“My Fruit Cups” is a strange episode to wrap one’s head around, a haphazardly constructed 22 minutes trying to introduce a lot of major character beats in one fell swoop. Rather than lean into the neat delineation formed between its two generations of characters – the residents are financially restless, while Carla and Cox deal with more mature familial issues – “My Fruit Cup” tries to follow the typical Scrubs formula, mushing all of its stories and ideas together into one linear narrative. As a byproduct of that approach, “My Fruit Cup” feels like 80% of the episode it needs to be – particularly in the final act, where it feels like a large chunk of the dramatic crescendo is just missing.
Like life, “My Fruit Cup” is anticlimatic, messy, and fumbles at finding emotional resonance.
Everything starts off strong enough; as JD, Turk, and Elliot scramble to manage their massive student debt from medical school, they find themselves overextending themselves. Working night shifts at clinics, hustling extra hours at the hospital, taking side jobs… it’s all on the table for our three residents – especially JD and Turk, who don’t benefit from the WASP-bankrolled lifestyle Elliot’s grown accustomed to.
Seeing JD and Turk steal supplies from the hotel is an infinitely relatable moment for anyone who had dorm bathrooms; it’s a rare moment where Scrubs really, truly engages with the financial realities young residents face (a problem that’s only exacerbated itself over the past 15 years, as college prices continue to skyrocket). In fact, Turk is working so much it is affecting his relationship with Carla – which is beginning to get really serious, as we eventually learn during the messier moments of “My Fruit Cup.”
It’s not often the Sacred Heart crew deal with external stressors; being a series specifically insulated to its primary location, it’s not often Scrubs engages with the every day lives of its characters (beyond dating and the occasional family drama, at least in early seasons). And though “My Fruit Cup” is only engaging with this idea to further the more central Turk/Carla story of season two (that is, will Turk propose?), it is still some of the most fascinating material of the season, led by a hilarious montage set to Barenaked Ladies’ “If I Had A Million Dollars” (which has now been replaced by some lifeless Parkas song).
The larger Turk/Carla story, however, turns out to be a major stumbling block: once again, Scrubs‘ grip on Carla seems tenuous – though this episode is ostensibly about her relationship with Turk, 90% of her dialogue in “My Fruit Cup” revolves around an off-screen family drama regarding care of her mother. To further the weird construction of this story, JD is the one who teases out the bigger nugget tucked in: Turk is preparing to propose to Carla – even though he seemingly pays no attention to what’s going on with her family, a strange development when the episode explicitly wants to find poignancy in their developing love.
Instead, it just feels out of left field, especially considering how much of an afterthought it feels: the real focus of “My Fruit Cup,” after all, is the return of Cox’s ex-wife Jordan, now wickedly pregnant and flailing to find stability in her life. A large bulk of the episode is dedicated to this conflict, enjoying all the space Turk and Carla’s story desperately needed – though to its credit, Cox’s realizations are much more poignant and moving than Turk’s hesitant “excitement” at the thought of proposing to Carla.
Jordan’s return is a major kick starter for the second season of Scrubs: it is the beginning of Dr. Cox’s maturity, the catalyst for the single strongest, most meaningful arc of the series. Just as Cox is settling into a rhythm with his new girlfriend (Heather Locklear, whose presence is greatly diminished from that of “My First Step”), Jordan returns, pregnant and determined to get Perry back in her life.
For Cox, it is the great turning point in his life, a moment that hints towards some of the darker aspects of their relationship (note how she says “I decided I wanted you back“… it is an important distinction a later episode will touch on). It suggests Cox’s self-loathing has some deeper seeded issues, and doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with his so-called ‘hatred’ of Jordan – after all, it only takes a few minutes before Locklear’s Julie literally disappears from the frame, and Cox is admitting Julie had no chance once Jordan re-entered the picture.
The problem is how “My Fruit Cup” jumps from premise to conclusion; there’s a really strong scene in the middle where Jordan confesses her fear at becoming a mother while crying on a bathroom floor, but it is completely untethered from the more dynamic journey of the episode, Cox’s realization that he doesn’t have to continue to torture himself for the rest of his life.
This idea was teased at the end of season one, but it’s been left dormant as season two’s slowly built out the families of its main characters. With Jordan back in his life (and someone’s baby on the way), “My Fruit Cup” reminds us the transformative powers a family can have on people. “My Big Brother” already defined this for JD; “My Fruit Cup” draws even more from this well of conflict, contrasting Elliot’s controlling family with the one Cox decides to build for himself: where Elliot tries to rebel against her father pushing her into the expected OB/GYN career path, Cox embraces the good and bad of his own family – the family he chose, not the biological one forced upon him.
But both are similar in how they present Elliot and Cox with the challenge of finding inner peace: Cox knows the things that make him happy also make him miserable, while Elliot’s consumed by the expectations of her father (not to mention her financial dependency). But sometimes logic needs to be thrown to the wind: Cox accepts insanity if it brings him happiness, just as Elliot is willing to accept the financial consequences of forging her own career path in medicine.
These are tough choices for our main characters to make; but like Turk’s change in mindset, they are necessary building blocks for the growth of our characters (which is why JD is left out of the deeper beats of “My Fruit Cup”… his character growth is both the slowest, and the most delayed). Which makes the third act of “My Fruit Cup” so strange, and jarring: Scrubs just kind of glosses over the more important internal developments of its characters, utilizing a hilarious Julia/Jordan montage, and some quick footwork with Carla and JD, to get the other characters where they need to be.
It feels underdeveloped in a way most of Scrubs‘ larger beats don’t; it just kind of happens, a collection of moments “My Fruit Cup” plays into the drama of. There’s Cox’s dramatic reveal in his apartment, JD’s touching conversation with Turk, and the silent image of Carla consoling Elliot as she packs up her apartment; all worthy climactic moments of their own, forced to share the spotlight under the guise of Scrubs looking to the future – specifically, as JD says, “maybe the best thing to do is figure out where you’re going, and enjoy where you’re at.”
A wonderful notion, but it’s one that tries to unify everything in “My Fruit Cup” under a faulty resolution: “My Fruit Cup” is very much about its characters looking towards the future, understanding the situations they’re currently in aren’t sustainable for their happiness. And “My Fruit Cup” doesn’t do the legwork to isolate that idea from its “living in the moment” conclusion: while it is a touching, believable notion, it’s not one the events preceding it feel like they’re subscribing to. JD may not say he’s worried about his college debt; but then why is he so uptight about Turk’s “finder’s fee” – and why is he so adamant about stealing things from the hospital, even when he knows the Janitor is breathing down his neck?
Like many of Scrubs‘ closing monologues, the less thought about JD’s final words, the better: the meat of “My Fruit Cup” is really strong, even if it doesn’t find a unifying theme to marry the many pieces of subtext together. Like life, “My Fruit Cup” is anticlimatic, messy, and fumbles at emotional resonance: though it doesn’t make for an entirely satisfying episode, it remains a rather important entry in Scrubs‘ sophomore effort, an important foundation piece for some of the series’ most important overarching journeys.