Everybody Hurts (4.06)

Soon after Tony learns of Gloria Trillo’s suicide, his buddy Artie tries to kill himself.  Christopher continues using heroin.
AJ’s girlfriend Devin owns a mint condition, first-pressing of The Beatles’
Rubber Soul, among other things.

EPISODE 45 - ORIGINALLY AIRED OCT 20, 2002
WRITTEN BY MICHAEL IMPERIOLI
DIRECTED BY STEVE 'MISTER PINK' BUSCEMI

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The Sopranos has never been a sunny show, it has always been darkened by the pain and depression of many of its characters.  Everybody hurts.  This episode, like the R.E.M. song from which the title is (probably) drawn, is about suicidal depression.  Suicide has been a component of this series throughout.  Thus far on the show, there have been: an onscreen suicide (Vin Makazian in Season 1); an offscreen suicide (one of Melfi’s patients); references to celebrity suicides (Hemingway and George Sanders); suicidal thoughts and ideations (by Tony, Christopher, Irina, soccer star Ally, Davey Scatino and Bobby Bacala, who just in the previous episode wished for death in his despair over the loss of his wife.)  Gloria and Artie can now be added to this list.

SIC TRANSIT GLORIA MUNDI
Tony is distraught to learn that his former goomar Gloria has departed from this world.  He searches for answers, questioning one of her coworkers at Globe Motors.  The salesman’s observation that Gloria always seemed unlucky with men puts a guilty load on Tony.  In Dr. Melfi’s office, he is infuriated that the doctor did not inform him of Gloria’s fate.  He gets in Melfi’s face, but she holds her own against the mob boss:

in your face1

Tony wants to know what drove Gloria to such a dark act.  But, as usual in SopranoWorld, certainty is impossible.  Melfi tells him that “there is no one cause.”  He probably doesn’t know about Gloria’s previous suicide attempt after an earlier failed relationship.  (We heard Gloria and Melfi discuss this in 3.09 “The Telltale Moozadell.”)  Tony is wracked with guilt.  He pops Prozac and gets all liquored up throughout the episode, trying to alleviate his pain.  Maurice Yacowar shrewdly notes that the episode title can be read in two ways: everybody feels hurt but everyone also causes hurt.  Tony worries that he caused much of Gloria’s hurt.

Part of Tony’s anxiety comes out of his shaken sense of self.  He knows that, on the one hand, he’s just a fat, fuckin’ crook from New Jersey, but at the same time, he believes himself to basically be a good guy.  If he was the cause of Gloria’s suicide, then this delicately balanced self-image might crumble.  Michael Imperioli, in his DVD commentary, says this hour is all about how Tony “exists within that conflict.”

So, in a real sense, Tony’s concern over Gloria is actually a selfish concern about his own happiness.  This is not to say that his feelings of guilt are not genuine.  Cynthia Burkhead argues in her essay, “Fishes and Football Coaches: The Narrative Necessity of Dreams in The Sopranos,” that Tony’s dream of Gloria here confirms that his worries are genuinely felt.  It is a powerful dream sequence, employing arresting imagery and surreal sounds (creaking ceiling, roasting meat, buzzing white noise).  The Aquatones’ 1958 doo-wop hit “You” purrs in the distant aural background, sounding like it’s flowing in from some other dimension.  When dream-Gloria alludes to her suicide, Tony snaps awake and heads straight for the Prozac.

