There are a number of TV shows that I go to for comfort. One of which is Scrubs, a US sitcom that aired between 2001 and 2010. In October 2021, it marks 20 years since the first episode aired. So, what better way to celebrate than to look back on some of my favourite episodes?
All About Scrubs
Scrubs is set in the fictional Sacred Heart Hospital, following the stories of the central character John “JD” Dorian and his colleagues. The show starts out with JD and his best friend, Chris Turk, as interns, eventually befriending Elliot Reid, whom JD has an on-off romance with over the show’s run. Turk meets and falls in love with nurse Carla Espinosa, and the two become one of the main couples throughout the show. Meanwhile, another focus of the show is JD’s determination to impress and gain approval from Dr Perry Cox, an attending physician known for his sarcastic nature and pessimistic attitude. The staff work under Dr Bob Kelso, the Chief of Medicine, who often puts finances and protocol above what’s best for the patients, while JD finds himself regularly under the scrutiny of the Janitor, who spends most of his time pulling abusive pranks on him.
The show ran between 2001 and 2010 over a span of nine seasons. Initially, the eighth season, which concluded in 2009, was supposed to be the final one, but it was renewed for an additional 13 episodes shortly after, giving way to the Med School era (technically classed as season 9). While it featured a few members of the original cast including Zach Braff, Donald Faison and John C. McGinley, it also was host to a new cast of medical students and their journey at the new Sacred Heart Hospital which was built on the campus of Winston University. Sadly, it didn’t get as good a reception as the original series, and was cancelled in May 2010, causing many original Scrubs fans to disregard it as a season! I personally didn’t mind the Med School era, but it certainly wasn’t a patch on the original series and cast.
10 of the Best Scrubs Episodes
My Way Home (Season 5, Episode 7)
My Way Home is the 100th episode of Scrubs and has a simple premise – it’s JD’s first day off in weeks and after being paged to the hospital for something trivial, he sets out to go back home again – but of course, he discovers it’s not that easy. Meanwhile, Turk must convince a patient’s family to donate their son’s heart, Elliot’s reputation as an endocrinology expert is put to the test when she’s asked to give a Q&A on it, and Carla is forced to look after Dr Cox’s young son, coming to the realisation that – despite currently trying for a baby with Turk – she actually doesn’t like kids.
The episode’s known for paying homage to The Wizard of Oz throughout, from the Janitor spray painting JD’s shoes red to the transition of the episode being shot in a more vibrant “technicolour” style from the second half, similar to the transition from black and white in the film. Each of the character’s storylines also resemble one of the classic characters in the film too: Turk needs a heart, Carla’s searching for courage to become a parent, Elliot needs ‘brains’ for her lecture, and of course, JD just wants to go home.
As a whole the episode is just a joy to watch, from the very first scene of JD singing in a bubble bath (while aptly listening to Toto), right down to the final montage set to Ted’s band singing their version of Somewhere Over the Rainbow. While there’s obvious references to The Wizard of Oz throughout such as each character’s storyline, there’s plenty of subtle ones thrown in too, with certain characters being named after the actors who starred in the original film. It’s incredibly well written and ultimately comes to a lovely heart-warming ending that leaves you feeling all warm and fuzzy inside.
My Screw Up (Season 3, Episode 14)
Many Scrubs fans will tell you that My Screw Up is one of the very best episodes of the show. It’s incredibly funny in places, but there’s a twist ending that hits you with an emotional sucker-punch that you will literally be sobbing by the end of it. Brendan Fraser returns as fan-favourite, Ben, Dr Cox’s best friend and Jordan’s brother, previously diagnosed with leukaemia in Season 1, having returned from travelling after he went into remission. Dr Cox tries to persuade Ben to get checked (seeing as he hasn’t seen a doctor since his cancer went into remission), while also preparing for his son Jack’s first birthday party, which Jordan is wanting to make into a big event. Meanwhile, JD is swamped with patients, while Carla confesses to Turk that she hates the mole on his face, prompting him to consider plastic surgery to remove it.
I don’t want to spoil the ending, but what I will say is that the end genuinely floored me the first time I saw it, and it’s one of those TV episodes that has stuck with me ever since. For a hospital comedy show to pull off a Grey’s Anatomy level of drama, but still maintaining the humour it’s best known for is something that’s incredibly difficult. This is one episode that fans will tell you is up there with the best, and I completely agree. The main reason I didn’t give it my number one spot is purely because of how emotional the ending is. While I fully appreciate how amazing the episode is, it’s not one I would go to if I was feeling a bit sad, because it would fucking break me, hence why My Way Home gets the top position. Having said that, I completely agree that My Screw Up is certainly one of the very best Scrubs episodes of all time.
