Friends Season 3 Episodes, Ranked (Part 2)

Friends The One with the Giant Poking Device

(Friends Season 3 Episodes, Ranked (Part 1)

Friends The One with All the Jealousy

12. Episode 12 – “The One with All the Jealousy”

“The One with All the Jealousy” is the most Gellar-heavy episode of season three, an episode centered on Ross and Monica’s dramatic instincts, and their uncanny ability to jump to conclusions. The stakes of these, of course, are wildly different: she’s hooking up with her Latino co-worker, while Ross is fundamentally damaging the relationship he’s spent two years pursuing. Thankfully, the episode gives David Schwimmer a bit of room to build at least a bit of pathos into Ross (right before one of his most challenging, divisive arcs of the series), and keeps things relatively light with Joey’s pursuit of a role in A Tale of Two Cities: The Musical.

Friends The One with Frank Jr.

11. Episode 5 – “The One with Frank Jr.”

For an episode mostly about Monica’s bathroom floor and Joey’s construction skills, “The One with Frank Jr.” is one of the more relaxed, enjoyable outings of Friends‘s incredibly busy third season. “Frank Jr.” is Friends just hanging out – with the added touch of Frank Jr.’s trip to New York, a rare example of 90’s farce that (mostly) works (there’s also Ross’s laminated sex list, which culminates in a Isabella Rosselini cameo). Capable but unremarkable, “The One with Frank Jr.” is mostly a vibes episode of Friends, a great example of how effortlessly Friends, in its best moments, could fill a completely pointless half hour with personality and verve.

Friends The One with the Flashback

10. Episode 6 – “The One with the Flashback”

“The One with the Flashback” is one of the series’ numerous forays into its own past; thankfully, this is one of the few that don’t devolve into a bunch of Fat Monica jokes. It’s an extremely interesting idea, to take a look back at its characters right before the series began; though it kind of serves as an origin story (mostly for Central Perk, which replaces the bar they all hang out in), it’s mostly a fun episode that teases a number of “what ifs” in the form of a pair of unconventional potential romances, between Rachel and Chandler and Ross and Phoebe. Irreverent, fun, and a bit less mean-spirited than its other time-traveling entries, “The One with the Flashback” is an oddity, but not an extremely memorable one.

Friends The One with the Race Car Bed

9. Episode 7 – “The One with the Race Car Bed”

Friends was not a series big on plot twists (those not involving Ross and Rachel, that is), so seeing a Chandler-centric episode end on a big reveal – that Janice is cheating on Chandler with the ex-husband she just left – is an unusual one. But it works, carefully laying the tracks for what Joey eventually sees in the Mattress King’s office window through a well-crafted script (credited to Seth Kurland) – and at the same time, personifying the young comedy’s still-visible desire to challenge itself, and its characters, in new and intriguing ways. Despite featuring one of the more disappointing Joey subplots of the season (sabotaging a fellow actor’s audition by telling him to play the role “super gay”), “The One with the Race Car Bed” is always an interesting watch, a reminder of what the series was capable of, when it was still a (mostly) fearless young comedy.

Friends The One with a Chick and a Duck

8. Episode 21 – “The One with a Chick and a Duck”

Friends really struggles post-“The One with the Morning After” to find its footing again; “The One with a Chick and a Duck” is the one bright spot in season three’s depressingly cynical third act – and the only episode of the Monica/Pete arc not affected by their nonsensical romance. After Joey gets dumped and dipped on by Kate (in the middle of his terrible off-Broadway show), Friends smartly pivots away from all that garbage with an ingenious premise: depressed Joey buys a baby chick and falls in love.

For the many quick salves Friends could’ve offered Joey, this might be the strangest – but it is easily one of Joey’s most endearing moments, and marks the arrival of the titular iconic duo to Joey and Chandler’s household with the rare instance of animals enhancing a human storyline, rather than act as a silly diversion (see: Ross’s monkey in season one). It’s not a perfect episode – “this “TOW a Chick and a Duck” is Friends‘ biggest swing at convincing the audience of Pete and Monica’s viability, and it is a rousing failure in that regard – but when the A plot is so damn enjoyable, it’s extremely difficult to rank this any lower.

Friends The One with Phoebe's Ex-Partner

7. Episode 14 – “The One with Phoebe’s Ex-Partner”

“The One with Phoebe’s Ex-Partner” is not a typical episode of Friends – even for a Phoebe-centric episode, its tone and comedic rhythms feel different. It’s mostly a welcome oddity, especially with the foresight of knowing what’s to come in future episodes; a story about Phoebe’s former musical partner and Chandler’s third nipple turns out to be a formally subversive Friends episode – and in a way, a decent preview of the show’s willingness to engage with its more nihilistic, cynical side, which would rise pretty quickly to the surface as season three continued. Plus, any episode about Phoebe’s resilience as a human being is one worth watching, especially in the show’s early seasons.

Friends The One Where Ross and Rachel Take a Break

6. Episode 15 – “The One Where Ross and Rachel Take a Break”

“The One Where Ross and Rachel Take a Break” is not just the 63rd episode of Friends; it is the end of the show’s first act, a demarcation moment for character, season, and series – and as sad a first anniversary an iconic television couple have ever had. Rachel and Ross breaking up is the most important moment of the series, for better or worse: and “TOW Ross and Rachel Take a Break” sticks the landing, a strong episode about how destiny means nothing in reality, and how easy life can pull two people in love, in opposite directions (also, Phoebe tries to date a diplomat who can’t speak English… talk about couples who aren’t speaking the same language, amirite?). Friends would never be the same after this episode, and it knows it – to this day, it remains a bold creative decision, and one that, at least in the moment, works.

