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Rachel has the baby

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David Schwimmer, Friends, ...
Friends: Warner Bros

Rachel has the baby

So Emma Geller-Green — an impressively real, nicely scrunchy-faced baby — made it into the world of ”Friends” last night, despite last-minute rumors that maybe the season-ending cliffhanger would be Rachel (Jennifer Aniston) remaining in labor until September. As it was, it took 21 hours in ”Friends”-time, enough to slip four pregnant mamas-to-be in and out of Rachel’s semi-private delivery room. Rachel at one point said there’d been five, but either she or I must have had the vapors, ’cause I counted a quartet, the final and best being Chandler’s old girlfriend Janice (the audaciously over-the-top Maggie Wheeler), she of ”Oh… My… Gawd!” infamy.

The subplot about Phoebe (Lisa Kudrow) wooing a guy with a broken leg was funny only when it required Joey (Matt LeBlanc) to assume his soap-opera role of Dr. Drake Ramoray to help Phoebe find out more about the fellow. More amusing was the half-kidding, half-serious notion of Chandler (Matthew Perry) and Monica (Courtney Cox Arquette) trying for a baby of their own, trysting in a succession of locations throughout the hospital. (Or as Monica put it, ”OK, mister — fertilize me!”)

The expanded, hour-long edition benefited, as we point out in this week’s EW cover story on how to fix TV, from the active presence of the show’s co-creators: Marta Kauffman and David Crane wrote the second, intricate half of the show, while Kevin Bright directed the whole magilla. Kauffman and Crane know how to make the series’ occasional serious moments work without becoming mawkish, which is precisely what was needed once Rachel had given birth. The sweet scene in which Monica gives the baby name she’d wanted for her own eventual child to Rachel — thus ”Emma” triumphed over ”Isabella” and ”Delilah” — was goose-pimply good.

And just when you thought the naming of kid would be the cliffhanger, the infant was dubbed Emma and the real cliffhanger emerged. Early in the hour, Ross’ mom (Christina Pickles) gave her son a family heirloom, a wedding ring, in hopes that he’d make what they used to call a ”good woman” out of Rachel by proposing. He sticks it in his pocket. Later, Ross realizes he really loves Rachel enough to venture a life together. In the closing seconds, Rachel is feeling bereft and vulnerable after Janice warns her and Emma, ”You two are on your own.” Ross has gone off to buy Rachel flowers, but Joey, still in the room, kneels down to pick up the ring, which has fallen from Ross’ abandoned jacket. Rachel sees him (on his knee, bearing ring) and says, ”OK” — that is, that she’ll marry him. Joey’s look is a perfect commingling of surprise, horror at Rachel’s misinterpretation, and a hint of the joy he’s kept contained the last half of the season, as he’d fallen in love with Rachel but dared not let his feelings be known. Meanwhile, cut to Ross advancing upon the room with a purple bouquet, presumably to propose.

Oddly, abruptly, yet (as always with this particular musician) eerily right, Bob Dylan on the soundtrack starts singing ”Sign on the Window,” used for the line that capped the evening: ”Three’s a crowd.” Now what’ll they do? You have until September to figure it out, when the final ”Friends” unfurl.

Did you like the ”Friends” season finale?

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