Johnny Cakes (6.08)

Vito and Jim get closer up in Dartford.
Tony makes a real estate deal.
AJ seeks vengeance.

Episode 73 – Originally aired April 30, 2006
Written by Diane Frolov & Andrew Schneider
Directed by Tim Van Patten


“Johnny Cakes” is a thoughtful hour, taking an intelligent and humorous look at how gentrification and corporatism can have a bulldozing effect on our neighborhoods.  But viewers remember this hour primarily for another reason.  You know what I’m talking about.  The imagery of Vito and Jim getting all lovey-dovey beneath the trees and falling leaves of an autumnal New Hampshire day was so unexpected—and sort of cheesy, perhaps even a little creepy—that it quickly imprinted itself on to our mental tissue.  But years have passed since the episode first aired, and plenty of re-watches—plus our evolving attitude toward gay displays of affection—means that the surprise or discomfort that some of us may have felt at seeing a homosexual biker and a chubby goon make out on primetime TV has faded over time:


Jim Witowski is an integral part of this episode—the hour is even titled after him.  He is important for more than simply being Vito’s new lover (which I’ll come back to later); he is important because he represents an ideal which the Soprano men—Tony and AJ—do not live up to.  Tony does not have Jim’s authenticity or civic-mindedness, and AJ lacks Jim’s heroism.  An early juxtaposition of scenes lays out the contrast:

heroes - Sopranos Autopsy

Brave and dutiful Jim runs into a burning house to save a small child.  Chase cuts from this selfless and heroic act to a shot of the Soprano boys aboard the Stugots, guzzling beer and burping while they fish the day away.  In this write-up I’ll focus on the failings of the two Sopranos, first Tony and then AJ, as they are presented in this hour.

Tony Soprano
Jim Witowski is a civic-minded man, serving his community by volunteering for the fire department.  In contrast, Tony Soprano cares for his community only to the extent that it does not impede his ability make a buck.  And there’s always a buck to be made.  Realtor Julianna Skiff approaches Tony with an offer from Jamba Juice to purchase the building that houses Caputo’s Live Poultry.  Tony understands that small mom-and-pop shops like Caputo’s are what give the old neighborhood its character and authenticity.  He is thoughtful enough to recognize that corporate retail stores have a soul-squashing, culture-killing homogeneity about them. Mr. Caputo and the elderly woman on the street that strikes up a conversation with Tony as well as everyone else in the neighborhood will lose something unique and authentic if generic companies are allowed to move in with their single-minded devotion to turning a profit.

I think it is worth noting that Jim makes his delicious johnnycakes at a small, independent diner, as opposed to, say, simply reheating pre-made “McJohnnycakes” at a McDonalds.  Jim represents a certain type of authenticity.  The community of Dartford is—like Jim—warm, convivial and authentic.  Perhaps Tony’s old New Jersey neighborhood was once as authentic as Dartford, but it is rapidly being consumed by corporate interests.  Tony must choose to align himself either with the faceless corporations or with his neighbors.  (The fact that elderly Mrs. Conte doesn’t know not to bring up the subject of Corrado to Tony when she passes him on the street must only push him closer toward siding with the corporations.)

Patsy Parisi and Burt Gervasi try to shakedown the manager of The Great Seattle Coffee Experience, but soon realize that their protection racket is not going to work at an incorporated coffeehouse such as this one.  We might remember that David Chase had previously criticized the generic and noxious nature of modern, corporatized coffee shops back in episode 1.02 (particularly with the inclusion of a logo that seemed like a ‘toxic materials’ warning):

2 coffeeshops

In “46 Long,” Paulie railed against the co-optation of Italian food and culture (and stole a cafetera from the coffee shop in protest); in “Johnny Cakes,” we see that Big Business is not just making small inroads into the culinary culture of the gangsters, Big Biz is encroaching upon entire neighborhoods.

Jamba’s offer to allow Tony to carry the note means that Tony could multiply profit from agreeing to the sale.  And the possibility of bedding Julianna only sweetens the pot for Tony, whose libido has finally awakened after a long convalescence.  Tony finally agrees to the sale after subtly negotiating Julianna’s vagina into the deal.

But Tony reneges on that particular, unwritten contract rider.  Some echoing camerawork at Julianna’s apartment clues us in to why Tony uncharacteristically restrains himself:

buttons - Sopranos Autopsy

As Julianna unbuttons his Canali shirt, Tony is reminded of how Carmela helped him button up the shirt just a short while earlier.  This episode began with the sight (and sounds) of Tony love-pounding his wife into their bed.  Normally, we only see Tony be so sexually enthusiastic when he is with his goomars.  The fact that he is so excited by Carmela tells us something about the current state of their relationship: their marriage is humming along nicely.  Tony does the honorable thing by leaving Julianna’s apartment right after signing the contract, but he is not exactly at peace with his decision.  When he returns home, pent up with sexual tension (and perhaps a little bit of guilt about selling out the old neighborhood), he yells and slams things, shifting his frustration onto the lack of smoked turkey in the refrigerator and shifting it away from the lost opportunity to have Julianna smoke his turkey.

A couple of seasons back, in 4.07 “Watching Too Much Television,” we saw Tony and his cohorts put a real estate plan into action that would ostensibly rebuild part of a poor black neighborhood, but in reality was nothing more than a scam to fill their pockets.  Their scam ultimately resulted in a young black man taking a bullet to the groin.  Tony may have never learned about the man’s horrible injury, but even if he did, it is unlikely that he would have felt much regret.  We see in the current episode, once again, that in the end it is money that speaks to Tony Soprano far louder than any concerns about protecting the integrity, security and authenticity of a neighborhood and its citizens.  “Watching Too Much Television” made this point is an ultimately tragic fashion, with a young man’s manhood destroyed.  But “Johnny Cakes” ultimately makes the point with humor—the final minute of the hour is one of the most purely comic sequences of the series:

The clip contains almost too many hilarious elements to count: Tony’s displaced anger, Patsy’s Jews/juice confusion, the squawking chicken, Patsy’s ironic punchline about the old neighborhood, Ray Charles singing “I’m Gonna Move to the Outskirts of Town” which underscores the “gentrification” theme, and then finally the song’s cackling trumpet which comes in and echoes the earlier squawk of the chicken.  Chase makes quite a damning criticism against the corporate world in this hour, suggesting that big businesses can have as much of a lethal effect on a community as the Mafia does.  But we don’t feel like we’ve just been preached to or waylaid by some anti-corporate diatribe, in part because Chase ushers us out of the hour with such a light and humorous scene.

AJ Soprano
Johnnycakes Jim performs an act of true heroism when he runs into a burning house to rescue a small child.  (Perhaps I need to point out to younger viewers that “firefighter” was the de facto American symbol of heroism in the years after 9/11—and the fact that Jim risks his life though only a volunteer firefighter makes his act even more heroic.)  AJ wants to be a hero too, and figures that getting vengeance against the man who shot his dad will make him one.  But AJ doesn’t quite have the maturity to recognize what it is that actually constitutes a heroic deed, and perhaps not even the competence to successfully perform such an act.

AJ is growing up to be the lazy and irresponsible young man that many of us expected him to become.  Tony’s heart sinks at the thought of his slacker son.  Dr. Melfi tries to reassure Tony that AJ’s immaturity may in part be a characteristic of his generation: “Sociologists say ’26’ is in fact the new ’21.'”  This may be true, but if Melfi knew AJ like we do, she would know that he can be a puerile, manipulative twerp.  Nevertheless, my heart does go out to the young man a little bit.  It’s clearly difficult for him to live in Tony Soprano’s shadow.  He hasn’t yet figured out how to substantially flesh himself out, independent of his mafioso father (the way that his sister has managed to do to some degree).  AJ starts to feel that the only reason he gets taken seriously by anyone is because he is the son of a mob boss.

AJ reaches the conclusion that the only way to be taken seriously is through an act of violence.  We’ve seen young men in SopranoWorld reach this conclusion in earlier storylines.  In Season 2, Matt Bevilaqua and Sean Gismonte decided to whack Chris after feeling emasculated on multiple occasions.  And in Season 3, Jackie Jr. and Dino made the decision to rob a mob card game.

violent kids

Melfi is correct when she says that AJ’s generation is growing up a in media-saturated culture.  Much of AJ’s sense of reality comes from what he sees in the media.  He thinks that he can learn proper knife-wielding technique from a movie playing on the TV screen at the Blockbuster store.  And he finds inspiration in the fictional character of ‘Michael Corleone,’ who violently avenged the attack on his father in The GodfatherIt is a with a head full of bad intentions that AJ goes to visit Corrado.

But AJ is more “Fredo” than “Michael.”  In fact, he drops his knife just at the moment of truth much like Fredo dropped his gun as he tried to defend his father from the hitmen in G1:

fredo drops his gun

Luckily for the Soprano family, Assemblyman Zellman is able to spring AJ before he gets charged with a crime.  In a powerful scene in the police-station parking lot (and one of Robert Iler’s best performances of the series), Tony and AJ cross swords.  When Tony yells that it was wrong of AJ to try to get violent vengeance on Corrado, both of them recognize how ridiculously hypocritical this statement sounds coming from the mouth of Mr. Mob Boss.  Tony appreciates that his son was trying to get revenge on his behalf, but is disappointed by his immaturity.  As the tears stream from AJ’s eyes, Tony cups his son’s face and tenderly tells him, “You gotta grow up.  You’re not a kid anymore.”  AJ desperately wants to prove that he is manly and heroic and formidable outside of his father’s orbit, but he just doesn’t know how.

The next time we see AJ, he is back at the nightclub.  Nothing has changed.  When a club-goer starts raving about AJ’s powerful dad, AJ realizes that nothing has in fact changed: he is still stuck in his famous father’s shadow.  The realization triggers a panic attack.  AJ did not inherit Tony’s criminal competence nor his managerial skills nor his wily understanding of the world he lives in.  Instead, AJ has inherited a tic in his nervous system’s response to stress, which leaves him panting and sweating on a bathroom floor now.