Friends The One with the Princess Leia Fantasy

5. Episode 1 – “The One with the Princess Leia Fantasy”

As perhaps the last ‘normal’ season premiere of Friends, “The One with the Princess Leia Fantasy” is a welcomely light entity, an episode contending with both 90’s male vulnerability, and Monica’s post-Richard depression. Though mostly known for its Star Wars-inspired Rachel scene, “TOW the Princess Leia Fantasy” features one of the best scenes of the season, in the form of Chandler and Ross having an extremely awkward conversation about sexual desire. It also, oddly enough, features a pretty strong Joey subplot, as he tries to resolve the fact that his friend is happy dating a woman he cannot stand; it’s really an episode without a weak point – and closes on a particularly touching note, when Monica’s father comes to pay his daughter a late-night visit.

Friends The One Where No One's Ready

4. Episode 2 – “The One Where No One’s Ready”

Friends‘ 50th episode is easily its most technically impressive, a bottle episode with four incredibly well-written stories, and the iconic image of Joey wearing all of Chandler’s clothes. Built on an ingenious premise – Ross trying to wrangle his friends to get ready for a museum function – “The One Where No One’s Ready” is a punchline-heavy, energetic half-hour – and, surprisingly, one that carefully alludes to Ross and Rachel’s future without showing its hand, in a rare display of restraint from the Friends writer’s room. Throw in a hilarious Chandler/Joey tiff and a strong (if pointless) Phoebe runner, and it’s obvious why this remains one of the most rewatchable half hours of the series.

Friends The One with the Morning After

3. Episode 16 – “The One with the Morning After”

Friends would air 236 episodes over its ten season run; there are none like “The One with the Morning After”, in which Friends takes perhaps its greatest leap of faith in the entire series. After all, since the opening scene of “The Pilot”, Friends has built itself on Ross and Rachel’s slow-burn romance; making it all come crashing down in “The One with the Morning After” is an incredibly show of confidence for the sitcom – and one that remains one of the most debatable plot choices in television history (and no, I’m not talking about whether they were on a break).

Split into two distinct halves, “The One with the Morning After” begins with Ross trying to backtrack the flow of information from his one-night stand with Chloe to Rachel; when he realizes she already knows what happened, it quickly becomes clear what the second half of the episode would be. And what a second half it is; as the group listens from Monica’s bedroom (long enough they consider eating leg wax for dinner), Ross and Rachel air it all out – ending on one of the show’s most emotionally charged exchanges, a moment so beautifully delivered by Aniston and Schwimmer, it stands as one of the best in the series. Few shows are brave enough to take such a risk with its protagonists; that Friends does it, and actually sticks the landing, is an incredibly impressive feat.

Friends The One Where Monica and Richard Are Just Friends

2. Episode 13 – “The One Where Monica and Richard Are Just Friends”

Sometimes, love just isn’t enough. If there’s a defining theme to Friends season three, it’s this; it’s an idea that affects every character, from Chandler and Janice’s doomed reunion, to the series-shifting Ross and Rachel breakup… even in less effective stories like Joey/Kate and Monica/Pete, Friends challenged the preconception of destiny, of how reality has a way of reminding us that everything, in one way or another, is temporary.

That idea shines through in the season’s best episodes; “The One Where Monica and Richard Are Just Friends”, which briefly brings Tom Selleck back into the fold, sees the titular characters trying to reconcile the fact that they’re still madly in love with each other, but have dissonant goals and dreams for the next stage of their lives. It’s funny and touching, the kind of emotionally charged story Friends was incredibly capable at telling when it put its mind to it (bonus points for pulling it off in an episode about Joey reading Little Women and the exposed nut sack of Phoebe’s boyfriend).

Friends The One with the Giant Poking Device

1. Episode 8 – “The One with the Giant Poking Device”

The best episode of Friends season three features a breakup; but not the one everyone remembers. Instead, “The One with the Giant Poking Device” (which, for my money, is the most underrated episode of the entire series) is about Chandler and Janice breaking up, when the former realizes he’s slowly turning into the person he hated most when he grew up – the one who got between his parents and threw his childhood into a tailspin. With Janice torn between two men she loves, Chandler makes the emotional, decision to step away, upending what we expect from the character (and Joey, who provides surprisingly salient advice) in one of the show’s most surprisingly emotional climactic moments.

The rest of “The One with the Giant Poking Device” is a bit pedestrian – Phoebe’s afraid of the dentist, and Monica accidentally gives Ben a minor head injury – but anchored by Matthew Perry and Maggie Wheeler’s equally dynamic performances in the episode, it is one of Friends‘s most palpable, touching half hours. And it ends on one of my favorite scenes of the series, a beautiful culmination of the 22 minutes preceding it: Chandler and Phoebe signing off-key Lionel Ritchie over the closing credits, a reminder that in the worst moments of our life, we can always lean on the people we love the most to carry us through.

One thought on “Friends Season 3 Episodes, Ranked (Part 2)

  1. What a season! Looking forward to the Season 4 reviews, where the show would have several super-important arcs, while presenting Ross and Rachel at their most annoying (seriously, some of their scenes in Season 4 are just unwatchable for me).

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