Moe n’ Joe (6.10)

Bobby Baccalieri gains a house after almost losing an eye.
Vito leaves Johnny Cakes without even saying goodbye.

Episode 75 – Originally aired May 14, 2006
Written by Matthew Weiner
Directed by Steve Shill

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“Moe n’ Joe” is an entertaining episode, presenting the stories of several characters over the course of an hour: John and Ginny Sacrimoni, Vito and Jim, Janice and Bobby, Carmela and Tony, and even landscaper Sal Vitro.  More significantly, the hour deftly revisits and reemphasizes several ideas/themes that Chase has been exploring over the last couple of episodes.  Plus it’s got a great episode title; “Moe n’ Joe” is one of the most clever titles of the series, and I’ll dig into its various meanings throughout this write-up.

Some viewers were growing weary of the gay mobster storyline because they felt it wasn’t really going anywhere.  Well, it begins to go somewhere here — this episode marks the beginning of the end for Vito Spatafore.  According to some reports, it was Joe Gannascoli (who plays Vito) who originally suggested the idea of incorporating a homosexual mobster into the narrative.  The episode title “Moe n’ Joe” may refer to the “gay mobster storyline” in multiple ways:

  1. The titular “Joe” could allude to Joe Gannascoli, who played “Vito” (and who suggested this storyline)
  2. “Joe” is a common nickname for “John” (as in Johnny Cakes)
  3. “Joe” is a common nickname for “John” (as in John Costelloe, who played Johnny Cakes)
  4. Some viewers have thought of “Moe” to be a shortened form of “homo”
  5. Bobby Bacala tells his son, “Check out the Moe n’ Joe action,” a line that may callback the hot “action” between Vito and Jim

Vito’s story in this hour picks up on certain ideas and themes which have made up the backbone of recent episodes.  Boredom was the primary theme of the previous hour “The Ride.”  And just a couple of episodes ago in “Luxury Lounge,” the main concern was how many Americans—whether West coast Hollywood elites or East coast mafia thugs—want to live an easy life full of luxury and expensive goodies.  The current episode is founded upon these ideas of boredom and luxury: Vito is bored in Dartford and misses his life of luxury in New Jersey.  He doodles away his time at the library.  He tries to find a good casino where he can get some action.  He attempts to get the local guys to stay up late with him for fun and games.  Life in Dartford simply doesn’t have the same pace—or heart-thumping danger—that Vito is used to having back home.

But Vito’s relationship with Jim hasn’t started boring him yet, they grow more and more intimate through this episode.  I know many viewers became thoroughly bored with the storyline as it was presented this hour, but I think that much of their antipathy is a reaction to the gag-me-with-a-spoon cheesiness of the men’s romance.  In a particularly cheesy sequence, Vito cooks for Jimbo (while Dean Martin’s “That’s Amore” plays in the background), Vito says “I love you Johnny Cakes” and then the two men nuzzle like characters in a Disney cartoon.  In bed, Jim sweetly caresses Vito’s face, then turns him over for better access to his backside.  Chase’s cut here to the imagery of a toy train entering a dark tunnel is an obviously sexual reference, an editing idea he may have picked up from Hitchcock’s North by Northwest:

moe and joe train tunnel

North by Northwest

(Chase’s naughty edit leads me to recall Richie Aprile’s line in episode 2.08, after Paulie tells him to build a wheelchair ramp for Beansie Gaeta: “I’ll build a ramp up to your ass, drive a Lionel up in there.”  [Coincidentally, it was Vito Spatafore who Richie ultimately sent to build Beansie’s ramp.])

The syrupy scenes and cornball dialogue between Vito and Jimbo is, I believe, Chase’s attempt to evoke a sense of the idyllic in their relationship.  I don’t think Chase fully succeeds, and that may just be because his natural talent is in portraying life realistically rather than idealistically.  I argued previously that the Dartford scenes had a conscientiously idyllic, fairytale quality to them and we now see what the benefit (in terms of drama) was of coating these scenes in sugar: dramatic tension is created as Vito’s romance in Dartford remains honey-sweet but the rest of his life in Dartford turns dull and stagnant.  Vito feels torn as the urge to stay and the urge to leave both pull at him.

Vito needs to get a job in order to earn some income and keep himself occupied.  He has a background in construction, though I’m guessing most of his construction experience over the last few years has consisted of simply sitting around a building site in a lawn chair with his mob buddies (as we saw in last season’s “Unidentified Black Males”).  After a life of leisure in the mafia, Vito is no longer suited for honest blue-collar work.  I think this a crucially important point, and one that is underscored by the episode title.  When Bobby Bacala tells his son, “Check out the Moe n’ Joe action,” he is referring to the Lionel figures performing their blue-collar labor:

moe n' joe-001

Vito does not have the work ethic, follow-through or taste for physical labor which were highly prized values of the American middle class at one time.  Although David Chase hasn’t highlighted it very much, a long-running theme of The Sopranos has been the antagonism that exists between the Mafia and the working class.  This mirrors an antagonism that exists in the real world.  Neil Davenport, in a 2006 article (“The Sopranos: Still the greatest show on earth”) writes of the series that:

The parasitical and hostile relationship the Mafia has with the working masses was a common theme.  Indeed, it’s worth remembering how the Mafia have long been virulent anti-communists and anti-trade unionists, with a history of providing strike-breaking muscle for employers.

