10. “The One Where Chandler Doesn’t Like Dogs” (Season 7)
Premise: Phoebe is watching a friend’s dog named Clunkers for Thanksgiving, but Chandler claims he’s extremely allergic. In reality, he just hates dogs (puppies included) because “they are needy, they are jumpy, and [he] can’t tell what they are thinking and that scares [him] a little bit.” Phoebe and Monica decide to take the dog to Ross’ for Chandler’s sake, but then they sneak him back in. This dog schtick continues, but I needn’t bore you with it.
In actual plot progression, Rachel’s assistant Tag (Eddie Cahill) also joins them for Thanksgiving after his girlfriend breaks up with him. Rachel goes to talk to him, to offer advice on the balcony, but when Joey sees them hugging, he thinks they are mutually into each other, and calls out, “He likes you back!” Rachel comes clean about her feelings for Tag, but then says they should pretend like the conversation never happened. Instead of agreeing, Tag kisses her.
Best quote: “This is all a moo point … It’s like a cow’s opinion. You know, it just doesn’t matter. It’s moo.” —Joey
What they ate: Sweet potato–stuffed pumpkins, stuffing, green beans, and turkey.
Fun fact: When Chandler invites everyone to play the “name the 50 states” game, Ross is determined to finish. Hours later, he claims the one state he forgot was Delaware, but it turns out, he wrote Nevada twice. No word on what the actual state he forgot was, or why he loves Nevada so much.
Why it’s No. 10: The dog storyline at the center of this episode doesn’t even have a schmaltzy ending and there’s really not much Thanksgiving fare besides the food. Sure, Tag was attractive, but really, that’s all this episode had to offer. Basically, it doesn’t matter. It’s “moo.”
9. “The One with the List” (Season 2)
Premise: In the follow-up episode to Ross and Rachel’s monumental rainy kiss at Central Perk, Ross realizes he has to choose between his longtime crush and his current girlfriend Julie. So Chandler mocks him relentlessly (“This must be so hard. ‘Two women love me. They’re both gorgeous and sexy. My wallet’s too small for my $50s and my diamond shoes are too tight!’”) and then recommends he make a pro/con list for both women, using his new computer, which is oh-so-1995. Of course, Rachel later sees the lists on Chandler’s computer and locks Ross out of her apartment. He desperately tries to get her attention, climbing up the fire escape in the rain (lots of precipitation this time of year) and reading out a long list of “pros” to no avail. The episode ends sadly with both Ross and Rachel starring out their respective windows as rain trickles in front of their reflections.
Best quote: “It’s always been you, Rach.” —Ross (though Chandler’s above is a close second)
What they ate: Pumpkin pie with a mockolate cookie crumb crust, mockolate cranberry cake, and mockolate chip cookies “just like the Indians served,” Monica jokes.
Fun fact: Michael McKean — who played a food entrepreneur hocking faux chocolate (called mockolate) that Monica was working for — was a cast member on Saturday Night Live from 1994–1995. Courteney Cox hosted the show during his tenure, and just before this Friends episode aired, David Schwimmer took on the honor as well. Lisa Kudrow and Matthew Perry each went on to host once and Jennifer Aniston has done so twice. Matt LeBlanc is the only Friends alum never to host SNL.
Why it’s No. 9: Though this is not necessarily a bad episode of Friends, it includes very little Thanksgiving content (the only real acknowledgement comes from the mockolate C-storyline), not to mention the Rachel-Ross saga doesn’t exactly offer a warm holiday feeling.
8. “The One with Rachel’s Other Sister” (Season 9)
Premise: Rachel’s older sister Amy (Christina Applegate) stops by, proving to be even more shallow than Rachel was at the start of the series. (Sidebar: The show had been on for nearly a decade and we still hadn’t met one of Rachel’s sisters?) Amy’s married boyfriend canceled their Thanksgiving plans so Rachel asks if she’d like to join them at Monica’s, where she manages to offend everyone with her severe lack of tact. And then she gets upset that she’s not Emma’s godmother, despite repeatedly botching the poor baby’s name. (Second sidebar: Emma is “napping” the entire episode, but her carrier is left on the counter, as you can see in the GIFs above, as a reminder that she exists.) Chandler and Monica warn everyone about using their wedding china during dinner, except Joey, who got a regular plate because they don’t trust him — and that’s understandable, considering he forgot he was supposed to be on the Days of Our Lives float during the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade earlier that day.
Best quote: “Emma is the product of a bottle of Merlot and a five-year-old condom.” —Monica
What they ate: Turkey, but eaten very daintily due to Monica’s plate issues.
Fun fact: This episode reunited Applegate and Matt LeBlanc, who’d guest-starred as her character Kelly’s boyfriend Vinnie Verducci on Married… With Children more than a decade earlier.
