Mob Experts on The Sopranos, Week 8
Jeff and Jerry S.,
Jerry, thanks again for taking time out from your busy schedule as an attorney and law professor to take part in our discussion about this week's episode of The Sopranos; we're glad to have your perspective as a lawyer who often represents organized crime figures.
I thought last night's episode was excellent, but it seemed everyone was out of control. (Perhaps that's the reason it played so well to me.) The various plots and subplots thickened throughout the show, but the main one, in my view, was the complete evolution of Tony "Tony B." Blundetto—Tony Soprano's long-lost cousin whose past gangsterism, we learned, helped Soprano earn the money to build his palatial home—from a rehabilitated (haha) hoodlum back to his criminal roots. When I stopped laughing after watching Blundetto hop away from the double murder that ended last night's episode, there was no getting away from the main theme of Week 8—that is, the lack of order and control. We also learned last night what we suspected a few weeks ago: For all the help Tony B. was to Tony Soprano before he was nailed for hijacking, he's not a made guy.
Tony B. was also out of control at Carmela's father's 75th birthday party—drinking, griping—and I'm surprised his cousin/boss Tony S. didn't jump all over him when, after Carmela asked him to do her a favor, he complained about being a slave. And of course there'll be hell to pay if Tony Soprano ever sees the pictures Tony B. took of Carmela's butt and Tony's belly when he was supposed to be memorializing her father's joy at receiving the shotgun that Tony S. had given him as a birthday present.
He was even more out of control when he reluctantly agreed to consider getting involved in the budding New York mob war—the Little Carmine faction tried to enlist Tony B. to kill Joey Peeps, Phil Leotardo's driver. Joey Peeps isn't a made guy—he's described as a "friend of a friend, not a friend of ours"—but by giving an audience to those thugs, Tony B., as a Soprano crime family underling AND cousin, inserted Tony Soprano into the middle of an ongoing feud between two rival factions of the New York family. And he went completely off the deep end when—fueled by alcohol, greed, envy of his Mafia boss cousin, and the jealousy one of his twin sons expressed towards A.J.'s surroundings—he actually agreed to whack Joey Peeps.
It seems like only last week—or was it the week before?—that a rehabilitated Tony B. was earning his masseur's license and surfacing as the lone voice of reason in Tony's entire crew. How quickly Tony B. dragged himself back into the sewer to execute not only Phil Leotardo's horny collector but the hooker whom he was driving downtown. (Or was it uptown?) As soon as you saw the pair getting into Peeps' car, you knew that Tony B. was going to violate that so-called mob rule about killing a woman, which the New York crew had cited in an effort to help convince Tony B. to do the whacking. Sack's execution of Lorraine Calluzzo was mentioned as a key reason for killing Peeps. ("Kill a woman? C'mon," Rusty, the Frankie Valli character said as Tony B.'s buddy from his prison days, Angelo Garepe, chimed in: "Little Carmine went to school with her.")
The Tony B. plot line was the "Family" situation to emerge from last night's episode. But there were also several family situations, with Tony's roll in the sack with Carmela the obvious highlight that you knew was coming as soon as he showed up at the party with charcoal for the grill and a long link of sausages around his neck.
Jerry, in addition to whatever other thoughts and special insights you've got about last night's show, I'm wondering if you could compare Tony, whom you've denigrated as a mob boss, to the two Gotti brothers, whom you have represented and who have each been convicted as being the boss of the Gambino crime family. That is, of course, John Gotti, the late Dapper Don, and his older brother Peter, who was recently sentenced to nine years for racketeering, despite being, by all accounts (from even the sentencing judge), nothing more than a figurehead crime boss.
Back to you later,
Jerry Capeci is author ofThe Complete Idiot's Guide to the Mafia and Jerry Capeci's Gang Land: Fifteen Years of Covering the Mafia. His weekly column about organized crime, "Gang Land," appears in theNew York Sun and at www.ganglandnews.com.