The Story Behind Why Friends Changed A Big Monica And Chandler Plot After 9/11

 Matthew Perry as Chandler and Courteney Cox as Monica on Friends.
Matthew Perry as Chandler and Courteney Cox as Monica on Friends.

Friends aired for 10 years on NBC — from 1994 to 2004 — and during that time the world experienced a lot of change. Inarguably, one of the things that affected our country the most over the course of that decade was the September 11, 2001, attacks on New York and Washington, D.C. 9/11 affected every facet of our lives at that time, from politics to entertainment, and not surprisingly, that included the sitcom Friends, which was set in New York City. Specifically, a Season 8 episode involving Chandler Bing and Monica Gellar’s honeymoon had to be retooled in the aftermath of that day.

While Friends takes place in New York, the 9/11 attacks were not woven into the show as a storyline, but subtle steps were still taken to honor New York’s first responders and the nearly 3,000 people killed that day. The episode “The One Where Rachel Tells…” also went through major rewrites due to jokes that many would not have found humorous at that time of our lives. Let’s take a look at what the script originally had in store and how it was altered to what we ultimately saw on TV.

Matthew Perry and Courteney Cox on Friends.
Matthew Perry and Courteney Cox on Friends.

How Chandler And Monica’s Honeymoon Plot Was Changed After 9/11

In the Season 8 episode that aired October 11, 2001 — exactly one month after the tragic attacks — Monica (Courteney Cox) and Chandler (Matthew Perry) set off on their honeymoon. At the airport they encounter another newly married couple who are upgraded to the last first class seats (complete with access to the exclusive first class lounge) because they’re on their honeymoon. Chandler and Monica are bested again when they reach their destination, and the other couple are given the honeymoon suite, basically for arriving just seconds ahead of the newlywed Bings.

Later in the episode, Phoebe Buffay (Lisa Kudrow) and Joey Tribbiani (Matt LeBlanc) call Monica, lying to say there was a gas leak in her apartment in order to justify them busting down her door. This story would turn out to be relevant to the original story as well.

As originally written, there is no second couple. Chandler and Monica get the upgrade to first class; however, they never make it onto the plane to enjoy it. In that scene that never aired, Chandler — who is responsible for some of Friends’ most hilarious quotes — reads a sign that says jokes about aircraft hijacking or bombs are strictly prohibited, and then promptly tells a member of airport security:

You don't have to worry about me, ma'am. I take my bombs very seriously.

When pleading his case, Chandler proceeds to tell the authorities that their issue should be with the guy who has bombs, not the guy who jokes about bombs, reasoning that if he were actually carrying a bomb, he likely wouldn’t be joking about it. After they’re cleared to leave, that’s when Monica gets the call from Joey about the fake gas leak. When he asks if she’s sure it’s OK that they break down her door, Monica sarcastically responds:

No, I want you to stand there and wait for the whole place to blow up.

This, of course, lands them right back in the custody of airport security. Much of that dialogue made it into the final product, minus the above quote. While this version of the episode was never broadcast, the scenes were apparently included as bonus material on the UK’s Season 8 DVD release, per Business Insider, ultimately making their way onto YouTube. You can see the scenes in question in full below:

While humor can be an important tool to help people sort through their emotions and even deal with grief, it’s easy to see why airing this version of Monica and Chandler’s story would have been seen as insensitive and tone deaf in the weeks following the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon.

Matt LeBlanc as Joey on Friends.
Matt LeBlanc as Joey on Friends.

How Friends Paid Tribute To The 9/11 First Responders And People Of New York

Some fans thought it was preposterous that a sitcom set in New York City wouldn’t acknowledge the events of September 11, 2001. Executive producer Kevin S. Bright has spoken about that, saying that at first the creative team wasn’t sure about the correct way to address it. In the end Bright said they thought the show would be most effective if it stayed in the comedy lane, telling Digital Spy:

Because we realised that we were not a topical show, and we didn't want to do 'a very special episode' of Friends where they're all distressed about what happened, and trying to deal with it. That just wasn't what we thought the show meant to the audience. We felt we were comfort food, and during this time, if anything, we should be funnier than we've ever been.

When Season 8 premiered on September 27, 2001, “The One After ‘I Do’” was dedicated to “The People of New York,” and small nods were made to the events of 9/11 throughout the season. There was now a flag hanging in Central Perk, for instance, and in “The One Where Chandler Takes a Bath,” Joey wore a T-shirt honoring Billy Burke, an NYFD fire captain who died in the North Tower of the World Trade Center.

The board hanging on Joey’s apartment door also could be seen nodding to New York and the fire department. In “The One With Monica’s Boots” — also from Season 8 — you can see a drawing of the Statue of Liberty, as well as “NYFD.”

Whether or not the showrunners were correct to address (or not address) 9/11 in the way they did can be debated, but it does seem like a good call that they restructured Chandler and Monica’s honeymoon story to leave out the jokes about hijacking a plane and bombs — especially with that episode airing just weeks after the Twin Towers fell.

If you want to relive any of Friends’ 10 seasons — including the retooled version of “The One Where Rachel Tells…” the entire series is available to stream with a Max subscription. Be sure to also take a look at our 2024 TV schedule to see what premieres are coming soon.