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  • Writer's pictureHannah Pearson and Susannah Powers Stengel

Grateful for Friends

Our Top Friends Turkey Day Sodes and the Gravy, Tart, Hearty Friendships that Make All the Seasons Bright

Spoilers For: Really?! Can you BE any more behind? Get your life right.



I get it. You miss your family. You miss your sanity. And of course, the sweeping nostalgia palooza of Turkey Day makes you miss your Friends--the chosen family whose perpetual acceptance and zinging tirade of inside jokes makes you feel seen and heard. They love you, not in spite of, but because of your stupid patterns and your incessant cycles of failure and redemption. Celebrate the Central Perk sixsome with us, as we treasure both their Turkey Day offerings and the friendships that have defined our lives.


Gobble gobble, and spread the gratitude on screen and off this Friendsgiving.


Hannah's Picks


The One with Chandler in a Box (Season 4):

Suzie Q


Kiss Joey’s girl and it’s the box for you! That’s the hard truth Chandler learned after he finally made a move on Kathy. Chandler went so far past the line, that the line is a dot to him. My dot was the time I dated Rushmore in middle school, despite knowing beforehand he was the object of my friend’s affection. Not just any friend, but literally my first friend. Ever. Periodt.


Suzie Q and I grew up down the street from each other and the similarities between us went far past the rhyme scheme of our names. We’ve been writing and business partners long before Tellyfish, having started a semi-successful lemonade stand in elementary school and writing plays together in high school. I call her my Creative Sponsor-- the person who keeps me focused, galvanized, and most crucially, hopeful. The work we’ve done together is the one thing keeping me from calling 2020 a total wash. This year for Thanksgiving, I am most thankful for her and our shared dream.


And I’m glad she didn’t put me in a box for dating Rushmore. But I totally would have for her!



The One with Football (Season 3):

Star Queen Bitch


The gang playing football on an obvious sitcom stage is probably one of the first images people conjure when they think of Friends’ Thanksgiving episodes. This one is from the early days of the saga when their quirky habits and flaws were still being baked, and not yet the thick slab, borderline on cartoonish, that we get in later seasons. The best example of this is finding out how out of control Monica’s competitiveness is, especially when it paired nicely with some sibling rivalry.


Star Queen Bitch has long been one out of a small pool of friends that delight in shared addiction to winning, and more importantly; others losing. We’ve gone head to head on everything from who’s kissed the most boys, to crossing the finish line in a game of Mario Kart. Not once has this craving for first place bubbled over into animosity toward the other one. We know to hate the game, never the playa.


Both of our mouths would salivate at the thought of something like the Gellar Cup and I’m sure we’d be just as annoying to those around us as Monica and Ross are to the rest of the crew. But whatever, they just don’t understand.


The One with the Rumor (Season 8):

Mustang Sally

Brad Pitt shows up in this one as Monica’s old high school pal and secret nemesis of the former cool girl, Rachel. The Fourth Wall/Dramatic Irony of this episode is that in real life (at least the time of filming) Pitt and Aniston are married. But as the title implies, this one is all about a rumor. Midway through dinner Will (Pitt) 's slow-cooked contempt for Rachel hits a boiling point and it’s revealed that he, along with Ross, started a big rumor about a little hidden member.


The origin story of my friendship with Mustang Sally involved some rumors also started by a high school outcast turned troll. This troll was my sweet sixteen sweetheart (Babycakes) and while he lacked Will’s bronze body and chiseled face, he matched his scorn for strong women. Mustang Sally’s self-possession was a rare thing among validation-thirsty teenagers. My boyfriend misconstrued her self-esteem for signs of promiscuity and literally forbade me from hanging out with her.


Will’s rumor didn’t keep Rachel from being the most popular girl in school and Babycakes rumor didn’t stop me from wising up, ditching him, and hopping in the passenger side with Mustang Sally. Over a decade and a half later she is still my ride-or-die.



The One with Rachel’s Other Sister (Season 9):

Jenna Rink


Even though Rachel’s sisters haven’t shed the vapidness and materialism that New York detoxed out of her, she obviously still loves them… just not enough to give them custody of Emma. A fact that sends the older sister, Amy (Christina Applegate), into a state of seething rage. The result is a sister showdown and some broken plates-- Monica plates.


Rachel has two sisters and despite the title of a Woody Allen movie, I have none. But if having a sister means having a relationship with someone you feel so close to that not even the worst fight couldn’t keep you from loving each other, then I’ve got the next best thing. Jenna Rink is my surrogate sister. Besties since middle school; we’ve run the gamut of all the highs and lows of true friendship. Like Amy and Rachel, we love through the bickering. Unlike Amy and Rachel, I would gladly trust her with my baby.


The One with the List (Season 2):

Rachem

This one is barely a Thanksgiving episode, which makes it perfect for this friend because she was as real as a friend at times as Mockolate tasted like chocolate. This episode has Monica torturing the crew with recipes using the sweet treat substitute, that as Phoebe puts it is “what evil must taste like,” and meanwhile Ross is torturing himself over how to choose between Julie and Rachel. So he makes the infamous list.


Who hasn’t sat down and written out all the pros and cons of a situation (or person) and hoped the numbers would add up to the right answer? Rachem was the subject of many of my list-making.


Rachem was smart, stylish, and a guaranteed wild hang. Being around her made me feel like things could happen or were already happening. Being sucked into her orbit of perfectly curated music and fashion made me believe that I was as cool as her just by the light bouncing off her, reflecting onto me. But on the other side of the list was moodiness, pettiness, and a victim mentality that was a black hole.


The friendship lasted as long as Julie and Ross, but I’m still thankful for the experience and the memories.



Susannah's Picks


The One Where Ross Got High (Season 6):

Florian


When Monica and Ross’ parents join the gang for Turkey Day, Monica must debunk her family’s misconceptions about Chandler. Ross wrongly accused his college bestie Chan of smoking weed in his room (obvi a ploy to cover his own doobie tracks). In a chain of accelerating reveals, Monica and Ross throw one another under the bus, and Rachel discovers she inadvertently put beef in her traditional English trifle. “Custard, good. Jam, good. Meat, good!” Joey’s still in.


Florian and I have known each other since elementary school, with a particular memorable conjoined classroom presence of platonic banter and one upmanship that began in 3rd grade and has, somehow, not ended yet. Florian and I drifted a bit after high school. Then, at twenty, I came home from a night of liberal hotbox smoking without Florian to find my dad in his sharpest ever detective mode. He asked me who had given me the weed. Instead of revealing my true source--I brandished your name, Florian. I think the guilt of this false confession drew me closer to you over the years. Since my lie, we have actually smoked together, dungeoned and dragoned together, and each grown into happy adults together. Sorry my parents may have disliked you strongly for a sec there. They have been corrected by time. Thoughtful, good. Weirdo, good. Teflon, good.


The One Where Underdog Gets Away (Season 1):

Eartha


For the gang’s first ever Thanksgiving as a sixsome, Monica agrees to cook, and Rachel plans to leave. Chandler hates Thanksgiving and only eats Funyuns and grilled cheese. Joey’s career hits a new, dark high--in a public ad campaign for venereal disease. But Rachel isn’t joining her family to ski, and Monica’s meal is destined to fail when the girls lock themselves out of their apartment and are temporarily trapped on the roof.


Like Chandler, sometimes I snuggle up close to my trauma and invite my crippling, bristly blanket of self-decrepitating comedy to win the day. No one helps me thwart this tendency more than Eartha. She is empathetic, witty, kind, and open hearted to every rhythm of my anxious opinions. She inspires silliness and self-acceptance in me. Like the girl Friends, she and I once got locked out together. We were trapped in my parents backyard together after smoking a particularly dank bowl. Instead of my usual penchant for panic, I found this crisis almost fun around Eartha, a moment to bond and strategize. After successfully breaking back into my living room, I knew you would be my sister for life.


The One Where Chandler Doesn’t Like Dogs (Season 7)

Cornelia


Phoebe’s been hiding a secret--a dog in Monica and Chandler’s guest room. Chandler hates dogs. Rachel like likes her hot assistant Tag. Ross forgets about Delaware (and Ohio) in a madcap Thanksgiving game challenge to name all 50 states in six minutes. Ingrained faults are explored in a classic friends ‘sode that is anything but a moo point.


I have never met a soul who so radically owns her ingrained faults as Cornelia. She’s brash, bold, and flagrantly herself. The only jaded and most effective teacher in a room full of sycophant newbies when I began teaching in my early twenties. A dominating karaoke singer with a dramatic and obsessive streak. A fierce competitor. A horrible liar. A charismatically unfiltered short drink of water I could sip on for the rest of my life. Like Ross, you torture yourself over details and you beautifully foam at the mouth to win a game. You feel how Chandler feels about dogs about people who don’t like dogs. Your opinionated ass motivates me to listen to myself and step outside of normative behavior. You put the flaw in flawless.


The One With the Late Thanksgiving (Season 10)

The Fellowship of the Ring


The final Thanksgiving episode in the final season of Friends falls a bit flat on the sharpness and high on the sentimentality--but don’t many of our own holiday memories? The format of layered plotline hijinks coalesce on the gang begging Monica and Chandler for entry to a dinner they have thus far missed to pursue other holiday distractions. In the end, Monica and Chandler learn of their adoption success; they shall have a baby. Yayby.





Starting in 2008, I chose to stay on campus every year for my college Thanksgivings. During these glorious years, I potlucked, ate weed brownies, smoked holiday hookah, undercooked cheesecake, overcooked sweet potatoes, and became a lingering family with a group of about seven women and three men--all of us intellectually zippy and radically accepting of one another. Special shoutout to, let’s call her Froda, a young lady with whom I began watching the Kate Beckinsale-John Cusack magic joint Serendipity each year. This movie irrationally screams Thanksgiving to me every time I encounter it. While only some members of this group have had babies, they all hold within them a treasure map to find the embers of my conscious transformation from a baby into an angry, horny, self-possessed, loved scholar bitch. Thanks guys. I miss you all.


The One with All the Thanksgivings (Season 5)

Birdie

Without debate a contender for best Friends Thanksgiving episode of all time, this flashback-centric treat traces the gang’s “worst” Thanksgiving memories across time--Phoebe’s past life memories as a nurse during bloody wars, but mainly, the origins of Monica and Chandler’s contentious romantic bond--fat jokes (they hurt my ears now tbh) and severed toes and witty banter abound. The best? When Monica, a turkey resplendently shoved upon her head, first hears Chandler say he loves her. Dawwww. This bloomin shiz is meant to be. Oh Mandler. Chonica?


Birdie, we’re a brand. From the lemonade stand when we grew up on the streets together, to the safe space for my meandering tween philosophies to grow, to a harbor in the tempestuous storms of my twenties, to now--this moment of audacious courage to present ourselves to the world, together--we’re a brand. I want to thank you for loving me at every point in my evolving, amoeba selfhood. (Even when I was just a catty teen, desperate to make you laugh and go home with you and eat all your family’s Cookie Crisp, you loved me. Even when I told you things you didn’t want to hear, you loved me. Even when I made radically shifting statements about the woman I wanted to be, you backed me. You and I are meant to be, Birdie. Thank you for helping me stop telling myself stories about what I couldn’t have, and start writing down new stories about who I might choose to be. Thank you.)



Which Friend are You Grateful for this Year??



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