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The Dark Phoebe Theory That Changes Everything About Friends

Warning: this article deals with sensitive subject matter pertaining to suicide.

Throughout all 10 seasons of "Friends," there's no doubt that Phoebe Buffay (Lisa Kudrow) is — to borrow a phrase from Rachel Green (Jennifer Aniston) — the biggest "question mark" of the Central Perk crew. She's edgy and quirky and has an extraordinarily complicated past that unveils itself with eccentric little asides and bizarre backstories throughout the series.

While we don't learn everything there is to know about the character (for example, whatever actually happened in Prague), what we do know could fill an entire book, and it'd be a fascinating biographical novel indeed. Aside from the fact that she has a hilariously strained relationship with her identical twin sister Ursula (also played by Kudrow), the most defining element of her family history is the fact that her mother, Lily, died by suicide when Phoebe was still a young teenager.

Not only was she traumatized by the loss of her mother, but her father had already abandoned the family by that point, and her stepfather somehow landed himself in prison. So, both Phoebe and Ursula were left to fend for themselves in the Big Apple, and they did so by going their separate ways.

As dark as that circumstance already is on the surface, there's one fan theory that suggests the real truth of Phoebe's mother's death may be even more grim than anyone realized.

If you or someone you know is having suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or text HOME to the Crisis Text Line at 741741.

We only got bits and pieces of the story

The first season of "Friends" picks up roughly a decade after Phoebe's mother's death, and at this point, she appears to be very free-spirited and trying to steer clear of any negative energy. Over time, however, we discover that Phoebe is dealing with some real emotional weight from her past and remains shaken by the fact that her mom died by suicide and left her with many, many questions.

Through much effort, Phoebe does manage to clear up some of this confusion. She meets her birth mother Phoebe Abbott (Teri Garr), who had the twins with Frank (Bob Balaban) and let Lily raise them as her own, after the three were part of a romantic throuple in their youth. Phoebe also forms a close-knit relationship with her half-brother Frank Jr. (Giovanni Ribisi), even serving as a surrogate for his triplets, and she gets to confront her estranged father at last. She also learns from Ursula that their mother may have left a final note for them — although she no longer possesses it and cannot recite its message from memory.

Otherwise, Phoebe only seems to really know that her mother was a drug dealer of some kind, they lived on a barge at some point, and she had been remarried to her stepfather before he went to prison. Though Phoebe speaks well of her stepdad, he is known to have some violent tendencies (like losing his furlough privileges to attend her wedding because he stabbed someone named "Iceman" in the exercise yard). And while she never connected her stepdad to her mother's death, some fans think he might have had something to do with it based on a few key context clues.

There's a chance Phoebe's stepfather killed her mother

According to one fan theory on Reddit, there are several signs that point to Phoebe's mysterious stepfather having a serious hand in her mother's death. The first is the length of Phoebe's stepfather's stay in prison. If he was sent to prison shortly after her mother's death and remained in custody by the time the show begins and ends, that means he's serving quite a hefty sentence. While we don't know what he was convicted of, considering the lengthy sentence and his proclivity for violence against other inmates, it's not unreasonable to suggest he might be locked up for a violent crime of some kind.

Another piece of evidence pointed to by this fan theorist is the fact that Phoebe once declares that her mother was "killed by a drug dealer." She's then reminded by Monica (Courteney Cox) that her mother died by suicide, and Phoebe then clarifies that her mother was a drug dealer. However, this theorist suspects she may have accidentally revealed the truth in the moment — that someone else killed Lily. Considering how much she admired her stepfather (remembering fondly how he sold his blood for food, for example), perhaps her memories of him and how her mother died were distorted to protect herself.

No matter how it happened, Lily's death was certainly a heavy burden for Phoebe to bear, but if her stepfather was actually responsible for it, well, that would certainly change everything about Phoebe Buffay's already-difficult backstory.

If you or someone you know is having suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or text HOME to the Crisis Text Line at 741741.