Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Sopranos episode guide #7: Down Neck

US Transmission Date: 21 February 1999
UK Transmission Date: 26 August 1999

Writer: Mitchell Burgess & Robin Green • Director: Lorraine Senna
Cast: Joseph Siravo (Johnny Boy Soprano), Laila Robins (1967 Livia), Rocco Sisto (1967 Uncle Junior), David Beach (Dr Galani), Paul Albe (Contractor), Shirl Bernheim (Pearl), Madeline Blue (Janice), Bobby Borriello (Young Tony), Scott Owen Cumberbatch (Rideland Kid #2), Anthony Fusco (Father Hagy), Rob Grippay (Byron Barber), Jason Hauser (Rideland Cop), Michael Jordan (Rideland Kid), Greg Perrelli (Jared), Nick Raio (Wiseguy), Steve Santosusso (Guy), Tim Williams (Mr. Meskimmin)

Anthony Jr and two friends steal a bottle of sacramental wine at school. They are drunk in gym class and AJ’s friend Byron Barber throws up on the gym teacher. Tony and Carmela are summoned to the office of Father Hagy, the school principal. He introduces the school psychologist, Dr Galani, who believes AJ could suffer from A.D.D. – Attention Deficiency Disorder. The school wants to test AJ for psychological, behavioural and medical symptoms. Livia and Uncle Junior come to dinner with Tony and his family. Livia says Tony was a car thief by the age of 10, while Junior describes his nephew as a preteen hellion. AJ makes a comment that shows he knows about Tony’s real profession. The boy is grounded for three weeks. Carmela and Tony privately discuss the situation. They agree it’s time to talk with Meadow about the mob, but will wait for the results of the testing before deciding whether to tell AJ.

Tony has a flashback to the first time he witnessed his father beating someone to extort money from them. At a session with Dr Melfi, she draws a parallel between this recently recalled memory and Tony’s fears about his own discovering that he is in the mob. Carmela and Tony argue about whether they are at fault for AJ’s troubles, either genetically or by the way they have raised him. Carmela worries that if AJ is diagnosed as having A.D.D., he will be put into special education. AJ visits his grandmother at Green Grove while suspended from school. He lets slip that Tony is seeing a psychiatrist. Livia is shocked at this news.

Tony gets a flat tyre while taking AJ to a dentist’s appointment. They talk about Jackie Aprile’s funeral and AJ indicates he knows Tony is in the Mafia. In therapy Tony is struggling to comes to terms with AJ learning about Tony’s illegal activities. Dr Melfi says those who don’t understand history are doomed to repeat it. Tony recalls another incident from 1967 involving his elder sister Janice and his father. Every Sunday Johnny Boy took Janice out for a drive. Tony stowed away in the boot of his father’s car to discover where they went. He saw them go into the Rideland amusement park. Two weeks later he returned to the park by bus and saw his father be arrested by the police. The local mobsters were using their children as an excuse to hold secret meetings at Rideland.

Tony tells Melfi he was proud to be Johnny Soprano’s son and he wants AJ to be proud of him. But Tony doesn’t want his son to become a mobster. Tony remembers his parents fighting late one night. Johnny had the opportunity to get in on the early days of Nevada’s gambling mecca, Reno, with a neighbour called Rocco Alatore. But Livia refused to move from New Jersey. Tony goes to Green Grove and confronts his mother about this. The Alatores became billionaires in Nevada. She blames Johnny for not going. She says Tony should visit a psychiatrist if it bothers him, hinting that she knows he is seeing a therapist. Dr Galani gives Tony and Carmela the test results for AJ. He shows five of the nine symptoms for A.D.D., which only makes him a borderline case. They are unhappy with the doctor’s attitude and believe their son will be fine. That night Tony and AJ have ice creams sundaes together at home, eating whipped cream straight from the can. They are comfortable together…

Mobspeak: At the Bada Bing strip club Tony asks Pussy if his sons ever asked about this thing of ours (the mob)? Christopher comes in with some watches he stole while picking up the Chinaman’s vig (the interest paid to a loanshark for a loan). Livia says Junior is full of himself since becoming copa-regime (king of the captains, acting boss).

Mamma Mia: Livia says he practically lived in the vice principal’s office while Tony was going to school. She perceptively points out that Tony only remembers what he wants to remember. This triggers a series of flashbacks as Tony remembers what it was really like going up in the Soprano household.
Livia is shocked with AJ reveals his father is seeing a psychiatrist. Initially she dismisses therapy as a racket for Jews, but becomes upset as she thinks about what her son could be saying. ‘I gave my life to my children on a silver platter. And this is how he repays me.’
In 1967 Livia threatens to stick a roasting fork into young Tony’s eye. She threatens to murder her children if Johnny tries to move the family to Nevada.
At Green Grove Livia hints to Junior that Tony is seeing a psychiatrist. At soon as he leaves, she badmouths Junior to her son. Tony confronts his mother about how ruthless she was and how she stopped Johnny from escaping New Jersey to a chance of being a millionaire in Reno. Livia becomes furious and denies all knowledge.

Bright Lights, Baked Ziti: The Sopranos have an extended family meal of spaghetti and meatballs, with salad and bread.
In 1967 Livia reminds Junior that everyone is going to her sister’s for dinner and he promised to bring a pork loin.
Tony says his father loved shellfish like clams and oysters, especially when sucked from the shell with a little Worchester sauce. His mother never ate anything raw.
AJ eats a pear from a fruit bowl when he visits Livia at Green Grove.
Tony remembers his mother cooking pork bones and veal for gravy, which he called the red lead. When the young Tony stowed away in his father’s car, Janice and Johnny were eating sticky waffles.
The next time Tony tracks them to Rideland amusement park, he takes a candy bar but it gets covered in sand or lint from his pockets so he spits it out. Later that night Johnny brings home cherry vanilla ice cream from Nasto’s when he is released by the police.
Tony and AJ have ice cream sundaes with sprinkles, nuts and M&Ms. They eat whipped cream straight from a can.

Mobbed Up: AJ tells Dr Galani that a man missing from a picture could be busy watching South Park on television. The boy says the first ever episode is due to be repeated that night, where Cartman gets an alien anal probe and farts fire. AJ and his father discuss Jackie Aprile’s funeral. AJ says there were feds writing down license plate numbers and taking pictures, just like in The Godfather Part One. Young Janice and Tony are watching The Ed Sullivan Show on television when their father gets home from the police station.

How Do You Feel?:
Dr Melfi asks Tony how he feels about what happened in the previous episode between them. He says he can’t just turn off his feeling for her because she says it’s a by-product of therapy. He proudly says he has a 24-year-old mistress, trying to make Melfi jealous. She doesn’t rise to the bait. Tony works through the flashbacks with Dr Melfi. Tony says he wonders how his life would have been different if Johnny hadn’t been a mobster, but he was proud to be Johnny’s son. Melfi says AJ’s fate is not written in stone, people have choices. Tony points out that the therapist has finally offered an opinion of her own. She insists there are range of choices for everyone in America – Tony isn’t convinced.

Always with the…: In 1967 Livia frustrates Johnny by saying she would rather smother her children with a pillow than shift to Reno. ‘Always with the drama!’

I Dream of Jeannie Cusamano:
Dr Melfi reminds Tony of his dream about the ducks flying away with his penis, and how he say this as a bad omen that something was going to happen to his family. She asks could AJ discovering his father is a mobster could be what Tony feared? He doesn’t know.

Quote/Unquote: Tony describes his father’s habits with Dr Melfi: ‘Yeah, the belt was his favourite child development tool.’ Tony says his mother was always high-strung and dramatic: ‘Every night to her was a night at the opera.’ Tony describes what happened when his father was in prison: ‘They told me he was in Montana, being a cowboy.’ Tony tells his mother she was more ruthless than his father ever was: ‘You’re a real stone player, aren’t you Ma?’

Soundtrack: ‘Don’t Bring Me Down’ by Eric Burdon and the Animals. ‘White Rabbit’ by Jefferson Airplane. ‘Carrie Anne’ by the Hollies. ‘Mystic Eyes’ by THEM With Van Morrison. ‘Lonely Too Long’ by the Young Rascals.

Surveillance Report: In 1967 Livia threatens to smother her children with a pillow rather than move to Nevada. Tony reminds her of this threat. It will come back to haunt her before the end of this season. In the flashback sequences we see Junior playing catch with young Tony, just as he recalled in the pilot. In 1967 Johnny told his son Tony to pay attention to what teachers say. One generation on, Tony’s son AJ is diagnosed as having borderline Attention Deficiency Disorder. Janice makes her first appearance, seen as a girl in the flashback sequences. Tony tells Dr Melfi his sister calls herself Vishnamatha or something – the name Soprano isn’t good enough for her. He describes his sister as a ‘fucking wannabe dot-head.’

The Verdict: ‘Like father like son, right?’ AJ gets into trouble at school and his parents worry whether they are responsible. For Tony this triggers memories of his own childhood and discovering his father was a mobster. Nature versus nurture is the issue in this episode, along with a debate about fate versus free will. The flashbacks to 1967 over an intriguing insight into how Tony grew up and show his mother as a lifelong harridan. But for her, the Sopranos could have been a family of legitimate millionaires in Nevada. The conflict between Tony and Livia continues to escalate, with Livia beginning to use her newly acquired knowledge about Tony’s therapy. The seeds are already being sown for the shocking season finale…

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