Courtesy of Netflix

November 22, 2021

The Five Best Thanksgiving Episodes

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The essence of fall: Autumn leaves, toasty air, a chill breeze and, of course, Thanksgiving. Not feeling the Thanksgiving spirit? Watching a Thanksgiving episode may be your solution. I’m here to spread some encouragement to indulge in shows featuring turkey complications and family debacles by providing my top five Thanksgiving episodes.

5. “The Homecoming,” The O.C. (Season 1, Episode 11)

Starting off with a traditional Thanksgiving route, The O.C.’s Thanksgiving episode’s theme is bringing people together. With Ryan visiting his brother in jail for the first time, Seth Cohen splitting his time between two girls and Sandy dealing with his father-in-law, there’s a lot of people centered in the 45-minute show. It makes my favorite’s list for its plentiful witty thanksgiving banter. However, much due to Seth Cohen declaring Thanksgiving to be his “favorite holiday” at the start of the episode, I was expecting more. The episode ended with a burning turkey and eating Chinese food on the floor, because what else would you expect from a classic episode’s Thanksgiving?

4. “Three Turkeys,” Modern Family (Season 6, Episode 8)

Pivoting to a series with family at its core, Modern Family brought much-needed comedy to the family-filled holiday. The show features three turkeys — Phil’s traditional turkey, Claire’s backup turkey and Jay’s mini turkey. Personally, I found the three turkeys symbolized the scatteredness of this episode, but this is Modern Family fashion so it’s quite suitable. I found Gloria and Jay to be the glaring, hilarious stars of this episode. To begin, Gloria and Jay — with suitcases in hand — pretend they are in Mexico while video calling the family. However, their desires for a quiet Thanksgiving spiral, and the show shows them attempting to avoid the family, which includes Gloria hiding a turkey in her suitcase. 

3. “Thanksgiving,” New Girl (Season 1, Episode 6)

I must say I was pleasantly surprised with this episode. It can take a lot for me to get a chuckle from this sitcom at times, but this episode both captured my laughs and got me in the Thanksgiving spirit. For the only episode on my list featuring a Thanksgiving dinner where no guest is related to each other, I was impressed. You can always rely on Jess to give some nickname to some person or object per episode, and I thoroughly enjoyed her naming the turkey Hank…. but was disappointed the episode wasn’t named “Hanksgiving.” Hank gets put in the dryer, and the episode features multiple frames of Hank circling in his dry cycle. 

2. “The One With All the Thanksgivings,” Friends (Season 5, Episode 8)

Flashback episodes are consistently episodes I skip over, but for this Friends Thanksgiving, I saw an exception to my rule. In the words of Chandler, “Come on Monica, reliving past pain and getting depressed is what Thanksgiving is all about.” Although adding little to the Friends storyline, flashbacks of the gang from high school and college were thoroughly entertaining. With scenes displaying college Ross bringing Chandler to Thanksgiving, and Chandler accidentally losing part of his toe, who couldn’t be entertained? Also, I feel lots of fall spirit in Friends as I believe it encapsulates imagery of warm wool sweaters, coffee in mugs and sharing meals and debate with friends and family — so this had to be runner up on my list. There are ten Thanksgiving episodes in Friends, and the fact that a flashback one is my favorite says a lot about its hold on me, so I would highly recommend you watch it.

1. “A Deep-Fried Korean Thanksgiving,” Gilmore Girls (Season 3, Episode 9)

It would take all my willpower to not rank the Thanksgiving episode from the series that effuses fall spirit from its bones at the top of my list. It’s a heart-warming, comforting classic. For the girls who never stop eating, or drinking coffee, Rory and Lorelei capitalize on Thanksgiving in this episode with four dinners — allowing viewers to experience any and all Thanksgiving elements. I was immersed in four different Thanksgiving settings: Inside with the large Kim family with Dave Rygalski playing soft background church music, outside with Sookie who drinks to get over the stress of her husband cooking the turkey, Luke’s diner with a more home-y spirit than usual and finally, the Gilmore’s timeless Connecticut mansion featuring a ceremonial turkey carving. And past simply different settings, the turkey selection was also differentiated. From the Kims’ tofu-turkey to Jackson’s deep-fried turkey in 15 gallons of oil, I found a range of delicacies. The plot balances what may seem like a chaotic Thanksgiving with a friends-and-family filled peace. This made four Thanksgivings look extremely appealing. 

This Thanksgiving break, I encourage you to unwind, sit on the couch and watch a Thanksgiving episode or two. This way, you’ll have the full Thanksgiving spirit when you’re eating your turkey of choice on Thursday.

Gillian Lee is a freshman in the College of Human Ecology. She can be reached at [email protected]