All Happy Families… (5.04)

Lorraine Colluzzo and Feech LaManna exit the series.
A.J. becomes too much of a handful for Carmela
so she sends him to live with his father.

Episode 56 – Originally aired March 28, 2004
Written by Toni Kalem
Directed by Rodrigo Garcia 


Perhaps no TV series in history put as much thought into episode titles as The Sopranos did.  The title here is pulled from the first line of Tolstoy’s masterpiece Anna Karenina: “All happy families are alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”  The unhappy families in this hour include Tony Soprano’s domestic clan as well as the New Jersey and New York mob famiglias.

Lorraine Colluzzo and her partner Jason become casualties in the NY power struggle.  They are killed by Joey Peeps and Billy Leotardo for not accepting Johnny Sac as the legitimate capo di famiglia.  Lorraine is gunned down as she exits the shower, buck naked with breasts swinging:


Rusty Millio wants to whack Johnny Sac in return, and he is sure there won’t be much blowback if they do: “…the guys on the street in Brooklyn and Queens, they’ll welcome us as fuckin’ heroes.  It’ll be easy.”  I can’t be sure that Chase is using this line here to allude to the American invasion of Iraq, but Millio’s line does sound an awful lot like a propaganda point that the Bush administration was belching out a year earlier during the run-up to the Iraq War—Cheney and others insisted that U.S. troops would be embraced as heroes by the Iraqi people.  (And the fact that the very next line of dialogue is Christopher saying “It’s a declaration of war by Johnny” may strengthen the allusion to the Iraq war.)

Closer to home, Feech is becoming a real headache for Tony.  Tony gives Feech his old card game back, where he hears about the wedding of Dr. Fried’s daughter.  Feech hits the wedding reception, stealing the wealthy guests’ luxury cars.  Tony is angry at Feech not only for targeting his friend’s wedding, but also for sending the stolen cars to one of Johnny Sac’s guys.  And on top of that, Feech didn’t kick up a share to Tony until he was asked about it.  Tony has been down this rocky road with insolent underlings before and decides he has to nip his problems with Feech in the bud. We fully expect Feech to end up dead, like previous problematic guys Richie Aprile and Ralph Cifaretto.  But Season 5 is all about breaking Sopranos’ conventions.  Tony tricks Feech into hiding stolen TVs in his garage, and then sends Supervisor Curran from the parole board do a surprise site inspection.  (This particular stratagem was perhaps planted in Tony’s brain when he had earlier heard Feech say, regarding Blundetto, “The last time his parole officer made an unannounced visit, he gave him a massage.”)  Feech tries to direct Curran away from the stolen TVs in his garage with a joke about weapons of mass destruction.  (When this hour originally aired in 2004, it was becoming increasingly clear that the Bush administration had lied about Iraqi WMD as a way to justify an invasion, so Feech’s joke becomes the episode’s second reference to the administration’s bullshit propaganda that led us into the Iraq War.)  Feech’s short run back in SopranoLand meets an ignoble end:

home depot

TV and film gangsters often go out in a hail of bullets, but on The Sopranos, the fuckin’ regularness of life rules—there is nothing more banal than having your last glimpses of the outside world be of mundane New Jersey suburbs and strip malls as you’re being sent back to the Big House.  (We might also note that this isn’t the first time Chase has employed the “put on a bus” trope; Janice was sent out west on a bus at the end of Season 2, but—unlike Feech—returned early the following season.)  Silvio compliments Tony for getting rid of Feech in a way that will sit well with the other guys.  But Tony didn’t choose this strategy to win brownie points—he did it because it was the smart business decision.  Feech hadn’t committed any egregious violations of the mob’s rules yet, at least nothing that would warrant a whacking—he was basically just being an asshole.  Tony figured that SopranoLand would just function better with this particular asshole back in prison.  Many viewers saw Tony’s move as evidence of his growth as a Boss, and perhaps even his growth as a person, but I think the manner of Feech’s exit has more to do with David Chase’s arching intentions for Season 5—he is breaking conventions and confounding viewer expectations.  Chase knocks off two of the “Class of ’04” in this hour, yet their departures couldn’t be more different: Lorraine Colluzzo goes out in a way that is perfectly tailored for “hits-and-tits” viewers, but Feech LaManna exits in a way that is surprisingly mundane.

The better part of the hour is devoted to chronicling the discontent of Tony Soprano and various member of his family.  The episode’s first shot is of a bored AJ racing up and down the driveway in his mother’s car.  On the other side of the house, Blundetto looks at Tony’s large home with envy, realizing that his time in prison has cost him dearly.  Tony Soprano is getting flustered by the frustrations of daily life; he fumes that he can’t find his power drill, and moments later he begins to have a panic attack while discussing Blundetto with Carmela.

