(“The One With The Candy Hearts,” season 1, episode 14; originally aired 2/9/95 / “The One With The Stoned Guy,” season 1, episode 15; originally aired 2/16/95)
Sonia: Well, I enjoyed the hell out of these two episodes. This is the joy of Friends, right here.
Let’s start with the latter episode, first. I’ve seen “The One With The Stoned Guy” multiple times, probably because it’s incredibly funny and incredibly popular. The live audience goes nuts when Jon Lovitz walks into the apartment, playing Phoebe’s stoned friend interviewing Monica for a head-chef position. Nobody else in the cast can quite keep a straight face around Lovitz, who doesn’t even crack as he maniacally repeats “tartlets” over and over again. A stoned guy isn’t the most original humor ever, but bouncing off the women’s attempted professionalism, he’s rendered even more ridiculous. I’m a little wary of stunt-casting guest stars, but as long as he’s playing high, Lovitz is welcome anytime.
“Stoned Guy” is probably one of the top 10 episodes of Friends for Lovitz alone, but there’s more to the episode that makes it shine. Real talk: Chandler holds this show together. He might even be Friends’ greatest character. Both “The One With The Stoned Guy” and “The One With The Candy Hearts” work because of the mingled amusement and empathy the viewer has for Chandler’s misadventures, whether they’re professional or romantic. He sort of can’t get anything right, but he’s not exactly pathetic, either (that’s a niche solidly occupied by Ross). He’s too nuanced to be a caricature, too easygoing to be neurotic, too bored to be driven. He’s surprisingly multifaceted and even as the series begins to sputter and die out, hard to stereotype into one basic type.
But beyond all that, I care about Chandler much more than I expected to care about anyone on this show—more than vulnerable Ross or neurotic Monica or even flighty Phoebe. Chandler’s totally hopeless attempts to figure out his life are both endearing and deeply funny, and though the other friends do sometimes manage that, in these two episodes Chandler steals the spotlight. As funny as “Stoned Guy” is—and it’s very funny!—Chandler’s rambling subplot is the most hilarious part. He quits his job to find out what he should be doing with his life, only to discover he’s best suited for a career in data processing. His dilemma feels raw and real, even when it’s couched in his deflective, self-abnegating humor. The subtle, tragic irony of his career choices balances the physical comedy of stoned Jon Lovitz. Add to this subtle sniping between Rachel and Monica and Ross’ adventures in talking dirty (a scene that moves from awkward to hilarious with the addition of Chandler) and the episode is a ratings masterpiece. No wonder it’s been rerun ten thousand times—it never fails to delight.
Joe: I keep returning to this theme in the first season, but that indelible Rembrandts lyric, “Your job’s a joke, you’re broke, your love life’s D.O.A.,” asserts itself as the show tries to establish what it’s going to be about, and these two episodes offer separate looks at two thirds of that mission statement. We don’t really spend as much time on “you’re broke” beyond Rachel’s occasional season one credit-card troubles, but “Candy Hearts” joins the many first season episodes about the Friends’ love lives, while, in “The One With The Stoned Guy,” the idea that these six twenty-somethings are on a pretty wide spectrum of career satisfaction gets a big ol’ spotlight. Ross and Phoebe—the most buttoned-up and the most hippie-dippy characters, interestingly—are the ones who are happy in their chosen careers. Joey and Monica are working in their chosen fields, but on such low rungs of the ladder that they’re pretty anxious about it. Chandler and Rachel are still searching for their purpose, and Chandler’s angst on the topic is relatable for exactly the reasons you say. Chandler’s an incredibly engaging and relatable every-character, and I love that the show (and Matthew Perry’s performance) imbues him with a Gen-X-ish combination of restlessness and indecision without making him a Gen-X stereotype.
As a certified Monica Guy, I was also really onboard with Monica’s brand of career-striving. I was even—bear with me here—on her side with regard to her reticence to hire Rachel to waitress her tasting. ...Well, until I realized the extent of the waitressing that would be done, which amounted to pouring Jon Lovitz a glass of wine. But Monica really needed that night to go perfectly, and Rachel has time and again proved to be a rather terrible waitress and sorry, Rachel, Monica does have a point about putting a roof over your head.
Joe: Ross’s “Stoned Guy” plot is less of a favorite of mine, not because it’s Ross (and certainly not because of a surprise Melora Hardin appearance as his date), but because I can’t stomach yet another blatant Seinfeld thievery (dirty talk AND inappropriately blurting out “vulva” in the same intonation that Jerry once blurted “Mulva”? Shame). But matters of romance were much better handled in “Candy Hearts,” don’t you think?
