Kaisha (6.12)

Christopher’s drug problem spirals out of control.
War between NJ and NY
is averted after
Phil Leotardo suffers a heart attack.

Episode 77 – Originally aired June 4, 2006
Written by David Chase, Matt Weiner and Terry Winter
Directed by Alan Taylor

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Many viewers felt “Kaisha” to be the most disappointing episode of the series. They criticized the pace of the hour, which they found slow and sputtering even by Chasian standards. (On the DVD commentary track for this episode, David Chase mocks this particular criticism by facetiously describing The Sopranos as “the famous show where nothing happens.”) It’s surprising to me that so many viewers still didn’t know that they shouldn’t expect too many thrills or fireworks in a season finale. Of course, “Kaisha” is not technically a “season finale” but we still couldn’t help but see it as a finale of sorts when it first aired—especially because the hour begins with a dedication to John Patterson, who had directed all the previous season finales before he passed away in 2005. Sean Burns (sitting in for Matt Zoller Seitz at The Bada Bing Next Door blog) recognized that “that the bummer rhythms of this season have been a ploy by Chase to show the sad emptiness of these people’s lives,” but Sean was nevertheless disappointed with how Season 6 Part I reached its conclusion: “Not with a bang… not even a whimper… it was more like a wet fart.”

No consistent reader of this website should be surprised to learn that I’m a big fan of “Kaisha.” (If I could love “Christopher,” then of course I can love this hour.) I think “Kaisha” works primarily for 3 reasons:

  1. The hour cleverly uses the memory of Adriana to “drive” the stories of both Carmela and Chris here (I put “drive” in quotes because their thoughts of Adriana actually lead Carm and Chris to dead-ends)
  2. I believe “Kaisha” may be one more piece in Chase’s complex, season-spanning investigation of the notion of identity
  3. The episode, probably more than any previous outing, shows us just how pervasive boredom and “the fuckin’ regularness of life” really are

War has been brewing between New Jersey and New York over the Vito-situation for weeks now, and the opening minutes of “Kaisha” lead us to believe that the big battle has finally arrived. Carlo Gervasi kicks Fat Dom’s frozen head (“a head full of snow,” sings Mick Jagger in the accompanying song) down a storm drain, and moments later Phil Leotardo’s illegal gambling den in Sheepshead Bay gets blown up. (Phil and his mistress/housekeeper get thrown back on their keisters in the explosion.) Lil Carmine tries to broker a peace agreement between Tony and Phil, but opens old wounds and makes things worse when he mentions the murder of Billy Leotardo. New York capo Butch DeConcini (played by Greg Antonacci in his first appearance on the series) wants blood, and he doesn’t much care which north Jersey mobster provides it. A visit from Agent Harris, warning Tony of impending danger, heightens our expectation of violence against the NJ famiglia. Chase uses the camera in such a way that we begin to feel that Christopher is most likely the guy that New York is targeting. But then an unexpected thing happens: Phil takes a heart attack (as Murmur puts it) and war is averted. Tony visits Phil in the hospital and—in a display of his empathy or his brilliant managerial skill, perhaps a little of both—lets down his guard to tell Phil something about his near-death experience (which is something Tony has never really spoken about to anyone outside of Melfi’s office). Phil—the same guy who was annoyed at Johnny Sac for crying at his own daughter’s wedding—has tears in his eyes as he shares a moment of vulnerability with Tony. “We can have it all, Phil—plenty for everybody,” Tony assures his frenemy.

My guess is that David Chase would take Sean Burns’ criticism as a compliment—he has always used his series to show that daily life is full of wet farts, a fact of life that most TV shows completely ignore. (It was in the second episode of this season that we watched Vito literally release a long wet fart into the Soprano couch.) This is the final episode of S.6 Part I, and it was already known that Part II would be a shortened season, and so right now would seem like a great time to ramp up the show’s tension and drama. But Chase confounds our expectations. After Phil’s heart attack, all the tension that has been building between NJ and NY gets diffused without a single drop of blood being spilled.

Of course, many viewers find such a sudden deflation of tension to be completely boring. In a 2008 debate for Project Narrative, Prof. Sean O’Sullivan noted that it is precisely this “boringness” that makes Chase’s show so unique, even groundbreaking, within the medium of television. He writes that all “television serials, unlike two-hour movies or even novels, can do much more than posit the existential or the boring; they can enact the existential.” But The Sopranos, he argues, is the first show to have truly attempted to do this. O’Sullivan continues:

…the boring is one of the most prominent aspects of The Sopranos’ most compelling mob story, not the represented battle between New Jersey and New York, but the battle of a medium at war with itself, a string of kneecappings and reprisals where the systems of television serials—the large cast, the interwoven threads, the A, B, and C stories of individual installments—clash repeatedly with aesthetic values that reject all such established patterns and purposes.

So: When Tony makes peace with Phil Leotardo in the hospital room now, effectively snuffing out the possibility of a mob war that could have functioned as a colossal cliffhanger in this Season Finale, it is not simply just another plot-point in the long-running narrative about the tensions between NJ and NY; it is an example of Chase breaking out of the “established patterns” that have ruled television for too long. O’Sullivan emphasizes his point by including a quote from David Chase himself (from a Variety article that I’m not able to track down now): “What interested us was not the mob hits but the boringness in-between.”

Adding to the “boringness in-between” now is the fact that several characters are slipping back into their old and boring familiar roles after having made some earlier progress at transcending their baser selves. Tony was a surprisingly faithful husband throughout this season—he even put the kibosh on a sexual opportunity with Julianna Skiff in episode 6.08, when he stopped her from unbuttoning his Canali shirt. But now he is back in full poon-hound mode, making multiple runs at the beautiful young realtor. Julianna has only icy responses to Tony’s advances. After showing him a property that he is interested in, she coldly tells him to “just stick it in the lockbox” as she hands him the key and walks away. (It feels like she hid a pun somewhere in that line.)

Carmela is slipping back into familiar ways too. She recently had a transcendent experience while in Paris, one that could have perhaps helped her transform her life into something more honest and genuine instead of continuing to be the ugly Faustian compromise that it has been for so long. Over the years Carmela has mastered the art of shielding herself from ugly or inconvenient truths, but there is some hope now that the dream she had in the last episode would motivate her to at least search for the truth about Adriana:

adriana - paris

“Someone needs to tell her she’s dead,” a gendarme told Carm in the dream. Carmela wants to hire a P.I. to investigate Ade’s disappearance after making a visit to Liz LaCerva who lays in the hospital after a suicide attempt. Her daughter’s disappearance has taken a noticeable toll on mother LaCerva—she had a sassy Jersey-style back when Adriana was still around, then looked frumpy after Ade went missing, and now we see her is in a hospital gown with wrist restraints:

Liz deteriorating2

Tony can ill-afford to have his wife snooping around for information about Adriana, so he gets Silvio to lean on the building inspector and get Carmela’s work-stop order lifted. Carmela tosses aside the Private Eye’s business card, thrilled to get back to work again. It’s back to Business As Usual for Carmela Soprano.

Christpher is going back to B.A.U. too—he’s slipping off the sobriety wagon in a serious way. Alan Sepinwall at The Star-Ledger expressed his distaste at having to watch this storyline yet again, a distaste that many viewers shared:

Last night was mostly another installment of the Christopher Moltisanti Scag Junkie Hour. We get it already: Drug addicts are among the most boring people on the planet. We got it when Christopher shot up through the Italy trip. We got it when he was high at Livia’s wake. We got it when he sat on Cosette. New punchline, please.

Sepinwall makes a valid point—we’ve been down this road several times already. But I think the important point to note is that Christopher’s relapse may be occurring now specifically because of his heartache and guilt over Adriana. Adriana haunts this entire hour. Carmela shoves Ade’s skeleton back into the closet as soon as she is able to resume work on her spec-house, but Christopher has more difficulty escaping the memory of the dead woman. Chris got himself clean at the end of Season 4, and (as far as we know) was able to stay clean all the way until the end of Season 5, when he snorted a little heroin after Ade’s murder in “Long Term Parking.” His next major relapse only occurs when he and Tony rehash Adriana’s death in 6.09 “The Ride.” Though Chris learned that he is going to become a father and subsequently married his girlfriend Kelli in “The Ride,” he wasn’t able to keep from using; thoughts of domestic happiness and domestic responsibility were not enough to keep Chris straight.

Domestic life with Kelli is not able to inspire Chris to walk the line now either. Very early in this hour, we see that Kelli is building her nest, telling Chris about the Benjamin Moore paint and the Disney-themed border she wants to use in the baby’s room. Kelli is undoubtedly a great girl, but she’s no Adriana, a fact that gets highlighted when she says outright, in this early scene, that “I’m not Adriana.” (She is referring to the fact that she has a fertile womb, unlike barren Adriana, but Chris—and the viewer—may take the line to mean that she just doesn’t have Adriana’s spunk and spark.) Kelli is nice and kind and healthy and attractive, but there is nothing extraordinary about her—she is just so regular, with regular hair and regular clothes and regular manners. And we’ve known since episode 1.08 “The Legend of Tennessee Moltisanti” how easily Christopher gets bored by “regularness.”

Julianna Skiff is more up to Christopher’s speed. Through a flashback scene, we learn that Christopher ran into Julianna at an AA meeting, and we also learn that it was Tony’s rejection of her back in 6.08 that got Julianna drinking again. We already knew that it was Tony that got Chris drinking again in 6.09 (after he shamed Chris into having some of the wine they jacked from The Vipers, before rehashing Adriana’s last day on earth). So, although Chris and Julianna may not be aware of it, it was Tony Soprano that knocked them both off the wagon. They are aware, however, that there is an immediate, overpowering attraction between them. They can’t even wait to get home to start smashing, going at it in a parking lot outside a diner.

I think it is notable that Christopher, as far as I can remember, never carried on a serious affair behind Adriana’s back. True, he did sleep with the “D-girl” Amy Safir in Season 2, and he has intermittently cavorted with various prostitutes and strippers. And he did try to initiate a threesome once with undercover agent Danielle—but that wasn’t behind Adriana’s back, that was right in front of Ade. In the five seasons that we saw Chris and Adriana together, he never kept a regular side-piece for himself. It’s a different story now. He and Kelli haven’t been together for even one full season but he is already finding himself falling physically and emotionally for another woman.

But Julianna is no Adriana either (despite a syllabic similarity in the latter part of their names), and perhaps this point gets highlighted when Chris pulls himself up to Julianna’s backside and she responds, “I’m not a parking spot.” We might associate “parking spot” with Adriana ever since we saw Chris abandon Ade’s Thunderbird in an airport parking spot last season:

long term parking -Ade's thunderbird

Christopher’s substance abuse now, I think, is in large part a symptom of his depression over Adriana’s murder. It may be worth noting that this episode contains a clip from Vikram Jayanti’s documentary Lincoln, a film that argues that Abraham Lincoln’s well-documented depression actually served to help him during his Presidency. If you turn up the volume, you can hear the narrator of the documentary say that “For some people, depression is a form of forced introversion” out of which resilience, strength and empathy can arise:

Abe Lincoln

But Christopher is not one of these people. His depression and heartache doesn’t lead him to introversion or introspection—it just turns him into a junkie.

There is a scene here with Chris and Julianna that seemed kind of weird to me when the episode first aired. The two gaze at each other with long, serious looks as they debate whether or not to use Valerian tea to treat Julianna’s cough, and then the scene strangely fades to black:


I understood that Chris and Julianna were taking the decision to use Valerian seriously, because the stuff contains a form of opiate. But I didn’t quite understand Chase’s decision to use the fade-to-black, a transitional device very rarely employed on The Sopranos. Upon rewatch, however, the fade-to-black feels more justified—it adds more gravity to this scene, a scene which portends some very bad things to come. Chris underestimates the Valerian when he tells Julianna, “Worst-case scenario, it might help you sleep.” But the scenario that actually develops is far worse: Chris and Julianna’s drug use is out of control by the end of the hour. Christopher will be clean in later episodes, but his ongoing battle with chemical dependency will ultimately lead to his removal from la famiglia.

Although Tony, Carmela and Chris relapse into their old ways in this hour, we see a completely new side to AJ. It seems that the “tough love” that Tony displayed to his son in the previous episode (smashing his windshield and forcing him to take a job at a construction site) is having a good effect. AJ is taking his new job seriously, and he is also embarking on a mature relationship with Blanca Selgado. A moment after Blanca says “This man is so lame” about the 40-year old virgin that they watch on TV, AJ must prove that he is not “so lame” when some young guys start playing music a little too loudly downstairs. AJ convinces the guys to move by giving them his Gary Fisher bike. In this way, he passes the test and is rewarded handsomely by Blanca. AJ is behaving with more integrity and courage than we’ve come to expect from him. When Blanca mentions his W-2 form, it underscores that he has got a legitimate income—unlike his dad, whose W-2 from Barone Sanitation is pure bullshit. AJ is further contrasted with his dad when he shows his pride at buying Blanca some jewelry without the “discount” that Tony could get for him. Alas, this new leaf that AJ has turned over will fade over time. He too will relapse into Business As Usual, and then continue to deteriorate spiritually and psychologically. (And Chase will use Abraham Lincoln as a foil to the depressed AJ later just as he seems to use Abraham Lincoln as a foil to depressed Christopher now—there will be multiple references to Lincoln in “The Second Coming,” the episode in which AJ’s depression pushes him over the edge.)

