Join the Club (6.02)

A beacon shines in the distance of the strange and
mysterious place that Tony
finds himself wandering through.

Episode 67 – Originally Aired March 19, 2006
Written By David Chase
Directed By David Nutter


There have been many polarizing episodes of The Sopranos but perhaps none evoked the extreme responses that “Join the Club” did.  Many fans and professional critics, such as Time magazine’s James Poniewozik, include this episode in their top ten lists.  But many others are almost physically repulsed by it.  It is an audacious and risk-taking hour, and therefore a wide range of responses is to be expected.  Alan Sepinwall of The Star-Ledger applauded David Chase during an interview for putting such an unconventional episode right after one that appealed more to his “hits-and-tits” fans:

I complimented him on having the on­ions to put a major dream sequence like this so early in the season, consid­ering how many fans complain about the dreams…Chase is pushing his chips to the center of the table and telling the audience they had better go all in—murder and therapy, flatulence jokes and metaphysics—if they intend to stay at the table for this final season.

Chase tosses us headfirst into the weirdness.  For the first ten minutes of the hour, we are left to wonder at what it is exactly that we’re looking at.  The previous episode ended with Tony bleeding and unconscious on a kitchen floor, and then this hour begins with him waking up in a hotel room.  We can’t even be sure that it is Tony.  The man looks like Anthony Soprano and calls himself “Anthony Soprano,” but he has a different manner, and no thick Jersey accent.  We’ve been primed from earlier episodes to believe that this is another dream sequence.  But the sequences here, bizarre as they are, lack that jumpy, surreal quality that characterized previous Sopranos dream sequences—there are no talking fish here, or teeth falling out of Tony’s mouth, or a butterfly sitting on Ralph Cifaretto’s bald head.  In the Sepinwall interview, Chase refrains from giving a definitive explanation of the bizarre sequences, but he does say, “I frankly would not call those ‘dreams.'”  (And in a much earlier interview with Martha Nochimson, Chase said that Season 6 would feature “other mental states that people think are dreams, but they’re not.”)  Although Tony is ostensibly in Costa Mesa, there are plenty of clues throughout the hour that suggest that Tony is actually stuck in Purgatory, perhaps most notably that a beacon (Heaven?) shines in the distance while wildfires (Hell?) rage nearby (and the religious program on the hotel TV seems to underscore the possibility of this being some part of the Afterlife):

Join the club - Sopranos Autopsy

Of course, Purgatory (as it is usually defined, a sort of waiting room for the dead) doesn’t strictly make sense considering that Tony is not deceased yet—he is laying in a coma in an intensive care unit.  Nevertheless, the idea of Purgatory fits in nicely with the idea that Tony is here to “purge” the many sins that are on his existential rap sheet. Additionally, the episode title seems to suggest that Tony is in some Purgatory-like place between life and death, just one step away from “joining the club” of the dead.  Ultimately, however, it really doesn’t matter whether Tony is dreaming or visiting the Afterlife or has slipped into some alternate reality.  What does matter is Chase’s intentions.  Whatever else it may be, Tony’s unconscious sojourn is first and foremost a narrative device that Chase uses to explore questions of identity.

The Sopranos had thematized the search for self and meaning right from its opening hour.  Over the years, Tony and many other characters have implicitly questioned themselves and their place in the world.  Those implicit questions of identity and meaning are explicitly voiced in this hour, when Tony speaks to his beautiful dinner companion:

Tony:  I’m 46 years old.  I mean, who am I?  Where am I going?
Lee:  Join the club.

Lee’s reponse confirms the universality of Tony’s concerns.  There is a club, called the human race, whose members have all had—or will have, if they live long enough—questions about identity and meaning.  Tony is a part of the club.  Being boss of the New Jersey mob doesn’t exempt him from having these questions about himself.  Every question represents a quest, but these particular questions make up the ultimate quest: the quest for self-knowledge.  Tony wakes up to find that he has someone else’s wallet and briefcase, and his hunt for his own wallet and briefcase in this hour is a thinly veiled metaphor of his hunt for his own self.  This is never an easy hunt for anyone.  Part of the difficulty stems from the fact that the Self is such a shifting, multi-layered thing…

Tony Soprano has always been a complicated character, but his identity is literally shifting and multi-layered here: he appears as an alternate version of himself who also has the identity of “Kevin Finnerty” superimposed on him.  (I totally didn’t get that his last name was a pun on “infinity” until that bar patron made a bad joke about it.  Thanks David Chase.)  The viewer has fun trying to figure out all the various ways that Tony/Kevin is different from our Tony Soprano, as well as all the various ways that their lives and personalities overlap.  He is still something of an alpha-male, attracting Lee, but he is a committed husband now—he does not cheat.  Over the phone, his wife and kids sound more like the Brady Bunch than the Soprano family.  He seems to be a contractor for the Dept. of Defense (which would mean he ultimately works for George Bush instead of la cosa nostra—that’s something of an improvement).  He is a former patio furniture salesman.  (It was in the Pilot that we first heard Tony imagine this particular career for himself had he been able to avoid the Mob.)

The coma-dream sequences have a complexity that I think is pretty unique in the annals of television.  The coma-dream is mystifying and kind of spooky but also quietly resolute in its determination to reach the end of the hour without spoon-feeding answers to the viewers at home.  The “locked in” trope is very common in TV and film, we’ve all seen that type of situation where a protagonist gets a flat tire on the side of a mountain, for example, only to discover that his spare tire is also flat.  The protagonist feels more and more stuck as each avenue of escape gets closed off.  Chase’s complex reworking of this old trope puts a very unique tone and atmosphere into this episode, and it leaves viewers feeling trapped and disoriented, just as Tony feels.  Chase’s calculated misdirection and customary use of ambiguity puts us further off-kilter.  But the true complexity of this hour comes from the nature of the path that Chase is sending Tony down now.

As I watched Tony wander through his coma-dreams, I was reminded of mythologist Joseph Campbell’s idea of the Left-Hand Path.  This is a path of self-discovery, one that deviates from the normal Right-Hand Path of everyday life.  The Left-Hand Path is full of mysteries and dangers that the Hero must negotiate as he tries to complete his quest.  Generally speaking, an odyssey on the Left-Hand Path requires the Hero to abandon many of society’s rules and norms—and therefore, certain aspects of the Hero and his odyssey may be deemed to be socially unacceptable.  What is ironic here, though, is that given Tony Soprano’s regular status as a criminal and moral outlier, the Left-Hand Path that takes him out of his normal life now actually makes him conform more to society’s definition of a productive, legitimate member of the community.  It is this inversion that truly complicates the hour: it underscores how Tony’s search for identity and self-knowledge is complicated by his place within a Mafia family and mob famiglia.

As powerful as all the loaded imagery and “symbolism” and superimposed personality stuff is in the coma-dreams, it is arguably all the various scenes outside of Tony’s near-death experience that catapult this episode into so many top-ten lists.  The hospital scenes are very nicely done, accurately depicting the back-and-forth swing between urgency and weariness that is so characteristic of ICU waiting rooms.  Edie Falco is achingly good in this hour—we feel your pain, Carmela.  (A shot of Christopher holding a sobbing Carmela always bring a sting to the corner of my eye.)  Meadow annoys Dr. Plepler with her treatment suggestions.  Plepler also seems annoyed by Janice’s “Janice-ness.”  Infighting and tension within the mob grow as the guys—particularly Paulie and Vito—scramble to get brownie points with the Boss’s wife and kids.  Vito squeezes out a long fart into the Soprano couch.  (It’s an ambiguous fart: is it meant to convey Vito’s true feelings about the Soprano family, or is Chase simply depicting real life, in all its stinky banality, once again?)  Silvio becomes Acting Boss.  Corrado is slipping further into confusion.  But the character that really draws much of our attention is AJ.

