Soprano Home Movies (6.13)

The Sopranos head up to the Baccalieri’s lake-house
to celebrate Tony’s birthday.
A Monopoly game turns into a heavyweight bout.
And Bobby “pops his cherry.”

Episode 78 – Originally aired April 8, 2007
Written by Diane Frolov, Andrew Schneider, David Chase and Matthew Weiner
Directed by Tim Van Patten


The great American film director Robert Altman made a career out of subverting and twisting genre expectations.  His 1971 film McCabe & Mrs. Miller, which completely subverts and reimagines the tropes of the “American Western,” is probably my favorite movie of all time.  Altman himself is one of my favorite directors.  Altman passed away in November 2006 but I missed the news of his death, probably because I was busy preparing for my brother’s wedding which took place that same week.  I only learned of Altman’s death months later, just before Season 6 Part II of The Sopranos began airing, and that must be why I was thinking of him the first time I saw “Soprano Home Movies.”  David Chase had been twisting and subverting our expectations of the gangster genre for six seasons, and he continued to do so in this hour in a way that might have made Robert Altman smile.  As we watch the action in this episode move from the usual north Jersey locale to a lakeside property in upstate New York, we may think that we’re in for some peaceful and pastoral leisure and recreationBut that’s not what Chase gives us at all.  “Soprano Home Movies” turns into one of the most unexpected and memorable outings of the entire series.

I’m not exactly sure
why Season 6 was split into two parts.  Perhaps HBO was trying to extend the run of its most successful series while it sought to fill the void left after Six Feet Under had ended Or perhaps the network wanted to emulate the formula that had worked so well for them earlier with Sex and the City, which had had its sixth and final season split into two irregular parts.  I was convinced at the time that HBO was marketing this Sopranos mini-season as “Part II” as opposed to “Season 7” because David Chase was going to pick up right where “Kaisha” had left off.  (But that is not the case; we know that eight months have elapsed since the Christmas Eve that closed “Kaisha,” because the birthday that Tony now celebrates takes place in August.  [It was in “Another Toothpick” that we learned that Tony’s birthday is August 24th.])  David Chase has explained that HBO labeled this mini-season as “S6 Part II” instead of “S7” simply as a way to avoid giving pay increases to the actors.

I don’t really care what the reasons behind HBO’s naming and scheduling peccadilloes were, I’m just happy that these “bonus episodes” exist.  I think that Part II works very nicely…for the most part.  I wasn’t thrilled by Chase’s decision to use Phil Leotardo and the NY famiglia to create tension at the end of a season yet again (although I will admit that I did get a little excited, as many viewers did, at the possibility of seeing Tony and the NJ famiglia finally wipe out their rivals from across the river for good).

Season 6 Part II seems fairly distinct to me.  For one thing, it often looks different from the other seasons, and this is partly due to the multitude of new shooting locations.  New York’s Putnam Valley and Lake Oscawana give a bright, sunlit atmosphere to the current episode.  The next episode features a much colder color palette: cool greys and whites at the medical center/penitentiary that houses Johnny Sac and the cool blues and greys of Manhattan where Cleaver is premiered (as well as the chilly color-graded clips of Cleaver itself).  A later episode will be colored by the severe desert light of Nevada and the saturated reds and yellows of Las Vegas casinos.  This mini-season also has a more loosey-goosey feel to it; a number of new, quick, standalone storylines make the overall structure of the season feel even more freeform and unpredictable than what we’re used to from Chase—one hour is devoted to Johnny Sac’s final days, another to the difficulties of Vito Spatafore Jr, and another to Corrado’s relationship with a young, unbalanced Asian man.  S6 Part II is also more self-reflexive than preceding seasons.  This is partly because it is very aware of itself of as The Final Season, but also because its Cleaver storyline (along with HBO’s simultaneous release of a behind-the-scenes of Cleaver” mockumentary) is the most formally “meta” thing the series has ever done.  But enough of the fuckin’ preamble, let me get to the write-up…

“Soprano Home Movies” opens to the sound of some dialogue that might sound a little familiar:

Johnny Sac: He’s gonna want $50, $60k—
Tony: All right, let’s not go backwards, huh?

The joke is that Chase is doing exactly that—going backwards—with this opening scene; just as Tony delivers his line, the opening placard reveals that we are making a visit back to 2004, to a scene that we first saw in episode 5.13 “All Due Respect”:

2004 redux

We all remember the scene from the final minutes of the Season 5 finale “All Due Respect”: Tony is having a wintry-morning meeting with Johnny Sac when the FBI swarm in to arrest Johnny, forcing Tony to abandon his car and hoof it all the way back home.  By kicking off this new season now with a scene from the past, Chase is playing to an idea that every Sopranos fan in the world was thinking about at the time—the idea of karmic justice. We all knew that these episodes were the final nine, and we all wondered how it was going to end: was the past finally going to catch up with Tony Soprano? When this scene originally played in “All Due Respect,” there was a moment when Tony got in Johnny Sac’s face and told him “I’ve paid enough, John.  I paid a lot.”  (Tony was referring to the fact that he had to kill his cousin Blundetto in an effort to appease Phil Leotardo, and therefore was not willing to make any additional cash payment to Phil to keep the peace.)  Despite the claim that he had “paid enough,” we wonder now if Tony is going to have to pay even more—will Tony Soprano finally be brought to justice?  Chase adds a small but significant beat to the re-purposed scene from 5.13: Tony tosses a gun into the snow, which is noticed by a young man who goes and picks it up.  The gun becomes a consequential thing now as Tony is arrested because of the hollow-point bullets it contains.  With this opening gambit, Chase immediately suggests that Tony may not be able to run from his past forever.

It had become conventional for a Sopranos season opener to feature a shot of The Star-Ledger in Tony’s driveway.  Chase sticks to the convention now, and moreover, he uses the newspaper to transport us back into present day SopranoWorld:

2007 star-ledger

The references to the 2007 budget passing and the Carolina Hurricanes victory confirm that it is 2006 in SopranoWorld (although it was actually 2007 in the real world when this hour originally aired). Another confirmation of the year: Tony celebrates his 47th birthday here, which would have occurred in 2006.

