College is the fifth episode of the first season of The Sopranos, and the fifth episode overall. Often cited as a highlight of the first season in particular and the series as a whole, it indicates a series in its infancy already willing both to court controversy and to break its own formula. The episode focuses exclusively on two parallel storylines - one which portrays the series' protagonist, Tony Soprano, in an uncompromising light as a sociopath, liar and murderer willing to endanger his daughter's life in a quest for vengeance; the other portraying his wife Carmela engaging in Catholic sacraments with sexual overtones. Nearly half the main cast does not appear in this episode, and two cast members (Lorraine Bracco and Robert Iler) have one brief scene each. Perhaps due to this daringness, in 2007, as the series was wrapping up, actors James Gandolfini, Edie Falco and Jamie-Lynn Sigler, series creator David Chase and critics for Time Magazine and Entertainment Weekly all cited this episode as their favorite of the series.
Starring: James Gandolfini (Tony Soprano), Lorraine Bracco (Dr. Jennifer Melfi), Edie Falco (Carmela Soprano), Michael Imperioli (Christopher Moltisanti), Dominic Chianese (credit only), Vincent Pastore (credit only), Steven Van Zandt (credit only), Tony Sirico (credit only), Robert Iler (Anthony Soprano, Jr.), Jamie-Lynn Sigler (Meadow Soprano)
And: Nancy Marchand (credit only)
Co-Starring: Lisa Arning (Peters' Wife), Ross Gibby (Bartender), Mark Kamine (Admissions Dean), Michael Manetta (Gas Station Attendant), Keith Nobbs (Bowdoin Student), Luke Reilly (Lon Le Doyenne), Sarah Thompson (Lucinda), Olivia Brynn Zaro (Peters' Daughter)
Tony and Meadow are in New England touring colleges for Meadow to attend after college. While they're alone, Meadow confronts Tony about his mob ties, and Tony confesses, although he does not reveal the full extent of his crimes. Yet when he spots a man he thinks he recognizes, he calls Christopher, who identifies the man as Fred Peters, which Tony suspects may be an alias to hide his real identity as Fabian "Febby" Petrulio, a former mob enforcer turned government witness. At dinner, Meadow uses the newfound honesty between her and Tony to confess to her drug usage, but she promises him she is no longer using drugs. Nonetheless, Tony drops her off with some girls from the college so he can track Peters, who catches sight of Tony and tries to track him down. The two engage in a cat-and-mouse game throughout the night: Tony confirms Peters' bust Peters sculpted in prison, and Peters tails Tony to his motel and nearly kills him as he returns with a drunken Meadow but backs off when an elderly couple passes by. Although Christopher asks permission to kill Peters for the prestige, Tony calls him off, and the next morning, while Meadow is interviewing at another college, Tony sneaks up on Peters at his small business office and garrottes him. Meadow is suspicious when she sees Tony's muddy shoes and cut hands, but he lies to her face, driving a wedge between the two of them.
Meanwhile, Carmela is sick in bed with the flu and home alone once she sends A.J. to spend the night at a friend's. Father Phil Intintola comes by to check on her, and the two of them drink wine and discuss world religions, the Bible and movies. When Dr. Melfi calls to reschedule her appointment with Tony due to her own case of the flu, Carmela learns Melfi is a woman, although Tony had previously told her she was a man. Father Phil comforts Carmela over more wine and baked ziti. The time comes for Father Phil to leave, but Carmela plies him with DVD movies and more wine to convince him to stay out of the thunderstorm and keep her company. As the night goes on, Carmela bursts out crying, and Father Phil takes her confession, in which she reveals her misgivings about Tony's life and sins. She takes communion from the increasingly inebriated Father Phil, and afterwards the two nearly kiss, but Father Phil runs into the bathroom to throw up. The next morning, Carmela reassures Father Phil nothing untoward happened the night before, although he confesses to having attraction toward her.
When Tony and Meadow return home, Carmela admits Father Phil spent the night. At first, Tony accuses her of doing something illicit with Father Phil, but when Carmela confronts Tony about Melfi's gender, it is his turn to apologize and attempt to explain himself.
- Eye on You, performed by Rocket from the Crypt: Christopher plays pool in the backroom of the Bada-Bing when Tony calls him the first time.
- Gold Leaves, performed by Michael Hoppe: Tony and Meadow have dinner and discuss how Tony came to be involved in the mob. Also later, the closing credits.
- Maine Two-Step, performed by the Basin Brothers: Tony leaves Meadow with two girls from Colby College.
- Cadence to Arms, performed by Dropkick Murphys: Peters checks at an Irish bar to see if Tony has been looking for him there.
- Fred Peters
- Killed by: Tony Soprano
- Method of death: Garrotte
- Ordered by: Tony Soprano
- Notes: While visiting Maine with his daughter, Tony spots a man he believes to be government informant Fabian "Febby" Petrulio. He and Petrulio (now "Fred Peters," thanks to the Witness Protection Program) engage in a cat-and-mouse game through the night until Tony confirms Peters' identity through a tell-tale bust of Ronald Reagan in Peters' business office. That same night, Peters tails Tony to his motel and nearly kills him right in front of Meadow, but he backs off when he sees witnesses enter the motel at the same time. The next morning, Peters tries to hire a junkie couple to whom he's dealing drugs to kill Tony, but they refuse. After they leave, Peters hears a sound outside his office. He investigates to see only a deer, but just as he thinks he's safe, Tony appears with a garrotte and grabs him. Peters begs for his life, saying he saw Tony at the motel the night before, but Tony is unmoved, and he pulls the garrotte tight until Peters dies in his arms.
- Total Episode Body Count: 1
The title refers to the fact that the entire episode revolves around Tony taking Meadow on a tour of colleges in New England, leaving Carmela and A.J. at home alone.
- Tony: Tony kills Fred Peters, a former made man who turned rat for the FBI. This is the first time in the series Tony is shown killing someone himself.
- Tony, A.J. and Meadow: Meadow confronts Tony about him being in the mob, and he reluctantly admits he receives some money from illegal activities, including gambling. Later on, she also tells him A.J. knows about Tony's other occupation, too.
- Carmela: Carmela learns Dr. Melfi is a woman, not a man as Tony had previously told her. This is also the first episode that shows Carmela directly expressing misgivings about what Tony does for a living.
- 1x01 - The Sopranos: Carmela talks about how much Father Phil loves the DVD player. In the pilot, they were initially seen watching Tony's laserdisc player, but Tony switched to DVD players (via a truckload stolen by Christopher and his friend Brendan Filone) in episode 1x02 - 46 Long.
Also, after killing Peters, Tony spots a flock of ducks flying south for the winter, and he stops and stares at them, no doubt reminded of the family of ducks who came to his swimming pool with whom he developed an attachment.
- 1x03 - Denial, Anger, Acceptance: At dinner, Meadow confesses to having taken crystal meth with her friend Hunter Scangarelo. She does not tell Tony that it was Christopher who sold it to her, however.
- 1x04 - Meadowlands: Meadow tells Tony she thinks A.J. may know of his mob connections. She is not being entirely forthcoming, however, because A.J. only knows of them because of the Website she showed him.
- MIA: Although credited, cast members Dominic Chianese, Vincent Pastore, Steven Van Zandt, Tony Sirico and Nancy Marchand do not appear this episode.
- Cast Change: This episode marks Paul Schulze's first appearance as Father Phil, a role which Michael Santoro had played in the character's debut in episode 1x01 - The Sopranos.
- Tony's Education: Tony reveals Seton Hall as the college he attended for a semester and a half, and he admits that he was not a good student, although he was fascinated by history. Tony's love of history would become a recurring theme throughout the series.
- Russian Women: When Tony calls to check up on her, Irina complains of his poor treatment of her compared to her amputee cousin Svetlana, whose fiancée she compares to "a knight in white satin armor." This is the first reference in the series to Svetlana Kirilenko, whose first appearance would come in episode 2x12 - Knight in White Satin Armor.
Behind the Scenes
- Awards & Nominations: Writers James Manos, Jr. and David Chase won an Emmy for Outstanding Writing for a Drama Series for their work on this episode, which also won the Banff Rockie Award for Best Continuing Series. In addition, director Allen Coulter was nominated for a DGA Award for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Dramatic Series' - Night.
Allusions and References
- The Godfather: The 1972 Oscar-winning drama is frequently cited as the greatest gangster movie ever made. It is also the movie most frequently cited on The Sopranos.
- Tony: They've seen The Godfather, right?
