TV Club

Week 7: What, Exactly, Is a Lincoln Log sandwich?

James Gandolfini as Tony Soprano and Sarah Shahi as Sonya Aragon

Dear Jeff and Brian,

Thank goodness you’re here, Brian. You can give us the skinny on Lincoln Log sandwiches. Like Jeff, I’d never heard of this delicacy before Sunday night, and we’re not alone. The question haunts a reader on Gawker, journalist/blogger Ezra Klein, and Yahoo! Answers. No one, however, is more curious than Colin McEnroe, a Hartford, Conn., radio personality who’s funnier than Dom Imus and lacks Imus’ compulsion to wring cheap laughs from hate speech (full disclosure: I appear on McEnroe’s afternoon program a lot). McEnroe admitted on his Web log that he doesn’t know exactly what a Lincoln Log sandwich is, but insisted that its shape can’t be ignored. “Sometimes a Lincoln Log sandwich is just a Lincoln Log sandwich,” McEnroe began. “But not when your Mom leaves two of them on the counter and cuts them and your Dad comes in and bites one of them before he realizes you are drowning.” A fair point. Of Phil Leotardo’s bitter prison memories of masturbating into a Kleenex, McEnroe wrote, “Raise your hand if you believe that. Keep your hand up if you believe Phil made it through prison without any Lincoln Log sandwiches.” To McEnroe, this latest episode was all about masturbation, ejaculation (remember Coco’s smutty comment about the whipped cream on Meadow’s lip?), and castration (“Freud wrote that dreams about teeth coming out were castration dreams triggered by sexual anxiety and guilt … “). Even the episode’s title, McEnroe observed, was a double entendre: “The Second Coming.”

Jeff, you earlier requested a psychoanalytic perspective. Perhaps this fits the bill. McEnroe also noted, helpfully, that the two researchers cited by Dr. Kupferberg—Stanton Samenow and Samuel Yochelson—are real. Or rather, were real. Samuel Yochelson died in 1976. Samenow is still with us. The three-volume work they coauthored, The Criminal Personality,was published between 1976 and 1986, and according to Samenow’s Web page, it’s based on “the longest in-depth clinical research-treatment study of offenders that has been conducted in North America.”

A cursory glance through some of Samenow’s writings suggests that his views are a bit more complex than Kupferberg’s tart summary to Melfi would suggest. On the one hand, Samenow believes that criminals (a term that Samenow uses synonymously with “sociopaths”) have “no idea what a love relationship is.” For example,

Many an offender has told me how much he loves his mother—the person who has always been there for him no matter what he has done. Yet when this beloved individual opposes him, attempts to restrict him, or stands up to him, she becomes a target of his rage. She is to behave in line with his objectives. Otherwise, he will turn on her and she can become his victim. This is not love!

One thinks of Tony’s foiled attempt to smother Livia Soprano with a pillow at the end of Season 1. Surely, though, there were extenuating circumstances, given Livia’s prior nod to Uncle Junior to carry out an ultimately unsuccessful hit on Tony.

On the other hand, Samenow believes that the criminal/sociopath can, under the right circumstances, learn to be empathetic:

The cognitive tool is learning to consider a situation from another person’s point of view. The criminal’s objective is to convert others to his point of view. However, if he reaches a critical time in life when his way of living has led to nothing but disaster as he himself views it, he can in fact learn new patterns of thinking.

Tony doesn’t seem to be moving in this direction. As the pillars of Tony’s home life have begun to crumble, we’ve seen him become meaner and more narcissistic. Perhaps the problem is that Tony is in individual rather than group “terapy.”

Role playing can help, especially in groups, call to a criminal’s attention his longstanding pattern to use other people for his own purposes, to question this thinking and its ultimate effect, deter the thinking and substitute respect, consideration, and so forth.

This was, of course, the concept behind Michael O’Donoghue’s classic Saturday Night Live skit, “Godfather Group Therapy,” in which a dippy flight attendant played by Laraine Newman repeatedly urged Vito Corleone (John Belushi) to dig deeper (Vito, you’re still blocking!).Belushi responded by putting an orange peel in his mouth and keeling over, but that was 30 years ago. Many new psychoanalytic tools have been developed since then.

Anyway. Lincoln Logs. Help me out, Brian. They appear to be hot dogs smeared with cream cheese and then rolled in white bread. “Now that is some sick disgusting shit,” observes “monopolyface” on HBO’s Sopranos bulletin board. You obviously disagree. Do you find that eating a Lincoln Log before a confrontational interview boosts your self-confidence?