''Sopranos''

Past Imperfect

Tony might have a thing for his daddy's mistress -- She's the beaut of a mother he never had, while Christopher makes a bad rehab-support buddy, says Alynda Wheat

Dominic Chianese, James Gandolfini, ... | FUTURE TENSE Uncle Junior and Tony both have issues with their pasts
Image credit: Sopranos: Barry Wetcher
FUTURE TENSE Uncle Junior and Tony both have issues with their pasts

Tony might have a thing for his daddy's mistress

Therapy takes time. It must, judging by Tony's bizarre, Freudian interludes with his father's mistress Fran Felstein (Polly Bergen). The mama issues are old news, as are the daddy problems -- he's been dealing with those since season 1. But when you're Oedipal about your father's chick on the side, you need a damn sight more than once a week on a shrink's couch.

It all unspools like a twisted spin on a romantic comedy. Tony and Fran meet cute (over Johnny and Livia Soprano's dead bodies), start having coffee and talking about the old days. Next thing you know he's keeping her in $600 shoes and watching her geriatric version of Marilyn Monroe's ''Happy Birthday, Mr. President.'' At least he had the decency to look as sick as I felt.

And how deep does it go? When Tony's shtuping his own mistress, he glances at her Wegman dog print and makes the mental connection to the dog he's just so certain his mother made his father give away (and which ended up with Fran's son). Melfi may miss a lot of things, but about Tony's need to bang his own mother -- in both figurative senses -- she's dead on.

But it's not like Tony's the only one with a freakish worldview. Christopher's version of tough love with his drug program buddy JT (Tim Daly) is about as bipolar and chaotic as his relationship with Adriana. This is a man capable of kicking the crap out of the guy for owing him money and rationalizing it as not enabling him. Then he chastises the poor SOB for not calling him when he wants a fix. Can you blame JT for looking confused?

Screwed up as JT is, his value system, his world order are something close to normal. He can't function in Christopher's world not just because he doesn't know the rules, but because he doesn't even speak the language. How ironic that the man who makes up stories for a living, the TV writer, is trying to find some sense of normal while Tony's spinning wild tales of Mistress Fran in the White House.

And there's the opposite of confused: Uncle June. He ends up back in the doctor's office because he has a breakdown at the, like, millionth funeral he attends (after reading the obits every day looking for ANY funeral he can get permission to leave his house for). His MD thinks he might have had another stroke episode, but Junior knows different. He's starting to see his life clearly -- he's got no wife or kids, he's stuck in house arrest, and as he so succinctly puts it, his life is about death.

Just another sunny day in Sopranoland.

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Originally posted Apr 19, 2004
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