Tony sends Dr. Melfi a basket of bath products, ostensibly to kindle a romance, but he is more than likely reaching out to her because of a subconscious need to start therapy again.  (Melfi discusses the latent symbolic meanings of the bath products in her therapist’s office.  Hilariously, obtuse Elliot can’t help but quote the vile c-word that Tony yelled at her a coupla episodes back.)  Tony may be Mr. Mob Boss but his troubles with work and family are not very different from those of most men.  An edit (which was scripted, says director Rodrigo Garcia on the DVD commentary track) overtly makes the link between Tony and that lovable everyman, Ralph Kramden:

Clever Kramden cut

One thing that Ralph Kramden wasn’t troubled by was bratty kids and their growing pains.  AJ is having difficulty adjusting to his parents separation, and is really pushing his mother’s buttons (while taking advantage of his father’s absence in the house).  Carmela tries to gain brownie points with her son by allowing him to go to a Mudvayne concert in Manhattan with his friends, as long as he spends the night at Meadow’s place afterwards.  But AJ ditches the plan, staying with his friends at a hotel instead.  After a wild night out, he finally arrives home sans eyebrows.  Carmela chases him up the staircase, where she falls and bangs her knee.  We know by now that staircases are places of cruelty and callousness in SopranoWorld.

AJ Staircase

We recognize in AJ a callousness that we’ve also seen in his aunt Janice and grandmother Livia.  He looks like some kind of monster here, with those Sharpie eyebrows, coldly walking away from his injured mother.  Carmela can’t take his attitude anymore so she sends him to live with Tony. 

There is something that I’ve wondered about for years—I’m probably making too much of it but let me throw it out there anyway: When Carmela called Meadow to find out where AJ is, we saw that the movie Frida was playing on Mead’s TV.  This is weird because Frida had not yet come out on DVD when this scene was shot.  Director Garcia says that Chase was able to get Frida despite the fact it was not yet released and inserted it here, knowing that it would be available by the time this episode aired (and thus would not violate verisimilitude).  But it made me wonder: why would Chase go to such efforts to include a snippet from Frida?  Is there something in the snippet that we should be paying attention to?  In my clip below, I’ve also included the relevant excerpt from the film itself.  (I also made sure to capture a bit of Carmela in the bathtub listening to the song “La Petite Mer” because it’s something I will come back to later.) 

Perhaps what is relevant about the Frida clip is that it informs us that Frida and her husband are living in separate houses just as Carmela and Tony are now doing.  And now that AJ has moved from living with one parent to living with the other, maybe he can be recognized as the “bridge,” as Frida says, between the two houses.  Or not, I don’t know.

With her husband and her son out of the house, Carmela is free to pursue a possible romance.  She meets Robert Wegler at a generic Italian eatery, ostensibly to discuss AJ’s problems at school, but we recognize that there is a strong mutual attraction between the two.  The title of this episode was our first clue that Carmela is about to embark on a passionate affair—in the celebrated Russian novel, Anna Karenina gets embroiled in an affair while still married.  But it is a celebrated French novel that the intellectual Wegler suggests as reading material to Carmela.  He must be hoping that Carmela will, like Madame Bovary, embark on an affair (with him) to combat her “bourgeois loneliness and emptiness.”

Wegler tells Carmela that he married his wife for the same reason that she married a mobster: “some notion of escaping the quotidian.”  The desire to escape the “fuckin’ regularness of life,” as Moltisanti once described it, is one of the defining themes of The Sopranos.  It is not surprising at all that this should be such a prevalent idea on the show, considering that it is such a prevailing idea in American life.  From his interviews, we can gather that David Chase believes that our consumerist habits—ceaselessly buying and selling and spending and squandering—is part of our attempt to stave off the enervating effects of daily life.  Prof. Maurice Yacowar suggests that all the various brand names that get mentioned in this episode reflect the American belief that we can escape the quotidian just by owing all the “right” stuff: Mercedes SL, Buick Regal, Canali suits, Dr. Hauschka bath products, Nissan Xterra, Phillips TVs…

The desire to escape (escape his parents, boredom, banality) is what stimulates AJ to race up and down the driveway in his mother’s car in the opening scene of the hour.  Like many teenagers, he is pacing in his cage, he wants to get out.  The final sequence of the episode recalls the opening sequence, as Carmela has a flashback of AJ as a child racing down the driveway on his Big Wheel.  Chase seems to perform some kind of sorcery in this closing scene, waving his magic wand over this final bit to create a finish that always manages puts a lump in my throat.  Of course, there is no actual witchcraft here, only solid, thoughtful craftsmanship:

Note the elements of this well-crafted closing scene: Carmela pulls up the driveway in her Mercedes wagon, a visual callback of the episode’s opening sequence; a series of quick edits convey the heightening danger as young AJ speeds away on his Big Wheel; Edie Falco puts a note of desperation into Carmela’s voice as she screams for her son; Carmela walks into the house, which is shot to look more compressed and empty than it has ever looked before; and then Thierry Robin’s “La Petite Mer” [“The Little Sea”] takes us into the credits.  Robin’s Spanish guitar directly evokes the “two houses” scene from Frida, against which it was heard earlier.  When it played before, the song’s title seemed clever—Carmela’s bathtub was “the little sea.”  But as it plays now over episode’s closing shot, the track takes on a more solemn tone—Carmela seems trapped (like Madame Bovary) in a sea of “bourgeois loneliness and emptiness.”


The line that separates SopranoWorld from the real world has always been fairly gossamer, and it becomes even thinner as the series progresses.  One way that “All Happy Families…” reaches into the real world is with its dual references to Bush administration propaganda.  Another way that this episode interlaces fiction and reality is through the inclusion of several famous faces:

famous faces

  1. Franki Valli, who was referenced in earlier episodes, appears for the first time as NY mobster “Rusty Millio”
  2. Legendary Giants linebacker Lawrence Taylor appears as himself
  3. Producer Bernie Brillstein, who—along with Brad Grey—formed the company that produces The Sopranos, plays himself
  4. Sopranos writer Terry Winter reprises his bit-part as Melfi’s patient “Tom Amberson”
  5. David Lee Roth is here as himself (we know he’s playing himself because he says, “I used to be able to write off condoms.”)
  6. Writer/philosopher Leon Wieseltier, who was awarded the $1 million Dan David Prize in 2013, plays “Stewart Silverman” (the guy who waited “a motherfucking year” for his Mercedes SL55)
  7. Porn star Gina Lynn appears at the Bing, playing either herself or just another stripper

So, the boundary between SopranoWorld and the real world gets further diluted by the fact that some of the famous people play themselves while others play a character (with Gina Lynn able to fit into either category).  This type of playful meta-casting contributes to the sense that Tony Soprano and everyone else in the series is as real as you or me—and conversely, that you or I may be as fabricated a fiction as Tony Soprano.

Another Sopranos method of blurring the boundary is through the use of real-life media within the series.  Every episode so far this season has featured onscreen snippets of real-world TV shows or films:

  1. The Prince of Tides caught Tony’s attention in 5.01
  2. Carmela’s film club watched Citizen Kane in 5.02
  3. 5.03 featured Curb Your Enthusiasm
  4. 5.04 includes a scripted cut to The Honeymooners and a small segment of Frida

I find the Honeymooners clip particularly interesting because it is part of a cluster of references to Jackie Gleason that we find in Season 5.  I think the intent of the references is clear: we are meant to see Tony as a contemporary “Ralph Kramden,” an ordinary, workaday white American male—albeit with a criminal twist.  I think an argument could be made that no American TV show has captured the ethos of The Honeymooners in the last 40 years like The Sopranos has, with the possible exception of The Flintstones.  (Fred Flintstone was purported to have been modeled on Ralph Kramden, and Gleason said in a Playboy interview that he even thought about suing the producers of the cartoon for copyright infringement.)  Tony Soprano, like Ralph Kramden and Fred Flintstone before him, is—for the most part—just a regular guy, a guy that most of us can relate to.

The producers of the contemporary cartoon Harvey Birdman recognize the comparable natures of Tony Soprano and Fred Flintstone in a clever pastiche:

Pretty clever.  I only wish they had included next-door neighbor Betty Rubble as “Jeanne Cusamano.”



  • AJ is testing boundaries and pushing limits, as he has been doing since he was a kid.  In one scene here, AJ sets his face and challenges his dad’s insistence that he go finish his Spanish homework, but he finally relents.  In episode 1.04, when Tony requested him to stop playing video games and go to bed, AJ gave his father a similar challenging look before relenting.

Aj's expression

  • Wikipedia notes that The Cars’ “Moving in Stereo” plays in one scene at the Bada Bing, “an appropriate song for a topless bar” because the song also scored the infamous scene in Fast Times at Ridgmont High when Pheobe Cates takes her top off.  But I think it is more fitting because of the name of the band—The Cars are heard when Dr. Fried comes to the Bing to enlist Tony’s help in recovering the stolen cars.
  • Feech tells the story of young Tony and Jackie Aprile raiding his card game decades ago.  In Season 3, Ralph told the story of this same event to Jackie Jr. and Dino, inspiring them to attempt a similar heist.  Christopher sits rapt and amused by Feech’s story now, but he was not nearly so amused by Jackie’s attempted heist three years ago—he demanded (and got) Jackie’s blood.
  • We see in this episode, as we’ve seen before, that Silvio can become a moody prick when he is losing at poker.  His line here, “Fuck it, this hand’s from thalidomide,” became popular at poker tables around the country after this episode aired.
  • Hilarious bit of sound editing: the tutor’s old rustbucket sputters and burps down the driveway as AJ admires his brand new Nissan SUV.
  • This episode was written by Toni Kalem who played “Angie Bonpensiero” on the series (and who worked as a story editor on several episodes.)  (And who played “Despie” in one of my all-time favorite movies, The Wanderers.)
  • There were rumors when this episode first aired about Robert Loggia’s difficulties as an actor, ad-libbing and not taking direction well, and that that was the real reason the character of “Feech” was dispatched so quickly.  David Chase has stated on the record that there is no truth to these rumors.
  • Leon Wieseltier (who plays the dude with the Mercedes SL55) must have been delighted to have a guest spot on The Sopranos, he was a big fan of the series.  In a 2007 piece for The New Republic, of which he is the literary editor, he gave great credit to David Chase for doing what many others in the TV industry are not ever willing to do: “The Sopranos stands as a lasting chastisement of its medium, in that it accomplishes what American television most abhors: an improvement, by means of art, of the American sense of reality.”
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62 responses to “All Happy Families… (5.04)

  1. The level of detail on this show is what really sets it apart from everything else. Take the scene at the wedding where the cars are discovered missing. A minor scene, sure, but imagine how it would have been handled on any of the copycat “mob themed” shows that followed The Sopranos (and especially the ones that were coming out during this same period). The attention to detail, even in this minor scene, is incredible. Everything from the camera angles used to show the guests reactions to the news (particularly the bride) to Dr. Fried getting yelled at about the “how long my brother waited” while in the middle of trying to aid the injured valet, to the “they left all the American cars!”… it was all brilliantly done. And the capper is that amazing “and now who’s the genius for keeping his Regal?” line…

    Is it any wonder that we’re still discussing this show, some ten years after it stopped airing?

    Liked by 2 people

  2. The part where tony orchestrated Feech’s return to prison was one part i never liked or understood. Isnt what tony did almost like being a rat? I mean he purposely had Feech hold onto these stolen TV’s and then notified the parole officer about them. Isnt that almost considered ratting? I also felt terrible for Feech when you saw him in that scene back on the corrections bus. Tony shoulda just had him whacked. it would have been the humane thing to do.

    Liked by 1 person

    • There ain’t no stigmatas these days..

      Liked by 1 person

      • LOL!
        Rules are made to be broken, I guess. Whacking Ralphie took a lot
        out of Tony, and Chris intimated how dangerous it would be if it was to get
        out that Tony had done it, so he took a cleaner approach with Feech.
        Feech appeared to be better liked than Ralphie or Richie.

        Interesting the role porches play. Feech was lured into an ill fated
        scheme on his porch by Chris & Benny. Chris was sitting on his porch
        when he declined to be roped into an ill fated truck jacking by Brendon.
        Benny was later lured in an unfortunate fight on his porch.

        Liked by 3 people

    • I’m sure Tony clued the other bosses in on what he was doing. It was essentially a bloodless hit.

      Lucky Luciano, Frank Costello and Carlo Gambino basically snitched on Vito Genovese to get him off the streets, by paying a drug dealer to do it. As with any organization, those who make the rules tend to break them.

      Liked by 2 people

    • charlie – Kudos to Tony for NOT whacking Feech. Look, Feech was once well-respected for many years. As young hoodlums, Tony and Jackie A robbed one of his card game, but ‘got a pass’. Eventually, Feech was imprisoned for 20 years, and apparently kept his mouth shut about ‘family business’. So, Tony cut him a break by siccing the probation officer on him. The guy was older than the hills anyway, so to speak, and probably wouldn’t live much longer anyway. No point in killing him.


  3. I never felt as sorry for Carmella as I did in this episode.

    It’s different than when she explodes at Tony in “Whitecaps.” That was anger, which was completely justified: even she, who had put up with so much, couldn’t take it anymore. She “solved” the problem of Tony serially disrespecting her by kicking Tony out. Now she has solved the problem of AJ’s serial disrespect by kicking him out, too.

