In Camelot (5.07)

Tony learns the truth about his father’s mistress;
JT Dolan must face the facts about addiction;
and Corrado can’t handle the reality of his house arrest.

Episode 59 – Originally aired April 18, 2004
Written by Terry Winter
Directed by Steve ‘MISTER SHHH’ Buscemi


It has always surprised me how divisive “In Camelot” is.  Many viewers found it too slow, too marginal, too creepy (potentially sparking a romance between Tony and a senior citizen), or too much of a retread (JT Dolan seems like a reincarnation of Davey Scatino from Season 2).  I’m not in this camp.  From the moment it first aired, I thought this episode was outstanding.  “In Camelot” is a big part of the reason why Season 5 of The Sopranos left such a deep impression on me.

As I mentioned in my previous write-up, Season 5 seems to be revisiting earlier themes and ideas but in more subtle and mature ways.  The Sopranos has routinely looked at the belief systems and mythologies that its characters live by.  (It was arguably “Commendatori” [2.04] that did so most obviously.)  An exploration of personal myths (and how such myths are made) is now the central concern of “In Camelot.”

This central concern is immediately signaled by the episode title.  The legends of Camelot have been around for centuries, floating through the years in a haze of magic, mystery and romance.  One month after JFK was killed, the term “Camelot” began to be associated with the Kennedy White House and the early 1960s.  (I’ve long been fascinated with the Kennedy assassination.  I once snuck away from a family visit in Austin to go lurk around Dealey Plaza for a couple of days, and my interest was reignited upon its 50th anniversary in 2013.)  But time has proven that neither Kennedy nor his administration, as admirable as they were, can live up to the legend of Camelot.  That bubble has burst.

One of Tony’s bubbles gets burst in the opening scene of the hour: he learns that his childhood dog Tippy had been euthanized, not moved out to a farm to live out his days in the countryside as he was told.  Tony’s usual cynicism does not extend to his concern for animals, whether it be for his dog Tippy or Adriana’s dog Cosette or Ralph’s horse Pie-O-My.  There is plenty to be cynical about, however, because sadness accrues in SopranoWorld—moments after finding out the truth about his beloved dog, Tony receives news that Aunt Concetta has died.  While at her funeral, Tony expresses a desire to visit his father’s grave.  But we might note that he says nothing about visiting his mother.  Even in death, Livia is a monster to him.

He meets Fran Felstein, his father’s goomar, at his parents’ gravesite.  Despite her liver spots and bad hearing, Fran is an attractive woman.  Tony recognizes that there is something enticing about Fran as he later accompanies her to the Chicamagua midget-racetrack.  Her glamour grows when Corrado describes her loveliness as a young woman, and continues to grow when Fran tells Tony a story about hooking up with Pres. Kennedy.  Fran’s sensational tale locates her squarely within our greatest cultural myth: the American Camelot.  Tony would undoubtedly be impressed by her JFK anecdote, because he has been charmed by the Kennedy mystique for a long time now—we first saw his JFK hat in the Pilot episode, and we remember how he compared the Whitecaps beach-house to the Kennedy compound in the Season 4 finale.  And the fact that Jackie Gleason, who Tony is a big fan of, appears in Fran’s story only adds to her magical aura.

Dr. Melfi recognizes Tony’s potential attraction to the older woman.  Tony denies he has romantic feelings for her but a later scene gives him away: he seems to grow weary while making love to Valentina, but gets reenergized when he sees a William Wegman print on her wall.

Wegman dogs - Sopranos Autopsy

The Wegman photo might very well remind Tony of Fran for multiple reasons:

  1. The dog in the picture could evoke Tippy who was neither euthanized nor taken to a farm but given to Fran
  2. The Weimaraner is wearing a fur coat which might recall the fact that Fran worked at the fur department at Bamberger’s
  3. The Weimaraner’s fur coat might also recall the sable coat that Fran wore in her story about JFK

On his commentary track, director Steve Buscemi notes that he did not shoot this sex scene.  It was originally shot for the season opener, but Chase decided to use it in this episode with a shot of the Wegman print inserted.  By placing the sex scene here along with the Wegman image, Chase underscores the possibility that Tony is sexually attracted to Fran.  

The problem with myths is that they often don’t hold together, they sometimes come apart before our very eyes.  Fran’s golden luster is first tarnished by Hesh (whose opinion Tony has always respected): “Something about her always rubbed me the wrong way.”  Over the course of the hour, it becomes clear that Fran is selfish and vain, even by SopranoWorld standards.  She is incapable of understanding Uncle Zio’s lifelong commitment to Aunt Concetta.  She is careless with money.  She may even be highly manipulative.  There is a real possibility that Fran knowingly manipulated Tony for her piece of the Chicamagua racetrack.  (I think that her running into Tony at the cemetery was just a coincidence, but mentioning the racetrack to him—just when its sale is imminent—may not have been.)  And she is horribly insulting to Tony’s mother, commenting that Livia was dressed “like a refugee” one New Year’s Eve.

Tony’s illusions of Fran completely shatter when she dons JFK’s hat and does her best “Marilyn Monroe.”   Jeff Goldberg at describes this episode as “the purest distillation of the Sopranos ethos: to relentlessly invert the most sacred principle of TV writing, which is ‘Do Not Discomfit the Viewer.'”  To call this scene “discomfiting” would be an understatement.  Actress Polly Bergen deserves immense credit, she nails her thankless role perfectly.  (In fact, I think she turns in the greatest guest performance of the series.)  She practically looks into the camera as she performs the routine (apparently producer Harry Bronchtein’s idea), making us squirm in our seats:

Fran Felstein - Sopranos Autopsy

When “In Camelot” first aired, it had been almost 40 years since Marilyn sang the sultry song to JFK at his birthday bash.  That party ended a long time ago.  Marilyn and JFK have been dead for decades.  They had the privilege of dying young and beautiful, with legends intact, while Fran had to settle for the blessed curse of living into old age.