Moments after Tony exits his dream, cousin Brian appears—to Carmela’s surprise—with the insurance papers that she has been wanting Tony to sign.  After resisting this trust policy for weeks, Tony changed his mind and called Brian last night.  It is very reasonable to believe that Tony’s remorse over Gloria’s death played a role in his finally assenting to sign the insurance trust.  Chase makes a couple of audio-visual links between Carmela and Gloria to strengthen the idea that Tony acquiesces to one of them because of his guilt over the suicide of the other:


In the video clip, both Gloria and Carmela are dressed in black.  A scarf hides Gloria’s self-inflicted wound while Carmela’s choker is one of the many expensive objects she uses to mask her own pain.  Tony is momentarily stunned to hear a bell ding in Carmela’s kitchen, just minutes after one rang in his dream.  In his desperate desire to assure himself that he is not a toxic person, he gives Carmela what she most wants right now – the insurance policy.  When Carm gets up to attend to her lava cookies, Tony fishes for reassurance from Brian.  He directs Brian to Patsy for a new suit, prompting Brian to give him the compliment he craves: “You’re a great guy, Tony.”

Tony goes to good friend Arthur Bucco to get further confirmation of his goodness.  He supplies his friend with a $50,000 loan (at “only” 1.5 points a week).  Artie wants to be a venture capitalist—and simultaneously impress his beautiful new hostess Elodi—but he doesn’t have the capital.  Before Tony came to him, Artie had gone to Ralphie for the loan.  Despite the New Jersey NHL team’s logo behind him which underscored his devilish personality, Ralph passed on the opportunity to take advantage of Artie.  Michael Imperioli says that it is “a rare moment of benevolence from Ralph Cifaretto.”

Ralph is the devil

At dinner with Janice, Tony again spends money to garner reassurances, buying the expensive bottle of wine she asks for.  Janice does not like the Armagnac that Artie recommends – and apparently, neither does anyone else.  The Armagnac venture fails, and Artie has no choice but to try to collect the money from Elodi’s brother himself.  He tries to channel Travis Bickle, but he can’t even sell it to himself in front of the mirror.  His attempt to collect from Jean-Philippe ends in failure and a torn earlobe.  Tony is in bed with Miss Reykjavik when he gets the phone call from suicidal Artie.

By the time Tony arrives at the hospital, Artie has had his stomach pumped and is in stable condition.  Tony explodes in a fit of anger when Artie suspects him of knowing all along that this is how events would play out (i.e. Tony would be able to have his hefty restaurant tab that Charmaine always complains about erased).  In a sequence that echoes Tony’s earlier confrontation with Dr. Melfi, Tony gets right in Artie’s face:

in your face2

Tony has spent the entire episode trying to convince himself of his own goodness, so he is outraged that Artie could suggest that he is so coldhearted and calculating.  He then—coldheartedly and calculatingly—figures out a way to disguise Artie’s suicide attempt; it is very important to Tony that others do not know that he was in any way connected to Arthur’s desperate act.  

In his next session with Melfi, Tony admits that Artie’s assessment of him may be pretty accurate.  He tells Melfi that he made a donation to the suicide hotline in Gloria Trillo’s name.  (We’ve seen him similarly buy back his peace-of-mind in previous episodes, such as when he gave $50,000 to paraplegic Beansie Gaeta, and when he offered cash to demoted police officer Wilmore.)  With the donation, Tony absolves himself of all guilt, and no longer needs to convince himself that he really is a fine person.

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Christopher is committing a slow suicide through substance abuse.  In the hour’s opening scene, he is strung out on his couch—with the TV tuned to a program about the Egyptian pyramids—when he gets a phone call from his boss.  Tony gives him good news – Chris will be getting more and more responsibility, on track to essentially become the underboss in the famiglia’s pyramidal organization.  Chris is gladdened by the news.  (Tony’s strategy to bind the young man to himself is working.)  Chris promises Tony that he will not disappoint.  But Chris cannot stop using.  He gets high with another junkie later, and peers at the stoned stranger he sees in the mirror.  Throughout the hour, we see characters come face-to-face with their own true natures – and not liking the reflection that gazes back at them:

3 mirrors Sopranos

Tony wants to help those in need around him but he’s no Mother Teresa; Artie isn’t the trendsetting, tough, debonair capital investor that he imagines himself to be; and Chris is more “Jesse Pinkman” from Breaking Bad than he is “Michael Corleone” from The Godfather.