Indeed, we saw the New Jersey mobsters provide strike-breaking muscle for Masserone Construction in Season Two’s “Do Not Resuscitate.”  (In a truly despicable arrangement, Tony contrived with Rev. James to initiate the labor strike, then sent his thugs in to rough up the striking workers.  Rev. James acknowledged to Tony that “my protesters would kill me if they knew I was lining my pockets with their blood,” but he accepted Tony’s payoff nevertheless.)

Jim ‘Johnny Cakes’ Witowski is an admirable blue-collar guy: a hard-working, fire-fighting, Harley-riding short-order cook.  Though Vito may be above Jim on the socio-economic scale, Vito doesn’t have Jim’s admirable blue-collar industriousness or stick-to-it-tiveness.  Vito leaves his working class lover and his own working class job in this episode because the lure of “the life” in the mafia is just too strong for him to resist.  Chase emphasizes this point through the juxtaposition of scenes: first, Vito is frustrated by the slow progress of his workday, unleashing an obscenity (hilariously) in disappointment that it is not even 10 a.m. yet; and then in the next scene, we—along with Jim—realize that Vito has ditched Dartford.

Vito1

Vito2

When he wakes up alone in bed, Jim assumes that Vito is in the bathroom.  But then it dawns on him that perhaps Vito has bailed.  He looks out the window and notices that Vito’s car is gone:

Vito3

I think the image of that empty patch of ground in Jim’s driveway is a powerful image; that empty patch—that nothingness which now pervades the space recently occupied by Vito’s car—underscores that Vito found nothing in Dartford strong enough to keep him from returning to New Jersey.  Chase led viewers to believe that Vito had a shot at everything in this town: a chance to start over and live an authentic life in an accepting community alongside someone who loved him — but that was not enough to keep Vito here.  I have no doubt that Vito Spatafore genuinely misses his wife and children—he tells Jim, “I miss home so bad, my heart’s a fucking lump”—but it is ultimately the lure of easy money, luxury and power that compels Vito back to north Jersey.  I think that the close-shot of Vito’s Oris just before we learn that Vito has bolted from Dartford highlights this point.  The significance of this particular brand may be that it links to the Oris watches that were so prominently featured in “Luxury Lounge ” a few episodes back:

Oris watches

It’s possible that the tightly-framed shot of Vito’s Oris now is meant to callback the obscene, opulent practice of setting up Luxury Lounges for Hollywood stars (a practice that Moltisanti unapologetically tried to ingratiate himself into).  TV critic Matt Zoller Seitz might argue that the close-up of Vito’s Oris now is yet another example of product placement on the series, another example of “how the Sopranos gang has found a way to sell out while seeming to be above that sort of thing.”  But I am more inclined to think that the close-up of Vito’s watch could be a continuation of a symbolic complex of watch-imagery from “Luxury Lounge.”  We might remember that in addition to the Oris pieces, that episode featured close-up shots of other watches as well:

2 watches

Christopher presented the watch on the left—which he probably robbed off of Lauren Bacall—to Tony, and one of the Italian hitmen showed off the watch on the right which he purchased during his spare time (i.e. when he wasn’t whacking Rusty Millio).  The close-up of Vito’s Oris now in conjunction with these earlier close-ups emphasize how prevalent the desire for luxury and opulence are in SopranoWorld.

Vito runs from Dartford because he is already growing tired of being just another “regular Joe” there.  He runs back toward la famiglia, where he believes he can be something more than a regular Joe.  We’ve seen this type of thinking throughout the series, most notably in episode 5.12 “Long Term Parking,” when Christopher had to choose between Adriana and la famiglia.  He seemed to be poised, at one point, to side with Adriana.  But a gas station epiphany reminded him that he would lose a certain lifestyle, not to mention many luxury items including his beloved Hummer H2, if he betrayed the mob.  Like Christopher before him, Vito chooses to return to la famiglia because he is unwilling to deal with “the fuckin’ regularness of life” outside the Mafia.

Vito may believe that he can return to the mob on his own terms (and Sinatra’s “My Way” playing on his car radio seems to underscore this) but his return will not be easy.  He runs into his first obstacle—literally—soon after leaving Dartford: Vito crashes into the back of a Jeep Wagoneer.  The New Englander who owns the Jeep is unwilling to accept cash for the damage, he wants to get the insurance company and police involved.  So Vito decides to install a new window in the back of the unfortunate man’s head.  We’ve seen Vito shoot someone from behind before: this is how he killed Jackie Aprile in episode 3.13.  The New Englander falls face-first into the snow, just as Jackie did.  By echoing the earlier imagery, Chase emphasizes that Vito Spatafore is already returning to Business As Usual:

Vito from behind2

Vito from behind

Several episodes ago, Chase made use of the New Hampshire state motto (Live Free or Die) to starkly lay out Vito’s options: either live free or die.  We understand that by running from New Hampshire back to New Jersey now, Vito is setting himself up to die.  By leaving Dartford, Vito has turned his back on his best chance to live in freedom and liberty.  He returns to north Jersey, the place that “liberty” has turned her back on — this is the view from Liberty State Park in Jersey City:

Liberty's Back

Many of the Mafiosi back home, such as Carlo and Paulie, will have hesitations—to say the least—about welcoming Vito back into the fold.  But the biggest obstacle to Vito’s return is Phil Leotardo, who has a family connection to Vito in addition to a famiglia connection.  I think the episode title may cleverly serve to reiterate the role of Phil as a mortal threat to Vito, because it was Frank Vincent (“Phil Leotardo”) who made a reference to a “Moe and Joe” in the 1989 film Do the Right Thing.

