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‘Sopranos’ two families can’t stay separate

If art imitates life, then the cast and crew of “The Sopranos” are imitating the very wise guys they are in the business of portraying. That isn’t to say they’re fitting enemies with cement shoes, hijacking truckloads of plasma TVs or muscling in on local businesses. But they are adhering to omerta, the sacred Italian code of secrecy that is rule No. 1 among members of La Cosa Nostra. Viol
/ Source: msnbc.com contributor

If art imitates life, then the cast and crew of “The Sopranos” are imitating the very wise guys they are in the business of portraying. That isn’t to say they’re fitting enemies with cement shoes, hijacking truckloads of plasma TVs or muscling in on local businesses. But they are adhering to omerta, the sacred Italian code of secrecy that is rule No. 1 among members of La Cosa Nostra. Violations are met with the gravest of consequences, including being written out of scripts.

The sixth season of “The Sopranos” begins on Sunday night, and thus far only a few mumbles and vague hints about what’s to come have been leaked. Before filming each season, everybody involved in the production goes through a ceremony in Joe Pesci’s basement where they cut each other’s hands, rub the blood together, say something cryptic in Italian and then eat spaghetti with Bolognese sauce. So far, it’s been an effective way of keeping spoilers out of the media.

To fully appreciate where the show is going, it’s important to recall where it left off.

Last season, like all “Sopranos” seasons, can be separated into two categories — business and personal — a distinction that Tom Hagen failed to impress upon Sonny Corleone in “The Godfather.”

On the personal side, Christopher and Adriana broke up. What was refreshing about their parting is that it did not involve the usual rancor associated with splits between longtime lovers. They simply had irreconcilable differences having to do with the FBI and the Witness Protection Program. So they decided to go their separate ways. Christopher went to the Bada Bing with Tony, while Adriana went for a drive with Silvio to a landfill.

For his part, Tony made up with Carmela and moved back into their suburban New Jersey palace. Of course, the situation needed a little massaging. Tony isn’t the first husband to dip into his pocket in order to calm the marital waters. This time, it cost him $600,000 so that Carmela could build a spec house and explore a real estate career. When you consider that Kobe Bryant had to pay $4 million for a ring for one indiscretion whereas Tony needed only 600K for multiple offenses, he actually got off easy.

Mixing family and Family

There are also times in the world of the Mafia when the line between business and personal becomes blurred.

Take the case of Tony and his cousin Tony Blundetto (played by Steve Buscemi). They grew up together, chased girls together, got drunk together and committed crimes together. Unfortunately, Tony Blundetto ran afoul of the New York faction of the mob, specifically Johnny Sack and his venomous henchman Phil Leotardo. As a result, Tony Soprano had a problem on his hands similar to the one Michael Corleone had with brother Fredo in “The Godfather, Part II,” which ended in an unfortunate fishing mishap.

This time, to keep the peace, Tony Soprano eschewed family counseling and instead drove to Tony Blundetto’s hideout in the country, where he went Dick Cheney on him. Of course, whereas Cheney waited 14 hours before alerting the authorities, Tony Soprano apparently has yet to report it.

But that may or may not have sated Phil’s need for vengeance over his brother’s death, which brings us back to business again.

With Johnny Sack in orange coveralls instead of a Hugo Boss suit because of a silly misunderstanding over RICO statutes, Phil is the New York family’s acting boss. That should make for some interesting three-martini business lunches with Tony. Whether Phil can put aside his seething rage and work together with the New Jersey branch of the mob for the common good, or if he kisses Tony on each cheek and then punctures his jugular with a screwdriver, only time will tell.

Somehow, Tony avoided the FBI raid at Johnny Sack’s house, which formed the end of the last season. He was on the premises, but according to Tony’s lawyer, he was not named on the indictment, so the feds let Tony high-tail it through the snow back to his own abode. It was reminiscent of Christopher and Paulie’s experience during the wintry “Pine Barrens” episode of season three, except that they only had packages of ketchup to eat, whereas Tony surely had his face in a plateful of sausage and peppers within minutes.

The separation of business and personal has never been more difficult than in the case of Uncle Junior, although it may get easier in this sixth season because the old grouch is not doing all that well. Federal prosecutors are still determined to put him behind bars, and he is becoming more feeble and forgetful. In season one, he was hale enough to conspire with Livia to have Tony whacked. But sadly, Uncle Junior doesn’t remember that far back.

Besides Tony and Carmela, the personal side will likely focus on the diverse paths explored by Meadow and A.J. Whereas Meadow is all grown up and pondering a career in law, A.J. is thinking about party planning. If he only plans to attend them, that’s bad. If he plans to plan them, that’s good.

Of course, there’s Janice and Bobby. Now that the last frozen tray of ziti from Bobby’s late wife has been consumed, they can turn their attention toward making a life together. One report suggests the two will have a baby together. In this case, all I can say is that it’s never too early to take preventative steps against childhood obesity.

Silvio and Paulie will try and be good soldiers, with mixed results. Silvio will listen to Tony’s grousing with a mixture of amusement and annoyance, while Paulie will work an angle, any angle, that succeeds in feathering his nest.

Lastly, there’s Dr. Melfi. She’ll continue to charge Tony a lot of money to sit and listen to him unburden himself so she can afford to pay Elliot Kupferberg to listen to her complain about having to listen to Tony, further illustrating that most of us are in the wrong business.

That’s probably what will happen this season. Just don’t tell anybody, or else.