TV Club

All Creatures Great and Small

Tony has finally met his match, and it is not Dr. Melfi. Svetlana holds her own with Tony in a way that we have rarely seen in the four years of The Sopranos. Tony fashions himself a champion of the underdog, whether animal or human. Suffocated dogs and victims of wife-beaters definitely qualify. His sense of himself as a rescuer of the defenseless, the downtrodden, and the lame is necessary for him to maintain his self-esteem. He approaches Svetlana with this relationship paradigm in mind. However, he is increasingly befuddled because Svetlana refuses to conform to Tony’s internal script. She has his number. She tells him that she doesn’t want to be in the position of having to prop him up all the time. She just wants to use him and dump him.

She is also clever enough to know that many men are turned on by her missing leg. Indeed, entire Web sites and pornographic magazines are devoted to “SAKs,” meaning women who have had one leg amputated above the knee (“single above the knee”). Robert Stoller wrote about this particular variation of perversion many years ago. She knows that Tony pities her, and she knows that in return for his pity, she must take care of him and feed his narcissism. She has better things to do—like work on her Web site.

Intervention will never be the same after tonight’s episode. As the writers astutely discerned, an intervention depends on the notion that everyone present will respect the leader’s authority and stick to the protocol. For example, as the standard textbooks stress, one of the rules is that you are not supposed to refer to your mother as a “fuckin’ whore.” Unfortunately, the Bada Bing gang is unlikely to adhere to the ground rules, especially when the leader has been spotted in previous criminal activities and is what Paulie refers to as a “two-time loser.”

Now I’m going to stick my neck out and make a prediction, even though the writers are too shrewd to be predictable. Paulie is the next in line to be whacked. Tony has his eye on him.