Join the Club

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"Join the Club"
The Sopranos episode
Sopranos602.jpg
Carmela sits by her comatose husband Tony's side in the hospital and talks to him.
Episode no. Season 6
Episode 2
Directed by David Nutter
Written by David Chase
Cinematography by Alik Sakharov
Editing by William B. Stich
Production code 602
Original air date March 19, 2006 (2006-03-19)
Running time 54 minutes
Episode chronology
← Previous
"Members Only"
Next →
"Mayham"
List of The Sopranos episodes

"Join the Club" is the second episode of the sixth season and sixty-seventh episode overall of the HBO television drama series The Sopranos, which premiered on March 19, 2006 in the United States. It was written by series creator/executive producer David Chase and directed by David Nutter.

The episode's narrative details the aftermath of the shooting of series protagonist Tony Soprano (James Gandolfini) by his uncle Corrado "Junior" Soprano (Dominic Chianese). Tony, now in a comatose state and hospitalized, has a dream-like experience in which he envisions himself as a travelling salesman not involved with the Mafia. Meanwhile, Tony's family and associates adjust to the possibility of Tony not coming out of his coma, with Tony's wife Carmela (Edie Falco) struggling with the situation.

Most interior hospital scenes of the episode were filmed at the North Hollywood Medical Center, Los Angeles, with additional exterior and interior scenes filmed at the New Jersey Institute of Technology, Newark. "Join the Club" is the only episode of the series directed by Nutter and the eighth of nine episodes for which Chase receives an individual writing credit. It attracted 9.18 million American viewers and was generally well-received critically, with particular praise directed at Falco's performance in the episode. Since its premiere, the episode has frequently been cited by critics[1][2][3][4] as one of the best of the series. It received two award nominations for directing.

Starring[edit]

* = credit only

Guest starring[edit]

Also guest starring[edit]

Episode recap[edit]

Tony Soprano is in critical condition, two days after being shot by Uncle Junior. The attending physicians in the Intensive Care Unit sedate Tony into an induced coma after he awakes and rips out his breathing tube. Several doctors comment on the complications of Tony's gunshot wound which damaged his liver, pancreas and gall bladder, the most dangerous of which is severe sepsis, and they encourage Carmela and others to talk to him and play him music he enjoys in the hopes of a recovery. However, they also warn his family members of the "obviously negative outcome", as well as the prospects of brain damage. Carmela asks Dr. Ba if Dr. Plepler is "aware that [Tony is] dying." A vigil of Tony's blood and crime family members has assembled in the ICU. A distraught Carmela, Christopher Moltisanti, Meadow and Barbara sleep in the hospital taking turns to watch over Tony, while Janice starts sobbing uncontrollably whenever she gets to see her brother. Carmela plays Tony some of his favourite rock music, gets emotional when remembering the times they spent together and encourages him to get better. Meadow reads her father an excerpt from a poem by Jacques Prévert.

Uncle Junior is being held in custody and is questioned about the shooting. He is confused about the situation, hostile towards his interrogator and does not remember that he has a new lawyer, replacing Harold Melvoin, who Junior dismissed after Melvoin's stroke. He denies that he shot his nephew and insists that if Tony was shot it must have been self-inflicted, because he is "a depression case."

Christopher, Paulie, and Vito vie for small opportunities to assist Tony's family during the crisis, such as sending presents to Tony's room and bickering over giving a ride home to A.J.

During the funeral wake of the late soldier Eugene Pontecorvo, an impromptu meeting of the crime family is held and Silvio Dante assumes Tony's responsibilities as acting Boss. The group is loyal to the incapacitated Tony and decide to support his family. Vito is especially active in voicing his thoughts, questioning why Bobby—traditionally Junior's de facto caretaker—was not in Junior's house that night, and also suggests murdering Junior altogether. Other mobsters are less open to the idea, disputing its necessity and commenting about the difficulty of such a hit. Ultimately, they decide on officially banishing Junior from the family and cutting off all contact with him, making Tony the official Boss of the DiMeo Crime Family. Vito makes a bid to take over Eugene's sportsbook responsibilities, but Silvio postpones solving individual matters to another time. Those who knew Eugene offer their theories about his possible motive for suicide, with Silvio saying he could have had an inoperable form of cancer, Hesh observing predisposition to suicide is hereditary, Janice suggesting Eugene's son's drug use, and Vito saying that perhaps Eugene had been a self-hating homosexual who had no one to talk to.

