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The Biggest Plot Holes In Friends

Nearing three decades since its premiere, "Friends" remains in superfans' minds and hearts for delivering gut-busting comedy and poignant storylines that keep the sitcom fresh with its blend of drama and comedy. There are some really funny storylines (like "The One with Ross' Tan"), really sweet ones (like the wedding episodes), and also some heartbreaking ones (like when Monica realizes that she and Chandler are unable to have a baby). The show follows the personal and professional misadventures of six 20-somethings in New York City, and those misadventures get pretty self-contradictory through an incredible 10-year run.

When "Friends" ran in the '90s and early 2000s, there was no such thing as online streaming, so it's wasn't like audiences could go back and rewatch and point out narrative holes the way we can now. Simply put, continuity wasn't a major issue back then. However, due to the show's recent Netflix release and widespread syndication, a whole new generation of sharp-eyed fans can now replay and rewatch "Friends" in order to pause and spot even the tiniest of plot holes and inconsistencies with much more ease and quickness than the previous generation could manage with their cumbersome DVD and VHS box sets. 

While these continuity errors and plot holes don't hamper the experience of first-time viewers and novice fans, it's just fun to poke holes in your favorite show when you're watching it for the umpteenth time. Keeping that spirit in mind, here are some of the biggest plot holes in our beloved '90s sitcom that fans just can't help but notice.

How did Carol get pregnant a year after separating from Ross?

The very first episode of "Friends" introduces Ross as a heartbroken husband going through a recent divorce from his seven-year marriage to Carol, his high school sweetheart. The reason for the divorce isn't because of the usual irreconcilable differences, but rather a very similar interest the two have — a sexual preference for women. What further complicates Ross' situation is that Carol tells Ross she's pregnant in the second episode, "The One with the Sonogram at the End." Ross, Carol, and Carol's love interest Susan form a confusing parenting triangle that dominates the rest of the first season, as if Ross and Susan didn't already have a complicated, resentment-fueled relationship of their own.

Since it usually takes two-to-three weeks after conception for a pregnancy test to come up positive, we can assume that Ross and Carol had been intimate just a few weeks before the pregnancy announcement. However, Ross learns that Carol is a lesbian in the Season 3 flashback episode aptly titled "The One with the Flashback," which takes place precisely one year before the show's pilot episode. This raises the question of how they could have had been physically intimate with each other a year after realizing Carol's sexual orientation, particularly given that Carol was already dating Susan.

While the show doesn't explicitly mention when they divorced, considering that an uncontested divorce in the state of New York typically takes three months, we can estimate that it occurred within the year prior to the show's debut. It also raises more questionable implications about whether Carol had cheated on Susan when she had sex with Ross, further complicating the timeline of their relationship. The circumstances behind their child's conception are never discussed or brought up.

Carol wasn't Ross' first time

For the entirety of the Season 1 episode "The One with George Stephanopoulos," Ross is depressed after realizing that it is the anniversary of his first time being physically intimate with Carol. Chandler and Joey take Ross out to a hockey game in an attempt to distract him but end up annoyed by Ross' constant moping and reminiscing over everything that reminds him of Carol. The two don't realize until later in the episode why the anniversary is such a big deal for Ross — his first time with Carol was his first time ever having sex with a woman. It makes sense why Ross is still in such a fragile emotional state in that episode, given that he is going through a divorce with the only woman he has ever had a sexual relationship with.

However, this major detail gets retconned in the Season 7 episode "The One with Rachel's Assistant," where Ross, Monica, and Chandler unwittingly get entangled in a battle about spilling secrets about one another. Chandler reveals that Ross got drunk and slept with their college's cleaning lady, a seemingly small revelation that contradicts the fact that Carol was the only woman Ross had been with at the time of their divorce in Season 1. We can assume that the throwaway revelation was amusing enough for the writers to overlook the character arc that Ross went through in the Season 1 episode.

A change in apartment numbers

The numbers of Monica, Chandler, and Joey's apartments are very minor details that would normally go unnoticed, but after watching "Friends" multiple times, the numbers become a notable detail. In the first few episodes of the series, Chandler and Joey's apartment number is "4" and Monica's apartment number is "5." However, the numbers turn to "19" and "20" a few episodes later. The sudden change goes unexplained in the show, although there is a popular theoretical explanation for it.