- Casino: Martin Scorsese-directed gangster movie about a Jewish gambler, played by Robert DeNiro, who is hired by the Italian mob to run the fictitious Tangiers Casino in Las Vegas, with Sharon Stone as his greedy, pill-popping, unstable wife. Upon its release in 1995, critical response was mostly lukewarm—although hailed for its production values and performances, it was largely dismissed as a retread of Scorsese's more acclaimed 1990 film GoodFellas. Some even cited it and 1990's The Godfather, Part III as proof that the first two Godfather installments and GoodFellas had played out the gangster genre—claims which would effectively cease with the debut of The Sopranos in 1999. Audiences, too, were less than responsive. Although the film grossed nearly as much as GoodFellas, it did so at over twice the budget. Nonetheless, upon its release to home video, the film found a cult following, particularly amongst younger audiences, who admired it for its Vegas-like excesses, from its lavish, gaudy set design and costuming to its record-breaking use of profanity to its three-hour runtime to Stone's Oscar-nominated, over-the-top performance.
- Meadow: Not really. Casino we like: Sharon Stone, '70s clothes, pills.
- Mario Cuomo: Queens-born son of Italian immigrant store owners who became a widely respected and admired governor of New York from 1983 through 1994.
- Tony: You know, there was a time then when the Italian people didn't have a lot of options.
Meadow: You mean like Mario Cuomo?
- Potsdam Conference: The third and final meeting of leaders of the "Big Three" Allied countries during World War II (the United States of America, the United Kingdom and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics), held in Potsdam, Germany in 1945. It is less famous than their second meeting at Yalta in the USSR—perhaps because Yalta was the last meeting of American President Franklin D. Roosevelt, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and Soviet Premier Josef Stalin. (By the time of Potsdam, Roosevelt had died, and Churchill left halfway through Potsdam to be replaced by his successor, Clement Attlee.) The conference resulted in the Potsdam Agreement, which outlined the Allied plan for Germany after the war, and the Potsdam Declaration, in which the Allies outlined their terms for Japan's surrender.
- Tony: Well, I kinda liked history. ... Napoleon, the Roman Empire, the Potsdam Conference, that kind of thing.
Meadow: What's the Potsdam Conference?
Tony: Pots-damned if I know now.
- The Last Temptation of Christ: Scorsese's 1988 film starring Willem Dafoe as Jesus Christ, who is tempted by Satan while on the cross to live the life of an ordinary man. At last, Christ returns to the cross and accepts his destiny. The film was condemned by many Christian groups upon its initial release as blasphemous, particularly for scenes which depicted Jesus as an ordinary man having sex with his wife, Mary Magdalene (Barbara Hershey), but over the ensuing 20 years since its release, many Christian groups have held it in a much more favorable light than that with which it was first received.
- Carmela: Good as Willem Dafoe was, I cannot picture that Jesus looked like him. ... Not that he didn't do a good job, Willem Dafoe, but the story's confusing. So he gets down off the cross?
- Taxi Driver: Classic 1976 Scorsese film starring DeNiro as Travis Bickle, a New York City cab driver who becomes obsessed with what he sees as the "filth" on the city's streets and guns down a pimp (played by Harvey Keitel). In one of the film's most famous scenes, Travis, having just bought his guns, practices looking tough and doing quick draws in the mirror. "You talkin' to me?" he says to the imaginary criminal in the mirror. "You talkin' to me? You talkin' to me? Then who the hell else are you talking... you talking to me? Well, I'm the only one here. Who the fuck do you think you're talking to? Oh, yeah? OK." And with that, he draws his gun.
- Father Phil: You know, originally, Bobby D was supposed to have that role? ... "You talkin' to me, Pilate? Well, you must be talkin' to me, 'cause I don't see nobody else here except Barrabas here."
- The Remains of the Day: The 1993 adaptation of a Kazuo Ishiguro novel features Emma Thompson as Miss Kenton, a British housekeeper who has feelings for Stevens, the head butler at her house, played by Anthony Hopkins, but is driven away by his emotional coldness.
At one point in this episode, Carmela and Father Phil watch the movie on DVD, and Carmela breaks down crying while watching the scene in which Miss Kenton nearly admits her feelings for Stevens.
- Carmela: Oh, and I know you love that DVD player. I just got Remains of the Day. See? Do I know you?
Father Phil: Anything with Emma Thompson, I'm there.
- Casablanca: Classic 1942 film starring Humphrey Bogart as Rick, a nightclub owner in Casablanca, Morocco during World War II, whose life is thrown into turmoil when his ex-lover Ilsa (Ingrid Bergman) shows up at his nightclub with her new husband Victor Laszlo (Paul Henreid), a French Resistance leader. In one of the film's most famous lines, a drunken Rick muses to himself about his bad luck at running into Ilsa, whom he still loves, saying, "Of all the gin joints, in all the towns, in all the world, she walks into mine."
