Here’s how I’ll pick the 3 episodes: the episode rated most highly on IMDB, an episode I felt was outstanding for a specific reason, and finally my personal favourite.
Up till last year, I had not watched a single episode of Friends. Eventually, to do research for a school project, I sat down and watched all 236 episodes over 4 months. (I also made a promise to myself to watch Frasier and Seinfeld, which I will fulfil very soon.)
Here we go: my 3 special episodes of Friends.
Top-rated episode on IMDB: “The One Where Everybody Finds Out”, season 5 episode 14
Synopsis: Phoebe’s discovery of Chandler and Monica’s romance means that everybody but Ross knows about the new couple. However, Pheobe and Rachel devise a plan to force Chandler and Monica to come clean. When Chandler and Monica realise this, they are determined to beat Pheobe and Rachel at their own game, culminating in a steamy stand-off between Phoebe and Chandler. Meanwhile, Ross tries to secure Ugly Naked Guy’s apartment.
This episode is tied at 9.6/10 with the finale as the most highly-rated Friends episode on IMDB, with good reason, as this episode is spectacular. A Friends episode works best when its story involves most, if not all, of the characters at the same time, and “The One Where Everybody Finds Out” links everybody but Ross in the same story that drives this episode.
What I loved about this episode was how it brought out the quirks in every character while still progressing towards the climax of Phoebe and Chandler’s stand-off. Joey is dismayed and confused at the bamboozling going on, Monica is determined to win because she does not lose at anything, Phoebe makes Chandler believe she just may be interested in him because she is that kooky and Chandler is insecure, and Rachel wants to get one up on Monica.
This episode had almost everything – great quotes (“The messers have become the messees!”, “They don’t know that we know they know we know!”), great physical comedy (Ross’s little jump to hug Rachel and Phoebe, and his rage and dismay at finding out in the tag), and that hilariously awkward final scene between Chandler and Phoebe, with Monica and Rachel listening in separately.
Outstanding episode: “The One Where No One’s Ready”, season 3 episode 2
Synopsis: Ross is anxious to get everybody dressed in time for his black-tie event where he will be giving a speech. However, everybody has their own reasons for not dressing: Chandler and Joey are squabbling over the rightful occupant of an armchair, Monica frets over a voicemail from her old flame, Phoebe gets a stain on her dress, and Rachel searches for the perfect outfit for the occasion.
One thing I love about multi-camera comedies, like Friends, is the feeling that I am watching a live performance. The actors know there is an audience watching, they film on set instead of on location, and more importantly, the sets used rarely change.
This episode takes the choice of set to the highest level, as the entire episode happens within the confines of Rachel and Monica’s living room. What’s more, the episode is set in real time, so the characters pop in and out of the living room as time ticks away and Ross gets more frustrated. It’s a wonderful thing to watch, somewhat similar to a one-shot scene, as you get an idea of the deft writing needed to sustain the flow of the episode.
On their own, the individual storylines are not that funny, with the exception of Chandler and Joey’s squabble which ends at Joey wearing all of Chandler’s clothes. When put together, they form a very entertaining and technically impressive episode.
Favourite episode: “The One With All The Poker”, season 1 episode 18
Synopsis: The girls challenge the guys to a poker game, which the guys win handily. Their rivalry grows as the girls get frustrated and the guys, Ross especially, gloat about their winnings. They have two rematches and eventually, Ross and Rachel face off in a final hand with pride and a lot of money at stake. Meanwhile, Rachel tries to find a job.
Friends works perfectly when the storyline of an episode involves the characters playing a game or competing against each other. I could have picked “The One With The Football” (also a girls-versus-guys competition) or “The One With The Embryos” (or more appropriately, the one with the classic trivia quiz) for this choice, but this episode just edged the others out.
For one, this episode focuses on the poker plot throughout. We see the rivalry between the girls and the guys spark then intensify after their first and second game, combining with Rachel’s job hunt plot for the final tense finish. The stakes were high, both in terms of money and emotions. Also, this episode would advance the Ross/Rachel romance. This was front and centre of the storyline, as Ross admitted he was still in love with Rachel by deliberately losing his final hand.
Finally, this episode features perhaps my favourite ever Friends scene: the guys dancing to Marcel’s favourite song (you can see it in the embedded clip).
Of course, Friends was good enough that I could have easily listed 10 episodes that I loved – the season finales especially – which nailed the balance between comedy and sentimentality. I expect to write more about this show, along with a few others, in an upcoming article.