Archive for the 'TV' Category

Misplaced Meadow Effect DEMONSTRATED

Monday, June 25, 2007

I found a person who has never watched a Sopranos episode all the way through, but knew a bit about the hubbub from simply living in America. This is not someone’s granny, however.

Subject: Hot 36 year old babe, smart (salutatorian of her class). Journey fan.

I gave her a bit of background. Not much. I told her it was the last episode, and the people involved in the scene were all a family. I told her that Tony was a mobster.

That’s right…I only showed her the last scene. I let it roll and shut up.


  • After the black screen (at which time she looked up at me and asked ‘is that all?’, which I met with silence and pointed back at the screen until the credits came up), I asked Subject what she thought happened.

She thought the ending meant they continued their lives as normal. I think this was really typical of the majority of viewers–until they thought about it more.

  • I asked Subject what was the very last shot she remembered seeing.

She said the last shot was MEADOW ENTERING THE DINER.

Researcher was very pleased at the results. In fact, researcher lost his professional detachment and started laughing with delight. This was the first time I’d heard that this strange effect could be reproduced in fairly controlled conditions.

She had not read my analysis and didn’t know about the details of the controversy. She definitely didn’t know the issue that some of us have picked up on (but, still, not major media) about how funky it is that we remember different endings.

I replayed the same end again at her request, then asked her about the last shot, which she remembered correctly the second time. She said that what got her was the danger “the daughter” was in out there on the road, and how the SUV seemed like it was going to nail her.

Subject, who has a degree in psychology, mentioned how trauma victims sometimes have similar gaps in their memory following a stressful event.

The lesson of the day is The Misplaced Meadow effect is demonstrable. Or, more generally, even a television show can cause viewers to exhibit trauma victim symptoms. Or, more directly, David Chase is a big ol’ traumatizer. 🙂

Sopranos Finale: The Meadow Experiment

Friday, June 15, 2007

I am going to show the episode to some people I know who have not seen it, then, when it’s over, ask them

a) what do you think happened?

b) what is the last shot?

These people aren’t Sopranos fans, and thus probably won’t be as heavily invested in the characters as some of us. Nevertheless, it might be interesting.

If you get a chance to do the same, please share your results. I’d love to see whether any of us can reproduce The Misplaced Meadow Effect.

Sopranos Finale: Shot-by-Shot Analysis of Final Scene

Friday, June 15, 2007

Don’t forget about Hints from Hell!

I’m in too deep to get out now.

We need to look at the scene itself with an eye on hitmen, symbols, and Meadow.

Time to go Zapruder.

54:10 Tony enters the diner. He scans the diner.

54:11 Tony’s point-of-view. He does NOT see himself.

54:16 Cut back to Tony, closeup.

54:16 Cut to Tony sitting at the diner. ( Edit: This is the “Last Supper” shot.  And notice the Christopher Cat Of Doom is back…in the form of a huge orange tiger on the wall stage left.  The real Holsten’s has a quaint painting of a farmhouse on this wall.  These wall hangings were placed there by set design, by design.) If the next shot was Tony at the door, again, we’d have to conclude that he did see himself. But the next shot is…

54:20 Tony at the table. So, he never saw himself. That was just a cut to establish where in the diner Tony chose to sit: in the middle. Not with his back to the wall or in a particularly paranoid fashion. I think he feels safe from being murdered now that the NY/NJ war is over. He wouldn’t have his family out with him otherwise. He is more concerned with legal issues now. Although compelling, I don’t think all of the cross-shots of Tony checking out who is coming in the door signifies rampant paranoia. I think he’s simply expecting people–his family.

54:23 First jukebox pages. “Only the Strong Survive.” “Turn, Turn, Turn.” Draw your own conclusions here.

54:23 More jukebox pages. “I’m Alive.” Interesting.

54:36 If you read the selections in this shot from the top down, notice the “journey”: Magic Man (Live)->Don’t Stop Believing->Any Way You Want It->I’ll Never Be In Love Again. If this means anything, perhaps it means that we knew Tony as the Magic Man. The pivot point, this episode, is the selection: Don’t Stop Believing. How did it end? Any way you want. But how did it really end? I’ll Never Be In Love Again. Death.

Also, did you catch that “Don’t Stop Believing” is K 3 on the jukebox (those are the buttons Tony presses to pull it up). I interpret this as “Killed 3.” Tell me if I go too far for you, but remember, with all the dream sequences and symbolism in the series, it does seem to pay off to try to uncover different levels, especially in this scene.

54:45 USA Hat man enters. My initial thought was that he is one of the many potential hit men in the diner, as the title of the episode is Made In America. I figured he’s a made guy. But careful viewing shows that he doesn’t even look at Tony in any shot. He’s a hatman, not a hitman. Unlike one guy we’ll meet in a bit.

54:49 Carmela enters. I’m so sorry for what is about to happen, Carm. I love you so much. You give great birthday presents.

55:10 Another thuggish suspect…but, no he’s not. He’s another one that doesn’t pay attention to Tony. With that little filly next to me, I wouldn’t either. Oh, that’s not true. If Tony was in the diner, I’d pay attention and probably get the hell out and let my date fend for herself.

55:13 The Scouts. Yes, they look like hitmen, but they don’t pay attention to Tony. Notice the pattern of their group: 1 big one + 3 little ones.

56:01 Hatman. He never glances at Tony, not once. He’s no hitman, no FBI guy. He’s just a guy. With a sweet hat. And notice the cup: 1 big one (cup) and 3 little ones (creamers). Coincidence? I think it reinforces the idea that the group will not be “whole” until it is one big one (Tony) and the 3 other members of his family.

56:22 Members Only man enters, followed by AJ. He’s not paying attention to Tony, either, is he?

56:34 I really like this bit, where Tony grabs AJ’s hand affectionately. I don’t read any deeper meaning into it, but I thought it was a really great gesture.

56:36 Members Only man is looking at something. What?

56:38 Members Only man, out of focus, behind AJ, is looking straight over at Tony’s table. Oh, shit.

56:55 The finishing part of the set (1 + 3) isn’t here yet. She had to change her birth control. Maybe someone knows what that means. Maybe her old birth control messed with her depth perception.

57:08 Members Only man is looking over again! He is the only person in the restaurant that pays attention to Tony’s group, except for one very important, and so far overlooked, person/symbol coming up.

57:56 Members Only man gets up. But why would he conduct a hit by coming directly at Tony, giving Tony time to react? Style sense notwithstanding, he must not be very bright. It’s better to conduct a hit from out of your target’s field of vision, when they are distracted. Remember, earlier in the episode, when Phil was distracted by his family while the gunman approached Phil from the side? Then, bang, it was all over? Note also, Phil was the 1 big one, + 3 little ones (mom & twins). Another set.

57:57 Tony notices him, no doubt.

58:01 Note how the camera actually tracks Members Only man. The camera shifts to keep him in the frame. He’s more important than a mere background guy. He’s the focus of this shot. We are meant to pay attention to him.

58:06 The two dudes come in. No, they aren’t the guys that clipped Tony’s ear. Tony took care of them. These guys don’t care about Tony. They care about that incredibly delicious looking pink stuff behind that glass. The first time I watched this, I thought there was jewelry back there for some reason. No, no.

58:14 Meadow got it right. Ok. Now she can come in and make the family, the set, whole, and we can fade out, at dinner, all together. As the song says, the movie never ends, it goes on and on and on. Happy ending. Yay.

58:17 The onion rings arrive. Before we get to the meaning of those tasty fried treats, the best in the state, we must note that the waitress is the only other person, besides Members Only man, who pays any attention to Tony and the fam. Notice, also, her white arms. Scarily white.

I think the waitress represents Death. I’m freakin’ serious here. Whether it is on purpose or not, it works perfectly.

Now, on to the onion rings.

58:22 I found it unusual how much attention was paid to how the three eat those onion rings. They each put the whole ring in their mouth rather than taking a small bite, and we are given specific shots on each of them: 1, 2, 3. It’s like a ritual, like a Last Communion.

Or, like the ancient Greek coins, the obols, that were placed in the mouths of the dead before burial to ensure the Ferryman has payment to cross the person over the river Styx.

