Live Free or Die (6.06)

Tony and Christopher set up the hit on Mr. Millio.
Vito flees from New Jersey when things start to get too hot for him.

Episode 71 – Originally aired April 16, 2006
Written by David Chase, Terry Winter, Robin Green & Mitchell Burgess
Directed by Tim Van Patten


The title of this hour, borrowed from the state motto of New Hampshire, reflects a fundamental American ethos.  We have long believed that life is not worth living if it is not steeped in freedom.  As early as 1775, Patrick Henry bellowed, “Give me liberty or give me death!” (in a passionate speech that is widely credited for pulling Virginia troops into the Revolutionary War).  The episode title most obviously refers to Vito Spatafore, who must literally make the choice outlined by the title: live freely as a gay man or die at the hands of the mob.  But the idea of freedom and independence is important to other characters in SopranoWorld as well.  In this hour alone, we see how Tony, Angie Bonpensiero and Carmela all approach the idea of independence.  I’ll take a look at each of these characters before getting to Vito’s story.

I argued in the previous write-up that the closing scene of last week’s episode—which featured the song “Every Day of the Week” coupled with a shot of Tony puking into the toilet bowl—signaled that Tony was getting back into the “regularness” of his daily life.  The opening scene of “Live Free or Die” continues in the same vein, showing Tony’s return back to regular life with all of its banal annoyances.  Tony tries to enjoy his Yachting magazine while he sits in his robe out by the pool, but the rattle of the AC unit annoys him.

Live Free or Die - Sopranos Autopsy

Tony is settling back into his old life, a life that has its share of frustrations and dull moments.  We can note an interesting comparison between Tony and Vito Spatafore at this point in their lives: they are both in a state of transition.  Tony is trying to transition back into his old life, while recent events are ousting Vito out of his old life.  A matching cut underscores this similarity between Vito and Tony.  At the beginning of this hour, Vito has not yet quit his life as a mobster—he is “hiding” out at his beach house with his goomar.  As Vito tries to figure out his next step, Chase cuts to Tony easing back into his familiar life at Satriale’s:

Vito Spatafore, Tony Soprano - edit

Take a look at that edit again.  It doesn’t seem like much of a matching cut at first glance, but there is actually a strong graphic match there.  The composition of the two frames are almost identical: Tony and Vito inhabit the same spot on the screen (albeit with Vito on this side of the windows and Tony on the other side of the plate-glass window); the placement of some of the props and vertical elements echo each other, with the primary vertical features lining up perfectly; and both frames are split into lighter and darker areas by an implied horizontal line.


Like Vito, Tony wants to live with a certain amount of freedom.  He wants to be free of small nuisances (like the rattling AC unit) and be free to bring his newfound enlightenment into his life.  But he cannot escape the humdrum banality of life.  We can hear the bitterness of this truth in Tony’s complaint to Dr. Melfi:

You can talk about every day being a gift and stopping to smell the roses, but regular life has got a way of picking away at it.  Your house, the shit you own—it drags you down.  Your kids, what they want.  One bad idea after another.  Just trying to work a cell phone menu is enough to make you scream.

Tony desperately wants to hold onto the idea that he will value and cherish each and every day.  But that just ain’t gonna happen for him.  As is the case in the real world, “the fuckin’ regularness of life” is the most pervasive, dominant element in the world that David Chase has created.


Angie Bonpensiero revealed her independent streak back in Season 2, when she spoke of divorcing her husband Big Pussy.  She struggled financially for a while after Pussy’s disappearance (i.e. death), and tried to get welfare payments from Tony and took a job at a grocery store.  But she is solidly on her own two feet now.  The auto body repair shop is doing well enough for her to buy herself a ‘Vette and even to “invest” a little money with Benny Fazio and Patsy Parisi.  When Carmela agreed to reconcile with Tony last year, she believed that she would be able to forge a level of autonomy and independence for herself as Angie has done now.  But things are not working out quite like Carmela had planned.  This difference between Angie and Carmela is highlighted through wardrobe: at lunch, Carmela wears a lacy, effeminate dress while Angie has on a masculine leather jacket:

Carm vs. Angie - Sopranos Autopsy

Angie’s man lays at the bottom of the sea and so she has had to become, in a sense, “the man of the house,” taking charge of her affairs and her life.  Carmela, on the other hand, is slipping back into the role of the subservient mob wife.  She had hoped that building and selling a spec-house would give her some measure of self-sufficiency and independence, but that dream seems to be in tatters:

Carmela Soprano - dream in tatters

Tony keeps forgetting to lean on the building inspector that ordered the work stoppage on the house.  Moreover, Hugh has picked through some of the construction materials like a vulture.  Carm is furious at her father for undermining the project.  She gives him an earful, then races off in her Porsche.  The birds on Hugh’s roof, perhaps alarmed by the tension, fly off in a hurry too.

As compelling as Tony, Angie and Carmela’s struggles for freedom and autonomy are, they are minor compared to the struggle that Vito faces.  Chris and Murmur rush back to the Bing to break the news they got from Sal Iacuzzo’s cousin: Vito was sighted at a gay bar.  (It’s quite ironic that it is at the Bada Bing where the guys learn of Vito’s homosexuality, because this is a space that has been constructed strictly in service of heteronormative masculine desires and fantasies.  The mobsters come here to look at tits, but now end up having to think about Vito’s dick.)  In the back room of the Bing, we see a variety of responses to the news.  Patsy Parisi is fairly open-minded, but his own sexuality gets questioned because of his tolerance.  Tony refrains from voicing any judgment.  Paulie is extremely unsympathetic.  And Carlo is even less so: “If it was up to me, I’d drag Vito behind my fucking car right now.”  (Carlo is probably trying to make a reference to Matthew Shepard but is mixing him up with James Byrd.  Shepard was a gay man who died after being severely beaten up in October 1998, whereas Byrd, a black man, had been dragged to death by white supremacists four months earlier.  The two grotesque events are linked in the American consciousness because they occurred just a few months apart; in 2009, President Obama signed the “Mathew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act” into law.)  The guys’ harsh attitude towards Vito exists even before Finn comes into Satriale’s and confirms Vito’s homosexuality.  After Finn reveals that Vito was “catching, not pitching,” fugeddaboudit, most of the guys squash any lingering tolerance they may have felt for Vito’s sexual preference.

But Tony is more broad-minded than one might expect him to be.  In Melfi’s office, he toes the party line at first, saying that he agrees with Senator Rick “Sanitorium” that legitimizing gay sex puts us on a slippery slope to bestiality.  (Soon after the Senator made this ugly comment, Dan Savage waged a pretty successful campaign to GoogleBomb the search term “Santorum.”)  But Tony’s more libertarian attitude eventually surfaces.  He doesn’t actually have much of a moral objection to Vito’s lifestyle choices, Tony has just been performing the role of someone who objects because that is what is expected of him.  (I love that the writers have Tony saying that “the lesbian thing” [The L Word], which appeared on rival channel Showtime, is “not bad.”)  Again, David Chase complicates our understanding of his mobster.  Yes, Tony is a murderer, philanderer, predatory moneylender and all-around thug.  But he manages to be more compassionate and less bigoted toward gays than many politicians, including two-time Republican Presidential candidate Rick Santorum.  Melfi suggests that Tony’s open-mindedness may be a part of his “new outlook” after surviving the gunshot.  Though Tony’s outlook may be growing more progressive, it is very important to him that his own heterosexuality not be called into question: he tells Dr. Melfi, “My incarceration was very short-term so I never had any need for any anal…ya’ know.”  

Benny and two other goombahs go to Vito’s house by the shore to bring him in for further questioning.  As they talk to Vito in front of the house, we can hear the rumbling of thunder.  At first I thought that the sound effect was too heavy-handed, Chase was trying too hard to signify there’s a dark storm brewing on Vito’s horizon.”  But then I noticed that the sky in the scene was indeed quite gray.  The scene was shot on-location and it was probably just a fitting coincidence that they had some inclement weather that day.  I was relieved to see the pouring rain in a later scene, when Chris is assigning the Rusty Millio hit to associate Corky Caporale as they sit in the car.  Those earlier sounds of thunder were not quite as ham-fisted as I had thought.

Vito knows he is in danger and high-tails it out of north Jersey.  He escapes to Dartford, New Hampshire.  At a diner here, Vito meets short-order cook Jim Witowski, who makes quite an impression on him.  Jim also makes quite an impression on the viewer due to the scene’s staging and camerawork.  We are not able to get very close look at Jim until the final moment of the scene, when the camera pulls in close just as he turns and presents his johnnycakes to Vito:


The nicely-wrought staging sets up their relationship—and makes it inevitable that Vito’s nickname for Jim should be Johnny Cakes.  Here is a ruggedly handsome and romantically interested cook in a warm and idyllic town—it looks like everything is coming up roses for Vito.  This looks like a place where he can settle down and start over.  But many viewers found Dartford too unrealistic; it felt too much like some sort of Progressive Paradise.  Critic Matt Zoller Seitz described the setting as “Norman Rockwell country”—that is, if Norman Rockwell’s small towns had been gay-friendly.  Todd VanDerWerff thinks that the episode ultimately succeeds, but he criticizes the far-fetched nature of Dartford:

Vito has wandered into some sort of utopia, a place of utter tolerance that will let him be himself and live openly and proudly as a gay man. On its face, it’s a goofy notion. Not necessarily that there would be a small town that would be welcoming to gay people—especially in New England—but that Vito would keep seeing all of the ways that this place seems to be made for him. It’s like he’s having his own coma dream, but he gets to go to Heaven for some reason, and whoever’s directing the dream keeps showing him in increasing detail just how welcome he would be here.

When this episode first aired, I also felt that Chase was laying it on a bit thick.  Dartford just seemed too much like the wet-dream of some starry-eyed liberal.  It just didn’t feel real.  But then I noticed something in the final credits that hinted that perhaps Dartford is supposed to be seen as a sort of fairytale land: the proprietress of the Bed & Breakfast where Vito finds refuge from the dark rainy night is named “Betty Wolf.”  Wearing a red poncho, Vito shows up at Wolf’s cottage in a scene that plays like some bizarro retelling of Little Red Riding Hood.

Sopranos Vito - Little Red Riding Hood

We remember that there was also a reference to another classic fairytale in the previous episode:

Paulie: His fuckin’ coach turned into a pumpkin, hehe.
Phil: But even Cinderella didn’t cry.

These guys have such an oafish, regressive conception of masculinity that they were unwilling to excuse Johnny Sac even for crying during the turmoil that ended his daughter’s wedding.  It is a very idealized, 1950s view of masculinity that these conservative men have.  Chase seemed to reference Cinderella in the previous hour to point out the fairytale idealism of certain aspects of conservative thinking.  And now he seems to reference Little Red Riding Hood to call attention to the fairytale idealism of certain aspects of liberal thinking.  Liberals fantasize of an America that can hold on to its rural, small-town values while embracing very cosmopolitan progressive principles.  Dartford seems to fit the bill—but it is just too sickly-sweet to be believable.  With characteristic skepticism, Chase seems to assert over the last couple of episodes that neither the manly, patriarchal world of conservative idealism nor the nurturing, generous world of liberal idealism are truly plausible—they are only fairytales.  The real world exists somewhere between these ideological fantasies.

Ideological clashes are occurring at the Soprano home, now that Ivy Leaguer Meadow is developing an almost stereotypical liberal conscience while the rest of her family remains steeped in conservative orthodoxy.  (Was anyone surprised to learn here that Carmela voted for George W. Bush?)  Mead brings up a couple of the Left’s favorite criticisms of the period (while wearing a “Powered By Tofu” T-shirt, of course): Bush’s handling of Hurricane Katrina (“black people clinging to logs”) and his legally dubious suspension of habeus corpus protections.  (It has been 12 years since this episode first came out so maybe I need to provide some context.  Congress approved the President’s suspension of habeus corpus a few months after this episode aired through The Military Commissions Act of 2006, leaving many Americans even further troubled by the Federal government’s questionable actions towards those it had termed “enemy combatants,” including those “enemies” who were American citizens.)  I think Meadow is largely correct when she complains that Mr. Bush was using 9/11 “to erode our Constitutional protections.”  (The Supreme Court agreed in 2008, finding a key provision of the Military Commissions Act regarding habeus corpus to be in violation of the Constitution.)  All this stuff about “habeus corpus” that Meadow brings up is not just rhetorical filler; it ties into the issues of freedom and liberty that lay at the heart of this hour, and which the episode title refers to.  Around the time that this episode was first seen, our politicians were not only rejecting the rights and freedoms of homosexuals, they were also designating certain American citizens as “enemy combatants” in an effort to deny them their guaranteed Constitutional rights.  The very notion of what it is that we mean when we use the terms “freedom” and “liberty” and even “American citizen” was being hotly debated, both inside courtrooms and out, at the time that “Live Free or Die” originally aired.

In 2006, the country was also still divided over the question of whether homosexuality was something that occurred “naturally” within human beings.  Many churches and organizations were providing so-called conversion therapy to help gays “revert” back to what they considered to be a natural state.  In the final scene of the episode, Vito wanders into an antiques shop where he picks out the most valuable piece in the store.  When the shopkeeper tells him he is “a natural,” we understand that Chase has loaded a double-meaning into the phrase: not only does Vito have a naturally discerning eye for antiques, but his homosexuality is a natural part of who he is.  The fact that Vito seemed completely unmoved by two alluring females earlier in the episode underscored that his natural attraction is to men:

goomar and babysitter - Sopranos Autopsy

His thick-booty goomar and his Lolita-like babysitter exemplify a wide spectrum of feminine physical attributes: dark-skinned vs. light-skinned, voluptuous vs. skinny, older vs. younger.  But Vito is more interested in an entirely different spectrum: dudes.

The song “4th of July” (by X, one of the most under-appreciated American bands of the last 40 years) starts up and takes us through the credits.  As John Doe and Exene Cervenka harmonize through that gorgeous chorus, we recognize that the song links our national Independence Day (and our national ideals of freedom and liberty) with Vito’s potential independence.  Vito has a chance to be “reborn,” to live openly and freely in a supportive and nurturing community.  Will he make the most of the opportunity that he has found?

Fuck no, of course not.  This is SopranoWorld—he’ll screw things up for himself before the end of the season.


A & E
I despised the edited-for-time version of the series that ran on the A&E network, but I did happen to catch the beginning of this particular episode one day.  Something about it immediately felt off, but I couldn’t put my finger on it.  And then I realized what it was: they trimmed out the entire opening scene, where Tony gets annoyed by the clackety AC condenser while he is trying to relax out by the pool.  If A&E chopped it because they figured it doesn’t really add anything in terms of narrative, they would have been right to do so—it doesn’t advance the plot at all in any way.  And yet… That opening scene establishes the dominant theme of “Live Free or Die”: Tony, like everyone else, wants to be free of everything that inconveniences or diminishes him.  I argued earlier in this write-up that the opening scene was continuing in the same vein as the ending of the previous episode: Tony is settling back into “the fuckin’ regularness” of his life.  (And my first graphic up top makes the point pictorially.)  Anyone watching the A&E hash-up would miss that very important thematic introduction.  Perhaps more regrettably, they would miss the mythological images that open the hour: the trees, the wind, the Soprano patio.  Chase’s imagery gains its allegorical heft primarily through repetition, and the resulting mythology is at the heart of the show.  By slicing these images out, A&E cut out a piece of The Sopranos’ heart.  I know I’m griping about nothing now, because anyone nowadays can watch full, uncut episodes of the series online.  I shouldn’t really be criticizing A&E, I should be aiming my criticism more at anyone who watches the show without their full, undivided attention.  Turn your phone off, close the door and settle in, because every single scene counts in The Sopranos.

This is the last Sopranos episode that the writing team of Robin Green and Mitchell Burgess got credit for.  There were various rumors as to why the pair left the show, but Variety magazine reported at the time that their departure was “amicable” and that they were moving on to develop their own projects.  I think they worked fantastically well with David Chase (with whom they had previously collaborated on Almost Grown and Northern Exposure), and I feel their overall contribution to The Sopranos is second only to that of Chase himself.



