Episode 1.4 - "The One with George Stephanopolis"
This is the first episode that sees the friends split into two plot lines along gender lines - the boys go to a hockey game and watch Ross freak out about losing Carol and the girls have a slumber party and watch Rachel freak out about her lack of direction.
The hockey plot line doesn't really work for me on any level - the hospital high-jinks feel too contrived and Ross's fixation on the day he lost his virginity to Carol seems rather odd. I think they were trying to convey the existential despair that you can get on big "anniversary" days, but it would have worked better if it was their actual wedding anniversary. That seems more believable as something that would drive Ross into contemplative gloom. Maybe it was just an excuse to reveal that Ross has only had sex with one person?
The slumber party plot works much better. It gets cued up by Rachel's old friends (and I do mean old - they look 10 years older than Rachel and dress like biddies in a retirement home) visiting her at work and sending her into what feels like a much more legitimate moment of existential despair. Everyone in her old life is having these big life moments... and she's working as a waitress with no career path, no man, and no purpose. She perfectly taps into the insecurity of your 20s when she asks Monica and Phoebe: "But what if it doesn't come together?" Oi. No wonder they all start moping around after that, only to be buoyed by a naked George Stephanopolis (was he a sexy guy at this time? maybe?).
Their speculations about what each of the guys would be like in bed with intercutting shots of the guys goofing off at the hospital is comedic gold and makes that whole other plot line worthwhile, I'll concede that.
We also get the first appearance of what I'll call "aggressive Phoebe" in this episode, which is frankly one of the best things about an other wise middling 22 minutes. Her anger spills over when she sees the lady across the street eating their pizza - and reveals that her ditzy positivity is masking something a lot darker. Here's a confession, which I know many people will disagree with me on - Phoebe is far and away my least favorite of the friends. I don't really love that flighty facade she's playing up most of the time in the early seasons. But what I do love is when that facade drops and we see the true toll that having a truly shitty childhood took on her. Aggressive Phoebe is not only much funnier than ditzy Phoebe - she's also much more real.
This week also sees the first of many memorable games that the friends play together. Hooray for Twister...
And it's cute to end the episode with Rachel realizing that if nothing else, she has supportive relationships to carry her through and that means she's going to be okay. *Awwww...*
This week, we learn that both Phoebe and Monica hooked up with Jason Hurley at separate times. Monica pulls ahead in the round-up.
The Great Hook-Up Round-Up:
Of course, "THAT'S NOT FOR YOU, BITCH!" - Phoebe
"Hey, that woman has an ass like Carol's... What? I thought we were finding stuff." - Joey
Episode 1.5 - "The One With the German Laundry Detergent"
Sigh. You know what I'm going to say. We ONCE AGAIN start with a sex discussion. At least this one is mildly funny, getting Joey's take on boobs and ending with that great one liner of "multiple orgasms!"
And at least this episode is one of the first ones that feels almost wholly diverting. We see the gang paired off into 3 guy-girl relationship building plots: Ross and Rachel doing laundry, Joey and Monica trying to break a couple up, and Chandler and Phoebe breaking up with their significant others. For the first time, all the story lines have something in them that is both funny and substantial.
For Joey and Monica, we see Friends Behaving Badly. A recurring theme throughout the rest of the series emerges - the friends are emboldened to be transgressive by another friend joining in and egging them on. Monica knows that they shouldn't be purposefully trying to destroy this couple, but Joey makes it sound so appealing. We get an early glimpse of these two's chemistry- Monica as Joey's slightly exasperated but doting best gal pal.
Ross and Rachel are clearly the dramatic core of the episode. For the first time, we see Ross' feelings established in a more substantial way. He really does like Rachel and has all the butterflies that go along with that. It's great to see them bond over Rachel's burgeoning adulthood with Ross acting as her supportive cheerleader. He shows her the ropes and by the end of the episode, we not only see their first kiss (complete with yet another demonstration of Schwimmer's gifts in physical comedy) but also Rachel coming into her own as a competent adult. Not to mention her taking out a kente-cloth wearing bee-yotch (who is just unrealistically mean).
We also see a rare Chandler and Phoebe plotline which shows off why it was a shame that they never found more for those two to do together - Phoebe's flighty, glass-half-full demeanor plays wonderfully against Chandler's insecure, glass-half-empty snark. They establish one of the series very best recurring characters: Janice. In this incarnation, she's an actual human being. She cares about Chandler and reacts very naturally to someone who does the world's worse job of breaking up with her. It gives her a chance to say one of my most quoted line from the show ("Stop it, stop it, stop it!") and Phoebe a chance to shine as the break-up whisperer.
A couple of continuity points annoyed me in this episode - in the previous episode, we established that Rachel does her own laundry and that Ross has (very weirdly) told Monica about when he lost his virginity. Yet in this episode, these established points are clearly contradicted by the girls - there are some other continuity errors coming up, making me wonder if these earlier episodes were written to be shown in a different order.
We add three paramours to the round-up this week: Chandler & Janice, Phoebe & Tony, and Joey & Angela. Monica holds her lead into the next turn...
The Great Hook-Up Round-Up:
"All right, show's over." - Ross
Ross- "Your bras and your under panty things."
Rachel - "Well, what about these, these are white cotton panties?"
Ross- "That... that would be a judgment call."
Last but not least, see the AV Club's assessment
See you next Friday!