Monday, June 27, 2011

Scrubs Episode #8 - "My Conventional Wisdom"

Months ago I was requested to generate a list of what I thought were the best episodes of the TV show "Scrubs."  I have written analyses of numbers nine and ten on my list, but I must acknowledge the reason I even made such a list.  Personally I am a fan of top ten lists; it's fun to compare things and acknowledge what shows or songs or movies are better than others.  Since it's my blog and I can spell things out over time at my own pace, I want to share a story that could not have happened even four years ago.

I joined Twitter a couple years ago and followed a Twitterer whose handle was @DefiantlyDutch.  He tweeted about Hofstra sports, and I was familiar enough with Hofstra's history to know they used to be the Hofstra Flying Dutchmen.  I soon found out Jerry Beach is, without a doubt, the biggest Hofstra fan of all time.  (As a fan of Old Dominion myself, I am well aware that Hofstra was one of four schools to join the CAA 11 years ago to save the conference.  Without Hofstra, Delaware, Towson and Drexel, the CAA would probably not exist today.  So I am eternally grateful for what they did after the University of Richmond weasled its way out of the Colonial.)

One random Friday I "Follow Friday'ed" DefiantlyDutch and the Twitter account of the band Extreme.  He and I began throwing Extreme YouTube links back and forth.  Eventually he started quoting "Scrubs" and I threw quotes right back at him.  Two years later, we're still throwing quotes the other's way, though I must admit I think he's the better "quoter."  Last winter he requested me to put together a list of my top ten "Scrubs" episodes.  I put thought into it, sent him my list, and composed an analysis of my #10.  Then life happened and the project got pushed to the back burner.  I'm using this blog now to complete the analysis of my list since it's the slow time in college athletics.  There is a debate as to who legally owns this list.  But thankfully I've secured the legal services of Ted Buckland, so I'm sure the law will end up on my side.

I highly encourage you to read his blog, Defiantly Dutch.  I wish I could match his enthusiasm but he goes beyond a level I can reach. 

And now, an analysis of what I consider to be the eighth best episode of "Scrubs," "My Conventional Wisdom."

This is one of the last episodes in Season 6.  JD is bummed out after witnessing Elliott accept Keith’s wedding proposal, so Turk takes him to a medical convention to get his mind off things.  At the convention, we learn that a certain former fling of JD’s might not be as un-pregnant as she had informed him.  Meanwhile, Elliott begins to doubt if Keith “The Dudemeister” is really the man for her.  

One of the qualities that makes “Scrubs” such a unique show is that it could go from silly one episode to serious the next.  “My Conventional Wisdom” makes such a hardcore u-turn within the episode itself.  The first few acts during the convention provide some hysterical moments – Bob Kelso and his Chiefs-of-Medicine gang; Dr. Toilet; Old Young MC; and Janitor asserting himself as acting chief of medicine at Sacred Heart.  The Old Young MC running joke is of high enough quality to carry the episode, had it needed being carried.  

As an aside – the presence of Old Young MC is great on the surface, but think about this.  “Scrubs” is such a great show that there’s a random appearance by an obscure one-hit-wonder, and we don’t even bat an eye lash when he shows up at a medical convention.  They seamlessly work him into a running gag even though he has nothing to do with hospitals or medical conventions, and they manage it so that it is not gratuitous.  It is brilliant writing and performing.

But this was not some ordinary episode whose plot was to pay homage to Young MC.  After Kelso chastised Turk and JD for not attending enough presentations, we see the couple sitting in a conference room waiting for the presenter to take the stage.  Much to our surprise, it is Kim who appears on stage!  JD has mixed feelings about seeing her again, but those mixed feelings become much less mixed when she steps away from the podium to reveal that she is still pregnant.  After moving away from Sacred Heart, she told JD that she had miscarried.  The lesson, as always, is that women are deceptive.

