Friends S4:E1 – Guess who’s back? Back again. Kenny’s back. Tell your FRIENDS. And it feels so good to be back. Greetings, welcome, and great to see you, Mercedes-Friends Nation! Man, it feels like we’ve been gone for a long time. In fact, the last time we got together was quite literally one hundred President Trump controversies ago. So, politics aside, how was your summer? As you might have suspected, mine was insane. Any of you who have followed this blog series for any amount of time know that I like to spend my off-seasons barefoot with my toes in the sand somewhere tropical. Well, knowing that, you might be able to further deduce that this summer, my affinity for tropical climates and sandy beaches came with some complications. While under normal circumstance I like to allow you to live vicariously through my braggadocios accounts of my beach adventures, given the devastation we’ve witnessed over these past several weeks, clearly these are not normal circumstances. Yes, I spent time this summer in some of the places that have been devastated by hurricanes and flooding but no, I was never directly in harms way. I know many, many people were. For some, their lives will never be the same. For others, it will take years to put the pieces back together. On behalf of the entire staff here at theLeftAhead, I want to extend our most heartfelt condolences to all affected by these devastating storms. To our friends and family in Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and elsewhere who are doing the hard work of rebuilding, we are with you. There are many amazing efforts being made to raise funds and gather supplies to provide relief. In fact, there are too many to name but for anyone who wants to make a worthwhile hurricane disaster relief donation while or after reading this post, theLeftAhead is supporting retired San Antonio Spurs star Tim Duncan’s efforts in the U.S. Virgin Islands.
With that said, our work at hand seems to be trivial but, regardless, we should and we will keep it moving. In fact, if these next few moments of me rambling on about the happenings at Phoebe’s client’s beach house can bring even the slightest amount of joy to even one Friends-loving hurricane victim, then I’ll consider this a worthwhile endeavor. Alrighty, then. When last we left our pals, they were hanging out at the aforementioned beach house and Ross was put in the position to choose between staying with his girlfriend Bonnie or dumping her to try and rekindle his romance with Rachel. That’s right, boys and girls. In other words, when last we left our pals, we were gifted the classic sitcom cliff hanger to chew on over the summer. And to the surprise of absolutely no-one, Season 4 opens by revealing to us that…duh duh duh…Ross chooses Rachel. This kicks off a comical chain of events that culminate in the phrase heard round the world: “Fine by me.” These hilarious goings on will be discussed in greater detail in the latter sections of the post (we actually have two Gandalf Gaffes in today’s episode) but with the remaining time I have to devote to open commentary, I want to turn to one of my favorite pastimes: highlighting Friends references in modern pop culture. As you can imagine, multiple pop culture references can begin to build up when we’re off for an entire summer. This summer was no different as I already have multiple occurrences to chronicle from Summer 2017. I plan to get to all of them over the coming weeks but there was one major one that deserves our undivided attention in our “Back-To-School” post. This blockbuster pop culture Friends homage of epic proportions landed a little more than a month ago in mid-August. Ironically, the timing of us reconvening to discuss it could not be more apropos given the controversy that President Trump stirred up over the weekend. So without further clarification or commentary, here is the video for JAY-Z – Moonlight:
So, now that we’ve all watched the video (probably not for the first time), I pick back up without agenda. I’m more interested in making a couple of thought provoking observations to add to the depth of thought around this rather than laying out a commentary narrating to you how you should feel about the way JAY-Z posts up in such a provocative way at the intersection of race and Friends. First, regardless of the racial implications, I found this remake quite enjoyable atheistically simply because I am quite fond of the episode being remade. On a basic level, it was really cool to see different actors remaking this classic episode. Secondly, I found it interesting that in making a statement about white privilege and institutional racism (a point that I appreciate in that I happen to agree those are major issues in American society), JAY-Z chose to parody an exceptional episode of an exceptional predominantly white sitcom. In doing so his statement becomes part homage while also part criticism. If he only intended to make a critical statement, I suspect he would have been better served parodying a mediocre predominantly white sitcom. For arguments sake, let’s use Friends spin-off Joey as an example. Parodying the mediocre sitcom Joey in making the point that “even when we win, we ‘gon lose” would’ve been more effective, albeit less provocative. The fact that he parodied one of the best episodes of one of the best shows of all-time is interesting to me because it makes his statement more layered and nuanced than had he parodied white sitcom mediocrity. Returning to our example, if he had parodied Joey, I would have interpreted his commentary as indisputably criticizing white privilege and institutional racism. But is it not something else entirely since he chose to parody predominantly white sitcom excellence of the highest order? Just a little food for thought. Definitely worth chewing over. And, if indeed I have gotten you to use that muscle inside your skull a little bit this evening, class..then my work here is done. On to the recap and what not. It’s really good to be back.
Recap in the Key of Phoebe – This is the one where Ross chooses Rachel over Bonnie, Rachel writes Ross a letter laying out the conditions that Ross must agree to in order for her to give the relationship another chance, Monica tries to pee on herself, Joey tries to pee on Monica, Chandler definitely pees on Monica (could Monica be more covered in Chandler’s pee?), Phoebe finds out things she has in common with her birth mom, and Ross and Rachel get in such a big fight that when Rachel breaks it off with Ross again he responds by saying, “fine by me.”
