Tell Them What Happened 20 Years Ago!

Let’s return to the Test Dream for a moment, in particular that portion of the dream which takes place outside of the restaurant. Tony Blundetto was shooting Phil Leotardo with his fingers in the street. Tony Soprano entered the scene and some dialogue occurred. Then Tony Blundetto commanded Tony Soprano to tell the assembled crowd "what happened 20 years ago". Tony Soprano replied "I don't have time to go into that right now".

Many took this as a reference to the famous hijacking incident that landed Tony Blundetto in jail. Tony Soprano was supposed to have been with his cousin at that hijacking, but failed to participate because he had suffered a panic attack. Tony Soprano was ashamed of himself for letting his cousin down; he also carried around terrible guilt for his cousin’s fate. Because of this Tony Soprano had never been able to tell anyone, not even Tony Blundetto, the truth. Instead he lied, claiming to have been ambushed on the way to the hijacking by 2 unidentified black males.

Before the Test Dream episode, Tony Soprano had confided all of this to Dr. Melfi and cursed himself for being weak. Consequently, when Tony Blundetto wanted Tony Soprano to tell the crowd what happened 20 years ago, it seemed logical to connect it, at that time and in the context of the Test Dream, to Tony Soprano's deep unconscious confronting him with the lie that he had been living with for all those years.

But could this exchange in the Test Dream have been referring to an entirely different incident?
This was a question I raised during season 5 in the thread entitled “Analyzing the Test Dream” although there had never, up to that point, been any mention of any other ancient incident that would have had such a deep psychological impact on Tony Soprano as to manifest itself in the Test Dream.

I raised this possibility based solely on the known Sopranos time-line during Season 5. It was during that Season that we learned that Tony Blundetto was sent to prison for the hijacking in 1986 and that he “graduated” from prison as a part of the “Class of 2004". This timing suggested that Tony Blundetto wanted Tony Soprano to tell the crowd about an incident that occurred in or about 1984, approximately 2 years prior to the hijacking incident.

As with many of my Sopranos musings, these thoughts really went no further at the time. Most people seemed to accept that Tony Blundetto was referring to the hijacking incident and that the 20 year time frame he referred to in the Test Dream was a term of “approximate” or “rough years”. I was, and still am, also willing to accept that very logical explanation.

However, “Remember When” has me re-visiting these thoughts. We now know that Tony Soprano committed his first murder (of Willie Overall), at his father’s urging, during the Labor Day weekend of 1982. Could this be the “event” that Tony Blundetto wanted Tony Soprano to tell the crowd about? The idea is not as far-fetched as I originally thought it might be.

There are of course timing concerns if this possibility is to be considered. If, in the Test Dream, Tony Blundetto wanted Tony Soprano to tell people what happened in or about 1984, then the Willie Overall murder would have occurred about 2 years too soon to be the event he was referring to. But, if fans found it appropriate to truncate, by 2 years, Tony Blundetto’s use of “20 years” as an approximation of the timing of the hijacking then it isn’t too much of a stretch to alternately lengthen, by 2 years, this “approximate” time frame to encompass and refer to the Willie Overall killing.

If Tony Soprano’s subconscious in the Test Dream (in the form of Tony Blundetto) was asking him (and us) to confront some traumatic event, other than the hijacking, as a key to fully understanding Tony’s past, present and future, then we may now be privy to the single most significant source of Tony’s inner demons and depression.

In re-reading the Test Dream thread , the following post by StuGot very presciently asked the very questions which now arise in the wake of the revelation that Tony Soprano committed his first murder in 1982 at the behest of his father:

Anywhere in there, is Tony S, regrets about his father getting him into the business. Perhaps feeling guilty about something he did when he first got in?

I always wondered as a young man, how he started in the business. First murder? Being made? What his father did to facilitate things? Did he ever go with his father to whack anyone? Did his father have him whack anyone? We seen him at several different ages in the past. When he was like a teen, he looked like a regular decent kid, played football, etc Could have been any teen. We have not seen him past the teen stage, breaking into the biz. I imagine his first kill or watching his first kill could have been a shocker too.

Tony’s first murder must have been a profoundly life altering and psychologically traumatic event. According to Paulie, Tony was “shaky, but he came through.” Although we have never seen young Tony committing this act in detail (at least yet), we have seen the trepidation with which Bobby undertook his first murder. He was hesitant and “shaky” about the prospect of killing someone. We have also seen the consequent psychological effects “This Magic Moment” had on Bobby. Prior to the killing Bobby was happy-go-lucky and boyish. In the aftermath of his first murder, Bobby now seems sullen, even depressed, having lost his boyishness.

I don’t doubt that David Chase allowed us to witness Bobby’s first kill and its aftermath to illustrate the similar devastating psychological effects Tony also surely suffered after “popping his cherry”. The magnitude of the resulting inner scars can only have been incalculably increased by the fact that it was Tony’s own father, a man he looked up to, who forced him to commit this act and forever deaden a portion of his soul.

If Tony is destined for a major breakthrough with Dr. Melfi, the Test Dream may be pointing us directly to his need to recognize and confront that he has, for more than 20 years, harbored a deep resentment against Johnny Boy for forcing the psychological, spiritual and mental burdens of murder on his own son.

Of course, this outcome is also possible without reference to the Test Dream and without speculating that Tony Blundetto was referring to anything other than the hijacking incident. But exploration of the possible connection between these two pieces of information proved too alluring for me to resist. And, I bet that if you re-watched the Test Dream through the prism of the Willie Overall killing, many new, varied and interesting interpretations of some or all of the scenes would patently reveal themselves.

Re: Tell Them What Happened 20 Years Ago!

Good points billymac, I sill take the "tell them what happened 20 years ago" line from the Test Dream episode to mean the hi-jacking incident that Tony Soprano was supposed to be on the night Tony B. got busted. If you remember at that time, it was weighing heavily on Tony S. mind. He talked about it in therapy with Melfi and in his last phone conversation with Tony B. he told him the truth of what really happened that night, with the fight with his mother and having the panic attack. However next time I view this episode I will look at it from the Willie Overall perspective. That is the beauty of this show, there are so many different ways to look at something.

Re: Tell Them What Happened 20 Years Ago!

billymac, you raise a very tantalizing possibility, but it's one I ultimately don't subscribe to. I'm in the camp that believes the remark was strictly about the hijacking.

The main reason for this conclusion is the fact that Tony Blundetto is the one making the statement. True, he's speaking in TS' subconscious. But that suggests all the more that TB's words are a projection of TS' own guilt over the lie about the hijacking, a guilt which was portrayed in numerous ways throughout season 5 and which we know was a major preoccupation for TS for months before the dream. While there's every reason in TS' mind for TB to focus on and want to confront TS about the hijacking and the latter's lame excuse for his absence, there's no reason at all for TB to make an issue of Tony's first whacking. TB wasn't involved, and whatever TS' feelings were about the deed, there's little reason for him to confront those feelings in the form of a summons from TB. The reverse is not true.

As for the timeline, I actually don't think that's an issue with your scenario since we can conclude that the hijacking took place only a little over three months after the whacking of the bookie.

Timeline questions arose during season 5 since TB was released with the "class of 2004" and since it's IMPLIED that the hijacking took place in 1986. In fact I think TS told Melfi that TB got "pinched hijacking a truckload of betamaxes and they hooked him up on a RICO in '86" or similar words. There is room to interpret from those words that the RICO conviction was not obtained until 1986 while the hijacking itself took place significantly earlier, which I'm sure you'd agree is not atypical of the way such a prosecution might evolve in the glacial pacing of even our criminal justice system. If he'd already served 2 years by 1986 either on the hijacking charge or some other charge related to the RICO, there could have been a time already served credit that would have resulted in his release on the RICO in 2004 despite the fact that it was only 18 years since his RICO conviction.

The most significant timeline clue in all this, IMO, is that the hijacking took place when Meadow was 3 months old, as Tony used the fact that Carmela was overwhelmed as a new mother of a 3-month old infant to defend her lateness to Livia, who was making infant "booties", the night of the hijacking. We heard that the bookie, Willie, was killed Labor Day of 1982, one week before Meadow was born. That would place the hijacking 3 months and one week after the whacking, or early December of 1982.

We could quibble with this because Tony's birthday has been established as August 22, 1959 (not coincidentally, I think, David Chase's birthday is also August 22nd), making him having just turned 23 when the hijacking occurred, yet he seemed unhesitatingly sure in Remember When that he was "22" when he took someone's life for the first time. But those are the kind of small inconsistencies that I've learned to overlook as I don't think 100% timeline agreement has ever been a big priority with Chase and company.

Anyway, an interesting possibility you raised that certainly helps make clear that 1982 was perhaps the most important year in Tony's life. A lot happened.
Tony, his spirits crushed after b-lining to the fridge first thing in the morning: "Who ate the last piece of cake?"
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