Many of us had an issue with the way the ‘gay mobster’ storyline was developing; we felt that it just didn’t seem very realistic at times.  But not everyone found it to be unrealistic for the same reason.  Some of the more bigoted viewers of the show might have felt that it was unrealistic for the gay men of Dartford to be so “normal”—they talk and act much like straight men do.  Chase underlines their similarity by formally connecting the homosexual men of Dartford and the heterosexual men of north Jersey with a matching gesture:

middle fingers

(Gay or straight, the guys shoot the bird at each other as they joke around and break each other’s balls.)  Other viewers found it unbelievable that trim-and-fit Jim could be so attracted to chubster Vito; the mutual attraction between the two men didn’t quite fit their expectations.  But the reality, of course, is that romantic attraction doesn’t always conform to logical expectations.  Our culture so glorifies thinness that we sometimes forget that overweight people are not necessarily damned to eternal loneliness or only get attention from “chubby-chasers.”  (And perhaps there is some gay bigotry at work here also, because most viewers that make this criticism would not balk at the idea that heterosexual female Marie Spatafore might want to make love to her tubby husband.)  In a way, some of the venom directed against Vito’s storyline may reveal that, as a nation, our prejudice against the overweight is actually greater than our prejudice against homosexuals.

Some of the antipathy against the storyline may also have come out of the feeling that Joe Gannascoli somehow tricked David Chase by suggesting the story and then wriggling himself into the starring role.  Gannascoli seems to have built up a reputation as a bit of a self-promoter during his time on the show.  Even if this description of him is true, I don’t think Chase is so naïve that he would allow the wool to get pulled over his eyes by an opportunistic actor, particularly in Season 6 when he had years of experience in managing his cast.  Chase would have greenlit the story only because he found something relevant and compelling in it.  Additionally, I think there is a possibility that Chase gave Gannascoli the role because his real-life weight loss fit in very well with the storyline.  Gannascoli’s real-world physical transformation neatly corresponds with Vito’s attempt to reinvent himself in SopranoWorld.  Keith Mitchell recognizes in his essay, “Until the Fat Man Sings,” that Vito’s weight loss is inextricably linked to his exploration of himself as a gay man:

Vito takes pride in his new, slimmer waistline, and he begins to wear clothes that fit his new bodily image.  That his new bodily image coincides with his acceptance of his homosexuality is not coincidental…More physically fit, Vito becomes psychologically confident to explore a life that does not conform to cultural norms promulgated in a society that views homosexuality as an anathema.

When I originally watched the series, something about either the storyline or Gannascoli’s performance (I wasn’t sure which) seemed to strike a false note.  Over re-watches, however, I’ve come to really appreciate Gannascoli—I think he is solid in the role both before and after Vito is outed.  I now believe that the reason why this story originally rang false to me is because it just felt too idyllic.  For example, the images of Vito and Jim undressing and making out in an open field under skies of blue felt too much like something out of a Hallmark movie (if Hallmark did gay stuff).  Chase usually excels at creating scenes that feel true-to-life, and so the fact that some of the Dartford scenes don’t feel very natural makes me wonder if perhaps Chase was trying to create something a little bit unreal.  Todd Vanderwerff over at wrote of this episode, “The more I look at the New Hampshire idyll this time around, the more I feel like its sheer implausibility within the show’s universe is supposed to mark it as just that: a fantasy.”  I agree completely.  The scenes in Dartford seem designed specifically to have a fairytale quality.  (I’ve been struggling not to call the gay-mobster storyline a “fairy” tale.  Sorry, I have a teenager’s sense of humor.)  I argued in my write-up for episode 6.06 that Chase may have supplied a clear clue that Dartford represents some sort of mythical fairytale:

Red riding hood - Sopranos Autopsy

Vito looked a bit like Little Red Riding Hood standing before the Wolf—Betty Wolf, that is—in the doorway of her cottage.  But in the fairytale setting of Dartford, the Wolf doesn’t eat the grandmother, the Wolf is herself grandmotherly: Betty Wolf treats Vito with kindness and understanding.  The genteel, magical quality of Dartford brings the dark realities of New Jersey mob-land into sharper relief.  Vito has a big, bad wolf back at home to worry about: Phil Leotardo.  Phil and Tony now meet at Lou Costello Memorial Park where Phil goes on a rant about the finook in Tony’s crew.  The park, with its statue of Costello, is interesting because it is such a unique, site-specific, instantly-recognizable place—very much in contrast to the bland, generic, corporate places (like Jamba Juice) that we see popping up everywhere in this episode.  But the park is also interesting because we might wonder if its statue of Lou holding a bat might be foreshadowing Vito’s death: will he get beat down with a baseball bat?  “Bat” imagery was used previously in episode 5.09 to add some menacing commentary to a scene, when Vito waited for Finn DeTrolio beneath the giant bat at Yankee Stadium:

baseball bats - Sopranos Autopsy

Now that I’m seeing Vito’s time in Dartford as a conscientious effort at fairytale-making, I’ve come to hold Chase’s “gay mobster” storyline in higher regard.  One of the ways that Chase is able to give resonance to Vito’s narrative is by carefully weaving it into the series: we viewers first learn of Vito’s homosexuality in episode 5.09; the mobsters in SopranoWorld learn of it in 6.05; Vito’s story takes center stage in 6.06 but then there is practically no attention paid to it in 6.07; it receives half the spotlight now in 6.08, but virtually no spotlight in 6.09; it becomes a focal point of 6.10, and it finally reaches a head in 6.11.  Chase is like a master chef, he knows how long to marinate a story, when to put indirect heat on it, when to baste, and when to move it over the fire.

