Blundetto remains in hiding after killing Billy Leotardo.
Adriana and Silvio go for a ride.
EPISODE 64 - ORIGINALLY AIRED MAY 23, 2004 WRITTEN BY TERENCE WINTER DIRECTED BY TIM VAN PATTEN
“Heartbreaking” is the word that kept popping up in online forums in the days after this episode aired. Probably no Sopranos episode pulled at the heartstrings like “Long Term Parking” did. I remember two or three weeks after Season 5 ended, I caught myself moping around the house, feeling kinda down. This in itself was not very surprising – I always went through a period of withdrawal after a season wrapped up. But I felt particularly raw that summer of 2004 – and then I realized what it was: I was still bummed out over the death of Adriana LaCerva.
I’m not normally prone to overly emotional responses to the deaths of fictional characters. So why was I so downcast over the demise of this big-haired Jersey girl? The answer: because David Chase wanted me to be. “Long Term Parking” is a powerful, resonating hour in and of itself, but much of its resonance also comes from its connections to long-running threads, associations and images from over the course of the series. Some of the bells that ring in this hour are set off by mallets that began their swing years ago. Almost everything in this episode—every twist, every scene, every line of dialogue—is anchored to something that we’ve viewed or heard or understood in previous episodes. If we are shaken by “Long Term Parking,” it is because the hour taps so deeply into our experience of being embedded in SopranoWorld over the last 5 seasons.
Another reason why this episode works so well is its position in Season 5. Looking back at the series now, many of us would consider Season 5 to be fairly conventional, especially in comparison to the eccentric Season 6. But at the time of its original airing, Season 5 was still quite unconventional by normal TV standards. Take, for example, its surprising assortment of characters and its considerable number of both important and not-so-important storylines. There was: a black bear that managed to represent various—sometimes completely opposite—things; Lady Shylock, who made quite an impression in SopranoWorld but was gone pretty quickly; Feech, who got ushered out of the narrative more quietly than we would have predicted; Corrado’s mini-strokes which explained (some of) his assholey behavior; Hugh’s birthday party which was almost Seinfeldian in that very little happened there; the list goes on… And then on top of all that, the radically unorthodox “Test Dream” came along and took a big swat at the very notion of conventionality. We didn’t know what to expect now for the 12th episode, although most of us were probably guessing that Tony Blundetto’s increasing troubles would be the main topic. But Blundetto’s story is actually Plot “C” in episode 5.12. Chase puts his primary spotlights on Adriana and Carmela instead, and he does so in a very conventional way. This, I believe, is where the hour’s power truly comes from – “Long Term Parking” is an emotionally gripping episode, certainly, but it also pulls us in with its conventionality. It represents a return to a more traditional form of storytelling at the end of a season that jolted some of us (and bored some others) with its unconventionality.
The episode begins with the FBI reviewing some suspicious footage that they’ve gotten from the camera behind the Crazy Horse. Adriana is busy planning her wedding, with no idea that serious trouble lies just ahead. Adriana’s greatest worry right now (and her mother’s too) is that her medication will give her a Jerry-Lewis-moonface on the wedding day. But when a body is found with connections to the Crazy Horse, the Long Beach police department pay her a visit. The FBI sees this as an opportunity to apply more pressure to her. (When Chief Cubitoso yells at Adriana, Agent Harris gingerly gives her a glass of water to drink – Harris was there the last time they turned up the heat on Adriana and she slimed them all with her projectile vomit.) Ade pleads to the Feds that she had nothing to do with the murder. It is Matush that is the guilty party. Chase’s decision to bring back Matush for this episode is brilliant for multiple reasons. For one thing, it emphasizes the idea of connectivity: we first met Matush in “The Telltale Moozadell” (3.09), the same episode in which Adriana was given the Crazy Horse. This early connection between Matush and the Crazy Horse comes to a head now. (This is an example of how the episode’s resonance comes partly from associations that were first made years ago.) More interestingly, Matush was first introduced to us prior to the attacks of 9/11, but Chase brings him back now as a Muslim with possible links to terror organizations. In doing so, Chase adds a vicious and bitter irony to Adriana’s story. (I’ll come back to this later.)
