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Recap / The Sopranos S 5 E 6 Sentimental Education

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Season 5, Episode 06

Sentimental Education

Tony B continues to work for the linen fleet while he studies to earn his massage license. He faces a setback when he falls carrying a load of linens out to his truck, which is then stolen. Tony B's boss, Soongyon Kim, is immediately suspicious of his ex-convict employee, telling him he would be fired if not for Tony Soprano's sake.

Tony, meanwhile, finds he can no longer take AJ's brattiness while they live alone together. After an argument over a bowl of cereal escalates into a physical altercation between father and son, AJ moves back in with Carmela. Carmela, newly single, enters a courtship with AJ's college counselor, Mr. Wegler. As they kiss in Wegler's car after a date, Carmela reveals that she has never been with a man other than her husband. Apprehensive about the prospect of breaking her marriage vows (though they are separated), Carmela consults with Father Phil Intintola, who is adamantly opposed to the affair and is implied to be jealous. Carmela and Wegler consummate their relationship at his home.


Supported by his girlfriend Gwen, who he met through correspondence while in prison, Tony B passes the test for his massage license. His good fortune continues when the stolen truck is found to have been taken by some kids, vindicating him. Kim has a change of heart regarding Tony B, admiring his work ethic, and proposes a business partnership; Kim owns a vacant storefront where Tony B can set up his own massage parlor. Tony B enthusiastically agrees.

Carmela confesses to Father Phil that she slept with Wegler, and he reasserts his disapproval. Nonetheless, the affair continues. However, Carmela remains troubled by AJ's terrible academic performance. This distracts her one night with Wegler, and she suggests he could do something to help AJ. When Wegler doesn't give a satisfactory response, she abruptly leaves, giving him blue balls. The next day Wegler coerces another of AJ's teachers into changing his test scores, and Carmela returns to him enthusiastically. As this becomes a pattern, Wegler begins to suspect that Carmela is manipulating him with sex in order to help her son academically. When Wegler explains this to Carmela in crass terms, she angrily breaks his lamp, threatens him, and storms out. Later she lays in bed in a melancholy state while her father fixes the bedroom door frame. Carmela asserts that because of her marriage to Tony, her own character will always be questioned.


Tony B has another stroke of good luck when a car speeds by him and Gwen, dropping several vials of crack cocaine and a large amount of drug money in the bushes nearby. Rather than invest in his business, Tony B spends the windfall cash on gambling and clothes, spending more time with the Soprano crew. As the money runs out, Tony B grows disgruntled with the discrepancy between his fun, carefree night life with the mobsters and his unglamorous labor during the day. His mood is worsened by frequent hangovers and a lack of sleep, leading his relationship with Gwen to deteriorate. One day as Tony B paints the interior of the massage parlor, he is visited by Kim. Irritated by his boss, Tony B lashes out at him and physically assaults the man, throwing away his dreams of massage therapy. Out at dinner with Tony S, he broaches the subject of the boosted airbag job Tony S had offered him, finally ending his stint as a civilian.