MERRY CHRISTMAS
The ending of this hour seems a bit warm and fuzzy as the Sopranos clan all gather together for Christmas. (All except for Meadow, who is on the west coast with Finn. We’ve known since Season One’s “College” that if anyone could distance themselves from the family, it would be Mead.) The warm, idyllic tone that closes Season 6A feels more pronounced in retrospect after the ambiguous finish of 6B; it is debatable whether 6B had a peaceful ending or not, but 6A definitely had a tranquil close. Though “Kaisha” originally aired in June, it still felt a bit like one of those “Christmas episodes” that you find on other TV shows.

Sopranos 6 . 12

But upon closer inspection, we notice that there are tensions simmering below the surface of the peaceful façade. Tony and Carmela have concerns that AJ’s girlfriend is a bit older than him, and perhaps some anxiety over her ethnicity as well as the fact that she has a child. Tony also seems to be harboring a grudge against Chris because of his relationship with Julianna (though Tony doesn’t admit this; he only bitches at Chris for hogging all the ice.) On the DVD commentary, Chase bristles at the notion that there is a sweet, Christmas-card type of ending to the hour: “How you can look at this scene and say things are happy, I have no idea.”

I think that the clips of Casablanca which we see playing on the Soprano television underline that things are not as good as they seem to be, neither in SopranoWorld nor in the real world. In one of the clips, there is an altercation at Rick Blaine’s bar. Rick interrupts the fight, saying “I don’t like disturbances in my place. Either lay off politics or get out.” Of course, anyone who has seen the film knows that Rick’s bar (and Rick’s life) becomes filled with disturbances as he gets pulled into the politics of the time. Chase too gets pulled into the politics of his time. This season of The Sopranos touched upon several hot-button political issues: the Iraq War, the competence of the Bush administration, the War on Terror, gay rights, the politicization of religion, conspicuous consumerism and the excesses of capitalism. About one second after we hear Rick say “lay off the politics or get out,” Carmela’s father walks into the room and is astounded by the large bounty of boxes beneath the Christmas tree: “Jesus, that’s a lot of presents! You sure you got enough?” On the DVD commentary, Chase suggests that “the pile of presents that goes halfway up the tree” is a uniquely American phenomenon that speaks to our materialism and obsession with owning stuff.

So, this is not by any means a traditional Christmas episode like you might find on another TV series. There is just too much criticism here of the Soprano Way of Life, and even of the American Way of Life. In the final dialogue of the hour, Blanca says “You have a gorgeous home,” and Carmela responds “Thank you. We do.” But we know that this house, and all the happiness and comfort it contains, has been paid for with blood. In her book Dying to Belong, Martha Nochimson sees through the counterfeit pose of the final imagery:

In a shot composed like a Hallmark Christmas card, Tony and Carmela are shown in a golden light, surrounded by friends and family…But it is the lie that is emphasized by the family gathering, which is ironically pictured in a long shot, framed by two half-walls that are symmetrically placed at either side of the entrance to the living room. It is as though all these people enjoying the bounty of Tony’s mob-wealth are caught between the jaws of an elegantly appointed vise.

As the camera pulls out, the two columns and half-walls do seem to compress all the family members into a smaller and smaller area within the frame, underscoring the idea that SopranoWorld is becoming a type of vise that is continuously constricting its characters:

kaisha pullaway

In the upcoming, final season of the series, internal and external pressures will squeeze several of these men and women up to—and in some cases, beyond—their breaking points.

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IDENTITY GAMES
In addition to that “Valerian tea” scene I mentioned earlier, there is another scene in this hour that I found pretty weird: Chase takes footage of Chris and Julianna chasing the dragon—smoking heroin—and superimposes it on top of imagery of them at a movie theater, and all of it is scored to the theme music from Hitchcock’s Vertigo. (David Chase does give an explanation for some of the weirdness: he wanted an additional scene of Chris and Julianna’s drug use but production had already closed for the season, so he was forced to piece together some earlier bits of footage to come up with the scene.) What stands out for me in this scene is the music. We never actually see a clip from Vertigo, but we recognize Bernard Hermann’s famous score from the film. Chase could have used any piece of music here—so why use the Vertigo score? Chase has been exploring the notion of identity all season long, and the reference to Vertigo perhaps adds to this season-spanning concern. In the film, Kim Novak plays a character with multiple identities: she plays “Judy Barton,” who is pretending to be “Madeleine Elster,” who might be possessed by the spirit of “Carlotta Valdes” (whose portrait hangs at the local museum):

Kim Novak - Vertigo

Hitchcock stacks identities one on top of the other in his film. Earlier this season, David Chase stacked identities in somewhat the same way that Hitchcock did in Vertigo: he superimposed “legitimate businessman Tony” and “Kevin Finnerty” on top of “Tony Soprano.” In addition to the Vertigo reference, I think another way that Chase plays with identity in “Kaisha” is by making a mind-twisting game of the various names that appear in the hour…

In Act II of Romeo and Juliet, young Juliet asks:

What’s in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet.

Well, it turns out there is quite a lot in a name—Juliet and her star-crossed lover end up dead because one has the last name “Montague” and the other has the last name “Capulet.” I think there may be quite a lot loaded into the various names that appear in this episode too, beginning with the name that forms the episode title. “Kaisha” obviously is not a real person, it is just a pseudonym that Christopher has made up in order to hide the identity of his new mistress. (This is not the first time a Sopranos episode has been named after a figure that doesn’t really exist—Season One’s “Isabella” was named after a woman that Tony hallucinated.) The mind-twists really begin when we realize that the made-up name ‘Kaisha’ refers to the character “Julianna” who is played by a real-life ‘Julianna’ (Julianna Margulies, who some viewers believed—incorrectly—was the real-life daughter of David Margulies [who plays Tony’s lawyer “Neil Mink”] because they share a last name.) Now, there is indeed a “Kaisha” that exists in SopranoWorld, but the viewer never meets her: Credenzo Curtis mentioned her just before he was shot to death in “Whitecaps.” It is entirely within the realm of possibility that Christopher knows this Kaisha, especially considering that Chris and Credenzo seemed very familiar with each other when they met in “Whitecaps.” So: Chris may be thinking of a “real” SopranoWorld character to come up with the “fake” name for his real SopranoWorld girlfriend who  actually shares her own name in the real world. (Still with me?) We know by now that David Chase loves to use Christopher’s storylines to play meta-level games in which actual real-life persons cross back-and-forth through the barrier between SopranoWorld and the real world, resulting in a mash-up of their fictional and non-fictional identities. Janeane Garofalo and Ben Kingsley (among others) provided obvious examples of this playful meta-manipulation in episodes like “D-Girl” and “Luxury Lounge.” The interconnection between Kaisha/”Kaisha”/”Julianna Skiff”/Julianna Margulies provides a more subtle example of Chase’s meta-game now.