Adriana convinces the Feds that she will be able to get Christopher to flip against the famiglia. We might believe for a moment that Ade can succeed at this; after all, Chris has been frustrated and angry at Tony and other members of his famiglia for several episodes now. However, Chris begins to fume when Ade reveals that the FBI have their hooks in her. The rising bubbles in the fish tank behind Chris seem to mimic the emotions that are boiling within him:
I thought for sure that this was the end of Adriana. Chris takes her to the absolute brink. But he gains control of himself and releases her. And then Adriana actually does begin to flip him. In Season 2, Chris had to make a career choice: the movies or the mob. Ade now finesses his deep-seated desire to become a filmmaker/writer: “You could start writing again,” she tells him. (“I could do my memoirs, finally,” he muses.) It’s starting to look like there might be a light at the end of their tunnel.
But Chris needs cigarettes. Adriana begs him not to leave, offering her own cigs to him. He wants to drive to the store to get his own brand instead. (Ah, the perils of brand loyalty.) When he leaves the cocoon of their apartment, can we describe him as a broken hero on a last chance power drive?
The sugar-coated idea of the Witness Protection Program that sounded so good when Adriana presented it to him back at the apartment starts to turn sour at a gas station. As Christopher caresses his beloved Hummer H2, he gets a glimpse of his future in the form of a mullet-headed yokel. Chris doesn’t wanna be a mook like everybody else. He doesn’t want a life that is even more banal than it already is. He complained back in the first season that “the fuckin’ regularness of life is too fuckin’ hard for me” – and choosing Adriana and the FBI now over the mob now would essentially mean choosing a life of banality and workaday drudgery. It’s not all that difficult to imagine Sylvio or Paulie flipping (as Big Pussy did) if they found themselves ensnared in a trap set by the FBI. But Chris is very caught up in the idea of living The Life of a Made Guy, because this is where he has been building his “arc.” So we are led to wonder: Is Chris willing to forfeit his girlfriend’s life in order to maintain the relatively exciting, expensive lifestyle that is such an integral part of how he defines himself?
David Chase plays the next couple of beats very close to the vest, making it difficult for us to know for sure if la famiglia has found out that Adriana is a snitch. James Gandolfini is in particularly fine form here: when Tony calls Adriana to say that Christopher has attempted suicide, nothing in his performance tips his hand – we don’t know if he is telling the truth or if it’s all just a ruse to get Adriana out of the apartment. For a brief moment, we are led to believe that Adriana has packed a suitcase and is making a run for it. But it turns out she is only daydreaming. (For me, the image of her suitcase strongly recalls the image of Finn’s suitcase a couple of episodes ago, when he felt threatened by the mob and considered running away from New Jersey.) Chase inserts a couple of enigmatic shots of trees here as Adriana looks out the window of Silvio’s car. The trees somehow seem to portend that a horrible event is imminent…but then again, they’re just trees…I mean, what else is she supposed to be seeing as they drive through this forested area? Silvio is an inscrutable figure as he sits behind the wheel. Is he the man that has been sent to finish Adriana? Or is it a caring, avuncular Sil that comforts Ade now, much like he comforted her when Christopher lay in a coma back in episode 2.09?
The song playing on Sil’s radio may be signaling what type of man he is: it is Heart’s “Barracuda.” When Silvio pulls into an isolated area in the woods, the truth of the situation finally dawns on Ade. She tries to escape. Silvio calls her a cunt and wrenches her out of the car. We might note that her last moments on earth look a lot like Lorraine Calluzzo’s final moments:
By putting both women on their knees, perhaps Chase is making some comment about the subservient position of women in SopranoLand. Or perhaps it is just another example of echoing imagery in an episode that reverberates with echoes from the past. Perhaps the rhyme of the images are nothing more than a coincidence. (What really stands out for me in Adriana’s final moments is the presence of the slick black Seville in the background, parked at a jaunty angle behind Silvio as he pulls out his gun; if not for the terrified woman trying to scramble away from death, this would almost look like an advertisement for Cadillac. These mobsters have a luxurious lifestyle, replete with expensive cars – but it comes at a high price, paid in blood.) We are spared the sight of Adriana’s execution as the camera tilts up into the trees, and it is this arboreal canopy that we are looking at when we hear two gunshots.
When the episode first aired, I revolted at the idea that Adriana was killed. We didn’t actually see her death, we only heard gunshots, and so I grasped at the hope that perhaps it was Silvio that had been shot and killed. (By who? I don’t know, perhaps a local hunter or a picnicking off-duty cop. Hell, I even hoped that Valery the Russian might have emerged from the trees that he disappeared into in “Pine Barrens” to come save Adriana now.) Adriana LaCerva was a flawed person, at times greedy and hypocritical. But she had a vulnerability and guilelessness that we didn’t see very often in SopranoWorld. It may not be accurate to describe Adriana as “innocent,” but her relative innocence in comparison to the wickedness of the monsters that surrounded her made her death a difficult thing to swallow.
