Two Tonys (5.01)

Tony and Carmela are still separated.
The patio of the Soprano home once
again hosts some New Jersey wildlife
(but it’s not a family of cute little ducks this time).

Episode 53 – Originally aired March 7, 2004
Written by David Chase and Terry Winter
Directed by Tim Van Patten 


Season 5 holds a special place in my heart. I don’t know if it’s the “greatest” of the Sopranos’ seasons, I only know that it is my favorite. Like previous seasons, it broke many TV conventions, and even broke several of The Sopranos’ own conventions. For example, David Chase runs over a Season Opener convention when he has Meadow run over the Star-Ledger with her Mustang (instead of having Tony come out to the driveway to pick up the newspaper). Season 5 is experimental, even downright weird at times.  (“The Test Dream” surpasses, in sheer TV weirdness, a lot of the stuff that David Lynch did on Twin Peaks.)  But in some ways, Season 5 is more conventional than previous seasons, building up tension—and our emotions—in a fairly traditional manner and then finally walloping us with the power-combination of “Long Term Parking” and “All Due Respect.”

Perhaps the most significant thing about Season 5 for me is the way that Chase amplifies and fine-tunes his use of connectivity.  The myriad connections that are made within and throughout these episodes give SopranoWorld substance, make the place feel very real to us. “Two Tonys” sets the tone immediately.  It is chock-full of allusions, references and connections to all sorts of things that are familiar to us: Little House on the Prairie, Fred Astaire, a Clint Eastwood flick, a Nick Nolte flick, the Bowery Boys, Earl Scheib, Dr. Phil… There are plenty of references and connections to previous Sopranos episodes as well, most notably in the opening sequence of the episode. Those of us who are long-standing viewers understand the significance of the images that open “Two Tonys.”

Soprano yard

The hour begins with a montage of these familiar objects from outside the Soprano house (accompanied by “Heaven Only Knows” by my beloved Emmylou Harris).  But the objects look different from how they’ve looked in previous episodes. The seasoned Sopranos viewer can quickly understand what a newbie cannot: the dormant grill, the covered pool and the newspaper laying in the driveway all signify that Tony has not moved back home since last season’s finale.

Time has passed and life has gone on in SopranoWorld. Janice’s search for her missing wedding ring tells us that she and Bobby have gotten married. (And her rummaging through the garbage basket for the lost ring perhaps tells us even more about the state of their relationship.) Carmela is not present at Janice’s Sunday dinner and, tellingly, she doesn’t even send a dish.  Carm is trying to move on without Tony Soprano.

Tony is trying to continue his life without Carmela.  He is still seeing Valentina, although she is not someone who can replace Carm.  (Valentina has nothing more than goomar-status—Tony is obviously lying to her when he says he has to leave to receive an overseas call [an excuse he probably picked up when he heard Alan Sapinsly say it to Dr. Kim in last season’s finale]). When Prince of Tides comes on Val’s TV, it reminds Tony of someone who can perhaps replace Carmela: Jennifer Melfi.  Tony watches enrapt as he finds parallels between the movie and his own life.  (Valentina is impressed by Barbra Steisand’s fingernails, and we might remember that it was Valentina’s acrylic fingernail that triggered much drama in last season’s “Mergers & Acquisitions.”)  Prince of Tides’ cheesy dialogue and swollen score are a hilarious counterpoint to the Sopranos’ typically austere and understated teleplay.

Dr. Melfi receives flowers and detergent from Tony, her “Prince of Tide.” When Tony calls her, she declines his offer for a date.  We are later privy to a sex dream, and are surprised to learn that it is the doctor who is dreaming of making love to Tony.  Tony resorts to subterfuge to continue his pursuit, scheduling an appointment to see her.  Melfi guesses that Tony’s attraction to her is related to a desire to resume therapy after the collapse of his marriage. (She is probably right. We remember that although Tony quit therapy in 4.11, he tried to contact Dr. Melfi as his marriage was breaking apart in 4.13.  He called her office but stayed mute when she answered the phone.)  Face-to-face with him now, Dr. Melfi again rejects Tony’s romantic offer.  (The resolve she displays in maintaining her discipline despite being attracted to him, as her dream attests, recalls the time she resolutely said “No” to him in the final moment of “Employee of the Month.”)

