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Throwback Thursday - Scrubs - My Lunch

Throwback Thursday, a weekly article in which we look back at our favorite TV episodes from over the years.

Throwback Thursdays give us the opportunity to walk through memory lane, to reminisce about shows that touched us, about the episodes that stood out for us, that changed us. It’s a time to remember our old dvds that need a little dusting, and for me, that’s “Scrubs,” a show that could both make me choke up from laughter, then, from tears, all, in under thirty minutes.

“Scrubs” perfectly defined the term dramedy, a show which isn’t a drama, but it isn’t merely a comedy either. It’s the effortlessly balanced mixture of the two genres. It’s a sitcom which has, no doubt, made you laugh out loud, and it will continue to do so, even the third or fourth time you’ve watched an episode. It’s a show that embraced it’s quirkiness from the get-go, but it’s a show that has had the power to expertly play with the very distinct line between comedy and drama on several occasions during its 8 season run. (Or 9 seasons, if you decide to count the attempted spinoff that was the show’s ninth season. What’s your take? Was season 9 still “Scrubs?”)

“Scrubs” had the power for raw, honest moments and an episode that stands out, that is the perfect representation of one of the more heartfelt, emotionally straining episodes, and in my opinion one of the best episodes of the series, was the fifth season’s twentieth episode: “My Lunch,” the episode where a misdiagnosed transplant donor causes Dr. Cox to lose three patients.

The episode, despite its emotionally charged center, and serious subject, still had a touch of humor, as all “Scrubs” episodes do. In fact, an episode without a touch of humour would be clinically impossible for this show as all the characters are hilarious in their own special way, in their own moments, as Dr. Cox so deliciously explained in the sixth season’s twelfth episode, “My Fishbowl.”

“I think you are very funny, when you’re being sarcastic, or you’re up on your high horse. You know, as long as you stay right in your wheel house and it isn’t different for any of us. Barbie is funniest when she’s an anal retentive train-wreck. Your husband sells it with a cocky attitude. The janitor is amusing because quite frankly he’s insane, and Alice, here, she can turn a phrase. Now sadly, some people just aren’t funny, but, they’ve got funny names. For example, Dr. Beardface, Dr. Mickhead, Colonel Doctor and Snoop Dog Intern. My bad, Snoop Dog Resident. The Todd is a sexual deviant, Laverne believes in god which is hilarious to me, and Ted is the hospital sad sack. Me, I’m funny because I commit. C. O. M. M. I. T. T. T. T. T. T. T. T. Tea. Oh, and I also do funny rants. To be honest there’s only one guy, in this entire hospital who’s funny no matter what he says.” – Dr. Cox

Every character on the show, main or secondary, have unique personalities, stand out traits, expertly brought to life through the work the incredibly talented cast and crew. Even in drama filled episodes such as “My Lunch,” these absurd, sometimes caricatured traits, manage to shine through, and despite the contrasting genres, their traits, their stand-out jokes and their one-liners never feel out of place.

“My Lunch’s” B Storyline focused on the hilarity that is “The Todd,” the sexual deviant, as Elliot and Carla try to help him embrace what they think is his repressed homosexuality after finding out he hasn’t actually slept with anyone from the hospital.

“People think I just luck into these situations, but it’s really a lot of hard work. “ – Todd

“My Lunch” produced one of The Todd’s biggest storylines to date. It’s one of the episodes where we see the most of him. It’s one of the rare episodes he has more to do than jump out of nowhere a couple of times and make a sexual innuendo or two about his peepers. (We have to appreciate the dedication portrayed in this episode, and the demonstration of the hard work he puts into it, though.) It’s not an episode where his appearance is prompted by a dramatic tear off his pants which reveals his favorite banana hammock. Robert Maschio rises to the occasion, and despite the pretty one sided character he gets to play, and over the years, I’ve never been tired of the character.

While the girls think helping him embrace his sexuality, accept who he is, will put an end to the inappropriate pig that is the surgeon, that it will help him become a whole new person, but their plan somehow backfires on Turk when Todd, instead, turns his sexual energy towards men. Towards the end of the episode, Todd admits the whole thing was an act, (Of course!) but doesn’t make the process any less enjoyable to watch.

“What the hell are you?” – The Janitor
“I’m The Todd.” –Todd

The A Storyline, involving Dr. Cox and J.D., also had its share of comedic relief as JD made it his daily ritual to get Dr. Cox to have lunch with him, and cutting no corners in order to do so, he car surfs on the unaware doctor’s car roof. It’s so completely ridiculous; yet, “Scrubs” and Zach Braff make it work, once again. The delivery of this line always cracks me up, as Zach is always deliciously on point with the facial expressions.

“A friend dropped me off.” – JD

The main focus of the episode circles around the relationship between Dr. Cox and J.D. While most of “Scrubs” focused on the amazingly codependent friendship between Turk and J.D. or the relationship drama with Elliot and J.D., a fair share of screen time has been given to the strange bonding between Cox and “Whatever girl name comes to your mind.” “My Lunch” delved into a more heartfelt part of their relationship as Cox steps up to the plate when JD really needs him to.

