Bill Lawrence Promised Neil Flynn Two Things Before Scrubs Ended

Of all the characters on "Scrubs," the Janitor (Neil Flynn) is probably the funniest. Every other character has some sort of serious character arc going on beneath all the jokes, but the Janitor? He's a wild man. He decided he hated JD (Zach Braff) on his first day and he held that grudge for eight years straight. He was famously not even supposed to be real in the first season, but a figment of JD's imagination. It was only once it was clear the show would get a second season that they let the Janitor interact with the other characters.

The Janitor was special not just because he tormented JD, but because of the way he managed to inconvenience nearly everyone in the hospital (except Elliot) throughout the years, without ever suffering any consequences. The doctors and nurses and even the Chief of Medicine all simply accepted that their hospital had a guy working there who would regularly engage in kidnappings and ambiguous murder attempts. He'd even dress up as a ghost at night to scare the kids getting their tonsils taken out, and no one did anything to stop him. On a show that usually attempted to ground itself at least a little bit in reality, the Janitor always seemed like he wasn't quite of this world.

There was still a broad plan in store for the Janitor, however, just as there was for everyone else. When talking about the character, showrunner Bill Lawrence said that early on he made two promises to Neil Flynn: "By the end of the show, he'd have a name and he'd eventually get to have a girlfriend." Looking back at the eight seasons of "Scrubs" (yes, only eight), it's clear Lawrence did follow through on these promises in the end — though to varying degrees. 

The Janitor's name

The mystery surrounding the Janitor's real name was explored a lot throughout the show, most notably in season 3's "My Friend the Doctor," in which JD watches "The Fugitive" for the first time since working at Sacred Heart and realizes that a guy who looks a lot like the Janitor is in the movie, playing the part of a police officer. The episode ends with the Janitor confirming to JD that it was him, but swearing him to secrecy. It raises a few questions, like how exactly did the Janitor go from an actor in a major blockbuster to a hospital janitor? And if JD knows he was in the movie, why can't he go through the end credits and find his name there?

The finale gives us the answer to the second question: JD doesn't think to check the credits because he's a somewhat self-centered and incurious person. When the Janitor tells JD his real name in the finale (Glenn Matthews), JD asks why he hasn't told him until now and the Janitor responds, "It's the first time you asked." He asserts that nobody ever actually wants to know a janitor's name, and JD proves him right by already forgetting his name five seconds after. 

For a moment there, it seemed like we'd finally gotten the answer to an eight-year mystery. But then JD leaves the room, and we see someone else refer to the Janitor as Tommy. Even when it seems like the Janitor's opening up to JD, it's still not clear if anything he says is true. (Although if you hate ambiguity, fear not: Bill Lawrence would later confirm to fans that the Janitor's name is, in fact, Glenn Matthews.)

The Janitor's girlfriend

Lawrence's second promise to Flynn was fulfilled in season 7, when the Janitor starts dating a woman named Lady (Kit Pongetti). The reveal that he's in a real relationship with an actual human person is shocking to everyone, but starts to make more sense when it's revealed that the Janitor's been hiding a lot of the more crazy parts of his personality when she's around. When he first shows her his true self, it goes badly: "In my spare time I also enjoy stuffing animals," he tells her, "usually with other animals. For instance, a badger will hold five squirrels. A squirrel will hold most of a cat, a mouse will hold a shrew and a vole. Circle of life." He also tells her he doesn't believe in the moon. "I think it's just the back of the sun."

Carla (Judy Reyes) saves the day by telling Lady he was just kidding, to which Lady says, "Thank God." Carla then advises the Janitor to let his crazy side out in smaller doses, not all at once. He follows this advice and their relationship stays steady, up until the season 8 episode "My Nah Nah Nah," in which Lady reveals she's also been hiding the weirder parts of her personality. "I am a germaphobe," she confesses. "Specifically, a hand-specific germaphobe. My therapist thinks that part of the reason I'm attracted to you is that you clean germs for a living. And you're a dead ringer for my dad." The two get married a few episodes later.

Scrubs' strange final seasons

Most of the Janitor's moments of character development happened in the final few seasons, which was also when other minor characters like Todd, Ted, and Lloyd started taking up more and more screen time. Season 8 in particular also dedicated a lot of time to the new interns, to the point where one episode, "My Full Moon," only featured Elliot and Turk from the show's main, original cast. 

This happens to a lot of sitcoms as they go on: With the main characters' storylines mostly wrapped up, a show starts increasingly putting its focus on characters who played smaller roles in the early seasons. Once Jim and Pam got together in "The Office," for instance, the show started attempting (with mixed success) to give weightier storylines to characters like Andy, Erin, Angela, and Oscar. 

With the main cast all having reached a stable place in their lives by season 8, the "Scrubs" writers could either disrupt that well-earned peace for the sake of milking some more tension between the characters, or shift the focus to other characters. Luckily for the Janitor's love life, they chose the latter direction.