Thanksgiving is a time in these United States for good food and merriment and naps after turkey. It is also a time for realizing how little you like your relatives and how few hiding places there are in your house. Goddamn, Uncle Dave just won’t stop drinking and no one will say anything. In some houses (like mine) the television is on as soon as the first family member is up and about (this person is more often than not my mother) and tuned to the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade. Are we paying attention to it? No, not really. Why would we be? The parade is a long B-list-star-studded commercial before the National Dog Show comes on at noon.
In checking the TV Guide for this Thanksgiving, I have found that TBS is airing each Thanksgiving-themed episode of Friends in a marathon, as big a staple in some households as turkey and cranberry sauce. I grew up watching Friends and could probably give a summary of each episode based on its title. “The One Where No One’s Ready”? Shit, that’s the bottle episode in which Ross wants everyone to haul ass to his benefit and Phoebe gets the hummus.
So here, as a tribute to both the holiday and my fondness for the beloved television show, is my ranking of Thanksgiving episodes of Friends.
#10 Season 2 – No Episode
Season 2 lands in last place purely because it has no Thanksgiving-themed episode. This is a bit bizarre, considering that every other season has the Thanksgiving episode. Even show creator David Crane has said that these episodes are “hallmarks” of Friends. Normally a Thanksgiving episode will be the eighth or ninth in the season, but Season 2′s eighth episode aired on November 16th and the ninth episode did not follow it until December 14th. Boo.
#9 The One With The Late Thanksgiving (Season 10)
Friends became less funny towards the end of its run and Season 10 was more concerned with wrapping up plotlines and character arcs more than anything else. Mike and Phoebe married and Ross and Rachel of course reconciled and got back together. Joey’s life was up in the air – not like he knew he would inevitably end up in California, in the cringe-worthy and ill-fated spin-off series Joey. “The One With The Late Thanksgiving” ends with the announcement that Monica and Chandler are able to adopt a child from a pregnant woman in Ohio (played by the always-lovable Anna Faris). This episode also gave us this beautiful and not-at-all creepy picture of Joey:
And the single greatest reaction from Ross:
Thanksgiving is tangential to this Season 7 episode (one might call it a moo point) in which the plot points are divided between Rachel trying to woo her attractive and much younger assistant Tag, Ross desperately trying to remember all fifty states for a game Chandler has brought to the gang, and Chandler admitting his fear of dogs to the obviously shocked and indignant group.
#7 The One With The Rumor (Season 8)
This episode is most well-remembered for being the one where Brad Pitt guest stars as an old high school friend of Monica’s who hates Rachel, going so far as to make an I-Hate-Rachel club back in high school. While Jennifer Aniston and Brad Pitt were a couple then and the episode drew on their popularity to make the situation all the more comical, it now has a different tone, what with all the publicity that swarmed Aniston and Pitt when the married couple split. Be that as it may, the episode is still hilarious. In my opinion, Phoebe lands the funniest lines with Joey in close second. The episode was also nominated for multiple Emmy awards, including one for Brad Pitt in his guest role.
#6 The One With Chandler In A Box (Season 4)
The most-viewed clip on Youtube from this episode is this zinger from Monica after being accused of grossness when she invites Richard’s son to Thanksgiving dinner. This episode is heavier than others on this list (accounting for my mid-ranking) as Chandler and Joey have not reconciled fully after Chandler kisses Joey’s then-girlfriend Kathy, prompting Joey’s “punishment” by putting Chandler in the eponymous box.
#5 The One With Rachel’s Other Sister (Season 9)
Christina Applegate is one of my favorite guest stars on Friends. This is her first appearance as Rachel’s self-absorbed sister Amy who crashes Thanksgiving dinner and gets into an argument with Rachel that culminates in the above catfight. Christina Applegate won an Emmy for her performance and it’s no wonder why. She is a comic scene-stealer and head and shoulders above Reese Witherspoon, who played Rachel’s other sister, Jill, in a single episode in season 6 and was never seen again.
#4 The One Where Ross Got High (Season 6)
“The One Where Ross Got High” is a definite highlight of Friends as a show because it introduced the world to Rachel’s trifle, which has since been made by many people to taste test if it really “tastes like feet!” as Ross so elegantly discovered. Jack and Judy Geller (Elliot Gould and Christina Pickles, two of my other favorite frequent guest stars) make an appearance at dinner, too, where we learn that they don’t like Chandler, and many many truths come out.
It is an ensemble cast at its best. And sitcom humor at its funniest.
#3 The One With The Football (Season 3)
Season 3 has a special place in my heart. It is the first full season my brother owned on DVD and we watched the shit out of it. “The One With The Football” aired after the 1996 Super Bowl and was the highest-rated Super Bowl lead-out program ever, as well as the highest-rated episode of the entire series. The gang plays a “harmless” game of touch football in the park, and it brings out the competitive side of Monica and Ross. Why else do you have to love it? Phoebe’s super cute shirt, of course.
#2 The One With All The Thanksgivings (Season 5)
Although there had been a few flashback episodes in the first four seasons, this episode takes the cake for the best use of it, both dramatically and humorously, delving into past Thanksgivings at the Geller house and the budding relationship between Monica and Chandler. Ross and Chandler got to look ridiculous in their dated fashion, while Jennifer Aniston donned a fake nose and Courteney Cox donned the fat suit for the second time. The episode also featured the Geller parents once more, as well as Morgan Fairchild in a quick bit as Chandler’s mother. Never one to be left out, Phoebe gets the last word:
#1 The One Where Underdog Gets Away (Season 1)
I suppose I’m a purist. “The One Where Underdog Gets Away” is the first Thanksgiving episode. Way back when Ross had a monkey (Why did Ross have a monkey?) and Joey had VD (not really) and Phoebe’s grandmother was still alive (RIP). It was the first Thanksgiving episode to introduce Chandler’s hatred for Thanksgiving food and the friends’ propensity to come together after a big fight, very much in keeping with the holiday spirit. These rankings are collapsible, dependent on mood, as you all must know, because I like Friends too much to say that any one episode is bad. Lists just look so damn beautiful, you know?