Kennedy and Heidi (6.18)

Tony goes west after offing Chris.
AJ goes downhill.

Episode 83 – Originally aired May 13, 2007
Written by Matthew Weiner & David Chase
Directed by Alan Taylor

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As I’ve mentioned before, I probably will never make a “Top 5” episode list. But if I ever do, this episode will be on it. “Kennedy and Heidi” is a gorgeous hour, and like all gorgeous things, it doesn’t deserve the indignity of being schematically broken down and analyzed. But I do believe there are a lot of interconnected and important ideas here—some new, some old—that require a bit of unraveling in order to be best understood. Let’s step into the labyrinth without further delay.

Although it clocks in at only 50 minutes, the episode feels epic, and that is in part due to the different contrasting elements it contains. The contrast and distance between some of these elements stretch the episode into almost epic proportions:

  1. Dark vs. Light elements: the scenes that make up the first 10 minutes of the hour are set at night in dark shadowy locations, in sharp contrast to some of the very bright, sun-kissed scenes later in the hour (the final scene is almost literally sun-kissed; it features a solar flare)
  2. East vs. West elements: the hour begins in familiar New Jersey territory but finishes out in Nevada
  3. Natural vs. Man-made elements: the opposition between the natural world and the man-made world is presented throughout the hour and even gets explicit treatment in AJ’s English class
  4. Physical vs. Transcendental elements: the physical experiences of pleasure and pain fill the hour, but the idea of transcendence is also explored (via psychotropic drugs and the natural world)

Chase also seems to reference the transcendental by making a subtle allusion to the Transcendentalist memoir Walden (which I’ll come back to later). David Chase has never hesitated to incorporate philosophical ideas right into the storylines of The Sopranos, delving into Existentialism, Buddhism and Quantum Physics in previous hours. In the remaining episodes, he throws Transcendentalism and Romanticism into the mix, creating a medley of ideas that come together very nicely to close the series, in my opinion, in a satisfying—though enigmatic—way.

This hour, despite my lengthy effort to decode it, will also remain enigmatic. “Kennedy and Heidi” is puzzled together with so many covert references, subtle callbacks, loaded images, unforeseen twists, high concepts and unanswered questions that it is guaranteed a place as one of the great enigmas of the series. Like all great enigmas, it hints that some grand truth may be hidden below its surface—and then beckons us to come search for it.

We might remember that episode 2.11 “House Arrest” opened with a sequence (scored by the Pretenders’ “Space Invader”) in which a garbage truck dumped trash in front of a convenience store. In something of a parallel, “Kennedy and Heidi” begins with a shot of construction waste being dumped out of a garbage truck. (And the use of “Space Invader” later in this hour formally connects the two episodes.) The construction debris immediately establishes this hour’s concern with the built (man-made) environment. A site supervisor comes in and demands that the workers immediately stop dumping, and then warns his son to stop eating his dinner so close to the load because it contains asbestos.

asbestos

In the Pilot episode, Christopher said an almost paradoxical-sounding line: “Garbage is our bread-and-butter.” Chris was obviously referring to the central role that the waste-carting racket occupies within the mob’s business empire, but the line also made a metaphorical connection between garbage and food, underscoring our culture’s tendency to over-consume and waste the various resources that are available to us. Chase explicitly makes a connection between garbage and food again now, as the boy eats his meal in front of the toxic pile of trash. As the hour progresses, Chase will expand on his thesis that our consuming, wasteful American lifestyle is having a toxic affect on ourselves and on the natural environment.

Christopher doesn’t seem quite right when he and Tony meet with Phil and Butchie to discuss their garbage-dumping deal—he’s acting a little weird. Chris has obviously been shooting up some of the fun-stuff. As he and Tony drive back home, we get a flurry of premonitions that seem to foreshadow Christopher’s very imminent death: Chris suggests they meet Phil’s price because “life’s too short”; Chris slips the soundtrack from The Departed, of all movies, into his CD player; the two men listen to a cover of “Comfortably Numb,” perhaps denoting that Chris is too numb to drive safely. Some viewers also find it notable that Chris is wearing a hat in his final scene now, a complementary bookend to his first scene of the series. (He was wearing a black cap as he and T chased Mahaffey down in the Pilot.)

Despite these little clues, we are still shocked by what happens next. When Christopher’s truck drifts in front of an oncoming car, he overcompensates, plunging his vehicle down a steep embankment. But it’s not the crash that kills him. Tony begins to call emergency rescue, but pauses as a wicked calculation comes into his head. He shuts his flip-phone, reaches into the car and stifles Christopher’s airway. We remember the Pilot episode ended with Nick Lowe’s “The Beast in Me” over the final credits, and now we see the true extent of Tony’s beastliness. Tony has never looked more like a monster than he does here, he exudes the calm of a true sociopath. The passing headlights of cars driving along the embankment above them punctuate the darkness, but none of the vehicles stop. No one stops Tony Soprano from smothering the life out of his young cousin.

Christopher has always had bad luck with his vehicles. In the Pilot episode, his Lexus got dinged up when he drove into Mahaffey; later in the series, he was pumping gas into his Hummer H2 when he made the decision to betray Adriana; in Season 6, his Maserati was confiscated by the FBI; and now he wrecks his Escalade, and moments later is killed in it.

It’s a horrifying scene, but not one that we should be particularly surprised by.  Christopher’s murder is the natural culmination of several storylines involving either himself or Tony or both of them:

  1. Christopher’s long-running addiction has been a source of worry for Tony for some time; Tony had previously threatened to whack Chris before the FBI could leverage his drug problems against la famiglia (some viewers believe that Chris may have already flipped, and that was the reason he was acting a little strange now)
  2. Chris has always been hotheaded and difficult to handle, and he sometimes behaved impetuously when he felt frustrated by the Mafia (in the previous episode, he tossed Lil Paulie out of a high window, and later sulked out of the Bing when he thought the guys were having a laugh at his expense)
  3. Chris may not exactly have a death wish, but he has been flirting with self-destruction for a long time by using drugs; there is not only the danger inherent in habitual drug use, but there was also the great danger of being whacked by Tony if Tony ever learned how bad his addiction has become
  4. Tony has treated Chris as something of a son over the years; his frustrations with his actual son AJ may have spilled over toward his surrogate famiglia son Chris now
  5. Tony has had murderous impulses towards members of his inner circle lately, potentially coming close to killing Bobby, Paulie and Hesh in earlier episodes this season

There may be other contributing factors, including various subconscious motivations. (In “Tony’s Vicarious Patricide,” for example, Elizabeth Lowrey argues that Tony kills Christopher because of a subconscious desire to escape the sins of his father.) But I think Chase provides some clues that the most immediate reason for his murder is the resentment that Tony has been harboring over the way Chris depicted him in the movie Cleaver. Chase, for example, provides a couple of close-up shots of Christopher’s Cleaver hat as it repeatedly draws Tony’s attention. Cleaver-imagery has been associated with Christopher from his first appearance on the series all the way to his last:

bloody cleavers

The significance of the movie Cleaver here may also be hinted at by the fact that it is in a black Cadillac Escalade that the two men roll down the embankment now; we remember that it was in a black Escalade that Tony and Adriana crashed that night three years ago, an event that substantially shaped the storyline of Christopher’s movie.

Cameron Golden, in “The Producers: The Dangers of Filmmaking in The Sopranos,” points out a scene from the Pilot episode which becomes important in the context of Christopher’s murder now. In the Pilot, Chris sulked in Tony’s backyard because he felt that his work for la famiglia was not being appreciated. Chris reminded Tony that he potentially has another way of earning a paycheck: his cousin’s girlfriend is a Hollywood producer who is interested in his story. Tony snapped upon hearing this:

Henry Hill pilot

(Tony gets right up in Chrissie’s grill and accuses him of wanting to “go Henry Hill on me now.” Henry Hill was, of course, the actual mobster-turned-FBI-informant whose life-story was turned into the film GoodFellas.) Chris had always wanted a more compelling and dynamic arc, and he turned to filmmaking as a way to create a more interesting storyline than the one real life was supplying him with. And if filmmaking didn’t give him enough of a kick to escape the fuckin’ regularness of life, he could always resort to drugs. Tony wasn’t a fan of Christopher’s filmmaking goals even back in the Pilot episode, and Tony never approved of his drug use. Both of these aspects of Christopher’s life surely contribute to the motive behind his murder.

And perhaps Chris asking for Tony’s Toblerone back in 5.11 “The Test Dream” also contributed to his early death. I’m not suggesting that Tony murdered his cousin as payback for grabbing his delicious candy bar two years ago. (Tony’s not that petty.) What I mean is that Tony may have suspected that Chris was jonesing for some heroin and was trying to satisfy his craving with the Toblerone instead. (It was in the episode prior to that one, “Cold Cuts,” that Tony criticized the way Chris turned to sweets as a way to keep his larger cravings at bay.) 

The mob guys come to visit Tony as he recuperates at home. (Just before they enter, we hear the sound of a bird cawing outside the window, perhaps recalling the black bird that sat on the windowsill in Christopher’s induction ceremony into the Mafia years ago.) The Sopranos had previously explored the discomfort and awkwardness that sometimes follows a death—see “Proshai, Livushka” in particular—and Walden Belfiore seems to be suffering that discomfort now in Tony’s bedroom. But he tries to avoid being silent by continually mentioning that Carlo will be arriving soon. (This annoys Silvio: “What’s with you and Carlo’s fuckin’ arrival?”) Tony plays with fire a little bit in this scene: he comes close to confessing his crime when he says that he would have choked Chris if he knew Chris was high on drugs. Tony also makes a dangerous pun (of sorts) when he tells the guys that Chris choked on his own blood; in actuality, he was choked by his own blood—Tony is Christopher’s blood-relative.

Tony’s desire to confess manifests itself again in a dream in which he tells Dr. Melfi that he killed Chris. But Tony’s primary desire isn’t actually to confess his guilt; it is to confess his relief at no longer having to deal with his troublesome cousin. Tony must pretend to mourn Christopher after killing him, so he puts on an act. Chase often uses clips from TV shows and movies to underscore a point, and the little snippet from The Dick Cavett Show which plays on the Soprano television here underlines the acting job that Tony is now doing. In the snippet, Katherine Hepburn tells Cavett that she was a poor actress when younger: “I can laugh and cry and I could always get the part. Could never keep it. They got on to me after a while. I’d lose my voice, fall down, get red in the face, talk too fast and couldn’t act.”

I highlighted the part where she speaks of blushing when trying to play a part because it may be making an outright parallel to Tony Soprano now: Tony is also red in the face (due to his bruises) while he tries to sustain his act.  

acting - abrasions

As everyone around him grieves, Tony keeps trying to sell them the idea that baby Caitlyn could have died if she had been in the vehicle. He seems to be trying to find some “legitimate” justification for the murder in his mind and perhaps also alleviate any bit of guilt he might be feeling for causing pain to Christopher’s loved ones. Tony keeps describing the tree branch that penetrated all the way to Caitlyn’s car seat:

carseat

Trees have long been associated with death on this series.  But in the previous episode, trees were also strongly associated with family and domesticity. (Paulie put Christopher’s family in danger when he rampaged through the trees and plants of Chrissie’s suburban yard in his Cadillac; and the hour ended with Chris up-righting one of the fallen trees before entering his home.) Although it may be unlikely, there is some possibility that Chris would have found a way to beat his addiction after this accident if Tony hadn’t suffocated him. It is conceivable that seeing the branch of a tree jutting into his daughter’s car seat would have inspired Chris to be more resolved in his efforts to stay clean.

Tony’s frustration mounts as he tries to keep his charade up. When he exchanges nods at Christopher’s funeral with Daniel Baldwin, who played his alter-ego “Sally Boy” in Cleaver, we recognize the irony: Baldwin could never do as good a job acting as “Tony Soprano” as Tony himself has to do right now. Adding to Tony’s frustration level: Nucci Walnuts suddenly passes away too. Marianucci Gualtieri was one of the most naïve, sweet souls in all of SopranoWorld. But her funeral service isn’t a place of fond remembrance and contemplation for Tony, it just becomes a place where Tony has to listen to Paulie babble and moan about his various grievances. Tony decides he needs to escape from Jersey for a while, and makes a phone call to his man Alan to set up a trip to Vegas. (Note: In real life, funerals act as a transition between life and death. In this episode, funerals acts as a transitioning device within the storyline: the two funerals transition us from the scenes of death and depression in New Jersey to the more lively and energetic scenes in Nevada.)

I think we can consider this hour to be the third true “Vacation Episode” of the series. The first two Vacation Episodes featured locations that added to the specific thematic dimension of the story, and the same can be said of the current hour. In “Commendatori,” the guys went to Italy—a very fitting location, thematically, in that the Mafia, and by extension The Sopranos, would not exist if not for certain customs and ways of problem-solving that originated in that ancestral land. The second vacation episode took place in Paris, very fitting thematically in that Paris was the proving ground for Existentialism, a philosophy that I believe deeply informs that hour as well as informs the series as a whole. And now Tony is going out west to Las Vegas, very fitting thematically because of what the American West and Las Vegas each represent in our national consciousness.

The West is that region, in our national mythology, where we go to discover ourselves. “Go west, young man” was a popular phrase in the 19th century, an exhortation to young Americans to go west and merge their personal destinies with the Manifest Destiny of the country. The idea persisted well into the 20th century (and perhaps still persists), and so our history is filled with stories like that of Jim Morrison, for example, who moved from Florida to the west coast to make movies and music, and then sought spiritual self-awareness, fueled up on alcohol and drugs, in the deserts of the southwest. David Chase himself, unsure during his undergraduate years in North Carolina (Wake Forest University) and New York (NYU) whether or not he wanted to become a professional musician, eventually moved out west to California (Stanford University) to pursue his graduate film degree. 

We remember that in previous episodes, it was in a western locale that Tony/Kevin Finnerty had to search for himself and find his true identity: the dreams (or whatever they were) in the early part of Season 6 were set in Costa Mesa, California. Tony now comes back west, in the flesh, to continue that search. (Matt Zoller Seitz call his trip to Vegas “a coded attempt to replay” his trip to Costa Mesa.) David Chase seems to underscore the western location through a musical selection: when Tony first arrives in Las Vegas and is being driven through the city’s streets, it is the song “Are You Alright?” off of Lucinda Williams’ album West that scores the scene.

west - lucinda williams

The western city of Las Vegas also carries certain connotations in our national mythology. The place is the ultimate American example of The Fabricated City. The city did not grow as organically as most cities grow—it may be more accurate to say that Vegas was forcefully and artificially manufactured on to its site. Various 20th century Americans, including Bugsy Siegal, labored to transform the inhospitable desert location into the town we recognize today. It is a fantasyland cooked up by mobsters and Mormon banks, a vision dreamt up in the desert and extruded into a three-dimensional cityscape. The city would never have thrived if not for the massive nearby building projects of Hoover Dam and Glen Canyon Dam. The aggressiveness of the financial and engineering efforts that were needed to bring modern Las Vegas into existence probably contributed to the ersatz, kitschy, manufactured quality of the city—a quality well-documented by architects Robert Venturi and Denise Scott-Brown in their book Learning from Las Vegas.

learning from LV

When Michael Corleone first arrived in Las Vegas in The Godfather II, Coppola shot the distinctive cityscape from within a moving car. Likewise, Chase shoots Tony’s arrival in the famed city from within a moving car. But instead of using some breezy, swinging music as Coppola does to score his scene, Chase uses Lucinda Williams’ contemplative, understated track. Additionally, Chase includes two more sequences of Tony being driven through the city. I’ve compiled the G.II sequence and the 3 clips from the Sopranos into one video to highlight the differences:

Chase’s driving-clips here are quite interesting. For one thing, some of their imagery recalls the images we see in the opening-credits sequence of every Sopranos episode. (The tunnels, in particular, feel like an analog to the Lincoln Tunnel seen in the credits.) Chase’s varied use of scoring in the driving-clips is also fascinating: clip 1 uses, as I mentioned, Williams’ contemplative song; clip 2 has only the sound of road noise and the turning signal; clip 3 is scored by the raucous, spirited sound of The Pretenders’ “The Adultress.” But perhaps the most noteworthy thing, in terms of my analysis, is that Chase’s third driving-clip underscores the ever-growing built environment of Las Vegas by including imagery of a building site, a cement truck and multiple construction cranes. There is a strong, explicit contrast made in this hour between the man-made world and the natural world, and I believe Chase utilizes the overly-manufactured setting of Las Vegas to add to this dimension of the episode.

