Re: Bells, Duality, Metaphysics, schrodingers Cat Oh my!

Kennedy and Heidi (to the tune of "Ebony and Ivory")
Tony travels to Las Vegas to tell an old friend of Christopher news about him.
Sonya Aragon's apartment in Las Vegas. She tells Tony, "Well, Well, Well."
Beatlesong "Dr. Robert" ( 1966 )
"Well, Well, Well, you're feeling fine."
Cirque De Soleil is mentioned by Allen to Tony via telephone.
"Alan, it's Tony."You busy? -Tony
"Usual shit Some Japanese guy got his suit ruined at Cirque du Soleil."-Alan
Cirque De Soleil is currently doing a Las Vegas show called "Love" which is a mix of at least 21 Beatle Songs.(21 episodes in season 6)
Paulie says he was dosed with LSD by a BOAC stewardess in 1968.
[to Tony] "I got dosed with acid once, back in '68. I was with your dad and them at the Copa. Fuckin' BOAC stewardess put it in my drink. Jerry Vale's singin' and I look over. Your Uncle Jun's got laser beams shootin' out his eyes! "-Paulie
Beatlesong "Back In The USSR" (1968 )- "Flew in from Miami beach BOAC..
Tony cradles an automatic rifle in bed.
Beatlesong "Happiness Is A Warm Gun"
"When I hold you in my arms
And I feel my finger on your trigger
I know nobody can do me no harm."
(To Be Continued)
You know, Vito called me “skip” the other day. Slip of the tongue, no doubt. But I noticed he didn’t correct himself.

Re: Bells, Duality, Metaphysics, schrodingers Cat Oh my!

"Made in America"
The final scene of this last episode cuts off abruptly.
The Beatles last Album "Abbey Road" 1969-
The songs "I Want You (She's So Heavy) + "Her Majesty" on Sides One and Two, respectively, both cut off abruptly in mid-chord.
On the mini-jukebox at Holsten's, Tony checks out several songs. One of them was "Those Were The Days" by Mary Hopkin. Originally this song was released in 1968. It was produced by Paul McCartney.
Little Carmine's House- Tony and Phil argue about Fat Dom and Vito Spatafore. Tony says Vito was one of his captains. Phil replies:
"Of what ? The good ship Lollipop ?"
"The Good Ship Lollipop" was the signature song of actress Shirley Temple.
The Beatles Sgt. Pepper album cover (1967)-Shirley Temple is on the cover.
A take from the Beatlesong "Glass Onion."
"Here's another clue for you all the Walrus was Paul."
"Here's another clue for you all - the Walrus was Paulie" -David Chase on the Finale in his First interview after it aired
Well that ends our little "Help From our Friends". But it segues into the next section, let us ask a question as we move forward that we may have never asked. If the Walrus is Paulie, Then who is the walRUS(S)es Dad? FEGOLIaboutit! (to be continued)
You know, Vito called me “skip” the other day. Slip of the tongue, no doubt. But I noticed he didn’t correct himself.

Re: Bells, Duality, Metaphysics, schrodingers Cat Oh my!

