Sentimental Education (5.06)

Tony Blundetto enters and then exits
a business partnership with Sungyon Kim,
while Carmela enters and then exits
a romantic relationship with Robert Wegler.

Episode 58 – Originally aired April 11, 2004
Written by Matthew Wiener
Directed by Peter Bogdanovich


This episode is often considered one of the minor outings of the season, perhaps rightfully so in comparison to some of the powerhouse episodes that stock Season 5.  But it is still an interesting, thought-provoking episode.  I am particularly interested in the subtle investigation into the relationship between ethnicity, culture and the American Dream that runs the length of the hour.

Despite all the references this season to Madame Bovary, this hour gets its title directly from another Flaubert novel.  Prof. Maurice Yacowar notes that Tony Blundetto is something like the protagonist of Flaubert’s Sentimental Education, “a provincial antihero trying to rise through the contradictions and hypocrisies of a troubled, tumultuous times.”  One question that this episode explores is how will antihero Blundetto make his rise—through legitimate or non-legitimate means?

Sopranos viewers are not rubes, we’ve all been on the merry-go-round before, and so we all knew that it was only a matter of time before Blundetto would struggle with his decision to go straight.  Although this is a fairly conventional crime storyline (“Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in”), Chase puts a unique twist on it—the storyline plays out within the context of various approaches to the American Dream.  These approaches differ in large part because of differences in cultural (i.e. ethnic) values.

Sungyon Kim’s laundry truck gets stolen from Blundetto while he is making his rounds.  (Greg Kihn’s “Breakup Song” playing over the truck radio perhaps prefigures Blundetto’s later breakup with his boss Kim.)  Kim was never eager to hire Blundetto, he only did it because he needs to keep Tony Soprano happy for the sake of his business—“If not for him, I show you the fucking window,” he tells Blundetto.  It’s a curious threat: is Kim actually threatening to toss Tony B out a window?  Or is the Korean immigrant simply botching an American idiomatic expression (“I’ll show you the door”)?

Kim later has a change-of-heart about Blundetto.  He is impressed by Tony B’s aspirations, it reminds him of the Asian-American work ethic.  He suggests that they go into business together.  Kim certainly has selfish reasons for partnering up, but it is this sort of mutually beneficial selfishness that makes capitalism work.  Tony’s massage business could replace Kim’s underperforming travel agency, and it would also give his rudderless daughter something to do.  (We later see that although the daughter lacks a rudder, she is put together rather nicely from bow to stern.)  “You, me, my daughter—we make the big success journey,” Kim predicts.

But of course, things don’t work out so simply in SopranoWorld.  When a bag of money gets tossed out of a car right in front of Blundetto, his effort to go straight takes a detour.  Some viewers were not happy that such an event—which will surely have catastrophic consequences for Tony B—could happen so randomly here, because this is a TV series that normally places a high premium on plausibility.  A bag full o’ money just felt too implausible.  But sometimes Fate intervenes in the most unexpected ways.  On the DVD commentary track, director Peter Bogdanovich says that he shot the money getting tossed out of the car from a very high angle in order to acknowledge the momentous hand of fate in Blundetto’s storyline:

Girlfriend Gwen suggests that Blundetto invest the windfall in the new business.  Tony B knows that her advice is solid, but the lure of fancy clothes and gambling with the guys is  just too strong.  As Blundetto sledgehammers a partition at the new business, it seems to foreshadow how he will destroy the good opportunity that he has been given:

Destructive Blundetto

Some viewers had a problem with how quickly Blundetto slips off the straight-and-narrow path.  They may have a point: Blundetto is gung-ho about legitimate entrepreneurship at the beginning of the hour, but by the end of the hour he has walked back into the clutches of the mob.  Although we have seen evidence of Blundetto’s dissatisfaction previously, such as in episode 5.04 when he enviously peered at the large Soprano house, it is still somewhat surprising that his fall should occur so quickly now.

For Blundetto, going straight is just too difficult when he has got an alternative way of making a living.  He was born into the mob, it is a part of his natural environment.  For Sungyon Kim, starting and building up small businesses may be a part of his natural environment.  Kim may very well have benefited from the traditional moneylending clubs, or kye, ubiquitously found in Korean-American communities.  Both the Italian mafia and Korean kye-funded entrepreneurship are, ultimately, unique ethno-cultural means of making “the big success journey.”

Of course, the bulk of Blundetto’s dissatisfaction comes out of the fact that going straight is a difficult thing to do.  But this episode also hints that at least some of Blundetto’s frustration arises from a realization that he has joined up with the “wrong” ethnic/subcultural group.  He mocks Kim’s Korean accent (“Wes Cauwell, Wes Cauwell”) before attacking him.  And Kim fights back with a Korean tae kwon-do technique.  Blundetto’s partnership with the Korean immigrant was just not meant to be, Tony B was a fish out of water here—and Chase drives the point home visually:

Sopranos Koi

Tony Soprano intuitively understands that this is why Blundetto approaches him at the end of the hour, and he assures his cousin, “It’s hard doing business with strangers.”  Blundetto has now aligned himself with the “right” subcultural group—he has returned to the family, to la famiglia.