In 2014, Dr. Martha Nochimson wrote an article for Vox magazine that received a lot of attention because David Chase (according to her recollection) told her that Tony didn’t die in the final episode. Chase’s publicist released a statement the following day saying that Nochimson’s recollection was inaccurate. Missed in all the ensuing hubbub was the fact that Nochimson’s article is actually one of the most insightful documents about Chase and The Sopranos ever written. Nochimson wrote about Chase’s deep interest in Carlos Castaneda, the anthropologist who abandoned the scholarly life after meeting a “sorcerer”—a sort of shaman/healer—named Don Juan who introduced him to drugs and spiritual enlightenment. (It was in 2.06 “The Happy Wanderer” that Melfi quoted Carlos Castandeda to Tony: “Live every moment as if it were your last dance on earth.” Tony mistook the man for a prize fighter.) Chase came of age in the 60s, the era when the recreational use of hallucinogens began to take off. Nochimson quotes Chase on why taking such drugs merely for recreation didn’t appeal to him: “Reading Carlos Castaneda convinced Chase that using drugs ‘without a whole belief system around it was really fourth rate.'” Chase came to recognize the sacramental, spiritual aspect of drug use. The drug of choice for such religious experience for Castaneda was peyote. Castaneda writes in The Teachings of Don Juan that the shaman “related the use of Lophophora williamsi [peyote] to the acquisition of wisdom, or the knowledge of the right way to live.”

THE ACQUISITION OF WISDOM
In Vegas, Tony pays a visit to Christopher’s stripper friend Sonya—a woman whose name means “wisdom.” (Notably, the working title for this episode was “Sonya.”) Tony comes to inform her of Chrissie’s death, but I think Tony’s real motivation is that Christopher’s mention of his psychedelic trips with the dark-haired, dark-eyed beauty (“like something out of Goyim,” to borrow Tony’s description of Gloria Trillo) probably aroused his curiosity about the woman and the drugs she’s holding. I believe Tony is looking to get a taste of what Christopher experienced. (In a sense, he is putting himself in Chrissie’s shoes after snuffing Chris out.) Tony was interested in seeking his true self earlier in the season (“Who am I? Where am I going?” he asked) and this quest has now led him to siren Sonya’s doorstep. Tony may feel that losing himself, at least temporarily, in a psychedelic fog will lead him to a better understanding of his place in the world. He is following that impulse that many of us feel: the impulse to lose oneself in order to find oneself. Going to an unaccustomed place to do unfamiliar things is often the first step in following such an impulse. Scott Slovic, in his extraordinary book, Seeking Awareness in American Nature Writing, quotes Henry David Thoreau’s description of this phenomenon: “…not until we are lost do we begin to realize where we are, and the infinite extent of our relations.”  Slovic adds, “We need this sense of disorientation, of being in an unfamiliar place, in order to realize eventually what our true relationship with the world is.”

Tony and Sonya do peyote buttons together. He quickly gets sick. I love the little editing “tricks” Chase uses to simulate the feeling of very suddenly realizing you are going to vomit: the slow camera push-in instantly speeds up, there is a rattling sound and a flash of light, and the image cuts to Tony throwing open the bathroom door (the rattling sound that began in the previous frame was the sound of the bathroom doorknob) where he barfs into the toilet.


Tony leans back and stares up at the round, bright light fixture. In his heightened state, he can see a glow and hear a buzz emanating from it. He may very well be associating this light with the beacon he saw in Costa Mesa during his coma-dreams.

Tony takes Sonya, the girl with kaleidoscope eyes, to the casino. As they watch the ball spin round the roulette wheel (Chase subtly slows down the footage of the spinning wheel to focus our attention on it), Tony makes a beguiling statement: “It’s the same principle as the solar system.” What principle is Tony referring to here? Is he recalling a junior high science lesson on centripetal force? Is he referring to the circular orbits of celestial bodies? Or does he have something more philosophical in mind? As I re-watched this scene, the spinning wheel made me think of the Buddhist concept of enso. The enso circle can represent the zero, the void, emptiness. But the circle can also represent everything—all that exists in the universe can be encompassed by its simple brush stroke.

ENSO THE CIRCLE OF LIFE

Tony has been primed by his nihilistic mother to see the universe as a Big Nothing. But maybe the peyote is leading Tony to fully see the interconnectedness of everything, as John Schwinn did in “The Fleshy Part of the Thigh.” The principle of the solar system is, perhaps, both “nothing” and “everything” simultaneously.

Tony has a crazy lucky streak at the roulette table. He seems to be convinced that it is because he no longer has his ball-and-chain cousin Christopher weighing him down. The Captain has jettisoned his Jonah, it will be smooth sailing ahead from now on. The thought fills him with relief and he falls laughing onto the carpet, with its pattern of connected circles:

circles

The circle that connects each of us here on earth is the natural environment. We share the land, the air, the water. We build our towns and cities within the natural world, we draw sustenance and recreation from it. In the Pilot episode, when Melfi described Tony’s job title as “Waste Management,” he added “The environment” with a nod. In truth, Tony is about as divorced from the natural environment as a person can be. He has a wasteful and consuming lifestyle. He has very little concern for the natural world, and (other than the occasional outing aboard his gas-guzzling, wake-producing boat) has rarely derived any pleasure from nature. 

Nature has been an integral, though subtle, part of The Sopranos narrative, beginning with the wild ducks that found a home in Tony’s backyard in the Pilot. New Jersey itself is called the Garden State due to its high percentage of wooded areas and green spaces, as well as the historical importance of agriculture to its economy. Martha Nochimson writes in Dying to Belong, “Juxtaposed to the dubious world of the gangster materialist is the world of nature, a more organic form of materiality in The Sopranos, which appears throughout the series with its Romantic connotations as a form of healing rapture that counterbalances the hollow world of money.” In this episode, the juxtaposition Nochimson speaks of is prominently displayed as Tony flies to Las Vegas: as he sits with wine and shrimp cocktail spread before him aboard a luxurious private jet, he looks reflectively out of the window at the green earth below him.

juxtaposition plane

The “Romantic connotations” of nature that Nochimson mentions is given explicit treatment in this hour, as AJ’s English class is studying a sonnet by William Wordsworth, the poet considered to be the founder of the Romantic movement in literature. 19th century Romantics adored and idealized the natural world, finding nature to be a respite from not only the grimy industrial cities developing all around them but also from the consuming, unhealthy lifestyles that these cities produced. The first line of the sonnet is read by AJ’s English teacher, while the second line is written on the blackboard behind her:

The world is too much with us
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers

I’ll supply the next two lines because they are important to my discussion:

Little we see in Nature that is ours;
We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!

The “sordid boon” is a reference to the Industrial Revolution that was transforming society; while many people at the time welcomed the boon for bringing productivity and wealth, the Romantics condemned it as sordid and squalid. Wordsworth’s narrator goes on to say that he wished to live in ancient times because ancient pagans had a reverence for nature that is no longer felt in contemporary times. Wordsworth criticizes his contemporaries for worshipping materialism instead. I find it very notable that this scene in the English class is squeezed between two scenes depicting Tony’s materialistic, luxurious lifestyle: 

wordsworth and nature

Tony Soprano is both the product and the purveyor of a monstrous materialism. He is staying at Caesar’s Palace (which is now home to the almost absurd Bacchanal Buffet, with its hundreds of food items and sauces). The English teacher had asked her students “Why such strong words against the material world?” As strong as Wordsworth’s words were in 1802, we need even stronger words against the material world today. One scene in particular drives this pitiful point home:

eagle abatement

Sitting in his hotel room in a Caesar’s bathrobe (reminding me of the time in episode 1.03 when he insinuated to Ariel the Hasid that he was the modern incarnation of the Romans), Tony tells the asbestos removal guy to leave the toxic material where it is while he works out a deal with Phil Leotardo that doesn’t hurt his bank account too much. Never mind that the probability of the asbestos leaching into the ground or floating into the air goes up the longer it sits unsecured. And never mind that it is a frickin’ middle school that the asbestos is currently sitting at. After Tony can’t reach a deal with Phil, the asbestos gets cheaply and illegally dumped into a lake.  (It looks like it’s someplace out in the Meadowlands.)

Chase makes the point multiple times this hour that sacrificing the natural environment is just a normal part of doing business in the United States. At the beginning of the hour, we see Tony and Phil negotiate while the Statue of Liberty—that great symbol of the USA—looms in the background. (Phil wants an increased cut when he learns that Tony is making a killing in the asbestos business, charging customers as though he is following all the EPA regulations when he really isn’t.) Later in the hour, we see that the company that is disregarding the regulations at Tony’s behest is named “American Eagle Asbestos Abatement of New Jersey.” On the back of the man’s jacket, we clearly see the logo of the bald eagle, our National Bird and an enduring symbol of strength, freedom and the great American outdoors.

TRASH in america2

In previous episodes, we saw the the Mafia get involved with companies (both real and fictional) that had the word “American” in their names: American Biotics, American Express, American Standard. As I’ve written before, Chase is making some sort of commentary with this practice, maybe pointing to the “they are us, we are them” idea—it is not only mobsters that indulge in illegal activities, it is all of us, all of America.  He could simultaneously be signalling that even though mob activities might only involve a particular company, they actually injure all of America as a whole. American Eagle Asbestos Abatement (which seems to have been a real company in New Jersey at the time in 2007) punctuates the idea once again as the series reaches its end.

Critic Tim Goodman of The San Francisco Gate made a thought-provoking connection regarding the West. He noted that Tony travels to a western land in this episode, and “Members Only” (the first episode of Season 6) included the track “Seven Souls” which featured William Burroughs speaking lines from his novel The Western Lands. Of course, the “west” that Burroughs’ novel refers to is land west of the Nile River (thought by the Ancient Egyptians to be the Land of the Dead), not American land west of the Mississippi River. Nevertheless, I think it’s legitimate to ponder whether Chase had The Western Lands in mind when he sent Tony out west in this episode, especially when we consider what Burroughs’ novel is about…

The novel argues that ecological destruction will inevitably lead to social upheaval. The character of Joe the Dead tries to disrupt and impede corporations from conducting business that would hurt the environment, and is very critical of companies like McDonalds and Coca Cola for the damage they’ve done. The Western Lands has something of an apocalyptic tone, finding little hope that mankind can reverse its ruinous mistakes.

I’ve argued in several of my write-ups for this season that a major goal for David Chase in creating Season 6 seems to have been to place The Sopranos in its American milieu. And so it seems inevitable that Chase would produce an episode like this one that pits the material world against the natural world. A little historical context for this hour may be helpful. This episode originally aired about one year after the book/film An Inconvenient Truth came out. The work made the public aware of climate change and environmental degradation in a way it never had been before, and turned Al Gore into the face of environmental activism. The oil and gas industry was naturally a primary, recurring target of Gore’s criticisms. Meanwhile, George Bush—the man who beat Al Gore for the Presidency by the skin of his nuts—had family wealth that was largely earned in the oil business; and worked for the oil and gas exploration company Arbusto right out of college; and also chose the CEO of oilfield services company Halliburton to be his Vice-President.

Of all of President Bush’s questionable decisions regarding the environment, perhaps none was scarier than his appointment of Gale Norton to be his Secretary of the Interior. As Sec-Int, Norton was the person tasked with the conservation and management of our federal lands and natural resources. But in actuality she was, as the Los Angeles Times described her, “the Bush Administration’s leading advocate for expanding oil and gas drilling and other industrial interests in the West.” Upon resigning her post, she worked as a lawyer for the oil behemoth Royal Dutch Shell. None of this is surprising considering that she was mentored straight out of law school by James Watt, a self-professed evangelical who employed her at his legal foundation which protected the interests of cattle, mining and oil companies. Watt himself was Secretary of the Interior under Ronald Reagan in the early 1980s. Like many evangelicals, Watt believed in the idea of “Dominion”: humans are the supreme creatures in God’s ordering of the world and thus have dominion over all the lands and animals of the earth. In several of his articles, including “Ours Is the Earth,” Watt made clear that he saw the planet as “merely a temporary way station on the road to eternal life…The earth was put here by the Lord for His people to subdue and to use for profitable purposes on their way to the hereafter.” This is a 180-degree departure from the way Romantics such as William Wordsworth viewed the earth. Romantics saw nature as itself godly, not simply as a resource given by God to man to exploit in any way he wanted. As Roderick Frazier Nash wrote in his exceptional book Wilderness and the American Mind:

Nineteenth century Romantics and Transcendentalists sensed the unity of the natural world and related it to the presence or reflection of divinity. In calling attention to the higher uses of the environment than the service of man’s material needs, they manifested a belief in the sanctity of all life.

In the final scene of the hour, we see that Tony and Sonya have made their way out to a rugged and lonesome landscape. They sit quietly, obviously still feeling the effects of the drugs, next to a big, bad, black S-class Mercedes. Tony’s attention is drawn to the sky, and then a flash of light brings him to his feet. He throws his hands up and shouts “I get it!” In the final moments of the episode, the camera pans across the scene so that the Mercedes, that symbol of gaudy materialism, slips out of the frame. Only Tony, Sonya and the natural landscape remain:

What is it exactly that Tony “gets”? Professor Dana Polan writes that the camerawork, framing and staging of this scene make it look like something out of one of those arthouse movies that are so often concerned with the meaning of life: “the art-cinema trappings of revelation are all there, but it’s worth noting that no details of that revelation are made clear to us in the moment. We don’t know what Tony gets.” Maybe Tony has finally figured out the significance of that beacon in the Costa Mesa dreams. Or it could be that he has found the answers to those questions he has been asking, “Who am I? Where am I going?” Perhaps he finally understands just what it was that Christopher was seeking through his drug use. Or maybe he is just having a false epiphany driven by the peyote. Whatever it is, the experience certainly feels transcendent to Tony.

TRANSCENDENCE
The philosophy of Romanticism never became as popular in America as it was in Europe, but it did inspire certain prominent Americans like Henry David Thoreau and Ralph Waldo Emerson to develop a related philosophy called Transcendentalism. The Transcendentalists found nature to be a balm and a retreat from the materialistic world too. Roderick Frazier Nash, again in Wilderness and the American Mind, writes that the Transcendentalists “thought that nature was the proper source of religion. They were even more in accord with English Romantic poets such as William Wordsworth who believed in moral ‘impulses’ emanating from fields and woods.” H.D. Thoreau was the most well-known Transcendentalist, and Walden; or, Life in the Woods was his most well-known book. In the memoir, he describes how he lived a simple, honest, clean life in the woods of Massachusetts. Professor Perry Miller, in his essay “Thoreau in the Context of International Romanticism,” described Walden as “one of the supreme achievements of the Romantic Movement—or to speak accurately, of Romantic Naturalism.”

I don’t think it is a coincidence at all that we are introduced to the character of “Walden Belfiore” in this hour. (He may possibly have appeared in an earlier episode but it is in this hour that he has his first speaking lines and gets named in the credits.) Walden’s name recalls Thoreau’s Walden. The name “Walden” is quite unusual for an Italian goombah (Paulie even questions him about the strange moniker in the final episode), but I think Chase knew exactly what he was doing when he named the character. I’ll have more to say about Walden Belfiore and Romanticism in my write-up for the final hour.

(Another point to make, parenthetically, about the early Transcendentalists is that they started a literary magazine called The Dial in 1840. It was The Dial that first published W.B. Yeats’ “The Second Coming,” a poem that lends its title and apocalyptic tone to the next Sopranos episode.)

I’ve labored pretty hard here to connect Romanticism with Transcendentalism with Environmentalism, even throwing Buddhism into the mix, but I don’t necessarily believe that Chase was conscientiously trying to connect all these various “-isms” together. Chase is an artist, and like all great artists, he creates his work intuitively and instinctively. Sure, he brings his knowledge and reading and analytical thinking to the process of creation, but I don’t think he ever makes an overly intellectual effort to checkmark all the philosophical boxes. It is the job of the critic and the viewer to label and deconstruct, not the artist. Just as Tony Soprano organically found a meaningful experience in the West by simply following his natural impulses, without going through a whole lot of intellectual rigmarole, David Chase organically finds the way to inject meaning into his work by simply going through his natural artistic process. I often think of the words of the mythologist Joseph Campbell when I think about the various ways in which we inject meaning into things, find their significance. (I look to Joseph Campbell for guidance the way Chase looks to Carlos Castaneda; not surprisingly, both men taught at the Esalen Institute in Big Sur, California.) According to Campbell, meaning is something that is not so much found as it is something that is experienced, naturally and organically, within the midst of life:

People say that what we’re all seeking is a meaning for life. I don’t think that’s what we’re really seeking. I think what we’re seeking is an experience of being alive, so that our life experiences on the purely physical plane will have resonances within our innermost being and reality, so that we actually feel the rapture of being alive.

Amen to that.

amen to that

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AJ’s disturbing storyline continues here. In the previous episode, he took part in the assault on young Victor who was behind on a debt. Apparently Victor had to have some toes amputated. AJ and Jason Parisi mock and laugh at “Long John Shithead” (obviously a reference to Treasure Island’s one-legged Long John Silver) as Victor walks by on crutches. (The image of the young man on crutches reiterates the irony of the previous episode’s title: “Walk Like a Man.”)

