Commendatori (2.04)

Tony and his colleagues take a business trip to Italy.
Carmela tries to talk Angie Bonpensiero out of pursuing a divorce.
Big Pussy reduces New Jersey’s total number
of Elvis-impersonators by one.

Episode 17 – Originally Aired Feb 6, 2000
Written by David Chase

Directed by Tim Van Patten


The “Vacation Episode” is a very common television trope, many shows including I Love Lucy, The Brady Bunch, Saved by the Bell, and The Golden Girls have had episodes that take place in some new (and often exotic) land.  We know from these earlier examples that the underlying principle of a particular show does not typically change even though the locale changes: lovable Lucy will always adorably attract trouble, whether she is wrapping chocolates in New York or stomping grapes in Italy or chasing celebrities in Hollywood.  This is true in “Commendatori” as well: the guys travel to Italy, but a core sentiment of the series—the fucking regularness of life—is as pervasive over there as it is in New Jersey.

Chase’s impulse to demythologize all aspects of life is apparent throughout The Sopranos, and it appears early in this episode.  In the first scene, the guys gather to watch the most mythological film in SopranoWorld—The Godfather—but the DVD player does not cooperate.  Paulie beats the crap out of the malfunctioning machine with his shoe.

Chase does not madly hack at our mythologies the way that Paulie does the DVD player.  His approach is more gentle, more subtle.  The mythologies that we live by are necessary and important, they integrate our values and desires and histories into a coherent whole.  They are the foundation of culture.  Chase’s interest seems to be in testing the validity of some of our myths.  Like all cultures, our American culture suffers from instances of self-blindness and complacency.  We decry foreign fundamentalisms—but hold onto our own beliefs with a deathgrip.  In my write-up for this episode, I will focus on how Chase presents Chris, Paulie, Tony and Carmela, whose personal mythologies are tied in and connected to our national mythologies.

“Commendatori” is one of the great episodes of the Season 2, full of all the great stuff we love about the series: quick, convincing portraits of characters who don’t appear again; sparkling dialogue and wordplay that never sacrifice verisimilitude; edits loaded with humor and meaning.  It is a rich and bewitching episode, one that resists deciphering or diagramming.  I’m doing it a disservice by breaking it into an analysis of the four characters (I feel like I’m putting a magic potion into a centrifuge, coldly separating out each ingredient) but I think that this is the clearest, most efficient way to diagram how I believe the episode functions.

Chris Moltisanti
Upon arriving in Naples, Chris is eager to experience its beautiful women, topless beaches, and Mt. Vesuvio.  But he doesn’t do any of these things.  (His missed trips to Vesuvio become a running gag of the episode.)  Instead, he holes up in his hotel room with his Italian counterpart, Tanno, to hit the needle.  Chris is surrounded by beauty, excitement and history but these things all take a backseat to heroin.  Last season, Chris complained bitterly to Tony that he felt the “fucking regularness” of life to be too much for him.  He yearns for his days to be filled with drama and excitement.  American culture may plant this yearning within us in a way that no culture in history has ever done.  We are endlessly exposed to a rather unrealistic definition of “the good life.”  Even a 45-second TV commercial for cholesterol medication, for example, is packed with sunny images of trips through the countryside in convertibles, and soft-lit romantic dinners, and flag-football games with cheerful friends.  Perhaps we are losing the War on Drugs not only because of bad policy, but also because our art, our media and our business sector have convinced us that happiness is achievable only with chemical help.  The central myth of Chris’ life will increasingly become the belief that banality can be escaped with a needle and a spoon.  (And the central tragedy of his life will be that drug addiction has a slow and destructive banality of its own.)

When Chris complained last season about his unhappiness, his yearning to have an “arc,” Paulie responded, “Hey, I got no arc either.  I was born, grew up, spent a few years in the Army, a few more in the can.  And here I am.  A half a wiseguy.  So what?”  He’s satisfied just being Paulie Walnuts.  But the trip to Italy precipitates a new recognition in him.  He realizes that he, Peter Paul Gaultieri, is actually a man with the long arc of history and culture behind him, going back generations, even millenia.  Because of this, everything about the Old Country becomes varnished with significance for him.  He is bursting with excitement, like a kid in a candy store.  An unseasoned traveller, he has never learned that what is novel and exciting for the tourist is very often just part of everyday life for the locals.  At an outdoor cafe, he tries out a new, exciting word, calling out “Commendatori!” to a group of men.  The men ignore him, although one gentleman does momentarily turn his head.  But the man turns back to his friends and his cigarette without even  acknowledging Paulie.  (“Cocksuckers,” grumbles Walnuts.)

chase's cameo

The man in black is, of course, David Chase himself.  He was the writer of this demythologizing episode, and by playing this particular character, he doubles his role—he personally deflates Paulie’s romantic, mythologized view of Italy.  Chris seeks to escape the quotidian by getting high, and Paulie looks at Italy through rose-colored glasses, but Chase appears here, in person, to remind us all that banality—the fucking regularness of life—is unavoidable and must be expected and accepted.

