Employee of the Month (3.04)

Dr. Melfi is brutally attacked.
Janice pays a price for stealing Svetlana’s prosthetic leg.
Ralph Cifaretto and Jackie Jr. do some male-bonding
as they beat the crap out of a business associate.

Episode 30 – Originally Aired March 18, 2001
Written by Green and Burgess
Directed by John Patterson


Very few Sopranos episodes have had as much written about them as “Employee of the Month” has.  And understandably so.  It is a sharp and powerful episode, and one of the highlights of the series.

The hour starts off with the return of some familiar faces: Irina, under the pretext of trying to help recover Svetlana’s stolen prosthesis, tries to reconnect with Tony; and Richard LaPenna is back together with Dr. Melfi.  While Irina’s return becomes more of a substantial storyline in later episodes, it is Richard’s return that is consequential in this one.  We first met Richard in “The Legend of Tennessee Moltisanti” where he functioned as the meta-mouthpiece of all those critics that had a problem with the series’ violence and/or depiction of Italian-Americans.  Richard spoke for those who felt that HBO should drop The Sopranos.  Now he speaks for those that feel Melfi should drop her client Tony Soprano.  He tries to get Melfi to hand her mobster-patient over to a behavior-modification specialist.  Melfi insists that she is making progress with him, as evidenced by the significant breakthrough they had last week.  Perhaps there was something profound and revelatory in last week’s session, when she made connections between food and violence and Tony’s panic attacks.  But we had a sense that Tony was not nearly as impressed by this “breakthrough” as Dr. Melfi was.  And this is immediately clear in their first session of this episode:

Melfi: Did you bring your log?
Tony: My log??

Tony doesn’t even remember that he was supposed to keep a record of his thoughts and associations over the last couple of days.  Melfi gets frustrated.  How can she help a man who is not willing to help himself?  Taking the advice of Richard and Dr. Kupferberg, she begins the process of halting Tony’s therapy, bringing him a brochure for treatment somewhere else.

Tony’s therapy is a perhaps the central conceit of The Sopranos; the very first scene of the series took place in Melfi’s office.  It is easier to believe that major characters on the show will be killed than it is to believe that Tony’s sessions will be halted.  If Melfi strongly believes that her time with Tony must soon come to an end, then it must be an equally strong event that changes her mind, and allows the central conceit to continue…

The violation of Jennifer Melfi in the stairway of her office building is perhaps the most visceral, credible depiction of rape that has ever been seen on American television.  The entire attack is about a minute long, and Chase pulls no punches in that long minute.  Nor does he include any gratuitous moments.  In her essay, “Tony’s Options: The Sopranos and the Televisuality of the Gangster Genre,” Martha Nochimson does an excellent breakdown of the scene.  She notes that the brutality of the attack is emphasized by the dark color scheme, the cold building materials of the stairway, the lack of sunlight, and the absence of all sounds other than Melfi’s screams and the rapist’s grunts.  By shooting the rape through the black bars of the staircase, our sense of Melfi’s entrapment is heightened.  Martha continues:

The supreme achievement of the composition is to dehumanize the act as few media portrayed rape scenes do. The aesthetics of the sequence convey the essence of rape as anger and hatred, leaving not a shred of romanticized intensity for old stereotypes to cling to.

the rape of melfi

Jesus Rossi is arrested for the crime and it seems like justice will be served.  But SopranoWorld, like our own world, can sometimes be an absurd place.  Rossi is released on a technicality.  Despite Jennifer and Richard’s protests, nothing can be done about it.  Jen Melfi, however, can take another avenue to reach justice.  She unwittingly discovers that Rossi works at a local fast-food joint when she sees his “Employee of the Month” photo tacked up on the wall.  She can now sic her mobster-client on her attacker if she wants, all she has to do is say the word.

Tony Soprano has a power and a resolve that the police and Richard LaPenna do not—or cannot—have.  This contrast between Richard and Tony is highlighted through camerawork and the juxtaposition of two scenes.  Richard comes into Melfi’s bedroom (gently knocking and asking it’s ok to enter first) and vents his frustration at being hamstrung by the law.  The camera first captures his fists as they clench in anger, but then comes back to his relaxed hands as he admits that he is powerless to do anything more.  Chase cuts immediately from this image to an extremely low angle shot of Tony that amplifies his size and strength.  He confidently, powerfully swings his axe to split some firewood.

fist of fury


lumberjack tony

Tony can cleave Rossi in half as forcefully and easily as he does this wooden log.  (“Chopping a log” can also be seen as the masculine inverse of the more effeminate “keeping a log” of thoughts and emotions which Melfi had, in vain, asked Tony to do.)  It is Tony’s animal nature that makes him a difficult client, but it is precisely this beastliness that Melfi finds so appealing right now.  Tony appears as an animal—a protective Rottweiler—in a dream that she has soon after the attack.  Like all Sopranos dream sequences, this one is permeated with ambiguous images and is open to interpretation.  I find it interesting that, in her dream, it is a soda machine that she gets her hand stuck in, in light of the fact that it was soda that she dropped in her shock at seeing Rossi’s picture at the fast-food place.


The soda thus connects Melfi’s dream (essentially a revenge fantasy) to Rossi’s known place of employment, underscoring how easy it would be for Melfi to wreak vengeance through Tony: she can give Tony and his goons the precise coordinates of Rossi’s whereabouts.  In her own therapy session, Melfi and Eliot analyze the contents of this dream, and it becomes clear to her that it would be very satisfying to use Tony to squash her attacker.  But she assures Eliot, “I’m not going to break the social compact.”

