Good television fans know that certain series have the market on lock when it comes to holiday-themed episodes. For example, The Office had superb Christmas episodes every year. Community goes above and beyond with its Halloween shows. And of course, you could always count on Friends for a solid Thanksgiving episode.
Over the past few years, I’ve started my own tradition (like the Geller Cup, if you will) of watching every Thanksgiving episode from all 10 seasons, just to get me in the mood for the holiday.
So in honor of today, here’s a definitive list (read: based solely on my own personal opinion, my mind will probably change tomorrow) of the episodes from worst to best.
Oh and Happy Thanksgiving!
Season 2: The One with the List
Ross must choose between Rachel and Julie and enlists Joey and Chandler’s help in making a list of the pros and cons of each. He chooses Rachel, but she finds the list and gets angry with Ross. Meanwhile, Monica gets a job making food with a synthetic chocolate substitute called Mockolate.
This was the only episode in the show’s 10 year run that was not an official “Thanksgiving episode”. It served as such when it aired in 1995, but there was not real T-Giving banter until the following season. That being said, I still think this is a great episode, not only because everyone’s still on a high from Ross and Rachel’s first kiss, but because Chandler’s laptop is like a life-changing instrument where you can both type semi-offensive documents about your friends but also play Doom. Could it BE anymore 90s?
Season 7: The One Where Chandler Doesn’t Like Dogs
Phoebe sneaks a puppy into the apartment; Chandler reveals why he hates dogs. Ross becomes obsessed with naming all 50 states in order to earn his Thanksgiving dinner. Phoebe names celery.
Because of Ross, millions of people were left dumbfounded and extremely annoyed that they couldn’t list all 50 states. Unless you’re one of those people who learned the States song when you were younger. In which case you can’t participate in the game or Thanksgiving.
Season 10: The One with the Late Thanksgiving
Monica and Chandler grudgingly agree to host Thanksgiving. They get angry when their friends show up late, when Ross and Joey having gone to a game and Rachel and Phoebe having taken Emma to a baby beauty pageant, because why not. But their mood changes when they get good news from the adoption agency.
The best scenes in this mediocre episode are with the four latecomers who are brainstorming to come up with a way to get on the Bings’ good graces and come to dinner. Not to mention the creepiest door scene in all of Friends history.
Season 9: The One with Rachel’s Other Sister
Amy, Rachel’s spoiled sister played by Christina Applegate, shows up for Thanksgiving. The gang argues over who gets custody of Emma if Ross and Rachel die.
Props to the person who cast both Christina Applegate and Reese Witherspoon as Rachel’s sisters. Christina was even nominated twice for her role and won in 2003 for this very episode! And it was totally well deserved because her spaciness and inability to understand that Phoebe’s name is, in fact, Phoebe and not Emma, makes her the sole reason why this episode needs more credit than it deserves.
Season 1: The One Where Underdog Gets Away
The gang gets locked out of the apartment in order to see the Underdog balloon fly away from the Macy’s Day Parade. Monica’s first Thanksgiving dinner gets burned, Rachel misses a ski trip with her family, and Joey becomes a poster boy for VD.
The first season is a magical season for many reasons, but most importantly because if you’re watching it in current day, you can tell there’s still an innocence among the cast members and within the actual show – these people have no idea how big the show’s going to be or how much of an impact it will have on television history in general. The first ever Thanksgiving episode is no different. It set a precedent for future T-giving episodes, and the rest of the series in general.
Season 3: The One with the Football
The gang plays a game of touch football on Thanksgiving as Ross and Monica argue over winning in a case of sibling rivalry over the coveted Geller Cup. Meanwhile, Joey and Chandler argue over who gets to date a model from Holland and Rachel is still clueless on the game.
Family, Friends, Food and Football. Pretty much Thanksgiving summed up in alliteration. The Friends writers knew they had to incorporate one of America’s most beloved past times, and this was the perfect way to do it.
Season 4: The One with Chandler in a Box
After Joey finds out that Chandler kissed his girlfriend Kathy, he forces Chan to spend Thanksgiving in a huge wooden box so he can think about what he did. What’s even weirder than Chandler in a box? Monica inviting her ex-boyfriend’s son over for Thanksgiving and she hits on him.
The reason for this episode being one of the greatest is threefold: 1) Monica with an eye patch. 2) Chandler/Matthew Perry being in a box the entire episode. 3) One of the greatest and unforgettable lines ever in Friends, as seen in the clip above. Judge all you want.
Season 5: The One with All the Thanksgivings
The gang’s past Thanksgivings are revealed flashback style. We get to see when Chandler and Monica first meet, how he changed her life, Joey’s head up a turkey’s butt, and Pheebs in the 1600s.
I appreciate that Friends has done only a few clip shows in its 10 year run, since it can feel like the writers haven’t come up with any new ideas and are just being lazy. But one thing that Friends did, that I think How I Met Your Mother really perfected, is having flashback scenes that are brand new to both the cast and the viewers. This episode takes the cake, as we get to see the Friends in different eras, different stages of their life and how they all came together as one unit. Plus who doesn’t love a good turkey head?
Season 8: The One with the Rumor
Monica invites a high school friend, Will, played by Brad Pitt, to her Thanksgiving dinner. He and Ross were pals back in the day and had an I Hate Rachel Green club, which she finds out in the episode. Meanwhile, Joey tries to eat an entire turkey and Chandler and Phoebe attempt to avoid helping Monica with the dinner.
Oh boy. It’s like pouring salt in the wound thinking about this, but remember when Brad and Jennifer were still married and happy in love? But then they played enemies in this episode? Brad hardly makes any TV appearances, but obviously he made an exception with this, and I think he played the perfect roll. This could also be because my obsession with him started around this time, but whatever. Despite Will and Ross’ “hatred” for Rachel, it turns out to be a sweet moment at the end between the show’s iconic couple, leaving you with the warm and fuzzies. Isn’t that what the holidays are all about?
Season 6: The One Where Ross Got High
Ross and Monica’s parents come to dinner, and Ross is forced to tell Chandler why Jack and Judy don’t like him, since they still don’t know Monica and Chandler are living together. Things get more stressful for Ross as he and Joey are trying to speed up Thanksgiving to hang out with Janine, played by Elle MacPherson, and her dancer friends. Rachel *tries* to make dessert for the first time.
The Friends’ Thanksgiving episodes are usually bottle episodes, which means the action primarily takes place in one setting, with the same characters. In this case, it’s the six Friends in Monica’s apartment, seemingly like an act of a play. In saying that, the 22 minute episode goes by so quickly because the writing, acting, and comedic timing by all is just that good. So many things are happening with all of the characters, and it converges together in one of the most hilarious scenes on TV. From Phoebe’s infatuation with a French aqualegend to Rachel’s feet-tasting trifle, this episode is the perfect mix of disaster, family time and sentimentality that Thanksgiving is all about.