Friends: Warner Bros. TV
Ken Tucker
April 26, 2002 AT 04:00 AM EDT

Rachel’s baby shower ramps up to the finale

This was an impeccable ”Friends,” one that followed a classic sitcom format: two alternating, briskly contrasting subplots. Plot #1: Phoebe and Monica throw Rachel a baby shower, but forget to invite Rachel’s mother, played with braying gusto by Marlo Thomas. Invited at the last minute, Marlo’s Mrs. Green shows up, but is cold toward Monica, who, as we all know, cannot bear not being liked. Monica got to say that Marlo as Mrs. Green made her ”ass sweat” and, later, that she had to go ”powder her ass”: Sitcom language-breakthrough or unnecessary vulgarity? You be the judge.

Plot #2: Joey is to go on an audition to be a game-show host, and pals Chandler and Ross agree to play a practice-round with him. The game-show (pay attention now — this’ll appear in all ”Friends” trivia games from now to eternity) was called ”Bamboozle.” Its rules were impossibly difficult to follow, but our good-hearted, dim-bulb male friends forced the senseless game to make sense anyway.

The only time the two subplots intersected came during the closing credits, when Ross uses the game-show format to quiz Rachel on proper parenting techniques. That was also the small, tender theme running through the baby shower plot — that sweet, well-intentioned, but self-absorbed and slightly dense Rachel is liable, as she said blithely, to leave the child on the changing table while she runs downstairs to dump a dirty diaper in a trash can on the street. It’s a measure of how sure and confident the writers and producers are these days that they can halt the laughs to give Ross and Rachel a quiet moment in which he assures her that she’ll be a great mother, and it doesn’t seem drippy or draggy.

In large part, that’s because the rest of the episode was so funny. Joey was hilarious in his dementedly committed acting as a would-be game-show host, while Lisa Kudrow is so skilled, she can get a big laugh from the studio audience (and us) with just a well-timed ”uh-huh.”

If you’re keeping count, Marlo was there to remind us: ”Only three weeks to go,” she said, before Rachel and Ross’ child will be born. Let’s hope that, by then, Rachel knows that a breast-milk pump isn’t really ”a beer-bong for a baby.”

WILL Rachel be a good mother?

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