SopranoWorld becomes a genuinely dark place in Season 6, where hopes of redemption dwindle for virtually all of its characters.  Arguably no character personifies this descent into darkness as AJ does.  AJ is incredibly callous here.  He fakes a stomach flu to avoid his familial responsibilities.  He airs his family’s dirty laundry to a cute news reporter.  He feigns interest in the environmentally-friendly Toyota Prius when what he really wants is an M3 or a Shelby GT500.  (I’ll give him a pass for this, I was a Mustang guy at his age too.)  He even uses the phrase “Poor you,” which is a dialogic shorthand in SopranoWorld for cold-heartedness and insensitivity.  When he recognizes that he has built some equity in his mother’s good graces by spending the night with his father, he immediately tries to take advantage of it by choosing that precise moment to tell Carmela that he has flunked out of college.  Rosalie tells Carmela a possibility that Carm doesn’t want to face: “Maybe AJ is just a selfish boy who doesn’t give a shit.”

Meadow, in sharp contrast to her cold-blooded brother, is maturing into a warm, humane young woman.  She reads Jacques Prevert’s poem, “Our Father,” to her father as he lays unconscious.  The poem has been embraced in atheist and humanist circles for how it takes the most well-known prayer in Christianity and gives it an earthly focus.  We only see Meadow recite the first three lines to her dad.  I’m including the entire piece here because I think it provides a perspective that characters in SopranoWorld rarely express (and I will argue in the next write-up that it may even play a role in saving Tony’s life).

Our Father who art in heaven
Stay there
And we will stay on the Earth
That is sometimes so pretty
With its mysteries of New York
And then its mysteries of Paris
Which rival those of the Trinity
With its little Canal de l’Ouroq
Its Great Wall of China
Its River of Morlaix
Its Bêtises de Cambrai
With its Pacific Ocean
And its two pools at the Tuilleries
With its good children and its bad apples
With all the wonders of the world
That are there
Simply on the Earth
Offered to everyone
Wondering at themselves at how they could be so wonderful
And who dare to show it
Like a beautiful naked girl who dares to show it
With the horrible misfortunes of the world
That are legion
With their legionnaires
With their torturers
With the masters of the world
The masters with their praetors their traitors their raiders
With the seasons
With the years
With the pretty girls and the old codgers
With the straw of misery rotting in the steel of cannons.

The poem suggests that living in this world, despite its miseries and misfortunes, can be a beautiful and meaningful experience.  Tony has struggled so mightily with questions of meaning and identity, at least in part, because of the poisonous influence of his nihilistic mother.  She believed that there is no meaning in the universe—it’s all a big nothing, a big nada.  Tony has inherited his mother’s toxic philosophy of nothingness, and he is passing it on to his son.  Livia and AJ would surely find Ernest Hemingway’s version of the “Our Father” to be more accurate than Jacques Prevert’s version:

Our nada who art in nada, nada be thy name.  Thy kingdom nada thy will be nada in nada as it is in nada. Give us this nada our daily nada and nada us our nada as we nada our nadas and nada us not into nada but deliver us from nada; pues nada. Hail nothing full of nothing, nothing is with thee. (“A Clean Well-Lighted Place”)

Our nada who art in nada, nada be thy name thy kingdom nada thy will be nada in nada as it is in nada. Give us this nada our daily nada and nada us our nada as we nada our nadas and nada us not into nada but deliver us from nada; pues nada. Hail nothing full of nothing, nothing is with thee
Our nada who art in nada, nada be thy name thy kingdom nada thy will be nada in nada as it is in nada. Give us this nada our daily nada and nada us our nada as we nada our nadas and nada us not into nada but deliver us from nada; pues nada. Hail nothing full of nothing, nothing is with thee

Prevert’s humanistic poem represents a middle ground between the pat comforts of Christianity and the brutality of nihilism.  I think that the Buddhists in Tony’s coma-experience also represent an alternative to both Christianity and nihilism (but this only becomes clearer over the next two episodes).  Right now, the Buddhists seem to represent karma—one of the monks smacks Tony/Kevin right in the face because he is (ostensibly) in violation of a past contract.  (We can guess how mobster Tony Soprano would have reacted to the slap, and so Tony/Kevin’s clumsy, indignant response becomes the funniest moment of the episode. And he’s still bitching about it when he calls his wife later.)  Some viewers have noted that Tony/Kevin gets slapped at the Omni Hotel, which seems to give the scene greater religious significance, because the Latin prefix omni is often used to describe God: omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent.  I have a somewhat different take on why Chase may have set this scene at the “Omni,” and I’ll come back to it my entry for “The Fleshy Part of the Thigh.”

Karma may also be playing a role in the hotel stairwell.  Steps and staircases have long been sites of pain and cruelty in SopranoWorld, and this seems to also be true in the limbo-world where Tony now finds himself.  Tony/Kevin takes a hard tumble down the stairs of the Omni Hotel.  (See my entry for 4.03 for a listing of incidents related to staircases.)  After the fall, Tony/Kevin wakes up in a hospital where he is found to be at risk for Alzheimer’s.  (It was in episode 4.09 that Corrado similarly was diagnosed with possible neuro-degeneration soon after taking a tumble down some steps.)

The reason why Tony/Kevin had to take the stairs was because the elevator wasn’t working.  As he waited for the broken elevator, we could see that he was on the seventh floor.  This little detail supports the argument that Tony is not in Purgatory, but in Hell.  Dante, in his Inferno, reserves the 7th circle of Hell for violent criminals and murderers.  Not surprisingly, the DVD Scene Selection menu names this DVD chapter “Seventh Circle.”  (And another chapter is titled “Hotel California,” obviously a reference to The Eagles’ hellish hotel.)

7th Floor - Sopranos Autopsy

Maybe he is in hell, maybe it’s purgatory, maybe it is neither—as I said earlier, it doesn’t really matter exactly where Tony is.  We’re better off approaching “Join the Club” with open-mindedness and flexibility because of the inherent ambiguity of so many of its elements.  One such ambiguous element is “the beacon” (which eventually becomes one of the great artifacts of Sopranos mythology).  The shining light brackets this hour, appearing in the opening seconds of the episode as Tony wakes, and again in the final seconds as Tony prepares to go to bed. 

2 beacons

What exactly is the shining light?  I don’t think it’s possible (or necessary) to define it absolutely.  It may represent God or heaven or Life or Death or enlightenment.  It may be the light that Tony must reach if he is to escape his current predicament.  It might just be an airport at the edge of town.  It may be all of these things, or none.  I will come back to the beacon in later write-ups, but even then, I will not have a fixed idea of what the beacon represents.  Like the black bear in Season 5, the beacon is referenced multiple times throughout the season but still manages to retain its basic ambiguity. “What is the beacon?” is just one of those questions like “Who am I?” or “Where am I going?” that Chase has little interest in answering definitively.


