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Series / Scrubs

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"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 is a dramedy series created by Bill Lawrence that aired from 2001-2010 (2001-2008 on NBC and 2009-2010 on ABC, although the latter network's parent company produced and owns the rights to the show). The show is Putting the "Medic" in Comedic at its finest, shot in a single-camera format.

John "J.D." Dorian (Zach Braff) 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 (John C. McGinley), 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: Dr. Elliot Reid (Sarah Chalke), 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; J.D.'s long-time friend Dr. Chris Turk (Donald Faison), a surgeon who tries to be the best and blackest thing since burnt sliced toast; nurse Carla Espinosa (Judy Reyes), the Team Mom to the staff with a penchant for delivering advice whether you like it or not; Dr. Robert "Bob" Kelso (Ken Jenkins), the hospital's Chief of Medicine and Jerkass of a boss whose job requires him to be a heartless bastard and think only of the hospital in fiscal terms; and "Janitor" (Neil Flynn), a mysterious and often menacing presence in J.D.'s life who has taken the role of his nemesis.

Scrubs 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 trains of thought and overly literal depictions of metaphors people use.

The show 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 season. 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, as well as a recap page that looks like it needs some good curing.

This show provides examples of:

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  • 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 of them sees her as being good enough for various reasons, explaining her neuroses. Her mother's promiscuity, constantly cheating on her husband and sleeping with most of Elliot's ex-boyfriends definitely didn't help either.
    • 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.
    • In the episode My Transition, Janitor gives Carla a dog kennel he calls a "baby cage" and explains how his mother used it on him. When everyone reacts with shock and disgust, Janitor quickly claims it was a joke, then walks away with an angry face. Later he's on the phone to his mother and says "No, Mom, playpen/baby cage is not like tomato/tomato."
    • When Carla calls Katie out for taking the credit for a medical procedure that she didn't do, Katie tries to use the fact that her dad died when she was six, causing her mother to turn to alcohol in order to cope, to defend her selfishness. Carla doesn't care.
      Carla: Heard it! Me, dead mom. J.D., dead dad. Elliot, emotionally abusive parents. Dr. Cox, emotionally and physically abusive dead parents, which he may have killed. No one's sure. note 
  • 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.
    • The Janitor is forced to make up an a capella band on the spot when he's trying to come up with an excuse for why he wore a suit to get coffee with Elliot; he mistakenly thought it was a date but is far too embarrassed to admit it. Unfortunately Ted and the rest of the Worthless Peons overhear the Janitor bragging about how Hibbleton is the best band in town, and promptly challenge him to prove it in a competition, with Elliot as the judge. Janitor is able to coax Troy and Randall into joining him and they somehow win with an amazing improvisation of “Barbara Anne”.
  • Accidental Declaration of Love: When Elliot dating Nurse Paul, she stops by his place and looks through his stuff. She finds a copy of The Joshua Tree while he's admitting his admiration for her. She says "I love U2." He doesn't know she's holding the CD and thinks she said "I love you too." This leads to their breakup that episode.
  • Achilles in His Tent: Dr. Cox after three of his patients die.
  • 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.
    • Occurs when Carla talks about all the women Dr. Cox has slept with.
      Carla: Your ex-wife, the nurse in radiology, your ex-wife, the medical intern, your ex-wife...
      Dr. Cox: Will you get off my ex-wife?
      Carla: I will if you will.
      Dr. Cox: [thinks for a moment, then starts laughing] See, now I'm so proud of you I can't even be mad at you.
    • After hearing a rather long-winded spiel about the Janitor's current life goals, Jordan notes that the next time she hears someone say something boring to her, she's just going to leave. Kelso begins to interject with his own opinion and Jordan immediately leaves.
      Kelso: Ha! Well played!
    • From the same episode as the above scenario:
      Elliot: ...but you never said you liked me, not even as a joke.
      Cox: I like you.
      Elliot: Really?
      Cox: No.
      Elliot: Nicely done.
      Cox: Thank you.
    • In "My Cookie Pants", Dr. Cox pretends to be on the phone as he's walking alongside Kelso to the hospital so they don't have to talk to each other. Kelso points out that Cox isn't even using a phone as a prop, instead holding his hand to his ear and talking into it. Cox's response is to simulate closing the phone in his hands and note that his friend on the phone called Kelso a tool, to which Kelso admits he can't think of anything to say in response, instead complimenting him.
      • As they finish walking together, Cox begins chewing Kelso out for wasting his twilight years in a coffee shop doing nothing, only for Kelso to interrupt him by saying that he has to take a call before making the same phone gesture that Cox did earlier and walking away. Cox looks genuinely amused at this.
        Cox: Look at that. He brought it back.
    • Although he initially appears unimpressed by J.D.'s "Welcome Back, Coxer" display, Dr. Cox later reveals to Elliot that it grew on him, to the point that he starts wearing one of the celebratory T-shirts.
      Cox: (sporting the shirt) Do you love it as much as I do?
    • In the last episode of Season Eight, J.D. presents Dr. Cox with a book full of all of the insults/rants Perry has given to him over the years, and Cox is genuinely amused.
  • An Aesop: Season 8 brought has a recurring message throughout Ed's arc: you can't be lazy at a serious job when everyone else is working hard. Ed tries to coast on his smarts but eventually falls behind. He did sincerely ask Dr. Cox to tell him when that would happen, but ignores the guy after a few episodes of goofing off. As a result, Dr. Cox fires him and puts a better intern in his place.
  • 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 the original aesop-dropping, 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 J.D. 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 three donor patients die, Cox completely breaks down, despite the fact that he couldn't possibly know the organs were infected with rabies. J.D. even ends up calling him out on it, but Dr Cox points out that unlike the other two patients, the last one wasn't in imminent danger of death, says his piece ("You're right."), and walks out anyway.
    • Played realistically with Cox and always getting in his own way. Being The Last DJ doesn’t help him at all, Jordan even telling him she can’t watch him self sabotage all the time, and he makes baby steps every few seasons to move up the ladder. In season eight, when he has the chance to be a chief of medicine, he tells Kelso he’s afraid, and even that job brings some Break the Haughty.
  • Affably Evil:
    • Dr. Taylor Maddox, Kelso's temporary replacement as Chief of Medicine after his retirement. J.D. 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: Jordan puts her hair in pigtails and dresses childishly to persuade a gorgeous gynocologist that she's younger than she really is.
  • All Gays are Promiscuous: Harrison Kelso and Barry Reid.
  • All Girls Like Ponies: Elliot and J.D. 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 neuroses on her.
  • All Just a Dream: Much of "My Occurrence" is revealed to be one of J.D.'s extended daydreams towards the end, with the shift occurring the moment he walks in to tell Dr. Cox and Ben the test results. J.D.'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 is unapologetically sexual, and Carla can be sexually assertive as well. The tropes are eventually played pretty straight, however, as Turk is frequently reduced to begging Carla for sex.
    • This is foreshadowed in one of the episodes before they get married, with Elliot saying, "Plus, now you only have to have sex when you actually want to!"
      • Carla also tells 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 claims she uses sex as an icebreaker.
  • All Women Love Shoes: Shoe shopping...
  • Almighty Janitor: The Janitor.
    • 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.
  • Alternate Catchphrase Inflection: Inverted. Turk and J.D. love to mess with Hooch and say, "Hooch is crazy" in an amused way, but eventually Hooch becomes more unpredictable and has a shorter temper so they begin to say it in a concerned, and eventually flat-out afraid, tone.
  • Always Someone Better:
    • Dr. Kevin Casey (played by Michael J. Fox) from the episode My Catalyst.
    • Nick Murdoch from My Super Ego.
    • 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.
  • An Aesop: As the show is intended to show the emotional hardships of medicine, albeit with a comedic bent, episodes frequently end with the young doctors having learned a lesson, usually narrated by J.D.
  • 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 J.D. refusing help, and Turk immediately finds a reason why J.D. wouldn't want their help. 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 J.D. 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 wants one of them 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.
    J.D.: 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.
    J.D.: 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!
    J.D.: Why did you have to go there?
    Carla: Oh my God!
  • And I Must Scream: One episode features Locked In Syndrome, a condition where the patient has full control of their senses but cannot move or speak.
  • Anger Montage: Elliot, right before she hacks off all her hair.
  • 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.
  • 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.
    • Dr. Cox's list of things he cares as little about as J.D.'s last week as a resident - the list in general starts on minor things and ends on the big ones, but Cox returns to add Hugh Jackman, resulting in this trope. After 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 aforementioned Hugh Jackman.
  • Artistic License – Medicine:
    • Largely avoided - in fact, this show is still considered one of the most realistic medical shows ever made - but the show's depiction of code blues (cardiac arrest) is incredibly inaccurate. The show portrays it as "they message everyone and whoever gets there first is in charge", but in real hospitals there are specific code teams that are dedicated purely to responding to code blues; in the rare event that they are unavailable, there is a clear line of succession for who is in charge of running the codenote . This is specifically to avoid problems like every doctor being too busy to run the code or doctors being too busy responding to the code to deal with a simultaneous issue.
    • For a show that is usually really good about being factually accurate their portrayal of Turk's Diabetes is shockingly ill-informed. Aside from the unlikelihood of a person like Turk developing Type 2 Diabetes, which is usually the result of prolonged obesity, the show treats the illness as if it were basically AIDS - a guaranteed death sentence. At one point Turk even gives a dramatic speech about his Diabetes, musing about how old he'll be when it takes him. In real life Type 2 Diabetes is not only easily survivable with many diabetics living long and successful lives, but it is in fact even potentially reversible.
  • 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 was originally just a background character who over the show was revealed to be both an attending physician and attending surgeon, revealed to have a done of strange fetishes and quirks and most likely murdered his wife and got off scot free for it.
    • Dr. Beardface. "It's Beardfacé, dammit!
    • Snoop Dogg Intern / Resident / Attending
    • Dr. Coleman "Colonel Doctor" Slawski was just a recurring background character, but he became a more prominent character due to his resemblance to Colonel Sanders, is two years sober and was revealed to be Lloyd's dad.
    • Lloyd Slawski, the delivery guy. Originally was a minor recurring character but as time went on, he was revealed to be a screamo metal fan, a on and off drug user and in trouble with loan sharks to the point he had to fake his death.
    • Originally, the Janitor was meant to be a one-season-only character who would be revealed in the season finale to be J.D.'s imaginary creation. He was so popular that they scrubbed that idea and kept him as a real character and Almighty Janitor.
  • Asshole Victim: Harvey Corman, the hypochondriac patient, in his first appearance in Season 2 did turn out to have a real disease after all - even though it was only discovered after Dr. Cox ordered a painful procedure to be performed on him just because he was being annoying. Regardless, Mr. Corman was a hypochondriac who continually wasted Cox's time with false alarms, and went on to sue Turk in Season 4 for petty reasons.
  • 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:
    J.D.: I don't want to go to Mass in the stupid morn- ooh, hey, candy!
    [J.D. 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. In the space of an episode he goes from genial, to upset, to shouting, to willing to beat a man unconscious with his shoe when J.D. asks him not to let anyone off the elevator.
  • Awful Wedded Life: Played for laughs in some of the Imagine Spots when all the other characters imagine being married to Elliot. Kelso and Elliot are sitting across from each other at a huge dining table; Kelso knows that his wife hates him but he doesn't care. Dr. Cox is so annoyed at Elliot being his wife that he murders her within two days and considers going to the chair as a result Worth It.

  • Baby Be Mine: None of the main cast thankfully but there's one female doctor in the season five opening that does this. She takes the kid just as the couple exits the hospital and sprints out side, only to slip. The Janitor catches the baby.
  • Baby Fever Trigger: Dr. Kelso taunts Dr. Elliot Reid when she wants to volunteer to take shifts in the Maternity Ward. He thinks that all women who work there either want to take care of babies or will want kids of their own and won't become doctors like him.
  • Baby's First Words: Dr Cox's son Jack's first words were a first sentence: "Daddy drinks a lot" as a response to Jordan making the drinky-drinky motion because Dr Cox was drunk at the time.
  • 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.
  • Back-to-Back Badasses: Turk and The Todd, in one of J.D.'s dream sequences.
  • 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.
  • Bad Vibrations: Done in "My Friend With Money" with a very pregnant Jordan, as a Jurassic Park homage.
  • 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.
  • Beat Without a "But": In "My Two Dads", after Elliot, believing her breasts have magic healing powers, flashes a patient, J.D. tries and fails to put a good spin on it:
    Elliot: At what point did I become a crazy person?
    J.D.: Oh, come on. Yes, exposing yourself to a dead guy might have been a tad unorthodox, and yes, it might be a little hard to live down...
    Elliot: I'm waiting for the "but".
    J.D.: So's everyone else around here. (Rimshot)
  • Beggar with a Signboard: J.D. has one of these in an Imagine Spot early in the series. When he's about to kiss Elliot, he imagines two likely consequences: either she reciprocates, leading to a steamy romance, marriage, and a threesome with another girl, or she takes it the wrong way and slaps him, he's thrown out the hospital on his ass for sexual harassment, and he ends up wearing a filthy scrub holding a sign saying he'll diagnose for food.
  • "Begone" Bribe:
    • Discussed. J.D. is trying to get Cox to hire more nurses. Cox claims that there just isn't enough money for it, but that J.D. 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.
    • Cox continues, saying that after while, people will forget how annoying he is and let their subscription run out. And then J.D. will go to their house and annoy them all over again, but this time, the price is quadrupled.
  • Belated Love Epiphany: J.D. was once in a relationship with Elliot, but they became Just Friends after breaking up. He's supportive when she becomes engaged to new intern Keith, but it isn't until the ceremony officiates the whole thing that he realizes that he did want to marry her himself.
  • Belligerent Sexual Tension: In early seasons Dr. Cox and Jordan share this trope.