Moe and Joe

In the next episode, we will see that Phil seems to want—at least for a moment—to ‘do the right thing’ and give Vito a pass.  But this is SopranoWorld — did any of us ever believe that the gay mobster storyline would have a happy ending?

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Chase’s censure of the mob’s attitude toward blue-collar work is also reflected in Sal Vitro’s story here.  Sal is a blue-collar guy who has long-suffered at the yoke of the mob.  He tries very early in the episode to escape his indentured servitude, only to have Tony respond, “You’re a selfish prick, Sal.”  Silvio mockingly calls him “the lawnmower man.”  Even Carmela is critical of the poor guy, describing him as “such a mope” when he replies less-than-enthusiastically to her greeting.  Her clueless comment comes just as we see Vitro diligently laboring (without pay) in the freezing cold, ironically framed between Carm’s fur coat and Carm’s Porsche Cayenne:

Carmela and Porsche

There is a pronounced difference in the life of Carmela Soprano and and the life of Sal Vitro.  She has set up a very comfortable life for herself with very little hard work, while Vitro labors very hard with little to show for it.  Carmela is working on a project, but she wants it done the easy way.  Progress on her spec-house has come to a standstill because it has not passed inspection, so—rather than fix the violations—she tries to utilize her husband’s muscle, asking if Silvio leaned hard enough on the guy at the building department.  Tony is not eager for work on the spec-house to continue because it would leave less time for Carmela to devote to her household/motherly duties: shopping, cooking and listening to Meadow’s complaints.  (The funniest sequence of the hour may be when the beeping microwave beckons Tony to come get his warm meal, but he knows he must make an effort to listen to his daughter whine about her crumbling relationship with Finn before he can eat.)  Carmela is callously clueless in her attitude toward Sal Vitro, and criminally complicit in her attempt to muscle the building inspector.  But I don’t want to pick on Carmela too much for her failings here.  After all, we all share her failings to some degree…

The Sopranos has been criticizing various aspects of American society since its Pilot episode, but it seems to me that Chase’s critique of us has become more pointed in Season 6.  In his review of this episode, Todd VanDerWerff writes that…

…that critique of America as a whole has grown incredibly damning in “Moe N’ Joe.” This isn’t one of the series’ very best episodes, but it’s one that leaves a bruise, and the more you look at it, the more obvious it is that it implicates each and every one of us. Nobody really tries to understand those around us who are hurting, tries to figure out what’s going on inside of their heads. Nobody alive always does the right thing instead of the easy thing. Being a human is all too often about finding comfortable spots and then settling into them for the long haul, regardless of whom that leaves out in the cold.

While it is troubling enough to think that Tony and Carmela typify contemporary Americans, it is almost horrifying to think that we may even hold Tony and Carmela up as models to emulate.  In his essay “Wonderbread and Stugots,” Anthony Rotundo writes of Tony that…

…the meaning of his life and his manhood has an ironic ‘Americanness.’  He and the mobsters who came before him showed a stunningly American impatience with the slow, arduous paths of upward mobility.  Tony’s cunning, wit, energy, nerve, initiative and extraordinary understanding of the markets he serves make him in many ways a model entrepreneur.

The lack of respect that the mobsters (and their wives) show for blue-collar workers and blue-collar lifestyles may be a reflection of this “American impatience with the slow, arduous paths of upward mobility.”  Their disgust with traditional blue-collar values is camouflaged by the tones of admiration with which they speak of such values.  In the book Tony Sopranos’ America, authors Keith Booker and Isra Daraiseh suggest that Tony is proud that his family is from Guinea Gulch, a blue-collar section of Newark, but equally proud that they are no longer in Guinea Gulch.  They also note that Tony shows a kind of blue-collar pride and enjoyment in knowing how to work the backhoe when burying Ralph Cifaretto (or more accurately, what’s left of Ralph Cifaretto).  He brings each of his kids to the old church built by his grandpa where he can show them physical evidence of traditional working class values, and he even dreams of himself as a stonemason just as his grandfather was.  Furthermore, we may remember that in “From Where to Eternity” (2.09), Tony went on a rant against the JP Morgans of the world, identifying himself with the poor masses of people who perpetually get screwed by large corporations (while conveniently ignoring the fact that no one screws people over the way that he himself does).  Tony’s conception of the class struggle—as well as his own place within it—is conflicted, even hypocritical.  In the very first scene of this hour, Sal Vitro asks Tony to be relieved of his (unfair) responsibilities at Johnny Sac’s house, but Tony not only refuses, he condescends to Vitro.  Booker and Daraiseh continue, “Tony’s respect for the craftsmanship of his grandfather’s generation is part of a generalized nostalgia; it is oriented toward an idealized vision of the past, while Vitro works in the debased here-and-now.”

