New Jersey-based mobster Tony Soprano of the DiMeo crime family unexpectedly becomes short of breath and passes out while barbecuing. After his doctors are unable to find any physical problem with Tony, his collapse is diagnosed as a panic attack. He is referred to psychiatrist Jennifer Melfi. In their first meeting, the two discuss the events that led to his collapse.
Presenting himself as a “waste management consultant”, Tony begins detailing the day of his attack to Dr. Melfi. Tony is initially uncooperative, expressing scorn for the practice of psychiatry. He tells Dr. Melfi about the stress of his business life—he has a feeling that he has come in at the end of something and describes a reverence for times past. Tony tells Dr. Melfi a story about a family of ducks landing in his pool and nesting there. He has a little stress in his home life with his daughter, Meadow, associating with a friend, Hunter Scangarelo, whom his wife feels is a bad influence. Later he mentions that his wife and daughter are not getting along. Tony also tells Dr. Melfi about the stress of training his “nephew” in the family business. After establishing the ground rules of what will fall under doctor-patient confidentiality, Tony opens up about his career, but keeps the violent details from the doctor.
Tony details the stress of caring for his aging mother, Livia, who is relentlessly pessimistic and cynical, at once demanding and resentful of assistance. He also mentions his wife’s relationship with her priest, Father Phil Intintola, as a minor irritation. By the end of their first session Dr. Melfi succeeds in making Tony admit he feels depressed, but he storms out when she presses him further about the ducks.
Livia’s derisive outburst when the family visit Green Grove, a ‘retirement community’ in which Tony is attempting to place his mother, prompts a second panic attack. This sends Tony back to Dr. Melfi. She prescribes Prozac for him. Tony does not attend their next appointment, but when he bumps into her at a restaurant, he tells her the “decorating-tips” she gave him really work.
At their next session, Tony is still reluctant to face his own psychological weaknesses though he is quick to give credit to the medication for his improved mood, but Dr. Melfi tells him that cannot be so, as it takes several weeks to work. She gives credit to their therapy sessions. Tony describes a dream where a bird steals his penis. Dr. Melfi extrapolates from this to reveal that Tony projected his love for his family onto the family of ducks living in his back pool. This brings him to tears, to his consternation. She tells him that their flight from the pool sparked his panic attack through the overwhelming fear of somehow losing his own family.
Throughout the episode, the audience learns more about Tony’s life than he is telling Dr. Melfi, through action shown in flashbacks that is inconsistent with his dialog with her. Besides the violence, one of the major things he does not expressly tell Dr. Melfi is that his wife knows he has been unfaithful and is resentful. When dining out with his mistress (Italian: comáre) Tony is greeted by the restaurant manager, who tells him it is good to see him and it has been ages since he has eaten there. He later gives the same speech when Tony arrives with Carmela, aiding Tony in covering up his infidelity. At this dinner, Tony confesses to Carmela that he is taking Prozac and seeing a psychiatrist. Carmela, who thinks Tony is about to confess to more adultery, is overjoyed and tells Tony she is proud of him. Tony stresses that he only told her because she is the only person he is absolutely honest with, causing Carmela to scoff at him.
Tony’s nephew and mob underling, Christopher Moltisanti, devises his own means of settling a dispute with a Czech waste management company, Triboro Towers garbage, that rivals the Soprano family’s own front business, Barone Sanitation. He lures out and kills the company’s heir, Emil “Email” Kolar, in the back room of Satriale’s Deli. Originally planning to dump the body in a Kolar family garbage dumpster as an example, Christopher instead takes the advice of longtime family soldier Salvatore “Big Pussy” Bonpensiero, who advises him to bury the body and avoid police investigation, while tacitly intimidating the Kolars. The Kolars drop their rival bid following Emil’s disappearance.
By beginning a new enterprise inspired by his MRI scan, Tony demonstrates his suitability as an innovative mob leader. Mahaffey, a compulsive gambler who is in debt to Tony, is intimidated into making false claims to pay out to the organization in order to cover his debts. Herman “Hesh” Rabkin, an old Jewish friend of Tony’s father, advises Tony on this scheme and of some problems with his Uncle Junior, who feels jealous of Tony’s (and Tony’s father’s) ascendancy in the organization.
Tony’s Uncle Junior wants to kill turncoat “Little Pussy” Malanga in Artie Bucco’s restaurant, Vesuvio. Tony, a friend of Artie since childhood, fears that a mob hit in his friend’s establishment could damage Artie’s business. However, Junior refuses to move the assassination to another location, explaining Malanga will not meet with Junior unless it is a place he finds safe and familiar. In an attempt to have Artie close Vesuvio’s for a time, thereby forcing Junior to kill Malanga somewhere else, Tony offers Artie two tickets for a weeklong cruise. However, Charmaine, Artie’s wife, not wanting her husband to get mixed up with the Mafia, demands that he reject Tony’s offer. Unable to sway Artie, Tony has his trusted right-hand man, Silvio Dante, detonate an explosion in Artie’s restaurant, in the hopes that Artie can claim insurance money without becoming any the wiser of the gangland conflict. Tony instructs Silvio Dante about this plan at their daughters’ volleyball game.
At his son’s birthday party, Tony and his crew comfort Artie about the loss of his restaurant, and Tony tells Artie he will always help him. Christopher becomes angry and storms off; Tony presses him and discovers he is disappointed at not receiving more recognition for his work on the Triboro Towers garbage conflict. Though Tony is slightly annoyed with Christopher for killing Emil “Email” Kolar without his explicit orders, Tony agrees and apologizes to Christopher. However, when Christopher reveals that he has been thinking about turning his life story into a Hollywood script and possibly even playing himself, Tony grabs him in a fit of sudden rage and tells Christopher to not even think about it. While Christopher seems stunned, Tony regains his good mood just as quickly, embraces Christopher, and they both walk off.
While giving Livia a ride to the party, an embittered Uncle Junior floats the idea of eliminating Tony if he continues interfering in his business. Significantly, his sister-in-law’s reaction is to silently look the other way.
Starring in “The Sopranos”
James Gandolfini as Tony Soprano
Lorraine Bracco as Dr. Jennifer Melfi
Edie Falco as Carmela Soprano
Michael Imperioli as Christopher Moltisanti
Dominic Chianese as Corrado Soprano, Jr.
Vincent Pastore as Pussy Bonpensiero
Steven Van Zandt as Silvio Dante
Tony Sirico as Paulie Gualtieri
Robert Iler as Anthony Soprano, Jr.
Jamie-Lynn Sigler as Meadow Soprano
Nancy Marchand as Livia Soprano
Jerry Adler as Hesh Rabkin
Alton Clinton as MRI Technician
Phil Coccioletti as Nils Borglund
Michele DeCesare as Hunter Scangarelo (as Michele de Cesare)
Drea de Matteo as Adriana La Cerva
Elaine del Valle as Sandrine
Giuseppe Delipiano as Giuseppe
Siberia Federico as Irina Peltsin
Michael Gaston as Alex Mahaffey
Joe Lisi as Dick Barone
Justine Miceli as Nursing Home Director
Katherine Narducci as Charmaine Bucco
Joe Pucillo as Beppy Scerbo
Michael Santoro as Father Phil Intintola
Bruce Smolanoff as Emil Kolar
John Ventimiglia as Artie Bucco