Sunday, April 22, 2007

Sopranos episode guide #19: The Happy Wanderer

US Transmission Date: 20 February 2000
UK Transmission Date: 16 November 2000

Writer: Frank Renzulli • Director: John Patterson
Cast: John C. Hensley (Eric Scatino), Felix Solis (Fishman), Paul Mazursky (Sunshine), Frank Sinatra Jr (himself), Lewis J. Stadlen (Dr Fried), Adam Alexi-Malle (College Rep), R. J. Brown (Cop), Angela Covington (Gudren), Barbara Gulan (Mrs Gaetano), La Tanya Hall (Hooker), David McCann (Priest), Carmine Sirico (Dealer)

Tony and Carmela accompany Meadow to her high school for an evening of presentations from college reps. Tony bumps into two friends from his own high school days, Artie Bucco and David ‘Davie’ Scatino. Davie runs Ramsey Sports and Outdoor Equipment. He also likes to gamble. Davie asks about a very special card game Tony will be staging soon. Tony warns him off, saying the game is too serious for Davie and he could get hurt. Tony tells Dr Melfi that he is full of anger all the time. He wants to beat up happy people he sees in the street, just because they are happy. Tony resents the fact that therapy making him feel like a victim.

Davie has a run of bad luck at a card game hosted by Richie Aprile. He ends up owing Richie $8,000. Meadow and Davie’s son Eric practise a duet from the musical ‘Miss Saigon’ for their high school cabaret. Performing in the show could improve their chances of getting into a good college. Tony meets with Junior to discuss taking over the executive game. Junior established the high stakes poker game with Tony’s father thirty years before. He lets slip that Tony had another uncle called Ercoli, who was retarded. Ercoli spent his life in charity homes and died not long before Tony’s father. Tony agrees to give Junior 15% of the profits from the executive game.

Richie goes to the sports store to collect a weekly payment from Davie, but the gambler can’t make his full payment. Richie bans Davie from any of Richie’s card games until he’s caught up on the payments. Christopher buys some fish for the players at the executive game, accompanied by Matt and Sean. He tells them their role will be cleaning and serving the players, but warns them against talking to Silvio during the game. The executive game gets started at the motel of which Tony owns 25%. Among the players are Frank Sinatra Jr, Paulie, Silvio, Johnny Sack and Dr Fried, who specialises in penile implants. Davie goes to the motel and asks is he can join the game. Tony tries to dissuade him but Davie is adamant. Tony loans him $5,000 as his stake money.

Tony asks Matt to sweep under Silvio, who has spilled food on the floor. Silvio is losing badly and flies into a rage, ranting at Matt. Davie is having a run of good cards and is well ahead. Next morning Eric gives Meadow a lift to school in his four wheel drive. At the executive game Tony asks if everyone is ready to quit. Davie is down and owes Tony $45,000. Richie arrives at the game and gets angry when he finds Davie playing. He tries to hit Davie and the game quickly breaks up. Outside, a furious Tony sends Richie home. Tony goes back inside and lays down the law to Davie. He has just two days to pay back all the money he owes, or else he has to pay $2,250 in interest every week. Afterwards, early estimates put the profits from the executive game at about $80,000 for one night’s work.

Tony tries to catch up on sleep at home but is awoken by Meadow and Eric practising their duet. Meadow tells him Aunt Barbara’s father-in-law died. At the funeral Tony finds himself in the same room as his mother, who is brought along by Janice and Richie. In a side room Richie apologises for intruding on the executive game. As tax, Tony rules that Davie Scatino has to pay all of his debt back to Tony before Richie can have a penny. On the way home Janice chides Richie about following Tony’s orders.

Tony confronts Davie at the sports store – he missed his first payment. Tony punches his former friend twice in the head and demands money within 24 hours. Davie goes to Artie for help but Artie pleads poverty. Davie takes away his son’s four wheel drive vehicle, because Eric didn’t keep it clean. Tony gives the car to Meadow, who recognises it as Eric’s. She refuses the present but Tony says it was a by-product of his work, just like everything else in the house that Meadow uses every day. At the cabaret Eric and Meadow argue about the car. Eric storms off so Meadow sings a solo instead.

