“Scrubs”: My Princess

Posted by SH

So, if this is the way NBC is going to continue to treat this show, then I say good riddance. After seven years, the finale we get is a middling Princess Bride homage that is stingy with laughs and generally low on energy. The laughs part is on the writers, of course, and maybe the direction of Zach Braff, who helmed this episode, but NBC aired this episode — which is Episode 709 — out of order. Last week’s show was Episode 711. This begs the question, did they purposefully pick a weak episode to leave a bad taste in viewers’ mouths so they won’t make the presumed leap to ABC that’s coming this fall?

Then again, there is precedence for the out-of-order airing. Remember a couple seasons ago, when Carla all of a sudden was using a cane to walk around, and it wasn’t explained until a few episodes later — during which she started using the cane — why she needed it. Then there was Cox showing up with a shaved head one episode, out of the blue, then proceeding to shave his head the very next week.

The continuity boondoggle rears its head here in the form of a still-large-and-in-charge Bob Kelso, who’s making life hell for his subordinates by demanding that they not surpass the 12-hour workday, under penalty of docking their pay. So after dedicating nearly an entire episode to Kelso making peace with his retirement, then laughing off an attempt to have him tie up some loose ends, here we see him, in this supposed finale, back in uniform. Very jarring, and it was tough to concentrate on the rest of the episode.

Not that it was worth all that much attention. “Scrubs” has had good luck in the past patching its characters onto classic tales — their “Wizard of Oz” homage is a personal favorite — but the “Princess Bride” motif, achieved through Cox telling his son about his day by making it into a fairy tale, doesn’t get beyond the goofiness and into the unexpected drama that makes “Scrubs” such a one-of-a-kind show.

Elliot and J.D. are chasing a mysterious illness plaguing a patient all the while trying to avoid Kelso’s workplace rules. Cox relates the action fairy tale-style, casting J.D. as the Village Idiot, Elliot as a princess, Turk and Carla as a two-headed monster named Turla (not funny, just creepy), the Janitor as a giant (funny and creepy) and Kelso as the evil dark lord Oslek (Kelso spelled backward). Oh, and Ted has a bit as Oslek’s toady assistant. The idea is amusing, but it all seems to be better suited to one of J.D.’s mini-fantasies instead of a whole episode.

Not much of note happens, other than J.D. and Elliot yet again wondering if their near-kiss to open the season meant anything. They have another one this episode, stopped by the chains holding them prisoner in Oslek’s dungeon. Cox tells us in his epilogue, after the disease is named and the victory won, that they decided the near-kiss meant nothing because “they’re both idiots.” That’s about the closest the show has come in stating its official position on whether J.D. and Elliot should be together. There’s also a hint that the real-life story didn’t end so happily, with the patient needing a new liver that we’re led to believe didn’t happen. Sorry, I just didn’t have enough invested this time out to really care.

This is a sorry way to go out, but may end up being good in the long term. While I had previously made peace with “Scrubs” being over, I’m not adamant that it get to finish on a better note. You know Bill Lawrence has a specific end to his show in mind, and this can’t be it. Here’s hoping the ABC resurrection happens.

Funniest bit this episode: J.D.’s idiot says the secret to his shiny hair is lots and lots of horse manure. That, and the Todd being fooled into leaving when everyone decides to just freeze long enough to confuse him.