The episode makes a noticeable parallel between Blundetto and Carmela.  Both are trying to put distance between themselves and Tony Soprano (and everything he represents) but both find it rough-going.  Carmela, in a sense, goes in the opposite direction of Blundetto: while Blundetto sought legitimacy with the help of a Korean who is “more” ethnic than Tony Soprano (recently immigrated, speaking with a thick accent, etc), Carmela tries to find her way with someone “less” ethnic than Tony Soprano.  Robert Wegler is part of the mainstream establishment, he is so far removed from his own ethnicity that we would have a difficult time accurately guessing his ancestry.  He is an intellectual and an academic, something that recent immigrants rarely ever become—they are often too busy putting a roof over their heads and learning to fit into their new society to ever pursue more scholarly goals.  Wegler’s observation, “Education should never stop, it enriches all aspects of life,” is something that many recently arrived, less established immigrants can hardly afford to believe.  Many immigrants see education as nothing more than an investment, something that needs to pay off later in cash.  Any noble ideas about the ability of education to enrich life, they insist, is just a crock of bullshit.  (As the son of immigrants, I know firsthand how suspiciously the newly-immigrated tend to view the “enrichment” that can come from a liberal arts education.)  Carmela has been trying to continue her education and enrich herself; in the previous hour, we saw her learning how to draw still-life.  (Philistine Tony, puzzled by her new pursuit, munched into an apple from the arrangement and asked, “Why do you do it?”)  When Wegler tries to discuss literature with her now, Carmela recognizes that she is not yet as enriched as she would like to be—she is a fish out of water here.  Still, their mutual attraction is strong, and so perhaps Carm and Wegler can have a happy, storybook romance.  Amor vincit omnia—Love conquers all, right? 

Again, things never work out so simply in SopranoWorld.  Carmela knows, as do we, that Tony will not hesitate to break Wegler’s legs if he finds out about their burgeoning relationship.  Wegler, however, doesn’t seem to believe it, and through a well-placed edit, our laughter at his naivete coincides with the laughter of guests at a dinner party:

Despite any fears Carmela may have, she and Wegler make love.  (The fact that Edie Falco’s first nude scene of the series occurs with Wegler emphasizes the significance of this new relationship—Carmela is really trying to move on without Tony.)  Afterwards, Wegler gives a postcoital summary of the love story of Heloise and Abelard, including poor Abelard’s eventual castration.  “It’s timeless,” Wegler says (but we hope for his sake that it’s not timely).  Carmela sneaks home, trying not to wake AJ (who has moved back into the house).  Her eyes zero in on a photo of her mobster husband, and she makes the decision to sleep with a gun under the pillow.  Not coincidentally, the photo that spooks Carmela is the same one that AJ stared at after finding out that his father is a mobster in the Season 1 episode “Meadowlands.”  Carmela wonders, just as AJ did so many years ago, just what type of behavior Tony Soprano is capable of:

2 Picture frames

The morning after another date with Wegler, we find Carmela in her kitchen in a state of total infatuation.  She dreamily stares out the window and listens to Bobby Vinton’s “Over the Mountain” while skinning a cucumber.  Tony shows up, and his sudden arrival, when coupled with the earlier reference to the castrated Abelard, might lead us to consider the skinned cucumber as a castration-symbol.  Dangerously, Wegler chooses this precise moment to call Carmela.  As he talks to her on the phone, we see that he is reading Charles Frazier’s Cold Mountain (the novel’s popularity was in full resurgence at the time because the film adaptation had come out a year earlier):

2 Mountains - Sopranos Autopsy

The titles of both Vinton’s song and Frazier’s novel point to that mountain-like obstacle that stands between Wegler and Carmela—Tony Soprano.  Wegler’s plan for their evening is very evocative, almost poetic: “I made reservations at that crab place down by the shore.  Dinner and a little night-swimming.”  In contrast, there is nothing evocative or poetic about Tony’s day-swimming; after asking Carmela what that “fag” Wegler wanted, he tears off his clothes and cannonballs into the pool.

Tony Sopranos swimming pool

This episode makes a point of depicting just how much Carmela has loosened her grip on her once-rigid religious beliefs.  Chase reintroduces the character of ‘Father Phil’ into the narrative now in order to emphasize how Carm’s beliefs have changed.  Over lunch, Father Phil (probably guided more by sexual jealousy than by priestly obligation) reminds Carmela that embarking on a relationship with Wegler would be a sin.  When Carmela counters his argument with a difficult theological question, Phil tries to duck the issue behind a waiter’s peppermill:


Later, when Carmela tries to get more counsel in the confession booth, Phil shows a total lack of sensitivity to her plight.  Director Bogdanovich notes that the composition of the scene underscores that Carmela is entrapped by Catholic doctrine:

Church constraints - Sopranos Autopsy

But actually Carmela is not so trapped, because she is no longer a slave to Catholic dogma as she once was.  Just before he jumps into the swimming pool, Tony asks Carmela about her belief that homosexuals will go to hell, and she replies, “That was a long time ago.”  Carmela’s religious views are becoming more progressive.

