Tony Following Artie's Lead, Running from 'Mob'

There was certainly a lot of fodder in Test Dream for continued speculation about whether Tony might actually consider "retiring" or just leaving the mob and what form that leaving might take. This post covers a lot of that fodder, and I apologize in advance for its length. I've tried to organize the post topically to make it less daunting to read. But it's a testament to the density of The Test Dream that this much can be written about it and still only touch a fraction of the issues it raises.

Tony as Scrooge

The Christmas Carol scene where Scrooge realizes it's still Christmas morning and not too late to change his life might most clearly apply to Tony reconciling with Carmela, since she was the one who pointed out that Scrooge's life was Tony's life and since the "job" Ralph mentioned in the scene before was a job at the Soprano house. However, it could also apply to Tony's mob life, as his personal and professional selves are always intertwined despite his efforts at keeping them separate. The very fact that his father was driving him to this job and that the car was populated with Tony's dead Mafia cronies illustrates this integration in the dream. The particularly compelling thing about the Christmas Carol parallel is that Scrooge has a sudden epiphany, a turnaround occasioned by a single evening of visitations by various spirits, visitations much like Tony's dream.

Artie as Tony's "Straight" Alter Ego

Artie's role in the dream is one of its most intriguing elements. My tentative take is that he has two roles: (1) he represents the "straight life" or the "good" part of Tony that would have liked to have pursued a normal life as a coach; and (2) he is an alternate father figure to Tony.

In the first role, Artie suddenly appears next to Tony (replacing Mikey Palmice) in the back of Johnny Boy's car and, like Tony, is the only living person at any point in any of the car rides. Straight equals survival, crooked equals death. He points several times to Tony while the "meet the parents" dinner is ongoing, and it's from his warning that Tony knows "something bad is going to happen." When the angry mob pursues Tony for failing to control Tony B, it's Artie who leads him to safety, suggesting that safety is the straight life, away from the literal and figurative "mob".

In the next instant, Artie seems to morph into Tony's father. He is driving Johnny's car (complete with dead gangsters in back) and smoking heavily, prompting Tony to remark, "Look what you're doing to yourself." The next moment, Artie is coaching Tony on how to bang goomars, who are represented by the horse sounds and Charmaine. However if you buy my argument here that Charmaine ALSO plays a dual role as both goomar and as Carmela, what you see is that Artie is the "good" alternate father that is teaching Tony to bang his wife, not whores, while explaining that sex with the wife is raucously good. Consistent with this interpretation is the rapid cut to Tony atop Pie-O-My asking to come back home to Carmela.

High Noon

I need help with this badly because I've never seen the movie. But from what I can glean, the clip shown in Vesuvio must have been a moment when Gary Cooper (the "strong, silent type" that Tony has always so admired) realizes he is all alone in his fight against evil and will have to suck it up and do what he has to do by himself. It was his aloneness in that scene that really stood out to me.

For a guy like Tony, whose peer group are a bunch of criminals, little would feel more isolating than going straight. Just ask Tony B, who equated the notion of trying to break out of that life with being an immigrant.

Coach Molinaro as Tony's Conscience

The scenes with Coach Molinaro are probably the most straightforward. He is someone who believed in the good in Tony and tried to grow it. But throughout their encounter, his tone is one of reproach and vehement disapproval for what Tony did with his life and the excuses he uses to justify it (his mother, his father). The coach is, in essence, Tony's own conscience.

This is especially clear when Tony goes to shoot him with a gun that, as someone astutely noted elsewhere, has a prominent silencer attached. When the gun falls to pieces and the bullets disintegrate to chocolate, the coach tells Tony, "You'll never shut me up." Tony will never be able to silence his conscience for choosing and remaining in a Mafia life.

One side note here was the way the coach claimed Artie was the biggest bum of all of Tony's circle, yet Tony threw back at him that Artie made an upstanding life by running a restaurant. While the coach spoke as if it was too late for Tony and that his corrupted potential was all just water under the bridge, Tony seemed to be saying, "You were wrong about Artie, you could be wrong about me." Again, another indicator that perhaps Tony thinks it isn't too late.

Tony's Gun Failures

Tony's inability to locate the gun in Vesuvio or in the street, his gun failure again with Coach Molinaro, and his losing his teeth all suggest his likely inability to kill Tony B even for the Leotardo hit. From the drug and Ade incidents with Christopher to the Tony B thing with Peeps, Tony S has consistently demonstrated he doesn't have the ruthless dispassion required to kill those he loves that are actual family, even when sound Mafia wisdom necessitates it.

I'm already getting hints from the ep 12 previews that Tony S will ask Johnny Sac to let him (Tony) handle the hit on Tony B. The most obvious reason for this request is so that he can tell Tony B he's giving him one chance to disappear forever, allowing Tony to try to appease Johnny Sac while still saving Tony B's life.

Tony "B" for "Boss"

A much wilder, if improbable, scenario occurs to me, however. If Tony concludes that he really has no chance to avert a major gang war and risk to himself and his immediate family unless he produces for Johnny Sac the clearly dead body of Tony B, I'm wondering if Tony S might hand Tony Blundetto the reigns of the DiMeo family.

We know from previews that something upcoming enrages Christopher and causes him to proclaim, "f--- family, f--- loyalty" and to say with obvious disdain, "that's the man I'm going to hell for." We know also that Tony S sees Tony B as having clearly the best combination of "brains and balls" in his stable, and the balls aspect (or poor judgment, depending upon perspective) have certainly been proved since the Peeps thing. We know that little could inspire more jealousy and hurt in Christopher than such an elevation of Tony B after years of expecting (and being told) that he would be the next leader of that family. We know that if Tony B were a boss, it would be MUCH more controversial for Sac to whack him. We know that Tony has carried a feeling of deep indebtedness to Tony B for silently taking 17 years of heat and prison for the botched hijacking and feels a need to in some way repay him for all the good fortune that came Tony's way during that time. We know that Angelo's last act onscreen before death was to give Tony B a plaque which anointed him as "the boss" and which Tony B proudly hung on the wall. And we know that in the previews for next week, Tony S says to someone, "Now we're even." I can't help but wonder if the "even" might be Tony S giving Tony B his rank, title, and criminal money-making potential, relieving himself in the process of a life that clearly is causing him almost unbearable stress and unhappiness.

The Valachi Papers

All of the above are really scenarios where Tony just leaves the mob of his own volition and presumably lives off whatever his considerable cash stashes can generate in legitimate investments. The question after the Billy Leotardo hit is whether that's even possible now. Could Tony just say, "I'm handing the reigns over to Chris or Silvio or Tony B, now"? Would Johnny Sac let Tony go his merry way under any of these circumstances? Probably "no" on the first two and a resounding "NO" on the third.

In the Vesuvio bathroom, Tony asks Makazian, "You don't do this anymore," to which he replied, "No." "This" IMO meant mixing in a criminal lifestyle and suffering all the stress entailed in it. Makazian had just earnestly sung a sugary ballad and had a nice "tinkle" afterward, commenting on how "good" it felt (yet another analogy of bodily excretion to the relief of purging psychological burdens.) Noting that Tony didn't find the gun behind the toilet, he asks if Tony can come through on "the thing", and Tony whips out a copy of "The Valachi Papers" and says proudly that he's "done his homework".

Of course this begs the question of what Tony was preparing for if "The Valachi Papers" was his homework. I've never seen the movie nor read the book, but it is apparently the memoir of a soldier in the Genovese crime family who provided unprecedented inside details of Mafia dealings to an organized crime Senate subcommittee in exchange for federal protection (he feared reprisal from Genovese, who wrongly assumed Valachi had already flipped while he was in prison on drug charges). Valachi lived his life behind bars after the testimony, but with high security for his life, which is what he was after.

At this point in time, Tony has no reason to suspect that anyone in his current organization is working for the government. He has no clue about Curto. Ditto for Ade, and she's not a true insider anyway. I suppose the book could be tossed off as objective foreshadowing for the audience's benefit regarding Ade and/or Chris. But this dream is very much presented as Tony's subjective experience, as it should be. So I think the meaning of "The Valachi Papers" HAS to come from what he knows, suspects, is considering, or from what is currently rolling around in his unconscious. And that is not fear of a rat from within his organization, which he's shown capacity to deal with anyway (Big Pussy).

Thus I think the Valachi thing is in some way Tony's perception that his best option might be trying to bargain with the government for something (his own prosecutorial immunity, protection for his immediate family from Sac's unbridled retaliation). I'm one of the many skeptics who feel that as the target of an expensive FBI investigation and the defacto boss of a crime family, Tony has little, if anything, to bargain with.

Uncle Junior

One counter view is that Tony is still just the "street" boss, while Uncle Junior carries the title "boss" (as he reminded us in Where's Johnny and defiantly proclaimed to the feds in season 2). On this point, I'll note that it's very interesting that Melvoin, Uncle Jr.'s lawyer, is one of the few members of the angry street mob that is shown in closeup in Tony's dream.

Does this suggest that Tony would try to swing a deal to nail Uncle Jr.? Would he go to Uncle Jr. first and ask for permission, hoping UJ would find the unprecedented nobility to encourage him, realizing his own life is virtually over and that he is facing a tough retrial on charges that could land him in prison for what little life he has left anyway? Is it within Uncle Jr. to offer this to Tony out of his own heart, to prove that he does, in fact, love his nephew in a way that tears wouldn't let him express in words? I have to say that the thought of this last possibility gets me a little teary-eyed myself.


The caveat for everything I've written thus far, of course, is that unconscious conflict, conscious conflict, and even real self-knowledge has never caused Tony to meaningfully change his life thus far. Even if, without Melfi's help, he understands the messages his unconscious is sending him in the dream, his past patterns suggest he will ignore the insight and press ahead with what he knows is "wrong".

But IMO what changed the instant Chris told Tony that TB killed Billy Leotardo and wounded Phil is that it's not at all clear what "wrong" is anymore, even by normal standards. Is it wrong for Tony S to kill Tony B . . . a guy who "took a bullet" for him, as Tony sees it, and that he has loved like a brother? Is it wrong to let him live if doing so ensures that many more people will be killed, especially if those at risk include others he loves, like Christopher or even his civilian family? Is it wrong for Tony to try to swing a deal for federal protection if his first and highest loyalty is to his blood family and if the "I should kill his wife", collateral damage-espousing Johnny Sac might blow up Carmela or AJ or Meadow with a car bomb meant for Tony?

The whole scenario is very unpredictable, IMO, because the lack of clear-cut solutions means almost anything is possible.

One thing that stands out about the last scene with Tony and Carm on the phone is how much it already resembled Tony's need to escape in the dream. All this tension and urgent, impending doom was dumped on him when Christopher delivered the news. Yet Tony wasn't sitting around plotting war strategies or brooding about killing Tony B. Instead he immediately calls Carm and lingers on the phone, asking whether she could see light from her room, asking about barking dogs, talking about a coach that once steered him in another life direction, and coming to the brink of telling her he wanted back into the marriage and would give up whores to make it happen. Maybe his repeated question about whether it was "light" yet was his own need to avert the dawn of the next day when all the night's unpleasant realities would have to be dealt with.

</p>Edited by: <A HREF= ... fisWall</A> at: 5/18/04 9:36 pm
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