The WalRUSS(Fegoli) was Paulie('s Papa)?
Peter Paul Gualtieri, A real Son of a Nun...
Paulie has always been a signature character of this show and had many of his own arcs, he even once asked ironically, “wheres my Arc?” when Chrissy was trying to explain the writing process to him in the episode "The Legend of Tennessee Moltansanti"
[quote]"Where's my arc? Take richard kimble, all right? No, that's no good. His arc is run, run, jump off a damn-- run. Uh-- Keanu Reeves, Devil's Advocate. You see that?"-Chrissy
"Right. Keanu's a lawyer. Gets all turned on by money, power and the devil. Then his wife says to him, "You're not the man i married. Leaves him. You see the arc? He starts down here. (waves his hand) He ends up here. Where's my arc, Paulie?"-Chrissy
"Kid, Richard Kimble, the Devil's whatever, those are all make- believe. Hey, i got no arc either. I was born, grew up, spent a few years in the army, a few more in the can and here i am. A half a wise guy."-Paulie
One of Paulies arcs appears to be a slightly more ambiguous one than some of the others. Its not just any Arc, but the very origin of his life itself. The story of who discovering Paulies real Mom and Dad are. To make this discovery together we will start with looking at the episode “The Fleshy Part of the Thigh" and work our way backwards to “Marco Polo” to show you some strange things that make the song “Glass Onion” of the Beatles look tame with ambiguity. First we start out with Paulie visiting what he has believed his whole life to be his aunt , a nun in a convent hospital bed, only to be told in her last living days that she is really his mom. Not his Aunt as Paulie had always been told.
"Paulie During the war, I was still a NOVITIATE(at the Vatican?). I was helping out at the U.S.O. And there was this SOLDIER RUSS. And he was so lonely..”-Dottie
"Aunt Dottie, if this is going where I think, Maybe you should talk to a priest.”-Paulie
"I got pregnant. I had a baby.”-Dottie
"A baby? Listen to her. The Alzheimer's is gettin' to her. You didn't have no baby.”-Paulie
"I did.I did have a baby.Paulie It was you.You're my son.”-Dottie
"But But ma?”-Paulie
"Marianuccia is your aunt. I'm your ma. I was a bad girl.”-Dottie(emphasis and comment added)
no·vi·ti·ate nōˈviSH(ē)ət,nə-/noun
the period or state of being a novice, especially in a RELIGIOUS order.
synonyms: probationary period, probation, trial period, test period, apprenticeship, training period, traineeship, training, initiation
"his novitiate lasts a year"
a place HOUSING RELIGIOUS novices.
a novice, especially in a RELIGIOUS order.(emphasis added)
This is the first time we ever find out who Paulies real Mom and Dad are. Later On Paulie Tells Tony about what happened after finding out his aunt\mom had died. (Interesting note. Tony has Junior as an Uncle\Dad, Paulie has Dottie as Aunt\Mom.)
"My aunt who died She wasn't my aunt. She was my mother.”-Paulie
"What? Your aunt, the nun was your mother?”-Tony
"Some cocksucker GI knocked her up during the WAR. RUSS. She adopted me to hide the family shame.Believe this shit? All I did for her. Not only is my ma not my ma, who the fuck even knows who this RUSS bastard is? Worst thing, I'm not who I am.”-Paulie(Emphasis added)
Paulie is having a huge identity crisis here. Its a strange coincidence that back at Carmelas “surprise” party for Hugh, her Dad, we meet another Man with the name Russ. Or is it. Lets take a look at the dialogue from “Marco Polo” involving Russ and then we will make some connections.
"All of us, your brother Lester, Dr Fegoli.”-Mary
"RUSS Fegoli? He's in town?”-Carmela
"He retired from the FOREIGN SERVICE.”-Mary
"But they were living out in Marin County or wherever.’-Carmela
"Well, they settled on Jersey. Octavia, the oldest, lives here.”-Mary
"Wait, who's Dr Faggo?”-AJ
"She of the five-page Christmas card.”-Carmela
"And on Flag Day, Papa Russ shook hands with Andrew Cuomo.
What an honour.”- Mary
"The Fegoli kids finished college.That's what sticks in your craw.”-Mary
"When he got that medal, you two weren't even invited to the ceremony.”-Carmela
"It was out in California! They knew that your father doesn't like to be out of his element. Now, here's someone we can all be proud of, Anthony.
Dr Fegoli served in the STATE DEPARTMENT. In ROME, he was career assistant to the ambassador to the VATICAN. He got a medal from the POPE himself.”-Mary
"But when we were kids in the NAVY, he had such a bad case of the crabs we used to call him the Governor of Maryland.(implying promiscuity)”-Hugh (emphasis and note added)
Later on have Tony being introduced to Russ at Hughs Party. Heres a poignant sample of that piece of dialogue;
(To Hugh)"Hey, there he is! Hey, happy birthday to you,”-Tony
"Got salsiccia for you RUSS, wait till you taste this. There's nothing else like it.
I want you to meet a couple of our oldest friends, Dr RUSS and Lena Fegoli.”-Hugh
"Nice to meet you, sir.”-Tony
"My son-in-law Well, whatever Tony Soprano.”-Hugh
"A doctor, huh? That's good. Somebody usually goes down at these.”-Tony
"He's just joking.”-Mary
"Unfortunately, my doctorate is in international affairs. From Princeton.
GI(!!!) Bill.”-Russ
"So you're a doctor like Kissinger's a doctor.”-Tony
“RUSS had an audience with four POPES.”-Mary
"What section did you all sit in?”-Tony (emphasis added)
Are you catching on to a theme here? Add to this that later on the season 6 episode “The Ride” we find out Paulie is diagnosed with prostate cancer and is asked "is there a history of cancer in the family?" He isn't sure. But back in the Marco Polo episode we find out Russ also had cancer.
"Ma, what?”-Carmela
"Dr Fegoli, RUSS.”-Mary
“What?” -Carmela
" He's allergic to tomatoes."-Mary
"All right, so we will deal with it. Jesus.”-Carmela
"Don't you have any hors d'oeuvres without tomatoes?”-Carmela
"The prosciutto-wrapped chèvre. Rosalie just took 'em out.An Italian allergic to pomodori? Dio mio. You have my sympathies”-Artie
"It wasn't always like this. It started when they gave me RADIATION for my PROSTATE.”-Russ
And heres the dialogue between Paulie and his Doctor in “The Ride” informing Paulie his test results;
"Paul, Dr. Cipolla. I received the results of your PSA test.”-Dr. Cipolla
"Not to worry. But the numbers are a little higher than I prefer.”-Dr Cipolla
"What does that mean?” -Paulie
" Probably nothing. Likelihood is prostatitis, simple inflammation.You have a history of PROSTATE CANCER in your family? FATHER maybe?”-Dr. Cipolla
" I don't know.”-Paulie
"Well, I'd like to go ahead and schedule you for a biopsy.”-Dr. Cipolla (emphasis added)
If you look at the pictures of the two characters, Russ and Paulie, there is a slight resemblance even. On the commentary for the Season 6 episode "Luxury Lounge” Writer Matthew Weiner explains “Nothing in this show is an accident.” So are we supposed to believe the following coincidences are just some freak “accident” by the writers or did I like many others miss this whole thing;