She certainly has developed a more progressive view of the marriage vow.  As Wegler runs his hands over her body, we see that she still wears the symbol of her Catholic faith, but the meaning of the crucifix is no longer as orthodox for her as it once was.  This is quite a change from the strict faith represented by the crucifix she wore in “Second Opinion” (3.07).  When Dr. Krakower advised Carmela in that episode to take what was left of her children and flee from Tony Soprano, she tried to hide behind Catholic dogma, insisting that it would be a sin to break her marriage vow to Tony:

THEN... ...and NOW

We recognized at the time that Carm had selfish, materialistic reasons for not heeding Dr. Krakower’s advice.  But we also understood that she had maternal reasons for staying with Tony—after visiting Krakower, she secured a $50,000 donation from her husband for Columbia University, which she believed would enhance Meadow’s college experience.   Now, Carmela is again driven by a maternal concern, but this time for her other child.  She is very worried that AJ might not matriculate, which would put him at risk of turning into another mob goombah.  I don’t believe that Carmela is consciously trying to manipulate Wegler when she goads him to “muscle” AJ’s English teacher Mr. Fiske or when she asks him to put in a good word for AJ at Union College.  We know that Carmela is fully capable of muscling someone who has access to a college’s Admissions Department: she barely concealed her threat to Georgetown graduate Joan (Jeannie Cusamano’s sister) in “Full Leather Jacket” (2.08).  But any manipulation that Carmela engages in now, I believe, is subconsciously generated.  Nevertheless, Wegler is totally justified in feeling that he is being maneuvered.  Their conversation remains civil until Carmela asks him a question:

Carm: How could asking someone you’re with for help be “using” them?  That’s what people do.
Wegler:  (looks shocked that she could say such a thing)

It is at this moment that the cultural divide between them is most palpable.  Carmela is largely correct—asking for help is what people do, but it tends to be people that are needy or marginalized or part of a minority culture that are more likely to ask for the type of help that Carmela seeks.  People like Mr. Wegler, who have fully integrated, fully assimilated and found success within mainstream “establishment” American culture, find such a notion to be less acceptable—if not downright shocking.  (Again, I’m basing this partly on personal experience.  I know many Asian-Americans who would not have hesitated to ask for all sorts of help and favors and financial loans 30 years ago, but to do so now, after they’ve become more integrated and assimilated into an American society that values self-sufficiency over altruism, would leave a bad taste in their mouth.)  For a brief period, it seemed that Carmela—by dating an intellectual, taking up new artistic pursuits, and adopting a more progressive religious perspective—would gain entry into a cultural space quite different from the one that she has always lived in.  But when the new cultural space proves too alien for her, she—like Blundetto—abandons it and reactivates her mob membership: “You better watch your step,” she threatens as she leaves Wegler’s home.

I sort of wanted to read Flaubert’s Sentimental Education before starting this write-up, but then I decided to just look up the novel on Wikipedia instead—and I came across an interesting quote in Wiki’s synopsis:

Other characters, such as Mr. Arnoux, are as capricious with business as Frederic is with love.  Without their materialism and “instinctive worship of power,” almost the entire cast would be completely rootless. Such was Flaubert’s judgment of his times…

We get an interesting effect if we substitute some of the people named in the quote with the names of key Sopranos players:

Other characters, such as Tony Blundetto, are as capricious with business as Carmela is with love.  Without their materialism and “instinctive worship of power,” almost the entire cast would be completely rootless. Such was David Chase’s judgment of his times…

Blundetto and Carmela are capricious, they don’t exercise the steadfast discipline that is necessary to make significant changes in one’s life.  Carmela cries and groans to her father that she can never outrun the past that she has shared with her mobster husband.  But this is not exactly true.  Carmela Soprano and Tony Blundetto will not escape their pasts only because they are abandoning the paths of escape that they were on.


Tony Soprano often benefits, both in his personal life and his business, from the misery and dissatisfaction of others.  This is a fact of SopranoWorld that is proven once again in this episode.  Tony wants Carmela and Blundetto by his side, and their sadness and dissatisfaction are now driving them towards him.  The episode fades out on a shot of Tony looking smug and victorious as The Modern Jazz Quartet’s easygoing tune “Django” gives way to Etta James’ growling, rambunctious “The Blues is My Business (And Business is Good).”  Carmela and Blundetto’s blues are leading them right back to Tony Soprano.

Chase is slowly turning the screw, beginning the process of bringing Carmela back together with her husband.  We remember that in the previous episode, Carmela stood shoulder-to-shoulder with Tony after recognizing that he didn’t do the horrible thing he was rumored to do (i.e. fuck Adriana).  Now, Carm is allowing herself to believe that she can never have a life with any other man.  As the season progresses, more events will  continue to bring the pair closer.  Chase uses a slow hand to turn Carmela’s screw—she will not actually reconcile with Tony until the final quarter of Season 5.  But Chase uses a power-drill to turn Blundetto’s screw—it only takes one episode for Tony B. to fall back in with Tony S.  This great contrast in Carmela and Blundetto’s storylines highlights the masterful way that Chase is able to manipulate and modulate dramatic tensions in Season 5.

