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Series: Scrubs

"Dr. Dorian, do you not realize you are nothing more than a large pair of scrubs to me?"
Dr. Bob Kelso, "My First Day"

Scrubs was a Dramedy series that aired from 2001-2010 (2001-2008 on NBC and 2009-2010 on ABC). The show was a blend of a very goofy Work Com and a very serious Medical Drama, shot in a single-camera format.

John "J.D." Dorian trains and works at Sacred Heart hospital, learning the difference between studying medicine and being a doctor, as well as how being a person can differ from both. His guide through much of this is Dr. Perry Cox, an acerbic, sharp-tongued and profoundly bitter attending physician with a terrible personal, professional, romantic and social life but a genuine desire to help his patients.

Other people in the hospital provide contrast, support, and the more-than-occasional weird situation: J.D.'s long-time Black Best Friend Dr. Chris Turk, a surgeon who tries to be the best and blackest thing since burnt sliced toast; nurse Carla Espinosa, the Team Mom to the staff with a penchant for delivering advice whether you like it or not; Dr. Elliot Reid, J.D's (female) on-again, off-again love interest and possibly the only doctor on staff more nerdy and psychologically messed-up than he is; Dr. Robert "Bob" Kelso, the hospital's Chief of Medicine and Magnificent Bastard of a boss whose job requires him to be a heartless bastard and think only of the hospital in fiscal terms; and "Janitor", a mysterious and often menacing presence in J.D.'s life who has taken the role of his nemesis.

The show uses rapid-fire dialogue, a running mental commentary in J.D.'s head for narration, rapid scene changes, hippocratical humor and a single-camera viewpoint to maintain a high energy to the story and to the comedy. The show also takes quite a few dives into the surreal end of the pool, especially in its frequent depiction of J.D's fantasies. These fantasies provide much of the show's humor, as it deals with the often bizarre train-of-thought and overly literal depictions of metaphors people use.

Scrubs became well known for its focus on Character Development, the extensive supporting cast and recurring characters, the largely accurate medicine and politics surrounding it and paying attention to the gradual progression of the careers of the young doctors (how they go from interns to residents to attending physicians and eventually department heads).

Scrubs spent its first seven seasons on NBC, but moved to ABC for its eighth campaign. That season ended with what was thought to be the show's Grand Finale, an episode whose end credits were played alongside footage of the cast and crew tearfully saying goodbye to each other. But in a surprise move, ABC picked up Scrubs for yet another season; this resulted in a Post Script Season set at New Sacred Heart, a teaching hospital. Though Turk, Dr. Cox, Dr. Kelso and J.D. all showed up (the latter for only 6 episodes), the focus was on a new group of interns, with intern Lucy Bennett largely replacing J.D. as narrator. The show officially ended after the Season 9 finale.

There is now a Shout Out page. Check it out.


This show provides examples of:

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  • Abuse Is Okay When It Is Female on Male: Carla is guilty of this, especially in the later seasons. She belittles Turk constantly, tells him what he can and can't do, enforces a bed time on him because she is tired, and while she's allowed to go out on a date with her ex-boyfriend, she almost breaks up with Turk because he had a phone conversation with Rosanna, one of his ex-girlfriends. Of course, it's all played for laughs. Though Turk had "forgotten" to tell his ex that he was married and was flirting with her on multiple phone calls, who immediately stopped talking to him when she found out he was married. However, Carla had also flirted on several occasions with a visiting doctor who used to work there and she used to have a huge crush on him — he was her "What If?" guy, and went on a date with him without mentioned that she was due to be married either, and just to make Carla look that much worse, Carla begged J.D. not to tell Turk she was seeing her ex-boyfriend! She did end up kissing JD after the whole Rosanna incident, which was actually Played for Drama, as Carla got upset enough to move out for a while and they eventually end up in couples' counseling. Carla's drunken "friend kiss" with JD was played for laughs and she expected Turk to just forgive them easily, saying she now understood how Turk could have messed up like he did. Carla even had the nurses throw a bunch of pens and almost staplers because Turk lied. Turk also implied heavily on one occasion that she controls his finances as well.
    • Elliot is guilty of this on more then one occasion. She's actually physically assaulted J.D. on several occasions and it's Played for Laughs or seen as something he deserved, like being thrown over the table because he said he didn't love her, poking him into the elevator wall (She's incredibly strong) and hurting him in the process, as well as picking him up by the neck whilst choking him because he picked on Keith and she's sleeping with him.
  • Abusive Parents:
    • It is revealed in Season Five that Dr. Cox's father was a violently abusive alcoholic who showed love by throwing bottles at his head and missing on purpose. This is why Dr. Cox's sister, who appears in a later season, converted to a strong Christian faith, whereas it is one of the reasons that Dr. Cox himself is strongly against the concept of God.
    • Jordan in one episode uses this trope as an excuse for why she's so mean, though she admits later on that it's a lie and that her parents were supportive.
    • Elliott's parents were at the very least emotionally abusive and neither see her as being good enough for various reasons, explaining her neuroses.
    • The Janitor claims this at times, but has revealed many self-contradictory stories about his childhood and is an admitted liar. Some flashbacks bear out at least a few of his statements, predominantly explaining why he acts how he currently does. These include the Janitor becoming what he is because his mother intentionally threw out his teddy bear to teach him a lesson about keeping his room clean and the revelation that he takes pride in the fact that he keeps the floors of the hospital clean enough to eat off of; when asked why, there is a flashback that shows him as a child with a meal set out in front of him on the floor. His mom (off-camera) tells him that if he is going to throw his food on the floor, that is where he is going to eat from now on. At one point the janitor is on the phone to his mother and says "No, Mom, playpen/baby cage is not like tomato/tomato."
      • Actually, since those were flashbacks which he didn't voice aloud, they probably genuinely did happen. On the other hand, the identity of the angry father who visits the hospital at one point is in question, as when JD calls him on a random anecdote about having no parents, this happens:
      JD: Wait a minute, I met your dad!
      Janitor: You met a man.
    • In the episode My Transition, Janitor gave Carla a baby cage, and explained how his mother used it on him. When everyone was shocked and disgusted, Janitor quickly claimed it was a joke, and walked away with an angry face, later resulting in the above phone conversation.
    • When a new, selfish young doctor joins the hospital, she says that she only looks out for herself because of her sad upbringing. Carla feigns sympathy for a couple seconds, then scoffs, lays out the backstories of everyone else and tells the doctor to get over herself.
  • A Cappella: The Blanks is an A cappella group fronted by Sam Lloyd who plays Ted Buckland. The band has made many appearances on Scrubs, introducing themselves as The Worthless Peons.
  • Achilles in His Tent: Dr. Cox after three of his patients die.
  • Actor Allusion:
    • Dr. Maddox, played by Courteney Cox, makes fun of Dr. Perry Cox's last name.
    • It is revealed that The Janitor was in The Fugitive. Neil Flynn, who plays The Janitor, really did play that role.
    • A very dark one - you know that episode where Hooch threatens to run somebody over? Guess which actor actually had fatally run someone over in the early nineties. Go on. Guess.
    • In "My Last Chance", JD is watching Sixteen Candles (starring Molly Ringwald) with Dr. Molly Clock and internally exclaims "God bless Mollys everywhere!". That particular episode featured an ambulance driver played by Molly Shannon.
    • In "My Last Words", Turk tells a patient about how he used to be a football safety in college. Guess where the character played by Donald Faison, who played Turk, ends up playing in the movie Remember the Titans? He starts out on offence but is moved to safety.
    • In "My Unicorn" JD finds a patient's son that has a problem with his name that "makes him sound like a old man." Did I mention he's played by Mathew Perry who also played a character with a name that "makes him sound like a girl"
    • In Season 9, Lucy mentions that Dr. Cox used to be roommates with Michael Bolton. Dr. Cox shoots back that he hates Michael Bolton.
  • Actually Pretty Funny: Dr. Kelso angrily denounces the vandalism on the hospital's sign, but privately admits to Turk that he thinks "Sacred Fart" is hilarious.
    • Played with when Carla laughs to herself after Turk breaks wind; Elliot gleefully asks her if she thinks farts are funny too, despite Carla having scolded Turk for it earlier. Turns out Carla was laughing at something else.
  • Aesop Amnesia: Oh so very much.
    • Lampshaded by Carla and Elliot at one point, where Carla yells at Elliot for forgetting the aesop she dropped on her a mere two weeks before, causing Elliot to have a quick flashback to that very scene In the original aesopdropping, Carla even told them to "Pay attention, because I don't want to be saying the same thing again in two weeks."
    • This makes up the drama at the end of My Lunch. Earlier in the episode, Dr. Cox tries to comfort JD by saying that the latter shouldn't fret over not being able to see that Jill was in trouble before she died, because "the moment you start blaming yourself for deaths that aren't your fault, there's no going back". But at the end when all four donor patients die, Cox completely breaks down, despite the fact that he couldn't possibly know the organs were infected with rabies. JD even ends up calling him out on it, but Dr Cox points out that unlike the other three patients, the last one wasn't in imminent danger of death, says his piece ("You're right."), and walks out anyway.
  • Affably Evil:
    • Dr. Taylor Maddox, Kelso's temporary replacement as Chief of Medicine after his retirement. JD describes her as "an odd combination of super friendly and soulless".
    • Lord Oslek from Dr. Cox's story in "My Princess":
    Dr. Cox: [narration] The dark lord Oslek was the evil ruler of the entire land.
    Lord Oslek: Hey gang, how you holding up? [turns to the donkey-riding village idiot] That is a sharp-looking donkey.
  • Affectionate Parody: Both the Three Cameras Sitcom episode, the Musical Episode, and the House Shout-Out.
  • Age-Inappropriate Dress
  • All Gays Are Promiscuous: Harrison Kelso and Barry Reid.
  • All Girls Like Ponies: Elliot and JD both love horses; Lucy is obsessed with them to a positively creepy extent - which is commented on by the other characters.
  • All Girls Want Bad Boys: Gender inverted with Dr. Cox, who finds himself almost exclusively attracted to women who can match him in a strong, feisty personality. Lampshaded by Jordan "Let me guess. Dark haired, domineering, doesn't take any of your crap? You see, a lesser person would mock your inability to move on. I'm going to consider it an homage."
    • Dr. Molly Clock is discovered to have this and admits she has a problem, but it tends towards her fascination with disturbed minds. She only finds J.D. attractive when he unloads all his neurosis on her.
  • All Just a Dream: Much of "My Occurence" is revealed to one of JD's extended daydreams towards the end, with the shift occuring the moment he walked in to tell Dr. Cox and Ben the test results. JD's mind was playing tricks on him because he didn't want to face having to tell Dr. Cox's friend that he had leukemia.
  • All Men Are Perverts / All Women Are Prudes: Avoided occasionally, especially early in the show's run; Jordan was unapologetically sexual, and Carla could be sexually assertive as well. The tropes were eventually played pretty straight, however, as Turk was frequently reduced to begging Carla for sex.
    • This was foreshadowed in one of the episodes before they got married, with Elliot saying: "Plus now you only have to have sex when you actually want to!"
      • Carla also told Elliot in the first season that she refuses sex in order to hold something over men she's dating, so that might very well be why she makes Turk beg.
      • Averted with Elliot, who in the same conversation, claimed she used sex as an icebreaker.
  • All Women Love Shoes: Shoe shopping...
  • Almighty Janitor: Who do you think?
    • According to the show's creator, they didn't even intend the character to be part of the show; he just started showing up and forced his way in.
  • Always Someone Better: Dr. Kevin Casey (played by Michael J. Fox) from the episode My Catalyst.
    • Also, Nick Murdoch from My Super Ego.
    • And Russell Vaughn from Our Dear Leaders.
  • Amicably Divorced: Jordan and Dr Cox. When they learn that their divorce was never made official due to an error, they get divorced again to save their relationship.
  • Analogy Backfire: An extended one in season five, when Elliot quickly loses her new job at a different hospital, and refuses help from her friends. Carla maintains the opinion they have to help her. When Turk says Elliot didn't want their help, Carla comes with an analogy about JD refusing help, and Turk immediately finds a reason why JD wouldn't want their help. And it only goes south from there. For the record, Elliot really didn't want help and managed to get her old job back by herself, so Turk's initial point was valid.
    Carla: Guys, listen. We really need to help Elliot.
    Turk: Baby, she said she didn't want to be helped.
    Carla: If JD were drowning and he told you he didn't want you to save him, would you do it?
    Turk: That depends: what if there are hot chicks at the pool? Maybe he want one of thém to jump in and save him.
    Carla: Let's say there's no women.
    Turk: There's always women at the pool, baby.
    Carla: Fine, he's in a pond.
    JD: Oh, I would never swim in a pond. They're infamous for serpents.
    Turk: You could swim at the Y[MCA] on tuesdays, men only.
    JD: Have you been to the Y on men night? Not me...
    Carla: Okay fine! Turk's the one who's drowning!
    Turk: (insulted) Oh, so now a brother can't swim!
    JD: Why did you have to go there?
    Carla: Oh my God!
  • And I Must Scream: One episode features Locked In Syndrome.
  • And Knowing Is Half the Battle: Don't smother your kids.
  • Anger Montage: Elliot, right before she hacks off all her hair.
  • Angry Black Man: Invoked and subverted in the episode "My Roommates", when J.D. refers to Dr. Cox's longtime friend Ron Laver as "Black", and gets scolded by Ron for not saying "African-American" instead. After J.D. leaves, Cox congratulates Ron for using the "Angry Black Man" routine just to mess with J.D.
    • Dr. Hooch starts out calm, but through constant dickery and prank pulling he turns into a psycho teetering on the edge.
  • Anorgasmia: The episode "My Monster," in which J.D. finds out on a date with The Gift Shop Girl that his "peep was on the fritz." Another episode subverts this trope. It opens with Turk and Carla about to get it on, then the camera moves to the side...then back, to see them both laying in bed looking distraught, and Turk says, "That's never happened to me before." Later, as each is talking about what went wrong to their friends, it's revealed that Turk was fine, but Carla couldn't have an orgasm.
  • Anything That Moves: The Todd, Dr. Mickhead
    Janitor: What the hell are you?
  • Armor-Piercing Question: Used with extreme impact in "My Screw-Up" to break Dr. Cox out of his fantasy, that Ben is still alive and they're going to Jack's birthday party rather than Ben's funeral.
    J.D.: *beat* Where do you think we are?
  • Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: The Janitor's list of insulting names
    • Also, Cox' list of things he cares as little about as JD's last week as a resident - the list in general starts on low things and ends in the big ones, but Cox returns to add Hugh Jackman, resulting in this trope. Afther this, Hugh Jackman frequently became the punchline of a Cox Long List rant.
    • In Dr. Cox's list of reasons why God doesn't exist, he includes sugar free ice cream and the before mentioned Hugh Jackman.
  • Art Shift In one episode J.D. imagines the show as a traditional multi-camera sitcom, complete with laugh tracks and a studio audience.
  • Ascended Extra: A number of extras were promoted to recurring cast members as the seasons progressed, including...
    • Dr. Mickhead
    • Dr. Beardface
    • Snoop Dogg Intern / Resident / Attending
    • Dr. Coleman "Colonel Doctor" Slawski
    • Lloyd Slawski, the delivery guy
    • Word of God says that the Janitor was originally meant to be a one-season only character meant to be revealed in the season finale as being JD's imaginary creation. He was so popular that they scrubbed that idea and kept him as a real character and Almighty Janitor.
  • Ass Shove: "Either this kid has a light bulb up his ass or his colon has a great idea."
    • Also a string of patients who tell Turk that they "fell" on the items he's removing from their rectums, save for one who admits that he was "bored".
    • Sacred Heart doesn't have a lost and found box. They have an "Ass Box".
  • Attention Deficit... Ooh, Shiny!: From the episode My Own Personal Jesus:
    JD: I don't want to go to Mass in the stupid morn- ooh, hey, candy!
    [JD takes candy from the Christmas tree, causing it to topple to the ground].
  • Author Appeal: Scrubs has way more spanking than other shows.
  • Ax-Crazy: Hooch is crazy.
    • Hooch is crazy.
  • Back for the Finale: Good Lord, too many people to name: both dead and alive. Though not everyone made it - in particular, both of Jordan's siblings (played by Brendan Fraser and Tara Reid) were absent, Heather Graham (Dr Molly Clock) declined due to other commitments, and since the show had just channel hopped to ABC, NBC did not allow Masi Oka (Franklin/Hiro Nakamura) or Sarah Lancaster (Gift Shop Girl/Ellie Bartowski) to make cameos.
  • Backhanded Apology
  • Back-to-Back Badasses: Turk and The Todd, in one of JD's dream sequences.
  • Badass: Dr. Cox is constantly wrestling a certain other doctor for most badass doctor on television. And he knows it.
  • Bad News in a Good Way: Sometimes invoked for breaking bad news to a patient, both in and out of fantasy sequences.
  • Bad Omen Anecdote: Elliot often tries to cheer people up by remembering one of her relatives being in a similar situation. These stories all end with the relative committing suicide.
  • Barbie Doll Anatomy: Averted in "My Princess". The two-headed witch's breastplate, at least on Carla's side is anatomically accurate.
  • Beach Episode: Two episodes in the eighth season send the main characters to the Bahamas.
  • Begone Bribe: Discussed. JD is trying to get Cox to hire more nurses. Cox claims that there just isn't enough money for it, but that JD could raise the money himself, since he's so annoying, by offering people a service whereby he doesn't talk to them in exchange for a monthly fee.
  • Belligerent Sexual Tension: In early seasons, Dr Cox and Jordan.
  • Berserk Button: The Gooch does not like being lied to. Also counts as Beware the Nice Ones.
  • Beta Couple: Turk and Carla, and Dr. Cox and Jordan. Also according to Word of God, it should have been Turk and Carla as the only beta couple with all others failing, but the producers/writers came to like Cox and Jordan so much that they couldn't bring themselves to sink that ship.
    • And according to Bill Lawrence, Drew and Denise created to be this in season 9.
  • Better as Friends: A slight version of this may be Dr. Cox and Carla. In the first couple of seasons, it's revealed that Dr. Cox is enamored with Carla, but he eventually outgrows it and they continue to be good friends.
  • Big Brother Instinct: Surprisingly, given their antagonistic attitude toward each other, Dan showed this toward J.D. when he stood up for J.D. against Dr. Cox:
    Dan: "I just wanted to say a few things to you, Perry. I've never been much of a good example to my brother... Johnny will never look up to me, but when I see you two together he hangs on every word you say as if it's his entire world. If you ever let him down, you'll answer to me."
  • Big "NO!": Done by JD in "My Last Chance" when, after spending an entire night trying to get to Molly's apartment before she left town for another job, he finds out the note from Elliot that presumably gave him permission to have sex with Molly instead read "Now we're even."
  • Bilingual Backfire: Both these cases are actually inversions, since the person whose language skills were secret is the one being backfired upon.
    • When Carla's brother Marco was first introduced, he pretended to only speak Spanish to annoy Turk. Turk eventually goaded him into revealing he spoke English.
    • In a later episode, Turk decided to surprise Carla by telling her he'd learned Spanish, but then decided to keep it a secret for a bit so he could listen in on her secret conversations and appear to be a more attentive husband. This didn't go entirely as planned.
    • Bilingual Bonus: Turk decides to learn Spanish to speak to Carla and the vast majority of the episode is subtitled. All of it except for the bit at the very end where they talk about JD and Elliot as they start to repair their friendship and ultimately their relationship. Lampshaded before hand by Turk saying they are going to say things nobody can understand except in their language.
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Dr Maddox is quickly revealed to be one.
  • Bittersweet Ending: There's plenty of bittersweet or downer endings.
    • My Musical. The woman is safe from the hemorrhage in her head that was a ticking time bomb, but it ends with her already missing the music.
    • * "My Full Moon" ends with Elliot leaving the hospital after a long night and diagnosing a patient she was fond of with HIV and revealing to Turk that if she could afford to quit being a doctor, she would happily do so. But at the same time, the interns have finally made some progress as doctors.
  • Black Best Friend: Turk and J.D. regularly comment and joke about how Turk is one - J.D. even calls him Brown Bear or Chocolate Bear.
    • Invoked by JD in one episode when they have a falling out and JD starts hanging out with Hooch, presumably for the sole purpose of still being able to call someone Chocolate Bear.
  • Black Comedy: Anything involving Dr. Murphy.
    "They're like children. *Chuckles* Big, dead children."
  • Black Dude Dies First: Mentioned in "My Long Goodbye". When Turk is saying goodbye to Laverne as she lies in a coma, and to lighten the heavy mood with a little humor, he comments that if this were a horror movie, he'd be the next one to die.
  • Blatant Lies: After a very pregnant and very angry Jordan has been summoned to the hospital:
    Dr. Cox: You look pretty, dear.
    Turk: So pretty.
    • And after we learn that Ms. Sullivan is Cox's ex-wife.
    Jordan: In the next five seconds name one place you've been other than the hospital or the apartment. Five... four... three...
    Cox: My car. (beat) On the way to the... big party.
  • Blessed with Suck: Doug is an amazing pathologist, because he's accidentally killed patients in every way known to man.
    • Dr. Cox once commented that he suspects that Doug is secretly a government assassin.
  • Book Ends: The first season's first and last episodes first lines are exactly the same and their first scenes resemble one another.
  • Bluff The Eavesdropper: In one episode, Dr. Cox realises that Doug is listening to him and says to himself;
    Dr. Cox: If this kid [Doug] doesn't leave I'm gonna kill him!
    Doug: ... *begins to leave*
    Dr. Cox: Hey, if you leave, I'm going to know that you were listening to me and kill you anyway!
  • Bread, Eggs, Breaded Eggs: I could hit you over the head with a wrench. Or, I could stab you in the gut with a knife. 'Knife-Wrench'!
    • For kids!
    • The Janitor is fond of these, he also makes a pen-straw. It works, but his cola somehow tastes of ink.
    • Some of his other inventions include: the Drill-fork ("Drill-fork, it can drill and fork! Mostly fork!"), the Hammer-spoon and the Hover Hoover ("Where suction meets the sky!")
  • Break the Cutie: Happens to Turk during the Christmas special.
    • Also, Dr Kelso gleefuly enjoys doing this to Elliot in the early seasons.
    • Kelso and Cox also spend an episode trying to break Molly Clock.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall/Leaning on the Fourth Wall: Played around with a few times during the series.
    • In My House, when the interns mention House.
    Dr. Cox: This isn't a TV show, and there aren't any (waves in direction of cameras) cameras over here.
    • One episode's cold open has a gag of JD seemingly speaking directly to the audience about his new suit but actually talking to one of the characters, taken to its extreme when he says "What I really want to know is what America thinks." when he's actually speaking to his tailor, an Italian man named Americo.
    • "My Fishbowl" features Dr. Cox explaining to Carla that she simply can't tell jokes because that's not how she's funny and then proceeds to hang lampshades on exactly what makes each member of the main and supporting cast (all the way down to Snoop Dog Resident) funny.
    • Played with in "My Jerks" when JD seemingly points at the ABC logo in the corner and says "That's new" (it was the show's first episode on ABC) but is actually talking about the Janitor's new watch.
      • Played with again in the tag for the same episode when JD, Turk and Elliot discuss how people count on them from week to week so they should work hard even though its tempting to phone it in. There's also a reference to a Dr. Shaloub who steals all the awards during medical award season and Turk points out that the Nielsens (an unhappy family at the hospital) don't really like them.
    • The Janitor's wedding is officiated by show creator Bill Lawrence.
      Bill: And now it's time to join these two as only the Creator can.
  • Break the Cutie: Elliot starting in the second half of season two. She got cut off financially by her dad when she refused to take her career where he wanted her to go, losing her ability to afford her spacious apartment. While looking for a new apartment the moving truck holding everything she owns was stolen and she was such a wreck from the stress she had patients dropping her because she simply wasn't focused on her job. In addition she had a complicated UST thing going on with J.D. and even broke up with a boyfriend because she couldn't handle a relationship at that time. Things kind of even out after that, but she doesn't really get back on her feet until about mid-season four.
  • Broken Aesop: In "My Unicorn" the Aesop is supposed to be about Murray Marks learning to forgive his father and that whats truly important is the fact Gregory Mark deeply loves his son. Yet apparently not so much that he won't freely admit to having once stolen Murray's college girlfriend and took her to the Bahamas. We're supposed to forget he's a Jerkass who still hasn't apologised for how he treated Murray. Its Murray who apologises in the end.
    • In an early episode when JD surpasses Carla in medical knowledge, she later decides to tell off Dr Cox for giving JD trouble instead of letting him handle his own problems. This of course leads Dr. Cox to heap even more abuse on JD. JD lashes out at her for giving him advice (in a rather condescending manner while calling him Bambi) during a procedure. He apologizes, but that is not enough for Carla as she later rants at him about not being respected enough and how JD looked down on her. So the lesson is to not look down on your subordinates. Yet Carla showed less respect by interfering in his business and telling him what to do.
    • In another episode after JD finds out about Kim's miscarriage and he is depressed. He learns from Carla, Elliot, and Turk to stop being a burden to them after he "has driven them crazy for six years". This coming from people who drag JD into 80% of their relationship problems (Carla and Turk) and has helped Elliot since day one.
  • Brick Joke: JD's last episode has him attempting to launch a bunch of balloons from his classroom ceiling; later in the episode when Dr. Cox reveals he wrote JD's bad review the balloons come down.
    • There are many of these, such as the reveal that the "Crotch-Punching Midget" in JD's fantasies was a patient he was treating, or that Troy the Lunch Room Worker eventually joined in the Janitor's grudge-war against JD because JD accidentally insulted him.
    • In the Season 1 finale, JD says he wants more people to call him Tiger. In the season 2 premier, Turk wakes him up by saying "Good morning, Tiger."
    • Doubles with Call Back and Funny Background Event: At the start of "My Five Stages", a mid season five episode, JD narrates how Elliot and Keith love to play games, as the camera pans over a bunch of gaming cards/boards/dies and the likes. Amongst it is a scrabble board and on it the word "jzilbek", which JD commented on not being a real word while playing scrabble with a patient in "My Old Friend's New Friend", the first season four episode.
  • Bridezilla: Carla before her and Turk's wedding, Elliot during her engagement to Keith.
  • Bully Hunter: Though it takes J.D.'s urging for Doctor Cox to deliver the trope, he socks Kelso one when Kelso was tormenting Elliot.
    • Dr. Cox's evaluation of JD:
    Dr. Cox: It's time. Sit down. Now what you want me to say? That you're great? That you're raising the bar for interns everywhere?
    J.D: I'm cool with that.
    Dr. Cox: I'm not going to say that. You're OK. You might be better than that someday. But right now, all I see is a guy who's so worried about what everyone else thinks of him that he has no real belief in himself. I mean, did you ever even wonder why I told you do your own evaluation?
    J.D: I ... I can't think of a safe answer, I just figured—
    Dr. Cox: Clam up! I wanted you to think about yourself. And I mean really think. What are you good at? What do you suck at? And then I wanted you to put it down on paper — and not so I could see it, or not so that anyone else could see it, but so that you could see it! Because ultimately you don't have to answer to me, you don't have to answer to Kelso — you don't even have to answer to your patients, for God's sake. You only have to answer to one guy, newbie, and that's you! [beat] There. You. Are. Evaluated. Now get the hell out of my sight. You honest-to-God get me so angry that I might just hurt myself.
  • Bumbling Dad: J.D.'s father, J.D. himself.
  • Bunny-Ears Lawyer: The majority of the staff at Sacred Heart Hospital, but not the actual lawyer, Ted. He's got the weirdness down, but is terrible at his job.
    • Todd is easily the most prominent example. Outside of the O.R., he is dimwitted and lecherous, but inside he is actually a very skilled and focused surgeon.
      • They once ranked all ten of the current surgical interns. Todd was #2. He beat Turk by two spots.
    • Special mention must go to Dr. Molly Clock, skilled psychiatrist and the biggest Cloudcukoolander in the entire show.
  • But Not Too Bi: For being the libertine that he is, Todd's experiences with men are never even mentioned.
    • Todd is involved with a married couple named the Hendersons in season eight. He claims the three of them are becoming serious.
  • Butterfly of Doom: Subverted in the episode "My Butterfly."
  • Butt Monkey: Ted, who was once labeled "the hospital sad sack." Also, bizarrely, J.D., who has become the rare main character Butt Monkey over the last few seasons.
    • Also Doug Murphy, the most incompetent doctor in Sacred Heart, and possibly the world. Even when he found his square hole as a pathologist, he still had his moments:
      Dr Cox: Bottom line: in medicine, half of pulling it off is believing you're the biggest, smartest badass of a doctor to ever walk these halls. You wanna see how you end up if you don't believe that?
      (He opens the morgue door to reveal Doug, trapped under a dead body.)
      Doug: I don't know how it happened again, but it did.
    • Elliot got this about as much as J.D. did, if not more so, in the earlier seasons.

    C-D 
  • Cake Toppers: Turk expresses anger that a wedding cake shop doesn't have Black/Latina cake-topper couples.
  • Call Back: Everywhere. The examples are too numerous to count, but regularly go back multiple seasons.
  • Calling the Old Man Out: Ultimately subverted by Elliot and her father; he told her to go into OB/GYN, citing he paid for everything (college, med school, apartment, etc.). Elliot retorted by telling him that she's going to run her life the way she wants to. He responds by cutting her off.
    • This requires a bit more context. It wasn't so much her father controlling her life that lead to her telling him off (although, admittedly, that didn't help), it was more him being so snobbish about everything and everyone, complaining about the smallest things, and she couldn't take it anymore. His reaction of cutting her off was more his way of saying, "How dare you tell me to stop being a Jerk Ass?!"
  • The Cameo: Throughout eight seasons, Creator Bill Lawrence made four appearances — twice in season six: "My Best Friend's Baby's Baby and My Baby's Baby" and briefly in "Their story," and twice in season eight: a semi-major role in "My Soul's On Fire" and a blink and miss it one in "My Finale".
  • Cannot Tell a Joke: JD
    • Carla also has an episode where her inability to tell jokes that are funny is one of the central focuses.
    • Elliot also fails to tell a series of ancient jokes, which everyone knows. After every setup she creates, everyone in the coffee shop responds with the appropriate punchline.
    JD: [holding his ear] "...oh my god."
    It is said that this was actually a genuine reaction by Zach Braff, as he didn't know just how shrill Sarah Chalke could get.
  • Cardboard Box Home: One episode saw JD on a date trying to impress a girl. First he ran over an opossum and took it to the vet. As they pulled out of their parking spot at the animal hospital, he ran over a homeless man in a cardboard box. It got worse from there.
  • Casanova Wannabe: The iconically lecherous, sexually traumatized, eventually bisexual Todd "The Todd" Quinlan is constantly being rejected.
  • The Cast Showoff: Several of the actors are actually good singers. Sam Lloyd (Ted) in particular is the leader of an A Capella band, and they get to sing a lot on the show. One episode has a few of the cast members sing
  • Catch Phrase: "Now that's what I'm talkin' bout!" Because sometimes that is what he's talkin' 'bout...
    • Also Todd's high-fives: [noun, verb, adjective or long phrase] five!
      • Complete with the crack of a whip.
    • Elliot with "frick," although that's more of a catch word.
    • "It's Beardfacé, damnit!"
    • JD's brother Dan - "heeey little brother!"
  • C.A.T. Trap: Inverted as Elliot claims she uses a broken MRI machine as her "own little cocoon" when she's feeling stressed.
    • JD meets his girlfriend Alex while she is stuck in an MRI machine, though she wasn't freaked out at all.
  • Celebrity Star: Clay Aiken in the episode "My Life in Four Cameras". Also Colin Hay, who sang in "Overkill".
  • Central Theme: You need help from your friends to survive, especially when you have the responsibility of people's lives on your shoulders, because you can't do it all on your own — you're not Superman.
    • Each episode generally has a central theme of its own, many of which fulfill some aspect of the above.
  • Chair Reveal: The Janitor to Dr. Cox in "My Friend With Money".
  • Channel Hop: Moved to ABC in the 8th Season. Interestingly enough, the show was ABC produced anyway but aired on NBC for some reason.
    • This was because the show pre-dated a change in what incentives each network looked for in a show. In 2001, it was more common for networks to buy shows from each other's production companies (though usually only after the network that technically produced it passed. This is true in the case of Scrubs: ABC originally declined to air the show), because the only way to profit off a show was through the network charging for commercial time (how much they charged was based on ratings), and an eventual syndication deal, through which the production company and the broadcast network would split the profits. By the mid-00's, broadcast ratings were down across the board (meaning networks couldn't charge as much for ads), but the DVD and online markets were rising. Only production companies made money from the DVD and online download sales. This was the tipping point at which networks started to only broadcast shows made by their own production companies, because then if the show didn't have great ratings but had a strong cult audience who would buy the DVD's, the parent company of both the network and the production company would still profit.
  • The Character Died with Him: John Ritter played J.D.'s dad in season one and in a flashback in season two, while Ritter died during season three. Season four had the character die and a few episodes spent with J.D. dealing with the repercussions, the shows own way of respecting Ritter's memory.
  • Character Development: Most everyone by virtue of becoming better at their jobs and managing their personal lives better. Elliot becomes less neurotic, J.D. becomes more confident in himself (and more humble), Turk becomes less self-absorbed, although all of these traits still remain with them throughout the series. Dr. Cox learns that sometimes it is okay to play the system by asking for recommendations, which is why he eventually takes over as Chief of Medicine.
  • Characterization Marches On: J.D. was at least somewhat familiar with sports in the early seasons. Turk was also a bit more secretive of his "bromance" with J.D.
    • In the first season, Turk deeply resented being viewed as a token Black man or anything other than a good surgeon. In later episodes, he is the epitome of every Black stereotype in Sitcoms and worries about not being thought of as Black.
  • Christianity is Catholic: Before the writers decided to drop Turk's role as a stereotypical Black charismatic Christian (which was handed off to Laverne), a Christmas episode has J.D. admiring his friend for his faith, featuring an Imagine Spot with Turk portrayed as a Baptist preacher. Later in the episode, Turk forces Carla and J.D. to go to Mass. Protestants use service, church, or any number of other terms for their worship practices, but decidedly not Mass.
    • A more subtle example: when Laverne finally passes away after Carla is able to say goodbye to her, the screen pans down to her hand which appears to be clutching a rosary. This would be very odd, as the character has been firmly established as a charismatic (possibly evangelical) Protestant, and rosaries are very, very, very Catholic.
  • Chess with Death: J.D. plays Connect Four with Death in an Imagine Spot, and Death wins on the diagonal, prompting J.D. to say "Very sneaky, Death!"
  • Chew Toy: Ted.
  • Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: Dr. Miller, who appeared in the second half of season 3 before disappearing in the fourth. Word of God later said that she had been removed because she was a poor attempt at creating a female Dr. Cox who came off as insufferably Sue-ish. All of this came in contrast that her personality was made to bring Dr. Cox down a few notches, which the show already had in spades with Jordan.
    • Kristen Murphy, who was a romantic interest of Dr Cox for about three episodes before breaking up with him after she learnt he had slept with Jordan once she came back into the picture. Jordan also commented on how Kristen was an attempt to replace her.
    • Julie Keaton, yet another Jordan-lite character in a romance with Dr Cox who was also insufferably Sue-ish and apparently was only added as a recurring character due to Executive Meddling. There is starting to be a clear trend here.
    • Doug also hasn't been seen towards partway through the eighth season, being last seen in "My Soul on Fire" being locked into a morgue drawer. He was notably absent from the "finale" despite his supporting role.
    • Doug is replaced by Jimmy the hands-y intern, in what is ultimately Doug's final mention in the episode "My Chief Concern", because the Janitor didn't like the way Doug said "here". (As in, he wasn't there to say it.)
    • Jamie, one of JD's girlfriends. At the end of "My Drama Queen" it is suggested that they have made up. The season finale "My Dream Job" does not mention her, and in the following season, other than a brief mention about her being out of town when JD feels like a fifth wheel she is never seen or heard from after that.
      • She was referenced in a list of JD's girlfriends he broke up with over stupid reasons in a later episode. She also appeared (in fantasy form) amoung many others in the finale. She said "You never called." Read what you will into that.
    • In "My Fifteen Minutes" its implied that Ted actually may have children, mentioning when he started working at the hospital, he had hair, a wife and a family. Later episodes indicate that he just has an ex-wife.
    • In the season 1 episode "My Student", the interns all get medical students assigned to them. JD and Elliot's students never appear or are mentioned again after the episode despite the episode going out of its way to establishes conflicts between the interns and their students. Turk's student fairs a little better since she begins dating Dr. Cox in the same epiosde... only to dump him in the next and THEN never be mentioned again.
    • Bonnie Chang, Turk's rival surgeon and nemesis during Series 2.
      • She is briefly mentioned in season 5 when Dr. Wen posts the surgical rankings, as one of the people who is better than Turk.
  • Choose Your Own Adventure: The code blue game on their website.
  • Clean Pretty Childbirth: Lampshaded here, in which a doctor gives a fairly realistic description of what to expect during a birth.
  • Clip Show: Season 6's "My Night to Remember", framed around the characters reminiscing while treating an amnesiac patient. J.D.'s narration mocks it mercilessly — which doesn't stop it from being a Clip Show, of course.
    • Subverted in Season 4's "My Best Moment", where JD remarks "You know what would be really neat? If you guys all took a second and thought about what your best moment in medicine was." All cast members present shake their heads, stand up, and walk out.
  • Cloudcuckoolander: JD may as well be the Cloudcuckooland emissary.
    • Molly Clock was also an example of this.
  • Clutching Hand Trap: Turk has gotten his hand stuck in both a candy vending-machine, and a an ice dispensing machine (apparently the latter also happened to Leonard the Hook-Handed Security Guard) and JD once got his hand stuck in a coffee jug.
  • Color-Coded for Your Convenience: The nurses, surgical interns, medical interns, and department heads all wear different colors.
  • Comedic Sociopathy: About half (or more) of the gags involving Ted Buckland depend on this (with poor lawyer as a victim).
    Ted: If people keep pushing me for no reason, I swear I will hurl myself off this building!
    The Janitor: I'm not cleaning you up.
  • Comforting the Widow: J.D. ends up having sex with his patient's widow, and comments "There are a lot of ways to grieve, but last time I checked, wheelbarrow style wasn't one". It borders on Romancing the Widow in this case, as the man had been in a coma for several years (after a car accident two weeks into their marriage). As "Tasty Coma Wife" puts it, she had already grieved over losing her husband, his actual death really just gave her some closure. This trope is more definitely in effect several episodes earlier when JD and the wife went on a date while the husband was actually still alive (but of course comatose). They have a good time together but JD backs out before anything physical happens because this trope makes him uncomfortable with the situation.
  • Companion Cube: Rowdy, a stuffed dog JD and Turk treat as a real one.
    • It should be clarified that "stuffed" does not mean "toy." It is an actual dead dog that has been stuffed.
  • Composite Character: Lucy is basically a composite of early-JD and early-Elliott.
  • Compressed Vice: This happens a lot (and goes hand-in-hand with the series-wide Aesop Amnesia epidemic) but the most egregious is J.D.'s flaw of "wanting what he can't have", which was used to justify why he dumps Elliot one episode after they hook up despite three years of pining for her, and all his jealousy after she hooks up with other guys.
    • While not a vice per se, Turk's strong Christianity is the focus of the first season's Christmas episode and is never brought up again.
  • Cone of Shame: One of the new interns tries putting one of these on a mentally ill patient to stop him biting the bandages on his hands. She is told to stop it.
  • Continuity Nod: The second webisode is basically one long continuity nod.
    • A lot of the later episodes use a continuity nod to help a little with character development, such as one where Elliot tries to warm up her hands and apologizes ahead of time for how cold they are. An earlier episode had a massive argument between J.D. as a patient with appendicitis and Elliot with cold hands.
    • One episode has Elliot telling an embarrassing story to a patient to cheer them up about their own embarrassing incident; which involved her roller-skating out of a toilet with her pants about her ankles. Due to a mole on her butt, she earned the nickname Roller Moler. Several episodes later and JD rattles of a list of his former girlfriends, Elliot is nicknamed 'Mole Butt'
    • Snoop Dog Intern —> Snoop Dog Resident —> Snoop Dog Attending
  • Continuity Porn: The Grand Finale. Nearly every minor character who lasted for more then one episode (and even some of the one-episode ones as well) showed up. A few of them had even died during the course of the series.
  • Contrived Clumsiness: At one point, Elliot is in a crabby mood and tosses her drink on the ground right in front of the Janitor, sarcastically saying "oops" as she walks past.
  • Cool and Unusual Punishment:
    • Dr. Cox and Jordan punish the doctor responsible for Dr. Cox's failed vasectomy by strapping him to a chair while an a cappella group continuously sings the baritone part to the "Chili's Baby Back Ribs" Jingle over and over. The torture is so horrendous that thirty minutes into the singing, the doctor starts eating his own face.
      "Dear God, when do they say ribs?!"
    • An earlier episode features Dr. Cox warning that if they don't leave he'll make them regret it. After not leaving he gives a helpful sounding comment that ruins that character's relationship with all the nursing staff.
    • My Office: Dr. Cox, Turk and The Janitor team up to remove a light bulb out of a patient's anus; they succeed, but Dr. Kelso steals the credit for their work. The trio's response? They install that bulb in Kelso's office. Judging by his reaction, they didn't clean it before.
    • In the fifth season, Dr. Cox has Keith take the countertop's heartbeat for hours.
    • "Duct tape. Two hours in a morgue drawer. Don't piss off the janitor. End of story."
    • There was also an episode where the janitor kidnapped J.D. and stuck him in a water tower for an entire episode.
    • The 4-Story Atomic Wedgie
    • One of JD's interns being forced to follow Hooch around all day, no matter what.
      • That was Rex, and he wasn't forced, just insentivized by Turk and JD to do so. What Hooch said he'd do to Rex (and the other interns that were also roped into this) counts as this trope.
      • Hooch is crazy.
  • Cool Old Lady: Mrs. Tanner (after all, she's portrayed by Kathryn Joosten) and Mrs. Wilk.
  • Cool Teacher: JD. Sometimes also Dr. Cox.
  • Crazy Memory: The Janitor
  • Creator Cameo: Bill Lawrence appears as bohemian Justice of the Peace "Van" (stretch it out - Vaaan) in season 8 "My Soul on Fire" parts 1 and 2. He marries the Janitor and Lady with the line "It is now time to join these two, as only the creator can."
    • In My Finale: Part 2, he appears as a janitor and he and J.D. deliver the final goodbye of the show.
    • Lloyd the delivery driver was played by writer and producer Mike Schwartz and Leonard the black security guard with an afro and hook hand was played by supervising producer Randall Winston.
  • Curse Cut Short: A couple times: once after The Todd high-fives JD ("motherf-" Cut to opening song.) and another when Dr. Cox starts to call Dr. Kelso a "stupid motherf-" after he punctured his eardrums.
    • Not so much cut short as sneakily slipped in, JD demonstrating that he can indeed rhyme with anything by responding to Laverne "Eat schmidt and die".
  • Curtain Call: The Series Fauxnale at the end of season 8 ends with JD walking down a hallway and meeting a lot of the actors that has appeared on the show. A few dead people too. Some of them make comments referencing their story arcs.
  • Cut Apart: Turk makes it to his wedding just in time...only to find the "priest who looks like Sulu" from the church they agreed against.
  • Cute Clumsy Girl: Elliot, Julie
  • The Cutie: JD's childlike innocence and sensitivity is part of his eccentricity.
  • Daydream Surprise: A staple.
  • A Day in the Limelight: The His/Her/Their Story episodes.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Dr. Cox more then anyone else.
    (Looking at an X-Ray) ''"Either this guy has a lightbulb up his ass or his colon has a bright idea."' Deconstructed. Dr. Cox makes fun of basically everyone, to the point where he literally has no friends except J.D. by the episode 'His Story', and even J.D. sometimes can't stand him.
    • Also sometimes subverted by having Cox reprimand people for their quirks, which turn out to be based on deeper problems. Example: after being partnered for a few paramedic shifts with guest star Molly Shannon, Cox finally chews her out for speaking non-stop, usually about her son. Turns out her son's dead. Oops.
    • Dr. Kelso, of course
    • Jordan and her expies.
    • Murray from My Unicorn, seeing as he was a Captain Ersatz of Chandler Bing being played by Matthew Perry this shouldn't be a surprise.
  • Deep Sleep
  • Diegetic Switch: In "My Tormented Mentor" Dr. Miller starts playing I'm With You by Avril Lavigne in the OR before it becomes the background music for a J.D. voiceover.
  • Directed by Cast Member: Zach Braff directed 7 episodes during the show's run, including the 100th episode. He also played a major role in the music used for the show; one of the biggest strengths of the show.
    • A lesser known example: Michael McDonald of MADtv fame guest starred as a patient in 3 episodes before directing 6 episodes in the later seasons, some of which he acted in. This eventually led to him being hired as a consulting producer, staff writer, frequent director and sometimes actor on Bill Lawrence's next comedy series.
  • Dirty Old Man: Dr. Kelso, who is known to unabashedly talk about his own affairs with South-East Asian sex workers in public.
    • "Hiya, my name is Bob Kelso and I like whores. Now why don't I introduce myself like that? Because there is a time and a place for the truth!"
    Denise: "You're a nasty old man, aren't you?
    Kelso(brightly): Thank you, dear.
  • Disney Dog Fight: Done hilariously with Rowdy, a dead stuffed dog.
  • Distracted from Death: While Dr. Cox is away from the hospital on a quick errand, his longtime best friend Ben dies.
  • Doppelganger Dating: When JD first dates Danni.
  • Double Aesop
  • Double Entendre: The Todd.
    Female Patient: Doctor, I'm getting a little tired of the constant innuendo.
    The Todd:...Beat...In your end-o.
    • I'd like to Double her entendre!!
  • Double Meaning Title: There's the literal scrubs they wear and their job title being "scrub", but there's also the meaning of them being 'scrubs', aka newbies, compared to Dr. Kelso and Dr. Cox.
  • Double Standard: Dr. Miller, a surgeon briefly appearing in a few episodes. She belittles Elliot for being feminine, Turk for standing up for her (it has been shown throughout the run that his attitude is less that she's a woman, more that he has a tendency to try to help people fit in) and generally behaves horribly at the drop of a hat, all the while claiming it's under a banner of feminism. The reality is that she's just an awful person, and is never called out on it. On the other hand, many characters have been called out for doing much less than she has, which itself carries a degree of Fridge Logic.
    • Elliot is a walking Double Standard, pre and post-Flanderization. In Season 3, she accused J.D. of not being over her is obviously why J.D. saved a patient that was crashing instead of letting Elliot do it. She cheated on Sean with J.D. and expected J.D. to keep his mouth shut because they're friends. In Season 4, she angsted about how she got nothing but pity because J.D. dumped her and yet when a male does any of this, they're treated rather poorly. When Elliot gets in trouble for giving Keith preferential treatment, J.D. is automatically the bad guy to her because he doesn't like Keith. He was also accused of being jealous of her because he didn't defend her from Doctor Cox. The only thing she really got called out on was treating Keith pretty badly in the later stages of their relationship.
    • Double Standard: Abuse, Female on Male: Constantly, and not just gentle slaps either. Elliot shoving JD across a dinner table, smashing numerous glasses and plates in the process, was played for laughs.
  • Downer Ending: A number of episodes end on a downer note, the most notable ones being:
    • "My Old Lady"
    • "My Screw Up" ends with us finding out that Dr. Cox has been in denial most of the episode and that Ben was actually the patient that died as a result of JD's apparent 'screw up'. Though even Dr. Cox would eventually realise that if Ben's leukaemia had advanced to the point where he suffered cardiac arrest, there was nothing anyone could have done to save him.
    • "My Butterfly. It's not sure which one actually happened, but either way, J.D. and Cox's patient dies and they can't do anything to stop it.
    • "My Life in Four Cameras". Carla and Turk aren't handling being newlyweds well, J.D.'s patient who is a writer of a show he loves dies and Dr.Cox has to fire a friendly employee.
    • "My Jiggly Ball". Sure, it may end in Elliot getting her job back, but it ends horribly for Cox and Kelso. Kelso because he has to live with the fact that he's responsible for a patient's death due to sacrificing his place in a drug trial and Cox because he couldn't do anything to save the patient.
    • "My Cabbage" and "My Five Stages". My Cabbage ends with J.D. firing his incompetent intern, who unwittingly infects a beloved patient with a fatal disease on his way out the door. She dies at the end of My Five Stages, and there's nothing Doctor Cox or J.D can do for her except make it as painless as possible.
    • "My Lunch" even has a downer middle when Jill Tracy is brought into the hospital from a suicide attempt by overdose after JD repeatedly brushed her off outside the hospital and JD can't stop blaming himself. Dr. Cox tells JD he can't blame himself and has to move on. Jill's organs end up being donated to three patients in need of organ transplants that Cox has been obsessing over for weeks. Turns out Jill actually died of rabies and the three patients start dying one by one from her infected organs which sends Dr. Cox into a downward spiral of alcoholism over the next episode.
    • "My A.B.Cs" ends with J.D.'s patient about to die from cancer and with it revealed that Katie was playing Elliot to get what she wanted, Ed is a lazy intern who won't do the extra work and Denise is still abrasive and has no bedside manner.
    • "My princess" involves Dr. Cox telling his son a fairy story based on a patient at the hospital. After the happy ending his wife asks him if that's what really happened. His response: "Put it this way, that's the way I'm telling it."
  • Dramatic Wind: "Vampires like it windy."
    • "This is a really windy hospital."
    • Most women J.D. finds attractive are introduced this way in an Imagine Spot, which was parodied in "My Last Words" where an elderly patient noticing an old lady he likes is shown in the same manner.
  • Dramedy
  • Dressed To Heal: Averted; as one might guess from the title, most of the main cast tends to wear hospital scrubs. JD only ever wears the usual white coat in one episode and it's a plot point then. Many other doctors do wear it, though. They wear (and use) stethoscopes, however.
    • It's actually a character thing. The older and less hands-on doctors like Kelso, Mickhead, and Beardface wear shirts and ties with lab coats. The younger, main character doctors wear scrubs. Cox, who straddles the line, wears the lab coat, but with t-shirt and sweats underneath.
      • Elliot switches from Scrubs to a lab coat around season five to indicate her change from a timid person to a stronger character.
    • Dr. Jan Itor.
  • Driven to Madness: Hooch first appeared as a completely sane, normal person, but repeated practical jokes by J.D. and Turk literally drove him insane by the end of the episode.
    • While Hooch clearly was Axe Crazy, he was still capable of functioning as a Doctor. That was until JD made his interns follow him around all day and not tell him why. Later in the episode Kelso mentions Hooch was fired because of the "Hostage situation".
    • Hooch is crazy.
  • Driven to Suicide: When she was younger, Elliot attempted suicide.
    • Oh, and Ted. Constantly.
    • And Elliot has a lot of stories about people that always seem to end in them killing themselves.
    • Not to mention Jill Tracy, who attempted suicide once but eventually died from rabies.
    • Private Brian Dancer attempted suicide by taking an overdose of his medication. His injuries, including severe memory loss, meant that he wasn't allowed to rejoin the army, which he mentioned was a huge part of his life.
    • Dr. Cox becomes suicidal after accidentally killing three patients
  • Dr. Jerk: Cox and Kelso.
  • Duet Bonding
  • Dysfunction Junction

    E-H 
  • Early-Installment Weirdness: The first few episodes in particular sometimes had an almost documentary-like look to them, with seemingly dozens of extras and little background events going on, as well as being a lot more low-key in humor with less surreal imagine spots. Later in the first season they toned down how busy the hospital looked likely to save money and make filming simpler.
    • The season 1 Documentary Episode included Dr. Kelso recounting a story about his treatment of his wife that is genuinely cruel. Later appearances tossed that aside and revealed his Hidden Heart of Gold.
  • Embarrassing First Name: Percival Cox.
    • Embarrassing Middle Name: Percival Ulysses Cox.
    • Turk.
      Turk: Please- I'm Christopher Duncan Turk.
      Todd: Duncan?
      J.D.: His Dad liked donuts.
      Turk: That's not true- you really need to stop telling people that.
  • Eureka Moment: Played for laughs (and for Shout-Out to a certain doctor who has a lot of these moments) in My House - Dr. Cox solves a mystery of the orange man after seeing paints mixing on the floor. Played straight in My Own Worst Enemy: Turk's random comment about Dr. Beardface ("I wonder what he's hiding under all that hair") makes Dr. Cox realize that his initial diagnosis of a patient's disease was correct. Interestingly enough though, House had an almost identical case to the latter at one point as well.
    • Also played straight when the comment "I hope you listen to your patients better than you listen to us" makes J.D. and Cox realize that their patient Jill Tracy had been letting on that she was depressed, leading them to figure out that she had poisoned herself.
    • Lampshaded in this scene:
    Dr. Cox: What in the hell are you talking about?
    JD: Oh, I'm just doing this thing where I use a slice of wisdom from someone else's life to solve a problem in my own life.
    Jordan: Seems coincidental.
    JD: And yet I do it almost every week.
  • Even the Girls Want Her: Elliott mentions that the only woman in the hospital she would consider sleeping with is Jamie in Pediatrics and everyone around her agrees, including the women.
  • Everybody Was Kung-Fu Fighting
  • Everyone Calls Him Barkeep: The Janitor
    • When he takes over the narration, he even refers to himself as Janitor.
  • Evil Overlord: The episode "My Princess" parodies this, where Dr. Cox tells his 4-year-old son Jack a fairy tale starring his colleagues from Sacred Heart Hospital in the various archetypes. The irritable Dean of Medicine Dr. Kelso becomes the Dark Lord Oslek, an Affably Evil overlord of the land. He has a cowed, hunchbacked assistant (Ted) and punishes all those who enter his forbidden forest.
  • The Eeyore: Ted
  • Euphemism Buster:
    Elliot: Those gyno girls are really putting the pressure on. Who wants to look at a hundred women's bajingos today? Bajingo, bajingo, bajingo. I mean, I can't even look at my own bajingo.
    Carla: Is that because it looks so much like a vagina?
    Elliot: Carla, there's people!
  • Executive Meddling: After Masi Oka joined the cast of Heroes, and Scrubs moved to ABC, Oka was point-blank told by NBC execs that if he continued to make guest appearances on the show, he would be fired from "Heroes". Despite the fact that they allowed many of their other actors to continue making guest appearances on other shows, even on other competing networks. Obviously, this was NBC just being petty over the show switching to ABC, despite NBC's own treatment of the series.
  • Fan Disservice: Any time Ted's skin is shown. The instance where Carla has a bizarre sex dream about Ted is hilariously lampshaded by Judy Reyes in one of the commentaries, saying she was jealous that Donald Faison got to have a hot girl (Sarah Chalke) crawl all over him during Turk's sex dream.
  • Fanservice: Elliot is Ms. Fanservice, but not to forget the two-part Beach Episode in season 8's "My Soul's on Fire." The male principals (JD, Turk, and Cox) collectively spend about as much time shirtless as Elliot, but aren't quite so forthcoming about their fetishes.
    • This trope is played up in "My Life in Four Cameras", using J.D.'s fantasy of a traditional sitcom as an excuse to give Elliot and Carla sexier outfits.
  • Fantasy Twist: J.D.'s daydreams often do this. In particular, his recurring fantasy of how much he could get done as Floating Head Doctor invariably ends with his headless body screwing things up.
  • The Farmer And The Viper: An episode has J.D. pull a splinter from the Janitor's toe, and even bring up the parallel to Androcles Lion (with the Janitor saying the story ends with the lion killing and eating the mouse anyway). The Janitor makes a show of offering unwanted payback, and finishes off by pointing out that J.D. could have just asked for him to stop messing with him (and steals his stethoscope when he tries to).
  • Faux Yay: Most notably, Dr Cox and Ben's game of gay chicken.
  • Fawlty Towers Plot: "My Jiggly Ball".
  • Finger in the Mail: Played for Laughs in the episode "My White Whale". In a Cutaway Gag after Dr. Cox denies acting like a complete lunatic, doll enthusiast Dr. Norris receives a parcel containing the hand of a doll that went missing after he refused to break his schedule to look at Dr. Cox's son. Soon after, Dr. Cox reveals that the hand belongs to another doll—not the one that Dr. Norris is missing.
  • First Girl Wins: Happens to almost every male character that ended in an Official Couple situation: The first love interest introduced ends becoming the official one. The only notable exception is Ted - His first love interest introduced in the series died. Subverted with Dr. Cox in which Jordan was not exactly first introduced as a love interest, but she was his ex-wife.
  • First Gray Hair: Dr Cox goes a little nuts when he finds a gray hair in his happy trail.
  • Five Stages of Grief: Obviously, Dr. Cox and JD go through them in My Five Stages.
  • Flanderization:
    • JD was originally more of a timid but very empathetic character who looked to Dr. Cox as a mentor and role model. Soon his obsession with Dr. Cox became a Parental Substitute ordeal and (with few exceptions) was just desperate for any sort of appreciation. He was always a bit geeky, but by the end of Season 2, he was a insanely feminine and girly masochist that enjoyed when Doctor Cox does something semi-abusive to him. Zach Braff even joked in a Season 8 outtake that his character was mostly gay by now.
    • Carla's condescension and control freak habits was quite common, but in the later seasons, she became a full on control freak that demands that everyone listens to her and constantly tells people why they suck so much over every little thing or quirk they have.
    • Elliot was mostly stable with her quirks mirroring J.D.'s except she was not as good as dealing with people, but those quirks became full on neurotic mid-way through season two, which then developed into a full on case of all around neurotic bitchiness that she expects everyone to work around.
    • Dr. Cox made a few token gestures of appreciation to J.D. for his work, making it clear the Jerk Ass behavior was to push him to do his best. Towards the end it became hard to see if he even liked or respected J.D. at all.
    • Dr. Kelso started off the series as being a Bitch in Sheep's Clothing, caring more about what was cost effective for the hospital and kowtowing to rich patients than actually helping people. By the end of the series, he's a borderline senile-old man.
  • For Want of a Nail: My Butterfly shows the same day with only one difference: a butterfly either landed on a hot girl's breasts or a fat guy's breasts. This leads to the days being almost entirely different in spirit ( yet with the same outcome) but it's never explained which, if either, was the real one.
  • Foreshadowing: "My Occurence" and "My Screwup" are chock-full of it. Especially since "My Occurrence"'s title is actually a reference...
  • Franchise Zombie: Continuing after "My Finale".
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus: In the first half of My Soul on Fire, when everyone is receiving their invitations, if you pay close attention you can see that all of the envelopes have his nicknames for the given person on them.
  • Freudian Excuse: Openly mocked. J.D.'s dad would drop in and out of his life, which gives him some father figure issues. Dr. Cox's parents were violent to each other and to him. Elliot's parents are unhappily married and have given her plenty of neurosis. When an intern in the 8th Season, Katie, tried to use her alcoholic mother and Disappeared Dad as a Freudian Excuse to justify her "privileged" behavior Carla tells her that damn near everyone has some sort of parental issues and no one is going to feel sympathy for her.
    • It's mocked earlier than that. In one of the episodes with JD's dad, Cox tells him to stop moping because "everyone's parents do considerable emotional damage".
    • In one episode, Cox and a patient have a "Who had the worst father" contest. Cox says the patient wins "because your father is still alive."
    • Dr. Kelso has one of these for bikes: His father left the family, but:
    Kelso's Father: Since the car is in your mother's name, I want you to know that I couldn't leave the family forever if not for your bike.
  • Friendly Enemies: Dr. Cox and Ron Laver, who have been intensely competitive with each other since high school.
  • Friendship Song: "Guy Love" from the Musical Episode of the series. It's a song about JD and Turk's bromance.
  • Friends with Benefits: J.D. and Elliot attempt to have one of these. It doesn't work out.
  • Full House Music: First played straight, then Lampshaded when the producers of the show noticed what they were doing, and then subverted. They still use that particular chord, but mostly for a joke. They have a variety of other tunes for those emotional moments.
  • Full Name Ultimatum: Parodied when Dr. Cox addresses his ex-wife as "Jordan Godzilla Sullivan!"
  • Funny Background Event: As Dr. Kelso is stating that he knows everything that goes on in Sacred Heart, Dr. Mickhead is being led away kicking & screaming by the polices.
    • The show was actually pretty fond of this trope. Other examples include the Janitor's dad making him do pushups while Dr. Cox tells JD that everybody has issues with their parents; Turk continues to do his "We're the Turks" dance while JD and Elliot discuss her new job....
    • In My Hypocritical Oath, Todd can be seen in the background asking another doctor if Carla is black.
    • Elliot storms into a room to demand why JD has been telling people that she's rough with her physical examinations, startling Turk who had been balancing backwards on a wheelchair into falling on his ass. While Elliot and JD talk, we can see Turk shuffling out of the hospital room, tenderly rubbing his behind.
    • Doug fighting Ted, with the other Worthless Peons joining in, at Turk and Carla's wedding.
  • Gag Dub: The cast once did an in-character redub of It's a Charlie Brown Christmas.
  • Gagging on Your Words: When Cox finally tells JD that he's a good doctor.
  • Gag Penis: One of Kim's patients. Also "Bob Kelso, ten inches."
    • It's like a baguette.
  • Gallows Humor: Played with, mostly along the lines that it helps for some people but not for everyone.
  • Gaslighting: Done often for laughs.
    • The Janitor tries to convince Dr. Kelso that he has Alzheimer's by using a crane to pick up Kelso's car and Ted.
    • J.D. also mentions that he's attempting to do this to Turk when he asks Elliot's college friend Melody to keep a tiny bottle of ketchup so that he can replace everything in his apartment with tiny versions and convince Turk that he's grown extraordinarily tall (something Donald Faison experienced in Big Fat Liar).
    • Done to the Janitor in the last season, where they actually convince him all the weird stuff he did (building a giant sand castle in the parking lot, etc.) was just in his mind. He believes it. Or does he?
  • Gay Moment: JD's had one. It started in 2001.
    • More specifically in My Friend The Doctor...
      • "Wow, you must be dancing on the wind right now! ...That sounded straighter in my head."
      • "Haaa, that is so fabulous! ...What is wrong with me today?!"
      • And of course, "Harrison Ford, hands down! But you were probably talking to Carla...I'm having such a gay day!"
      • Day?
  • Gender Equals Breed: The Janitor imagines being married to Dr. Reid. They have quite a few preteen children, of whom all the girls are playing with stethoscopes and all the boys are playing with mops. Then again they later say that the kids aren't theirs.
  • Genius Ditz: The Todd. He's managed to graduate from med school and at one point was a better surgeon than Turk. Yet he is horribly un-PC with constant sex-jokes, unable to remember 5 seconds later that you can hear people through the door and at one point couldn't spell his own name.
    • This somewhat falls under Crazy Awesome, as it's stated that the reason The Todd is such a good surgeon is because he is completely and utterly consumed in the exact moment he's in at all times.
  • Genre Savvy: In "My Best Moment" Dr. Cox tells JD that his patient, a younger guy, will probably die while the many old people in the ICU will continue surviving forever because the younger guy has a son who has nowhere else to go and it's near Christmas. The man survives, although it wouldn't have been a surprise if he didn't.
    • J.D. and Dr. Kelso have heard enough of Elliot's inspirational stories to know they invariably end with someone killing themselves.
  • The Ghost: Dr. Kelso's wheelchair-bound wife, Enid, whom he torments and reviles (or claims to) at every opportunity.
    • His son Harrison as well, although a photo of him was once shown.
  • Ghostly Glide: The Janitor dresses up with a white sheet and roller skates around the pediatric ward to scare the kids. He does this to discourage the kids from making messes that he would have to clean up.
  • Girlish Pigtails: Jordan sports them when posing as a younger woman to impress her new gynecologist.
  • Glowing Eyes of Doom: The Janitor makes deliberately calls a new attractive Latina nurse a "young Carla", Carla gets glowy eyes and conjures up a powerful wind that blows all throughout the hospital (in a Shout-Out to Storm) and emits a high-pitched scream that breaks Dr. Kelso's glasses and shatters Turk into a million pieces.
    • Dr. Kelso also has these during one of JD's daydreams in the first episode.
  • Go Look at the Distraction: Todd and the nonexistent tennis ball.
  • Good Is Not Dumb: Molly Clock's indomitable optimism stands against the cynicism of Dr. Cox and Dr. Kelso, and she's still able to triumph against them.
  • Good People Have Good Sex: While Carla and Turk are shown as mostly vanilla, Elliot is shown have extremely strange fetishes. Mexican apple pickers are mentioned often...
  • The Grim Reaper: In one episode J.D. images Death hanging around the hospital due to all the deaths that happen there. Death among other things has a daughter selling girl scout cookies, and plays a game of Connect Four with J.D. over a patient's life.
  • Groin Attack: "Powerful...tiny...fists..."
    • Not to mention Neena from "My Malpractical Decision". "I'm wearing a cup!"
    • Man-Check!
    • Also seen in a flashback, when young J.D. learns what happens if you don't give a girl her space.
  • Harpo Does Something Funny: It's more like Neil Says Something Funny. See Throw It In
  • Hair Reboot: Avoided when JD shaved his head for a patient. The next episode indicates that a month passed for his hair to grow again.
    • Eerily enough, one episode features Dr. Cox shaving off his curly mop... an episode AFTER he appears bald.
      • There was actually an attempt to avert the trope and have Cox's hair grow back over the course of a couple of episodes. It failed when NBC broadcast the episodes out of order.
      • Of course, the real fail came when the season finale some weeks later had him with a buzz cut, and the next season premiere, one week later story time, had him with his hair back to its former sproingy state.
      • Lampshaded a few weeks later when Cox is reading a doctor-rating website and finds a complaint about his inconsistent hair length on it.
  • Hair-Trigger Temper: The Janitor.
  • Hannibal Lecture: Jordan uses this on the collective cast in the first season finale using inside information she had on each of them, almost destroying their relationships with each other.
  • Happy Dance: Turk has many (including the "you are so getting a piece of this" dance and the "there's a sale on lotion" dance).
  • Happy Ending Massage: Dr. Kelso takes Turk for one. It doesn't end very happily for Turk.
  • Happy Place:
    • In an episode, Dr. Cox goes to his happy place (a calm beach where he can hear the waves crashing and flocks of seagulls flying overhead) to escape Elliot's chatter, but while he's there, Elliot and Jordan cheerfully arrange a "couple date". And while this is going on a storm breaks out in his happy place.
    • In another episode, JD's happy place is an Imagine Spot with him as the bandleader for Jay Leno.
  • Has Two Thumbs And: Dr. Kelso uses this a number of times.
  • Heads or Tails: When J.D. and Kim can't decide if they want to keep their baby, so they leave it up to a coin toss. The result is...
  • Heads Tails Edge: Ironically.
  • Heroic BSOD: Dr. Cox.
  • Heterosexual Life-Partners: J.D. and Turk, forever and ever, amen.
    "It's Guy Love! There's nothing gay about it... in our eyes."
    This has even been lampshaded:
    JD: "Turk, we're not married."
    Turk: "Dude, we're a little married."
    JD: "I know, I love it."
    • When J.D. moves out a few years after Turk got married he and Turk realized that they had been roommates all through college and their time at Sacred Heart, totaling at least 12 years.
    • It's also shown sometimes, though a bit more discreetly, that Doug and Ted often hung out. Bikin'.
  • Hey, It's That Guy!: A great number of these have played patients over the seasons.
    • Who'd imagine one of Roseanne's kids would become a doctor?
    • The same actor who plays Cameron in Ferris Buellers Day Off, Alan Ruck, plays a character similar to his role in Ferris Bueller's Day Off in season 2, episode 9.
  • Hidden Heart of Gold: Dr. Kelso is often used as the badguy for whatever heartless policy the hospital has. One episode in particular begins showing Kelso shutting down the free women's clinic with a thin-seeming "money is tight" line and then going on to give a jerkass rich patient the last spot in a potentially life-saving drug trial while a poor Mr. Nice Guy dies despite Dr. Cox doing everything he can to save him. Then, in the last scene, we see the women's clinic is reopened with money donated to the hospital by the jerkass millionaire, and we see Kelso had simply made a decision based on The Needs of the Many.
  • Hide And No Seek: When the Janitor is taking pictures of Doctor Cox playing dangerously with his son and a young girl spots him. He starts asking her to make silly faces for his camera:
    Janitor: Look happy... now look sad... now look like you're going away...
  • Hollywood Dateless: JD. Lampshaded very often in later seasons.
  • Hollywood Nerd: JD, Elliot
  • Hospital Hottie: Couldn't be Scrubs without it.
  • Human Ladder: World's Most Giant Doctor
  • Hypochondria: A recurring patient.
  • Hypocritical Humor: Common, and lampshaded in one episode when Elliot weighed even less than a patient she diagnosed as underweight.
    • Dr Cox's meanspirited jibes at an alcoholic patient in "Our Drunk Friend", despite the fact he's a borderline alcoholic himself.
    • Especially used in the episode My Butterfly in which the dual scenario format shows several characters judgementally offering directly contradicting opinions and advice in the differing situations.