Nevertheless, many viewers were (and still remain) displeased over how much attention was given to Vito’s story.  They are convinced that Chase was just using the story to pad out the extra length of Season 6.  They expected Chase to focus on more important issues in this final season.  But Chase revolts, to a large degree, against the idea that some stories are more “important” than others.  Storylines don’t fall into some rigid hierarchy of importance on The Sopranos.  Any story can be activated and pulled up to the front at any time.  This feature of the series adds to the realism of SopranoWorld, because there is no objective, universally agreed-upon pecking order of importance for real-life stories out in the real world either.  (News of a gruesome terrorist attack, for example, would be relatively unimportant to me if I learned of it while trapped in the jaws of an alligator.  Or—more difficult to admit—if the terrorist attack occurred in some village I had never heard of on the other side of the world.)

Over the length of the Western artistic tradition, heterosexual male viewpoints have defined and dominated the established hierarchy.  The awareness that this hierarchy is something that is constructed—and therefore something that can be deconstructed—is a relatively new realization, one that has shaped post-modern works like The Sopranos.  Chase began performing this deconstruction right with the opening shot of the series, when Tony Soprano’s dominance (i.e. masculinity and power) was subverted by filming him through the legs of a female statue.  In the second episode, Christopher’s line to Brendan—“guys don’t even know who to make payments up the ladder to”—signaled the destabilization and deconstruction of an established order within the mob that mirrored a destabilization within society as a whole.  Throughout the series, Chase rebels against the established narratives and viewpoints that have long dominated Western art.  Vito’s storyline here isn’t just a foray into exploring the social issue of gay rights; it is part of Chase’s sustained post-modern effort to replace the old, worn-out hierarchy with something that better fits our contemporary understanding of the world.


This hour, as per the usual, is filled with clever cuts but one in particular caught my eye:

clever cut JC

Dr. Melfi tells Tony that the most important thing in dealing with AJ is that he and Carmela “are in agreement on the issues, that you don’t undercut each other or act at cross-purposes.”  Chase immediately cuts from this scene to Carmela walking into AJ’s room to give him cash—and this is after Tony had told AJ that he isn’t getting any more money from them.  Carm undercuts and acts at cross-purposes from her husband.  There has always been a fundamental difference between the parenting ideologies of Carmela and Tony, and this difference will cause serious friction in 6B as AJ’s problems get worse.  (In his very next scene, we see AJ wearing a spiffy new jean-jacket at the club; it’s very likely that this is where Carm’s cash went, not into the suit he was supposed to buy for job or college interviews.)

When Tony first makes his come-on to Julianna, she rejects him by saying, “For once in my life, I will exercise a little self-control.”  This is our first clue that Julianna has a substance abuse problem.  Despite making this statement, Juliana does not exercise a little self-control—she is rarin’ to go when Tony comes over to sign the contract.  When he brusquely changes his mind and leaves, we see her drain a glass of the champagne that Tony had brought.  In the final episode of 6A, we learn that it was this specific interaction with Tony that began her relapse.  And in the next episode, Tony pulls Christopher off the sobriety wagon.  Julianna and Chris are both sabotaged by Tony, and this commonality between them (whether they realize it or not) is one of the things that eventually pulls them closer to one another.



  • Leave the gun, take the cannoli.  I’m sure Tony was just being hospitable and not making some subtle phallic reference by offering Julianna a cannoli when they first meet.  But I wonder if the writers were having a bit of fun because just moments earlier, Tony did compare his erection to another food item—a baguette.  And in the previous episode, Benny mentions he saw his son’s “cannoli” in the ultrasound.
  • Ha!  Tony describes his father as “an early community leader” to Julianna.
  • Ha!!  The girl that AJ meets at the club describes him as “so intense” when she gives him a back massage.  (Although, to be fair, AJ does now show an intensity uncommon for him, and he also does become more focused and thoughtful than we’ve ever seen him be by the end of 6A.)
  • It’s not clear to me whether the building that Tony sells to Jamba is one of his personal holdings or if he controls it on behalf of la famiglia.  In any case, Patsy and Burt are completely surprised to learn that they can no longer ply their racketeering trade there.  The irony is that by selling the building, Tony’s profit comes at a cost to his own famiglia members.
  • Soprano-world & the real-world: Tony agrees to sell out to Jamba, but just six weeks before this episode aired, the real-life Jamba Juice corporation was itself sold to a corporation headed by a former CEO of Blockbuster—which coincidentally is the company AJ works for now.
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65 responses to “Johnny Cakes (6.08)

  1. Atwell Avenue Boy

    A new autopsy appears! Thanks so much for these write-ups, I enjoy them immensely. Looking forward to “The Ride”.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Fading the screencap of Vito and Jim to represent the fading cultural animosity towards gay relationships, damn. I have to reread your writeups just so I can get all the little stuff like that.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. From the site homepage image, I see you have met the actor Joe Gannascoli himself. Lucky you!

