FRIENDS' 25th Anniversary: A Closer Look at 'The One the Morning After' - Give Me My Remote : Give Me My Remote

FRIENDS’ 25th Anniversary: A Closer Look at ‘The One the Morning After’

September 3, 2019 by  

Friends 'The One the Morning After

Credit: WB

[On Thursday, September 22, 1994, NBC debuted the pilot of FRIENDS. The sitcom, about a group of six 20-something friends, went on to become a pop culture touchstone. In honor of the milestone, we’re doing 25 Days of FRIENDS, looking back at the show in big and small ways.]

One of my favorite episodes of FRIENDS is also the one I’ve seen the least.

Though FRIENDS occasionally dipped its toes into serious issues, “The One the Morning After” was one of its biggest swings. Not only did the show break up its (at the time) central couple, but a good portion of the episode wasn’t going for laughs.

In the previous episode, Ross and Rachel’s anniversary celebration took a bitter twist, as Rachel asked for the duo to take a break. It wasn’t out of nowhere—their tension had been escalating in recent episodes, as Ross became increasingly jealous over Rachel’s new job and colleague (Mark)—but the couple had drastically different takes on what a “break” actually meant: Ross thought it was a break-up, while Rachel thought it was more of a pause so they could breathe. Ross channeled his grief—which was magnified after he called Rachel and realized Mark was at her apartment—into sleeping with another woman.

The first part of “Morning After” is lighter, as Ross scrambles (after bad advice from Joey and Chandler) to try and contain the news that he slept with Chloe. There’s a B-plot as Monica and Phoebe try supposedly pain-free wax, but it’s as much an excuse to keep them—and Joey/Chandler, who rush in when they hear the women screaming—locked in Monica’s room while Ross and Rachel have their inevitable confrontation.

Because, of course, Rachel discovers the truth. Over the last 12 minutes of the episode, the duo have it out over the course of several hours. And, frankly, it’s hard to watch. A lot of the sitcom tropes are removed for large chunks of it: the audience is largely silent, there isn’t the typical music, and a lot of focus of it is just on Ross and Rachel. There are quick shots to the rest of the cast, especially as they react to what Ross and Rachel are saying, it could just as easily work as a two-person play. It’s gorgeous and absolutely uncomfortable.

I imagine a lot of reaction to the episode comes down to whose “team” you’re on. If you love Rachel and/or hate Ross, you probably think she’s in the right. If you love Ross, ditto. I’m a bit more mixed; I don’t dislike either character (though, clearly, Ross was going overboard with his jealousy), but I’ve always felt the break was phrased as a break-up versus calming down for the night and figuring things out later. (That being said: Ross was a dumb dumb for immediately hopping into bed with someone else.)

A lot of the tragic elements come from that complexity. Ross and Rachel had already overcome a lot to get to that point, and we learn later that Ross had already worked out an elaborate plan of how he was going to propose. Rachel wasn’t wrong to be upset, but Ross wasn’t wrong for his interpretation. It was a glaringly human miscommunication and the ramifications changed their relationship course forever.

When Ross broke down, realizing he really was about to lose Rachel, you believed his gutted, “This can’t be it.” And despite their already off-on relationship up until that point—little did fans know how much it would continue for the rest of the series—you also believed Rachel’s, “Then how come it is?” It was brutal, honest, and sometimes felt like you were intruding on a private conversation. David Schwimmer and Jennifer Aniston once again did beautiful work as they navigated the decidedly unfunny situation. But as incredible as the episode is, it’s one I have to be in a very specific mindset to actually turn/keep on.

*As a note, all pieces focusing on episodes and the content in the episodes is based on what originally aired on NBC, which is what is currently streaming on Netflix/how the Blu-Ray set is formatted. As fun as the extended episodes are on DVD, this makes it a bit more streamlined for people who only know the show via its original/more recent releases.


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