It is easy to pick on Peter Bogdanovich’s character “Elliot Kupferberg” for being obtuse and goofy on the show, but Bogdanovich is nothing short of brilliant behind the camera.  On the DVD commentary, he gives a detailed account of several of his directorial decisions for this episode.  Regarding The Sopranos in general, he says that David Chase requires the series to “be brilliant at every moment” and that it is “the most important cultural event in America in the last 25 years…a major work of art.”



  • I love how Hugh shortens his daughter’s name to “Mel” instead of “Carm” like everyone else.  (The writers attentively assign this quirk to Hugh throughout the run of the series.)
  • Some viewers were not quite convinced that Parole Supervisor Jimmy Curran, who sent Feech back to prison in “All Happy Families…,” was actually on the mob’s payroll, but Moltisanti confirms it here.
  • Kim tells Blundetto that his daughter graduated in the top two-thirds of her class—which is just a nice way of saying she graduated in the bottom half.
  • While speaking to Father Phil, Carmela mispronounces Heloise as “Eloise” which recalls episode 4.12 “Eloise”—which happens to be the episode in which the character of ‘Mr. Wegler’ was first mentioned.
  • Fortunate Son: Rosalie is reminded of her dead son Jackie when she watches a warm moment between AJ and Carmela.  The reference to Jackie complicates our perception of Carmela’ s behavior this hour: we are reminded that there is a very real possibility that AJ will get mixed up with the wrong crowd and end up dead like Jackie if Carm is not able to secure a more stable future for him.  (The subtitles have Rosalie blaming “those Goddamn Chinks” for Jackie’s death, but I think the actual spoken line is “Goddamn jigs”—she still believes he was killed in the projects by African-Americans.)
  • Season Four’s “Christopher” also dealt with in-group vs. out-group membership along ethnic/social/cultural lines, but in a way that was far more farcical than what we see in the present episode. “Sentimental Education” seems to be an example of how Season 5 episodes revisit themes and ideas from earlier episodes in a more comprehensive way.  This characteristic of Season 5 is also apparent in the next outing, “In Camelot,” which greatly expands upon the notion of personal mythologies which Chase explored in previous episodes like  “Commendatori.”
  • We can add Sopranos writer Mitch Burgess to this season’s list of cameos.  He appears as poker player “Iowa Burgess” here.

Mitch Burgess
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63 responses to “Sentimental Education (5.06)

  1. A “Heloise” “Eloise” mix-up is also mentioned in passing in “University” by Meadow to Carm, except in the reverse order.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Tony Blundetto’s decision to go straight after getting out of prison, trying to qualify for massage therapy, to change his life, was, for me, a fascinating development. A former mob member who was going to turn his back on the family, and set up a legitimate business. Transcend the ‘death or prison’ fate of being a part of the mob. I think there was a great deal of cynicism in Chase’s decision to have a ‘Money Ex Machina’ moment, where Blundetto’s dedication was so easily corrupted. But it does follow the theme, developed more in season 6, that we cannot escape the rut of our destination, we cannot change our life (and it’s interesting to me that Blundetto is the one trying to lure Tony into the big house full of lighted windows and consequences.) SPOILER: When Tony kills Blundetto, he is essentially killing his own options. He is confirming life outside the constrictions of the mob is not possible.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Waddya bend a tailpipe?

    Liked by 1 person

  4. We’re the ones with the Imperial, and we’re running last?


  5. I also really like the examination of many kinds of “cheating” in this episode, and who it does and doesn’t work for. The obvious examples are AJ’s cheating on schoolwork and Carmela’s cheating on Tony.

    AJ shows zero remorse and uses the same “staredown” that failed to work on Tony, to compel his mom to take him back in. Tony shows no interest in the ripped off exam, and even grins as if he is proud of AJ for making the attempt. Even though Tony and Carm both come from these immigrant backgrounds, she at least wants to see AJ assimilate. Tony pays lip service to this ideal, and is genuinely proud of Meadow (though his unspoken thinking is obviously that she is only at college to earn her “M.R.S. Degree” prior to following her mother as a homemaker) – but with AJ, it rings hollow. When Christopher disappoints Tony, it reminds us that a part of him would prefer AJ to follow him into his line of business, where cheating is all in a day’s work.

    Carm’s cheating is also obvious, though we are led to wonder about, precisely, she is cheating ON. Tony is seen at the casino surrounded by topless strippers, and leers crudely at Mr. Kim’s barely legal daughter. It’s obvious their marriage is dead as a doornail at this point, and she’s aware of Tony’s serial philandering. As she says to the extremely disapproving priest (who is definitely experiencing some petty jealousy here), why should she be the only one who plays by the rules? And yet in the end, she struggles with guilt over what she is doing. She just can’t seem to break out of the social role laid out for her – unlike AJ, who never once demonstrates real regret over any of his misdeeds. He is his father’s son to the core in this episode, despite his whining about “child abuse”.

