In the Scrubs episode “My Screwup” (3x14), Jordan's brother Ben returns to the hospital after being two years around the world after his cancer diagnosis. He follows Dr. Cox around the whole episode, but in the end, it is revealed that he already died and most of this happened in Cox's mind as a coping mechanism.

When did Ben die? During the episode? Or did he never really return?

We see him interacting with JD in the beginning, so I would assume he was still alive then. Also, Cox blames JD for letting a heart patient die. Was it maybe about Ben instead? On the other hand, it seems strange that he would die this quickly, and there actually is a heart patient in the episode.

It's very unclear what really happens in this episode because of the whole dream/imagination element. Can anyone clear this up?

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    Remember when Ben is asked about always carrying his camera he responds "till the day I die".
    – user31829
    Mar 2, 2016 at 15:00

10 Answers 10


As far as I remember Ben died during the episode. Someone said that he always carries his camera with him and he wouldn't go anywhere without it. At some point in the episode you can start seeing him without the camera - I would say that's the sign of him beeing dead.

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    Welcome to the site! Really good point about the camera, I have to rewatch it probably and look for other signs. As I wrote he also stops talking to others at some point. It's still unclear to me if Cox blames JD for Ben's death, or if this is unrelated.
    – magnattic
    Oct 8, 2014 at 8:44
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    @atticae Without having much recollection of the episode, he could have "indirectly" blamed J.D. by projecting his own feelings about Ben's death into making J.D. feel especially guilty for that heart patient he let die, searching for some kind of scapegoat for Ben's death anywhere, albeit there being none except for the little assistant who just let someone totally unrelated die.
    – Napoleon Wilson
    Oct 8, 2014 at 9:08
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    Still strange that Ben would be dead from one moment to the other without anyone mentioning it in any way. My theory was that when JD tells Cox about the heart patient, he was really telling him about Ben, and because JD was treating Ben (he was supposed to do some tests), Cox might have blamed him. But it's only a theory so far.
    – magnattic
    Oct 8, 2014 at 9:11
  • @atticae that's scrubs all over though movies.stackexchange.com/questions/11545/was-the-janitor-real
    – Liath
    Oct 8, 2014 at 14:31

AFAIK, he died while Dr. Cox was out (I think he was to pay bail for the clown for his son's birthday party).

  • JD hears being assigned to perform the tests, to which he protests that he is already overworked. So at that point Ben is alive.

  • When Dr. Cox returns to the hospital, JD's attitude is extremely sad and defensive, to the point of introducing the issue tangentially ("we had an issue..."*). While you would expect that he didn't usually report a patient's death as a joke, you would not expect him to be so affected by the death of a patient that he is unrelated to, or that he would be so carefully when telling Dr. Cox (he would have said "Mr. X had a cardiac episode and he died").

  • Also it explains the impact it has on Dr. Cox. He left an apparently healthy guy at the hospital and found that he had died after a few hours. Had he been told (after a long time not hearing from him) that Ben had finally died from cancer elsewhere without seeing him first would not have been as much of a surprise (and you would need something really shocking to hit Dr. Cox that bad, if only because as a Dr. he is used to bad news).

*) I watched the Spanish translation of the series, so the actual wording may be different in the English version.


Just watched this episode. When J.D. tells Dr. Cox about the "heart patient" dying, he says "HE went into cardiac arrest." He never says the patient's name, and like SJuan pointed out, J.D. seems way more upset than you would expect from a random patient dying.

Also, just before J.D. appears, Cox is talking to Ted, with Ben nowhere in sight. When J.D. tells Cox the patient died, Ben is all of a sudden behind Cox's shoulder, without his camera, and J.D. doesn't react to his presence at all, nor does anyone else for the remainder of the episode.

I never noticed this, and to me it seems pretty clear that J.D. is actually telling Cox that Ben has died, and Cox has something of a mental break at this point.


Its implied that Ben died halfway through the episode.

After Dr. Cox comes back, he is the only one that Ben interacts with. Plus Ben is no longer wearing his camera, "Ben is never seen without his camera"

For someone who usually reacts indifferently to patients dying (especially when its not his fault) it doesn't make sense for him to react so emotionally when JD tells him the heart patient died.

JD is also treating the heart patient when Dr. Cox comes and takes all his patients, he is still alive.

Dr. Cox is using Ben's image as a coping mechanism, in addition to passing the blame to JD.


I watched the episode several times. I think the writers left it a little open to interpretation. I agree that Ben walking around with his camera and then not with his camera may have been the point where he dies. I believe the heart attack patient was a diversion really it was Ben and Dr. Cox needed someone to blame because he felt guilty that he lost his best friend brother in law and felt he could have done something about it (when he said to JD nobody died while I've been watching your patients is a way of him saying that he could control someone's time to die) possibly.

Also the birthday party was a symbol I think. When JD says to Dr. Cox Jordan called to say don't be late this afternoon it was for the funeral but they were making like it was the birthday party. Also Ben appears to be only talking to Dr. Cox at a certain point and he has more of a background like ghost part. Definitely the camera is an important use of symbols.


Ben didn't have the camera when JD told Dr Cox about him not making it. At that point Ben was dead. We see late that the "heart" patient was in a bed when Dr Cox took all of JD's patients. When Ben was missing his camera was also when no one else noticed Ben, furthering the theory that Ben was the one who died from cardiac arrest


JD got a code while he was standing in the window to get prescription medicine, that was not the old guy in the wheelchair. It was Ben during him getting his tests, that's when Ben died.

After Dr. Cox came back from bailing the clown from jail JD presented Ben's chart to him, that's when Dr. Cox starting hallucinating Ben without the camera. In case you think about it he died on his son's birthday and that's two deaths he can affiliate both of his kids on. Sad


I agree JD says "20 minutes after you left he went into cardiac arrest" and Dr. Cox becomes emotionally distressed. Later on when Dr. Cox takes all of JD's patients, the former pt. with heart problems is on the bed - making it clear it's Ben who has died. And of course Dr. Cox insisting JD screwed up.


Yes, and one thing that stood out to me right away was that Dr. Cox asked Ben, "So you still doing the whole 'kooky guy who carries his camera everywhere' thing?" And Ben responded, "Till the day I die." So as soon as you see him appearing without the camera, you know he's dead.

That moment was when JD told Dr. Cox that "he" went into cardiac arrest 20 minutes after Dr. Cox left. And when Dr. Cox says that "The kid screwed up," Ben is suddenly standing right behind him, defending JD, saying that he didn't screw up. He was just swamped. And that is exactly what JD had told Dr. Cox when he asked JD to take care of Ben while he was out for a while, and to make sure he had all the tests he needed.

Also, those saying that the heart patient was still alive, lying on the bed, when Dr. Cox took JD's patients away are incorrect. I'm watching it right now, and I've paused it a few times to make sure. That is not the same man. The man in the bed is Dr. Douglas, who is played by William Daniels, who also played Dr. Mark Craig on the old medical show,"St. Elsewhere." He appeared in a recent episode with three other actors from "St. Elsewhere," all playing hospitalized doctors on "Scrubs."

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    "He appeared in a recent episode [...]" We have vastly different definitions of "recent." The show's been off the air over a decade. Dec 9, 2020 at 3:28

Season 3 Episode 14 Minute 9:30.

Also, this is where you will notice the camera is no longer on Ben's neck.

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