Episode 159: My Absence

Elliot copes with J.D.'s absence from Sacred Heart while Turk tries to get everyone excited about the arrival of his second child.

You Say Potato...
While doing rounds, Cox tells the interns how to treat Mr. Fancone- a comatose patient- who he affectionately refers to as a 'potato'.  He tells them the best thing to do is to smother him in sour cream, chives, and bacon bits.  Put simply: Cox doesn't want to be bothered by patient's whose conditions are beyond his control.

Round Two
Carla informs Turk that she is pregnant again, but makes him promise not to tell anyone.  Turk agrees and marches off immediately to find J.D. and tell him.  He stumbles upon Dr. Cox who is happy to inform Turk that J.D. is absent.  Carla gets mad at Turk, but Turk knows that Carla has already spilled the beans to Elliot who has J.D. on speaker phone.  Turk is annoyed at J.D.'s unenthusiastic response to the news.  When he announces the news publicly, Turk is even more annoyed to learn that no one is excited about second babies, only first.  Cox announces that Whitman- a doctor who is not even present- is having a first born and everyone applauses while Turk scowls.

Overly Attached
Elliot and Denise are treating Peggy, a close friend of Kelso's, who has pneumonia.  Peggy makes constant mention of her husband of 53 years who has recently passed on.  Peggy's attachment to the memory of her late husband is mirrored by Elliot's inability to get off the phone with J.D.  Elliot walks through the halls with her cell-phone in hand, and J.D. on speaker.  When she isn't on the phone with him, she becomes absent minded and detached from her work.  She confesses to Kelso that she misses J.D. and fears that she is making herself vulnerable- a mistake she had made in her previous relationship with J.D.  She resolves to spend less time thinking about her boyfriend.

Lost Cause
Sonny, the cheerful, new intern, is determined to keep Fancone alive so that his sister can visit.  When she asks Cox for help he tells her to look to Carla for that, explaining that only Carla allows herself to care for people who are bound for the morgue.  Carla says she'll see what she can do, but leaves Sonny to care for the comatose patient alone.  Cox shows up at Carla's house to scold her, reminding her that it is her job to care, not his.  Carla returns the next morning to learn that Sonny exhausted herself on Fancone to the point where she accidentally sedated herself, instead of the patient.  Carla realizes that her skin has thickened and she is less sensitive to patients like Fancone.  She begins to wonder when that change in her had come about.

Ted And His Guch
Ted introduces Turk (and anyone else who'll listen) to his shiny, new girlfriend, Guch.  Turk tells Guch that he is expecting a child, and when she asks if it's his first he lies to her and tells her that it is.  She writes a song celebrating this new stage in life, and Turk is overjoyed to finally have someone share his excitement.  Soon enough Turk's lie is exposed and Guch threatens to kill him with her Ukelele.

Second Time Around
Peggy dies.  Kelso doesn't believe the cause of her death was pneumonia, but that her love for her husband made it impossible for her to live without him.  When Elliot denies this possibility, Kelso tells her to take a quick look at herself.  She is just like Peggy: unable to function without the person she loves.  He also mentions that relationships are about exposing yourself: allowing yourself to be vulnerable.  Cox apologizes to Carla, saying that he shouldn't have expected her to be different from anyone else who has distanced themselves from terminal patients, but Carla admits that she isn't ready to give up on them, and helps Sonny with Fancone.  Ted offers a few words of wisdom to Turk which can be summed up by saying that things are always different the second time around.  People may not be as jazzed by the news of a second baby, but that won't make the experience any less amazing.  His words are followed by a scene with Elliot, now comfortable in her renewed relationship, calling J.D. to tell him she misses him.

Here's one of those episodes where everyone's harsh exterior is betrayed by an exposure of their soft underbelly.  We've got classic pricks such as Kelso doling out the romantic advice to Elliot who is always an emotional wreck, and Cox, who begins the episode by stating how much he does not care about comatose patients, scolding Carla for... not caring about comatose patients!  Even Denise- the cold, emotionless intern- confesses that she wishes she could allow herself to be vulnerable with someone she loved.

Since the episode is entitled: My Absence, we have to consider how J.D.'s absence from the hospital is affecting those who showed up for work.  J.D. has historically been the narrator of the show, and while calling him a stable character may be more credit than he deserves, we have to respect the fact that while he is around other characters act the way we would expect them to.  In other words: his presence brings a stability to Sacred Heart.  Take him out of the picture and all of a sudden we've got Kelso telling Elliot that heartbreak is a plausible diagnosis for cause of death, and Cox not only admitting to, but actually apologizing for, being a hypocrite.

The overall message, things are always different the second time around, is a neat way to resolve both Turk's and Elliot's dilemmas, seeing as they are both re-experiencing major dramas.  In a was I am not so sure that the message was only meant for these two, however.  I couldn't help but notice that interns- who were introduced just a few short episodes ago- share a significant amount of screen time with the show's original casted characters.  Perhaps the new interns have something new to bring to the series as well.

Recap by Jonathan Friedler