The One With The East German Laundry Detergent (Season 1, Episode 5)


    (Original Airdate: October 20, 1994)

     The Opening: The gang are in Central Perk. Ross is discussing how amazing it is the women can make one movement and, BAM!, a bra can be coming out their sleeve. He suggests that there is nothing that a man can do that comes close to that. Rachel fights back that men can pee standing up.

    Chandler: “We can? Ok, I’m trying that!”

    What blows Joey’s mind is that women can see breasts any time they want, “you just look down and there they are. How you get any work done is beyond me”.

    Phoebe: “You know what I don’t get, the way that guys can do so many mean things and then not even care.”

    Awkward silence.

    Ross: “Multiple orgasms!”

    They all agree.

    We’re back to the really strong and really funny openings again, and again carried by an enthused performance from David Schwimmer. By this point though we are really starting to see the common personality traits of the characters shine through; Ross will always argue his point, Joey is preoccupied, Chandler is witty, and Phoebe can kill a conversation at the drop of a hat.

    Episode Summary: At Central Perk Chandler enthusiastically reveals to us that it is “Saturday night! Date night! SAT-UR-DAY Night!” He has no plans, except Ross reminding him of his plan to break up with his girlfriend Janice (Maggie Wheeler). That’s the first ever mention of Janice, apart from Monica, Chandler’s most notable girlfriend in the entire series. Chandler is dreading breaking up with her because it’s so hard and “you finally get up the courage to do it, there’s that horrible awkward moment when you’ve handed her the note”. Joey asks why he has to break up with her; “be a man and just stop calling”. Phoebe offers to do the break-up with Chandler as she is going to break up with Tony as it’s just not fun anymore since he went on hunger strike. Okay…

    Meanwhile Rachel tells the group that her father offered to buy her a Mercedes if she agrees to go back home as he believes she’ll never make it on her own.

    A beautiful woman enters the coffee house and says hi to Joey. This is Angela, a woman that Joey recently dumped. And five episodes in we finally get a lover interest for serial womaniser Joey.

    Ross asks Rachel what she’s up to tonight and she has big glamour plans at the Launderama with Monica. Ross tells her a freakish coincidence that he is also doing laundry there tonight too. It’s not a freakish coincidence as Ross has a crush on Rachel and we are finally seeing a hint of Ross and Rachel that they ignored for the last two episodes!

    Joey talks to Angela and tells her she looks great. It’s because she’s wearing a dress that accentuates her boobs. Apparently. Anyway, she tells him to forget it as she’s with Bob now and Joey told her they should just be friends. Joey suggests they be friends and the “four” of them go out for dinner tonight; Joey, Angela, Bob, and Joey’s girlfriend… Monica.

    From here we have the six friends split into pairs for the rest of the episode; Joey and Monica and their friendly dinner date with Angela and Bob, Phoebe and Chandler as they split up with Tony and Janice, and Ross and Rachel as they do laundry.

    Joey convinces Monica to come out for dinner by saying that she is going to be set up with Angela’s “brother” Bob. Joey tells Monica that if he does this favour for her “brother” then maybe will get back together with him. Joey thinks he made a huge mistake and never should have broken up with her. Monica asks what the big deal is as he goes out with tons of girls. I think Joey wants what he can’t have Monica. At dinner Monica is furious when she realises that Joey has never met Bob. That doesn’t matter when Bob turns to be horribly attractive. As the night goes on Monica starts to notice weird behaviour between the “brother and sister” at dinner. While the girls are in the toilet together they talk about Bob with Angela revealing he’s unbelievable in bed. Monica replies; “Wow. My brother never even told me when he lost his virginity”. Well since you knew the exact date of when he lost his virginity last week Monica, I’m not sure I believe you anymore. As the “brother and sister” start to grope each other at the dinner table Monica gradually realises that Joey has lied to her. However, Joey convinces Monica that Bob likes her so they decide to double their efforts and tear their relationship apart. That sounds very serious when you don’t have the audience laughing over the top of it.

    Phoebe and Chandler are back at Central Perk in preparation of running over their lovers’ hearts. Phoebe thinks this is nice as they never do anything together. That’s because your character has been mostly non-existent up until this point Phoebe. Janice arrives and it’s a much more subdued version of Janice than the maniac that would sporadically dominate Chandler’s life throughout the series. As Janice settles down on the Central Perk couch, Tony enters, has a brief talk with Phoebe, they smile, they hug, and he leaves. The break-up is done and Chandler can’t believe it. Chandler begins to nervously drink espressos thick and fast. He builds up the caffeine fuelled courage and tells Janice he doesn’t think they should go out anymore. She has a freak out more reminiscent of the Janice we would all know by the end of the series. Chandler continues taking espressos and his manic behaviour results in him slapping Janice in the eye. As Janice goes to the toilet to fix her contact lens Chandler freaks out to Phoebe. Phoebe takes over and manages to break up Janice and Chandler, she hugs Phoebe, has a smile on her face, and leaves. Phoebe has the gift.

    Chandler: “We should always break up together.”

    Phoebe: “I’d like that.”

    So sweet. So brutal.

    Meanwhile, with Monica out on her horribly destructive dinner with Joey, Rachel lets Ross know that it’s just the two of them for laundry tonight. Chandler informs Ross that this is basically a date and better sort out the laundry he takes, including his dirty underwear and “Snuggles” fabric softener. It says he’s a warm, fuzzy guy like a little fuzzy bear. He’ll pick something more masculine along the way. Possibly from East Germany. At the Launderama, Rachel has to learn the hard way about the rules of laundry after being confronted by a particularly brutal older woman who stole her machine. Ross realises she is a laundry virgin and teaches her the ropes. He also brought his new detergent “UBERWEISS”. It’s German and extra tough. Rachel says it’s stupid but she feels if she can do laundry then she can do anything. Turns out she has left a red sock in her white wash and everything is now pink. The brutal woman thinks this is hilarious. Rachel thinks her dad is right and she can’t survive on her own. When cleaning out the laundry the brutal woman returns and steals the cart Rachel is using. Spurred on by Ross she defends herself and the brutal woman leaves defeated. Ross and Rachel celebrate and she smacks Ross with a kiss. Ross, dazed, turns and walks into an open drier door and knocks himself silly. Another brilliant comedic moment from David Schwimmer and a huge laugh to end the episode.

    Final Scene: Ross is being nursed by Rachel in Central Perk with ice on his head. Phoebe thinks that it is a neat idea that all of Rachel’s clothes now match. Monica and Joey return and let the group know that, “we ripped that couple apart and kept the pieces for themselves”. So they ripped the couple apart and then just went for coffee with their friends straight after? Ok.

    Rachel asks where Chandler is. Phoebe says he needed time to grieve. Chandler runs past outside still on his caffeine rampage proclaiming HE’S FREE!

     They’ll Be There For You (Best Friend): Close one this week. For sheer comedy moments, Chandler almost takes this due to his caffeine fuelled manic break-up with Janice but it feels weird defending a guy who manages to slap his girlfriend in the eye while breaking up with her.

    It seems like the right time to give Rachel her props. She refused a Mercedes from her father to return home and instead continues to try and survive in the real world, by breaking her laundry virginity, learning the ropes from Ross, and finally being able to stick up for herself. It’s about now we feel we might actually want to root for her. Having a hint of the Ross and Rachel future helps matters.

    With Friends Like These (Worst Friend): It’s a tough choice this week between the friends who either break up with their partners, or decide to rip apart a current relationship. Let’s go for Joey this week, who is easily sucked in Angela’s boob accentuating dress and decides he wants her back when he realises she has a boyfriend. I have a feeling that Joey won’t think about Angela again after this episode. He also manages to drag Monica down to his level.

    Best Line: He might be the worst friend in this episode but that doesn’t mean he can’t be funny when doing it. When trying to talk up Monica to Angela’s boyfriend Bob, Joey talks his and Monica’s “relationship”:

    Joey: “It’s not going to last. She’s too much for me in bed. Sexually.”

    How You Doin? (Love Interest of the Week): This is a big week for the love interests. Most major of all is the introduction of Janice. Before this there has been no hint that Chandler is even in a relationship but his first girlfriend of the series also turns out to be his most (in)famous. His relationship with Janice is on-again, off-again throughout the series until he resents her and then can’t shake her off.

    Phoebe has her first onscreen love interest with Tony, who is apparently on hunger strike, and is very quickly dumped by Phoebe.

    However, this column was originally created to charter the sexual conquests of Joey Tribianni. And so far, he had let me down. But this week he finally gets a love interest in Angela, a supermodel of a woman that he had previously dumped but is now interested in again since it turns out she has moved on and got a new boyfriend, Bob.

    Meanwhile, with Joey’s help, Monica takes Bob for herself.

    Finally, we get what we can maybe consider as the first date and first kiss of Ross and Rachel. But more on that later.

     Google It Kids (Dated Reference of the Week): Janice buys Chandler Bullwinkle socks. The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show was an American cartoon series than ran from 1959 to 1964.

    Monica: “Something went wrong with Underdog and they couldn’t get his head to inflate. So anyway his head is, like, flopping down Broadway…”. Underdog is an American cartoon series that debuted in 1964. They obviously liked the idea of a malfunctioning inflatable Underdog as the story pops up again in a later Season 1 episode.

    Monica: “I’m sorry, I just couldn’t stop laughing at your Norman Mailer story”. Norman Mailer was an American writer who died in 2007. He was particularly famous for writing a biography on Marilyn Monroe and was the first to theorise that she was murdered by the FBI and CIA following her alleged affair with Robert F. Kennedy.

    .Visits to Central Perk: Four visits this week. We continue the tradition of opening the episode in Central Perk while the second visit consists of the gang meeting there on Saturday night and planning there nights. Chandler and Phoebe’s entire storyline takes place there, with Chandler consuming a life-threatening amount of espressos. The rest of the group re-join Chandler and Phoebe after their respective dates.

    Ugly Naked Guy Sightings: The second appearance of Ugly Naked Guy this week. He’s laying kitchen tiles.

    Ross and Rachel: Yes! After two episodes of nothing we finally get some sparks between Ross and Rachel. When Ross decides to crash Monica and Rachel’s laundry evening it turns into a “date” when Monica cancels. This leads to Ross acting very macho with his East German laundry detergent and assisting Rachel through her first laundry experience. When Ross steps in to defend Rachel from the brutal woman who steals her washing machine, Rachel says, “That was amazing, I can’t even send back soup”. Ross replies, “Well, that’s because you’re such a sweet, gentle…”, and it’s coy exchanges such as this we’re going to have to get used to for a while.

    Rachel celebrates her new laundry skills.

    While featuring their official/unofficial first date, the episode also features their official/unofficial first kiss and Rachel smacks one on Ross in celebration of defeating the brutal older woman, sending a taken aback Ross into the open drier. The seeds are now well and truly planted. Maybe spend less time talking about your lesbian ex-wife on the next possible date though Ross.

     Final Thoughts: Last week’s episode was the best of the series so far, but this week’s leaves it in the dust. A brilliantly funny episode that benefits greatly from pairing the friends off and experimenting with the different chemistries of the characters, meaning different pairings than we haven’t seen so far with Monica and Joey, and Chandler and Phoebe teaming up. Monica and Joey especially work so well together in their scenes. This was also the first episode so far to really give Matt Le Blanc something to do as Joey, as his character becomes clearer. A serial womaniser he may be but he is still loveable, funny, and charming. Compare that to the likes of Charlie Sheen in Two and a Half Men.

    As Chandler, Matthew Perry also gets to fully flex his comedy chops here as his caffeine fuelled break up with Janice is hilariously awkward.

    Five episodes in they have cracked how to make sure no one feels overly sidelined. Last week they split the group between girls and boys and this week they pair them off to ensure every character has someone to bounce off of. Well, except Phoebe, whose role is to watch Chandler and Janice’s break up. We’ll get there soon enough Phoebes.

    The best episode so far and the series is just encouragingly getting better with each episode at this point.

    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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