'Friends' TV Show: The Top 10 Ross Gellar Moments - Rolling Stone
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‘Friends’: The Top 10 Ross Moments

In honor of the show’s 25th anniversary, we rank the beloved character’s best moments

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There is no Friends character more divisive than Ross. Even 25 years after the show first aired, the neurotic paleontologist is still the source of endless debate, the subject of listicles and think pieces that beg the question: Is Ross Geller the greatest or worst character on Friends?

Related: 25 Best ‘Friends’ Episodes

On the one hand, he’s pretty awful. He was a terrible boyfriend, not only to Rachel but to the many women he dated during the show’s ten seasons. He’s at times extremely whiny, defensive, and arrogant. He loses his cool over a Thanksgiving leftover sandwich, dramatically calling it the only good thing going on in his life before his job forces him to take a sabbatical. He has a seemingly rough time gauging basic distances, whether he’s forcing his new couch up a narrow flight of stairs or trying to inch his new red sports car out of a parallel parking spot. Most importantly, he hates ice cream!

But Ross is also the most amusing character on the show, the whimsical loser who never really stood a chance at being the most beloved. He spent his formative years pining for his best friend’s sister, making out with the high school librarian and his college maid — all before his wife left him for another woman. His five friends would continuously smart-shame him for having a PhD, rolling their eyes at his mere mention of a dinosaur or mocking him for being a grammar nazi. He was an intellectual with an extremely wounded soul, someone who slept with an air purifier and boasted about having traveler’s insurance.

It’s difficult to imagine anyone more suited for the role than David Schwimmer. Co-creators Marta Kauffman and David Crane specifically wrote the part with him in mind after he auditioned for another pilot of theirs called Couples. He had also made a name for himself in the short-lived Henry Winkler sitcom Monty and his appearance on NYPD Blue. Before taking the role of Ross, Schwimmer was about to quit television. We’re so glad he didn’t.

In honor of the show’s 25th anniversary on September 22nd, this list rank’s Ross’ best moments. We purposely left out his relationship milestones, focusing less on him saying the wrong name at the altar and more him on seeking revenge on a luxury hotel by stealing lightbulbs and overstocking on tampons. He’s the nutty neurotic we just can’t get enough of.


“The One With Ross’ Tan” (Season 10, Episode 3)

The 10th and final season of the series may be a dark place, full of tying loose ends and preparing to say a long, drawn out goodbye, but this episode is a standout. After seeing Monica’s stellar spray-on tan, Ross decides to get one for himself. What could go wrong? He lets his stringent stubbornness get the better of him, counting in exact Mississippi’s that cause him to get sprayed on twice as much. The employee, who sarcastically tells Ross his own level of tan is Puerto Rican, advises him to return to the booth to “even it out” on his backside, but the procedure goes awry again, leading him to be even darker. The lesson? Bragging about having a Ph.D. gets you nowhere.


“The One Where They all Turn Thirty” (Season 7, Episode 14)

In a classic ep that features flashbacks to each friend’s 30th birthday, Ross buys a sleek MGM sports car. He’s determined to prove that it has nothing to do with a premature midlife crisis (Chandler: “Wouldn’t it have been cheaper to just stuff a sock down there?”) and insists he’s a sports car enthusiast, even if he doesn’t know what horsepower is. The only problem is he can’t back it out of his parallel parking spot, so he orders the gang to “Lift and slide” it out onto the street. The scene isn’t nearly as funny as the “Pivot” couch, but the old man he meets driving an identical car makes it a close second.



“The One With Rachel’s Dream” (Season 9, Episode 19)

When Monica’s booming restaurant prevents her from going on a romantic getaway to Vermont with Chandler, Ross comes along instead. (He’s always loved Vermont, like the time he and Emily got overly excited from seeing a deer outside eating fruit from the orchard.) As they arrive at the luxury hotel, Chandler becomes furious when he learns that the reservation he couldn’t cancel no longer exists. Ross, feverishly twitching and high on maple candy, suggests they get back at the hotel by overstocking on their toiletries and other amenities. He passes his cheap wisdom onto Chandler, teaching him the difference between stealing and taking what the hotel rightfully owes them. (“Hair dryer, no, no, no. Shampoos and conditioners, ah, yes, yes, yes!”) The highlight is when they check out of the hotel and Ross’ suitcase explodes in front of the concierge, revealing their loot. What can he say? He loves the country.


“The One Where Joey Loses His Insurance” (Season 6, Episode 4)

When Ross gets invited to guest lecture at NYU, he becomes so nervous that he fakes a British accent. At the suggestion of Monica, he starts phasing it out, causing confusion among the students as he exaggerates every other word. In perfect timing, he apologizes to the class and admits he just wants to make a good impression — right before Rachel barges in with the startling discovery that they’re still married. This episode marks the first of many Professor Geller mishaps — including dating a student and rollerblading like a maniac to fit his impossible class schedule — that make us wish he was our professor.