As a culture, we often display a similar generalized nostalgia and sentimentality for the working class.  This episode aired about two years after President Bush, to the surprise of many, was reelected to a second term.  A poll very famously revealed that many people voted for him not because they thought he was a good president but because he was the guy that they would rather have a beer with as opposed to his rival John Kerry.  Though Bush was born in an upscale part of Connecticut with a silver spoon in his mouth and never developed a reputation for being much of a hard worker, he was nevertheless able to convince much of rural America that he was one of them.  The blue jeans, the “aw shucks” demeanor, the outdoor chores on his ranch-style property in Texas — they all had the intended effect on voters.

We learn here that it is actually Bush’s vice-president that Tony truly admires.  “Dick Cheney for President — of the fuckin universe,” Tony gushes after intimating that he landed some sweet business deal in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.  (My guess is that Tony got a piece of some federal no-bid construction contract.)  Tony may see in Cheney a kindred spirit.  After all, Tony’s organization profits at the point of a gun much like Cheney’s old outfit Halliburton profited at the point of a missile.  Despite this admiration, Tony does throw some shade at the Bush Administration when Sal Vitro tries once again to get out of his responsibilities at Johnny Sac’s place (a “contract” that he certainly did not ever bid on):

Sal: Now that Mr. Sacrimoni is guilty, do you think I could maybe take him off my route?
Tony: What the fuck did you just say Sal?
Sal: I don’t know.
Silvio: The fuckin lawnmower man just said John was guilty, T.
Tony: He pled guilty, Sal. Okay? With this government, no fuckin’ trial. Maybe they stuck tasers on his balls and beat him mercilessly with a rubber hose. Ya ever think of that?
Sal: No, but of course it makes sense.

The irony, obviously, is that Tony criticizes the federal government’s torture techniques which get carried out without judicial oversight while he himself administers a violent organization that completely disregards the rule of law.  Tony’s criticism is disingenuous and self-serving.

As Americans, we don’t care too much when white-collar workers exhibit a heartless cunning or recklessness in their ambitious pursuit of the American Dream.  We don’t even raise much of a holler when CEOs, bankers and managers are merely slapped on the wrist for serious criminal behavior.  We keep on electing politicians that give the white-collar criminal class a pass.  It is usually these same politicos that care less and less—despite what they may say on the campaign stump—that our blue-collared brethren are finding it ever-harder to find the most basic level of comfort and security even after a lifetime of honest work.  We have normalized the massive gulf that exists between the have-nots and the have-a-lots.  The callousness that Tony and Carmela display toward the common working man in SopranoWorld is not unique to them; it reflects an ideological callousness that we have institutionalized and codified within larger American society.

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“ACTS OF JANICE”
Tony is being harangued by all the women in his life: Carmela wants his help with the spec-house, Meadow seeks his shoulder to cry on, and Janice…well, Janice always has a gripe with Tony but she is especially bitchy in this hour.  Tony tells Dr. Melfi that his sister doesn’t commit acts of kindness, only “acts of Janice.”  Tony has had a lifelong resentment towards his sister and now he is beginning to take it out on her husband.  He has virtually no sympathy, only criticism, for Bobby when he almost loses an eye during a collection: “That fuckin’ part of Newark, even the cops don’t go there no more.”  (It is true that Newark had a historically bad crime rate at the time this episode aired, but Tony isn’t thinking of crime statistics — he’s just taking a shit on his brother-in-law.)  However, Tony seems to become more sympathetic after a visit to Bobby’s house, where he sees broken furniture, a son mouthing off, and a wife that is completely domineering.  Sad-sack Bobby can’t even afford the NFL package on cable.  Tony knows he has been treating the Baccalieris poorly but he comes up with a way to make it up to them: he is able to get them a deep discount on the Sacrimoni house by exploiting Johnny Sac’s weakened positioned in prison.

Poor John Sacrimoni.  The icy, red-headed prosecutor has a strong case against the New York boss and is not giving him much leeway at all.  It doesn’t help any that John’s goofy “lord of the lenses” brother-in-law, Anthony Infante, really isn’t cut out to be his go-between with the outside world.  (His last name means “infant” in Italian and there is something childlike about him.)  Infante stinks at gangster-speak, although I do think “the coffee with the chicory” was pretty clever — he is obviously referring to the businessman from New Orleans because chicory is commonly added to coffee in NOLA.  (Interestingly, John asks Tony to keep his business deal in New Orleans a secret from Phil Leotardo, much like Phil asked Tony to keep the vitamin-truck score a secret from John in the previous episode.)  Backed into a corner, Johnny Sac takes the plea deal and performs the hated allocution.  And then he agrees to sell his house to Bobby and Janice for 50% of its asking price. 

The sale of the house ties into the overarching theme of the hour: Janice and Bobby acquire a larger, more luxurious house not by earning it, not through hard work, but through Tony’s manipulations.  Janice has always had a taste for get-cash-quick schemes, whether it be selling her mother’s house or claiming fraudulent government benefits or trying to break into Christian music, and now she has landed a quick and easy score for herself and her husband.  Janice and Bobby here embody what Rotundi called the “American impatience with the slow, arduous paths of upward mobility.”  Janice doesn’t even have the patience to wait for Ginny Sac to move out of the house before bringing in her interior decorator, who discusses rug options while Ginny quietly listens in the adjacent room.

