- Oops!Something went wrong.Please try again later.
For 10 years, Friends‘ annual Thanksgiving episodes were a beloved tradition for fans of the NBC sitcom. And even after the series ended in 2004, fans have continued to rewatch these holiday installments on DVDs, syndication and streaming.
While the series skipped a proper Thanksgiving episode in season two (despite the Mockolate treats Courteney Cox’s Monica prepares, the main storyline revolves around the love triangle between Rachel Jennifer Aniston’s Rachel, David Schwimmer’s Ross and Lauren Tom’s Julie), the other nine seasons brought memorable moments ranging from Rachel’s beef-filled trifle to an action-packed yet comedic touch football game to a guest appearance from Aniston’s then real-life husband Brad Pitt, who played her high school nemesis.
More from The Hollywood Reporter
These mostly standalone episodes also advanced the plot (Monica and Chandler, played by the late Matthew Perry, found out they were getting a baby and Chandler declared his love for Monica) and revealed new details about the six friends. These were the episodes in which viewers met Rachel’s sister Amy (Christina Applegate) for the first time and learned why Chandler hates Thanksgiving, what souvenirs Rachel saved from her relationship with Ross and how Chandler and Monica first met (a bad start that led to him losing his toe).
In the wake of Perry’s death, the Friends Thanksgiving episodes have taken on an even more poignant role as fans rewatch the late actor’s performances — one of which occurred mostly within a box.
Here’s The Hollywood Reporter‘s list of the Friends Thanksgiving episodes, all of which are streaming on Max, ranked from least to most favorite.
9. Season 7, “The One Where Chandler Doesn’t Like Dogs”
Not every Friends Thanksgiving episode can be a winner. This one is a little thin on the memorable moments, with the story centering around the discovery that Chandler doesn’t like dogs (and Ross doesn’t like ice cream) after he pretended to be allergic for years.
Phoebe (Lisa Kudrow) had been secretly dog-sitting at Monica and Chandler’s apartment and when the pet is discovered, the pup is sent to Ross’ place (in theory — Monica breaks down and brings her back). Chandler feels bad and wants to bring the dog back, but by the time he tries to rescue her, she has already returned.
The episode is largely more memorable for both Ross’ struggle to name all 50 states and refusing to eat dinner until he can (he returns to the apartment late at night muttering “Delaware” and sits down to eat turkey in the dark as Chandler notes he listed Nevada twice) and Joey’s (Matt LeBlanc) utterance of the memorable “it’s a moo point” quote. Rachel’s assistant Tag (Eddie Cahill) shows up at Monica and Chandler’s after he breaks up with his girlfriend, and Rachel wonders if she should make a move. “The big question is, ‘Does he like you?'” Joey says. “Because if he doesn’t like you, this is all just a moo point. … Yeah, it’s like a cow’s opinion, it just doesn’t matter. It’s moo.” — Hilary Lewis
8. Season 10, “The One with the Late Thanksgiving”
There’s little Thanksgiving actually had in this half-hour. Monica and Chandler are looking to adopt a child and decide that hosting this year would be too stressful. But a bit of reverse psychology from Phoebe sees Monica accepting the challenge of outdoing herself compared to last year’s meal.
The day goes very wrong, however, when the group ends up running an hour late — Joey and Chandler went to the Rangers game, and Rachel and Phoebe signed baby Emma (Rachel’s daughter with Ross) up for a beauty pageant. When Monica and Chandler catch them strategizing in the hall, they refuse to let them in. The hungry “floating heads” are locked out, despite their apologies, and Joey gets stuck in the door. Even Monica can’t grease him out with a turkey baster. So the gang knocks down the door and Joey flies into the Thanksgiving spread, destroying the meal Monica (and Chandler) worked so hard to prepare. But Monica doesn’t care — because she just got a phone call from the adoption agency with the very happy news that they are getting a baby.
The episode also reveals that Chandler wants to name their baby Hemingway Bing, and that Monica no longer eats chocolate pie after (winning) a pie-eating contest when she was younger. — Jackie Strause
7. Season 8, “The One With the Rumor”
It’s the Thanksgiving where Brad Pitt comes to visit. Rachel, who is pregnant with Ross’ baby, confronts an old high school classmate Will, who is played by Aniston’s then real-life husband (who gets a deafening cheer from the live audience). Will, who used to be overweight has lost 150 pounds — and is now gorgeous, rich and thin — and has been harboring years of hatred against “queen Rachel,” the popular girl at school.