1.Russ boasts with Hugh at the party about their service in WWII. Dottie tells Paulie during her USO service (WWII) she met a lonely soldier Russ.
2.Dottie was a Nun working in the USO so its likely she would have ventured to the Vatican where troops were stationed nearby at the time. Russ was career assistant to the Vatican, had audience of 4 popes, and given a medal by the Pope himself just to drive the point home(?)
3.Both Paulie and Russ have been diagnosed and treated for Prostate Cancer which we are told in the show is hereditary through the father.

Now at this point I would love to here the argument about how Russ ISN'T Paulies Dad because the argument that he IS, is very compelling and barely ambiguous when you connect all the dots. So there we have it, you decide for yourself. Its all "Looking through a Glass Onion". Was the WalRUSS Paulies Dad? Fegoli it out for yourself.
This is what happens when people play “Marco Polo” in the Gene Pool…….
You know, Vito called me “skip” the other day. Slip of the tongue, no doubt. But I noticed he didn’t correct himself.

Re: Bells, Duality, Metaphysics, schrodingers Cat Oh my!

"Welcome to The Sopanos Gene *ool, Notice how theres no “P” in it?"(except for Patsy's???)
"Ducks Swimming in the Gene Pool"
In this next section we will be exploring one of the biggest recurring themes in “the Sopranos”. Genetics. There are so many references to genetics its staggering and theres no way I can present them all. Good thing is someone already did all the work. A geneticist who is a fan of “The Sopranos” picked up on the fact that there are many many references to genetics. So many in fact, that he wrote a pretty extensive paper on it including examples of ALL the references through out all 6 seasons. Its titled, THE ROLE OF GENETIC DIALOGS IN THE SOPRANOS IN SIX PARTS for the Science Creative Quarterly and its arguably one of the biggest and most professional specimens of Soprano fan lore ever presented. Its a fascinating read and very professionally done. He explores 21(theres that number again!!!) pieces of dialogue dealing with genetics in chronological order. Heres the link for you to explore more. ... -dialog-1/
The authors name is Bernard Possidente and it was published in October 2007. Instead of providing you with every single example of dialogue the author presents, Im going to just pick the choicest examples to make the point and encourage you to explore the research more for yourself. Especially since it is extremely well done and a good read from start to finish. Before we “dive” in lets play “Marco Polo” and explore one of the most underrated non speaking characters on the show, Tony Sopranos (gene)swimming pool.
In the Pilot, the Pool is introduced almost before any other character on the show. We see a determined and depressed Tony being brought back to life as it were through his excitement at a family of Ducks and ducklings that have taken residency in the Pool. Through his therapy sessions with Melfi, we learn that his first Panic attack came when the Ducklings flew off from the pool after learning to fly. Melfi concludes the Ducks are representative of his family.
So in the very first episode we see this theme. Family, the Pool. Gene Pool? For sure this is an intentional metaphor. I always thought this but hadn’t quite found the way to articulate it. The same goes with the genetic references sprinkled throughout the show. I recognized them but couldn’t see how they all fit together. This paper written by a fan who is geneticists does an amazing job. Lets start by reading the introduction that explains why he embarked on this undertaking
In this series, twenty one dialogs that reference genetics from the six seasons of the HBO television series The Sopranos are cited and discussed, in chronological order, from the perspective of a fan who is a geneticist. The context of each citation with respect to the plot and characters will be the main focus of discussion.
General Introduction
There are twenty one explicit references to genetics and DNA in seasons one through six of HBO’s The Sopranos television series about a contemporary mafia family in Northern New Jersey. Five of these refer to forensic uses of genetics, but the rest are more personal. All of them serve a utilitarian function by moving the plot along in the show’s wryly sophisticated trademark fashion, while they cleverly remind us of the central dogma of the whole series, the deepest plot strands that spiral through every episode – the dialectic of nature and nurture that animates Tony’s complex struggles, and the nucleus of Tony’s universe: the family.
What better way to capture the wonderful and complex themes of the series that derive from the biological and criminal families that define Tony’s world view than the metaphor of DNA?
So now that we got the gist of this subject matter, lets take a closer look at this researchers work. For the sake of time and other things, Im going to narrow it down to the magic number of 3 out of the 21 examples to make the point. As you read through you will notice not only the amazing writing this author does but a huge thread that traverses the shows entirity. I personally think this the best analysis ever done on the show and one often overlooked. The writer really deserves a tremendous amount of credit for this work. So with out further ado, lets dig into the first example……
(To Be Continued)
You know, Vito called me “skip” the other day. Slip of the tongue, no doubt. But I noticed he didn’t correct himself.

Re: Bells, Duality, Metaphysics, schrodingers Cat Oh my!