    And so she finds herself alone in empty Casa Soprano. The anger is gone, replaced by loneliness. That clip you show above, of her entering the house after flashbacking about a young AJ, is one of the most poignant in the series.

    Carmella sees that the alternative to serial disrespect by the Soprano men is to live in loneliness. As you say, this being the season of breaking conventions, what seemed like an inevitable divorce doesn’t seem so likely anymore. (Tony has already found that dealing with AJ on his own will be very hard work.) By the end of the series I think Chase has established that Tony and Carmella in many ways don’t work as a couple, yet they cannot live without each other. This is the type of contradiction that simpleminded TV and Hollywood fare likes to resolve but which in “The Sopranos” — as in reality — are part of the fuckin’ regularness of life.

    Speaking of AJ’s serial disrespect of Carmella, does this show that Tony Junior is nearly finished turning into his dad? Other clues to this transformation include the cruelty he displayed previously when locking Bobby Bacala Jr. in the garage and holding the Ouija session. Tony previously dissed Bobby Senior a lot (“It’s time for you to seriously consider salad”), and AJ definitely is picking up the mantle. Carmella’s comments to Mr. Wegler about how she was charmed off her feet by a cheery young Tony foreshadow one of the last scenes with AJ in the series, where he roars his fancy car into the high school parking lot to pick up his duly impressed girlfriend. And the cycle continues.

    Liked by 4 people

    • Those are some really great parallels that you noticed there…

      Liked by 1 person

    • I remember too Tony committed his first hit at age 16, the age AJ is now.

      It’s highlighted in the meeting with teacher; I can’t remember the whole conversation, but the teacher says “well he wasn’t a 16 year old boy” and Tony says “well, he was at one point” and the shot seems to linger on Tony for a beat.

      Maybe making a point of, at what point do we stop dismissing AJ’s behaviour as “normal teenage” stuff and recognise these are troubling signs he is going to turn into a cruel person like his dad?

      Liked by 1 person

      • Rose – I just finished watching this episode, and find myself gritting my teeth in frustration over AJ’s behaviours (for which I blame Tony and Carmela this time). There is a ‘splitting’ or bifurcation in their ways of handling their son. Carmela is understandably upset with Tony’s decision to ‘bribe’ the kid with drums and a new car, which he believes will motivate the kid to behave. Carmela forbids AJ to go to the city with his friends, then backpedals and allows him to go. Of course, the kid ends up stoned, drunk, and lacking eyebrows. When confronted by his parents, he lies once again by denying drug and alcohol use. Tony believes him. What does AJ learn from this? Well, with dad on your side, you can get away with murder (figuratively, that is). AJ is stuck in a lose-lose situation from which he will never emerge because he lacks morals, insight, intelligence, and parents who know nothing about rules and boundaries.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Rose – Tony was either 22, 23, or 24 years old when he did his first hit (as per different websites and comments made by characters). As far as ‘troubling signs’ go … both Tony and Carmela are too self-involved (with their own issues) to recognize or even acknowledge that their son also has issues. Interesting, given the number of times AJ’s problems have been addressed by oh so many people!

        Liked by 1 person

    • A commenter pointed out in another episode that signs of AJ’s depression are peppered throughout the series; he talks of being bored at every family event.
      It’s very easy to dismiss this as him being a teenager, but we know Tony’s depression also flares when he has to endure the “fuckin’ regularness” of life.
      At Furio’s party, AJ comments that he’s so bored he could cry [alludes to depression] and it seems this is what compels him to lock Bacala’s son in the garage (he’s smiling after doing this).
      So like his dad, he cannot tolerate the grind of daily life and seeks excitement by doing cruel deeds!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. We’ve seen this episode several times. Last night we watched again and when Feech was on the bus we both said ‘There he goes, past Satriale’s!’
    But the bus doesn’t actually pass there. What suggestive and very clever direction.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. For me, Feech’s bus trip back to ‘chokey’ made me think back to Furio’s taxi ride back to Tony after his father’s death. Both characters take in the drab, consumerist landscape of America. Whereas for me, Furio was displeased to be back in a world he was struggling to make sense and a home of as an Italian, for Feech he was looking at a new world that he was unable to become a part of.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Agreed. Its amazing how Chase was able to pack so much subtext and meaning into his scenes that even simple camera shots of the landscape from inside a moving vehicle would somehow imbue so much significance to that landscape. Other notable examples are Adriana looking at the trees while riding with Silvio, and of course the shots in the opening credits.

      Liked by 1 person

    • I thought too that looking at all of the cars in the car park as they drove past made Feech reflect on how it was stealing the cars from the wedding that led to his return to prison (if he realises he was set up, of course!)