    Liked by 1 person

    • You know, come to think of it, I don’t think we ever got that story from you, Ron. How did that great photo-op come about?


      • Well I guess the answer just reinforces the idea of Joe G as a bit of an opportunist, but anyway.. there was a Sopranos bus tour that met right around the corner from where that pic was taken, so Joe would set up shop in that spot so that he could sell autographed stuff to fans. There’s a funny little detail to the pic when you see it in its entirety—I’ll post the entire pic of me n’ Joe in my writeup for Moe n’ Joe…

        Liked by 1 person

  4. I agree that the scenic filming adds to the fantasy aspect of Vito’s “New Life”. I still find his character to be lacking. I can see how Johnnycakes can be attracted to him, just by virtue of his differences in personality than the other people in the town. It should get old fast though. But, Vito is so enmeshed in his old life. No work ethic, liar, plus not very bright…again I have to stress the motorcycle outfit…so cliche. I know gangsters have to be closeted because of the stupidity of macho ideas, I mean they don’t deserve to die over it. But look how he threatened Finn, touching him inappropriately..banking on the fact that Finn would be scared. He’s so dishonest…killing that man because of the accident, taking the cellphone, gambling….it shows how stupid he is to let himself be caught. He has no redeemable qualities. Yet he still goes back to his old life..when he could have easily disappeared and started over. The money and lifestyle appealed to him too much to give up. Jim gets wise to him pretty fast as well. I think the least of Vito’s issues is that he is gay..its his inability to change for the better, like everyone on the show. They think they want to change, but they really don’t want to. I feel bad for AJ in this episode as well, because he is so spoiled and sheltered. The parents have no leg to stand on with him. Carmela over compensates and parents from guilt..and Tony is ashamed of his son because he’s weak. He even criticizes his failure to kill uncle Junior while telling him he was wrong to do it. Still, AJ is lazy and unmotivated….I know its tough when your father casts a large shadow, hard to live up to, but where Meadow goes against the things she knows are wrong about her family and succeeds, he just doesn’t want to work hard either and be different from his father. I think this began in the third or fourth episode when the kid wouldn’t fight him because his parents were scared of Tony. He lost his sense of identity. He was still an idiot, but he was willing to stand up for himself and fight….the whole thing is depressing.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I know I’ll never get you to love Vito’s storyline, orangeannie, but maybe I’ll be able to get you to appreciate it some more by the time I get to the end of 6A!


      • Ron – I dunno about this ‘gay Vito thing’. Yes, most of us know/knew that there were/probably ARE gay/bisexual mobsters. How Vito goes from a very good earner to not only finding an idyllic, cozy town in New Hampshire where nearly every single man happens to be gay, but also finds a nice-looking guy to shack up with seems rather gratuitous to me. The only good thing to come out of this … well … mess is to witness the chaos that ensues when he’s outed. Tony, the rather bigoted, biased, arrogant boss doesn’t display the rage that we all expected. In fact, he’s more ‘on the fence’ ; while he doesn’t condone Vito’s sexual proclivity, he doesn’t exactly condemn it. And hence, the chaos (and brutal/unjustifiable violence) is pushed to the limit. Maybe that’s what Chase thought was needed, although I still question why.

        Liked by 1 person

    • I don’t think the mobsters want to change so much as they want to be changed. That is, just like with work, they want the reward without the effort. The lack of work ethic extends to all forms of work.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I admit I don’t see what is attractive to Jim about Vito. Unless it’s his just how different he is from the other guys in Jim’s orbit. I don’t have anything against his weight either. I think I don’t like him because in watching the series I know more about him than Jim does, and we know what kind of person he is. Jim can’t know that in the beginning, even though he discovers it pretty quickly. I can’t speak for anyone else’s bias….his CHARACTER in the show is repellent. It’s not that he’s gay or fat. It’s ironic that in the mobster world his worse offense is his homosexuality and that’s why he gets killed. I think Phil used him as an excuse to stick it to Tony for revenge. The actress who plays Phil’s wife was fantastic! “Father says, there’s nothing gay about hell.” “ My Tailor is going blind!! Walk in those shoes!” Classic.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. I appreciate every episode. It’s my favorite show ever. Just have different levels of appreciation. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Thanks for another great dive, Ron. You pointed out many details that I missed on multiple viewings.
    This is one of my favorite episodes. There’s so much here, but I always enjoy the recurring theme of
    Soprano crew members being given the choice to choose an alternative way of life.
    Big Pussy, Carmella, Chris, Eugene Pontecorvo, and Tony Soprano himself,
    have all seen that door open briefly, but with Vito we are treated to an
    extended exploration of how he handles his opportunity for an ‘alternative lifestyle’.

    The scene where Vito calls his wife with Thad’s cellphone and tells her “You would like it here”, and
    Marie replies “Tell me where, I’ll bring the kids, we’ll relocate” is heartbreaking when Vito says “I gotta go”,
    and closes the door of opportunity for the moment. Of course had he answered Marie, she might
    have told Phil Leotardo, then SopranoWorld would have come crashing into Dartford. Also, Vito can’t
    reconcile missing his family, with wanting to pursue Jim, especially after Marie’s “There are these
    church groups, they could cure you of this!” LOL!

