Artie’s business—and his mood—go into a slump.
Christopher and Lil Carmine venture out to California.
Episode 72 – Originally aired April 23, 2006
Written by Matthew Weiner
Directed by Danny Leiner
“Luxury Lounge” left a lot of viewers feeling cold. Critic Todd VanDerWerff, for example, gave the episode a grade of “B-,” the lowest grade he gave to any Season 6 outing. Other viewers were even less generous, feeling that “Luxury Lounge” just flat out stunk. For one thing, they argue, the hour seems to rehash a lot of old material: we’ve seen the “Artie has a crush on his hostess” storyline twice before, and Moltisanti’s trouble with substance abuse is getting a little tiresome. Many viewers were also bored by Chris and Carmine’s trip out west. And some found David Chase’s criticism of American materialism here to be a bit facile and clumsy (at least by Sopranos standards). This was the biggest gripe that TV critic Matt Zoller Seitz had of this episode. I’m a big fan of Seitz but I believe his take on this episode is inaccurate. (Of course, I have the benefit of hindsight and reflection, while he was giving his assessment 24 hours after the original airing. I’ll come back to why I think Seitz gets it wrong.) I have great affection for “Luxury Lounge” and I think it is one of the highlights of the entire series.
Artie Bucco has always played the straight man on The Sopranos — he is one of the few recurring characters that is not a criminal. There may be times when there is a heroic dimension to being “the good guy” (like when Artie convinced Tony not to whack soccer coach Don Hauser in “Boca”). But being good all the time can be a drag. Artie and Charmaine have reconciled, and that is probably the main reason why he doesn’t pursue his new hostess Martina despite being clearly attracted to her. He jealously watches as married man Benny Fazio flirts with the beautiful hostess. Benny and Martina pour salt in Artie’s wound: they’ve been stealing credit card numbers from the restaurant (and this at a time when Nuovo Vesuvio has been losing money and losing clientele to Da Giovanni, whose chef is talented, handsome and has a head full of hair).
At the Bada Bing, Artie rues the “regularness” of his life. The Bing is a sort of “luxury lounge,” a place where men can indulge their fantasies. Tony points out that if Artie is interested in banging one of the strippers, it can surely be arranged. But Artie—unlike Tony—is governed by a code of conduct that forecloses any such possibility. Artie leaves the strip joint with both his heartache and his hard-on unrelieved.
Artie and Chris Moltisanti are paralleled throughout the hour. While Artie feels jealous of Benny Fazio, Chris has issues with a “Ben” of his own: Ben Kingsley. Neither Chris nor Artie are paupers, yet they consider themselves “have-nots” compared to the “haves” that they rub shoulders with. (When Chris refers to the film To Have and Have Not mistakenly as “The Haves and Have-nots,” it underscores this hour’s theme.) Christopher has long wanted to escape what he has called “the fuckin’ regularness of life,” whether through drugs, filmmaking stardom or material wealth. Chris follows Ben Kingsley around the so-called “Luxury Lounge” like an excited puppy (while Zino & Tommy’s aptly named “Gangstadog” plays in the background) and watches with envy as Sir Ben gets comped all sorts of valuable gifts. Christopher’s sense of having a diminished status—at least in comparison to A-List Hollywood actors—gets inflamed.
Matt Zoller Seitz found Chase’s handling of the entire episode to be rather clunky, but he had a particular gripe with the sequence at the Luxury Lounge:
Moving on to product placement, I know the high-toned Home Shopping Network blather was “ironic” and germane to the episode’s themes. But it was still painful, because if the brand names are real, there’s no such thing as a satire on advertising…From Oris watches to Cingular phones, every product featured in “Luxury Lounge” got one, sometimes two closeups, plus a worshipful verbal description that sounded like ad copy. Unfortunately, this has been the Sopranos norm…HBO insists it gets no money from product placement, that the merchandise is given to the show in hopes of exposure. But considering all the self-conscious, ass-kissy, take-you-out-of-the-moment dialogue that goes along with the goodies, “free” doesn’t really mean free.