She made his life miserable, he accuses, as he heaps yams onto his plate. And he reveals that he and Ross co-founded an “I Hate Rachel Green Club.” The bit launches into Will and Ross revealing a rumor, however, that has not stood the test of time. The Friends creators have spoken in the years since the series ended about jokes that did not age well, and the rumor they started about Rachel has been called out by creator Marta Kauffman as something she would never do today.
Other reveals around the rumors they started in high school also include Ross making out with their 50-year-old librarian. Also in the episode, Joey commits to eating almost an entire turkey so it doesn’t go to waste among the group. — Strause
6. Season 9, “The One With Rachel’s Other Sister”
Viewers are introduced to Rachel’s other sister Amy in this episode, after the self-centered sibling tags along to Thanksgiving and makes the dinner all about herself, or rather about her annoyance at Rachel and Ross not picking her to raise Emma (or “Emily,” as Amy keeps calling her) if Rachel and Ross die. Various scenarios of who would get custody of Emma in the event of someone dying (Joey: “Who has to die for me to get her?”) emerge over the course of the dinner with Rachel and Ross reluctant to entrust Chandler with the child. But Monica cheers him up and allays his concerns about being a father.
The other storyline, in a classic Monica display of obsessiveness, is Chandler and Monica’s reluctant decision to use their wedding china, which sees Monica fussing over the dinnerware throughout the meal. After managing to keep all but one dessert plate unscathed, a triumphant Chandler grabs Emma’s diaper bag as he offers to change her, only to knock over the entire box of china. Then, in a line that’s taken on a sadly true meaning in the wake of Perry’s death, he jokes, “What do you know? I guess I’ll be the one who dies first.” — Lewis
5. Season 4, “The One with Chandler in a Box”
This Thanksgiving starts out less harmonious for Chandler and Joey when a woman, Kathy (Paget Brewster), threatens to come between the beloved roommates. Joey, already planning to write Chandler off for five years over losing Kathy to him, threatens to move out of their apartment after seeing Chandler and Kathy together. To convince him to stay, Chandler reluctantly agrees to lock himself in a box during Thanksgiving for six hours, a similar punishment to when Joey was previously locked in their entertainment unit by a robber.
Kathy then breaks it off with Chandler — while he’s in the box — so as to not come between the best pals, and Joey is so touched that he tells Chandler to go after Kathy.
Also in the episode, Monica gets an eye injury and invites the optometrist son of her ex Dr. Richard Burke (Tom Selleck), played by Michael Vartan, to the gang’s meal. When the entire group judges her decision, Monica turns it back on all of them with a one-liner hit list of their own questionable decisions. Ultimately, Monica and the younger Dr. Burke kiss — and when the smooch eerily reminds her of Richard, they swiftly end the date.
Ross also gives Rachel grief over exchanging a necklace he had gifted her, and, in a touching Rachel and Ross moment, she puts him in his place by bringing out a box of treasures she has saved related to moments throughout their courtship. — Strause
4. Season 3, “The One With the Football”
After skipping a season with a Thanksgiving episode (season two’s “The One With the List,” in which Ross makes a pros and cons list about Rachel and Julie, is not a proper Thanksgiving episode, even with Monica’s Mockolate holiday treats), the Friends gang is ready to rumble in season three in one of the few Thanksgiving episodes not largely set in Monica’s apartment.
Instead, the group hits the field for a game of touch football that highlights Monica’s competitiveness and sibling rivalry with Ross as they try to settle a decades-old grudge over their family’s annual game dubbed the Geller Cup. The action-packed episode also showcases Chandler’s struggles with women as he and Joey vie for the attention of a Dutch woman who stops by the game. The boys’ attempts at making each other look bad yield some of the most memorable lines of the series including Joey thinking the Netherlands is Neverland of Peter Pan fame (Chandler: “Why don’t you have Captain Hook explain it to her?”), Chandler’s celebration of the woman picking him (“The important thing is the Dutch girl picked me. … Holland loves Chandler. Thank you, Amsterdam, good night!”) and, of course, Joey’s “I’m sorry, Dutch, I didn’t get that last little bit.” — Lewis
3. Season 5, “The One With the Thanksgiving Flashbacks”
Midway through the series, viewers get a glimpse into the Thanksgivings of Friends yore. The group is stuffed after their turkey dinner and go around the room to share what they are thankful for — until Chandler challenges them to one-up him as “the king of bad Thanksgivings,” retelling how his parents got divorced.