David Chase never really humanized the character of “Livia Soprano,” perhaps because Nancy Marchand died before he had a chance to.  As a result, Livia has been little more than a caricature.  The memory of her lurks through SopranoWorld like some mythical evil beast.  But that myth takes a blow now.  My heart went out to Livia when Fran made the crack about her looking like a refugee.  And in Tony’s later flashback in Melfi’s office, our sympathies completely align with Livia as she gets maltreated and lied to by both her son and her husband.  The flashback also manages to evoke some sympathy from Tony towards his mother—but only momentarily.  “Fuck her,” he growls in the end, holding his tears back.  Writer Terry Winter sat in at the Slate online forum the week this episode aired, and explained that just as Tony “begins to empathize with his mother, he pulls back, choosing to hide in the safety of the fiction that his mom was pure evil and his dad’s goomar was ‘like a princess.'”

The Bada Bing is a place where women are seen not as they actually are but rather with a veneer of male fantasy applied over them.  Fittingly, it is here that Tony re-sexualizes Fran, reestablishes her mythic status.  In the episode’s final scene, Tony greatly embellishes Fran’s mystique and her relationship to JFK.  As he puffs and exhales his cigar smoke, it seems to highlight that he is blowing smoke up his buddies’ asses—the guys all fall for Tony’s mythological fable of Fran (with the possible exception of Blundetto who seems to hear his bullshit-alarm going off).  The scratching and buzzing noises of Linkin Park’s “Session” reflect the cacophony of conflicting truths and fictions as they clash against one another.  Tony knows that the idol that he is placing back on the high mantel is a false one.  The sham puts a bitter taste in his mouth, but he washes the bitterness down with a double-shot of whiskey.  We remember that Jackie Gleason was one of the characters that appeared earlier in Fran’s sensational anecdote, and so when the theme from The Jackie Gleason Show, “Melancholy Serenade,” pushes the Linkin Park song out of the way to close out the hour, it suggests that the fiction of Fran Felstein as the beautiful, mid-century, Kennedy-era seductress has triumphed over the truth about her:

“In Camelot” shows us the way that our fictions shape our lives, and it doubles its effectiveness by lifting up the curtain to reveal how the episode itself is a fiction.  Several episodes this season have utilized famous faces to blur the line between fiction and reality, and this episode does the same by featuring performances from two famous people:

Bergen and Daly - Sopranos Autopsy

Part of the reason why the fabling of Fran works here is because actress Polly Bergen has quite a fabled past herself.  As a young woman, Bergen glamorously rubbed elbows with Sinatra and Gleason and John Kennedy.  She hosted her own variety show on NBC in 1957, which had a theme song (“The Party’s Over”) that was as well-known to the American public as the Jackie Gleason theme was at the time.  Her actor-residue rubs off on to the character that she plays here with great effect.

But it is really the presence of Tim Daly that heightens our awareness of the episode as a work of fiction.  Daly had been mentioned in “University” (3.06) by entertainment lawyer/Noah’s father Len Tannenbaum who was meeting with producer Dick Wolf in that episode.  Now, Daly is playing TV writer “JT Dolan” who is hoping to get a spot on Dick Wolf’s staff.  Even the character’s name deconstructs the fiction: “JT Dolan” is a play on the actor’s full name: James Timothy Daly.  Some viewers might also recognize Tim Daly as the star of David Chase’s earlier TV series Almost Grown, a show that explored many of the themes that later appeared on The Sopranos.

Lots of little references to the world of television complicate this episode’s fiction.  A partial listing of references include Corbin Bernsen, Rene Balcer, Cannon, Law & Order, That’s Life (“fake guinea-fest”), Meet the Press, Nash Bridges, and The Practice (which is not mentioned by name but its main actors Dylan McDermott and “Nicholson’s girlfriend” Lara Flynn Boyle are).

Many viewers dismissed the story of JT Dolan as it appears here as a retread of Davey Scatino’s storyline in Season 2.  At first blush, this is an understandable response.  The empty shelves in JT’s apartment (who has had to sell all his belongings to pay off Chris) echo the empty shelves of Davey’s bust-out sporting goods store.  And JT has to surrender his car to Chris much like Davey had to give one of his cars to creditor Tony.

But the relevance of JT’s story here is that it continues this episode’s exploration of the false myths that can (mis)guide us.   JT has a romanticized conception of himself as “Joe Hollywood” (as the poker dealer calls him).  He tells his Narcotics Anonymous group about his party lifestyle in L.A., complete with a BMW and an actress girlfriend.  “Drugs, alcohol, that shit practically comes with the Writers Guild card,” he says.  He gets clean and sober in a rehab program in Pennsylvania, and comes back home to New Jersey.  He is able to stay away from doing blow or junk, but it doesn’t take long for him to fall into the gambling hole.  He says to Chris, “I was never into games of chance but there’s something about that excitement that is… I don’t know.”  He does know but he’s not willing to admit it to himself: the excitement parallels the high he can get from narcotics.   JT believes that he can still be “Joe Hollywood.”  But he actually can’t—that party’s over.  He thinks that his $57,000 debt is no big deal, “it’s like a month’s salary” if he gets the staff job with Dick Wolf.  (Which he doesn’t.)  He believes his Emmy must be worth a lot at the pawnshop.  (It isn’t.)  He believes that he is exempt from mob violence.  (He’s not—Chris smashes a Dr. Strangelove picture frame over his head before beating the crap out of him.)