Tony isn’t getting any love at home either. Although a good amount of time has passed (I would guess about a year, although it has been 15 months since “Whitecaps” aired), there is obviously still a lot of bitterness and anger between him and Carm.  AJ is being an asshole (to quote his mother) which is not making things run any smoother either.  On top of that, there is another issue that is bringing tension to the Soprano domicile; when Tony arrives at the house, Carmela is on the phone with NJ Fish and Game after a black bear has just made its second visit:

Black bear

Many viewers see the bear as a symbol of Tony. Indeed, Tony’s black clothing here may strengthen his metaphoric association to the black bear. (And Carmela’s pink outfit may make her seem like a delicate damsel in need of protection.)  Such a reading would give us one way to understand the episode title: the bear is the second Tony. But if we make such a rigid one-to-one connection (bear = Tony), our understanding of the imagery becomes constricted. It is far more rewarding to maintain an open, ambiguous reading of the symbols and images that Chase presents to us.  AV Club’s Todd VanDerWerff recognizes the ambiguity of the bear: “The bear is Tony, sure, but he’s also the absence of Tony, all of the bad things that could lurk in the corners now that Tony’s not at home to ‘protect’ Carmela and A.J.”

Word has apparently gotten around SopranoWorld about a black bear creeping around the Soprano home. At Corrado’s house, Tony feels emasculated as the men sit around the table discussing the bear—he hears an insinuation that he is not living up to his manly responsibility to protect his family. Tony sends his  goombahs to keep watch over his wife and child.  Benny Fazio arrives and asks Carmela to pull out the assault rifle for him.  We saw Carm grab a rifle from the dining room closet in the Pilot, but now we see that the closet is also stocked with a grenade(!)  The series once again makes a striking connection between Food & Firearms as the housewife and the thug discuss their dinner plans for the evening:

grenade Two Tonys

A second, and more obvious, reading of the episode title is that there are two sides to Tony. When he first showed up at Melfi’s office, dapper and dressed to impress, Tony said, “There’s two Tony Sopranos. You’ve never seen the other one.  That’s the one I wanna show to you.” When he comes back to the office later, Tony does just that—although not in the way he had hoped. After Melfi makes some criticisms that cut a little too close to the bone, Tony explodes at her: “Fuck you!  You’re a fuckin’ cunt!”

Two Tony Sopranos

Dr. Glen Gabbard, in both The Psychology of The Sopranos and at, has written quite a bit about Tony’s “vertical split,” the idea that there is a division within his personality, creating two side-by-side sectors that coexist but do not integrate.  One side is able to love and be compassionate, while the other is characterized by sadism and cruelty—in other words, there are “two Tonys.” I would have liked to read what Gabbard and his cohorts at thought about this episode, but Slate revamped their online Sopranos forum for Season 5, replacing Dr. Gabbard and his colleagues with journalist/mob expert Jerry Capeci and columnist Jeffrey Goldberg.

But in truth, I never quite bought into the whole “vertical split” idea anyway.  It is a little too neat, too cut-and-dry for my taste. Psychiatry, because of its therapeutic obligations, must provide answers and diagnoses—and is therefore more restricted than Art is in accepting ambiguities. As an artist, David Chase doesn’t have to present Tony Soprano as a man with neatly sectored divisions within himself—it’s ok for Tony to be a jumbled mess of contradictions and complexities (as all of us are).  As Tony drives away from Melfi’s office, he seems to realize that he crassly overreacted to her rejection.  He can’t go back and apologize to Dr. Melfi right now, but he can do another good thing: head home and relieve Benny of night watch. As Tony settles into his lookout, the phallic cigar and rifle emphasize his powerful masculinity:

Phallic Two Tonys

There’s a ton of ambiguity in this final sequence. Is the bear a genuine threat or is it just a creature curious about this suburban neighborhood? Does Tony represent the bear or does he represent the courageous defender against the bear?  Does Tony’s decency ultimately outweigh his meanness?  Will Carmela eventually take Tony back?  Should Carmela take him back? And if so, under what conditions? Heaven only knows.  As “Heaven Only Knows” starts up to take us through the credits (oh my sweet Emmylou!), we recognize yet again that Chase has never been one to give us neat, easy answers.


Season 5 introduces a rogue’s gallery of new faces into the mix, as several mobsters are being released from prison this year. Mob expert “Manny Safier” (played by freshman writer Matthew Weiner) appears on a news program to discuss this “Class of ’04.”  The newcomers include Tony Blundetto, Angelo Garepe, Feech LaManna and Phil Leotardo.  Learning about these soon-to-be-released goons, we are led to believe that Season 5 will finally give precedence to la famiglia storylines over the domestic issues that have largely been dominating for a while now.

This is certainly what the new guys at the forum seemed to believe.  In a post written just after this episode aired, “The Sopranos Goes Back to its Mafia Roots,” Jeff Goldberg says “…it’s clear that David Chase is bringing mob intrigue back front-and-center…” It is true that there is more of a focus on the mob storylines this season, and some of the new blood that stocks Season 5 is just that—“blood” that gets spilled, bodies that add to the body count.  But I feel that the domestic storylines always remain front-and-center.  Even the character of “Tony Blundetto,” arguably the most significant mobster added to this year’s roster, is played more for his domestic connection to Tony Soprano and for his efforts to exit the Mafia life.  (We don’t meet Blundetto in person here, but the mention of him on the news gives us a third way of reading the episode title: he is the second Tony.)

Some viewers saw the introduction of these new characters as evidence that The Sopranos was “jumping the shark,” desperately trying to find some way to inject new storylines into the series. But Season 5 does not display the desperation or loss of creativity that we associate with jumping the shark.  Chase may have certainly added the new mobsters as a way to both change the dynamics and diversify the stories of The Sopranos. This is an expected and acceptable convention in a TV series.  What is unexpected is the way that Chase transforms and plays with this convention.  Over the course of the season, we will see a creative and supple and often surprising handling of the new characters. I will try to chart their arcs as we move through these 13 episodes.

Another mobster that shows up on the scene here, though we’ve been introduced to him before, is Little Carmine. Boss Carmine suffers a stroke while having lunch at the golf course, and his son’s arrival in New York will turn the transition of power in the NY famiglia into a thorny issue.

But this hour is not all about Little Carmine and Feech and the new guys; the old guys still bring their share of agita to the narrative.  Paulie and Chris have long had a contentious relationship, particularly after their misadventures in the Pine Barrens (an event that each of them have different recollections of in this hour).  An argument between the two men over a restaurant bill in Atlantic City almost boils over into violence. Luckily for them, a waiter’s epileptic seizure turns them away from killing each other. (Not so lucky for the waiter, though.  His is the first onscreen death of Season 5.  Part of the great power—and great tragedy—of this season comes from the number of civilians, like the waiter, who get victimized by the mob.)


Complexity accrues on each season of The Sopranos, and this even seems to be true for the DVD graphics. The animation of the Season 5 DVD menu is a masterpiece of intricate editing and graphic design. Although the menu options become functional within seconds, it’s worth a minute of our time to just sit back and watch the entire animation play out:

The dynamic vertical transitions and color bars and perforated circle elements seem to be a graphic confirmation of the importance of connectivity to the series, connecting one “scene” to the next and leading our eyes from one character to the next.  We are elegantly reintroduced to the characters (note how two-faced Janice and double-life Adriana both appear in mirrors) but no major plot points get divulged.  And look at the detailing of that final beat: Tony’s cigar smoke wafts up to reveal the circle elements that were unseen but present all along, like the unseen atoms that shape and connect and give substance to everything that we know of in the universe.

While I’m on the subject of graphics, the Annie Liebovitz-shot poster for Season 5 is one hell of an eyecatcher. Some viewers originally claimed that it was based on Theodore Gericault’s oil painting, The Raft of the Medusa.  But then someone figured out that it is most probably a reworking of Delacroix’ 1822 oil, The Barque of Dante: 

Leibowitz barque of Dante Sopranos Autopsy

Delacroix’ work—depicting a trip along the River Styx—does seem to better fit the dark themes and tones of Season 5. (I’ll come back to Annie Liebovitz’s photograph at the end of the season, in my write-up for “All Due Respect.”)

Fans had to wait a grueling fifteen months after the masterful “Whitecaps” for Season 5 to finally begin. According the L.A. Times article “Family Hour Returns” (Feb 15, 2004), one reason for the long hiatus was that HBO needed some time to program their new shows Carnivale and K-Street.  The other reason was…

…Chase’s aversion to the rigidity of traditional network scheduling concerns.  Audiences want their television shows to show up at similar times every year, and that’s just another thing he doesn’t like about television.  “I don’t know why a TV series has to come out at the same time every year,” Chase says.

Producer/Director Henry Bronchtein added that the long break “recharges everyone’s batteries, so that is creatively good.”  David Chase spends much of the downtime making elaborate charts of plot points and character arcs, and how it all interacts and connects.  So, Chase is willing to break even scheduling conventions if it serves his artistic goals.  While many viewers grumbled about the long wait, I think Season 5 probably benefitted from the extended hiatus.

Season 5 was originally never even meant to be. HBO had only contracted with David Chase for four seasons, and he had hinted several times that there would not be a fifth.  But as he told Stanford Magazine in Oct 2002, “HBO really wanted it badly.  And I began to feel, really, that these characters have more to say, that there’s more stuff to explore.”  (In the same interview, he says that there will absolutely not be a sixth season.  Thank God he changed his mind about that—although he did make us wait an insane 21 months after “All Due Respect” for Season 6 to finally begin.)



