The One With The Thumb (Season 1, Episode 3)

    (Original Airdate: October 6, 1994)

     The Opening: The gang are again assembled at Central Perk where Phoebe arrives after a date. When asked how the date went she says he walked her to the subway and said “we should do this again”, which brings pained groans from the rest of the group apart from Rachel who thinks it’s a good sign. The group then having to explain to her “dating language”:

    Monica: Loosely translated, “we should do this again” means, “you will never see me naked”.

    Joey: “It’s not you” means, “it is you”.

    Chandler: “You’re such a nice guy” means, “I’ll be dating leather wearing alcoholics and complaining about them… to you”.

    Phoebe: “I think we should see other people” means, “ha ha, I already am!”

    Rachel is confused that she has never experienced this and Chandler makes the analogy that it’s like when you’re a kid and your parents tell you that your dog has gone to live on a farm when really it’s been put down. Ross thinks that funny because his and Monica’s parents actually did send their dog to a farm. There was no farm.

    Following on from the previous episodes excellent opening talk of sex euphemisms, this is another great opening that gives each character, besides Rachel, a great moment to shine while highlighting that Rachel is still out of her depth in the real world. Ross’s final realisation that his childhood dog is dead is a great moment of comic timing. These candid openings are a real strong point of these early episodes, when they would just talk of everyday experiences with no relevance to the episode ahead. Instead, these openings target the viewing audience with moments they will have no doubt experienced themselves or will experience in the future.

    The opening credits roll and somehow I’ve never noticed that the famous clapping moment after the first line isn’t happening in this season! Mind blown.

     Episode Summary: The main bulk of the episode begins by finally allowing us into Joey and Chandler’s apartment. Directly across the hall from Monica’s, Joey and Chandler’s place would go on to become one of the more enviable “man caves” in pop culture. The apartment is littered with old movie posters which seems more Joey than Chandler and we assume it is Chandler that is paying the rent. The scene begins by focusing on a Laurel and Hardy picture they have on their wall, which is quite a lofty comparison for this relationship. The guys are rehearsing a scene for Joey which requires him to smoke. He can barely light the cigarette never mind smoke it. It turns out Chandler is a former smoker; “Don’t think of it as a cigarette. Think of it as the thing missing from your hand”. Chandler falls off the ex-smoker wagon.

    Back at Central Perk, Monica tells the three guys that “it” is “the same distance from the top of a guy’s thumb to the top of his index finger”. Joey thinks this is ridiculous. I agree with him. I feel this scene could have been close to be an episode opener.

    Phoebe enters the coffee house muttering to herself and it looks like someone finally has a storyline! She received her bank statement and has an extra $500 in her account. She feels guilty about this for only reasons that Phoebe can explain. The gang then find Chandler smoking as indiscreetly as possible while hanging over the back of the couch. Monica heads off for a date with love interest of the week, Alan. The group want to meet him but Monica is having none of it after what happened with apparent off-screen love interest of the week, Steve. Chandler: “What we loved Shteve, Shteve was shexy!”

    Everyone is back at Monica’s and she has quickly decided that she will let everyone meet Alan as long as they promise not to make fun of him. Funnily enough, if Alan was going out with one of your friends you would make fun of him for how 90s he looked. Alan endears himself to the group by doing the “Shteve” voice: “I’ve heard sho much about you guysh”. They love him. Rachel notices that there is quite the distance between his thumb and four finger. Chandler loves him because he does a great David Hasselhoff impression. In a later scene at Central Perk, it is revealed that Alan helped Ross, Chandler, Joey, and Rachel win a softball game. Because they are a team. Apparently. And this softball team is never mentioned again.

    Your 90s boyfriend would have definitely looked like this

    Meanwhile, Phoebe has made the bank aware of their mistake. The bank fixes her mistake by giving her another $500 dollars and a football phone. She later visits a homeless woman to give her alphabet soup (minus the vowels) and also the excess $1000 (plus a football phone): “Weird girl what are you doing?” To make it even, the homeless woman buys Phoebe a can of soda. She takes a drink but something is in it…

    We see Chandler at work for the first time in an office booth. In a nice piece of visual comedy he sneaks some draws of his cigarette from his drawer while sitting under a “No Smoking” sign while spraying breathe and air freshener. He eventually mixes the two up. It might not be Laurel and Hardy but it’s funny enough.

    At Central Perk again, Phoebe tells the rest that she found a thumb in her soda. Amazingly this line, which the episode is named after, gets completely ignored when Chandler lights up another cigarette. Rachel: “It’s worse than the thumb”. It’s really not Rachel. A later scene at Central Perk shows Chandler getting a hard time from Ross and Joey about his smoking. Chandler: “The bottom line is smoking in cool and you know it”. He gets a phone call from Alan who somehow convinces him to quit over the phone. OK.

    Monica tells her co-worker than she doesn’t feel “the thing” with Alan and is going to break up with him. Back at her apartment, she reveals to the group that she has decided to break up with him. Phoebe reveals that the soda people gave her $7000 dollars for the thumb. They’re really more devastated about Alan.

    Monica finally breaks up with Alan. He’s a little shocked. He had a great time with her but he just can’t stand her friends…..

    Final Scene: At Monica’s, the group reminisce about Alan about when they went to the park and rented boats. In the last couple of days since they met him apparently. Ross: “He could row like a Viking”. Don’t worry guys, I have the feeling you won’t remember Alan ever again.

