The One Where Ross Controls The Narrative

 

“You know the way I’m always on about that missing episode of Friends I thought I saw?”

“Yeah, the one that obviously doesn’t exist? Your white whale?”

“Yeah, white whale, entirely white cast, whatever. Anyway, I finally remembered it! It came to me in a dream.”

“Oh, like ‘Yesterday’.”

“No, not yesterday, it was earlier today!”

“Yeah, I just mean it’s like when Paul McCartney came up with the melody for…”

“Paul McCartney was never in Friends?”

“He’s a straight, white man though. Could probably find a role for him handy enough.”

“Here, I knew you wouldn’t listen so I jotted down the synopsis as soon as I woke up. Just read this and I’ll get Schwimmer on the phone. Finally get that reunion up and running.”


Right, so Ross is obviously the only remotely interesting character in the entire show and the rest are just foil for Schwimmer so the episode primarily concerns him. The appeal of Ross is multi-faceted but essentially he’s the focal point of the action due to Schwimmer’s comedic timing and the fact that Ross, the brutally oppressive patriarch of the group, forces the viewer to empathise with a domineering individualistic representation of entitled consumer capitalism. This is the Nabokovian beauty of the show. In Lolita, Nabokov lures the reader in with beautiful prose. In Friends, it’s the unadulterated banality of the sitcom format that lulls the viewer into a false sense of security, dulling their awareness of the horrors unfolding on screen.

The plot concerns Ross and his relationship with Rachel. Obviously that’s the only plot line of note in the entire series and they probably could’ve concluded it within a season or two if they weren’t schwimming in money like the corporate leeches they are. So anyway, Ross treats Rachel poorly and flies into a fit of jealous rage when she resists his demands of uncompromising subservience. Let’s just say a co-worker tells her a joke and she politely laughs or something. Obviously Ross finds out about this, having planted the male co-worker two seasons previous, off-screen, to lure Rachel into making some sort of forced mistake eventually. Thus, in his eyes, asserting his position as the morally upstanding party in their on/off relationship. Of course, they’d have “broken up” over an actual, legitimate mistake committed by Ross at this point. Despite this, the surveillance would continue, because Ross, as a sort of surrogate for the viewer, has a meta-awareness of the sitcom environment. Owing to this awareness, Ross rests easy in the knowledge that he and Rachel, as the respective male and female leads with the most screen time, will obviously end up together when the cameras stop rolling.

So anyway all the other characters are off doing their own thing, attempting to force chemistry or stumbling down narrative cul-de-sacs full of catchphrases. Ross has the surveillance network in full-swing. Every single extra on the show is part of this network. Now here’s the twist – Gunther is a plant. That’s right, he’s the mole. It’s obvious really, if Ross found himself in close proximity with someone who fancied Rachel that much he’d obviously take them off screen and quietly shoot them in the back of the head.

Outside of the rent-controlled conveniently dead Grandmother apartment, Central Perk is the main location for all the action to play out. By placing Gunther in this key area, Ross has his Snape, a man who will protect his best interests in order to protect his own love, Rachel. Utilizing a method comprised of emotional blackmail and imagined violence, Ross installs Gunther as the kingpin of his shady surveillance network.

This forced understanding serves Ross almost immediately, with Gunther’s employment of Rachel early in the series, an ostensibly sympathetic action, actually serving as the first nail in her Schwimmer shaped coffin. With Ross a core member of the supposed “friends” and Gunther keeping the workplace on lock-down, Rachel’s early character development is forcibly Ross-centric. From this tightly-controlled world inhabited by the Rachel of earlier seasons, we witness the development of a kind of forced Stockholm Syndrome. Ross, aware of the sitcom structure, positions himself as the only fitting narrative resolution for Rachel when the curtain finally comes down, after ten harrowing years.

I’ll be there for you, when the rain starts to pour, for I control the weather. I’ll be there for you, at all times, because I’ve constructed your world as such. We were on a break, of my own design. Play upon the imagined drama my sweet, simple audience, because loutish Ross can never truly jeopardise the relationship, for jeopardy cannot exist in a sitcom world of his own construction. The other characters, locked in their linear narrative trajectories lack the awareness to save Rachel. Perhaps her only true hope was Gunther. Alas, he, like all before him, cowered in the shadow of the mighty Schwimmer.


“Are you finished reading it?”