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CLEVER CUTS and some NAUGHTY PUNS
Every episode of The Sopranos has its share of clever edits, but a pair of them really stood out for me in this hour.  There was also a pair of naughty visual puns (of sorts) here that made me chuckle:

Vito tells the guys in Dartford that back where he is from, the night is just beginning.  Chase cuts to New Jersey, where Bobby Bacala collects a payment from a bookie late at night and then gets robbed.  The edit highlights the irony: Vito wants to leave Dartford with its boring—but safe—nights to go to Jersey with its very dangerous nights:

Clever cut - Night

Kelli says that Chris won’t be attending dinner at the Soprano house because he has got an AA meeting.  Chase cuts to Tony rotating the wine bottles in his basement; it was after robbing some of these bottles from The Vipers that Tony prodded Chris back on to a path of substance abuse:

Clever cut - AA

A possible naughty pun, as Janice comes into Satriale’s demanding what happened to her “stuffed pork loin” just as Tony is looking through a porno magazine:

stuffed pork loin

Another dirty pun?  Silvio asks, “To what end?” just as we get a nice shot of Carmen Luvana’s rear end.  The poster proclaims “Carmen’s first anal scene” — perhaps a callback to Vito Spatafore’s sex scene which we just saw two minutes earlier:

Carmen Luvana1

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ADDITIONAL NOTES:

  • Upon learning that Bobby might lose his eye, Carlo Gervasi makes a reference to the Hathaway clothing company.  The Hathaway advertisements featuring a man in an eye-patch was one of Madison Avenue’s most enduring and memorable campaigns.  So: the guys in SopranoLand see even Bobby’s painful injury through a commercial, consumeristic lens.

hathaway

  • Blind Spot.  Paulie has started radiation after a cancer diagnosis but, in a hilariously self-blind statement, says he is being spared the embarrassment of having his hair fall out because “I must have done good things in my life.”  (Knock on wood, because what would Paulie be without those silver wings?)
  • Men that cry:  1) Johnny Sac has tears in his eyes as he does the allocution (but the courtroom sketch artist doesn’t convey this — I wonder if the mobsters of SopranoWorld would have felt more sympathetic or less sympathetic if they knew John was crying while confirming the existence of the Mafia); and 2) Vito’s cheeks are moist as he drives away from Jimbo.
  • Little Details: One of the businessmen calls the waitress “chere,” another nod to their New Orleanian roots.
  • I believe we can hear a snippet of “Born Again Savage” by Little Stevie and the Disciples of Soul over the speakers at the Bada Bing.  The band featured big-name players Adam Clayton, Jason Bonham and of course Steve Van Zandt.
  • We remember back in Season 3, Meadow whined in the kitchen, “God, is there nothing to eat in this house?!”  (She flashbacked to this moment with a pang of guilt in “Whitecaps” after learning of her parents’ decision to split up.)  Now, she again makes a crabby complaint about the lack of food in the kitchen: “I was looking forward to fresh blueberries this morning but mom hasn’t shopped.”  (Oh poor you, Meadow.)
  • The bookie that Bobby visits tells him, “Good week. Even with the fuckin’ Dolphins.”  We know that in the previous episode the Miami Dolphins pulled off an upset win against the Philadelphia Eagles.  On a related note, I forgot to mention an interesting connection regarding “dolphins” in the previous write-up.  The previous episode referenced Miami’s football team and also featured Fred Neil’s song “The Dolphins.”  Miami’s NFL team takes its name from the dolphins that reside just off the coast and Fred Neil was inspired by those same creatures while he lived in South Florida.
  • Chuck Berry’s “Let It Rock” over the final credits is a brilliant song choice.  The song is about a group of blue-collar railroad workers, which specifically evokes the Moe-and-Joe figures in Bobby’s model train layout — and thus connects to this hour’s concerns about the working class.
  • Rons (again, this is a note just for myself).  Brad Zimmerman joins the cast as Johnny Sac’s lawyer ‘Ron Perse’; Jason Betts appears once again as the ‘Ron’ in Dartford;  and building inspector ‘Ron Senkowski’ is mentioned by name.
  • Brad Zimmerman plays the character of ‘Ron Perse’ in a very serious and straight-forward way, but in real life the actor is a pretty funny guy.  He wrote and starred in the one-man play “My Son the Waiter: A Jewish Tragedy.”

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Me n’ Joe
(as “Chase” looks on from above):

Me n' Joe

34 responses to “Moe n’ Joe (6.10)

  1. Another wonderful analysis Ron, love this episode for a fair number of things. Sal Vitro truly has one of the most potent arcs in the series despite only appearing in i think 3 or 4 episodes top. He is a perfect example of how the mob basically shit on those around them all the while acting as if they are above them, when he had done nothing to earn it. But suffered simply because Feech thought he was entitled to earn for doing nothing but be in a cell for twenty years, especially with how the last ten years have affected most of us in the wake of the financial crash that saw those white collar crooks get bailed out by the governments across the world. So to see him get a very rare for this show way out of his predicament is always wonderful to see.

    Carmella’s mope remark is truly one of defining moments of her character in the later seasons and how she straddles that line between wilful and not so wilful oblivious to what her husband’s work does to people and how she benefits from it.

