Spend a few minutes perusing a list of IMDb’s top-rated Friends episodes and you’ll probably pick up on certain trends. Many of them involve all (or most of) the friends dealing with the same situation—like the Monica-and-Rachel-versus-Chandler-and-Joey trivia game in “The One With the Embryos” or “The One Where Everybody Finds Out,” when Phoebe, Rachel, and Joey conspire to get Monica and Chandler to admit that they’re dating. Thanksgiving episodes are also usually all-hands-on-deck endeavors where something goes hilariously awry, so they fit that bill, too.
But for every episode that fans are happy to rewatch in perpetuity, there’s one that they’d just as gladly skip—and “The One With the Invitation” tops that list. Of all 236 chapters of the decade-long Friends saga, that one (season 4, episode 21) has the worst rating on IMDb: 7.2 out of 10 stars, with nearly 4000 reviews.
The trouble starts while Ross and Emily are addressing wedding invitations, and Emily mentions that it might be uncomfortable for Rachel to attend, given Ross’s romantic history with her. Ross gets a far-off look in his eye, and savvy viewers immediately realize they’re about to witness that history in the form of a protracted highlight reel featuring Ross and Rachel’s most memorable moments. A similar montage follows when Rachel opens her invitation later in the episode.
It’s a clip show: The type of TV episode that couch potatoes love to hate more than any other. During television’s early days, episodes that mostly comprised clips from previous episodes weren’t just a great way to save time and money—they were also one of your only chances to rewatch old scenes, given that reruns and box sets (let alone YouTube and streaming platforms) were still years away. These days, however, many people consider the clip show a tired, unnecessary gimmick; and any program applauded for releasing one, like It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, has likely spoofed or subverted the tradition.
“The One With the Invitation” hardly pushes the envelope, nor do the five subsequent clip shows that debuted in later seasons. So it’s perhaps not shocking that only one averaged eight stars on IMDb, and the other four scored either 7.4 or 7.5. As for why Ross and Rachel’s season 4 walk down memory lane failed to reach even that level? It’s possible that four seasons isn’t quite enough time to evoke the nostalgia that clip shows usually try to tap into. The highest-rated Friends clip show, “The One Where Chandler Gets Caught,” is a season 10 episode in which Monica and Chandler are preparing to leave Manhattan, and the friends reminisce about all their years living together in the city.
It’s also possible, as Insider suggests, that Ross and Rachel’s tumultuous relationship is simply less fun than other more upbeat or goofier montages—like “The One With Christmas in Tulsa,” which focuses on Christmas scenes, and “The One With Joey’s Interview,” which is all about Joey’s past antics.
But just because “The One With the Invitation” is currently the lowest-rated Friends episode doesn’t mean it has to stay that way forever. If it’s your personal favorite, you can always register for IMDb and give it 10 stars.