When Michael Corleone spends time in Italy in The Godfather, his experience is never dull or banal.  He gets hit by “the thunderbolt,” falling in love with gorgeous Apollonia at first sight.  They get married in a lovely Italian wedding.  Just as their idyllic life together is beginning, Michael loses his wife, in a gut-wrenching scene, to a car bomb.  But neither the DVD nor the aesthetic of The Godfather works in this episode of The Sopranos.  Paulie’s most gut-wrenching moment is finding the toilet at the restaurant to be broken, so he has to “hoof it” back to his hotel.  There are no car bombs here, the closest thing to an explosion comes from some firecrackers that a young gangster wanna-be sets off near the mobsters.  And Paulie’s prostitute is not the nubile, doe-eyed beauty that Michael Corleone’s bride is.


paulie's prostitute

Paulie gets very excited when he learns that his hooker is from the same town in Italy that his own family is from.  But she only shrugs her shoulders and scratches some schmutz off her foot.  Ariano Irpino is simply another town in Italy for her, not the seat of some mythologized history as it is for Paulie Walnuts.

Tony Soprano
Pres. Calvin Coolidge said that “The business of America is business.”  He was certainly correct, but perhaps Coolidge didn’t go far enough.  Business is arguably the religion of America as well, the central and defining myth of life in the United States.  And Tony is one of the devout.  Early in the episode, when the young family’s Mercedes Benz SUV is carjacked by two black guys, the enraged father screeches, “Fucking niggers! Who else, huh?! Who else?”  The edit answers his question, cutting to an overjoyed Tony holding Polaroids of the stolen cars.  He literally sighs with happiness at the sight of the illegal haul:

devout businessman tony

His contentment is comparable to what a Catholic feels handling her rosary beads or a Hopi Indian feels holding a kachina doll.  Money is Tony’s god, and the Polaroids represent his service to his Lord.

Tony does not seek history or culture or spiritual connection to his ancestors when he visits Italy.  He is all business.  There is a part of Tony that has romanticised Italy—his favorite scene in the Godfather movies is when Vito  Corleone returns to Italy to Don Ciccio’s home, a pastoral scene bathed in Mediterranean light and the sound of crickets.  But Vito is not vacationing, he has come to take care of unfinished business—he kills Ciccio to avenge his father’s murder.  Tony, too, makes the trip across to take care of business.  Chase throws us a bit of misdirection in one scene: when Tony is being chauffeured to the acting Don’s house, the scene is scored with sweeping music and grand visuals that capture the romance and warmth of the Old World; but the sudden appearance of the Don’s house, with its generic contemporary architecture and pop music playing in the background, snaps Tony to the fact that this trip is not about making a nostalgic reconnection with the ancestral land:

If Paulie’s problem is that he looks at Italy through rose-colored glasses, Tony’s problem is just the opposite—he barely even looks at Italy, his focus is on his ledger book.  He is trying to get top-dollar for the stolen cars, and to snatch Furio back to America in the process.  Tony doesn’t seem too impressed by the scenes of Old World charm and beauty that stock this episode.  Although Chase does not hesitate to take a broad-axe to those myths that deserve to be chopped down, he recognizes the mythical quality of some of Italy’s landscapes, cityscapes and street scenes.  Some of the architectural imagery, in particular, resound with mythic power.  Chase’s roamin’ eye captures them in abundance:

italy montage

Chase taps into Italian mythology most obviously when Tony and Annalisa visit the Cave of the Sibyl at Cumae.  It was here in Cumae that the Trojan hero Aeneas first made landfall in Italy, as recounted in Virgil’s Aeneid.  (According to the tale, Aeneas was an ancient ancestor of Romulus and Remus, the two brothers who were reared by a she-wolf and who later founded the mighty city of Rome.)  It was a Sibyl of this particular cave that guided Aeneas during his journey into the Underworld.  Tony and Annalisa descend into this place that is rich with history and myth, but Tony is still only able to think primarily of business.  Annalisa, although a cutthroat business-minded Boss herself, moves more easily in and out of the world of legend and magic.  (For example, she burns her nail clippings so that her enemies can’t use them to concoct a curse against her.)  It is she who brings up the story of the beautiful and prophetic Sibyl.  It is only at this point that Tony really thinks of something other than business—Annalisa and the legendary Sybil make him think of Dr. Melfi.  Therapy sessions are arguably the only times in Tony’s life when he explores his own myths and beliefs—Melfi acts as a guide to the Underworld of his own psyche.  (Though it must be noted that Tony often treats his sessions with Melfi as nothing more than a business seminar, using her advice to become a more effective mob boss.)  The scene in the cave, fittingly, shares a compositional element to the scenes in Melfi’s office: the characters are placed centrally, to create depth behind them and emphasize the three-dimensionality of the characters and the spaces they inhabit.  The fables and places of ancient myth, like psychotherapy, attempt to explore Man in his full dimension:

tony and annalisa in cave

Chase has a deep understanding of space, almost like an architect.  Upon rewatching this scene, I was immediately reminded of architect Peter Zumthor’s Bruder Klaus Chapel.  From outside, the chapel looks like a stone block that was dropped onto the German countryside.  But the interior feels prehistoric, almost cavelike.  Chase’s scene, like Zumthor’s chapel, uses simple forms, elemental materials, natural light and shadow to create an evocative, mythical space.

bruder klaus chapel

Even in the mystical cave, Tony is eager to get back to business.  He rejects Annalisa’s come-on, flatly telling her, “I don’t shit where I eat…It’s business.”  We know that he is attracted to Annalisa because we caught a glimpse of his dream in which desire, mythology and Italian history all converged:

tony dream as centurion

But he ignores this dream, choosing his bottom line over her shapely bottom.  His single-mindedness results in a major payday: he scores a large profit on his inventory, and gets the right to bring Furio back to the United States as well.

Carmela has mythologized the institution of marriage.  Much of this is due to her Catholic faith, according to which marriage is a sacrament and divorce is a sin.  Those who get remarried after a divorce can be barred from receiving Communion.  Carmela is distressed to hear her friend Angie Bonpensiero say that she is thinking of divorcing Pussy.  Much of Carm’s distress comes from the fact that she shares many of Angie’s frustrations.

I need to make a correction about Tony in Italy.  He wasn’t completely devoted to business during his entire visit; there was a moment, when the negotiations had completely broken down, that Tony started to make a move on Annalisa.  If Annalisa hadn’t killed the moment, it is a virtual certainty that Tony would have cheated on his wife with the Italian beauty.  Chase cuts from this scene to Angie’s house:

annalisa vs. carmela

It is an ironic edit: just after we see Tony make his advances, we see Carmela try hard to save her friend’s marriage because she has conflated it to her own marriage.  The juxtaposition of the two scenes also underscores the differences between Annalisa and Carmela.  Annalisa Zucca is a Mob Wife who has been able to achieve autonomy and fullness as a woman; she is a loving mother, responsible daughter, powerful mob Boss, respected leader and beautiful seductress.  Carmela, on the other hand, has allowed herself to be hemmed in by the restraints that the culture of the American Mafia has put on her.  Parvati is fairly accurate in her description of how women get reduced to a simple binary in the Mafia mind, and how American Mob Wives are content to live diminished lives: “MadonnaWhore is the full equation, I believe…clothes and appliances and houses…”

The four characters I focused on in this write-up use their myths and beliefs—like we all do—as scaffolding to construct their lives.  In the last few minutes of the episode, the four seem to recognize that some of their scaffolding is a bit flimsy.  Carmela looks disappointed by Tony’s return, and is becoming disabused of the Catholic notion that her marriage was consecrated by God Himself.  Chris has to buy Adriana a gift from the Newark airport, after allowing heroin to make a hash of his time in Italy.  Tony repeats twice how well they made out, businesswise, to Pussy’s questions about the Old Country, as though trying to convince himself that his financial profit makes up for all the cultural wealth he lost out on during the trip.  Paulie is quiet and looks out the car window, having learned a thing or two about enchantment (and disenchantment).  The vistas that they see as they drive back from the airport are the same sights that they’ve been looking at their entire lives (and vistas that we’ve seen in previous episodes as well):

jersey while driving1smokestack

While some of the Italian scenes and settings are heavy with mythological and historical heft, some of the American scenes in this episode are the opposite—they convey our culture’s kitschy superficiality.  Early in the episode, Pussy meets Agent Skip Lipari at the “Party Box.”  This type of store probably doesn’t exist anywhere else in the world—a big-box retailer filled with all the cheap, corny commodities that we have been convinced are necessary for our baptisms, birthdays, graduations and retirements.  At the Party Box, Pussy runs into—of course—an Elvis impersonator.  Pussy believes that the run-in has compromised him, so he goes to Jimmy Bones’ house to ball peen hammer him to death amidst his schmaltzy Elvis furnishings and trinkets.  Our consumerist superficiality is also apparent when Pussy picks the guys up from the airport, and he reduces their journey to a line from the old Contadina commercial: “Who put eight great tomatoes in that little bitty can?”  We are awash in slogans and jingles, they worm their way into our heads and we never even think to defend against them.  We are the inheritors of great American historical and artistic traditions, but it is never the words of Whitman or Thomas Jefferson that issue forth from our lips—it’s always “Good to the last drop” or “Just do it!”



