The Test Dream (5.11)

Blundetto is acting a little rattled after attacking a New York capo.
A long, strange dream helps Tony figure some stuff out.

Episode 64 – Originally aired May 16, 2004
Written by David Chase and Matthew Weiner
Directed by Allen Courlter


Oh man, how to begin?  How does one analyze an episode that defies analysis?  Many viewers found “The Test Dream” to be a test of their patience (and perhaps that is exactly what Chase meant it to be).  I found it to be a wild and wonderful hour, one that is best enjoyed if you just sit back and let it play out without overthinking it.  I believe—though I’m not sure—that the episode’s detractors were in the minority.  (I think the majority of Sopranos viewers understood by now that we could expect some serious weirdness from David Chase every now and then.)  Most of the detractors had a problem with the running time of the extended dream sequence, if not the sheer strangeness of it.  Some also thought that the long dream sequence was simply a way to fill time this season.  I’ve never understood this “filler” argument.  Why would Chase and his team “fill” time with a complicated dream sequence that is possibly more difficult to write, film, and edit?  I know that filler moments may very well exist in The Sopranos—after all,  David and his team are only human, subject to fatigue, frustration, and boredom just like everyone else.  But I don’t think anything in this episode is merely filler.  That being said, I do have a major gripe with the dream sequence, but I’ll get to that later.  Let me start off by ignoring my own advice—let me, as usual, overthink this hour.

Even though the dream sequence dominates all discussions about this episode, Chase’s foray into Tony’s subconscious doesn’t actually begin until we’re about 20 minutes into the hour.  The episode begins with a shot of Tony grunting and sweating his way through sex, and for a moment we might think that it is Carmela wriggling beneath him.  But the William Wegman prints on the wall are a giveaway that this is Valentina’s home.  After their lovemaking, Valentina goes to the kitchen to cook up some Eggbeaters with Tabasco.  In a cruel irony, she turns her attention away from the stove to complain about Tony’s lack of attention to her, and that inattention causes her kimono catches on fire.  Tony quickly douses the flames.  In a clever cut, the camera lingers on Valentina’s blaring smoke alarm and then cuts to Blundetto exhaling smoke and dousing his cigarette:

smoke alarm - The Test Dream

Angelo Garepe comes by the gambling den that Blundetto is running to give him a signboard that reads “Because I’m the Boss…That’s Why!”  Afterwards, he goes to buy a toy, possibly for his grandchild (we might remember from a previous episode that Angelo enjoys being a grandfather).  On the way home he gets pulled over by the Leotardo brothers, Billy and Phil.  The imagery of Angelo being murdered in the trunk of Phil’s car is indelible: Angelo begs for his life behind a bloodied plastic wrap before Phil ruthlessly sinks two bullets into him.  But the scene is also notable because it is almost certainly making a reference to the killing of Billy Batts in the movie GoodFellas.  (Frank Vincent plays the whacker now but he was the whackee in film.)

Tony’s new Guatemalan housekeeper frustrates the hell out of him.  After she throws out his newspaper, he decides to escape to the Plaza Hotel for a few days.  It turns out to be a momentous decision—as the walls start to close in on his cousin Blundetto, Tony is living across the river in NYC, making it more difficult for him to get a handle on the worsening situation.

Some of Chase’s tracking shots at the Plaza Hotel reminded me of Kubrick’s camerawork at the Overlook Hotel in The Shining.  But I don’t necessarily think that Chase is making a conscious reference to Kubrick’s film.  The real parallel between this episode and The Shining may be the staggering amount of “armchair analysis” that viewers have done for both of these works.  (For an interesting chronicle of the various theories and interpretations that some hardcore Shining fans have come up with, see the documentary Room 237.)

Tony Hotel2Overlook hotel2

Some viewers speculated that Chase was using the Plaza as a sort of stand-in for heaven or purgatory or something metaphysical like that.  Others found it noteworthy that the Plaza is the place where Carmela and Meadow have their annual tea.  I think the greatest significance of the Plaza may have more to do with the concept of luxury, for which the hotel has a worldwide reputation.  Tony Soprano has become accustomed to a comfortable, even luxurious, lifestyle and he gets frustrated now by the most minor inconveniences.  Most of us would not get so flustered to find that our housekeeper has tossed out our newspaper with the trash, but it sends Tony packing for the Plaza.  (We might remember that his disproportionate, angry responses to inconvenience and frustration was the main subject of the previous episode.)  At the upscale hotel, we see several images of Tony pampering and indulging himself.  He enjoys a sumptuous meal and the stately bed in his swanky room.  He helps himself to a neighboring guest’s newspaper, and even gives some thought to helping himself to his buddy’s wife.  (He doesn’t speak, however, when Charmaine answers his phone call.)

Lap of luxury

While Tony indulges and insulates himself at the hotel, bad things are happening back in mob-land.  He returns to his room to find a message from Silvio that Angelo Garepe has been killed.  He immediately starts calling around trying to locate Blundetto.  Neither Dot nor Aunt Quinn nor Paulie know where Blundetto is.  As soon as Tony ends the phone call to Paulie, another luxurious indulgence beckons him, drawing his attention away from the serious matter at hand:

Jade Escort - Sopranos Autopsy

The next shot, unsurprisingly, finds Tony laying in bed.  What is surprising is when a woman’s voice offers Tony oral sex and he turns to find—holy shit!—Carmine Lupertazzi laying in bed next to him.  This is our entry into dream-land.  For the next 20 minutes, we are showered with a surreal cornucopia of images, sounds, references and allusions.  The Sopranos has always been a very referential show; years before this episode aired, David Pattie wrote in his essay, “Mobbed Up: The Sopranos and the Modern Gangster Film,” that the series is…

…supersaturated with intertextual references to literature, culture, television and, of course, the modern gangster film…These references are neither deeply embedded nor diffuse; they are obsessively foregrounded.

