Monday, July 18, 2011

Scrubs Episode #1 - "His Story"

In this post I'll discuss the best episode of "Scrubs" ever made - "His Story."  You can read my analysis of the other episodes throughout this blog, as I don't have many other posts right now.  The analysis of the seventh-best episode will be provided last.

The theme of this episode is the costs and benefits of taking risks.  Cox considers the risks of listening to others.  Carla evaluates the risk of accepting (and rejecting) Turk's wedding proposal.  Elliot debates dating someone that goes against the culture of the hospital, and our country.  Most importantly, "Scrubs'" creators take a risk in the format of the show.

From the very first scene of the very first episode, the television show "Scrubs" has been narrated from the point of view of JD as our protagonist.  Throughout episodes we watch the show and are treated to some of his inner thoughts to help move the story along.  "His Story" breaks that mold by allowing us to view an episode from Dr. Cox's point of view and his inner monologue.  This becomes important later on, when we see how symbiotic the relationship between Cox and JD has become.

At the start of this episode we have Turk still proposing to Carla to take his hand in marriage, but Carla still refuses.  What could it be?  Turk commits to asking regularly until he gets the answer he desires.  Meanwhile Elliot meets a guy at the bar; she assumes the guy, who acknowledges that he works at Sacred Heart, is a physician.  And JD admits that for the first time in his life, he doesn't have a story to tell.

From there we pick up Cox's inner monologue.  We learn that he sees a shrink regularly in order to work through his emotional problems, which lead him to demean everyone in his life (that's the short version).  Kelso needs a physical and JD encourages Cox to perform it to get on Kelso's good side.  When Cox reported Kelso's high blood pressure, it increased Kelso's life insurance premium dramatically...and gave him another reason to despise Cox.

Elliot inadvertantly learns that the man she met is actually a Nurse...Nurse Paul...Nurse Paul FLOWERS.  There are certain stigmas attached to men who perform duties typically expected only of women.  Nurse Flowers is attracted to Elliot so we know he doesn't swing the other way, but that doesn't mean other hospital employees won't take full advantage of poking fun at Elliot.  Can she deal with this like an adult?

Lastly, over the course of the episode, Carla's constant rejection causes Turk to stop asking her to marry him.  He eventually feels that he's had enough and wants her to figure things out without him bugging her about it.  It takes Carla, who'd already declined Turk's initial proposal a few episodes prior to "His Story," until the end of the episode to articulate what bothers her - and to move on from it.

So how do things end up?  By reporting Kelso's blood pressure rather than rubber-stamping the physical (which JD nudged him to do), Cox actually saved Kelso's life in the short term.  Kelso's regular physician notes that it would have killed Kelso soon had it not been diagnosed when it was.  Kelso takes the time to thank Cox.  In the least important of the three stories, Elliot gets over what it means to date a male nurse and ends up accepting a date with Nurse Flowers.  And Carla, through projecting her own psychological issues onto Elliot, realizes that the risk of not being with Turk is greater than the risk of marrying him.  (That sounds less romantic than I intended but it's technically true, so I'm leaving it as is.)

But how do all these subplots translate into the best episodes of "Scrubs?"  Consider these two points on a high level.  First Elliot's fickleness about dating a male nurse allows Carla to see the folly of not accepting Turk's proposal from the very start.  Carla and Turk get engaged in this episode! 

Secondly, because we see Cox's point of view for a change, we see him coming to the self-realization that he needs JD.  How could we empathize with Cox's feelings on JD if not for being directly exposed to them?  If this story was told from JD's point of view, we would have seen Cox pat JD on the back at the end of the episode and not have it mean anything.  Cox realizes he needs JD just as much as JD needs Cox.

It was a stroke of genius by Bill Lawrence to alter the theme of the show to fully achieve this.  As referenced above, JD is our protagonist but he relies extensively on Turk and Cox.  Turk is always present in JD's life but in a big-brother manner.  Cox is that father figure JD feels like he's missed all his life.  And now Cox needs JD to help guide him along his own path.

Finally, another factor in making this the best episode is all the funny quotes in this episode.  Lawrence and his writers had a unique skill (along with Joss Whedon) to strike a perfect balance between comedy and drama.  This isn't the heaviest "Scrubs" episode in terms of emotional weight, but it still finds the right amount of comedy to complement Cox's and Carla's dramatic moments of realization.

Turk: "Kevin was really freakin' out about his divorce, and I was just trying to be supportive."
Cox: "Yeah - by dragging home some random bar skank."
Turk: "Dude, you're not helping."
Cox: "...not trying to help..."

JD: "So what, you're just gonna keep asking her?"
Turk: "If you love someone you gotta be willing to break their spirit."

JD: "Good morning, Dr. Cox!"
Cox, inner monologe: <Gladys, Ginger, - Cheryl, Betsy, BETSY! Hmm, that's new!> "Betsy, good morning!"
JD: "You know, you already used 'Betsy' six months ago."
Cox: "I don't care!" inner monologe: <DAMNIT!>

Kelso: "Perry - hi, how are you, et cetera..."

Nurse Flowers: "Plenty of fresh bed pans!  Get 'em before they're hot!"

Janitor, angrily looking for JD: "Good morning, ma'am."
Woman: "I can't move my neck."
Janitor: "So what?"

Elliot: "I'm dating a male nurse.  A 'murse.'"
JD: "It's better than dating a 'mecretary,' or a 'manicurist' wait, that one works..."

Nurse Roberts shouts "Dr. Reed and Nurse Paul dating!" throughout the hospital; ends up next to Dr. Cox out of breath: "Dr. Reed...Nurse"
Cox: "...giant 'who cares?'"

The Todd: "Hey, I gotta run.  They're doing a breast reduction surgery up on Floor Three, and I gotta get up there and STOP it!"

Nurse Flowers: "She's covering because she's embarrassed that she's dating a male nurse.  I really can't figure out why."
Kelso: "Well, that's because you're doing a woman's job, son.  Have a good one."

Dr. Cox's Shrink: "Come on, you mean to tell me that YOU took the advice of another human being?"
Cox: "Yeah."
Shrink: "...this is a great moment for me...and Perry, if there's one person in that hellhole of a hospital who you actually listen to, you should do everything in your power to keep them around.  That person is nothing short of a GENIUS." <immediately cut to JD singing "Kung Fu Fighting" alone in an elevator>

This episode is effective on two fronts.  First, we have two powerful moments of self-realization - Carla belongs with Turk, and Cox needs JD in his life.  Secondly, switching the point of view from JD to Cox enhances the power of Cox's realization.  But then, what's the chorus of the them to "Scrubs?"  "I can't do this all on my own, no I know - I'm no superman."  The world of "Scrubs" became more complete by showing the thoughts of someone other than JD.

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