I have touched on this in a previous episode recap, but I wanted to talk about Shaun’s important life decisions button-down and dig into this a little deeper.
Now, all of this may be totally coincidental and me seeing patterns where none exist, but it seems a little too coincidental that we see Shaun wearing this exact light blue button-down with the distressed white buttons in episodes that have an important event or decision unfolding in his life.
Does he have a secret superstition going that this is his lucky shirt? Or is it a shirt that means a lot to him because he got it from someone important? Or just a little inside thing the wardrobe department established? We will likely never know, but let’s get overanalysis-nerdy and take a look at where the shirt makes an appearance.
First time we see it is right in the pilot. It’s the shirt Shaun wears as he travels to San Jose to interview for the resident position at St. Bonaventure. That’s an important fork in the road for sure, and a lot depended on that job interview for him.
The shirt makes its next appearance in 1×04 Pipes. We see it at the end of the episode when Shaun goes out with Claire and Jared to a bar to celebrate their success. At the same time, Dr. Glassman is making plans to suggest hiring a personal aid for Shaun, which obviously has a significant effect on Shaun’s life.
Shaun wears the light blue shirt in 1×11 Islands Part 1. He and Dr. Glassman had a pretty big fight about that personal aid/therapist, and Shaun packs a few things and hides from Glassman in Lea’s apartment. It is then that Shaun and Lea decide to take a road trip together that solidifies their friendship.
Season 2 depicted Glassman’s journey to fight brain cancer, and it’s an important life lesson for Shaun as well. He wears the blue shirt in 2×01 Hello while he waits with Dr. Glassman for his tests to come back and when he tells Glassman that he will be there for him all the way. And then, there’s also that thing where Lea comes back from Hershey and waits for him outside his apartment door…
2×17 Breakdown is the episode where Shaun decides he wants to advocate for himself after Dr. Han transferred him from his surgical residency to pathology against his will. We know this ultimately backfires when Dr. Han fires Shaun. He wears the blue shirt when he breaks down in the locker room and breaks his toy scalpel.
This one doesn’t seem as significant, but the blue shirt makes a comeback when Shaun decides in 3×01 Disaster that his date with Carly was so stressful that he doesn’t think dating is worth it and gives up on wanting to be in a romantic relationship.
3×10 Friends and Family is definitely one of the big ones in terms of important things happening in Shaun’s life. The blue shirt is the one he wears when he talks to his mother at the Hilltop diner, when he talks to his father the second time and is told that Steve’s death was his fault, and then he has the meltdown in the motel room that Lea helps him through.
We see the shirt again in 3×16 Autopsy, the episode in which Shaun decides he wants to take the leap and tell Lea how he really feels about her. He wears the shirt in the scene where he makes his first attempt but then bails, and when he admits to Carly that he loves Lea more than her but is scared to tell her.
4×01 Frontline Part 1 tells us Lea and Shaun have been together for a few weeks, and they are slowly taking steps to expand their relationship to the point where Lea should be staying overnight. However, before they can act on it, COVID hits and they need to physically separate for several months. Shaun wears the blue shirt the last time they see each other in person before the social distancing comes into effect.
This next one is a bit puzzling. Shaun wears the blue shirt in 4×18 Forgive or Forget. Lea had to perform emergency field surgery on Shaun’s foot, and he’s in the blue shirt when they come home and Lea thanks for him for taking her camping and they share a sweet and loving moment and a kiss. What’s puzzling is that he was wearing a different shirt during the actual accident, so are we to assume he had to stay in the hospital overnight and this is the next day?
The season 5 debut of the blue shirt is in 5×02 Piece of Cake, he wears it when he goes to see Lea in her office and she vents her frustration with Salen’s software programming while Shaun wants a solution for their cake problem. Perhaps more significant is the fact that he wears the shirt when they take the photo for the new Ethicure ID badges.
The light blue shirt also marks the episode that’s the end of the Salen era, 5×10 Cheat Day. Shaun wears it when he tells both Lea and Glassman that he wants to stand up for his friends and family, and that he cares more about the people in his life than his job.
I’m still not certain that the blue shirt really has a larger significance, but it does seem curious that all its appearances are episodes that are big milestones in Shaun’s life.
Perhaps also important is to take a look at episodes that are important milestones for Shaun where is isn’t wearing the light blue shirt. I daresay those are the following:
- 1×18 More
- 2×10/11 Quarantine
- 3×20 I Love You
(Although Shaun only wears scrubs in all of 3×19 and 3×20)
- 4×16 Dr. Ted
- 4×20 Vamos
- 5×07 Expired
- 5×18 Sons
So does that disprove my “Important Life Decisions Shirt” theory? I honestly don’t know. Regardless, I shall keep an eye out for the blue button-down’s appearance in future episode to see if the trend continues.