Almost 25 years after “The One Where Ross and Rachel Take a Break” episode of Friends, I was asked, “Do you think Rachel and Ross were on a break or not?”
My answer is that it doesn’t matter.
It doesn’t matter whether or not they were on a break. And Rachel doesn’t care either. In “The One With the Morning After“, Rachel does clarify that they were “on a break” when Ross states that they were “broken up”. “On a break” does have a different connotation. It implies that they are definitely getting back together. This is Rachel’s mindset. “Broken up” carries no potential of getting back together. This is Ross’ mindset.
However, Rachel accepts pretty easily that Ross has a different perspective on the state of their relationship at the time. The thing that she takes issue with, is the speed at which Ross was with another woman… which was that night, hours later. Even if Rachel had wanted to “break up” instead of “take a break”, she still would have been hurt that Ross jumped in bed with another woman so quickly. Rachel might’ve had a different perspective if it were another man. But it’s Ross, the guy who married the woman he lost his virginity to and who he was with for seven years (married for four), the guy who hesitated to sleep with Julie, the guy who thought very carefully about how he started his relationship with her (Rachel), the guy who emphasized the importance of what being with someone intimately meant to him in each relationship.
It also does not help that Ross canvased the entire neighborhood and tried to prevent anyone from telling her about it. This wasn’t because he wanted to tell her himself, it was because he wanted to hide it forever. Rachel gets the news from Gunther. How horrible.
Rachel states, “I used to think of you as somebody who would never, ever hurt me. Ever.”
That’s why she ends up breaking up with him for good and that’s what she says later in “The One at the Beach“. She says “[I broke up with you] because I was mad at you, not because I stopped loving you.”
She says all this plainly to Ross, and he still doesn’t get it. In fact, he’s shocked to hear that she still loves him. But since when has Ross had a good track record with listening to Rachel? She tells him that Mark doesn’t mean anything to her. He doesn’t listen. She tells him she’s busy at work. He doesn’t listen. She writes him an “eighteen-page letter, front and back” (so, really, a thirty-six-page letter), detailing her feelings. He doesn’t even read it.
In Tue Vu’s article for Medium, “Ross Geller should have been able to read Rachel’s letter”, the actual math is done and it is estimated that it should have taken Doctor Ross Geller about 11 minutes to read Rachel’s letter. He does not even try.
In all the subsequent episodes where Ross repeats the phrase: “We were on a break” as a way to defend himself, Ross continues to miss Rachel’s point. In his eyes, he did not cheat and that’s what he’s hung up on. He is technically right. He didn’t cheat, not technically. But he never bothers to even consider that that’s not how Rachel feels and that in her eyes, he did betray her and he did cheat.
During their initial fight in The One with the Morning After, Ross challenges her to do anything to keep their relationship, which includes looking past him sleeping with the copygirl. He even goes as far to say that if she doesn’t want to move forward and forget the incident that she’ll be “bailing” on their relationship. If he really felt that way, then he should act like it… which includes taking responsibility for something he might not entirely feel responsible for in order to “do anything to save their relationship”. All it will hurt is his pride but Ross’ pride matters more than his relationship with Rachel and he makes that abundantly clear.
It is absolutely disgusting that in the finale episode after Rachel gets off the plane and gives up her dream job for Ross that she says, “This is it, right?” And he agrees… then jokes, “Unless we’re on a break.”
I would have got right back on the plane.
I love Ross and Rachel, I think they needed to end up together. It was right. It had to be them. I know there were some issues with how many episodes the studio allowed the producers to have in the final season, but I still needed some more development from Ross before they got back together. They start off pretty good with season nine’s version of Ross and Rachel. They get closer when Emma was born. They go from potentially rekindling their relationship to Ross throwing away Rachel’s message from the guy at the bar. Then it just kind of halts, and there’s that whole thing with Rachel and Joey instead, but don’t get me started on that…that’s a topic for another week.
I like that they brought Mark back in “The One with Princess Consuela“ and he helped Rachel get the job at Louis Vuitton. What a great idea… but Ross still has the same mentality even after seven years (which Chandler comments on). He still resents Mark even though he has no foundation to and still doesn’t trust Rachel. His hatred for Mark is so intense that when Ross meets him again, he really, really likes him. But when he finds out who he is, he just goes back to hating him. It’s crazy and it proves that Ross is still the same pretentious jerk from season three, maybe even worse.
I am sure that Ross has some major trust issues after his seven-year relationship with Carol blew up without any warning, and he’s afraid it could happen again. Yet, wouldn’t that make him all too aware of what it feels like to be kinda-sorta cheated on in some odd and unfamiliar circumstances?
Ross never learned from his experiences with Carol, he never learned from his mistakes with Rachel, and he never learned from his failures with Emily (because he did the exact same thing with her as he did Rachel: he expected her to just get over her feelings and make up with him no matter what).
It would have been great if when Ross met Mark again that he was -at the minimum- nice to him… and it would have been great if Ross verbally admitted to Rachel that he was worried over nothing, or if he admitted he should have trusted her. Ideally, season-ten-Ross would have showed Rachel that he changed and finally been supportive of her career. If he would have given up his tenure and moved to Paris to be with her and Emma…the wow. Just wow. Now that would have fixed his whole character for me because I would know that even though he sucked sometimes, Ross really finally was being selfless and he was finally listening to Rachel and giving her the support he didn’t before.
In conclusion, yes I’ll say it, Ross and Rachel were on a break, but Ross was wrong for sleeping with someone else right after a fight. He was wrong for not listening to Rachel or caring about her feelings before and after their relationship and throughout the entire show. They might’ve been on a break, but Ross was a goon and he should have known that the real issue wasn’t about whether they were “on a break” or not because Rachel specifically told him that it wasn’t. It was about how he made her feel.
And the most frustrating thing is that Ross still gets his way in the end.
Link to Tue Vu’s article:
Link to a compilation of Ross’ “We were on a break!” statements from the series: