The Happy Wanderer (2.06)

No one is happy in “The Happy Wanderer,”
not Davey Scatino nor his son nor Meadow nor
Richie nor Janice nor Tony nor low-level
goombahs Sean and Matt…

Episode 19 – Originally Aired Feb 20, 2000
Written by Frank Renzulli
Directed by John Patterson


Ducks had a very strong presence throughout Season One, and they make an appearance —of sorts—in the very first line of this episode: a university rep at Meadow’s school advises the students, “Get all your academic ducks in a row—leave nothing to chance.”   We may remember that ducks had previously been associated with applying to college in that striking scene in “College”—Tony sees ducks after killing Febby Petrulio and before picking up Meadow from a potential school:

ducks in a row - from College

This first line, uttered by the university representative, immediately sets up a couple of plot points for the episode.  Meadow is doing everything she can to get into a good university (which also becomes a major plot point for her—and her mother—over the course of the season).  The line also introduces the idea of chance.  Eric Scatino tries to get his applications in order, and leave nothing to chance as the advisor recommends, but he is undermined by his father’s addiction to games of chance.

Due to some typically efficient dialogue, we can surmise within the first 20 seconds of meeting Davey Scatino that he owns a sports merchandise store.  The store will figure heavily in “Bust Out” later this season.  Although Davey’s last name ends in a vowel as do the last names of most of the mobsters, he seems quite different from Tony and his ilk.  Physically, Davey is lean and has light-colored hair and eyes.  Professionally, he’s the proprietor of a type of store that we associate with fitness, self-discipline and athleticism—characteristics that the mobsters often lack.  Right from the get-go, Tony lumps Davey together with that other good guy Artie Bucco.  Tony breaks their balls, contrasting their macho glory days in high school to their currently emasculated lives.  It is perhaps this sense of emasculation that drives Davey to gamble.  He tries to get into the Executive Card Game but Tony is unwilling to let him in.

Tony: I don’t wanna see you get hurt.
Davey: You know how many jockstraps I sold last week?

I think Davey’s line can be interpreted in two ways, but both interpretations lead to the same place.  The line could mean that Davey is bored out of his mind (bored with the fucking regularness of life), or it could mean that his business is slumping.  Either way, Davey wants into the Executive Game, either to increase the excitement in his life or to increase his income.  Regardless of his motive, playing with the big boys will reduce his sense of emasculation.  He sells jockstraps for a living, but right now his own sense of manhood is dangling in the air.  We may sense from this early conversation between Tony and Davey that the issue of masculinity will be a central concern of this hour.

Davey does play in a lower-level poker game with Artie and some other guys.  But this game is not manly enough, these players are still emasculated—Artie leaves before it gets late, otherwise “Charmaine will have my balls on the menu tomorrow.”  (In last season’s “Boca,” the Artie-character was used as a marker of goodness, a man of both domestic and civic responsibility in contrast to Coach Hauser and Tony Soprano.  Artie is used in the same way here.  Just as it was with Coach Hauser, we believe early on that Davey falls somewhere close to Artie on the scale of virtue, but as the episode progresses, we come to see that darker desires are pulling at him.)

Davey shows up at the motel where the Executive Game is being held.  If this motel doesn’t immediately ring a bell, the sound of Furio actually ringing the desk bell should—it is the same bell that Paulie banged Ariel over the head with in episode 1.03:

2 Bells Revised

Tony tries hard to keep Davey out of the game, but he finally relents.  This is where the big fellas play.  In addition to a couple of high-level NY and NJ mobsters, Frank Sinatra Jr. himself is at the table.  (Paulie may call him “Chairboy of the board,” but he is no boy—his bloodline guarantees his masculinity.)  Urologist Dr. Ira Fried, whose specialty is penile implants, also has chips on the table.  Note the comparison: the lower-level game had Artie, who went running back to his wife lest she clip his nuts and put them on tomorrow’s menu, while the Executive Game hosts a doctor who could probably reattach them.

Richie stops by the Executive Game and is surprised to find that Davey, who is in debt to him, is putting money into the game (and losing).  Richie makes a scene and tries to muscle Davey.  It’s not just Davey and Richie who try to prove their masculinity here, Tony must also show his strength.  He must maintain his position as the Alpha-male of the NJ mob.  At Tom Sr’s funeral, Tony and Richie go into a side parlor to talk.  Even though it is probably disallowed by the funeral parlor, tough-guy Tony pulls out a cigar and lights it up:

tony big joint

Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar, but sometimes it’s more.  The fact that Tony says “It’s a big joint” just as he lights the cigar strengthens its phallic association because we’ve heard “joint” used with this slang meaning in previous episodes.  Moments later, in full macho mode, Tony rules that Davey must first pay the full $45,000 owed to himself before he pays back a single dollar to Richie.  It may be unfair, but Tony has to tax Richie for the brouhaha he made at the Executive Game.  It is part of Tony’s effort to maintain his masculine posture: “If I don’t do somethin’, how is it gonna look?”