Christopher also lives in a fiction, in the false belief that he can be JT’s friend, supporter and loan shark simultaneously.  After triggering JT’s nosedive into ruin, Chris spouts—totally without irony—neat little aphorisms and bits of advice to the ravaged writer.  Chris is as helpful to JT as a safety-net made out of cement.  The imagery of the two men sitting before the bare entertainment center in JT’s apartment makes a powerful statement:

JT Dolan - Sopranos Autopsy

JT sits broken and battered, stripped of his dignity and his belongings.  He is not the first person whose wealth and well-being have been ransacked by the mafia.  But he is the first person from Hollywood (that mythical and myth-making place) on the series that we have seen get so plundered.  JT may have been Joe Hollywood once but he’s just another schmuck in north Jersey now.

Corrado’s storyline here revisits his storyline in “House Arrest” (2.11)—his confinement at home is driving him batty.  But Corrado figures out that he can attend funerals as a way to get out of the house.  He begins to think of the wakes and funeral receptions as parties, trying to get the waiter to whip out a guitar at one and relishing the spicy chicken at another.  But that party ends—it doesn’t take long for Corrado to get dejected by the fiction that he is engaging in.  His words in Dr. Winer’s office express a deep depression:

“I’m trapped.  What’s the goddamn point?  Goddamn house arrest.  My life is only death.  I’m living in a grave.  I beat prison—and for what?  I have no children.  Would someone please explain this to me?”

The memory of Livia colors this episode from top to bottom, and Corrado’s monologue here sounds a lot like Livia’s “It’s all a big nothing” speech to her grandson in “D-Girl.”  We might hope that characters such as Tony, JT Dolan and Corrado would know not to invest in empty myths, would know that doing so is investing in a philosophy of nothingness much like the one that emotionally bankrupted Livia.  But this is SopranoWorld—any such hope we might have for these characters is bound to be wasted.


Every episode of The Sopranos contains clever edits between scenes, and “In Camelot” is no exception.  There are several that deserve mention, but some of the more noticeable cuts here include:

Corrado might expect his singing to garner applause but it only irks the other funeral guests; CUT TO a support group who does applaud for JT:

Cut to JT Dolan

JT wants to talk about taking a moral inventory; CUT TO the place where Tony comes closest to ever taking such an inventory of his life—Melfi’s office:

Moral inventory - Sopranos Autopsy

Director Buscemi credits editor Bill Stich for finding a pair of matching gestures within the footage on which to cut:

matching gestures

Another matching gesture that Stich discovered:

smoke cut

I believe that connectivity plays a very important role in The Sopranos, and the clever edits demonstrate how much thought is put into stitching and connecting one scene to the next.  “In Camelot” also makes connections to previous episodes, reiterating or reshaping some of the ideas found in outings such as “Bust Out” and “House Arrest.”  As Season 5 ventures further into dark territory, Chase uses such connectivity to counteract the increasing disintegration and splintering that marks SopranoWorld.  It’s very possible that The Sopranos might have become too depressing a show for many viewers’ tastes if it didn’t have all these connections and allusions that we are able to engage with and revel in.


Johnny Sac rules that Phil Leotardo must pay Tony about $40,000 from the sale of the Chigamagua racetrack.  But Phil is not happy about having to pay, and tries to duck away from Tony.  Images of food and violence often go hand-in-hand in the series, and one of the more unrecognized examples is Phil getting roughed up by Tony after crashing his Lincoln into, of all things, the back of a Boar’s Head provisions truck:

F & F - Boars Head Sopranos

Perhaps another thing worth noting in this scene: The Clash’s “Rock the Casbah” is playing on Tony’s radio as he chases Phil down.  Phil is called “the Shah of Iran” more than once on the series, because of his resemblance to Shah Pahlavi, and the song seems to underscore this Middle-Eastern reference.  Is it too much to say that Tony chases Phil down and rocks his casbah here?

Shah of Iran Phil Leotardo


Like many viewers, I felt some discomfort watching Fran vamp and sing to Tony, but my discomfort itself made me uncomfortable—was it evidence of some sort of ageism?  Or even some sexism?  I wondered if I subconsciously believed that it’s always vulgar for older people, especially older women, to display their sexuality.  Would this hour have made me cringe as much if the situation was reversed, if the romantic subtext concerned a man of Fran’s age and a woman of Tony’s age?

Ultimately, though, I think my response was due less to age/gender biases and due more to how Chase shaped the episode: he may have shaped it in a way that makes us uncomfortable in order to underline the lengths that we all (including Tony) will go to—even breaking and remaking our mythologies if necessary—in order to escape that which makes us uncomfortable.  Perhaps it was because I thought about this episode through a ‘mythological’ viewpoint that I also started thinking about the ancient Greek myth of Oedipus.  It may be uncomfortable to imagine Tony seducing a significantly older woman, but our discomfort is made even greater by the thought that the woman is Johnny Boy’s goomar—there would be something almost Oedipal about Tony bumping uglies with his dad’s girlfriend.  Tony’s attraction toward Fran, even if slight, also seems to emphasize something that we’ve known about him for some time: although Tony married a woman who is very loving and warm and giving, his side-attractions tend to be women who are more like his mother—selfish, cold, uncaring.  Though it takes him some time to come to the realization, Tony eventually recognizes that Fran shares many of Livia’s characteristics.  Perhaps the reason why he finally re-mythologizes Fran into a “princess” again is to avoid facing the uncomfortable fact that he subconsciously seems to always want a woman in his life that mimics his monstrous mother.