Lets just throw ourselves in shall we? Here's the first example given;
Tony and his crew are sitting around in the back room of Satriale’s Pork Store counting cash and otherwise hanging out. “Big Pussy” Bonpensiero is reading a tabloid copy of “Healthy Living” and comes across an article about cloning. Meanwhile, the television is tuned to a talk show host interviewing mob informant Vincent Rizzo who is commenting on the current state of the mob which, they agree, is in a period of decline as Rizzo asks: “Now, do I mean that organized crime is gonna pack its bags voluntarily and got the way of the Dodo bird?”…

Big Pussy: “Cloning.”

Chris: “Mexicans are huge in that.”

Big Pussy: “It’s fascinating, gotta admit it.”

Chris: “Cause they work as parking valets.”

Big Pussy: “What the fuck are you talking about?”

Chris: “Mexicans.”

Big Pussy: “What about them?”

Chris: “Cell phones.”

Big Pussy: “I’m not talking about cloning cell phones. Jesus, I’m talking about fucking sheep. Science.”

Tony: “I tell my kids, only God can make a life”.

Big Pussy: “Guy here asks, what if they had cloned princess Di?”

Tony: “I got a list of people as long as my leg I wouldn’t want cloned. The fuckin’ mayor of New York, that’s the guy least likely to get cloned.”

TV talk show continues in background…”so the code of silence…You’re always gonna have organized crime. Always. As long as the human being has certain appetites for gambling, pornography, whatever, someone’s always gonna surface to serve these needs.”
Silvio: “Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in.”

This dialog highlights series-long themes, not the least of which is the humorous semi-literate conversation about topics outside of traditional mobster areas of expertise. A more explicit theme here is the declining state of the mafia. One reason for that is the relatively low level of formal education among its members, exemplified by the conversation about cloning.

While Tony and Big Pussy might deserve some credit for recognizing and understanding the concept of cloning, Chris Moltisanti who represents the next generation in training in Tony’s crew, has no idea what Big Pussy is talking about, and somehow confuses “cloning” with “cell phones”. This comical and fractured discussion among Tony’s crew about the modern genetic technology of reproductive cloning nicely corroborates the discussion going on in the background television interview about the generational decline in organized crime.

The reference by the television commentator of the mafia going the way of the Dodo bird opens up several lines of metaphorical comparison of the mob to biological themes. The obvious one is obsolescence and extinction from an inability to adapt to modern challenges. Another is the possibility of reviving recently extinct species by cloning, which makes the ensuing conversation about cloning less serendipitous than it might seem otherwise. Tony chimes in about people he wouldn’t want to clone, specifically the mayor of New York (Rudy Guiliani, who is campaigning against crime to clean up the city). Chris, who has already confused clones with “cell” phones, and who Tony refers to as his “nephew” will become a kind of cloning project for Tony later in the series when Tony chooses Chris as his “heir” and starts grooming him as his replacement; albeit mainly to insulate himself from legal exposure, much like one might imagine creating a clone as a surrogate to provide spare parts in the service of greater longevity.

Like most attempts at cloning, this project ultimately fails because of fatal flaws in the cloned organism. It is also a nice example of the devolution of the mob from generation to generation, and of a hall of mirrors relationship between uncles and nephews involving Tony; Tony’s biological “Uncle Junior”; Chris who Tony calls his “nephew” even though he’s actually only a “cousin in law” through Tony’s wife Carmela; and Chris’ father, Dickie Moltisanti. While Tony was mentored by Chris’ father after Tony’s father died, Chris was mentored by Tony after Chris’ father died. Later in the series, Tony installs his biological Uncle “Junior” as a figurehead for the Soprano mob family, mainly to insulate himself from risk as he runs things behind the scenes. After Uncle Junior becomes more of a threat to Tony and less effective as head of the family, Tony grooms Chris for this same role. Tony’s uncle Junior, who Tony remembers fondly from his childhood days and respects as his father’s brother, ends up trying to kill him (twice by the end of the series), and Chris, who is genuinely loyal to Tony, ends up being killed by him.

This conversation also establishes a thread of genetics themes and dialogs that recur on a regular basis throughout the series, mostly concerning family relationships and the hereditary basis of psychiatric disorders, and occasionally referring to forensic genetic issues. Although we don’t know yet, at this point in the series, whether this dialog about cloning is a one-time topic of conversation or a precedent for further references, it serves to highlight a feature of Tony’s character that is quite relevant to future roles of genetic dialogs in the series – an earnest streak of self-serving hypocrisy. Tony interrupts the inane conversation between Big Pussy and Chris to state “I tell my kids only God can make a life”. This may be the payoff line for the ultimate meaning of this dialog. First, Tony brings up his own family by mentioning his kids, and if The Sopranos is about anything, it’s about Tony and his “family”.
It might seem to be a stretch to read too much into this scene, but the fact that this is just the second episode of the entire series, and it begins with this dialog about the fading fortunes of the mob and cloning, which is shown, uncharacteristically, before the opening credits and theme song, gives it an unusually prominent position and emphasis. In the first episode, Tony talked with Dr. Melfi about his attachment to the family of ducks that visit his backyard pool, and they discuss a dream he has about the ducks. The conversation about the ducks is so emotional that it brings Tony to tears, and Dr. Melfi quickly realizes that the ducks symbolize Tony’s family. The reference here to the Dodo bird might serve as a symbol, not only of the declining fortunes of the mob, but as an ominous parallel to the ducks as a symbol of Tony’s family. This might explain the emphasis in the dialog on cloning, which is about genetic identity and reproduction, and serves to reinforce the anxiety Tony feels about the security of this family and the prospects for his children given his “profession” and the danger it creates for his otherwise innocent children. While Chris evolves into Tony’s prime candidate for his eventual “replacement” as head of the New Jersey Family to mediate between Tony and the conduct of day to day business, Tony does not want his own son (“AJ”) to assume his role as head of the mafia in Northern New Jersey.

