“No Show”

“No Show”

Season 4, Episode 2

Written by Terrence Winter & David Chase

Directed by John Patterson


Plot: Meadow, home during the summer, can’t decide if she wants to go back to school or go to Europe, so she sees a therapist, alienating her parents.  With Paulie (Tony Sirico) in jail, Tony moves Christopher (Michael Imperioli) to the forefront of his jobs, helping solidify Christopher’s place at #2, which makes no one happy.  Adriana’s (Drea de Mateo) “friendship” with “Danielle” (Lola Glaudini) ends when she thinks Danielle hit on Christopher, so the feds tap Adriana directly.



With its plastic smack on the ground, the camera follows Meadow’s flip-flops in, and there she is, all pouty, 5’5” inches of her.  That shot of Meadow from the flip-flops up puts us squarely in confrontational mode with Meadow and who she is – desperately lazy, whining whenever Carmela or Tony ask her to do anything, and shouting that she’s still reeling from Jackie, Jr.’s death whenever anything is asked of her.


The Sopranos took a hiatus between seasons 3 and 4 that lasted for 15 months, and they’d just get longer in between seasons as the years went on.  This was the first time they’d experimented with longer waits between seasons – deliberately delaying action 9 months or so, betraying the convention of television to let only an imaginary summer pass between episodes, and catching the audience up on it quickly (and, seemingly, never referencing those summers again).  In the years to come, significant events would happen off screen between seasons – Janice’s marriage to Bobby and the birth of her daughter, Meadow’s breakup with Finn, etc.  This time, we haven’t seen much of Meadow since she ran symbolically across traffic from Tony in “Army of One” at the end of season 3, but we’re left to assume she finished her Freshman year at Colombia successfully enough.


However, are her complaints about Jackie Jr.’s death genuine or just an excuse to get out of responsibility?  Dr. Melfi suggests to Tony it’s probably both, a grating act of manipulation that blocks the real pain she hasn’t dealt with yet.  Her laziness may be both too – malaise and depression lost in sunbathing.  This is something The Sopranos employs often – a more distressing expression of emotion that masks the real, needier truth underneath.  And the reason Meadow’s not expressing that truth is that it touches on a deeper truth – her complicity in the matter by enjoying her lifestyle.


Complicity is, I think, the true subject of “No Show,” down to its title, referencing negotiations Silvio and Ralphie negotiate for a set of construction jobs in which, it’s agreed, half of which no one will work for, and the other half no one will show up for – they all agree.  This lines up nicely with Adriana’s subplot – she’s developed a friendship with Danielle, whose name is actually Deborah, and who is actually a federal agent trying to get dirt on Tony.  When Christopher awkwardly courts a threesome with the ladies, Adriana blames Danielle and their friendship ends.  The feds bring her in and tell her directly she must answer for her complicity in drugs and murder – Ad tries to say that Pussy and Richie Aprile merely are in “witness protection,” leading to a funny moment in which all of the agents try and figure out if that’s true.  But once Ad realizes, her response is visceral – she pukes all over the table in front of her, and all over the Harry Winston bracelet Christopher has given her with, as Carmela’s therapist once called, “blood money.”


People facing, re-imagining (falsely, often), and justifying their decisions that harm others is a constant theme of The Sopranos, but rarely is it so overt and upsetting a theme as it is in “No Show.”  Sigler’s magnificent here in representing Meadow’s conflict – in a scene with her therapist, she gives and pulls back.  She tells her therapist that her father’s work is “Waste management wink wink,” but when Dr. Kobler intuits that Jackie’s death may have been more than drugs, Meadow pulls back, and defends that her father tried to keep Jackie from drugs.  On the surface, this is all Tony ever told her about Jackie, but it’s a question how much she believes this.  This scene makes me believe, truly, that Meadow knows but loves her father too much to indict him.  This is echoed in a confrontation, later in the episode, when Meadow finally disrupts all of their lies by calling Tony, “Mr. Mob Boss,” but pulls back in horror when he says to her, “Are you inferring to me that I didn’t do everything to keep that kid from fucking himself up?”  The two share a glance that is the definition of intensity, much as in their long history with each other, the two maintain their love through an understanding based on lies.  As in season 1’s “College” and season 2’s “Funhouse,” every time the two get close to speaking the truth to each other about Tony’s life in the mob, Meadow seems to understand, and seems to perpetuate the lie.


Meadow on the show is the future, the pastoral hope of American dreams – she’s an academic, she’s beautiful, and she’s far more clever than Tony or Carmela ever were, but the two are terrified, constantly of the choices that she’ll make.  Meadow does decide to go back to college, and to sublimate her concerns in a class called “Morality, Self, and Society” – it works, apparently, as she gives a very academic excuse for her father’s behavior to Finn a year later in “Unidentified Black Males.”


Still, what’s extraordinary about The Sopranos is the way each person has his/her own reaction to each situation, and so often it’s different from what we see on screen.  When Tony rebukes Christopher for “drawing heat to a half a million dollar job,” Christopher shows nothing, but goes home shattered, ignores Adriana for the night, and says, “Fuck it, I’m getting’ high.”  Deborah tries to get Adriana to talk about the mob, but Adriana is lost in her own thoughts, and, freed finally by the feeling that she’s made a friend, confesses that she believes she cannot have children.  It is actually the lack of details in this section that give them truth – Adriana says of her former relationship only, “the guy was such an asshole.”  In another show, she’d have a long monologue telling the story, but it wouldn’t make it lived in.  “The guy was such an asshole” makes you believe she experienced what she’s saying – these characters (and, for the most part, you and me) talk around the truth, because it’s often so hard to admit.


Which leads to the great bit of ambiguity that closes the episode.  A vanquished-looking Carmela sits in the tub and tells Tony not to worry about Meadow because, “I’m the one she’s angry with.”  Tony asks, “For what?,” and the episode ends.  For what indeed – shouldn’t Tony be responsible for their life?  For Meadow’s complicity?  I think often about what Carmela is referring to with this line, and with the conviction with which Edie Falco performs it. 


What it is, I think, is Meadow’s model of complicity in Carmela.  Later Carmela will confess to Dr. Melfi that somewhere along the line, they made the kids complicit, however, it is here that it happens, and it is she that is a model for profiting on the misdeeds of others, she that set the patter for loving men that are self-destructive and impossible to deal with, and ultimately, it is she with which Meadow must be angry because Meadow just loves Tony too much, meaning Carmela is who she has to become – someone that can perpetuate the lies that protect them all.


A scene you may have missed: You probably didn’t miss it, but John Patterson’s direction is a study of forcing your eyes to strange places in the frame, making you brilliantly aware of the depth of detail taken with this world.  I’ve mentioned the shot that opens Meadow’s story here, following her flip-flops into the room, but also the great shot of Deborah’s phone – you see her bedroom around in the background, see her and her husband taking care of their daughter, see, even, another “real” phone; when her fake phone rings and she resumes her performance as Danielle, we get a deeper understanding of the life she must protect in the one she’s making up.


Also, Janice’s (Aida Turturro)  fantastic lie to Tony over her affair with Ralph Cifaretto (Joe Pantoliano) – she’s simply “working on her demo for Tommy Mottolla.”  The scariest part of this lie is that certainly Janice believes it.


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