The mobsters chaperone the Soprano family from the hospital to their home, try to shield it from news reporters and provide food for them while at home.

Meanwhile, A.J. acts withdrawn, avoiding Tony's room, and shirking his familial and school responsibilities. To the chagrin of Carmela, he talks to a reporter just outside the hospital, but later curses the ones camped outside the Soprano home; he forgets to bring requested items to the hospital to assist in Tony's recovery. What he claims to be a stomach flu excuses him from a night shift at the hospital. A.J.'s avoidance of facing up to his father's condition worries Carmela, who voices her concerns to Rosalie Aprile. With the death of her own wayward son Jackie Aprile, Jr., Rosalie advises Carmela to engage in stricter parenting with A.J. In addition to the normal worries for her son, however, Carmela fears that A.J.'s deep esteem for his father is the source of his avoidance. A.J. admits to Meadow that he is embarrassed and angry by the actions of his family, especially Uncle Junior. A.J. finally gathers enough courage to talk to his comatose father once the two are alone, opting to chat about cars with him. Before leaving, though, A.J. emotionally vows to avenge his father by putting a bullet in Uncle Junior's "fucking mummy head." Immediately afterwards, he admits to Carmela that he flunked junior college, after earning a 1.4 grade point average; his counselor told A.J. that it would be pointless to go back. Carmela looks at her son in stunned disbelief but is unable to get angry and sends him away.

Christopher, now driving Johnny Sack's Maserati Coupé, which he bought from the financially challenged New York boss, again runs into FBI agents Harris and Goddard at Satriale's. The two ask him to provide them with any information regarding terrorist activities he might hear about anywhere, such as their financing or arms deal operations. The agents tell Christopher he would be doing his country a service, but Moltisanti says he has no such information. Christopher is later seen conversing briefly with two Middle Eastern men, Ahmed and Muhammad, at the Bada Bing!, but the mob capo chooses not to go into discussing his crime family's matters with them.

Tony's coma[edit]

While he is in a coma, Tony has a long dream-like experience that is woven throughout the episode. The experience begins with Tony's awaking in a hotel room at a Radisson Hotel in Costa Mesa, California. He is a mild-mannered precision optics salesman on a business trip, without his thick New Jersey accent. That night, he notices a strange light that glows on the horizon as he looks out the window and he also goes to the hotel's bar, where he notices a TV showing a brush fire in Costa Mesa; The next morning he goes to a convention and is asked for ID to gain admittance. Unfortunately, Tony has someone else's wallet and briefcase: one belonging to a man named Kevin Finnerty from Kingman, Arizona, to whom he bears a resemblance. Tony says that he must have unintentionally picked up these items the previous evening at a bar across the street from his hotel. He returns to the bar, where a group of business travelers overhear him telling his story to the bartender (when asked what Costa Mesa is like, the bartender replies, "Around here, it's dead"). The group invite Tony to join them for dinner, during which he discusses his 'life' in more detail, alluding to a midlife crisis by saying, "I mean, who am I? Where am I going?" As he and his group leave, Tony notices a commercial on TV, which displayed the question, "Are sin, disease and death real?", followed by the Cross. After dinner, outside the hotel, Tony makes a pass at a woman from the group. She responds at first but then cuts him off. She tells him she saw his face when he got off the phone with his wife (whose voice is not Carmela's). Suddenly, a helicopter spotlight shines on the pair, to which the woman says, "They must be looking for a perp". It is here that Tony awakens from his original coma, and rips out his breathing tube. He is moaning "Who am I? Where am I going?"

The dream resumes when he is placed in another coma, as he checks into a different hotel, the Omni, under Finnerty's name. Two Buddhist monks overhear him checking in and, thinking he is Finnerty, accost him saying they had a horrible winter at the monastery because of Finnerty's faulty heating system. Tony tells them that he's not Finnerty, which makes the monks angry; they scuffle briefly and the monks flee, leaving Tony shocked at the violence. The next morning, the hotel elevator is out of order, so Tony takes the stairs. As he is walking down the stairs, he slips and falls; when brought to an emergency room, the doctor tells Tony that aside from having a minor concussion, his CT scan shows some dark spots on his brain, which indicate lack of oxygen. The doctor states that this indicates early stages of Alzheimer's disease. When the doctor leaves him at his bed, Tony is seen saying, "I'm lost", to himself. After he returns to his hotel room, Tony picks up the phone, but hangs up before dialing, while the beacon of light flashes on the horizon.[5]

First appearances[edit]

  • Ahmed and Muhammad: Muslim associates of Christopher Moltisanti who hang out at the Bada Bing!.