As the authorities bang on the front door of their home, Carmela wonders, “Is this it?”  She worries that the long-awaited bill has finally come due.  But Tony is arrested only on a (relatively) minor gun charge.  Meadow reacts to the arrest with characteristic intelligence and advocacy, demanding to see a warrant.  (At this early point in the season, her mother believes that she will go to medical school, but we get the sense here that Meadow is destined to become a lawyer.)  AJ behaves as expected too.  When we last saw him in “Kaisha” he seemed to be on a path to maturity, but he has gone back to being a whining, hard-hearted jerk.

Tony is released after spending a relatively short amount of time in jail.  He and Carmela decide to go to Bacala’s lake house for Tony’s birthday.  As they make the drive up, the sweet groove of James Gang’s “Funk #49” can be heard on the car radio, seeming to set the mood for some rollicking good times.  (But perhaps the song’s lyric “I think there’s trouble brewin'” is the true omen of what lies ahead.)

As soon as they arrive at the lake house, Carmela says “I’ve had to pee since Glen Falls” and runs off to the bathroom.  It is a common thing for characters on The Sopranos to slip away to the restroom; showing the banalities of everyday life is part of the verisimilitude of SopranoWorld, and helps to underscore that these characters are not so different from you and me.  Indeed, the Soprano family gathering that takes place in this hour is characterized by many of the traits of a typical American family visit: fishing, eating, drinking, shooting guns, gossiping, bad karaoke, and of course, the presence of long-simmering frustrations that bubble their way up into passive-aggressive criticisms.  Family gatherings just like this take place all across America every day.  Our own home movies surely have a lot in common with the Soprano’s home movies.

But there are enormous differences between us and them as well.  Most of us have never gone into the woods to trim a tree with an 800 round-per-minute AR-10 assault rifle like the one Bobby gives Tony.  And our collection of family anecdotes don’t include the one about Dad shooting a bullet through Mom’s beehive hairdo.  (It is such a vivid anecdote, I can see almost exactly how it would look as a grainy Super-8 home movie.)  It is during a game of Monopoly that the uniqueness of the Soprano family truly comes to light.  Bobby takes exception at a particularly nasty insult directed at Janice.  “You Sopranos, you go too far,” he exclaims.  When Tony sings a very loose (and dirty) cover of The Drifters’ “Under the Boardwalk,all hell breaks loose.  Tony and Bobby grapple and swing at each other.  Bodies get thrown around the room.  Carmela takes a hard fall.  Furniture shatters.  (It’s a brutal and realistic fight-scene.  Steve Schirripa actually did bust Gandolfini’s nose here with a miscalculated head-butt.)  While it’s true that many of the scenes that play out in SopranoWorld houses usually have a lot in common with what goes on in our own houses in the real world, rarely do our own houses (or game pieces) get soaked in the same quantity of blood:

monopoly house

Tony can’t stand that he got outmuscled by Bobby.  He takes pride in his physical strength—we saw him grin at himself in the mirror after taking down Perry Annunziata (“Muscles Marinara”) last year.  Tony is getting older (the plot-point of his birthday celebration emphasizes this point), and with age comes weakness.  But this is a difficult thing for him to admit so he tries to convince himself that Bobby didn’t fight fair.  And so everyone is left wondering if Tony is going to seek vengeance and what form such vengeance might take.

As Tony and Bobby drive ostensibly to a business meeting, it seems very possible that this might be the end of the road for Bacala.  (When Bobby says that he “should’ve taken a leak before we left,” it is more than the typically banal comment of the sort that Carmela had made earlier in the hour—we get the sense that Bobby, anxious about his fate, is trying not to piss his pants.)  Chase’s camera captures some images of trees as the two men turn off the main road, perhaps recalling the tree-imagery we saw as Silvio drove Adriana to her ultimate fate in “Long Term Parking.”

But Bobby was worrying prematurely—he arrives at the meeting unharmed.  The mafioso meet with two Quebecois to work out a deal on expired Fosamax pills.  The delivery schedule hits a snag as one of the Canadians has to take care of a problem with his sister’s ex-husband.  Tony, ever the opportunist, figures out a way to get a discount on the pills and wreak vengeance on Bobby simultaneously; Tony decides to have his own brother-in-law whack the Canadian’s brother-in-law.  But is Tony actually taking revenge on Bobby here?  Or is he just focused on maximizing his profit?  I think it’s probably a little of both.  Tony has always had a talent for managing his affairs, but rarely has he been able to solve his family- and famiglia-affairs so neatly with just one stroke.  As they drive back to the lake house, Tony looks quite contented.  He cheerfully waves to a beautiful water-skier who cheerfully waves right back.  But Bobby is clearly uncomfortable and apprehensive as he thinks about carrying out his first hit (or having to “pop his cherry,” as Tony had put it earlier).

Regardless of how uncomfortable he is, Bobby is not going to refuse Tony’s wishes.  Bobby tracks down his mark and uses a photograph (which, notably, has a small child in it) to confirm that he has the right man.  Bobby corners his victim in a laundry room and puts a bullet in his chest.  The dying man clenches Bobby’s shirt before getting finished off with a bullet to the head.  Bobby flees the laundry room, leaving a big piece of his shirt—and a bigger piece of his soul—behind.

The final two minutes of the hour rank among the most powerful two-minute sequences of the series.  Tony sits on his couch at home, watching the old home movies that Janice gave him for his birthday.  He has a look of amusement and nostalgia as he watches himself and his sister play in front of their childhood home in Newark.  There is something bittersweet about the footage.  There is sweetness in seeing little Janice and Tony cavort together just as any small siblings in the world would do, full of innocence and joy and playfulness.  The bitterness comes from the knowledge that little Janice and tiny Tony will grow up in an environment of dysfunction, crime and violence that will leave its mark on their entire lives.  Chase cuts from this scene to the scene of Bobby returning to his lake house after performing the hit.  Little Nica excitedly runs to her father with arms wide open as soon as she sees him.  (Prof. Yacowar notes that this imagery perhaps calls back the image of Meadow rushing to her father when he returned home from jail earlier in the hour.)  There is bittersweetness here too: sweetness in seeing father and daughter embrace in one of the all-time great embraces of the series, but bitterness in the knowledge that Bobby has crossed a red line—no matter how tightly he clings to his innocent daughter, he will no longer be able to cling to the idea that he had some measure of innocence that the other murderous mobsters had lost long ago.  And there is bitterness in the knowledge that Little Nica will now grow up in the home of a murderer.  And bitterness in the fact that the child of the man Bobby killed, who we saw in an earlier photo, will never be able to hold his father the way that Nica does her own dad now.

Chase pipes in The Drifters’ 1960 hit “This Magic Moment” as Bobby looks out at the lake, holding on to his daughter like his life depended on it.  It is a beautiful and moving song, but I think there is also something clever in its selection.  1960 was the first year of what was arguably the most tumultuous, transformative decade in American history, and much of the ensuing music of the Sixties reflected this tumult.  “This Magic Moment,” however, still has that sweetness and wholesomeness that we associate more with the 1950s.  The song, in a sense, reflects that period in American history when we transitioned from the relative “innocence” of the Fifties to the turbulent experience of the Sixties—and thus poignantly underscores the loss of Bobby’s innocence now.  (I wonder how many thousands of backseat teenyboppers in the real world must have lost their innocence—or “popped their cherries—to this very song?)

When we first met Bobby Baccalieri in episode 2.02 “Do Not Resuscitate,” he did not command much respect.  (Tony threatened to shove his quotations book up his fat fuckin’ ass.)  And after hearing his Notre Dame/Nostradamus confusion in 4.01, it might have been insulting to rocks to describe him as “dumb as a rock.”  But he has become more of a substantial person over the seasons.  Tony even hints to him now that he may replace “someone” in the hierarchy who Tony has been grooming to look after the family and la famiglia should something happen to him.  (We know that that “someone” is Christopher.  There is obviously some sort of beef between Tony and Chris—Tony disgustedly hangs up when Chris calls to wish him Happy Birthday.  Perhaps T is still stewing over Christopher’s relationship with Julianna Skiff.)  I think it’s possible that one reason why Tony assigns the whacking in this episode to Bobby is because he wants to give Bobby greater responsibility now that his relationship with Chris is in a chilly spot.  I had previously found it a little weird that mild-mannered Bobby would want to marry a woman like Janice (even if he does like “the spitfire type”), but now we really see how advantageous—perhaps even a little cunning—it was for him to marry the Boss’ sister.  Bobby Bacala has steadily been making his way up the ladder in SopranoWorld, and will continue do so through Season 6.

Bobby 2

You’ve come a long way, Bobby.  Just try not to think about the fact that every step you take forward as a mobster means you must take two steps backward as a human being. 


One of the most interesting things about S6 Part II is how we as viewers approached it.  Some TV shows have the misfortune of ignominiously getting cancelled between seasons, and therefore its viewers were never even aware that they were watching its final season.  That is definitely not what happened with The Sopranos—we were all very aware that this was gonna be it.  And that is probably why we had such a tendency to read into every little detail in The Final Nine, tried to read into how every little thing might predict the ending.  This becomes even truer on re-watch; we tend to endow the events of these final episodes with great prophetic significance.

In this context, there are quite a few things in “Soprano Home Movies” that have taken on stupendous importance within Sopranos fandom.  Some viewers found a significant parallel in the fact that Tony now turns 47 years old, the same age that Eugene Pontecorvo was in “Members Only.”  [This becomes significant for some viewers because the guy in the series finale who wears a Members Only jacket bears some resemblance to Eugene, and Eugene himself died at age 47.]  Many viewers have also retroactively loaded great weight onto Bobby’s speculation about what it might be like to be gunned to death: “You probably don’t even hear it when it happens.”  This line, the argument goes, may be commenting on the sudden silence that closes out the series.

There is one quick scene here that seems particularly freighted with significance:

This short clip has an almost mythological heft, it is seemingly filled with all sorts of noteworthy stuff.  For starters, there is the water, which is endowed with significance on this series because “water” can be linked to the Soprano swimming pool, Pussy’s final resting place, Vin Makazian’s suicide, etc.  Then there is the duck (ducks again!) taking flight behind Tony.  There is the appearance of the boat, the same boat that Bobby and Tony sat in as they speculated about death earlier in the hour.  There is the sound of a bell, which some viewers have subsequently connected to the bell at Holstens Diner.

But are we making too much of all this?  In his book The Sopranos, Dana Polan makes note of this scene, but he calls attention to it because it is, in his words, “performing a joke on the viewer’s expectations.”  As the dreamy sound of “This Magic Moment” begins to softly swell, we might think that the music is going to guide us into one of Tony’s flashbacks or symbol-laden dreams, but that possibility is quickly cut short when it is revealed that the music is actually coming from a radio that Bobby is fiddling with nearby.  Polan cautions us that it may be a fool’s errand to read too much into the series:

The Sopranos flings seeming symbols at the viewer but then disarms the act of interpretation by making the symbols reveal nothing…The Sopranos tantalizes with suggestions of hidden significance, only to show the quest for profound understanding as more than a bit ridiculous and pretentious.

The tail end of the video clip I posted above illustrates just how ridiculous the quest for hidden significance can be, when Janice reads way too much into the way that Tony is sitting on the dock:

Janice: Fuckin’ look at him out there.
Bobby: What?
Janice: I’ve seen that ‘sitting in the chair’ thing.
Bobby: Come on, people sit in chairs.

Janice probably isn’t lying when she says she has seen that ‘sitting in the chair’ thing—she has likely seen Tony stew in anger while sitting in a chair before.  (I know that we viewers have seen it before.)  Janice is attempting to make meaning in the same way that we all make meaning: by making connections.  She connects her previous experience to what she sees in front of her now as she tries to figure out what Tony’s intentions regarding her husband are.  In a similar way, viewers began scouring previous episodes after the supremely ambiguous Series Finale, seeking connections and links that might help us to make meaning of that cut-to-black.  It’s only natural for us to do so.  “Soprano Home Movies” seems to provide some very key links and connections in this regard, but we would be wise—as Polan suggests—to be skeptical of how reliable and meaningful these links actually are.