Why it’s No. 8: The absurdity about Amy’s lack of appearance throughout the series prior to the penultimate season and the lack of inclusion of Emma, considering it was her first Thanksgiving, are really what make this episode rank lowly on the list. Still, it’s not as bad as the dog episode. (Sorry, Clunkers.)
7. “The One Where Ross Got High” (Season 6)
Premise: When Monica and Ross’ parents are joining their kids for Thanksgiving for the first (and only) time on the series, Monica admits to Chandler that they never really liked him. As Chandler nervously tries to navigate conversation with his future in-laws, Judy says, “I think he’s stoned again.” Ross realizes that the reason his parents don’t like Chandler is because they think he’s a pothead, thanks to one time while Ross was home from college, when he got high in his room and blamed it on Chandler. Though Ross comes clean to Chandler and Monica, they insist that he fess up to Jack and Judy.
But Ross is trying to get the hell out of Monica and Chandler’s place because he and Joey were invited to Janine’s dancer friends’ party (where there will only be booze and no food). In an effort to escape, Joey convinces everyone to pretend like Rachel’s “traditional English trifle” — which includes meat since she accidentally combined that recipe with one for shepherd’s pie — is delicious. After they succeed, Ross tries to get out without telling his parents the truth about the weed, but not before Monica starts airing all of his dirty laundry. Soon enough, outing him for stealing Playboys escalates to Ross telling their parents about Monica and Chandler’s live-in situation, and Monica revealing that Ross and Rachel got married and divorced. Afterwards, the Gellers realize Chandler is “a wonderful human being” for putting up with both of their children.
Best quote: “Oh my god, the pages are stuck together.” —Ross / “Chandler!” —Joey
What they ate: Rachel’s “traditional English trifle” (which, according to Ross, “tastes like feet”).
Why it’s No. 7: Let it be known that the gap in quality between No. 8 and No. 7 is very vast. But “The One Where Ross Gets High” is still a rarity amongst the Friends Thanksgiving episodes in that it takes place almost entirely at the dinner table. And who doesn’t love a good Geller sibling scream-off? Unfortunately, Rachel’s trifle will likely ruin your meal, but I won’t lie, that whipped cream still kinda looks good.
6. “The One with Chandler in a Box” (Season 4)
Premise: Joey isn’t talking to Chandler after he kissed Kathy, having sentenced him to five years of the silent treatment. Ross tries to convince Joey to talk it out with Chandler and he eventually agrees. But when Joey goes to address his former best friend, he’s with Kathy, enraging Joey to the point that he decides to move out. As they argue in their apartment, Joey reveals that while they were being robbed a while back, he locked himself in the entertainment unit and all he thought about was how he was letting Chandler down. “If we still had that entertainment unit, I would get in there … and think about how I let you down,” Chandler replies. Joey points out that they do have a box he could lock himself into…
Meanwhile, Monica is preparing Thanksgiving dinner and gets some ice in her eye, but she doesn’t want to go to the optometrist because it’s her ex-boyfriend, Dr. Richard Burke. Phoebe calls the office for her and finds out that Richard’s out of town so Monica agrees to see the on-call doctor. Turns out it’s Richard’s son Tim, with whom Monica proceeds to flirt (even with her eye patch on) and she invites him over for Thanksgiving. On the balcony, the two share a really weird kiss, after which Monica tells Tim that he reminds her of Richard and Tim says Monica reminds him of his mom, putting a nail in their potential relationship coffin.
Inside, Kathy stops by and breaks up with Chandler while he’s still in the box. As she leaves, Joey breaks his silence and lets Chandler out, telling him to chase after her.
Best quote: “Fine. Judge all you want to, but [to Ross] married a lesbian, [to Rachel] left a man at the altar, [to Phoebe] fell in love with a gay ice dancer, [to Joey] threw a girl’s wooden leg in a fire, and [to Chandler] live in a box!” —Monica
What they ate: Yams, mashed potatoes, green beans, pumpkin pie, and turkey (except for Chandler, of course).
Fun fact: A pre-Alias/Never Been Kissed Michael Vartan starred as Richard’s son Dr. Tim Burke.
Why it’s No. 6: They watch football, they pick their Secret Santas, Rachel and Ross drudge up the past, and Joey and Chandler have a bros-before-hos breakthrough moment. Though the Tim-Monica storyline is more than a little disturbing, at least the show addresses it. “It wouldn’t be Thanksgiving without a little emotional scarring,” Tim says.
