Second Opinion (3.07)

Corrado has surgery for his tumor but goes for a second opinion afterwards.
Carmela speaks to a psychiatrist and insists afterwards that Tony make
a sizable donation to Meadow’s university.

Episode 33 – Originally Aired April 8, 2001
Written by Lawrence Konner
Directed by Tim Van Patten


Carmela and Corrado both seek out second opinions in this episode, and neither of them like what they hear.  The hour begins with a dream sequence which, as usual, creates some viewer confusion—we don’t immediately realize that we are watching a dream.  For a moment we believe that the FBI are actually trying to cut a deal with Corrado as he lies on the surgery table, but then the image of a newspaper proclaiming his marriage to Angie Dickinson confirms that this is an anesthesia-fueled fantasy.

Corrado has idealized his surgeon.  Dr. John Kennedy has an arrogant, cut-and-dry manner which Corrado has mythologized as an All-American toughness (mainly because the doctor shares a name with his hero JFK).  The surgery to remove Corrado’s tumor is not completely successful, and so Tony convinces him to get a second opinion.  Dr. Mehta at Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center is not as gung-ho as the forward-charging Kennedy, and offers a more complicated plan of treatment.  The difference in temperament between the two doctors is underscored by the very different types of pictures that hang in each of their offices.  Dr. Kennedy’s office is adorned with photos he has snapped during his travels:

kennedy's pics

Kennedy’s photographs tell their story clearly, with very little ambiguity.  (Corrado even suggests they could appear in National Geographic, a magazine known for its photojournalism i.e. photography that conveys information clearly and concisely.)  The abstract, non-figurative artwork that hangs on Dr. Mehta’s walls, in contrast, require more effort to be understood, if they are to be understood at all:

abstract art

Corrado is shown juxtaposed against the abstract, ambiguous prints in Mehta’s office just as he lauds Kennedy’s lack of ambiguity.  But cancer can be a complex illness, and the best approach to it often requires an acknowledgement of its various ambiguities and complexities.  So Corrado and Tony ask for a tumor board to be convened to assess the uncertainties of the situation.  Interestingly, as the camera pans across the table of the tumor board, it may recall past scenes, such as the one in 3.01, in which Federal agents convened to discuss the mobsters:

tumor board

Being prosecuted in federal court or getting whacked is not always the main problem that aging gangsters have to deal with—sometimes it is aging itself.  The tumor board acknowledges that another surgery would normally be the best option for Corrado’s particular cancer, but as an elderly man, his low blood pressure puts him at greater risk under anesthesia.  When Dr. Kennedy learns that Corrado sought another doctor’s opinion, he squashes the idea of a second surgery: “Mehta?  Sloan-Kettering Mehta?!…Forget it then.  Last thing I need is to operate with that little shit looking over my shoulder.”  We get the sense that Kennedy is an asshole from his first scene (when he walks into the waiting room and expects everyone to rise from their seats for him).  His decision now, motivated more by medical politics rather than medical outcomes, along with the brush-off that he gives to Corrado, confirm that he is a jerk.  Going to another doctor and getting a second opinion was probably one of the best decisions Corrado has ever made.


Carmela doesn’t suffer from a physical problem as Corrado does, but she is having an emotional crisis.  Carmela goes to see Dr. Melfi without Tony for the first time.  As was the case in Tony’s first visit to Melfi, Chase opens the scene by shooting Carm through the legs of the waiting room statue:


Based on some of David Chase’s previous comments, we know that this opening shot from the Pilot was meant to comment upon Livia’s constricting influence on her son.  We can therefore conclude that the rhyming shot now similarly comments upon the constriction Carmela feels from her mother.  Mary DeAngelis is unhappy with her daughter’s marriage to a mobster, and believes that Carm should have married pharmacist Stamfa (who owns a chain of drugstores now).  Carmela lashes out at her parents, telling them that they get a “free pass,” (particularly her father, whose contracting business has benefited from Tony’s influence) while she herself has to “earn it.”  We will see one way that she “earns” it at the end of the episode.

The Sopranos eventually became a series about Carmela as much as it was about Tony (with some viewers finding Carmela’s arc even more compelling).  The pathos of Carmela’s life truly begins to be explored in this episode.  (Edie Falco won a “Best Actress” Emmy for her performance in this hour.)  Carmela is becoming depressed.  When Carmela waits for her daughter at Columbia, a student in the neighboring dorm room turns up the volume on Nils Lofgren’s “Black Books.”  A close-up shows that Carmela is slipping into a black mood.  She has sadness emanating from her.  But she is happy when Mead arrives, and thrilled to deliver her sausage dish to her beloved daughter.  The two women discuss what they’ve each been reading lately.  Carmela is intrigued by one of Meadow’s assigned books: The Theory of the Leisure Class by Thorstein Veblen.

Thorstien Veblen

Things get a little heated when the conversation turns from books to Noah.  Carm doesn’t fully believe that their breakup was solely due to Tony’s prejudice.  An angry Meadow responds, “Don’t drag me into whatever bullshit accomodational pretense you’ve got worked out with daddy.”  Carmela is very curious to know what Mead means by this.  But Meadow does not want to continue the conversation, probably because it’s a difficult subject for her—she herself has also been accommodating her father’s criminality for years (and sometimes she has more than just accommodated, she has profited.)

Carmela has come to Columbia not only to visit her daughter, but also because she has an appointment with Dean Ross.  The Dean wines and dines her in his attempt to get a sizable donation from the Soprano family.  Carmela is ready and willing to make a donation as she is convinced that it would benefit and enlarge Meadow’s college experience.  Meadow is surely the first Soprano (and probably the first DeAngelis) to attend an Ivy League university.  This must be a great point of pride for Carmela, and Dean Ross (himself a second-generation Italian-American) targets her pride in trying to secure a $50,000 gift—he informs her that all donors at that level will have their names inscribed in the black marble “Donors Wall” at the new Student Center.  Thorstein Veblen, in the book that Carmela was holding earlier, wrote:

In order to gain and hold the esteem of men, it is not sufficient merely to possess wealth or power.  The wealth or power must be put in evidence, for esteem is awarded only on evidence.

