So, I finished Friends a couple of weeks ago, and I’m not gonna lie—I’ve been a bit lost since. For five months, this show was my go-to when I needed a laugh or had some spare time. No longer can I say there are episodes of Friends I haven’t seen. It’s very bittersweet.
Also bittersweet were some of the later seasons. I really believe the quality of the show stayed very high through season 7, easily. Seasons 8 and 9, however, got into some incredibly mediocre territory. As fans promised me, though, the energy and the storytelling did perk back up for the final season, and I must say, the series finale is one of the best and most satisfying I have ever seen. It is damn hard to end a show, especially one as iconic as Friends, in a way that pleases almost everyone, and I have yet to talk to anyone who didn’t like this finale.
I previously wrote about my favorite episodes from seasons 1-8 here, here, here, and here. With no further ado, I present my top five episodes from the final two seasons. Now, excuse me while I go re-watch my Happy Endings DVDs in an attempt to fill the void.
5) “The One With Ross’s Tan” (Episode 10×03)
This is one of many episodes throughout the series that succeeds primarily because of David Schwimmer’s knack for physical comedy. Ross wants to get a spray tan, but he fails to understand the instructions and ends up incredibly dark in the front and pasty white in the back. Meanwhile, Monica and Phoebe try to dodge an annoying former neighbor (Jennifer Coolidge, who always improves everything she’s in) whom they “cut out” of their lives. When Monica learns Phoebe once tried to cut her out, it leads to a sweet conversation about how glad Phoebe is that Monica “crawled her way back in.” There’s also a whole thing where Joey and Rachel can’t seem to get past making out, but we’re going to ignore it because I do not understand why the writers kept trying to make fetch happen with that storyline for as long as they did.
Ross: “I went to the tanning place your wife suggested.”
Chandler: “Was that place the sun?”
4) “The One in Barbados” (Episodes 9×23 and 9×24)
These episodes are just plain eventful. The gang (plus Joey’s paleontologist girlfriend Charlie and Phoebe’s newly returned beau David) heads to Barbados to see Ross give the keynote address at a conference. By the end of the trip, Monica’s hair is comically poofy thanks to the humidity, Ross and Charlie are hooking up and afraid to tell Joey, Rachel and Joey are hooking up and afraid to tell Ross, and Phoebe is back together with Mike, who flew there to propose to her (which she declined, this time). We also get to see competitive Monica at her finest during a game of ping pong. Some of the storylines may be questionable, but destination episodes are always fun on this show.
Monica: “Everyone is leaving the here with someone else but us!”
Chandler: “That’s not true, I came here with Monica and I’m leaving with Weird Al.”
3) “The One With Rachel’s Going Away Party” (Episode 10×16)
The penultimate episode is simple and emotional. Monica throws a going away party for Rachel, who uses the opportunity to have private goodbyes with everyone—except for Ross. He gets increasingly more upset, until she admits she only avoided him because she couldn’t bear to say goodbye to him. They end up in bed together on the night before she’s scheduled to move to Paris, setting up the famous Ross & Rachel moment from the series finale.
Monica: “Remember, if I am harsh with you, it’s only because you are doing it wrong.”
2) “The One With Phoebe’s Wedding” (Episode 10×12)
While bride Phoebe and wedding planner Monica fight over how the big day should be planned, Ross and Chandler compete to fill a vacant groomsman spot in the bridal party. At the last minute, a giant blizzard ruins all of Monica’s well-laid plans, but Phoebe and Mike decide it’s the perfect opportunity to have a small wedding that’s uniquely them. In the snow outside Central Perk, Joey is the minister, Chandler gives Phoebe away, Ross wins the groomsman spot but is stuck carrying Mike’s dog, and Phoebe is at perhaps her most grounded of the entire series when she tells Mike (aka Crap Bag) he’s all that’s been missing from her life. Aww.
Chandler: “This is like figure skating team all over again…I mean synchronized swimming…I mean…I mean the balance beam. Help me.”
Chandler: “Thank you.”
Ross: “Please! you’re going down.”
Chandler: “You are going ‘downer’!”
Ross: “Is that what they say on the figure skating team?”
Chandler: “I wouldn’t know, I didn’t make it!”
1) “The Last One” (Episodes 7×17 and 7×18)
She got off the plane, you guys! I don’t even consider myself a Ross and Rachel shipper and I still couldn’t help but grin at those scenes. Everything about these episodes is just wonderful. Erica gives birth to Monica and Chandler’s babies, and it’s surprise twins (this makes absolutely zero logical sense, but as long as Monica and Chandler are happy who cares). Phoebe helps Ross run to multiple airports (such an NYC problem) to try to find Rachel and convince her to stay. Even Gunther gets some resolution, finally confessing his love for Rachel. At the end, they all turn in their keys to Monica’s apartment and head down to Central Perk for one last cup of coffee. Excuse me, I think I have something in my eye…
Monica: “Do you realize that all of us have lived in this apartment at some point?”
Ross: “Uh, I haven’t!”
Monica: “What about that summer you stayed with Grandma and tried to make it as a dancer?”
Ross: “Do you know we almost made it ten years without that coming up?”
And that was that. What is your all-time favorite episode of Friends? I think mine is “The One Where Everybody Finds Out.” Which other sitcoms have you found filled the Friends-shaped hole in your heart? Let me know!