    Vito has a template to follow in his crush – Jim, an out gay man who, surprisingly to Vito,
    doesn’t have to choose between being who he is, and having a family life with his daughter.
    That scene in the parking lot when Vito punches him in the face after Jim makes a move on him really
    revealed each man’s character. At the point where Jim won the fight and Vito was kneeling on the
    ground, I was conditioned by SopranoWorld to expect Jim to send Vito to the hospital by following up
    with an obscenity laced rapid series of vicious kicks to Vito’s head and ribs. Didn’t happen – not even
    after Vito grabbed the pipe. (Stop it!) Jim seemed to understand Vito’s internal conflicts.
    Would Vito have smashed Jim’s head with the pipe if he’d had the chance? In SopranoWorld, without a
    doubt. Change might be possible for Vito when he receives forgiveness after that true line,
    “Sometimes you tell a lie so long, you don’t know when to stop… you don’t know when it’s safe”.

    The scene of Jim & Vito making out by the lake was pretty tame. It wasn’t like the tent scene in “Brokeback Mountain”
    which came out the year before. Still it took balls for Chase to include this, because he had to know it wouldn’t
    be universally embraced by the audience, “…although that – the lesbian thing with the uh… Jennifer Beals, it’s not bad”.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Yes, I remember thinking the same thing about the fight scene. And how much Jim’s foot must have hurt the next day after kicking that pipe out of Vito’s hand.

      I wonder if Marie ever mentioned the name ‘Thad McCone’ to Phil. I can imagine the poor guy coming home one day, just to see Phil Leotardo emerge from the closet, flanked by a pair of goons…

      Liked by 2 people

      • I love that scene with Vito and Marie on the phone. Such a perfect blend of humor and pathos. As you noted, Gannascoli may have a reputation as a self promoter or opportunist, but that doesn’t mean he wasn’t also perfectly suited for his role on the show.

        “Some guy…”
        “Not that!”

        His delivery on those two lines was pitch perfect, and I crack up just thinking about it.

        Liked by 2 people

  8. I loved the Vito storyline. It annoyed me a bit that the leather bar scene was so over-the-top gay stereotyping (and I wondered where exactly Vito stashed that gear when he wasn’t wearing it), but the storyline itself I thought was a great exploration of some unexpected but valid questions about homosexuals in the mob and in contemporary society. It also rather blew my mind that Chase and company could make me feel such sympathy and grief for Vito of all people.

    The doomed love of Vito Spatafore and Jim Witowski inadvertently took on a greater tragic resonance for me on rewatches because of the unexplained suicide in late 2008 of John Costelloe, the actor (and former real-life NYFD firefighter) who played Jim.

    Liked by 2 people

  9. Usually, actors lose or gain weight depending on a role in the script but not in SopranoWorld. No sir, here we have an actor who lost his weight for personal reasons and then, together with Chase, modified the role accordingly.

    The man, the legend – Joe Gannascoli.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Trivial point here, but I’ve lived in different parts of New England my whole life and have never heard of Johnny cakes as a food item. Maybe it’s local to that part of New Hampshire, like how in the area where I live, a soft ice cream is a “creamee “.

    Liked by 1 person

    • According to Wikipedia, “The modern johnnycake is found in the cuisine of New England, and often claimed as originating in Rhode Island.”

      Liked by 1 person

    • Another trivial point: Every comment section on these episodes seems to have a discussion about johnnycakes being (or not being) a New England staple but all I can focus on is the man Johnnycakes himself and his obvious Jersey/New York accent.. The guy sounds like almost every contractor I’ve ever met from Bergen county-Brooklyn. I’m fine with this episode but this guy’s accent always throws me off cause that shit is definitely not New English (New Englandish?)

      Liked by 2 people

  11. Don’t you think Phil was a little over the top with his attitude towards Vito? I think it had to do with revenge about his brother dying. He never let that go, and was resentful of Tony who took away his opportunity to torture Tony B. by killing him first. Remember Vito was a top earner…that’s a lot of money that Tony lost. Do you think it was truthful in the depiction of how angry Phil got? I mean, would he really be killed for that in the real mob?

    Liked by 1 person

    • His bro’s death probably still fuels a lot of his animosity toward New Jersey but I think his (over)reaction was mainly gay-panic, a reaction that would surely be common in the uber-macho world of the mob, probably even more so in 2006…

      Liked by 1 person

      • To be fair, the people who were “gay panicking” were right. Since we’ve legalized gay marriage, there’s been plenty of people having sex with dogs in the streets. If we all followed the word of God and stoned these people to death we’d be in a better place right now

        Liked by 1 person

  12. The whole thing seems contrived, we all know he will be killed for it someone will kill him, the rest is filler. If he leaves he cannot see his family, if he goes back he is basically dead.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Vito’s NH life is his version of Tony’s coma world – a surreal chance to be someone else

    Liked by 1 person

  14. The Coming of Carlo

    I’m surprised you left out the part where Melfi and Tony’s conversation about AJ being an anti-aphrodisiac leads them to brush on Tony’s long-running infidelity. Tony’s recent accident has brought about a strange and ironic self-awareness about betraying his wife with other women. What’s fascinating is that Tony actually admits sleeping with Skiff would be betraying his wife whereas in earlier seasons we weren’t really sure how Tony kept justifying his infidelity.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. “…warm, convivial and authentic…” Just Like Arthur Bucco according to New Jersey Zaget.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Robye Shirley

    I love that the episode is named after a “little guy” menu item like Johnny Cakes when the episode is mostly centered around corporate takeover.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. This is a much better episode than I remember, but then I always forget these three stories take place in the same hour. Very distinct narratives, yet you illuminate these contrasts so well, Ron. Like Tony, you see all the permutations.

    Two stray bits: Despite one of the best closing lines, Johnny Cakes has one of the more “oooh…eeesh…” opening moments for me. Just so abrupt! It does remind me how rarely we see the Sopranos have sex, though. Meanwhile, Junior steals the show with one line. Dude’s paranoid about his mail and probably thinks Aj is the other Anthony, but he’s still street enough to yell “That’s not my knife!” Corrado Soprano is, and always will be, the absolute gangster of this series.

    I forgot about Vincent Piazza. His portrayal of Lucky Luciano is one of the best parts of Boardwalk Empire, but he barely registers here. I remember the whole “they got rhesus monkeys working there” blowout later, but had compleeeeetely forgot about the scene where we see WHY he got fired. Like, no memory at all. Also, small continuity error, I think: isn’t AJ’s hair longer in the boat scene, and ONLY the boat scene?

    Ron, the old wisdom has it that each season has a Tony the ____ or Tony’s relationship with ____ scheme, as in 1 is Tony the Son/Tony’s relationship with his Ma. The whole of 6 is the “Tony the Man/Tony’s relationship with himself”….but what if it’s Tony the American/Tony’s Relationship with America? Terrorism and firefighters, corporatism, the contrast w/ idyllic small towns, electronic fraud, Bush-era gay panic, and I’m sure there’s some obvious ones I’m missing. Not all of this happens directly to him, but he’s gotta live in the world. Is Tony’s moral (and to some degree physical) decay a mirror of post-911 America? In the Pilot, T offers some bleak “good times are over” thoughts, that he got end at the end of it. But the first half of the show isn’t always as bleak. It’s still the 90s, and then Y2k doesn’t end the world, so everybody was “way up.” Ritchie even comments on Clinton prosperity late in S2. But everything comes to an end, and that original cynical feeling returns with S4, while the Twin Towers don’t.
    I don’t think I’m touting anything revelatory here; I’ll even ask if this is actually just real frickin’ obvious.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Definitely, I think S6 is very much about Tony the American. Previous seasons had established “Tony the Everyman”—boredom and ambition and contradiction and regularness are part of every life, regardless of what country or culture you live in. But S6 in particular has Tony navigating some uniquely American issues. New viewers nowadays may not pick up on this so much, because they may not be familiar with the issues and politics of the early-to-mid 2000s. That’s why I sometimes try to mention the contexts in which the episodes originally aired (even though I take some shit then for “bringing politics” into the write-ups…)

      Liked by 1 person

      • I feel that on the politics. It was a very different world, even as similar as it also was. Remember the Newsroom? Barely feels like the same country. And this writeup reminded me of the significance of Johnny Cakes being a fireman. Speaking of Jim, I like that 6A gives us two episodes in a row in which a civilian gets the upper hand in a fight, for a change.

        Liked by 1 person

  18. Pingback: The Soprano Onceover – #86. “Johnny Cakes” (S6E8) | janiojala

  19. Notice Vito eating nothing but carbs now? bread, pancakes, beer…

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dylan – Vito’s been off of his diet since he left New Jersey; he was eating BBQ ribs in his car (and wiped the sauce off his fingers on his pants, gross!). The guy is a pig! 😩


  20. Dmitry Bondarenko

    I always thought, that if AJ got charged with attempted murder, Tony would have flipped in order to save him from the jail.
    Greetings from Russia.

    Liked by 1 person

    • That’s an intriguing thought..


      • Dmitry Bondarenko

        Tony truly loves his children, so I think, that he would have done anything in order to save his son from a prison – a place, where AJ wouldn’t last for 10 seconds.
        I adnire your writings, The Sopranos is a truly popular TV Series in Russia, I have watched for the first time when I was 11 years old. I even learned some English with The Sopranos.

        Liked by 1 person

      • I have to wonder who would Tony flip on? Usually when people flip, they inform on people higher up than them. But Tony is the boss. Who would he testify against that would be more valuable than him? Possibly, he could inform on the New York families? Who would be considered bigger fish than New Jersey? The New York families always considered New Jersey to be some “glorified crew” or “pygmy thing,” not on the same level with them. Maybe the Feds agreed with that assessment.
        Though a similar situation arose with Carlo and his son. Carlo’s son Jason was a student at Rutgers who was also running drugs and gambling among the student population. Carlo was so proud of his son’s initiative being both a student and aspiring criminal. Tony shared Carlo’s admiration for his son and Tony encouraged AJ to hang around with Jason in the hopes that Jason’s drive and determination would rub off.
        But then we learn Carlo has become an informant for the FBI and that a big reason for his decision is that his son was arrested and he is hoping to spare his son from prison by trading what information he has. In the final episode, Tony strongly suspects that Carlo is the secret witness that his lawyer warns him about. Although we never see what becomes of this, the episode presents Carlo and his son as the cause of Tony’s possible downfall. While Tony was always ashamed of his weak petulant real son, he may in fact be undone by the strong strapping lad that he had wished was his son.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Dmitry Bondarenko

          Durasin. Tony could rat out quite a lot of things, including:
          1) HUD scam and that Assemblyman Zellman is an active part in it;
          2) Construction rackets, which he had jointly performed with NYC family;
          3) He was a part in lots of major sitdowns with Lupertazzi’s, so he could rat out the top mamagent of the said family;
          4) He could have ratted out corrupt police officers.
          Also during the time of the 6th Season there was one boss, who flipped in 2004 – Joseph Massino (Head of the Bonnano Crime Family).

          Liked by 1 person

    • If you want the amateur opinion of someone who went to law school on a full-ride scholarship, and subsequently and promptly dropped out, there is no WAY what AJ did could have even gotten him CHARGED with attempted murder, even when analyzed under the criminal standard of weighing the evidence in a light most favorable to the prosecution. Assault at best, and not even first-degree at that.

      Liked by 1 person

  21. Love this episode for two scenes – Patsy Parisi and Burt Gervasi in The Great Seattle Coffee Experience and Caputo’s Live Poultry follow-up. The incorporation of independant stores cannot be all bad if it suffocates protection rackets! It also neatly demonstrates how profit overides any care familias (or corporations) have for their workers or the sustainablity of their industry.

    Liked by 1 person

  22. But AJ is more “Fredo” than “Michael.” In fact, he drops his knife just at the moment of truth much like Fredo dropped his gun as he tried to defend his father from the hitmen in G1

    Funny you should make that comparison. In the Season 5 episode “Sentimental Education,” the guidance counselor, Mr. Wegler (who is then dating Carmela) pressures AJ’s teacher to raise the grade for AJ’s “90% Cliff Notes” essay to try to help his bleak college prospects. The teacher says that won’t make a difference and that AJ is “lucky to go to a trade school.” The teacher then asks Wegler “So what does it mean to the kid who really breaks his ass in here if Fredo Corleone can get a C?”

    Liked by 1 person

  23. You’re usually good with not revealing spoilers, I don’t know what happened this time 😦

    Liked by 1 person

  24. R.I.P. John Costelloe (Johnny Cakes), 2008

    Liked by 1 person

  25. I must confess this one is not in my top half of episodes; although it’s obviously still much better than most anything else ever on TV. The storyline just seems to pale in comparison to other, stronger episodes, and, perhaps more importantly, it features Vito and AJ, two of the most unlikable characters on the show (and not exactly the best actors of the bunch). There are still other enjoyable moments, of course, but it’s primarily memorable more for the cringe-worthy scenes. As others have said, the whole gay mobster thing just seems contrived – one of the few times in the series I felt the loss of the suspension of disbelief.

    Liked by 1 person

  26. As mentioned, another episode that only improves with repeated viewing. and aside from the Vito plot there is so much else going on here.
    It’s also one of the few episodes where I feel sorry for Carmela, as the doting wife proudly helping her husband get ready for his er, business meeting.
    And Julianna Skiff – interesting choice of name (not only keeping the actress’s actual first name), but Skiff? Wonder if it has any link to the Italian ‘schifoso’, meaning disgusting? Although at first glance she comes across as a polished, attractive professional, but we soon realise it’s just a front.

    Liked by 1 person

  27. I wonder why Tony didn’t hold AJ’s badly (and rather ludicrous) botched attempt to kill Corrado over the kid’s head. That could have ‘inspired’ AJ to get a job, go back to college, and just plain get his s*t together. All of this mess due to irresponsible and piss-poor parenting. 😣


    • P.S. Let me start off by saying that AJ is NOT a normal kid, nor does he have a ‘normal IQ’ (just listen to his responses when shown pictures of horses), even though his parents were told otherwise. Again, who in the world would want to let mommy and daddy know that their son probably has a borderline IQ! I doubt whether AJ could be inspired by anything. His sporadic ‘spurts’ of interest in life (i.e., the ‘real world’) are just that – sporadic. This kid was doomed from the get-go; his parents were way too self-involved, and thus unable, to provide him with a stable home life. Tony’s emotional instability (uncontrollable bouts of rage, deep depression, panic attacks) and utter failure to be a nurturing parent and Carmela’s instability (overly- pampering, harsh/unwarranted criticism) were a recipe for disaster.
      Noteworthy is that Meadow also grew up in this chaotic family, but was somehow able to function pretty normally. Why? She was highly intelligent and motivated – qualities that her kid brother should also have possessed but didn’t. She’ll always be the family’s ‘success’, while AJ will always be the family’s failure. Pity.


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