The Sopranos/Down Neck
Starring: James Gandolfini (Tony Soprano), Lorraine Bracco (Dr. Jennifer Melfi), Edie Falco (Carmela Soprano), Michael Imperioli (Christopher Moltisanti), Dominic Chianese (Junior Soprano), Vincent Pastore ("Big Pussy" Bonpensiero), Steven Van Zandt (Silvio Dante), Tony Sirico (credit only), Robert Iler (Anthony Soprano, Jr.), Jamie-Lynn Sigler (Meadow Soprano)
Co-Starring: Paul Albe (Contractor), Shirl Bernheim (Pearl), Madeline Blue (Janice), Bobby Borriello (Young Tony), Scott Owen Cumberbatch (Rideland Kid #2), Anthony Fusco (Father Hagy), Rob Grippa (Byron Barber), Jason Hauser (Rideland Cop), Michael Jordan (Rideland Kid), Greg Perrelli (Jared), Nick Raio (Wiseguy), Steve Santosusso (Guy), Tim Williams (Mr. Meskimmin)
A.J. is in trouble at school. He and his friends Byron and Jared have been caught stealing the sacramental wine and drinking it, showing up drunk to gym class. Tony is at work at a construction site he is shaking down with Christopher when he gets the call, and he and Carmela go to A.J.'s school. Although Tony is skeptical, the psychiatrist, Dr. Peter Galani, suggests A.J. may have attention deficit disorder and recommends counseling in addition to a three-day suspension A.J. will receive. At dinner that night, Livia and Uncle Junior tell A.J. how much trouble his father got into as a child, but Tony becomes angry and tells them A.J. is different. Meanwhile, both Tony and Carmela worry about how much their children know about their father's business.
The trouble with A.J. leads Tony to flash back to his own childhood. He remembers a time when he missed the bus and stumbled across his Uncle Junior and his father Johnny—the head of his own crew—beating up a Guy who owed him money. The beating was a shock to Tony, but not in the way Dr. Melfi would expect. Rather, Tony was proud of how tough his father was. Nonetheless, the possibility that A.J. might turn out like him eats away at Tony, and he snaps at his seeming son Christopher when he steals nice watches from a FedEx truck.
The school's requirement for A.J. is that he attend therapy sessions to determine if he has ADD, but his parents force him to visit Livia in the nursing home. There, A.J. tells his grandmother that his father is attending therapy. She refuses to believe him at first, but his persistence makes her think otherwise. Tony himself speaks with his son about his business, but he lies when A.J. suggests he might know what Tony does for a living.
That notwithstanding, Tony worries that his own past may have led to A.J.'s troubles. In therapy with Melfi, Tony tells more of his childhood, and how he was jealous of his sister Janice, who used to go to an amusement park with their father. Young Tony got a new perspective on the situation, however, when he snuck along with Janice and Johnny and saw Johnny arrested. On the other hand, he says Livia supported Johnny in his activities, and even the Guy whom Johnny had once beaten up supported Johnny over the police.
That said, therapy brings out what may be the real reason Tony is remembering his childhood under the circumstances. He recalls a moment in which he saw his parents fighting over a possible move to Nevada. Johnny was in favor of the move, but Livia put her foot down and refused. At the nursing home, Tony confronts Livia and says the move might have been better for the family—and for him—but Livia dismisses his concerns.
When Carmela and Tony meet again with Dr. Galani, Galani says A.J. is a borderline case of ADD. His list of symptoms is not enough to convince Tony, who still believes A.J. simply needs more discipline, and Carmela at last agrees with him. At home, Tony seems to lack sympathy with A.J., but he makes up for it by making sundaes with him.
- White Rabbit, performed by Jefferson Airplane: Tony takes his Prozac and flashes back to his childhood for the first time. Also later, when he makes sundaes with A.J. and on into the closing credits.
- Don't Bring Me Down, performed by Eric Burdon & The Animals: Tony misses the bus and sees Johnny Soprano and Junior beating up the Guy.
- Carrie-Anne, performed by The Hollies: Tony and Junior play catch while Janice leaves with Johnny for the carnival.
- Mystic Eyes, performed by Them featuring Van Morrison¹: Tony hides in the trunk of Johnny's car and follows Janice and Johnny to the carnival.
- The Blue Danube, composed by Johann Strauss the Younger: Carnival music as Tony sees Junior, Johnny and friends arrested.
¹Appears on The Sopranos: Music from the HBO Original Series soundtrack collection.
Total Episode Body Count: 0
Down Neck is a name of a section in Newark, NJ, where Tony grew up and to which he flashes back.
- This is the first episode in which Tony flashes back to his childhood, and we learn how Tony found out his father was in the mob.
- Livia learns Tony is in therapy.
- Tony and Dr. Melfi: Having realized that Dr. Melfi doesn't share his "feelings" for her, Tony taunts her by admitting that he has a Russian cumare.
- Tony and A.J.: Tony worries about A.J.'s future and the possibility that A.J. may turn out like him.
- A.J.: A.J. steals wine from the school's church. He is caught drunk, and his parents are called into the school. It is suggested that he may be suffering from attention deficit disorder, but Tony and Carmela are not convinced.
- 1x04 - Meadowlands: A.J. reveals to Tony that kids at school told him Tony was in the Mafia. He also talks about the feds who were watching Jackie's funeral and that he found a Website which identified Jackie as a mobster.