As I argued in my previous write-up, I believe that one of Chase’s primary concerns in Season 6 is to conclusively locate The Sopranos in its American milieu.  Terrorism, and all of its related aspects, was at the forefront of our thoughts at the time that “Join the Club” originally aired.  We not only worried about the threat of another attack, we debated the politics and efficacy of the War on Terror, while disputing what constituted anti-Islamic sentiment both in our foreign policy and at home.  Issues related to terrorism crop up throughout Season 6, beginning here when Agents Harris and Goddard fill Christopher in on the FBI’s work in combatting terror.  Chris dismisses the notion that he, as an ordinary citizen, could play a role in fighting terrorism.  Agent Goddard subtly suggests that Chris is shirking his duties as an American.  Chase, notably, cuts from this scene where Chris gets his American patriotism questioned to the scene at the hospital where Carmela plays Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers’ “American Girl” on the CD player:

An American Girl - Sopranos Autopsy

While the classic song’s jangling guitars ring in the background, Carmela reminisces some of the good times that she and Tony had.  Carmela Soprano is an American Girl.  Some of the details of her life may differ greatly from those of the typical American woman, but the majority of her worries and hopes and memories are not very atypical at all.  The Sopranos is a classic American tale.  Whether it is delving into large-scale national issues like terrorism or probing into characters’ lives at a much more intimate level, the series is exploring what it means to be American in the 21st century.

Some of the details of Tony Soprano’s life may differ greatly from those of the average guy, but he has always been portrayed essentially as a typical American Man.  By turning Tony the mobster into Tony the businessman in this episode, Chase is underlining how typically American he really is.  It makes it much more difficult to distance ourselves from Tony Soprano when he is presented as a legitimate, successful businessman (in line for a government contract, no less) as opposed to when he is presented as a mobster.  In her essay, “From Here to InFinnerty: Tony Soprano and the American Way,” Professor Terri Carney argues that this episode highlights our (and Tony’s) complicit participation in a dehumanizing, consumeristic society.  She writes that both the Mafia and our middle-class baby-boomer consumer culture…

…espouse individualist values, thrive in liberal markets, and dabble in partial morality to justify their wealth accumulation and the me-first practices that obtain that wealth…The fact that Tony Business [aka Tony/Kevin] is being held accountable for another man’s immoral practices dramatizes degrees of guilt and complicity within a business culture that defines success by monetary gain and reduces humanity to a stack of identification cards and boarding passes.

Prof. Carney contends that the reason why so many fans were turned off by this episode is not so much its foray into the surreal as it is the fact that “Join the Club” tells us something about the crookedness of the American Way—which is something that many of us just don’t want to hear about.  But we will hear more about it.  Chase has more to say on the topic (and I will be coming back to Carney’s essay in my next write-up).


In the credits, one of the doctors at the hospital is listed as “Dr. Ba.”  (I’m guessing it’s the bald Asian doctor who looks a bit like one of the monks in Tony’s coma-dream.)  William Burroughs identified Ba as “the heart, often treacherous” during the previous episode’s “Seven Souls” montage.  More accurately, in Egyptian mythology Ba is the soul or spirit of a person which manifests itself as a bird at the moment of the person’s death, and which eventually reunites with the dead body.  Did David Chase have these connections in mind when he gave the name “Ba” to the doctor?  Possibly, but I’m not going to hazard a guess what the greater significance of it might be.  It’s probably just another example of Chase throwing in connections that are meant to pull at us at a subconscious level.



  • David Chase wrote this unorthodox hour, which is not surprising given that he also scripted the non-traditional narratives of “Funhouse” and “The Test Dream.”  I guess if you want something weird done right, you gotta do it yourself.
  • Though this episode is far from being universally loved, there seems to be a consensus among viewers that Moby’s “When It’s Cold I’d Like to Die” which closes the hour is one of the great song selections of the series.
  • Because he is unconscious, Tony may not be able to enjoy Deep Purple’s “Smoke on the Water” playing on the radio in his hospital room.  We might remember that Tony fell unconscious behind the wheel while this same song played on his car radio in “Guy Walks Into A Psychiatrist’s Office” (2.01).
  • Almost at the precise moment when the Buddhist monk slaps Tony, we also hear the bell of a nearby elevator. I’m going to have a lot more to say about Buddhism, slaps and bells in the write-up for the final hour.
  • Carmela apologizes to comatose Tony here for having told him that he is going to hell.  (We saw the incident that she is referring to in the Pilot episode.)  The irony is that Tony may actually be loitering around Hell—depending on how you interpret the Costa Mesa scenes—as she makes her apology.
  • Tony/Kevin is diagnosed with the potential for Alzheimer’s disease in this episode, an hour which greatly explores notions of identity. The great tragedy of the disease, of course, is that it causes the sufferer to completely lose his sense of identity over time.
  • At one point, Vito Spatafore says that Corrado “Marvin Gaye’d” Tony.  (Gaye was shot to death by his father.)  Some viewers have noted that Marvin Gaye’s last concert was in Costa Mesa.  Is this significant to why Chase set the near-death experience in Costa Mesa?  Nah, probably not.  I’m with Maurice Yacowar and others that believe Chase may have chosen Costa Mesa simply because it sounds a little bit like “cosa nostra.”  
  • Looks like little Nica might have gotten a read on Vito Spatafore.  When he discusses closet homosexuality, the little girl turns right towards him:

  • On the DVD commentary track, Falco, Sigler and Iler note that it had been a while since they were directed by someone outside the usual stable of directors.  “Join the Club” is the one and only episode that David Nutter directed, and I think that his lack of prior experience with the series serves this episode well: this hour’s distinctive texture and tone might not have been achieved by Tim Van Patten or Alan Coulter or someone more closely tied to The Sopranos.
  • This hour shares a trait with “From Where to Eternity” (2.09).  In that episode, Christopher purportedly had a near-death experience while comatose, and—just as with Tony’s experience here—we cannot be sure whether he visited Hell or Purgatory or if it was just a dream or a hallucination or something else more inexplicable…
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111 responses to “Join the Club (6.02)

  1. Excellent as always, Ron, but especially considering this is a challenging episode to comprehend.

    Dr. Ba is the doctor that gives Carmela the upsetting news, right before she breaks down and Christopher holds her. She refers to him by name, although it happens real quick and it’s easy to miss.


  2. these reviews are awesome and I thank you for taking the time and effort.


  3. Maybe just me, but I always think the voice of Kevin Finnerty’s wife sounds exactly like Gloria Trillo.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Hi Ron, excellent write-up as usual, thank you!

    There are parallels between this episode and the Pilot: Christopher sends Tony a CD player, in the Pilot, Tony brings Livia a CD player. Tony congratulates his daughter for making the volleyball team, in the Pilot, Meadow plays volleyball. Christopher appears with the pigs’ heads at Satriale’s, and there are the Costa Mesa fires, whereas in the Pilot—as you educated me—the fires in the poolside barbecue and at Vesuvio’s connect Tony’s two lives.

    I wonder if Chase is showing us Tony “reaching back” to connect his journey through Purgatory (if that is what Costa Mesa represents), with the beginning of his existence? If so, interesting: we as viewers can travel through Tony’s existence only as far back as the Pilot (except of course for flashbacks and stories we are given.)

    Throughout the episode we see a number of “twins”: When Tony/Kevin first awakens in his hotel room, 2 each of lamps, pictures, pillows on both the bed and armchair…each object quite similar to its twin. Later, the 2 bartenders position themselves similarly at the bar, there are 2 flight attendants in the hotel lobby, the 2 pigs’ heads in Satriale’s, Ahmed and Muhammed down their shots of booze in unison, etc. All to underscore the duality of Tony’s existence in Costa Mesa?