“The Test Dream” is super-supersaturated with cultural references (including references to previous Sopranos episodes).  And this is my biggest gripe with the dream sequence.  It sacrifices texture for the sake of intertextualityThe 20-minute sequence just doesn’t feel very dream-like to me.  It seems more like some kind of carnivalesque cultural literacy test—“Step right up folks, figure out 10 of the references and win a stuffed bear!”  I wouldn’t even bother to make this criticism if this was another TV show (especially if that show had the stugots to do something as bold and audacious as this dream sequence), but I raise the criticism here because The Sopranos is usually so exceptionally good at recreating the tone and texture of events, whether it is a therapy session or a backyard barbecue or a parent-teacher conference.  Texture is particularly important in dreams because it is that ineffable texture, at least in my experience, that truly differentiates a dream from waking life.  It is the impression made by a dream’s texture that often haunts me after I wake, usually far more than whatever “plot” the dream may have had…

Perhaps my complaint about the dream comes out of the fact that I was one of those people that totally missed the “plot” of the dream when it first aired.  I think I was too caught up in trying to unravel the meaning of all the overlapping references and startling images and overlaid sound effects that I missed the simple point: Tony’s subconscious is telling him that he needs to whack Blundetto.  The next day, after reading on various online forums that this was the whole “purpose” of the dream, I went back to my DVR (or was it my VCR?) and re-watched the episode.  And yup, this dream is all about Tony subconsciously preparing for what he must do to Blundetto.  (This is the “test” referred to in the episode title which Tony must pass.)

Of course, the dream may be pointing to other stuff besides Blundetto’s ultimate demise.  It’s possible to read a lot into the dream sequence because almost every moment within it feels loaded with significance.  (Some of the moments outside the dream seem significant also—the hotel porter is named “Jesus,” for Christ’s sake.)  I’m not gonna spend much time listing every interesting little moment within the dream, but there were a couple of things that stood out for me, for one reason or another:

  • The Chinatown clip caught my eye (mainly because Chinatown is one of my top 5 favorite films, but also because the jab that Angelo makes about Rusty fucking his wife in installments sounds a lot like the “Chinaman” joke that Jake Gittes makes in the film).
  • The clip from High Noon is interesting in that it is the only time (I think) that Gary Cooper is visually referenced in the series.
  • Some dream interpretation guidebooks say that if your teeth fall out in your dream, it indicates you are worried about losing power.  Tony may certainly have this worry, but I think that his brain may also be making some connection to dental-student Finn.  Sven Weber points out in his essay, “The Sopranos Asleep,” that there might also be some subconscious connection to dental-student Isabella, who appeared in Tony’s hallucinations in episode 1.12.  (I think Isabella is a key figure of the series, but I’ll get into that next season.)
  • There is a shot of a tree being rustled by wind just after Phil Leotardo gets shot in the dream.  Tree/wind imagery is a vital motif of the series, one whose significance gets more established in the next episode, “Long Term Parking.”
  • The scene of Tony getting chased by an “angry mob” looks like something out of a Frankenstein film, but it could be a punning reference to the NJ and NY “mob” that is made angry by Blundetto’s actions.
  • There is a too-complicated-to-explain interconnection made between Manhattan horse-and-carriage rides, Pie-O-My the horse, whores, and Charmaine Bucco.  (“She likes it when you rub her muzzle,” Artie says as Tony pumps his wife.)
  • It was strange to see John Heard (“Det. Vin Makazian”) appear here as Finn’s father.  (I remember reading somewhere that Chase cast Heard for the role simply because he missed working with him.)
  • It was also strange to see Annette Bening appear here as Finn’s mother.


Bening is playing herself (“You’re Annette Bening,” Tony says to her) and so her appearance has a similar effect as those earlier Season 5 celebrity appearances (found mostly in episode 5.04 “All Happy Families”)—it points to the fictional nature of The Sopranos and the self-awareness that the series has of itself as a fiction.  (The fact that Bening occasionally looks into the camera serves to further break down the fictional “fourth wall.”)  Most TV shows go to great lengths to help their viewers “suspend their disbelief” in order to make their fictional, created worlds seem more believable.  But Chase, with a wink, actually makes a concerted effort here to call attention to the fact that SopranoWorld is a make-believe world, a production for TV.  Sven Weber notes in his essay that this episode “displays elements that reflect on its own constructedness as a product of television.”  These elements include: the presence of several TV sets within the dream, one of which displays Tony’s life in “real time”; an on-the-street interview (conducted by Gloria Trillo) much like ones found on live TV news programs; and the weird “mirroring” of the studio set in which Tony has sex with Charmaine:

Charmaine Bucco Sopranos Autopsy

Another self-referential characteristic of this dream is how it refers to previous Sopranos dream-sequences, most notably a sequence from Season 4.  In “Calling All Cars,” Tony dreamt of himself as a stonemason who was driven to a masonry job.  In the current episode, Ralphie tells Tony that he is being driven to a “job” (the job now is ostensibly to kill Blundetto, not do masonry).  The vehicle and the rear projection footage are the same as what appeared in the “Calling All Cars” dream (although the color-grading has changed and Ralph’s hairstyle is different):

2 Sopranos Dreams - Ralphie

One of the moments of greatest self-reflexivity within the dream is when Blundetto finishes Phil Leotardo off with an invisible gun.  Though it is an imaginary trigger that he squeezes, we still hear the real sound of real shells falling to the ground—and the sound serves to underscore just how much of SopranoWorld is actually fabricated in post-production.  Any remaining illusion of fictionality is dispensed with when Frank Vincent, the actor who plays Phil Leotardo, lifts his head to ask, “What do I gotta count to before can I get up?”  I think one reason why Chase uses these self-reflexive moments is to revolt against TV conventions.  He is resisting the leash that some viewers want to put on him.  David Chase knows that some viewers would think of “The Test Dream” as a breach of the “contract” that stipulates he must entertain us every week in an easy-to-understand manner.  By revealing the show to be a construction, he makes the point that the terms of any such contract are also a construction.  As viewers, we may have certain boilerplate expectations of how a television series is supposed to operate.  But Chase makes his own terms.   

