With their parents away, Monica and Ross decide to have Thanksgiving dinner at Monica’s.
Rachel plans to go to Vail to spend Thanksgiving with her family, but, with her waitress’ salary, can’t raise the money for the plane tickets. However, her friends all chip in and buy her one.
Joey wants to spend Thanksgiving with his family, but a poster featuring him as a man with VD makes them, as well as a number of women, think that Joey is actually infected with the sexual disease. This leads him to opt to have dinner at Monica’s.
Chandler is boycotting “all the pilgrim holidays” because they remind him of the time his parents got divorced. He instead plans to stay in and eat what Monica calls a “traditional holiday feast”: tomato soup, grilled cheese, and a large bag of Funyuns.
Phoebe is celebrating two Thanksgivings, one in December with her lunar-calendar grandmother and one with Monica on actual Thanksgiving.
While Monica cooks the meal, Ross decides to spend some “talking time” with his baby but finds it difficult to talk to Carol’s uterus. When Carol reminds him not to do this to be in competition with Susan, he gets over it and starts recounting the story of his life to the fetus.
Meanwhile, dinner preparations are going great, with Monica preparing everyone personalized versions of their favorite dishes. This includes three types of potatoes: lumpy mashed potatoes, like Ross and Monica’s mom Judy makes; mashed potatoes with peas and onions, like Phoebe’s mom used to make; and tater tots, a Tribbiani holiday tradition.
Chandler interrupts with news that the Underdog balloon has escaped the parade, hence the episode’s title. This puts a hold on the preparations, and everyone rushes to the roof to watch. As they leave Monica shouts to Rachel “Got the keys?” While Monica meant it as a question, Rachel thought it was a statement and, assuming Monica has the keys, leaves them behind.
After the excitement on the roof, everyone returns to the apartment and find that they’re locked out of the apartment, which has Monica’s Thanksgiving dinner and Rachel’s plane tickets inside. Monica and Rachel fight over who should have had the keys. Chandler and Joey happen to have a drawer full of dozens of extra keys, one of which eventually works. By the time they get in, however, everything’s burned and Rachel has missed her flight. Ross comes in to smell the burning ruins, just in time to set off a fight between the whole group, with Chandler saying that “now this feels like Thanksgiving.”
By now, Thanksgiving is pretty much ruined for everyone, but Phoebe spots Ugly Naked Guy with his Thanksgiving turkey, and a surprise – Ugly Naked Gal. Seeing the ugly naked couple makes everyone realize how their friendship is more important that missed flights, STDs, and ruined dinners.
An alternative meal is prepared: grilled cheese and tomato soup, as donated by Chandler. He notes that through everyone else’s misfortune, he actually had a great time as he got to spend it with all his friends, and everyone ends up making a toast – literally – to a “sucky”, but nonetheless nice, Thanksgiving.