In the current episode, AJ takes part in another assault, this time against a young Somalian student. But he doesn’t actually punch or kick the guy, he only watches with mute intensity. We’ve seen AJ have creepy responses to violence before. In his essay, “Christopher, Osama and AJ: Contemporary Narcissism and Terrorism in The Sopranos,” Jason Jacobs writes that AJ “stands on, passively watching, and we are invited to speculate on the nature of his involvement: Is he repulsed as we are or is he fascinated? The film style deliberately avoids defining his response for us.” Jacobs finds examples of AJ’s creepy responses in “All Due Respect,” “Walk Like a Man” and the current hour:

aj stare

Does AJ have a dead streak (as his mother asked in 6.11 “Cold Stones”) in him? It’s very possible. He seemed to enjoy watching the fight that took place in front of him last season in “All Due Respect.” He seemed almost excited watching Victor get maimed in the previous episode. But it’s difficult to discern what’s going on in his head as watches the Somalian get attacked. In his therapist’s office later on, he doesn’t bring up the attack specifically but he does paraphrase Rodney King (another black man who was famously beaten by a group of white men): “Why can’t we all just get along?” AJ is clearly distraught in a serious way. He tells his doctor that the world is fucked up, “people walk around like this is all something” but they’re blind to the reality of things—they don’t see how screwed up and empty everything really is. AJ is sliding toward a major depressive episode.

I‘ve never studied or compared the names of Tony’s children but this might be the right place to do it. Tony’s daughter was given the lovely, pastoral name “Meadow” which recalls the natural world. (Las Vegas, interestingly, means “the meadows” in Spanish. Open green fields fed by natural artesian wells were once a distinctive feature of the area, before we turned the place into our most fabricated city.) Meadow, despite her moments of hypocrisy and self-blindness, has been developing into a thoughtful, educated woman, engaged positively with the world around her. She doesn’t suffer from the despair and hopelessness that affect her father and brother.

“Anthony, Jr.,” on the other hand, is truly becoming the junior-version of Anthony Soprano. Tony has been sliding more and more into a nihilistic mentality through the seasons (with his nihilistic monstrosity in fullest display early in this episode), and AJ too has been sinking into this debilitating mindset. AJ feels like the world is coming undone now. Like the ball that Tony and Sonya watched in the spinning roulette wheel, AJ’s world is “turning and turning in the widening gyre” until finally “things come apart, the centre cannot hold” (to quote the poem AJ reads from in the next episode). Tony’s murder of Christopher in this hour was perhaps, more than anything else, an effort to bring some order and peace to his world, but AJ’s behavior in the next hour will catapult Tony’s world into chaos.

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KENNEDY AND HEIDI (TITLE SIGNIFICANCE)
Much analysis has been done over the years of the episode title. The hour is obviously named after the two girls in the oncoming car that Chris swerves to avoid. But why would such a rich and memorable episode, stuffed to the gills with surprising events, location changes, tempo shifts and thematic explorations be named after two very minor characters who are only on-screen for a total of about 5 seconds?

kennedy and heidi

Some analysts find meaning in the name “Kennedy” because there have been several references to the Kennedy family on the series, including when Tony describes the stoic Kelli Moltisanti as “Jackie Kennedy” in this episode. (Some have also found a connection between this hour’s events and the Chappaquiddick incident, in which a drunken Ted Kennedy left the scene of a car accident that killed his passenger.) Others find meaning in the name “Heidi.” They believe, for example, that the name may be a reference to “the Heidi game,” a 1968 football game in which NBC cut away from the broadcast to the movie Heidi, causing some viewers to miss Oakland’s remarkable comeback in the final minute. This, they argue, foreshadows the way that Chase will unexpectedly cut away from the final scene in the final episode. Myself, I think the simplest and most powerful explanation of the title comes from Matt Zoller Seitz who argued that Kennedy and Heidi’s five minutes of screentime are among the most important minutes of the series because it crystallizes how people behave in SopranoWorld. The girls are faced with a moral test: go back to the scene of the accident and see if they can do anything to help or keep on driving as though nothing happened. Passenger Kennedy thinks they should go back but driver Heidi decides not to, because she could get in trouble for driving after dark with only a Learner’s Permit. Moral test failed.

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TABLEAU
Every hour of The Sopranos is filled with incredible shots, but there was one here in particular that I wanted to call attention to. As the friends and family gather after Chris’ death, we can see a wide range of their responses to the tragedy within the tableau shot:

range of responses

Bobby and Carlo in the foreground seem more interested in the game on TV. In the midground, there is more sadness and emotion. And finally in the background, Chrissie’s mother is in complete drunken despair.

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MINAS DE COBRE
The track that plays over the final credits is “Minas de Cobre” (Mines of Copper”) by Calexico. The band, named after a town on the California-Mexico border (“Calexico” is a portmanteau of “California” and “Mexico”), is a Tucson-based collective of musicians. “Minas de Cobre” is an instrumental, and so it contains no lyrics that can further clarify our understanding of the episode. But the instrumentation and melody and rhythm of this song by this southwestern band strongly contributes to the sense of place that is such an important component of this hour. 

After Tony exclaims “I get it!” but before “Minas de Cobre” begins, we hear the sound of the wind blowing through the rugged landscape. Chase uses wind frequently on the series, and here it emphasizes how timeless and eternal the natural elements of the planet are. Long after you and I and Tony Soprano are gone from this earth, after all our deeds and misdeeds are forgotten, the wind will still be here.

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ADDITIONAL NOTES:

  • Just before he dies, Chris says “That’s the flying ointment” instead of that’s the fly in the ointment. He is malapropping till the very end.
  • When Kelli gets the bad news about Christopher, we can see Paul Schaeffer on the TV set behind her. God, I miss The Late Show with David Letterman.
  • At Chrissie’s funeral, T gets Julianna’s last name wrong (“Skiffle” instead of “Skiff”) when he introduces her to Carmela, either because he genuinely mistakes her name or because he’s trying to throw Carm off the scent of his relationship with her. (Carmela is not fooled though, she seems to suspect that either Tony or Chris slept with the attractive woman.)
  • Cats.  When Tony first visits Sonya’s condo, we can see the book Cat: The Complete Guide on the coffee table just as Sonya first mentions Christopher by name (“You’re a friend of Chris”). I bring this up because some viewers strongly equate Chris with the orange cat that makes a notable appearance in the final episode.
  • 3 to 5 / 7 to 9.  The actress Marie Donato played a character named “2 to 5 / 7 to 9” in episodes 3.02, 3.05 and 3.13 but she was never referenced this way in the episodes themselves; we only know her peculiar nickname because that’s how it was listed in the credits. In this hour, Silvio finally explains that she is called this because she never misses a wake. Her name may be particularly fitting in this episode because she has two wakes to go to, Chrissie’s and Marianucci’s. (It’s probably just a continuity error that she was “2 to 5” in previous episodes but is called “3 to 5” in this one.)
  • The Pretenders’ “Space Invader” plays over the scene in which Tony lays in Sonya’s bed. In a sense, Tony is here in Las Vegas “invading a space” that was normally occupied by Christopher, not just in Sonya’s bed but also in experimenting with the hallucinogenic peyote.
  • I let my “Driving through Vegas” video clip run longer than it needed to, not out of some gratuitous desire to show Sarah Shahi (Sonya) grinding in bed but just because I love the use of The Pretenders’ “The Adultress” in that scene.
  • Tony Soprano could be considered a “professional environmental polluter” on the series, a fact that is highlighted in this episode, but the actor that plays him is anything but. In an Inside the Actor’s Studio appearance, James Gandolfini said he might like to have been an environmental attorney if he hadn’t become an actor. In the 1998 film A Civil Action, Gandolfini plays a waste disposal employee who turns against his company for contaminating the town water supply with carcinogens.
  • Carmela has been suspecting Christopher of having something to do with Adriana’s disappearance for some time now, but she immediately reverses course when Chrissie dies, even chastising herself for ever doubting him: “Why are we so quick to blame, what is the attraction in that?” The Sopranos has always been interested in answering the inverse of Carmela’s question: why are we so quick to absolve blame? Why do we try so hard to avoid a reckoning, why do we so readily brush our guilt and suspicion and criticism under the rug to make it look like they were never even there?

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217 responses to “Kennedy and Heidi (6.18)

  1. Hallelujah!
    I’ve been watching these episodes, one per day, preceded by reading your dissection. Last night, I watched this episode, the first sans your commentary.
    Thanks for helping me to appreciate even further this all-time great series.
    I’m only sad that I’ll likely have a long wait for “The Blue Comet” and “Made in America” (but, I’m watching these, tonight and tomorrow, respectively, regardless. 🙂
    –Joe in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, NY–

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Hi Ron, I stumbled upon your site recently after probably my 25th re-watch of the series. I was looking forward to this next episode write-up, coming back to check daily (quite an exciting life I lead!). As always, it’s a wonderful analysis.
    I’ve had my share of tripping experiences (never peyote, but LSD and psilocybin) and can definitely confirm what Chase said about it being fourth rate without there being some belief system around it. When I first saw the episode in 2007 I had yet to experiment with drugs of any kind, so the peyote scenes seemed very profound and mysterious. But in retrospect seeing Tony tripping drove home the point that he’s quite empty inside.
    Ordinarily the experience of a good trip does leave a lasting impression of some kind; stereotypical hippy stuff regarding the immensity of the universe/transience of existence, etc. What Tony took away from it was really quite shallow.
    If the epiphanies he had from his coma wore off by this point (and they certainly seemed to have), then his trip insights would vanish even faster. It would confirm to me that he is a sociopath, because anyone with a decently functioning conscience would have the most horrifying psychedelic experience imaginable.
    Tony would be overwhelmed by ruminations about all the bad things he’s done and would end up in the loony bin. It’s interesting to note that Paulie mentions getting dosed with acid in the next episode, and seems to have had a fun time himself. I imagine only Bobby Baccala would freak the fuck out, especially after popping his cherry. Even if I was with Sarah Shahi in luxurious settings, if I’d done a tenth of things Tony did over the years I’d be a basket case by the time I came down.
    I don’t imagine there’s much in the way of scientific studies on the differences between antisocial and more balanced personalities under the effects of hallucinogens (let’s hope that changes down the line) but it’s an interesting thought. I also wonder if you’ve ever dabbled with any of these substances and if it colored your take on the episode? Very much excited to see the rest of your work!

    Liked by 3 people

    • Great points. In my limited dabbles, I’ve had very hit-or-miss experiences, never any life-changing epiphanies. I have however had transformative and insightful experiences outdoors (even indoors sometimes when reading the great nature writers) and that has definitely influenced how I see this episode…

      Liked by 2 people

      • I agree he’s too damaged to come back or improve, and calling him a beast at this point is right. Tripping is, of course, remarkably intense at the best of times. Without a proper outlook it’s like being strapped to a rocket with no guidance system. Tony definitely had a shitty trajectory, considering what little he got from it. With an IQ of 136 you’d think Tony would’ve come up with some amazing way to dissolve the entire mafia and turn it into a legal enterprise, emerging from his experience as a transcendent and peaceful figure. He’d force the whole crew to trip with him (with the help of expertly vetted trip sitters to guide them to enlightenment), and undertake a campaign to surreptitiously dose the New York bosses, slowly spreading the transformation.
        He’d peacefully divorce Carmela (welcoming Furio back to America with sincere apologies) and marry Sonya. He tenderly repairs any messes he’s made with AJ and Meadow (who decides to go back to medical school). The various businesses go legit through brilliant reorientations.
        But instead he just gambled a bit and thought about his mother. I’d like to think sociopaths could turn into normal people if they had a proper psychedelic experience overseen by shamans. But I don’t think so. He’d just killed Chris andwas laughging about it, so it shows he had very little guilt or conscience lol.
        If the Sopranos were an RPG, Tony is perpetually stuck at the beginning of the game when on his own. And by using the cheat codes available to him, he can advance all he wants but there is no lasting satisfaction of having really achieved anything. His life is also kind of like not doing any of the stories in GTA and just stealing cars and popping heads.
        Sad thing is he definitely knows this on many levels, that’s why I think in the last episode he is ready to die. I don’ think his takeaway from the trip was totally shallow though, he had pangs of conscience. In the back of his mind, through all the seasons he got close approximations of deeper feeling and a wistful sense that he was fucked up and not getting to properly connect to life. And think of how Janice probably took everything known to man and wasn’t any different from her 10 year old self! And it goes on and on and on and on. Wheels within beautiful wheels, this amazing fucking show.

        Liked by 4 people

        • Coach Molinaro was right about Tony, he always takes the easy way out. Like with the asbestos. His beef with Phil leads directly to the asbestos being illegally dumped, which puts them all at risk, but where is Tony? He’s in Vegas, smoking weed and doing peyote with Christopher’s old girlfriend, indulging his hedonism while the situation back home simmers.

          Liked by 3 people

        • The idea of Tony living life as a game with a cheat code is really interesting and I think that’s the connection with the Rocky Valentine character in that Twilight Zone episode Carlo mentions in the ‘Chasing it’ episode. Devoid of meaning, every luxury or thrill becomes depravity and then total numbness.

          Liked by 2 people

      • Hi Ron – do you have a goodreads account? If they’re anything like these, I’m sure your book reviews / suggestions are awesome. Thanks for all of these

        Liked by 2 people

    • I certainly wouldn’t want to be anywhere near Tony or any of his pals during a hypothetical trip gone bad. I agree, Tony on one of those unnervingly introspective total ego death trips would be an ugly sight indeed. Of all the mob guys on the show Tony probably has the deepest intellect and struggles the most with constantly repressing the ugly truth about himself. A little too high a dose and perhaps he goes from “wow pretty colors” to “oh my God I murdered those people and poisoned my family and my marriage is a sham” and like you said a total mental breakdown.

      A Paulie bad trip would probably involve him crying over his ma and possibly violence. A Sil bad trip would probably involve malevolent staring and possibly violence. With Chris you’d barely notice. Bobby would no doubt break down over losing Karen and gaining Janice, a realization that would destroy any man. Ralph would decide that a little coke would make the trip even better. I don’t even want to think about Richie tripping. And Artie would spend his entire bum trip in the closet silently weeping, then would suddenly become very active in the church afterwards.

      Liked by 4 people

  3. Awesome work Ron, Been waiting for this one!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Thanks for all your hard work and valuable insight Ron

    Liked by 2 people

  5. I thought I’d check Autopsy, and then I let out an orgastic sigh when I saw “Kennedy and Heidi” under Season 6.

    Of all the times we see Tony fuck, this one bothered me the most when I first saw it. It was just so business as usual bacchus. I think it took me a long time to finally admit that this is Tony Soprano,

    I noted the Late Show too. Heh heh, as Paulie would say.

    Edie deserved another Emmy for her reaction to Chrissie’s death. Like god. damn.

    “Seems like that’s the cause of death.” That look Sil gives. Does he suspect?

    Again, tensions in New York are bafflingly underplayed in this leadup. Do we expect full on war from here? The final five of this show move like a slasher killer, slow but always catching up.

    Until this rewatch, I hadn’t noticed that tableau shot, but this time I did, particularly, Chris’s despondent mother. Spooky.

    I have heard Tony’s “I get it” interpreted as a) that he is a fucking demon, that’s just who he is, frog & the scorpion & all that b) exactly what he tells Melfi in the next episode, which calls back to his question in Walk Like a Man. “Is this all there is?”/“Everything we see & experience is not all there is,” or even c) him thinking ‘ok chris drugs r great after all lol.’ In some way or another, you’ve touched up on each of them. Bravo.

    I think watching the beating is the decisive moment for AJ in deciding who he really is. Like his father suffocating Christopher, he looks dead and blank in the face of violence. But where Tony has blood on his fingers, AJ is a passive observer. His only physical reaction is to deliberately remove the Somali biker from his space. He opts out of the situation, drops the knife again as it were. He isn’t his father.

    One of the best writeups Ron. As we reach these final laps, we are very grateful to you for this analysis. And for introducing me to podabing lol.

    Liked by 4 people

    • Lol you’re welcome. I love that little look Silvio gives T.. I always feel like I would have been able to see through Tony’s act, but I probably only feel that way because I know what actually happened

      Liked by 1 person

      • Silvio may know Tony so well that if he doesn’t think he would actually kill him, he might have an inkling that Tony is not too upset that he’s dead. Remember they were friends for years, and Silvio knows who Tony is.

        Liked by 2 people

    • Two moments get me every time I watch them. Both are Carmela’s gasps. First time is when Tony is in the hospital and Christopher consoles her. The other time is when Tony tells her the news about Christopher. Every. Time.

      Liked by 2 people

    • I wondered if him saying I get it was him realizing he’s either dreaming or even dead. That sounds stupid but after rewatching the series again (with head phones so I could pick up the malapropisms and clues and sonofagun, I STILL didn’t get the flying ointment line! It’s amazing what you don’t get with this series)…I really wonder. It seemed to me like the rocky valentine twilight zone Episode referenced earlier…cuz in that episode the gangster was on a never ending bender like Tony here)….

      But here is another reason I say this: in the final episode when Tony is digging for juniors money, he looks up at the sun…and it hit me watching this….the sun looked just like the light from the coma episodes!! Did anyone else see this as a possibility?

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Glad to see this new article up. I just HAVE to rewatch the whole thing once you’re done.
    The only additional note I have on this episode is that Tony with his red face in the hospital looked like a clown to me. That was the first thing I thought of because of the symmetry of his red cheeks. The sad clown. Except in this case I guess it’s inverted… he turns out to be happy on the inside about Chris’s death, while pretending sadness on the outside.
    Then again, when he has his “epiphany,” he seems to be simultaneously elated (“he’s really dead!”) and maybe… devastated (“I am beyond redemption”). Laughing and crying at once. Eh, that was my take.
    It’s a democratic show, every viewer is allowed their own take. Which makes it great.

