I know, I know, I KNOW. This weekend was a challenge. But I’m back, and I’ll be getting as many of these done as humanly possible to play catch up. I do it for you guys, all two of you.
Anyway, Season Two is when the show really figured out what it was doing. Season One was the experiment, introducing the audience to six flawed people trying to navigate the waters of adulthood in the 90s. Season Two was definitely an improvement over its predecessor, and although it wasn’t my favorite of the ten seasons, I can honestly say that I don’t have to skip a single episode, which actually makes it pretty solid in my book.
What I consider to be the best out of the bunch, though, shouldn’t really come as a surprise, because I’m pretty sure most people agree with me. Even though I have never really understood why Ross and Rachel got together in the first place – and her dumping him over that infamous list is one of the most ridiculous things I’ve ever seen – “The One with the Prom Video” does give me a tiny glimpse into why it kinda made sense.
Now, this episode does show how much Ross has always cared for Rachel – or at least lusted after her because, who are we kidding, he was a high school boy. He put himself into a vulnerable situation, ready to make her night better, and was left holding what could have only been fake flowers and feeling like a fool. And he never told her, which is one of the Least Ross-of-Later-Seasons things to happen ever. That reveal was genius, a testament to the talent of the writers, even if that magic didn’t really last for me.
The episode isn’t perfect, as nothing really can be (except Dolly Parton), although a lot of that comes from me watching the show in 2020 instead of its native decade. First, Chandler’s reaction to Joey’s bracelet present borders on homophobia (a major issue the show never really dealt with well), and second, Monica’s fat suit is one of my least favorite things about this show that they just kept on bringing back.
In regards to Chandler, this isn’t the first time that he had to deal with something like this: in the first season, there was an entire episode dedicated to his gay “quality,” which no one could qualify and only an actual gay person (or at least someone acting as a gay man) could reassure him that, yes, he was heterosexual. But it’s more subtle with this gift from Joey; initially, it seems to be about how garish it is (and it is), but it gradually becomes more about Chandler not being able to attract women if he was wearing the bracelet. Now, we never see or hear of the bracelet again, despite both Chandler and Joey ending up with a matching pair by the end of the episode, but it’s still a sticking point with me.
As for Monica, I heard the creators of the show say, usually Marta Kauffman, on the DVD commentaries several times that Courteney Cox was just so joyful when she wore the fat suit so they wanted to keep showcasing that, which … okay. But her life wasn’t fulfilling when she was bigger; she couldn’t attract men with her body or feel confident or look sexy. Fat Monica was always a joke*, and that is most definitely not okay. And I’d say nobody would be able to get away with doing something like that again, except that Schmidt in A New Girl was also a victim of a fat suit, for all the same reasons. But even when she is thin, Monica still can’t escape her history as a fat person. Everyone mocks her for the bathing suit she wore (and then there’s the body-shaming of Rachel’s pre-plastic surgery nose), which obviously hurts her.
Despite all this, though, “The One with the Prom Video” is still my favorite Season Two episode. It’s also one of the most iconic ones, too, and for good reason. It has a major plot point of the series – Ross and Rachel finally getting together – and even though I may not appreciate some of the other storylines, everyone is entertaining in their own way and don’t just seem like dead weight (as some of the Main Six are in later seasons).
Runners Up: “The One with Five Steaks and an Eggplant,” “The One Where Eddie Won’t Go,” and “The One Where Ross and Rachel … You Know.”
* And before you say, “But what about ‘The One That Could Have Been’ in Season Six???” I am going to preempt that argument because a) it was a fantasy and b) her weight was still a giant – no pun intended, actually – joke, even when she was getting ready to sleep with a jobless Chandler.
** So the captions cut off on the pic above because of my aesthetic choice to make my pictures rounded. Also, if you are sight-impaired, here are the captions:
Ross: You look pretty tonight
Rachel: Oh, thanks … What are you doing this summer?
Ross: I’m gonna hang out, work on my music.