As Tony tries to get a handle on the type of person he really is, AJ’s friends also try to make sense of him – not of Tony Soprano the man, but of Tony Soprano the gangster.  Tony’s home and belongings don’t fit the “gangster” image imprinted on their young minds by all the movies they’ve watched.  (And Tony’s stuff doesn’t come anywhere close to being as dazzling or valuable as the stuff owned by Devin’s family.)  In the last sequence of the episode, AJ’s buddy wonders out loud why Tony doesn’t live up to his perception of a gangster.  AJ can only answer “I don’t know.”  Ultimately, perception is a big mystery.  The impressions we make on other people, the perceptions we have of others, and of ourselves, and how and why these perceptions come to be – it is all finally one giant mystery.

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Watching the series again now, I’m really becoming a fan of Michael Imperioli as a writer.  I thought his “Christopher” (4.03) was a laugh-riot, and “Everybody Hurts” has some hilarious moments as well: certain beats between Artie and Charmaine, between Artie and Elodi, between Artie and the mirror had me almost on the floor.  There were multiple laughs when AJ and Devin bugged Meadow at the South Bronx Law Center after their coitus interruptus by Carmela and her $3000 Lladro statuette.  But I think the funniest moment is when AJ’s friend mistakes “Satriale’s Pork Store” for, of course, a gay strip club.

The Sopranos is increasingly playing with traditional TV forms.  Season 4 deviates from the typical seasonal arc that one finds on most TV shows.  The Imperioli-scripted episodes are particularly representative of this deviation.  “Christopher” completely abandoned previous storylines to be a true stand-alone episode; “Everybody Hurts” is more complicated.  Its major story, about the suicide and suicide-attempt of Gloria and Artie, doesn’t really go beyond this hour.  The seemingly minor relationship between Tony and cousin Brian gets expanded in later episodes, while AJ and Devin’s story will flatline.  A heavy-duty storyline of the season—Adriana’s relationship with the Feds—isn’t broached at all here.  (Adriana appears onscreen for a few moments in the first minute and does not appear again.)  The only story of this hour that remains truly consequential by the end of the season is Carmela’s continuing infatuation with Furio.  (It is consequential despite being a storyline in which nothing really happens between Carm and Furio.)  The atypical flow of Season 4 works only because David Chase is like a maestro, conducting his writing team like an orchestra: unifying the ensemble, setting tempos, shaping themes, cuing certain storylines while muting others… He is ever-mindful of the subtle effects that his decisions have on the dynamics of the work; he is the Leonard Bernstein of TV showrunners.

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ADDITONAL NOTES:

  • On the DVD commentary, Imperioli says that his grandfather and David Chase’s dad were both employed at the same factory in Mt. Vernon at the same time.  Some viewers have criticized the unlikely coincidences or connections that sometimes occur on the series as being unrealistic, but such coincidences do occur in real life.
  • The Aquatones “You,” which scores Tony’s guilt-ridden dream of Gloria Trillo, also gave a spooky ambiance to Christopher’s guilt-ridden dream of Emil Kolar in “The Legend of Tennessee Moltisanti” (1.08).
  • In his essay “Aesthetics and Ammunition,” Franco Ricci makes note of the two windowsill statues of women in Melfi’s office: “…one reaches up to the heavens in a gesture of liberation; the other is of a woman cleaved in half, an allusion to Gloria’s suicide.”  Ricci continues that the “cleaved” statue is a reference to Gloria’s question in Tony’s dream – which “cloven” part of her would he like to see, her neck or her vagina?  The statuary on Melfi’s ledges continuously change and may very well comment upon the episodes, but I’ve generally avoided trying to interpret their meanings – I just don’t feel very comfortable reading sculpture.