She seems less sure that she will follow civilization’s rules when Tony is actually in her office.  Sitting in front of her potential savior, Melfi loses countenance.  She shakes and weeps.  Tony, in an automatic and tender gesture, rises from his seat to come closer and comfort her.  Dr. Melfi begins to regain her composure and sends him back to his chair.  When he asks, with genuine concern, “What…?  You wanna say something?” it is Jennifer Melfi’s moment of truth.  She composes herself, and then firmly, unambiguously, says “No.”  Chase cuts to black and delays the roll of the final credits for a few moments to allow us to grasp the full significance of her decision.

David Chase gave his thoughts on this final scene to Entertainment Weekly for the article, “Chase ‘n’ the Russian”:

If you’re raised on a steady diet of Hollywood movies and network television, you start to think, ‘Obviously there’s going to be some moral accounting here.’  That’s not the way the world works.  It all comes down to why you’re watching.  If all you want to see is big Tony Soprano take that guy’s head and bang it against the wall like a cantaloupe…The point is Melfi, despite pain and suffering, made her moral, ethical choice and we should applaud her for it.  That’s the story.


Two episodes ago, at her mother’s funeral, Janice confronted Svetlana about the record collection that Livia bequeathed to her.  Last episode, Svetlana refused to hand the records over, so Janice stole her prosthetic leg.  Tony had warned her that Svetlana had Russian mafiya connections, and now she gets her comeuppance.  She returns the leg after getting a solid thwack from a Russian thug.  When Tony goes to pick Janice up from the hospital, she seems to have turned a corner.  She genuinely wonders how she could have fallen so low as to steal a prosthetic leg.  She decides to put her faith in the Lord, and her wide-eyed expression is somewhat typical of those who suddenly find God (or, more accurately, decide to suddenly find God).  Carmela had a similarly glazed expression after suddenly “re-finding” God in episode 2.09:

glassy eyed

Both women turn to religion when confronted by violence: Carmela after Chris is shot in a gun battle, and Janice after she suffers at the hands of the mafiya.  Carmela’s newfound religiosity didn’t last long—she abandoned reading the Bible and went back to her usual popular fiction before the episode ended.  Janice will wear a pose of religiosity for some time (much as she wore the “Parvati” façade last year), and will try to parlay her faith into a money-making scheme before abandoning it altogether.  Tony has been down this road before with his sister, and he knows that her faith will be a relatively short-lived thing.

We can compare Janice to last year’s religious Carmela, and we can contrast her to this episode’s non-religious Melfi:

janice vs melfi

In fairness, I can’t say for certain that Melfi is not religious—we simply never see her make any expressions of faith, not even in this episode when she greatly suffers.  Janice and Melfi are both battered here, and the images of their bruised faces serve to link the two.  But the way in which they respond couldn’t be more different.  Janice turns to an easy faith with glassy-eyed fragility, while Melfi turns away from an easy solution with steely-eyed strength.  Janice hands all responsibility over to God, but Melfi takes responsibility for her own future.  While Janice uses religion as a crutch, Melfi remains upright by refusing to utilize Tony for revenge.  While Janice clings to Christ, Melfi lets Jesus go (Jesus Rossi, her attacker).


Nancy McGuire Roche devotes an entire essay, “Honoring the Social Compact: The Last Temptation of Melfi,” to this episode.  She provides a keen analysis, focusing mainly on the gender issues that arise in “Employee of the Month.”  She writes:

The female body is a subliminal topic of narrative in this episode.  In the segue directly after Melfi learns her attacker has been set free, there is a brief scene in which the screen is visually dominated by the nearly nude forms of strippers in the Bada Bing…The message of this segue is perfectly clear.  This is the social compact.  Women may dance naked with thugs and goons nearby to protect them.  Men may watch only if they mind their manners and offer money in homage…The strippers of the Bada Bing are valuable: they make money.  Yet they are the property of the Bada Bing while they are in residence.  In their assent to being viewed as property of the strip club, they need never fear rape or violence (at least within the club).

Roche may be correct that the Bing girls are protected from the men by thugs and goons.  But who protects them from the thugs?  Two episodes from now, stripper Tracee will be the victim of Ralphie’s violence. 

Roche notes that women are portrayed in a variety of ways within “Employee of the Month.”  Adriana appears at Vesuvio in a tight red dress that would capture the attention of any man.  Ginny Sacrimoni, first introduced in this episode, has a body that also captures men’s attention, but in quite the opposite way–the guys laugh at her and try to top each other’s “fat jokes.”  Melfi herself runs the gamut of seductiveness: early on, she’s dressed in a sharp, sexy business suit; at home with Richard, she wears comfy clothes; after the shock of Jesus’ release, she turns into a frumpy woman.  (Becoming unattractive is a way of protecting herself from another attack, notes Roche.)


“Employee of the Month” can almost be considered a stand-alone episode.  But it’s not, there are too many other things going on.  John Sacrimoni, a captain of a NY family, has raised Tony’s hackles by moving to New Jersey.  (Like many New Yorkers, he wants to take advantage of New Jersey’s property values and lower congestion.)  Assemblyman Ronald Zellman, sitting comfortably in the mob’s pocket, is forging ahead on the Riverfront Esplanade project.  Meadow is still on poor terms with her father over Noah.  And Jackie is getting pulled into the mob, despite Tony’s wish to keep him out.