58:24 AJ ensures his payment.

58:25 Tony is ready as well.

58:31 Meadow crosses the street. It seems like she’s going to get plowed down by a SUV. But she doesn’t, of course. She is near danger, but not harmed by it. She will be near danger, but not harmed by it, again, in a moment.

58:32 THIS IS THE LAST SHOT I REMEMBER from the first time I watched the episode. No door opens, that we see. From here, I remember the screen going black. I remember Steve Perry’s “Don’t stop–” sitting right on top of this shot. I REMEMBER IT ENDING THIS WAY. WHEN I WATCHED THIS VERY FILE.

More importantly, I’m not alone. Some think they remember her making it in the diner. No, there is no shot showing her in the door. The bell will ring, implying that she came in, completing the set, in the next moments.

58:33 No one is talking. Empty space by Tony where Meadow would be sitting, but instead, gives someone a clear shot at Tony from the hallway to the bathroom, where the Members Only guy is.

Note that no one is looking at each other, just like in most of those promotional posters you see of the whole cast. No one looks at anyone else. Everyone has their own agenda.

I don’t remember this shot from the first time.

58:34 Remember my theory that the waitress was symbolic of Death? Look at her, hovering over Tony.

58:35 And now, she approaches Carm’s and AJ’s side. That’s scary.

But now it’s time. The preparations have been made for the “journey” into the underworld, and Death has marked who shall go.

58:36 The final bell tolls. We infer that Tony sees Meadow coming in the diner. But we will not see her. The shot will not fade out on the family, together. The song will not fade out like it does on the recording. There is no fade out, there is a cutting of the thread. The life of Tony Soprano does not go on and on and on.

58:38 Cessation of sensation. No light, no sound. Emptiness. Nothingness. There is nothing wrong with your set.

This is death.

Conclusions and myths debunked

  • Tony does not “see himself.” He’s not in Hell, or in an alternate universe, or in a dream. There isn’t enough weirdness in the episode for that, and when Tony dreams, there is usually weirdness. Like monks who need AC. The juxtaposition of the Tony close-up and the Tony sitting-down messed with people for some reason. I think it was just accidental and never tripped me up.
  • There is not much evidence for multiple hit men in the diner. The palm-rubbin’ dudes, the Livin’ On A Prayer couple, the Boy Scouts, and Hatman are oblivious to Tony.
  • There is almost no evidence that there are Feds about to arrest Tony in the diner. That is the logical conclusion from the story itself, and we could assume an arrest was likely soon if the show had ended any other way based Carlo flipping. But this final scene doesn’t imply that. Tony says Carlo is going to testify.
  • There is evidence that Members Only man is the killer. The camera pays special attention to Members Only man. The episode where Tony was shot was called Members Only. The role is credited to the dude in the Members Only jacket. NOT Nikki Leotardo. (Please stop posting that idiotic “explanation,” people!)
  • There are indicators that Tony, Carm, and AJ share the same fate just as they share the same table and same food (and same stares by Members Only man).
  • Meadow survives. She’s struggling to live respectably and obey the law, just as she struggles to park legally, she’s “the good one.” She can’t escape her upbringing, though, and is still involved with sliminess: lawyers. Is her fiancee, Patrick, going to be in the pocket of the Mob?
  • Meadow, who earlier spoke of seeing her father being dragged away by the FBI, will again see her father dragged away, this time, permanently, and by the bullet of a gun.
  • Meadow is wearing an engagement ring in her last shot. Did Patrick propose to her earlier in the episode and I missed it, or what? When she is onscreen, I’m kinda hypnotized and the blood leaves my brain.
  • You don’t see or hear it coming when it happens. They fucking told us that. What more do you want? Tony, Carm, and AJ are murdered and Meadow watches it all.

THE SHOCK OF THE ENDING made some people somehow black out on the last few seconds in their memory. I did.

