No matter how much you love your friends and family, no one makes it through the holidays unscathed. Between the close proximity, unfiltered opinions, and copious alcohol, tempers are bound to flare and feelings will be hurt. This is something that the writers of Friends were acutely aware of, and their Thanksgiving episodes remain some of the high points of the entire series. With one every season, let’s take a look back into the ’90s and see which episode dealt the most emotional trauma to this group of twentysomethings.
10. “The One Where Chandler Doesn’t Like Dogs” (Season 7)
This is easily the Thanksgiving episode with the lowest stakes. While the revelation that Chandler hates dogs is pretty funny, it isn’t really a source of real conflict. Sorry, Clunkers. The other main thread is the fact that Rachel really wants to get in her assistant Tag’s pants after he broke up with his girlfriend. Sure, Tag is cute, but who really cares? No one. Honestly, this episode was mostly filler and not worthy of other Thanksgiving classics. However, it gave us a classic Joey line, so for that we are thankful: “This is all a moo point … It’s like a cow’s opinion. You know, it just doesn’t matter. It’s moo.”
9. “The One With Rachel’s Other Sister” (Season 9)
While Christina Applegate is a brilliant comedienne in other roles, she never quite meshed as Rachel’s sister, Amy. She’s in town visiting her married boyfriend (always a good place to start), and when her plans fall through, she crashes the gang’s holiday plans. This leads to fights with Rachel over everything from familial status to whether or not Emma is actually a cute baby. While Amy’s seemingly willful ignorance has it’s moments, this isn’t nearly the most traumatic family incident on the list. The side plot of Monica wanting yet not really wanting to use her fancy wedding china is funny, but you can see the conclusion as soon as they pull out the flimsy box. Those suckers were not surviving the episode.
8. “The One With All The Football” (Season 3)
Rivalry is the name of the game in this season-three episode, where Ross and Monica resurrect The Gellar Cup and show the others that you don’t ever want to play football with the Gellars. Chandler is still reeling from his breakup with Janice, but that doesn’t stop him from competing for the attentions of a pretty Dutch woman. Basically, everyone is in deep competition except for Phoebe and Rachel, who are just glad to be playing football, no matter how bad they are at it. Falling back into old patterns with siblings usually happens around the holidays, and Ross and Monica are no exception. While they eventually send The Gellar Cup (aka a troll doll nailed to a two by four) down the trash chute, the two siblings end the episode locked around a football, neither willing to truly call it quits.
7. “The One Where Ross Got High” (Season 6)
Sometimes when you’re going down, it’s better to drag someone else down with you to cushion the blow. When Jack and Judy Gellar show up for the first Thanksgiving after Monica and Chandler are officially a couple, the Chandler is surprised to learn that his future in-laws already hate him. Through a bit of needling, he finds out that isn’t his fault at all, just that Ross used him as a scapegoat for a weed incident in the past. When Monica finally comes clean to their parents that the weed was actually Ross’s, everyone can relate to the pain of fessing up to past crimes. After that secret is out, everyone decides to pile on secret after secret, because why not? The flood gates were open, so why not spill it all? Holidays are so often fertile ground for coming clean, for better or for worse. Still, at least there was Rachel’s trifle disaster to take off some of the heat.
6. “The One With The List” (Season 2)
While it is technically a Thanksgiving episode, it doesn’t have as many holiday trappings as others on the list. However, there is a boatload of emotional conflict. Ross and Rachel have had their first kiss, and Ross is left to decide whether or not to go all in with Rachel or stay with his girlfriend, Julie. He foolishly enlists Chandler’s help making a pro/con list to help him choose between the two, leading him to make some insulting assumptions about Rachel. Unfortunately for him, she sees the list and cuts off their romance before it even has a chance to begin, kickstarting the quintessential “will-they-or-won’t-they” sitcom relationship. The B-plot is solid too, with Monica trying to find work after being fired from her dream job, forcing her to lay her talent and moral compass aside to come up with recipes using the unholy chocolate substitute, “mocklate,” for a hilariously slimy Michel McKean. I mean, who hasn’t had to put aside their pride when they’re young and just trying to make rent?
