‘Tis the season of nostalgia as Ross, Rachel, Monica, Chandler, Phoebe and Joey are set to return to our households, yet again, with the much-anticipated Friends: The Reunion on May 27. No more fan-made trailers and posters are required as the cast is coming back together for real – even if it’s just for an interview.
Friends, which ended its epic 10-series run back in 2004, has set the bar for future sitcoms, becoming the standard go-to formula for comedies based on a group of friends living together. From will-they-won’t-they romances, to surprise pairings turning into the greatest of on-screen love stories; from dialogues that never ran out of fashion, to friendships that lasted a lifetime, the series created memories as vivid as reality.
Friends was, arguably, the beginning of comfort bingeing. While it’s crucial to register that not all its episodes have aged well, it’s also important to acknowledge how much succour it has provided, true to its name. And so, here’s a subjective list of our favourite episodes, one from every season there was, aka, The One(s) We Can Always Go Back To.
The One With The Blackout (Season 1)
When did blackouts become this entertaining? While the rest of the group bonds over secrets and candid discussions on passion, Chandler finds himself stuck at the ATM with a model he’s had a crush on. Phoebe sings, Ross tries to talk to Rachel about his feelings but is distracted when a cat lands on his shoulder, and a self-deprecating but relatable Chandler overthinks every single sentence he utters (Is it a vestibule? Maybe it’s an atrium… That gum was perfection)?
Also, Joey is the only one able to make sense of Chandler’s gibberish. Their love story was one for the ages.
The One With The Prom Video (Season 2)
This is the lobsters episode, which is why it never fades out of memory. Ross and Rachel are at loggerheads after Ross makes a list of pros and cons before choosing her over his ex-girlfriend Julie. An old videotape is all it takes for her to realise just how long he has harboured feelings for her. This moves Rachel enough to decide on giving their relationship a chance – finally jumpstarting the otherwise slow burning romance of the series.
The One Where No One’s Ready (Season 3)
Ross is getting increasingly anxious as none of his friends are ready for an event at his museum. Everyone is fighting in this episode – Ross with Rachel over getting dressed on time, Monica and the answering machine after a bad breakup with her ex-boyfriend Richard, and Chandler with Joey over… a sofa seat. Ross snaps and Rachel retorts by getting ‘ready’ – in pajamas.
The One With The Embryos (Season 4)
This episode should have been called the one with the Friends folklore. The gang’s fun and games come with a stake this time as Joey and Chandler pick up a fight with neighbors Monica and Rachel. A trivia contest is set up amongst them on who knows who better and Ross is roped in as the host. Epic revelations are made (hello Chanandler Bong) and the stakes are raised – either Chandler and Joey’s adopted chick and duck are given away, or they get Monica and Rachel’s apartment. This is a must-watch for those who are still wondering about Chandler’s profession… well, at least according to Rachel.
The One Where Everybody Finds Out (Season 5)
Ah, this is the sweetest episode. The one that makes #Monandler official, and how. Monica and Chandler are trying to keep their relationship a secret, and unbeknownst to them, are failing at it miserably. This episode was the merchandiser’s dream (‘They don’t know that they know we know’) – and also a gif maker’s (‘My eyes! My eyes!’) – with Phoebe and Rachel trying to outsmart Chandler and Monica in their own game of lies. Phoebe pretends to hit on Chandler, which he has to entertain to keep up with their façade, only to ultimately recoil and profess his love for Monica.
P.S. Phoebe’s awkward vs. Chandler’s awkward is too much fun to be missed.
The One With Unagi (Season 6)
Just to clarify, Unagi is not a kind of sushi. Just ask Ross. It’s a ‘state of total awareness,’ where you can pre-empt any attack and defend yourself irrespective of where you are. This doesn’t sit well with Phoebe and Rachel, who find themselves at the receiving end of his lessons, without asking for it. What happens next is a classic Friends battle of wits. In the meantime, Chandler and Monica’s plan of surprising each other with handmade gifts on Valentine’s Day goes awry. Both of them forget but keep up a pretense, coming up with hilarious last-moment gifts for one another.
A little bit of trivia here would be that this is the only season in which Janice, Chandler’s ex-girlfriend, does not physically make an appearance. To make up for it though, there’s something special awaiting her fans in this episode. *breaks into The Way You Look Tonight by Tony Bennett*
The One With The Truth About London (Season 7)
This episode was based on a true story. Originally, Monica and Joey were supposed to be paired together. But the makers shot the London sequence, where Monica and Chandler end up sleeping together in front of a live audience just as an experiment. And they just fit. Something similar happens in this episode that starts with Joey preparing his speech for Monica and Chandler’s wedding. The story goes on to reveal that it was, in fact, Joey that Monica was looking out for to have a one-night stand with in London. This makes Chandler uncomfortable, but Joey’s words of wisdom make it all go away, and gives the fans a line we would always associate them with – ‘We look at you and we see you together, and it just… it fits, you know?’
The One Where Rachel Has A Baby Part 2 (Season 8)
This episode gets full marks for Jennifer Aniston’s outstanding performance. Emma is born, and Rachel is red, literally. She is in so much pain, and yet she has this huge smile of relief on her face. In that moment, Ross and Rachel forget everything – their torrid past, their on again-off again affair – and transform into two people bound together for an eternity. They look at each other and share a kiss, rejoicing the birth of their daughter; and that’s when you realise that they perhaps have too much history between them to not love each other.
The One With Rachel’s Other Sister (Season 9)
A Friends list without a Thanksgiving episode? Is that even possible? This one was particularly fun, because it showed a side of Chandler no one knew about. We did know that Monica and Chandler were trying to become parents, but we had always seen Chandler’s fun, sarcastic side. Here, as Rachel brings her sister Amy to Monica’s Thanksgiving dinner, they have an argument over who gets to take care of Emma if something were to happen to her and Ross. Amy gets offended that they choose Monica and Chandler over her. Chandler is visibly moved, opening up about his fears of becoming a father, but gets upset soon after when he realizes that they would choose Judy and Jack Geller over him if something happened to Monica.
Side Note: Please watch this episode for Monica’s wedding china. They deserve a tribute of their own.
The One With Princess Consuela (Season 10)
Season 10 had a lot of memorable episodes. Phoebe’s beautiful winter wedding, Chandler convincing Erica to consider him and Monica for adopting her child, and of course, Rachel getting off the plane. It was actually one of those rare series’ that concluded without too much of a debate about its ending. The One With Princess Consuela is the ultimate comfort watch if all you want is a good laugh. Mike and Phoebe made for the cutest pair, and this episode reminds you exactly why they are so perfect for each other. When Phoebe goes to the registration office to change her surname after her wedding, she realizes that she can get it changed to anything she wanted. She picks the name Princess Consuela Banana-Hammock. When Mike gets to know about this, he gives her a taste of her own medicine, deciding to change his name to Crap Bag. Need I say more?
Also, Joey getting a room of his own in Chandler and Monica’s new home is like the cherry on top of an already wholesome episode.
Friends, Season 1-10 is streaming on Netflix