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Re: Episode Review and General Comments

I've put together a rather lengthy review of the episode. Hopefully, it meets the standards set by the board

“Let me ask you something, Anthony, how will I be remembered…on the street ?” Johnny Sack asks of his brother-in-law, Anthony Infante. Infante’s visit comes after Johnny’s visit to a cancer specialist in Cleveland whereby he’s given a death sentence of possibly three months left to live. The question is curious as Infante is an “outsider,” as such no one other than Johnny dealt with him on more than a superficial level. Johnny places value on Infante’s insight and defends his “trigger-happy, hot-headed” reputation calling being the boss “a thankless job.” That is because the job of the mob boss, often is one maintained by a show of strength, creating fear, as opposed to by respect.

The question put to Infante resonates with the other bosses, Tony, Phil and Little Carmine, as well. Three years prior, Johnny commiserated with Tony on this “people you run into, want to be boss, they should know, huh? (ep. 5.13 “All Due Respect” and also ep. 6.13 “Soprano Home Movies”) On TV, Geraldo Rivera discusses the power vacuum at the head of the NY mob since Johnny was sent to jail. Jerry Capeci, a writer of many books covering the Mafia, opines, “if you’re Phil Leotardo, you can’t be satisfied with the state of affairs, despite appearances” Back from seven months of recuperation in “hot and sticky” Florida, Tony and Phil bond while discussing their recent life-threatening illness. Tony urges Phil to get back in the game and straighten out his crew, after finding things were “better with the devil he knows” rather than with acting boss “Doc” Santoro. Phil wants no part of that now due to his health. “Being a boss is a young man’s game,” he rationalizes. Tony then urges Little Carmine Lupertazzi to take the reins of leadership. Little Carmine, often made the foil of the show through his frequent malapropisms, actually may have made the wisest conscious decision of the four when he opted out of the life. Carmine shares a dream he has of his late father in which his father instructs him to fill his “empty present box” with a happy life. The crown on his father’s head was made of gold paper, like the ones they give kids at Burger King, symbolically representing that just beneath the superficial surface, “the life” isn’t as glamorous as it’s made out to be. His loving wife didn’t want to be the “wealthiest widow on Long Island.” By contrast, Carmella never pleaded for Tony to opt out when recovering from his near-fatal gunshot wounds.

Back in the prison hospital, while reading a copy of Reader’s Digest with the the headline, “How doctors gamble with your life” Johnny meets, oncologist, Warren Feldman, who is now imprisoned for murdering his wife along with two others. Feldman gives Johnny a glimmer of hope saying that doctors give a three month diagnosis so that one year later they can look like a hero to the same patient. Later, Feldman gives Johnny a copy of the book, “Billy Bathgate.”

In this story, Billy Bathgate is a young teenager, looking for a father/mentor figure and he finds them working for real-life legendary gangster, Dutch Schultz. Schultz had a violent temper and ruled by fear. Paralleling the Sally Boy boss character in Christopher’s film, “Cleaver,” in “Billy Bathgate,” Schultz eliminates one of his associates and by so doing, takes the associate’s girlfriend as his own. In the end, Schultz and his crew are wiped out with the sole exception of Billy Bathgate. As an interesting footnote to the Bathgate story, another famed gangster noted in the story is Lucky Luciano. Using his connections with the Sicilian and Italian Mafia, Luciano worked with the U.S. Government during WWII. As a result after the war, rather than being imprisoned for his crimes, Luciano was expatriated to Sicily. In this episode, the same FBI who has been building a RICO case against Tony, reaches out to him to help them combat possible terrorist threats originating at Port Newark. FBI’s sales pitch involves Meadow’s frequent trips for her pre-med studies, to NYC by the tunnels, the implication being terrorism could hit Tony much closer to home than he realizes.

Tony rules by fear, and intimidation. His loss in the fight with Bobby (ep. 6.13 “Soprano Home Movies”) left his self-esteem much more wounded than his body. Tony would prefer genuine respect. What helps to give a person’s life meaning is it’s legacy, the things that remain after one is gone. Far more than material possessions, the most valuable things passed down, parent to child, father to son, are life lessons learned.
As noted by Little Carmine Lupertazzi, “a child has many parents, that is to say many individuals who act like parents.” Building upon a theme from “Soprano Home Movies,” Tony reflects in-depth on his relationship with Christopher, whom he viewed as a surrogate son after the death of Christopher’s father, Dickie Moltisanti. The elder Moltisanti was like a mentor to Tony, and wanting to pass that type of relationship down, Tony took Christopher under his wing and had planned for his protégé to take over the “family” business.

Tony was a major financial contributor for the “Cleaver” film, which Christopher publicly lauds before the film’s premiere. The “Sally Boy” boss character had Tony’s crew and family laughing at him at his own expense without his knowledge. At the reception, Tony was the proud father of Christopher, “one hundred years from now we’re dead and gone, people will be watching this f’ng thing,” yet another reference to a person’s legacy.

It took Carmella’s revelation that “Cleaver” was a “revenge fantasy” to get the wheels really turning in Tony’s head. His hope was to be remembered by Christopher as “more than [a mentor]” but as “a friend, a f’n guy you could look up to” with respect and love. After years of talking with Melfi he “knows too much about the subconscious now.” Upon deeper retrospection of the film, Tony comes to the realization that his legacy with Christopher is the exact opposite of how he planned for it to be. “This is the image of me he gives to the world.” “We had fun. All those memories are for what? All I am to him is some asshole bully.” Christopher’s feeble attempt to have J.T. “TJ Hooker” Dolan deflect the blame only served to exacerbate the tension between him and Tony. Unlike the film title of the supposed inspiration for “Sally Boy,” Tony wasn’t “born yesterday;” he saw through the transparent deception. the second he noted the cut on J.T.'s head.

The irony of all this is Tony unrealistically expects that the memories Christopher will have will be from much happier times in the latter’s formative early childhood years, rather than their many shared murderous adventures in “a certain Italian-American subculture.” The childhood memories Christopher has of Tony are not always pleasant, involving him being picked on by his older cousins Tony Soprano and Tony "Uncle Al" Blundetto (ep. 5-10 “Cold Cuts”). Christopher has a victim mentality, feeling people are conspiring against him in his battle with alcoholism. From Christopher’s perspective, “Isaac Newton invented gravity because some asshole hit him with an apple.”This is why he spends more and more time away from the crew and working on his film.

Tony Blundetto’s story is kind of a linchpin connecting the two potentially huge conflicts in Tony’s life, Christopher and Phil. From one standpoint, Christopher really owes his life to Tony B. Feeling he had been by cuckolded by Tony over Adrianna, looking to reclaim some lost honor, a drunken Christopher pursues him with a loaded gun. Tony B. intervened and spared his “little cousins” life from execution by Tony Soprano. (ep. 5-5, “Irregular Around the Margins”) . Phil gathers his family for a birthday party for his late brother, Billy Leotardo, gunned down by Tony Blundetto (ep. 5-11, “The Test Dream”) . Billy Leotardo would have been the same age as Tony Soprano, 47.

After the death of his brother, Phil Leotardo had a young protégé of his own, Gerry “Hairdo” Torciano. Like Christopher, Gerry became disillusioned with his mentor. At a restaurant, Gerry talks metaphorically (Walt f’n Whitman over here) with Sil about Phil, relating his disappointment that Phil lost his heart (balls) for the business. “Doc” Santoro used this meeting to have Gerry whacked in order to solidify his position as the new boss, carelessly putting Sil’s life at risk as an unwitting pawn in the process.

Johnny Sack played by the rules, for three months, stopped smoking after thirty-eight years; but it was too late, the cancer kills him. Phil played by the rules and suffers inside because of it. He starts second-guessing his “weakness” in the big decisions he made in his life, putting the mob family ahead of his own personal interests. Why did he keep quiet during those long twenty years of prison, just to protect a family that ended up in the hands of Rusty Millio (vicariously through Little Carmine) and by “Doc” Santoro. Why didn’t he personally avenge the killing of his brother Billy? It was because “the life” has its own set of rules, although they are different than those for the rest of society, they must be respected and enforced at all costs, or this “thing of theirs” would cease to function. I’m reminded of Michael Corleone’s famous line in “Godfather 3,” “just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in.” The whack Santoro put out on Torciano may now change Phil’s plans for retirement. His “Leonardo – Leotardo” family legacy is one of having their proud Italian heritage being disrespected by the “medigans.” “No more of (swallowing) this,” Phil finally decides. He’s resigned to his fate, and wants to go out in control, on his own terms, just as Johnny did when he lit up a cigarette while clinging to an oxygen breathing machine. At this point, John Cooper Clarke’s “Evidently Chicken Town” is used to set the mood; the rhythmic, sound of heavy drumming is like a military call to battle.

The drumming continues as Tony stands godfather to Christopher’s new baby girl. Both hug but each might as well have a knife in their hands ready to stab the other in the back, as the possibility of a showdown between the two builds.

One wonders with all this self-analysis by the bosses of their own legacies, if the show itself is also grappling with its own place in TV history, being near the end of it’s run.

Re: Episode Review and General Comments

Also, Sunala, Chris is a blood-relation to both Carmela and Tony I believe.

As for Paulie's cancer, what do people think about the Blood, Sweat and Tears quote?

I think it was conspicuous for the most famous lyrics in that song he didn't sing-
What goes up, must come down.

Is that just Paulie's simplistic assessment about a powerful man who was taken down or the inevitabilty of death? It came right after he contrasted his own cancer with Johnny's. I would think this is a clue that his cancer could return but am not so sure the show would have yet another cancer death in the season.

Don't forget the Blood Sweat and Tears reference in Live Free or Die- Sil left tickets and backstage passes for Vito. I guess Pauiie scooped up those tickets.

Re: Episode Review and General Comments

I like the reference to past statements by Tony that were very realistic in their imprint. In "Mr. & Mrs. John Sacrimoni Request", Tony replies to Chris' opinion on bringing in outsiders to hit Rusty with "Well, I didn't ask you what you fuckin' think".

Cue the scene in "Cleaver". Nice. Even I thought that was a blunt sentence when he first said it.

Love the coincidence between the scene where Sally boy seduces Cleaver's fiance and Paulie the dumbass says, inappropriately crudely:

"Tell 'er to pudit in da trunk!"

lol, dumbass.

Re: Episode Review and General Comments

Rike wrote:I was reminded of how much AJ worships Tony during the dinner scene with Blanca. AJ is always laughing the loudest (and usually the only one laughing) at all of Tony's dumb jokes.

I think there is little doubt that AJ wants to follow in his father's footsteps. Once the inevitable breakup with Blanca happens, whats to stop him from trying (and probably doing something remarkably stupid)?
I've often thought that the dinner scenes somehow show Tony's and AJ's father/son bond at its closest.

Re: Episode Review and General Comments

Splishak wrote:Don Imus must be the happiest man in America today. I bet he never thought that he would escape the media spotlight - not at least for a few months.
If the VT shooting, or even perhaps the killing of Ralphie episode (with his head in the bowling ball case)-something that distracted the media would have occured at the initial stages of the Imus controversy- Imus would still have his job.

Re: Episode Review and General Comments

HagensBing1977 wrote:Seems like all the characters without contracts between these last two batches of episodes all came out of their situations without too much brew-ha-ha. Phil from his heart attack, Meadow from California, Chris from replapse, and Paulie from cancer
Guess the actor who played the guy in the laundromat asked for too much money.

Re: Episode Review and General Comments

In reading Sopranology's post, I was struck even harder with Dr. Warren Feldman, the character played by Sydney Pollack.

I've become even more convinced that he has some nefarious purpose in mind - that he is not who he pretends to be.

One reason is that a senior doctor would surely find a way to approach a junior softly to see just what kind of doctoring he would allow and how much. He'd never put himself in a position to be on the "outs" with the junior doctor. I'm sure many will disagree and since it's only fiction, after all, no one but DC can ever be sure what the truth of the fiction will be. But if it were real life, that would be my conclusion.

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