  • The guys are worried that Vito’s sudden weight loss may be the result of a deadly disease.  Tony tries to ease their concern: “Nobody’s got AIDS!  And I don’t wanna hear that word in here again!”  Tony still wasn’t woke, he was still stigmatizing AIDS as late as 2006.
  • Dartford seems like a typical libertarian New Hampshire settlement, but the Dartford scenes were actually shot in the New Jersey town of Boonton.  The name “Dartford” may be a portmanteau of NH’s only Ivy League university, Dartmouth, and NH’s state capitol, Concord.
  • Thank you Dr. Melfi!  I was happy to hear Melfi ask Tony why he is complaining about money woes because he has always led everyone to believe that he is quite wealthy.  I had been wondering about Tony’s complaints for awhile too.  It is never made abundantly clear whether Tony has legitimate money problems or if he is just excessively worrying about it (as many of us tend to do).  
  • A photo at the Spatafore home reveals that before Vito played the role of Little Red Riding Hood(lum), he starred as Robin Hood(lum).

Vito - Robin Hood

  • Accommodation:  Carmela wonders if Marie Spatafore knew of her husband’s homosexuality and accommodated it through “some sort of arrangement.”  The great irony is that Carm’s own marriage exists through an arrangement: Tony supports her efforts to build a spec-house while she turns a blind eye to his various misdeeds.
  • Accommodation:  Tony is worried that the Muslim men from the previous episode may have terror ties, but Chris figures that they are not very devout because one of them owns a dog.  Some devout Muslims do believe that dogs shouldn’t be kept as pets, but I think Chris is just trying to accommodate the men because they have such a profitable business arrangement.
  •  Like many young social justice warriors, Meadow has a great sensitivity to the plight of minorities and the exploitation of others, but she can be quite clueless about herself.  When Finn’s criticisms touch a nerve, she uses her Columbia University vocabulary to put a halt to the conversation (“This is untenable”) and marches out of the room. 
  • “Coffee” forms a link throughout the hour: Finn only wants coffee for breakfast, Tony ends the “terrorism” conversation with Chris by going to get coffee, Vito orders some at the diner, Marie offers some to Silvio, the woman at Narcotics Anonymous used coffee as part of her morning ritual of addictions…
  • “Murmur” never becomes more than a minor character in SopranoWorld but actor Lenny Venito makes the most of his time onscreen, with perfect line readings and physical gestures.
  • A study was done in late-2006 or 2007 (I’m not able to track it down now) that found that the biggest story journalists regretted not giving enough coverage to in 2006 was the Federal government’s attempts to deny the right of habeus corpus to certain individuals.  Habeus corpus rights date back to at least the Magna Carta (and in fact may have originated several hundred years earlier).  The jurist A.V. Dicey once described the British Habeus Corpus Acts as “worth a hundred constitutional articles guaranteeing individual liberty.”  The multiple references to habeus corpus in “Live Free or Die,” as well as the “gay mobster” storyline, seem to be part of David Chase’s increasing effort to be a cultural eyewitness.
  • Georgianne Walken, the Sopranos’ casting director extraordinaire (and wife of Christopher), has a cameo in this episode:

georgianne walken

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75 responses to “Live Free or Die (6.06)

  1. Interesting observations about habeus corpus. Of course, no one needs the right to challenge their wrongful punishment (expulsion) more than Vito in the episode. But his trial is being done in absentia, and he has no recourse. That said, the scenes of the guys discussing what to do to Vito is similar to how you might imagine Vito’s petition for the writ to play out: a discussion of whether his punishment is rightful or not.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Yes, good analogy. Of course, in the legal cases of the time, the defendants wanted the right to physically appear in court but in Vito’s case, he doesn’t want his “corpus” anywhere near the Mafia’s justice system…


  2. Dude Manbrough

    Re: the rattling AC scene, it might not mean much narrative wise but it definitely sets a tone. As always, Tony yearns for “peace and quiet”, peace and quiet he’ll never find thanks to his lifestyle. Good old cognitive dissonance.

    I always enjoyed Patsy’s reaction re: Vito. He’s amused by the thought but really doesn’t care, unlike his reactionary cohorts who can’t even stomach the idea. Who knew Patsy was so complex, huh? I likewise always enjoyed Angie’s evolution too. Unlike the hapless Carmela, Angie really did carve herself a real niche and establish “her own thing”, refusing to rely on the mob to provide for her. Whether out of necessity or not, she has a degree of independence Carmela has never and will never experience.

    Liked by 5 people

  3. I agree that the air-conditioner is a key element in the episode, and I’m surprised A&E cut it.

    When “Live Free or Die” opens, Tony is trying to relax by his pool. The lid of his outdoor air-conditioning unit starts to rattle. The rattle annoys Tony, so he gets up, tries to adjust the lid so it stops rattling. It does stop. He sits back down, starts to relax again, when the lid begins again to rattle.

    To me, the rattling air conditioner lid is meant to symbolize Tony’s awareness of the Vito Problem. He wants to enjoy himself, but the Vito issue keeps cropping up, unresolved. Superficial attempts to deal with the recurring annoyance of the problem are not enough. It has to be dealt with decisively.

