We Were On A Break is a famous recurring line by Ross Geller that has its roots in the fifteenth episode of the third season of Friends, titled "The One Where Ross And Rachel Take A Break". The phrase is first coined by Rachel Green in the next episode ("The One With The Morning After") and is heard in arguments between Ross and Rachel throughout the series. It is one of the running gags of the series.
The phrase has its roots in the fifteenth episode of the third season of Friends, titled "The One Where Ross And Rachel Take A Break", when a rift between Ross Geller and Rachel Green(a couple at the time) came to a head. A fateful conversation, in which Ross and Rachel failed to strike a compromise (or deliberately avoided one), ended with the following frustrated dialog:
- Rachel: ...Maybe we should just take a break!
- Ross: Ok, fine. Fine. Let's take a break. Let's cool off. Let's get some frozen yogurt or something.
- Rachel: No! ...a break from us.
The couple separate immediately afterwards. Both Ross (in the same episode) and Rachel (at the beginning of the next episode) separately confess that the conversation construed a "breakup" and that their relationship is effectively ended.
After the breakup, Ross retreats to a bar, where the sum of his emotional vulnerability, alcohol and a promiscuous woman named Chloe causes Ross to have an affair. Their one-night stand, however, does not remain a secret and causes Ross and Rachel's attempt to renew their relationship in "The One With The Morning After" to turn into a very awkward fight. Rachel asserts that Ross's one-night stand with Chloe was an act of cheating while Ross maintains that since they had broken up, no cheating had occurred. Rachel briefly attempts to contradict the "breakup" interpretation of their previous fateful dialog by turning it into "we were on a break" (thus differentiating between "break" and "breakup". This unsuccessful attempt, which is never repeated, coins the phrase.
The running gagEdit
Starting with episode 17 of season three ("The One Without The Ski Trip") Ross recurrently repeats the phrase "we were on a break" in the recurring rows with Rachel as well as on occasions when the audience least expects it. Rachel also repeats her alternative version ("we were NOT on a break") albeit it is far less frequent. Ross emphasizes that he and Rachel had broken up and thus he was free to strike a partnership with any other woman while Rachel maintains that somehow they had not been on a break and so Ross actually cheated her.
The phrase puts the friends in painful situations as they try not to take side with either of them, lest their friendship is jeopardized. They regard the whole affair utterly childish. The general consensus is that Ross and Rachel barely did anything right, so the question of "whose fault was it?" is moot. As Phoebe Buffay mentions in "The One With Rachel's New Dress", Ross's reason for his take on the breakup is that he misjudged Rachel's fidelity and is unwilling to confess his error out of stubbornness. Monica Geller on the other hand, explains the reason behind Rachel's behavior: While women take it a serious insult to be regarded as "second choice", "last resort", "backup" or even "lost cause" (with the entire "The One With The Morning After" being dedicated to explaining it), Rachel is adamant to confess that Ross never regarded her as such.
In addition to making no comment on the issue, Phoebe occasionally asks Ross to confess his love for Rachel openly, when he least expects the matter to come up. Ross, however, does not comply until the very last episode, "The Last One, Part 2". Chandler, on the other hand, is so deeply affected by the whole state of affair that resumes smoking and, for the first time in his life, cries. (See "The One With Rachel's Sister".)
Unsuccessful with their friends, Ross and Rachel both attempt to indoctrinate their own points of view on Ben and Emma, Ross's children, resulting in hilarious scenes. Also in "The One With Ross' Wedding, Part 2", in a flight to London, Rachel succeeds in eliciting a response from a third-party (a passenger to London), although to her utter dismay, the verdict is "it seems to me perfectly clear that you were on a break!"
- The first time it was said, David and Jennifer both cried after the break-up.
- The phrase to be on a break is also used by Paget Brewster in an interview titled "Friends of Friends Part II", featured on Friends: The Complete Series Collection.