“The One With Unagi” (Season 6, Episode 17)

In the previous double-length episode, “The One That Could Have Been,” Ross tells hospitalized, stock-broker Phoebe about taking karate classes, arrogantly pronouncing it “kara-tay.” In the spirit of continuity, this next episode leads with Ross’ passion for the martial art, mansplaining the concept of “Unagi,” a state of total awareness, to Rachel and Phoebe, who have started taking self-defense classes. The trio takes turns hiding behind walls and curtains, trying to one-up each other on who is more prepared for an attack. Of course, Monica has the most unagi of all, breezily walking by Ross’ screams of danger while nonchalantly taking out the trash.


“The One With the Cop” (Season 5, Episode 16)

The only Ross line slightly more famous than “We were on a break!” is “Pivot.” Recently divorced and trying to get his life back on track, Ross moves into a new apartment (naturally across the street from Monica’s). He and Rachel go to the furniture store to pick up a new couch, where he refuses to pay an overpriced delivery fee and brags to the salesman that he and Rachel had sex 298 times when they dated. They recruit Chandler to help them get it up a flight of stairs, struggling to fit it as Ross spits “Pivot!” repeatedly to no avail. Broken in half, he takes the couch back to the store and — in a classic Ross move — demands a refund. He’s denied, but he happily accepts $4 in store credit.


“The One With Ross’ Teeth” (Season 6, Episode 8)

Ross will do anything for love, whether it’s dating a woman who inconveniently lives in Poughkeepsie or making out in a filthy apartment on a couch full of cold cuts and a pet hamster. So when Monica sets him up on a date with her coworker Hillary, he whitens his teeth, going the extra mile by leaving the gel on for “a little longer,” a.k.a. an entire day. He conceals his florescent pearls the best he can, covering them with a piece of bread over dinner while he talks about his upbringing. When Hillary suggests they get comfortable and turn the lights off, Ross’ teeth glow in the dark, greatly upsetting her. He retaliates the only way he knows how: by attacking her groovy lava lamp decor. “What’s the matter with me? You’ve got a blacklight. It’s 1999!”


“The One With Ross’ Sandwich” (Season 5, Episode 9)

Ross had been greeting his friends with his signature depressing, “Hi,” since the pilot, and this episode is no different. He presents them with a serious dilemma: Someone at work ate his sandwich (Chandler: “Well, what did the police say?”). On the brink of divorce from Emily and recently evicted from his department, the Thanksgiving leftover sandwich was the only glimmer of hope he had — and now it’s gone. Phoebe, who spent her youth living on the seedy streets of Manhattan, helps him write an offensive note to ward off any future stealers, leading his colleagues to dub him Mental Geller. When his boss confesses he was the one who ate the sandwich — and that he threw most of it away — Ross spirals out of control, his anger bellowing through the windows and out into Washington Square Park. He returns to Central Perk on tranquilizers, smiling and telling his friends he was forced to take a sabbatical. Rock Bottom Ross is a hard place to be, but at least there’s cotton candy.


“The One With all the Resolutions” (Season 5, Episode 11)

Waiting for his divorce from Emily to be finalized and on a sabbatical from work after his sandwich meltdown, Ross rings in the year of 1999 with a simple resolution: be happy. In an attempt to try new things, he uncharacteristically buys a pair of leather pants for his date with a woman by the unfortunate name of Elizabeth Hornswoggle. They snuggle on her couch watching a movie, while Ross grows increasingly sweaty in his new ensemble. He runs to the bathroom to pull his pants down, only to realize he can’t get them back up. He starts hilariously panicking, his voice escalating to a high-pitched whimper as he desperately calls Joey and begs for advice. Though no amount of baby powder or lotion can save him, this scene is Peak Ross, and we are here for every second of it.



“The One Where Ross Is Fine” (Season 10, Episode 1)

Come for the reassurance, stay for the fajitas. The only good thing to come out of Joey and Rachel’s weird, short-lived romance was Ross’ hysterical reaction to it. The unnecessary plot line was woven in during Season Eight to delay Ross and Rachel’s happily-ever-after for two more seasons. Joey takes her on a platonic date and slowly develops feelings for her. She doesn’t reciprocate until the next season, but by then Joey is dating Charlie (Aisha Tyler). Everything comes to a head in Barbados, when Charlie leaves Joey for Ross, allowing Rachel to come clean about her feelings.

So as the 10th season opens and Ross catches Joey and Rachel kissing, he assures them that he’s fine with it. So fine, in fact, that he manically invites the new couple over for a double date with Charlie. He gets wasted off margaritas, becoming increasingly unhinged as he gives a sloppy, theatrical toast spelling out the word “love.” Schwimmer performs remarkably here, especially as he holds a sizzling pan of fajitas with his bare hands. In a show that may have dragged on a bit too long, this episode remains a latter-day highlight.

In This Article: David Schwimmer, Friends, Thanksgiving

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