    Chase underlines the connection between the air conditioner problem and the Vito problem in a subtle way. In the scene, while Tony is trying to relax, he’s reading a yachting magazine. Later in the episode, he tells Silvio, his consigliore, that he never would have been able to buy his yacht if it hadn’t been for Vito’s earnings as a captain. Still later in the episode, when the time comes to resolve the Vito issue, decide whether or not to have him killed, Tony is once again reading a magazine, only this time it’s a business magazine. The point is clear. Tony must choose business over pleasure.

    Great write-up as always, Ron.

    Liked by 3 people

    • It’s interesting, I am planning on referencing the magazines in my next write-up “Luxury Lounge,” because Yachting and The Robb Report fit in with that episode’s statement about luxury items and conspicuous consumerism. But I’m really liking your take on the magazines Rob!


  4. Do all the episodes carry a central theme about American society in general?
    I really appreciate your blog. It has sparked an interest in art, literature, film, and philosophy that I never was exposed to in school.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Having found this page today I am absolutely gutted that it couldn’t have been a few months from now instead, at a point where you might be close to finishing all the episode analysis. Looking forward to the rest!


  6. I’m always amazed when the soprano women tell Tony something that will get a person killed!! Poor Finn..a pawn in the mafia game. He probably broke up with Meadow because of the Vito incident. She ends up with Patrick because he understands her world and is educated. No judgement. Also, Tony complains about the hospital bill because it’s an expense that he doesn’t want to pay. He always says he has less money than he really has so he doesn’t have to give it to Carmela. Also, Angie’s success is precisely due to Tony. He gave her permission to run the body shop. So although she is independent because she’s not married…the mob life will always hang over her head. Carmela and Angie are in the same boat.

    Liked by 3 people

    • And he can take it away from her at anytime if she doesn’t comply…so there’s that.

      Liked by 1 person

    • I think one reason Meadow always pisses me off is her hypocrisy, and that is intensified because she is supposed to be the good, smart one.
      Her gossip led not only Vito being put on the hit list (remember that she mocked Finn when he first told her about Vito) but also
      to CoCo getting curb stompped. Yeah dude was an asshole but Meadow had to know Tony would take brutal revenge for telling about the cream on her cheeks and tucking her in at night. Melfi knew Tony would do some brutal revenge but passed on the opportunity.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Sure, she is a hypocrite but she didn’t seem happy at all that Carm passed the gossip on to Tony… And we have to give her a pass for Coco…

        Liked by 2 people

        • Sorry, Ron. I love your writing and insight, but I find your opinion of Meadow to be – well – untenable. She’s obnoxious and hypocritical, and doesn’t appear to be very bright, either.

          Liked by 1 person

      • I’m with you on her hypocrisy in general. I wanted to punch her every time Finn was uncomfortable around Vito and she just blew it off. She never listened to him or took it seriously that he felt intimidated, and later outright threatened, physically (for his life, for God’s sake) and also sexually. I felt terrible for Finn, and I’m glad he finally left Meadow. She was no good for him.
        As far as CoCo goes, f**k (not sure what words are acceptable here!) him. He deserved everything he got. That asshole had no right to say such sexually suggestive things to Meadow. He scared the shit out of her, and he did it–terrified a young woman–just for the thrill of sticking it to Tony, because let’s face it, if Meadow’s dad was someone else, it never would have happened. Because of that, I think it’s kind of natural to involve Tony in the situation–he was the reason behind it, after all. You can bet CoCo won’t be bothering Meadow anymore. LOL Maybe someone else, unfortunately (if he can ever talk again–I don’t know how curb stomping affects speech), but certainly not a female member of the Soprano clan.
        Meadow was just lucky that she had people around her who believed her, unlike Finn, who got left out in the cold, but thankfully escaped before anything bad happened to him.
        (For anyone who watches or who has watched Family Guy, Tony leaving the house after hearing what happened with CoCo makes me think of the FG episode where Meg mistakenly thinks she’s pregnant. Peter leaves the house against Meg’s protestations, calmly telling her, “I’m just going to talk to him. I’m just going to talk to him. I’m just going to talk to him. I’m just going to shoot him. I’m just going to talk to him.” Whenever I watch this Sopranos episode, I’m reminded of that and it cracks me up.)

        Liked by 3 people

    • I just read this morning that people who want to attend a Trump rally have to sign a waiver that says they won’t sue if they contract COVID-19 at the event. For Trump, the bottom line is money – more specifically *his* money.
      Similarly, money is the bottom line for Tony Soprano. He may feel repulsed by homosexuality, and nothing about him says “progressive”, but as Vito is a top earner for him, he can manage to overlook Vito’s “aberration”.
      P.S. Yes, I am living in the age of Trump and I am political. Trump, as I said before, represents the New Mobster of the 21st century.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Great post – as always.
    Another observation about Vito at the bed and breakfast. In true Chase and team fashion, there are a few possible different interpretations – Vito, wearing red, is the devil, and the B and B owner, wearing white, is an angel. But wait! Isn’t her robe VERY similar to Tony’s white robe? Is this mean to represent to Vito “damned if you do, damned if you don’t?” If he stays in this weird New England nirvana, he has to follow the rules of the town, that is, industry, hard work and self-efficacy as defined by New Englanders such as Betty Wolf. This is defined as the type of hard work that Vito and his ilk will do anything to avoid. Remember when we first meet Vito (and not in season 1, but when he is reintroduced for this story line), a big part of the story is the construction site and no-show no-work jobs. These guys think physical work is for dummies. It’s when Vito is forced to do physical labor to earn money that New Hampshire really loses its luster. So the woman in white, in an odd and somewhat indirect way, is the new Tony. And Vito prefers the other Tony and his rules and is willing to risk his life go back to his old ways.

    Anyway, just a though. Either way, like in the great Pine Barrens, Vito is just another guy lost in the forest without the basic tools to survive.

    Liked by 3 people

    • I always like your take on things. Vito’s reluctance to make an honest living in Dartford (and related issues about blue-collar values) becomes the major plot-point of “Moe n’ Joe” later this season…


  8. Shreyas Mavle

    In the episode “Live Free or Die”, after it is confirmed that Vito Spatafore is gay, Christopher states “I wanna kill the fat faggot myself, it’d be a fucking honor. Cut off his pisciatil’ and feed it to him.” This is a reference to Imperioli’s character d’Ambrosio in the film Dead Presidents having exactly the same thing done to him by the North Vietnamese. Pisciatil’ is slang connotation for penis.
    – From the Wikipedia page of Christopher Moltisanti

    Another meta reference to Michael Imperioli’s fateful film characters.

    Liked by 2 people

  9. Hi Ron, that’s almost 6 weeks already! You’re killing me over here with the wait!


  10. The white hot anger most of Tony’s guys had about Vito’s victimless homosexuality had them one-upping
    one another on how severely they would punish Vito. It contrasts with their silence or even celebration
    of their ongoing crimes which pile up wreckage & victims in their wake.

    For me, this recalled how the Janet Jackson Super bowl wardrobe malfunction, triggered
    congress to hold hearings in 2004. Congressperson after congressperson lined up to spout righteous
    indignation against the corrosive effect a one second boob flash had on our nation. Sadly, most
    of those leaders were unable to muster similar levels of indignation when it really counted.

    Real crimes, atrocities, and indecencies could have been stopped if they had shown
    a fraction as much anger about the invasion of Iraq, torture by Americans at Abu Ghraib, and Guantanamo,
    NSA wiretapping, the list goes on. Instead we had silence or even celebration of these crimes,
    the rending of garments being reserved for gay marriage, any form of gun control, health care reform,
    and even a living wage for workers.

    I just want to shake them by the lapels & yell – “It’s 2006, there’s pillow biters in the
    Special Forces!”.

    I loved the malapropisms in this episode:
    Chris with Corky on Vito: “As soon as he heard, he took off like a bat on a hill”.

    Tony on Vito:
    “My guys are out for head”,
    “I agree with that Senator Sanitorium”,
    “He’s a real come from behind guy”.

    Other observations:
    Tony so quickly pissed off the road worker who answered Vito’s discarded phone, that he
    never got his location. If Tony had been calmer and gotten that info, he might have
    been able to find Vito sooner, and might have been able to control the outcome better, who knows?

    Poor Phineas Fogg! Finn signs the Finook’s death warrant after Meadow snitches to Tony about
    Finn’s secret knowledge. I found it chilling how when he tries to speak candidly with Meadow
    about how complicit he feels about what is certain to happen to Vito, Meadow deflects and refuses
    to engage. This blowout with Meadow bookended their earlier late night blowup in 5.9 when he
    had a bag all packed after Vito baited him with Padre’s tickets. Meadow knows the jig is up.
    It was untenable then, but it’s really untenable now.

    Speaking of bait, Vito baited Finn with Padre’s tickets, and Silvio baits Vito with Blood Sweat & Tears tickets –
    BACK stage pass included!

    Thanks Ron, I always enjoy your write-ups. I’m late to the 6.6 party because I’ve been checking at the
    Season 6 Part I landing page since April, which still only goes up to 6.5. I finally clicked on the menu header
    today and was thrilled to see 6.6 & 6.7 tumble out.

    Liked by 3 people

  11. Thanks Ron,

    You sparked some more observations on connective tissue in Live Free or Die for me.

    I agree with your idea that Dartford is a bit too utopian to be taken fully at face value,
    melding a 50’s sensibility with a place where gay couples are no big deal. The gay couple in
    the 50’s diner actually asks, “Are we boring?”.

    I see Dartford as a storm initiated detour that gives Vito a chance at an alternate reality, just as Tony got to
    try on the Kevin Finnerty identity in his near death dream sequences. On the other hand, Vito is all
    too realistic when he goes to sleep in the bed & breakfast on that stormy night with his gun tucked under
    his pillow. He blinks awake the next morning to sunshine & birdsong in the Franklin Pierce room, but we know
    New England is an inauspicious place for mafia men to reconstruct their lives – Fabian Petrulio in “College”
    comes to mind. Franklin Pierce, (also F.P. whaaaaat?) had an inauspicious term as president.

    Later, Vito is strangely unable to find Angelo Di Piazza, Roberta Di Piazza or Roberta Spatafore in
    Peterborough, NH through directory information. If he could have found his cousin, who knows how his life
    might have swerved. But he really is cut off in Erewhon. And even as elements of this idyllic utopia beckon,
    he seems to consider “taking a header” into the loud thundering waterfall he visits after breakfast.
    Couldn’t avoid thinking of Paterson falls, NJ here.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Your Samuel Butler reference is particularly interesting — Vito eventually leaves this Erewhon and ultimately ends up in the place that is its reverse: Nowhere.

      (Also, it’s so fitting to be commenting on this particular episode today, the fourth of July…)


  12. I had begun looking for discontinuities as indicators of a dream sequence and for a while, I suspected Dartford might be one because when Vito laid down on the bed, in spite of having walked a considerable distance in a driving rain storm wearing only a poncho for protection, his shoes, pants and luggage appeared to be completely dry. Which would have been impossible.

    Liked by 3 people

    • After watching again and reading all the comments about how unreal the idyllic, almost too perfect, situation is, I think the Dartford interlude might be set up to see it from Vito’s POV and think (as he must have), “I must be dreaming.” So in a way, it is a dream sequence.

      Liked by 3 people

  13. A scene from this episode that really stuck out for me was when meadow was telling Carmela and Rosalie Aprile about how Finn once saw Vito giving some guy a blow job, Carmela and Rosalie seemed shocked and repulsed, Tony then enters the kitchen singing “Aqualung” by Jethro Tull. According to the lead singer Ian Anderson Aqualung is “a guilt-ridden song of confusion about how you deal with beggars, the homeless.” Elaborating in the 40th anniversary reissue of the album, he said, “It’s about our reaction, of guilt, distaste, awkwardness and confusion, all these things that we feel when we’re confronted with the reality of the homeless. You see someone who’s clearly in desperate need of some help, whether it’s a few coins or the contents of your wallet, and you blank them out. The more you live in that business-driven, commercially-driven lifestyle, you can just cease to see them.”

    In the mob society Homosexuality, I would presume is something not talked about and they would have preferred not for this to happen. Although, like it or not it exists in pretty much all facets of life.

    Liked by 2 people

  14. Not to be overlooked is Tony’s comment to Melfi that he had Vito “pegged” the whole time as being homosexual.


  15. Confession time. I’m going to do my own ‘coming out’ here. Sometimes, when I get out of my van to do a delivery, I fantasise I am Tony Soprano getting out of his truck at his house in the opening credits. I adopt the slightly smug facial expression, and sort of slide out of the van and slam the door as I swagger off. There, I’ve said it. My veggie box delivery round is of course just a front for my organised crime racket.

    Liked by 2 people

  16. Fourth of July strikes the perfect ending note with lyrics echoing Vito’s dead relationship with his wife, the only freedom to walk outside and smoke a cigarette alone. To live free of the family is to die, as Vito is to find out shortly. (Interesting echo to Jackie Junior’s escape to a fatal meeting with Vito at the end of Season 3 — in Boonton.)

    The overriding theme of the Sopranos from start to finish is that any escape from the life and the family is illusory. Season Six drives home The Sopranos as tragedy, the death of a mobster and the American Dream foretold from the minute Christopher Columbus stepped foot in this new world in search of not freedom, but silver and gold to fill the old world treasury.

    Sincerely brings a tear to my eye.

    Liked by 3 people

  17. I hate to get political here but the Islamic Terror threat should not be viewed as a criminal threat. Al quada was not the bonnano family and isis wasn’t the JV team…. The cold hard truth is that liberal attitudes toward Islamic terrorism in the 1990s is what emboldened the animals into committing the attacks on 911…. It never stops amazing me how those who do the least for the US…college kids, liberals, upscale whites from the big cities, etc, are usually so far removed from the dirty business of defending the Country and hide behind alleged enlightenment. In fact the cynicism, shark-like mores, extreme violence of Tony S and his band of merry guineas is the only thing that terrorists DO understand…..

    Liked by 1 person

  18. I don’t disagree with your sentiment, but also remember that it was the US that really got Al-Qaeda up and going in the first place. I mean Osama himself was considered a CIA asset, not to mention there is America’s dubious relationship with the country he came from..

    Liked by 1 person

  19. Just an observation. This does corroborate what you have pointed out about Chase making the show, and the view more aware of the culture at the time of filming. Season 6 has a lot of what could be called cultural product placement in it. Panera bread coffee, Panda Express, later Ba Ja Fresh. The guys seem to have moved away from their stereotypical mofioso personalities drinking only espresso and eating Gabagul sandwiches from their local neighborhood Italian markets. The show has come a long way from being forced to create a fake name and facade for something so ubiquitous as Starbucks (buttfucks) in seasons 1 and 2. Do you think Chase cares less about the risks of so much potential copyright infringement? To me, it makes the guys seem much more American than in season past. They really are just regular American men who sometimes traffic in violence, there is nothing really special for different about them.

    Liked by 2 people

  20. Meadow and Finn, smoking pot: “This is good shit.”
    Next scene, Vito, pottery connosieur: “This is nice, this pot.”

    Liked by 1 person

  21. When the antique dealer tells Vito he’s “a natural,” an ambiguity manifests because it sounds identical to “you’re unnatural.”

    Liked by 1 person

  22. I think that Tony bitching about hospital bills is supposed to highlight the expense of the American healthcare system. American insurance companies are almost as gangster as la costa nostra; peep how the insurance company agent checking through Tony’s hospital stay is a white-collar version of Paulie. She, and the insurers she represents, are just as hard-ass and unsympathetic as Paulie (or any other good mob earner) is to Jason and the people they “protect.” The mob, after all, used to be a form of insurance for poor immigrants, and insurance companies are just as mercenary.
    Even a top mobster like Tony, who pulls in probably 2-5 million a year, would be hurting from a $200,00-$500,000 hospital stay on top of all the other earnings he’s forfeiting by being incapacitated.