    Liked by 4 people

  7. “I think we can consider this hour to be the third true “Vacation Episode” of the series.”
    Not Remember When?

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Uncle Junior was right back in season four re: Chris. If Tony had taken Junior’s advice and offed Chris when he had the perfect excuse to do so he would have saved himself a lot of agita, sent a powerful message to the rest of the family AND had Adriana all to himself. But he still saw Christopher through that sentimental lens back then and still believed Chris was the future, even though he’d given him very little reason to think that. But in season 6B Tony is a far less sentimental guy who’s internally questioning much of what he thought were absolute truths, both about his father and himself. That “gaze of utter disappointment” on his face while a doped-up Christopher fiddles with the stereo says it all, at that point Chris is just nothing but a liability, all used up…”the dream is gone”.
    Then there’s AJ. Perhaps if Tony had “come clean” (“some of my income comes from illegal gambling and whatnot”) with AJ like he did with Meadow AJ wouldn’t be in the throes of a massive identity crisis in 6B. Unlike his own dad’s attempts to draw him in, Tony has kept AJ in the dark in a sort of half-assed attempt to insulate him from the truth and nudge him toward being a “good guy” aka a “regular” kid, even though he sets no such example himself. Tony has no idea that Blanca represented a whole new identity for AJ and he likewise has no idea that pushing him to hang out with the Jasons is the worst possible thing he could have done in that situation. He wants AJ to act like a “regular guy” e.g. the Jasons, but he doesn’t realize that they’re HIS definition of “regular guys”…mini gangsters. There’s nothing “regular” about them, they’re drunken thugs who run an illegal campus bookmaking operation and who knows what else. This only serves to further confuse and trouble AJ and we know how that eventually turns out.
    “He’s dead”…see, I wasn’t entirely sure he meant Christopher there. When he first got to Vegas he was still losing at the tables, so his gambling luck didn’t really do a 180 as soon as Christopher died. I realize this is just my interpretation, but I kind of saw it as Tony letting go of that misguided sentimentality/nostalgia re: his father (“you should never gamble, Anthony”) as his (massive) ego fell away thanks to the mescaline. At that moment there’s no ideals to follow, no “tradition” to uphold, he’s not Johnny Boy’s son anymore, he just “is” (and tripping balls). His issues with his own father and his own fatherhood (both literally and figuratively) temporarily vanished and for a brief moment the forces of “the universe” all aligned Tony’s way. “He’s dead”…that ever-present looming shadow over him has lifted and doesn’t matter anymore.
    Doing another re-watch (that’s ten LOL) and your write-ups are INVALUABLE as well as highly entertaining. Re-watching without this blog as a companion is unthinkable to me now!

    Liked by 5 people

    • Dude, I agree with everything you said! I said it so many times in so many comments, but you summed it up succinctly.

      Liked by 1 person

    • I really expected Tony to kill Christopher after he came gunning for Tony over the Adrianna incident. I was glad he finally did it in this episode. (I know that makes me sound weird, but I also laughed at the Red Wedding…I hated the Storks.) If Tony had dealt with Christopher back then, he would have shown the others that nepotism didn’t affect his decisions. His patience with Christopher stirred the pot of resentment and he ended up with dysentery in the ranks.

      Liked by 1 person

    • That’s an interesting thought Dude, the idea that “He’s dead” actually refers to Johnny Boy. “Tony’s Vicarious Patricide” makes the argument that Tony has conflated Christopher with Johnny Boy, in which case “He’s dead” could actually be referring to both of them…

      Like

      • Thanks Ron, I have read “Tony’s Vicarious Patricide” and IMO it makes a lot of really interesting points re: the father and sons theme that runs throughout the series but especially through 6B. I mean sure, he could simply be referring to Christopher there and perhaps I’m overthinking it, but suddenly having a Christopher (and mescaline) related epiphany like that seems somewhat out of character given how little (as aptly demonstrated during the Melfi dream) his death seemed to mean to Tony by that point. His first impulse wasn’t to provide comfort or support to Chris’ family and loved ones but to head to Vegas to “take” something from Chris one last time. My point being that by the time he stumbled down to the casino Tony wasn’t thinking about Christopher at all anymore, but (as always) himself. I don’t think the realization that Christopher is dead would prompt that sort of reaction, it was something more, something bigger than that.

        Anyhow, I always enjoy your posts and the lively discussions after. IMO 6B is the greatest run of episodes in TV history. I personally can’t wait until you get to the infamous Coco scene, which IMO is one of the most misinterpreted scenes in the whole series. Patience….LOL.

        Liked by 2 people

    • Emmanual Kreisman

      Dude, I don’t remember Tony ever “coming clean” in the slightest to Meadow. She only explicitly asks Tony once, in College, and he denies his criminality completely. By the end of the show, she is in complete denial while she herself is about to literally work to defend criminals.

      Liked by 1 person

    • I love this theory ( Great post Dude Manbrough ) that in the midst of this Peyote trip the “he” in “He’s dead” is his father. I love it so much that I’m choosing to believe that is who he is referring to. Unfortunately, I’m afraid the sentiment or connection dissolves out of consciousness for Tony once he sobers up. He did, after all, have an epiphany about the nature of motherhood during the peyote trip. There is throughline from “He’s dead and I don’t have to continue the criminal tradition I learned from my dad” to ” Our Mother are the vehicles that drop us off into this life and we make the mistake of trying to get back on”. ” You know you have these thoughts and then you almost grab it…and then…(pfft…)”

      Liked by 2 people

  9. What a deep dive. You brought up so much that just raster scanned by me on my last
    viewing. Lots to chew on here, especially the environmental themes.
    Thanks for the early Thanksgiving!

    Liked by 2 people

  10. Excellent!
    Have a great time in Secaucus and say hello to that parakeet Ally Boy for me.
    Have a great time in Secaucus and say hello to that parakeet Ally Boy for me.

    Liked by 2 people

  11. I was suspicious of Walden mentioning Carlo so many times in light of the fact that he (Carlo) is wired for sound. I always felt that he too was not to be trusted.(possible rat) As I’ve said before, Tony has many reasons to resent Christopher, and this was building for a long time. It was a perfect way to get rid of him and keep his hands clean. Christopher may be a mildly sympathetic character, but he is a liability. I feel bad that he had a bad upbringing…but even with that his sense of entitlement is astounding. We know he would flip eventually especially if he gets caught using drugs. He as much as said so to J.T. If you look at the first few episodes you can see that Chris is a loose cannon, totally living in a made up world in his mind. “Stately Wayne manor” “Say hello to my little friend”..”that popcorn and rug smell in the theater makes me high, so I can be a screen writer”…so sad and unrealistic. I think he may feel bad minimally about Adriana, but his drug use started way before her…he was not an asset. He had to go. I’m surprised he wasn’t killed sooner. Also, all these informers makes me think that Tony will go to prison, not get killed in the diner. He may get killed in jail…or he may flip because all his friends are dead…so he can relocate and start new.What has he got to lose now? He has no love for New York. There are a lot of possibilities. We know Tony has always been a sociopath…and his decline was inevitable. I know it was a horrible thing to do, but I think Tony did the right thing in killing Christopher. And as usual, Carmela keeps her head up her ass. Everyone who dies becomes a saint…..that’s normal for humans to say.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I too thought of Carlo’s extracurriculars, but his appearance downstairs in the next scene kind of deflated the connection for me (I’d forgotten we see him). Maybe it just serves to remind us Carlo exists, so he can be important later. Thus far, he’s made a stink about Vito and killed a guy from NY, but that’s about it for the whole show, and those two things only happened this season.
      Emily VDW’s review of The Second Coming points out the dissonance of having one of the whiniest, most obtuse characters speak truth on social hypocrisies (AJ and Bush’s America). I wonder if K&H is offering us a version of that, too, with Tony trying to get ANYONE to agree “yeah Chris was a junkie loser who would’ve endangered his family’s health and safety had he lived.” On some level, Chrissie’s death, however predicated on his tragic background, is good in that it removes not only a major liability to the Soprano family, but also part of a predatory drain on the microcosm of north Jersey. However, because it’s Tony, and his reasons for doing it are ultimately more selfish, we’re left feeling gross with ourselves for sympathizing with a lack of sympathy. At least, I think that’s prob Chase’s intention. I don’t think he has contempt for his audience, as some have said, but I do think he likes to challenge them.

      Liked by 4 people

    • Why do you say that about the coco scene? To me it seemed obvious so the fact you think it’s misinterpreted makes me think I completely missed something?

      Like

    • I thought what you did…that this was a foreshadowing of Carlo flipping, although I’m not convinced he actually did…. btw about tony flipping…. we will never know but we DO know he became an informant in the final episode….

      Liked by 2 people

      • Who became an informant? Not Tony…Carlo.

        Liked by 1 person

        • manny44ameritechnet

          By giving Agent Harris information doesn’t Tony technically become an FBI informant? Even if the information is about non-Italians and even potential terrorists? It’s funny I never really thought too hard about how much of a line that is to cross for Tony, possibly because the information he gets from Harris is life-saving….for a few hours anyways … ( *whispers* I’m saying Tony sleeps with the fishes )

          Liked by 2 people

          • He’s informing on potential terrorists to get credit for his eventual trial. He hasn’t said anything about his business to Agent Harris. If anything, it’s agent Harris who is crossing the line.

            Liked by 2 people

          • Ok this is this is the how i see this : Tony became an informant, there is no doubt about it…you are dead right… this represents his final triumph in corruption… he has compromised Harris… and is the culmination of Tony’s endless charisma and likability—-remember the episode where tony and Carmela are at dinner with her cousin and she mentions with a worried smile how he draws people in? Tony corrupted her cousin too, remember? Here is an evil and selfish man with the ability to make people care about him and manipulate others…and corrupting Harris is his crowning glory….and tony wins cuz he’s only giving him non mafia info and it may not even be useful at that..I think he made up his mind when he was in jail after the gun arrest..there is this scene where he is pondering something and i think flipping or informing is what he is pondering….

            Liked by 2 people

  12. I was amazed to see that you didnt include one connection about Chris being suffocated by Tony. At Chris’s intervention, when Tony learns that he sat on Adriana’s dog and suffocated it, he tells Chris “I oughta suffocate you, you little prick!”

    Liked by 3 people

    • And with that action, Tony avenged Cosette’s death or as Chris liked to put it, crawled under there or warmth.

      Liked by 2 people

    • I didn’t mention that connection here, but I did mention it back in my 4.10 write-up when Tony said it

      Like

    • See, that made me wonder how far in advance they plotted these stories Because that was years prior…..and it was not just the killing of Chris foreshadowed, it was the actual method of murder…

      Liked by 1 person

      • Not everything is foreshadowing. Chase could have, years later, chosen suffocation as a callback to that comment. Or it could be a coincidence. I enjoy these write-ups–or did until they stopped–but I think the overthinking that results from posts like this can damage the series. Not for me; I enjoy it and don’t need every little possibility spelled out for me. But, for others…I wonder. I think way too much credit is given to every little detail here. I have a boss who judges where we sit in meetings based on some psychology chart created by who knows who. He wonders if his employees have a problem with authority or want to be hidden from attention. Meanwhile, I choose the seat closest to the screen so I can see better. That’s it! This guy looks into things that aren’t there and I think the people who enjoy this site–of which I am one, though I am sick of waiting since mid-November for the next update–are in danger of doing the same. It seems to me that the reason for such apophenia is boredom. If not for this long gap between write-ups, I think most of the thoughts in this comment section would never have been written or thought about. And, no, that’s not a good thing. Just as not everything is foreshadowing, not everything is brilliant.

        Like

    • “At Chris’s intervention, when Tony learns that he sat on Adriana’s dog and suffocated it, he tells Chris “I oughta suffocate you, you little prick!””

      So what you’re saying is Chris crawled under Tony’s hand for warmth?

      Liked by 1 person

  13. Sublime analysis. Excellent.

    This episode had a bigger impact on my in-time viewing, and on my memory and re-viewings of the series, than any other – and by a wide margin. This episode is the turning point. Chris is gotten rid of – though for all the potential reasons he should have been killed off, we’re never really sure exactly what the reason is. My late dad said something like, “About time. Finally.” Which is right, 100%. Chris has been a bag on Tony’s hip since the pilot, and that’s only gotten worse. He’s going to bring down the house if he sticks around. But does the “vicarious patricide” angle make sense? The retribution for having Adrianna killed, in the same middle-of-the-night, riding with Tony, the drugged-up parallel to what starts her down the path to her own death? The harkening back to the wine score in Pennsy (“I love you, man”), which all loses “some of its pop” so quickly?? Absolutely. All of them. In so many ways.

    But the most important thing, to me, is this: Kennedy and Heidi is the episode in which I gave up on Tony. I tried. Christ, I tried so hard – to like him, to admire him, to feel for him, to fear and respect him, to recognize his intellect and sense of humor and recognize how much I’d like to hang out with him. But this episode – it makes him irredeemable. Every goddamn second of it. From the accident and the nose-squeeze (it’s a measure of how much I bought in that I still – STILL – can’t say that Tony actually murdered Chris). To the bullshit charades – on the phone to Carm from the hospital, looking down on the baby being nursed, the dreams about his admissions to Melfi of his killing his family members, his fat face slopping down the shrimp cocktail and steak, blithely banging who I think is the hottest woman in the entirety of the series as though he was rubbing one out, mouthing off to Phil breaking his balls about Chris getting killed, the asbestos thing, the step-in-shit luck at the roulette wheel. And most of all, the “epiphany” in the desert. God, what a great move by Chase. Is Tony still that bright? That juiced in to the universe? That spiritually aware? NO. No, no, no. God, no. He’s a fat f*cking crook from New Jersey. And the joke has been on me.

    Not any more. Not after this episode. I read the Yochelson study three episodes before Melfi did. But, God – was it worth it. I think.

    Liked by 5 people

    • Great take. I’m guessing you mean it metaphorically when you say you read the Yochelson study, that you gave up on Tony 3 episodes before Melfi did, right? I’m asking because I’m curious what people who have read the study think of Melfi’s decision to terminate therapy based on it…

      Liked by 3 people

    • Oh yeah, Chase removed any lingering doubts re: who Tony “really” is during the course of 6B. His business is in turmoil, his “beloved nephew” is dead, his son is a rudderless mess and he’s in Vegas, compensating for not banging Adriana by getting high with and banging Chris’ Vegas girlfriend like he doesn’t have a care in the world. He’s a sociopath through and through, he has no concern or compassion for anyone and just goes about in pity for himself, always looking for the easiest and most exploitative path.

      Liked by 3 people

    • I always wondered after this episode if he would have killed his own family to escape prison. Remember when he smashed the suv and told aj don’t test me? I always wondered if the writers were telling us he either wanted to kill AJ or would do it if needed?

      Liked by 1 person

  14. Thanks. Yes, most definitely being metaphorical there. But I have read Yochelson and Samenow, subsequent to watching the series. Harshly critical not only of efforts to treat the sociopath and criminal through psychotherapy, but also of the notion that the criminal’s plight is due to anything (upbringing, experiences, etc.) but the criminal’s intrinsic duplicity, chicanery, or… for lack of a better word, innate evil. It’s an in-your-face piece of analysis. Have attached a link to a good synopsis:
    https://digitalcommons.unl.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1192&context=psychfacpub
    Initially published in 1976. So, yeah, I should have read it before Season 6.2 (am an academic, different field) . But Jen Melfi, with her existential crisis, going on the lam, drinking in between sessions, etc., DEFINITELY should have read it before then, and so too should have Elliott Kupferburg. But at least Elliott’s instincts were right from the very beginning: she needed to drop him, stat.

    Liked by 7 people

    • Great comments dendu_va, & thanks for the link. I’ve watched the series so many times, that I don’t remember what
      point in my first watching I gave up on Tony. It was probably the Marie / Vito Jr. betrayal. But I’ve always wondered why
      it took Melfi so long.

