Thursday, November 22, 2018

Friends: "The One Where Underdog Gets Away"

Premiered November 17, 1994.

It’s Thanksgiving week in mid-1990s Manhattan, and holiday plans are in process.
Rachel (Jennifer Aniston) needs money so she can go to Vail with her family and hopes to earn it from her job at the coffee shop.

Ross (David Schwimmer) and Monica (Courtney Cox) are upset when they learn their parents are spending Thanksgiving in Puerto Rico.  Monica volunteers to do her best to replicate the family Thanksgiving meal, promising to include “the lumps” in their mother’s mashed potato recipe.  

Phoebe (Lisa Kudrow) plans to visit to her grandmother and her boyfriend for Thanksgiving, however,  they won’t be celebrating Thanksgiving until December because the boyfriend is “lunar.”  Monica invites Phoebe to her place for Thanksgiving dinner.

Actor Joey (Matt LeBlanc) has recently gotten a job as a poster model for a free clinic.  Unbeknownst to him, his image is being used on the poster about venereal disease.  His family now thinks he has VD so he’s on his own for the holiday, and he’s going to be at Monica’s as well.

Chandler (Matthew Perry) does not celebrate the occasion due to a Thanksgiving childhood trauma, and he he plans to have a “feast” of grilled cheese, tomato soup and Funions.

Thanksgiving expectations and tensions begin to mount.  Monica is getting frazzled about meal preparation, especially since everyone expects her to prepare potatoes for the meal in different styles (with lumps, whipped with peas & carrots, as tater tots, etc).

Rachel is thrilled to learn that her friends have taken up a collection to get her a plane ticket to Vail.

Then Chandler arrives with news that the Underdog balloon has “escaped” from the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade.  Everyone runs to the rooftop of the apartment building to witness Underdog’s unscheduled flight.

Unfortunately, Monica and Rachel miscommunicate about keys to the front door, and find themselves locked out of their apartment, which means that Monica’s feast is overcooking and Rachel’s plane ticket and baggage are inaccessible.  

Is Thanksgiving ruined?

RigbyMel says:

This is a solid Thanksgiving episode with many of the expected tropes that have come to be associated with turkey day TV including the requisite cooking disaster and time spent with friends and/or family and the attendant tensions holiday expectations bring.

There is a subplot involving Ross (my least favorite character on the show because he is awful and entitled and self-centered) spending some time with his pregnant ex-wife and competing with her girlfriend for the affections of their unborn baby.  This subplot and some of the jokes (like one about Joey wearing makeup for his modeling job) haven't aged particularly well in my estimation.

That being said, it's nice to see actual Macy's Thanksgiving parade footage from 1993 including the Underdog and Smokey Bear balloons.   The national TV broadcast of the Macy's parade makes it a Thanksgiving touchstone for people all across the US and watching old footage from the parade provides interesting views of various moments in pop culture.     The unexpectedness of Underdog's "escape" from the parade and Joey's modelling woes add zest to the proceedings.

If you're a fan of the show and want to enjoy some 1990s nostalgia over your Thanksgiving weekend, this episode is recommended, even if it's not quite a classic.

RigbyMel's rating:

3 pumpkin pies

J.A. Morris says:
"The One Where Underdog Gets Away" is a solid Thanksgiving episode. I've written here before about how the Macy's Parade is as important to Thanksgiving as pumpkin pie, turkey and candied yams. This episode is another example of the parade's importance. The Smokey Bear balloon made its last appearance in the 1993 edition of the parade, footage of which is shown here.

The only problem I have with this episode is Ross' subplot mentioned by Rigbymel. It has nothing do with Thanksgiving and feels phoned in from another episode (it's also not particularly funny).
I found myself identifying Monica.  I've been in scenarios where I felt like I was doing all the work to make others happy (as I imagine a lot of us have).  Her breakdown felt genuine, nice work by Courtney Cox.  As Phoebe and Chandler had the funniest lines in this episode.  

If you were a big fan of Friends, it will provide a nice trip back to the 90s where you can pay a holiday visit to your old TV "friends."  Hardcore fans of the Macy's Parade may also enjoy it.

J.A. Morris' rating:

2 and a half pumpkin pies.

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