Members Only (6.01)

Eugene Pontecorvo and Tony Soprano each experience a shocking reversal of fortune.


Episode 66 – Originally aired March 12, 2006

Written by Terence Winter
Directed by Tim Van Patten

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As is well known by now, David Chase had not originally planned to do a fifth season of The Sopranos, much less a sixth.  His contract with HBO was for four seasons, but (after some hemming and hawing) he agreed to do a fifth.  In the 2002 TV Guide Sopranos Companion, Chase insisted that he would not go beyond a fifth season because…

Tony Soprano, guys of his ilk, they’re not very reflective people, they don’t do a lot, in reality.  So there’s only so many stories, so much depth that you can impart to a character like that and still stay true to realism.  Plus, its just my personality.  I can’t stand solving the same problem over and over again.

I think this quote reveals much about why Chase ultimately decided to go forward wih Season 6.  (Whenever I mention “Season 6,” I am generally referring to both Parts I and II.)  This season exists only because Chase set up some new creative problems for himself and his team to solve.  I believe the biggest difference between this season and earlier ones is that S6 is more issue-driven.  I’m referring to the big issues, the things that uniquely affected (and still affect) our particular nation and culture: conspicuous consumerism, imperialism, religious fundamentalism, spiritual hunger, environmental degradation, gay rights, corporatism.  This is not to say that The Sopranos began to imitate its more socially activist HBO sibling The Wire.  David Chase is not David Simon.  And he’s certainly no Mother Jones.  (I wouldn’t even venture to call him politically liberal.)  I don’t think that David Chase explores cultural/political issues in Season 6 in order to promote his own political agenda, but rather to fully nestle The Sopranos into its American milieu.  It truly becomes our series now, the way Berlin Alexanderplatz belongs to the Germans or how the Brits have Brideshead Revisited.  With Season 6, The Sopranos becomes the definitive work of turn-of-the-millennium American art.

FBI newbie Ron Goddard begins the hour with an H. L. Mencken quote: “Nobody ever went broke underestimating the tastes of the American public.”  Agent Dwight Harris seems to underscore the sentiment by barfing on to the street.  The Mencken quote and Dwight’s subsequent vomiting almost feels like a self-conscious acknowledgement by Chase that his series has more than its fair share of philistine “hits-and-tits” viewers who are primarily interested in some of the baser, courser aspects of The Sopranos.  But more importantly, this quick sequence begins to immediately establish some of the characteristics of the season that will follow.  Season 6 is more self-conscious than previous seasons, it has a very post-modern awareness of the viewer’s gaze.  Season 6 is also more militant—Chase attacks certain targets just as firebrand Mencken did.  (Christian fundamentalism, creationism, and anti-intellectualism are targets that Chase and Mencken have in common.)  And Dwight Harris’ vomiting hints at a physicality that marks this season.  There are many visceral moments over the next 21 hours, moments in which the body and bodily functions are highlighted.  We will see numerous scenes of illness, convalescence, farting.  Characters will constantly step out of scenes to go take a piss.  Tony’s body has become a ponderous mass.  Vito Spatafore will radically transform his body, and his son Lil Vito will later radically reinvent his physical persona (as well as “bodily” vent his frustration in the school shower).  Immediately after Agent Harris pukes in the early moments of this Season Opener, the episode detours into a mystical mode for a few minutes, using ancient Egyptian mythology (via William Burrough’s reading of “Seven Souls” over the opening montage) to evoke a kind of otherworldliness.  But after this evocative, almost ethereal montage, “Members Only” becomes quite physical again, culminating finally with a shot to Tony’s (and the viewer’s) gut.

Right off the bat, Chase lets us know that we’re in new territory.  The previous five Season Openers all featured a shot of The Star-Ledger in Tony’s driveway, but Chase conscientiously abandons this convention now: there is no shot of the newspaper whatsoever.  “Members Only” does resemble one of the earlier season openers in a another way however: this episode gets things going with a scored montage just as “Guy Walks Into a Psychiatrist’s Office…” (2.01) did.  Chase utilizes the montage here in order to give us a much-needed reintroduction to SopranoWorld, because it has been 21 motherfuckin’ months since the previous episode aired.  (Sorry, I’m still a little sore about how long Chase made me wait.)  But this hour’s montage is markedly different from the one that opened Season 2.  That earlier one was scored to an old-school song by NJ-born entertainer/mob-buddy Frank Sinatra.  The montage that opens “Members Only,” in contrast, is scored to a reading by Midwesterner/Harvard-grad/Po-Mo writer/junky William Burroughs.  Burroughs brings a very different aesthetic to the series.  The juxtaposition of his spoken word piece (technically a track by the band Material) against carefully selected imagery creates a montage that is seemingly suffused with significance and meaning.  I think we all feel the instinct to try to match the gods and goddesses that Burroughs mentions with an equivalent SopranoWorld character.  But I also think the sequence is ambiguous enough to foster a wide variety of interpretations, so I’m not going spend time trying to decipher it here, other than to say that the invocation of Egyptian mythology is the first of this season’s several forays into “alternative” mythologies and spiritualisms.  For all of its focus on the body, Season 6 will also be concerned with the soul.  Catholicism has always had a presence in SopranoWorld (sometimes only as a cloak that characters use to cover their hypocrisy), but in Season 6, other belief-systems and forms of spirituality will also appear: Buddhism, Existentialism, Transcendentalism, Ojibwe belief, nature worship and a metaphysics associated with quantum mechanics.  And the dead will continue, as always, to bring a level of mysticism to the series as they haunt the dreams of the still living.  The dead are an essential part of the framework of The Sopranos:

the ghost of Adriana LaCerva

(When Carmela dreams of Adriana inside her half-built spec house, we remember how Adriana and the spec-house where strongly associated at the end of “Long Term Parking” last season: a shot of the overhead tree canopy led us to believe that we were at the site of Ade’s murder but the camera panned down to reveal that we were at the site of Carmela’s proposed building project.)

“Members Only” is unsurprisingly a dense hour—a lot of time has passed since Season 5 ended and so we have a lot of catching up to do.  Kudos to Chase for catching us up in a way that doesn’t feel too forced or obvious.  Johnny Sac is in jail awaiting trial.  Bobby and Janice have spawned a babygirl.  Bobby has become a model-railroad enthusiast (with a fetching engineer’s cap to go along with his new hobby).  Phil Leotardo is behaving himself, following his boss’ orders to let the NJ mob off the hook for his brother’s death (but Benny still recoils at the sight of Phil, and Christopher doesn’t like his face or eyebrows, despite having a very similar face and eyebrows).  A fellow named Gerry Torciano is becoming a major player in the NY famiglia.  Tony and Carmela have settled into a comfortable relationship.  Carm is frustrated that construction on her spec-house has hit a roadblock, but she is thrilled to receive a new Porsche.  AJ is still a slacker.  Vito Spatafore has shed quite a few pounds and can’t stop talking about it.  As he converses with Agent Harris, we learn that Vito is a fan of the low-carb Atkins diet, and I reckoned this was the reason why Vito eats a hot dog minus the bun.  But many viewers see the frankfurter as a phallic symbol that foreshadows a major Season 6 storyline:

Hot dog!

The bulk of the hour, however, belongs to Eugene Pontecorvo.  A $2 million inheritance from his deceased aunt puts dreams of Florida into Gene’s head.  Gene remains the good soldier while Tony ponders his request to retire.  He whacks Teddy Spirodakis up in Boston, splattering blood all over the diner and himself.  (The blood that Gene smears on to his map is a powerful signifier of how the landscape gets stained by mob violence.)  As the hour progresses, we see that various tensions are pulling at Gene: his son’s trouble with addiction, his wife’s desire for a new vista, his unsatisfying position on la famiglia’s totem pole.  But the most strain, surely, comes from his concurrent and contradictory commitment to both the mob and the FBI.