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Agreed in return. Thank you so much for making this website. It has become essential reading after each episode, along with Todd Vanderwerff’s writings. It is amazing and a testament to the show that you are both able to pull so much out of an episode without repeating each other.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Andy the English guy

    I think Sil suggested busting Feech back to Tony, Sil was endorsing his own strategy, not complimenting Tony, who is not the smartest man in the crew,even if he is the boss. Think Trump and many many others.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. The shot of a younger Carmela, with her hair not done, pulled back in a ponytail with regular jeans on, and then we see her in the big house with the designer clothes…that was a good way of showing how her life has not turned out as she hoped. She has all the perks, but they don’t really make her happy. She is wishing she could go back in time and change the way she dealt with AJ. We blame everything on the mother in life, and sometimes its true, but when you don’t discuss things with your kids or be truthful about things, this is what happens. I remember the Military school guy asking AJ “Is this how you saw yourself as a young man? A cheat?” Its a good question. I think AJ is lazy, and really not motivated like a lot of entitled kids, but also the hopes of the parents get in the way of really seeing who he is. He can’t compete with Meadow and really shouldn’t have to. They should have explored different things that he was interested in instead of college, but the daily stuff, and the criminality and the marital issues got in the way of any honesty. I don’t even understand why she wants AJ to talk to her anyway, he’s a snotty liar…but the disrespect that he sees from Tony in the way he treats Carmela is one of the causes of his own disrespect for his mother. As parents, the way the kids turn out is a crap shoot anyway, no matter how good our intentions are…but these parents can’t honestly say they tried their best. They parented by guilt. As far as Feech goes, he was annoying and really should have stayed in jail. I think Tony made a good call. Tony is very good at managing his crew, its when he loses his temper that he fails. That Feech went to jail was the perfect way to keep him alive and get him out of his hair.

    Liked by 2 people

  9. 2 Observations:
    1) The Flinstones-Sopranos connection is interesting and hinted at, though undermined, in the next episode, where the FBI wonders why Aide would be attracted to Barney Rubble (not Fred).

    2) Tony bursts in on Feech’s card game once again to Feech’s chagrin–this time ruining one of Feech’s yarns instead of robbing the place.

    Liked by 2 people

  10. You know how long we had to wait for season 5?

    ….a mother fucking year!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hahaha tell me about it

      Liked by 1 person

      • Can’t help but to think the line was intentional, to empathize with the viewers over the show’s hiatus, similar to Bobby Jr. speaking for all of us when fact checking Tony Blundetto on the plausibility of Tony Soprano having a close cousin who who was somehow never mentioned in seasons 1-3.

        I also forgot to mention the rim shot by the drummer just as the singer announces there was a robbery in the parking lot. Tony says “rim shot” to Carmela in an argument with her while AJ plays the drums upstairs.

        The zany connections on this show. These writers were too much. David Lynch meets Harold Ramis (Caddyshack).

        Liked by 2 people

  11. Ron, I really like the parallels that you made with this show and the war in Iraq, perhaps Chase is making a statement about good and bad leaders. In the previous episode you hear a quote from Sun Tzu’s Art of War stating, “He will win who knows when to fight and when not to fight”. The invasion of Iraq quite possibly may be the biggest political blunder in American History, the invasion negatively affected not only the United States, but the world as well. Today you have the rise of ISIS, the destabilization of the Middle East, and the refugee crises in Europe. This can all be traced back to the invasion of Iraq. I think most will agree on both sides on the political aisle that the Bush administration should have heeded Sun Tzu’s advice and not fought in Iraq. On the other side of the spectrum, Tony does not listen to his underlings (Cheney, Rumsfeld…. Syl, Paulie, and Christopher in Tony’s world) and decides on his own accord not to fight Feech, and instead take the path of less resistance, and make him go away.

    Liked by 4 people

  12. Given the ever occurring food and firearms theme, the size of Tony’s appetite, and a large house with 2 children, that last scene may have been the first time that Carmella ever walked in with just ONE bag of groceries. This may truly be her first foray into a solo life.

    Liked by 2 people

  13. Correct me if I’m wrong here, but is this not the first episode where anyone directly refers to Tony as “Don Antonio” (and, for that matter, as “Godfather”)? All previous references to his position have just been “The Boss”. Done by Feech, who, “in his day”, would likely have used the more traditional terms, but still. Interesting to finally hear it.