Seitz has a point: using actual brand-name products can indeed undermine any satire that is being made of advertising and the marketing industry. But the benefit of using brand-name products is that it helps to puncture the boundary between SopranoWorld and the real world, and thus any criticism Chase makes of SopranoWorld can pass though the boundary to be a criticism of our own world. When Sopranos’ characters use real-life, brand-name products, it emphasizes that they are us and we are them; they would feel more distant from us if they were driving “Fadillac” cars and wearing “Malph Lauren” clothes. Chase gets a similar effect out of his use of real-life celebrities: it pierces the line between fiction and reality. Although Season 6A doesn’t have the plethora of famous faces that appeared in Season 5 (David Lee Roth, Lawrence Taylor, etc), three celebrities do appear now:
The appearance of Hollywood actors, playing themselves, helps to situate this TV show in our real world, which makes it all the more difficult for us to insulate ourselves from Chase’s censure. I understand Seitz’s discomfort that the line between satire and selling out may be a bit blurry here, but the blurriness of this line is itself one of the cultural features of contemporary America that Chase is criticizing. As Americans, we’re so awash—from cradle to grave—in advertising, product placement and “brand integration” that we are losing the ability to recognize what is and what isn’t a sales pitch.
In giving The Sopranos a pass, I may be guilty of too blindly taking the opposite position from Seitz. I perhaps give David Chase the benefit of the doubt too easily. For example, it never dawned on me that this bit of dialogue after the car accident in 5.05 “Irregular Around the Margins” might be a product-push:
Adriana: How’s your car?
Tony: Escalade? Totaled. Probably saved our life.
Tony’s line did catch my attention, not because I suspected Tony’s praise of the vehicle to be a hidden advertisement but because I saw it as Chase’s ironic criticism of the American obsession with giant SUVs: a smaller car would have been able to evade a raccoon in the road without flipping over. In his article “Made Brands: Sopranos Product Plugs” (Advertising Age, June 2004), Jon Fine notes that the folks at General Motors were concerned that their product might be reflected poorly on the show and had extensive talks with Sopranos people about it. But a GM spokeswoman added, “We have absolutely no input as to how our vehicles are described in the script or how they’re used.” David Chase and HBO have never accepted money for product placement on The Sopranos, although they have accepted free products (like Escalades) ostensibly to offset the cost of purchasing or leasing these goods.
The appearance of brand-name goods on The Sopranos may be a thorny issue, but I take comfort in the fact that this series has never resorted to the tactics of some TV shows like Modern Family. In one episode of the popular ABC sitcom, Claire extols the virtues of the Toyota Sienna — and we later find a “pay-for-play” advertising disclosure in the final credits:
Part of the reason why I’m willing to give David Chase and The Sopranos the benefit of the doubt is that he has been up-front and open about the whorish nature of the television industry, and about his own role in the industry’s ugly environment. When asked about network television, he told Allen Rucker “I loathe and despise almost every second of it…I considered network TV to be propaganda for the corporate state.” He has openly stated on more than one occasion that he worked on Northern Exposure solely for the fat paycheck. In March 2004, Chase told NPR’s Terry Gross that he believed the first priority of the networks is not to entertain but “to push a lifestyle…What they’re trying to sell is the idea that everything is ok, that this is a great nation and a wonderful society…It’s ok to buy stuff, let’s just go buy some stuff.” The idea that television is capable of hypnotizing society to go out buy more stuff is borne out by studies and statistics. In her 1999 essay “What’s Wrong with Consumer Society?” Juliet Schor shares some interesting findings:
In my Telecom survey, I found a direct effect of television watching: it is correlated with spending more and saving less…In my analyses, I found that every hour of television watched per week raised annual spending by $208 per year…In a poll conducted by the Merck Family Fund in 1995, the fraction responding that they “watch too much TV” rose steadily with level of indebtedness.