  • It would make no fucking sense for HBO to put out two different endings.
  • When I watched the same file again, I caught the final two shots (group shot of family, closeup on Tony)
  • The last two shots are pretty innocuous. I think many of us were primed for something big to happen and glossed over that seeming “filler.” The biggest “action” before that was Meadow almost getting flattened by the SUV, so it makes sense that we would remember that shot. Those of us who remember it wrong (the Meadow ending) must have been going over that little sequence in our heads while the next “boring” seconds occurred.
  • Before I saw the episode, I caught a headline on Drudge that said “Sopranos choose life.” I didn’t read the article, but I expected the fade-out, life-goes-on ending some hopeless optimists out there cling to. This was a fucking shocker.
  • The viewer isn’t the one who was whacked. That’s cute. But the show was about Tony, not us. We could be whacked, but the show would continue. But when Tony stopped, the show stopped.
  • I thought my Xbox 360, where I was streaming the file from, fucked up, too. But I instantly knew that it must have been on purpose because of where the song cut, so I watched the screen in silence, with my fists tight. Then the credits appeared.
  • I have a mini-theory that the shot of Tony putting the coins in the jukebox, then withdrawing his hand when Hatman enters is the same shot as the final shot, just from a different camera.

Now I feel so much better. When does Lost start back up? 🙂

U is for do it Urself

Friday, June 15, 2007

Sometimes you wish something existed, but it doesn’t.

So you can either complain about it in a blog, or do it yourself.

Oh, I wish some blog would dissect the Sopranos final scene logically!

The lesson of the day is Do it yourself.

O is for OMG am I Obsessing on the Sopranos

Thursday, June 14, 2007

I’m writing this on Monday, the day after the night of the big Sopranos cut (not fade) to black. But I couldn’t post this until today because I am obviously following a vowel-based pattern with my blog post titles this week. Obsessive, huh?

Not as bad as I am with this thing:

I am majorly obsessing over the different analyses of the finale. I offered my simple explanation earlier, but there are some great other ones, like, it’s the viewer who got whacked.

I use the Time Tracker Firefox extension to see how much time I’m blowing on the net.

Look how much time I’ve spent on dissecting the meaning of the 10 seconds of black screen:


3 hours.

45 minutes.

42 seconds.

What have I gained? As they say in my old hometown, not a dayum thang.

What if I’d obsessed over something useful? What if I’d obsessed about producing something, rather than consuming something? David Chase didn’t come up with this brilliant episode by moving his mouse around the net for pictures of Jamie-Lynn Sigler.

He wrote it.

The lesson of the day is Produce more, consume less.

Sopranos Finale: The Misplaced Meadow effect

Monday, June 11, 2007

I’m almost ready to shut up about the finale. But not yet.

After reading several discussions that said that the east coast saw a version of the finale which had an ending shot of Meadow entering the Holsten’s diner, then, the infamous cut-to-black, while the west coast saw a version with the last shot being of Tony touching the top of the jukebox at the table. I wondered why the hell, and how, they would do that.

When I saw the finale, I saw it via my friend Pirate Pete’s somewhat questionably legal download. I saw the Meadow ending. Here’s a location shot of Meadow’s mad parking skilz (it’s the final shot ever filmed for the show, done in April 2007.)

When I watched the very same Pirate Pete file of the episode again tonight, I saw the Tony ending.

It was the same file.




I must have remembered her, and not him, as the file didn’t change. Was it the shock of the quick-cut to black that caused me to blot out the true last shot? Has America entered a David Lynch film? Did all of the east coast get shocked into having amnesia about the very very last microsecond shot of Tony?

Did anyone else experience this moment in these two different ways? What the hell?

The Sopranos ending was brilliant, and everyone else is wrong

Monday, June 11, 2007

I’m seeing all the hate out there.

You haters best be stepping off.

Tony *was* whacked (is my theory). His death will parallel Phil’s death. Note that Phil was with a woman and two children at the time he was shot, as was Tony at the end.

Note that Meadow, the “good” one, wasn’t in the diner until the very last second. She was too busy trying to park *legally*–and that left an empty space by Tony so the dude could come out of the bathroom to kill him.

Did we need to see Tony get killed? No, we didn’t. We knew it happened. In film, that’s what happens to gangsters. Tony was doomed to die.

I’m assuming the wife and AJ got it, too, with Meadow being spared.

We didn’t see it, but, come on. We know.