25 'Friends' plot holes and inconsistencies that still bother the show's true fans
NBC's "Friends" is one of the most beloved TV shows of all time, but it's not perfect.
Some storylines have clear plot holes or inconsistencies, like characters aging at different rates.
Here are 25 of the most egregious examples.
"Friends" is one of the most beloved TV shows of all time, but that doesn't mean it's perfect.
After the highly anticipated reunion special premiered on HBO Max, plenty of fans were compelled to rewatch and reminisce about its groundbreaking episodes, fan-favorite couples, iconic pieces of furniture — and, for some, its biggest flaws.
In addition to some glaringly problematic story lines, "Friends" had issues with continuity that can be hard to ignore to this day, from petty details (like characters having multiple different birthdays) to major emotional moments getting little to no follow-through (like Phoebe's birth parents disappearing from her life without explanation).
Here are 25 of the most egregious plot holes and inconsistencies on "Friends."
Monica's apartment number changes from five to 20.
Given that Monica's building doesn't have just one or two apartments per floor, it makes little sense for her rent-controlled sixth-floor walk-up to be apartment No. five.
It appears that the production crew noticed the same thing, because her apartment becomes No. 20 sometime during the first season.
Chandler and Joey's apartment also changes from four to 19.
Rachel says that she needs glasses, but she literally never wears glasses.
On season two, episode 15, "The One Where Ross and Rachel ... You Know," Ross and Rachel go on their first date to see a movie.
Rachel complains about the movie's subtitles, apparently because she didn't want to wear her glasses.
But never once in 10 seasons is Rachel shown wearing glasses. So either she was lying to save face about the subtitles, or she walks around with bad eyesight. We know Rachel doesn't wear contacts because, as established on season five, episode 22, "The One with Joey's Big Break," she's terrified of anything touching her eyes.
Phoebe's birth mom is introduced in a climactic series of episodes, but inexplicably disappears after season five.
The season three finale features a climactic storyline: Phoebe finds out that her birth mom is still alive.
Phoebe struggles with accepting her mom, whom she had never met or even knew existed, for a few episodes on season four — but ultimately seems very excited that she finally has a real family member to rely on.
But after all that emotional buildup, Phoebe's mom disappears from the show after season four, episode 11, "The One With Phoebe's Uterus."
She's mentioned when she sends Phoebe a fur coat on season five, episode six, "The One with the Yeti" — but she's literally never mentioned again. She's not mentioned when Phoebe gets engaged, nor is it explained why she didn't show up at her daughter's wedding. (Phoebe does mention Lily, the adoptive mother who raised her, though. Interesting.)
Phoebe's birth dad is introduced in season five, but he's never mentioned again after that one episode.
Again, Phoebe meets her birth father after an emotional buildup. She had tried to work up the courage to meet him in earlier seasons, but ends up running into him at her grandmother's funeral on season five, episode 13, "The One with Joey's Bag."
After a sweet moment between them, it seems like they'll be able to build a relationship. But he doesn't show up again, and Phoebe never even mentions him.
Phoebe also tells a few conflicting stories about her dad.
On season two, episode nine, "The One With Phoebe's Dad," Phoebe says that her father abandoned her pregnant mother.
Later, however, we discover that Frank Buffay didn't disappear until after Phoebe and her twin sister were born.
When Phoebe finally meets Frank, he says that he was a "lousy father." He says he burned the baby formula, put their diapers on backwards, and made them cry when he sang a lullaby.
To be fair, Phoebe was a literal baby at the time and wouldn't remember any of that anyway. Also, a whole lot of traumatic stuff happened to her, so it's understandable to get some details confused.
The chick and the duck also mysteriously disappear.
The chick and the duck play a major role as Chandler and Joey's beloved pets in earlier seasons. They slowly disappear from the show and make their final appearance on season six, episode 20, "The One With Mac and C.H.E.E.S.E."
The birds aren't seen again, but the duck is mentioned when it eats Rachel's face cream and gets sick on season seven, episode two, "The One with Rachel's Book." (OK, we're all thinking it now: Did Rachel's face cream kill the duck?)