      @Ron, you were curious what people who’d read the study thought about Melfi’s decision to halt treatment? Here goes
      my take…

      I’ve read the list of the Criminal Personality traits from the Yochelson & Samenow study, and while I think it was
      was a factor in turning Melfi, other conditions had to be met first, after all Melfi had known what Tony was for
      a very long time. She frankly diagnosed him to his face in “House Arrest” as an anti-social predator, a shark that
      must keep moving, or else. Melfi indicated in “Blue Comet” that she was familiar with Robert Hare. He co-created
      the psychopathy checklist and wrote the popular book “Without Conscience” which includes Hare’s accounts of being
      manipulated by psychopaths during treatment. So, although it is strange that she had to be pointed at the earlier
      Y&S study, it shouldn’t have given her information she didn’t already know. The problem was that throughout the
      series, Melfi struggled with blind spots, with Tony as an unreliable narrator of his own life, with having much
      less information than we the viewers, and with the general murkiness of SopranoWorld in which ‘knowing’ without truly
      knowing is endemic.
      Melfi tried several times during the series to terminate treatment with Tony, only to be pulled back in for
      various reasons – her empathy, her fear of him, the comforting sheathed knowledge that she could unleash Tony as
      her avenger after being raped in “Employee of the Month”, her dedication to her profession, the appearance
      of flashes of insight with Tony at critical junctures, and just being caught up in Tony’s story.
      Nevertheless, Melfi’s been dropping hints in S6 about moving Tony along, and she’s been drawing boundaries with him.
      In “Cold Stones”, she asks, “Anthony we’ve been dancing around this for years – how you live. What is it you want
      from your life?” Tony, as usual, evades like he always does when Melfi asks this sort of question. These consistent
      evasions should have been sufficient for Melfi without the “…cannot be helped by talk therapy…” clause of the Y&S study.
      It looks like the social embarrassment she suffers at the dinner with her peers is what really sets the conditions
      to jolt Melfi back into knowing what she already knew. Kupferburg basically sprung an intervention on her at that
      dinner, outing Melfi in front of people whose opinion of her she cared about. That primed her to finally read through
      the Y&S study and view Tony without the filter of SopranoWorld goggles. Whatever remaining reasons she had for keeping
      Tony as a client were overwhelmed by her belief that Tony had been using her for years as a de facto member of his crew.
      Melfi’s anger is obvious in their final session with her goggles off, and it’s a testament to Gandolfini’s acting chops that we still
      feel sympathy for Tony even as we know that the knowledge that she had been captured and used must have been extremely
      painful for Melfi. Her experience will leave a scar, but at least she severed her connection to SopranoWorld with her
      life and liberty intact.

      Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you for the link

      Like

    • It’s a very good synopsis, followed by an even better takedown of the paper.

      Liked by 1 person

  15. Fantastic write up on one of my favorite episodes! If possible could you give me your opinion on something? I always thought Tony’s trip to Las Vegas was his last fuck you to Chris (Beyond the grave). Tony sleeps with Chris’s Las Vegas Girlfriend which seemed to me to be the main purpose of his trip to Vegas. Tony was deeply hurt by the movie Cleaver, and in that movie it shows the boss seducing Cleaver’s girlfriend, something that Tony surprisingly did not do. I always thought that because of the accusation in the movie, Tony performed a self fulfilling prophecy to get back at Chris after his death. Am I reading too much into this or does it make sense?

    Liked by 3 people

    • Makes a lot of sense, it continues that “life imitates art imitates life” idea from “Stage 5”

      Liked by 2 people

    • IMO there’s definitely a parallel to be drawn there. Tony (like Sally Boy) can’t resist “taking” something from Christopher one last time, using his death to hook up with Chris’ Vegas girlfriend, indulge his hedonism and embark on an ultimately meaningless “spiritual journey”, all the while going about in pity for himself, as usual.

      Liked by 2 people

    • I think it’s a stroke of genius that they used the tune space invader while tony was doing the job on Sonya because he actually was invading Chris’s space….

      Liked by 3 people

  16. Something that I think The Sopranos does better than any other show is to make the deaths of the important characters feel completely natural even though an episode before does not seem that death will happen. I have not heard anyone say that the deaths of Richie, Ralphie or Christopher were forced or that they were out of character, which only demonstrates the excellent character writing.

    Liked by 5 people

  17. I love seeing there’s a new post, and enjoy your analysis immensely. This time it caught me in the hospital sitting watch with my mom after her surgery, so thanks for helping pass the night. One tiny detail, maybe you can make something out of it- Schipol (pronounced the way Tony introduces Julianna to Carmela) is Amsterdam’s international airport. I’ve been trying to find any significant meaning beyond the obvious drug connection (which is pretty thin) and the humor, with little success. I’m sure David Chase knows this, not so sure Tony does…anywho…just a tidbit

    Liked by 1 person

  18. When Tony shouts “I get it!” at the end, the first time I watched it, I thought he said “I did it!” as in, finally being able to admit that he killed Chris. Even though on rewatch, I can tell he did indeed say “get” and not “did”, I think he does feel that same sense of relief either way at the end.
    Also, another point of Chris’ bad luck with cars, when he got jumped in the hood his vehicle was stolen.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Emmanual Kreisman

      “He had a heavy foot that kid…always”.

      Liked by 1 person

      • That was so funny! There is such a whimsical, observational, black humor, random musing quality to east coast conversation…a sudden jump from tragic to mundane, with no sense of irony, that you just don’t hear from other regions…the sopranos really nailed that….

        Liked by 2 people

  19. I don’t think Tony was planning on killing Christopher until he heard him say that he would never pass a blood test. It was the last straw. he saw the opportunity to get rid of a potential threat and he took it. We could say that he would die anyway, but nothing is for sure. Chris would have definitely flipped if he got arrested. I was struck when I was watching season 1 again the other day when Christopher was concerned for Tony ‘s well being and actually saved him from the first aborted assassination attempt. You could tell there was real love in him for Tony then. What a difference from the last episodes of the series. I am constantly amazed at the progression of the characters and of these seasons and how they all fit together. Amazing. Only on re-watching do you really see the relationships change. Also, reading these blogs has given us a lot of insight. I look at all series differently now.

    Liked by 3 people

  20. In defense of Chris. To quote Ally Barese “I wouldn’t piss on him if he was on fire”, not after Adriana and JT. But I’m certain he wouldn’t drive with his daughter while being high. Chris despised himself and despised Tony for reasons we know. He viewed Adriana and probably Kelli as means to the end (having children). Based on his rambling in prev. episode and overall I’d say he wouldn’t endanger his child, no matter what.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I don’t think you fully grasp the mindset of an addict. To think they can just call time out or decide when to let the addiction effect their judgment is naïve. I don’t say that to be rude. I am just letting you know that someone in that state cannot be trusted to do what they would normally know is right–or, in this case, not do what they normally know is wrong.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Especially heroin. As another poster pointed out, junior was right about Chris. It’s funny how junior was often looked at with pity and ridicule by the others but as time went on, he turned out to have been smarter, shrewder and more suited to leadership than any of the others…

        Liked by 2 people

  21. Good connection with Chris’s hat. It’s true that we first see Tony and Christopher in a car chasing down Mahaffey and last see them together in a car getting into a wreck. Nothing illustrates the morbidity of this show more than tracing the characters to their origins. So much had changed both in real life America and in Sopranos universe from 1999 to 2007.

    And yes…long live Chris’s malapropisms. He and Tony went off that road like a bat on a hill!

    Lastly, Walden was named after Mr. Bobby Darrin. Robert Walden Cosotto.

    Liked by 2 people

  22. You got a mention in The Ringer article about SopranoCon! Wish I could have gone, how was it?

    Liked by 1 person

  23. Like Orangeannie said above, these deep analyses do carry over to watching other TV series.
    It’s hard to get deeply into other TV series after The Sopranos though. Even when they are interesting plot-wise, I find few that are
    worthy of a re-watch – the connectivity, layering and multiple interpretations that support re-watching is a rare gift. One thing I always
    notice is whenever an actor who played in the Sopranos shows up in another series. I was watching the “Sneaky Pete” series and
    noticed the actor Michael Drayer who played “Jason Parisi” was playing a character by the name of “Eddie”. In a case of
    art imitating art, “Eddie” succumbs to violent, anthopogenic loss a toe in one of the episodes.
    I guess you could call that karma. The writers and the actor must have been laughing their heads off!

    Liked by 2 people

  24. I received the Sopranos boxset 2 and a half years ago and have been slowly working my way through it.
    I also found your website a few episodes in and didn’t realise that I’ve been following at a similar pace as you’ve been updating (I assumed that everything here was from several years ago. It was only when I caught up with you at the start of season 6 that I realised this was ‘live’).
    Anyway I wanted to say your writing has fed into my understanding of the show and has given layers to just about the most multilayered show in TV history.
    On top of that I now reach the end at the same time as you will finish your guide and coincidentally as Scorcese releases The Irishman. A movie which openly feeds back into The Sopranos as The Sopranos fed from Scorcese. Perhaps a distraction from your blog but I’d be interested in your view on The Irishman. I watched this feeling like this was a movie about how in the end the regularness of life catches up on us all. Personally I could not imagine a more apt way to head into the final episode however it may end..

    Liked by 1 person

    • That’s a good way of describing The Irishman. I spent the first two hours of the movie pretty unimpressed, it has a lot of the usual excess you find in a lot of Scorcese’s work, but the last 30 minutes was so good, it saved the whole movie for me.

      Like

  25. After the episode was over, I (like most viewers) spent a fair bit of time thinking about what Tony “gets.”
    I realize there’s no one-sized-fits-all answer here (which is one of the reasons why I think that the Sopranos is up there with some of the greater works of fiction; each episode leaves the audience with plenty to parse through and debate over), but one of my theories is that Tony “gets” why someone would want to kill their own son…
    It’s no secret that Tony’s troubled relationship with his mother is critical in his development as a human, and I would argue that this mother-son relationship drastically distorted his understanding of what it means to be a loving parent. I think Tony spent much of the series wrestling with this idea, and I further argue that Tony would have killed Christopher much earlier on in if not for his internal struggle. But he didn’t. Christopher nearly sticks around to the bitter end despite all of the bullshit because Tony puts up with it… because, unlike his mother, Tony could be a loving parent if he really tries.
    But this empathy and generally vulnerable disposition is unsustainable for Tony. It’s too boring. It’s a lot of work. It’s a liability. And the jig is up when he kills Christopher. He’s tired of being a loving parent. It turns out that it’s a lot of work. And for Tony, that hard work is a huge drain.
    I don’t think it’s a coincidence that this is one of the major episodes that puts the nail in the coffin for a lot of viewers’ moral expectations of Tony. Most viewers gave up at this point. I know I did. We see Tony revert to his most basic self, ultimately confirming that the version of Tony Soprano as a loving, empathetic human being is just an illusion. For Tony, it’s all a royal pain in the ass. And so he kills Christopher because it’s the convenient thing for him to do. And when the fallout of the situation is too cumbersome, too heavy for Tony, he heads to Vegas and has a blast.
    “I get it!” Tony exclaims, and I think Livia Soprano is nodding somewhere far off in agreement.

    Liked by 4 people

    • Emmanual Kreisman

      Good comment. I made a comment in the For all debts public and private ( Season 4 ep 1 ) that it was actually in that episode where Tony makes the ultimately damning ( and devilish ) decision vis a vis Chris’s life and soul. In that episode, he ( most likely ) invents a backstory for Dickie Moltisanti with a rando Cop as his killer and then winds Chris up and has him commit a cop-kill. It’s every bit as morally evil and calculated as what Tony does in Kennedy and Heidi and boy is he proud of it. He can’t even refrain from proudly telling Melfi about his scheme.

      Liked by 2 people

  26. Regarding the environmental themes of the episode, it’s ironic that Tony goes out West to Vegas, a city that
    draws people from all over the world with the dream of a chance to get something for nothing, all the while
    carried on the back of a dying reservoir. The droughts and wildfires of the West are a yearly affair, while
    the profits taken out are immense – whole river systems, oil & gas, coal, and other ores. What’s returned
    is ore waste, nuclear reactor waste, depleted aquifers, reduced snowpack in the Rockies, then the opening of
    more federal land to repeat the cycle – something for nothing indeed.
    These themes connect to “Luxury Lounge” where Tony enjoys the profits of Benny’s credit card scheme, but
    complains when the blowback affects his favorite eating place – “You don’t shit where you eat. And you
    really don’t shit where I eat.” So he subscribes to NIMBY, but even he knows the shit has to go somewhere
    whether that shit is victims of SopranoWorld violence, increasing corruption in the body politic, or environmental
    destruction. The Sopranos intro sequence nicely shows Tony’s commute from the man-made world of bridges,
    tunnels, refineries, storage tanks, trains, and ships, to the beautiful, peaceful, wooded neighborhood that buffers
    his family within a simulacrum of nature far from all the dirty processes that make it possible.
    Similarly the CEOs and VPs of Exxon, BP, Shell, and others, don’t live anywhere near the toxic dumps, spill
    areas, or polluted air vented by their oil refineries. They enjoy the profits and leave others to deal with
    ruined life ways, cancers, asthma and other “externalities” in the sacrifice zones, and amazingly this process
    is legal. Wherever Tony had that asbestos dumped, it wasn’t anywhere near his neighborhood, but we live in a
    planetary culture, so there is actually nowhere left to shit that isn’t where we eat. Like the asbestos pizza kid,
    we are consuming all sorts of contaminants in our food, mercury from coal fired plants, micro plastics, pesticides,
    and god knows what from the Fukushima disaster.
    Then there’s Anthropogenic Global Warming, an unfolding horror show so scary that millions of Americans and their
    elected representatives would rather whistle Dixie than admit that the atmosphere is filling up with dangerous levels
    of greenhouse gases from shit that needs to stay safely underground. It’s very scary, but even Carmella was able to act
    on her fear that the party couldn’t last for ever, and plan for the aftermath. One measures what one cares about, so
    we’ll know we’re beginning to take AGW seriously when the CO2 and CH4 numbers are shared on the news as
    frequently as the Dow Jones and the NASDAQ.
    That scene where Carmella gets the hospital phone call from Tony after having dozed off while researching
    properties in Panama City, Florida was another case of prescience from Chase. Hope she didn’t buy in 2007.
    She would have been underwater financially the next year, and then underwater environmentally after Hurricane
    Michael 10 years after that.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Emmanual Kreisman

      Merry Christmas everybody! But seriously, it’s Chase’s social commentary and prescience that I miss most. He got to the essence of the Bush 43 years pretty damn correctly, and all while he and we were in the middle of it, living it. It would be amazing to have a new series from him if it would confront who we are today. I don’t know that he could muster the energy and fortitude something like that must demand. Here’s to hoping Newark gives us all a lot to think about.

      Liked by 2 people

      • There are some real parallels between Newark in 1967 and America today, but I’m not really expecting Chase to focus on it. I’m still looking forward to the movie though..

        Liked by 1 person

        • I think the movie will disappoint a lot of people not because it will be bad but because it can’t explore the same things as the show did…in the sixties the mob was still at its zenith and the breakup of the old neighborhoods was not near complete….a totally different time….Tony did grow up I’m pampered suburban splendor like AJ did and didn’t have a mother like Carmela….he grew up infinitely rougher… I bet we see some serious racism in this movie….of a much more violent sort than the usually casual type of the show…I can’t wait for it but I do believe it will disappoint most….prequels almost always do….

          Liked by 2 people

    • Great points. The environmental dimension of the series is something most reviewers haven’t really touched upon, but I’m planning on focusing on it some more in my next write-up

      Liked by 1 person

    • Ron, you said two weeks more than a month ago. We don’t like tardiness. You spending all your time in chit chat rooms?

      Liked by 1 person

  27. Just amazing insight into a perfect piece of art. I watched this one again for probably the tenth time recently and am always blown away by the shots, the way the Vegas vacation somehow manages to be epic and intimate at the same time and how an eerily quiet Tony takes the audience along with him and then that moment in the desert where he transcends it all; TV, the fourth wall, life, death, time, morality, fiction and reality – Tony Soprano exists in one way or another.
    I also love how the lyrics to Are You Alright are so fitting to Christopher and Tony’s relationship and so heartbreaking and yet we just get the instrumental intro in the show. Only those who care to seek out the song after hearing the snippet get the full reward of the meaning behind the music.
    Thanks as always – it’s going to be a sad day when you reach the finale.

    Liked by 3 people

  28. It’s interesting how Tony told everyone he could about the branch that crashed through the baby seat in the back seat
    to highlight how potentially careless Chris would have been with his own daughter. In “College” S1E5, Tony actually placed
    Meadow in danger with his high speed chase weaving in and out of traffic on a two lane road trying to get FP’s
    license plate in New England.

    Liked by 3 people

  29. Dominic Rodriguez

    Thanks for your incredibly insightful reviews, as always. I like reading your interpretations almost as much (and sometimes even more) than I like watching the actual show. You’ve elevated this show so much for me with your meticulous attention to detail. I can’t wait for the next one 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  30. Great review for a great episode. The sound of Christopher choking/drowning in his own blood always makes me cringe!! Tony putting him out of his misery was pretty brutal. Why would he be driving while on drugs, pretty dumb move. Tony couldn’t deal with the aftermath so he heads to Vegas for some adventures; hot stripper, the mushrooms, marijuana, sex, and gambling, he realizes his luck has changed since Christopher is dead, I GET IT!!!!! Priceless!!!

    Liked by 2 people

  31. Hello Ron, just wanted to say what a joy your writing is, for me one of the great discoveries/enjoyments of 2019.
    What always bugs me about this episode is the disjunction between this and the previous one, where Tony and Chris’s relationship
    completely breaks down. There we see Chris is a pariah, no longer included in Tony’s inner circle or inner thoughts, but by this episode Chris is suddenly put back in the front line so he can be the sacrificial lamb. The magic beans are shaken, and Chris is back discussing strategy and even present at high level meetings. It really jars in such a quality series. Chris’s previously unmentioned girlfriend out west also feels like a clanging narrative device, surely the impossibly beautiful woman in question would have merited some boastful passing mention by Chris. Anyway, minor niggles.
    Am looking forward to your closing episodes. Perhaps your dissection of Made in America should end bafflingly in mid-sentence, and me and your fans can discuss what happened to you.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks Susan, good points.

