Sunday, April 08, 2007

"There were no alligators at Pearl Harbor!": Scrubs

After a mixed and muddled start to the season, Scrubs has really hit its stride of late. This latest episode had its problems with conflating the miracles of death and life (Nurse Roberts died, but Cox and Jordan's baby was born -- oh the miracle of it all!) in a typically reductive TV fashion, but the episode itself was poignant and funny in the way that Scrubs is when it's at its best. Sure, parts of it felt like a highlight reel of bittersweet episodes from the show's past (and it wasn't as good as any of the episodes referenced), but the emotions earned were real, not least of which because Nurse Roberts was such an integral part of the show's "bench," the large number of recurring players who are in most of the episodes but don't manage to make the leap to above-the-titles star (only Neil Flynn's Janitor has managed the big step up). You'll occasionally see some of these players on other shows, playing different characters, and it feels as wrong as if Zach Braff were suddenly playing a major supporting role on Lost or something (his Arrested Development guest appearance doesn't count). In its own way, this episode was a tribute to all of the recurring players who make this show work.

The idea of all of the characters cycling past Roberts' body (in a coma and waiting for death to overtake it) and saying how they felt about her didn't FEEL original (I believe a similar device has been used on the show before), but the characters' thoughts all seemed apropos, and it made perfect sense that Carla, who has worked with the nurse for six seasons now, would be hardest hit and refuse to go to see her until the last moment. I wasn't as sold on having Roberts' spirit form spend the episode palling around with Carla (shades of Brendan Fraser following around Cox in that famous season three episode), but I'll go with it if only because it gave Aloma Roberts one last chance to shine. So often, when a character is killed off on a show, they spend their last episode being a corpse, so it was nice that Roberts got to play her character one last time before getting sent off. (Weird trivia note: According to IMDB, Roberts is the Scrubs bit player who's been in the second-most episodes. Who's first? The Todd. I wouldn't have guessed that, but now that I know it, it makes sense.)

It's a typical thing for a TV show to pair a big death with a birth, just so we can be reminded that life is a neverending circle, yo. While I cringed when I found out that this episode would feature the birth of Cox and Jordan's baby girl, the actual execution of the idea wasn't all that bad -- for one thing, it was a planned cesarean, so we didn't have to see Jordan suddenly going into labor while standing at Nurse Roberts' bedside or anything. It was also funny to find out that Cox didn't know the cesarean was that day, and it turned out that shunting J.D. off into this storyline (and his subsequent attempts to become the girl's godfather) was the right idea, as it made for a humorous runner.

So I'll miss Nurse Roberts, but the episode as a whole was solid Scrubs. Here's hoping that this bodes well for the last handful of episodes this season.

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