in Shocktober

Friends – “The One With The Halloween Party”

Season 8, Episode 6
Airdate: November 1, 2001

It’s surprising that it took Friends until its 8th season to put out a Halloween episode, but maybe that’s just because it was always more of a Thanksgiving show. Still, Halloween is one of the best times to hang out with your friends and get into hijinks, though I suppose this episode sees The Friends in a bit more mature place in their lives. Monica and Chandler are engaged, Rachel’s pregnant, and Joey’s still… just kinda doing his thing. Still, the episode makes plenty of room for goofy costumes, amusing scenes involving children, and a welcome appearance by Phoebe’s sister Ursula that serves as a reminder that Lisa Kudrow was always the show’s secret weapon.

“The One With The Halloween Party” has a brief scene at the start of the episode to set up the premise that The Friends are all having a costume party at Chandler and Monica’s for Halloween. There’s also a scene outside of Central Perk where Phoebe runs into her twin sister Ursula who (unbeknownst to Phoebe) is about to get married in a few days. Curious to know about this mystery man that Ursula’s engaged to, Phoebe invites her to the party. Then from there, the episode is basically one big bottle episode, all taking place at Chandler and Monica’s apartment.

One fun part reviewing these Shocktober episodes of TV shows is seeing what these iconic characters dressed up as for Halloween. The girls (as usual) don’t get to have as much fun with their costumes, as Phoebe dresses up as Supergirl, while Monica dresses up as Catwoman, and Rachel dresses up as nothing because she just wants to wear a nice dress since she’ll be too pregnant to do that in a few months. Meanwhile, Chandler dresses up as a pink bunny rabbit (Monica got him the wrong costume), Joey puts on a dorky-looking vest and slacks to dress up as Chandler (hilarious), and Ross dresses up as a giant potato with antennae (“I’m Spud-nik!”). Oh, Ross. No wonder you’re everyone’s least favorite Friend.

After the party has started, Ursula’s fiancé Eric (played by Sean Penn) arrives and chit-chats with Phoebe, who instantly takes a liking to him. Over at the front door, Rachel is trying to be as accommodating as possible to the trick-or-treaters, since she knows she’ll soon be a mom. Then, what I guess would be called the centerpiece of the episode comes about when Monica and Phoebe get into an argument about whether Chandler or Ross would win in a fight. The two of them put this challenge to the test with an arm-wrestling match that goes on way longer than it should. Phoebe then ties things up with Eric after having spent a little time with Ursula at the party and learning that she’s basically lied to Eric about everything in her life, which Phoebe confesses to Eric. Not sure if anything more happened with this arc, but I guess that’s the beauty of dropping yourself into a single episode of a show with too many storylines to count.

Speaking of how long Friends went on, I’m a bit of a purist when it comes to resisting Friends episodes. I rarely venture beyond the seasons after Chandler and Monica got together, maybe just because it creates a clear stopping point more than the show really going downhill after that. It’s also probably because the show became a little bit less about its original premise chronicling “that time in your life when your friends are your family”, since most of the characters are becoming a little more focused on starting actual families.

Even though it is a later episode, “The One With The Halloween Party” still feels like classic friends. The cast’s chemistry is still second-to-none, the writing is solid (if not brilliant), and of course the male characters hinge way too much of their self-worth on how masculine they are. I also forgot how fun it is whenever Ursula shows up, even if she is basically the same character as Phoebe, but kinda mean. So yeah, a pretty solid episode, which I’m sure during a very strange Fall was a nice reminder that TV’s favorite pals were still there for us.