“My Drama Queen” (season 2, episode 21; originally aired 04/10/2003) and “My Dream Job” (season 2, episode 22; originally aired 04/17/2003)
By standard television logic, “My Drama Queen” is the finale of the second season of Scrubs. It brings J.D.’s relationship with Jamie (a.k.a. Tasty Coma Wife) to its conclusion, and features an almost-wedding after Carla’s mother dies and Carla impulsively decides she wants a quickie wedding in the hospital; in these storylines, the episode offers endpoints for both short-term and long-term plots that are threaded throughout the season. Of course, it is also an anticlimax in both instances, with J.D. and Jamie’s relationship fizzling rather than exploding and Turk convincing Carla that she really does want the big, beautiful wedding she had been planning before her mother’s death.
“My Dream Job,” the actual season finale, is far less concerned with plot. Outside of Dr. Cox learning that Jack is actually his son—which I’m not even sure I’d call a plot point so much as a fact—the episode is devoid of any connection to specific storylines from throughout the season. While it features our central characters reflecting back on their first year as residents, it does so in general terms that acknowledge the impact of the season’s storylines without referring to any of them directly. “My Dream Job” simply asks the characters—and the audience—to reflect back on how the characters have changed over the course of the past year, and then offers them a situation in which those changes are tested.
The episodes are satisfying in different ways. “My Drama Queen” works because it tests the characters’ abilities to resist the natural order of the world. While the death of Carla’s mother happens in the blink of an eye, (for instance, her funeral takes place off-screen), it disrupts what to that point is a perfectly normal long-term narrative: Turk and Carla get engaged, set a wedding date during the sweeps period, and then plan their wedding incrementally. While drama will inevitably derail those plans, the death of a family member is different than an affair or some big secret being revealed. It’s an event the characters had no control over, and it forces Carla to lose sight of her dream wedding in favor of a brief ceremony that provides instant security and comfort during a difficult time. Their quickie wedding never felt “right” watching the episode unfold, a fact the characters eventually realize; it becomes a tease for the real thing, a promise to the viewer that eventually Turk and Carla will get the big romantic—and, yes, messy—wedding they deserve.
Along similar lines, there are clearly complications within J.D. and Jamie’s relationship, although I’m not sure I see eye-to-eye with the show in terms of what’s wrong with it. As the show presents it, J.D. knows his relationship with Jamie is ending when the spark disappears, which he blames on the lack of drama in their relationship; accordingly, he creates fake drama to bring the spark back, artificially extending a relationship that logically should have ended as soon as J.D. felt it was over.
However, isn’t J.D. also a drama queen in this instance? Jamie seems perfectly content to be J.D.’s girlfriend, and beyond her decreased interest in kinky sex, we see no signs that she wants out of the relationship. It’s J.D. who needs the sex to be exciting and new, J.D. who manipulates the relationship into fitting his expectations without having a conversation on the subject with Jamie. Although the show acknowledges their lack of communication is part of the problem (even tying it into Dr. Cox’s seminar about the relationship between doctors and patients), the idea that the relationship was over the second Jamie put in her mouthguard instead of tying him to the bed says more about J.D. than Jamie. While it’s logical the show would take J.D.’s perspective, and there is still poignancy in seeing the end of the relationship play out in this fashion, I do think the show could have been more critical of the character’s approach to the relationship as opposed to dismissing Jamie as a “drama queen” in order to rush her exit.
“My Dream Job” is less focused on the natural end of storylines given how it introduces a guest star to force its way into particular events. I genuinely like Ryan Reynolds—who at this point had been transformed into a movie actor thanks to Van Wilder—but Spence is a device, not a character. His ignorance leads him to reveal that Perry is Jack’s father in the midst of a hangover, while his peer pressure leads Turk and J.D. to make a dumb decision that is then spun—by Spence—into a question about whether they truly enjoy their jobs. Reynolds is charming, and the idea of J.D. and Turk having a friend like this is perfectly logical, but he is ultimately reduced to a catalyst.
To be clear, he’s an entertaining catalyst, and Reynolds syncs well with the quick comic timing of the show. The character just lacks any defining characteristics beyond his function within the storyline, meaning that we’re never able to connect any of the episode’s themes to the character. Turk and J.D. drinking while on call has real consequences the episode captures well, and extending that to a question of whether they truly love their jobs is an interesting philosophical query on which to end the season (particularly as it connects with Elliot’s struggles with Dr. Kelso). However, it’s also a personal question that Spence is never really allowed to participate in—while perhaps we might have learned more about Spence if bigger movie roles weren’t calling Reynolds’ name, “My Dream Job” nonetheless did a poor job of giving me any reason to want him to return in the future.