Given how much Chandler and Joey loved them, it's a little strange that no one mentions it when the birds die — which is only revealed on the series finale, "The Last One." (Joey apparently believes they were sent to a farm that doesn't allow visitors.)
Was Ross an accident or a miracle baby?
After Monica and Chandler get engaged, Jack Geller is inspired to tell the story of his own proposal.
"I had gotten Judy pregnant. I still don't know how that happened," he says on season seven, episode 2, "The One With Rachel's Book."
"You don't know how that happened? Your dog thought my diaphragm was a chew toy," Judy replies.
Ross is the couple's oldest child, so this would suggest his conception was an accident.
However, 11 episodes later on the very same season, both Ross and Jack contradict this story.
When Monica says their parents love Ross more, he counters, "I was their firstborn! They thought she was barren! It's not my fault."
Later on the episode, "The One Where Rosita Dies," Jack tells Ross that he was a "medical marvel."
Ross says his birthday is in December, but later says his birthday is October 18.
On season four, episode five, "The One with Joey's New Girlfriend," Ross begins to tell Gunther that his birthday is in December.
But on season nine, episode two, "The One Where Emma Cries," he tells Joey his birthday is October 18 while filling out forms at the hospital.
Plus, if you want to get super petty about it, Ross implies on yet another episode that his birthday is in March. On season one, episode four, "The One with George Stephanopoulos," Chandler and Joey give him a ticket to a hockey game on October 20, telling him it's a birthday present — but Ross says, "Funny, my birthday was seven months ago."
Rachel is similarly confused about her birthday.
Again on season four, episode five, "The One with Joey's New Girlfriend," Rachel tells Gunther that her birthday is May 5.
But on season seven, episode 22, "The One with Chandler's Dad," Rachel gets pulled over. The cop, looking at her license, says, "You're an Aquarius, huh?" — which would mean she was born in late January or early February.
In fact, all the friends age at wildly inconsistent rates. Ross says he's 29 in seasons three, four, and five.
Given that nearly every season features a Thanksgiving episode (except season two) and a Christmas episode (except season 10), the show implies that each season tracks one year in the friends' lives.
Ross, then, seems to age more slowly than your average man. On season three, episode 13, "The One Where Monica and Richard Are Just Friends," he tells Chandler he's 29 years old. On season four, episode nine, "The One Where They're Going to Party," all three of the guys say they're 29.
Then again, on season five, episode four, "The One Where Phoebe Hates PBS," Ross says he's about to be divorced for the second time before he turns 30 — which would make him 29.
Monica, who's the same age as Rachel, says she's 26 in season one. They turn 30 in season seven.
Monica says she's 26 years old on season one, episode 22, "The One with the Ick Factor." Somehow, she only ages four years in seven seasons.
The season seven episode "The One Where They All Turn Thirty" features flashbacks for all the characters but focuses on Rachel's 30th birthday in the present. Monica and Rachel are the same age, since they graduated high school together, so we know Monica turned 30 that same year.
Joey, who's supposed to be the youngest, turns 31 before Rachel even turns 30.
Though it's never clarified, Phoebe is presumably the eldest of the group. Ross and Chandler are the same age since they were roommates throughout college. We also know they're one year older than Monica and Rachel, since Ross mentions that he was a freshman in college when Rachel was a senior in high school.
That would make Joey the youngest at the beginning of the show. He says he's 25 years old on season one, episode 23, "The One with the Birth" — after Monica already said she's 26.
But much like his friends, Joey ages inconsistently. On season two, episode 16, "The One Where Joey Moves Out," Joey says he wants to live alone because he's 28 years old. Somehow he aged three years since the previous season.
Then on the season seven premiere, "The One with Monica's Thunder," it's revealed that Joey has already turned 31, multiple episodes before Rachel turns 30 — even though he's supposed to be younger than both Rachel and Monica.
On "The One Where They All Turn Thirty," flashbacks imply that Joey also turned 30 before Chandler.
Rachel seems to be pregnant for over a year.