    I-L 
  • I Call It Vera: One gag involved a security guard with a tranquiliser rifle he called 'Megan Fox'.
  • Identical Grandson: Bob Kelso flashes back to when his father ran out on his family, and he was played by Ken Jenkins as well.
  • Idiosyncratic Episode Naming: Every episode is named "My [Something]," unless the narrator isn't JD, in which case it's His/Her/Their Story, depending on who's getting A Day in the Limelight.
    • All the episodes in season 9 are called "Our [Something]".
  • Idiot Ball: Not even JD is dumb enough to give the responsibility of telling a wife that she should let her husband die to the one woman who has proven time and time again that she's so emotionally dead that Jordan looks happy by comparison. It's arguable that the only reason he did it was to tie up the symmetrical intern-protege story arc at the end of "My ABC's".
    • Except somebody has to be the first person she tells they (or their loved one) is going to die and JD does push her to be somewhat more sympathetic
  • I Feel Guilty, You Take It: In the Season 2 Episode "My Big Mouth", Turk only gets to go to Mexico with Dr. Kelso, because He's a guy, and Bonnie isn't. So, feeling guilty, Turk gives the prize to Bonnie, and she turns him down, refusing his "charity", Since he isn't the rightful winner, he doesn't want to keep it so he gives it to Todd in the end.
  • If I Were a Rich Man: The lottery episode.
  • I Know Mortal Kombat: Turk credits his improvements in surgery to having trained his fingers by playing Madden on the Xbox.
    • Startling as it may seem, this is Truth in Television. High-speed and reaction time based video games have been proven to dramatically improve surgical performance.
  • I'll Take Two Beers Too
    Jordan: (noticing Perry holding two glasses of whiskey) You do know I'm pregnant, right?
    Perry: Yeah...they're for me.
  • The "I Love You" Stigma: Carla and Turk had an episode revolving around them sharing that word with each other and even a little fallout over the implications of what that means. Cox and Jordan lived together in a "long-term, non-committal" relationship and played up the idea they hate each other but he eventually confesses he's tired of the joke and wants to get back as a couple who says "I love you" to each other.
    • One that really played with the trope was when J.D. and Elliot get back together (permanently, this time) she eventually plans out this short monologue about how much she loves him. J.D. happily reciprocates but she then lays down the ground rules that he has to plan out a similar monologue and spring it on her unexpectedly. Ironically, they get into a fight over it but when it settles down J.D. gives her what she wanted, confessing that he loves her more than Turk.
    • Elliot says "I love [[Music/U2 U2]]!" when going through her album collection, her boyfriend, nurse Paul Flowers hears this and tells her he loves her too. Because Elliot is such a neurotic mess, this eventually leads to them breaking up.
  • Imagine Spot: JD's mind is a strange, strange place.
    • "It's gonna take a whole lotta gnomes."
      • In the Season 8 finale, J.D. imagines the rest of his life.
    J.D.: And who's to say that my fantasies can't come true, just this once?
  • Impossible Shadow Puppets: The cast creates an impressive naval battle out of shadow puppets.
  • Improbably Predictable:
    • The Janitor tells J.D. that he is incredibly predictable, to which J.D. objects:
    Janitor: You're very predictable.
    J.D. and Janitor simultaneously: No I'm not. Stop doing that! Peanut-butter-egg-dirt!
    • Reversed earlier when J.D. predicts the Janitor's plans to a T.
      Janitor: Listen, crash in my garage. I guarantee you there will not be another person in there.
      [J.D. has an imagine spot]
      J.D.: You're gonna slather jam on my face and sic a family of raccoons on me, aren't you?
      Janitor: Damn it. I've become predictable.
  • I'm Thinking It Over!:
    Elliot: You can either use her relationship with us doctors to start a dialogue and make things better, or ignore me, stay pissed and hold me down in the parking lot tonight while Barb stomps on my face.
    [The nurses keep drinking their coffee without reacting at all]
    Elliot: You're taking a pretty long time thinking about it...
  • Impaled Palm: Ben's introduction. Played for laughs.
  • Important Haircut: Elliot reinvents herself by having her hair cut so her bangs aren't in her face so much. This is comprehensively mocked by Dr Cox and Dr Kelso in later episodes.
    • But by gum, the reveal was hot.
  • Informed Ability: Played for laughs with Todd, a moron who routinely proves he's Too Dumb to Live. He's also evidently a skilled surgeon, a fact we rarely see (and that the writer's lampshade, as other characters frequently forget as well).
    • But in "My Hero", we're shown one of the only scenes displaying the Todd's skill that is not played for laughs. As the Todd walks down the hallway with a couple of nurses he says, "The periampullary carcinoma patient had a failed palliatitive stenting of the common bile duct so this is what I want to do. I want to go ahead and prep him for a pyloris sparing pancreaticoduodenectomy. Thanks." Every word, even that pan-whatever, is pronounced correctly and without hesitation or any suggestion of humor.
  • Informed Self Diagnosis: FOUR doctors as patients, helping JD; especially notable in that all four doctors played characters on Saint Elsewhere.
  • Inner Monologue and the inevitable Did I Just Say That Out Loud?: "Ted you idiot, you just said the loud thing in your head and the in-your-head thing out loud!"
  • Insistent Terminology:
    • Snoop Dogg Intern Resident Attending (That's right baby) rarely complains that nobody uses his name, but you'd better get his title right.
    • That drawing on JD's journal is a horse with a sword in its head, not a unicorn. Even the internal fantasy of the "horse" disagrees.
  • Instant Drama, Just Add Tracheotomy: Turk does one.
  • Insult to Rocks: Trope Namer
  • The Internet Is for Porn: Discussed by Doctor Cox.
    "I'm pretty sure that if they took porn off the internet, there'd only be one website left, and it would be called 'Bring Back the Porn'."
  • Irrational Hatred
  • Irritation Is the Sincerest Form of Flattery: JD did this to Dr. Cox until he learned that Dr. Cox didn't like himself.
  • I Shall Taunt You: This is the way Turk gets Carla's brother to reveal to her that he can in fact speak English. It also earns him a black eye.
  • It Never Gets Any Easier: Justified. J.D. doesn't want it to get any easier.
  • It Is Pronounced Tro PAY: Dr Beardface, pronounced "Beardfa-say".
  • Ivy League For Everyone
  • Jerkass: J.D. and it gets more pronounced as the series goes on. For example in the episode My Inconvenient Truth, his brother Dan shows up, having turned his life around since the last time he appeared thanks to some harsh truths from J.D. As a gift to say thanks, he gives J.D. a car - J.D's reply is to smash the windshield in and tell Dan that he's supposed to be the loser in the family. This is still very arguable though, not least because his reaction was because of dissatisfaction with his own life showing through at that moment, and he remains a kind, friendly person throughout the show. He's just weird and quite self absorbed. He also generally calls himself on it once prompted, and tries to make up for it.
    • Kelso and Cox spend most of the time in Jerkass mode, and occasionally switch to full-blown asshat mode...unfortunately, they're high enough in the hierarchy of Sacred Heart that to react may cost one their job (well, Kelso is, anyway).
    • Elliot, especially in season 6. The writers acknowledged and responded to these criticisms in season 7, as revealed in one of the commentaries.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Dr. Cox. Although he has some pretty legitimate reasons for not being affectionate towards hospital staff.
    JD: Ohh, you smell like a father figure. Mmm.
    • Dr. Kelso, as well. He lets out a few hints of warmness now and again. Later seasons it was stated outright that he had to be the bad guy as the Chief of Medicine, otherwise the hospital wouldn't function. But it came up early when he learned from J.D. that an older doctor (played by Dick Van Dyke) was unable to keep up with the constantly changing medical field, he had to force the guy to retire and was noticeably saddened to do so.
    • An earlier episode, in which Dr. Cox plays a prank that spirals out of control and convinces everyone in the hospital that Kelso's dead, while not going so far as to suggest that Kelso actually has a heart of gold does imply that Kelso is partially presenting a Jerkass Façade to the world and is more wounded by how people think of him than he lets on.
      Cox: And there it is ... you know, this 'I don't care what anyone thinks of me' act? It's pretty convincing. But methinks that there's a sad little cartoon boy living inside the hairy beast, and he's sad because he realizes at the end of the day all anyone ever thinks about is what an evil sonofabitch he really is.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: While Dr. Kelso is generally depicted as a ruthless, heartless bastard, it is sometimes noted that he does have hard decisions to make between demonstrating humanity towards the doctors and the patients versus the overall welfare of the hospital as a whole. J.D once notes that while he'll never like or respect Kelso, he also wouldn't want to have to make these decisions himself.
  • Kafka Komedy: J.D. and the Janitor.
  • Karma Houdini: The Todd can apparently sexually harass all the woman he wants, and never face any significant repercussions. This fits in well enough with a work environment in which the doctors running the hospital don't tend to take the complaints of their female subordinates seriously. But it's a bit odd when one episode hints that another, previously unseen character was fired for sexually harassing a patient. Todd's ability to not get fired was handwaved in one episode explaining he's too good of a doctor to let go.
    • Elliot's father never got any comeuppance for cutting Elliot off and out of his life. Or, at the very least, it never happened on-screen, and no mention was ever made of such thing happening.
  • Keet: J.D. after Flanderization.
  • Kick Me Prank: Kelso was ready to throw a patient (who happens to be Dr Cox's mentor) out of the hospital just before he nearly died, and then takes credit for saving his life. Cox puts a sign on Kelso's back saying "Never stop kicking me". The patient removes it ... and discovers it's on the back of the discharge form.
    Dr Kelso: Oh, very clever.
    Dr Cox: What? It wasn't me. I think you put it there yourself to get attention.
  • Kissing Warm Up: JD practiced kissing with the stuffed dog.
  • Knight in Sour Armor: Dr. Cox. Painfully so. He's not named Percival by accident.
    • Also see My Princess.
  • The Lad-ette: Intern Denise Mahony in the 8th Season. An entire story arc was made where J.D. had to not necessarily make her feminine, but at least able to comprehend patient empathy.
  • Lampshade Hanging * Among many others, in the ninth season, J.D. and Turk are walking along in the hallway when Dr Cox falls through the ceiling after escaping from a stuck lift.
    JD: He just fell through the ceiling and we're not gonna address that at all?
  • Laser-Guided Karma: Recurring patient Mike Davis routinely finds himself in the hospital, often because he's such an insufferable jerkass that people keep harming him.
    Mike Davis: An old woman pushed me off the bus!
    Carla: What did you do?
    Mike Davis: Nothing! Ok, I might have said she smelled like "Wet ass"...
  • The Last DJ: Dr. Cox has this going on. Often deconstructed, however; just as Kelso's tight-fisted Jerkassery was sometimes suggested to be necessary to keep the hospital from falling apart at the seams, Cox's anti-authoritarian independence was often framed as being knee-jerk stubbornness and ultimately self-sabotaging, stalling his career and preventing him from making any meaningful change for the better.
  • Latino Is Brown: Carla is worried because Turk is placing too much emphasis on her daughter's “African heritage” and very little on her Dominican heritage. This really doesn’t make much sense since the Dominican Republic's population is mostly composed of descendants of African slaves, and Carla should have a lot of African heritage herself.
  • Laxative Prank: The Janitor attempts to give J.D. some pie that he refuses to eat, though The Todd does. Todd experiences what J.D. says is "what can only be described as 'epic diarrhea'". Later, the Janitor convinces J.D. to eat the pie anyway by eating it himself. They both experience the effects of the laxative.
  • Less Embarrassing Term: In one episode, Cox meets a doctor who likes to collect dolls. Did I say dolls? It's a collectible!
  • Lethal Klutz:
    • Doug. They eventually solve this by making him a coroner.
    • JD's girlfriend Julie has classic Klutz tendencies, but when there's someone else for her to hurt she'll find an interesting way to maim them. Elliot is often a victim.
  • Loads and Loads of Characters: Just a look at the IMDB cast list shows how much attention they paid to even the most minor characters. The record for non-main characters is Robert Maschio's Todd who is in two-thirds of the total episodes, but there are over 20 actors who are credited to more than 10 episodes.
  • Locked Up And Left Behind - A favorite prank of The Janitor
  • Lonely Together
  • Long-Lost Uncle Aesop: The setting is a hospital. This was bound to happen.
    • A distinctive one is Ben, Doctor Cox's best friend who shows up in exactly three episodes. Distinctive because his third is considered one of the best episodes of the show.
  • Lopsided Dichotomy: When seeing a lightbulb shape in an x-ray:
    "Either that kid has a lightbulb up his ass, or his colon has a great idea."
  • Losing Your Head: Floating Head Doctor.
  • Lovable Sex Maniac: He's "The Todd".

    M-P 
  • Made of Explodium: In the episode "My Unicorn", a patient's son attacks J.D. with a remote control airplane. After dodging it, the tiny plane crashes in an enormous fireball.
    J.D.: "...What an odd-sized explosion..."
    • In "My Best Laid Plans", Cox wins the Janitor's van in a bet. He vows to destroy it while the Janitor is forced to watch. He puts a brick on the gas pedal so that it crashes into the wall of the hospital, only doing minimal damage. Then, for no apparent reason, the van explodes.
  • Magic Feather: Ted is only socially confident as the leader of his 'a capella' group "The Worthless Peons." This leads to a complicated matter when he was interested in a cute ukulele player and he can only talk to her through music.
    • A season 2 episode featured JD wearing a white coat that let him stand up to the Janitor and Dr Cox.
  • The Maiden Name Debate: Carla tells Turk that she wants to keep her maiden name. He doesn't respond well — "Oh that's OK baby, we'll just be like one of those new age couples that doesn't love each other." They compromise — Carla keeps her name, and Turk gets to keep his mole.
  • Male Gaze: In the pilot episode, one of Elliot's very first scenes has JD walking behind her up a stairwell, followed by a lingering POV shot of her butt.
    Elliot: Anyway, I know what you're thinking...
    JD (voice-over): Your butt looks like two Pringles hugging.
    JD: No you don't.
  • Master of the Mixed Message: Elliot quite often to J.D., right in the pilot episode until a major falling out late season three. One episode had a fun play on this where J.D. was hugely jealous of her and her current boyfriend, and as they were working together Elliot did a lot of flirtatious things like resting her head on his shoulder when tired, wiping some crumbs from his cheek and cuddling into the same bed in the on-call room because all the other beds were taken up.
  • Meaningful Background Event: In "My Screw Up", there's a sign that says "Pay Attention" hinting that Ben is the patient who died.
  • Meaningful Name: Possibly. In The Picture of Dorian Gray the main character, Dorian, had a grandfather, Kelso, who served as an uncaring, heartless authority figure while he was alive.
    • John Dorian is named after John Doris, a medical doctor whose real-life stories inspired several episodes, and who wound up serving as the show's medical expert.
    • Might not be intentional, but very fitting: Dr. Doug Murphy is infamous for the fact that if there is a way to screw something up, he will.
  • Mediation Backfire: JD's attempt to intervene in a domestic between Cox and Jordan - "And just like that, all the hatred they had for each other was instantly directed at me."
  • Mental Story: Almost all of "My Life In Four Cameras" take place in JD's head. Only the Book Ends are real.
  • Mermaid Problem
    Carla: "What's your secret? Are you pregnant?"
    Elliot: "Why would I be talking to Kelso if I was pregnant?"
    Carla: "Ah, it's his baby."
    Elliot: "That was ONE dream! And it doesn't count because he was half dolphin."
    Carla: "...Which half?!"
  • Meta Casting: Michael J. Fox played an ace doctor visiting the hospital, which already works along the lines of a Special Guest and Fox being so famous and beloved. But his character Dr. Kevin Casey was well-known for his Super OCD and how such a disorder really takes a toll on him emotionally even though you may never see him lose his cool, a reflection of Fox's Parkinsons and his uncontrollable bodily ticks.
  • Milholland Relationship Moment
  • Mind Screw: Dr. Kelso once told Turk that acting like a black guy is a characteristic of being a white guy. Try not to think about that one too hard...
  • Missed Her by That Much: When Elliot and the Janitor are looking for Carla in "My Screw Up", they walk past a closet with her in it, and a window in the door.
  • Mistaken for Racist: The Janitor tricks J.D. into appearing racist against East Asians; when he was in college, a black fraternity mistook J.D. for being racist against blacks because he showed up at their door in blackface. (Of course, it would have looked better if Turk who had gone off for a second to greet a friend had been by J.D.'s side, him being in "whiteface".)
    • Elliot was mistaken for racist by two identical black twins because she pointed out how they look alike.
  • Moment Killer: Elliot Reid, the Trope Namer.
  • Mood Whiplash: From humor to pathos in under 30 seconds.
    • Specifically, the end of "My Screw Up" where Dr. Cox is in a really good mood until it's revealed that they're going to Ben's funeral and Cox has been in denial for most of the episode (at which point both Cox and everyone watching the show have about the same reaction).
    • Another notable example is "My Lunch". The dark and grim ending immediately follows a scene where The Todd reveals that he was just following Elliot and Carla because they're hot, and then starts to realize he's bisexual.
    • "Resident Kabuki Theatre" is part of a dual whiplash. It's the funny moment after demonstrations of serious ways to tell people that their loved ones have died, and then it leads almost directly into the news that JD's father has died.
  • Moral Dissonance: A couple, though most of them are in later seasons, from JD: when he explodes at Elliot when it's revealed that she is better than him at diagnosing a patient ("You're the one who's supposed to struggle, not me!") and when his brother Dan finally gets his life going in a positive direction and he yells that Dan is supposed to be the screw up of the family. Both caused him to look like a complete Jerk Ass.
    • Elliot's moment is in the episode after she sleeps with JD (for like the fourth time or something) and then jumps into Sean's arms not three seconds later but expects JD not to tell Sean that she cheated on him because he's her friend.
    • Dr. Cox in two instances: when he keeps attacking Laverne's belief in Christianity after a very unfortunate case involving a little boy...the episode before she dies and again when he starts intentionally messing JD up with his patients just so his ratings will go down on a Rate Your Doctor website.
  • Morality Pet: Dr. Cox's and Jordan's children.
  • Most Common Card Game: "My Lucky Charm".
  • Most Annoying Sound: In-Universe, Elliot's rendition of "Old Macdonald." So much, in fact, that there's a Mass "Oh, Crap!" moment when J.D. asks her to sing it as a distraction.
    Ted: "I feel like you raped my soul."
  • Motor Mouth: Elliot.
    • She later finds her equal in Kim, who likewise has the ability to talk at the speed of light.
  • Ms. Fanservice: Elliot. Quite often seen in her underwear or lingerie and besides her time with J.D. she is shown to have a wide variety of sexual fetishes.
    • Turk and Cox for the ladies (or about ten percent of the dudes).
  • Musical Episode: Justified because a patient is suffering from a brain aneurysm that causes her to hear speech as singing. Though as to why they are speaking in rhyme...
    • As the main trope page says: It's Sacred Heart... that's a normal Tuesday for them.
    • What's truly shocking is that this condition, against all odds, is Truth in Television. It exists. This actually happens to people.
    • "My Way or the Highway" is also part-musical, through a repeated fantasy sequence.
  • Music Video Syndrome: Practically Once an Episode. "My Overkill" may be the best example of this.
  • My Friends... and Zoidberg: A Running Gag from the episode that introduces Pvt Dancer is Kelso calling one of the interns "Slagathor".
    Kelso: Listen up, faces, to save time I'm going to call all the men "Dave" and all the women "Debbie".
    Debbie: My name actually is "Debbie"!
    Kelso: Well, then, to be fair, I'll call you "Slagathor". Daves. Debbies. Slagathor.
  • My Name Is Inigo Montoya: In "My Princess"
    Cox: "My name is Percival Cox. You're killing my friend. Prepare to die."
  • My Sensors Indicate You Want to Tap That: Turk figures out that JD and Elliot were getting back together for the second time by the potential couple nodding at each other in the hallway.
  • Narcissist: Dr. Cox admires himself in every reflecting surfaces.
  • Neck Lift: Elliot is really strong.
  • Never Heard That One Before: Lampshaded and subverted with Herman.
  • Never Lend to a Friend: JD once lent the Janitor a buck for the vending machine, only for him to start acting as if every random encounter is JD hounding him for a repayment. Of course, that's how he acts most of the time with no provocation whatsoever, so...
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Once Carla and Elliot wanted to throw Kelso a birthday party. He had been telling everyone he was "57", so with the help of the Janitor they get into his employment records. They proceed to throw him his 65th birthday party. Guess what the hospital's mandatory retirement age is?
    • Dr. Cox. Three transplant patients. Three organs from a donor who died of rabies. Three dead transplant patients. Oops.
    • A comedic example in the same episode as the above spoilered example: Carla and Elliot's attempts to curb The Todd's inappropriate behavior towards woman (believing that it's because The Todd is in the closet) only manage to cause The Todd to embrace his bisexuality and start hitting on people of both genders.
  • Nice to the Waiter: Turk was noticeably not nice to who he assumed was a parking valet. If he had been a bit nicer then his relationship with his future brother-in-law Marco might have been a lot better.
  • No Bisexuals: Subverted... maybe... kind of... we're not sure.
    The Todd appreciates hot, regardless of gender.
    • In "Their Story," The Todd says that even if he doesn't see attractive breasts, he can see "an awesome dong."
    • Let's not forget the exchange at the end of "My Lunch"
      Janitor: What the hell are you?
      The Todd: I'm The Todd.
  • No Ending: Two season finales were written with the expectation that the show would be canceled, and both conspicuously avoided resolving the JD/Elliot Will They or Won't They?.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: With all the parallels and strikingly similarities between Elliot, famous author Sylvia Plath, and Plath's fictional alter-ego Esther Greenwood, it's hard to believe that the writers didn't have Plath in mind when they wrote Elliot's character. They both grew up in New England and went off to college. They're both young, blonde, successful, intelligent, and attractive. Elliot is just as neurotic as Plath was. They both struggled with the concept of being a woman and being successful. They also struggled with the choice between a successful career or romance. They also both suffered from serious bouts of depression and were both suicidal. Before her college years, Elliot swam out to the middle of a lake and attempted to drown herself, only to be saved by the school's rowing team. Elliot even says that, at the time, she had read poetry by Plath herself and Virginia Wolfe, two female writers that committed suicide. Plath's alter-ego, Esther, attempted suicide in an almost verbatim manner. Plath herself also attempted suicide, except she was successful in 1963 when she stuck her head in a gas oven. Elliot even states that the reason she didn't use Plath's method was because having a hot head makes her pee and she had no intent on being found in a puddle of her own urine. Not again.
  • No Name Given: The Janitor.
    • Revealed in the Grand Finale as being Glen Matthews... or is it? Word of God says it's at least 50% right.
      • It is Neil Flynn's happy-go-lucky janitor's name in Clone High... (a show made by Bill Lawrence concurrently with Scrubs, in which the janitor is mortified when a clone of Ponce de Leon is graphically killed in an elaborate litter-related accident)
  • Noodle Incident: Drew's parent's think he's dead.
    • And pre-season nine, there were several mentions of an above-ground pool party held by Laverne.
    • Also in the third episode of season 5 Elliot's then boyfriend Jake reveals a fantasy that is apparently so horrifying its too much for even Elliot, too bad for us they never reveal it...
    • How Play-Doh Pants became all about the money...
    • JD can tell the difference between Rowdy and Stephen by feeling their genitals. Don't ask how.
  • No Sympathy: Don't worry J.D., the ladies just don't understand you.
  • Not Afraid to Die: Several patients, which include:
    • Mrs. Tanner from "My Old Lady", who says she's ready to die when diagnosed a kidney failure. She even ends up comforting J.D., who is clearly more scared then her.
    • Elaine from "My Philosophy", who discuss about death with J.D. and Cox, explaining that she thinks it will be like a Broadway musical. When she dies, J.D. imagines that she goes out like she wanted.
  • Not Even Bothering with an Excuse: Dr. Kelso pulled this one in response to Carla trying to organize a group photo:
    "Blah, blah, blah, I'm not going."
  • Not so Above It All: Dr Kelso berates everyone for dressing up for Halloween in "My Big Brother", only for The Stinger to reveal he was the one causing mischief around the hospital in a Gorilla costume.
  • The Not So Harmless Punishment: Happens in "My Soul on Fire, Part 2" where the Janitor punishes J.D. for convincing everyone to come to his wedding on such short notice by keeping him at the top of a lighthouse for ten minutes...
    J.D.: But that doesn't explain why these fish are taped to my hands!
    Cue the flock of seagulls hungry for fish.
  • Not So Great Escape: Happens to Elliot when she tries to dodge Kelso after accidentally revealing his age.
  • N-Word Privileges: The first conversation between J.D. and Turk. And no, J.D. does not get them...
  • Obfuscating Stupidity In a meta-sense. In Their Story, Todd is shown to be at least smarter than JD, but the only time he's usually on camera is when fulfilling a jock stereotype.
    • Not to mention he's an extremely competent surgeon. He was once ranked the second-best in the surgical team.
  • Obsolete Mentor: Kelso firing his best friend.
  • Official Couple: J.D. and Elliot, despite sometimes years of not being officially together or with Unresolved Sexual Tension.
  • Oh Crap: JD attempts to Pet the Dragon by giving the Janitor a pen; when said pen bursts, staining the Janitor's favorite shirt (and his favorite skin), his first reaction is "Oh God no..."
    • Not to mention JD's reaction to Dr. Cox learning he was baby Jack's real father.
    • Rabies. When an unknown rabies infection kills one and spreads to three organ donor recipients, things go from bad to worse. You know you're in trouble when even Dr. Kelso is visibly shaken.
  • Old-Fashioned Rowboat Date: JD has an Imagine Spot where he's on such a date with Elliot, and even throwing her lover in a lake.
  • Once a Season: Starting in the second season there was A Day In The Lime Light episode where someone besides J.D. narrated the story. The first three seasons was also regular in that J.D. and Elliot would hook up at the end of an episode only to crash HARD in the following episode. The writers ended the trend, realizing they were falling into a predictable rut and even lampshaded it. "J.D. and Elliot got back together." "That time of the year again?"
  • Opposed Mentors: Dr. Kelso and Dr. Cox have this dynamic for the first few episodes, with both being presented as possible mentors to JD. With Dr. Kelso being concerned with money (arguing that if the hospital doesn't make a profit, it'll close) and Dr. Cox arguing that the patient should come first. JD chooses Cox, earning him Kelso's contempt (although later episodes show Kelso in a better light). They recycled this plot a few times;
    • One episode had JD think that Cox and a Private Practice Doctor were warring mentors to him, but really it was about the PPD having slept with Jordan years ago, shattering Cox and Jordan's already fragile marriage.
    • When JD moved up to attending in the middle of the series they replayed the Cox vs Kelso only this time with Cox taking Kelso's part and JD taking Cox's part with some of the new interns being the ones caught in the middle.
    • In the last season, after the Retool Drew was subject to the warring between Denise and Cox (although given he was in a relationship with Denise it was as much about the sexual relationship as much as the mentorship).
  • One Steve Limit: Averted with all the Murrays in "My Unicorn".
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: Snoop Dogg Intern Resident Attendingnote  and Colonel Doctornote 
    • Turk is rarely called by his first name Chris not even by even by Carla . Dr. Kelso even believes his first name is Turk and last name Turkleton
    • This also becomes a sub-plot in a later episode, when it's revealed that JD does only know everyone by their nickname.
  • Only Sane Man: Carla and Dr. Wen.
    • Drew in season 9.
  • Organ Autonomy: Mr. Peeps in "My Best Laid Plans."
  • Outside Inside Slur: Dr. Cox has a tirade where he derides Turk for being whiter than he is.
  • Out-of-Character Moment: Actually addressed in the show. J.D. was shown to drink regular beer in the early episodes, only to later have Appletini's "light on the tini" as his drink of choice. In the eighth season, after J.D. claimed to be allergic to beer, Turk called him out on it and J.D. had to explain himself.
  • Overly-Long Gag: The fantasy where Turk and Carla mistake a pumpkin for their baby, the longest of J.D.'s fantasies and also the most surreal.
  • Overly Preprepared Gag: JD's box of Oprah-O's took him a week to prepare.
  • Pac Man Fever: One episode sees Turk playing an unnamed game on the Xbox360, the footage is from Unreal Tournament III, but the characters dialogue suggests that they're playing something more like Halo. They're also apparently playing multiplayer on the same console without a split screen, and we're told that Carla is the best player, despite the fact she can't even hold the controller correctly.
  • Pair the Spares: Shaun and Kim in Season 8.
  • Paper-Thin Disguise: The Janitor once added only a fake moustache. Justified in that it was supposed to be his twin brother. And subverted in that nobody buys it for a second.
    "That's just sad…"
  • Parody Episode: Done several times in the show:
    • The 100th episode, "My Way Home", is a parody of... you guessed it... The Wizard of Oz, complete with a protagonist who just wants to go home, a search for a literal heart for a transplant, "Over the Rainbow," and a painted yellow floor... among other references.
    • Also, the episode "My Princess" which was told the style of a fairy tale with some Princess Bride references.
    • "My Life in Four Cameras" qualifies as well, being a parody of standard 80s-90s sitcoms with Studio Audience.
    • "My House" parodies House
  • Patient of the Week: Both played straight and averted at different times.
  • Perma Stubble: Dr. Cox.
  • Perverse Sexual Lust: At one point Elliot mentioned that she got into anime porn. and old dudes, and in separate boxes from her partner, and any number of role playing games.
    • And one time when she was going out with JD, she asked him to pee on her. Allegedly because a jellyfish had stung her. She does have her limits though, Jake's sexual kink creeps her out.
  • Pet the Dog: Big mean Kelso has had a few, and although he is a jerk, he also works hard to keep the hospital open and provide extra care where possible.
    • A few times Dr. Cox decides to give J.D. pat on the back as a token gesture. Most of the time he is patronizing and condescending.
    • Kelso also had a literal pet dog, Baxter, who he showered love on for years before... well. It's a dog and well... you know where this is going
  • Phrase Catcher: Hooch is crazy!
    • Also, the Janitor does this to J.D. every once in a while, each phrase only lasts for an episode or two.
  • Plot Parallel: Along with the Double Aesops
  • Plot Tumor: JD at the beginning of season 9. While him being there is justified with him Passing the Torch, he is too prominent and takes important screen time away from the new characters in need of Character Development, only to rehash old plotlines with Turk and Doctor Cox, which we have seen done better already and in turn also keeps these two characters from forming relationships with the new cast members.
  • Plucky Hospital Guy: The doctor who (briefly) replaced Kim as Sacred Heart's urologist.
    Doctor: This is a nice job, but I'm not too crazy about my peers!
    Kelso: God I hate you...
  • Pluralses: J.D. has a fantasy in which he's a Mexican migrant worker talking about "apples pie" and "apples juice."
    • It's actually (apparently) part of Elliot's roleplay with her boyfriend, at the time. J.D volunteers to play a part in her famous Mexican apple picker fantasy.
  • The Pollyanna: Dr. Molly Clock (Heather Graham). Dr. Cox and Bob Kelso decide to teach her that we live in a World Half Empty. They fail.
  • Poor Communication Kills: The lesson of "My Fifteen Seconds". Luckily, Cox and J.D. managed to save Jill Tracy.
  • Post Script Season: The second ABC season has all the makings.
  • Pretty Fly for a White Guy: J.D. and Turk.
  • Pull a Rabbit out of My Hat: Dr. Cox reveals how the trick works in front of Turk... and a group of children.
  • Pull the Thread: Involved by the Janitor when he decides to go around "bustin' chops". This basically involves him listening in on people's conversations and then bursting in with incriminating evidence that proves they're lying at the most inconvenient moment:
    Carla: Where the hell have you been for the last few days?
    Cox: Deep-sea fishing.
    Carla: You hate fishing.
    Cox: Went with my buddies.
    Carla: You don't have any buddies?
    Cox: Oh yeah? Well, we landed a 200lb white marlin off the coast of San Diego.
    Janitor: [Appearing out of nowhere] Interesting, because that's 3000 miles away from the natural habitat of the white marlin. Hmm. Oh well. Maybe it hopped a train from Cape Cod!
    Cox: Why?!
    Janitor: I'm bustin' chops today. You can ask anybody.
    Carla: It's true.
  • Pulled From Your Day Off: In the episode "My Way Home" JD is paged by an intern on his day off of work. What follows is a Whole Plot Reference to The Wizard of Oz where JD gets constantly assigned tasks that prevent him from returning home.
  • Pun: "Thank you Perry much." Among plenty others.

    Q-T 
  • Queer People Are Funny: Most prominently the running gag of Turk and JD being a couple.
  • Race Fetish: Kelso cheerfully admits he has a thing for Oriental women. All of his affairs are with one.
  • Raiders of the Lost Parody: One Imagine Spot by JD shows Turk climbing into a patient's intestines and removing a tumor in a parody of the idol-swap scene.
    JD: Watch out for colon darts.
    • There's another episode where Carla has a lot on her mind and JD encourages her to confide her problems in him. He gets more than he bargained for when she begins unloading all of her problems on him at once, in rapid succession. This leads to an imagine spot where she opens up her head, which reveals a blinding light that melts JD's face.
  • Real Life Writes the Plot:
    • Both of Jordan's pregnancies was written in when her actress, Christa Miller, became pregnant. In addition, Sarah Chalke's pregnancy was written in during season nine.
    • Also Doug Murphy riding a scooter around because both of his legs were broken - this was included because the actor had broken his legs/ankles.
    • When John Ritter (who played Sam Dorian, J.D. and Dan's father) died, they wrote an episode devoted to JD and Dan dealing with his character's death.
    • Judy Reyes (Carla) broke her pelvis during the filming for season six. This reflects in the choreography of the Musical Episode during the song "We're Gonna Miss You Carla," which has her sitting in a chair while other characters sing to her and she doesn't move around much for the rest of the episode. Carla's tango scene with Turk was filmed later once Judy Reyes had healed enough for the dance. If you're observant, you might notice that her hair is a little longer there.
    • The Janitor was written out at the start of season 9, as Neil Flynn had shot the pilot for The Middle after wrapping season 8. The show was picked up, and due to contractual obligations Flynn left the show, but returned to shoot a brief scene explaining why the Janitor wasn't around anymore.
    • Judy Reyes opted not to return in season 9 due to a reduced focus on Carla, as the producers had decided that it wouldn't make sense for Carla to constantly be hanging around with med-students.
  • Real Song Theme Tune: "Superman" by Lazlo Bane. The version used in the credit sequence is actually in a different key and a faster tempo than the actual song.
  • Reality Ensues: During a Mortality conference, J.D. describes the "wacky" adventures that the main characters had been on that day, which prevented them from paying full attention to their job. J.D. begins to do his ordinary closing monologue. Dr. Kelso interrupts him, reminding him that while he and his friends had been goofing off all day, a patient had died in the fumbling hands of the interns. If not for a technicality, J.D., Carla, Elliot, and Turk would have all lost their jobs and licenses, and would have thoroughly deserved it. Dr. Cox sarcastically lampshades it when he finds them celebrating at a bar:
    Dr. Cox: "... You were lucky. You know as well as I do that it could have been any one of your faults. Congrats again. Have a, eh, have a swell party." *Walks out*
  • Reality Is Unrealistic: There were a lot of complaints about the episode "My Lunch" where a patient dies and has her organs transplanted into other patients, but it turns out she died from rabies and the transplants get it too and how this was unrealistic. But this was actually based on a real case from 2004. While there have also been more than a dozen other reported cases of rabies being transplanted with organs, including the infection of multiple recipients from a single donor, the real complaint was that one donor would be a match for three patients in the same hospital.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Several, though special mention goes to Dr Cox. JD has a book made filled entirely with every single one he's ever used on him in season 8, fully categorized and rated from least to most damaging to his self esteem.
  • Reality Subtext: In the episode "My Catalyst", Michael J. Fox plays a doctor with OCD - a neurological disorder that all-but usurps control of the body from the active portions of the head - played by a man diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease, which accomplishes the same thing in a vastly different way. In an interview after that episode aired, Fox stated that he allowed his frustration with Parkinson's to help inform the character of Dr. Casey.
  • Recurring Extra: Snoop Dogg Intern Resident Attending, Dr. Beardface, Colonel Doctor and Dr. Mickhead.
  • Red-Headed Stepchild: Elliot, starting in the 8th season.
  • Relationship Reboot: The Janitor has offered this to JD a few times. It's almost always a trick, and even if it isn't, Failure Is the Only Option.
  • Relationship Revolving Door: Elliot and JD have been on-and-off again so often that even by the third season other characters treat it as a mundane occurrence.
    Carla:"What's wrong with him[JD]?"
    Turk:"He slept with Elliot last night."
    Carla:"[bored voice]Oh, that time of year again."
  • Remember the New Guy: In season 2 Dick Van Dyke guest stars for all of one episode as a doctor that's seen as the "anti-Kelso", is nice to the staff, is Kelso's best friend, has a strong relationship with the Janitor and has allegedly been at the hospital the whole time even though he was never mentioned before.
    • Also, Kim Briggs, for more info see....
  • Retcon: Dr. Kim Briggs was working in the hospital for years before J.D. ran into her. In a series of flashbacks using archive footage, they placed Kim in various settings where she definitely wasn't there before.
    • Also, Jordan having Post Partum Depression after giving birth to Jack. If she had, Dr Cox would have come off as far more of a Jerkass for whining abut how much attention she was giving the baby.
  • The Reveal: In the finale, the Janitor's name is Glen Matthews. Immediately after, a passing intern goes "Hey Tommy". Janitor: "Hey."
    • Word of God is that the correct name is Glen Matthews, and that the other name was most likely part of another prank.
  • Road Sign Reversal: The Janitor does this to JD during his birthday triathlon. JD ends up biking uncontrollably down a near-vertical hill.
  • Romantic False Lead: Alex.
  • Rule of Funny: Despite the cartoonish nature of the show, for the most part the situations and things that happen in the hospital are based on real events. But they are still out to entertain and that is why they have a nonsensical joke that wasn't an Imagine Spot where J.D. is incapable of seeing a woman with a wedding ring on... in the 5th Season.
    • Likewise in the same episode, when J.D. would never have had a need for a urologist consult or even hear of her over the course of 5 years, but it was all for a gag.
  • Running Gag: All the time, especially J.D.'s imagination spots. Once about three episodes in a row J.D. would imagine something horrible and a midget would jump out in a karate gi and punch him in the crotch. Then it turned out that he had been treating the said midget, who would frequently say, "Well that's a punch in the crotch." note  Reccurs in season three.
    J.D.: Randall?!
    Randall: Just got the job, brah.
    J.D.: (To himself) So that's why he's been back in my dreams...
    • J.D's butt.
    J.D.: It's firm like mutton.
    • Also, almost every woman J.D. sleeps with has an androgynous name: Elliot, Jordan, Alex, Danni, Jamie, etc.
      • Even Kim, by far the least androgynous name of the lot, actually can be a male name...
    • Turk and JD (especially JD) are big fans of the movie Judge Dredd and occassional references are made to their viewing habits and the absurd number of times they have watched it; in "My Déjà Vu My Déjà Vu," for example, Turk invites JD to watch the movie at his place, at which point they both loudly proclaim, "NINETY-NINTH VIEWING," before they high-five each other; at the conclusion of "His Story II", JD is initially more interested in the movie than Elliot's sexual advances.
    JD: What is she doing?! It's the Judge!
    • Hugh Jackman always shows up in a list of things Dr. Cox hates.
    • In season Eight, Denise, a new intern, provides several. She's bad at connecting with people so when they get sick, her go-to line is "That sucks." To which they reply "That totally sucks!" She also has a thing for fat guys. They try harder.
    • J.D.'s screenplay "Dr. Acula".
  • Sacrificial Lion: Patricia Wilk, introduced early in the fifth season, spends several episodes in the hospital with various, non-fatal issues, before finally getting an untreatable, fatal infection from the most incompetent intern ever.
  • Safety Worst: Jordan frets over Dr. Cox allowing their son on a dangerous climbing frame, and the last scene shows him in so much safety gear he can't move, even if he wants down. Meanwhile, Cox himself is horrified that Jordan allows the kid to be held by other people, all of whom were, of course, covered in germs.
  • Salt and Pepper: Or as Turk and J.D. would put it, "Vanilla Bear" and "Chocolate Bear". It's both played straight and subverted often since Turk tends to be just as nerdy and weird as J.D. sometimes.
  • Saw "Star Wars" Twenty-Seven Times: Something of a Running Gag on the show, Turk and J.D. have watched Judge Dredd together on a surprising number of occasions. In the episode "My Déjà Vu My Déjà Vu," Turk invites J.D. to watch the movie at his place at which point they both loudly proclaim in unison, "NINETY-NINTH VIEWING" before high-fiving each other.
  • Scary Black Man:
    Dr. Cox: Angry black man, never disappoints.
    Ron: I pull him out when I need to.
  • Science Marches On - Dr. Townshend's episode hinges on his use of an old treatment instead of the much safer modern alternative. As Dr. Kelso tells him, even the newest doctor's education is obsolete within five years.
  • Screw the Rules, I Have Connections!
  • Script Wank: Lampshaded at one point.
  • Seamless Spontaneous Lie: A frequent tool; for example, one episode had a "seamless collaborative guy lie" to cover up Carla Pulling The Thread on the original one-word lie. And it would've worked, too, if it weren't for Turk's meddling ass.
  • Second Person Attack: Used when Cox punches Kelso in the season 2 finale.
  • Secret Test of Character: A downright epic one is revealed in the finale. Remember the elevator penny from the first day? It was JD's, after it fell out of his pocket and rolled there. He didn't say so because he wanted Janitor to like him. Except that the Janitor saw it happen, and had been hoping JD would fess up so they could be friends.
  • Series Fauxnale: The season 9 that came after the Grand Finale of season 8, which while a ratings failure instead of a Post Script Season it mostly focused on new characters in the new setting.
  • Seriously Scruffy: A recurring theme is the difficulty of looking good while working at a hospital;
    • "My Clean Break"'s B-Plot is about Elliot's habit of averting this (by getting up early), making the rest of the staff resent her.
    • Another episode features Elliot herself trying to get around this trope while chatting up an attractive patient.
    • Ted the lawyer always looks a mess thanks to his status as Dr. Kelso's whipping boy (and constantly dealing with lawsuits).
  • Sesame Street Cred: Inverted with "My ABC's".
  • Shared Universe: With Cougar Town, surprisingly enough.
  • Sherlock Scan: J.D. explaining Todd's sugar trap.
  • Ship Sinking: The ending of season three was meant to completely close the door on J.D. and Elliot, after three seasons of UST and a tradition of them hooking up once a season. Their relationship was purposefully made to be as melodramatic as possible to show why they didn't work as a couple. But the fans and the actors liked the pairing too much, due to good chemistry between them and just matching up well in personality. The sixth season saw them flirting with each other again subconsciously and it gradually led to them behaving almost as a couple without actually hooking up. Mid eighth season they get back together after some soul searching let them realize they loved each other but were too immature and selfish to make it work earlier. Season nine they are married and have a baby on the way.
  • Shirtless Scene: Pretty much the entire male cast. J.D. seems to do this every other episode.
  • Shout-Out: An entire episode was dedicated to medical mysteries (and social mysteries) like House.
    Kelso: Oh Perry, you're so edgy and cantankerous. You're like House without the limp.
    J.D.: I love Grey's Anatomy. It's like they saw our lives and put it on TV!
    • The Grey's Anatomy one is also, of course, an incredibly subtle Take That. Although Bill Lawrence did admit once that these jokes stemmed more from envy rather than disdain.
      Lucy: What the Fraggle Rock just happened?
    • One is made to Gremlins in the second episode of season nine.
    • Turk has an Imagine Spot where he's a white insurance salesman named "Cal Turk", who bears a strong resemblance to Chuck Taylor.
  • Shown Their Work: Despite some of the more cartoony personalities the show has, it is lauded as being one of the most realistic portrayals of the life of medical interns. The medicine itself too.
  • Shut Up, Hannibal!: Happens in Season Six when Dr. Cox couldn't stop trying to tear down Laverne's faith in Christianity:
    Dr. Cox: That was a coincidence.
    Laverne: What?
    Dr. Cox: The knife. It just so happened to go in the exact right spot. You do not get a win for dumb luck.
    Laverne: Look...if that's the way you choose to see the world, then so be it. But don't you dare try to take this away from me. I've been coming here every day for twenty-four years, watching children die and seeing good people suffer. And if I quit believing that there was a bigger plan behind all this, well I wouldn't just be able to show up tomorrow. So just stop it!
    • Also done in season 4, on a much lighter note than most examples. This seems to just be Dr. Molly Clock's regular reaction to Dr. Cox, though it's unknown whether she is intentionally or unintentionally doing it.
    • J.D does it to Cox in "My Case Study" when, having been selected by Kelso to present his case-study at a prestigious medical conference in Reno, he is subjected to a vicious "The Reason You Suck" Speech from Cox about how this makes J.D Kelso's puppy. J.D is visibly hurt by this and retorts that, while he respects Cox, he wants to be "a more successful you — there's nothing wrong with playing the game once in a while." J.D then tries to lighten the mood with a joke about how, when he's Cox's boss, he'll put in a good word for him. Cox, however, is visibly taken aback by J.D standing up to him and unsettled by the unintentional implication that his own stubbornness and refusal to compromise even a little had stalled and perhaps even ruined his career.
  • Side Bet: Dr. Kelso's bet with the boys in Radiology.
  • Signed Up for the Dental: The Janitor and other support staff briefly get jobs at the coffee shop for its dental plan.
  • Six Student Clique: adult variation
    • The Head: Dr. Cox
    • The Muscle: Turk
    • The Quirk: J.D.
    • The Pretty One: Elliot
    • The Smart One: Carla
    • The Wild One: Jordan
  • Skeleton Key: In the episode "My Jerks," the Janitor is revealed to have made a key that works on everything. Said key is confiscated by Dr. Maddox
  • Slasher Smile: Dr. Cox is very good at making these, a number of them occurring in J.D.'s Imagine Spots.
    • Once when Dr. Cox imagines what it would be like to be married to Elliot. He can't stand her, so he murders here with a knife and is seen being taken away by the cops. As soon as he comes out of the fantasy, he has a great big slasher smile on his face and says "worth it".
  • Slut Shaming: The show tended to treat characters badly if they had sex outside of a committed relationship. Men were ostensibly excused if it had been long enough, but they were portrayed (and treated) as somewhat pathetic. The worst was probably when Elliot had a one night stand with a surgeon and immediately got a reputation through the entire hospital, with Turk being punished by his fellow surgeons for trying to stand up for her.
  • Small Name, Big Ego: The Todd.
    • Something of an unusual example, as the Todd is in fact an extremely competent surgeon (in the first season, Turk's attending even tells him that the Todd is better than Turk). Played straight everywhere else though.
  • Snark-to-Snark Combat: Dr. Cox vs. Dr. Norris (Christopher Meloni). Cox is so impressed by him he insists on him being Jack's pediatrician and successfully blackmails him into it.
  • Sock It To Them: The Janitor claims that his father used to do this. It's unlikely that he was telling the truth, of course.
  • Something Completely Different: "My Life in Four Cameras" reworks the show as a parody of more conventional Sitcom; "My Princess" recasts the regulars in a fairy-tale told by Dr Cox to his son.
    • "My Absence" features no narration and a massive reduction of Imagine Spots.
  • Special Guest and The Cameo: Dozens, ranging from recurring characters (John Ritter, Heather Graham, Michael J. Fox) to brief appearances— Fred 'Rerun' Berry, Billy Dee, Jimmie Walker, Matthew 'Chandler' Perry, and more. Almost the entire cast of Spin City has dropped by at some point. Also has had musicians appear solely for musical numbers (The Polyphonic Spree, Colin Hay). As the show got more popular, they got much more frequent...
  • Spell My Name with a "The": The Todd
  • Spicy Latina: Carla.
  • Spinning Paper: Physically no less, in "My Manhood".
  • Stand-In Portrait: Spoofed in My Jiggly Ball when Kelso tries to hide as a doctor in a mural. He refuses to break cover even when Cox points out he is 3 dimensional and then physically grabs him.
  • Starving Student: While they aren't students anymore, JD, Turk and the other interns (apart from Elliot, who's parents pay for everything) have to steal hospital supplies to make ends meet.
  • Stealth Insult: "Let's talk, you and me. No lawyers." - Kelso to Ted (the hospital's dimwitted lawyer on retainer) when trying to settle without a lawsuit after Kelso hit Ted with his car
  • Storybook Episode "My Princess"
  • Strange Minds Think Alike: Dr. Kelso and Dr. Cox agree - people are bastard-coated bastards with bastard filling.
  • Stupid Sexy Flanders: Almost everyone at least once, but especially J.D.
    J.D.:Stop it! I don't have gay jungle fever!
  • Superstition Episode: The series references a The Brady Bunch story when J.D. buys his own tiki necklaces for a group vacation. They joke around about certain things happening to them being bad luck, even mimicking the sound used for the Brady story, but overall it was just some arguments between couples and not actual bad luck.
  • Suspiciously Specific Denial: J.D. denies having taken pole dancing classes in "My Road To Nowhere".
  • Table Space: Appears in the episode "My Cold Shower", when Kelso has an Imagine Spot about what it'd be like being married to Elliot. The gag is used to show how loveless that marriage would be; Elliot notes how much she hates Kelso and he emotionlessly replies "I know" before returning to his dinner.
  • Take That: "I love Grey's Anatomy. It's like they took our lives and put it on TV."
    • "If you want to solve a real mystery, how about who keeps taking my paper every morning? Or better yet, why anyone thinks Dane Cook is funny?"
    • In a similar vein to the one about Grey's Anatomy, there's the time Kelso says Dr. Cox is "Like House, without the limp." Though that may have been entirely well meaning, seeing as they later did an episode long House homage.
    • and Hugh Jackman.
  • Taught by Experience: In combination with a Sink or Swim Mentor in Dr. Cox.
  • Team Mom: Carla.
  • Tell Her Im Not Speaking To Her: Happens to Elliot twice - in one episode Dr Cox gets annoyed with her for deliberately setting him up to say the wrong thing to a German patient, so when she asks him for help, he talks to a stapler. And for much of Season Six, once she becomes "Private Practice Barbie", Dr Kelso refuses to aknowlege her existence, and talks to her through the nurses.
  • There Are No Therapists: Yes, there are. As Jordan points out,
    "You can't solve this through willpower, or positive thinking, or taking advice from a Hollywood actor and the dead science fiction writer he worships. You need some help."
    • However, Cox's therapist told him that he was being petty about not being loved enough. Later on, it's revealed that Cox's father was an abusive alcoholic.
  • There Was a Door: JD and Turk get kicked through a window by ostriches (long story). Their owner quips this.
  • Third-Person Person: The Todd.
    • Cole.
  • Third Wheel: J.D. is often one for Turk and Carla, though the Ho Yay relationship J.D. and Turk have can sometimes make Carla feel this way.
  • Three-Way Sex
    "Was it the good kind, or was it a devil's threesome?"
  • A Threesome Is Hot: J.D. seems very open to the idea of a threesome with Turk and Carla;
    J.D.: *Narration* Oh my god, would I have a threesome with Turk and Carla? I'm flattered-
    Turk: Will you be my best man?
    J.D.: *Disappointed* Oh...
    • Also invoked when Turk and Carla barge in on J.D. and Kylie, just as she's about to seduce him. He recommends a foursome just to keep the mood going. Everyone looks disgusted except Turk, who nods approval behind Carla's back, then switches it to shaking his head "no" as soon as she turns to look at him.
  • Throw It In: After realising Neil Flynn was a great improv comedian, the writers began to write most of the Janitor scenes with the simple direction "Neil says something".
    • The Out-takes definitely attest to the fact that often the crew had no idea what he was going to say in any given take.
  • Throw the Dog a Bone: Ted gets a love interest and you just can't help but root for the guy since it's the best thing to have ever happened to him.
    • Sort of gets soiled when you learn in his first appearance on Cougar Town (also created by Bill Lawrence) that his love interest, Gooch, left him for Hooch sometime after his last appearance in season 9.
    • In My Way or the Highway, The Janitor lets JD win. This isn't the only time where this happens in the series, but it is the first time.
  • Title Drop: The first episode. Wouldn't normally be notable (scrubs are standard hospital clothes), but the context and emphasis makes it obvious that it was deliberate.
    Dr. Kelso: Don't you know you're nothing but a pair of scrubs to me?
  • Tomboyish Name: Elliot.
    • Also a Running Gag is that J.D. always dates women with tomboyish names. (Alex, Kim, Elliot, Dani, etc.)
      • Almost always. He did have relationships with women named Neena and Kylie, both in season 4. Nino and Kyle are close, though.
  • Too Good for This Sinful Earth: A (fictional) prison inmate that one of the Janitor's alter egos knew.
  • The Topic of Cancer: While cancer -is- often shown to be horrible, other types of diseases can be shown to be just as bad at times.
  • Trademark Favorite Food:
    • JD loves him the appletinis.
    • Doug is sometimes seen with a lollipop in his mouth. This is a form of His Quirk Lives On because the previous pathologist that recognizes Doug's skill with identifying causes of death is also never seen without a lollipop in his mouth, and after this character progress, Doug adopts this habit.
    • Dr. Kelso loves his muffins. He owns a pair of "muffin slacks", for crying out loud.
  • Translation By Volume: Marco lampshades how absurd it is to Turk, who thinks Marco only speaks Spanish.
    Turk: I'm sorry. But I CAN'T UNDERSTAND YOU.
    Marco: Yeah, well that talking slower and louder thing is not as helpful as you might think.
  • Trash Landing: Ted in "My Catalyst".
  • Trickster Mentor: Dr Cox's style of teaching, particularly when dealing with JD, though he repeatedly denies doing this.
  • Trolling Translator: Multiple examples.
    • Dr. Cox asks Dr. Reid for help speaking to a German patient. She gives a line that means "Your wife has nice boobs" when he wanted to tell him about his condition.
    • In another episode, Carla's brother gives The Todd a pickup line for Spanish chicks. It doesn't work.
    Yo tengo herpes genital...para ti. (Said with a cocky attitude. Translates to, "I have genital herpes...for you.")
  • Truth in Television: Most of the medical cases, as weird as they may seem, are based on real life cases. Yes, this even includes the musical episode.
    • Many medical professionals have stated that Scrubs is the closest a show has gotten to showing how it actually is to work in medicine, gallows humour and all.
  • Tsundere: Every main female character. Also, Dr. Cox might apply.
  • Turn Your Head and Cough: When Dr. Kelso asks Dr. Cox to perform a physical on him for his new insurance policy, Dr. Cox issues the heavily sarcastic reply, "The day I willingly cradle your dusty old twig and berries and get a whiff of your chronic halitosis while you turn your head and cough is the day you can look for me up on the roof singing 'I Believe I Can Fly'."
  • Twisted Echo Cut: Used periodically; a character will be walking through the hospital and pondering their predicament and their thoughts fluidly pass into another character's thoughts by sharing the same dialogue. This happens a few times in a row and the characters' problems are pretty much entirely unrelated.
    Carla's Narration: ...In a lot of ways, I guess I'm as stubborn as he is. I wish I could make some sense out of...
    Janitor's Narration: ...this. Thirty cents to be exact. Damn riddle! Easy, Janitor. You'll get this.

