I don’t cry easily. I hardly ever cry. Not because I’m an insensitive person, I think it’s a defense mechanism that I unconsciously try to make myself externally impassable. The few times it has happened to me in recent years, however, have been cathartic. Crying is beautiful, liberating. It is finally letting yourself go to the manifestation of a full emotionality, not partially castrated by the obsession that characterizes our generation: managing your emotions, the stewardship of the gush of our feelings out of fear of hurting ourselves. It has to do with the obligation that society imposes on us to appear adequate in all circumstances, and we end up filtering ourselves continuously, like on social media.
In the society of performance, not showing oneself weak – with oneself, even before with others – is an unwritten rule. Let alone how much this is worth for a doctor. For someone who deals with people’s lives every day, and simply can’t afford to let go as much as they would like. Practically never. Doctors almost always appear to us as cold people, sometimes emotionally detached, sometimes cynical. Of course, there are exceptions that prove the rule – in Scrubs itself, JD is certainly one of them – but doctors often seem Like this. It has to do with the weight of responsibility they carry every day, with the fact that in their work every mistake or distraction can weigh like a boulder. And all of this certainly concerns a doctor we met on our screens a handful of years ago, one who managed to enter our hearts despite its angular characterdespite its seemingly impassable armor. Doctor Cox.
Cox is a character. Grumpy, sarcastic, brilliant, contemptuous, apretty pissed off with life. But Cox is above all a person. We had already noticed it in episode 3×14 of Scrubs, that of Ben’s death: the other episode for which we shed all our tears. We realize it definitively in the episode 5×20, “My lunch”: a ninety piece of emotionality told, lived, finally expressed without filters by the character from whom we least expected it. In the hospital, patients die every day. That day, however, at the Sacred Heart Hospital the situation is more critical than expected: organs to be transplanted are needed for three patients, two of whom are dying, and the donor is identified by Cox in a patient who apparently died of an overdose. After the transplants, however, the patients die one after the other and it turns out that the donor was suffering from anger. The transplanted organs were infected, and Cox is the one who made the choice that led to their deaths. A tragic mistake due to a rash move made for a good purpose, but which leads to disastrous consequences. Consequences that will also involve Cox. The doctor will come out devastated, torn apart, helpless as we have never seen him.
JD tries to awaken him from his torpor, to reassure him. He replaces his mentor by looking after him, realizing that this is the most difficult moment of Perry’s career and bringing out a strength and a certainty touching. How moving are all of Cox’s reactions in what are probably the most intense 5-minute episode of Scrubsscanned by How To Save A Life which resonates in the background. Perry first vents to JD, then when his student tells him that he would have made his own choices, he looks at him, defenseless, and replies “Yes?” in a moment of tormented tenderness, to then get up with a start because he is called back to the operating room: up to that moment there were only two dead patients, shortly after Cox also lost the third. With confirmed death, he says a sentence:
“He wasn’t going to die. He could wait another month”
A sentence of extreme simplicity, but which puts us face to face with reality. It puts us face to face with the value of life, which we too often underestimate or tend to take for granted. Cox doesn’t simply regret the death of a patient. He regrets that if for the others there was no hope and his tragic mistake was a desperate attempt to save them, for the last patient there was still a month. A month passes in an instant, but for a doctor a month represents 30 different possibilities to find a different solution. For Cox it is the point of no return, the definitive collapse. Perry runs away, leaves the hospital, as if by now he no longer feels adequate, more suitable for that job. JD calls him out in a loud, almost overbearing way.
“Where are you going, your shift isn’t over. Hey! Do you remember what you told me? If you start feeling guilty about people dying, you never go back” – “Yes. You are right”
Cox leaves the hospital, and in that moment it seems he never intends to return. The doctor, closing the door behind him, decrees his personal failure rather than professional. In tears, no longer caged in his emotions, but completely absorbed by the events and a transgressor of the same rule he imposed: “You can’t feel guilty about people dying.” Yet Cox is a person, not just the indestructible character he wants to appear to be. People fail. They really do it all the time, and build a convoluted castle of emotional filters as a form of self-help it only helps, at best, to postpone failure. Because failures, the daily ones, are simply inevitable. Being able to get back up after failures, that is not obvious: and it is undoubtedly easier for people who have greater emotional awareness, which does not mean check spasmodic.
The 5×20 episode of Scrubs broke us in two because it didn’t just tell a series of tragic events: it rather represented the metaphorical narrative of a slice of life we all deal with every day. And it is for this reason, in addition to the more obvious ones, that it struck us so much, that it has remained so imprinted on us. Because we live with the fear of failure every day too. Even if we don’t save lives for work.
The 5×20 episode of Scrubs will also be told, in-depth and analyzed on Thursday evening 16 March at 21.00 on our Twitch channel: you can find us under the name hallofseries_com. We are waiting for you!