“The One with George Stephanopoulos” (season one, episode four; originally aired 10/13/94) / “The One With The East German Laundry Detergent” (season one, episode five; originally aired 10/20/94) Sonia: Oh my god yes, the one with the laundromat!
This arc of Rachel’s growing independence is something I entirely forgot about in my recollection of , but I see now that it’s a defining feature of the first season—and such a good defining feature, too.
Structurally, it gives the characters an excuse to have 30-minute adventures around very mundane activities—grown-up things like laundry and paychecks—while at the same time making the characters enormously sympathetic as they jump through their life-hoops.
“The One With George Stephanopoulos” uses a tried-and-true sitcom convention—it splits the cast on gender lines and sends them off to different adventures, allowing them to “bro out” or have “girl talk” as need be.
Chandler, Joey, and Ross have a hockey adventure, which is punctuated by Ross’ reminisces of his “first time” with Carol and ends up, obviously, in the emergency room; meanwhile, the girls, led by Rachel, worry about their life plans and also get drunk and also spy on George Stephanopoulos, who is dreamy.
Of the two stories, the latter has real staying power—the conversation feels like it could have been written today, or to be more exact, it feels like it was transcribed verbatim from the conversation that occurred on my couch last night.
This is what 20-somethings struggle with—dating, yes, but also: money, family, goals, .
But “The One With The East German Laundry Detergent” is a better episode.
For one, it’s snappier: It moves quickly through several plot contrivances with just enough attention to ensure that you feel grounded in the action but not bored.
Unlike the three-three gender split in “The One With George Stephanopoulos,” we get a two-two-two split of subplots.
Ross and Rachel do laundry together; Phoebe and Chandler break up with their partners; Joey and Monica try to break up another couple.
(It’s unconventional character pairings, even for just five episodes in—Phoebe comments on it to Chandler, in her typically quirky way: “We never hang out together!