  • The tendency to romanticize foreign places isn’t just an American characteristic, it is a human trait.  The senile Italian mobster Vittorio has mythologized American roads (such as the Major Deegan Expressway and Wilshire Boulevard).
  • When Tony tells the guys here that his favorite Godfather scene is when Vito goes back to Italy [in G. II], we might remember that Carmela told this tidbit about Tony to Father Phil in the Pilot episode.
  • Andrea Bocelli’s “Con Te Partiro” plays at the restaurant when Angie first tells her friends how disappointed she was when Pussy returned home.  It plays again in the final scene when Carmela feels some disappointment at Tony’s return.  We first heard the song in the season opener, and we will hear it again later.
  • Bocelli’s soaring, romantic song gives way to the pop Euro-rap “Piove” over the credits.  Chase de-romanticizes till the very end.
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55 responses to “Commendatori (2.04)

  1. Would you say it took too long for Chase to ferritt out Chris’s drug problem. He was shooting heroin for chrissake! I doubt he would have been able to maintain a look of stability over all these episodes until it was finally brought to the front and had to enter hehab. I think Chris had been relegated to a backseat role and all of a sudden it was “geez what happened to Chris we need to bring him back” Could this be a case of having to juggle too many characters and storylines??

    Liked by 1 person

    • Good point Bill, it takes more than 2.5 years after “Commendatori” for Chris to finally enter rehab. The world is full of high-functioning alcoholics but high-functioning dopefiends are pretty rare. Chris may have taken a backseat role, but characters come in and out of the spotlight throughout the series. (And besides, the long-running storyline of the FBI getting their hooks into Adriana wouldn’t be so compelling if her boyfriend Chris wasn’t a major player in SopranoLand; and “Pine Barrens” wouldn’t be the same if it was Paulie and Silvio lost in the woods.) But yeah, there might be something questionable about how long it took Chase to really address Chris’ addiction.


    • I could be wrong, but I always read Christopher’s relationship with drugs as starting just as an occasional thing he did sometimes. Way back in season one I believe that he and Brendan Filone did crank (crystal meth) together. But over time, the drug abuse grew into something bigger and uglier just as his disillusionment with his life and the path he was on “following Tony into the gates of hell”.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I agree with this. But I think Chris was burying problems he didn’t know he had. Ade “helps” him realize his father issues, which seems to open up a new world of conscious pain for Chris. Later in the series, I wonder whether Chris suspected Adriana of ratting on him; he knew something was “off” with her, even if he didn’t know exactly, or didn’t want to face the possibility of it. This factors into “relationship problems” which probably led to him using more. After going to rehab and starting AA he becomes more isolated from the crew, which makes him more lonely, and later, compounded with the guilt of Ade’s betraying him, leads him to relapse more than “occasionally.” His relapses seem to get progressively worse, too.

        Liked by 1 person

    • The Savvy Svengali

      Now that you bring that up…I wonder why the doctors didn’t find traces of heroin in Chris’ blood after he got shot later this season.


      • What difference would that have made? Even if they had, they wouldn’t have said anything to him around anyone else because of medical privacy laws, so its not like Tony would have found out about the heroin abuse because of his shooting.

        Even then there were HIPAA and other medical privacy laws, so they probably found it, but rightly would not have said anythng.

        Liked by 2 people

    • My take on that is that Chris experimented with a lot of drugs in the first few seasons but didn’t actually become a full-blown daily heroin user/addict until we see him in the Season 4 premiere, shooting up between his toes. It’s fairly common for a lot of addicts to take a little while, even a few years, to start using the drug to such an extent that they are physically addicted and/or unable to function or hide their habit. The only thing that makes it weird is that Chris would already have graduated to shooting instead of smoking or snorting, in this episode, and yet not become a full-blown addict for two more years — but it does happen.

      Liked by 2 people

    • It’s actually not that hard to be a functioning junkie. You know the saying, the problem with opiates is running out. Someone with enough money and access could maintain for a long time. Ofc, Chris does not seem the type to moderate his use in such a way.