Gene should have known that the Feds would never greenlight his request to move to a sunnier climate, he really should have nipped his dreams of Florida in the bud.  But as anyone who is being crushed by pressure from all sides might do, he allows his brain to seize on to a fantasy for the relief it affords him.  He enthusiastically makes his argument to Agent Ron Gosling but the agent finally tells him, “Florida is just one of those things you gotta let go.”  Gene goes quiet as he settles back into the seat of Gosling’s car.  It is the quiet of someone who is slowly realizing how great his delusion was as the full weight of reality settles upon him…

Gene Pontecorvo’s suicide is probably the most explicit, realistic hanging ever depicted on American television.  I have no idea if the scene is “realistic” in the sense of authentically replicating an actual hanging.  But it authentically expresses the grim desperation of the physical body as it struggles, in vain, to hold on to life as death overpowers it.  Many viewers argued, perhaps justifiably, that we don’t know Gene well enough to be deeply moved by his suicide.  But his death—because of its impressive depiction—is one of the most extraordinary of the series.

I learned recently that there are twice as many suicides per year in the United States than homicides.  And half of those suicides come by firearm.  We know that Gene owns a gun, so it is a little surprising that he would choose to hang himself.  His reason for choosing a rope over a bullet may be a mystery, but we can guess one reason why David Chase would choose to end this particular character’s life in this manner: it fits metaphorically.  Gene was caught in a metaphoric noose between the mob and the FBI, and both the mob and the FBI choked off the avenue of escape that his aunt’s will seemed to provide.

Gene Pontecorvo experiences quite a reversal of fortune in this hour: he starts out thrilled about a $2 million windfall but ends up dead in his garage.  Tony Soprano goes through a reversal too.  The episode makes a point of showing how good life is for Tony right now.  His marriage to Carm is running smoothly, Meadow is doing well, and AJ seems to be relatively stable.  Tony has discovered Nori, a delicious Asian restaurant where he scarfs the food down hand over fist.  (Season 6 has a far-Eastern flavor at times, and this Japanese restaurant provides us our first taste of it.)  Tony has conspicuously gained some weight, an indication of how well things have been going for him.  (An extended sequence with his bathroom scale underscores how heavy he has become.)  He’s a lucky sonavabitch and he knows it.  “$40 for a piece of fish they just flew in first class—I think we’re more than lucky,” he tells Carmela before tossing a piece of sushi into his mouth.  He’s even lucky when he doesn’t know it—moments after complaining that he can’t catch a break, he catches the biggest break of his life: Ray Curto slumps over and dies just as he is about to incriminate Tony in a murder.

Lucky break - Sopranos Autopsy

So: two rats that were collaborating with the FBI to bring Tony down end up dying in this episode.  It seems like the gods are smiling down on Tony Soprano.  But by the end of the hour, Chase reminds us that often what looks like the smile of the gods is actually a maniacal grin.  The gods of SopranoWorld have a wicked sense of humor—just when things are going good for Tony, things go very, very bad.

At Uncle Jun’s house, Tony cooks up some pasta for supper.  Corrado comes down at Tony’s dinner-call,  but he is not coming to eat—he is carrying a pistol.  Tony was planning on a simple Italian dinner with his uncle, but the gods—or at least David Chase—has a different plan.  Corrado’s mental state has continued to deteriorate since we saw him last in Season 5.  In his dementia, Corrado confuses Tony for Pussy Malanga and shoots him in the stomach.  (It was in the Pilot episode that we learned of Corrado’s plan to hit Malanga.)  David Chase shocks us now, no one would have predicted that Tony would get shot.  Especially by his uncle.  Especially in the first episode of the season.  But the shooting doesn’t come completely out of nowhere: the hour’s multiple references to Pussy Malanga bring Season One to the mind of the viewer—a season, we remember, that ended with Corrado making an attempt on Tony’s life.  We are also reminded of this in Melfi’s office, where the topic of Corrado’s earlier assassination attempt comes up.  Alan Sepinwall of The Star-Ledger notes an ironic reversal between Seasons 1 and 6 in regard to Corrado’s attempted whacking of Tony: in Season 1, Livia urged Corrado to move against Tony because she was angry that he put her in a retirement community, but now Corrado is able to take a shot at him only because he refused to put his senile uncle in a nursing home.  (And this ironic reversal is underscored by Tony’s reversal of language: when Dr. Melfi describes Green Grove as a “retirement community,” Tony—finally—admits that it is a “nursing home.”)

The bloody shooting of Teddy Spirodakis and the agonizing death of Gene Pontecorvo had already given this episode a disturbing physicality.  Tony’s struggle to make a 911 call puts an exclamation point to this hour’s corporeal concerns.  He leaves a trail of blood as he drags himself to the kitchen phone.  He passes out and collapses to the floor with a thump.  Chase goes to an overhead camera to emphasize Tony’s great bulk and the reality of his significant weight gain:

Fat Tony

Chase fades from this shot of fat Tony to the credits, scored to that mystical piece “Seven Souls” by Material from earlier.  The image of Tony’s large body just before the myth-laden music begins to play prefigures the attention that Season 6 will give to both the physical and metaphysical aspects of life.  Come to think of it, the “physical aspects” that I refer can perhaps be folded into this season’s emphatic exploration of the “material” aspects of life.  Materialism, in its multiple definitions, is a major concern of this season:

  1. There is arguably a greater emphasis, as I’ve mentioned, on the material human body than in previous seasons.
  2. There will be greater focus on materialism in the sense of goods produced, purchased and consumed.  Chase will take a closer look at consumerism as it exists at the personal level, as well as a defining national characteristic.  In this episode, we already see signs of the Sopranos’ increasing material wealth: Tony has a new boat while Carm receives a Porsche Cayenne.  (I love how Chase cuts away from Tony struggling to make a 9-1-1 call  to the scene in which Carmela shows off her new ride, only to see the Porsche that she was given get topped by the Corvette that Angie has purchased for herself.)
  3. The material reality of the universe plays into the major themes of this season.  Scientist John Schwinn will fuse materialism and spirituality into a kind of “spirituality of physics” in “The Fleshy Part of the Thigh.”

As he lays on the floor, we start to believe that this might very well be the end of Tony Soprano.  It would be unthinkable for the main character to be killed in the season opener of any other show, but it’s certainly within the realm of possibility in David Chase’s universe.  Chase will continue to push the boundaries of what is possible all the way up to the final moments of this incredible season.

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THE QUESTION OF IDENTITY
Season 6 will be more explicitly concerned with the notion of identity.  The Sopranos has always explored various facets of its characters—their ethnic, cultural, social/class identities, and even their meta-identities as fictional characters in a 21st century TV show.  The investigation of identity becomes more overt this season, as both Tony and Carmela ask “Who am I?  Where am I going?”  Other characters such as Vito Spatafore and Chris Moltisanti will not articulate these questions outright, but their storylines will also be driven by Chase’s inquiry into who they really are and where they’re really going. 

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WHAT ROUGH BEAST
Tony Soprano is noticeably larger now, and he somehow seems more animalistic.  His voice has grown guttural, his breathing is heavier.  He lumbers and hulks his way through New Jersey like some land-bound Leviathan.  Tony was always a big man but there used to be a vitality and athleticism to him that almost made him seem light on his feet, particularly in the early seasons.  That lightness has given way to coarseness now and he will become even more brutish as the season progresses.  Eventually, Tony will seem to be an incarnation of the apocalyptic beast that is invoked by Yeats’ “The Second Coming” near the end of the series.

“MEMBERS ONLY”
The episode title obviously plays off of Gene Pontecorvo’s outdated jacket and the fact that he can’t escape his membership in the mob nor his membership in the FBI’s club of collaborators.  By placing a guy in a Member’s Only jacket in the final scene of the series at Holsten’s diner, Chase seems to purposefully and significantly call back the title of this episode.  But what his purpose was in doing so and how much significance it should be accorded are matters that are still debated today.