Sonia: I enjoyed “Candy Hearts” much more than I expected to. This is Friends’ first Valentine’s Day episode, and of all of the holiday episodes a show can do, Valentine’s Day seems to be the most tedious, crowded with all kinds of potential sitcom mainstays that usually involve two people who like each other getting into a fight at a restaurant. I hadn’t seen this episode before, and I totally did not see the Janice bait-and-switch coming. Again, I think Chandler holds it up, but in general the boys hold up the emotional quality of the episode in a way the girls fail to. It’s an interesting dynamic—stereotypically, one might think of women as being the “emotional” characters, but in “Candy Hearts,” Ross and Chandler are the ones delving into their romantic reptilian brains, while Rachel, Monica, and to an extent Phoebe are dealing with their issues by burning the evidence, which is a bit less productive. (It’d be nice if Joey also had a slightly complex plotline in this episode, but we can’t always get what we want, especially an episode after Joey’s intimate relationship with a sofa bed.)
We’ve already gone on about Chandler (who is amazing with Janice in this episode, both affectionate and contemptuous) so let’s talk about Ross for a minute. I have been really dismissive of Ross, as you might have noticed, but this episode is a great one for him, one that emphasizes how his at-times frustrating vulnerability stems from real emotional pain. The writers haven’t given him a lot of feelings about his marriage besides righteous indignation, but in “Candy Hearts” Ross exhibits a sense of true loss about Carol, and their conversation for once is not a glut of lesbian jokes but a heartfelt exchange about incompatibility and regret. It’s actually quite tragic when Ross and Carol share that last desperate kiss. Somehow in retrospect the humor of Ross’ situation has overshadowed the sadness, but “Candy Hearts” reminds us that humor and tragedy are two sides of the same coin.
Joe: For as much as I have ragged on the Carol/Susan scenes and the show’s tone towards its lesbian jokes in the previous baker’s dozen episodes, I was absolutely over the moon about those Benihana scenes with Ross and Carol. Not only did they humanize Carol in a very necessary way, but they put Ross’s often-frustrating hangdoggedness into context. Ross thought he had the life he wanted, and even though he knows it would be a lie, a big part of him would like to be back in that old life anyway. It’s relatable and touching and quite well-performed by David Schwimmer and Jane Sibbett.
Like you, I don’t have much to say about the girls-n-bonfires-n-firefighters plot, though Lisa Kudrow is really funny as she organizes the ritual. But I was too busy waiting to get back to the Janice. Her moment at the end of the episode, where she shrugs off Chandler’s latest lame breakup with a speech about how he’s obviously in love with her (he just doesn’t know he knows it yet) is the greatest Janice moment of the entire series. It immediately shifts Janice from pure punch line to a punch line with a sense of self. Now she’s a punch line we can root for. If there are Chan-Jan shippers (there have to be, right?), this episode had to have been the one to birth them.
- Everything Lovitz says is gold, but “Well, smack my ass and call me Judy!” stands out. [SS]
- Phoebe: “Now we need the semen of a righteous man.” Rachel: “Ok, Phebes, you know what, if we had that, we wouldn’t be doing the ritual in the first place.”
- In a quibble that spans both these episodes: Is this show trying to tell me that Monica would a) allow boxed mac and cheese in her home (even if it were Rachel’s) or b) not have any wine or sage on hand for the ritual? What kind of fools do the producers take us for?? [JR]
- “I’ve been maintaining my amateur status so that I can waitress in the Olympics.”
- We have to acknowledge the Friends debut of the WENIS, even if Chandler doesn’t want to spend his life worrying about it. [JR]
- Call me crazy, but I laughed at the egg gag at the beginning of “Candy Hearts.” [SS]
- I spent easily 15 minutes trying to phonetically spell the way Chandler grits out “Hey, it’s [clenched-jaw rendering of ‘Janice’]!” before giving up. [JR]
- People of Color on Friends Watch: Several of the dinner guests at Ross’ reunion with Carol at Benihana. (And all of the guests he not-so-politely asks to “schooch.”) Someone in the comments a few weeks ago mentioned that David Schwimmer insisted on extras of color in his scenes because the issue of race on the show bothered him. This is intriguing, and I looked for a source, but can’t find it. Anyone have anything? [SS]