Friends' biggest unanswered questions

So, no one told you life was going to be this way. You did the ten-season binge, yet again, and still you walk awayyyyy ... with tons of questions about what you didn't hear. Oh when Friends left a plot point open, weak, or it even disappeared ...

As clap-clap-clap-clap-worthy as Friends was, the show still left us hanging a little too often. From relationships that just kind of vanished — whatever happened to Cliff? — to people doing the exact opposite of what they said they would, to issues that were never fully resolved by the orange couch crew, even the most ardent Friends fans are left asking themselves at least a few key questions no matter how many times they binge watch the full series. 

With so many dangling threads, it's no wonder fans want a reunion so badly. Here are the biggest unanswered questions from Friends.

The one with the missing middle names

Throughout the show, we learn most of the characters' middle names. In a single scene from Season 7, Phoebe Buffay (Lisa Kudrow) identifies Rachel (Jennifer Aniston) as "Rachel Karen Green" (which her father later confirms) and Joey Tribbiani (Matt LeBlanc) as "Joseph Francis" in a moment of frustration. In Season 8, we learn that the "M" in Chandler M. Bing (Matthew Perry) stands for "Muriel," much to Chandler's chagrin (maybe he should have just changed his name to Clint or Gene, after all.) With Ross Geller (David Schwimmer,) the subject of his middle name never comes up at all on-screen, but fans later find out his middle name is Eustace

That leaves just Monica Geller (Courteney Cox) and Phoebe with giant question marks over their middle names. It might not matter so much if not for the fact that the series actively toys with audiences about that very subject, only to leave us wondering. 

In Season 3, Phoebe speculates that Monica's middle name is "Fallulah" while signing for her bed from the Mattress King, and although that's a creative guess, we never do find out what the "E" stands for (a lot of fans have guessed it's Elizabeth.

In Season 7, we find out that we might never know Phoebe's middle name because her twin sister Ursula randomly sold her birth certificate to a Swedish runaway. [Insert Ross's suggestive hand gesture here.] In Phoebe's case, at least we do get a brief bit of middle name resolution when she legally changes her name to "Princess Consuela Banana-Hammock," but still. 

Who knew unstated middle names could be such an irritating open end? Of course, that's only the start of what we don't find out from the Central Perk Six.

The one with Phoebe's true story

It would take a pretty meticulous historian to piece together all of the details of Phoebe's backstory, and even then, it would be wildly incomplete. What we do know about her is that she and her twin sister were raised by her parents' lover, Lily. The girls' birth mother chickened out on raising the twins, and their biological father abandoned them. 

Lily later married some rough-and-tumble type who was nice enough to sell his blood for Christmas money, but then he went to prison for who knows what. Lily ended her life, and Phoebe and Ursula were left to fend for themselves in the streets. For Phoebe, that meant living in a Gremlin with a violent guy named Cindy and mugging people (including Ross) with an accomplice named Lowell. Phoebe also marries a gay ice dancer to give him citizenship and eventually finds aromatherapy, thus becoming the lovable little weirdo who likes to cleanse people's auras in Season 1.

But despite mentioning all that twisted history, there are still a couple of stories Phoebe never gets to tell on the show, like what happened in Prague ("So much you don't know!" she teases in Season 4.) She also refuses to discuss her wrap sheet of "pretty weird stuff" in front of the other five while dating Gary the cop in Season 5, and she really never gets into how she came to stab a cop (after he stabbed her first, of course). 

In other words, of all the characters' open ends, we really need to get some kind of Phoebe Buffay: A History novelization or spin-off series going just to fill in all the crazy blanks that are left by her random asides throughout the series.

The one with the siblings who've never met

It's no secret that Ross Geller is not likely to be nominated for parent of the year by any of his ex-wives. Sure, he was a relatively doting (albeit, often absent) father to Ben, but after a while, we started to barely see his son in the series anymore. Where did Ben go?

Sure, there was a time when Ben was auditioning for a big commercial part and learns about the Holiday Armadillo. He also spent enough time around the gang to learn to pull pranks from "Fun Aunt Rachel," and Phoebe even tries to leverage his dislike of Sting's son for concert tickets. However, this kid was largely MIA, and none of characters seems to care.