      But Chris is undoubtedly a full blown junkie in this episode. He is not sick from the food as he mentions. He is “dope sick”. And that doesn’t happen from a few nights with a needle. I would imagine the most realistic explanation is that he had been snorting for many months and this little foray put him over the line.

      Anyway, I always thought tony’s offer of 90k per car was unreal awful. Lol you can sell them for 110 120k.

      Good episode. Loved the run down scenery of jersey at the end.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Look at be biggest rock stars of the seventies. Guys like Keith Richards, Steve Tyler, Jimmy Page, Joe Perry, all had serious heroin addictions and also other substances and made multi million selling albums, played before thousands of fans at a time, wrote hit singles, etc, etc. Yes they had minders and all that but they also did way more drugs than someone like Chris.


    • I kind of wondered at the time – is it possible the Naples mob had done a little research into Tony’s crew, identified Chris’s drug use, and purposely set up the meeting with Tanno? It all seemed pretty blatant – “Nice to meet you, here’s my arm with the obvious needle tracks, and by the way I’m not attending any of the meetings either.”
      Maybe the Naples group was trying to exploit weaknesses to get a negotiating advantage?

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Ron thanks for your reply, but I think that only goes to proving my point. Yes Chris was prominent in the “Pine Barrens” episode, but that was only to further his conflict with Paulie Walnuts, and we know his character(Sirico) was pretty much written out of season 4 given his back issue. Perhaps Chase wasn’t counting on his health issues, but in-turn this allowed him to go in a new direction with Adriana and bringing out her character. I guess what i’m saying it was more about fleshing out Adriana( her being a CW, all the action that takes place at Crazy Horse) than it was about furthering the Chris M. character. I think maybe Imperiolli wanted to do more writing perhaps, but only had two(??) of his scripts make it to production.


    • You make a good argument, especially the point that Imperioli may have wanted to focus more on writing (I believe he scripted 5 episodes). I think Chris may also have become less prominent because he mellowed out a little bit over time. He was a real hot-head in season 1 but he was overshadowed later by hotheads Richie, Ralphie, Feech, Phil Leotardo, etc. The camera tends to gravitate towards the crazy folks.


  3. I can agree with that. Chris was obviously a central character, going all the way back to the Pilot episode when they beat Mahaffy, but for “unknown” reasons ended up in the background. I never bought his character as a mob “toughie” anyway, he wasn’t physically imposing, and was weakened with his drug problem. Really enjoy your site and am anxiously awaiting in-depth breakdown of more episodes. I myself have begun buying the dvd boxsets when I can find them at a discount price.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I think it’s also worth mentioning the analogy between the cave tony and Annelisa enter and platos analogy of the cave, obviously that analogy concerns the idea that human beings are not in touch with reality and must do some introspection to see it truly ( just accept that idea for the purpose of the argument). Tonys personal journey can be seen as that of an ignorant man, who with the help of Dr Melfi tries vainly to escape his personal “cave” of beliefs, myths and biases. In this context another beautiful cultured Italian woman (” you remind me of someone” tries to help him escape his myopic money focus and allow himself to be taken in by the beauty of sexuality ( who is so exceptional she could be said to constitute the platonic ideal of a woman) but he resists, preferring the comfort of his habitual money addiction. Christopher, in a far more literal sense, regresses into his addictions which are one of the things that keep him trapped ( along with movies) and blindly striving towards the shadowy illusion of corporeal pleasure instead of gaining any real self knowledge or satisfaction as the series progresses. I believe annalisa mentions the oracles and Greeks as a way of highlighting to the viewer this connection.


  5. By the way, I forgot to acknowledge you on your excellent website! I have really enjoyed reading it and think it’s very insightful. Every time I read someone else’s soprano analysis I learn new things, it’s very exciting..

    Liked by 2 people

  6. I’d like to add my thanks for all the analysis — your perspective is always interesting and I also learn new things that escaped me during two viewings of the series.

    One issue I’ d like to raise — not related to this episode — is whether Livia really wanted Tony to be killed. It seems to me there was some equivocal talk/behavior on her part.


    • Thanks Joe. I think you’re right that some of Livia’s words/behavior were equivocal, but I interpreted that as her ability to talk out of both sides of her mouth. By purposely being vague, she makes it difficult for anyone to pin any murderous motivations to her. Even Tony had a hard time believing his mother wanted him killed (at least until the FBI played him a recording of Livia talking to Corrado).

      Liked by 2 people

  7. Fine job! Just had a question, the painting up top looks familiar, but I can’t place it.. Is it one of the impressionists?