5. “The One with the Rumor” (Season 8)
Premise: This might as well also be called “The One with Brad Pitt.” Jennifer Aniston’s then-husband played Will Colbert, a formerly obese classmate of Ross, Monica, and Rachel’s who’s since lost 150 pounds. When he arrives at Monica’s, he admits to her that he hated Rachel because she was horrible to him in high school. And later, it comes out that he and Ross had an “I Hate Rachel Green” club and they started a rumor that Rachel was born a hermaphrodite and still has “a hint of a penis,” Will says proudly. Rachel is furious and says she never did anything to hurt Ross in high school, but Monica outs Rachel as the one who told everyone that Ross made out with their librarian, Mrs. Altman. Eventually, Ross and Rachel decide to put it in the past.
Best quote: “My two greatest enemies, Ross: Rachel Green and complex carbohydrates.” —Will
What they ate: Yams, turkey, chicken (for Chandler, the Thanksgiving food hater), cranberry sauce, pumpkin pie, and pecan pie.
Fun fact: This is first Thanksgiving episode that actually addresses the fact that Phoebe doesn’t eat turkey because she’s a vegetarian.
Why it’s No. 5: Did I mention Brad Pitt? Aniston and Pitt had been together since 1998, but it wasn’t until 2001 that he decided to film a guest appearance on Friends. Now, it’s both funny and sad to see them play high school enemies, but the hair toss Will does mocking Rachel is worth many points. Plus, Joey puts on Phoebe’s old maternity pants to finish a turkey. Bonus points.
4. “The One with the Late Thanksgiving” (Season 10)
Premise: Monica doesn’t want to host Thanksgiving because she needs a break from always being the host and from the stress of adoption, but Phoebe convinces her to compete with herself during last year’s Thanksgiving. Phoebe also convinces Rachel to enroll Emma in a baby beauty pageant, where they win the $1,000 grand prize. Ross and Joey get tickets to the Rangers hockey game and return 45 minutes late for Thanksgiving dinner. When they run into Phoebe and Rachel in the hallway, Monica overhears them discussing their excuses and she and Chandler refuse to let them in. After they try to force their way in and the tension subsides, the episode ends with an overjoyed Chandler and Monica finding out that there’s a birth mother interested in having them adopt her baby.
Best quote: “It’s Thanksgiving and we should not want to be together, together!” —Rachel
What they ate: Cranberry sauce, stuffing, Brussels sprouts, turkey, pumpkin pie (off Joey’s shirt), and what would’ve been chocolate pie, if Rachel and Phoebe had remembered to pick them up.
Fun fact: Joey has a Cabbage Patch Kid doll named Alicia May Emory that Phoebe and Rachel undressed so that Emma could use her cowgirl outfit for the pageant.
Why it’s No. 4: This isn’t a particularly strong episode, but it redeems itself in the final minutes when Monica and Chandler find out from the adoption agency that there’s a woman in Ohio who’s interested in them. The group hug as Monica and Chandler get closer to being parents is absolutely perfect, as is the fact that she screams, “This Thanksgiving kicks last Thanksgiving’s ass!” while Joey eats food off of his shirt.
3. “The One with the Football” (Season 3)
Premise: When Chandler, Joey, Rachel, and Phoebe propose some traditional Thanksgiving Day football, Monica and Ross reveal that they had a Geller Bowl growing up and (unsurprisingly) it got quite competitive. At Geller Bowl 6, Monica broke Ross’ nose and the Geller Cup — “a troll doll nailed to a 2×4” — was thrown in the lake. (We later learn Monica retrieved the trophy while Ross was at the hospital.) After that debacle, their mom said they weren’t allowed to play football. But 12 years later, Monica thinks they can handle it.
The six friends decide to play two-hand touch and it’s Monica, Joey, and Phoebe vs. Ross, Chandler, and Rachel. During the game, Joey and Chandler get distracted by a Dutch woman in the park as Monica and Ross manage to get even pettier over the football rules. To prove her prowess to her brother, Monica decides to go women vs. men. Rachel almost scores the winning touchdown (slow-mo style), but Chandler points how she was shy of the end zone. Once they realize the ball’s still in play, Monica and Ross jump on it and refuse to budge. Eventually, the others give up and after the sun sets and snow starts to fall, Monica and Ross call it a tie and dump the Geller Cup down the trash chute.
Best quote: “There must be a special place in heaven for people that hung out with you two in high school.” —Joey
What they ate: Turkey legs, stuffing, yams with marshmallows, cranberry sauce, and mashed potatoes, which Chandler ate out of a giant bowl with a wooden spoon.
Fun fact: Phoebe is wearing a T-shirt featuring That Girl, the ’70s TV comedy that starred Marlo Thomas. The season prior, Thomas started her guest-starring stint on Friends as Rachel’s mom, Sandra.
Why it’s No. 3: There is nothing that says Thanksgiving like touch football in the fall foliage, except maybe dinner, which isn’t a huge factor here. Still, there’s enough not-so-healthy competition to feed hundreds. Plus, it’s the only Friends Thanksgiving episode that’s largely set outside Monica’s apartment, and that’s always a welcome change, as is seeing everyone in sweats.