The apartment numbers being "4" and "5" would have meant that the friends lived on the first floor of the building shown through establishing shots to be 90 Bedford Street, which wouldn't have made sense as the view of the window in Monica's apartment makes it seem as though they live higher up, especially when they routinely peep down into Ugly Naked Guy's window across the street. To rectify this continuity issue, the show's creators and set designers might have created another inconsistency by quietly changing the apartment numbers to "19" and "20," hoping that no one would bat an eye. Given the options, maybe making the change was a better choice than pretending an apartment on the fourth floor could have a single-digit number, especially when we frequently see the characters climb several flights of stairs to get to their apartments.

Inconsistent ages and birthdays

If a "Friends" fan tried to map each characters' birthdays and ages through each season of the show from whatever clues, hints, and tidbits the characters casually drop here and there, they would find that these clues don't line up to each other. While the show maintains that its characters are 20-somethings going through 20-somethings problems, the same characters are shown to be maturing from being a group of friends in their 20s to becoming a family of sorts in their 30s. Thus, age plays a significant role in the audiences' unconscious exercise of determining the exact moments in the show when their beloved characters pass from youth to adulthood.

A common gripe among "Friends" fans is that Ross mentions being 29 for three consecutive years — in Seasons 3, 4, and 5. His birthday is said to be in March, October, and December on three separate occasions. Likewise, Rachel mentions her birthday being in February, April, and May throughout the show. Similarly, Joey is described as the youngest member of the group in Season 1, but Rachel is the final friend to celebrate her 30th birthday in Season 7's "The One Where They All Turn Thirty," with the other characters' dreadful 30th birthdays presented through flashbacks. 

Chandler and Rachel don't recognize each other

Fans can argue that compared to other pairings between the six friends, Chandler and Rachel had only a handful of memorable interactions and storylines together, such the one where Chandler has a relationship with Rachel's boss Joanna and finds himself handcuffed in her office, begging Rachel to help him out. Rachel often admits that out of the three male friends, Chandler is the one that she likes the least. When Joey casually asks her who she'd like to punch among the friends, Chandler's name pops up in her mind. When given a choice between kissing Joey and Chandler at a New Year's party, she instinctively rejects Chandler.

The pilot episode of "Friends" makes it seem like it's the first time Rachel meets Chandler, and the only two friends she's met previously are Monica and Ross. Rachel evens remarks that she thought Chandler was gay until an incident involving breasts at Phoebe's birthday party indicates otherwise.

But there are several instances shown where the two had met long before their supposed introductions at Central Perk. In the Thanksgiving flashback episodes, Chandler visits Ross' parents' home for the holiday where Monica's best friend Rachel is also present. She helps Monica scheme her revenge against Chandler a year after he calls Monica "fat." At a college party that Rachel and Monica sneak into, Chandler kisses Rachel as an act of revenge against Ross after Ross breaks their agreement to not pursue a girl they both like. In a separate incident, the two cross paths again exactly a year before the events of the pilot episode, where Rachel visits the bar (which later turns to Central Perk) that Monica and Chandler frequent. While it's made to look as though Chandler and Rachel are about to hook up, they've somehow forgotten each other, again, by the time of Episode 1.

Rachel's pregnancy lasts for over a year

Rachel's pregnancy revelation in the episode "The One with Monica and Chandler's Wedding" is the cliffhanger moment of the show's seventh season. After a few mishaps surrounding the positive pregnancy test — to summarize, Phoebe assumes Monica is pregnant, then becomes a voluntary scapegoat by announcing the test is hers when she realizes it's Rachel's, leading to Joey proposing marriage to Phoebe to help her take care of the child — everyone in the group finally gets to know of Rachel's pregnancy except Ross, who happens to be the father.

Rachel reveals that she spent a night with Ross about a month before the wedding. Since the wedding episode aired in May 2001, we can assume Ross and Rachel conceived sometime in April of the same year. However, Rachel's pregnancy becomes a major storyline throughout the entire eighth season, culminating when she gives birth to Emma in "The One where Rachel has a Baby" which aired in May 2002. This means that Rachel's pregnancy lasted 13 months, four whole months longer than the typical nine-month duration of a pregnancy. It's similar to an infamous plot hole in "The Big Bang Theory" where Bernadette's pregnancy lasts 11 months.