Rachel takes a pregnancy test on season eight, episode one, "The One After I Do," at Monica and Chandler's wedding.
We know from a previous episode on season seven that their wedding date is May 15. Plus, Rachel would've already been about one month pregnant, given that Ross reveals on episode three ("The One Where Rachel Tells...") that he and Rachel slept together "about a month ago."
Rachel is pregnant for nearly the entirety of season eight — which, as previously established, is equal to about one year of time in the "Friends" universe.
Season eight, episode nine, "The One With the Rumor," is a Thanksgiving episode. Rachel should be about seven months pregnant, but she isn't showing at all.
Finally, on season eight, episode 22, "The One Where Rachel Is Late," she goes into labor. She also tells Ross that it's "100 degrees outside," which signals that it's summertime in New York City. But she should have given birth around January.
Ross claims that Carol was the only woman he slept with until his divorce, but Chandler says otherwise.
On season one, episode four, "The One With George Stephanopoulos," Ross is depressed because it's the anniversary of the day he first had sex with Carol, his ex-wife who he met in college. He tells Joey and Chandler that it was the first time he had sex with anybody.
When they get together, Ross also tells Rachel that he had only ever been two women before: Carol and Julie, whom he dated after his divorce.
But on season seven, episode four, "The One With Rachel's Assistant," Ross accuses Chandler of getting drunk in college and having sex with the woman who cleaned their dorm.
"That was you," Chandler replies. Ross doesn't deny it.
There are several other allusions to Ross' college sex life throughout the show. In one flashback episode, Ross is shown passionately making out with a girl at a party, and she reassures him she won't tell anyone about their fling. ("Cool," he replies.) So maybe Ross was just lying to everyone about losing his virginity to Carol.
Did Ross get fired from the museum?
Throughout the first five seasons of "Friends," Ross works as a paleontologist at the Museum of Prehistoric History. The job is a major facet of his character and even plays a big role in his relationship arc with Rachel.
After his marriage to Emily falls apart in season five, Ross yells at his boss and is forced to take a leave from work.
At the end of season five, episode 14, "The One Where Everybody Finds Out," he invites his boss to his new apartment to show he's ready to come back to work.
Instead, he sees Monica and Chandler having sex through the window and screams, "Get off my sister!" In the background, his boss looks horrified.
Ross' job at the museum is never mentioned again. In fact, he doesn't mention any job until season six, episode four, "The One Where Joey Loses His Insurance," when he's asked to be a guest lecturer at New York University.
The suspicious gap in employment begs the question: Did Monica and Chandler's secret love affair cause Ross to get fired?
It was never explained why Ross' son, Ben, wasn't at his wedding to Emily.
Ross mentions his young son, Ben, tons of times throughout his ill-fated relationship with Emily. He cites Ben as the reason why he can't move to England with her, both before and after their wedding.
Curiously, however, Ben doesn't appear at Ross and Emily's wedding. Actually, his name doesn't come up at all, at any point, on the two-part season four finale in England.
Ben disappears after season eight and never meets his half-sister, Emma.
Ross scarcely mentions his son in the show's final three seasons. Ben's last appearance is season eight, episode 12, "The One Where Joey Dates Rachel."
Ross and Rachel welcome their daughter, Emma, just 12 episodes later on the seventh season finale.
While Emma appears fairly regularly until the show's end, Ben never gets to meet his half-sister — at least not onscreen.
Joey never spends time with his beloved sisters. He never even meets his niece.
Joey has seven (seven!) sisters that live close by, but they only show up in one episode. All seven sisters come to Joey's birthday party on season three, episode 11, "The One Where Chandler Can't Remember Which Sister."
The only other time that any of them show up is on season eight, episode 10, "The One With Monica's Boots." Joey's sister, Dina, comes to tell him that she's pregnant, which results in Joey promising that he's going to be there for the baby. Dina and her baby are never mentioned again.
Joey becomes a hypocrite when Chandler kisses his sister.
On season one, episode 11, "The One with Mrs. Bing," Joey admonishes Ross for kissing Chandler's mom.
