College (The Sopranos)

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The Sopranos episode
Episode no.Season 1
Episode 5
Directed byAllen Coulter
Written byJames Manos Jr.
David Chase
Cinematography byAlik Sakharov
Production code105
Original air dateFebruary 7, 1999 (1999-02-07)
Running time56 minutes
Episode chronology
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"College" is the fifth episode of the first season of the HBO television drama series The Sopranos, and originally aired on February 7, 1999. It was written by co-producer James Manos Jr. and series creator and executive producer David Chase. The episode was directed by Allen Coulter. The episode was ranked second on TV Guide's's list of "100 Greatest Episodes of All-Time", published in 2009.[1]


* = credit only

Guest cast[edit]


Tony takes Meadow on a trip to Maine to visit three colleges she is considering. During the drive, Tony is taken aback when she asks if he is "in the Mafia", and denies it. When Meadow is skeptical, he admits that some of his income is from illegal gambling and other activities. Meadow admits that she took speed to study for her SATs but, when Tony reacts angrily, will not say where she got it. Both seem relieved by this mutual honesty on difficult topics.

At a gas station, Tony thinks he spots Fabian "Febby" Petrulio, a former member of the DiMeo family who entered witness protection after turning state's evidence. Tony contacts Christopher to run the plate number from his car and finds that he now goes by the alias "Fred Peters". Tony resolves to locate and execute Febby while continuing his trip with Meadow. He leaves her with some students she has met and confirms Febby's identity when, in the office of his travel business, he sees a carved bust: creating them was Febby's hobby. Febby feels someone is watching him, and finds the motel where Tony and Meadow are staying. He points a handgun at Tony, who suspects nothing; the presence of two other guests prevents him from taking the shot. The next morning, Tony drops off Meadow for a college interview. He finds Febby at his office and garrotes him. Later, during a drive to another college, Meadow asks Tony about the mud on his shoes and the cut on his hand. But she senses that he is not answering honestly, and asks no further questions.

While Tony and Meadow are away, A.J. is sleeping over at a friend's house. Father Phil Intintola, the Soprano family's priest, visits the house to enjoy Carmela's cooking and wine. Dr. Melfi phones to reschedule Tony's appointment; Carmela, discovering that Tony's therapist is a woman, assumes that he is sleeping with her.

During confession, Carmela tells Father Phil about her fears for her family and for her own soul, and he administers communion. She sips the wine, but he drains the cup, and they fall asleep together on the sofa. Half waking, they are about to kiss, but Father Phil suddenly desists and walks swaying to the bathroom, where he retches. He spends the rest of the night alone. In the morning, Carmela firmly says, "We didn't do anything." Tony and Meadow return that day. Carmela tells Tony that Father Phil stayed the night. She counters his sarcastic comments by telling him that Melfi called.


  • Fabian "Febby" Petrulio: garroted by Tony Soprano while on Tony's college trip with his daughter, Meadow, for being an FBI informant.

Title reference[edit]

  • The title refers to the fact that the entire episode revolves around Tony taking Meadow on a tour of colleges in Maine.
  • Throughout the series, "college" is routinely used as slang for incarceration: Fabian "Febby" Petrulio's testimony resulted in the incarceration of several Soprano family associates.
  • The title connects this episode to Season 3 Episode 6, "University". Both episodes heavily feature young female characters and their relationships to Tony. In "College," Tony attempts to protect his actual daughter Meadow from the truth about his profession. In "University," Tony refuses to befriend Bada Bing! employee Tracee and fails to protect her from being killed by Ralph Cifaretto.


  • Series creator David Chase has stated that when HBO first read the script, they objected to Tony's murder of Febby. Executives said that Chase had done so well in building Tony up as a sympathetic character that they believed if Tony committed such a cold-blooded killing, fans would turn on him and the show would lose its protagonist. Chase said that he believed fans would turn on Tony if the character didn't commit murder because the omission would make him appear weak.[3] Eventually, Chase won the decision and the episode has become a fan favorite.
  • Chase named this as his favorite episode because of its self-contained nature.[4]
  • The college locations and the Maine scenes in "College" were actually filmed in rural New Jersey. The college exteriors are located at Drew University in Madison, New Jersey.[5]
  • This is the first episode where Father Phil is played by Paul Schulze. He was originally portrayed by Michael Santoro in the pilot.