My Life in Four Cameras (Season 4, Episode 17)
When the news announces an E.coli outbreak, JD and his colleagues prepare for an influx of patients arriving at the hospital claiming that they’re infected. While sifting through hundreds of hypochondriac patients, JD and Turk meet a famous writer for Cheers, and while he doesn’t have any symptoms of E.coli, he’s admitted to the hospital while they investigate a persistent cough of his, which sadly, turns out to be lung cancer. JD expresses how he wishes life were more like our favourite sitcoms, with light-hearted jokes and happy endings, prompting the second half of the episode presented as a classic sitcom, complete with a live studio audience. Meanwhile, Dr Cox is given the task of firing one of the hospital employees due to budget cuts, and Turk and Carla face problems in their marriage.
What I love about this episode is that it pokes fun at traditional lighthearted sitcoms, with a brightly coloured set, laugh track, multi-camera set up, and (slightly more problematic in this day and age) female characters dressed in short skirts and low-cut tops. It’s interesting because Scrubs is generally classed as a comedy anyway, but this episode demonstrates that it’s not your average sitcom, and it’s far from the traditional ones we’d see back in the day with all the typical tropes they poke fun at. It highlights that, while the show is indeed silly and funny most of the time, elements of real life such as horrible diseases, shitty circumstances and relationship difficulties are very much a thing. It’s an incredibly clever take on traditional sitcoms, but at the same time, it also highlights how sometimes we need that relief of “light and fluffy” sitcoms to cheer us up when real life gets us down.
My Lunch (Season 5, Episode 20)
Another episode that shows just how well Scrubs does drama is My Lunch. The main plot of the episode focuses on JD and Dr Cox. The hospital has three patients all in need of transplants, and Dr Cox is determined to find them new organs. Meanwhile, JD blames himself for the death (believed to be a suicide) of recurring patient, Jill Tracy, whom he ran into at a grocery store a few days earlier, believing that he failed to spot that she was in trouble. Dr Cox saves the day by telling JD he isn’t to blame because Jill didn’t come to the hospital looking for help, he just ran into her by chance, following up with “once you start blaming yourself for patient’s deaths that aren’t your fault, there’s no going back.” Jill’s organs are donated to the three transplant patients, but something goes horribly wrong and leads to one of the most heartbreaking scenes in the show’s history and the reason why I (and probably many others) can’t listen to How to Save a Life by The Fray, which plays over it.
Many fans put this episode alongside My Screw Up as one of the best Scrubs episodes, and it’s easy to see why. The main plot itself is (for want of a better phrase) an emotional rollercoaster, and you get hints of comic relief with the subplot involving Elliot, Carla and The Todd, and the flashback of the Janitor practicing his chiropractic skills on Turk. While the episode has an ending that’s quite tough to watch – especially if you’re fully familiar with Dr Cox’s personality – it’s definitely a must-see for all Scrubs fans.
My Happy Place (Season 8, Episode 4)
I recently mentioned this episode as having one of my favourite romantic TV scenes, and while Season 8 was generally considered quite a weak one compared to the earlier ones, I really liked this episode, and I feel like it gave all of the JD and Elliot fans what we’d been waiting for since their break-up at the end of Season 3.
At the beginning of the episode, JD and Elliot have grown closer and have started spending more time together as friends, meanwhile, the staff at Sacred Heart are wondering why Dr Kelso is spending all of his time in the hospital coffee shop since his retirement. JD and Ellliot later run into Kelso at a different coffee shop, whom after confessing that he doesn’t have the money to go travelling like he wanted, comments that it’s nice to see the two of them dating again. This prompts the two of them to confront their past relationship issues, where JD admits that he’s still in love with her. Upon his return, Dr Kelso gives them one simple piece of advice:
“Who the hell cares what anybody else thinks? Just look into your heart and do whatever the hell makes you happy.”
The episode ends with Kelso returning to the hospital coffee shop, indeed his happy place, and JD and Elliot leave the hospital holding hands – and it’s ALL THE EMOTIONS.
I don’t particularly think this is one of the highest rated episodes, but for the pure fact that it marks the reunion of JD and Elliot as a couple. It’s not this big celebratory kiss or an intense banging scene (Season 2’s My Monster comes to mind), but just the act of him talking her hand as they walk out of the hospital together. As we all knew that Season 8 was going to be the final (proper) season, I think it was what the JD and Elliot fans were all hoping for.
My Best Friend’s Baby’s Baby and My Baby’s Baby (Season 6, Episode 2)
This is definitely one of my favourite episodes. After JD discovers that his new girlfriend, Kim, is pregnant, the two of them have to decide whether or not they’re ready to have a baby. The decision is made slightly more difficult when Turk calls JD, telling him that Carla has gone into labour. Everyone heads to the hospital, but of course, Carla’s labour doesn’t go smoothly – largely down to Turk forgetting her suitcase and getting his hand stuck in an ice machine, as well as accidentally live-streaming her vagina to the whole hospital while he tries to set up a live video of the birth for her sisters in Chicago. Absolute ‘mare. Meanwhile, JD and Kim struggle to come to a decision as to whether they should have a baby, especially during such early stages of their relationship; and Jordan criticises Dr Cox for talking to their three year old son as though he’s his drinking buddy.
What I love about this episode is the fact that it just brings so many laughs. Some of my favourite quotes come from this episode including one of my favourite Dr Cox quotes of all time:
Dr Cox: [To his son] Sorry, Jack, the machine’s broken. Looks like you’re gonna have to guzzle your juice down without any ice. Pretend, um…. You know, pretend it’s gin.
Jack: What’s gin?
Dr Cox: Gin is an alcoholic beverage which, if your mommy’s strong genes are any indication, you’ll eventually learn to love as it slowly destroys a giant portion of your adult life.
Let’s be honest, I can see this scene being repeated with Liam and our child.
Anyway, like I said, this episode is just hilarious from start to finish, and you can’t help but feel for Turk throughout, who just wants to be there for Carla but it all ends up going horribly wrong. Alongside it, the sub-plot of Elliot stealing Turk’s thunder and Dr Cox and Jordan’s disagreement over Jack is just brilliant. Of course, the episode has a lovely heartwarming ending too, with the arrival of Turk and Carla’s daughter, Isabella.
My Finale (Season 8, Episode 18/19)
Many will agree that season 8 certainly wasn’t one of the best seasons (although let’s be honest, nothing was worse than the season 9 Med School spin-off), but it certainly redeemed itself with the final episode. It’s JD’s last day at Sacred Heart before he moves to be closer to his son, and despite Elliot warning him not to get his hopes up, he has big expectations. There’s plenty of laughs throughout the episode, from JD and Turk’s last “EEEAAAGLE!” to the Janitor trying to force JD to admit he was the one who got a penny stuck in the automatic doors eight years ago, but the main focus of the episode is JD’s determination to get a heartfelt goodbye from Dr Cox, and to be far, as fans, we were all hoping for it too. Our hopes get smashed mid-way through the episode where Dr Cox tells him that the sentimental goodbye he hopes for isn’t going to happen and that the day is just like any other day.
It gets to the end of JD’s shift where he prepares to leave the ICU, and says goodbye to Dr Cox, thanking him for everything. As he leaves, the intern that Dr Cox is working with, Sunny, tells him how glad she is that JD is leaving. To which he responds with the speech we’d all been waiting for:
“For the record, he was the best that ever came through this dump. John Dorian was the first and only doctor I ever met who cared as much as I do. And you can forget about him being just an exceptional physician. Because the fact of the matter is he was…he’s a damn exceptional person. That’s why people gravitated to him. That’s why I did. He was my friend.”
What he doesn’t realise is that JD planned this with Sunny all along, and he appears behind Dr Cox, hearing the whole speech. It’s emotional AF but there’s still some comedic value when JD hugs him and tells him this:
The episode overall is perfect from start to finish. It’s funny, there’s plenty of laughs, and the final scene where we watch JD exit the hospital with visions of past patients, girlfriends and hospital staff lining the corridors, ending with a fantasy montage of his future with Elliot, Turk and Carla, Dr Cox and Jordan, and all their kids. It gets me every time, and the Peter Gabriel cover of The Book of Love fits it perfectly.
My Old Lady (Season 1, Episode 4)
In contrast, another of my favourite episodes is at the very start of the show. My Old Lady is one of the earliest episodes that demonstrates Scrubs is a show that does drama just as well as it does comedy. The main focus of the episode focuses on how JD, Elliot and Turk, all at the very start of the career are faced with death. Elliot’s patient is a woman who only speaks Spanish (forcing her to set aside her differences with Carla to help her translate), Turk’s is a teenage boy who just wants some company during his hospital stay, and JD’s is an elderly woman.