Title reference[edit]

  • In Tony's dream, when Tony tells the businessmen at the bar that he is 46 years old and does not know where "[he] is going", Lee (the woman from the business group) tells Tony to "join the club."
  • Tony tried to join a convention in his dream, but lost his ID and briefcase with "[his] whole life in it" and was not let in.
  • A.J. has difficulties joining the ranks of relatives who have visited Tony in his hospital room.

Production[edit]

  • The exterior of the hospital is actually Fenster Hall at the New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT).
  • The interior of the hospital lunch room is actually "The Highlander Club" (formerly called "The Pub") inside the Campus Center at NJIT.
  • The interior of the hospital is the same hospital from the TV show Scrubs.
  • The credits do not mention the actress providing the voice of Tony's wife in his dream, though the writers have stated the voice is of a generic New Jersey actress and not intended to be anyone previously featured on the series.[6] On the A&E syndication rebroadcast, the voice is credited on the closed captioning as 'Carmela's voice'.
  • This episode was shown at the season's premiere party instead of the first installment, "Members Only".

References to prior episodes[edit]

  • Carmela tells Tony that she regrets telling him that he would go to Hell when he dies. This occurred in the pilot episode.
  • Lee is curious how Tony made the jump from selling patio furniture to precision optics. Tony mentioned selling patio furniture on Route 22 as an alternative life during a conversation with Meadow in the season one episode "College", and in a therapy session with Dr. Melfi in season 1.
  • When Vito Spatafore talks about Eugene Pontecorvo's suicide, he notes that perhaps Eugene killed himself because of closeted homosexuality. This is a reference to Vito's own homosexuality, which was exposed in the season five episode "Unidentified Black Males".

Other cultural references[edit]

  • Vito says Junior "Marvin Gayed" his nephew, a reference to the murder of the singer Marvin Gaye by his own father.
  • A.J., who said he had stomach flu, angrily tells Meadow he took some Pepto-Bismol when she looks at him filling his plate at lunch.
  • Policemen tell Carmela they have to ask her about Tony's knowledge of the John Kennedy Assassination, after Junior mentioned some details about it to them.
  • When Christopher meets the FBI agents at the store, he says "Oh, Sheriff of Nottingham, my kingdom for a mortadell'." This is a reference to William Shakespeare's play Richard III, when, after Richard is unhorsed in the midst of battle, he desperately cries out "A horse, a horse! My kingdom for a horse!"

Music[edit]

Reception[edit]

"Join the Club" was watched by 9.18 million American viewers on its premiere date.[7]

Since its premiere, "Join the Club" has frequently been singled out by critics as one of the best episodes of the series.[1][2][3][4]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Poniewozik, James (2007-04-04). "Full List - The Sopranos - TIME". TIME. Retrieved 2010-09-10. 
  2. ^ a b Sepinwall, Alan (2007-06-06). "The Sopranos' Top 10 hits". The Star-Ledger. Retrieved 2010-09-10. 
  3. ^ a b Cullin, Liam. "The Sopranos (The Complete Series) DVD / Blu-ray Review". Empire Movies. Retrieved 2010-09-10. 
  4. ^ a b Meaney, Patrick (2007-06-07). "The Sopranos: The Top Ten Episodes". Blogcritics. Retrieved 2010-09-10. 
  5. ^ "Episode guide - Episode 67 - "Join The Club"". HBO. Retrieved 2007-11-11. 
  6. ^ Sepinwall, Alan (2006-03-20). "Tony checks into the Hotel California". The Star-Ledger. Retrieved 2010-09-15. 
  7. ^ Kiley, David (2006-04-06). "Sopranos Ratings Slide Exposes Flaws in Ratings System". Business Week. Retrieved 2009-08-10. 

External links[edit]