In the previous episode, we saw Tony try to prevent Jackie from becoming involved in criminal activity.  In this episode, Ralph undermines Tony’s efforts.  Ralphie is now dating Rosalie Aprile, and he wants to bond with her son.  So he takes the young man with him to a collect a debt.  Bashir seems genuinely surprised to see Ralph now appear at his business and demand the money, as a future date for payment had been agreed upon.  It seems quite possible that the only reason Ralph picks a fight with Bashir is to strengthen his relationship with Jackie Jr.  The two men pound on their victim (dirty fighter Ralph tells Jackie to hit him “in the breadbasket”) before Ralph hands Jackie some money that he fished out of the battered man’s wallet.  By contrasting Tony and Ralph’s relationship to Jackie (Good Father vs. Bad Father), Chase begins the process of turning Ralph into one of the arch-villains of the series.  It simultaneously increases our sympathy towards Tony.  Soprano may be a criminal, but he’s not as bad as Ralph Cifaretto.  This narrative paradigm was established last season—with Richie Aprile—and Chase will use it again in future seasons.

I’m not sure if it’s a parallel worth noting, but here goes: Ralph smashes a model airplane when he goes to bash Bashir; we might remember that when Chris went to dominate Dominic in episode 2.05, a model car was destroyed.


It’s almost as though Chase is saying once you get involved with the mob (or it gets involved with you), everything else takes a backseat.  Any hobbies or outside interests that you may have are bound to be crushed.



  • Janice is trying to learn how to play the Stones’ “(Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” on her Fender when the mafiya visit her.  She has sought “satisfaction” previously in Hinduism (“Vishnu and Richard Alpert,” Tony reminds her) and Animism (“the Coyote Spirit”), and now she tries to find it in Christianity.
  • In this episode which aired less than 6 months before the 9/11 attacks, Gigi tells the guys that more of our tax money should go to fighting terrorism.  (Residents of NY and NJ, like Gigi, were probably more cognizant of the threat of terrorism than the rest of the country at that time due to their proximity to the 1993 WTC attack.)
  • The Code of Silence: One of the most problematic issues between Tony and Melfi during their therapy sessions is his oath of omerta—he can’t truly open up to her if he is to live by the Mob’s rules.  The tables have turned in this episode: it is Melfi who must remain silent if she is to live by the rules of her society—she must not mention one word about the rape to Tony Soprano.
  • I try not to read Todd VanDerWerff’s episode write-ups at AVclub.com until I’ve mostly completed writing my own episode summary; in general, I agree with his thoughts so strongly that I fear I will subconsciously pilfer his words and ideas if I expose myself to his analysis too early.  He gets to the core of this hour with typical clarity: “Here’s the thing about ‘Employee of the Month’: the only thing Melfi gains by making the right choice at episode’s end is her soul.”  He’s right to find this surprising: typically in SopranoWorld, people make choices in order to gain power or material wealth—the soul is rarely any character’s primary concern.
  • The line from Gladiator that Ralphie repeats connects to this idea of Melfi gaining her soul: “What we do in life echoes through eternity.”
  • Daniel Lanois’ “Fisherman’s Daughter” plays over the end credits.  Chase uses a section of the song that has no vocals, which adds to the power of the final scene—Melfi’s stern “No” in effect becomes the final word of the hour.  Lanois’ atmospheric soundscapes are used in the end credits of at least two other episodes.
  • Maurice Yacowar notes that the episode title “Employee of the Month” could also refer to other characters in addition to Jesus Rossi: 1) Gigi Cestone, who is made Captain over reckless Ralph; 2) Jackie, who had pissed himself in the Rutgers holdup but is nevertheless praised by Chris here for handling himself well.

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60 responses to “Employee of the Month (3.04)

  1. I feel like this episode is a little bit overrated. Firstly, it felt a little cheap and emotionally exploitative to have Melfi be violated like that, like tick box for controversy type deal. It was never set up ( the rape) nor was the conflict resolved in a satisfactory way, having read av club it does make a lot more sense as a parable, I just didn’t like the idea of throwing a random horrible even in there.

    Secondly, ( and this is my real problem with the episode) it was hard to see melfis choice as anything other than an sad settling for third best, so her rapist got off Scott free, what a disgrace, and Chase is judging the average person for wanting him punished? I find that extremely patronising. This idea that vengeance is morally wrong is itself questionable. Even av dude ends up justifying his points by saying ” it’s wrong” which isn’t actually an argument ( rather is begging the question). If the rapist had gotten a prison sentence I could at least have felt like there was some justice in the world now sadly not every racist gets punished but……….is david chase cormac fucking McCarthy or what? I thought it was depressing how it ended and would have loved to see furio chop Jesus into tiny fucking bits (or would that violate some imaginary contract? Boo fucking hoo I’ll take the black dog over the leviathan any fucking day if it means the difference between a rapist getting off Scott free and justice being served)

    The Janice storyline works as a kind of connected ( watch people suffer for their principles) thing. Svetlana suffers because of her dignified refusal to respect livias wishes, notice we see both her and Melfi on crutches this episode, the difference is Svetlana uses force to get what she wants ( and reaps the reward)

    Liked by 1 person

    • I understand your criticisms, the question of vigilante justice and whether or not Melfi ultimately did the right thing are issues that can certainly be debated and discussed. But purely from a narrative standpoint, David Chase had to have Melfi say “No.” If Dr Melfi had utilized Tony for vengeance, that would have been the immediate end of her storyline on the series – there is no way, as professional and upright as she is, that she would continue to see Tony as a patient after asking him to be her personal hitman. She becomes less of a significant character as the seasons progress, but Chase was not willing to get rid of Dr. Melfi just yet – and so the boundary between herself and Tony had to remain standing…

      You make a good observation about how Janice and Svetlana are used in this hour, and their stories here seem to complicate the moral questions about vengeance and vigilantism even more.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Wrong. She is 100 percent Italian and Tony is her patient. In real life she would have given Tony the word and had justice served. As someone else said, Furio would have made the SOB suffer in the worst way, leaving him to die a slow and painful death.
        Melfi was comtemplating having Tony go to another therapist and that’s what would have gone down in real life. No moral shit to contemplate. Shame on the directors for doing it this way and not having this avenged and fucking with us viewers; not the Italian way.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Glenn MacDougall

          “Not the Italian way.” That’s ridiculous. Have you not been paying attention? Because Melphi is Italian she is going to act like the 5000 Italians that are associated to the mob? What? The reality is the experiences of those 5000 members and associates is not the Italian way at all, not when compared to the Italian population and the American Italian experience as a whole.

