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‘Friends’ creators say finale episode leak was an ‘inside job’ — and reveal if they got to the bottom of it

The show’s creators, Marta Kauffman and David Crane, recall trying "so hard" to keep the script of the 236th episode a "secret."
/ Source: TODAY

Twenty years ago, 52.5 million Americans tuned in to the finale of the beloved TV show "Friends."

But the show's creators Marta Kauffman and David Crane said on TODAY some parts of the script had leaked prior to the premiere on the night of May 6, 2004.

"Oh my god, we tried so hard to keep it a secret," Kauffman said. "We were desperate to keep it a secret and it got out. And it was it was an inside job."

The scripts that were sent out ahead of the premiere were numbered, Crane explained.

"We knew how many people knew what it was going to be. So it did, through an element of... it became a behind-the-scenes detective show," Crane said. "It was frustrating, but at the end of the day, what are you gonna do?"

Kauffman said the part of the script that leaked was that Rachel (Jennifer Aniston) and Ross (David Schwimmer) did, in fact, end up getting together. But when asked if the mystery of who released the information was solved, she replied with a smile: "Ish."

"Ish," Crane repeated.

While the final episode, titled "The Last One," premiered 20 years ago, the friendship between Aniston, Schwimmer, Courteney Cox, Lisa Kudrow, Matt LeBlanc and the late Matthew Perry, endured over time.

In the 236th episode, Cox and Perry's characters, Monica and Chandler, end up with twins and move to the suburbs, while Ross and Rachel decide to end up more than friends. As a final farewell, all six friends leave their keys in Monica's apartment and go for a cup of coffee.

“We were incredibly nervous because we so wanted to get it right,” Crane said of writing the last episode.

Back in 2004, the cast shared on TODAY how hard it was to say goodbye after a nearly 10-year run.

"It’s just all so unbelievably surreal. And, yeah, it will be hard," Aniston said.

Perry added: “We hate talking about it. We hate thinking about it.”

Perry, who died at age 54 last year due to “acute effects of ketamine,” wrote about the finale in his 2022 memoir, "Friends, Lovers, and the Big Terrible Thing."

“Before that final episode, I’d taken Marta Kauffman to one side,” he wrote. “‘Nobody else will care about this except me,’ I said. ‘So may I please have the last line?’”

Perry's character Chandler did end up getting the last line of the episode, when he asked his pals where they should grab one last cup of coffee.

“It’s incredibly poignant. It’s a legacy for him, one of his many legacies,” Kauffman said. “But that moment... that moment.” 

New generations of fans have experienced the hundreds of episodes of "Friends" for the first time as the series has hit streaming platforms — first Netflix, and now Max.