  • I love how much attention Chase pays to small details.  During the cemetery scene, for example, we see that Tony has to blot the perspiration off his forehead and his collar is damp with sweat.  On other shows, characters might be able to spend time outdoors in formal clothes and remain sweat-free, but not here on The Sopranos.
  • JT mentions that he met Christopher in Pennsylvania.  He must be referring to Eleuthera House, the rehab center in Pennsylvania that Chris checked into in “The Strong, Silent Type” (4.10).
  • We first saw Dr. Winer in “Where’s Johnny” (5.03) when he approached Tony at the golf course with information about Corrado’s TIAs (mini-strokes).  Chase sparks our memory of him by having his first line of this episode be “It could have been another TIA.”
  • Another myth that Corrado lives by: Corrado believes that Fran never knew how deeply in love he was with her, telling Tony that he suffered in silence—but Fran actually knew all along, and even thought of him as some kind of creepy stalker.
  • Coltrane’s “My Favorite Things” is fittingly playing in the background while Fran shows off her new $600 Bottega Venetas.
  • Buscemi and Winter team up behind the camera for this episode just as they did for “Pine Barrens.”  I’m guessing that it was on this series that they developed the relationship that would later serve them so well on HBO’s Boardwalk Empire.
  • On the commentary track, Buscemi gives much credit to the production team, including Phil Abraham (for his blocking and photography) and production designer Bob Shaw (for nailing how Fran’s apartment should look).  He also compliments David Chase for crafting such a tight episode; Buscemi’s first cut clocked in at about 80 minutes but Chase cut it down to about 50.
  • The David Chase/Tim Daly venture Almost Grown was nominated for an Emmy for Outstanding Achievement in Hairstyling.  (Is this really a thing or is Internet playing a joke on me?)
  • Since I mentioned Dealey Plaza and the JFK assassination earlier, maybe I should add this to the record: I think that the best available evidence points to Lee Harvey Oswald as the lone gunman.  But we may never know the truth about that day with 100% certainty.  (Unless, of course, Master of Sopranos decides to break down the Zapruder film and solve the mystery for us.  Perhaps “Members Only guy” was there behind the grassy knoll…)
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76 responses to “In Camelot (5.07)

  1. I was really waiting for this one.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Excellent analysis, Ron. This is also a favorite of mine, and I think it must be one of the show’s most underrated hours. Not only is the theme of myth vs. reality engaging and interesting, but it’s just a very entertaining episode. Although it’s typically either ignored or dismissed as “that filler episode with the creepy woman” or something like that, In Camelot is actually one of the most pivotal episodes of the season. It essentially kicks off the Phil-Tony feud which will last to the very end; it is the first time, more or less, that we learn Johnny Boy may have actually been the parent Tony should blame for his upbringing and current circumstances, not Livia; and it also introduces JT Dolan — without whom we wouldn’t have Cleaver, and possibly even Tony’s decision to murder Christopher. So it’s a surprisingly dense and jam-packed hour, rich with cultural allusions as you point out. One of Winter’s finest efforts, and that’s sayin’ a lot. I especially love that final scene which really drives the thematic point home; the use of that discordant Linkin Park song is perfect, as is the transition to the melancholy, almost funereal tones of the Jackie Gleason Show.

    Liked by 4 people

    • I’m glad you mentioned that about Johnny Boy Soprano because I didn’t really address it in this write-up. Even though Johnny Boy’s devastating influence on Tony is a subject that often comes up in Reddit and other forums, I keep forgetting to discuss it…maybe I’m too much like Tony in that sense, too focused on Livia’s horrible parenting to realize just how horrible his father could be as well.

      Liked by 3 people

      • Hey Ron, David, liking this thread on Johnny soprano. I think one of the most important themes long term season 5 is how vile and monstrous Johnny boy soprano was as a father and a husband; however it is not said outright or consciously but very subconsciously, reflecting the soprano children’s inability to confront this monstrous patriarch consciously.

        Liked by 5 people

        • Just learned today that Chase has written and sold a script for a Sopranos sequel. No real details have come out, but my guess is that Johnny Boy will be the focus of it because there is so much to explore there..


  3. Was waiting for this episode autopsy for so long 🙂 Great job, always loved your posts and looking forward to your analysis of Marco Polo.
    – A fan from India

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Juan Valdez's Donkey

    As always, it’s a great pleasure to read the latest installment of the ’Internet’s Greatest Blog Series’.
    I had a different reading of the Wegman scene: it seems to me that Tony happens to see the picture and is reminded by the lies and betrayal surrounding Tippy and resorts to his go-to machismo problem solving technique and essentially fucks through the pain. Brought to the cusp of confronting his feelings about further duplicity by his parents, just as the Weiner / Slate comment you alluded to, he instead employs his customary aggression, the object of which is one of the most pervasive myths within the mafia, that of the goomar.

    Valentina, like Fran, has class, and is a very relevant part of Tony’s self-image at this point. A beautiful and sophisticated goomar enables Tony, in Melfi’s words, to emulate his father and the golden days of the mafia, principally the myth Tony and his associates try to perpetuate, all the while breaking the associated code of silence and honor.

    Like you point out, the characters here maintain myths, consciously or not, instead of aspiring for self-awareness, or, if you will, a moral inventory.

    The wiping of the brow is a nice touch in terms of authenticity but it also raises the expectation of the viewer. Tony wants to look sharp for the woman sitting by the grave.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Valentina is classless. Something about that Wegman picture brought Tony to climax – perhaps his own masochism.

      Another comment about Tony that I have is that his sex scenes always nauseate me, even with Carmela. I honestly don’t understand his attraction.

      Liked by 2 people

      • I’ve considered Valentina classless as well. In some ways, Fran is quite similar though in a different context, coming from a different time altogether. Yet both women are vapid and callous and completely self-absorbed. In fact, I think both just have a glossy varnish of sophistication that’s thin enough to be easily scraped off with one of those fake fingernails. Valentina’s behavior with rolling her eyes and changing the subject to how she’s ordering beef medallions, while Tony talks to her about Ralph’s son being in the hospital just reminds me a lot of Fran’s vacuous expressions, her own mean girl remarks about Livia, and just her general selfishness. These goomars seem like the female equivalent of the men at the most base level.