Although the dream-sequence didn’t feel quite like a dream to me, the final scene of the hour, after Tony wakes, ironically does have a very dream-like quality.  Tony looks out at Manhattan/Central Park from his window, ghostly and diaphanous in the light of dawn.  He pulls the thin curtain over the cityscape, making the view even more ethereal, before he picks up the phone to call Carmela:

diaphanous NY

The phone call also has a diaphanous quality, there is a gauzy, delicate tenderness in their conversation.  Tony and Carmela know one another, even the silences in their conversation convey a deep understanding of each other.  There is love and comfort and compassion between them, opaque and unspoken but growing more discernible with each passing minute, like something materializing out of the haze of a dream.  As Tony and Carmela speak to one another, we recognize that they are pulling themselves closer to a full reconciliation.  And this may be one of the more underappreciated reasons why Chase decided to throw in such a hallucinatory dream-sequence here: the troubling dream inches Tony and Carmela closer to the restoration of their marriage, an event that the narrative has been moving toward all season long.  Many viewers predicted at the start of the season that Carmela would end up back with Tony.  But no one could have predicted that their path to reconciliation would include such an extraordinary episode along the way.


My favorite part of the dream might be at the end of the sequence when Tony has a confrontation with Coach Molinaro.  There are all kinds of things going on here that a Freudian analyst might have a field day with.  Molinaro is an imposing Father/Authority figure (and a recurring character in Tony’s dreams, as we learn in his conversation with Carmela).  The gun that Tony pulls out while stalking the coach can obviously be read as a phallic symbol, and Molinaro even refers to it as “a bigger dingus than the one God gave you.”  (That the coach would call it a “dingus” rather than a “cock” or a “beef bazooka” or something else somehow seems perfect.)  The bullets that melt in Tony’s fingers seem to reflect his fear of being impotent, unable to perform in the test that he is now facing.  Tony’s subconscious is working overtime to tell him that he needs to find a way to control his cousin Blundetto.

David Chase has utilized Tony’s subconscious to provide revelations and to advance the narrative before, perhaps most notably in “Funhouse” (2.13) when a series of dreams unveiled Pussy’s betrayal to Tony.  Televisual storytelling has been around for several decades now and many of TV’s traditional methods of spinning a yarn are aging and wearing thin.  Chase’s use of the subconscious to help tell a story is an innovative technique within an old craft.  Not all viewers, however, are thrilled by this innovation.

In an interview with Martha Nochimson (Dying to Belong) conducted about 18 months after “The Test Dream” aired, David Chase emphasized the psychological nature of The Sopranos in order to justify the lengthy dream sequences.  (Although the series kicked off in a psychiatrist’s office, many viewers tend to overlook the importance of Chase’s psychological investigations into his characters.)  Martha may have been thinking of this episode’s dream sequence when she asked him a question:

Martha:  Tony’s dreams are increasingly full of allusions to movies and television.  Are Tony’s dreams becoming a dead end for him because they’re over-influenced by the media?
Chase:  No.  People’s dreams don’t become a dead end.  That’s the part of you that never becomes a dead end.  I don’t see the difference whether the media gets into your dreams or a potato sandwich does.  Or your mother.  Who knows why things— Whether it all means anything, I don’t know.

I don’t know either.  (Nor do I know what a “potato sandwich” is.  Is it a potato between two slices of bread?  Is this a New Jersey thing?)  I’m not sure that it is possible to clearly uncover the meaning of dreams and that’s why I am not doing a deep deconstruction of this hour’s dream-sequence.  I would refer those who do want such an interpretation to an essay that is well-known within Sopranos fandom, “Tony’s Vicarious Patricide,” by Elizabeth Lowrey (who runs the Chase Lounge website).  The essay is not specifically about “The Test Dream” but a section of it is devoted to the episode because the hour figures heavily in her thesis about Tony Soprano.  Lowrey employs her great powers of observation to bolster her sharp arguments.  For example, she suggests that it is possible that Tony may harbor a subconscious desire to flip for the Feds and she cites the relevant dream-images:

  1. We see at one point that Tony’s tie has been cut in half—perhaps signifying that T wants to “cut ties” with the mob
  2. The Valachi Papers that Tony refers to as his “homework” is about a real-life mobster that became a federal informant
  3. The “flipped-image” that occurs as Tony makes love to Charmaine (see my pics above) may signify T’s desire to flip to the other team 

I really appreciate how Lowrey doesn’t try to ram her arguments down our throats but instead draws us in with concise, intelligent prose. But I think she goes a little too far in some of her explanations and symbol-translations.  Although she recognizes that symbols can have several interpretations, she goes on to make arguments that often require fairly strict readings of certain symbols for her conclusions to be valid.  I think that David Chase is just too much of a poet to create such sharply defined symbols.  His symbols and associations are often mythic rather than specific.  Charles Harris writes in his book, Passionate Virtuosity: The Fiction of John Barth, that “the problem of the mythopoeic writer is how to translate mythic intimations, which are finally ineffable, into words capable of evoking that which may not be translated.”  I think David Chase, like the novelist John Barth, wants to tap into something that is deep within ourselves and deep within the collective unconscious.  It is something mysterious and evocative and difficult to explain.  Chase dives into the well of Tony’s memories, into archetypes, into history, pop culture, films and fairytales here to fashion an hour that is cryptic and profuse and complicated but an hour that we nevertheless can intuitively grasp.  Meanings are barely uncovered and significances are only hinted at, but we instinctually understand.  Chase is the mythopoeic artist who bestows us with work that doesn’t need to be fully explained in order to be fully understood.


Much of this episode takes place within Tony’s subconscious mind, but Chase (as usual) attempts to reach deep into our minds as well through various arrangements of sounds and images.  In one possible example, the red flashing light on the answering machine (which holds the message that Angelo has been whacked) might register subconsciously as an echo of the red flashing light on the smoke alarm seen earlier in the episode:

red lights

And we might remember that at the beginning of the episode, Chase cut from the bellowing smoke alarm to Blundetto exhaling smoke:

smoke alarm2 - Test dream

Through a kind of subconscious “transitive property” calculation, some viewers might have been able to make a mental connection between the message about Garepe’s death and Tony Blundetto.  Or to put it more syllogistically:

  1. If the blinking answering machine can be equated with the blinking smoke alarm;
  2. And the smoke alarm can be equated with Tony Blundetto;
  3. Then the answering machine can be equated with Tony Blundetto.

Transitive property - answering, tony blundetto

I’m just having a bit of fun with this, I don’t truly believe that Chase was setting up a subconscious equation for us to solve here.  When this episode first aired, I certainly didn’t make a connection between the message on the answering machine and Tony Blundetto.  (Tony Soprano, however, does make the connection: after hearing the message, he immediately realizes that Blundetto might seek vengeance for the murder of his buddy Angelo).  I just threw this out there to demonstrate a possible way that an individual viewer might make a connection that no one else makes.  Perception and interpretation can be intensely personal acts.  If “The Test Dream” shows us anything, it may be that our understanding of a work of art, like our understanding of a dream, is deeply personal and influenced by mysterious, hidden processes.  There might be a specific, symbolic reason why Carmine Lupertazzi shows up in Tony’s dream to offer him a blow-job, but I’m perfectly content not knowing what that reason is.  I’ll just chalk it up to the mystery of art.



  • Angelo’s gift—the board reading “Because I’m the Boss…That’s Why!”—may remind Blundetto just how much he lost during his 17 years in prison.  He is intelligent, decisive and cold-blooded enough to have perhaps become the Boss of the NJ famiglia.  Perhaps he realizes this and it pushes him now to behave like his own boss, one who marches to the beat of his own drum as he whacks NY guys against Tony Soprano’s wishes.
  • Karma on the radio? Angelo is listening to “Peanuts” by Frankie Valli just before he is killed.  Angelo and Rusty Millio—played by Frankie Valli—together engineered the killing of Joey Peeps, and this is the reason why Phil pops Angelo now.  (An irony of Angelo’s death is that he had really come to regret putting out the hit on Joey Peeps.)
  • Poor you.  Phil is upset that his car got a little banged up during the assassination of Angelo.  We remember, of course, that Phil had a bit of work done on the car at Angie’s body shop just a couple of episodes ago.
  • Blundetto’s attack on the Leotardo brothers (where he kills Billy and wings Philly) is not seen here but it will be shown via flashback in the next episode.
  • Speaking of the next episode, the Plaza’s parking attendant here asks Tony if he wants to put the Escalade in short or long term parking.  “Long Term Parking” will be one of the most stirring episodes of the entire series…
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73 responses to “The Test Dream (5.11)

  1. I am one of those who absolutely hated the dream sequence so I didn’t even bother to try to analyze it, but every day I open this blog hoping to see an update and at the same time knowing that there most likely isn’t one, so today you put a big smile on my face, thank you! I started watching The Sopranos for the first time last year and found your blog not long after, made it to the end of season 5 and realized that watching it without your reviews is worthless, so I stopped watching and will not resume until after your reviews for season-6 episodes are published, even if that means I will not watch the series finale until 2023 🙂 . Tiny correction: the Plaza is the place where Carmela and Meadow have their annual tea (not Carmen).

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks… I promise you will not have to wait that long 😁 And thanks for the correction, I don’t know where Carmen came from (my subconscious, I guess)


  2. Hey! You’re back! Best Sopranos analysis on the internet!
    Tony is sort of responsible for Angelo’s death, as HE floated the idea of a “power sharing” arrangement, not Angelo. Obviously Johnny Sack wasn’t enthused about this idea…at all. Then there’s poor hapless Tony B, who really should have stuck with massage therapy. If he doesn’t get his foot run over during the Peeps hit he probably never gets ID’ed as the gunman and the entire sequence of events with ultimately leads to the war between NJ and Phil never happens.
    IMO the dream sequence was a tad on the nose, but surreal nonetheless. I never understood why Coach Molinaro said that Artie was “the worst of the bunch”, though. Correct me if I’m wrong about this as I haven’t seen the episode on a while but I believe the coach says Tony needs to “cleave” himself away from the bad crowd he associates with, which is interesting given how prominently cleavers figure into things especially later in the series. It all comes back to Mr. Satriale (a lovely man, BTW) losing that finger.
    And Tony, always looking for some sort of escape and/or refuge away from the stress and pressure of the life he chose. His women, his pool, the Plaza, Vegas…but it never really works. He’d have been way better off if his cousin stuck with the massage therapy too.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Artie being the worst of the bunch was one of the strangest things in an already surreal episode…

      Liked by 1 person

      • On the surface that seems odd but Artie is no saint. In fact Artie has some of the same tendencies as the rest of the gangsters. I read somewhere that Artie represents the “straight guy” like the rest us who often is affected by the various schemes of organized crime often unaware of it until its too late if we find out at all. The ep Luxury Lounge is a good example of this. (Not to mention the fate of his 1st Restaurant) On the other hand I think Artie is really us. In many ways he is the Audience living vicariously through Tony. If not for his wife Charmaine he would be mixed up with Tony in some fashion.Charmaine is his conscious, constantly reminding him who these guys really are and more important who he really is. In the season 4ep “Everybody Hurts” He gets a chance at being a tough guy pseudo-gangster and fails miserably and attempts suicide. I believe this occurs while separated from Charmaine. She ultimately makes him a better person. A good guy more or less. Something Carmella is unable to do with Tony.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Your point about Charmaine being Artie’s conscience got me thinking… Even though I think Molinaro’s line about Artie being “the worst of the bunch” is mainly a joke that the writers slipped in there to make us laugh, it’s possible that it highlights the difference between Charm and Carm. Maybe Artie was actually the most mischievous and out-of-control guy in the bunch back in high school, but he has become a decent guy because of Charmaine’s good influence. Tony, on the other hand, has become such a thug because Carmela permitted it. This becomes an important point now because it is in the very next episode that they reconcile and Carmela takes her place by Tony’s side again as his enabler.

          Liked by 1 person

  3. Yay! Good things come to those who wait.
    I also do not feel that anything about this episode constitutes as “filler.” That said, you bring up an interesting point in in the first paragraph. Just curious, what plot lines over the course of the show would you consider to be filler? Some stuff in Season Six jumps out at me.
    A few things I love about this episode (outside of the spectacular extended dream sequence):
    – Tony B’s “position of prominence.”
    – Chris, coming to deliver news of a murder, clearly hasn’t lost his appetite for sweets.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I thought it was lazy of them to keep using Phil Leotardo to bring tension and threats to the storyline. But The Sopranos is such a consistently high quality series that it’s difficult to know what parts might be filler. David Chase is kind of like a good stripper, even if he’s bored or distracted and doesn’t really want to be there, he puts on such a good show that we are none the wiser…

      Liked by 2 people

      • Ron, I’m surprised about your take on Phil, with the tension ratcheting up and down.

        It seemed pretty consistent to me. He only backs down after his heart attack, and then when John tells him to. Other than that, he’s pretty consistent about flying off the handle and handling things in an old-school way.

        Maybe my judgement is clouded by Phil being my favorite anatagonist. And Seasons 5 and 6 being my favorites.

        But I’m glad you’re back. “Long Term Parking” and “All Due Respect” are up next. Two favorites, including my favorite season finale. Looking forward to your take on them!

        Liked by 2 people

        • Thanks, I appreciate it.

          I’m gonna clarify the point about Phil in a later writeup, but I completely agree that the character is very consistently written and played. I just think Chase yielded to audience expectations a little too much in the final episodes with the whole NJ vs. NY storyline.


  4. I think another area of analysis is messages, subliminal and latent. The answering machine message that changes Tony’s world, the fact that Blundetto’s voicemail says to not to leave a message. And of course the medium of dreams to convey complete messages to us.

    I hate voicemails.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. I’m not sure if this has been brought up before but this episode once again has Chris longingly looking at a candy bar in Tony’s hotel room. Before, we have seen him have a huge stash of candy taken away before rehab. Constantly pounding caffeinated and sugary drinks. And searching desperately for snickers bar in his apartment (perhaps tellingly, Ade tells him where to find it). I think Chase is laying out breadcrumbs to Chris’ eventual relapse and the ramifications it has on Ade and eventually Tony. Also, Chase may be commenting on society’s definitions of ok ( sugar, caffeine) addictions and those we stigmatize and outlaw (drugs) for good or for ill. This is all pretty obvious, I suppose, but to me it’s indicative of how this site has made me look at every action to try and find a cllue to a characters inner struggle and unspoken story. Some actions do and some don’t . More of the ambiguity so well documented here.

    Looking forward to season 6 1-2.

    Liked by 5 people

    • Thanks for bringing that up, I forgot to mention the Toblerone bar in this episode. It was in the previous episode “Cold Cuts” that Tony mocked the steps that Chris was taking to remain sober: “…the higher-power yammering, the sweets and the key lime pie…Jesus!” When he sees Chris grab the chocolate bar in the hotel room now, Tony seems to pause for a moment but we don’t know exactly what he is thinking. Does he feel regret about taunting Chris in the previous episode? Is he worrying about Christopher’s addiction? Or did he just want the candy for himself? (It is a Toblerone, after all…)

      Liked by 1 person

      • Really look at how Chris world is spiraling out of control in the next episode he’s in danger of being killed ,arrested ,relapse etc And a very important character for these last two episodes and season six as a whole

        Liked by 1 person

  6. Why do you almost completely ignore Christopher in your reviews he’s not only the man that intercedes between Tony’s two family’s but one of the two best developed characters in the series You talk about him for a couple sentences and that’s it and he had a heavy foreshadowing scene at the end of this episode about his paranoia of Tony S Using Christopher to let Tony B live and it didn’t even get a mention juss show Chris some love from here on plzz especially in season 6 which is really about tony and Chris and aj his two sons but however I do very much apreciate your analysis.


    • Hahaha ok I think you sold me… more Chris next season.


      • Thank you it was juss something I noticed while reading your reviews for a while he’s a very underrated character in my opinion because unlike Silvio or patsy or to a lesser extent paulie Chris grows as a person so much Which in my opinion separates him from the rest of Tony’s goons

        Liked by 1 person

  7. It seems ironic to me that you felt the dream sequence was less dream like and more like a pop culture quiz. Since dreams are linked intimately with our subconscious mind, can’t they have visual links or references or cues that we see in endless TV shows, films and literature during our lifetime? (Hell, even Tony recognizes Annette Benning and points it out while he was still dreaming). I certainly remember having some dreams that contained some bizarre characters and landscapes resembling some noir flicks. (Though they weren’t super-supersaturated like you pointed out).

    I loved your point about Chase showing the series as an artificial construction designed to entertain us. It’s so meta !!
    I read somewhere that dreams can last about 20 mins. Though I’m skeptical about that fact, it would make the dream sequence length very fitting.

    P.S. We have potato sandwiches here in Maharashtra too. Surprisingly they don’t taste bad either.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. themikeandboblog

    Sensational write up as usual Ron. Can’t wait to read your thoughts on Long Term Parking – no doubt one of the top 3 best eps in the series.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I always thought the bullets that fall on the floor as tony points the gun at coach molinaro turned to shit in his hands not melted? I thought it was a call back to when he said “I’m king Midas in reverse everything I touch turns to shit”

    Liked by 2 people

  10. Love it all as usual. I love this episode. Someone on the A.V Club comments section was moaning that it was like a pretentious, film school project. For me though, that charge is daft because the dream sequence is just so entertaining. I particularly love the chemistry between Tony and Gloria when she is in Melfi’s chair. I don’t think I have ever seen Tony so happy and joyful. Maybe that is what the pair of them could’ve been without the “fuckin’ regularness of life”.
    Only just discovered that you have not completed the series. Devastated as it has become integral to my viewing. I am tempted to stop my current rewatch until.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I really loved seeing Annabella Sciorra again. It’s surprising to me that she didn’t become a much bigger actress…I believe it was crossing paths with Harvey Weinstein that damaged her career…

      Liked by 2 people

  11. Speaking of Weinstein and what has happened in Hollywood, there is that great episode of Girls, “American Bitch’, in which the lead character has a run in with a dodgy writer. The end of the episode shows a long line of girls showing up at the guys apartment and I always thought was heavily indebted to how ‘University’ ends that cycle of abuse.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. * ends with that scene showing the same cycle of abuse continuing* (that should read)

    Liked by 2 people

  13. Andy the English guy

    I love the bond between those who’ve been inside that Thin Tony brings. This is one aspect of Fat Tony’s life ( and Sil too I think?) where he is obviously and painfully still a virgin.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Chris going to see Tony at the Plaza to me was interesting. Chris obviously was happy about Tony B. because he will be out of the picture and maybe then Chris can be back in Tony’s good graces. I found him to be totally insincere about worrying about Blundetto, and maybe him asking for the candy was because he was getting that drug feeling again. Tony was distracted, and doesn’t care how much candy he eats. Sometimes he’s just an immature ball buster and that’s why he teased Chris at the Uncles farm. Because he had a cohort. Some families tease….it can be hard to take. The dream sequence was pretty easy to figure out….except for a few exceptions like Carmine being his bed mate. But he does say he misses his wife and he’s lonely, so maybe that was about Carmela. And maybe Artie was a trouble maker in school…remember Tony’s reference to him and Davey and how much they have changed since High School? Also, Tony knows he will eventually go to jail even he doesn’t get killed, so subconsciously he may be mulling over flipping. But I don’t see that happening. Its a dream!! Who the hell knows really?

    Liked by 2 people

  15. On that potato sandwich (from a Union County Italian): my guess is Chase means a potato and egg sandwich… like a pepper and egg, but some Italians (my grandmother) char salted diced potatoes in a cast iron pan with olive oil, then add diced bell peppers and char, then add raw egg, minced garlic, butter, and milk. Melt mozzarella on top, serve on a 6-inch baguette with a side of gravy (marinara).

    Liked by 2 people

    • Ok that makes sense. And it sounds delicious, very similar to what I use for hash brown omelets, minus the baguette and gravy, and usually Colby or havarti instead of mozzarella…

      Liked by 1 person

  16. Slowly working my way through watching The Sopranos for the first time and just saw this episode.


    It has to be among my favourites of the episodes I’ve seen. It must also be one of the best tv/movie depictions of a dream or dreamlike state.

    An acting masterclass by Gandolfini too.

    I loved it and I’m starting to feel a little bit sad that now I’m at Season 5, Episode 11 the end of my Sopranos binge-watch is looming into view.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Kudos to you for going through the series slowly, which is the best way to appreciate it. I’m groggy today after binge-watching 8 episodes of The Staircase last night..

      Liked by 1 person

      • Lol. I did likewise with The Staircase. Some incredible documentary series available on Netflix recently – that & The Keepers, Evil Genius, Wild Wild Country, Flint Town, Amanda Knox all worth a watch if you haven’t already. I think The Keepers affected me most, I found it incredibly moving.

        Anyway, enough of digression: thanks again for this site, Ron, it’s been a really valued accompaniment to my ongoing Sopranos feast.


  17. I saw this episode at 2, 3 A.M. and it certainly envelops you in its atmosphere that way. I would not mind seeing it at 7 A.M. next time. Oh, and this episode does have a lot of detractors. In fact, if you write the title in Google, it appears as a suggestion “Worst episode” but I loved it.

    Liked by 2 people

  18. Another connection to Frankie Valli (Rusty Millio) is Tony’s description of Valentina lying in her hospital bed like a “Rag Doll.”

    Liked by 1 person

  19. I noticed Dr. Melfi in the Plaza when Tony was checking in (I think it was her), kind of ironic. This was before the dream.


    • Yeah, it was an interesting decision by Chase to have her appear there but not have any interaction with Tony… It’s almost like Chase is saying Melfi is irrelevant to this episode’s exploration of Tony’s psyche—the dream sequence functions as a substitute for Melfi’s office here.


      • Him seeing her may have brought all of the things they’d previously discussed in therapy to the forefront of his subconscious, right before going to bed and having that dream.

        Liked by 2 people

      • Dr. Melfi is laughing with her friend when Tony sees her in the Plaza’s Lobby. In the dream we can hear Dr. Melfi laughing insensately although the laughter is coming out of Gloria’s mouth, who is filling in for Melfi in Tony’s dream. I think the laughter was i nice touch of a realistic dream, something seemingly irrelevant worked its way into the dream because it happened to Tony very recently, and was fresh on his mind, especially since the situixon was so unusual. When Tony saw Melfi at the plaza it might heave felt so surreal to him that it was like a waking dream.