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ADDITIONAL NOTES:

  • Corrado watches Paths of Glory, my favorite Kubrick film, on his TV.  The movie is about a group of WWI soldiers who get royally screwed by the conflicting politics of their various military commanders, and perhaps the parallel here is that Gene Pontecorvo gets fucked by the policies of both the mob and the FBI.
  • Agent Dwight Harris has been moved out of Organized Crime into the Anti-Terrorism division of the FBI.  There will be a recurring focus on terrorism in Season 6, and Harris’ move almost feels like a signal by Chase to the viewer that domestic/social issues will be more important than O.C. issues this season.
  • I love the fact that it is Agent Robyn Sanseverino that Ray Curto is talking to when he slips into death.  Adriana LaCerva was lost while under Agent Robyn’s protection last season, and now the agent has also lost Ray Curto.
  • It must really stick in Gene’s craw when he gets ordered around by Chris Moltisanti.  He and Chris became Made Men on the same day, as we saw in “Fortunate Son” (3.03), but Chris has already reached the rank of captain, despite being younger.  Perhaps the black bird that appeared during their initiation ceremony really was a bad omen as Chris had feared, but for Gene.

black feathers

  • Little Details.  When Gene’s body releases its grip on life, his bladder relaxes and pee runs down his leg.  And then Chase seems to conscientiously match the sound of Gene’s urine dripping to the floor with the sound of water boiling in Corrado’s kitchen.
  • When this episode first aired, I almost began to feel like David Chase was speaking to me personally, with all the “Rons” that appear in this hour: Agents Ron Goddard and Ron Gosling, and building inspector Ron Senkowski.  There have been others in previous seasons: Assemblyman Ron Zellman as well as one or two offscreen Rons and Ronnies.  And there are a couple more Rons yet to be introduced.  By the time the series ended, I halfway believed that there was some uncanny link between my name and The Sopranos, like it was some sort of metaphysical clue that Chase was giving me.  Speaking of clues…
  • Gene’s Members Only jacket and the murder of Teddy Spirodakis (initials: T.S.) in the diner here are two “clues” that I absolutely do not look forward to dredging up in my entry for “Made in America,” but these subjects loom so large in Sopranos fandom that I don’t think I’ll be able to avoid revisiting them.


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127 responses to “Members Only (6.01)

  1. FIRST!

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  2. Ron is The Soprano Pathologist- aka the Sopologist

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      • You didn’t mention Hesh and his son in law, when Luppertazi family guys put the kid in the intensive care, it’s the last honorable think Tony did to Hesh that he demanded 50 000 dollars from Gerry Torciano and uncle Philly, they first offered 25, but took Tony’s suggestion. Probably Tony felt that Hesh didn’t appreciate it when he was in his most dangerous and self-destructive mood and behaviour in Chasing It, probably thought old Hesh didn’t appreciate the fact that Tony really from season 1 cared about him and in his mob related issues always put his good word and acted dignified towards him. Offcourse, that doesn’t justify Tony’s behaviour than, when maybe he even thought about killing him , even he told Carlo that he should suck c…k instead of watching tv-land when Carlo mentioned episode from Twilight Zone when they were in the car thinking how to resolve that problem. It was funny as hell because Carlo was most homophobic guy in his crew and he felt pressured to kill Vito because he felt older guys like Carlo and Paulie could start a mutiny , so his advice that he should do it because Vito brought him three times more money really didn’t help Tony when Carlo decided to flip to save his “idiot son” from long prison sentence, but i think Tony was in right there, he felt big pressure from Carlo to kill his best earner or some of his guys might side with NY and anyway finish Vito, like uncle Philly did in the very terrible way, Tony and other guys were thinking how he went too far with torturing Vito, we can see on their faces when Bobby brought news to them, they would get rid of him without him feeling pain, probably how Vito clipped his cousin Jackie Jr and that random guy he killed when he was going home. I really don’t know why Vito had to kill that guy, it would be enough if he just took under the threat of gun his driving license and said to him if he calls police somebody would take care of him, implying he belongs to criminal organization. I think it was just Chase’s remainder that Vito was still terrible human being, so we shouldn’t feel too much empathy for him but even without it we knew how snake Vito was-ironically, he even suggested that Phil should kill Tony because Philly’s kid brother was killed from that animal Blundetto and he was unimpressed when Tony said he would protect them all in similar circumstancies, but in the end he really needed that protection from NY but Tony was just like in Blundetto’s case confused what to do, he knew it’s stupid to kill the guy who earns good because of his sexuality. Uncle Philly was all in old ways, saying how he felt embarrased he has faggot in his family, because Vito married his cousin but when Vito’s widdow told to Phil about Vito Jr he didn’t care at all, Tony was furious because Phil and offcourse Carlo and Paulie made that situation because Tony snapped at Paulie when they found about Vito’s indiscretions would he take care of his kids if they kill him. At the end, neither Tony cared but he didn’t create that situation about uncle Philly doesn’t care at all. I think Vito was living that lifestyle for years very discretly but when he became captain he became bolder, Finn saw him. He probably felt invincible, like shooting star in the family, captain, best earner so he became careless when spotted in fag bar. Even in the hospital he threatened Finn with raping, it would be really horror if Tony died, who would protect him because we see many times when some connected guy is dead, nobody cares for their families. That’s why Vito’s cousin Jackie Jr was doomed after card game fiasco, his sister said correctly he wouldn’t die if Jackie Sr was alive, even Tony knew he must go but he didn’t want to be the guy who ordered the death of young man whom he promised to keep away from that life and look after him after his death so he played mental chess game with Ralphie who neither wanted execution of son of his girlfriend but he had to do it, nobody would ever respect Tony and Ralph if Jackie Jr was given a pass. If Jackie Jr kept his shit straight there wouldn’t be dead and shootings, he would probably get only good beating from Tony. But Jackie Jr was probably doomed from the start of his life, didn’t he near drowned in three inches of water?

        Liked by 1 person

      • And agent Harris was hilarious from the start of this season, we see how much through this season parallels Tony’s, before he was the most decent and friendly FBI guys who had stable marriage with kids, job in FBI anti-mafia force where he was satisfied, he had almost all hair in season 1 and is in good health amd shape. In season six, we see him after he returned from Pakistan, totally bald, weight loss, mysterious parasite in his stomach, his marriage is in wreck, he cheats his wife if they didn’t already separated. And he sees Tony now differently, like less evil, and even charmed by him ready not only to bend the rules, but even to break the law directly when he revealed Phil’s whereabouts and said enthusiastically- ” we gonna win this thing” , for him Tony now is acceptable, good American who worries about terror and proved it when he revealed much info on Ahmed and Muhammad, even he started that when he saw them meeting with bearded tradinional clothed Arabs, they needed in one instance automatic weapon, but Chris didn’t care much, he believed they are moderate because they drank, snorted, had sex with Bing girls. I think Harris helped him more because he had some kind of Stockholm sindrome, he was always around Tony in the last season, trying more and more to connect with him. One more season and he probably would end on Tony’s payroll.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. I always forget just how crushing our first and last real look at Eugene Pontecorvo really is. He’s a foot soldier, not well-respected, whose life of crime prevents him from taking advantage of the biggest break of his life. If only Gene had been a nice regular civilian, he’d have been set for life and maybe salvaged his home life too, but he “took an oath”. AND he’s an FBI informant too, which means a drastically lowered life expectancy at best. I love the contrast between Gene and Tony in this episode, with the boss stuffing his face and handing out Porsches as Gene pathetically tries to sell North Caldwell to his fed-up wife. I also enjoy the scenes where we see just how little the gang thinks of Gene, with Chris ordering him around and Sil casually denying him his big retirement dream.

    I almost forgot about Angie putting Carmela back in her place too LOL, which she richly deserved after “just dropping by” Ginny Sac’s place to show off.

    Liked by 4 people

    • He could have probably fled the mob with the 2 mil. In the end, we find out who’s really holding Eugene up. I think he only asks Tony for permission to retire so that he could somehow convince the FBI that Tony cut him loose and that he’s therefore no longer an unappealing witness to the government. This of course alludes to his desperation and delusions.

      Liked by 2 people

      • It’s possible that was in his mind. But like you say, it would be delusional – even if Tony gave him the ok, there’s no way the FBI would agree to it..

        Liked by 2 people

        • Exactly. Even if he could convince them that ‘Tony cut him loose,’ or whatever, then he’s no longer useful to them either, and they’d probably just prosecute him for whatever crime they had him on that landed him in their cross-hairs to begin with.

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    • This episode’s portrait of Eugene’s sad position in mob is one of my favourite of the entire series actually. Even though the series ends with almost all of the main Mob cast dead or in prison, we still get to see most of them enjoying the fruits of their lifestyle, while they put in little real work, until their demise.
      I guess because the show ultimately revolves around Tony, the dozens of footsoldiers and associates just scraping a living get passed over, as of course such people wouldn’t ever figure in Soprano family drama.

      I loved the candour of Eugene’s wife too: “Oh, you think I don’t know that you’ve done it before?!”

      Liked by 2 people

  4. Excellent work, Ron.
    I’ve been reading your thoughts almost religiously over the years all the way from Belgrade, Serbia (so excuse my English) and now, as I am preparing for the 5th viewing of The Sopranos.
    …and yes, we are entering the season 6 like a downward spiral full of booze, drugs, gambling and killing.
    Almost all the circles in one – Lust, Fraud, Wrath, Treachery, Greed, Gluttony…

    Liked by 4 people

    • Thanks so much…

      Your reference to the circles of Hell is very fitting. I don’t know if you’re aware of this but many viewers, including myself, believe Chase makes a subtle reference to Dante’s circles of hell in the next episode.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. In a show that excelled at quite extraordinary musical choices, I’m not sure there were any better than the way Seven Souls was used in this episode. Eccentric, memorable, and perfectly sets the tone for this season.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Some of the music choices this season are truly inspired, they’re insanely clever even by Sopranos standards…

      Liked by 1 person

      • Agreed! Also, Paths of Glory? Over Clockwork and Eyes Wide Shut?

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        • Yes… I appreciate the technical and intellectual brilliance of all his work, but I think Paths is Kubrick’s most emotionally compelling film – it’s the one that hits me right me in the gut.

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      • Can we just divide season 6 it everybody knew what they were at the time, seasons 6 and 7?
        Apparently the only reason it was ever labelled as “Pt. II” was something to do with production wages.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Sardinian folk song in Second Coming is the most poignant music choice i’ve seen in The Sopranos, and you realize that that song speaks about Tony- boy named Anthony, just like Tony and his son , Antoneddu is in Sardinian little Anthony – Sardinia is totally different italian province than Sicily, Calabria, Apulia and Campania- from Campania , Naples and little towns there like Avellino is where the most Sopranos characters are descended, only Patsy is from Puglia. Sardinia is totally different from those provinces , you can’t call their language Italian dialect, like it is in Campania, Liguria, Calabria it’s really language, different from Italian with many simmilarities with Catalan and Spanish- Sardinia was under spanish kingdom of Aragon few centuries, that’s why even in Alghero speak their version of catalan. Ok, it’s intelligible with Italian more than Spanish but their language is really different, the most similar language is Corsican, they are real neighbours, north of Sardinia is only few miles from south Corsica. Interesting thing, Sardinia , beautiful medditerrean island , same size as Sicily with pristine nature, beautiful sea and high mountains has some similarities with Sicily but Sicily is just few miles from italian mainland , Sardinia much more, Sicily has 5 millions of inhabitants with very big cities like Palermo, in Sardinia is Cagliari the biggest city- Casteddu in Sardinian language and has only 250 thousand people, other cities are all less than 100 000 and Sardinia has only 1,5 millions of people, it seems little but their neighbour Corsica, similar in size is only 250000 people. There are mafias in Sicily, Campania, Calabria, Apulia even Corsica has world famous mafia, infamous because of “french connection”. Sardinia never had mafia, they had code of honour similar to sicilian, blood revenge but they never had organized crime, the most close to it are Sardinian kidnappers, what that song is about , they kidnapped rich people from the island and keeped them in the mountains until some of relatives paid ransom, they robbed caravans , rich merchants and lived in these mountains that are really high. But these were always individuals, outlaws, not organized crime group , they even had some support in local communities in the past because they gave part of their income to poor people, that thing dissapeared in the beginning of 90-ies.
        Poor Eugene, I think maybe he could live on Florida if he convinced FBI that Tony ordered him to leave New Jersey and be their opperative there, like Ralphie was. And irony is with Ray Curto, ” standup” guy died as honorable mafia captain , only FBI informant who was never even considered as a snitch, respected from everyone there, i remember from season 1 Tony wanted him to be the boss but he declined and said Tony as a young man is the best choice , we have seen how he was comfortable with feds, speaking about private stuff, others like Big Pussy and Adrianna felt terrible guilt, shame and fear. Tony did one honorable thing, he stood for Hesh Rabkin when New York beat him, he succesfully claimed 50 thousands dollars. Totally different when he was in debt with Hesh later in Chasing It, when he even considered killing him

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  6. Love love looooooove Season 6. Can’t wait to see you dissect episodes like “The Ride” and “Cold Stones”.

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    • I’m very divided on Season 6, as contains both the strongest and weakest episodes of the whole series. For each “Soprano Home Movies”, “The Second Coming” and “Members Only” you get a “Johnny Cakes”, “Live Free or Die” or “Chasing It”.

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      • I like the most all 6b episodes, from 6a Members Only, Kaisha, Cold Stones, The Ride – I think Fleshy Part of the Thigh is the weakest one

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  7. For me always The Killing
    “In All Its Fury and Violence”

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Hi Ron, Excellent writeup as usual, thank you! In particular your breakdown of the opening montage helps me learn why I feel so connected to the series. I begin to notice things like, how Burroughs says “death” and we watch the Nesquik ad on the side of Bobby’s train. Perhaps connecting his eventual death at the hobby shop, with the montage shot of Janice feeding breast milk to her newborn (I seem to recall a prior episode in which Janice takes chocolate milk away from her stepson and pours it down the drain). I am also reminded of your writeup of the pilot, in which you introduce the connections between food and death, and the series’ theme of connectivity in general. You help bring me into a world I always enjoyed, and now feel I have tools to better understand. Thanks again!

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    • Thank you… It’s always interesting to see how people make connections between things, and the links you’ve made here are truly fascinating. Not to get too heavy here, but as time goes by I become more and more convinced that we try to make connections because that is the primary way that we make meaning. Whether we’re finding connections within a work of art or with another person or with whatever else, it is the most fundamentally important thing we do…

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      • Today would make Sopranos in the different manner, now all of these cameras would make most homicides on public places footed , and DNA was big thing even that in early and mid 2000’s- in all cities today average man is filmed hundreds of times daily. It would make murder of Teddy impossible in that way, then witnesses would only say about Eugene- tall, skinny and dark haired guy- if they would remember anything, witnesses in these cases are mostly unreliable , they are panicked from the shots, they don’t want to look into shooter , only if some cop in civil dress was there would catch him after he dropped the gun. These shootings on public places are always risky, i remember about 15 years ago, guy shoot one of our country mob leaders in front of hundreds of people , in the public square in the city center in about 1 pm , his flat was there so he took a walk with his bodyguard on the sunny spring day, he survived 5 attemts on his life before that, he was shot twice and survived, one time he was the target in his car, they wanted to kill him two years earlier with Armbrust, lightweight unguided anti-tank weapon but his car was armored so it bounced and killed one innocent bystander. That time he was shot in the back of the head, and killer began to escape by foot, running, but guards who were saving bank there, wrestled him down to the floor and called the police but his bodyguard arrived , took the gun from assasin and shot him few times in his head, he instantly died, mob boss was few days in intensive care unit but he succumbed to his injuries one week later. His bodyguard got i think 7 or 8 years of prison, light sentence because the mob boss was his good friend. There are many cases i remember when assasin became killed or wounded in his unsuccesfull attempt. That killler who got killed instantly was professional killer, ex-military special forces sergeant, who fought in Africa, Balkan Wars in 90-es but it didn’t helped him there

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  9. Hey Ron, if you were to meet David Chase, what would you ask him?

