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Recap / The Sopranos S 6 E 16 Chasing It

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Season 6, Episode 16

Chasing It

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Vito Jr. has taken up with the Goth subculture, and is acting out of control, in order to cope with being bullied at school over his father having been publicly outed as gay. He gets busted vandalizing a headstone in a cemetery. Marie pleads with Tony for $100,000 to start over in Maine. Tony fobs her off with a promise to think about, and promises to have Phil talk to the boy.

Nancy Sinatra performs at a private party celebrating Phil becoming the Boss of New York. Tony speaks to Phil about Vito Jr., asking him to pick up the tab for the proposed relocation to Maine. Phil is less than sympathetic, but promises to speak to the boy. Phil does have that talk with Vito Jr., but doesn't offer anything besides insensitive advice about the need to step up and live up to his older ideas of being a man. Tony takes his turn, but he's just as callous and insensitive.

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Tony meanwhile continues to lose numerous sports bets, very often in situations where he would have walked away with lots of money had he known to quit while he was ahead. The one bet he does win, which is based on a secret that the other team's quarterback has a hairline fracture, brings in little since he didn't demand enough of Carmela's windfall from selling the spec house. He and Carmela get into a massive argument over both the bet itself, and past issues.

Tony meanwhile struggles to make good his $200,000 debt to Hesh. They appear pleasant with each other on the surface, but reveal their true colors in each other's absences. Hesh resents Tony being late and pretending to forget to his partner, Renata. Tony in turn complains about Hesh to Dr. Melfi. Dr. Melfi in turn makes it clear to Tony that he needs to show up for appointments consistently in order for their therapeutic relationship to continue.

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Tony continues to jerk Hesh's chain with Greedy Jew jokes, while Hesh continues to simmer in anger. Tony and Bobby show up to Hesh's, and invite him to a 'boat show'. Hesh senses the danger, and declines. Tony gives Hesh his $3,000 vig, which only serves to strain relations between them even further. Tony is angry in the car on the way home, and he yells at Carlo for not bringing in as much through construction as Vito had. He also offends Carlo by suggesting he should take up homosexuality to be more like Vito.

Vito Jr., while being bullied yet some more, deliberately defecates in the shower room as a way of lashing out. He gets expelled from his school. Tony commits to providing the $100,000 so that Marie and Vito Jr. can move to Maine to start over. The other mobsters voice their approval. But Tony decides to bet the whole $100,000 on another football game, and he loses all of it. He offers $18,000 to Marie to send Vito Jr. to a camp school where corporal punishment is permitted. Marie is far from enthusiastic about it, but resigns herself to it for lack of alternatives. Tony notices Ahmed and Muhammad speaking to fellow Muslims dressed in more traditional garb after he ends his call.

Employees of the camp wake Vito Jr. in the middle of the night, and drag him away against his will. Marie and Francesca are left crying their eyes out.

Renata dies of a stroke in bed, leaving Hesh devastated. Tony visits him to pay back the $200,000, and offer condolences. But Hesh is distant and shut off. Tony leaves with a scowl on his face. Their friendship is effectively over.

Tropes:

  • Adult Fear:
    • Marie has lots of it over Vito Jr., and pleads for Tony's help as a result.
    • Carmela in turn is fearful of something happening again to Tony, and how she would fare afterwards. Ginny Sack struggling after Johnny Sack's incarceration is a reference point for her fears.
  • Age-Appropriate Angst: Up to Eleven for Vito Jr. due to getting bullied.
  • All Jews Are Cheapskates: Tony's debts with Hesh grow out of control and he complains about him fitting this trope to Dr. Melfi. She responds by saying that it's an ugly stereotype.
  • Armor-Piercing Question: Dr. Melfi to Tony, "What are you chasing? Money, or a high from winning?"
  • Armor-Piercing Response: Vito Jr. gives one to Tony, "Sometimes you call me 'Carlo Jr.'".
  • Bad Boss: Tony reams out Carlo's ass for not bringing in as much construction earnings as Vito, along with the galling suggestion that Carlo himself should partake of blowjobs. Tony would surely know that last bit would really offend Carlo.
  • Blame Game: Tony blames Carmela for not giving him enough of the windfall from the sale of the spec house. The result is that the one bet he does win, based on inside info that the other team's quarterback has a hairline fracture, results in minimal gains for Tony.
  • Bullet Time: A non-action example that zeroes in on Tony and shows his heart sinking as he loses the horse race bet.
  • But for Me, It Was Tuesday: Tony pretends to forget about his $200,000 debt when he pays Hesh a visit.
  • Continuity Nod:
    • While Tony lectures Vito Jr., he tells him he "goes about in pity for himself", which was the phrase he became intrigued with while in the hospital, and the same thing he said to Artie Bucco in "Luxury Lounge".
    • "Johnny Boy" Soprano once, after he cut off Satriale's (who owed him money) finger, told Tony to never ever gamble for the debts could get a man into serious trouble. (A flashback in "Fortunate Son").
    • Tony brings up to Carmela she stole money from his bird feed stashes, which happened in "Mergers and Acquisitions".
    • Tony also mentions her about his leaning on her spec house building inspector in "Kaisha".
    • The ornament that Carmela throws at Tony and smashes against the wall is the Lladró figurine that she tells A.J. and his girlfriend is worth $3,000 in "Everybody Hurts".
    • Tony tries to give Hesh a cap from Cleaver.
  • A Death in the Limelight: Subverted. Hesh has been a recurring character since the beginning, but never has an episode properly center on him until now, nearing the series finale. It focuses on Tony owning him money and reluctantly paying his points while close associates discuss Hesh's demise. Hesh himself fears for his life throughout the episode as tensions rise. In the end, it's his girlfriend who suddenly dies, and Tony swings by to pay his respects/debt in full, though remaining estranged from him for the rest of the series.
  • Double-Meaning Title:
    • The title refers to Tony's gambling addiction. "Chasing the vig" is common parlance in gambling vernacular for when one loses a bet(s) and then makes further wagers in order to either make up for the losses and/or keep up with any loan interest (the vig) accrued.
    • It could also refer to Hesh having to actively look for Tony's debt money.
    • It could also refer to the tendency of Tony to chase the thrill of winning in dangerous activities, as hypothesized by Dr. Melfi.
  • Emo Teen: Vito Jr. acts out and takes up with the Goth subculture as a way to cope with getting bullied at school.
  • Et Tu, Brute?: Vito Jr. feels deeply hurt and betrayed by Marie sending him off to the Military School against his will.
  • Even Evil Has Loved Ones: Hesh is devastated by Renata's death.
  • Excrement Statement: Vito Jr. deliberately defecates in the shower room to lash out at the boys bullying him.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • Dr. Melfi has a discussion with Tony about his frequent absences. It Foreshadows their permanent severance during the season finale.
    • Tony sees Ahmed and Muhammad speaking with fellow Muslims who are openly dressed in far more traditional Middle Eastern attire.
  • The Gambling Addict: In spite of gambling being a major part of his revenue stream, Tony is revealed to be a gambling addict himself. It's not exactly clear who he's placing his bets with.
  • Goth: Vito Jr. definitely has it going on.
  • Goths Have It Hard: Vito Spatafore Jr., starts to dress in all black and act out in school. Phil rather sanctimoniously tries to teach him to "man up" and take charge of his family now that his father is gone, and when he still refuses, has him shipped off to a Military School.