  • Adriana doesn’t get much screentime in this hour at all, but when she does, she is wheedling Chris for information about where he’s going, who’s going to be there… The crucible that Adriana finds herself in, between the mob and the FBI, is one the major elements that makes this season so compelling.
  • I guess another thing that might lead us to associate the bear with Tony is that he called himself a “dancing bear” back in “A Hit is a Hit” (1.10).
  • Jerry Capeci, one of the new contributors at the forum, was asked to audition for the role of the mob expert that appears on TV here. But Matthew Weiner got the part. (More on Weiner in the upcoming write-up for “Rat Pack,” the first episode he gets credit for writing.)

Manny Safier + Matthew Weiner

  • Another writer to get a cameo here—possibly—is Robin Green.  There is some debate over whether the woman in Melfi’s group is actually her.  (It’s a non-speaking part, so she wouldn’t be in the credits.)

Robin Green
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© 2020 Ron Bernard

67 responses to “Two Tonys (5.01)

  1. I never got that Tony was trying to do a good thing in relieving Benny of his watch duties or in protecting Carm and AJ from the bear. I always interpreted it as the first sign that Tony and Carm will (eventually have to) get back together. Unlike Melfi, Carm never really judges Tony for his Mafia shenanigans and for generally being a horrible person (she says he’s basically a good man and that there’s lots of worse people out there). She occasionally talks about how guilty she feels, but not to Tony. Her real problem with him is his cheating on her and his not living up to her idealized version of him as the funny, charming and charismatic bad boy she fell in love with (instead he’s a moody, temperamental, selfish asshole). I saw it as Tony going back to the woman who fundamentally never really calls him on his shit and let’s him (literally) get away with murder. She’s the only kind of woman who can really tolerate a man like Tony and provide him with what he wants. After being rejected by Melfi, Tony just crawls back to Carm. And Carm will eventually have to crawl back to him.

    Liked by 4 people

    • That’s well said…


    • Also, he loves her, and always returns to her after an affair. Especially when things go wrong in the relationship. There’s something to be said for knowing someone from a teenager. Familiarity, honesty about who he is, because she never minces words with him. She hates his actions, but she loves him. She hates her own actions as well…maybe even more.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. First off, great recap! Glad to see you back in the swing of things!

    I liked reading your thoughts on Season Five as a whole at the top, especially because I have an interesting relationship with Season Five, in that it’s probably my least favorite of the seasons from a personal standpoint, but at the same time, I feel like it was one of the best. I can’t wait for you to get to The Test Dream, which is one of my all time favorite episodes.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I cant believe david chase was originally only going to do 4 seasons, and then I cant believe he emphatically said he wasnt going to do a sixth season. First of all, the sopranos could have lasted TEN seasons and it wouldnt have been played out. He should have made MORE seasons in my opinion, or at the very least a movie. He was a selfish person in many ways because he always made the show for HIM. Fans (like those of us on this site) would have killed for another season or a movie, and he basically just said screw ’em. If it wasn’t something HE wanted, then he didn’t do it, regardless of the fans views (even though he’d still be writing shitty movies if it werent for us). Hes always struck me as a coy, selfish person


    • Selfish? Really?

      I guess everything you do, you do solely out of the goodness of your heart and with the desire to please others regardless of all self-interest. Maybe you should be the one making television shows!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Also, not to mention, he still, to this very day, plays coy about the finale and when asked about it, he gives us an answer about as straightforward as a chinese riddle… even though its been NINE years since the finale aired. He just always gives a b.s. answer like: “If you look at the final episode really carefully, it’s all there.” Its just like, fuck you dude. Just tell us what you think already, and stop acting like a prick. Can i get an AMEN?!



      But Charlie, I think the point of the finale and the show in general is ambiguity, that’s why there is no straight answer. You can like that or dislike it, but I don’t think you can say that there is a straight answer.

      Liked by 4 people

    • The creators of two of the greatest shows ever, David Chase & David Simon, seem like miserable curmudgeons based on their interviews.


    • You think Chase is coy, selfish, a prick. Maybe, but so what?
      Who cares? It’s all about the series. Did he hit it
      out of the park? I don’t think we’d all be here discussing
      the show 10 years after it ended if he didn’t. Did he do it for
      him or for us? All artists do the work for themselves, then
      if others respond to it, that’s gravy. If it didn’t engage him,
      he wouldn’t have been able to craft the masterpiece that he did.

      You got 86 episodes all connected, all deep, all infinitely re-watchable
      in and out of sequence, and you want a 2 hour movie?

      Reminds me of the guy who had a ham under one arm
      but went about in pity for himself because he didn’t have any bread.

      Liked by 7 people

  5. Hey Ron, love the blog.

    There’s something in this episode I just noticed on my 3rd or 4th time.

