Scrubs Season 1 Episode 13 Review: “My Balancing Act”

Scrubs

“My Balancing Act” is about as typical an episode of Scrubs as there is, a sure sign that the show’s fully formed after a baker’s dozen of episodes. There’s relationship problems with Turk/Carla, Elliot’s neuroses and inability to enjoy life are on full display, and there’s a J.D. story that illuminates both the immaturity of our protagonist, and a depressing facet of his mentor’s life. Throw on top some Cox vs. Kelso, and you’ve got the blueprint of a Scrubs episode, one many would follow throughout the show’s 182-episode run.

This isn’t to say “My Balancing Act” is a bad episode; one of the reasons Scrubs is so fondly remembered is its week-to-week formula was so well-tuned. As the title suggests, “My Balancing Act” is about maturity, and figuring out how to juggle everything that comes with living life. It’s also a balancing act of sorts for the series as a whole; after focusing purely on these characters lives as doctors for the first dozen episodes, introducing J.D.’s first girlfriend on the show gives Scrubs a chance to expand its personal stories a little further, moving slightly away from the hospital itself to illuminate characteristics of the people working in them.

That personal thread is really what drives this episode; from Cox’s deep-seeded hatred of himself, to Elliot’s inability to relax enough to have an orgasm (or even be able to enjoy herself for who she is, on any level), all of the stories in “Balancing Act” convey the hospital as the spinning vortex that sucks our characters out of their lives at any given moment. Carla and Turk’s story about Carla not having an orgasm doesn’t initially appear to quite fit as neatly into this vein – consider how the show builds friendships out of this event at the hospital, however, and the scope becomes a little more clear.

Scrubs is very much a show that personifies the basic ideals of Buddhism, beliefs verbalized by J.D. in this episode when he considers the personal sacrifice that comes in pursuit of the professional achievement. Cox himself is a wonderful case study in what happens when someone’s pursuits of harmony become destructive, and “Balancing Act” uses him as a litmus test for every other character’s neuroses and internal conflicts in the episode. I don’t think Cox’s reveal lands quite as hard as the moment should, but it remains an integral moment in J.D.’s journey; part of revealing Cox as J.D.’s seer is revealing his ironic flaw, which comes in the form of Cox caring way too much about his job and how it defines him as a human being. It’s ruined his marriage, and turned him into an egotistical, paranoia-fueled machine of rejection, his attempts to insulate himself from the world only driving him farther and farther away from everyone.

As he becomes a doctor trying to be as dedicated to the cause as his hero, J.D.’s reality check in “Balancing Act” frames the episode as a whole in an important way. He really needs a girl in his life, lest he fall out of balance and end up on Cox’s dark, lonely end of the spectrum; seizing professional opportunities certainly has its perks, but those perks mean absolutely nothing if there’s nobody to share them with when you get home. And while J.D.’s lesson in this particular (obvious) fact doesn’t come with high dramatic stakes, it makes the message of “Balancing Act” a little muted, an episode that’s perfectly content being emotionally concise to have fun in other places, like the well-shot sequence where Carla and Turk express their feelings to Dye Job and The Todd before reconciling with each other, again conveying another important idea of balance, between dealing with issues within a relationship and relying on friends to help provide prospective, even if said perspective belongs to Todd.

“Balancing Act” is very business-like drawing its parallels, and because of that, it can feel a little stunted in places as it goes for larger emotional leaps in the final act. However, the thematic unity shown between all stories is somewhat of a Scrubs trademark, episodes that run the gamut from legendary to utterly forgettable, given where they appear in the show’s run. Regardless, “My Balancing Act” feels like an ‘unlocking’ moment, one that dips into the potential of stories outside the hospital, giving dimension to relationships, characters, and conflicts in ways that future episodes (in this season, and every other) would explore even further, to memorable results.

Other thoughts/observations:

– No high fives, Todd? ARE YOU OK??!!

– One of the show’s weirdest cameos occurs when Carrot Top appears in a fantasy (as pictured above), holding a “woman’s cookbook” and sporting his trademark red locks.

– Scrubs seem to think it’s a clever twist that Carla is having problems with sex and not Turk, but it doesn’t land quite like it should.

– Ted stands up to Bob: “Walk off, b**ch.”

– Why is that photo booth in the middle of the shampoo aisle?

[Photo via NBC]

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