Carmela has always sought respect through displays of wealth (her house, car, jewelry, clothes).  The inscription of the Soprano name in Columbia’s hallowed halls would be a new way of gaining esteem.  Tony, however, is not impressed by Ross’ plan.  He see the university administrators simply as “Morningside Heights gangsters” who are trying to extort his family.  Tony reaches into his pocket for a much smaller sum for Carmela to donate to the school:

The clip contains an interesting cut.  Carmela says that a $5k donation would be an insult to the university; moments later, Chase cuts to Dr. Mehta talking about a “5-FU regimen.”  It’s almost as though the doctor is corroborating Carmela’s belief that 5 grand would be a “fuck you” to the school.  (Of course, “5-FU” is not a reference to the 5 grand, but to the chemotherapy agent Fluorouracil.)  Carmela cannot believe that her husband is willing to spend money on all sorts of other expenses but is only willing to donate $5000 (essentially pocket change that he literally pulls out of his trousers) to his daughter’s school.  Along with his philandering, it seems to be more proof of his lack of domestic commitment.

Carmela goes to see Melfi’s old teacher, Dr. Krakower, whose frank opinion is difficult for her to hear.  Pyschiatrist Glen Gabbard, author of The Psychology of The Sopranos, is conflicted about this scene in Krakower’s office.  On the one hand, he writes, Carmela will probably ignore Krakower’s advice since the doctor doesn’t really make an “effort at empathic understanding and the building of a trusting relationship.”  On the other hand, Gabbard also writes that “in a sea of moral relativism, where deans and priests and therapists seem as slippery as loan sharks, a straight shooter like Krakower is a welcome addition to the cast of characters.”

But Krakower isn’t exactly an “addition to the cast”—he is only here for a couple of minutes and then is never seen or heard from again.  His function within the narrative is largely symbolic.  He personifies an ethical Immovable Object that is not swayed by relativistic (or even pragmatic) arguments.  Carmela tries to argue that Catholicism prevents her from filing for divorce.  We have often seen Carmela wear a cross around her neck as a fashion accessory, but seeing the jewelry in Krakower’s office now, we are led to wonder: does the cross represent a genuinely held belief, or does it merely represent an excuse for Carmela?

Carm's crucifix

Jewish Krakower is not moved by her Christian argument, and he brings judgment down upon her like an Old Testament prophet.  Krakower says that Tony has little chance of redeeming himself, and Carmela has been functioning as his enabler (if not his outright accomplice).  If she continues living with Tony Soprano, she must realize that she is living off of blood-money.

Krakower tells Carmela that he will not accept payment for this visit.  A surprised Carmela says, “That’s a new one.”  This is indeed an uncommon sentiment in SopranoWorld.  In this episode alone, several characters have greedily grabbed at both money and goods that are tainted with blood: Dean Ross wants a $50k contribution from the Sopranos; Angie Bonpensiero tries to finagle extra “widow payments” from Tony; and Adriana reaches out with both hands for designer shoes:

3 gimme gimme gimme

Krakower will not accept payment from Carmela because he knows that her money is ill-gotten.  His use of the term “blood-money” further undermines Carmela’s use of Catholicism as an excuse for not divorcing.  She would know that, in a Christian context, “blood-money” refers to the 30 pieces of silver that Judas received to betray Christ.  Carmela is perhaps being faithful to Catholic dogma if she refuses to divorce, but she is betraying fundamental moral principles by remaining married to a criminal.  By the end of the scene, Carmela seems to have accepted that she must leave her husband.

But of course she doesn’t leave him.  In the episode’s final scene, we see that Carmela has decided to stay in the marriage.  Tony must make a payment of $50,000 in the form of a donation to Columbia for his marriage to remain unbroken (although he has no idea that this is the accounting that is in Carmela’s mind; he only recognizes that Carmela is resolute about the gift to the University).  Like many of the Big Moments on this series, Carmela’s decision here is open to interpretation.  Sharon Sutherland and Sarah Swan, in their essay, “This isn’t a negotiation: ‘Getting to Yes’ with Tony Soprano,” have a harsh interpretation of her actions, believing that Carmela…

…in a rather despicable display of manipulation, feigns severe depression, lying on the couch wrapped in a blanket…Carmela uses Tony’s interest in preserving the marriage and his struggle with mental health issues to negotiate the donation she wants.  Tony is no match for this kind of manipulation…

Sutherland and Swan are both lawyers, and perhaps that accounts for their extremely cynical view of Carmela’s behavior.  A less cynical interpretation might be that Carmela has not manipulated Tony so much, but that she has manipulated herself into accepting, once again, the charade she has been deluding herself with all these years (and what Meadow referred to earlier as “bullshit accomodational pretense”).  Perhaps we can view her behavior with no cynicism—Carmela may be making an earnest effort at sincere Christian forgiveness.  The Gospel of Matthew recounts:

Peter came and said to Him, ‘Lord how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to 7 times?’ And Jesus said to him, ‘I do not say to you, up to 7 times, but up to seventy times seven.’

Regardless of whether you interpret “seventy times seven” to mean 77 or to mean 490, it comes out to a buttload of forgiving.  Christian Carmela may genuinely be trying to forgive Tony’s misdeeds, both minor and major.