        Liked by 2 people

  20. I love this episode really one of the best. His teeth falling out, the melting bullets. Is the horse Pie oh My I cannot tell??

    Liked by 1 person

  21. Cool site, been reading it along as I’ve been bingeing The Sopranos as of late. Just saw this episode again tonight and it’s one of my favorites in the series.

    I didn’t take it as Tony and Carmine Lupertazzi engaging in oral sex, I immediately thought ‘oh Tony’s *in bed* with Carmine’ from the standpoint of loneliness without their brides.

    I also thought it was interesting that Tony broke the ‘T’ off of the Toblerone bar. Then Christopher said, “Nice suite, T.” and asked for the rest of the candy. He could have just as easily said “Nice SWEET, T.” The interaction left me feeling like Christopher was only interested in what he could get that satisfies him, a candy bar without T on top.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Hmm clever observations about the Toblerone…

      Also, I guess Carmine’s appearance here can refer to that old idiom: he and Tony had been “in bed together” i.e. had been doing business together…


  22. Been enjoying series 5, probably for the third or fourth time. Just commenting to celebrate how we’re still thinking and writing about this show (the only show worth thinking about!) fourteen years on!

    Liked by 1 person

  23. A thought: it’s a ‘Test Dream’ in another way: it’s a test for us, the audience, in the fact that it’s way harder to watch than a normal narrative episode, but also it’s a test of our understanding the references to all the things from the show’s past. Chase by name, chase by nature…

    Liked by 2 people

  24. You did mention that bit when Tony looked out the window overlooking central park after he had his dream. Tony also looked out the same way when he first checked into the hotel during the day. It was light out, signifying everything was relatively stable in SopranoWorld and looked out again after Chris had delivered the news, suddenly everything had gone dark for Tony’s family in NY and by extension NJ.

    Liked by 2 people

  25. Peanut is not by Franki Valli. It’s by Little Joe & the Thrillers.


  26. I love the dream sequences in The Sopranos, and ‘The Test Dream’ is my favorite episode in the series. The part of the dream where Johnny pulls the car up to Tony’s house, and you see a shot of the house from inside the car’s POV…I always found that to be a reference to the show’s opening credits when Tony pulls his SUV into the driveway and you see the house. For me it was another example of the fourth wall being broken, and I loved it. Also, Vin’s extended a cappella version of ‘Three Times a Lady’, and how enthralled everyone at the table is, may very well be the highlight.

    Liked by 2 people

  27. Re the red light theory…you’re on to something. Check out the scene in the next episode (Long Term Parking) after Tony moves back in where he’s eating ice cream. Red light blinking on the portable phone across the room. Hard to see if you’re not looking for it, but it’s there.

    Exceptional analysis as always. Thanks for your hard work!

    Liked by 2 people

  28. Regarding the disembodied woman’s voice asking Tony if he’d like her to go “south of the border, down Mexico way,” I’m convinced that this is what the Jade Escort gal is saying to Tony, after she stands up, turns around and catches him staring at her. The editing doesn’t sync up—the visuals jump ahead to the dream state, even as the audio is still with waking Tony—just like how at the end of the dream, we still hear Coach Molinara’s voice as we see Tony waking up. In both cases, the editing depicts a jarring and disorienting transition.

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  29. Masterful episode. A note on the ending: as Tony and Carmelo talk on the phone, notice the screen goes dark right after Tony talks of poisoning the neighborhood dog with cyanide and Carm says, “Stop it.” It goes black and there’s a delay before credits roll. In the Fade to Black episode, it goes dark following “Don’t stop…”

    Liked by 4 people

  30. I hated this episode when it came out, but I’ve warmed to it more over the years. I thought the most interesting part of the dream was Finn turning into AJ as Tony and the other parents talk about ‘wasted potential’ and ‘the die is cast’ – basically Tony’s subconscious is working overtime to remind him that not only does he have to kill his cousin, but his male heir is going to be a failure.

    Liked by 2 people

  31. A good job on a difficult episode, particularly the point that “many viewers tend to overlook the importance of Chase’s psychological investigations into his characters.” My original response to this episode was that Chase was setting up the denouement of Tony’s gradual psychological disintegration. Psychopaths have weird, graphic dreams, and Tony’s are a weird as they come. I also appreciate your insight into the self‐referentiality and self-reflexiveness of this episode, and the series in general. It is often quite playful, but with serious points, as when J.T. Dolan tries to sell his Emmy to the pawn-shop guy: “It’s a fucking Emmy. It’s gold-plated. — Then melt it down, man. Look, I told you $15. — Fuck, man, come on! This is like, huge, this shit.–
    If you had an Oscar, maybe I could give you something. An Academy Award. But TV?”
    As for the Coach’s remark about Artie — Artie IS somewhat of a weasel, a vicarious hanger-on saved only by his virtuous, hard-working wife (as other commentators have suggested above). Charmaine is the anti-Carmela. And Tony’s better self (his carnal desires notwithstanding) is drawn to her, just as his better self is drawn to animals (horses in particular — “She likes it when you rub her muzzle”).

    Liked by 3 people

  32. The gratuitous shot of the escort girl bending over is probably a visual reminder of Tony B. filming Carmella bending over in “Marco Polo”. Even when looking for sexual pleasure in exotic places, Tony S. finds himself drawn back to the memory of his wife. Trying to mend bridges with her is the only action he manages to take as a result of his dream.

    Liked by 1 person

  33. This is just an observation, but the waiter that is watching the TV in the dream is the same “waiter” that was taking pictures for the FBI at the dinner for Corrado in the first season. At least I think it is. More unspoken subconscious observations for Tony? What do you think?