    Sopranos continued the theme that Goodfellas had of the crooks seeing the working class as being suckers for waiting in line at the bakery, relying on the government for handouts and the thrill of the scores Henry and his crew got. Of which to many of us have no doubt fantasies at some point in our lives. Yet, like Goodfellas and Sopranos do so well. they pull that back and show exactly what sort of person you would have to be to live like that.

    Which makes Vito’s decision to go back to basically die all the more potent, even if you found his storyline to not be the most simulating. Which for me came down to Chase in my view, asking a lot for me to be invested at this juncture of the show and for a fair amount of episodes. In a background character who’s only moment of notice i could remember were breaking a chair and sucking a guard’s penis. In a setting that is not something i think plays to Chase and the show’s strengths. Though i will give credit to Joe for coming up with the idea to make Vito gay and getting himself that promotion to a arc. I think if Vito’s storyline had been like Eugene’s in the season six premiere and lasted one episode or two. I wouldn’t have minded as much, even on repeat viewings i would say it’s probably my least favourite part of the show.

    It’s almost worth it all just for the joke in this episode of Vito thinking the sun’s position means it’s noon and checking his watch to see it’s ten. Narrated wonderfully by Joe and one of my favourite comedy bits of season six. Along with how it ends up serving the phil and tony plot for the rest of the series.

    Chase has never as you noted been afraid to tackle conventions and beliefs held by the audience in what a storyline and focus of character should be. With Vito, for a fair few audiences, it was a bridge too far.

    Tony shitting on Bobby is one of the show’s most long running subplots that leads up to one of the best payoff’s in the last nine episodes. Truly a wonderful class of Chase building up to the dog finally biting back after so many insulting remarks, cruel jokes and being treated like dirt.

    Always loved the scene between Med and Tony, the way Tony whines at the end to Meadow to talk to her mother about this shit is spot as always acting by James.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I agree with most of this, but I think the statement “This isn’t one of the series’ very best episodes, but it’s one that leaves a bruise, and the more you look at it, the more obvious it is that it implicates each and every one of us. Nobody really tries to understand those around us who are hurting, tries to figure out what’s going on inside of their heads. Nobody alive always does the right thing instead of the easy thing. Being a human is all too often about finding comfortable spots and then settling into them for the long haul, regardless of whom that leaves out in the cold.” That is giving humans a bad rap. There are a lot of people who care about whats going on with others. Most people actually. Most people would pay him for his work. Not break his arm in such a horrible way. These people are criminals and think the working man is a jerk for doing things the hard way. Even if they have money, they still love to steal things, just because they can. Tony uses a stolen credit card to pay for his room at the PLAZA, do you thin he couldn’t pay for it with his own money? I doubt if Carmela is even aware of Mr. Vitro’s problems either. She is aware that he is mopey, but why should she think why? It could be a million things that have nothing to do with her. They will never admit that there is such a thing as the “Mafia”, so they downplay it to the gardener. He “Pled” guilty, he was coerced. The gardener should have known better than to get involved with Paulie in the first place. He should have gone to the police. Everything they touch they infest. We know this from the hotel they took over.
    When Janice asks where is her pork roast, I like Tony’s answer “you get what you pay for”. His issue with her is that she wants the perks, and is willing to go to any length to get “Up” in the world. Tony feels that even if he is a criminal, he works for his money. She doesn’t. Plus she’s just like his mother. She even makes a reference in “Soprano Home Movies ” about him letting the gardener go!! It’s never enough.
    Vito and Johnnycakes…well I could see why Johnnycakes likes Vito…different from the rest of the people. Exciting….but I am sure it would get old soon. I wonder why Vito couldn’t have stayed there, and just did criminal stuff there? Sammy Gravano stayed a criminal even in Witness protection. So did Henry Hill. Why go back when you know they are going to kill you? Maybe he had a death wish. Who knows? Did he do his kids a favor by coming back? He did them a horrible disservice, all out of selfishness. What did he say, he’s a spy??? OMG! What does the wife see in him…I just don’t get it. Maybe none of these wives want to work…could it be that simple?

    Liked by 1 person

    • All great points. Maybe I’m just a ‘glass half-empty’ kind of a person, but Todd’s quote seemed to nail human nature for me. When it comes to being left out or leaving someone out in the cold, I have (regrettably) been on both sides of that door…

      Like

    • “The gardener should have known better than to get involved with Paulie in the first place. He should have gone to the police. Everything they touch they infest.” Yes, they do. This includes the police. If Sal went to the police what would they do? if the complaint alone did not get Feech violated back to prison, the police would need Sal to press charges. This is where being a made man kicks in. There are a lot of soldiers to put pressure on Sal by threatening him, his family, his business, his customers. Bad things are going to happen an there will be no way to prove who is doing it or why. And this doesn’t include possible political connections to pressure the police to encourage Sal to drop it (remember how Zellman got AJ released). And if Feech did get violated because of Sal’s complaint, he could still be in a world of hurt. That’s how it works and Sal knows it. It’s a rigged game but it’s often safer to play it than to fight it. As a contrast, there may be a desire to equate corporate America with organized crime, but as Patsi found out, a corporation with 10,000 outlets and computerized data collection can have an immunity from protection shakedowns that small businesses and unconnected individuals do not have. Patsi’s line, “It’s over for the little guy” may apply to the street criminal more than the small businesses he preys on. Crime moves to higher levels. Individuals are no longer victimized directly, it is society that is victimized and the loss is shared by all. As such, it is hard to account for and hardly felt. It becomes just another part of the “fuck’in regularness of life”.