    U-Z 
  • Ugly Guy, Hot Wife: It's been pointed out a few times on the show that J.D. (and by extension, Zach Braff) is not the most... traditionally attractive man and yet often finds himself with extremely hot women. In season eight Elliot mentions that the hospital can warp your sense of attraction and intern Denise muses "Ah, so that's why you're with Dr. Dorian." and Elliot stumbles to form a response to that. That said, many would argue that he is boyishly handsome, is good with people (despite being goofy and nerdy) and can be quite charming when the time comes.
  • Uncertain Doom: Doug Murphy was last seen being locked in a morgue drawer.
  • Unexpected Positive: there was an episode with a hypochondriac patient who demanded every test available. Eventually, as they were running out of tests and trying to convince the guy he was obviously perfectly healthy, Dr. Cox sets him up with an extremely uncomfortable test for a one-in-a-million condition in the hopes that he'll go away. It unexpectedly turned out positive.
  • Ungrateful Bastard: Elliot very much qualifies with her behavior towards Dr. Cox in later seasons. In a few episodes, Elliot would rant at Dr Cox about how he has never helped her. Not counting that he helps her in all of these episodes and other times, he punched out the CHIEF OF MEDICINE for her, risking his job.
  • The Unfair Sex: Scrubs is really bad for this.
    • Best exemplified in JD's Anvilicious closing narration in My Tormented Mentor: "There will always be a battle for power between the sexes, sometimes a man just has to give in, other times he just has to take a positive step, and once in a while a man just has to be there for her." The subtext being that women can't be wrong because they have it hard on account of being women(!?), while in the same episode the chief complaint a female surgeon has against Turk is that he assumes women in their profession have it hard (which is true, at least in universe) and then punishes him for being perfectly nice to her. The female surgeon who is in charge of Turk constantly insults everyone around her and then prevents him from operating indefinitely because she overheard him defending her in front of the resident Memetic Molester and he told her he doesn't share the prejudices of the other male surgeons. Hint: You're not supposed to be supportive of women, it's demeaning. All instances of female surgeons in the show basically illustrate one point: cocky men are assholes, cocky women are professionals who fight the good fight for women all over the world and it's completely justified if they lash out and misuse their authority form time to time (or all the time.)
    • That episode has another example with Dr. Cox and Jordan. After Jordan's brother dies (who was also best friends with Perry), Dr. Cox is extremely upset but finds it difficult to move on with Jordan's friends staying with them. Said friends openly insult and demean Perry at every opportunity and even lash out at him when he tries to get close to Jordan for emotional support. In the end, rather than getting an aesop that the two of them need to work together to overcome the loss, Perry learns he's meant to comfort and support Jordan at all times, even letting her cheerily keep her friends at the apartment knowing how much they upset him. His emotional needs are all but ignored.
    • Carla demands to know when JD is moving out of the apartment because she wants to move in with Turk. Its a wonder why JD even goes along with this considering that its his apartment! Even Turk briefly moved out in the Pilot, so you could argue this only reinforces that it belongs to him.
    • Elliot sleeps with JD then immediately dumps him the day after because her old boyfriend came back; JD's jealousy is depicted as petty and he's advised to "be a good friend". Later, JD convinces Elliot to leave her boyfriend but realises that he doesn't love her. After struggling over his dilemma, he admits this to her; she physically assaults him and at the start of the new season, injects him with something that knocks him out and holds a grudge all season.
    • Elliot is engaged to marry Keith. The day before the wedding, she realises that she doesn't love him (wow, small world) and dumps him. The day afterwards, she changes her mind and gets back together with him, sleeping with him twice. Then she decides that she's repeating a bad pattern and dumps him again. Keith is understandably furious and carries a grudge for the next season; meanwhile, Elliot can't understand what the big deal is and bemoans Keith's "lack of professionalism". (Speaking of professionalism, the reason they got together in the first place was because Elliot wanted a sex buddy and chose Keith, her subordinate.) Carla does manage to force Elliot to face up to the psychological devastation inflicted on Keith and apologize, but this is undercut substantially by being basically a way to write Keith off the show. He wasn't seen until the penultimate scene of season eight's last show (which was intended to be the series finale ) and never again.
    • JD accidentally gets Kim pregnant on their first date, but they decide to raise the baby and work together to make their relationship work. Kim suddenly takes a lucrative job offer a few states over (naturally, JD doesn't want her to go but "learns" that the correct reaction is to support her decision unconditionally) and a few months later, informs JD that she has miscarried. Turns out, that was a lie to get out of their relationship. JD is furious but decides that he will get back together with Kim for the sake of his child, even if it means trapping himself in a loveless relationship for the rest of his life. When Kim is in labour she demands to know what he thinks of her; he admits that he doesn't love her and she is furious, dumping him immediately afterwards.
    • Inverted in one episode where Elliot makes out with the father of a child patient only to discover that he's married. When he tells his wife, the wife goes into a frenzy directed only at Elliot, and hunts her for the rest of the episode.
    • Elliot demands that JD tell her he loves her in "the perfect way" and acts completely furious when he calls her on this, that they both agreed that the drama was over and it was this growth in character was the reason they got back together. Naturally, he has to eventually buckle in and give into her unreasonable demands.
    • Elliot (once again) not understanding why JD is initially upset that she set up Sean and Kim together, believing that since they (JD and Elliot) weren't dating at the time, it shouldn't have been a problem? By thinking of how this relates to her, she's completely failed to recognise that because JD and Sean mutually loathe each other, setting Sean up with the mother of JD's child is something JD might have a problem with. Furthermore, depending on how that relationship works out, Sean would now be in the position where he might become the new step-father to JD's son, which he's already acting in a father-figure capacity for now! When JD even brings this up, she tells him to just get over it and be happy for them.
    • This is also downplayed and given a form of metalampshading in "my butterfly". Carla gets a chewing out by Kelso, and both scenarios play out differently. When Turk stands up for her she berates him for not letting her "defend herself", but in the other one he says nothing and she chews him out for not sticking up for her, making it clear she was angry at being humiliated by Kelso and took it out on Turk.
  • Unfortunate Name: Very many, but one of the funniest being a memorable patient who's a Private in the army named Private Dancer.
    • At the end of season 8, J.D. decides to work at the same hospital as Kim, stating he got on well with her boss, Dr. Mantoots.
  • Unreliable Narrator: "My Princess" obviously has a bit of this going on through Dr. Cox telling his son the story of his day at work through the form of a classical fairytale involving knights, princesses and monsters but it's cemented by the ending; Cox tells his son that the 'maiden' (i.e. the patient) lived happily ever after, indicated that she survived, but in dialogue with Jordan immediately afterwards defeatedly implies that in actuality the patient never managed to get the liver transplant she needed and died.
  • Unrequited Love Switcheroo: Several times with J.D. and Elliot. S1: J.D. —> Elliot then Elliot — J.D.. S2: Elliot —> J.D. then J.D. —> Elliot. S3: J.D. —> Elliot then Elliot —> J.D.. S6/7/8: J.D. —> Elliot.
  • Unusual Euphemism: Elliot has a whole bunch of them.
  • UST: J.D. and Elliot with the exception of the early part of the fourth season, the aftermath of when J.D. tells her he doesn't actually love her.
    • When J.D. moved in with Elliot as a platonic roommate in the fifth season he admitted to Turk that there was still sexual tension but they've managed to keep it in check by just not hanging out with each other too much.
    • J.D. admits to Keith that if it weren't for his long and complicated history with Elliot, the two of them would probably be best friends.
  • Vengeful Vending Machine: Turk gets his hand caught in a vending machine.
    I paid for my Rolos! I'm getting my Rolos!
  • Vitriolic Best Buds: The "Best Buds" thing is a bit of a stretch, but this ends up being the type of working relationship Cox and Turk have.
  • Voice Changeling: J.D. can perfectly mimic Turk's voice.
  • Walk On The Wild Side Episode: Parodied when Elliot decides to go out on the town for the night. She steps out of a taxi and her hat is immediately stolen. She jumps right back into the taxi and screams "get me out of here".
  • Wanting Is Better Than Having: JD is usually only interested in Elliot when she's not in a relationship with him. The fact that he never learns that he only wants what he can't have is frequently pointed out to him.
  • Watch the Paint Job: In an effort to cheer herself up in the first episode of the third season, Elliot maxes out her credit for a new car. It doesn't make it through the episode — it gets its passenger door taken out by a passing truck the very second that she gets the keys (FRICK!) and its driver's side door taken out a scene or so later by a van (DOUBLE FRICK!).
  • Waxing Lyrical:
    Carla: What if we have a daughter and she wants to get hear ears pierced?
    Turk: Irrelevant. We're not having a daughter.
    Carla: Okay, what if we have a son and he wants to take dance classes while all his friends are playing football?
    Turk: He can dance if he wants to. He can leave his friends behind. Because his friend don't dance and if they don't dance then they're no friends of mine. S-S-S-S-A-A-A-A-F-F-F-F-E-E...
  • "Well Done, Son" Guy: J.D. and Dr. Cox.
  • Westminster Chimes: "Wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong... wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong."
  • What Have We Ear?: J.D. does this trick. To ''David Copperfield'' no less.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: In My Screw Up a subplot is devoted to Ted's band losing a member who wants to go solo. The next time we see his band, the lineup hasn't changed at all. May cross over into Status Quo Is God.
  • "What Now?" Ending: The season one, three, and four finales.
  • Wham Episode: Quite a few, with associated bombshells:
    • "My Super Ego": Watching golden boy Nick Murdoch completely break down when he can't save a seven year old boy significantly impacts J.D. and Elliot.
    • "My Occurrence"/"My Hero": The realization that the entire first episode was just J.D. trying imagine away revealing Ben's leukemia and Dr. Cox in the second struggling with Ben's chemotherapy.
    • "My Last Day"/"My Overkill": Jordan drops a flurry of bombshells, prompting the complete destruction of the group of friends.
    • "My Fifteen Seconds": The third Jill Tracy episode, complete with the doctors very narrowly preventing her from returning home to attempt suicide... again.
    • "My Catalyst": Another broken hero episode, with Dr. Kevin Casey who is so psychologically crippled by his OCD that he washes his hands until his skin is raw, and flicks the lights on and off all night.
      • Made especially whammy in that up until this point his condition has been played for lighthearted laughs. Cue one of the most accurate and serious portrayals it has ever received in media.
      • It could also arguably count as a deconstruction of the Mary Sue - up until that point, he'd shown up Dr.s Cox, Dorian, and Turk because of his OCD... then you get the darkness at the end of the episode showing that, while the condition allowed him to become a brilliant medical practitioner, the personal cost was extremely high to compensate.
    • "My Screw Up"/"My Tormented Mentor": The sudden death of Ben Sullivan, and Dr. Cox's complete mental breakdown that results. See Wham Line below for one of the show's supreme sad moments.
    • "My Cabbage"/"My Five Stages": The first episode goes a little too right, and as a previously dangerously ill patient is finally better and ready to leave, an intern who has just been fired unknowingly passes off an infection, which ultimately results in her death.
    • "My Lunch"/"My Fallen Idol": Another Jill Tracy episode, in which she runs into J.D. and Cox, winds up in the hospital, and dies. After her organs are donated to three patients in dire need of transplant, it is discovered that Jill died of rabies. All three patients die and Dr. Cox, blaming himself, spirals wildly out of control to the point of catatonia.
    • "My Cake" : At the beginning, it is foreshadowed and all but it is still not good for J.D. to learn that His father has died, but it seems otherwise fine until Turk has diabetes.
    • "My Musical": Mostly an upbeat episode... until you realize it's only a musical because the guest character has a critically large aneurysm, causing her to hallucinate music. "When the Truth Comes Out" and "What's Going to Happen to Me?" are particularly whammy.
      Dr. Cox: My god... that's the biggest aneurysm I've ever seen. The woman's a time bomb...

