The sitcom Friends was a hit beyond probably all expectations after its debut in 1994. And as a result, the show’s cast of main characters – Monica, Chandler, Rachel, Ross, Phoebe and Joey – became a huge part of pop culture. In fact, some of the sitcom’s more complex storylines are still discussed and debated to this day. A new fan theory about the rather controversial Rachel-Ross relationship has, for example, recently popped up on the internet. And it just might explain a few things…
Friends has sometimes been applauded for being “the first true ensemble show.” For even as it juggled six characters, no individual ever really stole the spotlight from any of the others. The cast were similarly determined that no single person should ever take precedence off-screen. They even negotiated salaries as a tight-knit group.
And by the end of the show in 2004, the actors were each earning a whopping $1 million per episode. That sum reveals not only the stars’ negotiating abilities, but also the popularity of the show overall. In fact, Friends’ final episode, which saw Rachel and Ross get together after years of being on-off, had the largest audience of any finale of the preceding ten years.
Yet the Rachel-Ross coupling remains to this day one of the most discussed aspects of Friends. People sometimes even wonder whether the two of them were really that good for each other. That’s because, even though the pair share a child by the end of the series, there are plenty of moments before that development that viewers have condemned as unhealthy or even abusive.
Critics point to the episodes where the pair get married in Las Vegas as proof that the relationship is, in fact, a bad one. In the storyline in question, Ross and Rachel are very drunk during the wedding and must therefore divorce immediately. Ross, however, remains hitched to Rachel without telling her. So is this a classic case of a sitcom lie – or proof that he is a manipulative abuser of trust?
Friends fans also heavily scrutinize some other bad behavior from both parties. For example, Ross and Rachel each display a troubling amount of jealousy throughout the series. Rachel even causes Ross to split up with two girlfriends and then ultimately ends up destroying his wedding to Emily. And Ross gets jealous of other men dating Rachel despite the fact that they’re no longer together.
Yet Rachel and Ross still end the series as a happily-ever-after couple. In the series finale, in fact, fashionista Rachel turns down a job in Paris to be with Ross, and everything points towards them staying together forever. Jennifer Aniston, who played Rachel, has even confirmed this as being the most likely outcome.
In 2012 Aniston explained her take on the finale in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter. “They’re absolutely, 100 percent together,” she said. “They have more kids!” She also mentioned that Ross was “probably still working” – he was a palaeontologist in the show – and that all the friends still hung out.
The short-lived Friends spinoff, Joey, also indicated that Rachel and Ross got their fairy-tale ending. In that show, in fact, Joey mentions that all of his friends are married. So while Monica and Chandler and Mike and Phoebe got married in Friends itself, it seems that the on-again-off-again Ross and Rachel also eventually tied the knot (again).
Yet the Rachel-Ross saga was clearly a complicated one. And now someone on reddit has come up with an interesting theory about why. In November 2018 a user called Smoothmotives posted the idea on the subreddit FanTheories, and it gained a lot of attention. It all has to do with an old superstition.
Smoothmotives began his theory by discussing the first time that Ross and Rachel greet each other in Friends. “When Ross is in the coffee shop meeting Rachel, his umbrella opens up unexpectedly, [indoors]; this begins a seven-year bad luck streak with [her],” they wrote. “Once the curse is lifted, Rachel tells [Ross] that he’s going to be a father.” The episode dates add up too. It really is almost exactly seven years from the umbrella to the pregnancy.
The superstition about indoor umbrellas is a long-lasting one, of course. Some believe it dates back to the time when the modern umbrella was first invented and apparently proved to be rather dangerous. Some people also say that the open-indoors umbrella is only bad luck if it’s black. And alas, Ross’ umbrella in the episode was black…
It’s a theory Phoebe would have probably gotten behind, as superstitions and the paranormal are her jam. In fact, as another commenter pointed out, she even tries to clean Ross’ “aura” in the first episode. He tells her to stop, and she does, but maybe she knew that a lot of bad luck might be on its way.
Someone else pointed out that the famous Friends opening sequence prominently features umbrellas. “Ross and Rachel are on opposite sides of the couch [in the intro] but are the only two mixed-gender pairing with matching umbrellas,” they suggested. “Were the opening credits telling us that umbrellas would link their destinies?”
Other people, though, were more cynical. “Except [Rachel and Ross’] relationship never recovers,” someone else wrote. “Once he finds out she’s pregnant, they don’t magically get back together. Throughout the pregnancy and the beginning of Emma’s life, they fight, and Rachel even moves back in with Joey at one point. There’s an idea that maybe they will work things out in the final episode but no guarantee.”
All the same, it’s a fun theory for the superstition-lovers of the world. But there’s obviously a lot of other Friends theories out there, and not all of them are nearly as wholesome. In fact, some of them are rather dark! One of the most famous ones involves Phoebe.
As Friends fans know, Phoebe had a pretty unhappy life before meeting the rest of the group. And one Twitter user has suggested that her unhappiness never stopped. “I’d have ended [the show] by revealing it was all the meth-addled fantasy of a homeless Phoebe as she stared through the window of Central Perk,” strnks wrote.
Strnks’ sad account of Phoebe’s fantasy ended with a reference to the intro scene too. “Finally, she returns to the park where she sleeps in front of the fountain. A broken lamp stands next to her bench. It starts to rain. From behind, we see her put up six dirty, but brightly colored, umbrellas.” It could work… but it’s much too depressing!
Another theory revolves around the fact that Ross’ son, Ben, isn’t seen for 54 episodes. Did Ross lose custody of him? A further theory questions whether or not Joey is hiding how smart he really is. But the thing fans really want to know is this: will there ever be any more Friends?
Sadly, according to producer David Crane, the answer is very much no. “Never. We did it! It’s done,” he said in June 2018 at a comedy panel. “That’s why you don’t want to see more of it, because it’s all a happy ending.” That last part bodes well for Rachel and Ross fans. Yes, it seems that the pair really did manage to beat the umbrella curse after all…