At this point in television history, “Friends” is a classic sitcom. More people can quote a line from every single “Friends” episode than can sing the “Star-Spangled Banner.” It’s ingrained in our growing up years or our moving out years. “Smelly Cat” is the cat we all want and we love “Days of Our Lives” because of Joey.
Every year the show aired, we watched it in our living rooms as the writers brought us a classic Thanksgiving episode — that was just part of the tradition, but even though each and every Thanksgiving episode was unique in its own right, some were just better than others.
A Ranked Guide to Every “Friends” Thanksgiving Episode:
10. Season 10, The One With The Late Thanksgiving
Monica and Chandler host Thanksgiving for the last time and all of the other Friends are late. They are locked out of the apartment by Monica because a Rangers game and a Baby Beauty Pageant take precedence over Chandler’s “chanberries.” At the end of the episode, Monica and Chandler discover a woman in Ohio wants them to adopt her baby.
Reason For Ranking: This was not a favorite. Even though the plot progresses in the final season (Monica and Chandler are going to be parents!), it’s hard to see past the rest of the noise. The floating heads were probably the strongest joke and even then, it wasn’t totally impressive.
9. Season 9, The One With Rachel’s Other Sister
Christina Applegate guest stars as Rachel’s sister Amy. She’s about as clueless as Rachel was in Season 1 and she creates all sorts of drama between the characters. Monica and Chandler are named as Emma’s Godparents and a very expensive piece of Monica’s china gets broken in a fight between sisters.
Reason For Ranking: This episode is a little weak – even though we get some good physical comedy between sisters and the scenes with Monica and the china, the jokes fall flat (would your sister really not know the name of your baby?). It’s just not the strongest Thanksgiving episode. Points to Christina Applegate for playing Rachel’s sister, but she just can’t save this epi.
8. Season 2, The One With The List
Die-hard “Friends” fans don’t count this as a true Thanksgiving episode, but it’s really all that we have for this particular season. It centers on the aftermath of Ross and Rachel’s steamy kiss in the coffeehouse and how Ross has to make a decision to either breakup with Julie or end things for real with Rachel. A major (Thanksgiving) subplot is that Monica is developing recipes for a new brand of fake chocolate called “Mocolate” and that’s what she serves for Thanksgiving dinner.
Reason For Ranking: There’s a lot of classic “Friends” lore in this episode, including “The List” that Ross makes full of reasons not to be with Rachel. The tone of their relationship (rocky) is set in this episode and carries on throughout the seasons. Although we get some character development, the one that charms the most is Monica, trying so hard at the thing she’s most passionate about.
7. Season 1, The One Where Underdog Gets Away
Initially, all of the Friends have plans for Thanksgiving that don’t involve each other. One by one, their arrangements drop off and they are forced to spend the holiday together. Rachel has a flight booked to Vail that she misses, Monica and Ross’s parents jet-set to Puerto Rico, Chandler is a Thanksgiving-hater, Phoebe celebrates the holiday later in the year with her Grandma, and Joey is the new face of VD in the NYC Subways.
Reason For Ranking: Although this one is the episode that began it all, the plot is weaker than a lot of the other Thanksgiving Episodes and they really haven’t found their groove yet. Extra points to the subplot about Joey, which is probably the funniest and strongest in the episode.
6. Season 7, The One Where Chandler Doesn’t Like Dogs
Phoebe, who is living with Chandler and Monica, is hiding a dog in the apartment and we find out the Chandler doesn’t like dogs. Tag, Rachel’s assistant joins the party, and she confesses (accidentally) that she has a crush on him. Chandler tells everyone about a game where you have to write down all 50 states, and Ross fails to do so, even though he’s got a PHD, resulting in him having no Thanksgiving dinner.
Reason For Ranking: Tell me you didn’t try to name all 50 states after this episode. I kind of love the fact that they couldn’t just Google it. Klunkers (the dog) is a little superstar in this episode, but the Tag plot is a little boring to me. The strongest jokes come from the fact that Americans don’t know the states, but otherwise this episode just wasn’t very strong.
5. Season 4, The One With Chandler In A Box
When Joey finds out that Chandler kissed his current girlfriend, he is livid. Chandler can’t do anything to appease Joey, except for sitting in a large cardboard box during all of Thanksgiving dinner. This one is good because there are some other characters in the mix – Kathy, the girlfriend in question, and Monica’s ex-boyfriend’s son, Tim.
Reason For Ranking: This echoes the fight that Joey and Chandler have in Season Three over Maha the Dutch girl, but on a bigger scale. The Friends usually don’t get too emotional in these Thanksgiving Episodes, but there is real heartbreak in this one. Monica’s subplot is funny, but it’s not aces.
4. Season 5, The One With the All the Thanksgivingss
God bless a flashback episode. Everyone details their worst Thanksgiving, which ranges from Phoebe’s past life Thanksgiving during wartime, to “More Turkey, Chandler?” to a bulk-of-the-episode flashback about Monica, Chandler, Rachel, and Ross.
Reason For Ranking: You get to learn a ton about Monica and Chandler’s past, which is some neat character development in their blossoming relationship, but more importantly, everyone is in a wig for the majority of the episode, so that’s fun. The whole episode takes place after Thanksgiving, so you get little to no food talk.
3. Season 8, The One With The Rumor
Monica invites her old friend Will (Brad Pitt) from high school to Thanksgiving dinner. Rachel, who is pregnant with Ross’s baby, discovers that they had an “I Hate Rachel” club in high school and started a rumor about her. Joey eats an entire turkey.
Reason For Ranking: What a beautiful little time capsule of pop culture. This was one of the best guest stars on “Friends.” Brad Pitt does a great job in hating Rachel (which was hilarious to watch at the time, now it is a little sad) and it’s always funny when they revisit everyone’s high school past. This episode ranks high because it’s strongly written, Brad Pitt was on point, and you get those fun yelling matches between characters. Plus – you get Joey eating an entire turkey.
2. Season 3, The One With The Football P
While the Friends patiently wait for Thanksgiving dinner to cook, they all participate in a 3-on-3 flag football game, where we are privy to a lot of Gellar family history, and everyone’s true competitive side. Joey and Chandler fight over a pretty Dutch girl, and Phoebe is just Phoebe.
Reason For Ranking: To me, anything with the Gellars showing their competitive side is pure comic gold. Rachel is in rare form (she goes to get a soft pretzel when they tell her to “go long” and you get some great male-female dynamics. Joey and Chandler are also little shining stars in this episode. When I think of a classic “Friends” episode, this is one of them. It’s precise, strong, and makes me laugh every single time.
1. Season 6, The One Where Ross Got High
The whole gang is here for this episode, including: Ross and Monica’s parents and Joey’s (new, hot) roommate Janine. Chandler and Monica want to reveal to Monica’s parents that they are living together, but are shocked to find out that Jack and Judy are holding a grudge against Chandler because they remember him getting high all the time in college, when it was actually their son Ross getting high all the time. Ross has to confess, even though he’s trying to escape the Thanksgiving celebration to party with Joey and his hot dancer roommate. Rachel makes the English Trifle to end all trifles.
Reason For Ranking: This episode is the top for me. Rachel’s trifle is so classic, and the fact that there are so many players, plot lines, and character arcs involved. It could be a jumbled mess but it’s pulled off seamlessly and the climax of the episode, involving a Gellar screaming match and Rachel discovering she wasn’t supposed to put meat in the trifle is so satisfying. Plus, you get to see another little advance of the Chandler-Monica relationship.
Admit it, you want to try eating Rachel’s English Trifle from the inside of a box on Thanksgiving day, don’t you?
We all do. We all do.
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