In addition to the possible foreshadowing connections to the Series Finale that I outlined above, “Soprano Home Movies” also makes links to other episodes.  And it does so in abundance.  The opening scene is closely connected to episode 5.13, even using footage from that earlier hour.  The dead “boyfriend” that Janice alludes to here must be Richie Aprile, who she shot in episode 2.12.  The “gardener” that Janice mentions may be Sal Vitro.  Janice tells an anecdote concering Tippy, the family dog first mentioned in 5.07.  Tony brings up the secret tape recording that Janice made of him when they were kids, a story we remember Tony telling Melfi about in 6.10.  The “summer place” that Carmela brings up must be Whitecaps.  (I think Tony quickly changes the topic because he doesn’t want to go down that particular memory lane: it was just as they were trying to buy Whitecaps that goomar Irina made the vengeful phone call that directly led to Tony and Carmela’s separation.)

Additionally, the dirty lyric that Tony baits his sister with here (“Under the boardwalk / With a schlong in Jan’s mouth”) connects to previous blowjob-references: it was at the dinner table in 2.02 “Do Not Resuscitate” that Tony made a sly joke about Janice’s propensity for giving oral sex; and it was in 5.03 “Where’s Johnny?” that Tony mentioned her blowing roadies.  (“Roadies?!” Bobby exclaimed with surprise.)

I think another noteworthy connection may be found here in Carmela’s story about their pharmacist Pradeep, whose little boy suffered brain damage after almost drowning in a swimming pool.  The swimming pool has an almost mythic status on this series, it has been a site of several significant moments since the Pilot (see my 5.09 entry for a partial rundown).  Carmela’s story about the fate of her pharmacist’s son in the swimming pool seems to portend an event that will befall her own son in their own backyard pool in an upcoming episode.

Even though viewers are meeting the Quebecois for the first time, we learn here that the Canadians had previously supplied the NJ mob with the anti-cholesterol drug Lipitor (is Chase taking a dig at the stereotypical “fat American” with this particular medication?), and now they will supply the mobsters with expired Fosamax pills.  The mob is branching their business out into the very lucrative pharmaceuticals market.  There is some irony in the fact that Tony had earlier barred Corrado and Richie Aprile from dealing cocaine on their garbage routes (because it was too risky despite the profits, the same reason Vito Corleone resisted trafficking hard drugs in The Godfather) but he now jumps at the opportunity to sell FDA-approved, legal drugs manufactured by the pharmaceutical industry.  During the decade in which The Sopranos first aired, there were beginning to be contentious debates and concerns about Big Pharma’s lobbying power, pricing strategies, marketing practices, and influence over doctors and healthcare professionals.  In general, I applaud the industry (particularly the folks in research & development) for reducing the amount of death and disease and pain we must suffer.  At the same time, I am made uncomfortable by Big Pharma’s role in a massive insurance/industrial/healthcare complex that often seems to prioritize profit over public health.  This particular type of complex is pretty unique to the United States, it doesn’t exist anywhere else on quite the same scale.

It is fitting that the Soprano’s pharmacist is named “Pradeep,” as this particular profession has gained immense popularity among Indian-Americans.  I would need about 7 hands if I were to try to count on my fingers the number of Indian-American friends and family I have that work as pharmaceutical professionals in one capacity or another.  One of my relatives who makes his living as a pharmaceutical sales rep likes to joke that he is a “legal drug dealer.”  Tony Soprano, unlike my relative, cannot call himself a legal drug dealer—even though the products T is trafficking were in fact lawfully manufactured.  Chase seems to be showing us, yet again, that Tony and the mob have a talent for setting up moneymaking schemes in the margins of very lucrative American industries.  There is something almost prescient here in the Fosamax storyline; in the coming years, legally produced drugs would become as much a part of the American drug crisis as illicit drugs have been historically.  I won’t dwell any more on the issue of Big Pharma’s power and influence because it is coming out of such a relatively small plot-point, but I think it may be fair to say that the Fosamax storyline here could be part of Chase’s continuing effort in Season 6 to wade into social issues and couch The Sopranos within its American milieu.

Another cultural issue that Chase puts his spotlight on in a much greater and more obvious way is the issue of terrorism…

Terrorism and its related matters have been recurring subjects in Season 6, and Chase brings them more to the foreground in the Final Nine.  Just in this episode:

  1. Paulie compares Tony returning home from jail to the return of soldiers fighting terrorists in Iraq and Afghanistan
  2. Bobby wants to see our national borders more secured (even though his father was able to get into the U.S. only because the northern border is so porous)
  3. Reports of recent Iraqi and American deaths in Baghdad are heard over a radio broadcast

Chase uses the threat of terrorism as a way to build more tension into these last episodes, but I think Chase’s larger objective is to show that life goes on in SopranoWorld, lavish and luxurious as always, despite the threat and our ongoing efforts to defend ourselves.  SopranoWorld characters may make comments about terrorism here and there, but there is a notable lack of any meaningful political or civic engagement by them.  They’re not alone in their apathy—the War on Terror was raging at the time this series originally aired, but many Americans, including myself, largely detached ourselves from it.  (I can tell you off the top of my head roughly how many American soldiers died in the Civil War, WWII and Vietnam, but I can’t tell you how many died in Iraq or Afghanistan without turning to Google.)  SopranoWorld characters may not be all that different from the rest of us in how they pushed the threat of terrorism to the periphery of their thoughts while they continued to grab with both hands at all the various luxuries and goodies before them.  “Gimme Gimme Gimme” remains the prevailing mantra of American life even at a time when American life is existentially jeopardized by terrorism.


This episode earned an ‘Outstanding Drama’ Emmy for the series in 2007.  “Soprano Home Movies” was also nominated for ‘Outstanding Cinematography for a Single-Camera Series’ but failed to win.  Despite the loss, the episode is an outstanding piece of film-art.  Shooting for the episode was a bit complicated, as cinematographer Phil Abraham explains at

The lake house was a location that we tried to exploit by blending interior and exterior scenes as much as we could. The biggest challenge was the endless Monopoly game that unfolds in one boozy night of family fun. Not only was it a challenge to light and stage this scene in a small practical location but due to Jim Gandolfini’s then recent knee surgery, it became clear that he could not give it his convincing-all during the drunken brawl with his brother-in-law. The solution was to match and build the location on a stage six months later. By the time the first punch is thrown, we cut to the stage work where the rest of the fight unfolds. Bob Shaw, our production designer, did an amazing job of recreating the environment. I am particularly happy with the seamless integration of the two.