    Liked by 1 person

  34. Two features that may bridge Funhouse to Test Dream:
    Paulie appeared in the mob right before they started to chase Tony. This is the second dream where Paulie is set up as an antagonist to Tony. The other dream being Funhouse “Our true enemy has yet to reveal himself”.
    Patsy stood against the wall in the scene where the black guy asks Tony S if the bullet was meant for Tony B.
    Patsy is a twin whose brother Philly took the bullet. In Funhouse, Tony mistakes Philly for Patsi.

    Liked by 1 person

  35. Awtad Saffouri

    From my viewpoint,the dream sequence totally failed to advance the story line. The supposed main result in Soprano’s decision making that was lost to you was lost to me as well. Too much was going on that ultimately confused and obscured the main point. Real dreams seldom last for 20 minutes.
    I’m not a fan of self-indulgent, self-important, self-satisfied and self-conscious pseudo-literary extended referential posturing. This sequence suggests to me the possibility of the creative perpetrators having elements of narcissistic and anti-social personality disorders. One might suspect that this could be an aspect of the “Auteur’s” personality that got David Chase et al interested in doing a series based on mob life. . . . A kind of Walter Mitty approach. If so, the outcome is mainly positive. The result is a hugely entertaining series, in spite of what I see as a story-telling mistake in this episode. Fortunately, as seen above, many people even enjoyed the dream sequence. For the rest of us, it was a small price to pay for the rest of a great major TV series.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I hear you, I felt somewhat the same when this hour first came out. But over time, I’ve come to have a better appreciation for art—in whatever medium—that’s more abstract, non-linear, non-figurative, avant-garde. Those types of works can sometimes access and express the mystical and the mythical in a way that more straightforward works can’t…


  36. Are we sure the dream begins at apprx. 20 minute mark? Since the texture of Tony’s dream doesn’t significantly differ from his real life, I think it’s hard to tell. Even though the full-blown surrealism kicks in and escalates only later in the episode, those first twenty minutes already contain dreamlike qualities, albeit more subtle. Tony arriving at the Plaza, with Melfi on the lobby, for example. Or the new Guatemalan maid and the whole newspaper (inciting) incident. Even Valentina’s accident (eggs reminded me of Angie Bonpensiero’s eggs) and its aftermath could be a nightmare. When Tony tries to get hold of Tony B. in vain, the frustrating situation is a more subtle version of his teeth falling out. (Plus that very film noir-like shot of Steve Buscemi driving at night adds to the sequence’s dream-like quality). Some of these events correspondence with “real” life continuity of the series later on, but what if this episode actually takes completely place within a dream and is Tony’s mind’s interpretation of events the audience never gets to see in “real” life? Even that sweet moment between Tony and Carmela in the end could be Tony’s own mind giving him some comfort. I wouldn’t put it past David Chase to play trickster like this, although I choose to believe that conversation in the last scene was real. Or, “real”.

    Liked by 1 person

  37. Great blog, man. I’m just rewatching The Sopranos after 12 years and one thing you might not know. The Coach actor is a secondary character in The Wire. His character’s nickname? HORSEFACE. In-joke?

    Liked by 1 person

  38. Hey Ron. I’m on only my second run through of the Sopranos and have been eagerly devouring your recaps after each episode. Your analyses are top notch. Thanks for putting so much time and effort into these!
    I too was underwhelmed by Test Dream on first watch for much the same reason as you: i.e. the dream sequence didn’t feel very “dreamlike”, especially when compared to more esoteric sequences such as in “Funhouse” (my favourite ep pending this rewatch) and “Calling all Cars”. On rewatch though, I think the difference can be explained by the fact that it is a lucid dream; Tony even remarks at one point that he knows he is dreaming. I have only ever had one truly lucid dream that I can recall, but I remember it being way more linear, slow-paced and coherent than a run-of-the-mill dream, much like this episode’s dream sequence.
    The other unique feature of a lucid dream is that the dreamer can, to an extent, control what happens in the dream. As opposed to say in “Funhouse”, in which Tony’s subconscious is sending him messages, here there is almost a semi-conscious Tony working through a puzzle or “test” of his own making. I think on some level Tony is consciously choosing to confer with certain characters (Gloria, Det. Makazian, Coach Molinaro, etc.) to solicit their advice, have them confirm what he already knows (i.e. that he may have to “take care of” his own cousin), and have them help him summon his courage for doing so. Somewhat like “limbo” in Inception, Tony is populating the dream-space with his conscious desires, apprehensions, and concerns. That is what makes this a “test” dream, as opposed to another “message” dream like we have seen before. It is probably no surprise that he reaches out to dead characters for this purpose, since he will soon be sending another one to join their ranks, and probably wants some reassurance that the afterlife ain’t so bad after all.
    That is my take anyway, and I will say I enjoyed this episode a lot more the second time around.

    Liked by 1 person

  39. I loved this episode. I think this is the perfect example of the sometimes meta nature of The Sopranos.
    As you pointed out in previous posts, the “It’s all a big nothing” mindset and a general nihilist tone is very prevalent through the series, and while other shows always try to have a “point” to them, The Sopranos doesn’t, it just is what it is. In this episode we see Tony saying to Carmella how “TV is much more interesting than real life” and she answers him with “What are you talking about? This is your life”. And while it is refering to the context of the dream it’s also refering to the fact that The Sopranos itself is a TV show, and I kinda think to another extent she was refering to us the viewers too.
    Like you said it seems like Chase is “breaking the contract” here and this is his way of showing it. This is a TV show, we want interesting things to happen all the time because that would be more interesting than life. But in a way we are doing what Tony did in this episode, indulging ourselves in luxury and distractions to keep our head off our very real problems.

    Liked by 1 person

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