  8. Interesting that you describe Tonys deal with Annalisa as a “mayor payday”. I interpreted the scene as him being played by her using her sexuality. She gets the price of the cars down from 90k apiece to 75k on the premise that Tony gets Furio and “other guys”. Tony repeating two times what a good deal he made in the ride from the aiport seems to me like him trying to rationalize that “a fuckin’ woman boss” got the better deal off him. You can also tell pretty instantly from his facial expressions after the deal is made that he realizes what has happened. Although maybe the actual deal wasn’t as bad as the hit to his pride, the 90k price was most probably intentionally high from the start to leave some room for haggling.

    And thank you for your great posts, they make me realize new things about each episode! This is the first thing I don’t agree fully with.

    Liked by 2 people

    • The idea that Tony got hosed in the business deal is one I’ve seen elsewhere as well, but honestly I do not really understand it. As you say, the $90k figure would never be the figure he really expected to get. So only coming down to $75k, and getting one of Annelisa’s best men, seems pretty good to me. At a minimum he would be expected to come down $5 or $10k, and that’s without Furio or any promises for more men in the future. As for his repeating the “business was good” line in the car, that seems to be more about home being unable to be happy about anything. This guy is pissed all the time, even though he knows he shouldn’t, a situation that is building. Plus he just left the old country and realized ALL he did was some good business.

      Liked by 1 person

      • AND in Italy he had a singular purpose that allowed to him to focus and accomplish a straightforward goal. Now he’s back in “beautiful” Jersey, and is faced with all of the ambiguities in his life, multiple problems he does not know how to solve, at least not as easily as he could handle things in Italy.

        Liked by 1 person

  9. I think it is noteworthy that the “sweeping music” which plays as Tony is being chauffeured is “Core ‘Ngrato” (which means ungrateful heart), the same song Uncle Junior sings at the end of Season 3.

    Liked by 2 people

  10. I tried to use a translate program to understand what the old guy at the table says in Italian right after tony says the Mercedes are made in america. I think it starts with ‘cooked by’ , but I can’t get the last part, and it may also be more telling in the gesture of the guy dragging his thumb down his cheek in that particular way. Tony immediately quips ‘ what the fuck did he say?’ But the story moves on without being answered. Anyone know this gesture or the actual translation?


  11. joegagan, I am italian and I can help you to understand the scene.

    the old guy is speaking in neapolitan dialect. he says “so’ dei figli e’ndrocchia, ah” . that means, they are sons of a bitch, but in the sense of: he’s very astute, smart, crafty guy. also added with a mix of appreciation and complicity in doing tricky business. this is all resumed in the gesture of the thumb going down the cheek

    and, this website is a great place where to have further enjoyment for this awesome series

    Liked by 3 people

  12. Fantastic write up… The last sentence really encapsulates what this episode is all about. We have great history as a species and individual cultures, but however much we choose to revere it doesn’t really matter… the pressures of current culture permeate.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks. We really see a paradox of the show here: The Sopranos criticizes certain aspects of current pop culture, and yet it’s one of the greatest works of pop culture in American history…


  13. Want to add one thing about Paulie. He realizes his rich cultural background way before this episode. In the 2nd episode of 1st season he argues with Pussy how espresso, cappuchino, pizza became american food and companies like Starbucks make money on this though italian people have no profit.
    Chase is developing this side of Paulie’s character in ‘Commendatori’ episode. And funny moment: screenwriter shows how schematic and blatant Paulie’s perception of old country is by scene where he don’t like the dish and asks for spaghetti with tomato sauce and real italians laugh at his taste.

    Liked by 2 people

  14. Good analysis, Ron. if I never hear that song during the credits again that’s ok by me! Paulie’s scenes definitely made this episode move along for me. I found it interesting but not one of my favourites. People romanticizing like we seen here in this episode is something anyone viewing this can relate to. Places, people, jobs, food, etc. We often build ourselves up in our thoughts and expectations only to be let down. Poor Paulie. Reading your autopsy has urged me to break out Season 2 and have another look at this one.