The episode was rated as the best of the series by publications such as Time magazine and Entertainment Weekly.[6][7] It was ranked second overall on TV Guide's list of "Top 100 Episodes of All Time".[8]

Emily St. James retrospectively wrote that "the genius of the episode is that the storyline blends almost every aspect of the show's world so completely that it feels like a natural thing we're watching, not really a story being told." St. James also praised the cinematography, which included cross-cutting and point-of-view shots, as "very effective at putting us in the headspace of both Febby and Tony as they slowly stalk each other", and lauded the episode as "a strangely funny, incredibly tense meditation on what it means to choose the easy path every single time."[9]

Alan Sepinwall praised Chase's use of "only two stories so he could let them both play out in exhaustive, powerful detail", and wrote that the shot of Tony "staring wistfully up at a group of flying ducks, again standing in for the feelings of family and peace that seem to remain forever beyond his grasp – is ... stunning."[10]

Other cultural references[edit]

  • When Tony asks if Meadow's friends think he is cool because of having seen The Godfather, she replies that most people she knew were bigger fans of Casino and begins discussing Sharon Stone's performance in the film before being cut off.
  • The carved bust in Petrulio's office is of Ronald Reagan.
  • Father Phil tells Carmela at some point: "If you take everything Jesus has ever said, added up, it only amounts to two hours of talk" to which Carmela replies "I heard the same thing about the Beatles except it was if you add up all their songs it only comes to ten hours".
  • Father Phil and Carmela discuss Martin Scorsese's film The Last Temptation of Christ, and specifically Willem Dafoe's performance as Jesus). Father Phil mentions that Robert De Niro was originally supposed to play the part, to which Carmela replies that it would have been a "completely different film".
  • Carmela and Father Phil watch The Remains of the Day with Emma Thompson and Anthony Hopkins. In the movie, based on the novel by Kazuo Ishiguro, two characters come close to acting on a mutual, yet repressed, attraction, but ultimately decide it is too late for them to do so. Hopkins' character has a profession incompatible with marriage and Thompson's character is married to another man.[11]
  • While Tony waits for Meadow to finish her meeting at Bowdoin College, he observes a quotation attributed to Nathaniel Hawthorne displayed in the lobby: "No man can wear one face to himself and another to the multitude without finally getting bewildered as to which may be true". This quotation appears in The Scarlet Letter.[12] Tony appears to contemplate the quotation for a moment before a student walking by informs him that Hawthorne is Bowdoin's "most famous alumnus".


  • The song played when Christopher plays pool in the back room of the Bada Bing when Tony calls him the first time is "Eye on You" by Rocket from the Crypt.
  • The song played when Tony and Meadow have dinner and discuss how Tony came to be involved in the mob and during the end credits is "Gold Leaves" by Michael Hoppé.
  • The song played when Tony leaves Meadow with two girls from Colby College is "Maine Two-Step" by The Basin Brothers.
  • The song playing in the bar when Fabian enters to ask whether anyone has been asking about him is "Cadence to Arms", a version of "Scotland the Brave" by the Dropkick Murphys.

Filming locations[edit]

In order of first appearance:[13]


James Manos Jr. and David Chase won a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Writing for a Drama Series for their work on this episode. Edie Falco received her first Primetime Emmy Award nomination and win for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series for her performance as Carmela in this episode.


  1. ^ TV Guide's Top 100 Episodes of All Time (2009) - IMDb, archived from the original on November 30, 2022, retrieved November 30, 2022
  2. ^ Archived April 5, 2016, at the Wayback Machine [user-generated source]
  3. ^ The Sopranos: The Complete First Season: DVD interview
  4. ^ DVD commentary from episode 13 of season 4, Whitecaps
  5. ^ Martin, Brett (October 30, 2007). "Welcome to New Jersey: A Sense of Place". The Sopranos: The Complete Book. New York: Time. p. 32. ISBN 978-1-933821-18-4.
  6. ^ Time: The Best of the Sopranos
  7. ^ Jensen, Jeff. "The Hit Parade - 1. COLLEGE (Season 1)". Entertainment Weekly. Archived from the original on April 30, 2008.
  8. ^ "100 Greatest Episodes of All-Time" TV Guide; June 15, 2009; Pages 34-49
  9. ^ St. James, Emily (June 16, 2010). "The Sopranos: "Meadowlands"/"College"". The A.V. Club. Archived from the original on April 18, 2017. Retrieved April 16, 2017.
  10. ^ Sepinwall, Alan (July 1, 2015). "'The Sopranos' Rewind: Season 1, Episode 5: 'College'". Uproxx. Archived from the original on April 17, 2017. Retrieved April 16, 2017.
  11. ^ Ishiguro, Kazuo (1993). The remains of the day. Vintage international (7. pr. ed.). New York: Vintage Books. ISBN 978-0-679-73172-6.
  12. ^ Hawthorne, Nathaniel (1994). The scarlet letter. Dover thrift editions. New York: Dover Publications. ISBN 978-0-486-28048-6.
  13. ^ Ugoku. "The Sopranos location guide - Filming locations for". Archived from the original on January 13, 2020. Retrieved January 26, 2020.

External links[edit]