TV Club

Switching Horses in Midstream of Consciousness

Dear Peggy, Joel, and Glen,

Peggy, I am glad that you caught Dean Martin’s song at the end of the episode, which is actually the second time the writers have used it. The first time was in this season’s opener. It came immediately following Christopher shooting up heroin and nodding off as the camera faded to Tony coming in to watch TV cowpoke Dean Martin singing, “The sun  is sinking into the west …” The “sun sinking” was a veiled reference to Christopher, Tony’s “nodding off ‘son’ ” (aka, his burdensome nephew). In that episode, Tony strongly hinted to Dr. Melfi that he is willing to sacrifice Christopher to save both himself and Anthony Jr. from the downsides of mob life.

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In last night’s episode, the Dean Martin lyrics focus on something else. Peggy, you mention it was about “horses and rifles,” but the lyric really was about “my rifle, my pony, and me.” Now this may seem trivial, but by substituting horse for pony, I think that you actually heard the song on the same unconscious level as the writers. “Horse” is a synonym for heroin, which as we see is playing more and more of a dominant role in this season’s episodes.

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Last night demonstrated the theme that in all relationships on The Sopranos, you are either the “rider or the ridden.” That is, you are either someone who is dominant relative to someone who is submissive or visa versa. Sometimes one cannot escape one’s domination by another. Ralphie has to “pony up” money for the “lucky advice” Tony gives about how his horse should race. This is pure extortion, like virtually every relationship in this series. Sometimes, however, as with heroin, the “victims” invite their subjugation. Submission to a drug like heroin is a preferred alternative to facing the real interpersonal subjugation going in their lives. Christopher shoots up every time he comes home from a “bad day at the ‘office.’ ” Similar to Christopher’s stress-management technique, now that Adriana is under the thumb of the FBI she has moved from occasionally snorting to shooting up “H.”

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Meanwhile, in the “horse race” for bereaved Bobby’s heart, Janice is proving herself a Machiavellian competitor tour de force, routinely coming from the “back of the pack” to nudge out the other fillies. She repeatedly shows herself as the only kind of woman that has a chance with these men. Whereas Carmela whimpers about Tony not wholeheartedly supporting her legit investment strategies, and Adriana sinks deeper into drugged depravity, Janice is strong-arming her Tupperware sisters out of the running, even stealing their dishes and offering them to Bobby as her own.

But, hey, maybe Dr. Sandy’s therapy with Janice is working. Last season she blew away Richie, and just last week she dumped Ralphie down the staircase. She finally seems to be going after a truly nice guy—Bobby. This is a man who loves his deceased wife so much that he forgot his day job of strong arming a union captain. When he finally goes to work that night, he makes the nicest death threat we have ever witnessed on TheSopranos. (For the ironically challenged, this is a joke.)

Phil

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