        As for the sex scenes, I’ve always considered those with Tony to be deliberately vulgar in a way. It just reeks of personal getting off, or Carmela doing her duty. There’s never been a tender thing with it, but I don’t think there’s meant to be at all really.

        Liked by 2 people

  5. Love your work and looking forward to more! The de-mythologizing of Johnny Boy really picks up steam in this episode as Tony discovers first-hand that his “legendary” father was in fact a real jerk who preferred the company of the grating and superficial Fran even as his wife was in the hospital losing her unborn baby. Tony’s been steeped in cognitive dissonance regarding his father for the entire series and watching the cracks develop in that facade is IMO deeply compelling (and leads up toward the last several episodes where the deconstruction of the myth becomes more complete).

    Interesting how we also see Phil Leotardo somewhat de-mythologized in this episode too, as the legendary, recently sprung mobster is revealed to be a cheap spiteful prick in “real life”, hardly the “stand up” guy he fancies himself as.

    Liked by 3 people

  6. heeeey come on dont keep us hanging…i want to read your thoughts on Marco Polo!!! what was with that body shop thing????!


  7. straight outta iowa

    Regarding Tony’s childhood dog Tippy, recall Dallas police officer JD Tippit was killed shortly after JKF was assassinated, allegedly by Oswald. Various conspiracy theorists, however, have suggested Tippit’s murder was an element of setting up Oswald as the JFK assassin. In this way both Tippit and Tippy were innocent pawns in a very dark plot, both “euthenized” to mask a larger deception.


  8. That Master of Sopranos callout killed me. Guy was on the Warren Commission, you know. He’s the reason we know definitively that Kennedy was in fact killed at the end of the last episode of his presidency.

    In all seriousness, I really do enjoy MOS’ analysis, but I personally subscribe more to the themes of ambiguity and uncertainty which pervade the show and which you so aptly emphasize in these articles. All you really know is that you can’t know—art imitates life imitates art.

    Fascinating analysis as always. I’ve slowly been working my way through your autopsy for a month or so now and I’ve yet to be disappointed. Looking forward to hearing what you have to say about season six.


  9. Leaving Livia hanging when she needed him the most.
    That’s Johnny Boy for you. And Tony aided with the ruse.
    Ralphie did this to Rosalie when she was in the midst of
    grief. “I can’t do this anymore”. At least he was honest,
    but it’s quite painful to watch those scenes.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I felt the writers might be making a subtle joke in the scene where Dolan tries to pawn his Emmy. The pawn dealer offers him a devastatingly lower estimate than he expected, and says “if it were an Oscar, then we might have something.” The show had already won multiple Emmys at this point and I think Chase may have been pointing out that he still felt (or at least had felt, when the show began) that television was usually a worthless media – he had been changing that by making the Sopranos a television show that was more similar in format to movies.

    Liked by 3 people

  11. Dr. Melfi was really off here. And if Chase has sympathy with her point of view, he is way off too.

    Johnny was a terrible person. Livia was a toxic narc. Johnny treated Livia terribly. Neither one of them should have put their teenage son on the spot in front of both of them. Terrible, terrible people.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. I think Fran doesn’t see herself as an old woman, especially when she meets Tony. She’s still that girl that had “a little thing” with JFK. Everything about her is old fashioned..even the drinks she serves and the little snack she makes. I think the drink is a Manhattan or something from the 60’s. and those chestnuts with bacon are right out of the 60’s cocktail party handbook. I didn’t get a sexual attraction either. I think he saw her as the anti-Livia, the excuse that justifies his fathers cheating and his. He was checking his watch pretty early in the show. When she sang that song, she was young and sexy in her own mind….sad. I doubt she really kept his slippers either. Also, I see that dog picture another way, I think he looked at the picture first, thought of Tippy and had to redouble his efforts because it upset him to think about the dog. All that bull about JFK and Fran to his friends was because he didn’t want to admit that his father was wrong in his actions. She could have cared less about Tony’s troubles, just looked vacantly at him and was relieved when the Champagne came. Fran Feldstein deserves a place in Soprano history…great episode. Now we know what happens to the girlfriends of gangsters. They live in the past. Isn’t it strange that she had a son in Tel Aviv? No mention of him after we see that he has the dog…whats his story? This episode was about how we fool ourselves and convince ourselves that all our grievances against our parents are correct. He can’t make himself see that his father was in the wrong, because he harbors such anger against his mother which is understandable. This is one of my favorite episodes.

    Liked by 2 people

    • This is one of my faves too, I don’t understand all the hate it gets… It’s interesting how you interpreted Tony’s actions in the sex scene the opposite way that I did, but your reading makes perfect sense too.

      Liked by 2 people

  13. Another thing I think about JT and Christopher is that Chris looks at the gambling as business, and that even though he encouraged him to gamble, its not drugs or booze, and he doesn’t get the distinction. Either way, they have to pay their debts and its not Chris’s problem that JT got in over his head. Fantasy land if JT thinks that his AA connection with Chris will give him latitude in paying off his debt late. I believe Chris was legitimately sorry that JT started using again, and was sincere when he said why didn’t you call me if your sponsor was out of town. I think he doesn’t look at it as the same type of addiction…its a debt that has to be paid.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Maybe it’s the soundbar I picked up at Target a few weeks ago, but those midget cars were nice and loud when Tony and Fran were at the track sipping hooch. Lots of engine revving, rubber burning and quick turns. Foreshadowing of Tony and Phil’s road play?

