Chandler and Monica finally getting together was a major plotline for Friends’ 5th season, but even more significant was how they hid it from the group and the comedic ways in which each friend slowly found out. Friends follows 10 years in the lives of New York City friends Monica and Ross Geller, Chandler Bing, Rachel Green, Phoebe Buffay, and Joey Tribbiani. As the group navigates their 20s and 30s, they are involved in marriages, relationships in and outside the group, revolving jobs, family drama, and the trials that come with maturing through adulthood.
During season 5, Monica and Chandler effectively took over the role of the show’s main couple from Ross and Rachel whose off-and-on relationship became even more sparse as Friends progressed. Their hooking up was quite abrupt, becoming a shocking moment where, according to Independent.ie, audiences at the studio cheered for about 20 seconds when it was revealed they slept together – causing the pair to have to redo the scene. Showrunner Marta Kauffman revealed they had almost intended to scrap the scene and possible relationship until they heard the uproarious response from fans and the audience.
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Chandler (Matthew Perry) and Monica (Courteney Cox) weren’t even slated to be a couple when the show began, the showrunners had actually intended for Monica and Joey to be Friends‘ main couple before Ross and Rachel. Once the writers bit the bullet and made the two characters secretly hook up, they realized fans had been eagerly waiting for the two to get together as the relationship had already been teased and suggested in episodes like “The One With The Jellyfish” and “The One With The Flashback.” Once they began the relationship, Friends could truly move forward with a steady couple in which they could explore marriage, kids, and evolving into mature scenarios other than an affair that come between a strong couple. That said, here’s every way the friends found out about Chandler and Monica’s relationship.
Only a few weeks into their secret relationship, Joey (Matt LeBlanc) finds out that the two spent a romantic weekend together after putting together clues that turned their “separate” work retreats into one trip. Friends’ first few episodes of season 5 involved Chandler and Monica hiding their relationship from Joey, considering they typically hooked up at Chandler and Joey’s apartment.
In “The One With The Kips,” the two plan a weekend away so they don’t have to be secretive, but Joey becomes suspicious of Chandler when he says he saw Donald Trump in an elevator and the hotel called about leaving an eyelash curler. When Monica later states to the group that she also saw Donald Trump in an elevator and asks if anyone has seen her eyelash curler, Joey’s eyes widen and he freaks out at discovering the two took a trip together. Monica and Chandler pull Joey into the next room, explaining to him that they are together, but he can’t tell anyone else.
Joey gets the short end of the stick in the secret, constantly having to help cover up for Monica and Chandler when they come close to getting caught. At one point, Joey tells the group he and Monica slept together in London after Rachel finds men’s underwear on her couch and sees Joey looking at a naked picture of Monica that both actually belonged to Chandler. Throughout most of Friends’ 5th season, Joey is relieved when another person finds out so that they can finally tell Monica and Chandler they don’t have to keep it a secret, then eventually gets angry when Rachel and Phoebe decide they want to mess with the pair instead.
Rachel (Jennifer Aniston) is the second friend to accidentally discover the relationship after Joey found out 6 episodes earlier. Rachel picks up the phone in Friends’ “The One With All The Resolutions” to hear Monica overtly flirting with Chandler on the other line. As the conversation between Chandler and Monica gets more risque, Rachel panics and hangs up the phone. Her New Year’s resolution was to gossip less, so she has to find a clever way to tell Joey about the relationship without explicitly stating it, and in the confusion figures out Joey already knows. Joey is elated to not be the only friend to know, but informs Rachel of how secretive the pair is about their relationship.
In “The One With Chandler’s Work Laugh,” Monica attempts to explain away the situation by implying dating Chandler is laughable and that she was calling Chandler a “bigot” instead of the innuendo Rachel heard on the phone. Rachel again catches Monica in a lie when she says she’s working and Joey explains she’s over in Chandler’s room, which leads her to angrily rush over to confront the two until Rachel overhears Monica discussing how terrible she feels about lying to Rachel. Rachel retreats at hearing this, but accidentally knocks over a lamp which alerts the couple, leading Monica to explain she was “cleaning Chandler’s room” and Rachel playing dumb and agreeing. Rachel accepts their situation, and though still sad Monica feels she can’t tell her, decides she’ll be okay to just discuss the relationship with Joey until Monica and Chandler are ready to tell her.
As the third in Friends to find out about the two, Phoebe (Lisa Kudrow) is the last to actually have to keep it a secret for a short time. In “The One Where Everyone Finds Out,” she goes to check out Ross’ new apartment across the street, and, through the window, sees Chandler and Monica having sex. In an iconic sequence, Phoebe freaks out and repeatedly yells “Chandler and Monica,” alerting Rachel who rushes over to tell her to stop screaming because Rachel knows but Ross can’t know. Phoebe is shaken by what she has just seen but goes along with Rachel in hiding the fact from Ross.
Instead of prolonging the secret or simply informing Monica and Chandler that the three of them already know, Phoebe and Rachel decide to play a game to test the couple’s relationship status. Phoebe begins outwardly flirting with Chandler, trying to seduce him to see if he will actually act on a hook-up or reveal he can’t because he’s with Monica. The situation gets to quite a confusing point where Monica and Chandler find out they know and are messing with them, with Phoebe continuing the situation by stating “they don’t know that we know they know we know.” When it gets to the point that Chandler and Phoebe reluctantly kiss, he stops it, revealing to Phoebe, Joey, and Rachel that they can’t go through with it because Chandler is in love with Monica.
Ross (David Schwimmer) was purposefully the final friend to find out about the relationship, considering he would likely be angry about his best friend sleeping with his sister, and was already in a bad place dealing with anger management from his job and divorce. After Friends reveals all the other characters know in “The One Where Everyone Finds Out,” a late scene shows Ross finding out about Monica and Chandler in the same way as Phoebe: seeing them doing it from across the street. His anger issues have obviously not been diminished, as he angrily screams “get off my sister” and rushes across the street.
The next episode picks up with Ross confronting Chandler and Monica in which Chandler mentions they’ve been dating for 4 to 5 months. Ross is irate with Chandler for pursuing his sister until the two inform him they’re in love and he quickly comes around. Joey and Rachel then enter stating they already know, angering Ross again until they state they worried about him and didn’t know how he’d react. While Ross still doesn’t quite know how to navigate that his best friend is dating his sister, he’s supportive of their relationship and understands that Chandler is a good guy who is better for Monica than someone he doesn’t know. After revealing Monica and Chandler’s relationship to Ross, Friends was able to more fully explore the couple’s relationship.
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