In spite of his anxiety about his family, Tony continues to run the mob. This streak of self-serving pity and hypocrisy which is enabled by Dr. Melfi’s therapy sessions, during which the most prominent discussions about genetics occur later in the series, is highlighted perfectly by Tony’s comment that “only God can make a life”. Tony, who kills people for a living, apparently only reserves making a life for God, and sees no contradiction in his sharing in the divine privilege of taking a life. Tony’s feelings for the ducks, which later generalize to a fierce defense of the lives of various animals (e.g. Pie-O-Mie, Adriana’s poodle) is another fine example of this self-serving hypocritical contradiction and selective self-righteousness.

As the successive genetics dialogs unfold in later episodes, we might wonder why an exquisitely crafted series about organized crime features recurring, explicit dialogs about genetics. The easy answer is that forensic genetic evidence will contribute to Tony’s demise, but this is not the case. The most meaningful references to genetics occur in dialogs about Tony’s biological family, and in particular about the hereditary nature of psychiatric disorders and behaviors that characterize Tony himself- depression and anxiety in particular. This latter focus serves two key purposes. One is that it feeds into Tony’s concerns about his family, and how the fate of his children, especially AJ, is shaped by both nature and nurture. The other is that while the “nurture” part of the equation is something we can influence, the “nature” part is not. The payoff to the series’ worth of genetic dialogs, in the end, is that Tony uses the fact that depression and anxiety are hereditary as an excuse for his own character flaws and those of his son AJ, just as he uses his years of therapy with Dr. Melfi as more of a rationalization for his chosen behaviors rather than as a tool for insight to generate therapeutic changes in his own behavior and in his son’s.

Although most of us could not come close to identifying with Tony Soprano in his role as a sociopathic head of a mafia family, how often in our own lives do we take personal credit for the things we are most proud of about ourselves, and at the same time avoid blame for our weaknesses and failures by attributing them to our genes, the stars, fate, the government, our employer and any other convenient mysterious forces beyond our control? The genetic dialogs in The Sopranos are one of the many universal, non-mafia themes in the show that humanize the characters and allow us to identify with them and care about them in spite of their criminal behavior.
So here we have the start of this thread. The second episode is arguably the first episode in many ways since the first one is the “Pilot”, so its significant that the Chase Machine kept this DNA theme afloat in the pool. My hunch(back) is that they wanted us to catch on to something here....
(To Be Continued)
You know, Vito called me “skip” the other day. Slip of the tongue, no doubt. But I noticed he didn’t correct himself.

Re: Bells, Duality, Metaphysics, schrodingers Cat Oh my!


Lets jump now to one of my personal favorite episodes, the Season 3 finale, “Army of One”;
Dialog Eleven (Season Three, Episode Thirty-Nine: Army of One).
“That Putrid, Rotten Fucking Soprano Gene”
After AJ is expelled, Tony wants to send him to a military academy. While trying on the uniform for his new school, AJ has a panic attack and falls to the floor. Tony is talking to Dr. Melfi right after this.

Tony: “My son, has panic attacks. Now obviously we can’t send him to military school. Pediatrician said. He’s got that putrid, rotten fucking Soprano gene!”

Dr. Melfi: “It’s a slight tick- in his fight-flight response. It doesn’t brand him as anything.”

Tony: “You know- it comes down through the ages. I remember hearing about my great, great, great grandfather- he drove a mule cart over a mountain road. He was transporting these valuable jugs of olive oil. Probably was a panic attack.”

Dr. Melfi: “When you blame your genes, you’re really blaming yourself. And that’s what we should be talking about.”
This is probably the quintessential reference to genetics in the series. Tony explicitly cites “that putrid, rotten fucking Soprano gene”. There is no doubt that, at least literally, he’s referring to a genetic basis for the anxiety syndrome that runs in the family. It’s likely Tony’s anger is directed at the fact that this trait interferes with his own work and effectiveness as a mob boss, and has put a stop to his plan to “save” AJ by sending him to military school.