An episode from Rome won the Cinematography Emmy that year.  I haven’t really watched much of Rome but it’s hard for me to imagine that any episode of that series could be more memorable or gorgeous than this hour of The Sopranos.  (I take some comfort in the fact that that winning episode of Rome was shot by Sopranos-regular Alik Sakharov.)  “Soprano Home Movies” is an all-around extraordinary episode and it gets Season 6B up-and-running with a bang.  



  • Real-life prosecutor Dan Castleman reprises his role as “District Attorney Castleman” here.  (We saw him in about 8 episodes prior to this one.  Dan also worked as technical/legal advisor to David Chase in previous seasons.)
  • Back in “Boca” (1.09), we learned that Tony gives Carmela head exactly once a year; I’m guessing it would be on her birthday.  In the current episode, we see Carm return the favor on Tony’s birthday.  (The scene is constructed similarly to the BJ scene in “Cold Stones” (6.11), in that we think at first that Tony is having another one of his panic attacks, but then realize he is just convulsing with pleasure.)
  • The fuckin regularness of life…in jail:  When a man pulls his pants down and squats behind him, Tony is made to remember that when you have to take a shit in the cell, you have to take a shit in plain sight of everyone in the cell with you.
  • Monopoly as real-life #1:  During the game, Carm groans, “Aw fuck! Income tax!”  (Their whole life is spent in avoidance of reporting income tax.)
  • Monopoly as real-life #2:   According to Soprano family rules, money that should go into the Community Chest is instead put into the middle of the board where one lucky player can win it.  We’ve actually seen Soprano family members raid community dollars in their real lives, with Medicare insurance scams, a HUD housing scam, Janice scamming welfare checks…
  • Take 5:  Dave Brubeck’s “Take Five” is fittingly playing on the sound-system when Tony sneaks $500 from the bank during the Monopoly game.
  • Clever sound editing: As Bobby enters the apartment complex where his victim lives, we hear a kind of repetitive thumping.  We assume its coming from a drum set, because it was mentioned earlier that Bobby’s mark is a drummer.  But the sound turns out to be coming from the tumbling of some sneakers inside a clothes dryer.  One of Bobby’s bullets goes into the dryer, leaving some viewers to wonder if a forensic investigation will eventually lead to Bacala’s downfall.
  • Most viewers also wonder, on their first viewing, if the scrap of shirt that Bobby leaves behind in his victim’s hand is going to lead to him getting busted (especially because some dialogue earlier in the hour had Bobby mentioning something about “DNA evidence.”)  But Chase is not interested in turning his series into a procedural—there are already enough Law & Order spinoffs out there.
  • Steve Schirripa does a DVD commentary track for this episode.  Just as his character delivers the line that prompted so much discussion after the Series Finale—“You probably don’t even hear it when it happens”—Schirripa mentions that Chase and the writers pay great attention to details and nuances, which further seems to bolster the importance of this bit of dialogue.  But then on the other hand: in a February 2015 interview, Schirripa told Scott Shannon on WCBS 101.1 that “My opinion of the ending was that Tony Soprano was alive… I think life went on.  What you saw is what you got, and that was it.  Life goes on, he’s back with his family and just keeps movin’ on.”
  • My header pic is a detail from a Robert Rohrich painting of Lake Oscawana, the actual lake that Bobby’s house sits on.
  • Coming back to Robert Altman for a second… I think Altman would have been happy to see how David Chase partnered with HBO to produce a series that completely stretches our understanding of what the gangster-genre can do.   It was with HBO that Altman produced Tanner ’88, a show that practically created an entirely new genre: the TV serial-mockumentary.  Chase and HBO produced a short mockumentary of their own, Making Cleaver, which (if I remember correctly) aired in conjunction with the upcoming episode, “Stage 5.”

60 responses to “Soprano Home Movies (6.13)

  1. This is one of my favorite episodes!! Any family gathering is rife with old resentments. Tony is simmering about a lot of things that have to do with Janice. She brings up the gardener, criticizing that Tony cancelled him, she tells a story that he doesn’t like to remember….Bobby protects Janice’s feelings, even though she could care less, a lot of things were going on in Tony’s mind. Bobby did sucker punch Tony, but then he got the best of him in the fight fairly. I can see that both women were worried about what was going to happen to Bobby when he is alone with Tony. Tony was angry, and knows he can’t really kill him because he’s married to Janice, and it would be too obvious…but he kills his “innocence” instead. I’m surprised you didn’t mention Janice’s parenting skills with Nica, how it highlights Janice’s similarities to her mother. Remember, Janice is all about speaking up and telling truths when she first comes to town…, but doesn’t allow the baby to express her anger when she has to get out of the lake..because Tony made her nervous with his story of drowning…again we feel his reach. Tony mentions that story about the kid drowning in the pool AFTER he sees NIca playing with the Nanny. He said it to upset Janice because she brought up how he’s changed since the accident…the whole episode shows Tony’s pettiness and vindictiveness. It’s interesting to me how Carmela knows Tony is vindictive and possibly might hurt Bobby, but denies it to Janice. Is she protecting him or herself when she denies Tony’s spitefulness to Janice? They both know what he is capable of. Also, the whole reason he decided to go upstate is because he didn’t like to see AJ with Blanca’s son and AJ explaining that in “Our Neighborhood people don’t come out so fast” when she comments that “He’s out already?” when Tony comes back from jail. Also, it’s very true of Italian families to have a big blow-out and forget it the next day or the next half hour…(I know this from experience.) “I made a frittata!” Food soothes the savage breast in Soprano world. I guess Janice’s cooking skills have improved.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I don’t know if you were meaning to call back episode 2.02 with that “savage breast” reference, but it’s a fitting callback: it was in that episode that we first really saw the similarities between Livia and Janice, and some of those unfortunate similarities can also be seen in this hour as you note..


      • I love the scene with Tony in the chair on the dock…when the bell rings he takes notice and looks over his shoulder at it. Interesting theory that it was a premonition of his death….if he had done the same in Holstens when the bell rang he may have avoided being shot by Members Only guy.