          Liked by 1 person

    • This episode is an example of why I love the series. Justice was not served. Just as is often
      the case in real life, justice was not served even when it was so richly deserved. Rape is shocking!!

      We felt the confusion, and the pain and the violation of Melfi, and it hurt because we had spent
      so much time getting to know her. It would be weird if we didn’t feel a desire for vengeance
      on Melfi’s behalf. But as the series so consistently shows, everything and everyone Tony touches,
      turns to shit, and it was brilliant that Melfi was strong enough to say “No!” when even we viewers couldn’t.
      If she had said “Yes”, she would have joined the ranks of the corrupted and eventually destroyed.

      Not taking a cheap shot Cameron, but I couldn’t help noticing your typo which inadvertently illustrates
      what so many of us in America feel each time a law enforcement officer unjustly kills a citizen
      but faces no consequences:
      “now sadly not every racist gets punished but……….”
      It is depressing, just like the episode.

      This episode is a bottleneck. Many of my friends and family could not watch another episode
      after this one. It crosses a line in TV, and a line in our American mythos. Watch yourself! If you can.

      Liked by 3 people

      • I really like the lady you quoted Ron. So much of what is upsetting about the violence the men do to women and the reaction of the men has nothing to do with the actual victims and what the victims wnat but is really about those men’s feelings of power. Juts like inthe first season Some of those mobbed up fathers have exploited lots of young women and girls. They goto the Bada Bing. They even brought the man who coaches their daughters to the Bada Bing to have fun with women who are paid to be there yet. They got angry when he decided to take advantage and impose his will on the wrong, young girl. It’s not that I think what the coach did is alright or the rapist should be given a pass. It has to do with Melfi’s agency and what she wants. If Melfi had decided to personally get her revenge that would work she would not be compromising herself. But if she had Tony do it for her then it would be. We have seen in the past two seasons who Melfi is. There is a lot of twisted stuff about gender in the show. But that is because in our patriarchial world there is a lot of twisted stuff about gender.

        Liked by 1 person

    • While my first response was “Tell Tony!”, she really can’t do it because it will change the dynamic of her relationship with him. Being a victim of this type of attack myself, I know that Jesus will rape again, and they will catch him because he doesn’t try to hide his face. Then maybe they will call Melfi down to the station and add her ID to the other women, thereby adding more charges to him.. Justice will be served eventually. Just not immediately. I don’t think her motivation was because she felt morally wrong to have Tony beat or Kill him, I think she saw the big picture and realized she couldn’t do it because she has to maintain a professional relationship. We don’t all have a gangster at our disposal to protect us.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. I think Chase also invites us to contrast the attacks on both Tony & Dr Melfi through the use of walking sticks.

    Not long after the attempt on his life, Tony meets with Melfi in a roadside consultation & is using a walking stick which rattles around as he tosses it into her car. When Tony first visits Melfi after the attack on her, she also uses a walking stick & almost jumps into next week when it crashes to the floor behind her. While Tony is showing no outward signs of shock at his attack & in fact appears to have welcomed it on some level, smiling when he says ‘Talk about getting a jolt to the system, try getting shot at’, we see Melfi is still suffering the effects indicating she has probably has returned to work to early.

    Prior to his attack Tony was barely functioning with a mix of deep depression & a cocktail of drugs while Melfi had admitted to her therapist she was drinking alone, drinking between patients & using sleeping pills. Luvox is prescribed, the common side effects for which don’t make for good reading . During their last sessions together in S2 Tony comments “you seem like you’re on drugs” while Melfi admits “I became frightened of you”. Tony’s numbed state almost costs him his life while Melfi, having seen Tony earlier on the day of her attack, almost certainly was not as aware as she otherwise would have been in spite of talking to Richard on the way to her car.

    Would Tony have become such an easy target for his uncle if he hadn’t sought therapy? Would Melfi have been as vulnerable in a deserted garage if Tony hadn’t returned as a patient?

    Liked by 1 person

  3. One thing I found really interesting about this episode was how, like most characters in The Sopranos, even the rapist is humanized somewhat. He’s a some random guy working at a restaurant and even more, he’s Employee of the Month. It’s a strange thing to consider, that a person who could do something so awful isn’t a complete monster and is even *celebrated* in other walks of life. From a viewer’s perspective you can see how this is possible but from Melfi’s it must seem like such an outrage, maybe downright disturbing.

    Love this episode. Melfi’s final decision is a standout moment of the series

    Liked by 4 people

  4. I also noticed that in the final scene, Tony is wearing all black/dark, making him resemble that Rottweiler in Melfi’s dream. Melfi must’ve indirectly felt it, maybe subconsciously pushing her to break out in tears to elicit a protective reaction from the prospective protector (Rottie/Tony).

