Christopher (4.03)

Italian-Americans and Native-Americans have
a showdown over the Columbus Day parade.
The Baccalieri family suffers a horrible tragedy (and things
are about to get even worse for them, as Janice begins to eye Bobby).

Episode 42 – Originally aired Sept 29, 2002
Written by Michael Imperioli and Maria Laurino (Story)
Directed by Tim Van Patten


My cable TV was down when this episode first aired, so I asked a friend if I could come over and watch it at her place.  I sat in front of her television as she did some errands around the house (she hadn’t gotten into The Sopranos yet) and proceeded to laugh my head off for an hour.  She was surprised by my laughter, saying that she didn’t realize The Sopranos was a comedy.  Although there was always a high probability that The Sopranos would provide viewers with the funniest moment of their TV-watching week, the series could not exactly be classified as a “comedy.”  It was just too dark and serious.  “Christopher” is the great exception—it’s a hilarious satire from its first minute to its last.

I can’t say why David Chase provided such comic relief so early in the season.  Perhaps it was to relieve the gnawing sense of threat presented in 4.01 (the first episode to air after 9/11) and the high-intensity family dynamics of 4.02.  In any case, 4.03 is unusually playful.  The gags begin with the title itself.  “Christopher” ostensibly refers to the controversial “star” of the hour, Christopher Columbus, but of course it also points back to the fact that it is Michael Imperioli—aka Christopher—who wrote the episode.  Chase, as I’ve mentioned before, often utilizes Imperioli in his meta-level manipulations (perhaps most notably in “The Legend of Tennessee Moltisanti” which, with its exploration of ethnicity, is the thematic forerunner of “Christopher”).  Now it is Imperioli’s turn to demonstrate his meta-level gamesmanship.  This hour is filled with moments in which the real-world bleeds into fictional SopranoWorld.  I find the episode’s “wink-wink” self-awareness very amusing, but many viewers do not find this hour as enjoyable as I do.  They note (with some validity) that much of the episode’s dialogue feels too forced and didactic.  The entire hour, in fact, feels a bit contrived.  But I think these criticisms miss the point.  “Christopher” is primarily a farce; we shouldn’t fault it for being “contrived” any more than we should fault a Marx Brothers routine or a Mel Brooks film for being “unrealistic.”

The hour starts out with the guys hanging out in front of Satriale’s, killing time by playing the License Plate Game.  (“Ohhh, Massachusetts!” exclaims Patsy.)  Bobby Bacala reads aloud a newspaper article about a planned protest of the Columbus Day parade, and everyone’s emotions start running high.  Silvio decides he’s going to take some action.  (I think it’s quite possible that if these guys couldn’t kill time all day—if they had real jobs to go to—they might have let this protest pass.  The Devil will find work for idle hands to do.)

The guys attempt to break up the initial demonstration in front of the Columbus statue at Washington Park, but it doesn’t go well for them.  They get pushed back by a crowd sympathetic to the Native Americans.  Little Paulie is felled by a bottle to the head.  Artie less perilously gets hit by a Slurpee, but reacts as though the Apocalypse has arrived, rushing back to the safety of the car.  Long-suffering Georgie gets beat down and thrown to the ground by the cops.  (The poor guy can’t even catch a break outside the Bing.)  Patsy gets arrested and the remaining guys beat a hasty retreat.  (In the pandemonium, a random voice yells out, “Down with globalization!”—those frickin’ hippies were everywhere back then.)

Tony is disappointed in his guys, especially consigliore Silvio, who is supposed to be the voice of reason (and who was particularly reasonable and savvy in the previous episode).  But Sil is unwilling to let it go.  He is a proud Italian who makes donations to the “Italian Anti-Defamation Coordination Council.”  (The name of the organization recalls the real-world “Italian-American Defense Association,” which had once filed a spurious lawsuit against HBO for The Sopranos’ depiction of Italian-Americans.  Coincidence?  Probably not, knowing David Chase.)  Tony doesn’t share their outrage but, like any good manager, he takes leadership on an issue that is important to his guys.  Silvio assures Tony that they will counter the Native-Americans’ threat with a “hearts-and-minds” campaign.

“Hearts and minds” was the description of the U.S. government’s Public Relations policy regarding Vietnam in the 1960s.  And President George W. Bush revived the term soon after invading Afghanistan (about one year before this episode first aired) and then doubled-down on the phrase after invading Iraq.  The NJ mob’s campaign against the Indians turns out to be only slightly less of a clusterfuck than these U.S. military campaigns.  Armed with a poster of Iron Eyes Cody, Ralph Cifaretto confronts Professor Del Redclay in a comical scene filled with puns, double-entendre and farcical menace.  Redclay admirably stands his ground but his steely-eyed confidence vanishes the moment Ralph departs.  Redclay worries that the truth of Cody’s Italian ancestry will equal a public relations disaster for the Native Americans.  (His T.A.’s comforting caress suggests that Ralphie’s crude double-entendre about her might actually have been right on the money.)  But Redclay’s worries are premature—the mob’s P.R. campaign ultimately falls flat.

Tony reaches out to Assemblyman Zellman for aid.  But Zellman declines to help—it is too touchy an issue.  Just two weeks after this episode aired, real-life politician Mayor Michael Bloomberg stirred controversy by skipping the Manhattan Columbus Day parade because its organizers refused to allow his guests Lorraine Bracco and Dominic Chianese to march alongside him.  The Columbus Citizens Foundation, who organized the parade, tried to get a court order to prevent the actors from marching because the organization believed The Sopranos to be demeaning to Italian-Americans.  Bloomberg—a true mensch, unlike Zellman—ducked the parade and took his two friends out to lunch instead.

Sopranos Zellman & Bloomberg

Tony has another card up his sleeve.  Through his friend Hesh, Tony meets Mohonk Chief Doug Smith (“Smith”—the most generic name in America) whose suave and confident manner reassures the guys that he can squelch the planned parade protest.  But he can’t.  This strategy hits the wall too.