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  15. Bravo!!!! David Chase would be proud……you went there and then some. Having this not only gives me a better insight on the episode but a better appreciation of it. Thank you!!

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  16. I started reading your blog a couple of months ago, my process is to read your write up on an individual episode prior to watching the chapter again. It is amazing how I get a totally different perspective, as well as a different interpretation of what I am now watching. Honestly, this episode used to be one of my least favorite, but now with a different perspective I thoroughly enjoyed my most recent viewing.
    I do disagree with you on one point, I think Fran totally manipulated Tony, and intentionally showed up at the funeral site hoping she would run into Tony. In the episode it shows Junior reading the obituaries with a magnifying glass trying to find someone who he might know. Sadly, this is actually very common among the elderly, many know they have limited time left on this earth, so they morbidly read the obituary trying to see if they know anyone. I think Fran most likely saw Johnny boys dead relative in the newspaper and showed up because she knew the midget race track was closing. One of the first things she said to tony was “your father always said if I needed anything I could always call his son”, in my opinion she did just that, and got $150,000.

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  17. I think Tony wanted to recant the money he gave to Fran, I am surprised he gave her the whole thing. She didn’t know how much she was owed, he could have given her 10k and kept the rest or whatever he wanted. He realizes how bad she is at the end. Its an involved episode there is alot going on I might have to watch it again.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. *Dealey Plaza is in Dallas : ) / Phenomenal insight throughout !

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  19. This episode also is one more example of how the guys think their wishes will be carried out after death, but they are relying on criminals to make “good”. Whether Fran set Tony up or not does not change the fact that Hesh and Phil were obviously aware of what Johnny Soprano’s wishes were, and instead tried to give her $500 and walk away. This pattern is repeatedly shown through out the series. And is likely illustrated again later with Ginny Sac.

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  20. How great was the actress that played Livia in the flashback scene? She absolutely nailed Nancy’s mannerisms. Outstanding.

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  21. Funny to see the guy from “Diner” hanging out in an IHOP…

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  22. “he learns that his childhood dog Tippy had been euthanized, not moved out to a farm to live out his days in the countryside as he was told.”
    This is misleading because, as you say later, the dog was given to Fran’s son, who looked after it well.
    A revision, perhaps: “He is told that, like most unwanted dogs, Tippy would have been euthanized, not . . .”
    – – – – – –
    Orangeannie writes: “Isn’t it strange that she had a son in Tel Aviv? ”
    I think we can deduce that Fran Feldstein was Italian-American by birth – that’s why she is so keen to cook for Tony. But she married a Jew – hence her surname, and her son married to an Israeli and living in Tel Aviv.
    – – – – –
    May I digress? The late Nora Ephron was an intern in Kennedy’s White House. Years later she wrote a funny article wondering why he never made a move. Was it because of her terrible hair? But then she mentions something odd: no-one has ever heard of Kennedy having a Jewish woman.

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  23. Junior gets some of the best lines. “Chicken’s nice and spicy, huh?”

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  24. I don’t think Fran was a substitute for a good wife like Tony says at first. I think she was an older version of Valentina…who gives Tony Olive Loaf to eat and egg beaters, and gives him a blank stare when he talks seriously about any subject other than fine dining or nails or shoes. You can see Tony’s not thrilled with the food and is only eating it out of politeness. I think he wants to feel like his father was put upon because his mother was ‘High Maintenance” when we can see that she had a lot to put up with in her marriage. Tony is just like his father, only with a few more modern ideas. As the episode goes on, we see that he starts to realize that maybe his mother had reasons to be so bitter and self-involved…not an excuse for her treatment of the kids, but at least an explanation. I also don’t think Fran is Italian-American. She has a son, but we don’t hear about a husband…Tel Aviv is a long way for a son to go, did he know Johnny Boy? So very interesting to have these tidbits to chew on and think about. It’s like seeing your parents as an adult and realizing that not everything is as it seems when you are a kid. That’s what Tony figured out, and then tried to put out of his mind. Our childhood ideas are hard to shake because they are the foundation of how we excuse our actions as adults. Sooner or later you have to let it go…Tony can’t in this episode. I don’t blame him.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I think Tony’s distaste with Fran was what caused him to decide to dump Valentina. He realised they were similar in many ways which made him uncomfortable; meeting Fran as an old woman – it forced Tony to see that he had no intention of being with Valentina as she aged into a cringeworthy, vacuous spinster. He remarks that when he eventually dumps Valentina after she gets burnt that he would have done it sooner if it hadn’t been for the accident. So, he was potentially referring to his interactions with Fran as the point when he made his mind up to end it with Valentina.

      Liked by 2 people

  25. Ron, do you really think that Tony thinks Fran is similar to his mother? I didn’t get that at all. I took it like he realizes how shallow she is, and what a dick his father was, but had to make her out better than she was because if he didn’t he would have to see his Mother and Father differently and he couldn’t do it. Also, to make his own actions more palatable…because he treats his wife so badly. Neither his wife or his mother is perfect, far from it, but we can agree that they do have a bone to pick with their respective husbands…No?

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    • I agree, Tony definitely must have wanted to keep the vaulted mythology of Johnny Boy intact, so he re-mythologizes his dad’s goomar into a princess. But I do think Tony saw some similarities with his mother there too…


  26. I always thought that chase was leaving us wondering about the junior/fran storyline, junior says he suffers in silence which is in his own mind how he would like to be viewed as a ‘strong silent type’ perhaps, and fran saying he was basically a stalker etc may be an over exaggeration as in her mind that’s how she would like to be viewed as being chased by the mobster etc – I always wondered if they were both lying and the truth was somewhere in the middle or perhaps there was one telling the truth about the romance and was left to us to decide who?

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    • I like that idea, the truth is probably somewhere in the middle. People often have very different views of the relationships they’re in, and that may be more true with unconsummated relationships.