        Liked by 2 people

  2. Atwell Avenue Boy

    Thanks Ron!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Back during the HUD scam, Tony told Zellman that he wasn’t a businessman because he wasn’t looking for maximum value. Talk about maximum value in the situation with assigning Bobby the hit on the brother-in-law. Like you said, a little revenge for the Monopoly fight and a little boost in responsibility, and I think there’s another angle. It seems that Tony is giving up on Christopher and looking to Bobby as a replacement. There’s no way Bobby will be accepted unless he’s got a hit under his belt. As cruel as it was to assign the hit to Bobby, it was to his advantage career-wise.
    This is a great episode, loaded with tension, and like so many other episodes, there are countless details. I had noticed Dave Brubeck playing in the background, but I didn’t connect it to the money Tony was sneaking from the bank. And when Tony hung up mid-sentence on Christopher, that was hilarious. Also, I think that we see more of the loose ends in Tony’s life that might get snagged. The tension with Christopher, the childhood issues with Jan, the gun charge, and Tony’s personnel problems are all things in his life that are fraying and in desperate need of fixing. He’s not spinning out of control, but things are definitely complicated.
    Edie Falco should probably win some sort of award for how awful she sang in that episode.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Lol I’ve praised Falco for going without makeup when the scene calls for it, and her singing here is sort of the vocal equivalent of that… she just opens herself right up..

      Liked by 1 person

      • Her choice of song is also significant. “Love Hurts.”

        Liked by 2 people

        • I remember watching this when it first aired and thinking throughout the show “what’s with that bell?”. I thought maybe it was one of those things that bug some people and isn’t even noticed by others. Ever been with people and one says something like “What is that humming?!” It’s driving them nuts, but to me it’s the fridge or something I’m used to or something that isn’t even coming up on my radar. So, when Tony finally turned and looked at the source of the bell–and it got its own camera shot–I thought “Ok, it is purposely prominent. Awesome.” But, then it really didn’t turn into anything; unless, of course, there is a link to the Holsten’s bell. I remember right after it aired, I thought “they did a great job having that bell ring throughout the episode, only to directly call our attention to it at the end; can’t wait to see what it means.” …and then I missed it. Haha I either missed it or it wasn’t as significant as I felt it was on first viewing. We’ll see…

          Liked by 2 people

  4. Francesco Favaro

    Love the review. One of the most interesting things about this episode is the subtle reference to Fredo’s death at Lake Tahoe in GFII. Tony sitting on the side of the lake seems to be meditating a similar revenge. And I had to admit that the camera shot of the empty boat rocking fooled me for more than a minute.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Everytime i check and see you’ve added another write-up, I get a Cosby smile, lol. Thanks for these, Ron. I look forward to every one.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I think this final scene, in which Bobby comes home to, at the very least, a fresh and powerful reminder of what life’s most precious gifts are, will contrast powerfully with Tony’s supposed relegation in the desert, when he claims to “Get it!” Comparing those two final moments dramatizes which character is actually “getting it.”

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Dude Manbrough

    I’m almost certain that “This Magic Moment” is one of the songs Tony spins through on the jukebox at Holsten’s. What does it mean? I dunno.

    I love the casual conversation about murder while Tony and Bobby are on the boat. “My pop never wanted it for me”…like he was talking about masonry or used car sales or factory work or something. Not only does Bobby beat Tony in a fight, but a) he doesn’t have any murders on his conscience and b) he actually enjoys his family and their company. Ordering Bobby to perform that hit was one of the cruelest things Tony ever did, which becomes something of a theme in 6B. That conversation also sort of frames “fathers and sons”, another major 6B theme, obviously.

    The kid who finds Tony’s gun looks a little like teenage Tony from his Tony B. memories in season 5. Interesting, though meaningless (probably LOL). And given how it eventually worked out, is it fair to say that Bobby might have been better off with Mikey Palmice’s ex instead of Janice?

    Liked by 2 people

    • Yes, it was cruel, but it is organized crime, and I’m sure he would be called upon to kill somebody as he rises in the ranks. Bobby may be the nicest of a very bad bunch..but he’s no angel either. It really doesn’t make sense that Bobby is made when he hasn’t killed anyone…I thought that was a rule. Who he killed was what made it even worse, somebody who is blameless and unconnected to organized crime. Who knows if that story is true about the custody issue? They know nothing about it except what those Canadian guys told them…We’ll never know and neither will Bobby. That’s the life he chose…and the wife he chose and so that’s that. He has to deal with it.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Aaaand we’re back with Ron, our man in Sopranoland, for the home stretch. Whaddya know, whaddya say?

    Tony’s pettiness and vindictiveness have, of course, always been a part of the show, but man does shit go down the tank from here on out. It’s a bellwether of the demonic Tony to come. There’s some interesting Bobby/Chris mirroring here. The “happy” ending of “Kaisha” sets it up; for all the feelgood family dinner vibes, we have, as you noted, Tony already brooding about the decay (TVDW’s word for it) of his relationship with Chris, who’s over there hogging all that ice. But what does Chris have that Tony doesn’t? Not much. Interesting he’s in that beret in the scene, besides the obvious laugh factor, it’s unlike Tony. He wasn’t feeling like himself after the shooting, he dreamed he was another man, and when he lobs his veiled criticism at Chrissie, he doesn’t look like his usual self. Every day is no longer a gift, it must be taken, just as before. He’s got to hog all the ice himself, hold a vig over Hesh’s head, burn the bridge with his nephew. He has to assert his dominance w/ Bobby, who seems happier w/ his family, who’s perhaps stronger than him. Unlike Chris, he has things Tony does not. At the same time, Tony sets up a new #2. Tony wins two ways, four if you count the Quebecois angle. In “For All Debts…,” Tony spoke of binding Chris to him, and Chris will later rage about giving up pieces of his soul and “going to hell” for Tony. Yet the Barry Haydew hit was presented to Chris as a sort of gift; Chris cites it as such in “The Strong Silent Type.” Something is given. For Bobby, the murder he’s tasked with is a punishment, something is taken. But again, we have the binding. Demonic Tony finalizes another Faustian bargain, but in the opposite way. Guess talk therapy really did make him a better criminal.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Great episode, great recap! I love the power dynamic between Tony and Bobby. Bobby takes so many insults before lashing out during the Monopoly game and the next day he is forced to go along with the fiction that he sucker punched his boss. Tony often complains about it being lonely at the top but he’s not above pulling rank in order to save face.
    Question: is the lake tinted red at the end??