Another name-related meta-manipulation that occurs in this hour comes via the movie script that Christopher is developing. We learn here that the main character of Cleaver is named “Michael” —which of course recalls Christopher’s real-world name, Michael Imperioli. (It was a few episodes back in “The Ride” that Chrissie heard the name “Michael” while watching Saw II, and perhaps he drew some inspiration from that.) The film name “Cleaver” also gets connected to the real-world when Julianna points out that people may associate it with the famous character played by Jerry Mathers. (If this did indeed occur, note the mashup of Worlds that would be taking place: people in SopranoWorld would be associating CleaverWorld with a BeaverWorld character played by the real-world Jerry Mathers.)

I think that Chase may also be playing an identity-game of sorts with “Blanca,” the name of AJ’s new girlfriend. Although the word blanca means white in Spanish, Blanca doesn’t exactly seem to be a white Caucasian. (Not that I think that ethnicity or race can be precisely defined; I only mean that it might be difficult to guess her ethnicity just by looking at her. Tony and Carm even wonder here about her nationality, guessing that she may be Dominican or Puerto Rican…) We get a sort of inverted, black-and-white symmetry when we compare Blanca’s name to “Kaisha,” the pseudonym that Chris uses for his mistress: Julianna’s personal identity is hidden behind the “black” name “Kaisha,” while the details of Blanca’s ethnic identity and nationality remain elusive despite having a name that means “white.”

All this stuff about names may be an unwarranted digression, I may be reaching at things that aren’t really there. But I think it is nevertheless undeniable that Chase has been very interested in exploring the concept of “identity” this season. Several characters in season 6 have had various types of identity issues. Tony found himself saddled with the identity of Kevin Finnerty while in a coma-dream. Paulie suffered an identity crisis of sorts after finding out that his mother is actually not his mother; he told Tony, “Not only is my ma not my ma, who the fuck knows who this ‘Russ’ bastard is. The worst thing, I’m not who I am.” In “Luxury Lounge,” Artie seriously questioned his life-defining decision to become a chef and restaurateur. In a later episode, soon-to-be father Christopher got married and tried to redefine himself as a sober “family man.” Carmela went through a crise d’identite in Paris, but now she is back on track in her attempt to forge a new identity for herself beyond just “mob-wife” as a more independent woman and property developer.

But Chase’s most compelling investigation into the question of identity this season, in my opinion, concerned Vito Spatafore. Vito had several personas this season: weight-loss hero, closeted Mafioso, gay man in Dartford, prodigal mobster back in NJ, and faux CIA agent in his explanation to his kids. (He also seemed to momentarily take on the role of Little Red Riding Hood at one point midseason.) Even the actor playing “Vito” has had multiple identities; Joe Gannascoli first appeared as bakery customer “Gino” in episode 1.08 before assuming the role of “Vito” in Season 2. I think it is very notable that Chase changed the character’s name to from “Gino” to “Vito,” because that latter name recalls the ultimate arch-gangster of American art: Vito Corleone. Like his namesake in The Godfather, Vito Spatafore was a loving family-man with a natural instinct for business who could also be a wily manipulator and a stone-cold killer—in short, he had all the makings of a varsity wiseguyDespite possessing all the proper characteristics, Spatafore could not truly fit the traditional definition of a gangster because of his sexual orientation.

Many viewers took issue with the gay-mobster storyline, partly because certain aspects of the story didn’t feel quite believable. Perhaps Chase’s decision to switch Gannascoli’s character from “Gino” to “Vito” tanked the character’s believability right from the get-go. But I think the Gino/Vito switch is really interesting because it underscores that “identity” is, in some sense, a fiction.

Each one of us has stretched the truth about ourselves on a job application or presented some neatly edited version of ourselves on social media. We’ve all at least once hidden some facet of our personality depending on the situation that we were in or the people that we were with. We have all, in other words, played “identity games.” The issue of identity is of fundamental importance to us in the real world, and I think that’s why Chase gives such importance to it in SopranoWorld. Chase has shown great artistic dexterity this season, negotiating various planes of reality simultaneously—the real, the fictional, and the meta-fictional—in service of his identity-games. We’ve seen a few of his characters struggle to figure out who they genuinely are and how to live in accordance with what they believe and care about. We’ve seen some of them get lost in the charade as they try to manage the multiple truths and fictions about themselves. We’ve seen some characters make an effort to reinvent or reshape themselves, only to be derailed by some fateful event or by their own inner conflicts. Perhaps it is identity, more than anything else, that ultimately becomes the inescapable vise that traps and constricts them…

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INTERESTING CUT?
Early in the episode, Christopher explains that he doesn’t bring his new mistress around because she is black. (He is, of course, trying to keep her true identity a secret.) Tony concurs that it’s a good idea that she doesn’t come around, because she would feel the unspoken racism of some of the guys in their crew. Interestingly (but probably just coincidentally), Chase cuts from this conversation about a black woman—who turns out to actually be a white woman—to a shot of a referee in black-and-white stripes:

referee

Christopher tries to keep the ruse going later in the hour, telling T that he’s going to buy his girlfriend a Luther Vandross box set. Tony seems to have suspicions, so Chris finally fesses up that he is actually seeing Julianna. Tony tries to play it cool and casually dismisses the situation, but we see later that he is clearly angry about it. In next season’s premiere episode, Tony will curtly hang up the phone on Chris, and I wonder if it’s because he has been continuing to nurse this same anger. (The whole thing reminds me a little bit of episode 4.07 when Ron Zellman told Tony that he was dating Irina; Tony took the news charitably at first, but ended up giving poor Ron a whipping by the end of the hour.)

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THE G.O.A.T.
I’m writing this particular autopsy in January of 2019, just as the world is celebrating the 20th anniversary of the Sopranos’ 1999 premiere. Over the last several weeks, many newspaper articles, magazine pieces, television interviews and social events (like episode screenings at the Paley Center and panel discussions at the IFC Center) have all reconfirmed what hardcore fans already know: among TV shows, The Sopranos is the Greatest Of All Time.

Of course, objectively speaking, there are a few other shows that should also be considered for GOAT designation. One of them was created by the co-writer of “Kaisha,” Matthew Weiner. As I mentioned in my 5.02 write-up, Weiner put Mad Men on hold so that he could come work for David Chase. In an interview conducted by Maureen Ryan of the Chicago Tribune, Weiner explained that with Mad Men, he tried to create a show that viewers would watch mindfully:

What I’m trying to do when I draw them in is say, put down your checkbook, turn off the phone, watch it on TiVo when you know the kids won’t be around. And really let yourself go into this world, but take it seriously.

While I personally wouldn’t put Mad Men quite on par with The Sopranos, I do think there was something incomparably brilliant in how Weiner was able to produce such a great series for basic cable. AMC Network put all sorts of requirements and restrictions on Weiner, limits that Chase never had to worry about at HBO. Having to work within such limitations but still being able to create something as phenomenal as Mad Men is proof of Matt Weiner’s genius.

Any discussion of The Greatest has to also include The Wire. As I mentioned in a previous write-up, The Wire and The Sopranos are two very different beasts (with two very different showrunners) and therefore not really amenable to a straight-up comparison. David Simon seems to have an activist’s inclinations, whereas David Chase’s primary impulse is artistic. Although Chase certainly can be counted as one of this nation’s greatest socio-cultural eyewitnesses, touching upon several social issues and social ills over the course of his series—class politics, consumerism, the rise of corporatism, and the erosion of constitutional protections among them—his series does not bear witness in quite the direct and focused way that Simon’s series does.

The Wire added a new slice of Baltimore into its narrative each season, from the drug dealers all the way up to the newspapers, and demonstrated the complex way that policies, people and bureaucracies interacted within and across these slices to essentially build the city up or tear the city down. During an interview of Simon years ago, newsman Dan Rather described the show as “Dickensian.” Simon found the Dickens comparison somewhat simplistic, saying that he felt the show to be more inspired by Balzac. (And then he threw a “ball sack” pun into the conversation, not wanting to sound like too much of an egghead I guess.) Simon does indeed use Baltimore much like Balzac used Paris: in each of their hands, The City becomes the canvas upon which to explore the complicated links between political and social and economic structures.

If The Wire is a Balzac novel, then The Sopranos is an Umberto Eco novel: postmodern, playful, intertextual, open to interpretation. In true postmodernist fashion, The Sopranos always remains conscious of itself as a work of fiction, pulling and pushing at the limits of its medium through games and tricks and structural daring. (This becomes even more apparent next season during the final nine episodes.) In my experience, I’ve found that postmodern playfulness can engage and energize us mentally, but sometimes does so at the expense of our emotional engagement. Not so with The Sopranos. I have always felt emotionally engaged by Chase’s show, and I think the main reason this occurs is because Chase places paramount importance on making his characters seem real. From the opening shot to the final shot, The Sopranos is, more than anything else, about its characters.

I love The Wire and I would have been thrilled to watch Simon add a new slice of Baltimore into his ever-expanding televisual kaleidoscope for another 10 seasons. But ultimately I feel that Simon’s show is more about institutions than it is about individuals, whereas Chase’s show is more about individuals than it is about anything else. And that’s the primary reason why I personally rank The Sopranos higher.

There might be a few other shows that are legitimate GOAT contenders, but I’m not going to get into it here because I think I’ve already gone too far beyond the usual scope of my write-ups. I do feel obliged, however, to mention The Singing Detective which is arguably the most astonishingly genius thing ever made for television. The six-part British miniseries, written by Dennis Potter, first appeared on BBC1 in 1986 and later made its way to PBS and cable networks in America. I’ve never seen a TV series that minute-for-minute, pound-for-pound, is as powerful as The Singing Detective. But at only seven hours long, it simply can’t last 12 rounds in the ring against The Sopranos which maintains a high level of excellence over its full 86-hour running time.

The winner by decision and still the champ: The Sopranos!

 __________________________________

ADDITIONAL NOTES:

  • Postmodern self-awareness: Christopher makes a disparaging remark about the 50 Cent movie Get Rich or Die Tryin’. The movie was written by Terry Winter, a co-writer of this episode.
  • Greg Antonacci, who makes his Sopranos debut as “Butchie” here, went on to perform great work on Terry Winter’s Boardwalk Empire.
  • The reference to Jesse Ventura here functions as an age-marker and highlights the age difference between AJ and Blanca: AJ is too young to recognize the name whatsoever, while Blanca is old enough to know that he was a politician. Neither one of them is old enough to remember him as the wrestler, Jesse “The Body” Ventura.
  • Lil Carmine!! We get a whole multitude of Carmine-isms during one sit-down here: “inclement negative implications,” “certain incidents have expired lately,” “for reasons I will discern in time.” There’s also his strange aphorism: “A pint of blood costs more than a gallon of gold.” He finally wrecks the entire meeting by dismissing Billy Leotardo’s murder as “whatever happened there…”
  • Symmetrical dialogue: In the previous episode, Chris said “The balls on that prick” regarding Phil’s killing of Vito, while Albie now says “The balls on this prick” regarding Tony blowing up Phil’s wire-room in retaliation.
  • The episode opens and closes with the Rolling Stones’ powerful and evocative “Moonlight Mile.” Yet again, a season-ender has been blessed with a perfect final song.
  • When AJ falls asleep in front of the TV, Tony tosses food at him just like he did to narcoleptic Aaron Arkaway back in Season 3. (AJ must be falling asleep because he’s been waking up early to get to his construction job on time.)
  • Recycling: We hear Tony recycle the ‘pig’ joke that Murmur said in the previous episode.
  • Corrado is slipping further into dementia—he hints knowledge about a JFK assassination-conspiracy as he tries to explain why he shot Tony. In the Series Finale, deep in dementia, he will get Bobby Baccalieri confused with JFK’s brother Bobby Kennedy.

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luther vandross

 

63 responses to “Kaisha (6.12)

  1. I really enjoy reading these. I’ve read every one. The Sopranos is my favorite show of all-time, and it’s really nice looking at each episode from a different point of view. It gives them a heartbeat and helps them live on forever. Thanks for taking the time to do this.

    Like

  2. “Each one of us has stretched the truth about ourselves on a job application”
    Might want to edit that out of your personal website with your name attached, my guy.
    -huge fan

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Fantastic write up, Ron. And now I wait in anticipation for S6B…

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Hey, Ron.