    Phoebe asks if he mentioned them. Monica says that he’s really going to miss them. Due to the emotional trauma Chandler caves and goes to get cigarettes. Phoebe says she’ll give him $7000 if he never smokes again. He agrees. Fairly horrible friend.

     They’ll Be There For You (Best Friend): If we are going for comic timing then Ross would win this all day long with his “Chi-Chi” and “Row like a Viking” lines. Otherwise, since they both finally have storylines it is hard to look past Chandler or Phoebe, although they both come close to derailing themselves with a couple of really poor lines:

    Chandler: *In response to “Where’s Joey?”* – “Joey eat my last stick of gum, so I killed him”. Groan.

    Phoebe: “You know those stupid soda people gave $7000 for the thumb. And on my way over here I stepped in gum. What is up with the universe?” Please just take the money Phoebes. Please.

    Chandler gets disqualified as he seems to accept Phoebe’s offer of the money to quit smoking. It goes to Phoebe this week then. Overshadowed a bit throughout the episode, and a couple of dodgy lines that we just have to get used to, at least she was trying to help the homeless with the money!

     With Friends Like These (Worst Friend): Chandler, Phoebe, and Joey all had very little to do in the first two episodes, so thankfully Chandler and Phoebe finally get a storyline here. However, Joey still had little to do besides his first signs of actually being an actor in the opening rehearsal scene. But he still has a couple of funny lines which saves him here.

    The worst friend this week is Rachel who is relegated to the side-lines. She gets a couple of quips but she is still just the poor little rich girl here. And she is still painfully bad at her job. In an early scene at Central Perk she serves drinks to the rest of the group while proclaiming she is getting pretty good at this. They swap the drinks to the correct people behind her back. Stop pandering to her!


    Best Line: Not a stand out episode of great lines so Chandler’s “Shteve” impression comes close. Instead I’m going for Ross’s reaction from the opening scene when he finally realises his dog is dead:

    Ross: “That’s funny because our parents actually did send our dog off to live on a farm.”

    Monica: “Uhh…Ross?”

    Ross: “What? Hello! The Milner’s farm in Connecticut. The Milners had this unbelievable farm. They had horses and rabbits that he could chase. And it was….”

    (Woeful stares from all)

    Ross: “Oh my God! Chi-Chi!”


    How You Doin? (Love Interest of the Week): Alan. Monica’s one episode only boyfriend was apparently the “yardstick against which all future boyfriends will be measured” and loved by the gang. All that we see is him making fun of poor “Shteve” and telling Monica that he doesn’t like her friends. Apparently he does a mean David Hasselhoff impression and plays quite the game of softball. He was a bit of a 90s stereotype anyway Monica.

    So far Monica’s track record is the one guy who tricked her into bed and the other guy who everyone but her liked. Both were very 90s.


    Google It Kids (Dated Reference of the Week): Alan has quite the Seinfeld look about him.

    Chandler on Alan: “I’d marry him just for his David Hasselhoff impression alone”. Chandler then does a David Hasslehoff slow motion running impression. A lot of that happened in Baywatch (1989), Hasslehoff’s show about beach lifeguards doing slow motion running in swimsuits which is soon to be very relevant again with Dwayne Johnson’s blockbuster remake being released this year. If it’s anything like the show then it will be both the best and worst movie of all time.


    Visits to Central Perk: Five! They just can’t stay away this week. This episode continues the routine of every episode so far opening there and begins with another brilliant opening scene. The next, Monica ruins the guys’ self-esteem with the thumb and index finger chat and the gang find Chandler smoking behind the couch. The guys arrive back there after their softball game. Seriously, softball. Phoebe tells the gang she found a thumb in her soda. Finally, Chandler is convinced to quit smoking.

    That is a seriously high caffeine intake right there.


    Ross and Rachel: Absolutely nothing to see here (not even a reference to Ross on his way to becoming a father, which dominated the previous episode). The two have a brief interaction in Central Perk after Alan has convinced Chandler to stop smoking over the phone:

    Rachel: God, he’s good.

    Ross: If only he were a woman.

    Rachel: Yeah.

    (Nervous awkward stares all round)


    Final Thoughts: A decent enough episode but really does nothing to progress anything that we have seen so far as there is no mention of Ross and his impending fatherhood or anything resembling the Ross and Rachel storyline. Instead this feels like a filler episode where the writers felt that they better, finally, give Joey, Chandler, and Phoebe something to do. Chandler and Phoebe finally stand out from the pack with their own storylines, instead of just being the ones who have a few witty quips every now and again. Although the episode may as well have been called “The One Where Chandler Smokes” as his smoking overshadows everything else, including Phoebe finding a body part in her drink. Poor Joey is still left in the background though. We finally see him rehearsing a role with Chandler in the first scene, but it’s more to set up Chandler’s storyline.

    Overall, a relatively funny episode but the weakest so far, with the sole purpose of setting up that Chandler smokes from time to time and weird stuff will happen to Phoebe most of the time.

    Paul Fleming
    Paul was born in the 1980s, raised in the 1990s, and has pretty much stayed there ever since. This means he has a lot of misplaced loyalty towards Kevin Smith, Quentin Tarantino, and Ben Affleck. He is consistently disappointed by all of them.

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