      Liked by 1 person

      • For the longest time, I felt that Patsy was referring to himself when he mentioned “the little guy” but now I tend to think that he was referring to small businesses. The line works either way…

        Like

  3. Insightful work as always.

    On the clear space left by Vito’s car: It looks like a freshly dug grave to me.

    I like your point that “it is ultimately the lure of easy money, luxury and power that compels Vito back to north Jersey” The blank space underscores this: Vito didn’t use his luxurious Cadillac while in Dartford, as evidenced by the snow that fell around the car. Ultimately, though, he chose the Cadillac lifestyle over Dartford.

    I also have an undeveloped thought about how Vito’s return fits in with the Yeats-Second Coming theme from S6 Part II. His return to NJ certainly unleashes chaos that spirals into the anarchy near the end of the series. Tony lacks the conviction to protect Vito in earnest; Phil brings vengeance with passionate intensity.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I too love Sal Vitro’s character and arc. Twenty six years he worked the business inherited from his father
    before SopranoWorld crashed his family’s future. When he opens to Tony with the offering “I tented the bulbs…”
    and begs to be let off the humongous Johnny Sack freebie job, Tony rewards him with a plastic newspaper wrapper,
    which Sal accepts as casually as he accepted “You’re a selfish prick, Sal”.

    Jesus! It’s like watching Job taking shit from Yahweh! Sal’s too smart to argue back. He mumbles “I appreciate it Tony”, and
    humbly hobbles back to his truck, no doubt stewing about Feech, Paulie, and the manhandling dished out by the FBI in 5.13
    when they came for J. Sack. “I’m the gardener, I’m the… Aaaagh!” Indispensable Sal Vitro is prey, hunched over like Atlas,
    hauling the weight of Ginny’s yard waste on his back, yet expected to smile at fur-clad Carmella One Percent like the grateful help.
    “God, he’s such a mope!”.

    It was nice to see Sal humbly persevere with Tony & Sil, “Do you believe this fucking guy?” and finally smile at the end when he
    got out from under the Sacrimoni job. Sal might think it was all his doing, but we learn later why Tony decided to let him off.
    Sal has no escape from SopranoWorld, after all he’s still paying a percentage to Paulie for the privilege of working hard,
    and he’s still doing Tony’s yard for free, but it’s nice to see his burden eased.

    The first time I saw the scene in Dartford where a figure in overalls is working a cement mixer, I thought it was Sal Vitro hard at work
    again, but surprise, surprise, there was Vito, doing actual work and hating it. Hah! Vito versus Vitro? I knew Sal Vitro. Sal Vitro was a
    friend of mine. You sir, are no Sal Vitro! Maybe Sal should move to Dartford, he’d do well there.

    Neat picture of you, Joe & Chase, Ron. Thanks for sharing it, and thanks for another great autopsy.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks JF. When I first watched this episode and saw Tony gruffly tell Sal at the end, “You’re done with that” and then walk away, I honestly wasn’t sure if Tony meant “you’re done working at Johnny’s place” or if he meant it like “you’re done asking me to let you off the hook – don’t ever ask me again.” If I was in Sal’s place, I might have ended up working John’s lawn for the rest of my life…

      Like

      • LOL! In Sal’s place, I don’t know if I would have even risked asking Tony again after the
        allocution. What a tense scene! It looked like Sal was going to end up being
        crushed between super predators Tony & Sil when they started toying with him.
        I imagine Sal Vitro has a strong wife in the mold of Charmaine Bucco who kept at him to get out
        from under the punishing JS job before it killed him.

        Like

  5. He let him go because he bought the house for Janice, and he doesn’t want to pay for her gardener, just like he wouldn’t pay for the pork roast. Not out of any altruistic feelings.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. This episode has a lot of truly funny moments mixed in. You did a great job highlighting most of them, but there is one minor one that I’ve always loved. I can’t help but chuckle every time I see Tony sheepishly hiding his porno magazine the minute Janice walks into the room in that “stuffed pork loin” scene. It’s a very minor detail, but Gandolfini’s delivery of it (complete with facial expressions) makes it stand out for me.
    I’ll bet that happened a time or two in Tony’s mother’s house when they were younger.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Thank you for “expanding” how I see the show. There is so much stuff going on here especially here in Ssn 6, it is so much more than just about the mafia or tony soprano. I like how you tied this episode to “blue collar” issues. Keep it up!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I thought “Jack” was the nickname for John. I never heard of Joe being a nickname for John. Example; John F. Kennedy, called Jack by his family.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Its curious to me that Tony would buy that house for Janice…was it out of guilt? She upset him and made him feel guilty when she said he treats her husband badly and that she sat with him in the hospital…but he was right when he said however he helps her, it will never be enough. And we see that when she makes a crack about the gardener in Soprano home movies. I find it hard to believe that he would buy that expensive house because the chair is broken and Bobby can’t afford cable? I also find it hard to believe that they can’t afford cable or new furniture. Many people have cable and can get a new chair. Why can’t they afford it? Bobby must make a good living. Also, he isn’t a Captain yet, and how will he afford the upkeep of that HUGE house? It must have cost half a million at least. I know I may be overthinking it, but that’s a big chunk of change for anyone. It makes Janice happy, but still makes Bobby look like a bad provider.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’d have nightmares about the utilities alone on that place, let alone taxes and maintenance.

