'Scrubs' series finale (maybe): Bittersweet symphony
Whether the episode of "Scrubs" that aired Wednesday night was a season finale or a series finale will be up to ABC. After a sweetly funny hour in which J.D. worked his last day at Sacred Heart, though, this fan can say goodbye with no reservations.
I don't know whether this episode immediately earns a place in the pantheon of series finales*, but it felt like just the right one for "Scrubs." As goofy and hilarious and dirty and occasionally downright sad as this show could be, it always has had a big, sloppy heart at its center, and so to have a wistful and sentimental hour as its last one fits with the series as a whole.
*I know that the network is still considering another season, and Zach Braff even says he'd consider guesting or at least directing an episode or two if ABC decides to order a ninth season. But after watching this episode, I'd almost consider any form of "Scrubs" that might return next season a different show.
J.D. is pretty excited for his last day at Sacred Heart, hoping to go out on an old-style sitcom note with lots of warmhearted goodbyes and a final, turn-out-the-lights moment (which led to one of the episode's best cutaways, with him flipping the light switch and sending the entire hospital into chaos). Instead, he gets Turk blowing his goodbye intensity too early, a rough day at the office in which he gets dumped by one patient and has to tell another's son to get tested for Huntington's disease, and Dr. Cox absolutely refusing to make any sort of heart-warming gesture acknowledging J.D.'s last day.
The latter is especially cutting, as J.D. has gone to the trouble of making a bound book of all of Cox's rants over the years, indexing them and ranking them on a 1-to-5 scale, 5 being the most emotionally damaging. Then there's the Janitor, who's still holding onto the question of the penny from the pilot -- which leads to J.D. finally admitting that yes, he did stick a penny in the door, albeit accidentally, but didn't own up to it because he didn't want to make the Janitor angry. Doing that would've made J.D.'s life much easier over the past eight years, but I don't even want to contemplate a "Scrubs" without the Janitor hounding young John Dorian at every turn.
I'll get to more specifics in a moment, but what I'm taking away from the finale is mostly a feeling -- a little bittersweet, but mostly very satisfied at where these characters are ending their run. Or not ending -- the finale had a pretty strong life-will-go-on feeling to it, from Kelso taking his last muffin and favorite table from Coffeebucks and heading off to do locum tenens work to Sunny's dismay at realizing she'll be paying for setting up Dr. Cox to compliment J.D. for a long, long time.
The imagined home-movie scene at the end contributed in a big way to that feeling. Set to "The Book of Love" by Peter Gabriel, it never gave the sense that this was exactly how these people's lives would play out (although I believe wholeheartedly that J.D. and Turk will, at some point, have shirts made up saying "Merry Xmas/Perry !"), it's nice to think that with all the maturing everyone has done these past eight years, those future scenes are more than just wishful thinking by J.D.
The money shot, obviously, was Dr. Cox responding to a suddenly (and suspiciously) cynical Sunny's observation that J.D. is nothing special by calling J.D. both an exceptional doctor and an exceptional person. It encapsulated a lot of the things that made the show work, from John C. McGinley's ability to swing from caustic (as in his briefly reprised "things I don't care about" rant; hat tip to Alan Sepinwall for this one) to heartfelt to Braff's ability to play J.D. as a giant kid even this late in the game to the way the show has always been able to mix comedy and drama. "You smell like a father figure" was also a great capper to a running gag in the episode.
Just about as good, though, was the final scene between J.D. and Carla, when they reminisce about his days as "Bambi" and he thanks her for looking out for him. It was a short, quiet little scene, but it perfectly encapsulated their relationship (including the fact that Turk loves both them about equally).
So, we finally know the Janitor's name -- or do we? As promised many times by creator Bill Lawrence, the Janitor told J.D. his name in the finale: Glenn Matthews. However, right after J.D. leaves, another hospital employee walks by and calls him "Tommy." You can read that as him lying to J.D. or lying to the other guy (although Lawrence has said he and Neil Flynn settled on "Glenn" a while ago), but I think it's nice to leave the name a little ambiguous.
Speaking of Lawrence, that was him playing the maintenance guy who was ripping down the "Goodbye J.D." sign in the final scene.
The running talk about Elliot "sneak-moving in" with J.D. in his new home gave us one last glimpse into the deep, deep well of neurosis she carries with her: "Did you find out I'm replacing your kitchen countertops with prettier ones from my apartment? Because if you're mad, I can stop those workers right now."
Also, one last, great semi-improvised riff from Flynn, going on about "Muh-Night" Shyamalan and how he went bowling with the director the other night. (Loved the alternate take shown in the closing credits too.)
I didn't catch everyone in that final walk down the hallway, but some of the faces popping back up included J.D.'s brother Dan; the Todd (administering a goodbye five); Nurse Roberts; Tasty Coma Wife; crazy patient Jill; J.D.'s short-lived, drug-addict girlfriend Alex; Col. Doctor; soundtrack performer and occasional on-camera presence Colin Hay; Mrs. Tanner, the first person to die while in J.D.'s care; Snoop Dogg Attending; the Worthless Peons (featuring Gooch); Leonard the hook-handed security guard and his elderly-intern squeeze; the Dudemeister; and Hooch, now wearing a straitjacket (because Hooch is crazy).
And, because I may not have an excuse to post it anymore, I'll leave you with one of my all-time favorite "Scrubs" moments. I speak, of course, of Turk's "Poison" dance (runners-up include the Steak Night song, "Guy Love" and this compilation of the girl names Dr. Cox used for J.D.).
So that's a wrap on eight seasons of "Scrubs." How'd you like the way it ended? Does this episode make you want another season, or are you cool with letting it go?