    Liked by 3 people

  5. Interesting observation about car and plane models crashing. It becomes more interesting if we remember that we see train model crash in Bobby Bacala assassination scene.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Good analysis Ron. When this episode aired….everyone was talking. It certainly outraged a few people. (When university aired that was too much for some people) This episode is one that sticks in a person’s mind, possibly just over the rape scene, which is only a minute of the episode. You brought up an excellent point on the minimization of Richard explaining to Melfi he “can’t” do anything and let it to the police. Then we see Tony chopping wood…great parallel. I don’t think there is anyone who didn’t want Tony to get revenge for Dr. Melfi. (That would have been a great scene) As you and some commentators stated above, in this world these things happen. It’s not right, or fair, or even makes sense. This is as real as it gets. Some asshole down at the PD makes a stupid mistake and this asshole walks. Nice system. It’s a shame because Melfi has Tony and all he is capable of at her disposal but she is too moral of a person to become engaged in any acts of retribution. It was a major let down but completely necessary. Like you said, if she would have involved Tony she would loose all credibility. Im in total agreement with Mamjja- this was a very depressing episode. Regarding Ralphie, I was excited to see Joey Pants on this series. He played a great part and has demonstrated some of the best acting this show has to offer.

    Liked by 1 person

    • One of the things that Chase did that I loved is that he touched upon Melfi’s rape again in season 4, about 1.5 years after this episode aired. The rape is such a massive event within the show and in Melfi’s life, a lesser series might have revisited it in a massive, showy way – but Chase comes back to it with a lighter and (I think) more realistic touch. We see in “The Weight” that although life has gone on after this horrific act, there are still remnants of trauma and anger and regret, not only for Melfi but for her family as well…

      Liked by 1 person

      • Love the analysis you do here Ron, just found the site after a rewatch and now enjoy going back and watching specific episodes or scenes. You’ve really shown me how to take in more story than just the dialogue. Thank you for that.

        I always viewed Melfi’s hand reaching inside the machine for her purchase as symbolism for the consequences if she told Tony. Beynd the social contract dilemma, she can’t get what she wants from him without becoming trapped and indebted to him in some way. If she gives up on getting what she wants from him, she can more easily extract herself from him.

        Liked by 1 person

  7. Ron your analysis is awesome and I’m really digging working through your website.
    I’m thinking the crushing of the models could be an allusion to godzilla/monster movies, like the mob tends to just destroy everything in their wake thoughtlessly, like godzilla stepping on a car or ripping the spire off a building.
    The contrasts between Tony and the LaPennas are really interesting. Jason and Richard get really angry, but lack the power to do anything (which is probably why they get angry). Tony doesn’t know the full story but he responds to Dr Melfi with tenderness, though he could tear the guy to shreds.
    Seriously though your insight is amazing; I’m noticing stuff on another level thanks to you. I’m enjoying this watch-through (prob my 5th) even more because of it.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks Nick. I like that Godzilla comparison lol…


      • Oh! I’m so happy to see a current comment from you, Ron! I just started binging Sopranos a few weeks ago as i was aching for some new content, and I thankfully somehow came across this wonderful site sometime around the 4th season. I’m now on the 5th season and am going back to read all your write ups from the first few seasons. LOVE this blog and everyone’s insightful comments. How i wish I had been a part of this in real time so i could have people to discuss with now. I can’t even read your autopsy after each episode because i have been wrecked with spoilers on a few occasions. Anyway, just wanted to say how much this website is adding to the enjoyment of watching the series for me.

        Liked by 1 person

    • Nick, you made a really good point: “Jason and Richard get really angry, but lack the power to do anything (which is probably why they get angry). Tony doesn’t know the full story but he responds to Dr Melfi with tenderness, though he could tear the guy to shreds.” I hadn’t thought of it this way until I read what you wrote and connected it with some thoughts I was having about the Coach Hauser situation in Season 1. Jumping off from your observation, I gave it more thought:
      Richard and Jason want to rip the rapist to shreds, just as Tony, Silvio, and the rest wanted to rip Coach Hauser to shreds in “Boca.” Charmaine (who may be the only other character in the series besides Melfi who maintains her integrity) points out to Artie that killing Hauser would be done to make the men feel better and wouldn’t help Allie or Hauser’s family, and Artie transmits that point of view to Tony. That and Melfi’s earlier challenging of Tony eventually inspire him, after some interior wrestling, to cancel the hit. When he comes home drunk and celebrating and tells Carmela, “I didn’t hurt nobody,” it’s a touching moment of personal triumph for Tony over his own impulses that let us think, if only for a little while, that he could be redeemed.
      In “Employee of the Month,” the men closest to Melfi are similarly enraged and would like to rip the rapist to shreds. Their reactions are understandable, neither Jason nor Richard tries to comfort Melfi. Later, Richard is apparently helping her in her recuperation but almost all we see is his fretting about whether the police have called (first thing he asks walking in the door, not “How are you feeling?”), lecturing Melfi about what to do, taking over from her in dealing with the police, getting aggressive on the phone (I loved when he called back and identified himself as not as Richard but as “Dick” LaPenna. Got that right!), arguing with Melfi about whose fault the rape was, implicitly blaming her, and in general subjecting her to a lot of his male reactivity about having “his” woman raped and beaten, leaving Melfi to deal with her emotional pain alone. It’s no wonder she accuses him of making it all about his self-esteem. We see no tenderness from him. Melfi eventually ends up getting that from the sociopathic gangster who Richard and Elliot are adamant that she must stop treating. Melfi fantasizes about vengeance too, and she could easily sic Tony on the rapist. But she tells Elliot that she isn’t “going to break the social contract.” On the other hand, neither does she want to give up the security she feels just knowing that she could, if she wanted to. So she breaks down when Tony says he’s ready to move on to CBT. Granted, if he had known about the rape, he would have had much the same emotional reaction as Richard. But he doesn’t know, and he is able to offer her what her other men did not and perhaps could not: immediate concern, unprompted tenderness, even sweetness when she is obviously suffering. When Elliot reflexively declares, “Empowerment!” in interpreting Melfi’s soda machine dream, I thought, “What? There was no empowerment of *her* in that dream! Quite the reverse.” Her actual empowerment comes in the final moment of the episode when Melfi could say something to Tony that would lead to the rapist’s death but deliberately chooses not to, for her own complex reasons. Tony’s emotional sympathy and physical gentleness, which she needed but wasn’t getting from Richard in particular, might have tempted Melfi to break the social contract after all, but it might also have helped her move the focus from external, toward the rapist, to internal, toward her pain, just by having someone (particularly a strong male) acknowledge her pain and be protective of her feelings. Never underestimate the power of validation. She doesn’t have to attend to his feelings about her rape, as she does with Richard. She doesn’t have to deal with cookie-cutter analysis, as she does with Elliot. She is allowed to sit quietly and make up her own mind and, finally, she does. “No.” Brilliant closing scene!

      Liked by 3 people

    • Nick I really like your comment about Melfi’s son and ex-husband being really angry. Anger is dangerous because it can easily be about the person who is feeling the anger not the victim. It’s appropriate to feel anger when people we love have been victimized. But we need to displace our feelings somewhat and just offer them sympathy and listen to what they need. Tony did that for Melfi. Oddly he cannot do it for his son, his wife, daughter or himself. Just like Melfi’s ex-husband can never just listen and be present for her he always has to have an opinion or his feelings.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. A lot to unpack in Melfi’s storyline. As intended, it is very well done and very powerful. The mechanism by which Rossi is let go seems contrived, but the payoff makes it forgivable. The question of whether vengeance is justified is not easy, but it’s clear where Melfi stands and she takes the moral high ground in a dramatic manner after a suspenseful build-up. Regardless of where one stands on the question, Melfi’s choice is necessary to provide contrast to the choices most of the other characters make throughout the show, as well as to our (the audience) visceral desires.

    That said, like Tony Soprano, I have a strong pragmatic streak. So I have a hard time getting past the practical ramifications of Melfi’s choice. Specifically, by keeping Tony on a leash, she is all but guaranteeing there will be at least one more, and possibly many more victims of Jesus Rossi. I suppose his arrest could scare him straight, but more likely he will become a wiser and more cautious predator. This may not be enough to sway the moral choice Melfi makes, but it sure as hell muddys the waters. In fact, it brings in a level of ambiguity we’ve come to expect from The Sopranos, and so I am surprised Chase did everything possible to make this a black and white choice. He clearly wanted to send a specific message via Melfi, but I can’t help but think this could have been an even deeper examination if Melfi had considered whether she would be willing one day to face Rossi’s future victims and explain why she did not stop him when she had the chance.

    As an aside, interesting parallel between Melfi and Bonasera (the undertaker) in The Godfather. Bonasera of course makes a different choice, and then comes to regret it when he fears the service Don Corleone is about to ask him to do (this is implied in the movie, but spelled out in the novel). Of course Don Corleone’s request ends up being nothing to fear, but is instead heartbreaking. But it does raise the issue of indebtedness if Melfi does tell Tony of the rape. Of course Melfi could avoid this issue by not telling Tony directly and certainly by not asking him for venegence. But the Melfi/Tony relationship has the added depth of being a analyst/patient relationship, which is not something Bonasera had to worry about. I know, I’m way off the reservation now.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I don’t think you’re off the reservation at all. I’ve always wondered if the final scene between Tony and Melfi is Chase’s funhouse mirror version of the scene from The Godfather you referenced, just due to the fact that Melfi and Bonasera both want justice for a rape and have the opportunity to get it by going outside the legal system – but each character makes wildly different choices. If Bonasera’s request is a surrender to his own weakness and insecurity, then Melfi’s refusal is an affirmation of her strength and fortitude. Bonasera sticks his foot into the mafia’s door while Melfi slams it shut. Anyway, four dollars a pound.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Melfi literally slams the door on Tony in their final encounter of the series [very much in contrast to the soft door-closing that ends The Godfather], and I think it has a lot to do with the events of this episode here. (I’ll go into this more in my write-up for “The Blue Comet.”)


  9. One must admire the accurate instincts Tony displays regarding some of the females he interacts with in this episode.
    “Drinking and dialing…..I can smell the Vanilla Stoli from here”…. as a bottle of Vanilla Stolichnaya rests on Irina’s table next to her phone.
    “Who the fuck are you kidding, you’re gonna sell them on the Internet!” to Janice about Livia’s record collection.
    “Good luck finding the lost Dutchman’s gold Janice” just moments after she was combing the basement with a metal detector.
    “Is there something you wanna say” to Dr. Melfi whom through his eyes, suffered from something worse than a car accident.
    Awesome character in spite of being a bad guy.


  10. In Dr. Melfi’s dream, Chase evokes Kubrick and 2001: A Space Odyssey. (He will also reference this in the series finale’s finale scene.) The long zoom in to Dr. Melfi at her desk, perfectly centered in the shot is classic Kubrick. She walks to the door and opens it, only to see herself at the vending machine, much like the final scenes of 2001 where the man sees himself in the future and, to us, in the next moment.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Pingback: Dr. Melfi of "The Sopranos": One TV Therapist's Scary Dilemma

  12. There is one thing in this absorbing episode that rings false. In the hospital the detective tells Dr Melfi and her husband who the rapist is and where he works. So why on earth does she go to the restaurant where he works, knowing he is free and might still be there? It doesn’t make sense. In fact, it’s a dramatic device to show the portrait of the man and the words Employee of the Month, but it should have been omitted.

