashes bodies and knocks them left and right, making no distinction between young or old, male or female, black or white.  The camera had mostly filmed Christopher from the front, but Furio is photographed from behind—we feel like we’re in the wake of a cyclone that rages ahead of us.  When Dominic is pushed on to the desk this time around, it is his kneecap that gets destroyed.

furio at cathouse

While Furio displays an unemotional, unmerciful toughness in this episode, Chris inadvertently exposes a tender side of himself.  We see him cry at his acting class while playing “Jim Stark” from Rebel Without A Cause.  Mitch, the douchey English-major-cum-Porsche-salesman, plays Jim’s father in this scene, and later becomes a stand-in for Chris’ real father (or possibly Tony) in Chris’ mind.  The boundary between real life and acting gets muddled for Chris, and he socks poor Mitch in the face during an acting exercise.  David Chase also muddles the boundary between the real world and SopranoWorld for the character of “Christopher” by repeatedly using Michael Imperioli for many of his meta-level manipulations on The Sopranos.  For example, in “The Legend of Tennessee Moltisanti”—the episode in which Chris longed for his life to have a dramatic arc of the sort often found only in fiction—Chase set a scene at a bakery that cleverly referenced Imperioli’s appearance in a previous work of fiction (GoodFellas).  Chase disturbs the real-world/fictional-world boundary once again now by having Imperioli act as a non-actor who reenacts a fictional scene from an actual film in his acting (for non-actors) class—it’s no wonder Chris gets reality and acting mixed up.  Michael Imperioli/Chris will be involved in several more of these playful moments that blur the line between life and art as the series continues.  It’s almost as though Chris’ desire to escape the “fucking regularness” of his life is so strong that his efforts propel him right out of SopranoWorld, right into that meta-level between fiction and reality.  (Fiction and reality will conspicuously intermingle in Season 6 with the Moltisanti/Cleaver storyline.  Although Chris tosses out his screenplay at the end of this hour, he is never able to rid himself of his desire to be involved in filmmaking.)



  • The Joe Pesci-imitation that Chris does is from Jimmy Hollywood, a movie about a wanna-be New Jersey actor that moves out to Hollywood but is not very successful.
  • Chris is assigned a reading from Tennessee Williams’ The Glass Menagerie in his acting class.  Last season, Adriana referred to Chris as her “Tennessee William” [sic].
  • Johnny Sac ribs Pussy for not standing up and giving him a Gangster Hug when they meet at Vesuvio.  Perhaps Pussy is wearing a wire and doesn’t want to risk it being discovered.
  • Christopher’s frustration at not being promoted up the Mob hierarchy is spotlighted when he flips through the TV channels and The Jeffersons’ “Movin’ On Up” is heard for a moment.  Those of us of a certain age remember the lyrics, “Now we up in the big leagues / Gettin’ our turn at bat…”  But Chris loses his turn at bat here—Furio is asked to pinch hit for him at the brothel (and he knocks it out of the park).
  • We know that Tony has conflated ducks with his family, and maybe that is why he gets so aggravated when Irina feeds Cheez Doodles to the birds.  It’s as though she’s treating his family with disrespect.
  • Mind-blowing attention to detail?  Or am I reading into this too much?  We are carried in to and out of this episode by white horses.  Monifah’s “Touch It,” which plays at the massage parlor in the opening scene, samples from the 1980s hit, “White Horse.”  The closing song is Daniel Lanois’ cool instrumental “White Mustang II.”
  • This is the first Sopranos episode that Terence Winter wrote.  He will become a major force on the series, penning some of the most memorable hours and profoundly leaving his mark on Season Five (which I think is the greatest season of ’em all).
  • “Big girls don’t cry,” but Melfi and Dominic’s wife both do in this hour.  So does Chris.  The episode title obviously comes from Frankie Valli’s golden-oldie.  (Another Valli-inspired title is episode 6.17 “Walk Like A Man.”)
  • Big girls don’t cry, but the ladies on the publicity poster for Two Women do.  Furio alludes to this film, amazed that he was able to catch it on American TV.  “We don’t even show this in Italy.  Nobody care,” he says.  Tony nods politely—he knows that most Americans don’t actually care for old Italian neo-realist films either.  (I imagine Vittorio De Sica’s brand of gritty realism must have been a major influence on David Chase.  In 2013, Chase told NPR that De Sica’s Bicycle Thieves is one of his favorite films.)