  • Abusive Parents: Tony becomes physically abusive towards A.J. in this episode.
  • All Asians Know Martial Arts: Kim manages to use a block and punch characteristic of Taekwondo in his fight against Tony B, but it doesn't help him much.
  • Bad Boss:
    • Kim, who's a total Jerkass to Tony B, even when ostensibly helping out Tony B with the massage parlor. And while he was willing to front the money for the parlor, Tony B feels increasingly resentful that Kim won't lift a finger for the parlor while Tony B himself juggles both the linens day job and getting the parlor ready at night.
    • Wegler coerces A.J.'s Stern Teacher into changing the grade from a D+ to a C-.
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: How Carmela and Wegler feel about each other after their breakup. Carmela herself almost names the trope itself word for word, with the only difference being the classical 'wolf' in place of 'bitch'.
  • Brilliant, but Lazy: Zigzagged by Tony B. The brilliant part is never in any doubt. He zigzags the lazy part in his moments where he studies hard for his exam, and works hard to set up the parlor. He zigzags back when the call of easy money with the mob and other factors precipitate a decision to abandon his efforts to go straight.
  • Camp Straight: Carmela lets it slip that she thinks both Father Intintola and Principal Wegler give off this kind of vibe, even if they aren't actually gay.
  • Close to Home: Seeing Carmela and A.J. together reminds Rosalie of her loss of Jackie, and brings tears to her eyes.
  • Confessional: Carmela has one with Father Intintola.
  • Coolest Club Ever: Tony B enjoys himself with his free cash in the Bing.
  • Damn, It Feels Good to Be a Gangster!: Tony B gets a taste of the easy money little work lifestyle of the Jersey mobsters, which becomes a crucial factor in his abandoning the straight life.
  • Dark Is Evil: Hinted at when a certain shot of Tony S in the kitchen has him almost completely shadowed over.
  • Denied Food as Punishment: A.J. keeps complaining about the breakfast Tony prepares until Tony takes it from him and dumps it down the garbage disposal, smilingly informing him "Now you got nothing."
  • Descent into Addiction: Tony B takes to drinking more and more, both in response to the seemingly glamorous life of the mobsters and in response to the stresses of toiling under Kim.
  • Dumbass Teenage Son: A.J., as always. Notably, Fredo is the Corleone son his Stern Teacher likens him to when it becomes clear strings are being pulled for his benefit.
  • Feminine Women Can Cook: Still subverted as a Running Gag for Janice. Gwen lets on that the lasagna isn't that good, well ... Tony B doesn't even want to try it.
  • Fish out of Water: Tony B while trying in vain to go straight as a Reformed Criminal. Reinforced by the symbolism of the koi fish flapping around outside of its pool.
  • A Fool and His New Money Are Soon Parted: Tony B hits a Lottery Ticket of sorts when he finds $12,000 thrown away by drug dealers on the run from the cops. Gwen suggests investing it in his massage parlor. But he soon blows all of it on clubbing at the Bing, Outdated Outfits, and poker. It becomes one of numerous factors leading to his going back to the mob life.
  • Foreshadowing: Combined with Harsher in Hindsight: The argument between Paulie and Vito over Tony B wanting to become a massage therapist flags Paulie as a Heteronormative Crusader, while providing the first clue that Vito was even here carrying some Gayngst.
  • The Gambling Addict: The few times we've seen Tony B play poker, and his argument with Gwen, together imply that he is one.
  • Green-Eyed Epiphany: Father Intintola's facial expressions and tones betray that he's having this reaction when he learns about Carmela and Principal Wegler.
  • Guiltby Association Gag: Subverted. Carmela feels that she is on the receiving end of one, that anything she tries is doomed by her reputation of just having been married to Tony S. The problem is she's also in Never My Fault mode, and refusing to account for the flaws in her own actions.
  • Hard Work Hardly Works: Tony B experiences exhaustion toiling with both his linens day job, and his night work trying to get the massage parlor ready. Combine that with a taste of the mob life that promises lots of money for little actual work and Tony B makes the decision to abandon the whole massage parlor idea.
  • Heel–Face Revolving Door:
    • The prospect of opening a massage parlor in partnership with Kim becomes one for Tony B, but he obviously doesn't step through it.
    • Carmela struggles with one as well. She starts using sex in a very exploitative way to try and catch a break for A.J. But explicit messages from Father Intintola and implicit messages, like from a Useful Book, grate on her conscience. She takes a firm step towards being a Manipulative Bitch when she realizes her efforts to gain Sextra Credit for A.J. worked, encouraging her to ignore her previous struggles with her conscience. Her regret afterwards marks another spin through the door.
    • Wegler also struggles with one. His lets his own attraction to Carmela lead him into unethical behavior as a Bad Boss towards A.J.'s Stern Teacher. But he backs out once his conscience gets the better of him.
