‘The One Where Eddie Moves In’ (aired 2/22/1996)
After a few stellar episodes, Friends was due to come back to earth at some point – and that point is ‘The One Where Eddie Moves In’, an episode that’s not particularly unfunny or unpleasant, but takes some great story ideas and doesn’t really go anywhere with them. There are some good jokes along the way to keep things entertaining, but it loses the grounded moments of the previous two or three episodes, and replaces them with the less satisfying but more mass appeal-y humor of this episode.
The biggest problem is with Joey and Chandler: it’s been but a week from Joey moving out, and he already wants to move in. As a character, Joey’s never a person who really gets to grow a lot – we see some last season when his father visits in ‘The One with the Boobies’, but aside from those two examples and a short arc next season, Joey’s character is mostly running on a treadmill throughout the series. The Joey/Chandler friendship is one of the most meaningful on the show in the early seasons (until they move away from that for constant relationship dramatics in the future), and they do it a disservice by pushing them back together after only a brief moment apart – Joey literally spends one episode in his apartment before he’s lonely, and wishing he could live with Chandler again.
As for Chandler, the show diminishes his feelings about Joey moving out by reducing his character to parallel a gay man who just lost his live-in boyfriend, with loaded metaphors and allusions about their relationship about how his new roommate Eddie is just “a rebound guy” (more on him in a minute). Instead of taking the time to really draw out the things Joey and Chandler have to face without each other, Chandler becomes ignorant and slightly gay, while Joey gets jealous and bitter about Chandler’s new roommate, who Chandler met in the ethnic food aisle (a meet-cute that exists as another gay joke for them to play on).
It’s like four episodes worth of plot and character thrown into twenty minutes: and because of that, it skips all the emotional beats that would really make the arc effective (instead of returning to the status quo in a couple episodes). We don’t even get enough time with Chandler as he struggles to live in an apartment with an empty room, and finally coming to the tough choice to find a new roommate. It’s a weird curve on the Joey/Chandler dynamic from the previous episode: where as Joey wanted to move on and grow up, Chandler was hanging onto Chandler. Halfway through this episode, it becomes reversed: Chandler’s got a new roommate and is happy, and Joey just wants things they way they used to be. The arc isn’t quite over – but the inconsistent characterizations rob a lot of the fun out of them (the broad homosexuality jokes don’t help either), and it’s ultimately revealed to be a short lived gimmick, rather than a moment of character growth for either of them.
I feel the same way about Phoebe and the ‘Smelly Cat’ video: it takes the route of least resistance, offering up a Phoebe who has no idea what she sounds like, and thus is surprised to find herself dubbed out of her own music video by another singer’s voice. Instead of showing us how the music industry takes advantage of the little person (in finding comedy in the many ways they find to screw with and change ‘Smelly Cat’ and Phoebe’s image), it revels in Phoebe the ditz who has no idea what’s going on until it’s too late.
If there’s one thing the episode does well (and I’d argue they do this really well), it’s Monica dealing with Ross being in her life on a daily basis again. Now that he’s dating Rachel, he’s always in her hair again – or spending too much time on his own hair when Monica’s trying to take a shower. For awhile, it feels as if the writers are indulging themselves like they do with the other two story lines, with lots of juvenile behavior between Ross and Monica, with Rachel obviously being turned off by it. But at the end, Ross’s teasing leads to a real powerful moment for Monica, as she reveals to him how much she hated the older brother who picked on her and took her things, all while parading around as the family’s prodigal son.
It adds a really nice touch to an otherwise disappointing episode, a very solemn moment that sticks out against the blander, less character-focused plots of the episode around them (despite positing themselves as being such, the events of the episode are mere story-by-number affairs), reminding us that Monica and Rachel once were not great friends – something I think would’ve worked even better had it been done with Chandler and Joey, showing us how they’ve become better people through their friendship. But these are only hypotheticals; the episode we’re given in ‘The One Where Eddie Moves In’ is ultimately, a very pedestrian one.
– the extended credits sequence to this episode is pretty charming: while singing ‘Smelly Cat’ Monica, Chandler and Joey belt out the refrain boisterously and alone. It’s just a fun moment that I’m sure was cut to fit time restrictions.
