When The Sopranos was running I never watched it, but during the pandemic I finally had some extra time to give it a try. It was excellent. As I watched I kept wondering how Tony Soprano would have tried to pull his business through COVID-19. Below I've adapted two scenes from Season 4, Episode 1 to incorporate the problems a mob family might be experiencing in 2020.
Before you read the adaptation, you may want to check out my blog post How the pandemic has clogged the global economy with paper currency. In short, there has been a huge buildup in cash in Europe, U.S., Canada, UK, Australia, Norway, and more. My hypothesis is that with money laundering avenues (i.e. casinos and restaurants) closing due to virus fears and lockdowns, criminals have no choice but to hoard huge amounts of incoming banknotes. And this has shown up in national banknote statistics.
This episode of the Sopranos is particularly ripe for adaptation because it is full of references to the economic difficulties experienced by the Soprano businesses during the 2001-02 recession.
Why's the Money Building Up?
Adapted from "For All Debts Public and Private"
Season 4, Episode 1 of The Sopranos (which aired in September 2002)
SOPRANO HOUSE - KITCHEN/FAMILY ROOM- NIGHT
Tony Soprano plants a fifth scoop of ice cream in a bowl, adds Redi-Whip, M&M's. He takes his bowl to the den, jacks the volume on Rio Bravo, reclines and eats blissfully. Carmela Soprano, his wife, appears. She's wearing a mask. Stands there. He looks over.
TONY: You want some? Take that mask off. You're home now.
CARMELA: Can I talk to you a minute?
***He contains a sigh, nods. She sits, takes remote. Takes mask off, puts in purse.***
CARMELA: Can we turn this off?
TONY: Just turn it down.
CARMELA: (mutes it, then) I'm worried, Tony. About money.
TONY: So you're getting a little less allowance in your bank account. I'm giving you more cash instead.
CARMELA: Tony, our closet is filled with bills.
TONY: I told you, it's temporary. Just stop using your card.
CARMELA: And Meadow?
TONY: What about her?
CARMELA: Her college only takes check.
TONY: Columbia is paid up till spring. After that, maybe I'll sell AJ.'s Xterra. It's this virus, it's slowing all the cash down.
CARMELA: It's not just that -- I'm worried about you. And about the future. About the kids and me if something happens to you.
TONY: I don't provide for you?
CARMELA: I saw Angie Bonpensiero today. She was handing out free Polish sausage at the super market. In the middle of a pandemic.
TONY: Don't start with that. I supported her long enough. You're so worried about money.
CARMELA: Who is going to support your children? And me? If god forbid something happens to you. Is Sil going to support me? Paulie? That's frightening.
TONY: (conversation over) You'll be taken care of.
***His eyes have drifted occasionally to the screen. She zaps remote; picture dies. He drops his spoon, lowers his voice.***
TONY: You're set in perpetuity. There's money in overseas accounts.
CARMELA: I don't have the serial numbers. Why?
TONY: You'll have them when the time comes. Not now. For your own benefit. So you're not an accomplice.
***She sighs, rubs her face.***
CARMELA: I'm talking about some simple estate planning, Tony. That's all. My cousin Brian Camaratta has helped a lot of people to set up living trusts for their kids, start asset allocation, wealth preservation...
TONY: I got to spell it out for you? We can't move all the cash we're takin in. The lockdown means our fronts are closed.
CARMELA: What about your consulting fees from Barone Sanitation? We file a tax return to justify the house, the cars, your boat. The virus hasn't slowed down the garbage, has it? We could be putting more cash through there and then putting some aside to start a portfolio.
TONY: Stocks? Heh-heh. You have to be high up in the corporate structure to make that shit work for you. We don't have those Senate-type connections. Besides, it's all going to crash when Trump loses.
CARMELA: Bonds then. Or these things called SPACs Brian told me about --
TONY: Bonds. Where's the capital for that?
CARMELA: In the Cayman's. Or all the cash in our closet -- wherever you put it at zero growth.
TONY: That money stays where it is. With this virus shit going on?
CARMELA: You always have an excuse.
TONY: The cash stays in this house. At least until we figure out how to move it again.
***Carmela stands angrily, heads out. Tony is angry and worried.***
PARKING LOT OF THE BADA BING STRIP CLUB - NEXT DAY
Tony, Silvio Dante get out the rear of the car. Both take off their masks. Christopher Moltisanti gets out from driver seat. He keeps his mask and rubber gloves on.
A ring of chairs has been arranged at the far end of the Bada Bing's parking lot. The Soprano family captains are chatting: PAULIE, RALPH CIFARETTO, ALBERT BARESE, RAY CURTO, and CARLO GERVASI. Tony's appearance dampens the chit-chat. Uncertain, they step to him for the ritual kiss, but he holds up his hands. They back away and sit. Silence settles. Some coughing.
TONY: I want to know why this family's cash isn't moving.
TONY: Why's the fucking money building up?
***No answer; long faces. He surveys them.***
TONY: You're supposed to be the best. That's why you got the top tier positions. (Voice rising). All of you, everyone of you, need to go to your people on the street, and crack fuckin' heads!!
***Silence. He focuses on Albert.***
TONY: The guy -- we talked about this -- over in the other place, he had a banker at JP Morgan willing to take our stuff -- what the fuck happened to that?
ALBERT: It petered out.
TONY: It petered out.
ALBERT: It died on the vine.
TONY: It died on the vine?
ALBERT: It died on the vine. He got scared, the guy. Something about files. Finsin?
TONY: Are you all hearing this shit? Nobody knows what the fuck I'm talking about?
PAULIE: We hear you, T.
RALPH: If I can just say, Ton' - I was talking to Johnny Sack in New York, and he said over there too, there's --
TONY: I don't want to hear about fuckin' New York. This is here!
***Tony's voice breaks with emotion. Almost choking up.***
TONY: My uncle, the boss of this family, is on trial for his life. And what's being passed up to his kick is a fuckin' disgrace! You know how much lawyers cost. Major RICO like his? My house is full of cash, and here I am about to sell my boat! I shouldn't have to be coming here hat in hind, reminding you of your duty to that man!
RALPH: Ton', how are we supposed to clean the cash? No one's coming to the Bing no more. The Crazy Horse neither. They're afraid of the virus. We can't launder it all through Satriale's --
TONY: Don't tell me about the fucking virus! (to Silvio) Break it down for them, the two businesses that are traditionally recession-proof since time immemorial.
SILVIO: Certain aspects of show business and our thing.
***Tony lets it sink in.***
RALPH: (under his breath) Yeah, but this ain't no normal recession.
TONY: That's it. I got nothing else to say. Frankly, I'm depressed and ashamed.
***Terrible silence. He stares at the floor. They slowly file out. When everybody's gone except Paulie--***
PAULIE: I hear you T.
The original videos for these two scenes are here: