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Friends: Things you forgot happened in Central Perk

Anyone looking to recreate the lives of the main characters in Friends had better start saving up. At this point, even diehard fans have to admit that the odds of Monica (Courteney Cox), Chandler (Matthew Perry), Rachel (Jennifer Aniston), Phoebe (Lisa Kudrow), Ross (David Schwimmer), and Joey (Matt LeBlanc) being able to afford their spectacularly enormous apartments in New York City are slim to none. And given how much time they spent in Central Perk — the cozy coffee shop with the brown couch, giant mugs, and quirky decor — any money left over from rent went to cappuccinos and muffins.

As the gang's main haunt outside their own homes, Central Perk is a key location in the series. It's even been made into a LEGO set and a pop-up attraction, allowing fans to literally picture themselves hanging out there. So it's not surprising that some major moments went down in the coffee shop. From awkward family reunions to awkward breakups to awkward hookups, here are the things you forgot happened in Central Perk.

Ross and Rachel's first kiss went down at Central Perk

It seems almost impossible to imagine a time before Ross and Rachel were one of the defining TV relationships of the '90s, but every iconic couple has to start somewhere. In this pair's case, it was first officially on in Central Perk.

Having been in love with Rachel since they were teenagers, Ross finally finds a happy relationship with fellow paleontologist Julie (Lauren Tom), whom he meets in China at the end of season one. But while he's away, Rachel learns about his feelings for her, and she wants to give dating a try. When Ross finds out (via a drunken voicemail from Rachel) that she reciprocates his feelings, he goes to see her at Central Perk.

At first, Ross is angry that Rachel is willing to sabotage his relationship with Julie. But after storming out, he comes back, and the two kiss in the doorway. It's the perfect symbol of a relationship that's neither on nor off for ten seasons.

Ross tells Rachel she's his lobster

Before February 1, 1996, calling someone your lobster would probably have been considered an insult, albeit a confusing, custacean-themed one. But in a Friends episode that aired on that date, Phoebe explains to Ross that Rachel is his lobster — the person he's supposed to grow old with. She helpfully demonstrates lobsters holding claws with her hands.

If you know the entire Friends story, you'll remember that this happens after Rachel dumps Ross over his pros and cons list about her. Later in the episode, Ross interrupts Rachel flirting with a guy at Central Perk, claiming that he was rescuing her. When she tells him that she's not his to save, Ross says, "But you are! You're my lobster," and one of the most famous '90s declarations of love was born.

Unfortunately for Ross, it doesn't go well in the moment. His flustered explanation and reenactment don't have Phoebe's quirky charm. Fortunately, this is also the episode when the gang watches the video in which Ross stepped up to take a stood-up Rachel to her prom years before, only for her date to arrive at the last minute. This revelation prompts Rachel to kiss him, and Ross and Rachel are officially back on. For now.

Robin Williams and Billy Crystal make a cameo appearance in Friends

Friends pulled in guest appearances from some incredibly famous stars, including Brad Pitt, Julia Roberts, Gary Oldman, Susan Sarandon, and Bruce Willis. But one of the most beloved — and funniest — guest spots stole the show from the main cast, and it wasn't even in the original script.

In season three's "The One With the Ultimate Fighting Champion," the gang are gathered in Central Perk, waiting for Monica to tell them why her wealthy boyfriend, Pete (Jon Favreau — another good cameo), hired a ring designer. But before she can, two men come in and ask them all to scootch over on the couch so they can sit down.

Those two men happen to be played by Billy Crystal and Robin Williams, two of America's most famous comedians in 1997. Williams' character, Tomas, starts to tell Crystal's Tim that he suspects his wife has been sleeping with her gynecologist — only for Tim to confess that he's the other man. The gang give up on their conversation to eavesdrop, and it all ends with Tomas storming out, pursued by Tim.

The hilarious opening only came about by chance. Crystal and Williams were shooting something else on a neighboring set, and they wandered over to the iconic Friends coffee shop. The writers persuaded them to shoot the short scene, which was improvised by the two real-life friends.

Phoebe met David, aka the Minsk guy

Both of Phoebe's great loves started in Central Perk. In season one, she broke off mid-song to call out a pair of "noisy boys" talking through her performance, only for one of them, David (Hank Azaria), to admit that he'd been telling his friend that Phoebe was the most beautiful woman he'd ever seen. (Sorry, Daryl Hannah.) The pair had a short-lived but intense romance, which ended when scientist David got the chance to go to Minsk for his research, leaving Phoebe heartbroken.

Central Perk was also the site for two of David and Phoebe's reunions. In season nine, David returns from Minsk for one night and goes to the coffee shop in the hopes of finding Phoebe (which he does, of course). And later in the season, Phoebe is heading to a party where her now-ex, Mike (Paul Rudd), will be, only to run into David outside Central Perk and find out he's back in New York for good. Unfortunately the two don't end up together, despite Azaria's protests. Interestingly, Azaria told The Huffington Post that originally they were supposed to, but, "Paul Rudd is so awesome that they sort of found a groove with him." To borrow a famous movie line, they'll always have Central Perk.

Gunther tells Rachel that Ross cheated

The friends' obsession with Central Perk plays a major part in Ross and Rachel's first breakup. Or second breakup, depending on whether or not you agree that they were on a break and if that counts. (It's basically the most important unanswered question in TV history.)

After Ross cheats on Rachel with Chloe the copy girl (Angela Featherstone), he spends the next day trying to cover his tracks. Who knew New York City was such a small world? He nearly succeeds — except that Chloe's colleague's sister's roommate happens to be Gunther (James Michael Tyler), the Central Perk manager who is infatuated (borderline obsessed) with Rachel.

Ross rushes to beg Gunther not to tell Rachel about his and Chloe's one-night stand, only for Gunther to faux-innocently reply, "Was I not supposed to?" Ross turns to find Rachel glaring at him from the other side of the room. And one of the most famous breakups in TV history begins.

Phoebe sings Smelly Cat

Central Perk isn't just a place for the friends to hang out, it's the stage for many of Phoebe's songs. And that includes, of course, her greatest hit — with TV audiences, anyway — the legendary "Smelly Cat." (So legendary that proud cat lady and Friends fan Taylor Swift once performed it live on stage with Kudrow.) In a particularly memorable scene, Phoebe has all of her friends sing a line from the song. (Well, everyone except Ross because the song ends before they can get to him.) In another, she teaches her ex-songwriting partner Stephanie (Chrissie Hynde) the correct way to sing "Smelly Cat."

In case you were wondering, Kudrow didn't write those lyrics. In a Reddit AMA, she said that although she and Hynde came up with the tune, the show's writers were in charge of the words. Refinery29 spoke to Betsy Borns, who penned the first episode "Smelly Cat" appeared in, "The One with the Baby on the Bus." Borns said that originally she wrote the song about her dog — "My dog was so smelly his name was Gouda" — but the team decided a smelly cat was funnier.

Chandler broke up with Janice multiple times in Central Perk

You'd think Chandler would hate Central Perk, given how many times it's been the setting of breakups — and attempted breakups — with his ex-girlfriend, Janice (Maggie Wheeler). Despite her infamous laugh and loud declarations of, "Oh ... my ... god," Janice was his first serious relationship, or rather, relationships, since they were on and off again for three seasons.

In season one, after multiple attempts that ended with Janice crying, Chandler finally breaks up with her on Valentine's Day, only for Janice to declare that it isn't the end because he's secretly in love with her. "You seek me out. Something deep in your soul calls out to me like a foghorn," she says, complete with a foghorn impression.

She turns out to be right. It's not until season three that Chandler is able to say goodbye to Janice for good, after she cheats on him with her ex-husband. And even then, he almost takes back the breakup halfway through, telling her, "Forget what I said, I was babbling, pick me!"

That's not the end for Janice breakups in Central Perk, although the next time, Janice gets to do the dumping. In season five, she breaks up with Ross in the exact same spot on the couch, saying, "I just don't think I can take another second of you whining!" Lucky escapes for everyone.

Chandler met Kathy ... right before she met Joey

Like coffee, love can be bitter, as Chandler learned when he worked up the courage to approach a beautiful woman in Central Perk one day, only to find out that she was waiting for a date — with Joey.

Thus began the Chandler-Kathy-Joey love triangle of season four. After that fateful first meeting, Chandler pines for Kathy (Paget Brewster) behind Joey's back, even buying her an expensive first edition of her favorite kids' book and then allowing Joey to give it to her. Eventually, they kiss, Chandler tells Joey, who will only forgive Chandler if he sits inside a wooden crate and thinks about how he wronged his friend.

Chandler and Kathy ultimately end up dating, with Joey's blessing, until she cheats on him, too. Fortunately, Brewster's experience on set was a lot more positive. It was her first big acting job, and she told The A.V. Club that she got the part because Matthew Perry decided that she was the funniest actress who auditioned with him. In 2019, she tweeted that she was rewatching the whole series, adding, "The cast was so kind to me."

Chandler tells Monica he'll go out with her

It took nearly four full seasons for Chandler and Monica to get together, but the seeds were planted much earlier.

For the audience, the foreshadowing started in season three. There was the flashback episode in which the two shared a longer-than-friendly hug that looked like it might lead to something more, with Chandler consoling Monica over her lack of a boyfriend. Later in the season, the two were hanging out at Central Perk, with Monica having a similar crisis. It was then Chandler told her, "Hey, if worse comes to worse, I'll be your boyfriend," which made Monica burst out laughing.

However, the writers had hatched a secret plan to couple them up as far back as season two. After the episode when Monica helps Chandler get into shape, the writers registered the chemistry and filed it away, as executive producer Scott Silveri told Vulture. Silveri would be crucial to "Mondler," as the relationship is known, as he and his wife Shana Goldberg-Meehan helped co-write the episode in which the pair hook up in London.