      Patient (singing) : What's going to happen? What does the future hold? So many things that I put off... assuming I'd have time! Assuming I'd... grow old... what's going to happen? And will I be alive... tomorrow? What's going to happen... to me?

      Ensemble (singing) : Plan for tomorrow, 'cause we swear to you, you're going to be okay.
      J.D. (singing) : ...we hope.
    • "My No Good Reason"/"My Long Goodbye": The very sudden hospitalization and death of Laverne Roberts. Carla's goodbye is one of the saddest moments of the entire series.
    • "My Cold Shower":
      J.D.: As I looked at all the relationships around me — some that had gone on forever, some that were reigniting, and some that were had just begun, I realized something...
      J.D. stands silently under a cold shower.
      J.D.: It should have been me.
    • "My Finale": Most of the episode, but in particular the final slideshow and this exchange:
      Sunny: Oh, he's finally gone. Talk about making a big deal over nothing, you know? I mean, Dr. Dorian was fine, but he was no better than any other doctor.
      Dr. Cox: For the record, he was the best that ever came through this dump. John Dorian was the first and only doctor I ever met who cared as much as I do. And you can forget about him being a just an exceptional physician, because the fact of the matter is, he's a damn exceptional person. It's why people gravitated to him. It's why I did. He was my friend.
  • Wham Line: In My Screw Up:
    Dr. Cox: Aren't you going to take any pictures?
    J.D.: Pictures of what?
    Dr. Cox: You know, of crying babies covered in chocolate? People singing happy birthday to my son who've never even met him before, you know, the whole routine.
    J.D.: Where do you think we are?
  • Wham Shot: Ben asking for a group photo in "My Occurrence" is two-fold: the fact that he, a guy who admitted to hating posed photos, asked for one and that the screen has gotten... wavy.
  • Whole Plot Reference: The series, especially the early seasons, are one to the Samuel Shem book The House of God, and not just because it's about a nerdy white doctor with a black best friend and a cynical mentor. Many of the early scenarios and dialogue are lifted wholesale from the book, such as Dr. Cox's rant about how most patients are older and checked out mentally, but a doctor's job is to stay sane enough to treat the few people they can actually help. The writers admitted they leaned heavily on the book in the early seasons for situations, dialogue, language and atmosphere. They even directly quote the book at one point:
    J.D.: A famous doctor once said "Show me a med student who only triples my work and I'll kiss his feet."
  • Why Are We Whispering: Season 2 Episode 21, between JD and Janitor.
Janitor: (whispering) Shhhhhh! Calm down. I didn't mean to scare you.
J.D.: (whispering) Why are we whispering?
Janitor: (whispering) I wanted to see if you would whisper because I whispered.
J.D.: (whispering) I think I would.
  • Will They or Won't They?: JD and Elliot - And yes, they...wait, no. Yes. No. Maybe. I don't know. Can you repeat the question?
    • They will.
    • The Janitor actually brings this up in My Fault.
    "You're pathetic. For three years I've been watching you pine after blonde doctor, and I'll tell you, everyone is sick of it; 'Will they? Won't they? Looks like they're going to, ooo at the last second something went wrong uuuaaaacome on! Enough already!"
    • First lampshadednote  and deconstructed in the fifteenth episode of the first season, which shows the aftermath of the first time J.D. and Elliot sleep together and the three week meltdown of the relationship that followed.
  • Wide-Eyed Idealist: J.D. starts the series this way, but by the second season he at least understands how the long-timers got to be so jaded and defensive.
  • Wire Fu: Dr. Cox flying out of the window in "My Hero".
  • With Friends Like These...: J.D. and Dr. Cox.
    • Carla, Turk and Elliot have moments like this with J.D., mostly in Season 6. They laugh at J.D. for getting Kim pregnant without having sex and complain about having to help him out with dealing with breaking up with Kim after she had a miscarriage when he's always there for them.
    • Dr. Cox in many episodes, especially "My Lunch" and "My Fallen Idol". And "My Screw up". Especially "My Screw Up."
    • The Janitor during the ending of "My Best Laid Plans".
  • Work Com
  • Worth It: Several examples.
    • Once when Dr. Cox imagines what it would be like to be married to Elliot. He can't stand her, so he murders here with a knife and is seen being taken away by the cops. As soon as he comes out of the fantasy, he has a great big slasher smile on his face and says "worth it".
  • Written-In Absence: The 8th Season came with a mandate that each cast member not be in at least two episodes to reduce cost. Some were a near Real Time character study that occurred in one night, others were just casual mentions of characters on vacation or out of town. To deal with J.D. being gone from two episodes one episode had no narration at all while another passed the narration off to day in the limelighters.
    • One episode had JD take his son to Disneyland and one had Carla being out of town.
  • X Called; They Want Their Y Back: One episode has J.D. describe an elderly patient as a "neat old lady" and Turk tell him "the 1930s called, they want their lingo back." Lampshaded when JD tells Turk he's been using that "somebody called" joke a lot in that episode.
  • Xtreme Kool Letterz: J.D.'s Shower Shortz in "My Screw Up".
  • You Did Everything You Could: They're doctors. Of course they're told this at some point.
    • One episode has Dr. Cox tell Elliot that she did everything right and a deceased patient's father telling Turk that he was glad that not only did he do everything he could, but also that he became friends with his son.
  • You Go Girl: Enforced by Elliot, who gets Carla to deny Turk sex because he didn't pick the one female in the group of candidates to be his assistant, which is apparently sexist.
  • You Look Familiar: Michael Hobert, who had a reocurring role as Lonnie the intern, originally played a patient getting a CAT scan by JD, in the pilot episode. The actor was one of the crew members.
    • The actress playing Lady appeared in a much earlier episode as a new doctor doing research at the hospital.
  • You Remind Me of X: Jordan tells J.D. that he reminds her of Dr. Cox when Perry was that age.
  • Your Head A Splode
    Dr. Cox: I can't believe your head exploded. If your head explodes, then you'll never make it as a doctor.
  • Your Mime Makes It Real: JD tries to get rid of Todd by doing the old "invisible tennis ball throw" that anyone with a dog will be familiar with. Todd falls for it, but somehow returns with a real tennis ball.
  • Zero Approval Gambit: Kelso's preferred method of motivation.


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