Perfect Romance 'Friends' Was Too Cowardly To Pull The Trigger On
Gunther, the manager of Central Perk with the SPF 200 haircut on Friends, never could really catch a break. Gunther was essentially the 7th "Friend" on Friends (or maybe 10th, if you count the 7th as New York City, 8th as the studio audience, and 9th as rampant homophobia), but Gunther was always on the outside looking in. It would seem that Gunther badly wanted to be included in the gang, but only sparsely was he ever involved.
But worse than his unrequited want of friendship was his unrequited love for Rachel. Gunther was the king of simps before we even knew what simp meant. He pined after Rachel for a decade, holding her as the object of his affection with the same unwavering focus as a Marvel villain would with the concept of "revenge!" When Gunther finally does confess his feelings in the very last episode, Rachel swats him away so hard, that if he were a basketball, he'd have ended up on the moon.
Brutal. Even in her rejection, she can't help but take a swipe at Gunther's hair that's "brighter than the sun." Somewhere right now, Gunther is in a basement writing an angry screed on an incel forum about how women hate blondes, but it didn't have to be this way. If Gunther had taken Rachel off the pedestal and looked around, he might have realized there were plenty of eligible women looking back. One of those women, in particular, is Phoebe. In fact, I think Phoebe and Gunther could have been the perfect fit.
Some might scoff at the notion of the classically attractive Phoebe ending up with Gunther, who spent the better part of a decade getting mocked for his looks and job. For example, Joey considers ending up like Gunther to be a fate worse than death when finding out that Gunther was once an actor on All My Children. The show portrays Gunther as the ultimate loser, but in reality, Phoebe has been with way bigger losers than Gunther. One of her boyfriends was a known stalker, and another a known Michael Rapaport. In the pilot, Phoebe reveals she dated a guy who ate chalk. Certainly, Gunther, the manager of a thriving coffee shop in New York City, is a better catch than any of these clowns.
But there's also the fact that the heart just wants what it wants, and there's little denying Phoebe is attracted to Gunther. In the episode, "The One With Joey's New Girlfriend" Phoebe even aggressively pulls Gunther in for a kiss:
Sure, you could argue Phoebe only kissed Gunther because she wanted to get sick to have a more raspy singing voice (we've all been there), but even, under those circumstances, Phoebe is holding this kiss well past the point of germ transference. But, fine, perhaps this is inadmissible evidence. Phoebe kisses people she doesn't like all the time. She even kissed Chandler just to get him to admit his love for Monica. (Another common situation we've all had with our friends.)
But there are plenty of other signs of Phoebe's attraction to this vaguely Scandinavian bombshell. Phoebe once let slip, "Sure, Gunther is sexy in an obvious way ...", and even called Paris a city of Gunthers for the number of hot men it contained.
However, it's not just a physical attraction that draws Phoebe towards her knight with shining hair. It's also fate. Consider how remarkable it is, in a city of millions of people, that Phoebe's coworker Jasmine, is Gunther's roommate. Even if Phoebe didn't spend every day at Gunther's work, she was still bound to eventually run into him. Then consider how much kindness Gunther must have in his heart for Phoebe to let her repeatedly debut her songs in Central Perk, despite her being an awful singer.
I imagine a date between Phoebe and Gunther would be awkward at first. Gunther seems easily flummoxed, and Phoebe once stabbed a cop. Small talk might not be their strong suit. But they do have shared interests, and that, coupled with some drinks, might get them to loosen up. They both love foreign languages, for example. (Phoebe speaks french and Gunther speaks Dutch.) They both love coffee. They both love giving Ross shit.
And I think their personalities might mesh more than we'd realize at first glance. Said James Michael Tyler, the actor behind Gunther, about his character:
"He's very real. He's not a bad guy, but he's a little bit disaffected. He doesn't really put up with much. He's a nice guy but you can only go too far before he just says what he means."
It sounds a lot like how you would describe Phoebe. Gunther might not have been a good fit for Rachel, but Rachel wasn't a good fit for him. On the other hand, Phoebe might have been just the bit of crazy he needed if only he had bothered to look. (Or he could have gone for Monica's mom because she seemed plenty interested as well.)
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Top Image: Netflix