  • Berserk Button:
  • 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. According to Bill Lawrence, Drew and Denise were 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.
    • After breaking up, J.D. and Elliot decide that they have to be this, since their romances always flame out and they have to work together.
  • Big Brother Instinct: Surprisingly, given their antagonistic attitude toward each other, Dan shows this toward J.D. when he stands up for J.D. against Dr. Cox:
    Dan: Hey, listen, Dr. Cox: No offense, I'm a big fan of the tough-guy act, but let me tell you what I really think. I think you love the fact that these kids idolize you. Johnny does! Johnny was always the one in the family we knew was going someplace — sweet kid, smart kid. Becoming a doctor, this is all he ever wanted; and yet, somehow, you've found a way to beat that out of him, haven't you? Turned him into some cynical guy who seems to despise what he does. Dr. Cox, Johnny's never gonna look up to me. Ever. But he hangs on your every word. So, I'm askin' — I'm telling you — take that responsibility seriously; stop being such a hard-ass, otherwise you're gonna have to answer to me.
  • Big "NO!":
    • Done by J.D. in "My Last Chance" when, after spending an entire night trying to get to Molly's apartment before she leaves 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."
    • In "My Hypocritcal Oath," Cox spoils the ending to The Sixth Sense to Janitor, making him let one of these out.
  • 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 is first introduced, he pretends to only speak Spanish to annoy Turk. Turk eventually goads him into revealing he speaks English.
    • In a later episode, Turk decides to surprise Carla by telling her he's learned Spanish, but then decides to keep it a secret for a bit so he can listen in on her secret conversations and appear to be a more attentive husband. This doesn'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 J.D. and Elliot as they start to repair their friendship and ultimately their relationship. Lampshaded beforehand by Turk saying they are going to say things nobody can understand except in their language.
    • A version of this happens when Carla's brother Marco is playing Pac-Man. All of his dialogue is subtitled, except for when he loses and shouts "Coño!" In Spanish, this is an interjection which means "Fuck!"
    • Happens again in "My Porcelain God" - when a Spanish-speaking patient worries about being a burden on Dr. Kelso, Carla says "que se joda," which both the subtitles and the ensuing conversation with Ted translate as "screw him," but the actual translation would the much more vulgar, "Fuck him."
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing:
    • Dr. Maddox is quickly revealed to be one.
    • Elliot has shades of this starting in season 4. Ranging from downplaying and forgetting how everyone else helped her early on, to calling J.D. jealous after being called by Dr. Cox for dumping patients on others, to calling J.D. a bad friend for considering telling Sean she cheated on him with J.D.
  • Bittersweet Ending: There are 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 Comedy: Anything involving Dr. Murphy.
    "They're like children. [Chuckle] Big, dead children."
    • This also shows up In-Universe, with doctors keeping themselves on an even keel using humor. It's an aesop in one episode with Turk objecting and Cox pointing out that the Chief of Surgery is telling a family their child died... and then he'll have to go back to work. They need that distance, and humor is one way they manage it.
  • Black Comedy Rape: "My Chopped Liver" has a flashback in which Perry and Jordan are drugged and possibly raped by a couple they were hanging out with. The scene is played humorously.
  • 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.
  • Blame the Paramour: Elliot once kisses a man who turned out to have a wife. He ends up confessing the affair to his wife, who gets mad at Elliot and spends the episode hunting her. Eventually, Elliot confronts her and tries to make amends, pointing out that it was her husband who wronged her. The woman doesn't listen and beats up Elliot off camera.
  • 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 comments that he suspects that Doug is secretly a government assassin.
  • Blue Means Smart One: The show portrays medical residents as being more intelligent and thoughtful than the surgeons, who are portrayed as meatheads who are mostly good for cutting up patients. Medical residents wear blue scrubs, while the surgeons wear green.
  • Bluff the Eavesdropper: In one episode, Dr. Cox realizes 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!
  • Book Ends:
    • The first episode of the first season is called "My First Day", while the last episode of that season is called "My Last Day". They also both begin with J.D. waking up in the morning, and giving exactly the same monologue.
      J.D.: Since I was a kid, I've been able to sleep through anything: storms, sirens, you name it. Last night, I didn't sleep. ... You see, today isn't just any other day...
    • J.D. is tackled by an alzheimers patient at the beginning and end of the season 5 episode My Intern's Eyes.
  • Bottle Episode: Apart from a few short scenes in the cold open, all of "My Quarantine" is set within the ICU.
  • 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!")
  • 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 J.D. 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.
    • "My Scrubs" has an interesting variation: although J.D. is explaining to Maggie (Kelso's friend who needs to be admitted, but has no insurance) why Mr. Rabinowitz (a patient who recently died whose room they can give her) died, the camera shot of him has him look directly into the camera to say it. It comes off as J.D. explaining to Maggie and the audience why he died:
    • Played with in "My Jerks" when J.D. 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 J.D., Turk and Elliot discuss how people count on them from week to week so they should work hard even though it's 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 gets cut off financially by her dad when she refuses to take her career where he wants her to go, losing her ability to afford her spacious apartment. While she's looking for a new apartment the moving truck holding everything she owns is stolen and she is such a wreck from the stress that she has patients dropping her because she simply isn't focused on her job. In addition, she has a complicated UST thing going on with J.D. and even breaks up with a boyfriend because she can'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.
    • This happens to Turk during the first Christmas special.
    • Kelso and Cox also spend an episode trying to break Molly Clock.
  • Broken Ace: Dr Kevin Casey is a brilliant medical attending and surgeon, a double specialist that makes him a sort of superstar among doctors, and is able to make instant diagnoses that stump even Cox. The only problem is that Casey got this way by reading his textbooks over and over and over again due to his severe Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, which also causes him to be unable to shake hands with people, walk into a building without repeatedly going back out and in again to sync his breathing with his footsteps, or stop washing his hands two hours after his last surgery when he just wants to go home.
  • Brick Joke:
    • J.D.'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 J.D.'s bad review the balloons come down.
    • There are many of these, such as the reveal that the "Crotch-Punching Midget" in J.D.'s fantasies was a patient he was treating, or that Troy the Lunch Room Worker eventually joined in the Janitor's grudge-war against J.D. because J.D. accidentally insulted him.
    • In the Season 1 finale, J.D. says he wants more people to call him Tiger. In the season 2 premier, Turk wakes him up by saying "Good morning, Tiger." invoked
    • Doubles with Call-Back and Funny Background Event: At the start of "My Five Stages", a mid-season five episode, J.D. narrates how Elliot and Keith love to play games while the camera pans over a bunch of gaming cards/boards/dice and the like. Among them is a Scrabble board and on it the word "jzilbek", which J.D. comments 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. Both women become overly controlling and even hostile towards anyone who disagrees with them.
  • Bully Hunter:
    • Though it takes J.D.'s urging for Doctor Cox to deliver the trope, he socks Kelso one when Kelso is tormenting Elliot.
    • Dr. Cox's evaluation of J.D.:
    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. Being so relentlessly focused on whatever he's doing, and being kind of a dumbass, Todd in surgery is only thinking about the surgery.
    • Special mention must go to Dr. Molly Clock, skilled psychiatrist and the biggest Cloud Cuckoo Lander in the entire show.
  • Busby Berkeley Number: "Welcome to Sacred Heart" from The Musical.
  • But I Can't Be Pregnant!: Jordan's second pregnancy comes as a surprise as Cox had previously had a vasectomy twice. After Jordan makes it clear she didn't cheat on him they discover that apparently the second vasectomy didn't work. Cue some petty revenge against the doctor that botched the procedure.
  • 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 becomes the rare main character Butt-Monkey over the last few seasons.
    • Doug Murphy, the most incompetent doctor in Sacred Heart, and possibly the world. In a rarity for this trope, however, instead of just laughing at his incompetence and then moving on, it eventually results in the other characters realizing that Doug is dangerously incompetent and simply not fit to be a doctor. Fortunately for him, he actually does turn out to be a fairly talented pathologist and gets moved to that job instead. Even then, he still has 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 gets this about as much as J.D. does, if not more so, in the earlier seasons.

  • Cake Toppers: Turk expresses anger that a wedding cake shop doesn't have Black/Latina cake-topper couples. The baker's offer to "touch them up" with chocolate frosting just makes Turk angrier.
  • Call-Back: Everywhere. The examples are too numerous to count, but regularly go back multiple seasons.
  • Calling Parents by Their Name: As a toddler, Jack learned to call Cox "Pewwy" by mimicking Jordan. Once he got to preschool age, he referred to him as the more traditional "Daddy."
  • 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 Jerkass?!"
  • Calling Your Orgasms: According to "Her Story II", J.D. says "bombs away" when he orgasms. He and Turk also ring "sex gongs" when they successfully get laid.
  • 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: J.D., particularly in "My Rite of Passage" where his interns are sucking up to him by laughing at his jokes.
    • 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.
      Elliot: [screeching] STOP FINISHING MY AWESOME JOKES!
      J.D.: [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 J.D. 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.
  • Casting Gag: Several actors who had previously played doctors appeared on the show as doctors, including several St. Elsewhere cast members in "My Sacrificial Clam" and Dick Van Dyke of Diagnosis: Murder in "My Brother, My Keeper".
  • Casual Kink: Elliot is shown to have some extremely strange fetishes. Mexican apple pickers are mentioned often.
  • Catchphrase: "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.
      • Unless it's 'on a stick.'
    • "It's Beardfacé, damnit!"
    • J.D.'s brother Dan - "heeey little brother!"
    • 'Eeeeeeaaaaagggglllleeeeee!!!'
  • C.A.T. Trap: Inverted as Elliot claims she uses a broken MRI machine as her "own little cocoon" when she's feeling stressed.
    • J.D. meets his girlfriend Alex while she is stuck in an MRI machine, though she wasn't freaked out at all.
  • Celebrity Paradox:
    • The main characters, particularly J.D., has been mentioned several times to be fans of Friends, yet no one reacts when Matthew Perry (Chandler) appears at Sacred Heart.
    • Similarly, Courteney Cox (Monica) appears in the early episodes of Season 8 as the new Chief of Medicine. It was made even more amusing retroactively when it was revealed that Cougar Town (another Bill Lawrence show which happened to star Courteney Cox) was eventually revealed to take place in the same universe as Scrubs after Ted guest-starred there.
    • It's mentioned in "My Butterfly" that J.D. and Turk are fans of Power Rangers, with Turk even owning a Power Rangers bandanna. Aloma Wright (Laverne) had a notable supporting role in Power Rangers in Space as the owner of the Rangers' favorite hangout spot.
  • 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".
  • 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.'s slide into effeminacy happens far too quickly for it to be a case of Flanderization, and seems more a byproduct of Braff and McGinley's portrayal's playing off one another even better than originally thought. In the very early parts of the show, J.D. was a fairly normal-seeming 25-year-old guy, apart from his inherent dorkiness and neuroses impeding his social life. But one of the first things that changes faster than any other characteristic (or other character) is how quickly the writers began playing up his more effeminate side, especially to clash against Cox's classic man's man personality. He was also at least somewhat familiar with sports in the early seasons, and while he and Turk were obviously very close from the get-go, the "bromance" knob was turned to eleven at a concurrent pace with just how much more effeminate J.D. became the first few seasons.
    • 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.
    • In an early episode the fact that Dr. Kelso pretends that his marriage is perfect is a major plot point (as he uses it as a way to avoid being asked for favors except for one day a year). In later seasons everyone seems to be aware that his marriage is in shambles and he and his wife are miserable.
    • Season 1 portrayed Elliot as more of a smug, competitive know-it-all. Her famous neurosis and Genki Girl tendencies took a while to surface. Likewise, it's a Running Gag from Season 2 onward that she can't say dirty words (she uses "bajingo" as euphemism for "vagina") but in Season 1 she used the words penis and vagina normally.
  • 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".note 
    • 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. (Though some Protestant denominations use "Protestant Prayer Beads")
  • 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!"
  • Chic and Awe: This is how Jordan Sullivan is introduced. When J.D. is assigned to treat an influential member of the hospital board, he thinks that it's going to be a grumpy, unpleasant, elderly man. His narration abruptly changes when he discovers the board member is actually a highly attractive late-30s woman.
  • 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. invoked
    • 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 longstanding supporting role. Doug was 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 J.D.'s girlfriends. At the end of "My Drama Queen," an episode focused on J.D. learning to evolve their relationship beyond the scandalous excitement phase, 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 J.D. feels like a fifth wheel she is never seen or heard from after that. She was referenced in a list of J.D.'s girlfriends he broke up with over stupid reasons in a later episode and appeared (in fantasy form) among many others in the finale. She said "You never called." Read what you will into that.
    • In "My Fifteen Minutes" it's 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. J.D. and Elliot's students never appear or are mentioned again after the episode despite the episode going out of its way to establish conflicts between the interns and their students. Turk's student fairs a little better since she begins dating Dr. Cox in the same episode... 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.
  • 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 J.D. 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:
    • J.D. may as well be the Cloudcuckooland emissary.
    • Molly Clock was also an example of this.
    • This is one of the Janitor's defining traits (especially in later seasons), besides being J.D.'s tormentor.
  • Clutching Hand Trap: Turk has gotten his hand stuck in both a candy vending-machine, and an ice dispensing machine (apparently the latter also happened to Leonard the Hook-Handed Security Guard) and J.D. once got his hand stuck in a coffee jug.
  • Coax Them Out of the Closet: The Todd is very vocally interested in women, but there's a lot of hints he's attracted to men. Eventually Elliot and Carla decide to get him to admit he's gay (at least partially because they're fed up with his constant flirting), and start treating him like a Gay Best Friend. In a twist, he comes out as bisexual, and keeps acting same, but expanding his Chivalrous Pervert behaviour to the whole cast.
  • Color-Coded for Your Convenience: The nurses, surgical interns, medical interns, and department heads all wear different colors. This is Truth in Television.
  • 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.
    • Kelso's terrible treatment of his wife is always played for laughs. There was once a scene where he was on the phone with her because his dog Baxter had cornered her and was viciously snarling at her. He took the dog's side and laughed and hung up as she was being mauled on the other end. And in the first season, he tells a therapist that Enid cries that he had slowly reduced her to a shell of the woman she used to be. He smiles and says that because of that he calls her "Shelley".
  • Comedic Work, Serious Scene: The generally lighthearted nature of the show gives serious episodes like My Lunch a much bigger impact.
  • 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 J.D. 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 J.D. backs out before anything physical happens because this trope makes him uncomfortable with the situation.
  • Commander Contrarian: After Dr. Kelso retires as Chief of Medicine and Dr. Cox takes the job, Kelso spells out to J.D. that Kelso kept Cox around, and kept promoting him, because he could rely on Cox to play this for him. If Dr. Cox asked Kelso for something, Kelso said "no" as was his wont, and Cox let it drop, Kelso knew it wasn't that important. But if Dr. Cox kept pestering him, then he knew it was something worth paying attention to. Now that Dr. Cox is Chief, he'll need J.D. to play a similar role, even if he doesn't realize or appreciate it.
  • Companion Cube:
    • Rowdy, a stuffed dog J.D. and Turk treat as a real one. Note that "stuffed" does not mean "toy." It is an actual dead dog that has been stuffed.
    • After J.D. stopped living with Turk, his scooter Sasha largely took over this role, due to Turk getting to keep Rowdy.
    • When a series of incidents see Rowdy temporarily go missing, Carla tries to replace him with yet another stuffed dead dog. Turk and J.D. find out but adopt the second dog and call him Steven. Turk ends up with Rowdy and J.D. keeps Steven.
  • Composite Character: Lucy is basically a composite of early-J.D. 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.
  • Confound Them with Kindness: In the episode "Their Story II", the Janitor doesn't get mad at Sunny when she is involved in a prank against him. While she is initially glad, she soon agonises over how the Janitor punishes the other perpetrators yet remains amiable to her. She believes it is because the Janitor considers her weak, but in the end, he reveals that her agonising was the punishment in itself.
  • 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 J.D. 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.
  • Contraception Deception:
    • Zig-zagged over a multi-episode plotline. After being incredibly relieved his ex-wife Jordan is not pregnant again, Dr. Cox gets a vasectomy without telling her. After a heartwarming speech about how she might want more kids someday, he has it reversed, again without mentioning it to her. After some Spotting the Thread on his attempts to explain away two surgeries, she and Cox have a heart-to-heart, and decide they don't want more kids and Dr. Cox should get the vasectomy. Again. This one is botched, and Jordan gets pregnant again next season.
    • In one episode, Turk was slipping Carla birth control pills because she wanted to have kids before he was ready. It's somewhat played for humor when J.D. accidentally eats a brownie Turk baked the pill into and it comes up on his urine test.
  • 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 J.D.'s interns being forced to follow Hooch around all day, no matter what.
      • That was Rex, and he wasn't forced, just incentivized by Turk and J.D. 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: J.D. Sometimes also Dr. Cox.
  • Cope by Pretending: The now-infamous episode "My Screw Up" has Cox spend the episode with his best friend Ben, laughing and hanging out and generally having fun, even when the two of them are appearing at the funeral for a patient who died in J.D.'s care. The patient ends up being Ben himself, and the episode reveals he was Dead All Along, with his and Cox's interactions being a way for Cox to cope with the loss of his best friend.
  • Covert Pervert: 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 J.D., 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.
  • Cousin Oliver: The slew of new medical students and interns brought in throughout the series. It worked at first, as this would be necessary as the residents advanced, but true to form, when medical students were made the primary focus during the final season, ratings dropped and the show was canceled.
  • Crazy Workplace: Scrubs has a plethora of Bunny Ears Lawyers serving in the medical profession. Dr. Cox is The Nicknamer, usually of the unflattering variety (and he gives J.D. a wide variety of Girl's Names). Dr. Kelso, Chief of Medicine, is a cantankerous bastard (and proud of the fact) who cares more about money than the patients. Eliot Reid, Trope Namer for Moment Killer, is a bundle of neuroses inflicted on her by her mother's prudishness and her father's high expectations. There's a surgeon who's a Third-Person Person as well as a very blatant case of Extreme Omnisexual. And Dr. Chris Turk seems to be in denial about the fact that he's absolutely Black and Nerdy.
  • 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 J.D. ("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, J.D. 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 J.D. walking down a hallway and meeting a lot of the actors that 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: J.D.'s childlike innocence and sensitivity is part of his eccentricity.
  • Cynical Mentor: Cox and Kelso share this role as different kinds of cynics. They both recognize the relentlessly corporate nature of medicine, but have different responses. Kelso leans into it and tries to do as much good as possible while also treating medicine as a business. Cox rebels against it and breaks the rules as much as he thinks he can. Kelso is thus a Sad Clown who hides how much it hurts him that he's forced into the role of the bad guy, while Cox is just the Broken Ace who can't live the life he actually wants (while also harboring a hell of a lot of other issues stemming from other sources).
  • Daydream Surprise: A staple, thanks to J.D. and his five times an episode Imagine Spot.
  • A Day in the Limelight: The His/Her/Their Story episodes.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Dr. Cox more then anyone else.
    Dr. Cox, looking at an x-ray: Either this kid has a light bulb up his butt, or his colon has a great 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.
  • Derailing Love Interests: Danni wasn't an especially likeable character when she's first introduced in the middle of season three, but when she returns at the end of the season her negative qualities are dramatically exacerbated to add fuel to the UST between J.D. and Elliot.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Diving Kick: One of J.D.'s fantasies involves Turk being ambushed by ninja surgeons while trying to return Dr. Wen's briefcase. He and Todd get into a kung fu fight, with Turk starting the battle up with a Rider Kick!
  • Doppelgänger Dating: When J.D. first dates Danni.
  • 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:
    • Carla is one of the biggest repeat offenders, and is rarely called out. She will quickly turn to belittling Turk in arguments, yet is notorious for her inability to handle the slightest of criticisms without deflecting them back on others. While there are other examples that become much more noticeable in the later seasons, one that is of particular note has its groundwork laid in seasons 3, but doesn't become clear until 4 ("My Moment of Un-Truth," and "My Best Laid Plans," respectively):
      • "My Moment of Un-Truth": Only five episodes before their wedding, Carla justifies going on a date with Dr. Ron "Hotbutt" Ramirez, a co-worker she used to have a crush on, as a means of strengthening her relationship with Turk (before guilting J.D. into not telling Turk):
        Carla: If I go out with him and I feel nothing, you know how confident I'll feel about Turk?
      • This is made even worse by the fact that two episodes later she very smugly declares to Dr. Cox that she would never have a crush on someone other than Turk.
      • But less than a year later, in "My Best Laid Plans," Carla becomes incredibly jealous over Turk re-connecting with his college girlfriend, Rosanna, and having frequent, long phone conversations with her at all times of the day. This all comes to a head when she moves out and nearly leaves Turk after he admits that he spent all that time talking and flirting with his ex without once mentioning that he'd just gotten married less than a year before.
        [After Turk breaks off contact with his ex.]
        Turk: I did it! Cut off all ties with Rosanna. Forever.
        Carla: Baby, that took like twenty seconds. How'd you do that so quickly?
        Turk: It was easy. I just told her I was married.
        Carla: You've been talking to this girl you used to sleep with, and you never told her you were married?
        Turk: [hesitant] She never asked?
        Carla: It's no big deal. Because, if you're lucky, maybe you won't be married for much longer.
    While it is worth noting that Turk and Carla's first year of marriage was very rocky, and that their relationship was already very strained by this point — making Turk's flirtations with his ex more the straw that sprained the camel's back than the sole cause of their marital problems — this is still a great example of this double standard in action. Both indiscretions were made while Turk and Carla were well aware that what they were doing was either wrong or something that would upset the other. But whereas Turk's choices pushed Carla to move out and earned him quite a bit of scorn from other character's, Turk never even learned about the pre-wedding date Carla went on, let alone how strong her feelings were for him in the past. And had J.D. not been standing right there when Dr. Ramirez asked Carla out, it's likely no one else would have known she'd gone out with someone she used to have feelings for.
    • Dr. Miller: A surgeon who appeared briefly in season three as a foil for Dr. Cox before disappearing forever. 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: She cheated on Sean with J.D. and expected J.D. to keep his mouth shut because they're friends, and even though Turk and Carla were well aware of this, she was never chastised or criticized for cheating on Sean. In fact, because this directly lead to her and J.D. getting back together and J.D. immediately dumping her, what she wound up getting mostly was sympathy and pity. The only thing she really got called out on was how callously she treated Keith after calling off their engagement.
  • Double Standard: Abuse, Female on Male: Given the show's slapstick nature, this is almost unavoidable.
    • Elliot: is guilty of this on more than one occasion, especially towards J.D. In the season four opener, as he's still trying to figure out how to maneuver around having just publically dumped her at Turk and Carla's reception, he enters an elevator to find her waiting with a large syringe full of something. 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.
    • In "Their Story," Jordan straight-up admits to Elliot that she cut Dr. Cox's arm with a steak-knife while he slept, which is shown to be true when Cox walks by moments later with a large bandage over his upper arm. Feigning concern, Jordan asks him if he ever figured out how he got the cut, and and Cox has no answer.
  • Downer Ending: A number of episodes end on a downer note, the most notable ones being:
    • "My Old Lady" ends with all three patients dying.
    • "My Last Day" isn't the biggest downer of the series, but it is notable for ending not just the episode, but the season with all of the main characters angry at each other after Jordan reveals all the secrets they've been keeping from one another.
    • "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 J.D.'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 J.D. repeatedly brushed her off outside the hospital and J.D. can't stop blaming himself. Dr. Cox tells J.D. 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, Jordan 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.
  • Dressed to Heal:
    • Averted; as one might guess from the title, most of the main cast tends to wear hospital scrubs. J.D. 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. These tend to be the older and less hands-on doctors like Kelso, Mickhead, and Beardface. 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 after she begins working for a private practice.
    • 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 J.D. 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.
    • A Season 7 episode has Elliot dealing with a patient Shannon, who had amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, and her admission with unusual symptoms turns out to be from an attempted overdose. Shannon explains that she'll soon become paralyzed from her disease and she's already had a pre-funeral and said goodbye to all her friends. The episode ends with Elliot choosing not to tell Shannon's carer about the overdose, implying Shannon will try again to kill herself.
  • Dr. Jerk: Cox and Kelso.
  • Dude, Not Funny!: When J.D. makes a joke about sending some annoying interns to an interment camp Turk tells him that internment camps are never funny.
  • Duet Bonding:
    • One episode sees Carla struggling to fulfil the final wishes of a comatose patient; he wanted to hear Poison's “Talk Dirty to Me” one last time. But Dr Kelso forbids it, as he doesn't want that kind of music being played in the hospital. Carla decides to sing it to the patient instead, and she's joined by Ted, who has been trying to find a way to help Carla. While Ted's lovestruck reaction at the end is Played for Laughs, Carla appears to genuinely warm to Ted a little.
    • Turk and J.D. disagree about how to treat a patient, Turk thinks that surgery is the way to go, while J.D. thinks he should be treated with medicine, but they manage to reconcile with one another, complete with an Imagine Spot of them singing a duet “A Surgeon and a Doc Above It All”. There's also another scene later in the episode with Dr Cox and Dr Wen.
  • Dysfunction Junction: There isn't a single flawless character in the entire show, and those that toe the line of being just a little too perfect don't tend to last that long.

  • Early-Installment Weirdness:
    • The first few episodes in particular had an almost documentary-like look to them in the portrayal of the hospital, with dozens of extras and little background events going on. Later in the first season they toned down how busy the hospital looked likely to save money and make filming simpler. Additionally, the show was a lot more low-key in humor, the Imagine Spots were more J.D. daydreaming about a pretty girl rather than the surreal Non Sequitur, making it feel slightly more dramatic in tone.
    • 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.
    • Early episodes featured Resident Dr. Stedman, who almost completely disappeared. Then The Bus Came Back and he did completely disappear.
  • The Eeyore: Ted
  • 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.
  • Embarrassing Ringtone: While being told that one of his patients has died and that a Morbidity and Mortality conference will be held to figure out who's responsible, Turk's phone starts playing the first few bars of Beethoven's 5th symphony. J.D remarks that he needs to change it everytime it goes off.
    • Happens again during the conference when Cox says he's pretty sure one of the four killed him
  • End-of-Series Awareness: The eighth season builds more and more toward this as the season progresses. J.D. grows a beard, Kelso is out as chief, Cox eventually replaces him, etc. Everyone moves on to new roles and a new set of interns are brought in for the intended spin-off (which became the ninth season).
  • Eskimos Aren't Real: One of the interns is mentioned to be in an elaborate game involving a bar trivia machine. He's later seen arguing about his performance:
    "There's no way there was a president named Garfield!"
  • 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!
  • "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?
    J.D.: 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.
    J.D.: 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.
  • Everyone Calls Him "Barkeep": The Janitor. We never learn his name. He gives J.D. a name in the finale, but is immediately called a different name by a passing orderly. We will never know.
    • When he takes over the narration, he even refers to himself as Janitor.
  • Everyone Can See It: Pretty much the entire hospital knows that despite breaking up twice, J.D. and Elliot are meant to be together, and for the most part, are on board for it. Even Cox and Kelso.
  • Everyone Has Standards: Some things even freak the Janitor out. Usually, they involve the Todd's deviancy.
    (The Janitor and Ted see Jimmy the Orderly massaging Todd with his elbows while they both keep their hands on their ears so as not to hear Janitor and Ted talk)
    Ted: Should we end the personal sidebar?
    Janitor: You know, sometimes you think "I'm kind of a strange dude"...and then you come across something like this.
  • Evil Is Petty: Dr. Kelso personally delivers Turk his paycheck and tells him to sigh before giving it back to him to pay for his wife's medical expenses.
  • 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.
  • Eyes Always Averted: Doctor Cox tries to get his friend's son to make eye contact with him, knowing that if he doesn't, it could mean he has autism.
  • Fake Faint: Doctor Cox does this once to "demonstrate" how boring J.D.'s story is.
    "Hope that hurt."
    "Totally worth it!"
  • Fake Guest Star: Pretty much bound to happen, given the wide selection of recurring characters that would be required for a hospital setting. Of particular note, however, are Robert Maschio as Todd, Sam Lloyd as Ted, and Christa Miller as Jordan, who each appeared in over 80 episodes (or, in Maschio's case, over 120), and were present throughout every season of the show. They also seemed to gain more prominence as the show went on, even sharing a collective day in the limelight episode in "Their Story". Additionally, Jordan, Ted, and Todd are pretty much the only recurring characters to show up for the Janitor's wedding in Season 8, and one of the recurring subplots of that season was Ted finally getting a girlfriend. Indeed, Jordan essentially became part of one of the show's three main romantic couples when she got back together with Perry permanently, with her pregnancies being given quite a bit of focus and the series finale showing the two of them celebrating Christmas with J.D. and Elliot and Turk and Carla.
    • To a lesser extent with Aloma Wright as Laverne, who was featured heavily in the show, but almost always as a background character, before finally getting the spotlight in her final two episodes.
  • Fake Danger Gambit: Deconstructed in season four's "My Quarantine", when J.D. pays a hobo to fake a heart attack in front of his new girlfriend so he can rescue him. The hobo then proceeds to demand more money when J.D. tries it again and again.
  • Fake Orgasm:
    • Inverted in the episode "Their Story". Jordan tells Elliot that in order to make Dr. Cox feel inadequate, she sometimes fakes NOT having orgasms.
    • In another episode, Turk demonstrates to Elliot how men fake orgasms, something she realizes she has experienced.
    • In "Her Story II", Elliot accuses J.D. of faking because he didn't exclaim, "Bombs away!"
  • Family-Friendly Stripper: Turk and J.D. occasionally go to strip clubs but all we see are bikini/lingerie clad dancers. Eliot fantasises about doing a burlesque striptease for the male doctors in their co-ed locker room but whilst she reluctantly gets into it she never goes further than removing one of her elbow gloves.
  • 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 (J.D., 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.
  • Fanservice Pack:
    • Elliot's makeover in Season 3 results in sexier clothing, more make-up and more flattering hairstyles (you never saw her with her hair pulled back or framing bangs again). Justified given that as her salary increased, she could probably afford to maintain such a look. And as she moved up the ladder, she would be expected to maintain a more professional look (which for women normally means conventionally feminine).
    • J.D. had apparently started going to the gym in Season 8, turning his scrawny frame into something a little more toned. This made him favor the Shirtless Scene in a Beach Episode and in some of his daydreams in an effort to show off.
  • 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".
  • Feeling Their Age:
    • Dr. Cox was approaching middle aged in the early seasons, which came to a head when he threw out his back making a (successful) slam dunk to show up Turk. He later confessed to Carla that having a very young son at his age he was worried he was always going to be seen as an old man to his kids.
    • In the ninth season Dr. Kelso reached an older version of this, where he had to jump through some legal and medical hoops to keep his driver's license. He confessed to a med student that he hoped to never reach that point where he couldn't take care of himself like that.
  • 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.
  • Finger-Snapping Street Gang: The episode "My Way or the Highway" depicts the rivalry between surgeons and internists like that between the Sharks and the Jets, complete with the finger-snapping fights.
    J.D.: You see, the surgical and medical interns are kinda like two rival gangs. Not real gangs, more like those cheesy gangs you see in Broadway musicals.
    [The interns start to snap their fingers and dance like in West Side Story as the soundtrack goes all brassy]
  • Firing Day: In the episode "My Life in Four Cameras", Dr. Cox confronts Dr. Kelso when Kelso announces that he will need to fire somebody due to budget cuts. When Dr. Cox says that he could lower the budget without firing anybody, Kelso gives him the chance to figure it out, but says that Cox will need to be the one to do the firing when it turns out to be impossible. Despite looking through the budget for hours, Cox realizes that there really is no alternative since the hospital simply doesn't have the money. He fires Kenny, the lunchroom attendant who earlier in the episode had said how much he enjoyed helping out the doctors who save people's lives.
  • 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 J.D. go through them in My Five Stages.
  • Flanderization:
    • J.D. 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) he was just desperate for any sort of appreciation. He was always a bit geeky, but by the end of Season 2, he was an insanely feminine and girly masochist who enjoyed it when Doctor Cox did 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 were quite common, but in the later seasons, she became a full-on control freak who demanded that everyone listen to her and constantly told people why they sucked.
    • 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 Jerkass 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.
  • Forced Orgasm: in 'My Dirty Secret' Eliot inadvertently gives an elderly female patient an orgasm during a pelvic exam. When J.D. recalls the incident later he remembers the whole scenario as much more seductive and recasts the patient as a much younger and more beautiful woman (literally played by Miss USA).
  • 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 Occurrence" and "My Screw Up" are chock-full of itnote :
    • "My Occurrence":
      • A subtle one: despite Turk and Elliot having their own plotlines in the episode, we stick to J.D.'s after he thinks Ben was misdiagnosed with leukemia.
      • Immediately after J.D. decides to check and see if Ben actually does have leukemia, Dr. Kelso (and Ted) meet him in the elevator and call him out on trying to find mistakes where there aren't any.note 
        Dr. Kelso: Stop looking for trouble just because you like this patient, and face the facts!
      • In all of Ben's appearances after J.D. starts looking for who made the mistake, the bandage on his hand is gone. But when we snap back to reality, the bandage re-appears and even sticks around during the next episode.
      • Carla pretends to hit on J.D. to test his instincts, before switching topics about Bennote .
        Carla: Either your instincts are right, or your brain is trying to protect you from the truth.
      • When J.D. finally meets the Hematopathologist, Dr. Fred Bob, he asks him to retest Ben's blood smear:
        Dr. Bob: Well, that depends, young man. Do you actually think I made a mistake, or do you just wish I did?
        J.D.: I kinda wish you did.
        Dr. Bob: (smiles) Then I'll do it.
      • Another minor detail, but the way J.D. describes Dr. Bob earlier in the episode, he's implied to be a very hateful/unfriendly character - especially to interns such as himself. Thus, it should raise a red flag or two when the Dr. Bob J.D. supposedly "meets" is in fact very kind and easy going.
      • And, of course, Ben asking for a group photo before he leaves.
    • "My Screw Up":
      • A particularly big one: after J.D. tells Dr. Cox that "he went into cardiac arrest" and died, Ben comes into view lacking the camera that he swore he'd keep on him "[t]il the day [he dies]".
      • Similarly, when Dr. Cox starts furiously going through the chart J.D. gave him, saying that "This shouldn't have happened.", J.D. starts narrating about guilt. In particular, that it can lead to denial.
      • Also, Ben keeps wearing the same clothes throughout the episode.
      • Dr. Cox winds up being the only one to interact with Ben after J.D.'s patient died.
      • Similarly, Ben keeps pointing out that Cox shouldn't be acting in a certain way; specifically, that he keeps insisting the death of the patient was J.D.'s fault. Almost like he's acting as his conscience. To add to this, after Carla suggests he go home (since he winds up spending 60 hours working nonstop), Cox states that he doesn't need anyone telling him what to do, prompting Ben to show up after she walks away.
        Ben: You know what you should do?
        Cox: Aw- (tired) Why are you here?
      • Somehow, Dr. Cox knows right away that Ben wants him to apologize to J.D.
      • Two days later, J.D. informs Dr. Cox that Jordan wants him to show up for something that afternoon. In fact, Ben keeps asking him to go.
        Cox: (to Ben) Look, as a rule of thumb, I don't attend parties where the guest of honor has no idea what's going on.
      • One particular line of Ben's?
        Ben: Listen, why don't you just let me take this little mental breakdown of yours. (pretends to take said breakdown) I'm going to put it right here in my pocket. (does so) And that way, you can piss off for the afternoon, and you can let one of the 9,000 other doctors around here take care of things for you.
      • When Ben pretends to puppeteer a frantic Elliot (much to Dr. Cox's amusement), she turns around to see him, turns back to Dr. Cox and then (while being slightly concerned) leaves.
      • After bumping into Dr. Kelso in a supply closet, Carla remarks that "It's been an emotional couple of days."
      • Right as the episode begins to wrap up, J.D. narrates... about acceptance.
      • The last thing Ben asks of Dr. Cox?
        Ben: You have to forgive yourself for everything that went down the other day.
  • Formula-Breaking Episode:
    • "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.
  • 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 neuroses. 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 J.D.'s dad, Cox tells him to stop moping because "everyone's parents do considerable emotional damage".
    • In "My Lunch", we learn that Cox and his patient, Mr. Bradford, repeatedly have a "Who had the worst father" contest.
      Cox: So, now, Davey-boy, I promise you, we're going to find you a kidney. I would literally swear on my father's grave, but whenever I go there, I usually just end up dancing on it.
      Mr. Bradford: And so begins another round of "who had the worst dad." One of my pop's nicknames for me was Sparky, because he liked to light matches off my neck.
      Cox: We've been over this before. You win on account of your father's not dead yet.
    • 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.
    • Jordan exploits the trope in "Their Story", claiming that her parents were mean to her as a kid in order to justify her acidic comments whenever they're called out by others. However, at the end of the episode, as she's attempting to make up for how she wronged Elliot, she reveals that her parents were actually quite supportive.
  • Friendly Enemies: Dr. Cox and Ron Laver, who have been intensely competitive with each other since high school.
  • Friendlessness Insult:
    • "My Bad": The first on-screen encounter between Perry and his ex-wife Jordan immediately has them sniping at each other. It doesn't take long for Jordan to mock Perry for his lack of an active social life and a later episode does indeed acknowledge that Perry has a very lonely life because of his unfriendly attitude.
    • "My Bed Banter and Beyond": J.D. and Elliot get into an argument about their relationship. When Elliot accuses J.D. of relying on jokes because he is afraid someone in the hospital won't like him, J.D. fires back that his jokes are how he makes friends and points out that Elliot pretty much has only one friend among the Sacred Heart staff.
  • Friendship Song: "Guy Love" from the Musical Episode of the series. It's a song about J.D. and Turk's bromance.
  • Friends with Benefits: J.D. and Elliot attempt to have one of these. It doesn't work out.
  • From Hero to Mentor: The characters learn a lot about themselves and how to become effective doctors, thus in the later seasons, we see them rely less on the senior staff and instead become senior staff themselves. It is made most prominent in the last two seasons, where J.D. finds himself stepping into the same position his mentor did for him. This was hinted at as early as the first season when J.D. had to be a big brother mentor to a nervous med student and imitated the mannerisms of Dr. Cox.
  • 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 police.
    • The show was actually pretty fond of this trope. Other examples include the Janitor's dad making him do pushups while Dr. Cox tells J.D. that everybody has issues with their parents; Turk continues to do his "We're the Turks" dance while J.D. 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 J.D. 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 J.D. 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.
  • Funny Flashback Haircut
    • J.D. had a mullet in the flashbacks of his college years while Turk had a complementary hi-top fade that made his head seem 50% taller. After Turk learned that J.D.'s scatter-brain cost him the chance to see Michael Jordan live, Turk ripped all his hair off out of frustration. This is the story of how he got his signature bald head.
    • Back in his days as a world-class hurdler, the Janitor sported the unbeatable mullet-mustache combo.
    • The short-haired Dr. Cox is shown in a flashback (or rather, one of J.D.'s Imagine Spots) as having a blond Mohawk in The '80s, and an attitude to match:
    Shut up jackass, I rock!
  • Funny X-Ray
    • In episode ''My ABC's," J.D. fantasizes about the muppet cast of Sesame Street joining the staff at the hospital. During his fantasy, he must inform a patient named Ex Ray (also a muppet) that Ex Ray's x-rays show there is a human hand inside of his head. According to Ex Ray, "this explains so many things."
    • Another episode has the X-ray of a man who had a light bulb up his ass, with Dr. Cox quipping that "Either this guy's got a lightbulb shoved up his ass or his colon has a really good idea."
  • 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 J.D. 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.
  • Gamebooks: The code blue game on their website.
  • 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).
    • "My Buddy's Buddy" has the Janitor mention he often breaks into J.D.'s apartment at night to do this.
    • 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: J.D.'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.
  • Generation Xerox: A few episodes imply that Dorian, Cox, and Kelso are the thematically the same doctor at different stages of their careers, with Jordan telling J.D. he reminds her or young a Perry and Perry moving up the ranks. Outright confirmed in My New Role, when Kelso tells J.D. "He's me, and you're him" when Cox becomes Cheif of Medicine. At first glance they couldn't be more different; but all three got into medicine to help people but became more cynical over time, all have various degrees of Slap-Slap-Kiss with their respective love interests, all are frequent drinkers, and they're all prone to showmanship, attention-seeking behavior, and snide remarks.
  • 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 The Unfettered, 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.
  • 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.
  • A Gift for Themselves: Jordan tells J.D. the only reason he was invited to Jack's birthday is because he owns his own SpongeBob costume. Dr. Cox asks J.D. why he even has it. J.D. replies that it was a gift, mentally noting, "From me to me."
  • Girlish Pigtails: Jordan sports them when posing as a younger woman to impress her new gynecologist.
  • Glorious Death: In "My Philosophy", J.D.'s patient Elaine is on a heart transplant waiting list. When J.D. asks her what she thinks death will be like, she hopes it would be flashy and elegant like a Broadway musical finale. When she dies from heart failure at the end of the episode, J.D. imagines her ideal musical ending for her.