5. “The One With The Late Thanksgiving” (Season 10)
For the final Friends Thanksgiving episode, no one really wants to be there for dinner. Despite all the work that Monica (obviously) put into their dinner, everyone seems to have better things to do, be it beauty pageant or hockey game. When no one is on time to dinner, Monica and Chandler decide to lock them out come hell, high water, or Monica’s throbbing vein. Despite Rachel’s pleading that they should “not want to be together-together,” the Gellar-Bings hold fast until Joey gets his head stuck in the door. In the process of freeing him, he manages to destroy the entire dinner, but in the end all is well thanks to the news that Monica and Chandler had piqued the interest of a birth mother at the adoption agency. While their friends’ rejection stung, in the end, it didn’t even matter. They were getting their baby.
4. “The One With The Rumor” (Season 8)
The presence of then-Mr. Aniston, Brad Pitt only drives home the awkwardness of this episode. Rachel is pregnant with Ross’s baby (but they aren’t actually together), and Pitt shows up as former Gellar friend, Will, who recently got fit but still hates Rachel. Back in high school, Will and Ross had a “We Hate Rachel Green” club, and used what little influence they had to start rumors about her years earlier. Even though it was years in the past, Rachel is still crushed by the fact that the future father of her child was so cruel behind her back. Everyone dredges up past stings a bit, but they all decide to leave it in the past. Everyone except Will, who will always consider Rachel Green and complex carbohydrates to be his two greatest enemies.
3. “The One With Chandler In A Box” (Season 4)
Chandler and Joey’s friendship weathered many storms, but the biggest falling out happened when Chandler fell in love with Joey’s girlfriend, Kathy. Seeing these two best friends on the outs is always sad, and Chandler is desperate to make amends, so much so that he is willing to spend the entire holiday in a box to “do some thinking.” While falling out with a friend can be damaging, the true cringe-inducing incident of the episode is when Monica invites her old boyfriend Richard’s son Tim, played by a pre-Alias Michael Vartan, over for Thanksgiving. Because he’s hot. Everyone tries to convince her that this is a terrible plan, but Monica is lonely, horny, and ready to try anything. However, one kiss is all it takes to cure her of her brief and icky crush. Joey’s right: You should never be able to say “That’s not how your dad did it” in any relationship, romantic or otherwise. That is a ticket straight to the therapist’s couch.
2. “The One Where Underdog Gets Away” (Season 1)
Your first Thanksgiving away from your parents can be hard. The loneliness and sense of “Oh my god I really am an adult now” can lead to added stress, as Monica learns in the first of many Turkey Day episodes. When the Gellar parents decide to skip family holidays for a more tropical location, Monica takes the reins to run her first dinner for herself, Phoebe, and Ross. In order to please everyone (always a losing game), she attempts multiple types of potatoes, and their little group grows as Joey joins in after his family thinks he has a venereal disease (thanks, Mario!) and Rachel doesn’t make it to Vale for her family holidays. Tensions run high after they get locked out of the apartment and the entire feast is ruined, all because they wanted to see the escaped Underdog float. On top of all of that, we learn about Chandler’s issues with the holiday, which dredges up old feelings about his parent’s divorce. While they eventually sit down to a nice meal of grilled cheese and tomato soup, it sure took a lot to get them there.
1. “The One With All The Thanksgivings” (Season 5)
While this episode easily has the most long-lasting emotional trauma, it also has the most heartwarming moment to balance it out. Friends excelled at the awkward flashbacks, and this episode was jammed full of them. In order to get into the holiday spirit, the group decides to swap stories about their worst Thanksgivings. We see Ross bring home his new roommate, Chandler, from college for the holidays, and Chandler, being a young douchebag, immediately makes comments about Monica’s weight. For revenge the following year, a newly svelte Monica decides that the best course of action is seduce him and then leave him hanging, but accidentally cuts off his toe in the process. Hurts dealt in high school and college can leave deep scars, and Chandler’s cruel remarks still stay with Monica to this day, and Chandler isn’t going to let go of the fact that Monica cut off his pinky toe. Still, this mix up culminates in one of Friends‘ most iconic moments, when Chandler finally tells Monica that he loves her. While she has a turkey on her head.