As you might expect in a satire, practically everyone in the episode is gripped by the issue at hand.  Even the usually oblivious AJ engages in the debate.  He is reading Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States, which opens with Columbus’ misdeeds against natives.  (The book found a new generation of fans on the Left during the Bush years, and its presence here feels like a preview of Chase’s later criticism of the administration.)  Unsurprisingly, Richard LaPenna, Melfi’s ex-husband, also makes a quick appearance.  (Unsurprising because Chase loves to use this character to represent all those racially-sensitive, easily-outraged Italian-Americans who continuously balk at The Sopranos.)  Richard comes to Melfi’s house to settle up their son’s tuition but quickly gets caught up in the news report about the demonstration at the park.  As he watches the violence on TV, he comments, “My god, this is tragic.  It could be scored with Albinoni’s Adagio.”  Ah Richard, still the elitist douchebag, making a highbrow reference that most of us won’t get.  But the reference may have a deeper significance—and a deeper irony.  As Will Lerner explains for Rhapsody, the beautiful adagio “is one the composer didn’t really write.  A sketch was found just after World War II by a musicologist who went on to make it into a full-fledged work of art.”  So, the Adagio was not crafted by the 18th-century Italian Albinoni, but by a 20th-century musicologist.  Richard’s reference, it turns out, is as erroneous as his outrage.

It’s not only the guys that defend their ethnic heritage here—the gals get in on the act too.  The Dantes are quite the activists in this hour.  Silvio Dante leads the charge against the Native Americans while his wife Gabriella goes after Father Phil:

the Dantes

Much to the consternation of the mob wives, Fr. Phil has invited a professor to the church luncheon who gives a lecture that attempts to distance Italian culture from the Mafia.  Her inspirational talk wins the hearts and minds of the all the women present—except, of course, the mob wives.  As the de facto Queen of the NJ famiglia, Carmela feels the sharp end of the professor’s criticism.  But there’s nothing she can do about it.  She rhetorically asks “Whaddaya gonna do?”  But when Carmela repeats the question, with a more pointed tone, she seems to be channeling some of Tony’s managerial skills—Gabriella promptly gets up to do something about it.  Father Phil, predictably, is about to munch into a pastry when Gab comes in and gives him an earful about the offense to Carmela: “How dare you let her suffer humiliation and embarrassment at the hands of an outsider?”

But is the professor truly an outsider?   A little bit of dialogue heard earlier underscores the fact that the professor is actually Italian:

Father Phil:  Thank you Professor Murphy.  Or should I call you Professor Longo-Murphy?
Professor:  As longo’s you don’t call me late for dinner.

The exchange highlights her Italian surname.  It’s true that the professor is not a mob wife, but it’s nevertheless ironic that Gabriella would refer to a fellow Italian-American as an “outsider.”  (In a kind of supreme meta-irony, the actress who plays this proudly Italian professor has one of the most “Italian” sounding names of any actor to appear on the series—Roma Maffia—but she is not actually Italian.  She is of German, Spanish, English, and Afro-Caribbean descent.  So how, pray tell, did she get the last name “Maffia”?  Wikipedia provides the answer: “Her Italian surname derives from her Italian stepfather.”)  This business with the names (both fictional and real) points to how strange, paradoxical and permeable the circles that we circumscribe ourselves within (and without) really are.  “Insider” and “outsider” are culturally constructed terms that have no real consistent meaning, and yet we are wildly enthusiastic—even to the point of violence sometimes—about creating various “in-groups” and “out-groups” for ourselves.

A particular word in the title of Professor Longo-Murphy’s book, Strega: The Sorceress as Imago Figure in Italian Literature, may point to a reason why we try so hard to join particular in-groups: the “imago,” Wikipedia states, is a “term coined by Carl Jung to describe a way that people form their personality by identifying with the collective unconscious.”  In-groups, it seems to me, such as “the Mafia” or “Italian-Americans,” are smaller, easier-to-handle chunks of the collective unconscious.  For some people, ethnicity—rather than being a foundation from which to construct their individual personalities—becomes the primary material with which they form their Self.  If their ethnic group is attacked, it then becomes easy to mistake it as a personal attack on the Self.

There are several times in the episode (to the viewer’s great amusement) that characters radically and rapidly shift from “insider” to “outsider” status.  In his essay, “From Columbus to Gary Cooper,” Christopher Kocela looks more closely at this pattern:

Three scenes depict a discussion in which two or more characters, first portrayed as allies in their view of Columbus and his legacy, suddenly find themselves at odds with one another owing to an unexpected “historical” turn in the conversation.

Kocela analyzes the three scenes:

  1. Furio is willing to be a comrade-in-arms in action against the Native Americans, but it turns out he hates Columbus.  As an Italian southerner, Furio despises all northern Italians, including Columbus, for their long-standing condescension toward the South.
  2. Montel Williams (in a hilariously self-deprecating appearance) allies himself with guest Phillip Donatti—that is, until he feels that the Italian-American spokesman trivializes the plight of African-Americans, at which point he turns on his guest.
  3. Longtime friends Hesh and Reuben both find Columbus’ behavior in the New World to be deplorable, but when Cuban Reuben compares Columbus to Hitler, Hesh sees it as evidence of “covert anti-Semitism.”  The two buddies almost come to blows.

We may recognize Yul Vazquez, who plays Reuben, as “Bob” from three episodes of Seinfeld, including “The Puerto Rican Day” (the second highest-rated episode in Seinfeld history).

Reuben the Cuban

The plotline about the Columbus Day Parade in “Christopher” might evoke Dr. Krakower’s reference to ethnic pride parades last season, when he told Carmela, “Many patients want to be excused for their current predicament because of events that occurred in their childhood…Visit any shopping mall or ethnic pride parade to witness the results.”  Krakower was highly critical of our culture of victimization, in which we blame our failures and unhappiness on a victimizer, such as Columbus or history or childhood, rather than take responsibility for our own failings.  Now, I cannot reasonably suggest that Yul Vazquez was cast here to activate our memory of that widely watched Seinfeld episode, but “The Puerto Rican Day” does feature an ethnic pride parade, the memory of which (at least for me) underscores those words by Krakower which now seem so germane to understanding “Christopher.”

The Sopranos makes hard judgment on the culture of victimization, but this doesn’t mean that there are not legitimate victims in SopranoWorld.  Exploitation in the service of financial profit is a common occurrence on the show, and it produces real victims.  We may remember this scene from “Do Not Resuscitate” in Season 2:

MASSArone strike

In “Do Not Resuscitate,” Tony and Rev. Herman James exploited ethnic/minority discontent in order to line their pockets.  Now, in “Christopher,” Chief Doug Smith exploits his tiny sliver of Mohonk ancestry to profit in the casino business.  In this hour we are also reminded of how Tony victimized his uncle for the sake of profit, exploiting Corrado’s financial difficulties in order to buy and then sell the house on Frelinghuysen Ave.  Chase cuts from the scene in which Johnny Sac requests a piece of this sale’s profit to the scene in which Furio shows Carmela pictures of his recently purchased house, underscoring that in SopranoWorld, the business of buying and selling continues without cease, and financial exploitation related to this ceaseless economy is what produces the true victims. 

The final scene of the hour ties all the concepts in “Christopher” together.  Driving back from their fully comped trip to the casino, Silvio and Tony argue the merits of “group identity” versus “individualism.”  Tony, as might be expected, invokes Gary Cooper who represents the strong, silent individual, the man who refuses to wallow in victimization.  (Tony had also explicitly linked Gary Cooper and the culture of victimization in episode 2.06 “The Happy Wanderer.”)  When he mentions the “Miller Gang,” Tony is specifically alluding to one of Cooper’s most famous films, High Noon.  With its lone hero and stark imagery, High Noon holds a place in American culture as an embodiment of our mythology of tough individualism.  But this wasn’t necessarily the case when the film came out in 1952.  At the time, some viewers found the film too “psychological” for a Western, and saw Sheriff Kane (Gary Cooper) as weak and soft.  Howard Hawks and John Wayne made Rio Bravo, a more traditional Western, in 1959 as a direct response to High Noon.

I wouldn’t even mention all this if not for the fact that Rio Bravo appeared on Tony’s TV just two episodes ago, and there will be another allusion to it two episodes from now.  The political and ideological messages of the two films have become muddled over time, and so it is difficult to determine what Chase had in mind—if anything—when referring to these two opposing films in this first quarter of Season 4.  While modern audiences might interpret the two films very differently from the way a 1950s audience would, High Noon and Rio Bravo are both clearly concerned with issues of “individualism” and “group identity.”

high noon vs rio bravo

I’ll go deeper in a later write-up into how these two ’50s films take two radically different approaches to the question of American identity, but for right now I’ll just say that issues about national identity were crucially important in the 1950s when the Cold War was putting a chill in every American’s spine.  (Some have even interpreted High Noon to be an allegory of McCarthyism, that effort to question the “loyalty” of certain Americans during that period.)  In 2002, as the War on Terror—a conflict every bit as unnerving as the Cold War—was escalating, Chase gave us “Christopher,” an episode that explores the ways in which we now identify ourselves as Americans.

When Silvio realizes he missed the parade because he was at the casino, he ponders the possibility of simply whacking Del Redclay.  Tony lets him hear it: “Who the fuck are you kidding?!  All you thought about was blackjack.”  Tony is right.  The various issues of the olive-skinned or red-skinned or black-skinned or white-skinned eventually fall away for these characters—ultimately it’s all about the green, all about money.  Tony informs Silvio of the junket’s true purpose: Chief Smith (a man who represents all of America with that most generic and common of last names) wants to exploit the mob’s connection to Frankie Valli.  Tony orders Silvio to contact Valli and arrange the performances that Chief Smith wants.  Cue the final credits, scored to “Dawn” by (of course) Frankie Valli.

Valli is revered as an Italian-American hero, in part because of his work for “heritage-related” causes.  (The National Italian-American Foundation gave him its Lifetime Achievement Award in 2006.)  This proud, great man is now going to be manipulated by the NJ mob for a business deal.  Silvio’s ethnic pride has been co-opted by financial demands.  We can discuss race relations, tribalism and identity-politics all we want but, in the final analysis, we have to admit: it’s all about money in America.


There is a death in “Christopher” but it hardly subtracts from the laugh-fest because we hardly knew ye, Karen Baccalieri.  She first appeared only two episodes ago and racked up a minimal amount of screentime.  Karen was a minor character but her death has a ripple effect in SopranoLand: it drives Ralph closer to Janice, which in turn pushes Janice closer to Bobby.

Rosalie Aprile has already lost her husband and son, and now the death of her friend Karen sends her into despair.  Ralph can’t (or won’t) comfort her in her anguish, so she gives him the boot.  That’s ok with him, it’s what he wanted anyway.  Earlier, Ralph had a romantic interlude with Janice (she pegged him with a strap-on) during which she murmured sweet pillow talk (“Work that ass, you little cunt”) as they experienced unbridled bliss (his amyl nitrate poppers probably also contributed) but they were interrupted by a phone call from Rosalie.  Ralph doesn’t have to worry about such interruptions anymore.  He flees from Rosalie and returns to Janice: “Now, there can be no more fear.  No more guilt.  Just sex.”  Tonight is Janice’s night to bring food to Bobby and his kids, but she scampers up the stairs with Ralphie instead.