  • Glowing Eyes of Doom: The Janitor 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 J.D.'s daydreams in the first episode.
  • Good Doc, Bad Doc: Doctor Cox (Good Doc) and and Doctor Kelso (Bad Doc) fought regularly, often trying to draw J.D. to support their point of view. Played with in that although he was the Bad Doc (in more ways than one), Kelso's point of view isn't always entirely the wrong one, being Type 1 as much as Type 2.
    • The chief of medicine that temporarily replaced Kelso was a Type 2 through and through. However, she does chew the others out for ousting her out of a job after she went through the trouble of relocating, when they ought to know that she'll simply be replaced by someone exactly like her, and they've therefore accomplished nothing. This is partly what spurs Dr. Cox into taking the offer for the chief's job.
  • 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.
  • Googling the New Acquaintance: A patient Dr. Kelso is treating finds information about him and her medical condition via her smart phone, faster -and more accurately- than he was telling her. Being somewhat behind the times, he had no idea how she was doing it until Dr. Cox mentioned it as something patients have started doing.
  • Greeting Gesture Confusion: In "My Karma", Turk holds out his fist to Ted for a fist-bump and Ted slaps it, as though it were a high-five.
  • 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.
    • In a Hilarious Outtake, Todd was supposed to walk by and ask J.D. "How's your penis?" (which is normal for him) and on one take the actor decided to goof around and lightly whiff Zach Braff in the groin as he passed by. After getting past the surprise, Braff turned and playfully chased him down the hallway.
  • Hair Reboot: Avoided when J.D. 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, J.D.'s happy place is an Imagine Spot with him as the bandleader for Jay Leno.
  • Hard Truth Aesop: J.D.'s plotline in "My New Coat" has the moral "Sometimes, being in a position of authority means taking the blame for things that aren't your fault." In that episode, J.D. goes to great lengths to prove that he wasn't responsible for causing a patient to permanently lose his sense of smell due to the antibiotics that he prescribed him. But it's ultimately revealed that it really wasn't his fault (it actually happened due to the patient's sinuses being probed). Dr. Cox knew that it wasn't J.D.'s fault all along, but allowed the patient to believe that it was—because he knew that the patient would have an easier time coping with his loss of smell if he had someone to blame it on.
  • 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. It lands on its side. J.D. dutifully lampshades the rarity of the result.
  • Heartfelt Apology: Dr. Cox gives a short, genuine apology to Laverne after she snaps at his mockery of her Faith and she accepts it.
  • Heroic BSoD: After three of his patients die from receiving transplanted organs infected with rabies, Dr. Cox has an uncharacteristically emotional reaction, seemingly pushed beyond his ability to express himself.
  • 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:
    J.D.: Turk, we're not married.
    Turk: Dude, we're a little married.
    J.D.: I know, I love it.
    • When J.D. moves out a few years after Turk got married, he and Turk realize 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'.
  • Hidden Heart of Gold: Dr. Kelso is often used as the bad guy 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. Later, Cox has to come to understand the necessity of doing this when he is promoted, with Kelso being uncharacteristically sympathetic about how difficult the decisions you have to make in that kind of job are.
    • In another episode, Kelso realises the staff is arguing too much about the Iraq war and not focusing on their jobs. So he openly takes away the employee discount at the hospital coffee shop for everyone except himself, thus uniting the staff in hating him and being able to do their jobs properly again.
  • 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...
  • Hospital Hottie: Couldn't be Scrubs without it. Elliot and Carla are the most obvious examples, though one episode shows Elliot gets up very early for her beauty regimen, and her taking the time to work on her appearance when most women at the hospital don't is a plot point. Other examples include Dr. Molly Clock, the med student Dr. Cox dated, interns Denise and Sunny Day, and Dr. Miller. . . if you can get past her unrelentingly bitchy personality.
  • Human Ladder: World's Most Giant Doctor, Turk and J.D. in an oversize lab coat. They tried Giant Black Doctor once, but people ran.
  • Humans Are Bastards: Both Cox and Kelso's view about people is that they're bastard coated bastards with bastard filling.
  • Hypochondria: Harvey Corman, 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 (Carla yells at Turk for trying to fight her battles for her, then yells at him for not standing up for her, for instance).
    • In "My House," Dr. Cox criticizes the cast of House for looking more like supermodels than doctors — a complaint which, if anything, applies to this show more than it does House, which is subtly lampshaded by the way the interns look at each other immediately afterwards.
    • In My Saving Grace (s08e03) Dr Maddox says to Dr Cox that Cox is a ridiculous name. Dr Maddox is played by Courteney Cox.

  • 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 J.D., 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 J.D. 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 J.D. 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.
    • Kelso does the same thing to J.D. in the Bahamas with a pair of Bahama Mamas.
  • 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 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: J.D.'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...
  • Immune to Jump Scares: One episode has Dr. Cox take over leading the interns on rounds for a day instead of Dr. Kelso; the interns are usually terrified of missing an answer to one of Kelso's questions, but Cox assures them that not knowing an answer is fine, since doctors usually have to search for answers anyway. When Kelso takes over again, to his consternation, the interns no longer fear him, even when he attempts to jumpscare one of them with a sudden "OOGA BOOGA BOOGA!" right in their face.
  • Impaled Palm: Ben's introduction. Played for laughs. He put the nailgun on top of his hand with the 2x4 under it.
  • 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.
  • Informed Ability: Played for laughs with Todd, who usually acts like a perverted moron. 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). 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 J.D.; especially notable in that all four doctors played characters on St. 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!"
  • In Touch with His Feminine Side: J.D. is very emotional and sensitive, with some stereotypically "girly" interests.
  • 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 J.D.'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'."
  • Intimate Artistry: The hospital has an annual photograph of the staff taken each year. However, the majority of the staff are apathetic about the picture, or even outright opposed to the concept, resulting in most of their pictures having only a scant few participants. When Carla finally does manage to get the entire staff to pose, the Janitor (Who was not in the staff pose) sabotages the picture; after Carla confronts him, the Janitor admits that he was angry that Carla had not tried to get him to pose in the first place, as he wanted to be included as part of the Sacred Heart family. A second picture was then arranged, this one including the Janitor. note 
  • In Spite of a Nail: In "My Butterfly" it ultimately doesn't matter whether the titular butterfly lands on the attractive woman or the unattractive man: J.D. and Cox's patient Mr. Strauss dies in surgery no matter how soon they diagnose him.
  • Irony: After years of referring to J.D. by various girl names, Dr. Cox's daughter is named "Jennifer Dylan" by Jordan, AKA J.D. He is not happy to say the least.
  • Irrelevant Act Opener: "Guy Love" is the first song after the commercial break in The Musical episode. It is the only song that does absolutely nothing to advance the plot.
  • Irritation Is the Sincerest Form of Flattery: J.D. 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. He did this by talking about all the freaky sex he and Carla have right in front of her brother. Well played, Turkleton.
    • This comes back to bite him in My Bad Too (s07e07) when Dr Cox use the same technique by telling Carla in Spanish in front of Turk that Turk thinks she's a control freak with Izzie.
  • It Never Gets Any Easier: Justified. J.D. doesn't want it to get any easier.
  • Jerkass: 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).
  • Jerkass Ball: For a Nice Guy, J.D. can be incredibly petty and self-absorbed.
    • In My Ocardial Infarction, he gets angry at Elliot just because she's better at train-wreck codes than him and tried to teach him how to deal with them. When Elliot reminds him that, for the past three years, J.D. has always been the golden boy while Elliot was the screw-up and now she's finally doing something well, J.D. outright tells her that "You're the one that's supposed to struggle — not me."
    • Towards the end of season 3, he admits his feelings to Elliot, causing her to break up with her current boyfriend Sean in order to come back to J.D....who dumps her after just one episode, because he doesn't actually love her.
    • In 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.
    • In season 5 he's a jerk to Keith for no apparent reason. He was probably jealous of him for being a good-looking/competent doctor and because he was dating Elliot, even if J.D. had no apparent feelings her at the moment.
    • He and Turk repeatedly pick on another doctor (Hooch) with various pranks, just because they want to see his "crazy" reactions and find it funny.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold:
    • Dr. Cox. Although he has some pretty legitimate reasons for not being affectionate towards hospital staff.
      J.D.: Ohh, you smell like a father figure. Mmm.
    • Dr. Kelso. 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 who was introduced as Kelso's best friend and the nicest doctor at Sacred Heart (played by Dick Van Dyke) was unwilling to keep up with the constantly changing medical field. He had to force the guy to retire and was noticeably saddened to do so.
    • 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 acting like a jerk to the world and is more wounded by how people think of him than he lets on.
      Cox: And there it is ... 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 at the end of the day he realizes that the only thing people 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.
    • After getting fired, Dr. Maddox chews the others out for ousting her out of a job after she went through the trouble of relocating — "finding a house and a school for my kid" — and informs them that she'll likely simply be replaced by someone exactly like her, and they've therefore accomplished nothing.
  • 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 a 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.
  • Kinky Role-Playing: Dr Eliot Reed appears to be a big fan of this. When her boyfriend Sean is too shy to voice his fantasies she immediately suggests they play the naughty schoolgirl and the stern headmaster, commenting they need to buy her a schoolgirl uniform as soon as possible as she has work in the morning. With Keith Dudemeister she acts out the tale of an orchard owner who catches a Mexican apple thief, sometimes employing J.D. in the role of a mute peasant who witnessed the crime. She also describes to J.D. a game she and Keith play where she is a lesbian wrestling coach and he the hunky athlete who "turns" her.
  • Kissing Warm-Up: J.D. 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.
  • Lame Last Words: An early episode sees J.D. about to be grilled by hospital higher-ups. He keeps thinking to himself "I'm okay, I'm okay, I'm okay," eventually misthinking it as "I'm a K." It then switches to an Imagine Spot where he's blindfolded and getting a last cigarette lit as thought about to be executed by firing squad, when Dr. Cox asks for his last words.
    J.D.: I'm a K. That was bad. Can I have a do-over? (BOOM!)
  • Lampshade Hanging: A frequent occurrence. Notably, Turk goes meta about this in season 9 after Doctor Cox falls from the ceiling, lampshading the practice of Lampshade Hanging
  • Language Fluency Denial: Turk learns to speak Spanish to surprise Carla. When he realizes that Carla tells her sister over the phone what she wants from him, he decides to pretend he can't understand her so he can appear to intuitively know what she wants.
  • 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.
  • Later-Installment Weirdness: The 8th season came with a mandate that each character had to have one episode being gone, so almost every episode had at least one missing character. The 9th season was more of a full-fledged retool that had a new cast of characters take priority while the previous cast was seen more sparingly or in leadership roles.
  • 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.
    • J.D.'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.
  • Limited Wardrobe: While uniforms normally don't apply to the trope, the consistency of how characters are dressed are worth noting. Medical doctors wear blue, surgical doctors wear green, nursing staff wear pink and purple, maintenance staff wear black and orderlies wear maroon. Leadership characters like Kelso, Cox and Wen wear lab coats. Individual characters do have more specific variations.
    • J.D. often has a long sleeved shirt underneath his scrubs. His civvie wear tends towards grey or muted blue (same with Turk, though more muted green).
    • Cox wears loose slacks, tennis shoes and a plain t-shirt under his lab coat.
    • Elliot wears a lighter shade of blue scrubs than J.D., and her civvie wear is often white and pink. When she goes into private practice she switches to pink or blue dresses with a lab coat.
    • Carla's civvie wear is similar to her scrubs with a lot of pink and purple.
    • Kelso is in business casual with a tie under his lab coat.
    • Todd has the sleeves of his scrubs torn off to show his "DOC" tattoo, and is never seen without his doo-rag (except in his banana hammock scenes). Doug wears a light colored t-shirt under his scrubs but also with a red fannypack.
  • Literal Metaphor: Elliot in an argument with a patient suing her for malpractice uses "so sue me!" in a metaphorical sense, to which the patient points out, that is literally what he is doing.
  • Locked Up and Left Behind - A favorite prank of The Janitor
  • 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".
  • Love Dodecahedron: In the first season alone, Carla and Turk are dating, but both Ted and Dr. Cox have crushes on Carla. Dr. Cox briefly dates Kristen, and also regularly hooks up with his ex-wife Jordan, who once had sex with J.D. J.D. also briefly dates Alex and Elliot, and then the latter briefly dates Sean. Things only get more complicated as the show goes on, with more and more love interests being introduced in later seasons.
  • Luke, I Am Your Father: Parodied in season 1 when the Janitor tries to spook J.D. by bringing up stuff from his personality file, but J.D. sees right through it. When he then brings up one of J.D.'s childhood memories and J.D. asks how he could possibly know that, the Janitor mockingly claims to be his father.

  • 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 J.D. wearing a white coat that let him stand up to the Janitor and Dr Cox.
  • Magical Defibrillator: Usually averted. Chances are far better that if a defibrillator shows up in Scrubs, the patient is a goner.
  • 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.
  • The Main Characters Do Everything: A notable aversion, the division of jobs is a major element of the show, with rivalries between medical and surgical sides and favors being traded to get specific tasks done.
  • Male Gaze: In the pilot episode, one of Elliot's very first scenes has J.D. walking behind her up a stairwell, followed by a lingering POV shot of her butt.
    Elliot: Anyway, I know what you're thinking...
    J.D. (voice-over): Your butt looks like two Pringles hugging.
    J.D.: No you don't.
    • Lampshaded in an episode focusing on the hospital's co-ed locker room. J.D. needs to talk to Elliot, but she's just taken off her shirt and turns to face him in only her bra. J.D. is visibly straining so hard to avert this trope that Elliot sighs resignedly and says "Just look before your neck snaps."
  • Massive Multiplayer Ensemble Number: "When The Truth Comes Out" from The Musical episode is a perfect example. It includes a brief reprise of every single song from the first act, all within the span of about two minutes.