2. “The One Where Underdog Gets Away” (Season 1)
Premise: When Monica and Ross’ parents go away to Puerto Rico, they’re left to their own devices for Thanksgiving. Monica agrees to cook dinner for him, Phoebe (who celebrates the holiday in December with her grandmother), and Chandler, who boycotts “all the pilgrim holidays.” Meanwhile, Joey unknowingly becomes the face of venereal disease after modeling for a New York City free clinic campaign, and his family doesn’t want him around the dinner table. So he joins the Gellers’ makeshift Thanksgiving, as does Rachel… but only after she misses her flight to Vail, when the gang gets locked out of the apartment after heading to the roof to check out the Underdog balloon that got away during the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.
Best quote: “Set another place for Thanksgiving. My entire family thinks I have VD.” —Joey / “‘Tonight, on a very special Blossom.’” —Chandler
What they ate: What was going to be turkey, yams, stuffing, mashed potatoes with lumps (for Ross), tater tots (for Joey), and whipped potatoes with peas and onions (for Phoebe) became grilled cheese (with dark and light cheese), Funyuns, and wine.
Fun fact: Ross admits when talking to an unborn Ben (because Susan also talks to Carol’s fetus) that he picked paleontology as his college major on a dare.
Why it’s No. 2: It’s heartwarming (everyone pitches in to buy struggling waitress Rachel a ticket to Vail to ski with her family) and truly hilarious (Joey finds out he’s the face of VD when he gets dumped by a girl on the subway platform while The Police’s “Don’t Stand So Close To Me” plays in the background). Plus, the nostalgia factor as the first Friends Thanksgiving earns this episode major points.
1. “The One With All The Thanksgivings” (Season 5)
Premise: As they sit in Monica’s living room in food comas, the sixsome reminisces about bad Thanksgivings: Ross laments his current dual divorce-eviction state; Phoebe goes back to a past life in the thick of the Revolutionary War; Chandler recalls his parents’ divorce, followed by the houseboy/his father’s lover asking, “More turkey, Mr. Chandler?”; and Joey looks back on 1992 (pre-Friends) when he got his head stuck in a turkey in an effort to scare Chandler.
But Monica’s worst (or second worst) Thanksgiving was in 1987 when she first met a Flock-of-Seagulls-coiffed Chandler as an overweight high-schooler. In a flashback, Ross tells Chandler privately that he hopes to ask Rachel out and Monica overhears him say, “I just don’t want to be stuck here all night with your fat sister.” The following year, Ross and Chandler show up at the Gellers’ having upgraded to Miami Vice-style suits, and Chandler is practically drooling over a newly svelte Monica. In order to get Chandler to strip naked so she can humiliate him, she decides to flirt with him by rubbing a macaroni box on her cheek and a knife on her stomach (per Rachel’s suggestion to “act like everything around [her] turns [her] on”). She accidentally drops the knife on Chandler’s wicker shoe, and he, in turn, loses part of his toe. Now that he knows the truth, Chandler’s livid, and in an effort to cheer him up, Monica puts a turkey on her head — complete with a fez and giant sunglasses — and dances around for him. Not only does it work, but caught up in the moment, Chandler tells Monica he loves her.
Best quote: “It’s a tradition, like the parade, if the parade decided it was gay, moved out, and abandoned its entire family.” —Chandler
What they ate: Pumpkin pie, apple pie, a Hershey bar (for a still-unsatisfied Joey), and presumably a helluva lot of food prior.
Fun fact: Douglas Looper, who played the paramedic who wheels Chandler into the hospital, appeared as an extra numerous times throughout Friends, including Season 3’s “The One with Ross’ Thing” as a firefighter when Phoebe was seeing firefighter Vince, Season 6’s “The One Where Chandler Can’t Cry” as the vampire in Ursula’s porno movie, and in Season 8’s “The One Where Rachel Has a Baby, Part 1” as the husband of the woman who’s having very mild contractions.
Why it’s No. 1: The walk down bad Thanksgiving memory lane was brought on by the classic “everyone say what they’re thankful for” go-round at the end of many turkey day meals. Plus, the look back at the cast in the ’80s and ’90s, bad wigs and all, is always satisfying, especially when it addresses an important change (like Monica’s weight loss), when it sets up a current romance (like Chandler and Monica’s), and when one character breaks form. Because only love could get anally retentive Monica Geller to put a salmonella-filled object on her head.
Correction: This post has been updated to accurately reflect that Rachel’s “other” sister, Amy, had been mentioned, but not by name, and had not been seen before Season 9. The author maintains that it’s still a big oversight on the show’s part (though, if anyone, Christina Applegate is worth the wait).