Davey is perhaps lucky that Tony is now considered his primary creditor.  Tony may be a villain but he’s not as villainous as Richie—Tony is not going to run him over with an SUV for missed payments.  But when Davey  quickly falls behind, Tony confronts him in his office:

extreme angle tony

The low camera angle emphasizes Tony’s hulking mass.  The Eagles’ “Tequila Sunrise” plays on the office radio, with its line, “And it’s a hollow feeling when it comes down to dealin’ friends.”  Tony doesn’t tone down his threat just because Davey is an old high school buddy or because their kids now attend high school together.  Desperate for cash, Davey approaches Artie for a loan.  Artie is unwilling to help him, so Davey makes up a bullshit reason to confiscate his son’s car which he then gives to Tony, who in turn gives it to Meadow.

All hell breaks loose at the Soprano home when Meadow realizes that her father has just tried to make a gift of her friend’s car.  In an irony that reflects the privileged status of the patriarchy in SopranoWorld, it is Davey’s son and then the Soprano family women who must suffer as a result of all the masculine anxiety and posturing in this episode.  Tony forces his wife and daughter to confront their own complicity in his criminal work.  It is a testament to Jamie-Lynn Sigler’s abilities that she is convincingly able to play a typical teenage brat and, at the same time, play a Mafia daughter faced with difficult moral and existential dilemmas.  Meadow and Carmela’s struggle with their complicity is starting to take shape as one of the narrative anchors of the series.  We will see this dynamic of the Soprano family explored in emotional scenes again and again.

carm and meadow complicit

The issue of masculinity comes up in Melfi’s office when doctor and patient discuss Gary Cooper.  More than simply Tony’s ideal man, Gary Cooper is Tony’s idealized man, his symbol of “the strong, silent type” (a phrase which Tony can’t help but add every time he brings up Cooper).  In the Pilot episode, Tony held him up as an idol, a man who could get by without psychotherapy: “He wasn’t in touch with his feelings.  He just did what he had to do.”  Tony resurrects this idea in this episode, complaining that he himself has now become one of the “fuckin’ pussies” that need therapy.  For Tony, psychotherapy is part of an effeminate culture of victimhood; a real man would face the world with square jaw and stoic heart, and never allow himself to be thought of as a victim.  He tells Melfi that he sometimes resents her for making him feel like a victim.  But he saves the brunt of his anger for “the happy-fucking-wanderer” who goes whistling through life without a worry. 

In reality, there is no one in the world who goes through life without a worry.  Some people may have sunnier dispositions or be naturally optimistic, but that doesn’t mean that they don’t have worries.  In his typical black-and-white way, Tony allows for only two possibilities: you are either the Happy Wanderer or you are Gary Cooper.  But most of us (including Tony Soprano) occupy the gray terrain in between: we are neither happy-go-lucky fools nor square-jawed Hollywood heroes.  Perhaps the only exception would be the feeble-minded.  (Like Uncle Ercole, for example, whose existence Tony recently learned of.  Despite having the manliest of names [derived from “Hercules”], Ercole might have been something of “a happy wanderer” because of his developmental disabilities.)

Just before the Executive Game begins, Paulie is pulled over by a police officer.  They have a surprising exchange:

Paulie: What do you hear, what do you say?
Cop: License and registration.
Paulie: [Pulling out a gun]  How about if I give you one of these instead?
Cop: I’m wearing a vest.
Paulie: Oh yeah?  [Pointing the gun into the officer’s crotch]  If I shoot, it’s going right in your braciola.

Obviously, the two men know each other.  In this episode about masculinity, the threat of physical emasculation appears even in the playful banter between cop and criminal.  But I wanted to spotlight this scene for another reason.  The pullover is staged so that Paulie can pay off the local police in order to keep them away from the motel during the Executive Game.  The mob always finds a way to tilt the scales in their favor.  They don’t play fair, they stack the deck.  Poor schlubs like Davey take a shot at winning big, but since they play by the rules, the odds are stacked against them.  When they lose, sharks like Tony and Richie victimize them savagely.

Chris literally tilts the scale at the fish market.  He tells Matt and Sean that the Executive Game “is no nickel-and-dime shit,” just after nickel-and-diming the fish market by using a matchbook to shave a few bucks off their purchase:

scale and matchbook

I think this is a key scene because it reveals the mobster mentality.  Their instinct is to always be on the hustle.  All events, from high-roller card games to buying fish, can be manipulated to their advantage.  This should be a great lesson to up-and-coming mobsters Matt and Sean, but the two young men have a very different takeaway from this trip to the market.  After Chris tells them what their duties at the card game will be (and makes them pay for the fish), they feel like they’re just “piss boys.”

At the card game, the two young men are further emasculated.  Sean never seems to assert himself, he’s just a wallflower here.  Matt has it worse.  Tony doesn’t take him seriously enough to even get his name right, calling him “Mike” instead.  Tony also plays a practical joke on him, asking him to clean up after Silvio during a losing streak.  Silvio, who has a reputation for meanness when the cards go against him, unloads a flurry of insults on the young fella in front of everybody.  Matthew and Sean continually fail in their attempts to be respected as men, and their frustrations erupt into violence two episodes from now.


Meadow tells Tony that she received a phone call  informing her that Tom Sr (Tony’s brother-in-law’s father) died.  She does not know the cause of death.  The camera cuts from this scene to Tony in Melfi’s office, whistling “Whiisht”—it was a gust of wind that pushed Tom off the roof as he tried to install a satellite dish.  Absurdly, the accident occurred one day after Tom retired.  Tony’s “Whiisht” describes both the wind and the fragile, fleeting nature of life.  Wind and life & death were previously associated together in “Isabella”—we heard the wind and saw trees swaying in the minutes leading up to the attempt on Tony’s life.  Chase will associate “wind” and “life” and “death” more vividly in later seasons.