    Liked by 1 person

  23. I’m surprised that after the last few episodes no one mentions the B&B house, does look familiar doesn’t it?
    For me it connected very well with the red hood and ‘normally we don’t have walk ins’. It has a sort of Stephen King like vibe to it, that village. He gets there by accident (the tree on the road) and walks the village as the little red riding hood, enters this white house (which we know from Tony’s coma and his dreams). Its dark, its raining and he sleeps with a gun under his pillow. Then he wakes up in something too good to be true, heaven on earth. Going further on the Stephen King road, I think when he entered the house (which tony almost did!) he basically sealed his faith. Because living in that town has put his guard down and made it possible for the mob to find him. I strongly believe this town is Vito’s real life ‘tunnel with white light at the end of it’ experience, but in true Chase fasion it ends badly of course.

    Liked by 1 person

  24. Live free or die… it’s an impasse for Vito, it’s his plot: live free as a gay man, but die from the mafia, or live free in doing what you love work-wise, but die as an unfullfiled closeted gay man. You can’t have both freedoms, you have to choose. He can’t, so, naturally, he dies a slow and painfull death. Nobody can. It’s not fair. But it’s also a metaphor for the job market: do the job you hate, but make enough money to be safe and have a future, or do the job you love but constantly struggle for money and financial safety. Carmela lives in this conundrum for 5 seasons.

    Liked by 1 person

  25. It’s the little details that the show seems to hit that make me shake me head, “How do they take time to get that right?”…at about 24:00 Silvio is talking with Marie Spatafore. Vito Jr comes in the room carrying a football under his arm – an icon of masculinity- and after he says, “Hi Uncle Sil,” Silvio drops his voice an octave or two and says, “Vito” in a very masculine way. Quite a touch.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I almost thought Tony would have an epiphany at 46:00 when talking with Carlo and Silvio about Vito. Carlo wants Vito dead because it’s against the “principles… a sin.” Tony leans in and says, “Let’s be honest with ourselves here…” I thought Tony might say, “A lot of what we do is a sin…the gambling, cheating on our wives, murder…” Instead, he points out that others in that gang have had sex with men, too. (Hmm, did Tony protest too much when in Melfi’s office?) Carlo nods in agreement.

      Liked by 2 people

  26. The scene of Vito driving in the rain while crying and eating spare ribs is a shot-for-shot nod to Italian-American film “Fatso” (1980) directed by Anne Bancroft. Right down to the wiping of the hands on the trousers afterwards. There’s actually a lot of Dom DeLuise’s performance as the central role in Fatso that I see reflected in the character of Vito and his mannerisms. Super cool reference anyway

    Was a

    Liked by 1 person

  27. Blowing through these excellent write ups

    – Someone mentioned Angie making positive changes in her life. I think this reinforces something I posted in another thread and that I think is the central theme of the entire show: that change is hard and only happens when someone is absolutely forced to. Angie had no choice. She HAD to change. Carmella WANTED to change but didn’t. You can see the jealousy and resentment on her face during her lunch with Angie.

    – Tony’s “every day is a gift” bullshit is exemplified by the AC unit. “It’s always something” is the main thing that erodes our collective ability to live in the moment and that eats away at our spirit. Or, as Ron labels it, “the regularness of life”. IN a lot of ways, the material acquisitions we make are the source of out most annoying problems. Stuff breaks, you have to take care of it, newer stuff comes out that’s “better”, etc.

    – Coco wasn’t lit up over “gossip”. That was borderline sexual assault, way over the line and incredibly threatening and menacing.

    – I heard the actor who played Finn describe his scene with Meadow in this episode and he said they were actually high during the shoot. Their scene was delayed or something and they were smoking weed in the trailer when they got called on set. I thin it was this scene anyway. Might have been the suitcase scene from earlier.

    Liked by 1 person

  28. Pingback: The Soprano Onceover: #47. “Live Free or Die” (S6E6) | janiojala

  29. Isn’t this the episode where Finn (finally) makes a permanent episode? He was a lost cause, actually; even though he knew about Tony’s criminal history, he continued to ‘make hay’ with Meadow. Still can’t figure out what she found appealing about him. And what I found odder still was his lack of balls – he didn’t even resist when Vito grabbed his arm!

    Liked by 1 person

  30. Interesting parallels in this episode between the Afghan family that fled the Taliban (from Meadow’s law center) and Vito fleeing Jersey. He’s effectively a refugee in New Hampshire, having left his home, family and most of his possessions behind. Also raises an interesting parallel between Sopranoworld and the Taliban in their conservatism and persecution of homosexuals.

    Liked by 1 person

  31. RIP John Costelloe, 2008.


  32. Re: The Robin Green and Mitch Burgess ‘exits’ from this series … According to, the couple reportedly left this series to produce a new project for HBO, which never took shape. They also left ‘Blue Bloods ‘ after only one season. I wonder what went on behind the scenes? Hmm … 🙄

    Liked by 1 person

  33. Thought that the birds flying off Carmela’s parents’ house could be a visual depiction of her finally flying the nest — Hugh has had it with her “lifetime of bullshit”
    On my first run through the show though, could very well be wrong…

    Liked by 1 person

  34. Having grown up in the original Dartford (in England, home of the Rolling Stones) it’s funny seeing a place called Dartford held up as a beacon of progressiveness.
    It’s not that the ‘real’ Dartford is intolerant, but it is probably equivalent to a Rust Belt town in the US due to its loss of industry and large working class. There aren’t many antique shops for instance – but plenty of PoundLand or equivalents.
    Really enjoying your reviews by the way, finally making my way through the Sopranos and the one advantage of having left it so late is that I get to read your articles.

    Liked by 1 person

  35. Just popping in here to say Wolf in sheep’s clothing.

    …I know it’s probably a cotton robe, so please don’t whack me.

    Liked by 1 person

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