Let's get all the tertiary junk out the way, because, let's face it, this episode's title sums up everything we need to know about it.
The episode starts with good continuity from the previous one, where Ben was born. They're all still excited. And, once more, we establish that Ross is pining for Rachel. Besides that, Joey is participating in a fertility study, meaning he cannot consummate his relationship with Melody the Basket Maker (sidenote: what is with this chick and baskets? What a bizarre occupation to give a 20-something woman). Hilarity ensues when he gets (apparently much needed) advice from Monica about how to take care of that situation to Melody's satisfaction. Phoebe has nothing to do in this episode besides annoy the stuffing out of me, and we establish 2 great facts about Chandler: he's a terrible gift-giver and he loves Yasmine Bleeth.
Onto the important stuff: Chandler and Joey are tired of watching their friend futilely pine for a girl when he is never going to nut up and ask her out. Fair enough. They tell him to move on. With his unexpected trip to China to take him away from his crush, Ross resigns himself to never being anything but friends with Rachel. He leaves his birthday present for her with Chandler and takes off for China.
Then Chandler's loose lips sink Ross' secret's ship...
Rachel knows! And she's intrigued...
We spend most of the rest of the episode watching Rachel wrestle with what to do with this new information. She tries to catch him at the airport, but all she succeeds in doing is getting an unsuspecting husband caught in a no-win situation. Eventually, she concludes, very reasonably, that it will be too complicated to pursue a relationship with Ross. There's just too much at stake. Fair enough.
But when she's on a date with Carl, who is just the worst, she imagines what it would be like to give it a chance with Ross. She shares a fiery imaginary kiss with him and realizes that she wants to try to make things work. Ross should send Carl one of Melody's baskets to thank him for being awful enough to make Rachel reconsider. Alas, if only it were that simple...
Rachel goes to the airport to tell Ross she wants to try things with him (remember the Season 10 finale? So much continuity!). And he's there... with another woman!
Dun-dun-DUN! People - how did you ever wait out that long summer between Season 1 and Season 2? I'm glad I was too young to endure this torment. Anyhoo, we end knowing that Rachel is waiting for Ross and Ross is walking towards her with an unidentified romantic partner. Thank God we just have to wait until next Friday to see how things progress...
In sum, this cliff-hanger-y finale can be summed up in Phoebe one good line: "I don't think any of our lives will ever be the same again." Indeed, Phoebe. Indeed.
Joey is "there" for Melody this week: Joey & Melody the Basket Maker.
The Great Hook-Up Round-Up:
Ross 'n' Rachel State of the Union
Ross likes Rachel: 22
Rachel like Ross: 0
They like each other but aren't together: 1
They like each other and are together: 0
Nothing's going on: 0
"THERE'S NO RACHEL!" - Wrongly Accused Husband
Aaannndddd, here's the AV Club recap
Season 1 has been a pleasant surprise. Yes, it took a solid 10-14 episodes for things to really get cooking. But that's true of most shows. In fact, I'm pretty pleased that it got good as quickly as it did, all things considered. Let's compare it to another one of my all time favorite shows, Gilmore Girls. I know that many die hard GG fans will kill me for saying this, but I don't think that show really took off until the very end of Season 1, and didn't get amazing until well into Season 2. Ditto for another must watch, How I Met Your Mother.
For me, Friends found its tone by episode 8, when Ross and Monica's grandmother dies. It's not the funniest episode of the season, but it's the first one that strikes the balance between plot, character, and comedy set piece that will characterize the first four seasons of the show. I'll say that my favorite episode of the season is probably episode 17, "The One with All the Poker." It's funny, it builds character, and it furthers the season's arc. It's also not as good as any episode in Season 5, but for a first season, it's pretty darn funny.
As for the Sexysex Hypothesis, there has been a fair amount of monkey business. We end season one with Monica holding onto her lead, with Phoebe hot on her trail and Rachel in third. It is somewhat interesting to me that the girls have registered more sexual partners thus far than the guys. Perhaps this is why my conservative cohort found this show more transgressive than other sitcom fare? Because it was more assertive about women's sexuality? I'm finding this question very difficult to answer in a post Sex and the City world, as that show's influence has made the notion of depicting women enjoying sex pretty quotidian on TV.
Finally, I have to say that I am surprised at how little the Ross/Rachel plot line plays into Season 1. My memory was that it was the dominating factor of the first season. To the contrary - it gets established early on, but doesn't really start to be the show's engine until the last 1/3 of the season. I used to feel like the show relied too much on that will they/won't they tension early on. Maybe it does. But at the same time, when it establishes multi-episode arcs with that relationship, the show starts to really work. It feels too episodic until they ratchet up the tension between Ross and Rachel. In doing so, they found the last piece to make the show work, besides lovable characters and funny premises: compelling plot through-lines between multiple episodes.
What do you think of Season 1?