Doctor Melfi’s response is classic and practical: “When you blame your genes, you’re really blaming yourself”. She has been trying to get Tony to accept responsibility for his behavior and his choices, and she’s not about to let him blame it all on a gene. She understands that genes don’t literally determine our behavior. Doctor Melfi also understands that at the individual level there is no way to separate genetic from non-genetic causes of our behavior. Her immediate response to Tony’s outburst is to play down the significance of AJ’s problem by saying “It’s a slight tick- in his fight-flight response. It doesn’t brand him as anything.” This one trait doesn’t irreversibly determine his fate. Just because AJ may have inherited Tony’s anxiety disorder it doesn’t mean he’s doomed to follow in Tony’s footsteps in every other respect.

At the same time, by labeling AJ’s anxiety attack as “a slight tick- in his fight-flight response” she is also commenting indirectly on Tony’s similar make-up. Fight-flight response, in academic jargon, refers to basic instincts that go deep into our evolutionary past and reside in the more primitive areas of our mammalian brain (often described as “the four F’s: fighting, feeding, fleeing and mating”). One of Doctor Melfi’s jobs as a psychiatrist is to help Tony become more consciously aware of his behavior and to use his rational powers to control his baser instincts and behave in a more socially acceptable way. Tony, on the other hand, usually sees his overactive four F’s as a good thing.

The fact that Doctor Melfi prescribes Prozac, Lithium and other pharmacological treatments for Tony is a further indication that, as a psychiatrist, she recognizes unconscious biological influences on behavior and accepts that psychiatric problems may be caused by individual differences in how these mechanisms function. She doesn’t just prescribe Prozac and hope for the best- she combines drug treatment with intensive psychotherapy. Her approach to therapy reflects a complex interaction among nature, nurture and insightful analysis. Tony’s problem may be rooted in his “nature”, but it’s not beyond the power of therapy to save him. Doctor Melfi’s strategy seems to lie mainly in patiently working to change the way Tony sees himself. She never does, however, successfully refer Tony to a purely behavioral therapist, despite several half-hearted attempts. The fact that Tony is already a master at dispensing “behavioral therapy” in his own line of work as a mafia boss, and his penchant for parasitizing therapeutic insights (e.g. he used her advice to let his mother think she is in charge of the decision to move into a nursing home to solve the problem of what to do with Uncle Junior by making him the nominal head of the family while Tony ran things behind his back) might have made her skeptical that behavioral therapy would be any more successful than her approach. More likely, she wasn’t willing to give up Tony as a patient because of her fascination with him and the personal challenge of treating him.

Doctor Melfi’s faith in therapy for Tony, despite her ambivalence about treating him, implies that she believes Tony is not a hopeless psychopath. She may be able to understand, better than her own ex-husband and her own therapist do, how Tony could be more a victim of circumstance, born at the wrong time, in the wrong place, to the wrong mother, than a born sociopath. The origins and logic of Tony’s criminal behavior, as repulsive as it may be, may lie in his enculturation and family influences rather than an innate criminal disposition. Doctor melfi’s tenuous thread of empathy toward Tony may derive, in part, from the fact that she and Tony have recognized a common ancestral terroir in that Doctor Melfi’s family comes from Caserta, near Naples, not far from Avellino where Tony’s family roots lie. Had Tony’s family not been in the mafia, had he stayed in college, listened more carefully to his high school football coach and taken a job selling lawn furniture- he may have become a real “Captain of Industry”, politician, high-school gym teacher, cop, professional actor or even a psychotherapist or college professor. Jennifer Melfi, by the same token, might be thinking that had fate given her life a different twist, she might be on the other side of the couch as well.
Regardless of what might have been, Tony dreams about ducks as symbols of concern about his family, feels conflicted about whacking his close friends when business requires it, feels a tangible sense of loyalty and duty toward his mother, sister and uncle despite their transgressions against him, and genuinely cares about his marriage to Carmela. A full-blown psychopath wouldn’t have these feelings, probably wouldn’t be in therapy voluntarily, wouldn’t feel so protective of animals such as Adriana’s dog and Ralph’s racehorse, and wouldn’t feel anxiety and remorse to the point of developing panic attacks. A genuine psychopath would also be less conflicted and less concerned about the “ethics” of proper mob etiquette, especially when it requires some compromise, or delayed gratification on his part. It’s difficult to imagine Tony beating a young woman to death the way Ralph Cifarelli does, or smothering an old lady to death with a pillow for the money under her mattress like Paulie Walnuts, and with no apparent feelings of remorse afterwards. Tony has higher moral standards than these characters- he beats Ralph Cifarelli to death, for example, for whacking their racehorse “Pie-O’My” for the insurance money.

Despite the mixed results of her efforts to use both therapy and pharmacological treatments (combined with a good dose of vodka, therapy, personal anxiety and rationalization on her own behalf) in treating Tony, Doctor Melfi does an admirable job as a character in representing an intelligent, sincere, competent and appropriately complex mirror image of Tony’s character. She is an exemplary synthesis of the ethical, carefully reasoned and principled behaviors that Tony lacks. While Tony enjoys himself to the fullest most of the time, she struggles, like most of us, to maintain her integrity. Melfi is constantly debating whether or not she is treating Tony or enabling him, trying to help him or satisfying her own morbid attraction to him, or upholding the Hippocratic oath she’s sworn to obey versus doing more harm than good by helping him to function more effectively. Where Doctor Melfi succeeds in conforming to social norms, Tony largely fails. Where Doctor Melfi talks out her problems productively with her therapist, Tony’s awareness of his transgressions and corrective measures he might take remain largely suppressed and he deals with them instead by “somaticizing” them in the form of anxiety attacks and depression. While Doctor Melfi uses her insights into her patient’s personality, nature and behavior for their therapeutic benefit, Tony uses his insights into the personality, nature and behavior of other people to manipulate them to his advantage with little regard for their well-being
Tony and Doctor Melfi, nevertheless, clearly share a common attraction to each other on a personal level, they each live vicariously through each other’s worlds, and their different lifestyles don’t reside so much in any inherent potential difference in their respective human natures so much as how effectively they manage to control their impulses to act on it. This is nowhere more evident than the amazing self-control that Doctor Melfi displays after she is raped, her rapist is identified and arrested, and then released on a technicality. She knows that Tony would whack the guy in a second without being asked, so she keeps the entire incident secret from him, in spite of her residual rage and frustration, and unconscious dream imagery about Tony protecting her.

Tony and Doctor Melfi couldn’t be more different in some ways, but in other ways they almost meet at a common middle ground coming from two opposite ends of the personality spectrum. Tony’s most impressive similarity to Doctor Melfi occurs in his parallel universe of the Cosa Nostra. There, in his own separate world, Tony is a model citizen when it comes to taking on awesome responsibilities, mediating conflicts, upholding mob social conventions, dispensing advice, “medicine” and “therapy” while also receiving it from his consigliere and lawyer, running a business, seeing “clients”, and holding sit-downs. Doctor Melfi and Tony both work hard to keep their lives on track.

Both of them are very successful, work long hours, struggle with various crises and challenges and difficult people, and must handle a lot of stress. Doctor Melfi struggles with cognitive dissonance between the Hippocratic Oath of the medical profession and her concern that by treating Tony she may also enable his criminal behavior and, indirectly, share responsibility for the harm he does to other people. Tony struggles with the fact that the oath of loyalty he swore in blood to the Cosa Nostra sometimes requires him to whack his friends and exercise strategic restraint against his enemies. The process of working one’s way up the ladder from petty criminal to mob boss is not unlike the process of working one’s way through high school, college and medical school and finally earning your degree and practicing. The only problem is that Tony’s life revolves around the wrong set of rules.
The Sopranos recognizes a fine and dangerous line between right and wrong in part because much of what comes to be accepted as such is decided by arbitrary social contract, and because much of the process is the same even if the outcome is so dramatically different. There is an obvious overlap in this regard not just between Tony and his therapist, but also between the mob and the FBI in that they share a lot in common even though they are, ultimately on opposite sides of the law. The Sopranos blurs the worlds of the mob and conventional society by showing much of the “human” side of the criminals along with the more hypocritical side of the conventional characters, such as those representing law enforcement, religion, government and business.

One of the many elements of brilliance in The Sopranos series is the way that the complex interaction in Tony’s character between nature and nurture in the causation of human behavior is portrayed. References to genetics, family, religion, society, culture, philosophy and chance and their manifestations in Tony’s character resemble a modern version of a Dostoyevsky novel. Although references to genetics throughout the series are relatively few, they are conspicuous in this context.
We see how the strands of these shows weave together like genetic material. Its amazing how 37 episodes later and this theme is still going. Its obviously central to this show.
(To Be Continued)
You know, Vito called me “skip” the other day. Slip of the tongue, no doubt. But I noticed he didn’t correct himself.

Re: Bells, Duality, Metaphysics, schrodingers Cat Oh my!

Now lets jump ahead once more, to the last example in this analysis, 83 episodes from the first example I might add. "Hows that for an Arc?";
Dialog Twenty-One (Season Six, Episode 84: The Second Coming)
“A Fuckin Idiot”
Tony with Dr. Melfi, discussing AJ’s suicide attempt.

Dr. Melfi: “It could have been a cry for help.”

Tony: “Weren’t you listening? He did cry for help. He’s lucky I came home and heard him.”

Dr. Melfi: “I mean the botched attempt. On some level he may have known that the rope was too long to keep him submerged.”

Tony: “Or, he could just be a fuckin idiot. Historically that‘s been the case. Me and Carm were getting along so good too. My father and his panic attacks. My fuckin demented uncle. Not to mention the other one- the fuckin retard.”

Dr. Melfi: “You think there are other reasons why your son is so unhappy?”

Tony: “He’s got the world by the balls. Every fuckin advantage- an he hits one little pothole and he goes in hysterics. Yeah- I know. Still I’m not takin the rap- not completely. She coddled him, his mudder. I said it before. Every little problem she’s right there to pick him up an wipe off his tears on her apron strings.”