    There are other kinds of cheating to be seen here, though. Tony B is seen at a party with one of the casino’s bimbos on his arm, cheating on his girlfriend. He keeps the bagful of cash instead of doing the “right thing” and alerting authorities (though, really, would ANYONE do that?). He allows his sons to help him demolish a wall instead of doing their homework – “cheating” on the promise he made to his ex-wife that he would make them study. And he breaks his word to his girlfriend – he offered to buy her a ring with the newfound cash, and she sweetly gave it back as an investment in his business. But instead he cheats both her and his future by blowing it all in a poker game. This sets him up for failure and a tumble back into mob life when he snaps and beats Mr. Kim. If he had hung onto the cash, maybe he could have still somehow made a go of it. But he didn’t, because like many people in Sopranoworld – Tony S., AJ, Chris, Paulie, etc., etc. – he seems incapable of thinking or planning ahead, or of any sort of impulse control. Just about the only thing we DON’T see Tony B. cheat on is his massage certification test, but of course there would have been no way to do that.

    And there is definitely another hint in this scene of the social divide between the poor immigrant world and the world Mr. Wegler inhabits; Tony B.’s studies for a two-year night course, and sitting a computerized exam, are seen by his peers and his girlfriend as a herculean feat of academics, while it would probably be looked down upon by a true academic like Mr. Wegler, who no doubt holds a Master’s degree. And rather than getting a diploma in a fancy ceremony, as Wegler no doubt did, Tony B. is given a bland and disinterested acknowledgement from a bureaucratic flunky – an acknowledgement that goes out of its way to make clear that it is NOT a congratulation of any kind (“I can only inform you…”). So not only academics and middle class society, but also the administrative and clerical structures that oversee Tony B.’s education, treat him with contempt. I’m led to wonder whether this sort of contempt and disrespect has something to do with his inability to keep on track toward his dream (by swallowing his dislike of Mr. Kim). When every part of mainstream, middle-class society seems to be spitting on you, how can you maintain your diligent faith in your own success? Bad enough to be laboring a thankless job for a tyrannical boss and feeling the social scorn of being an ex-con; but to get so little praise for such a difficult (for him) academic achievement, and to have his dream be sneered at, mocked, or ignored by his friends and family, must have hurt. The only person who seems to have truly supported Tony B.’s dream is his girlfriend, but we see a snippet of a phone call that seems to indicate a difficult and perhaps even abusive home life (what WAS that rant of hers where she says she is ‘evil’? She looks entirely deranged…).

    Other aspects of cheating are more briefly touched on. Chris got wiped out at the casino, and the blackjack dealer manages to land on a 20… is the casino rigged, we wonder? Mr. Wegler leans on a teacher to give AJ a thoroughly undeserved break, “cheating” the system (I love the teacher’s line about “the world needs ditch-diggers too” – yeah, except no parent wants to believe that is their kid’s fate, especially not a parent who doesn’t take “no” for an answer, like either of the Sopranos). Two of the books we see referenced involve cheating on vows – Madame Bovary and The Letters of Abelard and Heloise. (And am I alone in thinking there was a creepy Pygmalion-esque vibe in the way in which Mr. Wegler seemed to be trying to shape Carmela into his fantasy mistress re: Madame Bovary? He repeatedly implies the comparison when he refers to Bovary’s life of bourgeois emptiness – an accurate, if extremely unflattering, analysis of Carmela. I kept thinking: how can she put up with this condescending creep? But he was showing her a little tenderness and understanding, which she hasn’t had in a long time.)

    I really like your analysis of the episode on the basis of social class. I like how this is one way in which Tony and Carmela are very similar – and Meadow breaks the mold. She is the true immigrant success story – and looks likely to achieve the academic success she needs in order to escape the fate of becoming another tired, broken-down middle aged mob wife, musing emptily over “great cinematography”, going to the hairdresser, and trying not to think about her husband’s goomars. It’s looking like Meadow will escape that fate, precisely because she is achieving the aspirational dream of immigrants: she is assimilating successfully. Perhaps this is why she is all but absent from this episode. (She is also not known for being a cheater, either.)

    Keep up the reviews, I’m really looking forward to the next one! 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Please return soon Ron…I need you and Tony to help distract me from the unbelievable tragedy that occurred last night. By the way, thank you for all your work so far- I think it’s brilliant. Keep up the great work & hope to read you again very soon!

    Liked by 3 people

    • Thanks. I wish to God that David Chase had a series running right now – I don’t think there was anyone better at giving us a reflection of ourselves as Americans, and right now we really need to be able to look at ourselves to understand why the hell we’re so divided…

      Liked by 2 people

      • I was thinking the same thing the other day. Was especially wondering how he would depict & handle this in SopranoWorld if it ran today. With his genius, no doubt whatsoever we would gain some serious insight on a LOT of things.

        Liked by 2 people

      • We’re so divided because the power structure is rapidly changing in America. It is no longer the sole domain of white (mostly descendant from Europeans) men. This is a difficult reality for many people to accept – and those who can’t adjust will – and are being – left behind.