  • 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: J.D.'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 J.D.'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 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.
    • Dick Van Dyke played an older doctor in the hospital who is able to dance and charm his way with everyone else, including both Dr. Cox and Dr. Kelso. This is wholly appropriate given how beloved Van Dyke is as an actor and individual. But J.D. discovers that he is not keeping up with the latest medical procedures and medication due to his age, which is a huge issue when it comes to quality of care and informs J.D.'s hesitation to report this to upper management.
  • 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 Black Face. (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.
  • Mistaken for Toilet: While at a convention, JD sees an advanced toilet that can diagnose patients. The product is named Dr. Toilet. This causes him to fantasize about Dr. Toilet being another doctor at Sacred Heart. In this fantasy, JD keeps using Dr. Toilet to go to the bathroom, in spite of the Toilet's protests that he's a doctor.
  • Mistaken for Undead: After having spent the most of the day trying to get away from work after Dr Cox pettily has him pulled from his day off, in revenge for his days as an intern, J.D. attempts to leave the hospital in a bodybag, scaring mortician Doug.
    J.D.: (From inside bodybag) Can you press lobby, please?
    (Doug screams and begins hitting J.D. with a fire extinguisher.)
    J.D.: (Shouts in pain and bursts out of bag) Doug!? Why are you hitting me?!
    Doug: (Panicked) Cuz I thought you were a dead guy coming back to life.
    J.D.: (Beat) Then why were you hitting me?!
    Doug: Dead people should be dead.
  • Mistaken from Behind: Parodied in an episode when Carla grabs Turk's shoulder from behind, only instead of Turk (bald black man), it's a petite, bald black woman. Later, Turk goes to get Carla, only it's a Hispanic man with long hair and a mustache.
  • 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 J.D.'s father has died.
  • Morality Pet: Dr. Cox's and Jordan's children.
  • Most Common Card Game: "My Lucky Charm".
  • 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.
  • Must Have Lots of Free Time:
    • Although it's been mentioned he has a family and his presumed father appears at one point, the Janitor would rather waste his life antagonizing J.D. to a bizarre degree. Only when a germaphobic woman —who would eventually become his wife— starts a relationship with him, he's seen less and less.
    • Jordan spends a lot of time at the hospital. She's a board member and only works a few days out of the year and hires a nanny to watch the kids even while she's at home. Yet, she's there everyday like clockwork, just hanging around.
  • 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.
    • Also: Dr. Kelso: "Ted, you know my rule about personal problems - I'm not interested unless it involves my loved ones. Or possibly my wife."
  • 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 J.D. 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.
  • Negatives as a Positive: At one point, Turk tries to deny any pride or arrogance as a surgeon. Dr. Cox, who instigated this, reverses course and points out to Turk that cutting into the human body with any skill necessitated those qualities, and pointed to Doug Murphy as an example of just how incompetent a doctor without arrogance or pride can be.
  • New Ability Addiction: One episode had The Janitor get a new circular saw. He spends the episode desperate to use it (J.D. even caught him using it to saw a twig). In the end, he saws Dr. Kelso's table in half so it can be removed (thanks to Dr. Cox making everyone think he's dead).
  • Neck Lift: Elliot is really strong.
  • Never Heard That One Before: Lampshaded and subverted with Herman.
  • Never Lend to a Friend: J.D. once lent the Janitor a buck for the vending machine, only for him to start acting as if every random encounter is J.D. hounding him for a repayment. Of course, that's how he acts most of the time with no provocation whatsoever, so...
  • Never Tell Me the Odds!: Dr. Cox justifies this trope: Odds are percentages because there are different outcomes that happen. If a type of cancer has an 80% causality rate, then by necessity there are 20% of people who survive. On the individual level, the odds are 100% or 0%; it happens or it doesn't.
  • 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 J.D./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 yes.
      • It is also 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). At one point many years ago, Bill Lawrence even said that the Janitor shares the name of Neil Flynn's character in Clone High.
  • Non-Standard Prescription: Multiple times including when Turk once wrote Carla a prescription for himself, suggesting she "apply him to a sensitive area"
  • Non-Uniform Uniform: While the show is generally consistent between lab coats for upper staff, blue scrubs for medical, green scrubs for surgeons and pink/purple scrubs for nurses, there is enough personal variation that people rarely wear the exact same outfit. Todd in particular seems to always wear his scrubs with the sleeves ripped off, which is the one alteration that might violate sanitation policies. It should be said too few, if any, hospitals bother with the color coding because of the hassle of keeping things organized. The episode "My Scrubs" has Kelso fed up with how much the staff steals the scrubs and so orders everyone to wear the same ugly brown scrubs.
  • 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, it's too much for even Elliot (who is one of the kinkiest characters on the show). Too bad for us they never reveal it...
    • How Play-Doh Pants became all about the money...
    • J.D. can tell the difference between Rowdy and Stephen by feeling their genitals. Don't ask how.
    • The episode "My Cuz" reveals that Dr. Kelso and The Janitor both slept with the same woman 20 years ago.
    • J.D. once lost an unknown bet to Turk that meant J.D. had to give his first child the middle name "Gilligan".
  • 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.
  • "Not So Different" Remark: Dr. Miller, on Dr. Cox and Dr. Kelso:
    Dr. Miller: You try and paint Dr. Kelso as this jackass who turns on people who don't do his bidding, when you were ready to write me off just for having lunch. So honestly? How are you any different?
    Dr. Cox: I'm taller than he is?
  • 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.
  • Not That Kind of Partner: J.D. refers to his Heterosexual Life-Partner Turk as his "partner" (since they're more or less an internal medicine/surgeon team), then hurriedly clarifies "not that type of partner". Later, it's revealed that his patient had the right idea to start with and got the wrong idea from the correction.
  • N-Word Privileges: The first conversation between J.D. and Turk. And no, J.D. does not get them.
  • 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!: J.D. 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 J.D.'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.
    • Dr. Cox's reaction to his sword passing straight through the monster in "My Princess", "That's new.".
  • The Old Country: One of Turk's interns is actually a highly qualified surgeon whose degree doesn't apply in America as he earned it in a foreign country. He often tells stories about practicing medicine in his war-torn homeland.
  • Old-Fashioned Rowboat Date: J.D. has an Imagine Spot where he's on such a date with Elliot, and even throwing her lover in a lake.
  • Old People are Nonsexual: In one episode a few people from a nursing home have been admitted to the hospital with a mysterious illness. When Elliot learns that it's an STD that's been spreading around the nursing home, she is grossed out.
  • 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?"
  • The Oner: The Cold Open of "My Student" is a single unbroken take, following J.D., Turk and Elliot as they leave their car in the parking lot, walk into the hospital, get into an elevator where they are joined by Kelso, exit the elevator on an upper floor and meet their new medical students. It goes on for two-and-a-half minutes.
  • One-Steve Limit: Averted with all the Murrays in "My Unicorn".
  • Only Known by Initials: "J.D".
  • 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 his wife Carla. Dr. Kelso even believes his first name is Turk and last name Turkleton
      • Even Turk's brother, who presumably shares his last name, leaves him a voicemail that begins with "Hey Turk, its your brother."
    • This also becomes a sub-plot in a later episode, when it's revealed that J.D. does only know everyone by their nickname.
  • Only Sane Man: Carla and Dr. Wen.
    • Drew in season 9.
  • Opposed Mentors: Dr. Kelso and Dr. Cox have this dynamic for the first few episodes, with both being presented as possible mentors to J.D. 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. J.D. 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 J.D. 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 J.D. 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 J.D. 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).
  • 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 that he just doesn't like the taste of beer.
  • 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.
    • The Todd has been known to wait in hiding until someone gives him a setup line - even if it takes hours.
    • In the episode "My Case Study", after Dr. Kelso headbutts one of the extras, you can see the extra continue to stagger and struggle to stay on his feet long after the camera moves into the foreground.
  • Overly Long Hug: J.D. and Turk tend to give some exceptionally long hugs, one particular big one happening after they get ridiculed at a hospital party for their Heterosexual Life Partner behavior. After half-an-episode of trying to restrain their behavior, they give in and have a long Bear Hug complete with a reprise of "Guy Love." In the Grand Finale as J.D. is about to leave the hospital and on his last day, Turk gives him another long hug which prompts Carla and Elliot to remark on it. They decide to experiment to see what the appeal was, which makes the guys pause with shock and give advice on how to hug better.
  • Overly Preprepared Gag: J.D.'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 Xbox 360, 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: Sean 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…"
  • Parents as People: While some parents are full on abusive and completely suck, there are a few sympathetic cases.
    • J.D. and Dan's dad, Sam. He's a office supplies salesman, a really bad one. As a result he's stuck in Perpetual Poverty and couldn't provide much for his children. J.D. loves him, but also considers him an embarassment and resents that their relationship is more like friends and not a father and son.
    • Dr. Cox is an alcoholic emotionally cripped narcissist, and his father was physically and emotionally abusive and his mother was both a victim and enabler of his abuse. While Dr. Cox is a far better dad to Jack and Jennifer Dylan then his father was, he still torments Jack from time to time, treats him more like a bar buddy then his toddler son and teaches him awful habits as a result of this.
    • Jordan is an emotionally closed off person and while she can be a great and caring parent, she resents and neglects her kids and thinks they like the nanny more then her. She's aware of this and does try by the Season 8 finale to become more emotionally available for them.
  • 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.
  • Patter Song: Dr. Cox's song from The Musical episode is a very well-executed patter.
  • Perma-Stubble: Dr. Cox in Season 5 had alot of stubble which became worse once he accidentally killed three patients. He got rid of it once J.D helped him out of his Heroic BSoD
  • Pervert Alliance: In "My No Good Reason", Turk shows a tape of his attractive nanny to the men, and one woman, of the hospital. Carla walks in and asks them what they're watching. On the spot, the group is able to work together to come up with a lie explaining that they're watching football despite the season being over. This is undone when Turk sits on the remote, turning the TV back on again.
  • 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
    • Pretty much every time they interact, the Janitor is nothing but antagonizing towards J.D. However, in "My Cake", J.D.'s father passes away and, rather than mess with him, the Janitor silently lets him pass by on his way into Sacred Heart and ignores him for the rest of the day out of respect.
  • Phone Word: Turk gets a vanity number that spells CALLTURK. When it's pointed out that this is one too many digits, he says he hopes people will dial the 'K' even though they don't have to. J.D. promises, "I'll always dial the 'K' for you."
  • 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: J.D. 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 Office Girl: Actually Plucky Hospital Guy but in any case the doctor who (briefly) replaced Kim as Sacred Heart's urologist fits the trope.
    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.
  • Poorly Disguised Pilot: Parodied in J.D.'s fantasy about Janitor and Ted in a sitcom "Legal Custodians." Jordan and Dr. Maddox were also shown as becoming rather close, a foreshadowed reference to their actors continuing on to the Spiritual Successor follow-up show Cougar Town. More traditionally, the interns in the eighth season were given an above average amount of screen time than normal (the show realistically showed a new group of interns every year, with some continuing on as regular background characters), culminating in "Their Story II". One of them, Denise, did go on to be a regular in the "Med School" 8th season.
  • Post-Script Season: The show was originally supposed to end on season seven. The Writers Strike shortened the season by half, with some episodes being aired Out of Order. Bill Lawrence stated that he pushed for a full eighth season to conclude the show properly, making it technically this trope even though they still had to resolve some plot points. The 9th season has all the makings, but could be considered more of a Spin-Off.
  • Power Dynamics Kink: In her first appearance, Jordan was assigned to J.D. as a patient. Because she was a member of the hospital board, she largely ignored him and even planned to leave before he cleared her to go. This caused J.D. to snap at her and demand she follow his orders. Jordan becomes turned on by this and had sex with him.
  • Premature Aggravation:
    • Two memorable ones: First, there was the time he went into an Imagine Spot to hypothetically talk to people who died because of him, so he could ask them whether they thought he killed them. This imagined spot takes place in a diner, and when he orders flapjacks discovers heaven doesn't serve them. He spends the rest of the episode calling flapjacks 'devil-cakes'.
    • Secondly, he once imagined Turk being a father, and accidentally taking a pumpkin home instead of the kid. Eventually, the pumpkin graduates school, but falls and splatters open, then Turk's biological son gets hit by a car. When J.D. comes out of it, he calls Turk a terrible father.
  • Professional Butt-Kisser: Recurring character Dr. Steadman, who doesn't have much characterizaiton outside of being Kelso's designated suck-up.
  • Profound by Pop Song: Dr. Cox actually calls J.D. out on this when the latter offers him relationship advice based on a Billy Joel song after Cox rants about problems he's having with Jordan.
    J.D.: Tell her about it. Tell her everything you feel.
    Cox: (unimpressed) Oh? Should I give her every reason to accept that I'm for real?
  • Promotion to Opening Titles: Subverted slightly with Neil Flynn. He gets promoted to the main cast in Season 2 and, simultaneously, the theme for the first few episodes was expanded, allowing the Janitor to be present in them. However, a few episodes into the season, the intro was shortened back to its original length/style, meaning that he was no longer featured in them despite remaining a main cast member throughout the show's run.
    • Eliza Coupe as Denise gets this in Season 9.
  • Pronouncing My Name for You: A recurring doctor with a prominent goatee often gets called "Dr. Beardface". His name is actually Dr. Beardfacé, and he's annoyed when his name is mispronounced.
    Beardfacé: It's "Beard-fa-SAY", dammit!
  • 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" J.D. is paged by an intern on his day off of work. What follows is a Whole-Plot Reference to The Wizard of Oz where J.D. gets constantly assigned tasks that prevent him from returning home.
  • Pun: "Thank you Perry much." Among plenty others.

  • Queer People Are Funny: Most prominently the running gag of Turk and J.D. being a couple.