      Liked by 2 people

  27. News about Carly Simon’s memoir, which discusses her friendship with Jackie O., reminds me of the parallel between JFK and Johnny Boy–particularly, as Carly Simon says Jackie O. confided to her, how both men were apparently with their mistresses when their wives experienced still births. In the macho Soprano world, there’s a “Kennedy mystique” (as you point out), as well as a “Johnny Boy mystique,” that surrounds men who are idolized and romanticized, but were really not people to look up to.

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  28. The mother always gets the brunt of the blame for things in society. I think she is expected to be the better Parent and has a bigger influence, so children and society blame her. Nobody has high expectation for a father. Most times a mistress is just for “fun” and not really taken seriously. Just my opinion.

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  29. I believe the singing part was unsettling due to how it was framed. The head took up too much of the screen and the entire presentation was too close for comfort. In real life we’d have a blur effect if someone was that up close in our face, but the perfectly clear camera comes off as awkward. Any character smiling so widely in that position would have come off as creepy.


    • I’d like to see a series profile on Johnny Soprano’s character. Under no circumstances would Tony ignore Carmela and his unborn child being hospitalized the way Johnny did. Interestingly, Livia described Johnny as an angel too good for this world. It seems like she coped with his flaws by placing the blame on her kids.

      As I continue this rewatch, I’ll look for hints in possible parallels with Dicky Moltesanti. Chase is more obvious with his explorations of the mother, but I feel I may have missed out on his take on fatherhood within a child’s upbringing. Melfi, Adrianna and Carmela all speak on their attraction to alpha male father figures.

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  30. In some ways the Chris / JT Dolan storyline here is similar to the way that the Tony B story worked in the previous episode – done in one episode, a lot quicker and snappier than some other storylines from previous series’, and despite the seriousness of what’s happening to the characters, still partly played for laughs (our incredulousness at Chris’s cognitive dissonance between acting as a violent loan shark whilst still spouting self-help mantras and the Emmy cracks). Also works in some respects as “light relief” compared to the relative seriousness of the main Tony and Fran story.
    I didn’t see Tony as being seriously attracted to Fran, but he was attracted to the myth of her as his Father’s knockout goomar, punctured by her Marilyn performance. I liked the way he couldn’t admit that and had to embellish it again at the end.

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  31. This is my favorite episode so far, and I love your analysis of it, Ron.
    I suspected that Johnny Soprano’s behavior shaped so much of Livia’s, Janice’s, and Tony’s personalities.
    Polly Bergen delivered a first-rate, courageous performance that is award-worthy.
    BTW, I am 99.9% sure that Oswald acted alone AND I did the same as you when I visited Texas when I was 14 – found an excuse to go to Dealey Plaza and wandered around for hours in fascination.

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  32. A small detail: the opening shot of Livia’s old house features an American flag hanging outside the second-story window – facing backwards. The stars should be on the left side. It could be a “common error,” suggesting American ignorance and indifference, while at the same time, it could be a very intentional detail concocted by Chase & co. It would be a suggestion of “reversal.” Next shot: Italian-Americans eating hamburgers and watching “Beethoven” on TV, a hint that they are “assimilated.” (Side-note within a note: the theme of the “Beethoven” comedy movie series seems to echo the theme of Tony being compared to a Roman guard dog (by Melfi in a few other episodes). The reversed flag subtly sets the stage for American myths, the JFK assassination, horse-racing/betting/escapism/addiction, all of which tie-in to “backwardness” and reversal.

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  33. I love the symbolism of “Rock the Casbah” playing in Tony’s car as he is chasing down Phil. : )
    Most ppl that read your work on here Ron will probably know all of this, but still I had to point it out. Phil having the nickname ‘The Shah of Iran’
    Rock music was banned in 1979/1980 in Iran under the orders of the Shah. This was the first rock song that was played in Iran for almost a decade after the Shah was removed from his throne and the song was inspired by the Shah of Iran’s decision to ban Rock music. Overall, the song is kidna’ve a middle finger to the Shah of Iran ultimately for his previous decision to ban rock music.
    Anyone that has the episode handy or access to it easily .. 33:04 – 33:09 .. Your welcome : )
    As Tony speeds off in his pursuit after Phil you can hear the music blaring from the escalade. Although it does not say the exact lyric it sounds to the ear like, ” .. goes the Shah .. ” It is awesome guys/gals lol Also somewhere in the song there is a lyric mentioning a radiator grille haha.
    That’s gotta be that radiator grille Phil used to make his grilled cheese while doing his, what was it 15 years ?? Oh yeah it was 20 years, my mistake lol

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  34. Some Varsity level analysis on this one, Ron. Great link between Rock the Casbah and the Shah of I-ran moniker, it had never occurred to me before.
    Also, you really highlighted how brilliantly cast Polly Bergen was due to her background and her performance. She plays the faded glamour-puss/irritating cougar role to perfection. Seeing her singing Happy Birthday in JFK’s hat really makes me want to chew off my own nipples rather than sit through another second of it!

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  35. There’s also a line from Fran that is basically a paraphrase of Livia’s “oh what have I said now? what did i do now?” in relation to becoming involved in mob affairs. No doubt in my mind she is a spiritual twin to Livia. Also would explain Tony’s semi-attraction to her, despite his strong insistences to Melfi that he does not want to fuck his mother… lol

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  36. All I know is, I agree with everything Orangeannie says, every time, in every single analysis
    ie: That pic “reminded Tony of his dog” (of course!) and he had to “redouble his efforts.” Orangeannie nails reading every nuance of these epis the same way I do. It’s like we were separated at birth.
    And of course, Ron – you’re write up is fabulous. Mythologies- excellent. Tony blowing smoke at the end. He does that a lot with the cigar, but it’s usually to create a wall of smoke between himself and whoever he wants to hide his feelings, intuitions or intentions from.