    Great analysis, as always. I’ve been reading your essays on The Sopranos and they’ve really inspired me to give the series another rewatch. It’s always a pleasure to discuss the merits of golden television in a respectful manner, since I can’t do it in The Sopranos clips comments in YouTube that seem to be filled with “hits-and-tits” fans, to borrow your term.

    “Everything is Everything” matters:

    * I read the comment section of the scene between Tony and Phil in this episode in YouTube. Apparently, there’s a guy in Phil’s crew outside the hospital room who’s wearing a “Members Only” jacket. You know where I’m going with this. Personally, I prefer the ending of “Made In America” ambiguous and if you chose to dig into the M.O. man conspiracy when you do your write-up, go ahead. It’s just, could you confirm? I couldn’t get a good look at the guy when I watched the episode. Is he the same?

    * Future write-ups I’m most excited about: “Soprano Home Movies”, “Walk Like A Man”, “Kennedy and Heidi” and “Made In America”. Especially “Kennedy and Heidi”. Couple of things I’ve noticed in rewatch in “KaH”: The Tony/Melfi scene in that episode seems to be more of a vicious rehash of the “Stage Five” speech, in this case a more self-serving bastardization. Also, more than anything, this episode might be where hope truly dies. Consider who we saw was doing better in “Walk Like A Man” and how he ends up, all thanks to Tony, the mob and despair. Taking into account how this relationship often linked to some of the series’s finest moments and to have it all end with a whimper…Then, there’s “Pompeii”. And, of course, the connection of the episode with “Whoever Did This”, especially this line: “I’ll tell you something: you can’t be high on skag and have children”. Thematically, too: the big events in both episodes come from Tony’s emotional entitlement: in WDT, Tony’s expectation of Ralphie’s condolences for Pie’s death after Tony tried to do the same for him with Justin and in KaH, the love and respect Tony feels he has poured in the relationship, which he feels he deserves and thinks haven’t been reciprocated back.

    * Also, any tips for a writer? I’m hoping to make a Bojack Horseman review blog and could really use some guidance as to where to aim when doing a write-up in such detail as yours.

    Overall, just perfect. ‘Til your next one. (Please, be soon).

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks bealyndon. I don’t think the Members Only guy from the Finale appears anywhere else in the series; if he did, I’m pretty sure somebody would have posted a screencap of it and then the internet would have immediately broken to pieces.

      As for writing tips, you’re probably asking the wrong person but I would say that if you keep yourself open and primed to receive ideas, they’ll just come to you, even in unexpected moments. Years ago, I had an insight about a Sopranos episode right in the middle of an argument I was having with a coworker. I quickly went to my computer and added it to the episode writeup. (Two weeks ago, I heard Vic and Justin discussing that particular insight on the Podabing podcast—of course, they had no idea that they should probably be crediting my coworker and not me for that particular point…)

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      • I’m too lazy to screencap it, but I actually think the Members Only guy DOES appear before “Made in America.” In the episode “Another Toothpick” when Tony first goes to Fountains of Wayne, Officer Wilmore is shown talking with a man in between a baby statue and a gargoyle statue (at the 31:57 mark on the DVD). The man Wilmore is talking with looks exactly like Members Only guy to me, minus the Members Only jacket. IMDB doesn’t list him in the credits of that episode so who really knows if it’s the same guy or not. It would be interesting if Chase knew that that guy was an extra in “Another Toothpick,” an episode very close to the middle of the series that features statues (the show’s first image of symbolic connection), and put him in the jacket (one of the shows last images of symbolic connection) in “Made in America.” Okay, I’ll stop.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Ok that intrigued me so I looked at the scene… There is some resemblance, especially when we consider that the man would have aged 6 years by the time of the series finale. But even if it is the same actor, it’s probably just a coincidence. For example, he may have lived in the area and successfully gotten several appearances as an extra. (I believe Fountains of Wayne is in the same general area as Holsten’s, maybe a 20 min drive.) Editor Sidney Wolinsky recently said that none of the unknown characters that appeared in Holsten’s had ever appeared on the series previously. (Although he wouldn’t know with any certainty about the appearance(s) of each and every extra…)

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          • So Members Only guy’s real life name is Paolo Colandrea and is the owner of a pizza shop in Pennsylvania, so I guess that makes it even more unlikely it’s the same guy. Oh well.

            (Also, from Mr. Colandrea’s IMDB Trivia page: “Became friends with James Gandolfini after appearing on The Sopranos (1999). They spent time together on vacation in Naples, Italy. They were supposed to meet in Naples during Gandolfini’s final trip there.” Somebody get Master of Sopranos on the horn!)

            Liked by 1 person

  5. I will wait impatiently for the analyzes of Season 6B, for me the best final season of a series with the 5B season of Breaking Bad. My favorite TV show is The Wire, but it has never seemed right to compare them. For me they are like two connected series, together forming the best radiography of contemporary society. What do you think about the next movie of The Sopranos?

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m really looking forward to it. Apparently it will be set in the ’60s, a time of upheaval and polarization in the US, similar to what American culture is going through right now, so I’m curious to see if Chase will be drawing any parallels between then and now..

      Like

  6. “All this stuff about names may be an unwarranted digression, I may be reaching at things that aren’t really there.” Oh good, you said it for me. I really didn’t want to.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I waited day after day for this next one, lol. This may be a silly question, Ron, but have you seen Breaking Bad? I would LOVE to see you do a write up after you finish The Sopranos.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I’ve always loved this episode, although I can understand why some don’t, as you articulated here.

    The Luther Vandross box set is a nice touch!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. The meeting between Tony, Phil and Lil Carmine is one of the funniest bits the show ever did. From Phils remarks on Vito and remark to Lil Carmine’s slip up on his brother, to Lil Carmines malporiism truly at their best here, Tony’s reactions and attempts to save it all at the end.Truly hilarious stuff that never gets old.

    Many people on Youtube think Lil Carmine mentioned Billy on purpose to cause tension or to agilate things between Phil and Tony. While i’m one of those that thinks Little Carmine isn’t exactly as brainless as he’s made out to. I do not think he is any secret mastermind that’s running some scheme to come out on top. The billy slip up i think was mainly due to him making the mistake of thinking Phil was not still so caught up on it.

    Now Butchie on the other hand, i find it interesting he’s only introduced in this episode of season six rather than earlier in the season when Albie and Gerry Torciano have been there throughout the season. The fact he see Butchie wanting Tony wracked and being very aggressive in wanting Phil to go through with it certainly makes a first impression, and then in part two of Season Six we get the positions reversing makes me wonder. Was Butchie always aiming to goad Phil into taking action? And then backstab him to get the top position for himself when Phil overeaches himself? Or was Butchie playing at something else? I have read theories online that people think Albie was a fbi informant that Agent Harris i can’t remember if he did refer to a guy in Phil’s crew that gave Harris information that Harris then passed to Tony. But sometimes, i wonder, if there was a fbi guy in Phi’s crew, Butchie to me at least gives off this vibe i quite point my finger that makes me think he’s that guy, since we have seen the fbi play dirty before and in season five had their informant bring down Sack and his crew, add in we see Harri’s final scene of proclaiming they are going to win and Tony finds himself possibly being rico charged with Carlo turning informant. Just seems interesting is all to me.

    Maybe it’s Red Read Redemption 2 and the way the traitor in it acts throughout the game that’s making me see threads that aren’t really there. But then ambiguity is Chase’s calling card.

    Oh Jessie the Body Ventura call out,i remember the wrestler and commentator i grew up listening to, Jessie was always quite the character and so wonderful to hear with him and Gorilla. They helped to set the bar on how to do commentary in wrestling.

    Would love to see you do a Wire recap like you have done for sopranos here, since the Wire is such a deep show and i’m sure you can bring a interesting perspective to it.

    AJ is starting to embark on some interesting storytelling in part two, Robert often gets called out by fans for being one of the weaker actors of the show. But i felt he really did a standout job in part two of season six and really made me take note of him and how he portrayed AJ.

    Can’t wait for Sopranos Home Movies, that’s going to be brilliant to read about from you Ron.

    Keep up the excellent work.

    Blackmambauk

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I’ll sound immature as heck, but isn’t Julianna’s surname “Skiff” some wordplay on italian word “schifosa”? She’s kinda promiscous (having fiance, trying to bang Tony, then going for Chris all behind fiance’s back) so that was my first impression.

    Liked by 1 person

    • lol I had some similar thoughts about her name. But I’m guessing Skiff is a variation of the more common Jewish name Schiff—both Julianna and “Julianna” are Jewish.

      Like

  11. I was almost all the way through this piece and wondered, “is he going to mention the Luther Vandross box set?” For me it’s one of the biggest laugh out loud moments of the series, but that’s because it’s funny on so many deep levels, like a good stand-up comedy joke.
    For you North Jersey folks, the scene with Chris and Julianne in the parking lot is outside the VIP Diner on Kennedy and Sip in Jersey City. I lived about a block away for a number of years.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Always enjoy your recaps thoroughly, doing (another) rewatch right now. As far as GOAT is concerned, the case for second place can be made by quite a few excellent TV dramas but The Sopranos is Secretariat turning for home in the Belmont. The entire series is beyond reproach but IMO 6B is the single greatest season of television ever made as well as the darkest. Looking forward to your take on that!

    Re: AJ and Blanca, I always forget how that arc starts in this episode. I’ve come to appreciate that arc and AJ’s 6B arc a lot more through the years. AJ’s miraculous transformation into “honest hard-working blue-collar family man” was probably the most rebellious path he could have realistically taken. AJ’s “working man” attitude is a big “FU” to his father and his hot older struggling single mother girlfriend is a shot straight across Carmela’s bow. AND she’s Puerto Rican too…”at least she’s Catholic”…oh Carmela, always judging.

    Liked by 1 person

    • There’s an interesting parallel: making a legitimate living is such a contrary idea in this family that it actually makes AJ seem like a rebel, similar to how Tony being a legitimate businessman in his coma-dream made him seem so contrary to what is “normal” in SopranoWorld. I argued that Tony was in a kind of mythological quest down a Left-hand Path in “Join the Club,” and now AJ sort of has the aura of someone going on a mythological quest of his own. AJ even has to confront Monsters here (giving them his Gary Fisher bike) in order to win the love of the Princess…

      Like

      • Tony forces AJ to work construction as a “life lesson” of sorts, almost like a punishment, but instead he embraces it and thrives. And Carmela, who pulled out all the stops in her attempt to push AJ toward Meadow’s collegiate path, now has to endure watching AJ become a lowly “ditch-digger” with a “poor” non-Italian girlfriend who she cannot relate to at all. And they can’t protest or complain without exposing themselves as massive hypocrites. Intentionally or otherwise, AJ found the perfect way to rebel against Sopranoland.

        What we need now is a sequel featuring a grown AJ spilling his guts in Dr. Jason Melfi’s office, blaming his mother for everything and dodging queries about his sleazy low-level porn producer career as an aging Carmela (confined to Green Grove) bemoans how she gave her children “everything on a silver platter”. Then the circle will be complete.

        Liked by 1 person

  13. I liked the Connie Francis joke that Bobby adds to Hugh’s story of seeing the singer in the store. It’s barely heard, but yet it still made me laugh.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. I think it speaks volumes about AJ’s character that he steps up and does the opposite of what his father does. Granted, he’s weak…but there is something admirable in there. He just wants to be a different man, out of his fathers shadow.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes. There are no true cliffhangers in this final episode of 6A but I remember one of the things that viewers had wondered about during the offseason was whether or not AJ would be able to stay on the good path that he had found…

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      • I think AJ would have eventually gotten out of his family and would have lived happily with Blanca. He truly felt he had it all, but once again the crassness and low class behavior ( Tony belching at the dinner table) and the extreme wealth makes Blanca uncomfortable and makes it impossible to adjust to Soprano World. So, because he has low self esteem, the breakup hits him very hard and he just gives up. Like Finn with Meadow they don’t like what they see. When Finn realizes Vito is dead…he’s free to break up with Meadow. Both kids have to compromise their lives in some way, Meadow with her future mob lawyer boyfriend, and AJ eventually dabbling in producing porn.

        Liked by 1 person

    • It’s almost as if it’s the first time he really discovers what “character” is…and he likes it. Tony wants AJ to develop character, or at least what he thinks character is (“toughening up”) and it works, only a little too well.

      Liked by 1 person

  15. Love the inclusion of the Luther box set image.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. I don’t know whether it was this episode or the last one, but I’m pretty sure it’s this one that contained a very striking and eerie visual. A woman who from the back looks like Adriana was with Tony. Her height, shape, and especially her hair, until she turned around to reveal herself to be, I’m assuming, one of Sil’s dancers.

    I liked this episode too, but there are no Sopranos episodes I dislike.

    I think Little Carmine purposely called that meeting to exacerbate problems between Tony and Phil, not solve them. I think he knew they were behind the hit on Rusty. But that’s another story.

    I think the purpose of this episode hit it’s stride with Phil’s heart-attack. It put Tony back on the track of changing his life. How he goes about it in future episodes may be questionable, from most of our perspectives. But he is as much an addict as Chris.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. You’re absolutely right about The Singing Detective. Fantastic. I saw it in my early twenties and since then I have watched it now and again. Last time three or four years ago.
    I have to mention one other great show that was (still is) complex and mesmerizing – Carnivale…and of course Twin Peaks without which The Sopranos might not even existed but yes, The Sopranos is the best of all time.
    Thanks for another great analysis. You are nine write-ups away from completing your masterpiece.
    (You’ll not cut to black too?)

    Liked by 1 person

  18. I always thought that Christopher’s blaming his not bringing his “black girlfriend” around because of the way Paulie would react, as well as Tony and Bobby appearing to agree was strange. Didn’t Paulie have a black girlfriend in Season 2 in “From Where to Eternity”?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Good point—although Paulie might have looked at that previous girlfriend more as… hmm, I wanna say Dominican? Puerto Rican? He clearly finds Blanca attractive, maybe she reminds him of that earlier woman. It would be ironic, and somehow perfect, if Paulie never brought his girlfriend around because he didn’t want to hear all of Chrissie’s racist bullshit…

      Like

  19. While on the topic of music with mention of the box set, two of my favorite ‘80s female vocalist have their songs played in this episode. Joan Jett and the Blackhearts’ version of “ The Little Drummer Boy” is being played at the Bing while one of the dancers wears a Santa hat. ( Which reminds Paulie of a typical Paulie experience.) Blanca is dancing at the bar to Chrissy Hynde and the Pretenders’ “ Precious”, before making her way over to AJ. There are at least two other Pretenders tunes used in other episodes (“ Space Invaders” in Season 2 and “The Adultess” later in Season B.)

    Like

  20. I don’t think Chris’s drug use is really related to Adrianna’s death. Yes, he feels guilty and misses her, not enough to give up a life of crime and drugs though. Not enough to stop her from being murdered. The problem with Christopher is that he is trapped in that life…wanting something more, but not smart enough or strong enough to leave it. Like all the characters who are sensitive (AJ comes to mind) they are weak willed. They feel great pain and anger, but in Chris’ case he can’t overcome it so he uses drugs. AJ is still young, he may snap out of it, but he will always carry that feeling of being in his fathers shadow, unless he leaves home or Tony dies. They are tragic, but its hard to feel sorry for Christopher…..

    Liked by 1 person

  21. I hate to be THAT guy but valerian isn’t an opiate. It contains many alkaloids, most of which work on GABA receptors, so in essence, Julianna was right saying it was more like Valium.

    Liked by 1 person

  22. Another great write up Ron! I am glad to see you are back at it. I too agree that the Soprano’s is the GOAT as well, the amazing thing is the depth of characters, even the minor ones. The Neer-do Well Carmine Luppertazzi is a brilliant minor character, he is the idiot son who will never live up to his fathers expectations. You mentioned David Simon’s “The Wire”, have you gotten the chance to watch “The Deauce” also by Simon? Although it will never have the depth, and the greatness of the Sopranos it has the ability to make you feel like you are back in 70’s New York City. A good quality show! I am also wondering if you got to see “Green Book”? it is based on a true story about Tony Lipp’s (Carmine Luppertazzi Sr.) relationship with a Black Concert Pianist during segregation.

    Liked by 1 person

  23. I agree with you on how good The Singing Detective was. I’d love to see you write an analysis of that one day.

    Liked by 1 person

    • There is a lot that can be broken down and analyzed in the Singing Detective but I don’t want to do it—it would feel too much like pulling the petals off a rare and beautiful flower

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  24. Hi Ron, absolutely love your recaps — I’ve been reading each and every one since I discovered this website.

    While I agree with your interpretation of there being some form of ‘racial irony’ in Blanca’s name, I’ve always thought the meaning behind her name is mostly about how she contrasts with AJ’s notion of Livia’s big nothing, the endless black, etc. Blanca a beacon, someone who drives AJ to display some semblance of personal growth. She brings him happiness, and adds meaning to his life (AJ is still AJ, but as Carmela later points out, it’s hard to argue that he a better version of himself when he was with her). When Blanca leaves AJ, we watch him fall back into that black hole, complete with all the despair and trappings of depression. Just my two cents.

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  25. “Tony and Carmela have concerns that AJ’s girlfriend is a bit older than him, and perhaps some anxiety over her ethnicity as well as the fact that she has a child.”
    “Concerns!” – “Perhaps!” – Sounds like ironic understatement!
    As I watch The Sopranos, I am very much aware of divisions by race, religion, ethnicity, national origin, and so on. Practically every character who is not Italian-American or mainstream white is put into a category: black, Jewish, Russian, Korean, and so on. In this episode, we learn that Julianna is Jewish. The older Italian-Americans still know exactly where in the old country their grandfathers came from.
    Blanca might remind us of Noah Tannenbaum, Meadow’s former boyfriend. He was half-Jewish and half-black, doubly unacceptable (a new kind of mathematics). In the eyes of Mr & Mrs Soprano, Blanca is as bad, a dark-skinned Hispanic; or worse: from a lower social class, ten years older – as Carmela estimates, and a single mother.
    I am watching Season 6 for the first time. I know AJ’s and Blanca’s affair ends unhappily, but I don’t know what the relationship (if any) is between her and his parents. I think that, as a mother, Carmela will suspect that Blanca’s over-riding concern is with her child’s well-being, and that she is using AJ, not as a lover, but as a substitute father, and as a provider for her child. Neither Carmela nor Tony will want their son to spend his time and money on a child who is not his own.
    _ _ _ _
    A couple of dubious things about the Blanca character.
    – She is too good-looking. There was never a clerk working in a construction-site office who looked like her.
    – I can understand why AJ was struck by her, but not why she is attracted to him. It’s not quite convincing.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think the idea of him piqued her interest, and then he was too immature and the family too horrible for her. She obviously was disgusted at Tony’s belching at the table, and in general they are low class people. Also, AJ is probably very clingy and needy….I understand why she didn’t want to marry him. They don’t show if the parents are annoyed…they probably are displeased, but he moved in with her, he bought her a ring, and they didn’t object. I just think she thought better of it.

      Liked by 1 person

    • It may be surprising that Blanca is attracted to him, but attraction can be a strange thing. Perhaps it’s because he might be very different from the construction guys she usually encounters..

      Like

  26. Ron, would you consider doing a Mad Men autopsy after your finished with the Sopranos? I love your writing style and Mad Men is my all time favorite. To have the opinion of someone with your detailed expertise would be heaven to me.

    Like

  27. What did the cut to the turkey mean after Carmela went to visit Ades mom in the hospital?

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