– Rachel dropping the pie in the random guy’s hat is the kind of great gag I wish they’d done more with Rachel, instead of just screaming “she’s a shitty waitress!” all the time.
– Joey filling his house with animals so he doesn’t feel alone is adorable, no matter how cold your heart may be.
– Joey: “I don’t have as many thoughts as you might think.”
– Eddie doesn’t like Baywatch: stormy seas ahead.
– Joey again (he’s really quotable in this episode): “I need the juice!!!”
– Joey and Chandler both have big animal slippers on, though I believe the broadcast version cuts the bit where Joey’s are visible on his feet.
‘The One Where Dr. Ramoray Dies’ (aired 3/21/1996)
Despite its good intentions, ‘Dr. Ramoray Dies’ is an uneven mess: for every great scene or moment, there are others where I just shake my head in amazement. The most obvious problem of course, is Eddie – after barely being established as a presence on the show, he’s personified as a jealous lunatic whose mental instabilities are paraded around as fodder for Chandler to react to. But what happens with Joey is no better, reducing him to the dumbest, most selfish version of himself (a character quality he never really embodied, depsite it being attributed at times), all in order to quickly wrap up what should’ve been a rewarding character arc for both Chandler and Joey.
It’s quite frustrating to watch this plot line from beginning to end for the first time in years: what began with so much promise only two episodes ago is in shambles here, as Eddie reveals himself to be a crazy, depressed ex-boyfriend who immidately accuses Chandler of sleeping with his ex and killing his fish. Chandler reacts about the same as the audience: he barely has any words to reply, instead becoming a mime version of himself. There’s no attempt at making Eddie a human character (or Chandler an understanding one), and by the same token, there’s no attempt to do anything with Joey once he’s outside the Bing/Tribbiani residence.
The whole “Joey gets fired for shitting on his writers” really bugs me: Joey’s an idiot, but is he the kind of person who’d undermine the people employing him? On a purely logical level, what Joey does in this episode makes no sense. More importantly, it really sells him short as a character, essentially forcing him to move back in with Chandler because he’s instantly broke and has no way to feed and house himself. There’s an inevitable reconciliation in the cards for Joey and Chandler – but the meaning of it’s already been ripped out, because Joey isn’t making this choice on his own; he’s doing it because the writers were afraid to leave their comfortable pastures for new territory, regressing from the complex things in play when they force Joey and Chandler to face life on their own. Instead, circumstances allow them to back out of their own personal maturities, a major disappointment for an arc that held a lot of promise.
But for all that ‘Ramoray Dies’ does wrong with Joey and Chandler, it gets it right with Monica and Rachel (once they’ve moved away from the jokes about “I slept with x number of people” with all of them). It’s the opposite of the Joey/Chandler story, really: where the Joey/Chandler plot starts out promising, the Monica/Rachel one is executed much more cleanly, as Monica and Richard exchange their first “I love you”s and Rachel explains to Ross the difference between passion and intimacy. The Monica/Richard moment is just kind of a cute little thing between them, but the Rachel/Ross bit is really powerful: for the first time, it shows us that Ross and Rachel can work as a couple, a rare display of the two being understanding and honest with each other. It doesn’t start out that way (and Schwimmer plays up Ross’s immaturity with his jealousy over Paulo to the point where it gets really annoying), but Rachel’s little monologue is one of the strongest beats the writers of Friends ever hit with their relationship.
– I love how quickly this show discards Phoebe. Her dialogue and screen time in this episode is essentially vaporized compared to the episode preceding it (though she does sing again, to which Richard asks Monica: “Phoebe’s got another job, right?”)
– Ross calls Paulo the “Weenie from Tarini”, which I believe is the last time he’ll ever be mentioned on the show, save maybe for once or twice in later seasons.
– the material in Rachel and Monica’s apartment is helped by the little gender-centric moments with the girls in the bathroom and the guys in the living room. Would you believe Joe Liebermann once called out Martha Kaufmann over the bathroom scene, saying it promoted unprotected sex?
– the writers of Days of Our Lives give Joey a hilarious farewell: he falls down an elevator shaft, his brain so damaged the only doctor that could save him, would be himself.
– when Richard asks Monica for a ballpark figure of the men she’s slept with, she replies with: “definitely less than a ballpark.”
– Joey really has to ask himself “why did they do this to me?” C’mon man.