Janice arrives at Bobby’s the next day with a bucket of KFC and an excuse for her absence last night.  Valerie Palmer-Mehta writes in “Disciplining the Masculine: The Disruptive Power of Janice Soprano” that Janice’s bullshit excuse about her Bible group’s potluck dinner sharply contrasts her to Karen who was going from an actual church event to the dentist’s office when she was killed.  Prof. Maurice Yacowar notes the significance of Karen’s death en route to the dentist: she told Bobby, “I’m going to get my crown today,” and her death, in fact, “crowns” her in Bobby’s mind.  Janice is moved by the depth of feeling Bobby has for his wife, a depth that Ralph Cifaretto does not seem to have.

Janice seeks advices from her counselor Sandy regarding insensitive Ralph.  Sandy is a fool, she gets multiple things wrong during their sessions (although to be fair, Janice is feeding her a lot of wrong information).  There’s something I wanna throw out there, though it’s not something I’m convinced of—the table sculpture between Janice and Sandy seems to be an abstracted eggplant:

sopranos eggplant

Is this is a visual reference to Karen’s last message to Bobby—to pick up some steaks and eggplant on the way home?  (If so, Chase may be further distinguishing  Karen—who cooks with that staple of Italian cuisine, the eggplant—from Janice, who shows up with Kentucky Fried Chicken.)  Or it might be making some additional commentary on the nature of race and ethnicity.  Eggplant, after all, is loaded with racial baggage in SopranoWorld, because a corruption of its Italian name—mulignan—is a slang term for black people.  Sandy’s abstract, “deracinated” eggplant may point to her inability to grasp the subtle dynamics of minority (Italian-American, or American Mafia) culture due to her membership, as a Caucasian, in a generic majority culture.  (I think I’m reaching here…let me get away from this line of thought.)  Sandy advises Janice to break it off with Ralph “with the compassion and respect you’re famous for.”  Janice does later treat Ralph with precisely the level of  compassion that we expect from her—she practically breaks his neck by shoving him down the stairs.  We know by now that staircases are associated with cruelty in The Sopranos:

Janice fantasizes about pushing her mother down the staircase in “Do Not Resuscitate”:

livia stair sign2

Amy Safir not only rejects Chris professionally and romantically from a staircase in “D-Girl,” but also treats him condescendingly:

amy loses her crush

Dr. Melfi is raped on a staircase in “Employee of the Month”:


Cruel Livia’s first appearance after being discharged from the hospital is her menacing trip down the staircase in “Bust Out”:

livia darth vader

From the same staircase, Livia harshly criticizes her daughter in “The Knight in White Satin Armor” for not being able to make romantic relationships work (Richie has just “departed” from her):

livia - staircase

Now, Ralph lies in a heap on the landing.  In case we need a reminder that this is the same location of some of those previous cruelties, Chase has placed Livia’s disassembled Stair Lift in front of the fireplace:

cifaretto - staircase

Ralph is relatively lucky—he only ends up bruised in the living room, instead of dead in the kitchen like former lover Richie Aprile.  Ralph limps out of the house, and now Janice can continue to pursue Bobby with the cunning and pretense that she is so famous for.


I’m making a bit of a “hearts and minds” campaign myself with this write-up, trying to get fans to appreciate this episode more.  But I know my efforts will be in vain—many viewers will always feel a sort of disgust for this hour.  I do hope, however, that viewers will recognize the sheer genius of the episode title, if not of the entire episode.  The title contains a meta-joke, as I mentioned earlier, coming out of the fact that Michael Imperioli (aka Christopher) wrote the episode.  This meta-joke highlights the fact that the script for this hour is something that was written—it is a fiction that has been constructed.  And this idea parallels the hour’s theme: the historical story of Christopher Columbus is also something that has been constructed.  The issue of whether the long-accepted story of Columbus is accurate has been debated, and will continue to be debated, for years.  When I was a kid, you couldn’t get through grade school without being asked at some point to pull out your crayons and draw a picture of Columbus’ heroic journey across the Atlantic (see the header pic above).  But perhaps the narrative of Columbus’ heroism deserves to be challenged, as it is in this hour.  Ultimately, we have to accept that it is sometimes impossible to discern what is fiction and what is non-fiction in an historical account.  Chase has always excelled at drawing out an hour’s themes with his episode titles, and “Christopher” is one of the greatest examples of this.



  • When Carmela describes one of her acquaintances as a “two-face,” the camera lingers on Adriana.  The camera used to similarly linger on Big Pussy back when he was an FBI informant.
  • Paulie is still talking to Johnny Sac from prison, setting up the main storyline for the next episode.
  • The “stair” thing: there are still a few notable incidents that occur on staircases yet to come in Seasons 5 and 6.
  • In my entry for episode 4.05 “Pie-O-My,” I’ll take a closer look at how Chase may be using the two films High Noon and Rio Bravo to clarify certain notions of “individualism.”
  • A line from Were You Always An Italian?, a book by Maria Laurino (who gets story credit for “Christopher”), sums up the basic theme of the hour: “…ethnic truth is a muddy conceit, and in America often beheld through the ersatz.”


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79 responses to “Christopher (4.03)

  1. There’s also the dream Tony has as an immigrant labourer where a shadowed female figure slowly descends the staircase and stops.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Yes, definitely…there will be a few more sequences on staircases and I’ll point them out as they come up…

      Liked by 2 people

      • Yes, very Livia like, or even Melfiesque! During the last season, the episode w/ him and Tony Blundetto (serving as a guest helper at the party) there is also a woman headed up or down the staircase – very similar to the one that kevinmc pointed out!

        Liked by 1 person

        • Or when the everyone laughs at Johnny Boy for falling down the stairs as the only moment of shared happiness between young Tony and his family, or when Tony falls down the stairs and his gun falls out of his jacket and Livia laughs at him (if I recall correctly this is one of the few times Livia is actually towering over him on the higher step and he runs away like a child)

          Liked by 3 people

  2. “I think it’s quite possible that if these guys couldn’t kill time all day—if they had real jobs to go to—they might have let this protest pass”

    No kidding. Then there’s this:

    “I wish I could sit around all day, smoke a pipe and collect money from the government” – Bobby Bacala.

    As opposed to, what, sitting around all day in front of a pork store while stealing from the government, and society as a whole?


    “Prof. Maurice Yacowar notes the significance of her death en route to the dentist: she told Bobby, “I’m going to get my crown today,” and her death, in fact, “crowns” her in Bobby’s mind.”

    Now that’s good stuff. I’m going to have to read more from this Professor Yacowar. I don’t know if you were a regular at during the first few seasons, but there was a frequent poster named “Lawless” there that used to come up with a ton of these. He even detailed out how the Dr. Kennedy plot in season 3 was a metaphor for the Cuban Missile Crisis. Everyone thought he might have been David Chase messing with us.


    Rio Bravo v. High Noon. Going to watch both of those in the near future, too. Thanks for the idea. Great analysis, as usual.

    Liked by 4 people

  3. Funny how this isn’t even the only time that Little Paulie will get a glass bottle broken on his head; Eugene will give him the ol’ Snapple surprise in Season 5, Episode 9 (Unidentified Black Males).

    Liked by 3 people

  4. When Gabby Dante complains to Father Phil – “How dare you let her suffer humiliation and embarrassment at the hands of an outsider?” Isn’t she using the term ‘Outsider’ to mean not part of the Mafia? Meadow using the same term when she castigates Jackie Jr.’s sister for telling the truth about Jackie’s
    death. “How can you even talk like this in front of an outsider?”
    After Bobby’s wife died, he crowned her, “I loved her so much”. This reminds me of how Livia kept whimpering “He was a saint” about Johnny Boy.
    Sentiments that in Livia’s case we know she didn’t share while Johnny was alive. I wonder how Bobby really felt about his wife when she was alive.
    He does seem more gentle than the other gangsters, but he admitted himself that he’s shy by nature.

    Liked by 2 people

    • “I wonder how Bobby really felt about his wife when she was alive.”

      He was the only guy without a goomar and he was openly weeping during her funeral. Remember Johnny Sac lost a lot of respect for showing open emotion.. I’d say he definitely loved her.

      “He does seem more gentle than the other gangsters,”

      We also know he never even killed a guy until ordered it out of spite in season 6. Guy was a captain and made it that far without murder. Definitely a gentle giant (or as much of a gentle giants as you can be as a career criminal). Compared to a normal person he was certainly not a good guy but compared to the other’s dude was a saint.

      Liked by 3 people

  5. Bobby really loved his wife. He couldn’t even bring himself to eat her “Last Ziti before she died.” I also think that once he went and decided to align himself with Janice, it was mostly because it made him more important in his “Career” and because she took care of the kids. I’m positive he wasn’t “in love” with her. I love that line that was mentioned before of them wishing they could sit around smoking mushrooms and getting government checks. Ironic how they see themselves. This episode was hilarious, and I think Janice’s therapist is related to one of the directors. Van Patten, am I right?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ok that intrigued me so I had to look it up… She’s Tim Van Patten’s half-sister (and the younger sister of Dick Van Patten, who I loved on Eight is Enough as a kid).

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Another funny aside..when Chief Smith says he had a meeting in Manhattan, I love that Artie says “Uh Oh, not again!”

    Liked by 4 people

  7. Lots of connection to Rio Bravo- I may have to take a look at that. I’m impressed on how much time you put into these autopsies; these seem like you do quite a bit of preparation and research. While this episode has some great humor as you stated (Artie with that slurpee!) it was pretty dull and a boring storyline. Perhaps it was intentional. Tony calling out Sil at the end was just perfect. He don’t really care about what was happening, he wanted to be with his friends and gamble. “The compassion and respect you are famous for.” Wow if this woman only had a clue. I think Chase is hinting on what bullshit therapy can be. After watching that scene and the Dr. Kobler scene I am convinced.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks. I love all the other Sopranos analysis sites and podcasts out there but I like to think what makes S.A. different is that I’ve tried to do the prep and research that The Sopranos deserves…

      Liked by 2 people

  8. That close-up stare of Livia’s (takes up 1/2 the screen) when Janice is talking to her about something (the Livia head on the falling staircase) should be a screen-cap here. It foreshadows a lot of other acts to come!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Carmella’s “Whaddaya gonna do?” seemed so forced and makes me cringe every time. She usually seems fairly natural as an Italian woman; but, that line, and it’s phony delivery, seem like they belong in the pilot. It’s like the non-Italian people who say “gabagool” in front of Italians and “cappicola” everywhere else.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Sure, it sounds unusual coming from Carm but that’s kind of the point though, no?

      Liked by 1 person

      • In what way? I’m speaking strictly to her unnatural pronunciation of this line that we often hear. I think her saying it in her “normal” Carmella voice could have pushed Gab towards acting on her behalf. Or is there another point I’m missing?


        • I mean that Carm’s unusual delivery may be a reflection of how unusual it is for her to use her position to “muscle” her friends into action..

          Liked by 3 people

          • No, I think it was just a poor job of her trying to sound more Italian and tough. That being said, overall, I find her abhorrent and think she pushes people–and her own conscience–into whatever direction makes her feel better about her phony life. I do think the line being said twice, along with the second time being joined by a prolonged camera stay on her face, was to show that she was literally asking “What are you going to do?” and was pushing Gab to confront Father Phil. I think that is true. But, the pronunciation…it was just an awkward delivery.

            Liked by 2 people

      • Exactly , she is mimicking Tony…..that’s why I posted that this entire episode is a Seinfeld-ian spoof. They shoulda put a laugh track to it…..

        Liked by 2 people

    • I thought it sounded weird when Furio said it in Commendatori as well, too Italian-American, like a meta “this is what you’re expecting it to sound like right?” type thing.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Years after this episode aired, an ex Ivy Leauge professor is found to have exaggerated her Native American ancestral background to conveniently advance her career and eventually become a US Senator.
    In the next episode, while speaking with Johnny Sac, Tony describes the joke about Ginny to be “deplorable”. The use of that word was said to have a major impact on a US Presidental election.
    There’s no way Chase and his crew could have had that much foresight, however it is quite fascinating in hindsight.


    • lol interesting… Chase pokes fun at our tribalism and identity politics in this hour, and those characteristics of American culture have become even more pronounced since “Christopher” first aired.

      Liked by 2 people

      • This show coincides with the era where American really started to come undone….another twenty years and we will probably see armed confrontations in the streets between left and right….

        Liked by 2 people

        • Maybe armed skirmishes here and there, possibly, but I don’t think we’ll come undone. If human history provides a clue, in 20 years conservatives will have embraced the positions that liberals hold now, while liberals will have moved on to even more progressive positions…

          And on and on it goes, ride the painted pony, let the spinning wheel glide…

          Liked by 1 person

          • I don’t know…hard to say. At some point, conservatives will simply refuse to abide by progressive rule, Should progressives assume enough power. Like with guns: if the govt were truly to come for our guns and do do with force, several gun owners would kill the officials who Came for their guns.

            Or conservatives in the military and law enforcement will turn on progressive politicians. Look at the border. Federal “law” is turning border Patrol agents into human smuggling facilitators…I can tell you first hand that many agents feel exactly this way. What happens if they stop obeying orders?

            To tie this in with the sopranos, look at Tony’s revulsion and fear of Islamic terror….he literally becomes an informant with agent Harris! My point is that if you push people too far don’t be surprised when they upend the system…


            • Eh. If things truly break down the cause will be economic. Like The Sopranos, in the end it’s about the cash.

              Liked by 3 people

            • I’m saying that conservatives will eventually, gladly, of their own accord, take up some of the positions that progressives hold now—most likely on issues like healthcare, climate change, and transgender rights.. It has nothing to do with abiding by “progressive rule.”

              Liked by 3 people

            • I think he uses those Muslims as a Get out of Jail Earlier card. I don’t really think he would flip either. I think he fully expects to go to jail if he doesn’t get killed and is trying to gain points with the FBI. I don’t think he’s worried at all about terrorism in a true sense. Tony uses whatever he can to help himself. Its just a couple of points to help him with his upcoming trial.

              Liked by 2 people

        • Well, you were off by about 20 years, but the armed confrontations between the left and right are here, in August 2020. You are prescient!
          I am scared.


        • Decristo – It’s already happened.

          Liked by 1 person

      • Ron – Of course the Soprano crew got angry and lashed out at the protesters, and of course the (real world) media would react! noted, “Indigenous People’s Day has existed since the late 1970s. While it’s recognized in many major US cities, New York City is the major exception … The NY Public Schools included the day on its 2021-2022 calendar without consulting Mayor Bill De Blasio … Cuomo said ‘Why insult or diminish the Italian-American contribution? Why? There’s no need, and it’s unhealthy for the body politic'”. Conversely, said, “The media – both journalistic and dramatic – can even make you hate yourself. But that’s not what happened … Congratulations to the Sopranos for its American Indian episode”. Let’s face it – this country has its basis in conflict!

        Liked by 1 person

    • Everything in the show is not really about gangsters. It’s about what has been going on in America since the 1950s at least if not longer. Wait till season 5 when they rip off Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Todd VanDerWerf (sp?) notes that this is one of those rare episodes where the audience is openly invited to agree with Tony. Often, he comes to the moral messages of episodes belatedly (his grief at Tracee’s death in University), or only confesses them privately (talking about Vito deserving a second chance in Live Free or Die), and it’s almost always in front of Melfi that he reaches this type of honesty (confessing he doesn’t want AJ to be like him in Down Neck). In the final car ride, Tony is imparting the episode’s central message, not just the power fronting of Tony Soprano (as he does at Ray’s birthday dinner in All Due Respect). Chase’s criticisms of over zealous group pride are voiced by the anti-hero lead, as if to add extra salt to the sting.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Good observation. TVDW (which is what I use to avoid looking up the spelling) noted that this hour had some good things going for it but I was surprised that he nevertheless came down so hard on it. Almost every episode of The Sopranos contains elements of humor or farce or absurdity—“Christopher” simply runs these elements together into several long sequences. It is certainly an unusual episode, but I really expected Todd to be more appreciative of it.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Ron – l found an article on Vox (Oct 2015) about Todd VanDerWerff’s comment: “It’s not just the worst episode. It’s the worst episode by SEVERAL DEGREES. The show had not been this bad before, and it would not get this bad again”. I absolutely agree. Yes, by now we all know that the Christopher Columbus stories we learned about in school were largely lies. I still can’t figure out why we weren’t told the truth, but then again, we weren’t told the truth about a whole lot of historical events/people. At some point, it’s time to stop beating the proverbial dead horse, to be thankful that the lies are being decimated and continue to move forward.

        Liked by 1 person

        • P.S. I disagree with what I wrote above. This wasn’t really the worst episode. It just wasn’t as good as others before and after it. There was a lot more going on (other than the protest); the heartbreaking death of Bobby’s wife, conflict at Carmela’s church, Janice going to therapy (I really like her therapist!), Tony’s argument with Silvio, etc. All-in-all, not bad at all! 😎

          Liked by 1 person

  12. Here’s my take on this episode….it’s a spoof. Or more aptly, it’s like taking characters from a certain genre and transplanting them into a different genre. Sorta like when Lou Grant got his own show it wasn’t funny anymore….even as a kid, that really threw me for a loop….and got me thinking about tone and perspective in fiction….
    Honestly, Christopher is an episode of Seinfeld. It’s about boring conversations, it’s about nothing, it’s about petty trivialities blown into epic proportions and it features selfish, self centered characters who are almost more archetypes than people. No one is good, bet all have agendas and the whole iron eyes Cody thing reminded me of Elaine and her ersatz black paramour who thought she was Hispanic….
    One thing I picked up on my recent rewatch …one of the Indian picketers held a sign that read “Mussolini was Hitler’s bitch”….this really stood out to me. It’s so ridiculous, Mussolini was an enemy of the US and most Italians Americans hated him…NONE More than mafiosos…and in the year 2000, Hitler and Mussolini would have meant nothing to anyone …and yet….it’s so damn TRUE!! It just makes me think…who came up with that idea? How did the writing process for the show work?
    But again…..this episode is pure Seinfeld all the way but in the sopranos universe….