“Eh, yeah. I mean, it’s not really an episode synopsis though. It’s just a demented, rambling analysis of…”

“Schwimmer wouldn’t pick up.”

“Sorry?”

“He didn’t answer the phone. None of them did. Well, apart from LeBlanc.”

“Matt LeBlanc actually answered the phone?”

“Yeah.”

“Not gonna bother with it then?”

“Nah.”

 

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Novel Excerpt -4: Opening

Little Brown American Mouse

My mother died by her own hand: the same hand that planted delicate roses and hydrangeas and turned and watered their soil, that wrapped my ankle in bandages and pat my head and held my hand and struck my brother to the ground. It was about a week ago when she closed the curtains of her room against the noon sun and climbed into bed, still in her bathrobe. She had taken to wearing that constantly and would shriek at my father if he suggested getting dressed. Its pale pink fluff was smudged and dotted with potting soil after she had spent all day and often into the dull evening darkness out in her garden, tending to flowers that need not be tended so much. She must have gotten some comfort from that, more than she was getting from my father or me or anything else.

            After Patrick left…

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Novel Excerpt -3

Hon’ the Dean.

Little Brown American Mouse

I thought again about when my mother brought me to the beach as a kid. I don’t recall much about her presence or the details of what we did. I know that we got ice-cream at one point and that I, fearing the water, sat on the beach, far up where it breaks back to soil and grass, and watched the waves roll towards me, crash, bow and retreat (repeat). There was so much mystery in those glimmer flats. Knowing they were not solid, that one would sink, sent my mind chasing itself trying to picture the entirety of its depths. I would focus on one imagining of a fish and follow it as it flicked its body forwards through that gradient of darkness, from the foot of clarity before its eyes to the increasing oblivion on all sides. It would not be long before I lost all idea of…

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Novel Excerpt

Get Hype

Little Brown American Mouse

Since I’m close (kinda) to finishing the novel I’ve been working on for the past almost two years, I figured I’d get the hype train rolling. So far the only passengers are me and my mom but there are plenty of seats. So here’s a very brief excerpt. Enjoy.

“Every so often I got brief flashes of what it was like to be a younger me, to be without much care and to be running headlong around these corners and up into trees or down into shucks or to go rolling and tumbling in the fields; making arbitrary reasons to run from The Sheds to our base, to the Barn and back to the house, from tree to tree, hiding periodically from an unseen force that might, once it spied me, take my life (even if at the time I did not fully understand the severity of a life taken)…

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A Lucky Bag of Booze

There’s a whole host of ways to get lashed out of it and they’re all a bit different. Here’s a small selection of my personal favourites.

Red Wine

A sophisticated choice for the evening. Not that sophisticated though, it cost four quid in Aldi. Time to relax and pour a nice big glass of.. Hang on, you don’t have a glass because you’re drinking in a field. Oh well, I’ll just drink straight from the.. Wait, you don’t have a corkscrew either. You manage to bash the cork into the bottle with your shoe, cutting yourself in the process. No harm, you can rinse out the wound with the wine. Fuck, that stings. The first delicate sip follows.. Subtle aromas of ethanol, with bits of shoe and a hint of broken glass. Time to go to the nightcl.. Oh, you’re asleep in a ditch. A lingering air of sophistication.. and piss.

Whiskey

A potent combination of unwarranted aggression and poor decisions.

You’re in a taxi on the way home after a pleasant evening out. You have more than enough money to pay. Better call the driver a cunt and pull a runner, leaving your unsuspecting pregnant wife to pay the fare.

You’re at a football match in mid-December and you’re topless. Your team is winning comfortably. Better throw a handful of coppers at the referee.

You’re at the home of a friend who has kindly offered up their house for a quiet social gathering. Better kick them square in the bollocks.

CANS

Cans of what? Doesn’t matter.

How many? A few.

How many is a few? Who knows?

Trusty old cans, the bastard cousin of pints. Not really a particular kind of alcohol, I know, but bear with me. The most basic tool of getting wrecked. Multi-purpose. Suitable for all occasions. Easily carried in a plastic Tesco bag and later recycled into ashtrays. Standard level of drunkenness guaranteed. After a certain number of cans you’ll be appropriately hammered, but then you’ll just kind of level out and enter a zen-like state of intoxication. If there was a food pyramid for alcohol, cans would form the base.

Tequila

Buckfast

My personal favourite. A special kind of intoxication. After a bottle of Buckfast your brain behaves a bit like it’s gone to the darts for the evening. Someone scores 180, the darts tune goes off (da da da da daa, dadadada daa, dadadada daa, OI OI OI), you jump out of your seat, elbow your begrudging wife in the face and spill your pint of Tennent’s everywhere, all whilst dancing the only dance you can think of (bounce on the spot, alternate left arm in the air and right arm in the air, repeat). Lasers are going off, there are men dressed as wombles and you’re surrounded by illegible handwritten signs. It doesn’t matter, you’re far beyond the point of being able to read anyway. At the darts, the music stops after a minute or two and everything calms down, for a while at least. After a bottle of Buckfast, this scene will rage inside your head all night long and inevitably influence your behaviour.

The Mall

(Why the fuck is it called the Mall, anyway?)

I’ve been to Alton Towers. I even have one of those roller-coaster pictures to prove it. You know the one. Just after the big drop, so you look fucking ridiculous. It was on a school tour and it was great fun, but you can keep your glitzy roller-coasters and your glamorous haunted-houses, because they don’t hold a candle to The Mall Complex, Longford.

Not one, but two playgrounds. The first is located in the centre of the park, the more traditional of the pair. Couple of swings, a slide, some shit to spin around on, the usual play-related suspects. Soft, padded ground to protect you from “boo-boos” and “owies”. Some cracking graffiti to boot, “if u read dis ur gay”, a Banksy original, I believe. Head in the direction of the town and you’ll soon come to the other designated play-area. A more alternative, edgy effort. A sprawling spider-web, wood-chip on the ground, some sort of rocking caterpillar, weird bouncy things. It’s fucking madness. Whoever designed this must look at the work of Salvador Dali and see nothing out of the ordinary. Chaos.

I haven’t actually been inside the building that anchors the place that many times in the past few years but it looks surprisingly decent from the outside. Bit of a suspect choice to place huge windows at the children’s end of the swimming pool but I suppose we shouldn’t let paranoia dictate our architectural designs. Some nice astro turf football pitches situated near the more mainstream of the two playgrounds to cater for all your interstellar sporting needs. Exercise machines line the path around the Mall too, for those who believe “the world is my gym”. (As long as the world is full of conveniently located equipment serving the sole purpose of making the world a bit more like an actual gym.)

It’s the people that really make the place though. One time a group of young gentlemen informed me that a select area of the Mall was their “turf”. Sorry chaps, didn’t realise I’d stumbled into Compton wearing the wrong colours. I promptly vacated the area, lest one of Longford’s regular drive-by shootings prematurely halt my blooming career in gangsta rap. Nice of the lads to let me know I’d stumbled onto their private property, oddly located in the centre of a public park, so we could avoid any legal action in future. I made my way home, carefully avoiding the empty bottles of Buckfast and local turf wars, marvelling at my good fortune in residing so close to this local landmark.

“And here’s Robbie Keane.. YES!”

It’s absolutely mental really. I’m emotionally invested in a group of millionaires kicking a pumped up lump of leather around an immaculately maintained field. Every rational part of me can see how absurd it is, but I still love it.

I’ve been reliably informed (by Facebook and reddit) that Robbie Keane scored THAT goal against the Germans twelve years ago yesterday.

(Apologies for the quality and length of that clip, I’m not a very a patriotic person but I felt the need to include the RTE commentary and the goal is at the very start of it anyway.)

I remember that goal as vividly as any moment from my childhood. I was ten years old and I’d taken the day off school to watch the match. I didn’t even pretend to be sick or anything, it was just accepted that this was much more important than anything we might learn that day. I was later informed that the few who made it to school ended up watching it in the ‘halla’ anyway. In retrospect, watching it among my friends might have been more appropriate for the occasion, but I’ve always preferred doing things on my own. If anything, the lack of company led to a more unrestrained moment of ecstasy when Oliver Kahn was finally beaten.

I lost my shit when it went in. Leapt off the couch, roared the house down and nearly killed myself copying Robbie’s cartwheel and tumble. The feeling of pure bliss was unparalleled. Few things before or since have made me feel quite the same way. That might sound a bit pathetic to those of you who don’t worship the holy trinity of Giles, Dunphy and Brady, alongside our Lord and Saviour, Bill O’ Herlihy. Then again, you probably don’t loathe Thierry Henry or rank Put ’em Under Pressure among the finest compositions of the 20th Century so your opinion is null and void.