“My Choosiest Choice Of All” (season 3, episode 19; originally aired 04/22/2004) & “My Fault” (season 3, episode 20; originally aired 04/29/2004)
It has been a while since we’ve collapsed two episodes together, but in the wake of last week’s return of the J.D./Elliot/Sean triangle it makes sense to consider “My Choosiest Choice Of All” and “My Fault” as a bridge between the cliffhanger ending of “His Story II” and the season finale to come.
It’s a bridge that features J.D. as his most selfish and insufferable, although not in a way I find problematic. At various points this season, J.D. has made decisions that frustrated me, and said things that made the character unlikeable. It would be easy to include J.D.’s behavior in these episodes within that narrative, given that he actively pursues a relationship with Elliot, disrupts her seemingly happy and evolving relationship with Sean to do it, and then eventually realizes at the end of “My Fault” that he doesn’t actually love Elliot but has simply coveted her so intensely he convinced himself he did.
However, these episodes don’t tell the same story as—for example—the end of J.D.’s previous relationship with Danni, where he ungraciously kicked her to the curb and didn’t seem concerned about it. In that instance, J.D. was perfectly aware he was being a dick, and the show seemed to revel in it as though his behavior was part of an elaborate joke. Here, however, J.D. and the show mine little humor out of the situation he finds himself in, partly because he genuinely believes he loves Elliot right up until the moment he realizes he doesn’t. This doesn’t mean J.D. doesn’t spend most of “My Choosiest Choice Of All” flailing around, rekindling his relationship with Danni so he can then discover he hates her and her—newly introduced—chain-smoking, but the complicated nature of J.D.’s relationship with Elliot gives him some room for irrational behavior. Love, or at least the idea of love, can truly drive you to do some crazy things, and so I can understand J.D.’s actions here even if on the surface level they contribute to the character’s broader unlikeability.
The biggest problem with the storyline is the fact that the writers have to move so quickly to establish the stakes. Sean’s absence means Elliot and Sean’s relationship needs to go from 0-60 over the course of these two episodes, while Danni’s absence also means she and J.D. need to enter into a new relationship in roughly two seconds so it can then be deconstructed. Although this new edgier version of Danni’s character is more developed than her previous incarnation, it’s still too rushed to register, and her constant refrains of “Always wants what he can’t have” as she walks by during random scenes in “My Fault” was too on-the-nose in diagnosing J.D.’s problems. What makes J.D.’s selfishness work is the fact that it’s driven by real emotions that are caught up in an on-again off-again relationship that neither J.D. or Elliot clearly understand, and which neither of them can romanticize easily within the right context (as they both do when J.D. finally pours his heart out to her). Although Danni helps contribute to the murkiness and uncertainty that drives J.D.’s decision-making, it also feels like a purposeful contrivance in the way she randomly shows up back in J.D.’s life at this moment.
This is yet another series of episodes that must bear the weight of not only the season that came before, but also the seasons that come after. J.D. and Elliot’s relationship is the most substantive recurring narrative thread in the series, and this is a key moment for both characters even if we largely experience it as a moment for J.D. It’s Elliot who makes the most difficult choice in these episodes: J.D. simply decides to tell Elliot how he feels and break up with the woman he hates he randomly hooked up with again, while Elliot chooses the uncertainty of an ongoing affection over what could well have been a stable, loving, and meaningful relationship. Her choice—given J.D.’s “Oh my god I don’t want her”—was a mistake, but it was a mistake you can see Elliot making in the moment. As much as the storytelling around J.D. and Elliot could be a little heavy-handed with how it seeded their ongoing connection, it was effective enough that you could understand these characters making these decisions even when you could sense those decisions were mistakes (although my ability to “sense” this mistake is certainly skewed by actively knowing it’s a mistake).
It’s a similar thread to Turk and Carla’s pre-wedding madness, which similarly justifies the characters’ somewhat chaotic states of mind. In “My Choosiest Choice Of All,” the two characters are in that state of engaged bliss, nicely threading through the various storylines—Cox battling his light crush on Dr. Miller, the Janitor’s new job as a security guard battling with Kelso—offering knowing advice that comes across as a bit too knowing. By the time “My Fault” rolls around, though, the proximity to the wedding has shifted them away from bliss to madness, with both Turk and Carla freaking out about invite lists and cakes and everything in between. Although the episode doesn’t leave them in a state of chaos, with Turk accepting the new state of his relationship with Dr. Miller after Carla uninvited her, it also doesn’t resolve the core source of that chaos: The wedding is still coming, and it’s still going to test their relationship in substantial ways.
“My Choosiest Choice Of All” never manages to position Dr. Miller as a real test of Cox and Jordan’s relationship, but it’s the type of storyline that works really well for Cox as a character. It’s basically Cox fighting against himself, working through his own instincts and exploring what happiness means to him. Is it making himself miserable by sabotaging his relationship with Jordan, or finding the misery in his relationship with Jordan? Is it, to expand to “My Fault,” winning a bet with Kelso about full body scans or successfully convincing Mr. Corman the hypochondriac—a returning Richard Kind—not to have a full body scan? Both episodes feature Cox making the admirable decision, not unsurprisingly, but the conflicts therein are endemic to the character, and Cox B-stories often carry an inherent weight which makes them seem more substantial than B-stories carried by other characters.
Weight is what changes when Scrubs brings its seasons to a close. The jokes are still more or less the same, but they take on a different weight when they’re told around weddings and new relationships and revelations. Although both of these episodes rush some storylines to create that weight, they effectively outline stakes which will carry into Turk and Carla’s wedding, and the end of a season where J.D. makes decisions that will haunt him—and some could argue the show—for seasons to come.
- Netflix Music Rights Watch: As always, ABC was forced to pony up for songs diegetically placed within the world, hence The Polyphonic Spree’s “Light & Day” stays intact as the band makes an appearance in their band member’s hospital room (as opposed to the A.V. Club round room). My question: Did the Scrubs and Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind music supervisors land on the song simultaneously, or was the former inspired by the latter?
- “You two made me dream again”—I had forgotten about the Janitor’s brief stint as a security guard, but I enjoyed its ties to his oft-stifled ambitions.
- Even knowing it was coming, the over-the-top ads Kelso made for the full body scan were delightful. On a related note, it’s kind of fitting that we’re talking about full body scans on the weekend Elysium—which I haven’t seen yet, but it’s right in the trailer—came out.
- “What if someone’s vegetarian?”—I like how in 2004 this was a last minute realization, whereas today the idea that this wouldn’t have been considered before then makes them seem derelict.
- “Morning, butt licks”—as noted, Danni is really a different character here, but it’s an occasionally funny one, which is a nice change.
Next time on Scrubs: The third season ends with self-examination and the wedding of the season.