Dr. Melfi: “Children need to feel safe.”

Tony: “I’m sure that made him into the man he is today.”

Dr. Melfi: “Are you ashamed of him?”

Tony: “Yeah- actually I am. Coward’s way out. Isn’t that what they called it?”

Dr. Melfi: “I think whoever said that didn’t understand depression. But you do- don’t you?”
This is the final genetic dialog in the show, and also Tony’s last session with Dr. Melfi before she cuts Tony loose as a patient to face his fate in the final episodes. Tony pulls out all the branches of his family tree this time, suggesting that AJ failed in his suicide attempt because he may be an idiot, and cites his fathers anxiety attacks, Uncle Junior’s dementia and even his obscure institutionalized uncle “Erkely” to support his comment “historically, that’s been the case”. Then Tony indirectly implicates his own genetic contributions again (“Yeah, I know. Still I’m not taking the rap- not completely”) but quickly spins that into a clever genotype by environment interaction argument, blaming Carmella for “coddling” him. Tony has said, in previous sessions, that he is, himself, tough enough to handle the depression that runs in his family, but here is a way that he can shift the blame to Carmella. If he can’t blame Carmella’s genes, why not blame the combination of his genes and her maternal environmental influence? Dr. Melfi as much as calls him a hypocrite by reminding him that he should understand the struggle of dealing with hereditary depression, after he says he’s actually ashamed of AJ for taking “the coward’s way out”. At this point in the series, blaming his genes is only one of the key internal and external defenses and rationalizations that has been stripped from Tony (e.g. as he is about to be set loose by Dr. Melfi, Chris and Uncle Junior are out of the picture, Phil Leotardo is on the warpath, the FBI is closing in) and, ironically, one of the characters most sympathetic to Tony is now the FBI agent Harris! Tony is being nicely set up for some kind of resolution of the series in the final two episodes. At this point, it’s easy to see how David Chase chose the ending he did since there are so many ways Tony could finally get what’s coming to him that it would be a shame to have to waste the myriad plot lines and potential endings that would not be realized. It’s also easy to see how the cryptic ending might alienate many fans who have become so faithfully addicted to trying to figure out how it’s finally going to end.
Its a very powerful allusion to use a Pool so predominately in the narrative of a story. It definitely is a character and a metaphor all at once. People are reborn in it, try to kill themselves in it, find themselves in it, enjoy it, share it. And then when Tony drains it after AJ’s suicide attempt you get the sense of some foreboding doom or some tragedy approaching. Paralell this with the dumping of Absestos in a wetlands where ducks were seen and heard and we see the message. Tony dirtied his own Pool.
Speaking of allegorical non human characters lets segue into the next subject of this analysis. What happens when you eat the magic trinity of foods in “this thing of ours”, Onions, Oranges, and eggs?
You know, Vito called me “skip” the other day. Slip of the tongue, no doubt. But I noticed he didn’t correct himself.

Re: Bells, Duality, Metaphysics, schrodingers Cat Oh my!

What came first, the Duck or the Egg?
You know, I been meaning to ask you, chicken or the egg? You wanna weigh in?-Tony
That same stupid joke, huh? -Vic Caputo
Much has been made about the appearance of another non-human character in “The Sopranos”, The Egg. We see it scrambled, hear it creamed, see it hideously poached, choked on as salad, and its shells stepped on. Every time they show up something unfortunate will occur, generally a loss of life, a relationship, or both either immediately after the scene or later in the season. Eggs are practically a death sentence on this show. But why? Aren’t eggs about life? So maybe we could read the point here being about how fragile this life really is, that all it takes is the crack in the shell of our existence and we get cooked. Then eaten up by the Universe. Egg-istentially speaking eggs are both a symbol then of not only birth but death as well. The “Great Circle jerk of life” as Tony Soprano once so eloquently stated to Dr. Melfi.
Lets crack this section open by taking a quick look at what wikipedia says about the symbolism of the Egg;
Egg symbolism

Throughout the ages, the egg has symbolized new beginnings, the spark of creation. Traditional folk religion regards the egg as a powerful symbol of fertility, purity and rebirth. Magic rituals often use eggs to promote fertility and restore virility (of the body and mind); and to foresee the future. Eggs mean growth, protection, new beginnings, resurrection. The Vernal Equinox celebrates the coming of spring and the egg is an important part of this ancient festival.
Later customs concerning eggs were associated with Easter. Christians embraced the egg symbol and likened it to the tomb from which Christ arose. Though pre-Christian in origin, this egg symbolism was in agreement with the Christian concept of Resurrection and the transformation of death into life.
So we see the theme of resurrection and new beginnings really resonating with the way the Egg is used on this show. Now that we have egg on our face already, lets take a trip through this “thing of ours” and list off a few choice exmples. We already saw the WalRUSS now its time for the Egg man goo goo ga joob……..
(To Be Continued)
You know, Vito called me “skip” the other day. Slip of the tongue, no doubt. But I noticed he didn’t correct himself.

Return to “Sopranos Symbolism and Subtext”