    • I think its worth another look, but then again I love all the travel episodes. I think Chase has specific reasons why he chooses certain destinations. Here it is Italy because he wants to play with its mythic status, later it will be Paris and Vegas for other specific reasons…


  15. Paulie is deeper than he seems. He wanted to get in touch with himself and his roots…These New Jersey mobsters have never been anywhere except maybe for business or maybe to an island…, so it seems so romantic, but like a lot of things it doesn’t live up to the hype. I think David Chase mentions that he purposely made Annalisa’s house unremarkable, with the rap music and the yelling at the kids so that we can see that its really all the same everywhere. Also, the garbage on the beach was horrible (and real), so Italy has a bad pollution problem as well and I doubt they are as strict about the environment as it is here. It’s all the same, ordinary when you aren’t there to sight see but only to make a deal with shady people.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Also, if Cusimano is a “White Bread Wop” as Tony says, then what must these Americans look like to these Italians from Naples I believe it is? Not a Cosmopolitan place like Rome or Milan…


  17. EVERY single time I watch this episode, I think of the movie “Step Brothers” because of the song “Con Te Partiro.” I just hear…. “boats and hoes.” Haha

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Upon my repeated viewings of the series, I have learned to observe what may be otherwise obscure because of Ron’s writeups on this site.
    Case in point: While explaining to Carmela in their kitchen that his trip to Italy was a business trip, she is cutting a roast beef with a long fork extremely similar to the one Livia wanted to stick in Tony’s eye as a child. Perhaps at that moment, Carm was experiencing the same feelings toward Tony as a husband that Livia felt towards her young son.

    Liked by 1 person

  19. I just finished rewatching this episode and enjoyed again the quietly contented look on Paulie’s face at the end, as they’re riding home from the airport, looking out at the squalid landscape along the road. He went to Italy wearing rose-colored glasses, but his experiences there gradually soured him on the Old Country. The fancy food, the filthy crapper (and Paulie is so insanely fastidious), the men at the sidewalk cafe blowing him off, the guy complaining about NATO, and finally the hooker who made no secret of being bored and totally unimpressed that this old fart’s family came from the same town. By the time he got back to New Jersey, with the graffiti and the litter and the concrete overpasses instead of beautiful Neapolitan buildings, Paul was happy to be home. All the stuff he say to Pussy in the car, about how he feels sorry for anyone who hasn’t been and advising Pussy not to put off going, was at least partly because it would have been shameful for Paulie to admit that he hadn’t really had all that good a time. They’re all putting a good face on it when they get back: Chris buying Adriana a quickie gift at duty-free in Newark, Tony boasting about the deal that Annalisa had outmatched him on–but looking and acting tense and unhappy, Paulie playing experienced traveler. The most relaxed person in that car is Pussy, of all people.
    Lots of other little moments too. After Angie beats Pussy in the face with the roses, he looks so forlorn. He knows he screwed up with his wife, plus he just killed an acquaintance out of panic, plus the Feds are riding him hard. Life’s tough for Pussy right now! Though I feel much much more sympathy with Angie, it’s a credit to the writing and acting on this show that Chase allows Pussy a moment in which we can see his human feelings if we want to.

    Liked by 1 person

  20. some of the American scenes in this episode are the opposite—they convey our culture’s kitschy superficiality
    there´s a name for this: -Burgerpunk

    Liked by 2 people

  21. 1. I like how Tony’s “Hello, I’m home” to Carm echoes Sal’s “I’m home” to Angie, after his absence. Angie says she wanted to vomit when she heard Sal’s voice again. The binary of Bocelli’s “Godly” voice and Tony’s mortal (and guttural) voice is a really fleeting example of a sacred/profane binary forced upon Carm, but also which Carm forces upon men: either saintly or flawed. Which she seems to be aware of for a brief moment: the fact that she willingly entered into marriage (a Holy Sacrament) with Tony. Earlier, Janice tries to tell Carm about the Madonna/Whore complex a lot of made guys have, but Carm isn’t having it. At the end of the episode, Carm seems to be aware that Tony has forced this binary upon her. But, at the same time, Carm becomes aware that she has this binary view of men: she defends Sal even after hearing Angie’s heartfelt disgust felt towards the man. Carm thinks Sal raised three beautiful children; she can’t see Sal as a fat, disgusting, murderer, and rat, who is ultimately building a case against Tony. The “broken home” aspect is a mere after-thought, to Carm, as if to say, no family will remain unbroken from this point in time moving forward. I like how every scene was brimming with irresolvable tension.

    2a. The tension takes the form of a conscious/unconscious binary, too, when we see a flash of Tony’s erotic dream. Tony also tells Carm on the phone that nothing is happening or going on. I.e., he isn’t actually being adulterous as per usual at home in NJ – but the “goings-on” are partly subconscious. Annalisa also toys with Tony’s head, makes him conjure up images of Melfi, and I would imagine, Tony’s lithium-fueled dream of Isabella, the mysterious, beautiful Italian exchange student.

