College (The Sopranos)

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The Sopranos episode
College Sopranos.jpg
Episode no. Season 1
Episode 5
Directed by Allen Coulter
Written by James Manos Jr.
David Chase
Cinematography by Alik Sakharov
Production code 105
Original air date February 7, 1999 (1999-02-07)
Running time 56 minutes
Guest appearance(s)

see below

Episode chronology
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Episode chronology

"College" is the fifth episode of the first season of the HBO television drama series The Sopranos, which originally aired on February 7, 1999. It was written by co-producer James Manos Jr. and series creator/executive producer David Chase and directed by Allen Coulter.

The episode was rated as the best of the series by TIME magazine,[1] and was ranked #2 on TV Guide's list of "TV's Top 100 Episodes of All Time".[2]


* = credit only

Guest cast[edit]


Tony takes Meadow on a trip to Maine to visit three colleges she is considering. The pair first visit Bates College, and Meadow makes a joke about the school's well-known non-sexual atmosphere. On the drive from Bates to Colby College, Tony is taken aback when his daughter asks if he is "in the Mafia", and his instinctive reaction is to deny everything. When Meadow proves skeptical, he relents and admits that a portion of his income is from illegal gambling and other activities. Meadow admits to taking speed to study for SATs, but after Tony reacts angrily, will not state her source of the drugs. Both seem relieved by this mutual honesty on difficult topics.

Later, Tony spots a familiar face from afar at a gas station: Fabian Petrulio, a former member of the DiMeo crime family who turned FBI informant and was relocated under the Witness Protection Program. Despite Meadow's obvious alarm and suspicions at his agitated reaction (chasing a car through oncoming traffic), Tony resolves to locate the man, confirm his identity, and personally execute him, all while continuing his trip with Meadow. Tony leaves his daughter at a college bar while he tracks down Petrulio, now known as "Fred Peters." He confirms Petrulio's identity when he sees a bust of Ronald Reagan in Petrulio's office, similar to those Petrulio had created while in prison. Tony fails to realize that his snooping has not gone unnoticed. Carrying a handgun, Petrulio tracks Tony and his daughter back to the roadside motel where they are staying. However, the presence of two elderly bystanders prevents Petrulio from taking a shot at an unsuspecting Tony.

The next morning, Tony drops off Meadow for an interview at Colby College, and leaves to ambush Petrulio at his workplace. Tony strangles him with a length of wire as Petrulio pleads for his life. During his drive from Colby to Bowdoin College, Tony is met with more skepticism from his daughter, and after arriving at Bowdoin, is struck by a Nathaniel Hawthorne quote on display in the admissions office: "No man can wear one face to himself and another to the multitude, without finally getting bewildered as to which one may be true."

Meanwhile, back in New Jersey, Carmela has been at home recovering from a case of the flu, and is paid a surprise visit by Father Phil while A.J. is at a friend's sleepover. Father Phil and Carmela relax with baked ziti, wine, and the film The Remains of the Day. Carmela's emotions are spurred when Dr. Melfi phones to reschedule Tony's appointment, revealing to Carmela that her husband's psychiatrist is female. Carmela pours her heart out to Father Phil about her marriage and her fears for her children and her soul, and then takes communion with him. Carmela is nearly driven to kiss the priest romantically, but the moment is lost when his stomach revolts, presumably against his alcohol consumption. The Father sleeps it off on the sofa until morning. Tony and Meadow return the same day, but Tony's inquiry as to what Carmela was doing spending her evening alone with another man is turned around when she mentions her conversation with Dr. Melfi, putting Tony on the defensive.


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

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.


  • 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.[4] 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.[5] James Gandolfini and Jamie-Lynn Sigler similarly cite this installment.[citation needed]
  • Gas station and car chase scenes were in Rockland County; 9W Palisades, Pearl River and Orangeburg locations. Restaurant scene was filmed in 'The Old 76 House' in Tappan, NY.
  • 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.[6]
  • This is the first episode where Father Phil is played by Paul Schulze. He was originally portrayed by Michael Santoro in the pilot.


"College" is often considered to be one of the greatest episodes of The Sopranos. Todd VanDerWerff 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." VanDerWerff also praised the cinematography (such as 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."[7] 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."[8]


  • The song played when Christopher plays pool in the backroom 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.


James Manos Jr. and David Chase won 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. ^ Time: The Best of the Sopranos
  2. ^ "TV's Top 100 Episodes of All Time" TV Guide; June 15, 2009; Pages 34-49
  3. ^
  4. ^ The Sopranos: The Complete First Season: DVD interview
  5. ^ DVD commentary from episode 13 of season 4, Whitecaps
  6. ^ Martin, Brett (2007-10-30). "Welcome to New Jersey: A Sense of Place". The Sopranos: The Complete Book. New York: Time. p. 32. ISBN 978-1-933821-18-4. 
  7. ^ VanDerWerff, Todd (June 16, 2010). "The Sopranos: "Meadowlands"/"College"". The A.V. Club. Retrieved April 16, 2017. 
  8. ^ Sepinwall, Alan (July 1, 2015). "‘The Sopranos’ Rewind: Season 1, Episode 5: 'College'". Uproxx. Retrieved April 16, 2017. 

External links[edit]