  • Greed: Tony wouldn't be Tony if he wasn't greedy. But between not knowing when to quit gambling generally, or not knowing when to quit an individual bet while he's ahead, or trying to stiff Hesh, or recanting on promises to Marie, Tony takes it Up to Eleven in this episode.
  • Greedy Jew: How Tony starts to see Hesh as one in earnest, aside from their previous joking around. Dr. Melfi does have a point that it's just a stereotype, and Hesh does have legitimate cause to believe he's being stiffed by Tony.
  • Gut Feeling: Hesh has a pretty good idea of what Tony means by a "boat show", and wisely declines.
  • Hypocrite:
    • Tony is right in saying Phil is responsible for a lot of Vito Jr.'s issues by having his father murdered. But Tony had himself ordered a hit on Vito before Phil beat him to the punch.
    • He's also willing to label Hesh a Greedy Jew, and his own legendary Greed is reaching whole new levels.
  • Idiot Ball: Tony has never given any indication that he's a gambling addict before this episode, but it's suddenly introduced as a driving force in his personality to cause complications in this particular episode.
  • It's All About Me: Everybody puts their own needs and wants above Vito Jr.'s, except for Marie. Chris is another possible exception, but he's powerless to really do anything about the situation.
  • Jerkass:
    • Tony is a massive one in this episode. His greedy and selfish behavior leads to Vito Jr. being sent to a strict Military School where corporal punishment is allowed and ends up costing him his friendship with Hesh.
    • As is Phil, who's utterly insensitive to Vito Jr.'s issues. Issues that he has the most responsibility for creating.
  • Kids Are Cruel: Vito Jr. is getting bullied at school relentlessly on the assumption that if Vito Sr. was gay, he must be too.
  • Murder Is the Best Solution: Bobby implies that Tony should kill Hesh to avoid paying his debt. Tony actually does invite Hesh to a 'boat show', much like for Big Pussy. But Hesh is too wise to fall for that.
  • My New Gift Is Lame: Hesh simply tosses aside the Cleaver ballcap that Tony brings him as a gift.
  • Narcissist: Everybody, both among the fanbase and in-universe, probably suspected that Phil was one. Any doubts about it get removed when Phil smiles like a puffed up peacock at the party celebrating his becoming the Boss of New York while Nancy Sinatra sings "Big Boss Man" to him. Pay close attention to the lyrics as well. Also note the looks on the faces of the Jersey mobsters as they're mustering the willpower to sit through the whole thing without storming off in disgust.
  • Never Lend to a Friend: Both Hesh and Tony learn the hard way what this trope means, as Tony's refusals to pay up despite Hesh's nagging until the end of the episode effectively destroys their friendship.
  • Never My Fault: It couldn't possibly be that anything could ever be Tony's fault, right?
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!: Tony initially committed to funding Marie and Vito Jr.'s new move to Maine. But he decided to gamble it all away on a bet that goes wrong. He ends up lamely offering Marie a far from satisfactory alternative, having Vito Jr. dragged away kicking and screaming to a Military School where corporal punishment is permitted.
  • No Sympathy: Nobody cares about Vito Jr.'s problems besides Marie and his sister, Francesca, and possibly Chris as well. There's Tony, who pretends to care but falls short, and Phil, who's the most callous about the whole thing despite having arguably the greatest moral responsibility for the boy's issues.
  • Pet the Dog: Subverted more than once.
    • Tony initially declares that he's going to fund Marie and Vito Jr.'s move to Maine. But his Greed and his Gambling Addiction and his Jerkass selfishness take over and convince him to bet the whole $100,000 on a football game on the mistaken assumption that an injury will cripple the other team's chances. It goes as well as you'd expect.
    • He does eventually pay Hesh back, but only after Hesh has lost Renata. The timing, and the empty cliched condolences that Tony offers, makes it obvious that it's the fear of developing a bad reputation that spurs Tony into action more than anything else.
  • The Peter Principle: Carlo may have been a tough soldier and effective at port smuggling. But if Tony is to believed, he has nowhere near the managerial skills of Vito to bring in the cheddar from construction.
  • Politically Incorrect Villain:
    • Phil with respect to Vito Jr., "I guess the turd doesn't fall far from the faggot's ass." Tony's quietly disgusted reply, "That's beautifully put."
    • Tony taunts Hesh with veiled Greedy Jew jokes.
    • Hesh, while speaking with his son-in-law, reveals that he himself has less than flattering views of Italians despite his friendships with several of them.