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    • I’d ask him about everything, books, films, God, what exactly is a potato sandwich.. but I would NOT ask him The Question about that cut-to-black…

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      • It’s interesting how you could have just said “the question” and we would all immediately know exactly what you are referring to. Before that moment on June 10 2007, “the question” would have meant “what happened to the Russian?”

        I wonder if Chase is both equally thrilled that no one asks him about the Russian anymore, and annoyed that he now has a new, even more discussed question to field every time he does an interview, or meets a fan.

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      • I wouldn’t ask him, I’d just tell him what I think happened, who was responsible, and all the while gauge his reactions. It would orobably piss him off, but oh well.

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  10. Blondie’s ‘Dreaming’ is one of my favorite uses of music in the show. I am not sure if it’s just because I have such a soft spot for that song, or because its youthful, innocent pop contrasts so well with Gene rubbing the blood on the map and all hope of his dream being dusted.

    Liked by 3 people

  11. Your comment about Raymond’s death saving Tony from prosecution got me to thinking. A lot of the characters in Soprano World seem to avoid prosecution as a result of death. And I’m not just talking about the death of an informant:

    – In Season 2, Sean Gismonte has a habit of leaving massive piles of DNA evidence at the scenes of crimes, but dies before the inevitable lab results come in.
    – In this episode, Eugene murders a man in public. Could any witnesses ID him? Was there any surveillance? None of that matters anyway, because he kills himself before the cops have had a chance to fully investigate.
    – Later in this half of Season 6, Vito kills a motorist he had a collision with. I don’t know if the resulting investigation would have led back to Vito, but it doesn’t matter, since he was killed shortly thereafter.
    – In the second half of Season 6, Chris kills JT Dolan in his apartment. This one almost certainly would have led to trouble for Chris, since I’m sure Dolan’s girlfriend (among others) would have mentioned Chris to authorities during the resulting investigation. Not that it matters, as Chris dies in the very next episode.
    – And finally, depending on your interpretation of the finale, Tony himself may be saved from prosecution that resulted from Carlo’s turn. As a captain, he’s the highest ranking member of the crew to flip in the entire series, and likely would have given the FBI enough to move forward with a case against Tony. Again though, that one depends on your interpretation of the final scene.

    So, basically, Tony was right. There are only two endings for these guys. Dead, or in the can.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I never really noticed that pattern before, it’s almost like karma is at work in SopranoLand. And lol that’s gonna be my new way of asking a host or hostess where their bathroom is… “Pardon me, where can I leave a massive pile of DNA evidence?”

      Liked by 1 person

    • Good point about Moltisanti being fucked either way, like everyone else I was so shocked at his murder that I immediately forgot about his murder of JT the prior episode.
      I guess to add to this list there’s also Pussy being strongly suspected in the Bevilacqua murder (“you’re a cute prick Sal, I’ll give you that”) just before his execution. Too bad those prick children of Carlos and Patsy never got their comeuppance on the show.

      Liked by 1 person

    • ” As a captain, he’s the highest ranking member of the crew to flip in the entire series”- To be precise, he’s not the highest ranking member- he and Ray Curto are equal because him and Carlo are both captains, only we don’t see his crew, just like we don’t see the crew of Larry Barese, except his nephew Albert Barese, who also was acting captain when Larry is arrested.

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  12. Since you make mention of physical and material excess, Tony was shot in the gut

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  13. As for Gene wiping the blood off of his cheek and onto the paper map, the camera captures exactly where the blood is smeared: right across the bolded capital letters “NEW YORK”. We are foreshadowing the final scene at Holstein’s already, I believe. (“We” lol) I’m invested, can you tell?

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  14. The hot dog scene I think is to remind us that Vito is gay, and that more will be coming up on that subject. What is your take on this storyline? I don’t buy the actor in that role…what do you think?

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    • I think Gannascoli gets a bit of a bum rap, probably because it’s become common knowledge that he suggested the storyline to Chase (which fits in with his rumored talent for self-promotion) and somehow that makes the whole storyline seem less legitimate for many viewers. Something about it did feel off to me when it first aired but I’ve come to believe that Chase did a great job with the storyline and that Gannascoli was solid in the role.

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      • I agree with that.

        My thinking is, a lot of actors probably suggested things to Chase over the course of the series that he didn’t entertain. I don’t think it would have made it in if he didn’t think it would work. I’ve also heard people suggest that the storyline was ‘filler’ to pad things out for the split final season, which may be behind some of the resentment. And, being in college when Season Five and Six aired, I can tell you that a lot of the ‘hits and tits’ crowd simply felt uncomfortable with many aspects of it.

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  15. Maybe because I don’t buy him as gay…and there is nothing appealing about him… so I don’t know why that diner guy would like him.

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    • Do you think that Tony Soprano is attractive to women? I doubt it, except for the materialistic aspect.

      Then again, there’s no accounting for taste…

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      • Yes he is attractive. He’s got charisma and a good sense of humor, plus he throws money around. I can see his appeal. I always thought that when Tony refers to Green Grove as a nursing home, it’s because he has convinced himself that he is to blame for his mother attempt on his life, and doesn’t want to repeat it with Uncle Junior, even though he clearly needs to be under constant care. I think all of the therapy didn’t even make a dent by season 6. He still feels unworthy and unloved, and really won’t accept the responsibility that his mother and Uncle bear for their own circumstances.

        Liked by 1 person

  16. I was thinking about Angie and Carmela and their respective cars. I think Angie is also the recipient of Tony’s largesse because he allowed her to run the body shop after Pussy went missing. She then turned to illegal means to support herself, by getting parts and putting money on the street… but all because of Tony. So really, she couldn’t have gotten the car if Tony hadn’t given her the business to run. So they both got their cars from Tony. The only difference is that Angie is free of her husband, but Carmela isn’t. Angie is still immersed in that life. Both still trapped in their own way.

    Liked by 3 people

    • She was bitchy after Pussy’s death, for example she had good amount of money because Tony gave it to her, she even bought new car and them bitched to Carmela she’s broken. That’s why Tony broke her windshield and told her to think twice before she asks him some money again, i think that was in season 4

      Liked by 1 person

  17. We can read “Members Only” in the first season too, I think it’s during the sequence when Pussy is chasing someone (was it Christopher?).

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    • Possibly… the phrase does show up in various places, like on signs or on Richie Aprile’s jacket…

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      • At least with Richie, he was wearing a jacket he probably had from before he was incarcerated, when those were still relatively stylish.

        Wearing one unironically in 2006 though…

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  18. I just discovered your page a couple of episodes ago. I will go back and start watching from the beginning (for the 6th time), but first I need to watch “Join the Club” and read your interpretation of it as that is my favorite episode!

    So, there is an common reference made in a song in this episode I am trying to make sense of, so I thought I would try here.

    It’s another subtle mention of teeth again (maybe just a coincidence) – which seem to be an ongoing symbol for internal power, or lack there of. After Junior shoots Tony, Junior runs upstairs and hides in the closet, then we see Tony try to get enough bearings to get to the phone, the lyrics sung right then (in Artie Shaw’s “Comes Love”) are:

    Don’t try hidin’ ’cause there isn’t any use,
    You’ll start slidin’ when your heart turns on the juice.
    Comes a headache you can lose it in a day,
    Comes a toothache see the dentist right away;
    Comes love nothing can be done!

    Junior already put a hit on Tony in Season 1. Tony eventually forgave Junior, really only because he is family and Tony equates blood relatives with unconditional love. Tony let his guard down (“you’ll start slidin’ when your heart turns on the juice”) and, as a result in that moment in that episode, he became powerless over Junior (tooth reference).

    The lyric for this scene is perfect. Every line in the song is a solution to a problem, except when it comes to “love – nothing can be done.” I believe the song was used to both explain the importance of famiglia AND foreshadow the further degradation of Tony and Junior’s (and Tony and Christopher’s) relationship.

    When it comes to family (or “love”) … “Nothing can be done,” this is the hand you are dealt. We saw Tony’s hesitation to act with Junior, Livia, and Tony B. – but always a relatively clear solution (at least to Tony) when it comes to a non-blood relative (thinking of Pussy, Jackie, Adriana, Ralph).

