TV Recap

Down and Outed

On ''The Sopranos,'' Vito goes into hiding when everyone learns his secret, and Tony has to decide his top earner's fate

James Gandolfini, The Sopranos | THE GAY MAFIA According to Tony, mobsters in jail get a waiver
Image credit: THE SOPRANOS: Barry Wechter
THE GAY MAFIA According to Tony, mobsters in jail get a waiver

''The Sopranos'': Tony's gay issues

The options are right there on every New Hampshire license plate: Live Free or Die. But the jury's still out on a verdict for Vito Spatafore. Can the mob captain with an off-duty preference for leather (and other men who share the fantasy) outrun the darkness closing in on him as news that he ''plays for the pink team'' spreads throughout greater northern New Jersey via Yonkers? Can he find a nice life for himself, do you think, on the lam in a friendly little New England town where tolerant people and nice young men who sell antiques are happy to accept this guy from, er, Scottsdale? (Sopranos history has not been kind to those who would hide out in Norman Rockwell villages: Tony garroted a federally relocated rat, remember, while his precious daughter shopped for institutions of higher education in a leafy college town very much like this one.) Will Vito use that gun on himself before too long, never to taste johnny cakes again?

Big crisis: If Vito returns, alive, to face the music, will Tony sustain his enlightened attitude of tolerance with respect to his top earner, ''a real come-from-behind kind of guy''? (I believe T's exact variation on ''don't ask, don't tell'' is ''God bless, who gives a s---'') And even if the boss does protect Vito from a death sentence, you think some dumb goon won't beat the little [insert derogatory description of choice, selected from a colorful if wearyingly wink-wink Sopranos script here] to a pulp anyway?

''Every f---in' TV show, they rub your nose in it,'' Tony observes, examining the subject of homosexuality in Dr. Melfi's office (and coming out as an L Word watcher). Har har, we're watchin' a f---in' TV show, bub. But actually, Tony is onto something when he blames television, as is another deep, theological-minded mobster who pontificates that Vito's secret gay life ''makes a mockery of the whole sacrament.''

See, here's the thing: The latest episode of The Sopranos is, on the face of it, about Vito's chances of living free or dying as a gay man. That's what drove the episode's action, or as movie-besotted Christuhfuh would say, the ''dramatic arc.'' But as the excuses and rationalizations and anxiety of those Vito left behind piled up, I came to think the episode is really about hypocrisy vs. authenticity. Who's on top and who's on the bottom? (I'm talking about power here — what did you think I meant?) And what defines masculinity and femininity?

That look of awe and envy on Carmela's face every time she watches Angie Bompensiero do business is the real story. And the way Rosalie Aprile observes, suspiciously, that Angie is now ''one of them,'' meaning one of the boys, rather than the girls. (Is Vito acting like one of the girls?) And the way those same boys make a mockery of the whole sacrament every day of their lives.

And how Meadow and Finn bicker about white collar fraud. (''We're in f---ing Caldwell, New Jersey,'' Finn reminds his idealistic girlfriend as she rants about justice for the downtrodden.) Isn't Meadow in fact trying yet again to solve what it means to be Tony's daughter — daddy's girl or independent professional woman, defender of the law or loyal Mafia princess?

And one other thing: Didn't you love seeing Carmela's parents' home? With Hugh and his garden hose and Mary in hair rollers, looking for her bundt pan? Do you think Carm grew up there, or did they move into the tidy brick house with the manicured landscaping with their son-in-law's help? When Carmela laid into her old father for walking away with building supplies left at her stalled spec house, I thought, yep, old Hugh De Angelis is a sneaky corner cutter just like the rest of them. He's a father who stiffs his own daughter.

Vito would never do that. So what's his fate?

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Originally posted Apr 17, 2006
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