- Carmela: I was just thinkin' about when we watched Casablanca last week. ... You know when Bogey says, "Of all the lousy gin joints in the world, why'd she have to pick mine"?
- Nathaniel Hawthorne: Nineteenth-century American author best known for his novels The Scarlet Letter and The House of the Seven Gables and his short story collection Twice-Told Tales. While Meadow interviews at Bowdoin College in Maine, Tony spots a quote in the lobby of the admissions office: "No man can wear one face to himself and another to the multitude without finally getting bewildered as to which may be true." A passing Bowdoin Student declares Hawthorne "our most famous alumnus." Although Hawthorne did attend Bowdoin, his status as its "most famous" alumnus is arguable, as he would compete for that title with poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, President Franklin Pierce and sexologist Alfred Kinsey. The quote Tony sees does indeed hang in the admissions office of the college, however.
- The Thorn Birds: Classic TV miniseries from 1983 based on the novel of the same title by Colleen McCullough. The story revolves around a handsome Catholic priest (Richard Chamberlain) in mid-20th century Australia who is seduced by a wealthy woman (Barbara Stanwyck), but he falls in love with a younger woman (Rachel Ward), with tragic consequences for them both.
- Carmela: Would I have told you about it voluntarily if there had been anything to be ashamed of? Do I look like the friggin' thorn bird over here?
- Meadow confronts Tony about his mob connections. At first he denies it, but he reluctantly admits he earns money from illegal activities, including gambling.
- Tony first spots Peters and, with Meadow in the car next to him, drives wildly down the highway trying to tail Peters' SUV.
- Tony has told Christopher Febby Petrulio sculpted a bust of Frank Sinatra for Jackie Aprile, to which Christopher responded, "That was Frank, that bust? I always thought it was Shaquille. Fucker needs to practice a little on lips." Tony is still not sure, however, that Fred Peters is Febby Petrulio, so he tracks down Peters' travel agency business through an ad in the Yellow Pages. Inside the small trailer office, Tony spots a bust of Ronald Reagan with oversized lips—the proof that he has found his man.
- Carmela confesses the sin of living with Tony to Father Phil.
- Carmela takes communion from Father Phil, kneeling before him. After he has drunk the communal wine, Father Phil sways on his feet from all the wine he has drunk.
- The sick Carmela and the drunk Father Phil have drifted off to sleep next to each other on the floor. Carmela is awoken by a phone call from A.J., and as she tells Father Phil about it, they lean towards each other, nearly kissing, until Father Phil jumps to his feet and runs into the bathroom to throw up.
- Tony sneaks up behind Peters with a garrotte. Peters tries to save himself by saying he could have shot Tony at the motel last night with his daughter, but Tony is unmoved and finishes the job.
- Meadow: Did the Cusamano kids ever find fifty thousand dollars in Krugerrands and a .45 automatic while they were hunting for Easter eggs?
- Tony: There is no mafia.
- Meadow: Sometimes I wish you were like other dads. Then like, Mr. Scangarelo, for example, an advertising executive for Big Tobacco, or lawyers? Eugh. So many dads are full of shit.
Tony: And I'm not.
Meadow: You finally told the truth about this.
- Tony: What do you got?
Christopher: Wet shoes.
Tony: You chose this life. If you don't want to work in the rain, try out for the fuckin' Yankees.
- Father Phil: To take in through the eyes a beautiful woman, is that so different than a sunset, a Douglas fir or any of God's handiwork?
- Carmela: Forgive me, Father, for I have sinned. It has been four weeks since my last confess... what am I talking about? That's a lie. I haven't truly confessed in 20 years.
Father Phil: Go on.
Carmela: I have forsaken what is right for what is easy, allowing what I know is evil in my house, allowing my children... oh, my God, my sweet children to be a part of it, because I wanted things for them, wanted a better life, good schools. I wanted this house, wanted money in my hands, money to buy anything I ever wanted. I'm so ashamed. My husband, I think he has committed horrible acts. I think he has... well, you know all about him, Father Phil. I'm the same. I-I've-I've said nothing. I've done nothing about it. I got a bad feeling. It's just a matter of time before God compensates me with outrage for my sins.
- Carmela: Of all the fanuc priests in the world, why did I have to get the one who's straight?
- Tony: Jimmy says hello from Hell, you fuck!
- Tony: The priest spent the night here, nothing happened, and you're telling me this because?
Carmela: You might hear something, take it the wrong way. His car was out front all night.
Tony: You know what? This is too fucked up for me even to think about. What'd you guys do for 12 hours, play "Name That Pope"?