  • Quirky Doctor: Most of the doctors in the cast would qualify as this to an extent, but in particular:
    • Dr. John Dorian, aka J.D., is Endearingly Dorky and often stares off in to the distance when he has an elaborate fantasy, which will end with him saying something that would make no sense to anyone who didn't just witness his fantasy.
    • Dr. Elliot Reid is a neurotic with a number of quirks, including a tendency to get worked up over small things and using strange euphemisms for sex terms (i.e. substituting "bajingos" for "vaginas").
    • Dr. Todd Quinlan, aka "The Todd", is a Lovable Sex Maniac who can turn anything into a Double Entendre.
    • Dr. Molly Clock is a skilled psychiatrist, but is also the biggest Cloud Cuckoo Lander in the entire show. She sings to her food and tends to be spacey and aloof.
    • Deconstructed with Dr. Kevin Casey. While his OCD initially presents itself in quirky ways, such as his need to touch everything in his first patient's room while saying, "Bink", J.D. later accidentally witnesses Dr. Casey have a meltdown when he can't stop washing his hands, two hours after his final surgery of the day.
  • Race Fetish: Kelso cheerfully admits he has a thing for Oriental women. All of his affairs are with one.
  • Rage Judo: J.D. says something to anger Carla, but before she gets to yell at him, he turns it around on Dr. Kelso, who's very confused by it.
    J.D.: "It's not like nurses know everything."
    J.D.'s Inner Monologue: "Uh oh. Carla's gearing up to explode. Save yourself. Attempt the casual side switch. (J.D. discreetly steps closer to Carla, looking innocent and turns to face Dr. Kelso) And, you're there. Now, angry at Kelso."
    J.D.: "Bob, how dare you!"
  • Raiders of the Lost Parody: One Imagine Spot by J.D. shows Turk climbing into a patient's intestines and removing a tumor in a parody of the idol-swap scene.
    J.D.: Watch out for colon darts.
    • There's another episode where Carla has a lot on her mind and J.D. 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 J.D.'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 J.D. 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.
  • This Is Reality: 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*
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Several, though special mention goes to Dr Cox. J.D. 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.
    • J.D. delivered an absolutely soul crushing one in "My T.W.C." that leaves even Dr Cox speechless:
      Shut up, shut up, shut up, and ''shut up''! Okay! Who are you people to give me advice about anything? All you do is just bitch about your relationships all day long! [to Cox] And you know what, glare all you want, big dog, because I'm not afraid of you. 'Oh no, Jordan's only paying attention to the baby!' That must be so hard for Doctor Look-At-Me, isn't it? Look-At-Me! [to Carla and Turk] And you two? What, you're arguing since you got engaged? Wow, you're probably the first couple that's ever done that, ever. It can't be that you're just scared, is it? [to Elliott] And you. You know what, let's just forget for one second that a month ago you told me you couldn't be in a relationship with anyone, because for me, it's actually fun to watch you sabotage a relationship from the outside. It really is. Honestly, the only thing that gives me comfort, you guys, is while I'm sitting at home, staring at the ceiling, just wishing that I had someone to talk to, is knowing that none of you idiots realize how lucky you are.
  • Rebound Best Friend: J.D. and Turk, who are basically Heterosexual Life-Partners, get in an argument, which leads to J.D. declaring Hooch his new "chocolate bear". It doesn't end well, because Hooch is crazy.
  • Recurring Extra: Snoop Dogg Intern.. Resident.. Attending, Dr. Beardface, Colonel Doctor and Dr. Mickhead.
  • Red-Headed Stepchild: Elliot, starting in the 8th season.
  • Red Herring: In "My Screw Up", while visiting with Ben and Dr. Cox, J.D. mentions being concerned about a patient's irregular heartbeat. Dr. Cox assures him that the man won't die in the 30 minutes that he will be gone, but after Dr. Cox returns to the hospital, J.D. tells him that he went into cardiac arrest and that they failed to resuscitate him. It's revealed that "he" wasn't the patient - it was Ben, who had previously stated that he'd gone two years without seeing a single doctor despite having leukemia.
  • Relationship Reboot: The Janitor has offered this to J.D. a few times. It's almost always a trick, and even if it isn't, Failure Is the Only Option.
    • One time the Janitor offered to go to a game with J.D. and hang out. Due to the fact that he sounded incredibly sarcastic (and that he constantly pulls this kind of stuff), J.D. took it as either a fake offer or as a trick and angrily walks off. After he's gone, the Janitor holds up the tickets to the event and reveals he was serious, but vows that this was the last time he reaches out.
  • Relationship Revolving Door: Elliot and J.D. 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 [J.D.]?"
    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.
    • Kim Briggs being introduced at the end of Season 5, despite being there all along, the excuse for this was that J.D. doesn't see women with wedding rings on and thus had never noticed her before.
  • Re-Release Soundtrack: The sitcom fantasy episode ended with a melancholy cover of the Cheers theme, as J.D. leaves the harsh tragedies of the hospital to seek some comfort and escapism in television sitcoms. Tragically, this performance is removed for the DVD release of the season.
  • 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.
    • In the first four seasons it's established that Ted used to be married, and a mix-up of his and Dr. Cox's divorce papers is a major plot point in a Season 4 episode. By Season 8, Ted has never been married and his relationship with Gooch is largely treated as the first time he's ever been with a woman.
    • 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.
  • Returning the Wedding Ring: Subverted by Carla when Turk has a sex dream about Elliot.
    Carla: Turk, if you're already having dreams about another woman, maybe you're not ready for marriage. (holds out the ring)
    Turk: Baby...
    Carla: Just take it!
    Turk: (sighs, reaches out for the ring)
    Carla: (pulls her hand away, grinning) Are you crazy?
  • The Reveal: In the finale, the Janitor's name is Glen Matthews. Immediately after, a passing intern goes "Hey Tommy". Janitor: "Sup."note 
    • Word of God is that the correct name is Glen Matthews, and that the other name was most likely part of another prank. invoked
    • It could possibly be a reference to the old fan theory that the Janitor's name was Tom, due to a scene where many people misheard someone say 'You tell him' for 'You go, Tom'.
  • Romantic False Lead: Alex for J.D.
    • Keith for Elliot. They begin a relationship less than halfway into Season 5, get engaged in the latter section of Season 6, and don't break up until the first episode of Season 7.
  • 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.
  • Rule of Symbolism: In the "His Story" and "Her Story" episodes, the narration of the focus character usually occurs when J.D. makes psychical contact with them, sort of like passing narration duties to them. Once the focus character makes psychical contact with J.D. again, he's back to narrating.
  • 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... even Kim, by far the least androgynous name of the lot, actually can be a male name! This is underscored by the fact that Kylie, a love interest who appears in a 3 episode arc, has a decidedly feminine name, but it is made explicit that they never actually sleep together. Likewise, there are at least two instances where the possibility is raised that J.D. and Dr. Molly Clock might hookup, but the first is foiled by Elliot and the second by J.D.’s guilt about Kylie.
    • Turk and J.D. (especially J.D.) are big fans of the movie Judge Dredd and occasional 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 J.D. 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", J.D. is initially more interested in the movie than Elliot's sexual advances.
    J.D.: What is she doing?! It's the Judge!
    • Hugh Jackman always shows up in a list of things Dr. Cox hates.
    • In Season 8, 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.
  • 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: In-universe, Dr. Townshend's episode hinges on his use of an old treatment instead of the much safer modern alternative. As Dr. Kelso discovers that Townshend's treatments are increasingly archaic, he tells him even the newest doctor's education is obsolete within five years.
  • 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 door penny from the first day? It was J.D.'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 J.D. would fess up so they could be friends.
  • Sentimental Music Cue: 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.
  • 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. According to the show's creator Bill Lawrence, the writers had to go out between seasons and do research, and they alter it slightly for drama. Also, J.D. is based on a real friend of Bill's, who was a consultant on the show, and the department stereotypes are accurate. Dr. Cox was apparently based on Bill Lawrence's father-in-law.
  • 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.
  • Sickbed Smuggling: When J.D. and Turk spend the night keeping a dying man company, he complains that the nurse won't let him have a cigar, wondering what harm it could do since he's already terminal. J.D. explains to the patient that he's on an oxygen tank and smoking a cigar could cause a giant explosion. But J.D. and Turk do grant his request for a beer.
  • 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.
  • Silent Treatment: Inverted. Jordan gets angry at Dr. Cox in one episode, but she's aware that if she were to give him the silent treatment, he would actually enjoy not having to listen to her, so she instead, opts to talk to him non-stop.
  • 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.
  • Skip the Anesthetic: In one episode, Turk is asked to perform surgery on a patient in a hypnotic trance.
  • 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 her 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".
  • Sleeps with Both Eyes Open: Sean sleeps with open eyes as Elliot speaks to him on the phone.
  • 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.
  • Soda-Candy 'Splosion: "My Mirror Image" has this occur with Pop Rocks and soda. Keith and Ted mix them together to see what will happen, creating a mess that the Janitor clearly isn't happy about having to clean up.
  • Speaking Up for Another: Played for laughs twice over in one scene. Dr. Kelso tells the others that what's best for the hospital and the patients is often one and the same thing, but Dr. Cox will disagree with it just because Kelso said it. J.D. speaks up, defending Cox, saying he doesn't believe it's the case. However, Kelso proves his point very quickly by making several claims, such as the coffee is great today, which Cox immediately refutes. The clincher is when Kelso rightfully calls Doug Murphy "an incompetent suck-up." Cox immediately comes to Doug's defense, " No, Bob. In fact, he's one of the finest young doctors I've ever had the good fortune of working with."
    Dr. Kelso: (to J.D.) Your witness.
  • 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".
  • Spiteful Spoiler:
    • In "My Hypocritical Oath", after Dr. Cox misses a basketball game between the Lakers and Heat, Kelso allows Cox to watch a recording of it on Kelso's VCR. After spending a whole day avoiding any possible details of the game, when Cox finally sits down and watches it, Kelso reveals to have taped himself over the beginning of the tape, telling Cox the winning team and the score, getting back at Cox for messing with his treadmill earlier in the episode.
      • Earlier in the same episode, Cox spoils The Sixth Sense for The Janitor as he was watching it due to The Janitor leaving his mop bucket around and Cox tripping over it. In turn, Janitor threatens to spoil the basektball game for Cox, so Cox bribes him out of it.
    • Weaponized by Carla in "My Number One Doctor". In order to get Kelso to actually listen to her gossip about The Janitor having a girlfriend, she subtly threatens to let Kelso know whether or not Harry lives or dies in the end of Deathly Hallows.
  • 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, J.D., Turk and the other interns (apart from Elliot, whose 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!
  • Suicide by Sea: In episode "My Fishbowl" Elliot reveals she tried this during her Hilariously Abusive Childhood. She swam out into the middle of a lake and just floated, waiting to tire out and drown. Then she got whacked in the back of the head by all the oars of a passing rowing team who were training and was rescued without anyone knowing she was trying to drown herself.
  • Superficial Suggestion Box: Dr. Kelso's suggestion box is his trash bin.
  • 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, go ahead and figure out who's taking my New York Times every Sunday. Or better yet, how about why anybody on the planet actually 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.
  • Tattoo Sharpie: J.D.'s brother Dan is shown in a flashback writing the word "Prom" on J.D.'s forehead with a permanent marker, forcing him to go to prom with the tattoo. It really was permanent, too, since J.D. had to have surgery with "skin from his ass" to get rid of it.
  • 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 acknowledge her existence, and talks to her through the nurses.
  • Tempting Fate: The show has a LOT of this via J.D.'s narration - often, the opposite of whatever he says will or won't happen occurs at some point in the episode, whether it's immediately after, or delayed a few scenes. A notable example is in "My Screw Up" - Dr. Cox tells J.D. that a patient he was concerned about wouldn't die in the short time he was gone, but soon after, J.D. tells him that he went into cardiac arrest and died. This becomes a Played With trope after it's revealed that the "he" J.D. mentioned was not the original patient, but rather, Dr. Cox's best friend Ben, whom had been neglecting treatment for his leukemia.
  • Theme Naming: It's an underlying joke that the majority of J.D.'s love interests have a masculine/unisex name or at least go by a masculine nickname: Elliot, Jordan, Danni, Kim, Alex and Jamie. The outliers tended to be more minor characters like Kylie, Julie and Molly. Notably, J.D. never sleeps with either Kylie or Molly.
  • 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: J.D. and Turk get kicked through a window by ostriches (long story). Their owner quips this.
  • Third-Party Peacekeeper: A marital rift forms between Turk and Carla after Carla and J.D. share a brief drunken kiss, and Turk decides to hold Carla the one responsible. J.D. realizes that he should have been the one to bear the blame, not her, and so he walks up to Turk and gives him a brief kiss as well, then points out to Turk that he was no saint in the marriage himself, having been texting an old girlfriend behind Carla's back. Turk realizes that J.D. has a point, and starts treating Carla with love and affection again.
  • Third-Person Person: The Todd.
    • Cole.
  • Third Wheel: J.D. is often one for Turk and Carla, though the Heterosexual Life-Partners/Ho Yay relationship J.D. and Turk have can sometimes make Carla feel this way.
  • 30 Minutes, or It's Free!: Referenced in the episode "My Big Brother", when Dr. Kelso isn't happy about how long the hospital orderlies took to bring in a cadaver.
    Dr. Kelso: Do you people have any idea how long I've been waiting on you? Next time, if you're not here in thirty minutes or less, I expect a free dead body! Or at least some garlic knots.
  • Three-Way Sex
    "Was it the good kind, or was it a devil's threesome?"
    • The Todd: "I once had a threesome... and not the cool kind!"
  • 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 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 J.D. 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?
  • Token Black 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 J.D. in one episode when they have a falling out and J.D. starts hanging out with Hooch, presumably for the sole purpose of still being able to call someone Chocolate Bear.