Of course, the reasons for these figures may be manifold, not simply attributable to Chase’s theory that networks are pushing viewers to buy more stuff. But there is little doubt that Americans are daily bombarded, explicitly but also implicitly, with the directive to go out and spend money. In the years after 9/11, George Bush was often criticized for telling us to go shop as a way to fight terror. To be fair, this seems to be a mischaracterization of President Bush’s words — his mention of shopping in the context of fighting terror was never quite as simplistic as many liberal pundits in the media characterized it to be. However, in December 2006 (just 7 months after “Luxury Lounge” originally aired), Bush did say “I encourage you all to go shopping more” during a news conference about the economy. There were worries at the time that a recession was looming, and this was Mr. Bush’s solution — and his way of comforting us. In the following year, the world plunged into the worst recession we’ve seen in decades. As our economy teetered in 2006, rather than increase regulation of financial derivatives and the high-risk behaviors of banks and brokers and mortgage companies, our government’s strategy was to encourage us to shop.
Our elected Democrats haven’t done much better. While the recession raged, President Obama never really asked us to make sacrifices or be more austere. Politicians have learned that it can be toxic to their careers to ask Americans to be reasonable in our attitude towards consumption. In 1979, President Carter said in a characteristically thoughtful speech:
In a nation that was proud of hard work, strong families, close-knit communities, and our faith in God, too many of us now tend to worship self-indulgence and consumption. Human identity is no longer defined by what one does, but by what one owns. But we’ve discovered that owning things and consuming things does not satisfy our longing for meaning. We’ve learned that piling up material goods cannot fill the emptiness of lives which have no confidence or purpose.
Sixteen months later, Reagan beat Jimmy Carter 489 to 49 in the electoral college. Americans became so disheartened by Carter’s speech that it has become known as “the Malaise speech” — even though the word “malaise” never appears in it. Tony Soprano certainly struggles with the poorly defined sense of identity that Carter speaks of. (“Who am I? Where am I going” Tony asked earlier in the season.) SopranoWorld characters have a gnawing sense that their lavish lifestyle, as Carter suggests, is unable to fill the emptiness in their lives. (They can’t shake the feeling that it’s all a big nothing.) Our politicians, on both the Right and the Left, have failed us where it matters the most.
Chase has taken some well-placed jabs at the Right throughout the series, but by going after Hollywood celebrities in this hour, he is aiming at the Left. In “Luxury Lounge,” a vulgar materialism is shared by both West coast liberal elites and East coast mobster thugs — and by implication, everyone in between. Since its opening episode, The Sopranos has been commenting on our compulsive consumerism. Usually, the commentary is fairly subtle: Meadow is assigned readings from Thorstein Veblen’s The Theory of the Leisure Class, or Tony spends his free time thumbing through Yachting magazine and the Robb Report. In this episode, the commentary is much more overt. And complicated.
The complications of consumerism are apparent in virtually every aspect of American existence. We are the most religious nation among all developed nations, and this is perhaps a result of our quest for meaning in a consumeristic culture that was never designed to produce a satisfying sense of meaning. Our religiosity itself may be pushing us further into consumerism, partly due to the ministries of those such as Joel Osteen and Creflo Dollar which preach a “Prosperity Theology” that places a very high value on material wealth. Some of our politicians and leaders recognize that asking us to check our unbridled consumption might actually increase our quality of life, but they are too cornered or cowardly to ask. We recognize that our prioritization of consumption and commerce is putting our health as well as the health of the entire globe at risk, yet we cannot summon the strength or discipline to make any significant changes. “Luxury Lounge” may be problematic, even contradictory, in its critique of consumerism. But, as a society, our own attitude towards consumption is far more problematic and contradictory.