      Liked by 1 person

    • What’s Tony’s motivation for making the Sacrimoni mansion available to Janice & Bobby at 50% off?

      As usual, Chase doesn’t just show us one motive and call it a day, there are several in layers.
      Guilt for one, after seeing how Bobby lives, how Janice has totally completed the colonization of
      the Bacalieri’s begun in Ep 5.3, and the eye Bobby almost lost in his exercise of misplaced loyalty.
      Two, the contempt Tony showed for Bacala, in front of his crew, “Fuck that honor and loyalty shit… it was his
      own damn fault”, while counting the bills in the fat envelope, was a bad look for Tony, and that needed to be atoned for
      as Sil made clear. “What? Don’t give me that look!”.
      Thirdly, with Janice now standing in for Livia, Tony is motivated to transfer the misplaced loyalty
      he used to give Livia over to Janice. When Janice cries and thanks him, that’s more than he ever got
      from Livia. But when Janice paraphrases Livia from Ep. 2.2 with “No one knows what goes on in my head!”,
      that’s ominous.
      Finally, Tony never forgot the time Janice audiotaped him and used the ‘kompromat’ to control
      him when they were kids. He forcefully foregrounds this in his session with Melfi. Knowing what
      Janice is capable of may motivate Tony to keep her happy so she doesn’t plot to take him down
      one way or another. The half-off mansion is insurance, at least until Janice decides to raise Tony’s rates!

      I’m sure there are other motivations I’m missing…

      Liked by 1 person

      • Good observations. Bonus points for “kompromat,” a word I learned a couple of days ago watching the Frontline about Trump’s possible collusion with the Russians…

        Like

      • Good points, but he was so annoyed with her hysterical crying over the house. Same as when she saw him in the hospital although he didn’t hear her making it about her. Her personality is hard to deal with. I think he’s conflicted for sure, because he knows that Livia treated her poorly as well, and I guess alot of people are guilty of trying to please family members who really don’t deserve it. I think this show is so good because we all can empathize on some level when it has to do with family. Tony is a bit of an optimist and a mashochist…he keeps trying. Also, Bobby is a big boy, he knows who Janice is, he married her. I think because he lost his wife, and at FIRST she portrayed the perfect women to be a mother and take care of things, but then, after seeing the reality, I guess he figured he wouldat least advance his career by marrying her. We see a big change in him by the end of the series. Not as tentative or insecure. She may have been a good influence in some ways. Some men are happy to let the wives take over, because its easier than arguing. I love this site. Its so great to have a dialogue with like-minded fans of the show. I look at all shows with a different eye now..

        Liked by 1 person

        • You raise some good points about Bobby & Janice, Orangeannie. Now I’m wondering if Janice
          repeats “It should be you” to Bobby like she did with Richie in 2.10.

          Liked by 1 person

      • Maybe Tony figured they could afford to buy the house at the discount price but that the taxes, utilities and other expenses would cause problems. Bobby would be strapped and have to work harder and earn more (meaning more kicked up to Tony) and Janice wouldn’t let him consider selling the white elephant he was saddled with. Another wedge, another way to shit on them. Of course, he would have to expect that Janice would be coming to him again to promote Bobby which would give him another opportunity to create more problems.

        Liked by 1 person

  10. Vito’s character evolves a lot during his time with the mob, besides the revelation about his lifestyle… In season 2 he shows up at Beansie’s house looking like a normal construction worker ready to start a job. By season 6 he’s completely lost that work ethic and looks like he doesn’t even remember how to drive a nail into a board.

    Like

  11. Yeah, once Vito created a personality for himself, and was immediately taken at his word by the townsfolk, he couldn’t
    live up to his mask, so he devolves pretty steadily after crashing into Dartford. Each time Vito’s mask slipped, revealing
    flaws and lies, Jim was there to forgive him, recalibrating his expectations lower. In that scene where Vito
    enters the bedroom after Jim forgives Vito’s “non-fiction writer” lie, Jim’s in bed reading a book by Erik Larson –
    the kind of writer he’d initially thought Vito was aiming at.
    When he sheds his final unearned virtue – that he’s willing to work on a livelihood and a relationship – Vito feels he
    has no choice but to crash back into SopranoWorld crying into his “Sknokoff” vodka. If asked, Vito would probably say he
    also had no choice but to shed an innocent man’s blood to smooth his way back into SopranoWorld. He might even say the
    man was asking for it, after all what kind of person turns down an easy $600?

    I enjoyed this extended storyline giving another member of SopranoWorld a chance to go “straight”, but even with Jim in his corner,
    and even with the townsfolk giving him the benefit of the doubt, fey Vito just could not change his fate.
    I gotta say, this is bleak stuff! Wonder what Chase thinks about U.S. right now.

    Like

    • I’m also curious where Chase thinks the U.S. is headed — I think he has shown a prescient sense of where the culture is going.

      Lol I remember reading about that Sknockoff vodka on reddit or somewhere. That’s gotta be one of the funniest “winks” Chase has ever given us…

      Like

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