Gandalf Gaffes – Well, we certainly know how to come back with a bang in the Double G department. Guess what, boys and girls? I have (count ’em) not one but two gaffes to offer up as sacrifice to the Sitcom Consistency Gods from this, our Back-To-School episode. So, enough with the formalities. Let’s get right into it, shall we? Our first gaffe of Season 4 takes place in a conversation at the beach between Joey and Chandler. Full disclosure: the gaffe occurs during a scene that is not included in the broadcast version of S4:E1 but can be found in the extended-episode DVD version (Please note: it has been repeatedly established in Seasons 1-3 of Friends 20/20 that the Collector’s Edition DVD episodes rather than the broadcast episodes are our bible for playing the Gandalf Gaffe game of chronicling Friends continuity issues). The conversation takes place just after Phoebe has informed Joey and Chandler that her mom’s friend Phoebe is actually her birth mother. After processing the information, Joey presents Chandler with the hypothetical of finding out that his mother is not actually his mother but instead his birth mother is “hot.” Playing along, Chandler points out that it wouldn’t matter whether or not she’s “hot” because it’s your mother. Joey responds by informing Chandler that he was talking specifically about Chandler’s mother with his hypothetical and therefore it would be great for him (as Chandler’s friend) if Chandler’s newly discovered birth mom were “hot.” This exchange, while comical, is also inconsistent with previously established precedent. Ironically, exactly one year prior, in S3:E1, after discovering the embarrassing tidbit that sometimes Chandler’s mom creeps into his head while he’s having sex, Joey attempts to comfort Chandler by confiding that he does it too. He goes on to say that he always pictures Chandler’s mom when he’s having sex. While this is not only a hilarious moment, it is also revealing. The implication is that Joey thinks Chandler’s mom is “hot” if he “always” pictures her while having sex. Therefore, since it was previously established that Joey thinks Chandler’s mom is “hot,” it is a Gandalf Gaffe for him to insinuate that she’s not “hot” a year later by putting together a hypothetical of Chandler discovering that she’s not his birth mom and subsequently discovering that his birth mom is “hot.” I’m ruling this as a level two infraction. Our second Double G of the episode is the rare in-episode gaffe. This one is perpetrated by Chandler while telling the epic story of the Jellyfish incident at Monica and Rachel’s apartment. During his recanting of the events, Chandler reports that he can still hear Joey screaming at him, “Do it now! Do it!! Do it! Do it now!” and he goes on to say that “sometimes late at night I can still hear the screaming.” This certainly adds theatrics to the story Chandler is telling but unfortunately for him and the Friends writers there’s just one major problem: his recanting of the jellyfish incident is taking place on the same day as the incident itself so it is impossible for him to still hear the screaming late at night. How do I know that the recanting is taking place on the same day as the incident? Our heroes are all wearing the same clothes that they were wearing upon leaving the beach house. Game. Set. Match. Because Chandler’s storytelling theatrics could have been explained away as simply that, this is a minor infraction but an infraction nonetheless. Chandler indulging his story? Level one infraction. Me starting the season off with a bang by pinpointing one in-episode gaffe and two Gandalf Gaffes overall? Priceless.
Gandalf Gaffe #14: Joey contradicts the already established precedent that he thinks Chandler’s mom is “hot” when proposing a hypothetical to Chandler about his mom. In the hypothetical, Chandler discovers that his mom is not really his mom and instead, his real mom is “hot.” It can be inferred from this hypothetical that Joey does not find Chandler’s mom attractive. This is inconsistent with a revelation that Joey made to Chandler in (ironically enough) S3:E1. During that episode, Joey reveals to Chandler that, “I always picture your Mom when I’m having sex.” The implication is that Joey indeed finds Chandler’s mom attractive.
Gandalf Gaffe #15: While telling the epic story of the jellyfish incident, Chandler makes the rare in-episode gaffe by claiming that, “Joey kept screaming at me, ‘Do it now! Do it!! Do it! Do it now!’ Sometimes late at night I can still hear the screaming.” This is all well and good, except for the fact that (based on everybody still wearing the same clothes they left the beach in) he is telling this story on the very same day as the incident. It would be impossible for him to “still hear the screaming” late at night.
Chan Man Quip of the Week – [The Setup] Monica, Chandler, and Joey are in Monica and Rachel’s kitchen when they hear Ross and Rachel fighting in the bedroom. Monica and the guys try to escape to the coffee shop but Ross and Rachel come storming out into the living room before they can make a run for it. After Rachel and Ross exchange barbs where they both express there desire to be broken up again, Rachel informs Ross, ” I just feel bad about all that sleep you’re gonna miss wishing you were with me!” Ross fires back, “Oh, no-no-no. Don’t you worry about me falling asleep. I still have your letter!” Not to be discouraged or outdone, Rachel claims the last word, “And hey! Just so you know, it’s not that common! It doesn’t happen to every guy! And it is a big deal!” [The Knockout] Appearing as if he had just been presented with scientific evidence confirming his most deeply held belief, Chandler vulnerably yet emphatically declares, “I KNEW IT!”
Video Source: JayZVEVO on YouTube
Featured Image Source: Pigeons & Planes
Headline GIF Source: PopKey