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The Sopranos episode
Tony Soprano in therapy for the first time.
Episode no. Season 1
Episode 1
Written by David Chase
Directed by David Chase
Original airdate January 10, 1999 (1999-01-10)
Guest stars

Elaine Del Valle
Jerry Adler
Alton Clinton
Phil Coccioletti
Michele DeCesare
Drea de Matteo
Elaine del Valle
Guiseppe Delipiano
Siberia Federico
Michael Gaston
Joe Lisi
Justine Miceli
Katherine Narducci
Joe Pucillo
Michael Santoro
Bruce Smolanoff
John Ventimiglia

Episode chronology
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"46 Long"

"Pilot" (also called "The Sopranos") is the first episode of the HBO television series The Sopranos, the pilot episode of the series. It was written and directed by series creator/executive producer David Chase. It originally aired in the United States on January 10, 1999.



New Jersey-based mobster Tony Soprano of the fierce 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, who 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" Christopher 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 stress. 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 Vesuvio's restaurant, he tells her the "decorating-tips" she gave him really work. Dr. Melfi's date is impressed by Tony and the fact he was able to get them a table after the hostess (Adriana La Cerva) had initially indicated there'd be a substantial wait.

At their next session, Tony is still reluctant to face his own psychological weaknesses. Tony is quick to credit the medication for his improved mood, but Dr. Melfi tells him it cannot be that as it takes six weeks to work—she credits 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 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 adultery, is overjoyed and tells Tony she is proud of him. Tony stresses that he only told her because she is the only one he is absolutely honest with, causing Carmela to scoff at him.

Tony's nephew and mob underling, Christopher, devises his own means of settling a dispute with a Czech waste management company, Triborough Towers garbage, that rivals the Soprano family's own front business, Barone Sanitation. He lures out and kills the company's heir, Emil 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.

Tony shows his chops as an inventive mob leader by beginning a new enterprise inspired by his MRI scan. 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's. 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's 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 week-long cruise. But 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 about his plan at their daughters' volleyball game, showing the stark contrast between his life as a loving father and a violent criminal.

At A.J.'s birthday party, Tony's crew comforts Artie about the loss of his restaurant, and Tony tells Artie he'll always help him. Chris becomes angry and storms off; Tony presses him and discovers he's annoyed at not receiving more recognition for his input on the Triborough Towers garbage conflict. Tony apologizes to Chris, explaining that his own parents never complimented or supported him. When Chris talks about script offers from Hollywood, Tony shows his short temper by grabbing Chris, though he quickly regains his good mood, and all seems well with his world.

However, 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.



David Chase won the Directors Guild of America award for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Dramatic Series for his work on this episode and an Emmy for Joanna Cappuccilli for Outstanding Single Camera Picture Editing in a Series. It was nominated at the Emmys for Outstanding Writing in a Drama Series and Outstanding Directing in a Drama Series for David Chase.


This is the first of only two episodes directed by series creator, David Chase. The other is the series finale, "Made in America". Although this episode is titled "The Sopranos" on the DVD release, it is referred as "Pilot" when originally aired and is still titled as such in reruns. Pre-production commenced in the summer of 1997, 1 1/2 years before the series debuted on TV. During this year break, James Gandolfini gained 60 pounds for the role of Tony and underwent voice coaching. Gandolfini's efforts show noticeably from this episode compared to the rest of the series. In "Pilot", Siberia Federico and Michael Santoro play Irina and Father Phil respectively. For future episodes, these roles were recast with Oksana Babiy and Paul Schulze. The pork store used as a meeting place is Centanni's Meat Market, a real butcher shop in Elizabeth, New Jersey. However, because the shop had a steady business and because local business owners were annoyed with the incidental effects of having a television production being shot on a weekly basis, HBO acquired an abandoned location in Kearny, New Jersey which became Satriale's Pork Store for use in future episodes.[citation needed]

Connections to future episodes

  • Pussy Malanga, the man Uncle Junior wants to kill in Artie's restaurant is the same person whom Junior mistakes Tony for when he shoots him in the season six episode "Members Only".
  • Carmela tells Tony that he will go to Hell when he dies. Tony reminds her of this in "Whitecaps". In "Join the Club", Carmela tearfully tells a comatose Tony that she regrets saying this.
  • Christopher reminds Tony that his cousin's girlfriend is a development girl, who will eventually feature in the season two episode "D-Girl".
  • Dr. Bruce Cusamano, Tony's neighbor and family physician, is referenced in this episode and he makes his first appearance later in the season in "A Hit Is a Hit".
  • When describing Uncle Junior, Tony tells Dr. Melfi that his uncle embarrassed him by telling all his girl cousins he didn't have the makings of a varsity athlete. Uncle Junior repeats that declaration to Tony on multiple occasions in the season five episode "Where's Johnny?".
  • Carmela wants to take Meadow to the Plaza Hotel for a family tradition. Though Meadow declines in this episode, viewers finally see it take place in the season four episode "Eloise".
  • Tony's ownership of John F. Kennedy's sailing hat that he keeps on his boat The Stugots is established in this episode. He later shows it off on the season five episode "In Camelot".
  • A.J.'s birth date is revealed in the season six episode "Kaisha" as July 15, indicating that this episode takes place in the summer. However, Hunter picks Meadow up for school, which would be on summer break at that time.
  • Before Christopher kills Emil Kolar, he serves him some cocaine on a cleaver. Christopher eventually produces a film named Cleaver in the sixth season.
  • As Tony prepares to tell Carmela about his therapy and Prozac prescription, she overreacts before he has a chance to explain, to which he replies "Always with the drama." In the series finale, "Made in America", Carmela explains what could happen to A.J. if he joined the army, to which he also replies, "Always with the drama." In the season one episode "Down Neck", Johnny Boy Soprano utters the same line to Livia in Tony's flashback.


  • The song played over the end credits is "The Beast in Me" by Nick Lowe. Its use helped popularize his version of the song.[1]
  • The song played in the scene where Christopher and Tony are chasing the man that owes Tony money in the car is "I Wonder Why" by Dion and the Belmonts. This song is also on the soundtrack to the film A Bronx Tale.

External links


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