Mobspeak: Tony tells Christopher to give Davie five boxes of ziti (gambling chips in piles equivalent to $1,000 each). Tony wants to know whether the players are ready to close the lights (admit you lost and end the game). Richie asks Tony to whom he should give the boost (an envelope of cash, given to families at christenings, marriages and funerals).

Mamma Mia: Livia doesn’t speak, but she sobs heartily at the funeral so everyone knows she’s present. When Dr Melfi asks if Livia makes him feel like a loser, Tony says they have wasted enough oxygen discussing his mother.

Bright Lights, Baked Ziti: Artie Bucco provided the food for the family evening at Meadow’s high school. Tony says the food is so good it should guarantee Artie’s daughter a place in any college. Christopher buys enough Brazilian snapper for 15 people and ten pounds of shrimp. The fish is an ingredient for pizziola. At the executive game there is a side table covered in food, including cold meats, cheeses, fish and bread. Matt tries to sweep cheese out from under Silvio, who retaliates by ranting, raving and throwing his plate of ham, cheese and bread on the floor. He demands Matt gets him more food and renames the wannabe gangster ‘Cheese-fuck.’ When Richie arrives, Tony tries to distract him by offering some nice, fresh lox.

Mobbed Up: Meadow is going to sing the theme song from ‘Titanic’ as a solo after Eric refuses to do a duet.

How Do You Feel?: Tony describes his feelings to Dr Melfi by saying he’d like to her face into a hamburger with a brick. He doesn’t know why he’s always angry, he just is. Tony says Dr Melfi makes him feel like a victim. ‘I got the world by the balls and I can’t stop feeling like a fucking loser.’

Sleeping With The Fishes:
Tom Giglione Snr, who was blown off his roof by a gust of wind while adjusting a satellite dish. It happened the day after he retired, following a life of hard work and devotion to his family.

Quote/Unquote: Tony protests about Dr Melfi’s methods, comparing it to those of other females in his life: ‘Mother of Christ, is this a woman thing? You asked me how I’m feeling. I tell you how I’m feeling. And now, you’re gonna torture me with it.’ Junior dismisses Livia’s protestations of poverty, saying that Johnny Boy Soprano left her a huge legacy when he died: ‘She’s like a woman with a Virginia ham under her arm, crying the blues ‘cause she has no bread.’ Silvio goes into a lengthy rant about loving to have cheese at his feet, after Matt tries to sweep beneath Silvio’s chair: ‘I stick motherfucking provolone in my socks at night, so they smell like your sister’s crotch in the morning!’ Davie Scatino proves himself a master of hypocrisy when he takes away his son’s four wheel drive to help offset his own gambling debts: ‘Eric, accountability is everything.’

Soundtrack: A muzak version of ‘Spinning Wheel’ plays in the mall. ‘Tequila Sunrise’ by the Eagles. ‘Love Is Strange’ by Ceasar & Cleo (a.k.a. Sonny & Cher). Meadow and Eric practise ‘Sun and Moon’, a song from the musical ‘Miss Saigon’. ‘The Happy Wanderer’ by Frankie Yankovick & His Yanks. ‘Frog Stomp’ by Floyd Newman. ‘Down’ by Stone Temple Pilots.

Surveillance Report: Frank Sinatra Jr makes a creditable cameo appearance as one of the gamblers at the executive game. David Scatino is played by Robert Patrick, who is best known as the T-1000 robot from ‘Terminator 2: Judgment Day’. Since appeared in ‘The Sopranos’ Patrick has joined the cast of ‘The X Files’ as Scully’s new partner.

The Verdict: ‘I don’t do business with outside friends, you understand.’ Tony takes over the fabled executive poker game, but it leads to more agita from Richie Aprile and problems for an old school friend, Davie Scatino. Tony shows both sides of his nature in ‘The Happy Wanderer’ – the friendly family man who wants his daughter to get a good education, and the cold blooded Family man who wants his own way. Davie makes the terrible transition from being a friend of Tony to someone who owes Tony money. This episode works well in isolation but also sets up crucial plot threads for the rest of Season Two. Wannabe gangsters Matt and Sean are treated like dirt, while Janice starts urging Richie to act against Tony. Yet it’s the gambling debts incurred by Davie Scatino which could yet lead to Tony’s downfall…

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