In his criticism of this hour’s “product placement,” Matt Zoller Seitz expressed a concern that David Chase had “found a way to sell out while seeming to be above that sort of thing.” It just seems unlikely to me, however, that Chase would feel any need to compromise his integrity in 2006 (the year this episode was produced), as Chase had built up enough power and success and latitude at HBO by that time to run his show in almost any way that he wanted. A crass commercialism simply does not seem to be among Chase’s guiding impulses. Of course, I do recognize that Chase is only human, saddled with all the paradoxes that come with being human. Here is David Chase and one “Hunter Scangarelo” coming out of a real-life Luxury Lounge at the 2008 SAG Awards:
The only freebies at this lounge seemed to be homeopathic products—I don’t think there were any Oris watches or no-cost Cadillac leases—but there is still a troubling irony to the picture. Chase swims in the same dirty water as the rest of us. Nevertheless, I think The Sopranos successfully maintained its artistic and moral integrity throughout its run — present episode included. This is quite an achievement in an era of television that includes shows like Modern Family which slyly incorporates paid ads into its teleplay, and shows like American Idol which sells promotional air-time to advertisers, and shows like The Apprentice in which NBC allowed a wealthy real-estate developer to freely promote his own properties and personal brand as well as the products of his wife and daughter. It’s some damn yucky water we’re all having to swim in now…
Artie and Christopher are paralleled throughout the hour, and Chase employs both obvious as well as subtle methods to do it. As I mentioned earlier, an obvious (though not often recognized) parallel is that both guys have issues with men named “Ben” here: Benny Fazio and Sir Ben Kingsley. There is also an obvious similarity in how they both lash out:
- Artie, frustrated with the way his life and business are going, tries to intimidate Martina (“We lead the world in computerized data collection!”) and later physically attacks Benny
- Chris, frustrated with his lower status within the social hierarchy, tries to intimidate Sir Ben on the elevator and later physically attacks Lauren Bacall
A more subtle link is made between Artie and Chris through wardrobe. Aboard Tony’s boat, Artie wears a jacket with the Stugots II insignia over the heart. (Artie can be an onboard guest but he cannot own a yacht like the Stugots.) In the following scene, at the Viceroy Hotel, Chris wears a bathrobe with the hotel insignia over the heart. (Chris can stay as a guest at the upscale hotel, but he cannot enjoy its Luxury Lounge.)
The similarity between the two men is also underscored by the way both of these scenes are juxtaposed to each other: Carmela calls up to Artie “Who’s hungry?” and Chase immediately cuts to Christopher picking at his breakfast. The two men are hungry, but for more than just food; they are starving for a deep sense of fulfillment in their lives.
After Sir Ben passes on the script, Chris cannot restrain his bitterness. First he pulls apart the sunglasses that Kingsley gave him. Then he mugs Lauren Bacall on the street. (In her essay, “The Producers,” Cameron Golden describes the attack as a metaphorical “full frontal assault by Christopher on classic Hollywood filmmaking.”) Given the theme of this episode, I find it interesting that we can clearly see a Robinsons-May department store behind the fallen actress. Bacall’s assistant even uses the department store as a location marker when she calls for an ambulance. In earlier eras, human beings used civic spaces—temples, granaries, public plazas—to navigate and situate themselves, but now we just call out our position relative to a mall or a department store to let others know where we are.
There is a parallel made between Lauren Bacall and Artie as well: both get victimized by mobsters. In mirrored scenes, both of them get their right arms hurt (and Artie’s cussing echoes the venerable Hollywood star’s outburst):
One of the great things about Season 6 is that several actors get showpiece episodes in which they get a chance to show off their talents. John Ventimiglia makes the most of the chance he gets now. Throughout the years, Ventimiglia’s perfect comic timing coupled with the great expressiveness of his face and body allowed “Arthur Bucco” to become the most amusing character of the series. Artie provides plenty of laughs in this hour too. But he is not just here for comic relief; in fact, he is the one who needs relief from the various frustrations of his life. He is vexed by money woes, insubordinate employees, a beautiful but chilly Albanian hostess. He is second-guessing his decision to become a legitimate restauranteur, even his decision to become a chef. It all adds up to a profound existential anxiety for Arthur. Though he doesn’t voice the questions outright as Tony did previously, he too is wondering “Who am I? Where am I going?” Watching Ventimiglia steer his character through such deeply felt angst is one of the highlights of the series for me.