Once Emma came along, Ben was virtually wiped off the map. We never get to see Ben visit his sister in the hospital after delivery — which is pretty rude of Ben's moms, Carol and Susan, considering the whole gang showed up to their delivery and subsequent wedding ceremony — nor do we see the siblings introduced at home. Ben wasn't even present for Emma's first birthday party. The fact that we never even see Ben and Emma together after her birth is both bizarre and confounding; so much so that some fans have been left to speculate if Ross lost custody rights to Ben after his big nervous breakdown. 

Did these siblings ever even got to meet each other amidst all the parental neglect afoot in the Friends circle?

The one with the stealing sisters

It's pretty wrong for Ursula to steal her sister's name and use it as her stage moniker for her second career as a porn star. Sure, it might boost Phoebe's ego to have "fans" suddenly adoring her at Central Perk, but the fact that she is better known for Buffay the Vampire Layer than "Smelly Cat" is a problem that she has to address head-on with her sneaky twin sister.

When Ursula refuses to show remorse or change her ways, Phoebe decides to head down to the production hub and have Ursula's checks mailed to the real Phoebe Buffay, thus collecting Ursula's hard-earned salary from those adult films. We never find out if Ursula gets wise to the issue and tries to reclaim her loot, but stealing those checks is only the beginning of Phoebe staking a claim to something of Ursula's. In Season 8, Phoebe ends up dating Ursula's ex-fiance after revealing her sister's lies. Oh no she didn't? Oh, yes, she did. 

We never find out if the sisters reconcile (or stop taking each other's stuff,) but the fact that Ursula is not invited to Phoebe's wedding to Mike Hannigan (Paul Rudd) suggests that they've had some kind of falling out that we don't get to see onscreen.

The one where they might not say 'I do' (again)

The Friends finale does manage to settle at least one massive issue that informs the entire series: Will Rachel and Ross ever get their happy ending? 

Although we don't get to see enough of their second real shot at romance (yet another reason we want –nay need–more,) we do know that Rachel she gets off the plane after realizing that she does love Ross. The two kiss and decide to make it work this time, refusing to "screw it up" for their daughter Emma's sake, and ... that's about all we get. 

After ten seasons of "we were on a break" chants and breaking up other relationships for each other and random teaser hook-ups, all we get is a few moments of Rachel and Ross reuniting before the whole shebang is over. It's pretty cruel, really.

Of the many things we don't get to know about their future, the question of whether they'll ever get married again seems key. The two both have strange histories with marriage. Rachel left Barry at the altar in the pilot; Ross has had two failed marriages; and, perhaps most important of all, Rachel and Ross have already been married to each other before thanks to a drunken night in Las Vegas. It's a real possibility that this messy matrimonial history may deter them from ever making the long-awaited Geller-Green union really happen. Even though we do know for sure that they are one another's lobsters, we don't have a clue what that means for their future together.

The one where Rachel needs a job

In Season 10, Rachel accepts a job in Paris, France after being fired from Ralph Lauren. She was fired because she got caught by Mr. Zelner interviewing for a gig at Gucci, but as happenstance would have it, her old fashion friend (and fling) Mark sees her out front and offers her a position at Louis Vuitton. The termination is a dream come true for Rachel, who's had her eye on the door at Ralph Lauren anyway and has always wanted to be part of the Paris fashion scene (she even takes up smoking for that chance back in Season 5).

Ross manages to bribe her old boss into offering her the job back, twice, but she still chooses to take the other job and even boards her flight ... before changing her mind for Ross. While it's settled that she and Ross are going to make some kind of go at a relationship again, it's not clear what she'll do for work. After all, she's already mentioned that she can't go any further with Ralph Lauren. Is she going to professionally stall out just to make her relationship with Ross work? 

Chances are, she'll be able to nab another interview with Gucci or elsewhere, but since the show simply ends with her passing on her own dreams for a boy, well, it's pretty discouraging to her professional plot line.

The one where everyone gets away with sexual misconduct

It's no secret that certain aspects of Friends have not aged well. From moments of blatant homophobia and cultural stereotyping to scenes of pure misogyny and an almost complete lack of casting diversity, the show probably wouldn't make it in today's small screen landscape. Some of the show's most egregiously cringe-worthy elements present lingering questions.

Throughout the series, there are several characters who plainly get away with textbook sexual misconduct. For example, in Season 7, Rachel defies her workplace's rules for inter-office dating and strikes up a relationship with her assistant, Tag Jones. It's not the first time she blurs the lines of proper office conduct (she practically drools all over her client, Joshua, every time he steps foot into Bloomingdale's in Season 4), but this time, it's made plain to her that a relationship with Tag is a fireable offense. We later find out from Gavin that her employers know about her and Tag, so how Rachel manages to avoid being canned for it is completely unclear. 

The same is true for Joey, who's known for harassing female extras on the set of his show. Joey would rightfully be a prime target of today's #MeToo movement. 

But perhaps the most questionable conduct comes from Alice Knight-Buffay (Debra Jo Rupp), the wife of Phoebe's half brother, Frank Buffay Jr. (Giovanni Ribisi). Alice strikes up a relationship with Frank while he's her student. Teacher-student relationships, even then, were the stuff of national headlines, so how Alice is allowed to continue her home economics classwork and marry Frank without any official interference at all is an absolute doozy.

The one where they can still be best friends

Rachel and Mindy's (Jennifer Grey) friendship withstands a lot of trauma. The two manage to stay cordial even after they find out that orthodontist Barry Farber (Mitchell Whitfield) cheated on them with each other. and Rachel even dresses up as Little Bo-Peep to be Mindy's maid of honor at her wedding to Barry. After Rachel finds out that Barry and Mindy are getting divorced, however, we never hear from them again.

Sure, Monica takes Mindy's place as the BFF just as soon as Rachel moves into Apartment 20, but why would Rachel forever cut her college pal out, especially once she's free to spend some time with her that doesn't involve the scoundrel with a DDS. We're left to wonder whether Mindy just disappears from Rachel's life altogether, or if Rachel will ever pass on some of her post-Barry pointers to her old pal.

The one where Phoebe stopped playing music

Phoebe has never been a good musician by any means, but that doesn't stop her from merrily taking the stage at Central Perk and playing her weird songs for the crowd ... until she meets Mike, that is. Once he comes into the picture, her playing time drops off significantly, and after she and Mike reconcile in the transition to Season 10, the only time we see Phoebe pick up a guitar again is to play a quick birthday tribute song for Emma's birthday. She never takes the stage at the coffee house in front of Mike. In fact, it's not clear if he's ever even seen her play — and once they're together for the long haul, she seems done with music altogether.

Taking off her rings to put on Mike's engagement ring is supposed to be some symbol of her giving up some strange part of her life to achieve a semblance of normalcy, but is she also surrendering another piece of herself in the process? Or is she simply "dwarfed by [his] gift" at the piano, the way she was back in Season 4? Either way, the fact that she declines to play in front of him seems to spell trouble for their long-term compatibility.

The one where Apartment 20 can't stay empty forever

After Monica and Chandler decide to move out of Apartment 20 to buy a home in Brooklyn, the purple palace is up for grabs, but somehow, no one wants to move in to take their place, which is really strange. As Chandler notes, it's a "frickin' steal" thanks to rent control. Moreover, this is the same place everyone was fighting over in grand fashion in Season 4 and again in Season 9 when Chandler's job moves to Tulsa.

It makes little sense that no one wants the place, especially since Phoebe and Mike are now planning to start a new life and could use some space beyond her grandma's old one-bedroom. It's worth repeating: this is a bargain in one of the most expensive cities in the world. It's a unicorn of housing. 

It's never explained what will happen to the apartment, making this one of the practical and annoying unanswered questions from Friends. Will the landlords finally get to rent it out at fair market value? Will Monica and Chandler sublet it to make a profit? Will it become an ultimate friend zone again for the next people that live there? Will someone come in and paint the entire place a muted shade of eggshell? Considering the show was almost named after this place (one pitched title was Across the Hall), this seems like something Friends fans deserve to know.