How ‘The Sopranos’ Played on Viewers’ Vengeance Fantasies in ‘Boca’

There’s a lot going on in “Boca,” season 1 episode 9 of The Sopranos. With law enforcement closing in on the crews of Tony Soprano (James Gandolfini) and his Uncle Junior (Dominic Chianese), Junior heads to Boca Raton with his girlfriend Bobbi.

In a scene that takes place in bed, viewers see Junior and Bobbi enjoying each other’s company and learn about Junior’s unseen talents in the sack. Meanwhile, back in New Jersey, Coach Hauser is on a roll with the girls’ soccer team.

But after that promising beginning, things start to get dark. During a salon visit, Bobbi realizes she’s already gabbed too much about her sex life with Junior. As for Coach Hauser, Tony’s gang learns that he’s planning to move on and take another coaching gig.

That makes the soccer dads feel like the sky is falling, but it’s nothing once they learn Hauser had sex with Ally, one of their daughters’ teammates. At that point, the coach becomes a marked man, and Sopranos writers played on viewer expectations — hunger, in some cases — for vengeance.

‘Sopranos’ viewers expect Tony Soprano and his crew to come down hard on Coach Hauser

'Sopranos' soccer scene
Silvio Dante (Steve Van Zandt) and Tony Soprano (James Gandolfini) watch a soccer match. | HBO

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Sopranos writers really pile it on with Coach Hauser and Ally. After Meadow (Jamie-Lynn Sigler) reveals to her parents that Ally tried to kill herself due to the pain from her relationship with Hauser, Tony leaves to spread the word.

In conversation with Silvio (Steve Van Zandt) and Artie Bucco (John Ventimiglia), even nice-guy Artie agrees Hauser deserves to die. Artie then has the same conversation with his wife Charmaine (Kathrine Narducci), one of the show’s moral centers.

Charmaine does her best to shut down the revenge plan before it starts. Eventually, Artie agrees and goes to Tony to stop the crew from maiming (or killing) Coach Hauser. During a tense, almost violent conversation, Artie gets his point across to Tony.

Though Tony disregards and even mocks Artie, he does as his old friend urged. He doesn’t punish Hauser, which comes as a bit of a surprise for viewers. It may have even disappointed some.

‘Sopranos’ creator David Chase spoke of the wish-fulfillment fantasy fans of mob stories often have

‘The Sopranos’ stars Lorraine Bracco and James Gandolfini | Getty Images

In “Boca,” viewers watch Tony defend his decision to mete out punishment to Hauser in a session with his psychiatrist, Dr. Melfi (Lorraine Bracco). “I’m interested in why you feel punishing this man falls upon you,” Melfi wonders. Tony tries to ignore her.

In an interview with Peter Bogdanovich (circa 2000), Sopranos creator David Chase addressed the way audiences can sometimes want a killing in a fictional setting. “People have said there’s a certain wish fulfillment with mob movies,” Chase said. “That’s one reason people like them.

“You can say to someone, ‘This guy has disrespected me. Take care of it,'” Chase continued. “We all have that fantasy.” Sopranos writers took it the other way in “Boca.” Instead of a drastic response, the direction suggested by wiser heads (mostly Charmaine’s) prevailed. And, in the end, Tony used that as a reason to feel good about himself.