I think that Carmela is motivated by multiple reasons simultaneously.  Lofgren’s “Black Books” starts up again over this final scene and serves to highlight Carm’s multiple motivations.  When the song was heard earlier, it seemed to be the soundtrack to her depression; by being replayed now, it points to her sadness as something real, not “feigned” simply to manipulate Tony.  But there is something distasteful, if not manipulative, about the way that she has gotten the money from Tony for Columbia; the song’s title “Black Books” can possibly refer to the lengths Carm will go to in order to keep the ledger book of her life “in the black.”  I think the song also gives us another way of looking at the term “blood-money” because the song directly links this final scene to the earlier scene in Meadow’s dorm where it was first heard; we recognize that Carmela has secured the money not for herself, but for her “blood,” her closest kin—daughter Meadow.  If Carmela manipulates her husband or engages in a morally questionable accounting, she does so primarily for the sake of her children.  Carmela loves her kids, and the depth of her maternal concern is reinforced by the plot point of AJ’s school trip to Washington DC.  Carm embraces and kisses and fawns all over AJ when he returns from DC because this short trip is the longest he has ever been away from her.  How can we or Dr. Krakower expect Carmela to divorce her husband and deal with joint custody and visitation issues over AJ when she can barely handle a short separation from him?

While there is something admirable about the hard line that Krakower takes, Chase pushes us to question whether such a hard stance is tenable.  As I argued in my last few write-ups, Chase has been ordering and structuring recent episodes in a way that complicates our feelings toward Tony Soprano.  In “Second Opinion,” the final four scenes work to further complicate our attitude toward the man:

  • Fourth to last scene: Tony and Furio “persuade” Dr. Kennedy (“You got a bee onna you hat”) to treat Corrado with the respect that he deserves
  • Third to last scene: Dr. Krakower essentially draws a line in the sand and tells Carmela she must not cross it if she is to save herself
  • Second to last scene: Dr. Kennedy is full of smiles and good-will when he sees Corrado at the hospital
  • Last scene: Carmela quietly insists that Tony must make the large contribution to the school and Tony quietly assents


By sandwiching Krakower’s appearance between one scene that shows Tony’s actions on behalf of his ailing uncle and another that depicts the good result of those actions, Chase undermines the simplistic stance that Krakower takes against the mob boss.  I know that Krakower is fundamentally correct—Tony Soprano is a wicked man—but I love how Tony puts douchebag Kennedy in his place.  Anyone who has been aggravated by unsympathetic doctors or the cold bureaucratic machine of American healthcare would wish they had a thug like Tony Soprano on their side.  I know I should distance myself from Tony Soprano just as Krakower advises Carmela to do—but it is a difficult thing to do.  These final four scenes highlight this concept of distance.  At the golf course, Tony thrusts a titanium club at Dr. Kennedy, insisting it will add 10 yards to his drives:

Kennedy: I could use a little extra distance.
Tony: Who couldn’t?

Tony and Furio then close the distance between themselves and the doctor, invading his space and backing him into a lake.  In the next scene, Carmela throws the word “distance” into the mix of psychological jargon that she tries to hide behind in Krakower’s office:

Carmela: You think I need to define my boundaries more clearly, keep a certain distance, not internalize my—
Krakower: What did I just say?
Carmela: “Leave him.”

Krakower may be able to insist that everyone should immediately distance themselves from Tony Soprano, but that is only because he has a very limited picture of the man.  Our understanding of Tony, like Carmela’s, is more complex, and we cannot take a simple black-and-white stance on him.  Things are never as simple as that on The Sopranos.


Poor Georgie—he’s still wearing the bandages from Ralph’s attack last episode when Tony attacks him in this episode for bringing the gag gift Big Mouth Billy Bass to the Bing.  Obviously, the singing fish reminds Tony of his dream of Big Pussy as a fish (who “sang” to the Feds).  The lyrics of Billy Bass’ song must also remind Tony of how Pussy’s body was disposed of:

Drop me in the water - billy bass

Billy Bass will appear again in a future episode.  (And poor Georgie will suffer at the hands of these mobsters again in the future.)



  • Ever since Chris has gotten made, the tensions between him and Paulie have been mounting—Chris even reaches for the gun strapped to his ankle at one point in this hour, suspecting that Paulie is reaching for his own gun.  (He’s not, he is reaching for a Billy Bass.)  The rising tension between the two men contributes to the greatness of “Pine Barrens” later this season, in which the stressed-out duo have to make their way through a tense and scary situation.
  • One of my favorite lines of the whole series: panty-sniffing Paulie says, with complete earnestness, “As of the wedding day, anything that touches her pussy is off-limits.”  Paulie is a simple man that lives by simple rules.
  • Dr. Gabbard explains in his book how writer Robin Green came up with some of the dialogue for Krakower.  Green’s brother is a psychiatrist who, after reading Crime and Punishment, suggested to two clients who were child molesters that they should read the novel and then turn themselves in to the authorities.  (Krakower suggests Tony should turn himself in and read Dostoyevsky’s novel while in prison.)  I don’t know if the two clients took the suggestion.  It’s very unlikely that Tony Soprano would seek redemption this way.
  • Nils Lofgren, whose “Black Books” is used so effectively here, joined Springsteen’s E Street Band in 1984 and has played alongside Stevie Van Zandt (Silvio) in the ensuing years.
  • It’s strange how Tony keeps trying to use the Witness Relocation Program as the reason why Big Pussy is nowhere to be found, when everyone knows that the FBI would not leave Angie Bonpensiero behind.  (Of course, everyone also knows, deep down, that Tony’s excuse is simply that—an empty excuse.)
  • Sully Boyar, who plays “Dr. Krakower,” was the bank manager in Dog Day Afternoon (one of those seminal films that made the 1970s the greatest decade in American film history).
  • The doctor that is at the center of the tumor board meeting is played by Sopranos’ Executive Producer Ilene Landress.

Ilene Landress
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67 responses to “Second Opinion (3.07)

  1. Your point about wishing you had a thug like Tony on your side when dealing with the apathy and greed of the health care industry also comes to mind in season 6 when Tony has it out with the insurance company employee who’s trying to wheel him out of the hospital to save money. “Wallet biopsy?”. I won’t repeat what he says after that, but my goodness I think it’s something most Americans would applaud considering the cold and confusing maze that dealing with health care insurers has become. But of course, if you or I, or most people reading this, had said such things to that woman, we’d be dropped from the policy and end up in a county hospital emergency room. In many ways Tony Soprano is as much 21st century super hero as he is a criminal minded sociopath. Breaking Bad was very popular due to this same moral ambiguity in the leading character. Could be a template for lead characters in cinema and television in the coming generation.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Well said. And let’s hope you’re right that more future shows will use The Sopranos as a template (but I’m not very optimistic about this).


    • Honestly, I prefer TV gangsters to superheroes. I was playing the latest Spider-Man game lately, and it made me feel rather I’ll. Our Friendly Neighbourhood Spider-Man smacks people about, chucking people off hooves, smashing heads on concrete and breaking bones – apparently never killing anyone – and leaves them with goodness-knows how much medical debt, to be arrested (do the police get a statement from this masked vigilante, or do they just lock up anyone they find in webbing?) to spend the next few years of their lives with no freedom in a violent, degrading prison where they will learn to get more violent while having the wages from their forced labour robbed from them by the corporate operators of their private prison in the world’s largest penal state. And when they get released, now they can’t get a half-dozen job anywhere, so they have to turn back to crime, whereupon the webslinger will come back and knock seven bells out of them once again. And all the while, Spidey is cracking jokes and talking about *how much he loves beating people up*.
      At least gangster films are honest about being about amoral psychopaths who ought to be in prison.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. thedalitrauma

    That’s the great Sam McMurray as Dr. John F. Kennedy.


    • Marky "Mark" Markovich

      Sam McMurray best known for playing Roy in Dinosaurs. Incidentally one of the puppeteers controlling Baby Sinclair in that show was called John Kennedy.

      This episode has some of the funniest lines in the entire series. “Stupid a fucking game”


  3. The doctor in The Godfather- the book – is named John Kennedy. Weird, huh?

    Liked by 3 people

  4. I’m arriving very late to this most entertaining party and certainly anticipating the season 6 review.
    Paulie’s quip to Chrissy “You’re too worried about what I give you. Worry a little more about what you give me” nicely echoes JFK’s “Ask not what your country can do for you…”

    Liked by 4 people

  5. More examples of Carmela’s being told to leave Tony, yet she chooses not to, she is the most corrupted character on the program

    Liked by 2 people

    • How is she more corrupted than the entitled gangsters that kill and dispose of innocent people? Please check your misogyny.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Get over yourself.
        Who’s the bigger fool – the fool or the fool that follows (and enables)?
        Carm turned a blind eye 24/7. The fact that she returned to T after all his BS just confirmed it.


  6. Another thing outlining Dr Kennedy douchiness is phrase ‘Watch and learn, Miles. Watch and learn’ said during operation and almost same ‘Watch and learn, Phil. Watch and learn’ said before golf shot. My understanding is this shows his aspiration to raise own self esteem performing difficult surgery rather than help deadly ill person lying on operation table.

    Liked by 3 people

  7. Tony’s problems with impulse control are well documented, but is there any better example than his immediate rise to violent anger upon seeing the Cadillac in Angie’s driveway? Forget about the fact that it’s an overreaction to begin with, but I’ve always found it funny that he doesn’t even bother confirming whose car it is before going to work on it with a bat, like he’s Walter Sobchak in The Big Lebowski. Like, what if Angie had a friend visiting? Or let her neighbor park in the driveway? These possibilities don’t even cross Tony’s mind… he spots the car, and immediately sees red.

    Liked by 3 people

  8. This episode is about the “Gray” areas of life. Carmela is not strong enough to completely break away from her life. She merely needs a way to live with herself. We see later that a divorce is out of the question, and she folds then too by securing real estate. This episode she used her daughters education as an excuse to take money and live with a man who she is conflicted about. She is really depressed about her choices, but as she sees it, this is what she signed up for. Tony is genuinely worried about her when she is laying on the couch. He doesn’t want her to be upset, no matter what the reason is. $50,000 to him is nothing. Its the principle that bothers him. Is Tony a bad guy? Yes and No. She can’t fool herself that he isn’t a murderer and a thief and she is guilty by association. They never speak truths in their household. So she gets the money and goes to dinner, and learns to live with her choice, and Tony feels better too. I think she is so entrenched in the life that to work at a supermarket or any other job like that is beyond her comprehension. This is what Meadow constantly points out to her with contempt. And why she doesn’t really argue. I think Carmela is one of the worst perpetrators in this series, because she knows her life is wrong, but doesn’t try to change it. All she can do is prepare for when Tony goes to jail or gets killed. When she finally admits this to herself, she will find peace.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, there is some irony in the fact that when Carm sees Angie working at a supermarket, she feels sorry for her, but over time it is Angie that is able to gain a measure of independence, eventually managing Pussy’s old body shop and even buying herself a Corvette. But Carm is never able to carve out any real independence for herself….

      Liked by 1 person

  9. I believe that Carmela married Tony knowing fully of the implications and possibilities of what could happen. I don’t remember the episode, (maybe college) but she even outright states that she “wanted” things for her and her children. I think one of the reasons she takes so much shit from Tony is the material things she has become accustomed to receiving. Tony gets to fuck who he wants and do what he wants, she knows what’s going on. The thought she would leave him is ridiculous. I even felt this way at the end of “Whitecaps.” I think most avid viewers of this show kind of knew she’d never leave him for good. As for Tony, Melfi gets it right by saying “she may leave you, but you’ll never leaver her.” I think the short visit with Krakower was a fresh voice of sanity in a darkening, gloomy Soprano world, but did little to change Carmela’s mind. She knows that she usually gets her way, as we see with the 50K donation to the “Morningside Heights Gangsters.” I like what you had to say about the medical politics and Dr. Kennedy’s ego. These folks are in a profession to help people and all he is concerned with is his image. We are fooled by all of the “humanitarian” type of photos in Kennedy’s office; it’s all about his ego. I agree that most all viewers loved the scene where Tony and Furio confront Kennedy. It was totally necessary. I love how Tony addresses Furio as “Mr. Williams.” Oh, that’s very believable. I also think it’s around this point in the series where it begins to take a darker turn. The Melfi rape scene and the killing of Tracee got the ball rolling.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I recently learned that Sully Boyar, who played Krakower, died two weeks before this episode originally aired – he never got to see himself in it. My guess is that Chase never had any plans for Krakower to become a recurring character regardless… His voice of reason and rectitude doesn’t have much of a place in SopranoWorld…

      Liked by 1 person

  10. His voice doesn’t but he along with Carm’s mother are the only people (maybe besides Meadow in Whitecaps) who actually confront her about these issues. This was “one of those scenes” worth remembering. Shame Boyar didn’t get to see his finished work..