    Liked by 2 people

  14. ” Feech’s short run back in SopranoLand meets an ignoble end ”

    For me, Feech is one of the most impressive and memorable short-run characters. I wonder about his fury. Is it simulated or real, or does the simulated fury quickly merge into real? And then, there is the poignant moment when the probation officer turns to go to the garage. Has Feech a trace of a wry smile? He knows he’s been trapped, he walked into it, it’s his own fault.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Yes, great point about the expression on Feech’s face—he’s an old salt, he’s been around and he fully knows how this situation came to be…


  15. May I add a question, Ron?

    When Feech is offering to hide the TVs in his garage, he states how much he wants to be paid: “Two.” I have so little experience of handling stolen property – is this $200 or $2,000?

    Liked by 1 person

  16. I think The Honeymooners is the Rosetta Stone of a lot of family sitcoms. Not only do we see Ralph in Fred Flintstone, but in Archie Bunker, Homer Simpson, Al Bundy, the King of Queens, Coach, even Frank Costanza on Seinfeld. And that stupid Dinosaurs sitcom in the 90s, lol. And I suppose Roc, but I don’t remember much about that show. Usually he’s played for laughs: Blue-collar or working class, put-upon, boorish, no room for nuance in his opinions, but loving and well-meaning. (The wives, with the exception of Edith Bunker, were usually acid-tongued spitfires.) Somehow The Honeymooners captured a moment, real or imagined, in America that freeze-frames in our mind – where a guy could work a steady everyman job, have a wife and maybe kids, afford a home or apartment, and find a way through that week’s set of problems. Even though it was shot on a sound stage, to this day I’m fooled into thinking that Ralph and Alice live in that little apartment on Avenue Whatever in Brooklyn. He’s really become a folk hero, to the extent that I think Americans often don’t separate the actor (Jackie Gleason) from the character, much as David Chase mixes fiction and reality. To wit: The Port Authority Bus Terminal in Manhattan has a statue of “Ralph Kramden” on 8th Avenue, which makes sense in the context of all those TV Land statues out there. But the 5th Avenue Bus Depot in Sunset Park, Brooklyn is called the Jackie Gleason Bus Depot. Gleason was from Brooklyn, but beyond maybe riding buses there as a kid I don’t know what other connection he would have had to the profession. And Gleason was an all-around entertainer, celebrity, vaudeville performer, comedian, and actor. He was Minnesota freaking Fats. That’s the power of Ralph Kramden, and The Honeymooners only has 39 episodes.

    Anyway, I’m sure there have been some other dramatic (non-sitcom) characters that bear a similarity to Kramden, but it’s still remarkable that Chase was able to create a Kramdenesque character in a mafia drama. Maybe it’s because he first envisioned the series as a farce or satire?

    Liked by 2 people

  17. Frida had crazy thick eyebrows. AJ did not.

    Liked by 3 people

  18. Did you mention the parallels between AJ acting out and Feech’s actions? Both testing the limits of their parent / boss, only Tony can deal with Feech as he’s running a business (not a popularity contest) in a way he can’t manage with AJ. I love the look between AJ and Tony near the end, AJ moved in with Tony because he thinks it will be cushy – Tony might just start to see he can’t play the indulgent dad all the time when he has full responsibility for AJ.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh yeah, also I loved the cut between Tony talking about Feech getting old and Carmela looking at cosmetic surgery brochures…

      There was a moment in the Crazy Horse when Sil looks at Tony as if he’s pointing out the music playing and they both laugh – any idea what’s playing and the relevance or did I just imagine it?

      Liked by 1 person

      • All good observations. I have a vague memory of reading or hearing someone connected to the show (I don’t think it was David Chase) discuss that moment between Sil and Tony—I believe it was a reference to a previous conversation between the two men, but the audience wasn’t privy to that earlier conversation. Just one of those moments that underscores that the audience isn’t fully aware of everything that happens in SopranoWorld.


  19. Something that I’ve been wondering about in this episode is the flashback when Sil and Tony are discussing dealing with Feech. He sees Feech being the only guy there not laughing at his jokes, and it makes him cry a little. It just seems a little odd to me. If Tony is delusional enough to not realise that everyone’s laughing because he’s the boss, wouldn’t he just put it down to Feech hating his guts? Or is he crying because he thinks Feech is honest, and he’s having to send him away?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Super late here but the way I remember this scene is A) Tony didn’t consciously notice that Feech was the only one not laughing at the moment this first happened. It was only after Carmela’s comment that he has flunkies who laugh at his stupid jokes that stuck in his craw. B) at the time he consciously remembers this event more clearly it’s right after making the decision to “take care of it”, he’s sad because Carmela is correct. He knew those laughs seemed disingenuous at the time, now he knows she’s right.