JD instantly bonds with his patient, Mrs Tanner, but he doesn’t understand why she refuses dialysis to prolong her life. He puts together a list of reasons why she should have the treatment, and she recounts the experiences she’s had over her lifetime, telling him she truly is ready to die. She’s shocked to learn that he’s spent his evening talking to her rather than enjoying his free time, and makes him promise that he’ll take some time out for himself.
The earlier Scrubs episodes were often more tinged with drama than the later ones, and this one was just a fine example of it. The final few minutes of the episode just instantly breaks you, but you also learn a lesson out of it too, as we see at the end of the episode where JD is taking Mrs Tanner’s advice and relaxing in the sun.
My Musical (Season 6, Episode 6)
I bloody loved this episode. Not only does it feature Stephanie D’Abruzzo, who starred in the original broadway version of Avenue Q (my favourite musical), but it also shows off the versatility of the Scrubs cast. It follows D’Abruzzo’s character, who collapses in the park after complaining of hearing music and people singing, while the Sacred Heart staff try to work out what’s wrong with her.
The episode features some fantastically entertaining songs throughout – my personal favourites being Everything Comes Down to Poo and Guy Love – but it also deals with the characters’ ongoing storylines in between, such as Carla trying to decide whether she should go back to work after her maternity leave, and Elliot trying to tell JD she wants to live alone when she moves into her new house. I also love the message it has at the end of the episode – that in musicals, characters often get the ending they want, but in reality, when we make a choice, we may end up missing how things were.
My Best Moment (Season 4, Episode 12)
My Best Moment has to be one of the most heart-warming episodes. JD has to give a talk to some pre-med students about what it’s like to be a doctor, and he’s asked about his best moment in medicine, prompting the rest of the staff at Sacred Heart to reflect on it. At the same time, it’s Christmas and a young single father, Mr Milligan, is brought into the hospital, accompanied by his son, whom a reluctant Elliot is left to take care of, despite admitting that she’s terrible with kids. JD promises Mr Milligan and his son that the two of them will make it home in time for Christmas, but Dr Cox isn’t convinced, telling JD “God hates doctors. He truly does…think about it, it’s the holidays, there’s a sweet little kid involved. Can’t you just feel it?” As Mr Milligan starts to get sicker, JD and Dr Cox work to find out what’s wrong with him, but things are made worse when it’s revealed he needs surgery but doesn’t have any insurance.
Thankfully the episode has a happy ending, and each of the Sacred Heart gang end up playing a role in Mr Milligan’s story. At the end of the episode, when JD is asked again about his best moment, it turns out that the rest of the Sacred Heart staff class Mr Milligan and his son’s story as their best moment in medicine, especially JD, who kept his promise that the two of them would return home for Christmas. FEELS. I love this episode because each and every one of the main characters features in the storyline, and the result is just this lovely, heart-warming story of them all coming together to treat a patient.
This has been a ridiculously long post so far, so I’ll attempt to keep the honourable mentions short. Obviously, with so many episodes over those 9 seasons, it was pretty hard to narrow my favourites down. Shout out to the following eppies which very didn’t quite make the cut:
- My Last Words (Season 8, Episode 2) – JD and Turk cancel their annual “steak night” to spend the evening with a dying patient. It’s a simple set up but the end result is just so powerful and it’s one of many moments showing the compassion JD and Turk have as doctors.
- My Catalyst (Season 3, Episode 12) – The staff at the hospital are in awe of a visiting specialist who suffers from severe OCD, played by Michael J. Fox. I’ve mentioned before that this is one of my favourite mental health portrayals in a TV show, purely because of the anguish shown by Fox’s character at the end of it.
- My Long Goodbye (Season 6, Episode 15) – After Laverne is severely injured in a car accident, and sadly declared brain dead, the staff must say goodbye to her before she’s taken off of life support, although Carla finds it particularly difficult. It’s another drama-based episode that’s beautifully written in terms of how each character deals with Laverne’s death, and the scene where Carla says goodbye to her friend and mentor is just heartbreaking.
- My Soul on Fire (Season 8, Episode 14/15) – A two parter which features the gang heading off to the Bahamas for the Janitor’s wedding. The three main couples experience problems throughout the episode, with JD trying to find the perfect moment to say “I love you” to Elliot, Jordan trying to get Dr Cox to take a break from work, and Turk trying to get some alone time with Carla, who spends most of her time worrying about their daughter. It takes place in a completely different location which instantly makes things more entertaining, and each couples’ predicament is probably something that couples in real life would encounter. I especially love the speech JD gives to Elliot towards the end of the episode too, it’s so romantic and it just cements the fact that despite their history, they’re still the perfect couple.
What are your favourite Scrubs episodes? Let me know in the comments!