2 statues - Sopranos

11 responses to “Everybody Hurts (4.06)

  1. The Savvy Svengali

    What a joy to take a break from work and find the latest piece from Ron online. You haven’t lost your analytic touch or perceptive eye, my friend.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I noticed some time ago that the statues on Melfi’s windowsills seem to change from episode to episode. I’ve tried to derive some meaning or implications from that but haven’t come up with much, aside from a possible invocation of the sibylline oracles that were discussed in 2.04. That also leads me to interpret the statue whose legs framed Tony in the first scene in Pilot in a similar fashion.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I love your analyses of the episodes!!! I check constantly for the next one! Thanks!!!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Happy to see a new post! I’ve enjoyed these very much. One thought I had when watching the episode is that it seems the dream of Gloria also eludes to what is going to happen with Artie. Pieces of the ceiling where Gloria hung herself are falling into his drink, which I believe is a glass of cognac.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. AJ and girlfriend Devin Pilsburry discussing poverty in the back of the cab was painfully condescending. You don’t see the cabby’s face, but you just have to believe he’s laughing. In the series finale, “Made in America”, we see a glimpse of what might have been a working class Soprano family when they’re huddled up in the safe house. Tony is yelling at AJ about parking the SUV in leaves, Meadow sticks up for AJ, Tony turns on Meadow, Meadow throws her magazine down and stomps off to her room…all set to a stuffy, cluttered living room with a staircase that looks as if it goes to an attic. The “little box”, perhaps, that AJ describes one of his friends living in during he and Lady de Pilsburry’s backseat poverty summit. For just a brief moment during the safe house scene in Made In America, it’s as if we’re watching an entirely different show. It almost looks like a scene in Rosanne where Dan Conner is arguing with Darlene or Becky. When Tony throws a fit in front of his kids, we’re used to it being set in a large, spacious kitchen of a beautiful house in suburban Jersey, with an outdoor pool in the background.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I’ve always wondered why Ralph acted so out of character when Artie asked him for the loan. Now reading your analaysis I think I get it. If Ralph is the devil as many suspect, then he knows that if he lends the cash to Artie he is gonna just end up murdering Artie himself as he already knows Artie will screw up and lose the money. Ralph knows he will then go to Tony once he turns him down and get the money from
    him. Ralph knows Tony has a soft spot for Artie and won’t be able to murder him, but hes also aware how desperate Artie is and knows that his shame over not paying back his best friend will drive him over the edge, hence possibly leading Artie to suicide. Sucide is a sin that leads you to hell that’s what Ralph (devil) wants. If Artie is murdered by Ralph or someone else whom he took the loan from he’ll likely just go to heaven or even purgatory, which was mentioned on a previous episode. He never did anything truly horrible enough to go to hell in my opinion on the show, and Ralph is trying to change that.

    Also Ralph looks like Chucky the doll from child’s play haha.

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  7. “This is a rare pleasure… or is it medium-well? Little restaurant humor” Sometimes you gotta love Ralph. But I believe in this same scene he says something like “if you don’t pay me back I won’t be able to hurt you”. Not that his conscience would stop him from doing it, but Tony

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  8. I’ve always assumed the joke behind AJ’s line at the end, “I don’t know” (why his dad can’t afford all of the Corleone spoils), was that we, the audience, knew that it was because Tony was blowing money trying to save troubled friends like Artie, who Michael Corleone would have cut off from day one. It’s a nice juxtaposition between Joe Bonanno’s old world, frugal mob and Gotti’s late 20th century decadent mob. Scorsese’s Mean Streets goes into this as well. Neighborhood boss Giovanni warning Charlie (Harvey Keitel) to stop carrying his deadbeat friend Johnny Boy (DeNiro). “Honorable men go with honorable men”. (title of Bonanno’s book: A Man of Honor). Maybe it wasn’t drugs and the dismantling of institutions the mob used for rackets, like unions and the old casinos, that took down the mob. Maybe it was just the carelessness of the late 20th century mobsters with their wallets. After all, America has never stopped being for sale.

    Liked by 2 people

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