Towards the final season of Friends, the longest focused on relationship (first hinted at in the pilot, no less) in the show starts heating up again: Ross and Rachel start feeling their attraction towards one another again. This was in spite of the fact that in the second episode of the final season (in The One Where Ross is Fine), Ross gave his blessing for his friend Joey to go out with Rachel, while Ross was in a committed relationship with Charlie. But soon Joey and Rachel broke up due to the fact that for both, it was weird to be attempting a relationship (in The One With Ross’s Tan) and Charlie went conveniently back to her ex-boyfriend (in The One With Ross’s Grant),. This paved the way for Ross and Rachel to suddenly start feeling the attraction again in the final episodes. Finally, in The Last One, Ross admits to Rachel that he loves her, and Rachel, after initially taking the plane to Paris, admits to Ross that she loves him too. She did get off the plane, and the two get together for good.
Or do they? Despite the fact that it feels like a nice resolution for the story, the show’s history is of the trust of one of them being broken and them ultimately breaking up or not getting back together. Back in the second season, in the episode after Ross and Rachel’s first kiss (The One with the List), Ross makes a list comparing his current girlfriend Julie to Rachel, and even though he chooses Rachel in the end, the idea breaks Rachel’s trust when she refuses to go out with him. It takes another five episodes to get to The One with the Prom Video, the famous episode where Ross and Rachel officially get together, after Rachel (and everyone else) views a video where Ross agrees to be Rachel’s date to the prom at the last minute, only for her to leave with someone else. Rachel, moved by Ross’s actions, kisses him in front of the group, cementing their relationship.
Unfortunately, the relationship did not last. Ross’s trust of Rachel began to deteriorate when he met Rachel’s coworker at Bloomingdale’s, Mark (in The One Where Chandler Can’t Remember Which Sister). While Rachel assures Ross that the two are just friends, Ross refuses to believe her. Then Ross goes with Rachel to a fashion seminar so Mark can’t go, but he falls asleep instead of being supportive (in The One with Phoebe’s Ex-Partner). Then in the next episode (The One Where Ross and Rachel take a Break), Rachel has to work on the One-Year Anniversary and Ross comes to her work, but that only frustrates Rachel and she says that they need to take a break, “a break from us.” It’s pretty clear to Ross that Rachel is breaking up with him, and when she calls him, only to hear Mark’s voice (though Rachel had no romantic desire for him). Depressed, he falls into the arms of Chloe. In the following episode (The One with the Morning After), Rachel gets back together with Ross, but then she finds out about Chloe, despite Ross’s attempts to hide what he did. After she confronts him, Ross argues that he thought they had broken up for good, while Rachel doesn’t see it that way and tells him that before, she thought she saw Ross as somebody who could never hurt him but now, all she can think about is him and Chloe and everything has changed. Ross’s actions broke Rachel’s trust for the final time and they broke up.
From then on, their relationship is series of near misses or quick hookups only for them to break up again. In the season 4 season premiere, The One With the Jellyfish, Ross gets back together with Rachel, but Rachel is under the impression that he was accepting 100% responsibility for the breakup (which he wasn’t), so they break up in the same episode, showing that they still don’t trust each other. Near the end of season 4, Ross meets and falls for Emily, a girl from the UK on vacation, and quickly become engaged to her. Rachel’s feelings for Ross intensifies, but she ultimately decides not to tell him, but he says Rachel’s name at the wedding alter (in The One With Ross’ Wedding) and Emily refuses to go through with the wedding. In the second episode of season five (The One with all the Kissing), Rachel finally tells Ross how she feels, but the feelings immediately dissipate with the telling and Ross and Rachel agree to be friends. Then at the end of season five, Ross and Rachel drunkenly get married in Vegas (The One in Vegas), and at the beginning of season six Rachel immediately wants to get an annulment, while Ross at first wants to put off breaking off his impromptu marriage and lies to her that he got an annulment, resulting in Rachel losing her trust in Ross again, and she gets mad at him, writing untrue things on her annulment papers, resulting in Ross’ third divorce (in The One With Joey’s Porsche). This seals their relationship (despite a one episode hookup in The One with Monica’s Thunder at the beginning of season seven) until the end of season seven, when it is revealed that Rachel is pregnant (The One with Monica and Chandler’s Wedding). At the beginning of season eight, Ross is revealed as the father in The One with the Red Sweater. During this time, Rachel has been living in a room in Joey’s apartment and Joey has fallen in love with her. At the end of season eight (in The One Where Rachel has A Baby), Ross is given his grandmother’s engagement ring and Ross and Rachel kiss in order speed up the labor. Rachel’s water breaks and she gives birth, but afterwards freaks out about getting married and Joey accidentally proposes to Rachel when picking up Ross’ ring on the ground; Rachel says yes. In the One Where No One Proposes, after a series of misunderstandings, Ross and Rachel are back together, but then in the next episode (The One Where Emma Cries) Ross realizes that Rachel said yes to Joey and his trust in Rachel is broken again, because as he sees it, she would have said yes to anyone, and he doesn’t want to be just anyone, and the two have to make the rocky friendship work apart with a baby they share together, which brings us to the end of season nine.
Looking back on all of Ross and Rachel’s near misses and quick hookups and breakups in throughout seasons three through nine, it’s clear that Ross and Rachel have major trust issues with each other. Almost every time the couple could have resolved their issues and gotten together, one of them has their trust broken by the other. Ross and Rachel’s last hookup in the series finale was as rushed as any of their past hookups, the only difference being this time Ross and Rachel were on the same page (and they nearly weren’t, with Rachel almost leaving for Paris). While having Ross and Rachel get back together did feel emotionally satisfying, I can’t help but wonder, given Ross and Rachel’s trust issues with each other, how long it will really last.