James Gandolfini passed away at 51 yesterday in Italy, stunning and saddening the world. While he was nothing like Tony Soprano, it is this role for which he will be most remembered.
For me, it was the love story between Tony and Dr. Melfi (Lorraine Bracco), who humanized and challenged the antihero, that first came to mind on news of his passing. I watched clips, combed quotes online, read IMDB and came up with my favorite 12 exchanges between the two characters over the course of six seasons (with the last season broken down into two parts).
1. Tony Soprano: I had a dream I fucked your brains out. Right on that desk, and you loved it. Dr. Melfi: Well, you threw that at me like a rock.
2. Tony Soprano: It's in his blood, this miserable fuckin' existence. My rotten, fuckin' putrid genes have infected my kid's soul. That's my gift to my son. Dr. Melfi: I know all this is difficult but I'm very glad we're having this discussion. Tony Soprano: Really, really? 'Cause I gotta be honest, I think it fuckin' sucks. Dr. Melfi: What does? Tony Soprano: This. Therapy. I HATE this fuckin' shit! Seriously, we're both adults here, right? So after all is said and done, after all the complainin' and the cryin' and all the fuckin' bullshit... Is this all there is?
3. (Tony urges Dr. Melfi to get out of town for a while.)Dr. Melfi: I have patients who are suicidal! Tony Soprano: Well, they're not gonna feel any better about their life if you get clipped.
4. (Tony describes a dream he had about Jean Cusamano.)Tony Soprano: I'm doing her doggy-style, and I finish, you know. And her big ass is... Look, we don't have time for this shit. Dr. Melfi: It's interesting that you would say a big ass, 'cause Jean is quite slender. Tony Soprano: We've got bigger things to talk about than Jean Cusamano's ass. Dr. Melfi: Like feelings of worthlessness sparked by your mother's plot to have you killed?
5. Dr. Melfi:(about Jackie's condition) From what you're telling me it doesn't sound very good. Tony Soprano: From what I'm telling you? Well, what the fuck do I know? I'm not a doctor. Dr. Melfi: You're angry. Who with? Tony Soprano: Let me tell you something. This man has had chemo every day for three fuckin' weeks and he still has every last hair on his head. Every last hair on his head and he's got a beautiful head of hair. So don't tell me about how it sounds because you don't know him and you don't know me and you don't know what the fuck you're talkin' about! Dr. Melfi: What's happening is we're getting closer to your confronting your true feelings about what's really going on here. Dr. Melfi: Wait a minute, wait a minute. I just told you my true feelings. So why don't you tell me what's really goin' on. Dr. Melfi: The tree in the painting rotted out, you said. There's nothing in that picture to indicate that. Tony Soprano: The fucking painting. I knew that painting was a scam. I knew that painting was a fuckin' scam! Dr. Melfi: You remember your dream? The ducks? It took on another meaning. What happens to a tree that's rotted out? Tony Soprano: Trees, ducks. What the fuck are you, Ranger Rick? I'll tell you, some job you shrinks got! You think everybody is lying to you while you're pulling scams on them! Fuck you!
6. Dr. Melfi: How are things? Tony Soprano: Good. I had a real good week. Friend of mine's in the hospital. That's never pleasant, but... Otherwise I'm having a good week. Dr. Melfi: What's he in for? Tony Soprano: First they thought it was an ulcer. You know, then this and that. Dr. Melfi: You worried about him? Tony Soprano: Jackie? Jackie's so fucking mean, he'll scare that cancer away.
7. Dr. Melfi: Listen, Anthony. I'm not going to go out with you, and it's not because you're unattractive or I don't think I would have a good time. It's just something I'm not going to do. I would like you to respect my decision, and just try to feel that I know what's right for me. Okay? Tony Soprano: It's not just the doctor-patient ethics thing, is it? Dr. Melfi: I want to preserve the option for you that you could always come back to our work, if you wish, and that we could pick up where we've left off. Tony Soprano: I don't think you get this. I want you! Dr. Melfi: That's very flattering to me. Tony Soprano: I'm not interested in flattering you. Dr. Melfi: I know you're not. Tony Soprano: Alright, then what is it? Just help me understand it. Dr. Melfi: You know, Anthony, during our work I never judged you, or your behavior. It's not the place of a therapist to do so. Tony Soprano: Alright, I get all this. Go, go. Dr. Melfi: In a personal relationship, I don't think I could sit silent. Tony Soprano: About what? Dr. Melfi: Our values are... just very different. Tony Soprano: You don't like my values. Dr. Melfi: Honestly? Tony Soprano: Yeah. Dr. Melfi: No. Tony Soprano: OK. Like what? Dr. Melfi: It's getting late. Tony Soprano: No, no. Come on. It's okay. Dr. Melfi: Well... You're not a truthful person. You're not respectful of women. You're not really respectful of people. Tony Soprano: I don't love people? Dr. Melfi: Maybe you love them, I don't know. You take what you want from them by force, or the threat of force. I couldn't live like that. I couldn't bear witness to violence. Tony Soprano: FUCK YOU! You fucking cunt!
8. Tony Soprano: I'm havin' second thoughts. Dr. Melfi: About? Tony Soprano: This whole thing. This whole arrangement. Security. I mean I come here, I tell you things, I don't know how safe it is. Dr. Melfi: I understand your concerns. But I told you what the ground rules are. As long as I don't hear anything incriminating. Tony Soprano: You don't fuckin' get it. Bein' here incriminates me. Somebody sees me, they tell somebody else. All of a sudden, I'm a celebrity.
9. Tony Soprano: You know what they say: Revenge is like serving cold cuts. Dr. Melfi: I think it's, "Revenge is a dish best served cold." Tony Soprano: What did I say?
10. (Tony and Carmela are arguing during their joint therapy session.)Dr. Melfi: You're both very angry. Tony Soprano: Yeah, you must have been at the top of your fuckin' class.
11. Dr. Melfi: What was it like sitting sitting there with Fran? Tony Soprano: It was a little weird at first. Here I am comforting my father's mistress, my mother's lyin' there dead. Dr. Melfi: Are you attracted to her? Tony Soprano: Come on, she's old enough to be my mother. (Dr. Melfi shrugs.)Tony Soprano: Oh, Jesus Christ, it's an expression. Don't cream yourself. I did not want to fuck my mother! You should have seen her in her housedress with that hairnet. This conversation would be over in two seconds.
12. Tony Soprano: You know, there's this Russian woman. She told me something that's very true. She said, only here, in America, do we expect to be happy. I mean this woman, she had a terrible leg disease since she was 9. She was dirt poor. She's getting on with her life. I mean, over here, we come and we bitch to shrinks. I mean, what the fuck? Dr. Melfi: Well, part of that may be true. But, who said that after getting out of the dirt and the poverty, do we have to stop looking for pain and truth? Tony Soprano: Pain and truth? Come on, I'm a fat fucking crook from New Jersey.
Find Mandy long-form at http://tinyurl.com/stadtmiller.