Phoebe reunites with her dad at Central Perk

When meeting up with the father who abandoned you when you were a baby, you want to pick a spot that's technically neutral ground but also has a comforting familiarity. And a ready-made set.

When Phoebe unexpectedly runs into her father, Frank Sr. (Bob Balaban), at her grandmother's funeral in season three, she pretends to be the executor of the estate and arranges to meet him at Central Perk. Under the ruse, she finds out that Frank had written a note to give to Phoebe's mother, Lily, not knowing she'd died 17 years before. Phoebe finally reveals her real identity to Frank, who gets flustered, explaining that he wasn't a good dad. Despite everything he put her through, Phoebe's natural empathy wins out, and she bridges the gap between them.

A similar thing happens in another episode. On the same couch, Phoebe tells her half-brother (Giovanni Ribisi) and his wife (Debra Jo Rupp) that she'll be their surrogate. Keep it in the family and the Perk.

Joey kisses Phoebe when she's disguised as Ursula

In addition to being a masseuse, a singer/songwriter, and the creator of terrifying 3D portraits, Phoebe is an expert at breaking up with people on their soon-to-be ex's behalf. She talks to Janice for Chandler in season one, and a few episodes later, she intervenes in Joey's love life to save him from being ghosted (which wasn't even a term back then).

When Joey starts dating Phoebe's identical twin, Ursula, Phoebe is wary, knowing that her sister has a tendency to break her dates' hearts. Sure enough, as Joey is falling in love, Ursula goes cold and stops calling. So Phoebe dresses up as her sister and meets Joey in Central Perk, where she lets him down easy. But she also gives him a little test to see if he'd choose her or Ursula, and of course, he picks Phoebe.

Right before Joey says goodbye, the two kiss, and that's when he realizes she's really his friend. For the rest of the series, the two have more of a platonic vibe, but it's good to see that little what-if spark play out just this once.

Ross finds out Joey is in love with Rachel

In season eight, Joey starts falling in love with Rachel, which is tricky not just because of the impact on the group dynamics but because of her history with Ross and the fact she's pregnant with the latter's child at the time. Joey struggles with what to do about his feelings, and eventually, Monica, Chandler, and Phoebe find out. Under pressure to tell Ross, Joey finally cracks, bursting out with the truth after the two run into each other in Central Perk.

Ross' reaction is marginally better than his response in season ten to the news that Rachel and Joey hooked up in Barbados. But during the initial showdown in Central Perk, he is far from "fine." And the awkward location means that Joey has to deal with another rival for Rachel's affections. After Ross storms out, lovesick Gunther confronts Joey, too.

Ross and Phoebe nearly hooked up

Sometimes the Friends add "with benefits" to their relationships, including odd would-be couple Ross and Phoebe. In a flashback episode in season three, the avowed scientist and the woman who believes her mom was reincarnated as a cat put aside their differences for a brief — and awkward — encounter.

In the episode, Ross finds out that his wife, Carol (Jane Sibbett), has been having an affair with a woman she met at the gym. Realizing his marriage is over, he heads to Central Perk, except at this point, it's a bar, complete with jukebox, dim lighting and a pool table. Phoebe is the only one there, and as she tries to cheer Ross up, the two end up kissing. But as they move the make-out onto the pool table, a mishap with a pocket and two, er, balls, brings the moment to an end. The same episode sees another almost union. Before her wedding to Barry, Rachel fantasizes about hooking up with Chandler in the bar version of Central Perk.

Mike shows up on Friends

The love story of one of Friends' most beloved couples started in Central Perk ... but only one of them was present. Having lied to Phoebe that he knows someone called Mike that she might like, Joey goes to the coffee shop and shouts "Mike!" And then, someone who looks a lot like Paul Rudd answers.

Phoebe finds out that the two don't know each other, but later, Mike tracks her down at Central Perk. After impressing her with his air piano skills, the two start to date and fall in love. How could she not? Even Paul Rudd's bloopers make us love him even more.

At one point, the two are on the rocks, thanks to a disagreement over marriage. But when they do finally tie the knot and become Princess Consuela Banana-Hammock and Crap Bag, they find themselves forced out of their venue and back at the coffee shop for a very chilly ceremony thanks to a snow storm. David who?

Ross explains unagi in Central Perk

Central Perk doesn't serve unagi — the sushi — but it's the place where Ross introduces Phoebe and Rachel to what he believes to be a Japanese martial arts concept — a move that backfires tremendously.

After the women return from a self-defense class, Ross condescendingly scoffs at their ability to protect themselves, telling them that first they have to have "unagi." As he explains, it's "a state of total awareness" and "only by achieving true unagi can you be prepared for any danger that may befall you."

Ross tries to prove his point by jumping out on them in the hall, prompting Phoebe and Rachel to hide behind his curtains and return the favor. Ross then tries to jump on them in the street ... except that Rachel and Phoebe are actually inside Central Perk, watching him being chased by their doppelgangers.

Friends had some classic in-jokes by the end of its run, but "unagi" might be the best. Not only does it involve practical jokes, but it punishes Ross for being his pompous latter-season self.