The caveat here is the four-month hiatus between the Season 7 finale and Season 8 premiere, which both take place on Monica and Chandler's wedding day. However, it's important to note that both dates of the wedding and Emma's birthday — May 2001 and May 2002, respectively — are canon according to fans, so the plot hole more or less still exists.

Characters disappear

When our beloved characters go through significant life events — such as weddings, child births, and funerals — it's difficult to not notice that certain secondary characters previously established as important are absent from these events and go unmentioned. Of course, there are behind-the-scenes explanations for their absences; sometimes it is difficult to remember characters who made brief appearances in previous episodes, or those characters just don't fit in amid the ensemble cast that's already present at a major wedding episode, or actors are simply difficult to get on short notice.

Phoebe finding her birth mother is a major story event in Season 3, but after appearing in a few subsequent episodes and being relegated to off-screen duties such as sending Phoebe a fur coat in Season 5, the character is largely forgotten. Same goes for Phoebe's birth father, whose sudden appearance in the Season 5 episode "The One with Joey's Bag" acts as an emotional payoff for the seemingly orphaned Phoebe, and never appears again or is even mentioned afterwards. This strikes the audiences harder during the season-long storyline of Phoebe's wedding with Mike, where multiple close family members — including three Phoebe gave birth to herself — remain absent with no explanation.

Fans have even noted that Ross' son Ben is noticeably absent in significant events of his father's life, such as his wedding with Emily, and especially the birth of his step-sister Emma. It would've been endearing to see Ben meet his sister and could've made for interesting storylines where Ross has to manage having two children from two separate marriages. But some cast members had interesting theories surrounding Ben's disappearance from "Friends" – Ben's actor Cole Sprouse suggests that Ross was "never really the most present father."

Phoebe's homelessness

Phoebe's backstory often serves as a running gag in the show, with the character's quirky personality giving way to various equally quirky things the character may have done in the past that are teased but never fully explained. She's said to have stabbed a police officer, mugged Ross when they were kids, and has a strange assortment of street friends that she mentions in passing, such as her friend Fritzy who was stuck at number 11 on the NYPD's most-wanted list, never quite breaking the top 10, and Lowell the mugger who threatens Ross and Phoebe until he and Phoebe recognize each other. Phoebe makes frequent references to being homeless on the streets of New York City by the time she was 14 and living in a burnt-out LeSabre by the time she was 18.

However, Phoebe lives with her grandmother Frances in the first several seasons of the show, and once Frances passes away, she leaves Phoebe the apartment where she resides until the series finale. It's a one-bedroom apartment converted into a two bedroom, which begs the question — why was Phoebe homeless for several years when she had family in the same city who could have helped her out, especially when Phoebe repeatedly mentions having a close relationship with her grandmother?

The ink on Ross and Rachel's face disappears

On the flight to Vegas, Ross and Rachel are still reeling from an awkward encounter the previous evening when Ross thought Rachel's nakedness in her apartment was a hint that she wanted sex with him. Rachel teases Ross about it, and the two go on a prank contest on each other on the plane that ends with Ross drawing a mustache on Rachel's face with a pen while she's asleep. She finally sees the mustache on her face when they reach the hotel in Vegas, causing Rachel to frantically try to remove the mustache from her face to no avail. She gets mad at Ross and the two decide to stay in the room to spare Rachel any more embarrassment. They get really drunk, Rachel draws on Ross' face, and the two get married. When they wake up the next day, they fail to remember their drunken marriage until the group reminds them.

While Rachel has a hard time trying to remove the mustache Ross draws on her face, the ink on both their faces is gone the morning after their wild night. This plot hole is significant because the ink on Rachel's face sets off a chain of events that eventually lead to her and Ross getting drunk and getting married. This becomes one of the most memorable running gags on "Friends" ("Three divorces!") and the beginning of a multi-episode arc where Ross refuses to tell Rachel they are still married despite his promise to have their union annulled.