        Liked by 1 person

  7. Hi Ron. What’s taking so long? Please finish the rest of the episodes soon. I’m in season 6 but stalling, waiting for you to produce something. It’s just not the same without your pieces. Vanderwerff/Seitz are good but I don’t like the criticisms of parts of the show (e.g “Writing this episode wasn’t as focused” or “That plotline was pointless”), it adds needless negativity. Sepinwall is good but too brief. Yours are a feast. Hurry up!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I’m in the middle of my rewatch (or re re re re re re re….watch) and just discovered this blog. I agree with the previous comments about the other blogs and look forward to catching up on this blog. So, yes, hurry up with more : )

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Are you still working on these? I can’t wait for you to get to the test dream and beyond. Thats where the story starts to get really good.


    • There’s a run of episodes at the end of season 5 and beginning of season 6 that I think is the most mind-bogglingly incredible run ever seen on TV… Stay tuned, I’ll be getting back to writing more soon…


  10. I didn’t buy Tony B turning violent in the manner that he did. He worked extremely hard to get where he was and threw it away in a moment of rage. Moreover we’d never really seen that kind of violence or sheer hotheaded-ness from him previously. From someone comfortable with giving massages to strangers to bloodying noses? All the studying he had done, the stress he faced taking the exam? He’s ordered equipment for his business, got a koi pond setup, and at that stage I’m supposed to believe he’s willing to trash it because he’s in an annoyed mood? The buildup to such an act wasn’t believable for me. His character was portrayed as too intelligent, cool-headed, and hard-working up to that point.
    I felt similarly about Bob suddenly becoming extremely frank with Carmela. For him to want to end it because he felt like he was being used seemed logical, but going so far as to outright describe her as using her pussy as a weapon felt extreme and out of character. Like Tony B, the buildup to that level of animosity was missing. Being an intellectual, he could have expressed the same sentiment in a more nuanced way. In defense of the writing, we as an audience couldn’t be totally certain that such behavior was lurking within him, but his erudite nature didn’t lend itself to such a distinctly crude way of addressing the problem.
    These two (in my opinion) contrivances really stood out to me.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think Tony B’s dramatic turn only seems rushed. There are powerful forces leading him back to where he started.

      For all his intelligence and hard work he lacks confidence in his abilities and the just appreciation of those abilities. His reaction when his boss made him that business offer is evocative, he can barely believe it. For him this opportunity came almost out of the blue just like that bag of money. When he passed his exam, again, he seemed more relieved than proud and excited. Because he feels lucky and grateful and undeserving, he doesn’t see that his boss’ proposal is actually another employment and not the opportunity he desperately wants. The beating he gave him at the end is the result of the rage in face of his wrecked illusion, for which he holds the boss accountable, not himself.

      But what is underneath this lack of confidence and what is actually feeding it?

      Tony B wants everything: the pride of legit success, a legacy for his children, the money Tony S has, his lifestyle with the gambling, spending. carelessness. This conflict of having things the easy way and the hard/honest way at the same time was always there. The bag of money and the bump in employment. The repressed part of himself which never left la famiglia is the great saboteur. If only he could have been more honest with himself…

      About Bob. There too an illusion operated I believe. An illusion about his intellectual superiority – he has a better understanding of literature than he has of the the danger to his life the relation with Carmela poses. This high ground and overconfidence is what blindsided him. He felt in control and was shocked when he suddenly realized he was manipulated/controlled. His pride wounded. That being said, I’m not surprised all consideration for her and himself went out the window when he confronted Carmela.

      And about his “erudite nature” mentioned, there is no such thing, but the juxtaposition is interesting. Erudition is always acquired, not an intrinsic quality. So, with Bob we had a chance to see what nature the erudition might conceal sometimes.

      Liked by 3 people

      • Tony B is given two extraordinary, unearned gifts: The opportunity to open his own massage shop, and the bag of money thrown at him in a deus ex machina.

        I believe these opposing gifts are meant to illustrate how the mindsets of regular citizens are different from the mindsets of the mob.

        If he opens his own massage shop, that’s going to require a lot of effort. And indeed, we see Tony B. spending hours in physical labor at his shop, renovating the commercial space. That’s what he keeps telling Tony he wants. An honest opportunity. The bag of money requires no effort. It’s not an opportunity to eventually earn money. It’s money itself.

        Ultimately, he doesn’t choose the honest way. He chooses the easy way. That deus ex machina turns out not to be God gracing him; it was God pissing on him with hundred dollar bills.

        Liked by 4 people

  11. The bag of money was something that I kind of glossed over during my first watching years ago, but have become almost obsessed with it in subsequent viewings. I think that it was a brilliant tactical move by the writers because we got to see Tony B’s downfall, which 1. had to happen (if only for the reason that there couldn’t be a “good Tony” and “bad Tony” storyline because well, there is nothing that is touched by anyone in the show that is or becomes “good.”) Also because we’ve already seen Tony B’s deep resentment of Tony and his success. Tony B. wants success, but as Rob mentioned above, seems happy to take the easy way. In fact, in what almost could be a quasi-montage, we see Tony B go back to the “gansta” that he was in the 80’s – bad suits and all. And it happens fast. His desire to catch up with the guys, especially Tony S, is powerful. The other thing I really like about this “money drop” (for that is what it is) connects this overhead shot scene, as directed by Bogdanovich, who acts and directs in the series, to Buscemi’s (who also acts and directs) overhead shot scene in Pine Barrens when Valery disappears. Being lost in the woods and finding a bag of gold are both fairytale motifs, and add a nice touch of magical realism to the series (which I’m sure was intended. Many so called magical realism novels are about the death of a clan). In both of these episodes, the most resentful, flawed, unhappy and bitter characters (Paulie, Michael and Tony B.) are presented with a “problem” and we get to see how they attempt to “solve” it. None of them have the skills to do it well.

    Liked by 2 people

  12. I think he has a hard time going straight because it entails hard work, and like Vito in New Hampshire, that’s not something they like to do. They like the easy money and the perks. In this episode, Carmela falls back into a pattern that has been prevalent in her marriage. Tony get things done for the family, and it doesn’t seem to worry her. Its so ingrained that she really doesn’t see it as manipulation. She wasn’t guilty at all about the affair, she had been trying to get a man to sleep with her from the beginning of the series. She used the teacher to get AJ a good grade, and when he called her on it she went “Mob-wife” on him. I think she was flattered that Wegler was interested in her at all. That was also a very inappropriate outfit to wear to his office…so much cleavage. I felt embarrassed for her. How could she miss the condescension of him telling her to read Madam Bovary? So insulting….albeit accurate.I doubt she even understood the word “Quotidian.” I also always had a suspicion that Tony somehow arranged that money that Tony B. found. Blundetto resented having to do all the work, and also resented that Kim looked down on him…like when Joe Pesci in Goodfellas was amazed that a “Jew Broad” could be prejudiced against Italians. Ridiculous to their way of thinking.

    Liked by 3 people

  13. Maybe The Breakup Song was more of the writers protesting some of these story lines. “They don’t write ’em like that anymore…”

    Carmela once told Father Phil that he liked the “whiff” of sexuality. Even just a whiff of something that doesn’t come out right can be unsettling.

    Carmela: “….Eloise….”

    Jealous Father Phil: “It’s HELL-loise”

    Liked by 1 person

    • Sometimes the tiniest little whiff of something unsettling can turn you off forever.. Someone recently told me that he stopped watching The Sopranos because the floorplan of the Soprano home doesn’t make perfect sense (the interior rooms don’t match the exterior shots). I explained that the interiors and exteriors are shot at two different locations, but it made no difference – he just can’t get over that little discrepancy…

      Liked by 1 person

      • “Someone recently told me that he stopped watching The Sopranos because the floorplan of the Soprano home doesn’t make perfect sense”

        Sounds like a nitpicky tool.. And if that’s the the case I cannot imagine him enjoying any tv show or movie ever cause this is probably the most detail oriented series of all time

        I’m picturing this guy watching David chase walk on water then him laughing derisively and saying: “You see? He can’t swim”

        Liked by 2 people

      • I tend to notice things like props that are inconsistent from edit to edit throughout a scene. (Necklaces falling against the body in different positions, statues appearing and disappearing, the continuously changing position of a bottle of wine or Snapple… I’ve learned to live with it, but it does pull one out of the illusion of reality.

        Liked by 1 person

  14. This episode left me feeling sad for Carmela and Tony B, both trapped in SopranoWorld, despite genuine attempts to find a route out. They’re among the few main characters in the show that you could imagine making a success of ‘civilian’ life if the course of their lives had gone differently.

    Must admit this episode also left me somewhat jealous of Mr Wegler …

    Liked by 2 people

  15. In the scene where Tony walks in as Carm is daydreaming while pealing the cucumber, he stops right before entering the kitchen and is submerged by a very dark shadow. It feels like something out of a horror film as Carm feels the presence and is spooked. I was reminded of the blackened out silhouette of Livia in “Calling All Cars”.
    Perhaps to further the point of Tony being the stalking inescapable black hole that Carm can not get around or over, much like that dark “Cold Mountain” that was referenced in the scene.

    Liked by 2 people

  16. re: hugh, what should we say about where he stands on Carmela’s “mob membership”? after the end of her affair with Wegler, she bemoans to her father the fact that she will forever be guilty by association with Tony. Before Hugh leaves, he just sighs and says “Well…”, and then there’s that nice shot of him reaching for his well-worn box of tools. This alludes to the fact that Hugh, in terms of assimilation, culture, and crime, stands for another version of American aspiration even within Italian culture—according to Hugh, you just put in the hard work. He doesn’t say this to Carmela, but Chase makes sure to say it us by flashing the tools in the Camera’s gaze.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Her views of marriage are more progressive? Why do you liberals always try to label sin as progressiveness? And then you show your latent racism by suggesting minorities are too stupid to educate themselves in a sophisticated manner.


    • I wrote that her view of the marriage vow has become more progressive—she no longer treats the vow as an ironclad oath as many Catholics do. Are you saying that she should have honored that vow and not have separated from Tony, even though that would arguably make her more of an enabler and complicit in his criminal and immoral behavior?

      Liked by 2 people

    • Also, I’m a minority person. Tell me, am I suggesting that I’m too stupid to educate myself in a sophisticated manner?