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think they play a little bit with color levels and saturation this season, and the tint could be a side effect of that.. it could also just be the natural color of the water at that time of day.


    • I think he did sucker punch him. How could Tony expect that when he is so horrible all the time and nobody checks him? Tony says its because he caught him by surprise to save face, and knowing no one will disagree. Bobby got the best of him.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Great. Thank you.
    6pt II is one strange beast indeed. Heavy bass blues.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I think Tony’s birthday is August 22, 1959. David Chase’s b-day is 8/22/45. (

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ok that looks right… never realized he shared a birthday with Chase.


    • I know this is a little off topic but I’m curious… if Tony was born in ’59, and Many Saints of Newark is set in the ’60s, any speculation how James Gandofini’s son can play him in the movie? He’s in his 20’s, isn’t he?


      • Many people are wondering about this. I’m guessing Many Saints will also be set in the 70s or 80s as well. Or maybe T hits a giant growth spurt circa 1967…


      • Maybe it’s like rocky junior aging seven years while his old man is bringing down the USSR in rocky 4?

        No, I keep thinking about this too and my uneducated guess is that he is in the movie briefly as a cameo at the end.

        Speaking of the movie, this is gonna be very interesting…one of the central themes of the show is the decline of Italian American identity, the mafia, the homogenization of America, etc. In 1967, the mafia was still at its zenith, there were still huge pockets of Italians in the east coast, and Italians had yet to be romanticized and mythologized by shows and movies like The Godfather, happy days, rocky, etc.

        What does chase want to say about this? Knowing him, there have to be ruminations, explorations, etc..

        Liked by 1 person

  12. Shout out to the awesome way Carmella flicks the blood stained Monopoly piece off of Tony’s body after the big fight.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. I just thought Tony was re-playing everything that happened and brooding about it. And how he could get back at Bobby without killing him. It seems like he was exhausted from the whole thing. I don’t know if reading so much into every scene is really what Chase or the writers expected at the time. Some stuff is not murky, its just obvious.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I think it’s a rule in general but like Johnny Sac said, they break more rules than the church. Which is part of the point of the show ….they break ruies when it’s expedient for them to do so. One of the reasons Albert Anastasia got clipped is supposedly he was selling memberships. Like the popes selling indulgences. The Catholic Church and the mafia have their roots in the same ancient Roman origins after all. This is why the books were closed in the sixties.


    • I agree and I also think he was depressed about getting older , he mentions this to Carmela after this I think. Bobby too.


  14. This is certainly one of the greatest television episodes of all time. “Soprano Home Movies” can be viewed peacefully as a movie, regardless of the rest of the story.
    The sixth season is the final reason why The Sopranos is the greatest opera of popular culture ever. If until the fourth season we could talk about an exceptional show, certainly the competition was very fierce, with Lost on all (personal opinion: The Wire was too high at the time), it is from the fifth season that The Sopranos becomes completely unattainable . What show would have risked blocking the plot (and annoying the audience) with magnificent episodes like “The Test Dream”, “In Camelot”, “Cold Cuts” or “All Due Respect”? With this last we witnessed one of the most sensational endings of the season that could be achieved: Tony Blundetto is killed with a gunshot to the head, the very one who started the hostilities between New Jersey and New York (Steve Buscemi appeared only for a few episodes!!!); Johnny Sack is arrested in the last few moments, Tony Soprano manages to escape, but at the beginning of the following season Corrado “Junior” will shoot him, almost killing him.
    Now, any director would have decided to end the season with Tony Soprano who, dying, drags himself towards the telephone in the kitchen. Any TV director (watch the finale of the third season of “Gomorra” to understand how fearful and lacking courage are the creators of that bad series).
    Not David Chase.
    And I think “Soprano Home Movies” is yet another demonstration of courage, impudence and intransigence of The Sopranos, almost a opera by Dostoevsky.
    Sorry for my bad-bad-bad english, ragazzi…

    Liked by 1 person

      Johnny Sack is arrested in the last few moments, Tony Soprano manages to escape, but at the beginning of the following season Corrado “Junior” will shoot him, almost killing him.

      Liked by 1 person

    • You are spot on. The thing with blundetto is this: in life, in history, in personal relationships, many tragedies are set off by innocuous or unpredictable occurrences. And once set in motion, they engulf all in their wake. And the fact that key instigators are gone means nothing. Look at the Vietnam war. In the span of a couple weeks in November of 1963, the presidents of both south VN and the US were assassinated. It the war went on anyway.

      Chase and his crew seemed to get this and you nailed it with your comment about tony B starting the war and being long gone before it’s finished.


  15. Hey Ron, great to see you back! Maybe Chase will expand on the Dominic Tedesco fight he mentions to Carm in this episode in “Newark”; HAHA!
    Keep up the great work!

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Hey Ron,
    I’ve been keeping along with your analysis forever and I’ve always wanted to ask you this. In the scene where Carmela and Janice are talking in the kitchen, there’s what seems to be a central focus placed on a barrel placed in the corner of the kitchen counter. You can see a shot of it here:
    While it’s in the background, there’s very clearly an inverted pentagram painted onto it. I was seriously creeped out when I first noticed this because on its face it’s not particularly thematically significant, it’s just there. After some Googling I found that another one appeared way back in 4×07, “Watching Too Much Television”. It’s in the scene where Tony sees Irina’s red high heels in Zellman’s house. Image here:
    You can see pretty clearly that there’s a ‘3’ placed in the center of it.
    Any idea of the significance, beyond some sort of freakshow symbolism?

    Liked by 2 people

    • Hmm that’s interesting, but I’m not sure that Chase was “hiding” such secret symbols like that in his work. Even if he was, I imagine he would be doing it playfully, tongue-in-cheek, the way Led Zeppelin or Ozzy used to…


      • Actually, there was nothing nothing tongue and cheek about Jimmy Page’s interest in the occult from all accounts. Dude bought alister Crowley’s house….and ozzy wrote an ode to the man….