Agent Robyn Sanseverino doesn’t want to believe that Adriana is dead either. But Cubitoso and Harris know better. Chief Cubitoso orders the Nievez murder case to be taken over from the Long Beach Police because of Matush’s possible terror connection. And this is how David Chase throws in a cruel, vicious irony to Adriana’s fate: Cubitoso had used the Long Beach P.D.’s murder investigation as a way to increase the pressure on Adriana, but he actually had the power to take control of the investigation all along. He could have actually relieved the pressure that was mounting on the young woman, which might have ultimately prevented her death. The Feds ended up being as heartless to Adriana as the mobsters who killed her. It doesn’t take bureaucrat Cubitoso very long at all to put the loss of Adriana out of his mind and return to his paperwork. It’s back to Business As Usual at the FBI.
Christopher dumps Adriana’s suitcase (that symbol of potential freedom) in a remote area, and leaves Adriana’s car (a Ford Thunderbird, a great American symbol of freedom and “the open road”) at an airport parking lot. And then he snorts a little H to escape the pain. (Chris is going back to Business As Usual as well: heroin.)
Carmela has wanted a man in the house ever since Tony left, but AJ and her father Hugh do not really fit the bill. Now she talks to Tony about the conditions of a possible reconciliation as he sets up the TV. (Is there a more effective cultural shorthand for manliness than being able to manipulate the remote control?) The duo iron out the details of their reconciliation over dinner at Vesuvio. Carmela names her price, and gets it – literally. Even after several viewings, I still snort with astonishment—and some admiration—at how Carmela reveals the cost of the lot for her spec-house with such nonchalance (a well-rehearsed nonchalance, surely): “Six hundred thousand.” What would Dr. Krakower say about Carmela’s little arrangement? (In 3.11, he told her that staying married to Tony is the equivalent of accepting blood-money.) What would Father Obosi say? (In 3.12, he counseled her to live only on Tony’s legitimate earnings.) On the other hand, who gives a shit what these losers would say – Carmela has got her groove back, that’s the important thing, right? She can once again be the Soprano family homemaker, going back to the role that she is most comfortable playing. In addition, she gets to literally be a homemaker – build a house on speculation and hopefully turn a tidy profit on its eventual sale.
For his part, Tony promises that his so-called “mid-life crisis problems will no longer intrude on you anymore.” (Prof. Yacowar notes that this is more a promise of “discretion rather than fidelity.”) The fact that Tony recently dumped Valentina, his main squeeze, after she was damaged in a fire may make it easier for Tony to make this promise to Carmela. I think Valentina’s presence in this episode is very interesting because it helps us recall a previous arrangement between Carm and Tony. It was Valentina’s acrylic fingernail which Carmela found in “Mergers and Acquisitions” (4.08) that prompted Carm to filch tens of thousands of dollars from the backyard storage bin without Tony’s permission. By the end of that hour, husband and wife had forged a nice little compromise: Carmela won’t ask about the fingernail as long as Tony doesn’t ask about the filched money. A very similar arrangement between them, larger in scale, has now been made in “Long Term Parking.” History certainly does repeat itself in SopranoWorld.
Tony moves back home. The family is feeling a little tentative and uncomfortable around the dinner table at first. AJ even describes the situation as “fuckin’ weird.” Chase heightens the weirdness by giving the scene an unusual lighting scheme. It’s all soft glow and shadows, very unusual for the Soprano dining room. But things pep up when Tony pops open a bottle of champagne. After dinner, Tony sits in front of the TV with a bowl of dessert – just like the ol’ days. The W.C. Fields film It’s A Gift plays on the television. It may be worth noting that It’s A Gift had played on Tony’s television back in “The Telltale Moozadell,” the episode in which Adriana received the Crazy Horse nightclub as a gift from Chris. Now, three years later, after the FBI try to leverage a murder at the nightclub against her, we see that this was one gift that Adriana would have been better off without.
The final scene of the episode starts off with a shot of the overhead tree canopy, very similar to the canopy that we looked at when Silvio raised his gun at Adriana earlier in the hour. We think for a moment that we’re back at that same location. (Even now, I find myself hoping that the camera would track down from the canopy to find Adriana and Valery the Russian sitting around a campfire, roasting Silvio on a spit.) But these are not the same trees – we are at a different location. For years now, Chase has been associating trees with a cluster of dark emotions and issues. Trees have been associated with death, decay, confusion, uncertainty and depression. Some examples:
While deeply troubled by Jackie Aprile’s cancer diagnosis and questions about the ultimate meaning of life in Season 1, Tony believed
he saw a rotting tree in Dr. Melfi’s “Korshack” painting:
A shot of wind rustling through the overhead trees came just before Corrado and Livia’s hired goons made an attempt on Tony’s life in “Isabella”:
The image of a fallen tree (and then the sound of another tree falling two minutes later) in “I Dream of Jeannie Cusamano” closed out the first season:
Trees were abundant in the Pine Barrens, a place of violence, ambiguity and possibly death (and I will also note that the imagery of Paulie’s Cadillac winding its way through the trees in that hour is now echoed by the imagery of Sil’s Caddy in the current episode):
In “Whitecaps,” Chase cut to a shot of overhead trees just after Credenzo Curtis and Stanley Johnson are killed, and Tony is looking up at these trees in his
backyard after his marriage to Carmela hits troubled waters:
In “The Test Dream,” we watch the wind rustle a tree just after Phil Leotardo is shot by Blundetto (and just before a man in the crowd
asks Tony about capping Blundetto):
As the Soprano couple steps into the frame now in “Long Term Parking,” we understand that these are not the woods where we last saw Adriana but the wooded lot that Tony has purchased for Carm’s spec-house. Chase’s rhyming shots of the two overhead canopies were so effective that some viewers made too literal a link: they believed that Adriana was buried in this newly purchased property. This defies logic, because Tony would never put her corpse (or what’s left of it) so close to home. But Adriana is nevertheless “in” this land: this land was purchased with blood-money, and now Adriana’s blood is in Tony’s—and Carmela’s—account. Tony has tears in his eyes as he scans their new property. He knows that their lifestyle comes at a very high cost. Carmela knows it too, but she blinds herself to the details of the ledger book. She needs to keep herself blinded if she is to park herself, for the long term, with Tony Soprano.
Blundetto’s storyline was at the heart of the previous episode, but in a totally unconventional way. We didn’t even see his attack on Phil and Billy Leotardo, because Chase was too busy giving us a tour of Tony’s subconscious. But this episode returns to Blundetto’s story in a more conventional manner. We are even shown the attack that Blundetto made in the previous episode (through Phil’s flashback) now. Unfortunately for Blundetto, Lil Carmine pulls out of the power struggle in New York, allowing Johnny Sac and Phil to take the reins. These guys don’t have very kind feelings toward New Jersey or Tony S. or Tony B. right now.
I don’t exactly remember the first movie I saw with Steve Buscemi in it. Was it Mystery Train? Miller’s Crossing? Whatever it was, I felt from an early point that this was an actor, despite his bad teeth and weathered-looking face—or perhaps because of his bad teeth and weathered-looking face—who had the ability to project the soul of whatever character he was playing up on to the screen, regardless of how mean or misfit or dimwitted that character might be. Buscemi certainly brought a measure of soulfulness to the character of Tony Blundetto. In a poignant scene now, Blundetto calls Tony to ask him to take care of the twins. Tony is irked, not so much by the request but by the entire situation. Blundetto is aware of the immense trouble he has caused and expresses his regret: “I don’t know what to say cous’. I’m leavin’ you with a real pile of shit in your lap.” Tony is moved, and finally reveals to Blundetto why he was not there the night of the truck hijacking. Tony is trying to clear his conscience so that he can do what he has to do next. He makes two quick calls—one to his man at the phone company and one to Uncle Pat—and is able to figure out exactly where Blundetto is hiding out. We wonder: will Tony divulge his cousin’s whereabouts to Phil and Johnny Sac?
Chase had used the New York mob to bring some suspense to Season 4, when the HUD scam and the Esplanade profits became thorny issues. Chase utilizes the NY guys to ramp up tensions in the final quarter of this season as well. Johnny Sac and Phil are thirsty for blood, licking their chops at the thought of ripping Blundetto apart. Tony Soprano is a reasonable businessman – he knows that his cousin must pay the price. But he will not tolerate Johnny Sac’s irrationality. Or his arrogance. John has assumed the mantle of the New York famiglia, and the ascendency immediately goes to his head. When he and Tony meet for a face-to-face in a scenic spot beneath the Manhattan Bridge, John insists that they do not ever meet like this again – it’s “undignified.” (John had no problem meeting with Tony like this before he became Boss. It was just 6 episodes ago in “Where’s Johnny?” that they met near the old Shea Stadium [a setting that reminded me of the cover of The Great Gatsby.]) Johnny Sac is being unreasonable now, and copping an attitude too, so Tony takes cousin Blundetto’s side and tells John to go fuck himself. And so we go into the season finale fully expecting an all-out war between NY and NJ.
