TV Club

The Making of Cooperative Witnesses

Dear Jeff,

Your wife may be right about Tony B. getting it from his own family, but that would mean that Tony Soprano would have to recognize he has made a tremendous error in judgment. That would be a HUGE correction in his thinking that seems hard to squeeze into the next three weeks. No question Tony S. should have whacked both his cousins this season, Chris for shooting up his SUV and then coming after him, and Tony B. for his free agent work as a hit man for Little Carmine. I think he’s too far gone to right the ship now, but I’ve been wrong before.

While I’m on the two cousins, I’m having a tough time understanding why they dug up the dear departed Johnson brothers. I understand why they had to dig up the remains of Emil the Czechoslovakian (Chris’ first) and move them, but why bother with the Johnsons? Even if the developers were to find those remains, and the feds were able to identify them, there’s no one left to prosecute. But now that three guys have dug up these remains and disposed of the bones—which may make their way to the FBI via Adriana or even Christopher in a later episode—there’s a whole new crime, and new defendants, to prosecute for the cover-up. Often, proving the cover-up is much easier than proving the original crime, as Martha Stewart learned recently.

And the left and right sides of my brain are arguing about whether it would have been better to sprinkle Emil’s remains (or the Johnsons’, for that matter) in the water, rather than dump them all wrapped up together in one bag. In the end, I think they may have been better off the way they did it. Sprinkling means there’s no telling where the pieces will float, or who might find a piece and use DNA testing to identify it. Keeping it all in one place makes it easier to conclude that the death was a homicide, but less likely that a medical examiner would ever find the body and get that opportunity.

That restaurant dinner scene during which Tony Soprano and his cousins celebrated the disposal of the Johnson brothers was a great little moment that illustrated the making of cooperating witnesses—and one that reinforces my idea that Christopher will turn on his cousins. Try as Chris did to turn the tide of the incessant ribbing from him to Tony B., even to the point of squealing to Tony S. that the first time Tony B. had told the fat joke, Tony S. was the butt of it, the two Tonys continued to ignore him and make fun of him. I think there’s going to come a day when Chris tells some FBI agent or federal prosecutor about that meal (say Agent Cubitoso or Prosecutor Castleman, guys he might relate to). It might come long after Chris has been debriefed about a whole lot of crimes, but it should take place over a meal, and Chris will just explode about how Tony S. should have treated him better and how things would have been different, and better—for Tony, for Chris, for the whole family—if Chris had just gotten the respect he had earned with his hard work and loyalty.

One last thing that’s been on my mind for many weeks now. I think one of Tony’s big problems is his underboss, Silvio. The guy’s a lightweight. I mean, really, you can’t even make a case that he would be a good cooperating witness. He laughs at Tony’s jokes a lot, he mumbles so it’s hard to make out what the hell he’s saying, and he seems forever to be telling everyone to relax after Tony flies off the handle, like he did last night when Tony pummeled the barkeep. He gets away with being subversive (e.g., stealing materials from the Esplanade project), and he almost never seems to do the things an underboss should do to insulate his boss from dealings with underlings or other families—unlike, say, Vincent “Chin” Gigante’s underboss, Benny Eggs Mangano, or even John Gotti’s underboss, Sammy Bull Gravano. Silvio also doesn’t give his boss much guidance on tough issues like dealing with Feech LaManna or Christopher (who should definitely have been whacked by now). For a minute or two last year, it looked like the writers were laying the groundwork for ending the series with Silvio whacking Tony to become boss, but that seems to have faded. Now we’re left with a totally useless guy with ridiculous-looking hair. He doesn’t—and can’t—help Tony. And he’s not a threat to Tony, either as a usurper or as a potential cooperating witness. Useless.

See you,