        Motley Crue however, I would agree used the pentagram for shock reasons only….

        Liked by 1 person

    • I can’t make out the three on my phone, but I can see there’s something else in the middle of the pentagram in Sopranos Home Movies as well. Maybe it’s meant to point to parallels in those two scenes. Maybe a comparison of Janice to Irina? Or, the belt lashing Tony gave Zellman compared to the ass-whoopin’ he got from Bobby lol


  17. 1. I always thought that by this stage, Christopher and Tony had grown apart since that by the start of 6×14, Cleaver is essentially finished, which probably meant Chris spent most of the hiatus working on it.
    2. Tony bringing up the drowned baby intertwines him closer to his mother’s personality and her fixation of family death (“you’re always with the babies out tha windows”)
    3. Carmella tells Tony he “gets away with murder” because he’s Bobby’s boss in this episode – and he literally does by making Bobby kill the drummer


    • Remember when Tony went to Junior about what to do with Chris and junior said put him down like a dog? That a heroin addict is a total liability? Tony didn’t have the heart to do it then…but he did tell Chris he was worried about him flipping over a five dollar bag of powder in the hospital right?


    • I think Tony’s fixation on the drowned kid is in line with his affection for kids and animals. Like when the little kid says mommy at the park? After the BEVILAQUA hit?

      This isn’t explored much in other than the test dream, but Tony seems to have wanted to be a football coach. The beauty of the character is that Tony could have been a great one, with his personality and warmth and charisma…and his seemingly genuine interest in kids…


      • I think he said it to upset Janice, because she made the remark about him changing after the shooting. She got under his skin, and so he retaliated by giving her horrors about her own little girl possibly drowning. That’s why she got upset about her daughter being in the lake in the last part of the episode. Tony knows what buttons to push on Janice…. Its just pettiness and family bullshit. Yes, Tony has a soft spot for kids and animals, but this remark was not about that. He wanted to freak Janice out. Diabolical!!

        Liked by 1 person

  18. Have you considered writing in-depth character analyses? I’d love to continue reading your thoughts far after you’ve finished analyzing the episodes and seasons.

    Liked by 1 person

  19. The conversation between Bobby and Tony in the boat still gives me goosebumps to this day. I know most fixate on the statement bobby makes about not hearing “it” until it happens. But even more interesting is the exchange about bobby not having committed murder, despite his dad having been the terminator. There is SO much going on here, especially when you study Tony’s reaction. I believe Tony is jealous of Bobby and the protection his dad tried to provide – “He never wanted this for me’. It seems that Tony’s awareness of how his own father cost him his innocence is growing. Chopping off Satriale’s finger, assigning Tony his first hit, Johnny boy made his son a murderer. This started back with “In Camelot” when Johnny Boy was exposed as being much less than the great guy tony has memorialized him to be.
    But the resentment towards father figures is not limited to his biological dad – it includes father figures like uncle june (tried to kill tony 2x), Paulie (accompanied tony on his first murder) and Dickie Moltisanti (more of a mentor to tony than johnny boy).
    All of tony’s “fathers” have done him wrong, been poor role models, encouraged immoral behavior. I think a very strong case can be made that this is one of the prevailing themes of the final season… Tony wanting to kill his inner gangster, which is a direct product of all the poor paternal influence he received in his life. This can be observed in the test dream, his subliminal urges to kill paulie in florida, and even his justification for killing chris (with zero regret or emotion I might add)… any coincidence that after killing Chris, Tony exclaims “I get it!” as the sun (son) is rising? I am getting ahead of myself, but this type of connectivity is why this is the greatest show ever created.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think the Tony and Bobby relationship is an underrated thread in the series. Tony at first mocks him relentlessly but seems to be a little jealous and admiring of his dedication to his wife and his duty to Junior. He seems to appeciate Bobby taking care of junior as well at least until he’s shot.

      Liked by 1 person

  20. Ok, haven’t read the article yet – saving it as a treat for tonight’s shift – but welcome back and glad to see you are writing again ! So many more delicious goodies to come, I’m sure.

    Liked by 1 person

  21. “There is the sound of a bell, which some viewers have subsequently connected to the bell at Holstens Diner.”
    Back in “Everybody Hurts” in Season Four, there’s a bell ringing in Tony’s dream after Gloria’s suicide and then the next day when Brian comes over to sign the papers for the living will. Is Chase conditioning us to associate the sound of a bell with death as far back as Season Four or are these random coincidences?

    Liked by 1 person

  22. Your comment on the border is very good. There is very little said but there are deep meanings here. Fact is that a LOT of Italian were snuggled into the US and esp thru Canada. When Salvatore maranzano was killed in 1931 he was said to have been a massive alien smuggling coordinator. Even into the 80s, a lot of itals were smuggled in not the US to be untraceable ghost soldiers for the mob…esp the Gambino and bonanno families.

    When Bobby says build the wall now he’s saying keep out Mexicans. His people were ok but keep out the Mexicans. Although it’s funny cuz some times you can’t tell the difference between integrated Mexican and Italian Americans at all…

    Great lines..


  23. Janice knows all about the positive reinforcement you get from those one eyed Willie Wonka Laffy Taffies. Just sayin.

    Liked by 1 person

  24. Amazing episode! I found it interesting in a podcast Steve Schirripa was a part of (not sure which one but it always shows up in my recommended so other Soprano fans have probably seen it) he said that he shot the murder scene for this episode but David Chase decided that the actor who played the victim wasn’t right so they reshot the entire scene months later.
    A, I feel bad for that original actor haha and B, I wonder what “it” was that David Chase wanted to convey? Ive never agreed with or liked the Harpo theory but it’s an interesting bit of trivia either way.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I remember someone floated the theory that Bobby’s victim was actually Harpo soon after this episode aired. We remember that Harpo is French-Canadian because of that memorable scene of Tony mocking Janice last season, “I wonder what’s French Canadian for ‘I grew up without my mother?’ Sacre bleu, where is me mama?!” (The scene happened to be a pretty popular meme on social media today because today is Mother’s Day.)

      But yeah, the theory is pretty whack…


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