Setting the Table
Some families watch football on Thanksgiving, some prepare their Black Friday shopping plans, and some sit around and talk about what they’re thankful for. In my family, we don’t care about football, we don’t like crowds, and we are thankful for nothing. Okay, that last part isn’t true, they’re all thankful for me. So, after we’ve eaten more than the average rhinoceros, we cozy up on the couch and watch each of the Thanksgiving episodes of Friends (1994-2004) as we the limits of our digestive systems are tested. After years of careful research, it’s time I share with you the official ranking of the Friendsgiving episodes.
10. “The One with the List” – Season 2
Speaking of lists, let’s start with an episode named after one. If you’re struggling to think of what Thanksgiving list the title could be referring to, don’t think too hard. It has nothing to do with Thanksgiving. In fact, season two’s Friendsgiving is playing at a disadvantage (#sportsball). This is the only episode where our favorite friends don’t actually eat a Thanksgiving meal. In this episode, Monica is hired to create recipes using the synthetic food product, Mockolate. The primary focus, though, is a whole production between Ross and Rachel that, like many of their problems, could be solved by communicating. The Mockolate jokes are pretty good (“just waiting for it to stop bubbling”), but this is the one Friendsgiving episode that sometimes gets skipped.
Cranberry Sauce Tier
9. “The One Where Underdog Gets Away” – Season 1
The first Friendsgiving. It would be easy to rank this episode higher simply for starting the Friendsgiving trend, but it really is the weakest of the episodes that actually features a feast. When all of the friends suddenly find themselves without holiday plans, Monica agrees to cook for them all. Then, for some reason, they’re all little bitches to Monica. This woman is single-handedly making Thanksgiving dinner for six people and they have the audacity to complain that there aren’t the right kinds of potatoes? Instead of sitting around complaining, why don’t you pick up whisk, Joey? Side note, I may be a Monica.
8. “The One with the Rumor” – Season 8
There are a lot of jokes on Friends that don’t age well. The show is a product of its time and that means some cultural messages embedded in the show are downright icky by today’s standards. The third act of “The One with the Rumor” is one of the ickiest. Rachel, Monica, and Ross’s old classmate Will comes to Thanksgiving dinner. The primary conflict for the episode is that Rachel is attracted to Will, but Will still hates her because she was mean in high school. The comedy here is heightened by the fact that Will is played by Brad Pitt, Jennifer Anniston’s then-husband. Now, the first two acts of the episode are hilarious. We’ve got Phoebe ogling Will, Chandler screaming nonsense at a football game, Will screaming “YAMS!” Then, the big reveal comes: In high school, Ross and Will started an I Hate Rachel Club, where they started a rumor that Rachel was a “hermaphrodite.” What follows is a problematic tirade of insults thrown at intersex individuals from all characters and a weird throwaway about a predatory librarian. Include this episode in the rotation, but press skip once Will says, “We started a rumor.”
7. “The One where Chandler Doesn’t Like Dogs” – Season 7
There are two primary issues with this episode. Number one, all of the characters lose several IQ points for this particular episode. During a game where they try to name all of the states, no one can name all fifty states. If you’re on a timer, I can see the pressure causing a problem. However, the amount of error in their counts is what is flabbergasting. Even Joey coming up with 56 states seems too stupid for Joey. Number two, I now have to exclaim, “regular celery!” any time I come across celery and it’s not good for my relationships. Any episode that features Tag (Eddie Cahill) gets a few bonus beauty points.
Sweet Potato Casserole Tier
6. “The One with the Late Thanksgiving” – Season 10
The final Friendsgiving. This episode is the in the final phase of sitcom character development, where all of the characters become caricatures of their former selves. For this reason, Monica spends this episode trying to outdo her previous Thanksgiving meal after Phoebe tricks her. This Friendsgiving lands right in the middle of the list because there are just as many hits as misses. All of the jokes about the vein in Monica’s forehead fall flat. All of the jokes about Chandler’s “chan-berries” are gold. The Joey-Ross outing to the hockey game seems like it’s already happened before. The Phoebe-Rachel outing to the baby beauty pageant is hilarious. There will never not be an opportunity where I don’t say “Congratu-lations!” like Jennifer Anniston’s perfect line delivery.
5. “The One with Rachel’s Other Sister” – Season 9
Season 9’s Friendsgiving episode features one of the show’s all-time best guest performances in Christina Applegate’s Amy, Rachel’s older sister. (Applegate crushes Amy’s aloofness and impulsivity and crushes every one of her lines.) Amy shows up for Thanksgiving unannounced because she needs hair straightener. First of all, amazing. Once she remembers that Rachel had a baby, she gets excited at the prospect of Ross and Rachel dying so she can get the baby. This leads to a tense Thanksgiving where everyone wants to know who has to die to get the baby. In addition to the fantastic introduction of Amy, this episode also feels like a discussion your friends/family would actually end up having at the most dysfunctional of holidays. It is also a great chance to watch our friends grow up as Chandler comes into his own as an adult.
Fried Turkey Tier
4. “The One with All the Thanksgivings” – Season 5
If you think about the Friendsgiving episodes, you probably go straight to this one. This is the one with the iconic turkey-on-the-head scenes. But I can’t do anything straight, so this episode isn’t number one for me. That doesn’t mean it’s not amazing, though. After an especially filling meal, the gang decides to go around and talk about what they’re thankful for. When Joey deters that conversation to talk about thongs, they decide to recount their worst Thanksgivings. Through the flashbacks we finally get to see Chandler’s reason for hating Thanksgiving, we get to see one of Phoebe’s past lives, and we get to see my favorite character, Fat Monica—I won’t go into it here, but I have many reasons why Fat Monica is more empowering than she’s given credit.
3. “The One with Chandler in a Box” – Season 4
Joey and Chandler have the best relationship on the show. “The One with Chandler in a Box” features the resolution of one of their biggest fights. After finding out that Chandler kissed his girlfriend, Kathy (the underrated Paget Brewster), Joey requires Chandler to spend his Thanksgiving in a box, a literal box, to think through what he’s done. This set-up brings big laughs and some really sweet moments between the two. The episode’s B story is Monica bringing her ex-boyfriend’s son to Thanksgiving as a date. Now, the storyline is creepy, which all of the friends point out, but Michael Vartan is so hot, you can really empathize with Monica. (Note to self: call therapist).
2. “The One with the Football” – Season 3
“The One with the Football” is one of the episodes that made me fall in love with Friends. In this episode, the friends decide to play a friendly game of football, but it brings up old sibling rivalry between Ross and Monica. Their competitive drama yield some of my favorite moments of the show, especially because my sister and I are also competitive siblings who are friends. The episode’s epilogue of the two of them missing Thanksgiving dinner because they won’t let the other win makes me laugh even on the twentieth viewing. The football game itself just never gets old. The “Let’s Get Ready to Rumble” montage is one of the funniest in sitcom history. Never have I enjoyed football so much.
Pumpkin Pie Tier
1. “The One Where Ross Got High” – Season 6
The ultimate Friendsgiving episode. Any fan knows that the best episodes of the series are the ones that confine the characters to Monica’s apartment. How do you make that concept even better? Add Jack and Judy Geller. Ross and Monica’s parents are hysterical in their own right, but they actually have interactions with all the friends, so they fit well into the dynamic. It’s just like in real life: when your friend’s parents come to the party, everyone reverts a few years. Monica and Ross spend the evening squabbling and spilling secrets as Chandler tries to prove he’s a good guy. Each of the other character’s get their own little subplot that is nonsense in the best way. Joey wants to leave Thanksgiving to go drink with his roommate’s hot dancer friends. Phoebe keeps having Thanksgiving dreams about Jack Geller and then Jacques Cousteau. Rachel, of course, screws up the iconic trifle. What better sums up family revealing secrets at the holidays better than “that’s a lot of information to get in thirty seconds.”