Scrubs – “Our Stuff Gets Real”

“Our Stuff Gets Real”

January 12th, 2010

I think we might owe Zach Braff an apology, or a qualified one at least.

A lot of us placed the blame of Scrubs’ struggles on the return of obnoxious J.D. in the earlygoing, leading some of us to suggest the show would have been far better off without him, but what we learn in “Our Stuff Gets Real” is that the problem was not so much the presence of J.D. and more the absence of Elliot. The writers’ mistake was not so much having J.D. return but rather taking away the element which grounded him to reality (his pregnant wife): in the context of that relationship, both J.D. and Elliot are able to remain helplessly neurotic without becoming insufferable, and there’s something there which is both poignant and meaningful (if, of course, not nearly as poignant or meaningful as what they left on in Season 8).

The rest of the episode is similarly on point, delivering another strong installment not only based on the return of the most original cast members yet but also by demonstrating some keen awareness of its new characters and their place within both the original cast and the show’s new dynamics. It wasn’t perfect, but the problems seemed dialed down and the positive seemed dialed in, and that’s the right place for the show to be.

There’s nothing new about Lucy struggling to cut open her cadaver (who was actually a patient she interacted with), but the storyline was perhaps the most human I’ve found Lucy thus far. The characters has at times felt too broad, but this episode very quickly confirmed that in this instance her attempts to take over the group were an effort to avoid actually cutting him as opposed to an effort to be as annoying as humanly possible. The story offered a simple mediation on the episode’s central theme of the idea that something which is small to some people (like Drew, who’s been here before, and Cole, who has a bigger goal in mind) is very large to others, and it delivered it without feeling redundant. Yes, it was something the show has dealt with in the past, but the show knows it’s repeating itself now and so long as it doesn’t pretend the story is life-changing for the audience (while remaining meaningful for the characters) I’m fine with that.

As for the return of Christa Miller as Jordan, her dynamic with John McGinley has always been enjoyable, so we can’t complain about getting to see her once more. And the idea of Dr. Cox confronting his age was something that the show didn’t do in Season 8, and taking his life more seriously is never a bad thing. The storyline also got some good mileage out of Denise, who is proving versatile despite early attempts to make her seem more likeable earlier in the season. She was a great foil for McGinley, and Dr. Cox also got some time with J.D. (which is when even obnoxious J.D. is enjoyable) and Elliot in there. It felt like the gang was back together, and it was a nice bit of nostalgia.

This was especially true, as noted, for J.D. and Elliot. While the writers took the character too far earlier in the season, here he was very clearly situated as a father and husband before being a nutjob, and I liked that: he had real emotional concerns about what would happen once the baby arrives, and he was able to communicate those in real ways through the help of his friends and colleagues. The show still allowed Turk and J.D. to have their moments, and it still ensured Elliot is as crazy a pregnant lady as one would expect, but it had a nice dash of the romantic to it that really kept me engaged. It wasn’t as good as the show at its best or anything, but it was certainly the best story Braff has been associated with this season. This is supposedly the last we’re seeing of Braff, at the very least, and it was a nice note to go out on, even if I still feel his character would have been better off ending on “My Finale.”

And just to show that the show wasn’t relying entirely on nostalgia, I continue to warm to Dave Franco’s Cole. Not only did I totally buy his introduction of the term Babymoon, but I laughed a lot at this “I’m makin’ a hedge!” Edward Scissorhands impression, and his “Jet Ski is the Motorcycle of the Sea” had some great flair. Cole is in, some ways, the new equivalent to The Todd, but the fact that he has an actual story and the fact that he’s occasionally taken seriously gives him a unique position in the series dynamic that I quite enjoy. It’s not rocket science, but it’s making me laugh, so what do I have to complain about?

The show just feels more like a real show right now – and while that might seem like a really back-handed compliment, it’s a good place for the show to be compared to where it started the season.

Cultural Observations

  • Using the device of one spouse dying before the other was a bit of an easy shortcut, but it worked well enough at the end of the day (plus “Nobody wins at Cancer” was nice).
  • Enjoyed the “Future Doctor” runner from Cox – helped offset the emotional core of his storyline well.
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