Melfi's Choice

#1
I thought it might be interesting to have a discussion on Dr. Melfi's choice to treat Tony, especially now that Elliot has given her a pretty clear reason why it might not be such a good idea. I have personally felt (and stated several times) that in many ways, Melfi has helped Tony be a better mafia boss without realizing it. Now, she has that stated explicitly to her. Yet, she does not appear to be anywhere close to letting go of Tony as a patient and appeared quite excited by Tony's bus analogy in regards to Mothers. Is she frightened (especially considering the discussion we all had last week about if Tony would ever harm her a la JT Dolan/Chris)? Perhaps excited (as she accuses Elliot)? Does she really think she can help Tony? Has she simply ignored Elliott's advice or does she find it lacking? Just curious what others think of this.
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Re: Melfi's Choice

#2
well, tke it into consideration that a few episodes and quite a lot of deaths before she was sort of willing to send him away based on the fact that he sometime skipped their meetings. To the first part of your thread I totally agree: there was an agreement in this forum back then with the end of s5 that it was clearly propelled by Melfi, by which she made Tony to get his act together.
You can't have everything- Where would you put it? -Steven Wright

Re: Melfi's Choice

#3
Great Topic!

To begin the analysis, you have to consider Elliot's motivation for telling Melfi that several studies have concluded that "talk therapy" doesn't help solve a sociopath's psychological problems but instead helps them to sharpen their skills as "con men". Elliot has at least two motivations (possibly more) for making such statements.

First, he could be very sincere and have great faith in the studies. If so, then he was telling Melfi, as part of her own therapy, that she is involved in a large waste of time which will ead only to frustration for her and nothing good for Tony Soprano.

On the other hand, his sly smirk at the end of his scene intimated that these statements were made as a form of childish jealousy: We have seen him in the past eager to know what was going on with Tony and we have seen him watching television specials about the mob, even making his own predictions on gang killing fallout. Elliot wants his own mobster to treat and is jealous that Melfi has direct contact with a patient of such intriguing proportions; But, since he doesn't have one of his own, jealousy may have caused him to denigrate the value of Melfi's sessions with Tony. In that case, Elliot doesn't believe the studies but is using them as a basis to take a jealous parting shot at Melfi for not being able to participate in a discussion he so vicariously enjoys.

The question then becomes, does Melfi believe that Elliot was sincere (and that the studies have merit) or does she detect his jealousy? It appeared to me that she was hedging her bets in Tony's later session.

She seemed to be less engaged in the process at the outset. I felt that she was deliberately attempting to determine if Tony was indeed practicing his "con man" skills with her by remaining distant from the process and giving him room to talk outloud, but not directly to her.

When Tony actually verbalized his "mothers as buses" thoughts and his beliefs that he saw pretty definite proof that "this here" is not all there is, she seemed to perk up because these statements represented some tangible personal intropsection on Tony's part. I'm not sure if Melfi now thinks that the studies mentioned by Elliot were jealous BS or if they are accurate, but that Tony might be an exception to the rule.

In any event, Tony's discussion of his peyote induced revelations will hopefully be just the beginning of legitimate recognition by him, with Melfi's continued help, of the damage his life has brought upon others, guilty and innocent alike. For my money, he needs to verbalize this conclusion for the six seasons of therapy to have any real payoff.

Whether there is any action taken upon such a self-recognition, I can't say. but at this point, Tony must look into an unflinching mirror, grasp and accept himself for who and what he is...not the "good guy" he falsley perceives himself to be, but the killer/criminal who has ruined lives, including those in his own home.

I think then that Melfi sees a spark of hope in assisting Tony with making this realization despite Elliot's postulation and will continue to do her job. Maybe she will undertake more than talk therapy at this point. She may also be professionally and personally excited by the challenge of proving the studies wrong.

Re: Melfi's Choice

#4
Well, one of the themes from Season One on has been Melfi's unwitting help in making Tony a better Boss.

After sessions with her, Tony decided to give Uncle Junior the title of Jersey Boss, saving the responsibility and power for himself. She tells him basically to fish or cut bait with regard to Tony B. She tells him to set some limits with AJ. Those are just the things I can think about off the top of my head.

I think Melfi is fascinated with Tony. I'm sure on one level, she believes she is helping him, but I think it's curiosity more than anything. You can bet that there isn't any other patient on her schedule who interests her more. I think what her shrink was doing was asking, Is this just ego, or are you going any good? It's an appropriate question, but we also know that he's jealous. He's living vicariously through Melfi's experience with Tony.

Re: Melfi's Choice

#5
The Tony / Elliot / Melfi thread is one of the most interesting in the series. Elliot has danced around this for years but now he is citing research studies to back his claim that all she is doing is making Tony a better mobster and that Tony has no breakthrough coming. She immediately reacts that he is just jealous and living vicariously through her treatment of Tony.

Was her comment about the buses being insightful more for her edification that this therapy is moving forward, rather than Elliot's claim? We will probably find out in the last 2 episodes.

Re: Melfi's Choice

#6
I thought Elliot's comments to her were pretty interesting.

I've always thought that Melfi was more of a consigliere to Tony than Sil...at least as the show has progressed. We've seen less & less of Sil - and less of Tony confiding in him, yet at the same time, we've seen him confiding in Melfi in more than personal matters. His discussions with her about Tony B, Puss, Christopher, etc... are really a part of of the consigliere role. Am I reading too much into the relationship?

