Full disclosure: I have seen every episode of Friends, the television sitcom that aired from 1994-2004, dozens of times. It’s my go-to bedtime show, background show, holiday show (I watch all the Thanksgiving episodes every year). The six friends are great, with the exception of Ross. He drives me nuts (case in point: We never see him parenting his son! He’s appalled at the idea of a male nanny! He’s appalled at the idea of his ex-wife Carol marrying Susan! He’s appalled at his son playing with Barbies! Hmm…all of these seem to have a homophobic bent to them). The following list outlines what are, in my subjective but expert opinion, each character’s best episode of the series.
The witty, sarcastic, smart friend in the group is my favorite. He’s everyone’s favorite. As an added bonus, the actor, Matthew Perry, also happens to share my birthday (August 19, hint hint). He has the funniest lines in every episode, and his unique comedic timing is famously on point. Choosing his best episode is pretty much impossible. However, in season 1, episode 7, “The One With the Blackout,” Chandler has one of his most memorable scenes. During a blackout in New York City, he gets trapped in an ATM vestibule (is it an atrium?) with Jill Goodacre. We listen to his inner monologue as he berates himself for saying stupid things like, “Gum would be perfection.” Okay, I have to pick another. Season 6, episode 24, “The One With the Proposal” is Chandler at his most emotional and romantic. It gets me every time.
If I were a Friends character, I’d probably be mostly Chandler with a heap of Monica. She’s organized, a bit Type A, and gets really competitive. Season 9, episode 24, “The One in Barbados: Part II,” gives us both Monica with frizzy, big hair AND Monica with beaded cornrows. It also gives us a hyper-competitive Monica playing ping pong against Mike (Paul Rudd). Pure gold. My other favorite (she gets two) is another one where Monica obsesses over a game. In season 4, episode 12, “The One With the Embryos.” Monica and Rachel battle Joey and Chandler for Monica’s apartment in a Jeopardy-style game of who knows who best–the guys or the girls? The guys ultimately win the apartment when Monica and Rachel don’t know what Chandler’s job is. Monica: “Something to do with transponding…” Rachel: Oh oh! He’s a…trans…a transponster!” Monica: “THAT’S NOT EVEN A WORD!”
Joey is the loveable doofus of the show. He has so many hilarious, goofy lines, but it was difficult to pick out his best episode. I went with season 3, episode 2, “The One Where No One’s Ready.” This bottle episode takes place entirely within Monica and Rachel’s apartment, and the events play out in real time. Ross is nagging everybody to get ready, because he doesn’t want to be late for his speech at the museum. Joey and Chandler fight over dibs to the armchair. Joey steals the couch cushions (the essence of the chair!”). He ends up leaving the apartment and returns wearing all of Chandler’s clothes. “Could I BE wearing any more clothes?” He does some lunges. While going commando. This episode also has the “he drank the fat” moment.
Honorable Mention: Season 10, episode 11, “The One Where the Stripper Cries.” Joey is a contestant on Pyramid and is absolutely terrible. [You put this in your coffee] “A spoon, your hands, your face!” [It’s white] “Paper, snow, a ghost!”
Honorable Mention 2: All of the episodes in season 5, when Joey has to keep Monica and Chandler’s relationship a secret.
I think Rachel goes through the most character development on the show. She starts as a spoiled, jobless, 20-something who hasn’t quite thought through her decision to try to make it on her own. She ends the series as a mom with an awesome career. My favorite episode of her’s, however, is the pilot: season 1, episode 1, “The One Where Monica Gets a Roommate.” Rachel is the catalyst for the entire series, running into Central Perk sopping wet in a wedding dress. She’d just left her fiance, Barry, at the altar, hoping that Monica can help her out. At the end of the episode, she tries to explain her newfound independence to her father over the phone, “It’s like all my life everyone’s told me, ‘You’re a shoe, you’re a shoe, you’re a shoe!’ Well, what if I don’t want to be a shoe? What if I want to be a purse, or a hat? No I don’t want you to buy me a hat, I’m saying I am a hat! It’s a metaphor, daddy!”
In one of the weirdest storylines of the show, Phoebe serves as a surrogate for her brother’s triplets. In season 5, episode 3, “The One Hundredth,” she finally gives birth. The end of the episode is Phoebe’s most heartfelt moment of the show, saying goodbye to the three babies.
Honorable Mention: season 5, episode 14, “The One Where Everybody Finds Out.” One of my all-time favorite episodes. Phoebe finds out about Monica and Chandler’s secret romance, so she and Rachel start messing with them. Phoebe utters one of the most iconic Friends lines, “They don’t know that we know they know we know.” The episode culminates with Phoebe and Chandler pretending to want to hook up with each other, in a weird game of chicken. Insert gif of Phoebe dancing for Chandler, all day every day. “I’m very bendy!”
The best Ross episode is a classic. All I need to say is “PIVOT!” In season 5, episode 16, “The One With the Cop,” Ross ropes Chandler and Rachel into helping him move a couch up a stairwell to his apartment. Hilarity ensues. I’m naming this episode his best because it’s the first one I remembered. It’s funny and it doesn’t make me hate Ross. Except, c’mon dude. Pay the extra for delivery.
As I get deeper into my 20s, I identify with this show more and more. I recently resonated with the season 1 episode, “The One With George Stephanopoulos.” Phoebe, Monica, and Rachel are having a girls night and end up bemoaning how none of them has a life plan figured out. Or, in Phoebe’s case, “a pla.” Phoebe is also wearing an incredible striped onesie and high ponytail. I feel that way sometimes. But I’m reminded that no one’s journey is a straight line. Some days, it’s okay to to just eat pizza, watch Friends, and stop worrying.