    Liked by 2 people

    • Her mother confronts her about what a pain in the ass Tony is, but she still benefits from his criminal activities. I think if Tony had a better personality, she wouldn’t say anything. Ot if his crimes were white collar. The whole family is complicit. “The waters don’t part for you?” says Carmela’s mother…but in Carmela’s mind she earns it because of all the crap she puts up with. I am sure that her mothers criticism stings because it rings of truth, but then she accepts Tony’s favors. She’s all about appearances. That’s why she didn’t want Carmela to talk against Tony’s mother and why she shushed her husband when he FINALLY let Janice have it at the wake. He even called her “the minister of Propaganda”. Everyone knows hes a murderer….and they go on their merry way.

      Liked by 2 people

    • My personal theory about the scene: It was all Carmella’s fantasy. She did not go to the shrink recommended by Dr. Melfi because she was afraid of what she might learn. She dreamed up Dr. K by combining Freud and Old Testament prophets. He tells her things she has always been in denial about.
      There is no evidence for this theory, aside from the fact that Dr. K seems to know an awful lot about her from one visit, and that the next time we see her she is lying down and may have been sleeping.
      Of course, it does not make much difference to the episode as a whole.

      Liked by 2 people

  11. Dude Manbrough

    The Krakower scene is fantastic, however I’ve never really fully understood what he meant by “visit any mall or ethnic pride parade to see the results” re: the failure of modern psychiatry. For the life of me I can’t figure out how those two examples relate to personal accountability, which is what he was discussing at the time.

    Carmela is just as duplicitous as Tony is, maybe even more so. Just as Tony always rationalizes his crimes away by claiming he does it to “provide for his family” (which we all know isn’t “really” why he does it), Carmela rationalizes away her attempt to bask in Ivy League credibility (and have her name etched into a nice marble wall) by pretending it’s all for Meadow, which we know isn’t “really” the case at all. Carmela is willing to squelch the guilt and anxiety she feels over her criminal lifestyle with (surprise) a nice cash payoff she’ll use to continue her self-delusion regarding her “place in society”, let’s say. Unlike Tony, who at least has some understand of who he “really” is, Carm lives the delusion 24/7, always pretending she stands on higher moral ground than her husband does even though she’s just as aware as he is that it’s bullshit to the core.

    Liked by 3 people

    • I think Krakower means that you can go to any public place in America, from the most innocuous (shopping mall) to the most rife with groupthink (ethnic pride parade), and just take a look at the people around you to see the horrible results that a feel-good, non-judgmental form of psychology has had…

      Liked by 2 people

      • I was also puzzled by Krakower’s words, so thank you for a convincing explanation.

        Trying to explain it a little further: At malls he might think people display self- or even over-indulgence. They buy a lot, eat a lot, and let their children make a lot of noise. At ethnic pride parades: although it is an occasion of groupthink, for each individual it is an experience of self-congratulation and self-admiration.

        Liked by 3 people

        • Ballantyne de Wolf

          Each individual, though? Some, perhaps. Others are totally focussed on doing their best, at music, at food, at community.
          Krakower’s lines here seem jarringly glib.
          I think the best explanation is a reference to the regular whining about Anglo Celts discriminating against them that the mobsters indulge themselves with.
          I’m not sure I entirely understand what an ethnic pride parade is, but it’s not that.

          Liked by 1 person

    • Emmanual Kreisman

      Great comment Dude.

      Liked by 1 person

  12. Carm sites her reason for discontent on the fact that Tony has money for “widows” but not for what’s really important (the 50k to secure Meadow’s future). But I don’t think that’s it at all. I think it’s because after talking to Angie, and then later to Tony about her, it is nearly impossible to ignore the fact that Tony killed Pussy. This imo is also the reason why Billy Bass shows up in this episode. Pussy’s murder represents Tony’s moral corruption in its totality – even Tony can’t handle it, which is why he goes ballistic when he sees the Billy Bass at the Bing.

    Tony and the rest of the Mafia get what they want through either violence or bribes. In this episode Tony gets what he wants from Dr. Kennedy through (the threat of) violence. And he gets what he wants from Carm through bribery. It doesn’t really matter that he doesn’t know the stakes. He’s savvy enough to understand this is a spot where he has to pay up.

    But question – what do you think it means that Chris and Pauli have a momentary truce over getting a laugh from Billy Bass? This strikes me as meaningful in some way but not sure how.

    Liked by 3 people

    • the truce is because their conflict during the episode was resolved. chris has a better understanding that he is being shown undeserved favor, and shows paulie deference.

      >Pussy’s murder represents Tony’s moral corruption in its totality

      disagree, killing snitches is a core moral Tony has. he’s upset about it because he had to kill his friend and grieves him.

      Liked by 1 person

  13. One more comment about the final scene of this episode. I’m frequently impressed at how mobsters throughout this series are able to effectively get their points across without actually saying it. I mean most of their lives depends on being able to talk about something without ACTUALLY talking about it. The scene where Tony and Furio confront Dr. Kennedy is just one example. They threaten him very convincingly without ever actually mentioning violence of any kind. Of course the pimary reason for this kind of communication is practical; they are constantly under threat of surveilance, and never want to say anything that could be used against them later. But now I’m starting to think there’s an important secondary, psychological reason. By always speaking AROUND the terrible thing, they allow a lot of wiggle for self-denial. It lets someone like Tony get through each day thinking he’s a good person, because he so rarely speaks of his misdeeds. Killing Pussy is a great example of how this double-purpose benefits Tony. Of course by never speaking of the murder it will never be linked back to him. But he also gets to live his life as if it didn’t happen (which, again, is why the Billy Bass so infuriates him. This toy is literally speaking the truth which Tony will never speak of again).

    So in that last scene, Carm proves herself just as capable as the mobsters at getting her point across without actually speaking about the underlying thing. She needs the 50k bribe to put some sort of meaning to her complicity. But to actually say this would ruin the whole game. Instead, she says a few short sentences, followed by a very effective look, that get her just what she wants. “Tony, you gotta do something nice for me today, this is what i want.” This is also why the earlier scene with the psychiatrist is so important with conjunction with this one. Here is a guy who for once is saying exactly what is happening, no innuendo or suggestion, and as you point out, no blood money.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Great thoughts. I think we’re meant to chuckle at the idea of Paulie and Chrissie bonding over the Billy Bass, it’s kind of hilarious that they would put aside their murderous grudge to laugh about something so goofy. The scene underscores that the Billy Bass is a completely disposable piece of pop culture (to borrow Todd Vanderwerff’s description of it), but that only makes its reappearance in 3.10 as a Christ-symbol (as I interpret it) all the more surprising and poignant…

      Liked by 3 people

  14. Ron, your write-ups have my mind awash with Sopranos all over again. It truly is the best TV show ever, and your analysis is top tier. Always leave me thinking, and thinking….and thinking.

    Interesting that Carmela is often framed by reactions toward literature. Krakower asks if she’s read Crime & Punishment; in “Eloise” she gets into an argument with Meadow over interpretation of “Billy Budd, Sailor,” and her fling with Mr. Wegler is framed by Abelard & Heloise, as well as Madame Bovary, which she finds difficult to comprehend. Not sure what Chase is trying to do there, if anything.

    While complicit and hardly above her own capriciousness, Carmela is, I think, often framed as a little more rational than Tony, at least when it comes to his patriarchal constructions (i. e. the nuclear family, or Uncle Junior’s cunnilingus skills). It’s interesting that she too possesses a form of Livia’s cynical outlook, albeit with a frame of semi-divine Judgment (“Is this it?,” “Everything comes to an end,” “It all gets washed away,” and the piano line in Chasing It). I’m apprehensive of the accusations that Carmela is somehow worse than Tony because of her complicity; these views almost always seem to stem from some type of misogyny and disdain for passivity (read any YoutTube comment thread in which Carmela comes up). Chase went to great lengths to remind the hits & tits crowd that these were not admirable people, even if they sometimes seem like a fun crew to have a beer with, and even if there’s an occasional moment or two of “damn it feels good to be a gangster” glitz. Carmela, like Skyler White, is no saint, but she is there to help dispel these hypermasculine delusions of this “thing of honor,” and a good chunk of the audience just can’t seem to deal with that.

    Liked by 4 people

    • Thanks KZ, I appreciate all your thoughtful comments. I’ve been thinking about this aspect of the complicity issue a bit lately.. In the last coupla years, we’ve seen well-known women take more criticism for being “complicit” more than their male counterparts do. Ivanka vs Jared, Sarah Huckabee vs Sean Spicer, Hillary vs Bill… it feels like we hold women to a higher ethical standard than men, and then feel greater disappointment when they don’t quite live up to the standard. The disdain toward Carmela may not stem solely from misogyny, but also from its opposite: a kind of mythologizing of The Female.

      Of course, this kind of unrealistic mythologizing may be a form of misogyny in itself…

      Liked by 1 person

  15. You got a bee on your hat is my favorite line of the entire series. I crack up every time I see it.

    Liked by 2 people

  16. By sniffing Adrianna’s panties, Paulie shows that he still has “Pussy” on his mind.

    Liked by 3 people

  17. Like Karen’s Ziti, I am also disappointed by how many fans of the show seem to hold Carmela in such low regard. In this episode, the Dean mentions the donor getting the name on the wall, but there is nothing at all to indicate this is anything close to a driving motivation for Carmela. Her every action indicates she is primarily concerned with not bypassing an opportunity to help Meadow if she can. Yet so many say Carmela was just concerned with getting a cash payout from Tony, or cementing her place in Ivy League Society. Amazing.

    And that ubercynical take that Carmela was faking depression to manipulate Tony? Wow. Carmela was genuinely teetering on the edge. Her ultimatum to Tony was not manipulation. It came from a woman at the end of her rope. If Tony was not going to use his “blood money” to at least help his children, she may have taken the leap right then and there. Tony sensed Carmela’s sincerity.

    My take on their relationship is they do love each other. Tony’s problem is how he prioritizes that love. With Carmela it is much more complicated. Yeah, gifts from Tony often made her temporarily “forget” other problems. But I repeatedly got the sense that IF Tony would commit to being the husband and father she wanted and thought he could be, then she would take that route every time even if it meant fewer niceties. Notice how she lit up when the Dean had mentioned his family outing. Carmela was clearly envious that the family “did it together”. She wanted them all home for dinner each night. She was furious with Tony for missing AJ’s swim meet. This happens again and again. Yes, she compromises her morals. But it is far from all about her own material and societal gain. I’m not sure she would give up Tony’s ability to provide as he does if it meant they could not do what they do for their children. But I never get the sense she would not be willing to give up her own material and societal gains if she could have that family life she craved.

    So yeah, she is still a hypocrite (who isn’t?). But the same culpability as Tony? Not even in the same ballpark.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Like MatteoBrasi I don’t find hypocrisy that interesting. Of course people are going to be inconsistent and lie to themselves and even to other people. What is most interesting and telling is what people do when they confront the truth about their inconsistency. What bothers me is not hypocrisy but wanting other people punished for the exact same things you do. But excluding yourself. I know Carmella is a terrible person I find it difficult to and not very useful to say who is worse. There lies the road to excusing some people who commit harm and punish some people who commit the exact same sort of harm. I am always struck by the people like the Russian nurse, Melfi, Charmaine, the black policeman, the lawncare guy, the emt who Tony shakes down, and Artie. They all find a moral code that is strong and consistent and what is even more they build things. However we cannot see how courageous they are without the contrast of the gangsters who try and take advantage of them at every turn.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Matteo – I appreciate your observations! You’re right about everyone’s guilt/hypocrisy; anyone associated with the Sopranos in general is culpable of some kind of transgression. As angry/frustrated/disappointed we are with Carmela, she is actually the only person holding the family together, even though the proverbial glue occasionally loses its grip. Unfortunately, she has made her bed and will continue to sleep in it, even though she has options (moving away from Tony’s regime).

      Liked by 1 person

  18. I agree with matteobrasi, she was having an emotional crisis. The only thing I don’t know if I agree with is if she really wants to give up the money and “prestige” that she holds, among her own people only really. We can see that she was raised differently, but they have all fallen into that habit of benefitting from Tony’s crimes. On some level, there is agreement about what Tony does. As we find out later, Carmela can’t escape even if she had all the best intentions because of who Tony is. He doesn’t want her to go. Her mother is very aware of appearances, and we can say the same about Carmela. She likes the perks, she just had a crisis of conscience. Tony is a bad guy, but he has his times where he is not happy about the things he does. This is why he goes to therapy. Conflicted. I also think like I have said before, her self esteem is low, because of Tony’s girlfriends. She wants to be loved and feel attractive. After a long marriage, I think alot of women feel taken for granted and maybe like an old shoe. She has been on the look out for extra marital stuff from the beginning, without a crisis of conscience. But this is the life she chose, eyes open….in her world, she is the Wife. Thats a big thing. To quote Rosalie, like Hilary, she starts “her own thing” eventually.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Emmanual Kreisman

      I love your comment here but in regards to Carmela starting “her own thing”… she doesn’t. No part of the spec house scheme or any aspect of her life for that matter is “her own thing” outside of Tony, with the one exception being the Wegman affair. My blood chills to ice when I imagine the consequences of what an assassination of Tony in front of his family would mean for them. Brrrrrrrr. I the words of Samuel L. Jackson in Pulp Fiction,the final stretch of the series is some “chilly shit”.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Yes, that’s true, she gets the initial money from Tony, but if he gets killed or arrested I don’t think the FEDS can touch her money. She knows who he is and what he does. She worked with what she could. We can say the same thing about Angie, she SEEMS to have her own thing, but Tony gave her permission for that as well, and made that happen. They are entangled with him forever. Their choice. My thought is that he doesn’t get killed in front of them. I think the story was over and it just ended. The black screen was just “the ending”. That was my first thought when I saw it originally, and I still think it is.

        Liked by 1 person

  19. Most of what I’ve said is in my reply to RTF, but I’d just like to say that Dog Day Afternoon is indeed a kick-ass film (and Sonny’s royalties ended up paying for his girlfriend’s bottom surgery). I’m watching every Al Pacino film with queer themes this year, and DDA is my most anticipated rewatch (though Cruising is always good for a laugh).
    Attica! Attica!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’ve been wanting to do a rewatch of the five movies John Cazale acted in, all of which were nominated for Best Picture, and of course DDA is in that list…


  20. I’ve recently noticed how aesthetically empty and sterile the sopranos home interior is . Most lived in homes have cracks in the perfection through typical things like a sweater casually thrown over a chair, or other misplaced articles of life. Check out the final sequence in this episode as Carmela ascends the stairs and tony walks towards the door. Red flags are abound as staircases and front doors are repeatedly used as signs of danger throughout the Sopranos. The shot is reminiscent of the the entry to the ghost house seen in Mayham, except from the inside looking out. The furniture looks eerily polished and clean. The house represents an illusion of pureness and tranquility, but behind the appearance is the blood money Carmela’s psychiatrist was talking about. In fact with her light blond hair, Carmela fits the sterile color scheme and almost seems like part of the fantasy herself. The fantasy of an innocent wife who simply ensures Tony is well fed, falls apart after she is called out for being an enabler to Tony’s grim misdeeds. A hauntingly stern deity like statuette head stares Carmela down as she chooses to ignore truth and wrap herself in the blood money figuratively with the blanket and literally with the 50k donation.

    There is a deeply unsettling vibe I get in this final scene when I put it all together. An unnaturally sterile looking house, and a blond housewife who wraps herself in a quilt reflecting the color scheme and almost blending in as another piece of the house. Then we have Tony. As you absorb his profile from the bottom up, you’re presented with grey ambiguous pants. This guy stands out, but is he good or bad? Continue to scan upwards and you get your answer. Beyond the grey pants, you see a Jet black upper torso that dominates his threateningly large frame. Tony clashes tremendously with the sterile colors of the house AND Carmela. So dramatic is this dissonance that it calls to mind the large black attack dog from Melfi’s dream.

    All of this is presented alongside a calm serenade about a woman who is unhappy, but always gets her way. The danger in plain sight that Tony represents to the entire set is downplayed and distracted from by the melody, although the lyrics themselves sing of conflict. Very similarly to that final scene at Holsteins where an upbeat song sang of shadows in the night. This moment seems like the prelude to don’t stop believing.

    Liked by 1 person

  21. I don’ t know if it was the best thing to do Chemo. He might have been OK with just another surgery. I always had a thought that the CHEMO exacerbated his dementia. If I were his age and I had the choice, I would go with my first instinct. He was never really the same after that chemotherapy.