    Furthermore, I like the use of old jazz with Junior. It antiquates him, providing a element of a different era to further illustrate the difference between Junior and the rest of the family. Chase does it again in one of my favorite scenes, the Season 6 appropriately titled “Remember When” using Benny Goodman’s “Sing, Sing, Sing” in the closing shot of Junior in a wheelchair with a therapy cat. So great and so sad!

    OK … with Christopher, I am still working out his relationship with Tony and how Tony may interpret it. Christopher was the only one that really sat on the threshold of “family” from Tony’s perspective. Christopher is “family” through marriage, and only a very distant blood relative of Tony’s, and we see what ultimately happens to him by Tony’s hand – which further cemented Tony as a bonafide self-serving sociopath and aided the viewer (at least for me) in accepting his ultimate death.

    Maybe I am over-analyzing it, but that song really stood out to me even the first time I saw the episode 12 years ago. There could be a whole autopsy page just on the soundtrack alone.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Interesting take, and I definitely think that Chase may be using jazz to highlight generational differences.. In episode 1.03, we heard the alternative-rock group Ethyline score a scene with young Christopher and then Chase immediately cut to a scene with old man Junior scored by some cool jazz…

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  19. Thanks, Ron. I’m thrilled to have new installments to read! I consider you THE foremost authority, at this point. I also simply cannot wait til you get to “The Ride” and “Sopranos Home Movies.”

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    • Thanks Sue. I’ve always considered Prof. David Lavery to be the foremost authority on The Sopranos, because of his own writings on the show but also because he compiled and edited 3 separate essay collections in addition to doing other Sopranos-related work and events. I was sad to learn that he passed away in 2016.

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  20. Great that you mention the physicality. One of the reasons why I love The Sopranos is because when a series becomes very popular the creators give more concessions to the viewer, but with Chase is the opposite, more popular it was the more uncomfortable it became.

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    • Yes, it’s true what Jeff Goldberg said at slate.com: The Sopranos loves to “relentlessly invert the most sacred principle of TV writing, which is ‘Do Not Discomfit the Viewer.’” Chase doesn’t worry about making us uncomfortable, and it may even appeal to the masochistic impulse in so many of us — we keep comin back for more…

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  21. I found it so funny that Gene used Joe Bananas (Bonanno) as a reference to him to retire. Bonanno was a boss who was basically forced to retire because he was conspiring with another boss to kill Gambino & Lucchese. Gene wants to retire so he can alleviate himself from the guilt of betraying Tony, really no comparison. I basically laughed with Tony when I first saw this episode.

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    • Yeah that was an unintentionally ironic reference…. but in fairnes to Gene didn’t uncle Pat retire? And ole man Baccalieri ? Of course they were old…..

      Liked by 2 people

  22. One of the best Episodes in my opinion.

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  23. Eugene with his MOJ kills a fat man eating in a diner with initials
    T.S. for Teddy Spiradokis. Members Only Guy kills fat guy in Holstens
    with initials T.S. for Tony Soprano.

    Coincidence?

    Liked by 3 people

  24. I re-watched this episode again, this has to be one of the best also.

    Liked by 1 person

  25. I love this episode and think there’s a really deep connection between this one and the finale.
    In the finale, Tony’s shirt changes to a different one at the diner table than the one he’s wearing when entering it. In the last scene, it’s the same one (or similar) to what he was wearing when shot by Junior. So in my mind it’s clear that the last scene is not a straight continuation from when he’s leaving from seeing Junior at the nursing home and entering the diner. Hence the strange cut where it almost seems as if he’s seeing himself at the diner table.
    There seems to be a deep connection between these two episodes, but what it all means, I still can’t figure out. Did Tony die already when shot by Junior? Really looking forward to your analysis of the finale.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Emmanual Kreisman

      Yes!!! The shirt he’s wearing at the table is the same one he’s wearing when he’s shot by Junior!!!!!!! Obviously, the scene at Holsten’s can’t be …..what?….real? Or at least chronologically where we would expect it to be ( the shirt would obviously be ruined post-shooting )? It’s another piece of clothing that connects the two episodes as the members-only jacket does. What a trip!

      Liked by 2 people

      • Emmanual Kreisman

        Mea Culpa. The shirt Tony is wearing when he is shot by Junior and the shirt he wears in the booth at Holsten’s are not identical……just very similar in style.

        Liked by 1 person

    • The first episode of S6 is directly linked with the last episode :
      S6E1 – Members Only
      S6E21 – Made in America
      There are only 2 members “made” in America ever shown to be made in the Sopranos :
      -Eugene Pontecorvo
      -Christoffer Moltisanti
      The crow in the window is often disccussed by Christtoffer but it is there for Tony. By making Eugene a Made guy he created the circumstances of his death. If Eugene was not made he would have got out in the Members Only episode, he couldn’t get out because he was Made in America.
      Pontecorvo translates to Crow Bridge or Bridge to Death in symbolism. The Man in the Members Only Jacket is creditted explicitly because he means something. He is connected to Eugene, maybe a brother of a family members and happens to see Tony and recognizes him and decides to kill him because he is responsible for the death of Eugene.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Many people mention it, he looks to me more than Johnny Boy than Eugene, we have seen glimpses of Eugene’s character in previous seasons, he is relatively mild mannered guy, his only violent outburst was when he overreacted on the Little Paulie’s joke and in front of horrified Finn smashed bottle on his head, and kicked him few times on the floor. His captain Vito send him home , told him he was feeling sick the whole day, maybe he flipped in that period , that’s why he was so nervous and agressive that day. I think even he felt the next day he was out of line, that he overreacted , because we see how he says to Finn to sit down with them and rest a little, Finn was really frightened before that because of violence he saw and Eugene wanted to ease up his nervousness around mob guys. In this episode, he was treated almost with contempt from Tony , he didn’t even told him face to face he can’t retire, when he wanted to do so, Silvio told him Tony’s on the boat and not to bother him. Chris ordered him murder, he too behaved to him like little prick considering they were made the same day. Only compassion was from Vito who told him if he was in charge he would let him go, even suggested possibility he might be in charge soon. Ironically, that would be the case, if Eugene didn’t kill himself, he would become captain after Vito’s demise and only year after Sopranos would be destroyed by New York with Bobby, Chris, Silvio and probably Tony dead. No one from New York i think would care about his whereabouts if he skipped to Florida, only maybe he would testify in courd like Carlo did

        Liked by 1 person

    • Noticed a lot of sonic troikas in this episode–the Sacramoni’s door bell, Pontecorvo’s gun, among others,. Generally speaking three seems to be a magic number in The Sopranos, especially sonically, and that is a concdept that reverberates throughout the rest of the season more pointedly (“The Three Bells”) and the three bells at Holsten’s.

      Liked by 1 person

  26. The show had always played up on foreshadowing, but this episode kicked off what I believe to be foreshadowing not only for things we were about to see, but things we would never had a chance to see. The members only jacket guy killing TS in a diner is one we had a chance to see, partially. I will explain in the comment fields some of the other things I suspect were going on in those episodes.

    Liked by 1 person

    • That’s an interesting idea. I haven’t given it much thought, but I know that quite a few viewers felt that season 6 was very much about Chase showing all of Tony’s possible fates over the course of the season. All of Tony’s alternative destinies pulled into one timeline…

      Liked by 1 person

  27. As a dying Tony struggles for a landline, your reminded that he threw his cellphone off The Stugots. More bad luck.

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  28. During the opening William Burroughs montage, Meadow is shown over “the guardian angel.” Don’t think that’s a coincidence, considering the number of timse throughout the series she (often inadvertently) acts as such.

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  29. Hey regardIng CHRIS and the crow, here is another of those weird factoids that the Sopranos is full of that may or may not mean anything. Back in 1981 or 82, a very obscure English new wave band had a video for a song called Shiny Shiny. The band was called Hayze Fantayze. In the buseo, briefly, is a kid who looks like Imperioli. YouTube comments say it’s him and his wiki page says it’s him.
    The weird part is he’s having a conversation with what looks like a crow. I’ve always wondered if he told the writers about this, if he is in fact in the video, and suggested the appearance of tbe crow at his made ceremony.
    Anyone want to comment on this?

    Liked by 2 people

    • You know I just had to look up that video. Is it really Imperioli? His ‘natural canopy’ looks different…

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      • I dunno….I know what you mean, it’s hard to tell. He would have been young, a kid and people obviously change as they age. Wiki says it is but that obviously doesn’t mean it is.
        But if it is, isn’t that weird? I can just imagine him saying ya know I was talking to a crow in this weird video a long time ago….
        Btw the chic in the video had insane abs especially for 1981…

        Liked by 1 person

        • His name is Paul Caplin and he’s listed as being the keyboard player in the band. It is interesting though that he’s shown playing chess with a black bird as he looks so similar to Imperioli. Its as if this bird in the music video is replicating Death in the Seventh Seal. Wonder if Chase was aware of this video..

          Liked by 1 person

    • Interesting. That song – apparently – is about a nuclear apocalypse, and this show is starting to feel a little apocalyptic…

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  30. Thanks so much for your work Ron.

    I just wanted to post that I think it was the opening sequence in this episode that made me change my opinion from “this is an amazing TV series” to “this is a transcendent piece of art”

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  31. “Gene Pontecorvo’s suicide is probably the most explicit, realistic hanging ever depicted on American television. . . . it authentically expresses the grim desperation of the physical body as it struggles, in vain, to hold on to life . . . his death—because of its impressive depiction—is one of the most extraordinary of the series.”
    I fully agree, but I’m struck by that word “probably” in the first sentence. Could *anything* be more explicit and realistic than this?
    I’ll comment, and hope I won’t seem morbid.
    Why was the death shown so explicitly? It was not dramatically necessary – the first second or so would have been enough. Was it to please those that we, the elite, call the “hits and tits” crowd? Anyway, whatever the reason, I think – I don’t mean to be flippant – that this scene is educational.
    There are, I think, two kinds of death by hanging, which may be called the judicial and the irregular method. The former is a careful, measured procedure, carried out by a state, for example by Britain until about 1960. The length of the rope – the length of the drop – is calculated according to the weight of the condemned person. The knot is under the chin. The neck – or the spinal cord? – or the windpipe? – I don’t know – is broken; there is immediate loss of consciousness and death quickly follows. The irregular method is used by, for example, mobs, irregular armed forces, and suicides. The knot is at the back of the neck, and death is by strangulation. I am assuming that the scene does, in your words, authentically replicate an actual hanging, and it teaches us that it is a slow and dreadful way of dying.
    Towards the end of life, some people may think that suicide is a sensible choice, as an alternative to a painful death from, for example, cancer, or as an alternative to a long decline with, for example, dementia. “The Sopranos” has illustrated a method that should not be used.

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  32. A good comic bit is Silvio breaking the crushing news to Gene while reading the Star-Ledger. “That Florida thing?…Tony asked me to talk to you….That’s a no-go.” He doesn’t even look up from the newspaper.

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  33. This episode shines another light on how mob life affects the children in the family. Gene’s son involved in drugs. That’s probably how the FBI got him to flip. The wife regretful of their choices as well, but pragmatic when she advises the husband to put a bullet in Tony’s head. It shows a realistic albeit fantasy way of thinking. They are trapped. Gene will still have to stay in Jersey even if Tony dies because of his FBI informing.. It’s actually a selfless thing for him to kill himself, because it frees the family to go on to better things, and frees him from the horrible situation he’s in. It’s also a way out, and as far as hanging, maybe he thought he wouldn’t be able to back out like he would if he killed himself with a gun. Horrible for the kids, but ultimately a blessing for them.

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    • And it’s interesting they gave us window to Eugene’s life, thoughts and dilemmas. There are many more characters who seem interesting but we don’t know much of them- for example Albert Barese, Ray Curto, Carlo Gervasi( ok, not so interesting but it would be interesting to see if Tony’s comment about changing his sexual behaviour because Vito earned three times more helped him easier to flip from boss, who doesn’t respect that thing of theirs and elder made guys like Uncle Philly said), Walden, Little Paulie , Gerry Torciano and many more- in this season we saw more of Eugene, Vito and Benny from guys who were always there but without their arc.

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  34. Gene Pontecorvo’s suicide by hanging is accomplished by standing on and then kicking a speaker out from under his feet. The speaker grill falls off, and then the speaker is moved around by his kicking feet and brought into focus. Gene was speaking to the FBI.

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  35. Re: Paths of Glory, David Simon (I think) used to reference this as being of a piece with The Wire, which about individuals struggling against and being crushed by institutions that they are point of. It’s definitely a reference to Eugene – he is trying to break the institutional rules of the mob and FBI and gets crushed in the process.

    Liked by 1 person

  36. The song that’s playing while Tony is making pasta sounds like the same song that’s playing in an earlier season when Tony helps Junior off the floor after he slips in the shower. Maybe some significance?

    Liked by 1 person

    • I don’t think its the same song. Its a 40’s era song in both cases, but I think it may be The DeCastro Sisters” in the one where Junior falls in the shower.

      Liked by 1 person

  37. Love these write-ups but I have to stop reading. Too many spoilers. See you in 21 episodes.

    Liked by 1 person

  38. Great write-up, Ron. Did anyone else get a MacBeth feel from the Eugene story? That damned spot of blood on his face didn’t seem to actually go away when he rubbed it, and of course his wife suggested he murder his “liege”, Tony.
    And it’s very interesting that you suggest that the crow was actually for him. A “corvid” for Pontecorvo!

    Liked by 2 people

  39. This scene foreshadows the finale. A fat guy getting shot in a diner by a guy in a Members Only jacket. And in Season 1 when Tony kills the rat (Petrulio), the rat calls him Teddy.

    Liked by 1 person

  40. Yes, most realistic/graphic/unromanticized suicide by hanging I’ve ever seen. Also, Melfi’s rape was the most realistic rape I’ve ever seen in a fictional work.
    Re: Eugene’s suicide, we see him swinging; and then the scene cuts to Junior’s house and what’s playing on the hifi is not jazz – it’s *Swing* music. Ouch.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, in most hangings people leak and shit themselves , we hear him piss himself, it’s fight or flight reaction in the extreme situations, Chrissy shat himself when Russians made mock execution and Lorraine Caluzzo too I think pissed herself after uncle Philly shot in the book that he put on her chest, Adrianna too had major problem with her bowels when she was coerced to cooperate with FBI

      Liked by 1 person

  41. To Pamela Henry (Jan. 30, 2019 comment),
    I don’t agree that Tony threw his cellphone off the Stugots. He threw it, and it bounced off against the *inner* back wall of the boat and landed on the boat floor.

    Like

  42. The SopRONos.

    Liked by 1 person

  43. The agent that Eugene converses with in the car isn’t Ron Gosling (as far as I’m aware)

    Liked by 1 person

  44. I thought the opening montage was very interesting, as it seemed to foreshadow several of the characters’ fates…as it shows:
    – Bobby playing w/ his trains, which is what he was doing when he got killed.
    – Patsy jogging on a treadmill.. he escaped from the hit on Silvio & him by running away.
    – Vito posing for a weight loss ad. He was killed over being gay.. & one could (mobsters especially) link being ‘fashionable’ & wanting to look good as being gay. It’s a ridiculous way to think but as we see in the series, many feel that way.. especially old school guys like Phil.
    – Eugene finding out about his inheritance. Obviously this event was what started him on his road to suicide.

    Liked by 1 person

  45. Tony’s getting shot reminded me of Jack Ruby assassinating Lee Harvey Oswald, watching it again.

    Liked by 1 person

  46. Just noticed that Carmella happily informs Tony his new insurance card has come in the mail..

    Liked by 1 person

  47. “chinks did this!” just made me spit out my drink.