But perhaps the primary reason why I love “Luxury Lounge” so much is because it immediately reminded me of one of the greatest films of all time: Jean Renoir’s The Rules of the Game. Renoir’s 1939 masterpiece depicted contemporary French society indulging in decadence and luxury at a time when social and political tensions in Europe were reaching a boiling point. (Hitler would invade and begin his occupation of France in the following year.) The Rules of the Game is often in the back of my head when I’m watching The Sopranos because David Chase quoted one if its most famous lines in an early interview with Peter Bogdanovich: “The awful thing about life is that everyone has their own reasons.” (And Prof. David Lavery uses this quote as an epigraph in his book This Thing of Ours: Investigating The Sopranos.) The precise moment, however, that this classic film and “Luxury Lounge” became truly linked in my mind was when Artie shot the rabbit that was eating the veggies in his backyard. The Rules of the Game features an orgiastic hunting scene where scores of animals are killed by partygoers at a luxurious estate, and the final, disturbing image of the hunt is of an unfortunate rabbit slowly releasing its final breath on earth. (The rabbit was actually killed, it wasn’t “filmmaking magic.”)
There is one character in the film, Andre Jurieux, who is not as cynical or careless or decadent as everyone that surrounds him. He has an innocence comparable to that of the harmless animals that are hunted down, and he too is shot to death by the end of the movie. Artie Bucco, like Andre Jurieux in the film, is a virtuous man in comparison to all those around him. When I first watched this episode, I wondered if Artie—like Andre—would be sacrificed by the end of this hour. I didn’t necessarily think he would be killed like Andre Jurieux, but that his goodness would somehow be sacrificed — perhaps he would cynically bang a Bing stripper after all, or partner with Tony Soprano in some attempt to increase the income and excitement in his life.
In the final scene of the hour (and a scene that perfectly belongs in my somewhat-regular FOOD, FAITH AND FIREARMS category), we see that Artie is able to maintain his rectitude and his conviction is himself. He pulls the rabbit out of the refrigerator to cook a meal for a stranded couple that has wandered into Nuovo Vesuvio. The rabbit generates a notable contrast: Jean Renoir showed a rabbit being gunned down in his film to represent an innocent creature being victimized by an indulgent society, whereas David Chase takes the rabbit that Artie gunned down and turns it into a symbol of individual rebirth. In the kitchen, Artie’s faith in himself is reborn and he rededicates himself to his craft. The scene is infused with echoes of the past. The gorgeous, delicate guitar that scores the scene comes from a classical piece that was written over a hundred years ago, “Memories of Alhambra.” (The Alhambra palace/complex itself was built over six centuries ago.) Using his grandfather’s age-old, time-worn recipe book, Artie transforms the dead animal into a warm and fulfilling meal. Artie cannot indulge in strippers or yachts or extramarital affairs like Tony can, nor does he have Tony’s financial means. But Artie has qualities that many others in SopranoWorld lack: passion, artistry, and a strong sense of connection to the virtues of his forefathers.
On the DVD commentary track for this episode, writer Matthew Weiner marvels at how consistently Chase uses “subconscious” elements within The Sopranos, how various things in the episodes interconnect and tug at our subconscious. I think a notable example of this is how “Luxury Lounge” is able to subconsciously link American materialism with the threat of terrorism. We are led to wonder if the stolen credit card numbers that the mob has sold to Ahmed and Muhammad will be used to finance terror. More subtly, Chase plants thoughts of terrorism in the first scene of the hour when the recently arrived Italian hitmen talk of visiting Ground Zero, and then in the final scene of the hour, the hitmen compare their luxury purchases while on an airplane, a mode of transport which was turned into a tool of terror on 9/11.