      Lol I have actually toyed with the idea of closing out the site that way…

      Liked by 1 person

    • Do they ever talk about all the women they sleep with? Not really. I felt that this episode highlighted the fact of the way their relationship has deteriorated. It was very a banal and forced full of shit conversation. Life’s too short blah blah. I love James Gandolfini slowly realizing that Chris is high AGAIN…if they hadn’t had that accident, he would have had him killed anyway. Liability. Things are closing in for Tony…he senses the end is near, one way or the other.

      Liked by 3 people

  32. In Isabella, Christopher walks in all wide-eyed and wired (high?) wearing a terrible fishing hat. Sil hilariously asks “Who do we blame for the hat?” to which Chris responds “I was down the shore at Toms River on Denny Najarian’s boat.” That part of the scene always bugged me. It could be something as simple as a written-in excuse to hide a real-life issue (perhaps Michael Imperioli’s hair/head needed to be concealed for some reason). But, if not that, why is such a seemingly irrelevant line included? My first instinct was Chris is wearing a wire; we’ve seen wires hidden in hats before. Also, people add extra details when lying or being secretive. He could have said I was on Denny’s boat, he could have left it at “down the shore”…but he added Toms River. Why all of those details? The line seems so silly. Chase is too good to just throw in an inconsequential Jersey location for the sake of “authenticity”. I think these needless details are Chrissy’s way of overexplaining his stupid hat. I mention it here because of the Cleaver hat he wears to this meeting in Kennedy & Heidi–a meeting, based on how Tony is viewing him at the time, Chris probably shouldn’t have been attending. Did he ask or manipulate his way into being included so that his wired hat could get information? I never really looked into why Chris would be wearing a wire in Season 1–and why he might be high when doing his reconnaissance–but I’m curious if those insignificant, added details were a red-flag to Ron or anyone else. In an incredible coincidence, the only other line in this whole series that stood out to me in the exact same way was actually in Kennedy and Heidi! When Benny finally joins the guys in Tony’s room (when Walden is preoccupied with Carlo’s arrival), he practically interrupts Tony saying that he knows Benny and Chris were close with “I was making my collections and Anthony Maffei called me…Jesus.” Who cares what he was doing? Is this another throw-away line to needlessly explain his tardiness? Why are Chris (in Isabella) and Benny (in this episode) late? What does it do to have them come in after the others? I find it interesting that the only two lines in the series that stand out to me for this reason are linked in this way.

    Liked by 1 person

    • “I’ve been having good luck with Swiss basics moisturizing formula”
      “Vito, where the fuck is my tupperware?”
      “Jason Massucci was down in Tampa visiting his mother. He thought he saw Vito at a Jenny Craig, it turned out to be some other fat piece of shit.”
      “When you’re married you’ll understand the importance of fresh produce!”
      I’m not sure there’s another show with this level of throw-away, inconsequential lines.

      Liked by 3 people

      • “Jeff will clean it up.”
        “Make him clean it in his bare feet.”

        Liked by 1 person

      • Oh I agree! In fact, many throwaway lines make me smile no matter how many times I hear them. “I heard cauliflower’s $3.99 a pound.”, for example. But, the ones I referenced seemed to have more to them. The way they were done…I just think there’s more there.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Chris probably was lying about something in “Isabella”, we’ve seen how good he is at lying to misdirect attention, but it’s unlikely he
          was collaborating or wearing a wire in Season 1, that wouldn’t make sense given his “arc”. He was probably covering for his drug use.
          In K&H however, it wouldn’t surprise me at all if he had finally flipped after his humiliations in the previous episode, but if so would
          Chris be dumb enough to raise Tony’s antennae by playing “The Departed” CD? Maybe. He did make “Cleaver” after all, maybe he
          wanted to get caught by Tony “I know too much about the subconscious” Soprano.
          On the other hand, Chris didn’t look all that surprised at being suffocated by Tony. It was shocking and horrific for the audience, but
          Chris’s face didn’t communicate “Hey, Tony, what are you doing? How is this even possible!” at the enormous betrayal by his surrogate
          father. The scene in “American Me” where one brother strangled the other “Don’t look at me!” had more pathos. So maybe Chris
          had indeed flipped, and so passively accepted his punishment for being “disloyle to his capo”.

          Liked by 1 person

          • Yeah, I can’t quite come up with a reason for him to be wired in Isabella. I agree it doesn’t seem to make sense. It just felt so much like he was covering something with his way-too-detailed excuse for his tardiness. And that hat–why that hat? Haha! Actually, the hat could just be another unnecessary detail he added. I can see him being high and thinking of an excuse. “Where was I? Oh…I’ll say I was fishing! Wait, where? Toms River. Wait…with who? Denny Najarian. Wait…I should wear the hat!” Maybe that’s it! A high, paranoid Christopher needlessly covering every question that will neve be asked. Haha!

            Liked by 2 people

            • If I recall, Chris was alarmed at Tony’s obvious physical and mental dissolution in Isabella and was tailing him for that reason….he made up the story about why he was out there b/c Tony would have crushed him if he had known Chris had been following him….I’d have to watch it again, but I watched it again about a year ago, and that’s the impression I got…

              Liked by 2 people

  33. Hope we are getting a new one soon, and at the same time I dread it because its almost over.

    Liked by 1 person

  34. Ron: wondering what your thoughts are on:

    -I too, have read Tony being compared to a demon or “the devil ” in this episode (love your ending shot of the Devil on the casino game.) I think something to consider is the fact that David Chase often talks about how the characters within SopranoWorld spend most of their time lying to themselves…. I think Tony’s chance at Salvation after he was shot (“everyday is a gift” downgraded to “….but does it have to be fucking socks?” Choosing to be faithful to Carm, saying there’s enough garbage for everyone… etc etc) gets lost in the “fucking regularness of life” and not only is it business as usual for Tony, he’s actually worse than we have ever seen him before! So when he shouts from
    The mountaintop (so to speak lol) “I get it!” It’s quite the opposite, and I think we realize he is starting his own undoing/downfall

    Ron as an aside, longtime reader here, I’ve watched the series probably 100 times and I never ever caught “he choked on/by his own blood” comment and it blew me away. It’s what makes your analysis so brilliant, I sincerely, sincerely hope someone offers you a book deal out of this bc not only would I buy myself a book, I’d buy it for all the Soprano Fans I know!

    One final Quick question : do you think when you finish the episodes that you’ll maybe do (probably nothing this corny but just as an example) like “top 10 best Soprano Puns!” Or like maybe some kind of compilation of episodes? I know in the past I think you’ve said you plan on moving on, but you have such interesting insights you shouldn’t forget the Sopranos completely. Thanks again! (I do hope all my points don’t get lost in this long comment)

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks Steph, I’ve thought about doing some additional pages, but then I also think I’d prefer to make a clean break…

      Like

      • Also do you consider “Boca” a vacation episode?

        Like

        • Not really. The audience spent very very little time in Boca Raton, and I think the location was chosen just as a way to generate that ingenious, punning episode title.

          Liked by 1 person

          • 🎶“South of the border… down Mexico way. “ 🎶

            One last question Ron bc I’m turning into my own personal Paulie Walnuts … Something I have wondered from the first time I watched- does he pay for that sex, why or why not? I’m sure Chase left it vague on purpose but that drives me insane.

            And also I forget who pointed it out but what a great point that this was Tony taking one last thing from Chris- I think to expand on that he probably felt deep down perhaps that he was finishing his business with Adrianna …

            Liked by 2 people

            • Your own personal Walnuts, someone to hear your prayers, someone who’s there…

              I wondered too if Tony was paying to play…my own take on it is that he probably paid Sonya sometime at the beginning of their encounter, but then it turned into something deeper that didn’t require payment. No evidence for that, but that’s how I like to think it went down…

              Liked by 2 people

  35. This episode let’s us know how big of a player Tony truly is. As someone familiar with aviation, I find it astonishing that Tony’s Vegas contact is willing to offer Tony the use of Caesars’ jet without even being asked. To fly that plane like that, of that size (I am not totally sure the exact make and model but it the cabin is very large by business standards) would cost over $100,000 is fuel and maintenance costs. It’s not something to be used lightly for a single person. The Sopranos has scantly referenced Vegas in the past but it’s clear to me that Tony’s criminal enterprise extends far past what we are shown in the show on an daily basis. Tony has major pull with a big time casino, this is a far cry from a free helicopter ride which was begrudgingly given up by John Redclay. (I think that’s the name of the native American casino guy from season 4.) Chris obviously had spent significant time in Vegas too. Is Chase suggesting that Tony is actually a major player in the semi-legal gambling world and what he does in New Jersey is just kind of a front to his guys to make him seem like one of them? Is this also why Tony is so easily able to free up 600K for Carmela’s spec house lot or 200K to pay back Hesh seemingly instantaneously?
    To me this obvious Vegas pull ads to Tony’s mystique. 3 episodes from the show’s close we learn about an entirely different side of Tony’s business. Maybe he compartmentalizes his Vegas life and income stream from the rest of his life and business. Maybe the entire trip to Vegas is just a “trip” in Tony’s mind, an elaborate fantasy where Tony is playing someone he wishes to be, someone much earthier and powerful than he is in real life? I just fond the use of the rather large private plane more than a way for Chase to show us the Tony is making a relaxing transition west.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Whoa. With all due Regan; I think plenty of people are able to fly private, dependingi on the circles you run in. I’m sure they make a lot of money off Tony in one way or another, the idea that someone high up would call In the favor wasn’t that shocking to me.

      Liked by 2 people

    • You’re saying that he has immediate access to money to pay Hesh back. …so then why did he borrow it in the first place?

      Like

      • That’s kind of my point. This is conspiratorial but it seems like Tony has more money than he lets on, even to himself, so much so that it was worth it to pay Hesh the big to make himself appear worse off financially than he really is. Maybe the private jet is just part of who Tony is, the casino wants to keep a guy like him in their good graces, a retainer of sorts if they need any dirty work done. The expense of the private plane, especially that one just does’t add up. If you look closely, Tony’s big win at roulette is only about a 12K windfall, and he’s extremely happy about it. Earlier we see him drop (18K) on Meadow Gold and it really upsets him. We haven’t seen him gamble enough to justify that type of expense, like I said, unless there is something we just don’t know about. It makes the question of identity and all the mysteries of 6B stand out even more.

        Liked by 1 person

        • I might be misunderstanding but Tony doesn’t pay for most things. He didn’t pay for that private jet. Most OC guys never pay for anything. His business interests and his influence gets him free things. Of course he had the money to pay Hesh. I think he intended to pay him then got insulted that Hesh asked him about it. So he humiliated Hesh with the Vig and the veiled anti Semitic remarks.

          Liked by 3 people

          • Yeah, Annie that makes the most sense. The only way he’s actually paying for that jet is if we’re meant to believe he’s so sure he’s near the end of his life that he’s not concerned with dropping that kind of money anymore and I don’t think that moment comes until the final episode when he learns that Carlo has been flipped. Although the speed with which the fixer in Vegas starts taking notes and his question about whether all the guys are coming out
            leads me to believe that Vegas is supposed to be a trip the crew has made before but we just had never seen it.

            Liked by 2 people

        • Oh, I didn’t realize your idea was that he was acting as if he had less than he actually did. I get it now. I also hadn’t noticed how much his roulette winnings were; if it was only the amount you say, that is an interesting point. As someone with a degenerative gambling background, it isn’t always the money that makes a big win a big win. It’s the way it happens and the timing of it happening. I’ve had winners happen early in a game and instead of celebrating the early win, I would think “I wish I bet more” or “I wish I had taken better odds”. Yet, when I win on a buzzer-beater, that exact same win feels incredibly different. It also matters how much you’re up or down for the week, month, etc. When you’re on a bad streak like Tony was, just recognizing what you see to be a winner, betting on it and scoring–that’s the rush (Meadow’s horse, for example). It’s not the actual $12k or whatever. It’s more turning the momentum vs. another loss on the heap.

          Liked by 3 people

      • Because he can.

        Like

  36. Any ETA on the next episode recap?

    Like

  37. Tony gets shot in front of his wife just like John Kennedy, but the HBO audience never sees it, just like the Heidi game.

    Liked by 2 people

  38. Is the reason for the delay because of seething over our President being cleared of all charges? Need some more time to cope with that?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Haha no. I’m not convinced that even if Trump did everything Schiff and Nadler purported him to do, it would warrant removal from office. That’s something that should be reserved for the most serious and egregious of offenses. But I am disappointed (though not surprised) that Senate Republicans blocked witnesses and documents. Mitch McConnell, like Tony Soprano, cares much more about protecting himself and his famiglia than he cares about truth, transparency, justice, accountability, rule-of-law…

      So: disappointed, yes, but seething, no.

      Liked by 1 person

    • C’mon, people sit in chairs.

      Liked by 2 people

  39. Mary Cris Kohn

    I’m watching The Sopranos for the first time ever, and this episode is the first one that made me look up commentary. I’m so glad to have found this blog! Your insights are amazing… Thank you so much. I haven’t finished reading all the comments here, so maybe I’m repeating something someone else said or touched upon. (If so, I apologize.) It seems to me that, “I get it” refers to the fact that Tony feels like he’s on top of the world/successful again when he has reverted completely to his hedonistic lifestyle and left all his responsibilities and meaningful relationships on the east coast. He has finally conquered one of Chris’s women and he’s winning at gambling again. I haven’t seen the last three episodes, but I think he’s done with trying to be a better human.

    Liked by 3 people

  40. I’m still finding meat on this K&H bone. A few more tendons:
    After smothering Christopher, and completing the 911 call, Tony is on the ground with his face tilted up to the rain. In
    a reverse angle shot in the Nevada desert, he is again sitting on the ground looking up when he “gets it”.
    After he wins at roulette we watch Tony from above, we know what he’s done, he is on his back, laughing as Sonya tends to him,
    similarly, after he decides not to have the coach tortured & killed in “Boca” (S1E9), we see Meadow silently watching Tony
    from the balcony above. He is on his back, laughing, as Carmella receives his “I didn’t hurt nobody”. Continuing the balcony
    theme, after resolving to escape to Vegas, we see a very un Romeo-like (almost King David-like) Tony creepily lingering on
    Chris’s widow from the balcony above as she takes out her breast to feed Caitlin. Does he already know what he wants to do?
    Meanwhile, just like Kennedy & Heidi do, Tony’s son faces a moral test of his own when a Somali cyclist somersaults into
    SopranoWorld. Prior to this short but densely packed scene, AJ is feeling pretty good. He was “wired” the night of Victor’s
    de-toeing, shared a laugh with Jason P. when they spotted Victor on crutches at school, and seemed to relish the idea of
    having a frat bro force an unseen cleaner to pick up broken glass in his bare feet – this last while AJ awaited deer meat.
    The bicyclist badly misreads the situation by thinking he’s engaging with reasonable people who can navigate fault,
    responsibility, and empathy. (Reminds me of the civilian Vito kills for adhering to car insurance protocol).
    But Jason G. casts himself as the victim faster than Weinstein whipped out his pity-walker, and egged on by Jason P.,
    he winds up and pitches ye old hoary slur against the “angry black man”. The Somali student argues back, tragically,
    futilely presenting evidence that he is a man of substance, but working and going to school marks you as a sucker in
    Sopranoworld unless you’re “majoring in cash, minoring in ass”. Jason G., switches up and pitches “terrorist…”. Evidently
    his view of Somalia is limited to “Black Hawk Down” since “Captain Phillips” wasn’t out yet, otherwise it might have been
    “pirate…”! The 3rd frat bro coldly cuts off any illusions that individual particulars make any difference whatsoever with
    “Either way, you’re in the wrong neighborhood”. When Jason G. shoves the cyclist, AJ fails his moral test but passes
    his SopranoWorld test by shoving him back into the fray with a “Get the fuck away”. It’s gonna be the emergency room
    for the young student, a very expensive medical bill, and a totaled bike run over by yet another driver who fails to stop
    or call for help.
    We never see the Somali man again, but for AJ, this is going to “linger on your head”. Next time we
    see AJ, he’s depressed, generalizing, and deflecting the therapist’s question of “What specifically are you talking about?”.
    Who’s the victim here? Tough call, after all AJ may never be able to enjoy venison steaks again! With their shared issues
    of gamblers’ phalanges, meat, violence, fear of responsibility, and fainting, it’s too bad Tony & AJ never have a real sit down,
    they may have helped each other.
    PS – the actor credited as “Cyclist”, Bambadjan Bamba, is from Cote d’ Ivoire in West Africa, (that’s pretty darn far from
    Somalia, but maybe Chase was adding an extra level of “Either way,…” with his choice of casting).
    He has an interesting story here: https://www.defineamerican.com/video/bamba/
    Alright, who’s gonna crack the bones and suck out the marrow – Livia?

    Liked by 3 people

    • FThatParakeet

      See, Ron? You make us wait this long and this happens. Please send the latest before we have to hear how Robert Iler is Irish yet cast as an Italian.