    Liked by 2 people

  48. As much as The Sopranos is about Tony life on top of the NJ food chain, the Sopranos has consistently shown how frustrating, financially limited and deadly it is for those lower down the food chain. The humiliations of Chris M and Gene Pontecorvo (and Matt Bevilaqua, Sean Gismonte, Jackie Jr, Dino, indeterminate parade of minor characters beaten up because a boss was angry) reveal that the Sopranos true calling as a public service announcement for youth aspiring to the mob life 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  49. It seems that no one here or on IMDB noticed, but when Gene is talking to the FBI in cul-de-sac, just moments before killing himself, a “Dead End” street sign is visible on the left.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Sorry for spaming, but just wanted to mention another use of the Mirror Motif used for Ade in one of the previous episodes (when her face is seen split in the mirror, cause she is leading two lives, one being the life of an FBI informant), the same is seen when Gene goes to the bathroom to answer the FBI call (which works also as a pun for his wife, who thinks Tony is his master, while his true master is even worse, possibly): we see two mirrors, and him only in the reflection of one of them, again, foreshadowing his double life.

      Liked by 1 person

    • I missed the sign and the mirror, both good catches..

      Like

  50. The “rotten tree” metaphore is also present in this episode, through Carmela this time. She builds a house with a low-grade wood (“a rotten foundation”), even dreams of it, then again in the scene with her father again on the construction site. It also serves as a Chase’s usual jab at the idea of the American Dream (Ade’s rotten insides, Ade is with Carmela inside a rotten house-site, Carmela and Ade are both morally rotten, liberal critique of the American Dream as a rotten idea, etc.) In the same episode, near the end, in the scene with Angie Bompansero, Carmela’s love for her car is instantly erased by a fact that she bought it not with hard earned money, but with “rotten” one. It can go on and on…

    Liked by 1 person

  51. There is also a twofold intertextual connection to the movie Once Upon a Time in the West (1968), which was already musicaly referenced in previous seasons concerning Ralph’s and Tony’s beef: two characters that are both going to die because of Tony, Eugene and Bobby Bacalieri, are bearing resemblence to the Morton character from Once Upon a Time… Morton’s dream in Once… is to build a railroad (1) to the sea (2). He actually dies in a pile of mud, dragging himself (3) to the puddle of water, as a failed dream, he never reaches sea, but sort of drowns in a puddle of water still. In this episode, we see Bobby building a railroad, that also foreshadows his end, just like Morton’s did his, and we see the dream of Gene to go live by the sea (in all Mob cinema, Miami is synonimous with sea), the dream that also fails, and he, just as Morton, and Bobby, dies. Then, the final scene is Tony, dragging himself to the phone, just like Morton did in his final seconds. Tony also dies at the end of the season, just like Morton did, failing his American Dream, in an episode named Made in America. Also, both Bobby and Gene die because of Tony, but so does Tony. On top of all of that, Eugene actualy dies in a puddle. A piss puddle. It’s very thin, but it is all there.

    Liked by 1 person

    • There is yet another aspect of Gene that connects to Morton: Morton believes that the sea will “wash his sins” and also cure or ease his health issues. Eugene’s wife and hi himself want to move primarily to cure their son of addiction to heroin.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Considering the angle he was shot from, Tony S. dies in a puddle of blood, face down, just like Morton was face down in a puddle of water.

      Liked by 1 person

  52. I’m so grateful for this blog – this masterclass on analysis. I’ve watched the series a few times, mostly with an eye on what’s happening. This blog has opened my eyes and ears to see the show – all shows – in a whole new way. Originally, I was reading the blog before the show and noticing the “hidden” moments in the show. By season six, I’m able to watch and pick things up before the reading. I was so proud to notice Angie’s pride in her ‘vette that she purchased herself after her hulking husband disappeared, while Carmella is still relying on gifts. Angie’s found her independence with out BP, while Carmella will never find hers because she took TS back. Also, I noticed that when Agent Harris explains he’s lost weight due to an intestinal parasite, Chris says I hope it eats his “insides” (well, in more colorful language) and the next scene starts with the someone reacting by saying word “shit”…another example of the show’s teenage humor…usually it’s sexual…but as you mentioned maybe we’re going in a different direction this season. Then, just before Tony’s shot, “In a rainstorm…” go the lyrics. Then many of the lyrics tie in with his and JRs actions, “dont try hiding” (as Corrado goes into the closet), “You’ll start sliding” (as Tony slides to the phone) and the refrain, “Nothing can be done”…
    So, thank you – and the many, many commenters, too – for providing this learning experience. You’ve forever changed how I will watch a series…well, maybe not King of Queens…but you get my point. You taught me how to look around the whole scene, including the music. I’m seeing crosses, trees, food, hot dogs being eaten by Vito (hmmm….), Meadow dancing like a Bing girl for Finn…it’s incredible what you and your commenters have taught me. I cannot express my gratitude enough.

    Liked by 2 people

  53. While Eugene looks at the album, we get that choppy/jittery camera that kind of feels like a mistake or your internet connection is lagging. Then it feels like something filmed for slow-motion got sped back up… maybe? We saw it a few times (or similar camera work) like the Carmela / Wegler hallway scene or when Tony first bears into his yard at the end of S5/13 before he comes into focus from the tree. These cuts feel incongruent to the quality we know, but nothing is done without purpose here, so I am curious if you, Ron, or any readers here have thoughts on it?
    I could just be different writer/director combos, but it just sticks with me so I had to throw it out there.
    (Each time I see these, my first thought is, “Didn’t somebody proofread this?” I know you don’t “proofread” film but it’s just more my context, lol.)
    As always, you have enriched the series and experience beyond measure for me.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I don’t really have a problem with it because it’s fairly subtle (except in that Carm & Wegler scene which is pretty blatant and weird). I’m guessing it’s usually Chase doing it through the editor..

      Like

  54. When Carmela shows up at Ginny’s house for a spa day and pretends she’s not showing off her car and says, “it’s a Porsche Cayenne- like the pepper,” it’s more like salt she’s rubbing into Ginny’s wounds. I have to say I think it’s one of the meanest things Carmela does in the whole series it really makes me dislike her at that moment.

    Liked by 1 person

  55. I still can’t parse the meaning of that Burroughs opening montage but I know Chase well enough to know it’s not just some random thing. Damned if I can decipher it though.

    Also, Ron wrote “Nobody expected for Chase to kill Tony in the opening episode” or something like that but, believe it or not, I DID and I was THIS close on my prediction.

    My (ex) wife and I were discussing what might happen in the last season and I said “what if it was like a ‘who shot JR’ thing where, in episode one, we’re shown Tony getting killed by an unknown assailant and then the rest of the season unfolds via flashback and the the whole season is us trying to piece together who did it?” That would have been a little hackneyed for a show like this but, man, would the buzz have ever been incredible and, done right, I think it could have worked.

    Hear me out here.

    We watch the whole first episode and it culminates with Tony’s murder. We already know a LOT of time has passed since we last saw these characters so there’s plenty of room to fill in any blanks and still tell a compelling story. We get a whole season of being shown various people who have good reason to want Tony dead and the reasons why. You could unfold it like a reverse murder mystery. You could still have it be Junior if you wanted and alleviate suspicion of him by showing us his diminished capacity and increased feebleness. He might be the last one you’d suspect on a list that would include Johnny Sac, Phil, Chris, Paulie, Vito, Butch, Bobby…even Carmine…Slava, some jilted ex girlfriend, Patsi…maybe AJ finally snapped (?) and went full School Shooter or Janice saw a chance at a huge score and/or lost her temper again like with Ritchie. Then a few guys get whacked and the list of suspects shrinks.

    My point being that we could be shown the murder off screen and still have a full season unfold where Tony’s list of enemies grows and grows for various reasons that increases the list of suspects – sort of like how it actually unfolded. Maybe a little cheesy but I think it could have been clever in the right hands (CHase) and MY GOD would it get people talking plus I think you could do some interesting things with direction and storytelling by playing around with timelines like Pulp Fiction, Godfather 2, The Irishman or Momento.

    Then we do the big reveal where it was Maggie Simpson.

    Or, even better, Chase would never reveal who it was and we’d be spending forever debating who did it.

    Liked by 1 person

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