    Liked by 1 person

  22. “Black Books” is about a woman who wants new things/experiences and always gets her way… may not be Carm in totality, but largely accurate. Both the song and Carmela’s life are sad in that “true love will die” realization that life is suffering and you can’t always get what you want. The jewels, new furniture, trips to Paris and that 50k attempt at some legitimacy are just ways to “joyfully participate in the sorrow of the world.” They may bring some sort of joy, but the sorrow still remains.
    When the characters in Arthur Miller’s “The Crucible” talk about being tempted by the devil, they mention writing their names in his “black book.” While nearly every character in The Sopranos has made some sort of deal with the devil, this episode highlights Carmela’s Faustian pact.

    Liked by 1 person

  23. It’s odd how the Sopranos think everything can be negotiated or bargained. Carmella thinks the dean really has power to make Meadow’s college experience better. The dean cannot do the learning for her, help her make friends, or connect her with people meaningful to her career. She will be treated very much like every other student. Yet Carmella think the 50K will protect her daughter yet Meadow could not be procted from having her bike stolen. This shows how insular and small her world really is.
    Maybe its my familiarity with academia but having a meal with a dean even at an ivy is so unimpressive to me even if I was job hunting for a teaching job. This shows how much fear Carmella has despite her intelligence and accomplishments. I remember a very quick scene where Carmella is drawing a picture of AJ.

    Liked by 1 person

  24. It’s very funny that Carmella did not see how she is looking for excitement to fill a void just like Madam Bovary

    Liked by 1 person

  25. Notemma Goldman

    Does the whole Kennedy storyline really speak to the hypocrisy behind the gangster attitude to masculinity? I’m the first person to say that if I have cancer I want a doctor who knows about chemotherapy drugs and surgery – a scientist who is worried about facts and reason. I don’t need someone to hold my hand and worry about my emotions, or if I do, that’s what my family is for. Tony and Junior would probably say the same things in the abstract, but when it comes down to it they stop just short of beating the guy with a golf club for not being sensitive enough to Junior’s feelings. The over-the-top displays of violence and machismo are making up for some very fragile, underdeveloped people whose lives are ruled by impulse and emotion, much more so than any of the women they deal with.

    Liked by 1 person

  26. Sully Boyar who played Dr. Krakowski died only two weeks before this aired.

    Liked by 2 people

  27. Pingback: The Soprano Onceover: #60. “Second Opinion” (S3E7) | janiojala

  28. FYI. Just noticed a continuity error: when Tony and Furio confronted Dr. Kennedy on the golf course and essentially push him into the pond, the doc was wearing white golf shoes with black inserts. When doc steps out of the water, his shoes are black (not from the mud).

    Liked by 1 person

  29. Hi Ron: thanks so much for your analysis of the Sopranos episodes – they’ve really enhanced my now third viewing of the series, and have helped me to pick up many details that previously passed me by.

    The last few scenes of this episode are a high point of the series for me, as Carmela’s moral world is laid bare. I love your analysis of Dr Krakower as the immovable moral object. I also think there are some more religious themes that others haven’t yet picked up from these scenes (which perhaps go along with your analysis of the Catholic concept of Jubilee from the episode Marco Polo).

    The Catholic “indulgence” was the teaching of the church that one could absolve sins by good works. By the late middle ages financial contributions to hospitals and other charities were acceptable indulgences, meaning the rich could buy their way to heaven (the moral problems this brought up was one of the triggers of the protestant reformation). In the final scene we see Carmella first in a state of misery. After Tony agrees to make the donation to Columbia we see Carmella’s gaze turn upwards. Then, as Carmella gets up and begins to ascend the stairs, with Tony close behind her we get a scene straight out of a Catholic church – the two candles on the table in the foreground, the windows in the front door looking like stained glass, and Carmella wearing the thick bed sheet like a priest’s vestment. As they leave the frame, ascending the stairs to the right the choral backing in “Black Books” heightens the feeling that what we’re seeing is Catholic ritual. Elsewhere in the scene the conspicuous gold jewellery and ornaments add to the church aesthetic.

    People have commented that this scene is about Carmella’s selfishness, but what she gets here is not something for her – it’s a donation to an educational institution. Rather than a material benefit for Carmella, this resolves her moral dilemma. In many ways Carmella’s role is to make Tony acceptable, to absolve him of his sins, by providing him with a “normal” family and a good home. I’m wondering if the Catholic concept of the “indulgence” is part of the framework that allows this to work.

    Liked by 1 person

  30. I see Carmela as a stand in for Americans in general. We know our country has committed atrocities in other places and destabilized other governments. Our corporations run rampant in other countries, despoiling the environment and exploiting human beings. All of us acquiesce, at least to some degree, because we get cheap consumer goods and a steady flow of fossil fuels that makes our lives easy and richer than our ancestors could have ever imagined. Farm laborers grow our food, sweatshops provide our clothes–unless we live like Mother Teresa, we’re participating in some terrible systems and we can’t very easily extract ourselves. Carmela just happens to live many degrees closer to the violence she profits from than most of us. I suppose that’s partly where the back to the land movement came from or the many utopian communities that have arisen for many starry-eyed reasons and then fallen away for the most petty (or because of the backbreaking hard work!) throughout America’s history. We dream/hope/envision living more pure, noble, simple lives. It’s easy to be a saint on a mountaintop, right?

    Liked by 1 person

  31. After Corrado had stomach surgery, Dr. Kennedy told Tony and his crew that he removed a ‘fist-sized tumor’. However, during the medical review, one of the doctors said that the tumor was 4mm in size, which is equal to .15inch (less than 1/4in.) – or 5/32in. (in fraction). My, my does the doctor lie! 😶

    Liked by 1 person

  32. Melfi’s motivations regarding sending Carmela to Krakower is rife with implications. Is it subconscious hostility to Carmela, who is in some ways her rival? Does she in some way want Tony and Carmela to split? Is it her way of bringing the harsh judgment on Tony that she is unwilling to deliver herself?

    Liked by 1 person

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