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After Sonny is killed at the toll booth, Don Corleone calls a meeting with the head of the five families. During this meeting he makes peace with Tattaglia who he thought was backing Sollozzo. After the meeting he tells Tom Hagen that he now knows it was Barzini who was backing Sollozzo all along.

What happened in the meeting that allowed Don Corleone to make this deduction?

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I've always thought that it was two things that lead Don Corleone to that realization:

  1. As the Don himself puts it: "Tataglia's a pimp. He could never have outfought Santino". Obviously the Don had little respect for Tataglia's abilities as a war time Don. It's also obvious that it was a thought that had bothered him for quite some time.

  2. During the meeting, it was obvious that Don Barzini took a very keen interest in the peace negotiations. In fact, he took almost complete reins of negotiating with the Corleones for a settlement. None of the other families seemed bothered by this. These facts indicate that the other families had already agreed on giving Barzini the lead role.

Now given how weak Tataglia was, and how strong Barzini was, it's not far fetched to deduce who was the master and who was the puppet.

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