- 1x05 - College: When Carmela tells Tony how much Meadow has changed since their trip to New England, Tony flashes back to it, particularly Meadow asking him if he was in the mob. Also later, he says
- 1x06 - Pax Soprana: Tony and Dr. Melfi talk about Tony's admission of "intimate feelings" (that he's in love) with Melfi.
- MIA: Although credited, actor Tony Sirico does not appear in this episode.
- First Appearance: This episode marks the first appearance of Johnny and Janice Soprano, although Janice is seen here as a child played by Madeline Blue. She would appear later as an adult, played by Aida Turturro. This is also the first episode in which actors Bobby Borriello, Rocco Sisto and Laila Robins portray younger versions of Tony, Junior and Livia Soprano, respectively.
- Name Change: In episode 1x05 - College, while killing Fred Peters, Tony says, "Jimmy says hello from hell, you fuck," presumably referring to his father, who felt personally betrayed by Peters' turning rat. However, in this episode and all subsequent ones, Tony's father is named Johnny.
- Body Count: 0: This is the first episode in the series in which nobody dies.
Behind the Scenes
- Awards and Nominations: Actor Bobby Borriello was nominated for a Young Artist Award for Best Performance in a TV Drama Series - Young Actor Age Ten and Under for his performance as young Tony Soprano in this episode.
Allusions and References
- Timex Wristwatches: From the 1950s through the 1970s, this popular American brand of wristwatches was sold in commercials which featured the watch being subjected to "torture tests" but still working, ending with the tagline, "It takes a licking and keeps on ticking."
- Christopher: I take a licking but keep on ticking.
- South Park: The popular animated Comedy Central series, about the bizarre adventures which befall four young boys in Colorado, which debuted in 1997. On the series, Cartman is an obese, foul-mouthed, racist, sociopathic boy who is as often the butt of the other boys' jokes as he is their tormentor. The episode to which A.J. refers is the first South Park episode to air, 1x01 - Cartman Gets an Anal Probe.
- A.J.: Or watching TV, maybe? Or maybe he's watching South Park. Number one was supposed to be on tonight, the one where Cartman gets abducted by aliens, and they give him an anal probe, and it makes him fart fire.
- The Godfather: In the opening scenes of the classic 1972 mobster movie, Sonny Corleone (James Caan) roughs up some FBI agents who are writing down license plate numbers and taking photographs at his sister Connie's (Talia Shire) wedding.
- A.J.: There were all those guys at Uncle Jackie's funeral, and those other guys writing down license plate numbers and taking pictures. Those were feds, right? Just like in Godfather I.
- Leopold and Loeb: Nathan Freudenthal Leopold, Jr. and Richard A. Loeb, two very intelligent and wealthy sons of successful Chicago business families who, in 1924, kidnapped and murdered Loeb's 14-year-old neighbor Bobby Franks in an attempt to prove they could commit the "perfect crime." They were caught and sentenced to life in prison.
- Tony: Then you got Leopold and Loeb. They cornholed and murdered this kid for fun, and their father was a successful businessman, a fuckin' millionaire.
- 1967 Newark Riots: In the flashbacks, Livia watches a TV report of riots taking place on Springfield Avenue. In July 1967, tensions over the division of blacks and Italians and Irish in Newark, New Jersey, sparked by the rumored death of a cab driver at the hands of police, boiled over into riots which lasted for six days and took 26 lives.
- Clarabell the Clown: Mute clown sidekick on The Howdy Doody Show, the popular children's show from the 1940s, '50s and '60s.
- Rideland Cop: Get the fuck in there, Clarabell.
- The Ed Sullivan Show: Popular variety show which aired on CBS from the late 1940s through the early 1970s. In the late 1960s, it was noted for featuring popular young musical acts. In this episode, Tony and Janice are seen watching the Rascals perform on it when Johnny gets back from his arrest.
- Having stolen the sacramental wine with Byron Barber and A.J. and drunk it, Jared pukes in gym class after doing jumping jacks and squat thrusts.
- Tony taunts Dr. Melfi by telling her about Irina.
- Tony and A.J. make sundaes together, and Tony sprays whipped cream into A.J.'s mouth.
- Christopher: How am I? I got dust up the crack of my ass, and I'm starvin' to death.
- Dr. Peter Galani: You hit Anthony?
Tony: Nobody gets hit in our house, not exactly my idea. I don't know what the world's comin' to if you can't do a little tarantella on the kids every once in a while if they step out of line.
- Silvio: My daughter's been giving me all this feminist shit about this place, how it objectifies women, you know, shit like that. These girls are pulling down 1500 a week. This bears no weight with the principessa.
- Tony: Pussy, Kevin and Matt, they ever ask you about this thing of ours?
Big Pussy: I lied through my teeth, but they knew. Fuckin' nitwits, they love me, anyway.
- Livia: They sent you to a psychiatrist?
Livia: But that's crazy. That's all nonsense. That's nothin' but a... a racket for the Jews.
- Livia: I could stick this fork in your eye.
- Tony: C'mon. This is part where I'm supposed to tell you how terrible my father was and the terrible things he did to me and how he ruined my life, but I'll tell you something, I was proud to be Johnny Soprano's kid. When he beat the shit outta that guy, I went to the class, I told 'em how tough my father was.
- Livia: Oh, Mr. Sensitive. Well, if it bothers you, maybe you better talk to a psychiatrist.
- Tony: You know, everybody thought Dad was the ruthless one, but I gotta hand it to you. If you'd been born after those feminists, you woulda been the real gangster.