  • Improvised Weapon: Tony B turns one of the lumber pieces into a club against Kim.
  • Literary Allusion Title: Sentimental Education is a novel by Gustave Flaubert, who also wrote Madame Bovary, which Mr. Wegler recommends to Carmela.
  • Male Gaze: Chris and both Tonys really soak in the sight of Amanda once she turns her back and makes out the door.
  • A Man Is Always Eager: Chris immediately wants to have a go with Amanda upon seeing her.
  • Manipulative Bitch: Carmela veers into this territory when she throws herself back into Wegler's arms, after realizing she succeeded in getting Sextra Credit for A.J. Wegler wises up though.
  • Nepotism: Kim makes himself crystal clear that he would have fired Tony B on the spot had he not needed Tony S for union connections.
  • No-Holds-Barred Beatdown: Tony B gives one to Kim, using a piece of lumber as an Improvised Weapon along the way.
  • Not Cheating Unless You Get Caught: A.J. buys an A-grade paper online and attempts to submit it as his own. But Carmela does catch him in the act.
  • An Offer You Can't Refuse: A.J.'s teacher thinks that Wegler has accepted such an offer. "So what does it mean to the kid who really breaks his ass in here if Fredo Corleone can get a 'C' cause you asked?"
  • Out of Job, Into the Plot: The episode ends with Tony B approaching Tony S about the Black Market airbags job. No more Reformed Criminal for Tony B. He's about to become a Spanner in the Works and an Unwitting Instigator of Doom.
  • Outdated Outfit: Tony B and his Miami Vice suits.
  • Pet the Dog: Chris tries to provide positive encouragement to Tony B's pursuit of the massage parlor, by noting that people who put down others are often Compensating for Something. It lampshades Tony B's struggles as a Stranger in a Familiar Land, and Reformed, but Rejected. And it may also have widened up that Heel–Face Revolving Door for Tony B a little more, although obviously he didn't step all the way through it.
  • Politically Incorrect Villain:
    • Paulie, "Word to to the wise, remember Pearl Harbor!"
    • Both Tonys and Chris crack jokes about Asians eating dogs.
    • Rosalie thinks it's "chinks" who killed Jackie Jr.
    • Tony S is pretty free with the word "fag" for anyone he thinks isn't as manly as himself (i.e. Wegler).
    • And Paulie again, "Pocahontas here is scalpin' us".
  • Precision F-Strike: Carmela gives one to Wegler once they've broken up.
  • Rage Breaking Point: Tony B feels increasingly resentful of toiling with both the linens day job and the night work of getting the parlor ready, while Kim won't lift a finger over the parlor itself. The Breaking Point arrives when Kim shows up, speaks to Tony B in a condescending way, and addresses Tony B as "partner" in Hey, You! fashion. That use of the word "partner" was the last little tug that Yanked Tony B's Chain and precipitated the No-Holds-Barred Beatdown on Kim.
  • Rule of Symbolism: Kim, after getting the shit beat out of him by Tony B, sees a Koi Fish flapping around after having been ejected from its pool. An obvious reference to Tony B's efforts to go straight making him a Fish out of Water. That the fish will die without being in water also Foreshadows Tony B's inevitable fate after throwing away the massage parlor endeavor.
  • Self-Made Man: Kim tells Tony B. that he came to America with just his shoes and his uncle's address, describing the experience as worse than prison. He now runs a laundrette.
  • Sextra Credit: A variant where it's Carmela getting involved with Wegler to try and catch an academic break for A.J. Wegler catches on though.
  • Smug Snake: Kim, in addition to being a Bad Boss.
  • Spoiled Brat: Any attempts by Tony to teach independence and responsibility to A.J. tend to only get back talk and attitude.
  • Temporary Divorce: Things don't seem to be getting any better between Tony S and Carmela.
  • Tough Love: Carmela is willing to let A.J. move back in, but on condition of non-negotiable ground rules.
  • Useful Book: Carmela finds a copy of The Letters of Abelard and Heloise in Wegler's bathroom. That, combined with Wegler's explanation of the book itself, get in the way of Carmela's rationalizations that she either isn't committing adultery or that it's justified adultery for a good cause. The trope is played straight in that she doesn't read the book herself, but it's getting the Coles notes rundown from Wegler that keep her spinning around in her own Heel–Face Revolving Door.
  • Yank the Dog's Chain: Tony B tries to become a Reformed Criminal by opening up a massage parlor in partnership with Kim. But Kim being a Jerkass Bad Boss, the stress of toiling under night and day jobs, getting a taste of the easy money lifestyle of the mobsters, and an accompanying Descent into Addiction, all work together to precipitate Tony B's decision to abandon the parlor endeavor.
  • You Are a Credit to Your Race: Kim lets on that he thinks of Caucasians as lazy criminals. But he's willing to front Tony B's massage parlor on the perception that Tony B is an exception.
  • You Know I'm Black, Right?: An Asian variant on the trope. Chris cracks his Asians having dogs for snacks joke before he realizes that Amanda is in the room. He has a rather embarrassed look on his face, while Amanda has a knowing smirk.


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