    • Paulie visibly cringes at even the suggestion from Tony that Vito had been their friend, and that getting a blowjob wasn't really that big of a deal.
  • Promotion to Opening Titles: Max Casella (Benny Fazio) is promoted to the main cast of the series and billed in the opening credits but only for this episode.
  • Put on a Bus to Hell: Vito Jr., and to a Military School in Idaho where corporal punishment is permitted.
  • Real Person Cameo: Nancy Sinatra, during a private performance for a mobster party.
  • Rejected Marriage Proposal: Blanca initially accepts the ring and proposal from A.J. when they're at dinner together. But then she returns the ring and breaks up with him at the Latino pride parade.
  • Riddle for the Ages: Why Blanca broke up with A.J. continues to be debated over the internet.
    • Did her admiration for her ex for being able to drive off the kids with loud music indicate she still had a thing for Bad Boys? Did A.J.'s beta-move of buying off those same kids with the bike, and his fawning behavior afterwards, fall into the well-known pattern of the Dogged Nice Guy doing his utmost to please her, but really boring her to tears?
    • Was she a Fish out of Water in a wealthier more privileged setting outside her Latino neighborhood?
    • She learned who A.J. was by doing his paperwork at the construction site. Was she a Gold Digger from the start? Did she bail when A.J., now starting to learn independence, began talking of making his own way in the world?
    • At the premiere of "Cleaver", the "Sally Boy" character tells the Korean mistress "What you need is a man". The next shot makes a point of lingering on Blanca. Was she getting hit with the realization that A.J. was a Manchild who couldn't cut it as a husband and father?
    • Her brother, Jesus, can't be bothered to so much as glance in A.J.'s direction when she breaks up with him at the parade. Was she implicitly feeling pressured by her own family and Latino community over what would have been a Maligned Mixed Marriage?
    • Some or all of the above?
  • Rule of Empathy: It is heavily implied that Chris, who himself frequently gets bullied by the other mobsters, is actually quite sympathetic to Vito Jr.'s situation. But he's ultimately powerless to do anything about it personally other than shoot Tony a Disapproving Look when Tony messes up the move to Maine for the Spatafore family.
  • Shaky Cam: This episode is unique in that it almost throughout its entirety employs the shaky camera style, with the exception of Dr. Melfi's scenes and scenes in Tony's car. The style may represent the episode's theme of Tony's feverish gambling and losing spree.
  • Starting a New Life: Marie pleads with Tony to give her $100,000 so that she and Vito Jr. can start over in Maine.
  • Stock Footage: The Tampa Bay-Buffalo football game being watched at the Bing that Tony loses money on is actually footage from The Replacements (2000).
  • Tantrum Throwing:
    • Tony, in the back room of the Bing after a football bet goes against him in the worst way possible.
    • Carmela also throws a flower vase at Tony during their argument.
  • Title Drop: Tony, when he finally realizes that he's become The Gambling Addict and that he needs to hit the brakes hard.
  • Tranquil Fury: Carlo is really biting his tongue down hard after Tony suggests he should start doing homosexual blowjobs to be more like Vito was.
  • Trapped by Gambling Debts: An unusual example. Tony's Gambling Addiction leaves him unable to pay Hesh back the $200,000 he owes. It's not like Hesh can play Loan Shark over Tony. But Tony is worried about the reputation fallout of a Mob Boss killing a respected and trusted associate because the Boss couldn't pay back what he owed.
  • Tuckerization: The headstone that Vito Jr. knocks over in the cemetery is for a "David M. Hackel". Episode writer Matthew Weiner worked for David Hackel as a writer for Becker.
  • We Used to Be Friends: Tony does come by to visit Hesh and pay him back in full, but only after Hesh has lost Renata. Then he offers cliched and meaningless condolences, and promptly leaves. Hesh remains aloof and distant from Tony. And Tony is seen leaving Hesh's home with a scowl on his face. We never see Hesh again for what remains of the series, so it's safe to say things are never the same for the two former friends.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: You know Tony is falling to a new low when even Chris of all people gives him a Disapproving Look for squandering the whole $100,000 meant to fund Marie and Vito Jr.'s starting over on another doomed football bet.

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