EPISODE TITLES AS FORESHADOWING?
We may remember that a parking attendant mentioned long term parking in the previous episode, and now a major death occurs in this episode entitled “Long Term Parking.” In “Long Term Parking,” Rusty Millio says the phrase “all due respect” and a major death occurs in the next episode, “All Due Respect.” It seemed to many of us that Chase was setting up a sort of pattern: when an episode title gets directly mentioned or referenced within the show, it somehow connects to the death of a major character. Of course, there may not be enough examples to justify calling it a pattern, and I don’t think the “pattern” is strictly followed anyway. Chase is too interested in the concept of ambiguity to create and then follow any sort of fixed, definite pattern. But if this pattern does indeed exist, it’s intriguing what that might imply for the episode that follows “Long Term Parking” and “All Due Respect” — “Members Only” features a man in a Members Only jacket, and many viewers believe that a very major character was killed by a man in a Members Only jacket in the Series Finale.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Drea DeMatteo won a Best Supporting Actress Emmy for her work in this episode. (She deserves it just for the way she says “Oh you fuckin’ piece of shit” to callous agent Robyn.) I think DeMatteo took a page out of Steve Buscemi’s book for her work on The Sopranos: she opens herself up and lets Adriana’s soul glimmer through all that makeup and hairspray and synthetic fabric right on to the screen. It was all the way back in episode 4.02 (which aired a full 20 months before “Long Term Parking”) that Adriana was pressured to become an FBI mole. During all that time, her gut told her that this was something that would not end well for her; her gut was literally sick and contorted all the time. Maybe if she was a little bit brighter and strong-minded, she would have found a way to manage the entire situation better and ultimately not have gotten herself killed in the woods. And if she was truly bright and independent, she would have left Chris a long time ago and never have gotten herself into this situation in the first place. But that’s not who she was. She was a needy creature who clung to Chris in her desperation, trusting that everything would work out fine. (Even in this hour, she physically clings to Chris just moments after he almost chokes the life out of her.) While her personal failings contributed to her ultimate destiny, there was also a sense throughout her story that Fate was setting her up for an ambush that she could not escape. Though we may be shocked by Adriana’s murder here, we recognized for some time now that SopranoWorld was becoming a trap for her. It is a dark, fatalistic sensibility that Chase is presenting to us, this idea that the Universe will serve up brutal circumstances that combine with a person’s moral and emotional shortcomings to inevitably lead that person to their doom. This sensibility becomes more and more pronounced as the series continues, from the next hour “All Due Respect” all the way through to the end of Season 6.
- The deer hunter: The name “Silvio” is derived from “sylvan,” meaning of the forest, and “La cerva” means the deer in Latin. I certainly don’t believe that David Chase knew Silvio would kill Adriana LaCerva in a forest as she scrambled away on all fours like a deer when he named these characters so many years ago – it’s just one of those weird coincidences.
- According to a couple of sources, David Chase wanted to include a scene of Chris giving Adriana up to Tony in this hour. But others convinced Chase to shelve the scene, rightly so in my opinion, thereby increasing the suspense and power of the episode. (Chase eventually uses the scene, to great effect, in next season’s “The Ride.”)
- Adriana wears two tiger-print outfits in this episode, and tiger-prints have long been a staple of her wardrobe. For this reason, some viewers connect Ade with the orange tabby that appears in the final episode of the series.
- Johnny Sac doesn’t believe that Blundetto committed murder without Soprano authorization, and he sarcastically says to Tony, “The lone gunman theory!” So this may explain the Oswald-like imagery in Tony’s dream in the previous episode:
- We may remember that Hugh humorously referred to Carmela as “Virginia Mayo” in “Marco Polo,” the episode in which Tony began the process of pulling Carmela back to him. Now, as Carmela has maneuvered a $600k piece of land for herself, we see that she has once again become the gangster’s girl, the type of woman that Virginia Mayo so famously played.
- Shawn Smith’s “Leaving California” sets the appropriate tone for Adriana’s last car ride on earth. And his “Wrapped in My Memory” closes out the episode. Wow. Just wow.
- Chase uses shots of trees to stitch scenes together in this episode, and tree imagery is a recurring motif that creates links throughout the entire series. In The Book of Trees: Visualizing Branches of Knowledge, Manuel Lima demonstrates that tree imagery (including “tree diagrams”) have been used for thousands of years in various cultures to organize and connect information. With his use of tree imagery, David Chase is tapping into an ancient visual archetype to create connectivity within The Sopranos.