    I feel I can almost hear the absent dialogue:
    Melfi : Why did I go there, Eliot?
    Kupferberg : Why do you think you went?

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Well.
    I’m glad I got this episode spoilt – this isn’t the sort of thing you want sneaking up and surprising you while you’re eating your porridge. Now, I assume the next episode is about vengeance while avoiding being indebted to Tony or tacitly approving his crimes, and is nothing but an hour of Dr Melfi, Jesus and a rusty avocado spoon.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I feel really ambivalent rape in film and television. It is so common and we see so much violence in film and television if it is portrayed it is acknowledging the violence and misogyny out there. Yet many times it is used as plot device. But just like many black people do not want to be reminded in the media they have to deal with white supremacy women and rape victims don’t need to be reminded for cheap titillation about their trauma or have it be used to make a point. How come sexual assault is used to define female characters or to move a male’s story arc forward. I have no real answers about this just questions. I had not thought of the parrallels between the violence Janice experiences and the violence Dr Melfi experiences and that reminds me of how the trauma writers frequently default to for female characters. They almost never define male characters by a much broader range of traumas.

      Liked by 1 person

  14. I’m rewatching the series during COVID and reading your essays and they are extremely insightful. One question/observation– in an episode with an extremely uncomfortable depiction of a rape, I noted that at the housewarming party at Johnny and Ginny’s place we see Pauly (I think) feeling up and kissing a woman and then on the deck when Tony goes out back we see Chris making out with Adriana. Wondering your thoughts on that.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. why A Soprano not ask about traffic accident of Dr, Melfi


  16. Possible takes on title Employee of the Month;
    The obvious Jesus, the capo Gigi, the former caretaker Svetlana and Artie’s crush on hostess Adriana could all fit the title. Also, I wanted to mention Melfi feeding macaroni into the vending machine. Nice touch.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. When I first watched this episode, I assumed the show was going to take off after these events. I couldn’t wait to continue watching because I thought at some point Melfi would tell Tony what happened and instead of Tony having his separate mafia life and therapy life, they would be intertwined. Melfi would become more than just a therapist. She would have hypothetically become more involved and the show would have been so unpredictable (in a good way) from that moment on. I was so excited for this to happen that it probably somewhat ruined my experience for the remainder of the show because I was hoping this would happen and was eventually disappointed when it didn’t. It’s still my favorite TV drama of all-time, and I look forward to finishing the show for the second time without having this mindset.

    Also, there is another reference to Goodfellas, with the rapists last name being Rossi. In Goodfellas, Henry is cheating on Karen (played by Lorraine Bracco), with a woman named Janice Rossi. In Bracco’s two main claims to fame, there is a character named Rossi that is ruining her life (and her marriage).

    Thanks for everything, Ron. I was only 19 when I watched the show for the first time so this time around I really wanted to learn as much as possible about the show and this website is the perfect way to do that.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Tony. Good note about the name Rossi, and I just found an additional tidbit about that Goodfellas character. “Janice Rossi” was played by Gina Mastrogiacomo who, ironically, came close to playing “Janice” on The Sopranos. (The producers ultimately wanted someone “heavier”…)


    • I’m glad someone else noticed the Goodfellas connection. I was thinking about it when rewatching last night and you drew the same connection I did, both Rossi’s being a villain towards Bracco’s characters.

      Liked by 1 person

  18. I thought the “Did you bring your log?” line was a reference to an earlier episode when Tony has a nocturnal woody for Melfi. It definitely sets the scene for Rossi’s raging hard-on. The double entendre seems reminiscent of Dustin Hoffman’s “Wood… or wire?” hanger line to Mrs. Robinson in The Graduate. Hilarious, even with the knowledge of the horror to come in this episode.
    Having a hard time finding the words for this, but the bravery of Melfi’s resounding “No” has this triumphant expression of existential feminism here. She neither seeks nor receives justice from men (through Tony or a patriarchal justice system) for the heinous crime perpetrated against her by a man. Despite the dread this induces, she carries the weight of this alone with resolve and fortitude.

    Liked by 1 person

  19. 1. Now I never expected, but selfishly wanted Dr. Melfi to tell Tony about the rape.
    2. However, she would have never needed to tell Tony what happened. Tony Soprano being involved with issuing several beatings to others due to his career choice as a mobster, would have deduced that Dr. Melfi’s facial bruises, may have been from something other than a car accident.
    3. As seen in Season 1, Tony had no moral issues with having his contacts look into Dr. Melfi’s background. I think Tony Soprano would have taken action to find out what happened to Dr. Melfi. And without her knowledge, Tony would have instructed one of his crew to end the Employee of the Month’s life.

    Liked by 1 person

  20. Great analysis! After watching this episode for the 1st time I stared at the screen for 2 hours motionless despite knowing that this would be the rape episode due to my uncontrollable urge to browse r/thesopranos. I was shocked at how graphic they went.
    Few observations:
    1. Of all episodes, they chose employee of the month to reintroduce Richard again. His line here is “You start treating him, we start seeing each other again” made me think that there’s some sort of pattern in her life choices. Despite how incompatible they are we see them briefly in an on-off kind of relationship similarly to what she and Tony share throughout the series.
    2. When Elliot first suggets that the dog symbolizes the murderous primal rage locked inside of her, she deflects that and thinks it symbolizes Tony. While that may be true, I think she fails to be accountable to these feelings. She views Tony as scapegoat for her own violent impulses. On S5E01, she tells Elliot “There’s a mutual sympathy of some kind” which tells me that as much as a mediggan that she is, she understood the choices her fellow paisans made into making it in America.

    Liked by 1 person

  21. Any connection between the name Jesus Rossi, Lorraine Bracco’s attacker in the Sopranos and the name Janice Rossi, Lorraine Bracco’s husband’s (Ray Liotta) mistress in Goodfellas?

    Liked by 1 person

  22. So, she’s raped on… Stairs? In a SopranoWorld? Could it have been anywhere else? 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • I just have to put this out there. Aside of obvious symbolism of Stairs = Death in the SopranoWorld, there is another possible symbolism that holds: castration/lack of libido/potency. From the moment Junior falls down the stairs onwards, he becomes a shell of himself, just another old, senile man, who even refuses a romantic opportunity, along with all around deterioration of his libido. He even loses interest in the Mob life, which is of course all about the libido. Carmela falls down the stairs and AJ laughs, in the midst of her midlife crisis (menopause) in season 5, unable to control him (he moves to Tony’s). Tony falls in front of Livia, in front of her front door stairs and she laughs, symbolicly castrating him even further. Ralphie… oh, well, that one is so obvious that it’s needs no explaining. And then, there’s this rape, which only confirms the rapists castration: he wouldn’t rape if he wasn’t already castrated in some sense, yet his libido is great in the work envieronment, hence – Employe of the fucking month (no pun intended). But then, there’s Livia and her stair-elevator. It’s as if she bypases the stairs (libido), has no normal sexual urges, never had them, being bat shit crazy lady.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Just to add to this, even though it’s unlikely, but, remember when Vito complained about all the stairs? Sure, he complained. But he didn’t fall and that man was… big. And his sexual drive is as big as Tony’s, if not bigger. He fell from an armed chair, sure, but stairs present no problem? He’s was slinging that dick, and no amount of stairs or mommy issues would have stopped him.

        Liked by 1 person

        • To further add to this, in the Pilot, Tony tells the duck stole my penis dream to Melfi. When he falls in front of Livia, his gun clumsily falls from his pants/jacket. His other dick being taken away on the steps. But then there is the 06×05 episode with the Allegra wedding, The libido episode: stairs are everpresent as a libido symbol in this episode: first, Tony comes home for the first time, that ought to make him stronger, but he has this scene with Carmela on the stairs, he stops near the top all windy, and she asks him how he is. He doesn’t take the final step off the stairs, just stays there, on the fucking stairs I mean, come on! Literaly talking about his strenght and libido. Then, his scene at the wedding, he falls, on the fucking stairs, while trying to take his shoes of. And all of this leads to the disguisting scene at the end, when he takes it upon himself to fake his libido by fucking up a strong kid. A kid, full of libido? But that’s not all: in the first half of the episode, he refuses to kill rusty. Then we see this absolutey amazing STAIRS shot, very wierd, of Rusty coming up these giant stairs, and, he does it with no problem. Because Tony refused. But then, by the end of the episode, Tony agrees to kill him for Johnny, so his luck does change, although, he isn’t seen again in this episode. At this point, it’s obvious what tje stairs represent.

          Liked by 1 person

          • Johnny also mentions to Tony how Rusty is full of himself, and is ambitious over his had. Just after we saw him climb those giant stairs, tiny Frankie Valli, on those big ass stairs. In an almost Joe Pesci manner, he climbs them, then looks at the camera almost. He’s got amazing set of balls for a man of his stature, is all i’m saying.

            Liked by 1 person

      • Just one more thought about Livia, bypassing stairs and her house; Zizek, who is a certified pathological liar, a POS human being and war monger (every statement is easily proveable, btw), did a great and well known analysis of the house in Psycho (1960). Upstairs is super ego, street level is ego, and basement is id. Livia always yells orders from upstairs, is unbearable, narcissistic and egoistic, respectively, on the ground floor, but the basement… The only scene with the basement is Janice searching for money, and the entire charade that deliberately confuses even us, the viewers, what the fuck is going on with that money? Just like ID confuses us, nobody knows. Nobody knows much about our unconcious. Livia forgets about the money, that fake-forgets, then admits to it, then she lies again. But even Janice is not sure, and she is easily the most sure of herself character on the show. Livia’s house, ie. her mind, is so fucked up, that it becomes the place of murder in passion, destruction, puking, fucking Ralph with a dildo, stealing a leg, farting of Artie, fucking of a nurse, and general mischief.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Yes I remember the analysis of Psycho in one the Pervert’s Guides… Clever connection.


          • Basement in SopranoWorld seems to always be about ear-spying: Janice uses the glass to search for holes in the basement walls to find the money, FBI listens to Tony through the mic in the lamp in his basement, and Melfi, in a pure Blue Velvet (1986) moment listens in to Tony’s basement screaming. She does this from a neighbour’s bathroom, but there are no mirror shots, although we know that her other side, perhaps the sole drive to get into psychiatry, is voayerism, which you analysed in 03×01. Voayerism is The theme of Blue Velvet, but also of it’s succesor, American Beauty (1999), that is also famous for spying people in their garages, while they lift weights, and having misconceptions about what goes on in there. But Chase does this thing of his, where Melfi actualy ASKS Tony, what was that noise, in a session. She has this rational side of her, which American Beauty characters generally lack. Also, the Furio/Carmela and Pries/Carmela narratives of sexual self-control is the climax (rather, lack of) in American Beauty.

            Liked by 1 person

            • Even Tony S., with his wierd call to Tony Blundetto, who lives in his mother basement and sleeps there, calls him in the middle of the night and just… listens. And Blundetto is all confused, is there a question, some reason for this call at 3AM? Tony S. literally sists in his chair and just listen to Tony B., creating uber akward silence. Just calling you to hear what’s going on in your basement, type-of-call.

              Liked by 1 person

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