As I mentioned earlier, for me there is a strong linkage between “Luxury Lounge” and The Rules of the Game. I feel that Chase was using this episode to sharply criticize our indulgent materialism and lack of genuine political engagement at a time when terrorism presented a serious existential threat to us, just as Renoir used his film to criticize French decadence at a time when Hitler was threatening Europe. Of course, Chase may not have overtly made this link — it may be a connection that was formed solely in my mind. Regardless of whether it is David Chase or our own brains that lead us to see a particular connection or parallel on the series, a sort of bell goes off in our subconscious mind when we make the connection. It is precisely because the episodes resound at such a subconscious level that we find The Sopranos to be so resonant.
CONNECTIONS TO “D-GIRL” (2.07)
“Luxury Lounge” bears some resemblance to Season Two’s “D-Girl.” The current episode features some famous Hollywood faces just as that earlier episode did:
Chris is something of a fish-out-of-water in Hollywood now, just as he was out of place among the Hollywood-types in “D-Girl.” In both episodes, Christopher mispronounces the title of a movie, underscoring that he really isn’t a Hollywood-type himself: in “D-Girl,” he referred to The King of Comedy as “Kings of Comedy,” and now he mistakes To Have and Have Not as “The Haves and Have-nots.” He also botches a popular TV show now: “Law & Order The S.U.V.” The fact that Ben Kingsley is able to refer to Lauren Bacall as “Betty” (Betty Joan Perske is her real name, the name that all her friends know her by) emphasizes that Kingsley is a Hollywood insider in a way that Chris is not. Chris attacks Lauren Bacall not simply because he is envious of her bag of luxury swag, he is hurt and frustrated that he remains outside of the Hollywood world that he has long wanted to be a part of.
Maybe nothing in the world hurts more than feeling left out. I believe that David Chase hints throughout his series how vital and important ‘connectivity’ is; perhaps the reason why Chris feels so hurt now is because he recognizes just how disconnected he is from that entire world of filmmaking. It’s a disconnection that he also felt back when Amy Safir rejected him both personally and professionally (and threw a William Inge reference at him that went over his head) in “D-Girl.” Chris does some cocaine with a Beverly Hills hooker now, and he has to call Murmur to come support him when he feels himself chipping. Two episodes from now, the pain in Christopher’s life will lead him to a serious backslide, and by the end of Season 6A, he will be a full-blown user again.
Of course, Cleaver does eventually get produced, but only because Chris turns to the people with whom he does have a real connection: his mobster colleagues. (And also JT Dolan, who has a connection to Chris that poor JT simply can’t escape.)
The various famous faces within this hour give the episode a meta-fictional flavor. The meta-appearances of real-life Hollywood stars as Chris and Carmine try get their film project off the ground are notable because it sets the stage for the most meta-fictional foray of the series — the storyline surrounding the making of Cleaver later in Season 6. Another meta-moment within “Luxury Lounge” is the appearance of David Chase at the end of the hour:
It is impossible to say whether Chase is playing himself in a mind-bending meta-appearance, or if we should interpret him to be playing someone else here. (It is quite “appropriate” that he should appear here on an Italy-bound flight, as his only other appearance on the series was in Italy in the episode “Commendatori.”) Chase truly breaks the boundary between the real world and the fictional world by appearing here in person, and by cracking the boundary open, this hour’s criticism of our vulgar materialism is able to become more direct and real.
Rusty Millio is killed here for never submitting to Johnny Sac and Phil Leotardo who snatched control of the NY famiglia away from Lil Carmine last year. Rusty was one of the men who engineered the hit on Joey Peeps during last year’s power struggle. In a murderous parallel, Rusty is killed in his car now with his driver Eddie becoming collateral damage, just as Joey Peeps was killed in his car with demoiselle Heather becoming collateral damage.