    You mention AJ’s callousness; he is one of the few characters allowed into Tony’s hospital room who is not wearing blue. Until he stays to spend the night with Tony, and awakens wrapped in a blue blanket.

    Thanks as always for your Autopsy, without which I would likely not notice the above; my apologies if I’m inadvertently repeating what others have noted/written elsewhere. And, even if I am way off base, it still makes for more engaged viewing. I appreciate your taking time to create your write-ups and the insights you deliver!

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Hi Ron, thanks for your response! Another potential Costa Mesa/Pilot connection: In Mayhem (6.03), J.T. Dolan says, during the pitch meeting, something like: “The Boss is a pretty solid role.” Meaning, of course, the role in Cleaver modeled after Tony. When J.T. says it, cigar smoke clouds the screen. In the Pilot, after Tony collapses at his barbecue, he is obscured by “smoke” from the fire extinguisher.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Hi Ron, once again thank you!
    After an hour so intense and complex, the end completely disarms the viewer, if there is perfection in television, the closing moments of this episode certainly is one of those.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Hi Ron: attention is given to Tony’s breathing tube: it is blue and white, similar to colors worn by certain characters. When Carmella and A.J. talk to Tony in the hospital, at times the tube appears on screen, whereas Tony himself does not. In the first couple scenes in Costa Mesa, Tony appears with tube-like columns over his shoulder (although I listened for a tune by the Tubes, didn’t catch one).
    A possible connection to the Pilot: in the opening sequence of the Pilot, one of the first things Dr. Melfi says to Tony, is: “I understand…you were unable to breathe?”
    Perhaps the breathing tube, which delivers life-giving air to Tony’s sepsis-prone body, relates to his opportunities to learn…from therapy, and/or his trip to Costa Mesa…he has the choice to purge the sins on his existential rap sheet, as you nicely state in your write-up (I recall he rips the tube out after his infidelity with Lee).
    As always, thanks for the opportunity to weigh in!

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Hi Ron, I’m intrigued by Christopher’s depiction. He comforts Carmella and Meadow, delivers Tony the CD player…he would’ve known Tony brought Livia a CD player in the Pilot; he drove Tony to Livia’s to drop it off.
    Later in 6.02 Chris drives his Maserati (in the Pilot, Tony describes Chris to Melfi as “…a kid who just bought himself a $60K Lexus”) to Satriale’s, and shares the screen with pigs’ heads, like in the Pilot after murdering Emil. Agent Goddard informs him terrorists receive funding from narcotics and truck hijackings; 2 pastimes of Chris’, going back as I recall to “46 Long.
    It seems Chris makes changes of degree, rather than kind…stronger support of Tony’s family, trading up expensive cars, going from murder of an individual (Emil) to perhaps facilitating terrorists’ mass murder…and maybe it relates to his decision to re-enter movies, his attempt at more meaningful change?
    Just thoughts, hope they may be at least mildly interesting. Thanks as always for your Autopsy!


  9. Hi sonicbluesea, thanks for your comment! You may be right about my overreaching…do you think it is the result of seeing connections that aren’t there, or misinterpreting those connections (or both)?
    I got a lot out of your previous posts, especially in “D-Girl” where you note the suggestion Pussy is the mystery mobster, and possible connection to 2.03. I am going to do some re-watching. Thanks again!

    Liked by 1 person

    • As Ron demonstrates with each new write up, The Sopranos is a show that warrants close reading. That said, I think it’s important not to treat every frame as if it is a riddle that must be solved.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. I agree, the show warrants close reading, it can be a way to contemplate meaning via connection…that is why it was especially enlightening to re-watch D-Girl after reading your insightful post re the edit to Pussy. (D-Girl is also where Ron discusses connectivity in detail).
    I hadn’t noticed the connections—Pussy wearing glasses, the headlines of his newspaper—to the story Chris tells Amy and Jon. Thanks! Later in the episode Chris refers to Joey Cippolini as a “stone wiseguy.” As I recall, elsewhere in the series, Tony, in a conversation with Dr. Melfi, refers to Pussy as a “stone gangster.”

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Never been a fan of the “drrr I hate capitalism/America” critique being shoehorned into shows like Sopranos. Carney is reaching and projecting her own political views.


    • Hmm “hate” is too strong a word. Anyway, I don’t think she’s shoehorning her criticism. “If the shoe fits…” as Tony said inadvertently about his own greed in “46 Long”…

      Liked by 1 person

  12. Hi Ron, re-reading your awesome write-up…maybe the beacon relates to God where in “Mayhem,” Tony’s/Finnerty’s side of a telephone conversation goes: “What is that beacon, anyway? Oh…God…” Yet he utters “God” as the beginning of “God Damn It!” as he pounds the wall to quiet the Paulie-voice. The elusive nature of a search for God?
    Going back to your discussion of connectivity in “D-Girl”…in that same phone conversation, Tony/Finnerty is told to “take a left on Jamboree Road” to find Inn at the Oaks. One definition of “jamboree” is, a rally of Boy Scouts. In “Made in America” at Holsten’s, there is a table of Scouts seated so if Tony were to turn left from them, he would arrive at a wall painting which some have said resembles Inn at the Oaks.
    The above to the best of my memory, apologies for any errors of fact!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jamboree is also the name of a street in Orange County where Costa Mesa is…. I think it’s in Newport Beach and if I’m not mistaken Costa Mesa and Newport share a border?
      My take on Costa Mesa is because it’s part of what used to be rock solid white republican Orange County…..and recall that the dream Tony lacked real Tony’s coarseness and overt jersey accent….in fact I always thought dream Tony was real Tonys hated “Medigan”….he was essential the homogonized wonder bread wop he told Melfi he hated….back in the pilot….it’s like this: beach boys equal socal with its blonde girls and scrubbed all Americans and Frankie Valli and the four seasons were the east coast urbanized gritty Italians from the street corners….. real Tony is Frankie and dream Tony is beach boys…..just my take ….


      • Very interesting take on Costa Mesa, Decristo.. The demographics of OC seem to be changing so Chase today might not have chosen Costa Mesa to get the effect that you’re suggesting, but it certainly would have made sense in 2006. Of course, Kevin Finnerty is only visiting Orange County, he doesn’t actually live there—he’s from Kingman AZ. I don’t know much about Kingman but perhaps it is telling that Sasha Baron Cohen set one of his pranks in Who is America there, revealing the racism and prejudice of some of the town’s white residents…

        Liked by 1 person

        • Well Sasha is a bad bad person, and like many Hollywood actors, peddles talentless filth, so I give him no stock whatsoever. He’s pretty much scum. Kingman, like many small AZ cities boasts a lot of vets and we all know Hollywood liberals are least likely to actually serve their nations. And people in big liberal cities are much more racist than they are in places like kingman….
          But AZ in general is a hot spot for witsec and retired mafiosos….Sammy the Bull, Joe bonanno and another guy who completely bilked investors here recently…in the show, Puss wanted to go Scottsdale and Vito told his lover he was from there…


          • “And people in big liberal cities are much more racist than they are in places like kingman….”

            Being a person of Puerto Rican ethnicity from New Jersey (on the border of nyc) and having lived in Kansas for a year I can tell you this is absolutely a false statement

            Liked by 2 people

        • Ron – The beacon Tony sees from a distance is coming from John Wayne Airport in Orange County, CA. Also, Tony mentions Jamboree Blvd., which runs 15 miles through Newport Beach, Irvine (my former residence), and Tustin and ends in Orange. Just in case anyone is interested!

          Liked by 1 person

  13. Excellent write-up. I’ve been waiting for these episodes in particular. I never thought about this being maybe the 7th circle of Hell, not Purgatory. I could buy that hell for people like Tony would be this “mundane” environment and not really comprehending it or being lost in it. Also, for what it’s worth, I always thought the end of this episode was one of the most beautiful endings the show has done. The music is perfect, and it often brings my eyes to a slight watering. It’s beautiful, but at the same time pairs well with the way that Tony has been feeling the entire episode (lost/alone/helpless,etc.)

    Liked by 2 people

  14. Johnny Soprano refers to Livia as “Lee.”

    Liked by 2 people

  15. Trivia: Someone who works on the series is named Plepler too. HBO spokesman confirms that, yes, the name of the character (played by veteran actor Ron Leibman) is series creator David Chase’s tribute to HBO Executive VP Richard Plepler.


  16. I always thought the Costa Mesa choice was further showing in some ways the life tony could have lead. Kevin was opposite Tony in many ways and Costa Mesa is a West Coast area that is strikingly opposite from the Jersey setting Tony found himself in.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s also hot, something Paulie illustrates in the episode Chris about Hell, being a California coastal city and very south for a Northern California area.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, definitely. But I think a truly opposite setting to NJ might be something like a rural area in the deep South (“Elvis country,” as Tony said in ‘Bust Out’). Costa Mesa is very different from north Jersey but it’s similar enough that Tony/Kevin’s presence there is still believable…

      Liked by 1 person

      • See I don’t think Elvis country is where Medigans would go to assimilate…back then it was the west, esp SoCal… grandfather was from a tight Italian enclave in Rome, New York and after the war he took my grandmother and they hotfooted it to Long Beach california….I really think Costa Mesa was chosen for this reason……..

        Liked by 1 person

      • Notemma Goldman

        Could also be that since it had to be set somewhere, given David Chase’s attitudes about the entertainment industry, of course southern California is a hell populated by the damned.

        Liked by 1 person

    • I agree….. it’s the same reason pussy wanted to go to Scottsdale….wide open nonethic spread out cities in the west where Jews, Italians and Irish from the east coast enclaves went to marry regular old whites and complete the final phase of what their parents or grandparents or greet grandparents began when they left the old countries : complete and total assimilation….dream Tony was the dreaded Medigan……

      Liked by 2 people

  17. I look at the beacon as the answer… the answer to everything, perhaps.

    Tony asks multiple times “Who am I? Where am I going?” Two questions. In the final scene of “Heidi and Kennedy” we see Tony stand to face the flickering sun, the beacon, the answer to everything, and he says “I get it. I get it!” He says it twice. He knows who he is and where he’s going. We can analyze this and try to figure out exactly WHAT Tony gets, but we’re not supposed to know. Beautiful and perfect scene.

    The beacon in Sopranos reminds me of the light in the case in Pulp Fiction.


    • Hahaha that’s a great comparison. I remember all the various theories about what was in the briefcase, ranging from Marcellus Wallace’s soul to Rudolph the Reindeer’s nose…


      • This is my favorite episode. I have just stayed up all night and watched it three more times, writing ideas as I went.

        I have been trying to mentally piece this episode together for years now. Finally writing some things down, here are some of my thoughts, though not at all cohesive yet. I would love feedback!

        Tony is obviously not dead, so I think he’s in a purgatory dream (I think purgatory is also in Tony’s subconscious because of Christopher’s near-death dream in “From Where to Eternity”).

        The TV showing the wildfires nearby (hell).
        A beacon in the distance (God, heaven, enlightenment).
        A diagnosis of Alzheimer’s (purgatory).

        I LOVE that exactly one minute into the episode Chase tells us we’re in for a wild ride. Tony gets up to use his cell phone in the hotel bar… the shot has on one side of Tony is the TV screen showing an inferno, on the other side of Tony is the window with a beacon in the distance. Freaking genius‼

        Tony has been given a test, he has a choice in this dream, be the dream’s version of Tony (a family man, loving husband, innovator) or be Kevin Finnerty (a slime ball, a fraud who has no problem baiting Buddhist monks!).

        Starting with when Tony goes back to the bar to ask if anyone saw Kevin.
        Tony: Well, tell me about Costa Mesa. Nice place to live?
        Bartender: Around here? It’s dead.
        In other words, it’s not the after ‘life’ (heaven or hell) yet.

        In the scene with Lee (interesting that is also Livia’s nickname) … there is SOOOO much going on here:
        Tony: I’m 46 years old. I mean, who am I? Where am I going?
        Lee: Join the club.
        Then Tony looks up at the TV screen that reads “Are sin, disease and death real?” and says “Now is the time you can clearly hear His voice.” Tony turns his back to the screen as it continues “Let us rejoice in His love.” He has a choice to either “get wind of” or ignore the clues we are given to test our morality. He turned his back on God here, not wanting to face the consequences (disease and death) of his actions (sin) and proceeds to cheat on his wife with Lee. She rejects him, and Tony says “I could even be some other guy tonight” as he tries to absolve his actions. Then Lee says as the helicopter flies overhead and its spotlight marks Tony “They’re looking for a perp.” Tony wakes up for real in the hospital at this point, angry, perhaps scared because he knows he can never pass the “test” (thinking of “The Test Dream” here) and probably believes he’s going to hell when he dies. (This is brought up again later as Carmela apologizes for saying that when he was in the MRI. Also, I think maybe Tony remembers THIS dream when he’s high in “Heidi and Kennedy,” he says “I get it. I get it!” and accepts his fate (whatever it may be) as he cries towards the distant rising sun … enlightenment.)

        THE OMNI
        Tony checks in to the Omni. The check-in desk has a large framed painting of a beach and palm trees (paradise?). Omni meaning from Latin omnis ‘all’; of all things; omniscient or knowing everything (enlightenment, heaven, God). He gets a room on the 7th floor (hell, Dante’s inferno reference).

        Here, I think of “From Where to Eternity,” and of what Pauli says to Christopher: “Purgatory, a little detour on the way to paradise.” Christopher’s Irish Bar where it’s St. Patrick’s Day every day (infantile) is Tony’s Omni Hotel where nobody knows who he is (narcissistic).

        Also, in that episode, Carmela and Christopher talk about purgatory:
        Christopher: My father was in hell and they said that’s where I’d go when it’s my time. Maybe it was purgatory, but I don’t know.
        Carmela: Then you have to look at this experience as an opportunity to repent to change your heart to start to walk in the “light” of the lord. You were blessed by this, Christopher. You were blessed with a second chance.
        Christopher: I don’t know, Carmela.

        I question the Buddhist monks in the Omni because a Buddhist would never strike another. Also, a Buddhist would not be in an eternal heaven, hell, or even purgatory, according to their faith. Buddhists’ primary purpose in life is to end suffering, escape the cycle of rebirth, and reach enlightenment. I believe they are used here strictly as a symbol of karma. They let Tony know that there’s work to do if he wants a “fortuitous” future. Karma has literally smacked him in the face as a warning … get your s**t together or you will end up in your version of hell.

        There’s also another bear symbol. “Out of order. Please ‘bear’ with us.” sign on a stuffed bear. Bear is a symbol of inner strength and introspection: to examine one’s own mental/emotional processes.

        Also, the placement of the fire/staircase placard as Tony stares at as he waits for the elevator – similar to the one Janice saw as she imagined Livia falling down the stairs when arguing over a Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) order. Then Tony does exactly that, falls down the stairs.

        Tony is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. Now he is not truly sure if he is the “good” Tony or the “evil” Kevin. He sorrowfully claims, “I’m lost.”

        Tony sits on the edge of his bed in his room. This scene has such a melancholy feel. He picks up the phone, but there’s nobody that can help him out of this mess except himself. If he wants to get to that beacon, heaven, home … there’s work to do.

        I am still trying to work out the symbolism of phones and Tony’s need to use landlines.
        Tony has his cell phone in this dream, we see that in both bar scenes. But in his room, in the Omni, he goes to use the landline, and hangs up.
        In “Members Only,” we see Tony struggle to get to not one, but TWO landline phones when he most likely has a cell phone in his pocket.
        We know that, in the past, Tony has gotten angry with his cell phone and it’s annoying ring tone, throwing it around.
        We also know that Tony does not speak business on landlines.
        Any thoughts?

        Liked by 3 people

        • Earlier in “Members Only”, the battery on Tony’s cell phone dies when he’s trying to call Janice about watching Uncle Junior. I assume that’s why he didn’t use that to dial 911. Remember in the days of flip phones, they could run for 2 or 3 days or longer, so most of us didn’t really carry extra chargers with us. Tony probably thought he’ll charge it when he gets home.


        • I love this episode too, it’s so rich and evocative. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. As you may know, I’m not crazy about any sort of fixed “symbolism” but I do really appreciate the various interpretations of scenes and episodes…


          • This episode was pure unfettered creative genius….the product of highly evolved imaginations and minds that spend precious time contemplating our existence…..its a pleasure to watch it….it’s not so much entertaining as it is provocative….

            Liked by 1 person

        • The phones represent his connection to the “real world” while in a coma. The deeper he got into the coma, the less likely he was
          Able to use the phone.

          Liked by 1 person

    • You know what I thought the beacon was? The lights and instruments in the operating room making their way into the dream in the same way that meadows and Paulies voices did….the beacon was life on earth and that’s why it was always in the distance…

      Im getting chills just typing this: this was more a twilight zone episode than sopranos!!


  18. I think I finally found something you all missed! The sign in the lobby- “out of order please bear with us”- with the stuffed bear…represents Tony. He was previously associated with the bear in season five in “Two Tony’s” and now he’s been shot, so he truly is “out of order!” Thanks, Ron!

    Liked by 3 people

  19. Oops i forgot to click on the comments button.


  20. Pingback: The hotel is a cave – Join the Club (The Sopranos). | Ben Gould

  21. I don’t really like this episode. I don’t think it’s bad (I’d only reserve that for “A hit is a hit” and the episode where Chris chases around the actor who played Ghandi) but it’s subpar. The dream/purgatory sequences aren’t nearly as clever nor as insightful as “Funhouse” or “The Test Dream” and they drag on with a plotline that goes nowhere (the thing with the bhuddists felt like some Mulholland Drive non sequitor) nor do they show us anything we didn’t already know about Tony. The scenes with his family dealing with the situation are drawn out and take the center stage, taking space from the mob’s story line, which is much more interesting. Watching It felt like a chore.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I agree completely. I can’t stand this episode. I want to kill AJ, for one thing, plus I don’t find the monk story compelling, just annoying. Falco’s performance is amazing, however.

      Liked by 1 person

  22. I didn’t see it (first time viewing) as a case of Tony being in heaven, hell or purgatory. Now that I’ve read your analysis, I can see how you come to that interpretation. I saw it as an amazingly good depiction of the wanderings of a confused, drugged, possibly oxygen-starved, comatose mind. Chase is so so good at conveying these unconscious/subconscious/dreamlike states.

    Powerful and beautiful performance by Edie Falco. What an actor. I shed a tear or two.

    Liked by 2 people

  23. Since you’ve brought up The Great Gatsby a few times, I wanted to bring up the comparison of the beacon to the green light in the novel.

    (“…he stretched out his arms toward the dark water in a curious way, and, far as I was from him, I could have sworn he was trembling. Involuntarily I glanced seaward – and distinguished nothing except a single green light, minute and far away…” The green light is described as ‘minute and far away’ which makes it appear impossible to reach. This will prove to be true for Gatsby. The green light also represents society’s desire and the seeming impossibility of achieving the materialistic American Dream.”)

    Reading this reminded me of Mobys perfectly used “When Its Cold…”

    I haven’t actually read the book myself, but I couldn’t help bringing it up, as I was surprised that nobody had.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Interesting connection.. Chase certainly imbues the beacon with an element of elusiveness just as Fitzgerald did, and the association with the American Dream is certainly fitting here as Kevin Finnerty is just another dude, like Tony Soprano or Jay Gatsby, reaching for that dream the best way he knows how…


  24. As an ICU nurse, I was rather impressed with the level of detail and accuracy they portrayed with the medical aspects of this season. Most of the time, I laugh my ass off at how absurd most set ups are done in TV shows and movies.

    Liked by 2 people

  25. “Moby’s “When It’s Cold I’d Like to Die” which closes the hour is one of the great song selections of the series.“
    Segueing into the Moby tune is Badfinger’s “Day After Day”, played in a muzak style as Tony/Kevin enters the hotel room. The opening lyrics to that song are as follows:
    “I remember finding out about you.
    Every day my mind is all around you.
    Looking out from my lonely room
    Day after day.”
    Yet another subtle, yet brilliant example of Chases’s use of music heard throughout the series.

    Liked by 1 person

  26. New here, wanted to make a few observations:
    – Wild fires do not exist in Costa Mesa; it is a city above Newport Beach
    – The drinking straws in the Purgatory/Hell bar have something in the shape of a silver dollar, etc. Looks like a tracheostomy tube or the balloon of a catheter tube. Weird. Check it out.
    -All sorts of characters in the P/H bar: the 2 businessmen that pay for dinner and then go to bed are a couple; the guy at the bar, who’s friends with the gay couple and the Dark Haired (Scary looking!) Woman, is I believe a Devil-type figure (tempting Kevin/Tony maybe?); there appears to be a few “Working Girls” at the bar
    Plenty of other things I’m sure. Thoughts, observations, etc?

    Liked by 2 people

  27. Kevin Finnerty’s ID photo is of Coach Molinaro.


  28. JB from Silicon Valley

    During sequences in hospitals and doctors’ offices, I am continually amazed with the realness of the medical details. I am a registeted respiratory therapist. I run ventilators in ICUs, among other things within the scope of my practice, and am a clinician in medical scenarios with high acuit. The sequence when Tony self extubates (pulls out his breating tube) was very realistic. Overall, we know the details of the series are significntly more realistic than other fictional television series. This includes the many medical details. Other examples of these details include Johnny Sack’s cancer storyline, especially his discussions with the Warren Feldman character.

    Liked by 2 people

  29. Very interesting note regarding Dr. Ba’s name…Ba is the soul or spirit of a person which manifests itself as a bird at the moment of the person’s death, and which eventually reunites with the dead body… Pontecorvo translates to Crow Bridge… as you mention, another one of those ambiguous things that has no definitive answer but a lot of fun to ponder.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Hmm that is interesting


    • “Ba is the soul or spirit of a person which manifests itself as a bird at the moment of the person’s death, and which eventually reunites with the dead body…”
      So this might be a stretch but I wonder if this is at all related to Chris’ getting made scene.. He sees the crow looking at him during the ceremony.. Could it be his soul or part of his soul being sold so to speak? Then during the ceremony Tony says
      “So, if you got any doubts or reservations, now is the time to say so. No one’ll think any less of you. ‘Cause once you enter this family, there’s no getting out.”
      “Now rub your hands together like this and repeat after me.
      May I burn in hell if I betray my friends.”
      At the end of the scene (after Chris takes the oath) the crow is no where to be seen.. As if his soul is gone or lost

      Liked by 1 person

  30. I can’t watch this (and the next) episode now without thinking about what a huge influence it had to be on the end of The Leftovers Season 2.