Re: Melfi's Choice

#7
I tend to agree with the idea that Melfi is totally facinated by Tony as a patient and Elliot is envyious of Melfi having a Tony. Not many people have the ability to get into the twisted mind of a organized criminal, especially one of high levels as Tony.
Melfi to me is a kind of a substitute mother figure to Tony, in that he can tell her his deepest secrets and problems that a child may tell a mother and get advice on how to deal with. Unlike the average guy, Tony's mother was very much mentally ill, kept a long and painful distance from Tony and she never was a real mother to him.
Tony didn't have much of a father either due to his mob involvement and worsened when he died when Tony was in his late teens, a critical time for a guy to have a father. His other father figures were mobsters that also had or have serious mental health problems as well. Between the lack of a normal mother or even a normal father or father figure, Tony has had serious problems in developing his own personality, and that conflict to me is still deep inside him and may or may not come out.

Re: Melfi's Choice

#8
Very apropos thread, DH. (And I can't help but note that the title of it reminds me of one of all time favorite films, Sophie's Choice.:icon_wink:)

I agree that Melfi has unwitthingly, perhaps negligently, served as a valuable consiglieri to Tony on several occasions, most notably the Tony B thing and the power struggle in season one with Junior. And as far as I can recall at the moment, she was a factor in his forbearance to engage in violence on only one occasion, with the soccer coach.

On the whole, her efforts have not produced any significant or sustained amelioration of the immorality of Tony's behavior in any aspect. But, then, as her ex told her in season 1, that was inevitable and was never even the goal of her treatment. He belittled psychotherpay for its "cheesy moral relativism" and aversion to any behavioral judgment in the therapy room and warned that someday it would come to a matter of "good and evil, and [Tony's] evil."

Perhaps the most pivotal episode on this whole question was Two Tonys when Melfi dared to render an unfavorable, if very gentle, moral judgment about why she would never want a personal relationship with him. When she told him that he wasn't respectful of people and used force to take from them what he wanted, he responded, "I don't love people?" It was the hardest part of her judgment to hear. She replied, "Maybe you love them, I don't know."

Tony has always given just enough signs to suggest that, while he's commitedly antisocial, he is not truly sociopathic as the term is used within the psychiatric field. And, IMO, the biggest sign of this is that he has genuine loving attachments to his immediate family, attachments that produce a whole different set of behavioral limits than those that govern the rest of his life. The violent impulses, the rage and hurt that would motivate him to break someone else's jaw at the drop of a hat have never trumped his inhibitions and forbearance with his immediate family.

Despite how often he has threatened to punch AJ to "toughen him up" or to try to instill in him some kind of respect for authority, his one and only real action in this regard was the face slap of season 3 (which Carmela reports Tony felt "horrible" about for days afterward). Despite the emotional violence that's errupted within his marriage at times, despite Carm throwing objects at him on several occasions (most recently a watch to the face last night), and despite his one towering impulse to strike her in Whitecaps, Tony has always quelled those impulses or converted them to relatively harmless physical acts like grabbing her jacket or shoving her to the couch. And despite Meadow's unspoken accusation that Tony murdered Jackie, Jr. in No Show, Tony did not act upon what appeared to be a violent impulse towards her. I might add that Tony also stopped short of serious violent impulses toward Melfi herself on three occasions, which might signal that she is the only "outsider" he places on a footing approaching that of his family. And, of course, Chase once stated that therapy is, for Tony, in part, an effort to remother himself.

Melfi is unaware of most of these incidents. But through symbols like the ducks and Pie-O-My, she has some reason to believe that he has a real capacity for loving attachments, which distinquishes him from the class of sociopaths. So even though the excitement and novelty and pure "tabloid curiosity" of treating a ganster has fed her motives for keeping him, I think she's always been able to rationalize, too, that he might not be the completely hopeless criminal and conman others have labeled him.

I suspect Elliot's statement to her, regardless of what he believes or intended with it, has moved her closer to a point of cutting off Tony's therapy and concluding that he is beyond reach. The ultimatum about missing sessions seemed to portend this. Tony's "bus" metaphor, which caught her completely offguard, may have only temporarily delayed the inevitable.

I've just sensed this season that Melfi is tiring of it all. She gets no sustained reward of any kind. Witness last night when Tony was almost 180 degrees opposite where he looked to be on AJ just two episodes ago. In between, she had to hear how he feels no real grief for the death of his surrogate son. It's to the point where any little glimmer of real humanity and personal responsibility he shows he then throws out with both hands. It's got to be wearing thin by now, and that feeling has permeated most of their sessions this year.

It invites again the question CIG posed about her safety if and when she does cut it off. Will it produce only anger, a feeling of betrayal, and even a violent impulse in Tony, or will it somehow force him to a place of unprecedented candor? If HE has remained in therapy these years because he has subconsciously installed her as a surrogate mother, will the threat of losing that acceptance, that "oasis", motivate rage or a combination of sadness and truth? Knowing this show, it will probably be some combination of the two.
Tony, his spirits crushed after b-lining to the fridge first thing in the morning: "Who ate the last piece of cake?"

Re: Melfi's Choice

#10
I'm still not sure how I feel about this development... The whole studies show that Tony can't be helped. I've always felt she was helping him be a better boss, and I never really thought Tony could be helped, BUT I never thought the show was going to say it straight out like that.. I think now Tony will have the breakthrough i so doubted the last few weeks. Now if only we could get Philly phil into a room with a shrink.
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