Elliot’s crisis of identity is equally forced, facilitated by her accidentally throwing a needle at Kelso’s face, but it picks up on parts of Elliot’s character that were there from the beginning (or at least since the character was reconceptualized over the course of the first season). Kelso tormenting Elliot forces her to ask herself important questions about her future, but those questions build on insecurities we’ve seen play out throughout the show. Bill Lawrence’s strategy with the finale involves forcing things to the surface that have been largely marginalized by plot throughout the season, and Elliot’s insecurity is a character trait that he is able to efficiently isolate through Kelso’s cruelty, thus threading the theme of the episode across all three lead characters.
Or, rather, make that four: While “My Dream Job” might not provide a plot-driven conclusion for J.D., Turk, or Elliot, it ultimately provides one for Perry Cox. While John C. McGinley is one of the show’s strongest performers—with plenty of individual examples of strong dramatic and comic work sprinkled throughout the first two seasons—“My Dream Job” places the bulk of the emotional weight of the season on his shoulders. As J.D., Turk, and Elliot are thinking about what careers they want to have, Perry is thinking about what it means to be someone’s father for the rest of his life. It was a role he was willing to play when he didn’t believe it was his own son, but when it becomes real, his confidence breaks down. The sense of responsibility becomes that much more powerful, to the point where Perry eventually confides in J.D. that he was just downright scared by it. It’s a powerful storyline for McGinley and Christa Miller both, and it feels like the one “conclusion” in the finale: After two seasons of backstabbing, name-calling, and general cruelty, Perry and Jordan are in a place where backstabbing, name-calling, and general cruelty are definitively signs of love rather than hate.
“My Dream Job” doesn’t end on that note, of course. Mirroring the finale of the first season—to the point where I wonder if it wasn’t intentional—a single bombshell leaves everyone standing slack-jawed. While it was Jordan’s revelations at the end of “My Last Day,” this year it’s Perry channeling his fatherly instincts—which he demonstrates earlier by lecturing Turk and J.D. about showing up to work drunk—by decking Kelso for mistreating Elliot. As with last season, there’s no real chance that this will dramatically change the series: Even if I didn’t know how it was resolved, it’s pretty easy to surmise that Kelso’s pride will be wounded, his relationship with Perry will shift, and Perry will probably be suspended for a brief period.
However, inevitability isn’t a bad thing. For any sitcom, there’s value in the sense of comfort we get as a show continues into future seasons, and to know that Scrubs is the same kind of show at the end of the second season as it was at the start of the first is a sign of consistency more than complacency. While it wouldn’t have had me on tenterhooks regarding where the show will go in a third season, it does nothing to disrupt the desire to see more stories told in this environment.
While the fact that Scrubs is funny is obviously a key part of its appeal, it’s this sense of comfort that allows the comedy to thrive. After two seasons, we’ve reached the point at which Scrubs knows precisely what kind of show it wants to be, and is committed to delivering that on a weekly basis; I don’t know if it’s that qualitatively better in its second season, but it flows more naturally and seems funnier as a result. Although individual fantasies provide the capacity for Lawrence and the writers to push some boundaries, Scrubs is funnier for focusing on building a solid foundation grounded by real characters dealing with real situations. The principle behind that balance didn’t change over the course of the second season, but the cumulative effective of its continued existence made Scrubs a stronger, and funnier, show.
- Janitor Watch: While it’s unclear whether he has genuine feelings, the Janitor becomes a slightly more dynamic character in these episodes, seemingly hurt by J.D.’s refusal to wear the shorts he made for him and J.D.’s response to the “I make more money than you” teasing. While far from the most interesting or funny Janitor stories on the season, they offer a glimpse at a more complex future for the character.
- J.D.’s Rerun Dance fantasies are one of those totally random ideas that completely slips the surly bonds of sense, which is why it works (in short bursts).
- Some foreshadowing is evident in “My Drama Queen” regarding Carla’s response to major life events.
- As of this moment, there are no official decisions made regarding the future of this column—if you’d like to see it continue, please feel free to express so in the comments below. I’d certainly like to see us through at least a few more seasons, although I’ll probably need a slightly longer break before diving into season three.
- And, of course, thanks for sticking around through another season—it’s hard to believe we’ve now gone through 46 episodes, and I really appreciate your commentary offering further insight into these episodes as we revisit them.