  • Tomato Surprise: In "My Screw Up", the reveal that Ben was Dead All Along is this. The characters all know it, though Dr. Cox is in strong denial about it and hallucinates that Ben is with him throughout the episode, and it's revealed at the end, where instead of going to Jack's birthday party as planned, they are actually attending Ben's funeral.
  • 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:
    • J.D. 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 J.D., 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.
    • Doctors spend years being overworked and underpaid. It's a little better now (it's down to 80 hours a week instead of 100-120 like it was in the 80s), but it's still not great for interns and residents, as they don't have a choice about where they work, how long they work, or how much they get paid, and they often have to put in extra hours off the clock for all of the paperwork. And then there's how nurses get treated...
  • 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'."
  • The Twelve Spoofs of Christmas: A very dark version of the tune plays in the episode "My Own Personal Jesus" as Turk keeps being called out for emergencies as he is trying to rest on Christmas Eve.
    "On the twelfth day of Christmas my true love gave to me
    12 beaten children
    11 drive by shootings
    10 frozen homeless
    9 amputations
    8 burn victims
    7 strangled shoppers
    6 random knifings
    5 suicides
    4 beaten wives
    3 OD's
    2 shattered skulls
    and a drunk who drove into a tree"
  • 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.

  • 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.
  • Uncertain Doom: Doug Murphy was last seen being locked in a morgue drawer.
  • Uncertified Expert: Crossed with Obsolete Mentor in one episode. Dr. Townsend is a beloved, grandfatherly figure at the hospital, (which you might expect as he's being played by Dick Van Dyke) and even Mean Boss Dr. Kelso has a deep friendship with him. However, while Townsend is a legitimate doctor he has fallen way behind the times in terms of medical technique and has failed to become certified in or learn the new treatments that would be much more effective than the outdated ones he is still using. After using one of those outdated techniques almost causes a patient to die, Kelso and Townsend have a quiet confrontation and Kelso is reluctantly forced to let Townsend go from the hospital as a result.
    Kelso: Say, listen, um... nowadays it has become sort of hospital protocol to do modified Seldinger in a case like this. You do know how to do one of those, don't you?
    Townsend: [after a slight hesitation] Of course.
    Kelso: Because the patient in bed number 2 needs one. Mind doing it for me?
    Townsend: [getting defensive] What the hell is this all about?
    Kelso: I was just looking over your files and uh... you osteoporosis patients aren't on bisphosphonates, your diabetics aren't on ACE inhibitors... Doug, a lot of your treatments are pretty out of date.
  • 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.
  • The Unfair Sex: Scrubs is really bad for this.
    • Best exemplified in J.D.'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 from time to time (or all the time.)
    • That episode has another example with Dr. Cox and Jordan. After Jordan's brother (who was also best friends with Perry) dies, 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 J.D. is moving out of the apartment because she wants to move in with Turk. It's a wonder why J.D. even goes along with this considering that it's his apartment! Even Turk briefly moved out in the Pilot, so you could argue this only reinforces that it belongs to him.
    • Carla in one episode repeatedly infantilizes J.D., her workplace superior, both by mocking his competence and referring to him as "Bambi" in front of his patients. It gets to the point where J.D. (who admittedly is having a bad day) snaps and furiously reminds Carla of her place. Both of them in this situation are out of line: Carla was demeaning J.D. in front of a patient, which can seriously impact the patient's confidence in their care, while J.D.'s pulling rank humiliates a medical professional who is far more skilled and experienced than he is and who only has to take orders from him due to the medical hierarchy. However, J.D. is promptly reamed out by everyone he knows for the dispute and is clearly portrayed as the only one in the wrong. To save their friendship he apologizes, and to add insult to injury, "Bambi" forever after becomes Carla's nickname for him.
    • Elliot sleeps with J.D. then immediately dumps him the day after because her old boyfriend came back; J.D.'s jealousy is depicted as petty and he's advised to "be a good friend" (i.e., not tell Elliott's boyfriend that she cheated on him while he was away, with J.D. no less, even when said boyfriend asks J.D. point-blank if anything happened between them while he was gone). Later, J.D. 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.
    • J.D. 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, J.D. doesn't want her to go but "learns" that the correct reaction is to support her decision unconditionally) and a few months later, informs J.D. that she has miscarried. Turns out, that was a lie to get out of their relationship. J.D. 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 J.D. 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 J.D. is initially upset that she set up Sean and Kim together, believing that since they (J.D. 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 J.D. and Sean mutually loathe each other, setting Sean up with the mother of J.D.'s child is something J.D. 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 J.D.'s son, which he's already acting in a father-figure capacity for now! When J.D. 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.
    • The case of an epilleptic girl from the episode "My Big Move". The girl refused to take her medications, for which Dr. Cox chews her out for endangering her own life and telling her to grow up. It turn out the girl refused to take her medications because "she was tired of people telling her what to do", even though it was her parents telling her to follow the dosage instructions. In the end Elliot tells the girl that she will be given the instructions directly. And it's seen to be a good thing, despite the fact that the girl had refused to take her medication for the aforementioned "reason". And to top it off Elliot tells Dr. Cox to mind the insecurities of all women, basically the aesop of the episode being: Treat all women, even grown-ups as hissy-fitting teenagers, play along their insecurities instead of calling them out for acting childish. (Which as previously mentioned Carla does to J.D. and Turk in almost every time they are being childish.)
  • 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, not risking his job but also an assault charge.
  • The Unintelligible: Happens when Dr. Cox's son, Jack, begins to talk. Subtitles are often needed in order to understand what the little guy is saying, and sometimes, even then...
  • Unknown Rematch Conclusion: Invoked in "My Manhood". After losing having one of his testicles removed in an operation, Turk starts acting extremely aggressive due to feeling like less of a man. Meanwhile, J.D. tries to be more assertive so he can be a better father figure for his son. This results in the two getting into a fight, which J.D. wins with a lucky hit to Turk's face and Turk becomes obsessed with beating J.D. in a rematch. However, they manage to reach an understanding and stop the fight. To save face, they decide to do a "Rocky III freeze-frame ending" and circulate a picture of them about to punch each other. This allows them to both claim victory, without anyone knowing who really "won" the fight.
  • 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.
  • Vampire Doctor: It comes out in the episode 'My Missed Perception' that J.D. has written a screenplay about a vampire doctor called ''Dr. Acula." He fantasises about taking a blood sample in the usual vampire way: by sucking the blood from the neck of an attractive female patient and spitting it into the test tube, commenting that she tastes a litte anaemic. He also fantasies about feeding on Dr Kim Briggs, both women having a pleasurable reaction to his bites.
  • Vengeful Vending Machine: Turk gets his hand caught in a vending machine.
    I paid for my Rolos! I'm getting my Rolos!
  • The 'Verse: May or may not be a part of the same universe as Undateable thanks to a blink-and-you'll-miss-it appearance of The Todd during Gay Night at Black Eyes Bar.
    • Takes place in the same universe as Cougar Town, as Ted made an appearance in the latter show after Scrubs ended.
  • 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 of Shame: This was used quite often, due to the focus on the characters' professional and personal lives. Once Elliot had to get back to work after a crazy date but having misplaced her old scrubs, she ended up throwing in the disheveled clothes she wore on her date into a machine that would dispense fresh scrubs. Needless to say, Chief of Medicine Dr. Kelso walked in on her while she was changing and she had to explain herself.
  • "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".
  • Wannabe Line: One episode had Turk and J.D. repeatedly denied entrance to a club because the Bouncer thought they were acting uncool. They were only allowed in when Carla pays him off.
  • Wanting Is Better Than Having: J.D. 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...
  • We All Die Someday: One of Dr.Cox's many rants to J.D. is how everything doctors do amounts to nothing more than "a stall". This leads J.D. to an Imagine Spot where he loses to the Grim Reaper in a friendly game of Connect Four.
  • Wedding Ring Defense: Kim Briggs kept wearing her wedding ring after her divorce to ward off unwanted advances.
  • Weight Loss Salad:
    • During a montage of patients lying to their doctors, Turk sees an overweight man who claims to only eat salads.
    • Dr. Cox has a meltdown when one of his patients gains weight when he was supposed to be losing it. He laments how easy it would've been for him to go for a walk or eat a salad when compared to performing an angioplasty on him.
  • "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 (who then shows him how it's really done, and lampshades the absurdity of the situation).
  • 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 Old Lady": This is the first truly dramatic episode in the series, where J.D., Turk, and Elliot all try to save their patients. But all of them die. It serves as a massive Gut Punch that shows that not everything will turn out great at the end of each episode.
    • "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.
      • Most of the other season finales were quite shocking: "My Dream Job" had Dr Cox punch Kelso in the face, "My Best Friend's Wedding" had J.D. break up with Elliot, "My Changing Ways" had J.D. moving out, Turk and Carla planning to have a kid, Elliot leaving Sacred Heart, and Jordan getting a new job, and "My Transition" had the reveal that both Jordan and Kim are pregnant.
    • "My Fruit Cups": Dr Cox gets back together with Jordan when he learns she's pregnant, Turk decides that he wants to marry Carla, and Elliot stands up to her father only to be cut off and forced out of her apartment.
    • "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, it's offset by an extremely high personal cost.
    • "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 Cake": At the beginning it's foreshadowed, 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 Life In Four Cameras": The second half of the episode consists of J.D. imagining that all of the episode's events take place in a happy-go-lucky sitcom, until the patient of the week dies, Turk and Carla don't get over their marital issues, and Dr Kelso ends up having to fire someone.
    • "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 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 Dumb Luck": Dr Kelso retires and gives Dr Cox his job.
    • "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: (to Ben) Aren't you going to take any pictures?
    J.D.: Pictures of what?
    Dr. Cox: (turns to J.D.) 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:
    • Combined with Wham Line at the start of "My Old Lady." J.D.'s narration notes that, after you discount certain specialist wards that skew the demographics higher or lower, one out of three patients admitted to the hospital will die there. Cue Elliot, J.D., and Turk introducing themselves to their new patients, with the implication that one of those patients is going to die. All three die. Those are not the only three patients, and our heroes are not the only three doctors, in the hospital that day.
    • 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.
    • After J.D. asks his question in "My Screw Up", we cut to Cox turning to Ben and realizing he's not there. And, as if to drive the nail in further, after coming to his realization, Cox and J.D. proceed to walk off to the side... and we see they are in a graveyard.
    • A subdued variant: after it showcased the spread of an infection with the color green, "My Cabbage" ends with Cabbage shaking Mrs. Wilk's hand as he tells her goodbye. With the same now green hand that he used to dispose of some medical gloves. And then she proceeds to clasp her hands, and then touch her face.
  • Wheelchair Antics:
    • Doctors compete to see who can stay balanced on the back two wheels of a wheelchair.
    • Turk also once bowled a patient in a wheelchair.
  • White-and-Grey Morality: The conflict between Dr Cox and Dr Kelso was initially depicted as straight good versus evil, but as Kelso became a more sympathetic character it evolved into a battle between Dr Cox's compassion for the individual patients, and Kelso's cold but pragmatic "greater good" approach, e.g. giving a spot on an experimental drug trial to a rich man rather than a poor one in order to get a donation to fund prenatal care for low-income women.
  • The Whitest Black Guy:
    • In the episode "His Story III", Dr Cox questions Turk's blackness, although the third point is a bit of a subversion:
      Dr Cox: You're black? Because last time I checked, you had a nerdy white best friend, you enjoy Neil Diamond, and you damn sure act like a black guy. These, my friend, are all characteristics of white guys.
    • Played more seriously in the episode "My Identity Crisis": Carla worries that she's stopped dreaming in Spanish, and thinks that this means she's losing her Dominican identity.
  • 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 J.D. 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?: J.D. 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".
  • Withholding Their Name: The Janitor makes a point of never revealing his name to anyone. When J.D. is leaving for another hospital, he finally reveals that his name is Glen Matthews. But when J.D. leaves, another character addresses him by a completely different name. Word of God later had to state that this time, the Janitor actually told J.D. the truth.
  • Women Are Wiser: Very, very often. A general rule of thumb for the show is that in any non-comedic situation involving the four main protagonists, whatever Carla says is right. If she is absent, Elliot is right. If neither of them is right, the show will still make clear to you that the guys are jerks for being right.
  • 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 J.D. 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 J.D. 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 Are Fat: Elliot's mother will occasionally make jabs at her daughter getting fat, despite Jordan or Dr. Cox claiming that if anything, Elliot is actually underweight.
  • You Called Me "X"; It Must Be Serious: Anytime Dr. Cox refers to J.D. by his name, it's a sign of something serious going on with Cox
    • When J.D. confronts him about Ben's diagnosis and Cox's refusal to address it, Cox talks about the low chance of survival Ben has and that he can't handle it, and ends with a "No thank you. Johnny"
    • After J.D. gets him out of his depressed funk in My Fallen Idol, he greets him at the bar with a sincere "J.D., thank you".
    • After finding out J.D. dumped his interns on another doctor, he yells "Where the hell is Dorian?"
  • You Didn't Ask: Invoked by Turk when he reveals that the ex that he had reconnected with didn't know he was married.
    Carla: You've been talking to this girl you used to sleep with, and you never told her you were married?
    Turk: ...she never asked?
  • 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 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 Makeup Is Running: A Running Gag when Elliot wore heavier mascara was that it would inevitably run whenever she cried, making her look like Alice Cooper.
  • Your Mime Makes It Real: J.D. 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.
  • Your Son All Along: When Jordan becomes pregnant the first time she claims that the father was someone she had a one-night stand with, but is unclear which one. It is actually Dr. Cox's baby, but she doesn't tell him in order to hold their relationship together. Eventually it leaks to Dr. Cox that Jack is his son, at which point Dr. Cox is angry at Jordan for keeping it a secret from him.
  • Zero-Approval Gambit: Kelso's preferred method of motivation.


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