The series introduces many new places into its narrative in Season 6. Part of the current episode takes place in Los Angeles. And earlier in the season we were in Costa Mesa (although that seemed to be more of an alternative universe within T’s headspace). Over the remainder of S6, we will visit Dartford, Paris, Miami, Bobby’s property in upstate New York, Las Vegas and the Missouri prison-hospital where Johnny Sac is housed.
RING A BELL?
When Murmur arrives at the Fly Away motel to pick up stolen credit card numbers, he is humming Elton John’s “Daniel.” Critic Tim Goodman notes that the fact that the Fly Away is an airport motel may be what inspired Murmur to think of this particular song which begins “Daniel is traveling tonight on a plane.” (When we saw the hotel previously, the exterior shot included an overhead airplane; while we don’t see an airplane this time, we do hear one flying by.) When Murmur reworks the song’s chorus to sing “Hillel my brother,” it underscores that the Italian goombah and the Hasidic motelier are brothers-in-crime. We may have forgotten about the Fly Away because it has been a while seen we’ve seen it, but the bell on the desk may ring a bell (or two): Sil and Paulie beat Ariel over the head with it in episode 1.03 and Furio summoned Hillel with it in episode 2.06:
After taking Murmur’s payment in exchange for his customer’s credit card numbers, Hillel goes right back to reading his holy book. I guess the hot-sheet motel isn’t making as much money as the Hasid wants, so he has found an easy way to supplement his income. Don’t worry, Hillel, even though it is some ugly business you’re caught up in, I’m sure that God understands and forgives. Isn’t that right, Hillel?
- I think it is noteworthy that the writers chose American Express to be the company that suspends card usage at Vesuvio after tracing fraudulent activity back to the restaurant. Throughout the series, we see the mafia (and now Ahmed and Muhammad) use companies with the word “American” in their names for their shady activities. It’s as though Chase is saying that grift, fraud and crime are fundamentally “American,” it is just a part of who we are and how we do business. There are a couple more “American” companies yet to come in Season 6.
- You’re too damn clever, Chase. Phil Leotardo tries to thank Tony for clipping Rusty Millio, but Tony—afraid that he is being recorded—refuses to take credit for it. So Phil says “we’ll chalk it up to the Headless Horseman.” Of course, Tony did order the hit and so he is, in essence, “the Headless Horseman.” Chase’s clever joke to the viewer comes from the fact that it was Tony Soprano who killed Tony Blundetto last season — which makes Soprano the “Headless Horseman” to Blundetto’s “Ichabod Crane” (the nickname that “some very sorry people” gave him).
- The ‘gay mobster’ storyline doesn’t get any attention here, other than Phil Leotardo describing Vito with some very nasty words, and Lil Vito getting picked on and called “Homo Jr.” at the restaurant DaGiovanni.
- Christopher is floored to learn that all the ostentatious, expensive items in the Luxury Lounge are being given away for free and wonders, “How’s that even fuckin possible?” Finn asked an almost identical question, “How is that even possible?” in episode 5.09 “Unidentified Black Males” upon learning that he would earn $20/hr (almost four times the minimum wage in NJ at the time) despite having no construction experience or skills. The answer to both questions, of course, is that some people have privileges and immunities that the rest of us don’t have. These two episodes (both written by Matt Weiner) make a link between the West Coast Hollywood elites that patronize the luxury lounges and the East Coast mobster thugs that control Finn’s construction site.
- The issues surrounding “the haves and the have-nots” along with Artie’s gripes about the struggles of the working man in this hour set up the exploration of blue-collar/working-man values in “Moe n’ Joe” three episodes from now.
- Though he didn’t get nominated, I think Ben Kingsley deserved an Emmy just for his “Fuuuuuck.”
- The scene in which Lauren Bacall is attacked here may be a callback to a similar scene from a 1979 episode of The Rockford Files (“Lions, Tigers, Monkeys & Dogs”), in which Bacall has to be helped up from the ground after being attacked: