Reel Estate

Reel Estate: The one where everyone swaps apartments for no reason

By Virginia K. Smith | January 15, 2015 - 9:59AM 

When a movie or TV show is set in New York City—and if the people making it are savvy—real estate becomes part of the story itself. In Reel Estate, we look at some of the more memorable domiciles to grace the screen.

Like most of the Netflix-having world, we've spent these past few freezing January weeks hunkered down, zoning out in front of episode upon episode of "Friends." And while much ink has been split over Monica's preposterous West Village apartment—a broker recently estimated its value at $2 million to $2.5 million—we were more baffled by a season four plotline in which everyone swaps apartments. Twice.

In "The One With The Embryo," Monica and Rachel end up squaring off against Joey and Chandler in a trivia game about which set of friends knows the most about the other. (Sure, why not.) Somewhere in the middle, the stakes get raised from "winner gets $100" to a wager in which Joey and Chandler have to get rid of their rooster and duck if they lose (the rooster's been crowing and waking up the whole building), or Rachel and Monica have to give the boys their apartment, depending on who wins. (We're on the fence about whether this setup is more or less cockamamie than the concept of a spoken-word lease.)

The girls lose, and have to pack up their things and head to the dingy mancave across the hall. It's actually kind of interesting to see the two apartments either emptied out or filled with the others' stuff. Here's Rachel and Monica's apartment during the transition:

And Chandler and Joey's:

While Chandler and Joey gloat about their spacious new crib ("have you seen the closets??"),  Monica sleeps in a ball on the floor so she doesn't have to squeeze a bed into her tiny new bedroom, and Rachel butts heads with an across-the-alley neighbor who sings about how "morning's here!" every day. (Either a great neighbor or an awful neighbor, depending on your perspective. Joey, for one, was a fan.)

A few episodes later, Monica and Rachel try to use courtside Knicks tickets to bribe Chandler and Joey into switching back. Joey's all for it—"The timing's perfect, I just clogged the toilet"—but Chandler holds out, and another series of bets ends with the guys keeping the nicer apartment and the Knicks tickets. When they come back from the game, though, they find the girls have switched the apartments back while they were out. Since Joey's rightly skeptical at the thought of moving again, the four strike a deal: Monica and Rachel keep their original apartment, while Chandler and Joey get to watch them make out for one minute. 

There are a lot of unanswered questions here—what kind of person would ever agree to this bet? Why would Monica risk drawing the neighbors' and/or landlord's attention to an apartment she's illegally subletting? How did two tiny women move two apartments' worth of stuff over the course of a two-hour basketball game? But at least there's one clear takeaway: if you steal someone's apartment in a bet, be sure to at least change the locks.


Roommate week edition: the best and worst onscreen NYC roommates

Reel Estate: In Mulaney's New York, there is such a thing as a spoken-word lease

Reel Estate: Everybody knows a "roommate" like Broad City's Bevers

​Reel Estate: Keeping up with Khloe Kardashian's rental budget

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