  31. AJ’s dialogue about hybrid cars and his use of use “poor you”…one of few times the writer/director in this series ought to be ashamed. cringe worthy.


  32. Here’s another Costa Mesa possibility. I never read Dante’s Inferno but was just looking at the Wikipedia page, specifically the 7th Circle, which you mentioned. It says: “Dante and Virgil descend a jumble of rocks that had once formed a cliff to reach the Seventh Circle from the Sixth Circle…”

    The name “Costa Mesa” is Spanish for a plateau or cliff along the coast.

    Of course, Chase also could have chosen the town because it’s served by John Wayne Airport…since there’s no Gary Cooper Airport, haha.

    And Tom Petty’s “American Girl” has some poignant lyrics that could have been about Carmela:

    “She couldn’t help thinkin’ that there
    Was a little more to life somewhere else…

    “God, it’s so painful when something that is so close
    Is still so far out of reach”

    Liked by 2 people

  33. Interesting analysis. I echo a few other comments – definitely thought Finnerty’s wife was the voice of Charmaine Bucco. It doesn’t hurt that Tony got to a point of seriously thinking he could just take her away from Artie like nothing. But then, he almost did the same thing with Adriana.

    Surely, it’s no coincidence Vito uses the Marvin Gaye line. Plus, his remark about Gene’s suicide – that maybe he was “a homo,” after Silvio, Hesh and Janice offer their theories. Talk about a five-hundred pound elephant in the room…
    It’s also unsettling how aggressive Paulie becomes when he insists on driving AJ home from the ICU. Maybe Paulie just wants to show loyalty. But he doesn’t like Vito, either. There isn’t any evidence Paulie knows anything about Vito’s other side. But then, Paulie refers to Meadow as his niece, and, he got to know Finn, some, on the construction site. Maybe he heard something, or not. Maybe Vito’s green velvet coat was a sign.

    I’ve been toying with watching the coma sequence on mute. It seems to tell another story: Tony in a possible future where he is attempting to deceive the world with a false identity. When AJ says “Anthony Soprano” instead of “Dad,” and Carmela notices, too, that kind of adds to the whole “what’s in a name” problem. In this way, Finnerty is something like an obsolete, ideal version of Tony. Maybe Tony is an unfeeling narcissist; still, I sense that his “feels like taking a shit” comment in Melfi’s office confirms that he has a heart, and is simply mired in confusion. Finnerty is ideal in that he doesn’t act on his anger – the two monks get away with rough-housing Finnerty, and he learns to cope. In other words, Finnerty knows he isn’t himself, but it doesn’t drive him to misanthropy. Finnerty is Zen. Further, Finnerty belongs to the world (Anglo-Saxon-ish name, or, non-Italian, at least), but isn’t “there.” Tony is “there,” he’s a fixture, but he doesn’t belong. Not outside the family, anyways (the press flocking to the hospital and the residence confirms his “outsider” or “special” status).

    Really like how you noted the reversal-of-a-reversal thing with Tony being a real-life criminal, then turning down the left-hand path of normalcy in his coma sequence.

    Also, I thought the breathing tube was an eerie allusion to Tony’s heavy breathing worsened by weight gain in the later seasons. As if Tony needed to go into a coma in order to not have to struggle to breath. The breathing tube is also maybe a metaphor for meditation and Zen – it’s mechanical because Tony doesn’t have the strength to be calm.

    Oh, and the picture on Finnerty’s ID almost looks like Jon Favreau, who we know Chris despises.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Good points, I really like the breathing tube idea. I don’t know of course if Chase was specifically thinking of that particular metaphor, but I do believe that Buddhism makes its way into the series. We know that Chase is a fan of Carlos Castaneda, and much of Castaneda’s writing (according to some interpretations ) is a kind of re-packaged Buddhism.


  34. Here comes some rambling and theories, sorry if it is too crazy. (I still love your writings Ron, great job)

    My theory is that the Finnerty persona is Tony’s hell persona, while “coma Tony” is his heaven persona.

    Ok, so there are 3 Tony personalities we can compare (counting Kevin as the third):
    – Real Tony, the guy we have been seeing for 6 seasons. Lives in NJ. A mobster. A person of power. A leader. The head of a problematic but normal-ish family. He has some problems in his professional and personal life as well, so he is kinda like a normal person.
    – Coma Tony, the guy he thinks he is in the comaworld. A successful upper-middle class merigan (no NJ accent for example). A sales manager probably (so basically a leader, what clicks with Tony’s personality), who is good at his job (“a man whose sales team snatched the brass ring 12 consecutive quarters”, says Lee at the dinner) and also likes his job (he looks disappointed when he misses Colonel Colonna’s session so he was probably interested). Has a “perfect”, sitcom-ish family, although Charmaine is his wife (and Charmaine is more conscious, independent and strong than Carmella and seems like a “good” person in general, so it could be interpreted as a positive change in Tony’s family life). Used to be a patio furniture salesman as Tony fantasized back in the day, but became more successful (but Tony fantasized to be a patio furniture salesman in Arizona…). His life looks kinda perfect…
    – Kevin. A salesperson who is bad at his job (selling faulty heating equipment to the monks does not seem like success to me. By the way the brochures in the briefcase didn’t have a company name? What’s up with that? Is that solar heating business a scam?). Not a leader (Tony is leadership material, remember the coach Molinaro dream. Tony seems to be the kind of guy who could not settle for less than being a leader). Lives in Arizona (which is like hell on Earth with all the heat and nothingness). Has an Irish family name (I associate the Irish with hell in Sopranos – remember Christopher’s coma dream in season 2?)

    So the whole subplot of Tony in a coma trying to find his identity is basically Tony’s soul fighting to get into heaven, or at least his subconscious struggling to stay alive. He is part coma Tony and part Kevin. Also it seems like three different takes on the “fuckin’ regularness of life” concept.

    Two additional fun facts:
    – the lady at the desk at the conference has a nametag, and it says “Monica Kitchen”. Tony fainted in the kitchen in the previous episode.
    – when Tony looks at Kevin Finnerty’s ID card, he says “what the hell” just as Kevin’s photo is in the picture. The person on the photo looks contempt or annoyed (also it looks like if someone have photoshopped Vito’s face to Tony’s head: the eyebrows, the nose and the chin kinda matches and you can clearly see where the face was photoshopped on the original because the face has more light on it. ((does this mean that Tony is gay? …just kidding.)))

    Liked by 2 people

  35. Great write up I love this episode.


  36. I’ve been binging on the old Secret Agent episodes lately. Just watched “The Ubiquitous Mr Lovegrove” from season two last night and wondered if David Chase’s “Join the Club/Mayham” episodes could have taken some inspiration from it.

    Undercover agent John Drake (Patrick McGoohan) gets in a car crash and “wakes up,” unknowingly in an alternate reality. It’s slowly revealed that he “might not be who he thinks he is” – he keeps getting blamed for unsavory behavior committed by a supposed “double,” and starts to loose it a little bit. The entire episode is him trying to prove, unsuccessfully, that he is not “this other guy”. And of course, in the end, characters in the dream are revealed to have been those around him while he was unconscious.