Kim’s deception and the reasons for it are not essential to the plotline.  They are important to her but they are not important to JD.  How would you like to be told that you were going to be a father, but then there was a miscarriage, but subsequently find out that you were always going to be a father after all?  JD didn’t handle this news well, leaving Kim at the convention despite telling her he would stick around to talk.  Upon getting back to Sacred Heart with the news that he was going to be a dad, Elliott wants to talk about whether she’s made the right choice in Keith…just as Kim had made her way back to the hospital to confront JD.

Was this a loaded episode, or what?  For a comedy show it’s a pretty complicated series of events for a protagonist to endure in one episode.  But it all happens in a 30-minute span and none of it feels forced or rushed.  It gives Zach Braff an opportunity to display genuine acting skills beyond being a wacky comedic actor.  But the episode also gives Elizabeth Banks an opportunity to display acting skills as well, showing how terrible she feels for lying to JD.  I do not totally buy it because I was never a fan of Banks’ character.  She just didn’t seem to fit in with the rest of the cast; chemistry was lacking.  Other guest stars show up for one or two episodes and simply mesh with the pace of the other actors.  (See – Jay Mohr, Matthew Perry, Barry Bostwick.)  Banks never got into the groove with the rest of the cast.  

Regardless of my own bias against the character of Kim, it is surprisingly easy for the viewer to feel sympathy for her.  A single woman, she pleads with JD to hear her explanation of why she lied to him.  She gets in a quick minute of explaining how scared she is, but JD later strands her at the convention while she gives another presentation.  No matter the situation, JD was not right for leaving her in that way.  In his inner monologue, he acknowledges that even Turk thinks he did not handle the situation properly.  Kim tracks JD back to Sacred Heart.

And oh yeah – the wheels start turning on whether Elliott should remain with Keith.  We spent half of Season 5 and now all of Season 6 watching Keith pursue her and eventually get her to fall for him.  Now she suddenly doubts if he’s “the one?”  Reality hits different people in different ways.  It just seemed awfully quick after she accepted his wedding proposal for her to experience doubt.  It does at least prepare us for the last two episodes of the current season and the start of Season 7, when she dumps him and opens the door for eventually getting back with JD.  

A minor subplot is the Janitor stepping up as interim chief of medicine.  We learn that Ted needs direction in life and is even willing to follow Janitor.  It works as a sequence of gags, but it’s not the most interesting subplot the series has ever produced.

JD, by the way, is going to be a dad!  

Memorable quotes/gags:
Carla: "Do you know how much goes into planning a wedding?"  Elliott: "Uh, yeah!  What do you think I've been doing the last ten yars?"

JD: “Say I was too nervous to hit on that girl over there.  What advice would you give me?”  Old Young MC: “Bust a move!”  Turk: “Alright, alright.  What if a great song comes on and I’m too shy to get down, what should I do?”  Old Young MC: “Bust a move!”  JD:  “You’re awesome, man.  What are you drinking?  We’ll buy you one.”  Old Young MC: “Bust a move!”  

Kim finishes her lecture and remains on stage.  JD: “Why would you tell me you miscarried our child when clearly you didn’t?”  Kim: “That’s probably a question I should answer more face-to-face after the lecture…are there any other questions? <Guy in audience raises hand> Yes, you sir.”  Guy revealed to be Turk, who in seconds had gotten to the other side of the room: “Yeah, uh, I think you should answer his question.”  JD: “You’re a good friend.”  Turk: “I gotcha back.”  Kim, more flustered: “Anyone else have a question?  Yes, you in the back.”  <off-camera someone shouts> “BUST A MOVE!”

It’s not every day you find out you’re going to be a parent.  It’s even rarer for you to find out that your future baby’s mama lied about having a miscarriage.  Elliott needs someone’s advice, and seeks it from the guy who’s upset that she herself has chosen someone over him.  Obviously this is one of the most important stand-alone episodes in the nine seasons, but it all seems very organic rather than forced.  Kudos to the writing staff.

Don’t just stand there, JD; bust a move.

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