Upon hearing of Tom’s death, Melfi says, “Well, at least Tom Sr. isn’t the happy wanderer anymore…He’s joined the ranks of the unlucky.”  She recognizes that luck plays a role in our lives.  This episode takes a look at how we make our own luck, and in particular, how the Mafia makes its own luck at the expense of others.  The opening and closing dialogue of the episode point to this manipulation of “luck” by the Mafia.  The academic advisor kicked off the hour by telling the kids not to “leave anything to chance.”  Eric Scatino tries to follow this advice, but his college fund, as we will see later this season, gets eaten up by the mob as his father tries to close his gambling debts.  In the episode’s final scene, Eric quits his duet with Meadow.  The final dialogue comes from Carmela when she learns that Meadow will be performing solo (which is what Meadow wanted all along): “That’s a lucky break.  I wonder what happened?”  Carmela is clueless, but we viewers, privy to a backstage argument, know that “Tony” happened: Eric backed out of the duet with Meadow after feeling victimized by her father’s predatory behavior.  For her solo, Meadow chooses “My Heart Will Go On.”  Indeed, she does go on and will continue to go on, benefitting from her father’s criminality for years to come.



  • We see a slightly softer side to Richie here.  He apologizes to Tony for his behavior at the Executive Game, and defends Tony in conversation with Janice.  Janice is becoming more monstrous as the season progresses.  Here, she eggs Richie on, citing Tony’s lack of generosity towards him.  She notes that the $50,000 Tony gave him when he got out of prison is less than what mailmen earn.
  • I love that final scene in the school auditorium: Tony enjoys the sweet bouquet of fresh flowers while, on the other side of the curtains, Eric Scatino struggles mightily with the consequences of how Tony makes a living.
  • The episode closes as Meadow’s classmate Gudren sings Franz Schubert’s powerful and somber German lied, “Gretchen am Spinnrade.”  The song quickly segues to the English-language version of the German pop song “The Happy Wanderer” over the end-credits.  This version of “The Happy Wanderer”—particularly because of its juxtaposition to Schubert’s solemn lied—comes off sounding as silly as Tony’s simplistic conception of “the happy wanderer” in Melfi’s office.
  • Paul Mazursky plays the Executive Game dealer.  Mazursky was an accomplished director and screenwriter, nominated for several Academy Awards.  He appeared in many films and TV shows over a fifty-year period before dying in 2014.
  • Corrado says that his brother Ercole looked like George Raft.  Raft was a handsome leading man, best known for playing gangsters in the ’30s and ’40s. 
  • References to the sun thread their way through the episode: the Eagles’ “Tequila Sunrise” plays at the sports store; Eric and Meadow were to duet “Sun and Moon” from Miss Saigon; the poker dealer is nicknamed Sunshine; “The Happy Wanderer” which plays over the credits has a line about “the stream that dances in the sun.”
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55 responses to “The Happy Wanderer (2.06)

  1. It’s embarassing to me that I just watched this episode and picked up on none of this shit, I didn’t even know Paulie was bribing the cop about the card game, I thought he was going to shoot him. I also missed out on the chance theme despite the whole episode being about gambling…..

    One thing I did notice was that when Richie goes to speak to Robert Patrick’s character the camera lingers on him trying on a pair of sunglasses ( while wearing a leather jacket), the irony is its now the t1000 whose being stalked by an emotionless psycho.

    Also I thought this episode was really confronting in emphasising what a zero sum game the Mafia plays, in particular tony always has to belittle others to feel better about himself, notice his cruel jibes to Bobby and his ribbing of Richie, his joke played during the card game on the lowly ranked soldiers, yet as the show emphasises again and again every action has a consequence and from the detectives suicide to fretting pussies loyalty ( potentially) Tony’s words come back to bite him and others. You can also see this vindictiveness played out during his sexual fantasies with annalisa, he wants to fuck her in the dehumanising doggy style as she threatens him. His inferiority complex runs rampant.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I don’t think Tony tried that hard to keep Davey out of the game. His hawklike perception saw an opportunity in Davey’s sporting goods business. Unfortunately for Davey, he wasn’t as good a friend as Artie Buco.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. (future episode spoiler alert…just in case)

    I agree that Tony held Artie in higher regard than Davey. Once Davey got in over his head with Tony, didn’t it seem like Tony treated him like Detective Makazian from season 1? Even at Meadow’s graduation, in the season finale, when Davey tells Tony he’s moving to a ranch outside of Vegas (the “fucking regularlness of life” now seems appealing to Davey, he’s finally chosen the serenity of “boredom over suffering”, albeit much too late), Tony looks like he wants to punch him again. He’s not buying Davey’s “Happy Wanderer” act. Even when Artie hits his epic rock bottoms in seasons 4 and 6, Tony never frowned on him with that much disgust. His condemnations were short term, and seemed to allow for redemption, similar to how he was with Christopher until that fateful final season.

    And, speaking of masculinity, how about Scatino trying to get that last drop of coffee at the graduation? Obvious metaphor there. Not to mention, Tony and the family all looking like “happy wanderers” to Davey at this point. In the ending montage (to Keith Richards “Thru and Thru”) he’s seen packing up a small economy car for a long road trip. We meet Davey as a mildly successful sporting goods store owner with a family, a nice house, and a pretty solid mob connection, and last see him as a broke, single vagabond, heading off into Elvis Country.


    • Tony doesn’t like “Degenerate Fucking Gamblers”. They get short shrift from him, because that was the first major lesson he got from
      his Dad, cutting off Satriale’s pinky, before he busted out the pork store.

      He hits the HMO gambler with his car, breaking his leg, then has him threatened with “taking a header”
      off Patterson falls. Then he busts him out with the HMO/Medicare scheme.

      We see Tony’s contempt for Mahkazian, another “Denegerate”, who he squeezes for information until Mahkazian can’t take it

      So when we get to Scatino, it’s not a surprise that the contempt and the squeeze continues. “Men like him are his
      bread and butter.”

      I drew a different lesson from Scatino’s plan to move to a ranch outside Vegas. Vegas Dude??? Really??? He is a
      degenerate gambler who has learned nothing from his disaster. He’s going to continue gambling.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Now, watching the entire series for approximately the 15th time, I feel like I am still picking up something new each episode. This series is so amazing like that. This one refers to Tom, Sr. I have become convinced that every single scene is important in the series. Here, Tony learns of Tom, Sr’s demise from Meadow and is angry that she does not know how he dies. This character, who is completely unimportant and never referred to since or again in the series – why is he dwelling on this? In the next scene, he with with Dr. Melfi, and he reveals that a gust of wind blows him off of a roof – in fact, the scene is started by Tony making the sound of the wind. Is this a foreshadowing of the importance of wind (and bells) in one’s coming mortality that becomes more and more present as the series progresses? Why else this scene and this topic, and Tony’s open contemplation of the suddenness of one’s mortality in the setting of wind.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Future episode spoiler alert..

    I have to agree with Joe. If Artie really didn’t want Davey at the game, he would have pretended he wanted him there, but come up with some excuse about how there wasn’t room, or something. Tony knows his childhood friend and, more significantly, knows gamblers. Tony instead says things like, ‘naah, this game’s too big for you’. lol. Saying this to a compulsive gambler is like dangling a piece of beef jerky over a dog’s head. Of course Tony admits to Davey in Bust Out that he was setting him up all along.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. “Do you know how many jockstraps I sold last week?” line means he old a lot, and so can afford to play in the game.

    “Not enough for this game, Davey.” says Tony.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. I genuinely enjoy your write ups, and I have gained a deeper appreciation of the show from having read these about as many times as I’ve watched the Sopranos. I’ve even gotten to the point where if I’m watching a particular episode, I’ll read your write ups.
    But every so often I notice a glaring misunderstanding of a scene or situation on your part.

    In this case, and I quote:
    “He tries to get into the Executive Card Game but Tony is unwilling to let him in.

    Tony: I don’t wanna see you get hurt.
    Davey: You know how many jockstraps I sold last week?

    I think Davey’s line can be interpreted in two ways, but both interpretations lead to the same place. The line could mean that Davey is bored out of his mind (bored with the fucking regularness of life), or it could mean that his business is slumping. Either way, Davey wants into the Executive Game, either to increase the excitement in his life or to increase his income. ”

    I think you might have a point about the regularness of life (a saying I’ve come to appreciate more from your write ups), but I have no idea how you could get from that conversation that Davey’s business was slumping and he wanted a cash injection as his impetus
    Davey is very clearly trying to brag about how much money he has made from selling a huge number of jockstraps to convince Tony that he’s able to participate in the Executive game.
    That’s further bolstered by Tony’s answer.
    “Not enough for this game,”
    i.e. you may have sold a lot of jockstraps, but you have not sold enough to be a part of this.

    Thank you for your hard work and dedication.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Just rewatched the scene because others have also interpreted the dialogue this way, and it looks like you all may have a point. I guess it just seems unlikely to me that Davey would try to exalt his business and gain entry into a game with Frank Sinatra Jr by referencing such a low-cost, low-glamor item as protective-wear for the crotch…


      • By referencing the number of them that he sold, not the item itself. Regardless of the cost or glamour of the item, if he sells enough of them, a huge profit is made. Was Davey lying about or exaggerating that number to appear more affluent? Possibly. But a guy like Tony doesn’t care about where money comes from, so long as it comes.
        And again, that interpretation is bolstered by Tony’s answer.
        “Not enough for this game.”
        A concession that maybe he did make a lot of money off those sales, but not enough to roll with people who presumably make high 6 figures or 7 figure salaries.
        And Davey didn’t know about Frank Sinatra Jr (probably easily the richest person there) until Chris answered the door and Davey saw him sitting there, so that’s not really relevant, either. All he knows is that it’s a high-stakes card game.
        Which is exactly what a gambling addict wants in on.


        • But how many jockstraps could a retail store stock and sell in a week? Enough to get Davey into a high-stakes game? Even if he managed to sell several thousand jockstraps last week, it still seems more likely to me that a capable businessman like Davey would try to impress Tony by saying something like “I cleared $12,000 just last week alone” or “I really had a banner month” instead of implying that he is some sort of Ballsack Shield Merchant Extraordinaire… (Not trying to sound flippant, I’m just having some fun with this thread…)


          • I have to think the actual reference to jockstraps is not really about the profit margin to them but more on the symbolism of what jockstraps are, Davy has balls and is protected etc. He is trying to convince Tony he can handle it. Tony for his part is friends with him and does not want him to get in the game as he knows what it may lead to. However as Davy seeks out the game anyway Tony allows him a little taste of just a few boxes of Ziti. When Tony wakes up and Chris tells him that he has borrowed much more 45 if memory serves, Tony is not happy as it has went from a “taste” to a substantial debt that must be repaid. If we compare this to the Ralphie/Artie situation later it is clear that in that world there is an element of cant hurt friends so dont get into that situation with them. Davy has forced Tony into a situation where he must now treat him as a source of income rather than as a friend. It is also relevant that although Artie and Davy are friends to Tony, Artie has Charmaine constantly pulling him back from Tonys offers. There is of course a contradiction in Tony always trying to get Artie into his business possibly for his advantage which may lead to a similar Davy situation but it may well be the overarching guilt from the destruction of Vesuvio in the pilot which Artie is still recovering from, Tony may be tossing him a bone or two to assuage his guilt.

            Liked by 3 people

          • I think it implies both boredom and that he can afford to play. Its not literal jockstraps, but merchandise, Its the jockstraps that are boring.

            Liked by 1 person

      • I think talking about jockstraps was “performative assholery” on Davey’s part. By specifically choosing to reference such a crude, but masculine, item, he’s trying to make himself seem like he fits in with the gangsters.

        Liked by 1 person

  8. Excellent autopsy Ron. This episode has a lot going on making for a very enjoyable and entertaining hour of television. I appreciate the amount of time you put into your analysis. This particular one stands out to me for some reason. I suppose it’s the masculinity theme throughout the episode that I admittedly did not catch upon even though seeing this probably 20 times. This episode showed a particular way the mob makes it’s money and the end result is pretty sad. There are many Davey Scatinos in the world with people like Tony ready to exploit their weakness. It appears this episode brings us back to the “perfectly grungy” fly away motel! Furio: “we need a the rooms clean and a fresh smelling!” Ha Ha.
    Its safe to say due to Matt and Sean’s treatment thus far, especially during the Executive Game that makes them eventually act out violently. Like all Sopranos episodes, this was well written and acted, but there are certain differences that make it stand out to me. Top notch acting on David Proval’s part once again. The scene in the Executive Game and outside with Tony were just perfect. We do see a softer more passive side of Richie, but I’m sure it’s motivated by his selfishness. Again we see Tony display his authority, but he doesn’t really do much besides defer Davey’s payment to Richie. And to top it off, Richie basically threatened to kill Chrissy in front of everyone at the game, which should enrage Tony to no end but doesn’t. Tony was only really concerned with Richie’s disrespect towards Tony and the game. In the end it’s all about money and Tony’s image. Richie has crossed the line with Tony more than any other character so far in the series. I like how this episode segues into Bust Out a few episodes later, which is one of my personal favorites, where we see the end result of Davey’s gambling addiction and how the mob can destroy a business under everyone’s nose. Robert Patrick did a wonderful job of his portrayal of David Scatino. I think Chase could have used him in the cast as a one of the wise guys even though he doesn’t look the part. Chase has a way of developing interesting and wonderful characters to only feature them a few times and are never seen again.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Tony is not the bad guy in this really. I think the point of it is that Scatino ruins his family by gambling everything, and then blaming others for his addiction. Tony is the gangster, but he did warn Davey away, its not his fault if he came anyway. I think Davey was banking on the friendship with Tony, and because he is weak, he HAD to gamble. Just like JT does with Christopher when he owes him money. These are clueless people, no better really than the criminals. Tony took that car and gave it to Meadow so she sees that he’s not the only bad guy. Supposedly honest men gamble away their kids college fund. I thought this was a great episode.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I tend to agree with your take on Tony’s actions in this hour, but I think most viewers see Tony as manipulating or taking advantage of Davey’s gambling addiction… I think when Tony agrees to let Davey into the game, he probably has noted in the back of his mind that Davey’s sporting goods store is a good piece of collateral. But many viewers read it differently, that Tony has the store first and foremost in his mind…

      Liked by 2 people

      • Radoslaw Kaczmarek

        This interpretation was probably buttressed in the other episode when Davey sleeps in a tent in his store and laments to Tony, asking him why he had let him in the game and Tony acting as if it was his plan from the get-go. Still, if you look at the big picture, Tony did warn him and it was genuine at the moment, but you can picture Tony thinking: “This idiot here, if he so desperately wants to take a header, why would I keep trying to stop him. He’s a grown-up and a supposedly good citizen and I’m supposedly a bad guy.”

        Liked by 2 people

        • Just watched “Bust Out” and the collateral angle seems the most accurate. There is just no real evidence Tony was targeting the store. We have to remember Tony is in full business mode here, and his concerns are no different than when a bank issues a loan. If this guy defaults, in Davey’s case this means loses and can’t pay, is there a way to get the money back? Violence is a tool Tony has that the banks don’t, but violence is only designed to facilitate the debt being paid. Well, it’s also to send a message to others that they should pay, but Tony would still rather just get his money than have to send messages (Notice how Tony only slaps Davey around. Most would get far worse). Since Davey has the store, Tony will eventually let him in, though in fairness Tony does not know how deep Davey’s financial woes already are. But there is no doubt Tony would rather Davey would just walk away. At least in that moment that is the case. Once things go south, Tony of course has no problem facilitating the squaring if the debt.

          Another interesting question is did Tony really ruin Davey’s life? If we assume Davey were going to gamble anyway, certainly he would have lost the store eventually. After gambling away Eric s college find and all other savings of course. True, the store was in his wife’s name so he could not directly gamble it away, but is there any doubt Davey would found a way to bleed the store to feed his addiction anyway? A very sound argument could be made that Tony did not directly hurt Davey at all. Tony just put himself in front of the banks that held the “legitimate” lien on the store. Rationalization? Probably, at least to an extent. But it’s an argument Tony would certainly use, and there is at least some truth to it. It all comes back to Davey being his own worst enemy (see what I did there?), and we see Tony just being the shark that happens to get there first.

          Liked by 3 people

  10. I agree that he took advantage…he’s an opportunist. But Davey sought him out, not the other way around.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. “You know how many jockstraps I sold last week?” was not an indication of his business slumping. It was rhetorical, implying that he could handle the high stakes BECAUSE he had sold so many jockstraps last week. Knowing what we now know, that is doubtful. But that was his purpose in delivering that line; to ease Tony’s concerns about his ability to handle the high stakes and, ultimately, allow him into the game.

    Liked by 2 people

    • But its not only knowing what we now know, it has always been unlikely that a small local retailer could sell enough of a $5 item, especially one that is specific to only a few sports and to only male athletes, to buy entry into a high-stakes Executive Game. Going forward, I think I’m going to assume that the writers wrote the line to signal to us that Davey was bored with the store and/or the store was not so very profitable, but the actor delivered the line in a way meant to signal to Tony (and to us) that the store is humming along profitably. Problem solved.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I actually think that is most likely the best interpretation. Sporting goods stores have been under pressure from competitors like WalMart and Amazon for a long time, and Davey mentions the “direct” stores (Nike and others) putting him under pressure. He can’t even come up with Richie’s weekly interest on $8k. Clearly either business is not good or he has already lost thousands gambling and we have come in just as he goes over the edge. That said, I don’t really think the choice of a low cost mundane item is important from a profitability POV. Most likely symbolic of the masculine theme and/or the lack of excitement of the retail sporting goods business, at least in Davey’s eyes.

        Liked by 1 person

      • maybe davey is making a joke. i think he knows that no number of jockstraps is going to make the difference here. maybe he hasn’t actually made a lot of money on big ticket items, or at all, and he’s hiding it by jokingly talking up his jockstrap sales.

        Liked by 1 person

  12. Tony sees Davey’s sports store much in the same way Paulie in Goodfellas saw the restaurant that the gang spent time in. Both were approached by the proprietor and both wound up losing their business to the very people that they approached. In both instances, once involved, Tony and Paulie bought tremendous amounts of merchandise on credit with no intention of ever paying it back, ultimately sinking the business. In an earlier episode, Vesuvio restaurant suffered the same fate as The eatery in Goodfellas.
    Side note….the restaurant proprietor in Goodfellas is played by actor Tony Darrow who plays Larry Boy Baresse in the Sopranos. No less than 10 actors/actresses have appeared in both the movie and the series. Some of the overlapping plots become easy to see over repeated viewings.

    Liked by 3 people

  13. This episode has one of my favorite scenes in entire the series. In one long shot we see Davey pull up to his house in an expensive-looking car, get out and brood about his debts to Tony, look at his son’s slightly-dirty car, find his solution, walk past (presumably) his wife’s car that he could car-pool in, and finally past a simple bicycle that he could ride to his athletic store that needs people to be athletic to strive as a business, before micro-extorting his own happy wanderer, which is his son. Of all the ironies in one single panning shot, Davey never giving up the vessel for which he may wander is the most humorous one to me.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. One of my favorite scenes is in the motel lobby when Furio is laying out the room requirements for the executive game. When the Orthodox Jewish motel guy (who must be Shlomo’s son from season 1) complains about the mobsters ruining the hotel and then whines, “I should work for nothing?”, Furio calls the hooker over and asks her whether she’s ever sucked the motel guy’s dick, and she says, “I make that beanie *spin* when I work his thing,” while Furio nods knowingly and then says to the sheepish motel guy, “No bitch to me.” I don’t know why, that scene just tickles me.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Why do you think that Davey’s gambling problem comes from feeling emasculated? He in over his head with loan sharks, and he is losing everything. He blames everyone but himself for his problem. Since when is it emasculating to have a good business? Yes, its probably boring…but how does it reflect on him as a man? I am not a gambler, so I don’t understand it, but I think his weakness comes from within…not his business.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I agree, his gambling addiction is a deep-seated issue that goes way beyond some sense of emasculation. I just think there are so many references in this hour to masculinity/emasculation (the penile implant doctor, the jockstrap reference, the Gary Cooper reference etc) that maybe the writers were trying to give viewers a way to tie it into Davey’s gambling problem.


  16. Watched this episode again last night. Richie is a complicated character. On the one hand brutal and murderous, on the other hand respectful and old school. He doesn’t seem to mind Livia’s difficult personality, he brings flowers for Meadow..he helps Janice with money. He give a gift to Barbara’s husband for the funeral…showing that his intentions are serious. He’s soft spoken really….He’s worried about smoking in the funeral parlor, but has no worries about crippling Beansie. Fascinating. Meadow was particularly beautiful in the scene with her father. Not only in looks, but in capturing her mixed emotions. She knows Tony has a good point, but is upset that it manifested itself by hurting her friend. He could have taken the car and sold it, but he was pressing the point that yes, he’s a gangster, but he wouldn’t gamble away all their money or leave her high and dry for college. He’s bad, but so is Davey. The masculinity thing is second or third really. Richie and Tony are both Alpha, and Richie feels he’s been usurped after doing time. All true to form, accept Davey who is just a weak willed degenerate gambler. I believe he’s already in debt even before Richie lent him money. Tony has to show Davey that he’s “Not the fat kid on the schoolbus anymore” which leads me to believe there was teasing or bullying by Davey in school. Now Tony is in power, and that shot of him looming over Davey is fantastic.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Here’s a minor observation of mine. This is probably meaningless – compared to you Ron, I’m not very observant, so don’t expect the sacred and the propane.

    – Tony confronts David in the office.
    – Davey tries to trivialize his wrongdoings.
    – Tony glares at David with angry eyes, as David keeps talking.
    – Several seconds pass, Tony is just staring, frowning and standing still
    – David continues talking, and with each word spoken, more and more fury builds up inside Tony until until…
    – BAM!!! Tony unleashes his fury.

    – Tony confronts Big P on the boat.
    – Big P tries to trivialize his wrongdoings.
    – Tony glares at Big P with angry eyes as Big P keeps talking.
    – Several seconds pass, Tony is just staring, frowning and standing still
    – Big P continues talking, and with each word spoken, more and more fury builds up inside Tony, until…
    – BAM!!! Tony unleashes his fury.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. I’ll comment on three fairly small things in the episode.
    – – –
    Tony is surprised and displeased that Meadow does not know how her uncle’s father died. This is a nice bit of observation. When one is young, death is remote and the cause of death utterly irrelevant. Perhaps one begins to think about it in middle age, when one’s parents might die, and a few people of one’s own age die of natural causes. By the time one reaches Livia’s or Junior’s age, the cause of death is a very interesting and important matter.

    How nice it is to be young!
    – – –
    Explaining to Richie why he is punishing him – not letting him collect his debt from Davey until Tony has collected his – Tony says, “I don’t do something, how’s it gonna look?” This is a very odd thing to say, an admission of weakness. Tony is saying in effect, “I’m weak, but I must appear to be strong.” It seems out of character, and I even wonder whether it’s an error of judgement by the writer. Or am I missing something?
    – – –
    Trying to persuade Tony not to hurt the Scatino family, Carmela says, “His wife is very close to the brother-in-law of the Provost of Georgetown,” so it might hurt Meadow’s university application. I’m not American, so I don’t know whether this is satirical exaggeration or a true reflection of how things are. The former, I hope. Of course it happens all over the world, but this kind of corruption, through family or other connections, is something I think of as Asian, not American.


  19. Hi Ron! I have a few comments about this (one of my fav) epi and piggybacking on other comments.
    1. Livia mentions a degenerate gambler when she’s in the nursing home- she has distain for gamblers as well which is probably where Tony gets it.
    2. Did you notice that the Flowers Richie brings to Meadows recital are huge compared to Tony‘s measly little spring of carnations. Seems like compensation for Richies own masculinity. “He has incredible Moxie for his size,” lol.
    3. The scene in the sporting good store I don’t know if you noticed but the song playing on music in the background is spinning wheel, previously released by blood sweat and tears. I did a little lyric search out of curiosity- here they are:
    What goes up must come down
    Spinnin’ wheel got to go ’round
    Talkin’ ’bout your troubles it’s a cryin’ sin
    Ride a painted pony let the spinnin’ wheel spin
    You got no money and you got no home
    Spinnin’ wheel all alone
    Talkin’ ’bout your troubles and you, you never learn
    Ride a painted pony let the spinnin’ wheel turn.
    Thanks, Ron.

    Liked by 2 people

  20. Richie is worming his way into the good graces of the important members of the family. His actions are self motivated. If he gets the sister, he may get more respect from Tony or be favored. If Livia approves of him that’s good, and if Carmela likes him all these things will help him.Gigantic flower arrangements to Livia and to Meadow, and Tripe to Carmela..:( all calculated to get in good with the boss. None of these things will work, because of his actions to Beansie and his stubborn nature Tony won’t ever like him.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Richie is a fascinating character. He has certain personality traits that make him a very effective mobster, but those same traits limit how far he can rise in the organization..


  21. Stephanie Rosendorf

    One of the things I enjoyed most about “The Happy Wanderer” was the animated banter among all the guys in the executive card game. Dave Scatino was so in over his head. While I’m certainly NOT a fan of Richie Aprille, if there were ever a time that Richie was justified in being so irritated, that may have been it.

    Liked by 1 person

  22. Where Tony says to Davey, “Drive safely,” I think what he means is, “You’re in danger by going to Nevada and gambling,” but he knows Davey won’t listen, so he gives this milder warning. (Just like in one of the final episodes, where Carmela says to Tony, “Drive safely,” when what she means is, “Don’t get yourself shot.”)
    In a subsequent episode, when Meadow says that Davey is now in a mental facility, I assume he was actually in rehab for gambling addiction.

    Liked by 2 people

  23. mead reminds me of paulie’s whore from commendatori with how mundane it is to her that her uncle died


  24. Like the series itself, these autopsies get better and better with each visit. Didn’t read much into the “Sun and Moon” duet before, but another rewatch and a rereading of the autopsy report peeled back a few extra layers for me.
    While Davey and Tony share some vowels in their surnames, they are from two different worlds. Tony still feels victimized by the treatment his immigrant ancestors endured, and therefore operates outside of the law to get a little piece of the action. His family, or at least his way of thinking, is generally Old World. Before he gets sucked into Tony’s gravitational pull, Davey, on the flip side, is the ‘Merigan, a legitimate business owner who has made good on the American Dream. Similar ancestry, but polar opposites… at least until their orbits intersect.
    Miss Saigon is a reboot of the Puccini (he’s got vowels) opera, Madama Butterfly. Both works deal with themes of cultural collision and assimilation, and both have tragic consequences when foreign bodies collide. Children suffer. The American military provides a backdrop for both works. Interestingly, we come to find out a couple of episodes later that Davey was once an Army brat, transferring into Tony’s school in 10th grade.

    Liked by 1 person

  25. Daddy’s flat affect always really stood out to me almost like he is not bothered by anything, as Tony would!d say he appears to habe a clear head. Yet we see he is anything but clear headed. He is incredibly in up piece. Showing up with no money to get into the exe Grove game. His voice changes when he is trying to up the stakes for his gambling. Also Tony is never silen he is always complaining, angry, smashing things. Tony talked about how he wanted smash the fa ex of happy wanderers and then he ends up destroying a man who acts like s happy wanderer.
    I’m glad you mentioned how they mobsters just default tocheating and scamming and literally tipping the scales. I can’t help noticing how President Trump has always behaved in that same way.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I had so many typos I felt I should rewrite my post to make it clearer. That’s what I get for autocomplete on my tablet.
      Davey’s flat affect always really stood out to me. His voice, body language, and the look on his face almost never change, almost like he is not bothered by anything. As Tony says he seems to be a happy camper. To everyone his flat affect would give the impression he has a clear head. Yet we see he is incredibly impulsive. He shows up with no money wanting to get into The Executive Game. That is the first time his voice changes. Then he shows real emotion when Tony actually smashes him in the face, just like he wished to do to some happy wanderer. Tony ended up destroying a man he thought was a happy wanderer but if we look closely, it’s very clear Davey never was. Artie Bucco reveals he got a mistress/girlfriend pregnant. He has been lying to his family for years about gambling and other things.
      Tony is never silent, always complaining; frequently angry’ smashing thing; He is nothing like the Gary Cooper strong silent type he wishes to be. He destroys a
      Ron I really appreciated how you showed he decided not to give Tony his car but to rob his son. In that scene all the boy’s mother says when he expresses confusion, outrage, and complains about how unfair his Dad is acting the mother just says get in the house. She wants to hide things just like her husband leaving their son confused and alone.
      I’m glad you mentioned how they mobsters just default to cheating and scamming and literally tipping the scales. I can’t help noticing how President Trump has always behaved in that same way. I am not wanting to really make this about politics but how that destructive, nihilistic behavior that looks for people to exploit is not just in the mob. There are lots of people who find that life of preying on others and attractive. I could say more I really appreciate your visual analysis Ron film has so many ways of saying things with sound, visuals, and text. It’s a truly deep art form and you have done.

      Liked by 1 person

  26. It’s interesting to see how in later seasons we see how Tony also becomes a degenerate gambler. At the executive game we see how all these straight people like Davey, the penile implant doctor end up doing the same thing as the mobsters and blowing the next generation’s inheritance.

    Liked by 1 person

  27. I don’t agree at all that Tony tried hard to keep Davey out of the game. He makes his living off of guys like this. Uncle Junior also says as much when speaking with Tony about how he and Johnny Soprano conceived of the Executive Game – thinking about how the credit card companies, who didn’t care what you bought as long as you didn’t pay all at once, they’d juice you and you’d be grateful they gave you a card. Later on in the series, in the Bust Out episode, Tony admits to Davey that he lured him in, because its in his nature, using a reference like a frog and a scorpion or something like that.

    Liked by 1 person

  28. Little Cozette

    I can’t help noticing associations between Richie and homosexuality. When he gets a blow job in the Bing, he does it in the dark – why? Perhaps because he used to get blow jobs in the dark in jail? Then, when Richie sees Junior for the first time in the doctors office, he says something along the lines of “put on a shirt, Im getting a chubby”. Then in this episode, he tells Christopher he has a “hard on” for him already, and then when he steps outside to argue with Tony, he says “he comes here and he sticks it up my ass!”. In later episodes, we see that Richie holds a gun up to Janice’s head during sex – perhaps this turns him on because he maybe raped men in jail? Finally, we know Richie will die because he gets enraged when Janice says that it wouldn’t matter if his son was gay….

    Liked by 2 people

  29. One exceedingly silly, picayune thing about this episode that I just noticed tonight: the pitches at college night are sublty revealed to be occurring in alphabetical order. “The guy at Bowdoin made some sense”, then of course Brown (where we join mid-presentation), and then “let’s go see what this Bucknell why-oh has to say.”)

    Liked by 1 person

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