"You broke the code," he says. "You don't kiss your friend's mom. Sisters are OK, maybe a hot-looking aunt, but not a mom. Never a mom!"
In fact, Joey seems to really believe this rule when he dates Phoebe's twin sister, Ursula, just a few episodes later in season one.
But after a few years, Joey forgets his own code. After Chandler drunkenly kisses Mary Angela Tribbiani on season three, episode 11, "The One Where Chandler Can't Remember Which Sister," Joey is furious — until Chandler lies and says he has feelings for Mary Angela.
In season six, episode 14, "The One Where Chandler Can't Cry," Joey reveals that he's still bitter about the whole affair.
"I can't believe Ross is going out with Rachel's sister," he says. "When Chandler made out with my sister, I was mad at him for 10 years."
When Chandler points out that was five years ago, Joey replies, "Yeah, you've got five years left."
On the pilot episode, Monica introduces Rachel and Chandler as if they've never met.
We know from multiple flashback episodes that Rachel and Chandler have met many times. They spent multiple Thanksgivings together at the Geller house, and even made out once at a college party, as seen on season 10, episode 11, "The One Where the Stripper Cries."
Chandler cried at least twice before "The One Where Chandler Can't Cry."
Season six, episode 14 is literally called "The One Where Chandler Can't Cry." The main storyline focuses on Chandler's difficult childhood and how it made him "dead inside."
But this seems like a weird premise for many "Friends" fans, since Chandler isn't exactly known as an unemotional guy. He cries twice during season four alone: episode 14, "The One with Joey's Dirty Day," and episode 22, "The One with the Worst Best Man Ever."
Phoebe gives conflicting stories about her experience with sad movies.
There's a whole episode about Phoebe never watching sad movies as a child: season two, episode 20, "The One Where Old Yeller Dies."
"I talked to my grandma about the 'Old Yeller' incident and she told me that my mom used to not show us the ends of sad movies, to shield us from the pain and sadness. You know, before she killed herself," Phoebe reveals.
After discovering this gap in her cultural knowledge, Phoebe binge-watches sad movies that she's never seen before.
"What is happening to the world?" she says. "ET leaves and Rocky loses. Charlotte dies."
Given this pattern, there's no way Phoebe's mom would've let her watch "Bambi."
But in season six, episode 14, "The One Where Chandler Can't Cry," Phoebe says she watched the depressing parts of "Bambi" while her mom was still alive.
"I cried for three days with that movie," she tells the gang. "No, wait, two. 'Cause on the third day my mother killed herself, so I was partially crying for that."
Monica can't make up her mind about soulmates.
In Monica's wedding vows, she calls Chandler her "soulmate."
Maybe it was just for dramatic effect, because later — on season eight, episode 16, "The One Where Joey Tells Rachel" — she tells him that she doesn't even believe in the concept of "soulmates."
"I don't think that you and I were destined to end up together," she says. "I think that we fell in love and we work hard at our relationship. Some days we work really hard."
Ross may or may not like ice cream.
On season six, episode 18, "The One Where Ross Dates a Student," he chows down on some ice cream with his then-girlfriend Elizabeth.
But later on season seven, episode eight, "The One Where Chandler Doesn't Like Dogs," Ross reveals that he doesn't even like ice cream.
"It's too cold!" he exclaims. "It hurts my teeth."
Monica may or may not like arcade games.
When Monica and Chandler decide to move in together in season six, Monica wants to transform Rachel's former bedroom into a "beautiful guest room."
Instead, Chandler suggests turning it into a game room, complete with big arcade games like Space Invaders and Asteroids.
Monica rejects this proposal outright: "I just don't think that arcade games go in the beautiful guest room. The beautiful guest room is gonna be filled with antiques."
In fact, the disagreement is so intense, they briefly call off their plans to move in together.
But without explanation, Monica changes her tune after they get married. On season eight, episode 12, "The One Where Joey Dates Rachel," Phoebe drops off a belated wedding present for the couple: a massive Ms. Pac-Man machine.
Monica loves the present, telling Phoebe, "I practically spent my entire childhood at the arcade." She even suggests putting the machine in the beautiful guest room.
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