    2b. Annalisa can be seen as a realized form of Tony’s wish-fulfillment via his “dream” of Isabella at the Cusamano’s at the end of Season 1. Tony imagines a woman, Isabella, who is an Italian exchange student living at the Cusamano’s. They’re both dark, with dark curly hair, Italian, and from the same region (“Motherland”). Whereas Isabella comes to America (in his hallucination), Tony actually goes to Naples where he finds, to his surprise, Annalisa. Her role as acting boss is similar to Tony’s role: Junior is technically “boss” but Tony is the true puppet-master. Annalisa is the puppet-master of the Naples clan. It’s almost as if Tony meets his equal. Annalisa is the Madonna/Whore: she plays a saintly-mother type who makes Tony eat before leaving. She entices him with her body, her Sybilline wisdom, and her power. Such a great episode rife with powerful symbols and layers.

    Liked by 3 people

  22. A moment of satire:
    As his stolen Mercedes is being driven away, its owner bursts out, “Fucking niggers!” His wife and daughter gasp. They have just been threatened at gunpoint and terrified by two black men, but they are shocked that he responds in this racist way, and utters that taboo word.

    Liked by 2 people

  23. In the Commendatori dinner scene, Pino (the guy to the right of Tino) says something to Tony in Italian. I think its meant to be a joke, but Tony seems to get upset. Pino then runs his thumb down his cheek. Can anyone translate this? This is the only part of the scene dialogue that isn’t translated.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It was translated a few posts before by Artefio Saturno, who said: “the old guy is speaking in neapolitan dialect. he says “so’ dei figli e’ndrocchia, ah” . that means, they are sons of a bitch, but in the sense of: he’s very astute, smart, crafty guy. also added with a mix of appreciation and complicity in doing tricky business. this is all resumed in the gesture of the thumb going down the cheek.” Thanks to Artefio!

      Liked by 1 person

  24. I like the theme of romanticing a foreign place, just to realize the regularness of life is everywhere. Its reminds me Chungking Express, when Faye Wong gets back from California after all the singing and day dreaming about it, and the cop ask how is was. She responds with “so-so, its no big deal.”
    One of my favorites.

    Liked by 1 person

  25. I wasn’t even aware he had a film coming out. Good to know, thanks.

    Liked by 1 person

  26. I wanna ask a question. What Italian song is the man on the small boat singing during sunset in the “Paulie in Italy” episode?

    Liked by 1 person

  27. Re: the painting “Ovid banished from Rome.” Ron, was that your addition? Or was it from the show? If from the show, then it’s referential to the episode, of the American Mafiosi being “banished” from Italy. Like “Mack the Knife” being a reference to a gang leader.
    On a separate note, stddgbk above mentions how you can tell by the look on Tony’s face that he realizes he didn’t get a very good deal. I find Gandolfini’s acting breathtaking, how much he can express with just his face, or just his eyes. There are 2 other times I
    come back to: 1) When he is golfing with the rich guys, and his face expresses anger, thought and then a plan before he tells the invented story of the ice cream truck in order to embellish the punchline with a “jerk off” gesture. 2). In the montage “A Very Good Year,” when Tony crawls into bed next to Carmela, and his face expresses hope for her acceptance, hurt when she turns away, anger, and then pretending to not care.

    Liked by 1 person

  28. when Tony and Annalisa play golf, she says the men will answer to a woman boss because it’s like answering to their mother, so it comes natural. after their fight on the beach, when tony is about to fly back to america and leave their business unresolved, Annalisa calls an agitated Tony down to eat, with a shrug and a warm smile, and after some resistance he heeds her call.

    Liked by 1 person

  29. About 34 minutes into the previous episode (Toddle-fucking-oo), when Meadow is cooking with her friend she is wearing a shirt that says; The Churchills, which gives the impression it’s for a TV show. Shortly after the opening of the episode 4 , when the family is robbed, The boy in the red baseball cap he wears in a Dennis the Menace style, as seen in 1950s shows like leavie it to Beaver asks their dog Churchill to sic the car-jackers. The next shot shows their surprised faces. We have been primed from episodes of Lassie and other heroic pets to expect the dog to attack and subdue the robbers instead the trope gets subverted by them letting the dog out and Churchill runs away from the family. parodying the expectations is how the mother starts the sequence by saying they do this every Sunday night. Almost like we are catching another HBO which is supposed to subvert expectations. Just like how in later seasons The have Uncle Junior parody Larry David’s comedy about people saying things they should not, or creating more trouble for themselves by rigidily arguing about norms and what is expected. I know your site is more interested in what is going on with the visuals and sound than just the dialog and that is deeply appreciated. Not many sites are devoted to visual literacy and analysis in this deep way. It can be more challenging than textual literacy sometimes. I deeply appreciate what you have given us.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks. It’s so hilarious when Churchill takes off, precisely because of what you say: it’s not how we expect the typical suburban family TV dog to act.


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