At the market the two doctors run into Jill Tracy, a previous patient, whom, if I’m not mistaken, has made a trip to Sacred Heart almost every season. The woman was seen on a slippery slope when she met Elliot, still an intern, in the first season. Cox and JD had answered her cry out for help in the third season, when she had intentionally poisoned herself to get admitted to the hospital. Things haven’t evolved much for Jill; she’s is still leading an intensely depressing life, and isn’t shy about mouthing it. JD though, too preoccupied by his own problems, too busy labeling her as annoying, doesn’t do anything to help her out, a choice that will prove hard to live with when she turns up dead at the hospital, with cocaine in her system, and he assumes she overdosed, that she purposefully killed herself.

J.D. being the sensible person he is, takes the news of her death hard; he feels bad, feels like he could have done something to help her out, like he should have done something more. He feels like he’s the reason she’s dead, like he failed as a doctor, but Cox takes him under his wing. Cox acts like a mentor. He embraces the role that he pretends he doesn’t care for but that was thrust upon him, and he takes JD out to lunch.

“Once you start blaming yourself for deaths that aren’t your fault my friend, that’s a slippery slope that you can’t come back from. And trust me, I’ve seen it ruin a hell of a lot of good doctors and I will not let it happen to you.” – Dr. Cox

Cox is a hard ass, sometimes even simply an ass, but he’s not heartless and seeing his humanity surface, whether it is while protecting the people he cares about, reading with his son, or giving JD advice, it’s always nice to see. In this episode, Dr. Cox gets through to J.D. and helps him accept the fact that he can’t save everyone and as I’m writing this, the jingle comes to my mind along with the words “No I know, I’m no superman.”

When the burden of responsibility is lifted from J.D.’s shoulders as they learn Jill’s death wasn’t an overdose, but a one in a million case of rabies, the burden shifts to Cox, who can’t follow his own advice when the three transplant recipients start crashing one after the other. What makes this episode immensely special is the whole other side of the Cox persona we get to see, in an award winning, tear jerking performance by the talented John C. McGinley.

Cox starts out the episode in the same state of mind he always is in: he’s the best, he loves himself and he finds JD more than annoying, but he goes through more growth in this episode than some characters do in a whole season. Perry starts the episode confident, “vibing” on the fact that so many people are clinging on to life on his watch. He’s not humble, he’s never been. He knows he’s the best, which is why he’s the one that falls the hardest when he discovers he can make mistakes too, opposing with his overly confident, I-have-a-god-complex personality witnessed during the episode.

“You are some kind of superhero.” – Turk
“You are a god.” –Carla
“You’re a beautiful healer.” –Elliot

Soon after Kelso delivers the new that Jill died of rabies, not an overdose, Cox’s transplant patients start getting worst. In a poignant montage to music from “The Fray,” of the patients crashing one after the other and ending with the failed revival of the kidney recipient, Dr. Cox crumbles, he can’t handle it, and what starts as typical Cox anger, soon transforms to sadness and guilt, which will, in the later episode result in reckless behavior.

Cox takes it hard when two patients die, but it’s when the third patient, the one he had a personal relationship with, the one whom he played “Who had the Crappiest dad with?” that he loses it. It’s then that J.D. loses him and we get to witness the shred of humanity he so expertly hides from the world. He acts like he’s above things, but fundamentally, he cares.

I said it before but I’ll say it again, TV shows with a great soundtrack bear a special place in my heart, and “Scrubs’” musical choices were always point on. (My all-time favorite “Scrubs” song is Cindy by Tammany Hall City which played in season 3. Share yours, guys!) Sometimes the songs were used sarcastically, sometimes used for comedic relief, and sometimes (hear often) even used in a sing along version of J.D.’s wandering mind. “Scrubs,” over the years, has catered to some pretty decent musical numbers, whether it was a ringtone that’s making a comeback, the performance of an all air band, or a musical theater duet from our favorite couple J.D. and Turk. Sometimes though, the music was used to heighten a dramatic moment and while “How to Save a Life,” might have been overused over the years, I absolutely loved its placement at the end of the episode, as Dr. Cox tries in vain, to save the transplant patients. It was simply perfect.

“Scrubs” didn’t do flashy, it didn’t need a bomb in a body cavity, didn’t have gunman roaming the hallways. “Scrubs” didn’t go with the flashy medical diagnosis and the clear cut epiphanies. The show didn’t need any of it to have drama. Life is dramatic in itself. It doesn’t feel over the top despite the show’s larger than life characters. Their struggles feel real, like I can almost imagine it really happening in the hospital across the street. The emotions feel realistic, the struggle of doctors playing god, and losing at times, the struggle of realising they aren’t superheroes, that they’re human, they’re flawed, just like you and me. The somewhat banality of the story is what made the show special for me, what made me fall in love with it from the get-go, proving that things don’t need to be over the top, that there doesn’t need to be an endless stream of drama to keep a show going.

Thanks for reliving this episode with me! I hope you enjoyed the throwback!

What do you think of this episode?
What do you miss most about “Scrubs?”
What made, and makes, “Scrubs” special for you?

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