To prove the point, the audience is treated to the cast reenacting Thanksgiving years never seen, including Phoebe during a past life and the year when Joey got Monica’s turkey stuck on his head.
But it’s when Rachel prompts revisits to two Thanksgivings from their younger years at the Geller house that the group becomes aware of the time when young Monica, then heavier, overheard Chandler referring to her as Ross’ “fat sister” and how that insult prompted Monica to lose weight. (A compliment from Chandler on her cooking also sparked her to want to become a chef.) But Monica’s revenge body wasn’t enough. She ends up trick-seducing him and accidentally drops a knife on his toe; then, instead of bringing the severed toe to the hospital, she mistakenly brings a carrot. Chandler is devastated to learn that he lost his toe over an insult. But Monica wins him back by putting a turkey on her head to bring the episode full circle. She adds accessories and shimmies, and Chandler laughs so hard that he surprisingly utters “I love you” for the first time.
The second Geller flashback get-up that Chandler and Ross sported is the photo that Schwimmer shared in memory of Perry. — Strause
2. Season 6, “The One Where Ross Got High”
This is the Thanksgiving episode that reveals why Monica’s parents never liked Chandler — and that Ross was a stoner in college. As the story goes, spring break of his sophomore year, Ross was getting high when his parents walked into his room; he told them Chandler had gotten stoned and jumped out the window. All of these years later, Monica and Ross’ parents Jack and Judy Geller (played by Elliott Gould and Christina Pickles) are still holding a grudge, which Monica desperately wants to work through so she can finally tell her parents that she and Chandler are living together.
Not only does the truth come out (in a rapid-fire tattle tale-off between the grown siblings), but Jack and Judy are so impressed by Chandler taking the fall for Ross and “taking on” Monica, that they welcome him into the family with open arms. Considering that season six ends with Monica and Chandler’s proposal, this Thanksgiving milestone for the favorite TV couple is particularly poignant after the loss of Perry.
Other highlights of the episode include Rachel’s beef-heavy trifle dessert (Joey likes it, proclaiming “What’s not to like? Custard? Good. Jam? Good. Meat? Good!”), Chandler revealing that he pays for Joey’s acting classes and Monica exposing to her parents that Ross and Rachel got married and then divorced (again, for Ross). — Strause
1. Season 1, “The One Where Underdog Gets Away”
The first in what would become a beloved annual tradition of Thanksgiving-set Friends episodes, like much of the NBC sitcom’s first season, brings up familiar feelings of what it’s like to be on one’s own as an adult without family. This time, as the group’s various plans with their parents and relatives fall apart, they end up preparing their own Thanksgiving dinner. Viewers also first discover Chandler’s hatred of Thanksgiving, marked by memories of his parents announcing their divorce at the end of a Turkey Day meal when he was a child.
On the day, as Monica is working overtime to make the multiple types of potatoes her friends have requested, Chandler bursts through the door and announces that the inflatable Underdog balloon in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade has broken away and is flying across Washington Square Park. The gang runs up to the roof to see, but a misunderstanding between Monica and Rachel over who has the keys leaves them locked out of the apartment when they return. Chandler and Joey are able to ultimately unlock the door via a drawer full of keys that they’ve been saving for “an emergency just like this,” as Chandler sarcastically quips. But by the time they get in, everything is burned and the friends start fighting.
The episode still has a happy ending, though, as the gang realizes how lucky they are to be together when they see “Ugly Naked Guy” celebrating Thanksgiving with “Ugly Naked Gal.” The group sits down for a meal of grilled cheese sandwiches, part of Chandler’s Thanksgiving fixings, in which he lovingly makes a toast saying that he actually enjoyed this iteration of the holiday and is “very thankful all of your Thanksgivings sucked.” Ross and Rachel offer the kicker: “Here’s to a lousy Christmas,” he says, as she chimes in, “and a crappy New Year.” — Lewis
Best of The Hollywood Reporter