    I’m aware this isn’t the ONLY instance of a similar plot device in a show/film. But the timeline is right for a young Chase to have probably watched, and there are many other similar nuances (beyond both being coma dreams about doubles) that are better picked up when watched. I’m curious if he had this episode in mind when writing those coma sequences. Not to mention that both John Drake and “Kevin Finnerty” work for their country’s defense departments.

    Liked by 1 person

  37. When this episode first aired, I was so confused. I didn’t understand it at all. I had to watch it a couple of times, and hear the condensation of my daughter telling me what it means!! (Kevin Finnerty!!) LOL It was so out of the blue it seemed, but upon re watching it multiple times of course I saw all the clues. I felt like such a dope. I did get some of the stuff, but the license with his different face and name was confusing. Anyway! I understand it better now, and in retrospect, I guess it would be confusing if you were shot and then suddenly waking up in a strange place without identity is probably how purgatory would feel. If I believed in purgatory. I’m happy you are here to help me get a handle on it. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  38. Isn’t Plepler the name of the HBO guy? Like a producer or something? I think he’s no longer there. Maybe someone already mentioned that. Also, I think Vito’s flatulence is to let us know that his vegetable diet is making him gassy, and also how crass he is. The doctor is obvious in his contempt for the Soprano family. You can see that in the way he flatly says that its a hopeless situation and Tony will most likely die. No coddling of the family. Almost like “good Riddance.’ Even his Jimmy Hoffa remark in the second surgery shows his feelings for the family. Doctors have to treat everyone, good or bad, but they have their own opinions and feelings, and Dr. Plepler makes his known.

    Liked by 1 person

  39. For me this is all just the product of a mind disturbed by severe trauma and lots of medication. Other words it’s just a dream. What seems to clinch it for me is that the real world manages to poke through. Right at the start of ‘the experience’ he walks out of the bar and feels his stomach in pain (the gunshot) then hears the clatter of helicopter blades (Tony being ferried to hospital) then he even sees a medic shining a light in his eyes, which manifests as a spotlight in the dream.
    Tony is on the edge of consciousness at this point only to sink deeper into the dream as he is put into a coma once reaching the hospital.
    We don’t just come out of the dream to show Tony fitting and pulling out his tubes – there is no dreaming at this point as he is conscious, although incapable of communication.
    Certainly his dream contains lots of symbols of sin, religion, family and struggles with identity but these are issues Tony is concerned with in his waking life, it is no wonder they manifest here.
    Of course this interpretation chimes with my humanistic view of the world, but the beauty of great nuanced writing is that it we can each approach it in our own way and there is no definitive answer.

    Liked by 1 person

    • “For me this is all just the product of a mind disturbed by severe trauma and lots of medication. Other words it’s just a dream.”

      That’s a kind of “anti-analysis,” because there is something we can say definitively: that trauma and the medication are both pretend. They have no existence or consequence beyond that necessary to service the story. Therefore, when people analyze the episode, they are answering the question “why were episodes devoted to showing us Tony’s experiences in the coma?” If your answer to this is “because Tony was in a coma,” you’re confusing cause with effect and question with answer. What is shown is, definitively, not *just* a dream, or *just* anything.

      Liked by 1 person

  40. Join the Club Sopranos

    Costa Mesa is purgatory
    Convention – Heaven
    Beacon – Hell
    Tries to go back to hotel he came from when can’t get into convention.
    Trying to go back to life and consciousness when can’t get into heaven.
    Not allowed back to hotel (life)
    As Tony moves closer to death he loses his identity.
    Who am I? Where am I going? – Becoming confused and scared as moving closer to death and having no identity
    Monk hitting Tony – Religion now pointless? Even the religious becoming confused and desperate

    Just my interpretation, one of the great things about this episode is that it can be interpreted in multiple ways.

    Liked by 1 person

  41. This one has generated a lot of debate! I like how you can either read it in a particular way, and pick up on points which confirm your view, or read it in another way. Whether he’s actually in purgatory or this is what his mind would do if he was close to death who know, but it certainly has a lot of signposts relating to the afterlife or purgatory.
    A couple of things – the room number is 728 or “7 to 8” – is that the direction Tony is heading unless things change? Further into hell? The 7th circle is violence, the 8th is fraud. To be fair, he could have fit in all of the 9 circles.
    There was also another red light on the phone at the end, but he puts the phone down again. Is there a message he’s not ready for? Is he torn between heading one way or another? Very ambiguous.

    Liked by 1 person

  42. Lee kinda looks like Dr. Melfi right? I thought that was by default.

    Liked by 1 person

  43. Do you think that the dementia diagnosis, which leads him to question and eventually lose his identity, could be a link to Corrado and how his dementia contributed to Tony potentially lose life?

    Liked by 1 person

  44. I know it’s been a few years, but I find myself watching the entire series back to back every year.

    After watching this episode I realised when Kevin/Tony is on the phone to his ‘wife’ he never refers to her as Carmella, and the voice we believe to be Carmella sounds a lot more like Gloria Trullo.

    Has anyone else picked up on this?

    Liked by 2 people

  45. didnt know it was moby did that song. always just figured it was sting

    Liked by 1 person

  46. I’m sorry it’s 3 years late to be commenting. This is a great write-up. Thank you for your commitment to the Series.

    I am only dropping this tardy note in because you obviously don’t understand the concept of Purgatory. It is not a “waiting area” BETWEEN Heaven and Hell. If you are in Purgatory, you’ve passes that “Fork in the Road”. You are (so the premise goes) on your way to Heaven, going through a Purge (Purg-atory) of your faults and earthly attachments that would handicap your conformity to the perfection of God & Heaven.

    If you are in Purgatory, you are already “Saved” (destined for Heaven).

    Liked by 1 person

  47. Just a side note from me. Watched this episode lately and I noticed that Carm reacted to the Doctor in a very similar submissive way as her mother in Marco Polo reacted to the invited Doctor at Hugh’s birthday party. Fits very well with the realism of the characters and the excellent scripting of the show.
    And the titles of the first two episodes do mirror each other. “Members Only? Join the Club!”

    Liked by 1 person

  48. Pingback: The Soprano Onceover: #45. “Join the Club” (S6E2) | janiojala

  49. Some of you might think this episode has to do with moral reckoning, so to speak. I was not emotionally affected at all by it. I think that it strung us along, all the while dangling a golden carrot … will Tony ‘come back’ as a moral, reasonable, altruistic human being? Not likely. He be who he be, who he was, and who he will always be. He can’t possibly change for the better because it would not only piss people off, it would signal the end of the series. Chase could have cut to the quick by eliminating the Vito schtick and Tony’s dreams, and focus on the in-fighting (NY vs NJ, etc.), keep the other stuff (hits) and wrap it up.

    Liked by 1 person

    • And you could just as easily say of any mob in-fighting from the previous six seasons that Tony wasn’t gonna die because it would mean the end of the series, and therefore Chase “could have” eliminated it to “wrap it up.” From this you might conclude that doing so is not, and never has been, the goal. This is not a ride at an amusement park. Your examination of the material is too shallow. If you experience no emotional connection to it, work harder to understand it. You’re starting from the premise “he can’t possibly change” but…the question of whether or not people can change, and to what degree, is *central to the series* and you are watching a meditation on that question.


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