Two women resized
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39 responses to “Big Girls Don’t Cry (2.05)

  1. I also thought pussys conversation with his handler was interesting, he takes Tony’s earlier complaint about the low level of present day ” help” and changes it to leave out Tony’s loyalty concerns, seemingly unwilling or unable to face up to his own disloyalty, then he complains about how people these days lack honour!

    Also in the earlier scene with jonny sacks, pussy gets asked to leave the table but furio does not when tony explicitly stated furio and pussy were of equal status, obviously this emphasises pussies lowly status.

    Finally Christopher compares himself to joe Pesci, the actor who shoots him in goodfellas , this is an interesting reference to self destruction in an episode where Christopher implodes (again)

    Liked by 2 people

  2. A minor detail I noticed about the Sopranos Universe: Furio mentions that his favorite television program is “the P.D. Blue” (meaning NYPD Blue), a show which Castelluccio himself has appeared in.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. This episode is loaded with excellent scenes. Furio being added to the show added depth and shows the possible differences between Europeans and Americans. We can see this from now until the end of Season 4 when he returns to Italy. The arrival of Furio and how he dealt with Dominic was just fantastic. I actually used this scene in a film class in college when it aired. I used to copy the new shows onto VHS when they aired then bought the DVDs when released. There is a major difference in how any of the guys in Tony’s crew and how Furio handled the situation. He knew exactly what he was doing and was in total control. Perhaps the Italians are on a different level. Big Pussy or Paulie would have not went in their guns blazing like Furio did. David Proval doesn’t fail to disappoint in one of his best scenes so far. When he tells Tony to “back the fuck off” I sure thought shit would hit the fan. Funny how they nearly come to blows when Richie is making eggs…just comparing it to the Ralphie part when Tony confronts him about the horse. I hate reading too much into the shows or characters, but regarding Richie; We don’t know much about him. He seems well liked and well respected by everyone, but as Chris puts it, he has a “real attitude problem.” I wonder if this is Richie as he always was or if jail made him worse. Throughout season 2 he becomes a major threat to Tony. When there are scenes with Richie he completely takes over the scene with just presence, facial gestures or downright creepiness. This character is a true sociopath. He arguably has the best lines and sayings in the series. Like Makazian, I wish Richie was around a few more episodes. Excellent character. “Two Women is on…nobody care!!” HAHA


    • We really get a sense here of how cold and cruel Furio can be compared to the NJ guys, but as the series progresses we also sense that he has a depth, even soulfulness, that the other guys lack. Perhaps the dissatisfaction he feels living in the United States later is mainly a feeling of disappointment with the goombahs he has to work with…

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I doubt it…he found it impossible to stay in America with that temptress Carmela…that’s why he left. They all have deep feelings, but don’t forget that Furio punched that boys mother in the face in Naples when the boy shot firecrackers off!! I know the jersey guys have no trouble hitting the strippers, but I don’t see them punching anyone’s mother in the face. He was OK with everyone until he fell for Tony’s wife, then he had to leave. Simple as that.


  5. I’ve never noticed before that the reason Johnny Sack ribs Pussy for blatantly breaking protocol as a made guy by not standing up to greet him (a NY underboss no less) could be precisely because John knows Pussy’s status is in question. He’s treating Pussy the way he might treat Artie Bucco or someone like that for refusing to greet him. If Pussy were still a made guy in good status, John would have probably responded to the snub with a serious look, and it could have meant trouble for Puss. I think Puss picked up on this, too. He was thinking John should have expressed some sort of genuine disapproval of the rude gesture. The fact that he didn’t was a glaring clue that Pussy’s on childlike status with the guys. Paulie telling Puss to take a walk before they start a meeting leaves no doubt.
    And, speaking of someone else being portrayed to have a childlike demeanor among the men in Sopranoworld, Irina is on the boat wearing arm floaties. I mean not knowing how to swim is one thing but they are on a docked yacht with people everywhere.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I was actually thinking something similar about Irina recently, how she fits into a pattern… Tony’s goomars often project a kind of sultry, sophisticated image, but in reality they’re so childlike and immature. We saw Irina talk and act like a child on multiple occasions, Valentina had the sense of humor of a 9 year-old boy with all her practical jokes, Gloria was so emotionally immature that she could never sustain an adult relationship…

      Liked by 1 person

      • Beyond the semiotic, Irina not knowing how to swim makes so much sense for that character. She’s Russian….well, she’s referred to as Russian by everyone (incl. cousin Svetlana) but apparently grew up in Kazakhstan, had a hard life, and likely did not have the opportunity to go to whatever the Kazakh equivalent of the YMCA or community pool is, and learn to swim. We get great little details about these characters that help flesh them out (Tony B’s lost daughter, Paulie’s “other brother the docta wit all his bullshit”), but who knows the full story of how Irina Peltsin even ended up in New Jersey in the first place. Hopefully not in a can like those girls in S2 of the Wire.

