20 Years Ago, This TV Episode Shocked America With 52 Million Viewers – Guess Which One!

Exactly 20 years ago, on May 6, 2004, the beloved show “Friends” came to an end, captivating a record number of viewers. Let’s revisit this monumental television event.

From 1994 to 2004, it ruled the television landscape. Its legacy continues to thrive and captivate viewers to this day. After all, what could be more iconic than the sitcom that introduced us to Jennifer Aniston, Courteney Cox, Lisa Kudrow, David Schwimmer, Matt LeBlanc, and the dearly missed Matthew Perry, whose sudden passing on October 28th still leaves us heartbroken.

Friends has indeed left a lasting imprint on television, pop culture, and the world at large. Following the hilarious and heartwarming escapades of the famed group of friends – Rachel, Monica, Chandler, Ross, Phoebe, and Joey – the sitcom created by David Crane and Marta Kauffman has become a cherished part of our lives. It has won over audiences worldwide with its perfect blend of humor and sentiment, love and friendship, and unforgettable performances.

Ten years, ten seasons, 236 episodes, six Emmys, countless memorable lines, and unforgettable moments that we wish we could relive as if it were the first time – Friends is a show that transcends generations. Whether you grew up with it or discovered it later on, Friends has never really left our screens. Its continuous reruns and availability on streaming platforms confirm its status as a living legend that continues to resonate.

Yet, it’s been 20 years since it “ended”. The last episode aired on May 6, 2004. The anticipation was palpable, the expectations high, and the hearts heavy. The show was saying goodbye while still at its peak, making it hard for fans to let go after a decade of hanging out on that orange couch sipping coffee or inside the iconic apartments of Rachel and Monica, and Chandler and Joey – and later Monica and Chandler and Rachel and Joey.

The impact was enormous: a staggering 52.5 million American viewers tuned in to watch. This impressive number made “The Last One” (the title of the episode, “Those Who Left” in French) the most-watched entertainment broadcast in six years, the fifth most-watched series finale in television history, and the most-watched television episode of the 2000s in the US. The finale, which served as the 17th and 18th episodes of the show’s 10th season, was split into two parts, each considered a separate chapter.

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To jog your memory – even though we’re sure you remember – here’s how the sitcom, consistently ranked among the “greatest of all time”, ends.

Warning, spoilers ahead. This article reveals key plot points and the ending of “Friends”.

Joey and Phoebe

Contrary to the other characters in the series, Joey and Phoebe didn’t end up together! In the final season, Phoebe found happiness with the endearing Mike Hannigan (Paul Rudd), whom she got engaged to and then married. In Mike’s final scene, he and Phoebe discuss starting a family. “Don’t you want one like this?“; “Not one, I want a whole bunch!” exclaims Phoebe. “We’ll teach them to sing, and we could be like a von Trapp family!” she continues.

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This conversation gives a glimpse into what the future might hold for the Buffay-Hannigan clan, presumably filled with babies, outlandish adventures, and musical performances. Phoebe then spends the rest of the episode helping Ross with his grand declaration…

While the rest of his friends are undergoing significant life changes, Joey ends the series in the same apartment… but with a duck and a chick as his new roommates! Originally intended as a farewell gift for Chandler and Monica, the two birds get stuck in Chandler and Joey’s legendary foosball table, which must be destroyed to save them.

It’s the end of an era… But a new one begins for Joey, who, as we know, eventually moves to Los Angeles for his short-lived spin-off.

Chandler and Monica

After several years of marriage and a heartbreaking struggle with infertility, Monica and Chandler finally decided to adopt. In season 10, the couple prepares to welcome Erica’s (Anna Faris) baby, a pregnant teenager from Ohio, and move to the suburbs. In the series finale, Erica goes into labor prematurely: off to the hospital they go!

And then, surprise! Instead of expecting one baby, they end up with two! After the birth of the first child, the doctor announces that the second one is on the way: shocker! No one had explicitly told young Erica that she was having twins. “They must have mentioned that there were two heartbeats. I just thought it was mine and the baby’s. They kept saying the heartbeats were very strong, and I thought, ‘Well, they better be because I’m having a baby!’

Monica and Chandler then return to the apartment, surprising their friends with two newborns: Jack (named after Monica and Ross’s father) and Erica (named after their biological mother). We would’ve loved to see them raise the twins, or at least attempt to!

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Ross and Rachel

After years of on-again, off-again romances, “we were on a break” arguments, love and friendship, co-parenting, and a lot of back and forth, the couple spends Rachel’s last night in New York together. Indeed, she’s about to move to Paris for a job at Louis Vuitton. But while Ross thinks they’re back together for good, Rachel refers to their night as “the perfect way to say goodbye“.

Ross finally realizes that it’s time to confess his true feelings. But time is running out: Rachel has already left for the airport after briefly meeting Monica and Chandler’s babies.

Ross embarks on a race against time to catch up with her, with invaluable help from Phoebe and her crazy schemes. She calls Rachel, who’s already on board the plane, and manages to frighten some of the other passengers with her secondhand advice: “You have to get off the plane, I have this feeling there’s something wrong with the left phalange!

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Classic Phoebe madness delays the plane’s departure, giving Ross enough time to rush to one airport, then cross the city to the correct airport, and finally confess his love. But when he does, Rachel… still gets back on the plane.

Dejected, Ross returns home and listens to a message left on his answering machine: it’s a message from Rachel in which she starts by apologizing before realizing that she loves him too and doesn’t want to leave (a controversial choice, it was a great opportunity…). We hear her ask to get off the plane… and then the message cuts off. Did she stay? Was she able to get off the plane?

Ross yells at his machine: “Did she get off the plane?“. And then, we hear Rachel’s voice off-camera, uttering the iconic line: “I got off the plane.” She’s there: the couple kisses and is finally reunited… for good this time. A touching scene we’ll surely never forget (let’s forget about Louis Vuitton, it’s just television).

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Those Who Really Left

But it’s not over yet! In the final scene, the six friends gather at Monica and Chandler’s apartment as the movers pack their last belongings. They cry, hug, leave their keys on the counter, bidding farewell to the iconic place that housed most of their wild adventures.

Rachel suggests going for one last coffee before Monica and Chandler hit the road. “Where?” Chandler asks innocently: the very last line of the series and perhaps the best one, both hilarious and heartbreaking, filled with meaning and unforgettable memories. Perfect, absolutely. Matthew Perry’s talent, of course.

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