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  37. There’s a scene in the movie “Jacob’s Ladder”, in which Jake sees Jezebel’s face momentarily transform into that of a demon (all-black eyes, pointed teeth, etc). I’ve always thought the “Mister President” scene to be a close equivalent. There are no special effects, but the tight closeups and exaggerated facial expressions makes Fran appear decidedly evil, and the reaction shots of Tony is as if he can suddenly see the “demon within” i.e. that Fran was a malevolent and destructive force during Tony’s childhood, and she is still a selfish and manipulative person.

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  38. Pingback: The Soprano Onceover: #84. “In Camelot” (S5E7) | janiojala

  39. What’s weird to me about Fran singing that Mr President song is how she acts like a little girl, The way she is simgimg also reminds me of how people infantilze or sooth the men, kinda like how people try and talk cute to babies. It helped me see how some men find women infantilizing themselves attractive. I feel Johnny Boy and Fran were a good match they were both really shallow. I was thinking how Tony was so upset Fran was smoking when his dad was dying of emphysema and Tony not caring that Bobby’s dad having to do a murder even though it was likely the ardousness of the double murder would make Bobby Senior’s emphysema fatal (Season 3, episode 5)

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  40. Hi there. I’m watching The Sopranos for the first time, and certainly not with the detailed eye that you have, so I’ve been wondering why Corrado is still under house arrest after he was acquitted?

    Liked by 1 person

  41. Thanks! I’m still confused, though, as to why Corrado had to get permission to leave the house for five hours at a time to go to funerals when in Where’s Johnny he was out for most of the day doing nothing, and not one fed seemed to notice. Are they even still watching him, or does he just think they are?

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  42. I don’t think I will ever forget that disturbing image of Fran seducing the camera and thus this episode wins on sheer memorability. I appreciate In Camelot for so brutally skewering the mythology of the goomah. For four and a half season’s we have seen Tony’s passion for infidelity and even giddy infatuation with Gloria, but have any of his goomahs made him happy? The Soprano’s sees him swapping the mundane regularity of married life with the mundane regularness of goomah relationships – he even needs inspiration from a William Wegman print! Fran might have got something out of making Johnny boy feel like a king when he was alive, but she grows old alone and impoverished. The racetrack storyline and her smoking at Johnny’s end underline the transactional and selfish nature of goomah relationships. But that is not the glamourous mythology of mafiaso life that Tony needs to be true … the glamour that makes Christopher choose it over a regular life with Aide five episodes later.

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  43. Really enjoying the second time around (and last time I watched it was when it first aired). I have been able to get and revel in the humor more the second time round as i don’t have to focus on the plot as much. Noticed that both Tony B. and Fran buy new expensive shoes instead of putting it towards what they should have (business, rent). There could be a whole discussion around the function of clothes in the Sopranos! also, I was shocked that Tony S. gave Fran the whole $150,000

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  44. also, I should have led with this…Your Blog is brilliant. I would love to know if you have any other published writing-such a pleasure to read!

    Liked by 2 people

  45. “…In Camelot is actually one of the most pivotal episodes of the season.”

    I agree, and argue further it is one of the pivotal episodes of the entire series. As you noted, the effects of Fran’s scamming of Tony extend until the end of the story, and help to shape that end. But it also functions as the origin story for Tony becoming a mobster. In the early part of the flashback, he’s the Dutiful Son, dragging his father to his mother’s bedside. Once he arrives, his “reward” is to be given the starkest of choices, and he must choose immediately: Mother or Father, Truth or Lies. And even though he might not know it, that choice also becomes Honest Life or Mob Life. He chooses Father, Lies, and, as a result, the Mob. This decision would torment him for the rest of his life.

    Likewise, his choice determined how Livia would treat him for the rest of her life. Once her son took the sins of the father upon himself, Livia would visit those sins upon her son for all the rest of her days. Her financial dependence upon her husband limited how much she could openly hate him; once Tony had offered himself as whipping boy, Livia used him extravagantly for that purpose, even long after Johnny-boy was dead.

    In Camelot is also all about scams: Junior scamming his way into attending funerals which are none of his business, Fran scamming Tony out of $150,000+, Chris scamming JT out of pretty much everything. In that way, it’s one of the most Mob-themed episodes; Carmella and AJ are seen only briefly, and not heard. (And our only view of them is at a funeral, one of the series-record five funerals in this one episode.) Just as JFK’s administration became falsely remembered as “Camelot,” only to have that myth die over time, this episode shows the supposed glamorous Mobster life for what it really is: petty, shallow, and greedy.

    Also, I’m in with the opinion that Fran was scamming Tony throughout: she went to Johnny-boy’s grave to meet Tony, correctly figuring she could get “her” piece of the racetrack take from her boyfriend’s son. Pretty much everything she says to Tony is a scam or a lie, including her tale of not being able to pay the rent or phone. Her apartment is not one of a person in dire finances, and to drive that point home to the viewer, we’re shown JT’s ruined, sacked apartment to remind us of how such a place really looks. Fran is doing fine, and she’s going to continue her “high” life the way she got it: by taking a guy named Soprano for a ride. Tony’s horror at her Marilyn impression is also the start of his understanding (which is then quickly buried) of how his fascination with JFK also has a root in his father’s goomar, whom he never even remembered meeting.

    Finally, my take on the Wegman scene is Tony’s brief understanding that he’s just following his father in having a glamorous but classless goomar, and he pounds his resulting anger into her.

    (And Ron, I found “Sopranos Autopsy” because I was searching for a review of “In Camelot,” my favorite episode.)

    Liked by 1 person

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