        Liked by 2 people

      • But Svetlana, on the other hand, was a tough cookie who could hold her own with Tony! I liked that gal – she gave Tony a run for his money!

        Liked by 1 person

  6. I just noticed for the first time that “BIg Girls Don’t Cry” is playing softly in the background in the first scene at Vesuvio, when Tony is at the table with Paulie and Silvio and then Tony puts the squeeze on Artie to “hire” Furio. It’s so understated that I always missed it before.


  7. Another thing I just noticed, which may or may not be intentional: At the end of the episode, Christopher throws the bag with his floppy disks (oh, the 1990s!) and screenplay into a dumpster, sort of the way he wanted to dispose of Emil Kolar back in the PIlot (but the body was too heavy and the dumpster was too high). The screenplay is dead to Christopher now, and he stares at the bag for a moment with a look of loss on his face.


  8. Soft Drinks of Choice

    So…this is where Paulie becomes a captain, right? Johnny Sac congratulates him at dinner, so I assume its the big bump, but I don’t think Paulie is explicitly stated as a captain till Pine Barrens.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think you’re correct. With Tony assuming the role of Street Boss/Acting Boss, it was a necessity to promote (“bump”) someone to his previously held position of Capo of the Sopranos crew. Tony doesn’t explicit state that Paulie is now a Capo, although this is in keeping with the way that the Mafia conducts their business.

      One interesting facet is that the Capos will tend to only mention their position when they want to reassert their authority over others; “Don’t you remember that I’m a captain?!” is a common outburst whenever a Capo feels that they are not being afforded the proper respect and obedience that the position is supposed to impart. .

      Liked by 1 person

  9. about the white horses: I think it’s a great catch.
    – “white pony” can mean cocaine (in music: the classic Deftones album denotes the same theme of cocaine/drugs/sex).
    – Monifah is black, but the sample, “White Horse” is from a Danish (white-Caucasian) electronic group.
    The lyrics are simple:
    – the White Horse in the Biblical tale of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse has mixed meanings: it has been interpreted as the Christ, and also the Anti-Christ, as prosperity and also as disease. This illustrates numerous binaries: good/evil, prosperity/disease, calm/war, pure/impure, etc.
    …on the theme of “white pony” as drug slang: the song “White Slavery” by Type O Negative is a play on the phrase which refers to white prostitution (Epstein’s recent suicide should be enough to remind us of related binaries: freedom/enslavement, torture/pleasure) while the band twist it to the end of discussing cocaine addiction (the lyrics include the line “Coke is it” which ironically refers to a 1980s ad-campaign for Coca-Cola || note: the “crack epidemic” the War on Drugs sought to end, targeted poor black people – the Coca-Cola ad targeted white people; also a note on race/class: crack was/is associated with poor black people, while cocaine was is associated with rich white people.
    -Furio attacks the owner of the prostitution ring (white slavery) who’s busy spending money he doesn’t have on cocaine (white slavery, again).

    Liked by 1 person

  10. woops.

    1. Lyrics from Laid Back “White Horse”:

    If you wanna ride
    Don’t ride the white horse

    If you wanna ride
    Ride the white pony

    2. connective tissue: AJ has a Type O Negative poster in his room

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Tony destroying the phones reminds me of DeNiro doing the same in the phone booth upon hearing that Tommy was whacked.

    Liked by 3 people

  12. Ron, another excellent write-up. While my tastes change regularly, I probably like Season 2 the best (I know you referenced S5 in this write-up.) The beauty of The Sopranos is it’s similar to listening to the music catalog from a favorite band. Tastes change, small details are noticed, new favorites emerge.
    As much as I hated (HATED!) Richie Aprile, I now wish they’d have kept him around longer. Proval is an incredible actor and provides small nuances to the character to make him quite unique. His jerky mannerisms and floating eyebrows are perfect. Watch the scene at his hideaway when Gismonte and Bevilaqua visit (when Richie makes the “natural canopy” joke) and notice Proval’s expression/eyebrows when he speaks. So good.
    My point today is the kitchen scene between Tony and Richie. It’s incredibly intense. The expression on Tony’s face when Richie moves toe-to-toe is priceless and demonstrates why Gandolfini had no equal. Tony is pissed, curious, seething and amused – all from his expression. Richie with that dripping fork in his hand…wow. One of my favorite scenes from the series. Yeah, I’d have loved to have Richie around for a while longer.
    Thanks again for this wonderful masterwork of a website. Any guesses when you will finish with S6 Part II? I’m knocking out 3-4 eps per week! :-O