      Liked by 2 people

  18. To me, the moral of the Sopranos is evil people who are tempted by good. Most story lines in TV and the movies are about good people, tempted by evil, but eventually choosing good. The Sopranos is the exact opposite. They are evil people who are tempted by good, but ultimately choose evil. This episode highlights that.

    Liked by 1 person

  19. I love this clip of Wegler. It’s The Sopranos’ version of a laugh track.

    Liked by 1 person

  20. “I’m walking on a cloud like Maria in West Side story!” Yikes….such romantic ideas! She is totally unrealistic.

    Liked by 1 person

    • In “SopranoWorld”, perhaps as unrealistic as Maria’s hopes/expectations in West Side Story. Hence the choice of Maria and not Cinderella, or Eliza Doolittle.

      Liked by 2 people

  21. When Tony enters the house…he watches Carmela as she’s peeling the cucumber and daydreaming. Almost as if he senses something is different about her. And he even remarked about her eating duck. He’s very canny.

    Liked by 1 person

  22. “When Carmela counters his argument with a difficult theological question, Phil tries to duck the issue behind a waiter’s Peppermill”

    perhaps underscoring the pious’ having the tendency to ‘season to taste’ if you will to make it digestible to the person/scenario

    Liked by 3 people

  23. Not that it matters from a story perspective, but I’d always assumed that was a body double of Carmela in the nude.

    Liked by 1 person

  24. I find Mr. Wegler so condescending…even with a woman who’s educated and well-read I think he would still be very pompous and annoying.. I love how Carmela waves away A.J’s previous plagiarism and cheating with the remark that “they were going to vandalize the gym” but instead took the tests!! WTF? I can see why Mr. Wegler likes her because A) she’s probably different from the usual women he meets, and B) he can feel superior and explain everything to her, thereby making himself feel good. C) How many times can you use “Quotidian” in regular conversations!! I still say, she is so obsessed with having another man find her attractive that she will literally sleep with anyone half-way decent to boost her self esteem. Thats why she was smiling in the mirror, it was validation. This was the only episode where she says out loud that she is worried that AJ will fall into a life of crime…he’s not that far from it anyway, and frankly I don’t think he has it in him. Why not a trade school? Or just a regular job.? The writing is on the wall. He’s a loser and also an idiot. Tony is more pragmatic and honest. He doesn’t think anything that A.J. does is such a big deal. Whatever happens to him, Tony will bail him out of it…that’s just the way it is. Its bad parenting, but look who Tony’s role models are? A.J. is beyond spoiled…it’s something darker. It would have been interesting to see where he ends up ultimately….as an adult.

    Liked by 3 people

  25. It’s strange. When I finished watching the episode, I didn’t think there was a serious possibility that the bag of money was just luck. I thought it was clear that Tony S. had arranged for the bag to be thrown in front of Tony B. to give him a taste of the good life, and lead him back into the family.
    There was no evidence for this, apart from the implausibility of the incident, and the satisfied look on Tony’s face when his cousin asks him for a job.

    Liked by 1 person

  26. ‘from bow to stern’??? Nice objectification of women there you asshole.

    Liked by 1 person

  27. I am new to the show during the lockdown and I love going through these very well written posts after each episode. It’s like I’m back in my college Lit classes and it adds so much more to the Sopranos experience. Thank you for this 💯

    Liked by 2 people

  28. It’s interesting that Chase decided to condense Tony B’s fall from Grace into one episode – others he has drawn out over a number of series. I just saw it as a choice – say what you need to say and don’t mess around. To me it felt a but more comedic as a result, and a bit more broad, using the plot device of the money to illustrate the themes of the show as a punchier version for a change. Maybe he wanted a change of pace so not everything feels like it takes an age to come to fruition.
    It’s also a subversion of the traditional view of what America offers, “work hard and good things will come to you”, he worked hard and when it came down to it he fell back into old ways rather than continue to push himself to stay out of the life of crime, with a literal battle between the Italian mafioso immigrant way of life and the Korean “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” version. I think I had Tony A’s wry smile on my face at the end too…

    Liked by 1 person

  29. This definitely brought some worthwhile points out for me – Carmela’s longing to belong to a “higher class” blinding her to the arrogance and condescension of Mr Wegler, she’s had a constant push and pull through this series and the last – wanting Meadow to get a better education and resenting not having that herself at the same time (the Billy Bud conversation and Eloise), falling for Mr Wegler and his intellectualisms, and the very next episode berating her mother for having the same desire to be seen as less crude and crass Italian-Americans.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, class divisions and class issues were rarely dealt with seriously in American art at the time this episode aired because this is the country, according to the prevailing narrative, that is defined by equality and opportunity. But that narrative has some holes in it…


  30. Wow, Mr Wegler is really into that book about a teacher knocking off one of his students, isn’t he? Seems like it isn’t *AJ* who needs to worry about his wandering hands…
    I think my favourite part of this episode is Tony B’s girlfriend. I have to wonder what kind of woman would seek out incarcerated men to date, and she does a pretty good job of cutting a quietly tragic background figure. I think she’s someone who’s experienced a lot of trauma, that all spilt out in her “I’m evil” outburst.

    Liked by 1 person

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