    In the scene when Tony goes to see Melfi with the tickets to Bermuda, wait for it… the waiting room is reversed in that the door to the office is on the wrong side! In any other episode if Tony were sitting on the couch the door would be on the right (from his perspective), in this scene it would be reversed. It’s very strange and I don’t have the DVDs so I don’t know if it’s mentioned in the commentary.

    Again, great blog.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Capicola


    • Actually, most shrinks’ offices have an entrance and exit foyer, seperately – so patients don’t run into each other while entering and leaving. I’m assuming, since people were leaving and the room was reversed, that this was also the case with Dr. Melfi’s office. It’s just something most people wouldn’t know unless (like me 🙄😉) they’ve visited a shrink.

      Liked by 1 person

    • So I couldn’t help myself….out of curiousity, I went back and watched this scene again. And though what I said before is still true, I think Dr. Melfi may be in the room ACROSS from her normal office. Which would make sense, since she was seeing a whole group of people. I have no idea why this mattered to me, except to say you piqued my curiousity and I had to go back like an obsessive freak and check. (Shrink, remember?) 😏😉😉

      Liked by 3 people

  6. Love the blog, always have to read after watching an episode when do you think your review of the rest of season five will be done ?


  7. Ron! Your blog posts stand up to multiple readings just as well as the subject matter stands up to multiple viewings. I can’t wait for you to start cranking out those Season 5 analyses. The addition of Weiner (any other new writers besides him hired for Seasons 5-6?) changed up the tone of the show ever so slightly. Chris utters some of my favorite jokes of the entire series in Season 5 (for some reason, he gets the best lines). Which brings me to my nitpick with your Two Tony’s analysis (I apologize in advance, it’s much easier to critique a tiny piece of an episode analysis than it is to actually analyze an episode).

    When Paulie and Chris are about to kill each other over the restaurant bill, the waiter doesn’t have an “epileptic” seizure, per se. The brick that Chris throws into the waiter’s skull causes a traumatic brain injury, which in turn causes an immediate generalized seizure. That’s why Chris’ line, “Don’t they have medication, these assholes?!?!” is so funny. Chris hurls a brick at the guy’s head as hard as he can, gives the guy a concussion and brain damage (evidenced by the seizure), then idiotically assumes the guy has epilepsy and denigrates him for being an “asshole” because he didn’t take his anti-seizure meds. I laugh EVERY TIME I watch that scene because that joke is so brilliant.

    While it’s true that epilepsy is a disorder characterized solely by the presence of seizures, the waiter almost certainly doesn’t have it. I don’t know if most laypeople (non-medical types) would even get that joke. It’s just another little thing that makes me marvel at the brilliance of The Sopranos.

    Liked by 6 people

    • Thanks Jonathan. Toni Kalem (“Angie Bonpensiero”) wrote an episode in season 5, and Diane Frolov + Andrew Schneider were very important new hires for season 6. (They were able to make a unique contribution to episode 6.04 in a way that perhaps no other writers could – but I’ll get to that in 6.04.)

      Ok, that makes sense about the waiter…

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Like all the other commentators, I also find this blog very enjoyable. One minor thing that I didn’t see mentioned was what is likely to be another classic reference to “The Godfather”. In the scene where Carmine Sr. has a stroke, everyone else’s glass is empty except for his, which seems to contain orange juice.

    Liked by 4 people

  9. “What are you..on the school paper?”

    Liked by 1 person

  10. How ill-advised was the waiter to go outside, when he can hear them arguing? They are gangsters and he calls them out on the tip?? I have waited tables, and although its annoying when the tip is bad, you certainly don’t go and ask the people why. Also, the fact that they kill him and have the presence of mind to take back the money, and that Chris says “that’s my money Paulie!”…is chilling.

    Liked by 2 people

    • He must have been expecting about a $200 tip but he only got $16 if I remember correctly. But maybe more than the money issue, there is that anger that surges up when you feel you’ve been slighted. It makes you do dumb things, even confront roughneck customers…

      Liked by 1 person

    • Very true, and they gave the waiter plenty of chance to go back inside (with the money!) and not get hurt, but he had to open his big mouth. He had to know that they were gangsters when he waited on them, I mean come on…Tony, Johnny S, Sil, Feech…everyone was there.
      I believe that the main point of this scene was to display the mobs sociopathic way of thinking and behaving. It was capped off with Pauly’s phone call to Chris the next day. All calm and with sensitivity he says, “For fucks sake, one of us could have been hurt, or even killed”
      It is absolutely BRILLIANT writing and scene sequence. As apposed to just watching a scene of the mob whacking someone

      Liked by 1 person

  11. I love the mod class of 04 scene. Such a great way of introducing the new cast in a natural way and plays on how news programs portray them in rl.

    I especially like the part at the end with Carmine basically entering death’s door and Johnny looking at the camera with such a great sour face and then the camera cuts to Tony’s reaction. Greatly showing the tension that still remains between the two and the conflict that is coming their way with Carmine’s death.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. These write-ups are fascinating, Ron! You’ve done such an amazing job here. I’m enjoying it tremendously, even if falling into another Sopranos rabbit-hole was the very last thing my productivity needed.


  13. The season opening scene of the desolate Soprano backyard immediately reminded me of the deserted Corleone compound at Lake Tahoe.

    Liked by 2 people

  14. The two Tony theme was explored in the episode “College”, when Tony is waiting for Meadow at Bowdoin he stares at a quote by Nathaniel Hawthorne “No Man can wear one face to himself and another to the multitude without finally getting bewildered as to which may be true”. Tony may be a charming guy, but he is a terrible person who like Melfi says makes his living through violence and the threat of violence. Melfi is Tony’s psychologist and knows this, but Tony seems to have convinced himself that he is a great guy. When Melfi reminds him he is not, he doesn’t like it.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Perhaps the reminder from Melfi, made him go back and watch over and protect his family from the bear. Again, maybe Tony is trying to convince himself that he is a great guy.

    Liked by 2 people

  16. Immediately after “Ranger Rick” explains that the bear does not meet the parameters for removal, Tony responds with “so when someone’s leg is gone”, a clear reference to Svetlana, a major parameter that led to the removal of him from his home.

    Liked by 2 people

  17. Carmela acted quickly with the bear. She knew enough to make noise and scare it away. That shows she is more independent than everyone thinks. It’s a good excuse to call Tony and she doesn’t. Her only real issue with the separation is financial. I think if she got a job and got out from under Tony, she would do fine. She just doesn’t want to.

    Liked by 4 people

  18. Thoughts while shaving: Did anyone ever notice how badly “Aunt Jan” burned the roast beef? It looked like a charcoal brickette laying there with the canned clam chowder. Poor Bobby with his eye patch, strapping on the feed bag night after night…. Ever ask yourself why she’s such a bad cook? Is it because Livia never taught her? Is it because Livia was also a bad cook, making the “red lead?” Or is it because cooking requires something the soprano women lack?

    Liked by 2 people

  19. Who says the bear has to be Tony? I think the bear is us, trespassing and picking through the details of the Soprano homestead in search of some tasty morsels. 😀

    Liked by 3 people

  20. More pulp? When Tony and family come in from their meeting with Ranger Rick, Tony takes a sip of orange juice from the Tropicana carton, to Carmela’s tolerant chagrin. My viewing set up is too basic to to slow down and augment the shot enough to read the pulp content. Any guesses?

    Liked by 1 person

  21. You write that “Melfi makes some criticisms that cut a little too close to the bone”; I think she demonstrated extreme carelessness in dealing with a former patient. The therapist, as therapist, establishes an ‘alliance’ of unconditional empathy to create a space for the patient to approach shameful emotions and hopefully thereby work through them. Of course Melfi has her private impressions, but freely trotting them out in front of Tony, rather than finding another way to get him out of the room, causes this long-established alliance/salutary illusion to dissipate in an instant. Melfi ends up just re-enacting Tony’s mother’s betrayal of him – pulling the rug of unconditional love out from under him. It’s the very sort of shock and betrayal that probably made Tony the man he is.
    Speculation, since I hardly remember S5 at this point, but I wonder if this represents a transition point between Tony’s way of exploring in Season 4 (network of women, abusers/victims, etc) to a new axis of exploration in Season 5 (variant Tonys).

    Liked by 2 people

    • Excellent points, but Tony is not technically her patient at this moment in the season. (He hasn’t restarted therapy after stopping it last season.) I don’t think Melfi wanted to be so critical of Tony, she just lost control of herself when Tony wouldn’t ease back his romantic pursuit of her..

      Liked by 1 person

  22. Yes, granted Tony is not technically her patient at this point, and that he’s putting heavy pressure on her – that she’s so far handling gracefully. Still, the dreamy way she decides to just be transparent with this fairly recent patient is weirdly naive for an experienced therapist. It’s almost as if she’s still in the open and hyper-rational headspace of Elliot’s office. Maybe her tack here is a result of her own daydreams (and night dreams) of a more successfully rehabilitated and stable Tony.

    Liked by 1 person

  23. Ron, any idea on Carmine smelling burnt hair? Not so much for the show or its analysis–I’ve just had a moment of panic every time I’ve smell burnt hair since this episode aired. Often times, it’s immediately followed by “Oh, she’s drying her hair” or even “Oh, it could be the laundry”…but the times I smell it and can’t figure out why…well, I brace myself. Haha!

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  24. The second Tony also refers to AJ, who seems to be developing his dad’s cruel, fast wit (“what, is it going to wipe its feet when it comes in?”), which is explicitly mentioned by Dr Melfi.
    On the topic of twos, I did enjoy the number of pairs in the opening scene: two deckchairs, two chimney pots, double windows, double doors and then, finally, a reflection (*classic* Sopranos double symbolism) of those chimney pots in the puddle, all in an ironic highlighting of the break-up.

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  25. Although I accept your comment that we should not take the symbolism too literally, I think in this case we should. Remember that the Sopranos is very much a character primary, plot secondary show – the plot is essentially constructed in such a way as to give us insight into the characters, and in particular, it is a character study of Tony. However, in this case, the bear’s function is to give us an insight into Carmella.

    One thing that is immediately obvious is that no one else sees the bear apart from Carmella. Remember, Chase has set us up for this kind of thing before with dream sequences, but the most direct connection to what he is doing here is the Isabella episode, where Nik e sees Isabella apart from Tony. Isabella is essentially a projection of the idealised mother – obvious because although she is very beautiful, Tony never comes on to her in the way we might expect him to. She is the archetypal feminine, the light side of the mother in his psyche, making a necessary appearance because in the real world, all he now sees is the dark side, the shadow mother that Olivia actually is.

    In the case of the bear, it appears to Carmella because she has banished Tony from the family home. She did this because she could no longer avoid the very real shadow side to Tony’s life because his mistresses encroaching on that territory made it impossible for her to continue to see what she wanted to see – a hard working family man who she loved. We need to remember, Carmella had built a psychological wall between that view of Tony, and I he very real “shadow” Tony, that she knows exists if he even thinks about it for a second, because she does actually know what he does for a living.

    The problem for Carmella comes from this : having banished him from the family home, she no longer has anything to remind her of the “light” Tony – the caring family man and husband she has chosen to believe in. So the wall she has built between the light and dark Tony begins to break down. Psychologically, she is not ready to take what is left of her and the children and go, as she was advised to by Dr. Krakower in season 3. She is not ready to accept what is really behind the wall, which is that her husband is a dangerous murderer. So the shadow side of Tony appears to her as the bear. In reality, there is no bear, there is only the bear for her, and the bear is the only projection of Tony’s shadow side she is able to psychologically accept, as it hides what she knows – that the dangerous beast “out there” is her husband.

    The bear performs another function. As well as being a psychological projection (of the shadow side of Tony) for Carmella – the bear is Tony for us, the audience. He is OUR projection of Tony in Soprano land. Tony never wanted to leave the family home, and so we see him finding a way to return in different form (providing multiple levels to the “Two Tony’s” – something Chase does time and time again with his episode titles).

    The bear performs yet another function for Carmella. The bear allows her to ask for Tony’s help. Tony sends Benny, then comes himself. This opens the door to his eventual return later in the series. It allows Carmella to see the light side of her husband again, this time as the “protecter”. The irony is that it is Tony himself who is the real danger to his family. The way he makes his living, his lack of any moral compass, his disregard for human life, all put his family in danger. The reality is, he is far more dangerous to them than any bear, yet he is the one they seek for protection.

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  26. Apologies for the typos in that post. I would add that, as the bear is OUR projection of Tony’s shadow in Soprano-land, it highlights what we also refuse to see (or what we agree to ignore when buying into the premise of the show). Tony’s character is presented to us in the context of the mundanity of life, such that when he does commit acts of brutality we are shocked, and when he suffers misfortune we feel sorry for him. We shouldn’t – we have been played with by Chase! We have built a wall as an audience, because Chase very cleverly gets us root for a despicable human being. So the bear is the shadow for us as well – a projection of Tony’s dark side that we are able to accept because it hides the reality – the large, dangerous, brutal character “out there” is Tony himself.
    So – my take is that in this case – we are meant to take this symbolism fairly literally. The bear is not part of the narrative, but is literally a symbol of Tony’s dark side. I believe it was written in for that sole purpose.
    Love the blog, by the way!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Ronchetti, I like your take on the bear. One thing though: AJ also sees the bear in addition to Carmela.


      • Hi Ron. Thanks. And ah, yes, I have obviously misremembered that bit. But I think the theory still holds – AJ also is unable to deal with his father’s shadow side, and when he leaves the family home, is only able to deal with this psychologically by projecting an animal “out there”. In may ways, he is more deluded than Carmella – he was pretty much born with the psychological wall behind which is his father’s shadow.

        Liked by 1 person

        • And … Not to labour the point (which I realise I AM labouring….), it is interesting to note then that the only two who actually see a bear are the two family members left in the house who can no longer see the “light” Tony. The large dangerous killer beast is out there – it’s Tony.

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  27. ““The Test Dream” surpasses, in sheer TV weirdness, a lot of the stuff that David Lynch did on Twin Peaks.”
    Ehhhhhhhhhhhh I disagree…I feel like the Sopranos stuff I kind of “get.” Lynch’s stuff is a few steps beyond. It’s more impressionistic and surreal, still serving a story function but completely disarming in a way I’ve never seen anywhere else. And this includes season 3 especially. Nothing in Sopranos broke my brain like the season 3 traffic jam scene, or basically every other scene in Fire Walk With Me or the season 2 finale of Twin Peaks.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Also fantastic writeup of this episode. “Prince of Tide”…How do you do it? Do you think that stuff is intentional by the writers, because you seem to catch these insanely esoteric connections that make me wonder.

      Liked by 1 person

  28. “When you say that, you make me feel less than.”

    Liked by 1 person

  29. Lucie Krovatin

    “Does Tony represent the bear or does he represent the courageous defender against the bear?”
    I don’t believe these two are mutually exclusive; he
    There are, after all, Two Tonys.
    The bear represents his malicious side which imposes on Carmela’s curated home, literally through the backdoor and in the backyard (where Tony stores his money… incidentally in the bird feeder that attracted the bear). The other version of himself is, accordingly, the more sensitive side who cares for women and children. His whole journey in therapy shows his struggle to protect his family from the violence that goes on in his other life. After Dr. Melfi forces him to see how she sees him, he goes back to the house to face himself symbolically. In that leather jacket, he even visually looks like the black bear with his tan face.
    It’s 2021 and I’m watching for the first time, so I can only speculate for the future. I wonder if this means that he’s going to really face his darkness and protect his family better? Based on the next episode, it does seem so, since he wants to protect Tony B, and is just as well extra sensitive to the remarks about his weight, seemingly looking at himself and wanting to change.
    Not sure why of everything this stuck out to me! But I did find the visual comparison to be quite striking personally

    Liked by 1 person

  30. Pingback: The Soprano Onceover: #56. “Two Tonys” (S5E1) | janiojala

  31. There is nothing more disgusting than Tony Lip with a mouth full of egg salad. That is all.

    Liked by 1 person

  32. I watched this episode last night for the umpteenth time, following hard on the heels of ‘Whitecaps’. It just got me thinking, how the hell did Carmela’s parents let her marry a Mob guy? Her parents seem like fairly upstanding regular people, but then there’s also their blood relations with the Moltisantis (and arguably Dickie Moltisanti is an even bigger reprobate than Tony). It doesn’t make sense to me (perhaps like a lot of things in life don’t make sense!), but then maybe they simply decided to turn a blind eye to it all.

    Liked by 1 person

  33. Re-posting this here:

    Getting back to when Chris and Paulie bricked that waiter.

    So we have a murder here that’s easily connected to known mobsters with several witnesses. At a minimum, I’d expect it’d be enough to bring a few in for questioning and shake them down a little bit. What alibis could they have? It’s probably too early for rampant security cameras in a [i]restaurant[/i] but, again, it was a CASINO – [b]so cameras everywhere[/b] – and the rest of the crew were going into gamble just after the check was paid [b]as the murder happened. [/b]

    Paulie and Chris didn’t even hide the body so it would have been found [b]before the rest of the crew even left[/b].

    They paid cash so no credit card tracking BUT…[b]they also ran out on their tab[/b]! Casinos aren’t big on getting stiffed. Of course one of the other guys can easily pay it but…NO ONE is asking “hey, what happened to Juan?” or whatever the server’s name was? Surely he had other tables? Maybe not since he was working like a 12 top or whatever but still. The restaurant was busy and management is going to notice a front of house worker being missing pretty quickly. After 15 or 30 minutes tops, coworkers are going to be looking for him and [b]the rest of the mob will be at the craps tables when the body is found, right? Cops would be called. So we have a body in the parking lot and 10 or 12 known mobsters in the casino along with an unpaid tab when the police arrive.[/b]

    I honestly thought this was going to be a loose thread that would be explored later to hang some drama on the crew and a lot tension on Paulie and Chris. I doubt you can lift fingerprints off a brick but it’s still a sloppy murder. Easily as connectable as Tony dropping his gun in the snow I would think? Or almost anyway.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Great comment, and you’re absolutely right. The only thing I can think is that perhaps they have cops on a payroll near that casino. But yes they should have taken the body. Probably there are cameras that point outside by the dumpsters where I think they were but maybe not.

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