    Liked by 2 people

    • “So we’re just a couple of white people?” “I guess. So do you wanna go to the Gap?”

      There’s a Seinfeld episode that pertains to every situation you might come across in life—we can even use Seinfeld to explain this least loved of Sopranos episodes…


      • Another thing about this episode : as a massive mafia buff I always note real life mob references…sil points out that Joe Colombo started the original Italian American anti defamation league….no one points out, though, that doing so led to Colombo being “vegetablized” as crazy Joe Gallo put it and then succumbing to his injuries a few years later.
        It’s interesting that there are overt mentions of real mobsters like John Gotti, Sammy gravano, carmine galante, Paul castellano, and the five families, etc. So, in sopranos land there must be six nyc families, with the lupertazzi fam being the sixth….

        Liked by 2 people

  13. “The “imago,” Wikipedia states, is a “term coined by Carl Jung to describe a way that people form their personality by identifying with the collective unconscious.” In-groups, it seems to me, such as “the Mafia” or “Italian-Americans,” are smaller, easier-to-handle chunks of the collective unconscious. For some people, ethnicity—rather than being a foundation from which to construct their individual personalities—becomes the primary material with which they form their Self. If their ethnic group is attacked, it then becomes easy to mistake it as a personal attack on the Self.”

    This is fantastic insight and hits so close to home. I remember years ago when I was a teenager me and my friends were flipping through channels and ended up watching a spanish soap opera for a few seconds and someone laughed and said “spanish soap operas are so over-dramatic”. A switch went off and I went on a short rant about how American soap operas are equally stupid. What she said was just a joke and we were all having fun before this but afterwards it was awkward silence for a while. The soap opera was Mexican. I’m Puerto Rican who lives in New Jersy. I was a Puerto Rican American defending a Mexican soap opera from a joke said between friends. It’s embarrassing to think about. I’m sad to say I still get a little upset when I hear stuff like this but I don’t lash out anymore. Even if logically, I know they’re not attacking me or my family I still take offense to it sometimes. It’s stupid but I think a lot of people are the same way.

    Anyway, sorry for the rant.. I just wanted to say you’re 100% spot on with this analysis. There’s some weird pychological phenomena where your individual being is tied in with the people you associate as “your kind”. I guess it’s some kind of evolutionary thing that helped us avoid getting killed/kidnapped or whatever by other tribes of humans. Fuckin’ caveman brains still fucking us up

    Liked by 3 people

    • Absolutely, and it’s not just ethnicity that can get us fired up, it can be nationality too. I spent many, many hours in 2001 and 2002 criticizing George W. Bush, but then in 2003, I happened to travel abroad about 3 weeks after we started bombing Iraq. I heard a lot of anger and ranting and saw protests in the streets against Bush by all these non-Americans—and suddenly, much to my surprise, I became my President’s biggest defender!

      Liked by 1 person

  14. One thing that disgusts me with this episode, and its Janice using the vibrator on herself that she just had up Ralphies butt when Ralph takes the phone call from Roe. How gross is that? “No regard for nothing” is very true. Blech.

    Liked by 2 people

  15. A funny line. When Tony is reminding Silvio how much he has achieved, through his own efforts, not through being an Italian-American – he says, with perfect honesty and perfect tactlessness:

    “You’ve got a wife who’s a piece of ass, at least she was when you married her.”

    – – – – –

    I admire actresses who let themselves look ugly for the sake of the part. In the previous episode, Meadow, arguing with her father. In this episode, Rosalie, arguing with Ralphie.

    – – – – –

    A characteristic of television drama serials is that there are too many arbitrary deaths in them – most often in a road accident, or a premature death from cancer. Of course, it’s a way of writing a character out, and introducing some emotion. I was disappointed years ago with the excellent ‘thirty-something’ when one of the main characters was killed in a road accident.

    The makers of ‘The Sopranos” are lucky in an unusual way, as criminals can convincingly be killed. There are just two arbitrary deaths: Karen in this episode; and Renata, Hesh’s partner.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Ron, I’m glad you noticed that Carm was really treated like a boss during the luncheon. A lot of fans missed that part. It should also be noted that Rosalie opened the car door for her when they were leaving.

    Liked by 2 people

  17. Also, re: Karen, when a person dies and goes to heaven, it is said that “they get their (heavenly) crown.”

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Pingback: The Soprano Onceover: #85. “Christopher” (S4E3) | janiojala

  19. Really appreciate the heavy lifting you do here for an episode that appears a little light on the surface. The episode and the autopsy are still very relevant and insightful, even after all these years.
    Interesting that Tony defends Columbus when AJ and his book challenge his contributions. Tony clearly doesn’t share Silvio’s willingness to go to the mattresses over this, but yet he makes an impassioned case for Columbus to AJ (similar to your experiences of being an American abroad during Dubbya’s tenure).
    While I’m not a Columbus apologist, Tony’s argument that you have to put yourself in the guy’s shoes/most people thought the Earth was flat is salient. To me, this argument (and the episode itself) isn’t so much about whether or not Columbus is a hero, but more about the way stories carry a narrative that shapes perception. And what we see here is that our understanding is often limited because we don’t always learn the full story. Chrissy didn’t know about the blankets infected with smallpox and the episode even failed to tell us Columbus sailed for Spain and that “Italy” didn’t even exist in 1492.
    I can’t help but think of the amazing TedTalk “The Danger of a Single Story” by the equally amazing author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.
    Adichie says: “It is impossible to talk about the single story without talking about power. There is a word, an Igbo word, that I think about whenever I think about the power structures of the world, and it is “nkali.” It’s a noun that loosely translates to “to be greater than another.” Like our economic and political worlds, stories too are defined by the principle of nkali. How they are told, who tells them, when they’re told, how many stories are told, are really dependent on power.”
    This pretty much sums up the history of the world right here, or at the very least, our understanding of the history of the world. The stories we cling to are, at best, largely incomplete. At worst, largely erroneous. This is where we are as 2020 comes to a close.
    I’ll close with one more Adichie quote from that TedTalk: “ I’ve always felt that it is impossible to engage properly with a place or a person without engaging with all of the stories of that place and that person. The consequence of the single story is this: It robs people of dignity. It makes our recognition of our equal humanity difficult. It emphasizes how we are different rather than how we are similar.”