    Liked by 1 person

    • The remaining write-ups for S6 are proving to be very complicated and time-consuming, plus the hectic holidays are coming up… It’s gonna take some months to complete


  13. I thought it was interesting that Chris was so good at acting! He’s a terrible gangster and longs to be in showbiz but throws his acting dreams and talents away. How sad.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Many thanks for this, Ron. I see sense in the idea that Mitch represents Tony to Chris as much as his dead father. What tips him over the edge into violence is Mitch saying ‘a’, which is reminiscent of Tony saying ‘ey’ (hey).

    Liked by 2 people

  15. notice how when jennifer calls tony back to therapy, she’s using the same “ditzy girl” body language as in toodle-oo? very subby and deferential, like a young woman in love. yet she’s very confrontational and challenging when tony comes in to therapy, and she treats tony’s session like it’s a battle of wits; a personal challenge for her, as elliot warned. where was it in the series it was implied or speculated that jennifer wanted to control powerful tony? i think that’s exactly what she’s doing here. tony: fuck you. you know who i am, you know what i do.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I don’t remember if there’s a specifc episode where it says she does however I did notice that the writer’s made a choice to have Dr. Melfi on top of Tony on S5E01 during her sex dream which for me implies that one of her many motives of continuing to see Tony includes the need to control him to the best of her abilities as his psychiatrist.

      Liked by 1 person

  16. Pingback: The Soprano Onceover: #82. “Big Girls Don’t Cry” (S2E5) | janiojala

  17. Fun fact: i was watching Gotti by Robert Harmon (1996), a real interesting tv film made by HBO that i think paves the way for The Sopranos. In an important mother scene in the ending, when Sammy Gravano takes it out on John Gotti he says “Do you remember Me and You?… (our motto) You bark i bit?”, Gotti and Gravano motto became the name of Cristopher’s screenplay 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Biscuitsngravy

    I am a huge fan of your site. Thank you so much for taking the time to write all these and share them with us. I can’t watch The Sopranos without reading these alongside each episode. One of my favorite things about the show is that you see something new every time you watch, and this episode really hit me in a new way this time around. The title is something you would say to a child to encourage them to act more adult, and this whole episode seems to be kids masquerading as grown-ups. The line that brought it all home for me is when Christopher suddenly attacks his father substitute, and the teacher says ‘we don’t hit!’ Janice and Richie are playing house in her mother’s house. Dr. Melfi is throwing temper tantrums. Christopher is acting out. I love that someone mentioned Irina’s water wings – it makes her so child-like and Tony scolds her like he is her parent. Tony seems frustrated that he HAS to be the grown-up in this episode when everyone else is so immature. When Dr. Melfi asks ‘giving the beating or taking it?’ The reason that answer is so difficult is because when you are an adult, you can see the difficulties and advantages of being a child and being an adult, where children can only see it from the one perspective. Is the freedom of adulthood negated by its responsibilities?

    Liked by 1 person

  19. Talk about a weird, convoluted, ‘I love you/I hate you’ relationship! There’s a ton of sexual tension between Dr. Melfi and Tony that is (thankfully) never consummated. By season 6, their mutual ‘attraction’ seems to dissipate. As Letorney (May 2020) succinctly noted, “[Their] therapy sessions serve more as self-indulgent plotlines with each feeding off the other’s curiosity and desires”. Melfi was right – both professionally and personally – in rebuffing Tony’s advances! 😏

    Liked by 1 person

  20. Red flag:
    Melfi: “Bringing Tony back to therapy would be very therapeutic for me”.
    Kupferberg: “It’s not supposed to be therapeutic for YOU!”

    Liked by 1 person

  21. Richie stirring EGGS with a FORK. There must have been 50 dozen eggs used in this series. And the fork? Shades of Livia I would say!

    Liked by 1 person

    • What the fuck are you talking about? You mean whisking the eggs with a fork before scrambling them? Who hasn’t done that a hundred thousand times?


      • 87 – Surely (or Shirley) you can’t be serious? There has been a lot of discussion about f*king eggs throughout this blog. Keep reading. You might learn something.


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