      Liked by 1 person

  20. While on the porch, I think only Christopher can get away with a believable “fawwk you Feech, it’s fawkin’ parking” while adeptly sucking on a lollipop and coming to an agreement. One of my all time favorite Chrissy moments.

    Liked by 1 person

  21. I doubt Carmela knows what the meaning of “Quotidian” is and I think that the teacher is unbearably smug and patronizing. He might as well have said to Carmela, ” You should read Madame Bovary, the heroine is a woman just like you who wasted her life and will come to a bad end.”

    Liked by 1 person

  22. Not a favorite episode, on the weaker end of the (probably) best season (In Camelot and Marco Polo, however, are gems). Even so, full of stuff. So much. And this might be the best comment thread on any of these writeups. As for Wegler’s purple prose sailing over Carmela’s head….s’getting a little William Inge in here….
    For a show so deft and detailed, Loggia as Feech feels a little off. Now, as the character is written, he delivers and then some. The old-school faux-charm, the barely-tamped rage, antiquated references (John Barrymore). But it doesn’t fully gel with what we’ve been TOLD about Feech up to Season 5. Ritchie says he was “made before the electric light,” and Ralphie describes him as “made on the other side,” even alluding to the old phrase Mustache Pete, once used for Gilded Age-born mafioso like Piddu Morello (Terry Winter has both Bugsy Siegel and Lucky Luciano use the phrase at different points in Boardwalk Empire). If he was really made on the other side (suggesting he was at least in his late twenties before coming over), he doesn’t come off as an OG in that sense. He doesn’t appear to be much older than Junior, who also speaks Italian, and is also street as hell. Of course, accents, mannerisms, etc. can erode over time, but I just don’t think Michele La Manna is written quite as he is initially set up in earlier seasons. Tailored to casting, perhaps.
    Not long after seeing him on the Sopranos, I saw Robert Loggia as the primary antagonist of Tim & Eric’s Billion Dollar Movie. He’s pretty Feech-like there too, even cuts an old lady’s fingers off. Must be Curatola Syndrome: typecast for being good at yelling.

    Liked by 1 person

  23. Your write-ups have taught me that every in the sopranos is deliberate and every scene and shot has meaning. There are no fillers in the sopranos. You brought up Madame Bovary which piqued my interest and I started reading the novel. I referred to some commentary on the book, because I’m not a literary person. I found out that in MB, Flaubert’s is mocking and criticizing the notion of romanticism and the romantic authors that were his contemporaries and who proceeded him. This novel is written in flowery prose that mockingly describes the banality and everyday fucking boringness of bourgeois life— Life on the countryside, life as a wife and mother. Flaubert’s writing style was deemed as realism and both stories attempt to create a high level of verisimilitude that allows the audience to decide how boring or exciting this fictional world really is.

    Liked by 1 person

  24. In this episode, Carmella tells Tony that his “friends” are probably terrified of him and will go along and laugh with anything he says
    Then at the card game, Tony tells a brutal joke, but everyone laughs, and everything slows down through Tony’s eyes – Tony knows Carm is right. And if you look carefully during this slowed-down moment, an out-of-focus Feech is buttering a piece of bread. In other words, Tony is being “buttered up” by his so-called “friends”. Only Carm could have penetrated his psyche into such a realization; almost as if Tony never considered that his “friends” might be terrified or feel compelled to be his “friend” – he now realizes the flimsiness and artificiality of his famiglia relationships – predicated on money and power, not friendship or authentic brotherhood like they constantly fool themselves into thinking
    In that slow-down moment, Feech is the only one not laughing, and he’s blurred out due to the camera focus (although you can still clearly see the buttering of the bread). When Tony later recalls that moment, Feech is now in focus, buttering the bread, not laughing, looking menacingly at Tony. Almost as if to be telling Tony, “they’re buttering you up”. On the one hand, Tony seems like he might’ve actually appreciated a genuine reaction after realizing the other reactions in the room were BS. On the other hand, it’s the cookie-cutter reaction that confirms that the power structure (in which Tony is at the top) is still valid, and Feech not laughing along is maybe an indication that he doesn’t recognize Tony’s position at the top. If he did, he’d be laughing too

    Liked by 1 person

  25. Pingback: The Soprano Onceover: #67. “All Happy Families…” (S5E4) | janiojala

  26. I’ve heard stories that the reason Feech was written in and out so fast is that he was a bit of a pain in the ass on set and had consistent problems remembering his lines. IIRC, the show had bigger ideas for the character a la the Ritchie and Ralph protagonist role(s).


  27. R.I.P. Robert Loggia (aka Feech La Manna), 2015

    Liked by 1 person

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