    Liked by 2 people

    • Great points. Another thing to note about multiple stories/multiple viewpoints is that they create a kind of ambiguity and uncertainty. (I just finished re-watching Rashomon so this point is very fresh in my mind.) Chase seems to be quite comfortable with ambiguity and he mocks some of his characters here for adopting a singular, narrow point-of-view in order to avoid that ambiguity. I think Chase would agree with Mencken that “It is the dull man who is always sure, and the sure man who is always dull.”


      • Kurosawa is the best. Top 3 filmmakers of all time, definitely… every few years i spend a month or two watching his whole filmography repeatedly.
        I was so looking forward to this write-up all along, for your take on the dream of the woman on the stairs! One of the most haunting shots in motion picture history, imo. I know there’s not much to the sequence, but my god, it terrified me so much, again, watching it last night. I’m sure you write about it later when it recurs.

        Like you, I’ve always been a fan of this episode. This write-up reminds me what a huge problem so many Americans have with satire/farce.
        Spike Lee had his lead in “Bamboozled” read the Webster’s Dictionary definition of “satire” straight to the camera as the opening scene, and a lot of people still didn’t get it lol!

        Liked by 1 person

  20. It’s interesting that how the Mafia family use ethnic identity for how they prey on their community. and start calling people outsiders because they address the problem. I am also noticing how everyone in this show uses counseling to get a pass for what they want to do. They use is to avoid responsibility
    Carmella wanted a counselor or priest to give her absolution
    Tony wants the Melfi to give him quick and easy answers and avoid taking responsibility
    Janice who lies to her counselor
    Meadow who was steered into doing what she wanted to do by the counselor

    Liked by 2 people

  21. i too dont understand the hate this episode gets. it was chill, it was funny. the whole thing with ralphie imagining he’s a whore, like the girl he killed, to get off was wild. what more do people want

    Liked by 1 person

  22. Nicholas McMaster

    “ Ultimately, we have to accept that it is sometimes impossible to discern what is fiction and what is non-fiction in an historical account.”

    Was struck on my rewatch last night by Tony out and out saying at the end “Columbus was so long ago he might as well be fictional”

    Liked by 1 person

  23. Some nice nonverbal acting from Aida Turturro, as you can see her hit with the realization that Bobby’s display of emotion for his wife is not performative or manipulative, but genuine. Janice is pretty bad, pretty phony, but not totally gone—she can see “the real thing” does exist and is stricken by it here, and we can read that from her nonverbal reactions.

    Liked by 1 person

    • J – Yes, Janice does appear to ‘see the real thing’, but (like Tony) does NOT retain that type of reality. In fact, she and Tony are so much like their mother; they observe and hear meaningful things, but let go of it very quickly and move on to do/say hurtful things. Self-reflection is impossible for them, and always will be 😢

      Liked by 1 person

  24. The last part of “Christopher ” is the funniest 2 minutes I have ever seen in a long time. I just laughed listening to Tony venting while the other 3 don’t seem to understand and then the song “Dawn” comes in and no other better way to end it. It is classic.

    Liked by 1 person

  25. My favorite episode, hands down. No mob hits, and only Karen’s death prevented the episode from being murder/dying free. LOL funny, especially when Doug Smith explains his Native American ancestry. “Dawn” ending the episode was pure brilliance! BTW, great appearance on Talking Sopranos.

    Liked by 1 person

  26. Ron – Your comment about the Seinfeld episode, ‘The Puerto Rico Day’, brought a (figurative) tear to my eye. Unfortunately, given the #MEtoo uproars (most justified, others … not so much), that episode will no longer be aired. Cancel culture, go figure. 😢

    Liked by 1 person

  27. I thought the joke about the Richard Lapenna comment was that in no way would that fracas make sense scored to the Adiagio written by Albioni’s biographer. Maybe scored to Luciano Michelini’s Frolic (now better known as the Curb Your Enthusiasm theme) it would have worked.

    Liked by 1 person

  28. ▪ Looks like Tony evaded another body-bag scene, LOL! (Janice pushed Ralph down the stairs.)
    ▪ Johnny Sacrimoni literally going off the deep end regarding his wife’s ass was absolutely absurd. I rather enjoyed Carmine’s (Sr.) comment to Johnny that he should ‘name a price or get the f*k over it’ was priceless!
    ▪ Tony’s remark (to Meadow) about ‘indigents smoking crack’ was as stereotypical as comments made about Italian-Americans that so infuriated him and his crew.
    ▪ I’m surprised that Silvio and Christopher didn’t run like hell when they went to see the DiMaggio family. Their house looked like the one in ‘Psycho’, and their chromosomal eye disease totally freaked me out!
    ▪ Furio told Carmela that he planted olive trees and took care of the farm ‘all by myself’. This should have raised Carmela’s suspicions, as tending to any farm is a highly labor-intensive ordeal!

    Liked by 1 person

  29. P.S. Michael Imperioli won an Emmy for his role in ‘The Sopranos’. According to multiple websites, his wife told reportedly him that she was unimpressed, and that he should throw it out. The following morning, she advised him to take it out of the garbage (he complied). Wow. Sick chick. I’ll stop before I say something about the weakness of Imperioli. 😶

    Liked by 1 person

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