      Liked by 1 person

      • LOL Parakeet! Don’t blame Ron, I take full responsibility for my comments! But since you bring up Robert Iler, he’s
        playing a fully assimilated ‘Medigan, so it doesn’t matter if he’s of German, Irish, Polish or Italian ancestry. As long as AJ
        doesn’t have a brogue or a strongly ethnic face that sticks out, Iler’ll do. The cyclist character on the other hand is a Somali immigrant,
        but neither his accent nor his appearance is Somali. That sticks out because I have Somali friends from my time in Minneapolis
        (large Somali community), and they are easily distinguishable from West African immigrants by appearance and accent. Africa is
        huge and diverse, but I wouldn’t expect too many viewers to notice the mismatch, so if Chase intentionally used that to cram an extra
        esoteric layer of irony into this short but weighty scene, it’s brilliant. We know this is just the sort of meta playfulness Chase enjoys, as he
        explored it in the James Caan & Iron Eyes Cody sub plot (S4E3), and he also shows the reverse of the coin when the monk says “To a
        certain extent, all Caucasians look alike.” in “Mayham” (S6E3).

        Liked by 1 person

        • FThatParakeet

          Very interesting. I always find it fascinating when a certain area of the US becomes home to a large community from elsewhere. Especially one in the middle of the USA. If coming from Somalia to the US, why head west until you hit Minneapolis? I find that interesting. In this case–and I admit I only “know” of Africa what I’ve seen in movies–but for them to pick such a cold climate fascinates me as well. I did have to laugh because for a second I thought “Wow, I had no idea about the different accents from different regions of Africa.” But then I thought “Hell, I’m not even sure where a lot of the accents from America come from either.” Haha! At least my ignorance is consistent and not just aimed towards other lands.

          Liked by 2 people

  41. I hear you.

    Like

  42. In the meantime…

    Liked by 1 person

  43. What about the remaining episodes?

    Like

  44. “46 long” was out four days ago and “DAA” will be tomorrow.

    Like

  45. My post was about “Talking Sopranos”

    Just to be clear

    …by the way, what do you think about the podcast so far, Ron?

    Liked by 1 person

  46. The scene where the asbestos is dumped in the meadowlands is full of so much symbolism. I have been watching the series late at night with the subtitles , and when the absestos is dumped , the subtitles say something like ‘duck noises’. As such, the dumping is a metaphor for Tony’s poisoning of his family, as the ducks are a call back to the first episode.

    The end of the series is about a lot of things, but one primary theme is how Tony has destroyed his family. Even accounting for the family’s hereditary depression issues, AJ is a spoiled brat who Carm and Tony actively turn away from rejecting materialism and seeking a higher meaning to life. Getting him the film producer gig at the end means, at best, he’s going to be a sub-little carmine esque figure. Carm has, of course, sold her soul to the devil by this point – the almost faustian pack she makes with Tony at the end of season 5 to get the spec house in return for reconciliation finally dooms her as a character. But – and this sometimes goes unremarked – Tony has also poisoned Meadow by this point too. She has turned away from a career in medicine to law, and it’s clear that she is on the pathway to becoming a mob lawyer, given her reactions to the supposed ‘persecution’ of her father and his associates in s4 and s5. Of course, Tony’s death would be the final scarring moment to his family, but by that point he has already poisoned them all, as he chooses to accept who is and fully commit in the back-half of season 6: an essentially evil man, even if he would only admit to this while off his tits on Peyote.

    Liked by 3 people

  47. Ron, have you commented anywhere on the connection, if any, between Meadow’s name and the Meadowlands?

    Liked by 2 people

  48. I’m late to the party here. I haven’t seen this episode in a while, so forgive the lack of details.

    One thing that struck me on my last (probably 8th) re-watch was the reason for Tony’s trip to Vegas.

    I believe he went with the sole intent of sleeping with Sonya. We all know that Tony would have slept with Adriana had their car not crashed. Well, now he has killed Christopher he can claim his prize. Of course, Adriana is dead so that’s no possible. What about his old goomah, Juliana? She does show up at the funeral, despite not appearing since S6P1 (iirc). Things are still frosty between Tony and Juliana so that’s a dead end. What about Kelli? Tony looks absolutely gobsmacked as Kelli walks into the funeral home. You can see the cogs in his head turning. Immediately before leaving for Vegas Tony looks down at Kelli and sees her breastfeeding the baby. Immediate cut to him on the plane. It was this strange balcony shot followed by the hard cut that finally made these connections click. Had Kelli not been a new mother I have no doubt Tony would have tried to seduce her.

    Christopher didn’t have any other relationships (some ONSs sure), so this gave Chase the opportunity to introduce a new mistress in a new location.

    When Tony returns from Vegas he says something like “I had to take care of some of Christopher’s business”. Except he didn’t (to our knowledge) conduct any business whatsoever in Vegas, he just banged Christopher’s girl and took peyote.

    I’ve not seen the above mentioned in discussion of this episode so I’d be interested to know if anyone else had similar thoughts.

    A

    Liked by 3 people

    • I never really gave that much thought to Tonystrip except to get away. Some people gave also commented on him sleeping with the girl, but I don’t think she was his girlfriend. I thought she was a prostitute putting herself through school or something. My opinion of Tony looking at Chris’ wife’s feeding the baby seemed to be contemptuous. Even when she came in the funeral home with the dark glasses, I think he thought the whole thing was over dramatic and the Jackie Onassis remark was more of a disbelief because Christopher was no John F. Kennedy and shouldn’t be mourned like him. I don’t think he had any remorse at all about killing Chris and he views the wife and baby as another thing he has to take care of monetarily. I think he slept The Vegas girl because he sleeps with anyone.
      Basically what I am trying to say in this rambling paragraph is that Tony has no remorse for killing Chris, only contempt for his wife and annoyance that he will have to take care of them. He needed to get away because the grieving was getting on his nerves. The drugs and the sex are just par for the course. That’s my take.

      Liked by 2 people

    • I agree that Tony’s gazing at Kelli was a pivotal moment in the episode. I didn’t take it to be sexual as much as another prompt for Tony to escape the strictures of his New Jersey “family” life. He is exhausted and exasperated by having to maintain a caring facade. On top of that, the iconography of his family (of the show?) seems to conflate babies with death, their innocence evoking the ultimate fall from grace. In this moment, he chooses to revel in the artifice of “Sin City” (and enjoy some sin) rather than be re-reminded of Christopher and his legacies.

      Liked by 1 person

  49. manny44ameritechnet

    There is a moment in one of the last episodes where Agent Harris warns Tony that Phil Leotardo is making a move against him and the people around him. Tony brushes it aside ( “alleged,” he says )and keeps eating his sandwich. It’s breathtaking because I always read it as a display of how little he cares about his life at this point. It drove me nuts when the last episode aired and one of the popular interpretations was that it was meant to show how Tony would spend the rest of his life in a state of anxiety about getting whacked and that the suspenseful editing Chase uses was meant to convey that. But Tony is not worried at all in Holsten’s. He has the same dopey look on his face he had when he was eating his gabagool talking to Agent Harris. Tony is finished before Holsten’s. His intention in going to Vegas is as you said two-fold, to get away from the mourners and to finally take revenge for Chris sleeping with Juilianna and for not getting to sleep with Adriana. That’s pretty fucking grim…even for this show. The profound sorrow of Kelly at the wake and the tenderness of her giving milk to the baby are repugnant to Tony. He’s reached full-on Livia levels of unhappiness. I think you’re right that that is the initial catalyst for the trip.

    Liked by 1 person

  50. Was there ever a reference to Sonya in any of the earlier episodes?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Not to my knowledge.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Nope not that I recall either

        Like

      • Please forgive me if this idea has already been discussed, but it spontaneously hit me (prior to my morning coffee no less!) that Tony in his « I get it » position of embrace to the sun, Sonya in black and the black car in the otherwise barren, red desert can be said to look like they are in hell, at least as described by Christians. The famous line in Milton’s Paradise Lost came to mind- « Better to reign in hell than serve in heaven ». A glimpse of an idea, but Tony truly appears to accept his transcendence into a fully committed force of pollution and corruption without remorse. Asbestos slides into the water as thousand miles away he fully embraces what he is, a force of destruction in the natural world (remember AJ’s lecture) and a polluter of lives.

        Ps, Ron, you rock.

        Liked by 2 people

        • Thanks. Great take. For me, that landscape is too gorgeous to seem infernal or evil in any way (I’ve always found severe landscapes to be quite beautiful), but I can definitely understand how the severity of that landscape can be seen as something hellish…

          Liked by 1 person

  51. This is the episode where the series long experiment of the Two Tonys ends as Soprano commits to his evil side.
    I find the rocky desert scene at the end of the episode to invoke the imagery of a hellscape. At Tony’s side is the visage of a kindred sinner, lost in her delirium. The obese devil face inside the casino is another pointer towards hellish imagery. Tony with his disheveled appearance, calls to the viewers mind his near death Limbo between heaven and hell as Kevin Finntery.

    The hellish orange-red color scheme of this episode implies that Tony took a turn for the worst as he doubles back on the one thing Melphy felt encouraged by, his restraint in sleeping with Chrissy’s then girlfriend Adrianna. In this episode we instead see Tony peeking at Chrissy’s widow as she attempts to breast feed her child. Old Tony might have focused on the fact that Christopher’s daughter is now fatherless, but current Tony decides to find himself a substitute for his lust in Christopher’s abandoned Goomar. Gone are the morals against sleeping with another mans woman that he once shared with Valentina aka “being where Ralph has been”.

    Where as Old Tony was truly conflicted, New Tony wants to confess his true self to the world and hates having to pretend to be a better person than he is. We the viewer have been strung along to this point on the fact that Tony’s honesty in therapy could lead to his salvation. Unfortunately, the honesty Tony once valued is shattered as he blatantly lies to Melphy in therapy, yet dreams to the contrary. Tony is openly rebelling against his subconscious and there is no going back. And as he yelled out in the final shot, Tony gets it.

    On another note:

    I enjoyed the transition between AJ talking to his therapist and the expectation of a new prescription, to an abrupt shot of Tony accepting Peyote. According to the season 6 opening, AJ is supposed to be “KA” the double, so it’s interesting seeing his reality and Tony’s parallel each other in an interesting way.

    We see Carmela looking at florida housing. Both Adrianna and Eugene wanted to escape the mob by running away to florida. Carmine actually managed it.
    We see Christopher’s Cleaver hat with a button on top curiously similar to the mic the feds installed on other such hats in previous episodes.
    Tony reveals he had suspicions Chrissy could potentially flip to the feds.

    Carmela repeatedly and somewhat awkwardly brings up Christopher’s relationship with Adrianna, all but ignoring his current wife. Chrissy’s former Goomar does the same. Perhaps the show wanted us to focus on that expired relationship. The relationship with Adrianna had one floating plot thread. Chrissy choosing the mob over the feds and the witness protection program.

    I personally believe Christopher was mic’d up and recorded the dealings between Tony and Phil. Chris was nervous at first, then grew sympathetic to Tony after talking about appreciating every day as a gift. Chrissy turned up the music to drown out any more info, only to fall prey to his drug addiction for the final time. The cocaine played a role in the crash.

    Here’s to the thought of Carmela taking what money she had set aside and moving to Florida after the end.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Great insights. I also thought it was interesting that after a long losing streak Tony finally started winning big in Las Vegas. I think this added to him understanding that he was going to benefit from abandoning “good Tony”, and “getting it”.

      Liked by 2 people

    • Yeah it would be fascinating to see what became of the soprano clan…Tony was so bound to tradition and lamenting how it’s been lost….yet he was born and reared in Newark when being Italian still meant something…his kids will no doubt lead lives so far removed from that experience as to render it finally dead and gone….they will be medigans…..this was always a dominating narrative in the show….matter of fact I always felt it tapped the same vein as the first Rocky did all those years ago…this sense of a bygone notion of “Italian-ness”—-when Italians were more insular, more a struggling group, boxed, were criminals…looked somewhat different, still were not always fully accepted as whites….a lot of people yearn for that…they wanted their heavyweight champ to be Italian in the 70s and they wanted crime to be run by Italians in early 2000s…but times change and people move on…just like that scene when butchie meanders into Chinatown from little Italy not even realizing it….nothing you can do about it…

      Liked by 1 person

    • You just made me just wonder if that devil face in the casino was also an homage to the episode of the twilight zone with William shatner when he becomes transfixed by the fortune telling devils head…I know chase likes twilight zone and there a few references to the show in various episodes….and Frankly I still believe that the test dream and the Kevin finerty episodes seriously could be standalone tz episodes…..Hell, there is one episode where a guy wakes up in bed with a woman not his wife and then wakes up to tell his wife about the dream and it’s a different wife than both of them! Doesn’t that sound like Tony waking up in bed with old man lupertazzi and having his identity crisis?

      Liked by 1 person

  52. All those circles in the scene at the casino when Tony and Sonya were on peyote…. the circles were everywhere, it’s mesmerizing!
    On a rewatch I’m seeing it start with that one circular light right over his head in the beginning in the bathroom and he was puking his guts out. From there the circle theme continues, from the random suitcase wheels lazily rolling around the circular fountain at the casino, to the rug pattern, the light with the demon over the slot machines, the roulette wheel, the logos on the dealers’ outfits, the chips, even Sonya’s freakin’ hoop earrings….circles everywhere! I know you’ve said it is a callback to the dream possibly and the Buddhist brushstroke. I am kind of torn because I agree to an extent but then wonder if it’s associated with the 7th circle of hell in some ways.
    The entire theme feels like a downward spiral, especially given the artificial setting. But then at the end as they watch the rising sun, that final “circular” theme flashes again to seal it and he exclaims that he gets it. I don’t know what to make of any of it either except that the buzzing hum at the start and then the flash at the end from the sun makes me think of the purgatorial dream/coma/alternate reality episodes with the wildfire and the beacon of light. I wonder if Tony’s just made peace with how much of a complete asshole he really is? I realize it’s overly simplistic maybe, but frankly the setting of his little outing to Vegas has zero redemptive value , the ostentatious and artificial setting, the escapism, the intrusion into Christopher’s sort of “oasis” with Sonya, the gluttony, gambling, the complete lack of remorse…. I cannot buy him seeing interconnectedness, unless maybe that it’s all about him and the circle is how the world should revolve around him. This whole season especially the later part is where Tony sheds the final snake skin of his redeemable qualities. And how he seems fairly at peace with it actually. I always liked Tony in a weird way before this season. Always tried to give him the benefit of the doubt. I feel we all did, and that was the point. And now we’re kind of being made aware that we were trying to be on the side of someone who really doesn’t want anyone on his side. Not truly. He wants to be the lone ranger, the strong silent type, alone. He doesn’t want us or need us. He has no interest in being understood, he just wants to be who he is , without the albatross around his neck of morality, responsibility, or compassion.
    It seems by the way so horrifying to me to see something like peyote used in such a lurid, obscene setting. I mean who the hell am I to judge. But yeah, the comments you write about Chase’s observation with there being a kind of sacredness to the experience is really lost and wasted on someone like Tony. It kind of is funny though because it brings me back to my early 20s in the 90s when I dabbled with mushrooms and acid. Every experience HAD to be spiritually motivated, otherwise I felt “dirty” somehow. It’s naive and quite idealistic. But I really got a visceral sense of being grossed out watching Tony have his vapid little trip. He wants to escape and feel change but does not want to work for it, and doesn’t want in-depth experiences to actually effect change him over the long term. He has “tried” to figure it out in his own superficial way (even using therapy) and realizes that he cannot truly get away from his life, as he refuses true change. Like Christopher. Like Vito. The extent of his getting away is something quite superficial lacking in any kind of depth. He had more wonder and openness on his face feeding the ducks in the family pool in the first season – talk about “regularness of life” having more depth and meaning!
    Anyway. Amazing write up and I love love love reading your analyses of this show and only discovered this in the past few weeks. It’s making me revisit The Sopranos in a much different way, and I enjoy it. Thank you!

    Liked by 2 people

    • manny44ameritechnet

      “He wants to escape and feel change but does not want to work for it, and doesn’t want in-depth experiences to actually effect change him over the long term.” I think that’s Chase’s final statement on Tony…and maybe every other person in the show(?) and humanity writ large I suppose. I sympathize with the difficulty of change. The ego is a tricky fucker to kill. The vapidity and emptiness of the Vegas/Peyote trip is recaptured but with an abyss of sadness added on at the Holsten’s table. And I’m not even referring to the cut to black possibility of Tony’s murder in front of his family. It’s the emptiness in the interaction between Carm and Tony. Edie Falco plays the scene with no emotion. She’s given up too I suspect. Energetically, spiritually, romantically and psychologically. Really good comment whackworth.

      Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks whackworth, great comment. For the record, the Buddhism reference is just something that occurred to me on my most recent rewatch, I don’t believe that Chase was thinking along those lines. Regarding Tony’s drug use, your description of it is quite accurate and insightful but I don’t know if it was a completely vapid experience for him—I think part of the emptiness of it was simply that it’s still a novel experience for Tony, he doesn’t yet have the expertise to approach it in a spiritual way (and of course he’s also unpracticed at approaching anything in a very spiritual way). Sordid, vapid drug use may have its place in the world—I think there’s a time and a place for everything. But unfortunately for Tony, he needed something more than that now and he wasn’t able to get it. And not getting that spiritual food that he needed probably led, as Manny mentions above, to the inevitably tragic tone of the dinner at Holsten’s in the final hour.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Fantastic Autopsy on Kennedy & Heidi, so firstly, thank you so much for your insiteful commentary that has added so much to my rewatches.
      To poster whackworth, I totally agree. I think what he screams to the universe that he now ‘gets’ is an unconflicted sense of of his genuine, superficial self. He’s murdered Christopher guiltlessly, and struggles with pulling off a believable mourning. He once called himself ‘A fat crook from New Jersey’ in a session with Melfi. That is laughingly reductionist. He is the embodiment of an antisocial personality, and will come home from Vegas and put his mask back on and do his best acting. He has transcended his conflicts about truly wanting to feel, not just impersonate being a nice guy. He ends his arc as a self actualized individual. He realizes his mother’s cruelty is irrelevant, as he explains to Melfi on his return. The devil on the slot machine, the sudden realization that roulette operates like the solar system he explains, and therefore can be predicted. He can even defeat chaos. Most importantly, that streak of good luck and intuition that has gotten Tony out of a lot of trouble throughout the series has returned (or seems to). He wins at an incredibly random game and takes it as evidence of the return of that luck. Melfi’s ex-husband called it early on in the series: ultimately he’ll destroy the straw house he has built and reveal his base criminality. At the end of the day, he’s evil. When I first heard that, I thought ‘good’ and ‘evil’ were not concepts used in the psychiatric community and that Richard was out of line. Isn’t that a moral judgement? Apparently not. He ties up loose ends, Junior in a horrible state hospital, his sister on her own and likely to struggle financially and most likely grow into Livia. Carm most likely wont have much money herself if he does die. His son is on his way to becoming another mob son, like Carmine Luppertazzi, Porn Impresario. Meadow will be married to the mob soon.
      I don’t want to make a call on his final moments, but after all that, I can admit that I don’t hate this evil man who really was so disgusting in Season 6. In those final moments, I just see a Dad and husband accepting whatever is to come.

      Liked by 3 people

      • Thanks Celine. “Defeat chaos”—I like that. That’s what we all want to do, but the struggle is more pointed for Tony because chaos is potentially waiting for him around every corner…

        Like

      • manny44ameritechnet

        What I love the most as the privileged viewer is the incredible amount of luck Tony was the beneficiary of throughout the series without knowledge of it. Multiple botched assassination attempts, an informant’s croaking at just the right time, Federal wires being neutralized at just the right moment, There’s no question Tony had a ” great wind carrying him across the sky ” or across the series. Yet it isn’t until he hits at roulette 3 (?) times in a row and gets a clean opportunity to kill Chris and bang his mistress that he feels in the Universes good graces again. You are right Celine, we see everyone’s destiny in that diner scene. Good God Chase knocked it out of the park.

        Liked by 1 person

  53. Thank you, guys. I am so happy to be engaging with people who are alert and interested in this 🙂
    I was actually writing more about this whole experience of escapism and change, but felt I was rambling on way too much so I cut it short. But I wanted to finish it off to write that in the larger scheme of things, Tony’s experience isn’t really all that vastly different from any of us in terms of escapism generally – you’re right, he does want to know more , it wasn’t meant to be vapid for him. And most of us have these responsibilities and have only a very limited time to get a sense of something larger than us on vacation or getaways or whatever, and then “life” as it were forces back into its at times clenched fist. We can only experience those real epiphanies as large as they are a little at a time in little nibbles every now and again. How we integrate them into the day to day is I think the ultimate sign of maturity. And it’s really easier said than done.
    I think my cynicism toward Tony’s experience has more to do with his lack of interest and being so entirely detached from his own action… to where he can have such an experience and not have things like, I dunno, MURDER, come up on his conscience. How do you go down that rabbit hole with the body of someone who was supposed to be like a son to you, right there, and be so relieved repeatedly? It didn’t seem like there was anything beneath the relief or annoyance, like it was simple a protective layer of something else – I mean, maybe there was, but it felt like this was where he simply lost interest and wanted to get away. It says a lot about him obviously.
    In a lot of ways Tony is one of the most seemingly self reflective characters here (along with Carmela), with genuine struggle, etc.
    Yet it’s true, not every experience needs to be some kind of earth-shattering be-all end-all trip. Tripping for the sake of tripping, here’s a time and place for it. But the absolute timing and showing of that trip felt very deliberate. With it coming in so late in the show, to me , it does say something about him and his evolution as a character … he wants to know but doesn’t really, really want to know. He wants to feel. But not really. He’s like Father Intinola, wanting only a ‘whiff’s it, though in his case it’s spiritual and emotional. It’s a flirtation but largely negligent for the most part.
    So.
    I’m left with a frustration about Tony, to where I feel slightly duped for taking his “side”. I’m sure this is fairly deliberate. We’ve all been duped to an extent. I got similar vibes in Breaking Bad, but Walter White was always non apologetic , never really sentimental. Tony’s a rare creature though. He is sentimental. It makes it easy actually to feel for him. I don’t feel bad for him for any kind of specific situation happening making me do so, I just feel for him because he really doesn’t seem like such a bad guy.
    With the immediate following episode, Melfi ejects him entirely after that semi intervention at her own dinner and I had a really startling realization with it …. Is Melfi’s office completely circular? I don’t think I’ve ever seen a corner in that room. Is it supposed to represent Tony giving her the “runaround” for years, as she’s unable to “corner” him? It’s kind of interesting seeing that after that infinite circular theme…

    Liked by 2 people

  54. Just re-watched this episode last night – a connection I made immediately was the passing headlight after the car crash (when Tony is murdering Chris) really seems to mirror the movement of the light from the beacon Tony sees in coma world. It struck me as Chris’ beacon, and he, right down the embankment from it, is at its base – entering his Inn at the Oaks as he is killed. If that’s too far, at the very least the aesthetic seems similar enough to warrant a connection.
    I’ve really enjoyed reading these along with my most recent re-watch, thanks for all the efforts!

    Liked by 2 people

  55. Came looking specifically for this episode, great write up Ron! You have a way of catching many little details most don’t.
    I have always felt a little differently about the meaning of this episode and the Vegas trip in particular, what Tony ‘gets’ etc. Since the very beginning of 6A, with the coma dream-that-wasn’t-a-dream’, those flashing beacons have always to me represented the idea of redemption. When Tony was in the coma, the beacon was a flickering sign of life that kept him connected with the real world, but more importantly a way for him to go back and get a second chance at life (to “smell the roses”). Ultimately he does go back and spends a handful of episodes half-heartedly trying to be a better person, but as we know he loses his grip on this chance at redemption and becomes worse than ever.
    Now, in Kennedy And Heidi, Tony sees this beacon in passing 3 times I believe: on the road above after the car crash, the light above in the bathroom, and in the desert at the end. This episode, to me, is where Tony really loses any chance he ever had at redemption. By the end of the episode, he has murdered Christopher in cold blood and he has given up on the idea of even needing redemption. When Tony sees the beacon each time in this episode, it’s like he is seeing redemption finally slip away. A brief reminder of a moral epiphany he can no longer recognise.
    Then he takes peyote, and he ‘gets’ something. This obviously is very open for interpretation as Chase usually intends, but here’s what I see. Tony has been on a terrible losing streak for 3-4 episodes going into this, heavy financial woes. In typical self-hating fashion, he seems to have wondered at different points in those episodes if it is karma, some kind of universal retribution for all he has done. On his peyote trip, he sees the roulette table and he says “It’s the same principle as the solar system”. Roulette is the ultimate game of pure chance; sure, there are strategies, but it ultimately comes down to the luck of the spin no matter who you are or what you have done. Tony’s epiphany to me is that the solar system, the universe, works the same way. Without rhyme or reason, Tony gets 3 huge wins in a row to solve his financial/gambling woes. The universe doesn’t care what kind of person you are, nor what you’ve done. “He’s dead!” Tony exclaims in joy – it doesn’t matter that he killed Christopher, nor anything else has done – the universe isn’t going to punish him because that’s not how it works.
    With the above in mind, and your discussions of the active vs passive nihilist theories, I couldn’t help but think Tony’s epiphany was a transition from the depressive passive nihilist he has been, to an active nihilist (in the sense that he realises his mother was right in a way, “it’s all a big nothing”, but that that means he can essentially do what he wants in the world without karmic retribution to worry about). The world as a big ball of nothing filled with opportunities for a sociopath like him.
    As a result, Kennedy and Heidi to me represents Tony’s slamming the door shut for good on redemption. There’s no payback coming for his moral misdeeds, the universe doesn’t care. He is free.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Very solid take. Also, if Tony reads the roulette wheel as representing the randomness of the universe, it would be a true revelation for him because he is someone who has tended to see things with a black-and-white, “in this house it’s 1954” simplicity. The idea that the world is complex and chaotic could really feel like an epiphany to him in that stoned state..

      Liked by 2 people

  56. I just rewatched this as part of our lockdown rewatch. For me it’s the first time I’ve watched it since the original run, for my wife it’s the first time she’s seen it.
    I had been looking forward to this episode since we began rewatching and it did not disappoint. There is definitely a sense of Chase challenging the audience to come to their own conclusions. The episode itself is a beautiful canvas.
    Ron, your blog has added so much value to the rewatch and I’ve discovered things I wouldn’t have for close to without SA. I look forward to the remaining episodes but with serious trepidation as I am dangerously close to the edge of where your recaps end. Sadly I don’t think my wife will let us wait until you’ve posted the remaining entries.
    Sincere thanks for adding to the experience of rewatching what I am now certain is the greatest television show of all time.

    Liked by 2 people

  57. quackonbothsides

    In the following episodes Melfi finally (about time!) realises Tony has merely been incorporating the lessons he’s learned in psychoanalysis for his own sociopathic gain and to manipulate others. Any desire to use therapy to change and genuinely reflect is long gone. In this episode I see a parallel — on his drug trip Tony twists the important lessons he may have learned from his coma dream and the scientist in season 6a, so that these philosophies fit into a framework where he can continue being as selfish and murderous as possible.

    Solar flare aside, the connected circles all sit in the very fake environment of Vegas: the carpets, the roulette wheel, alongside imagery of the flashing devil and a cheap facade of Italy (one of the slot machines says Pompeii, in stark contrast to the real beauty of Italy when Tony actually visited). He thinks that by murdering Chris he’s now on a winning streak at the tables.

    But the real ‘everything is connected’ lesson Tony should have learned is how the asbestos ends up dumped in the lake with the duck sounds. It’s significant here that this scene is in nature in contrast to Vegas and with the direct connected callback to episode 1. Tony’s actions do have real world consequences, but he refuses to face up to the reality… instead his false revelation gives him comfort that the universe is rewarding him for murdering a family member.

    This episode and the ending is as dark as hell.

    Liked by 2 people

  58. I like Gregs take.. “The universe doesn’t care what kind of person you are, nor what you’ve done. “He’s dead!” Tony exclaims in joy – it doesn’t matter that he killed Chris, nor anything else hes done – the universe isn’t going to punish him because that’s not how it works.” Chaos & luck. Reminds me of this picture here.. Coincidentally the top picture kinda looks like a young Tony:
    https://i.kym-cdn.com/photos/images/facebook/001/621/739/8c0.png
    I’m also glad you took a deep dive into the environmental aspect here.
    I hate to add to the pile of over 200 comments but wanted to mention a little connection between the bathroom scene here and the scene at the end of “Sacrimoni Request”. Both scenes have Tony vomiting into a toilet. In Sacrimoni Request, the camera is placed above the bathroom for a birdseye view.. So we look down onto Tony as his face is in the toilet.. & now here we look up with Tony into the light. I guess another connection to the two episodes would be Tony’s devilish smile he has when looking in the mirror before he vomits into the toilet again.. & the smiling devil Tony sees in the casino. Oh & the birdseye camera angle is also present here in this episode when he’s laying in the casino.
    1. the beacon light, 2. chasing it (whatever “it” may be) & 3. Tony’s comment in the next episode, “you have these thoughts.. and you almost grab “it”.. and pfft”.. I’m not sure how but i’ve always felt these three things all connect in some way. “When I was a child I caught a fleeting glimpse out of the corner of my eye.. I turn to look but it was gone, I cannot put my finger on it now.. The child is grown, the dream is gone”. Whatever “it” was, is what I believe Tony “gets”.

    Liked by 2 people

  59. Great autopsy here. I have a few more thoughts.
    1. After being a coma, Tony finds some new mantras, namely, “every day is a gift,” and, “you go about in pity for yourself…” The former affirms blessing, the latter, damning, and Tony consistently abuses these sentiments, be it with Dr. Melfi, Carm, the kids, or just about anyone else. Again, the former enables Tony’s hedonism, while the latter ensures justification for retaliation. This leads me to talk about Tony’s newfound religiosity.
    2. Tony’s killing of Chris parallels the Biblical Binding of Isaac. Tony is “like a Father” to Chris where Abraham is Isaac’s actual father. God tests Abraham by commanding him to sacrifice Isaac. Abraham obeys but an angel intervenes before the killing. Tony, on the other hand, seems to receive the command from himself, revealing his despotic will. Surely Tony thinks that Chris pities himself, a fact which will make Tony increasingly angry with Chris over time. The angel, if there exists one in the Soprano Universe, is disregarded. However, Chris pleads with Tony, similar to the angel/messenger calling out to Abraham, saying “Tony, Tony…you gotta’ help me.” The sad irony is that Chris is worried that he could lose his (driver’s) license, not his life.
    2a. In the Biblical story, Abraham finds a ram that has been snagged in a bush and sacrifices it instead of his son. The suggestion could be made that Tony sees Chris as a mere animal, worthy of sacrifice. The scene is cold; Tony shows no emotion when killing Chris. To Tony, murder is duty. He offers up some justifications after the fact, but mostly, he kills Chris because it benefits him (just like he lets Davey Scatino into the card game because he knows he’ll lose and be indebted to Tony, with additional perks). The lack of remorse and emotion in general confirms Tony’s lack of humanity. This is another topic, but Tony is basically a pure consequentialist when it comes to ethics and morality, acting on outcomes, not on principles.
    2b. Abraham doesn’t kill Isaac, but is prepared to. One reading is that willingness should not supersede restraint, doubt, and literally the body/senses. Abraham’s forethought is never disclosed. But we can guess what Tony’s thoughts and motivations are. Further, Tony isn’t merely willing, but frequently follows through with the killing. “Just following orders” is not good enough for God, as Abraham obeys God by changing his initial plans. Tony, in his idolatry, however, is satisfied “just following orders” and seldom listening to other perspectives.
    2c. Abraham travels with Isaac to the mountains for the sacrifice. Similarly, Tony and Chris travel through rural New Jersey. Ultimately, Tony travels further west and arrives at a mountainous plateau. Mountains/desert are very significant in the Bible, yet, unlike the Bible, the Soprano Universe is replete with godless debauchery. The Vegas journey echoes a “decline of the West” sentiment, though I would argue it also shows the way back. The main evil act already committed, subsequent evil acts loom on the horizon. Gambling, marijuana/alcohol/peyote and recreational sex/adultery is a thinly-veiled regression into barbaric hedonism. This regression is a poor, idolatrous stand-in for “religious experience.” When Tony comes back he describes his trip/“trip” to the guys saying, “the sun…came up.” But, the guys don’t laugh in Tony’s face like they laugh in Chris’s face when talking about “deep” stuff in the bar in 6.17. (But even this shows Tony’s lack of humanity, as Chris was talking about his daughter, whereas Tony merely talks about a “broad” and some drugs).
    3. Chris’s pleading reveals his past frustration with Tony’s reluctance to not condemn his AA/NA lifestyle, filmmaking, etc.
    4. Chris primarily calls Tony “T.” Chris + T = “Christ.” As you mention, Tony is shown in “Caesar’s” robes in Vegas: Tony-as-Caesar has regained power after slaying Chris(t), but the collapse of Rome looms large. The killing would also suggest that Tony has slain himself, which I think is accurate. Tony’s mantras have only encouraged his increasing degeneration: borrowing large sums from Hesh and never repaying, sleeping with Chris’s ex, killing Chris, hating A.J., gambling, etc. He still feuds with and disrespects Melfi routinely, the one person who was committed to helping him. Even if Melfi was blind to Tony’s sociopathy, she wouldn’t be the only one – even her therapist, Eliot, who tries to make her see this is somewhat allured by Tony’s aura.
    5. The theme of Italian-ness and Tony’s being descended from Romans parallels the theme of the West: Vegas was built up by Italian and Jewish mobsters. Jesus was a Jew killed by Romans and Jews alike. The Bible is a text almost exclusively produced by Jewish authors. Tony’s anti-Semitism towards Hesh and even the mistress, Julianna Schiff, is a strange corollary to Tony’s nihilistic, non-Christian values or power, wealth, and hedonism. The corollary is that Tony would mistrust the word of Jesus, and the whole of the Bible, since it’s authors were “desert people.”

    Liked by 2 people

  60. Heidi is AJ’s friend first mentioned in episode 23 Bust Out when Tony wants to take him fishing and he is going to the mall with “Brad, Alan, Heidi, her sister maybe”. Whether it is the same Heidi driving the car who knows but it’s not exactly a common name so it would be interesting if there is some connection there.

    Liked by 1 person

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