Shonda Rhimes promised fans that the Grey’s Anatomy season finale of year 7 would be the emotional equivalent of what had happened in season 6, which notoriously ended with a drawn-out shooting rampage from a grieving widower. But whereas Rhimes and her writers spent the better part of the post-cliffhanger episodes coming to terms with the violence’s effects—witness Cristina’s terror at working in an OR, relationship juggling between McSteamy, Callie, and Arizona, and the doctors parading through a PTSD specialist’s sessions—season 8 begins by erasing much of what we watched last May.
Sometimes I wonder if it’s not Portland’s Chamber of Commerce who comes up with the tragic storylines for the Seattle area. The ferry disaster, an airplane accident, now a sinkhole in the middle of the city, it seems that Emerald City is one treacherous place to live. When I lived there, I really just found it stressful to get going at a green light when sitting at a 50-degree angle, but overall, it was lovely.
Lovely is not a place Grey’s got to see last night, except in the fleetingest of moments. Spoilers from here on out, folks.
Early on, the Chief announces that Meredith Grey is fired, only he does it with much less joy than ever witnessed on The Apprentice; there’s no relishing of her termination here. Yes, Grey broke beacoup de rules when she swapped out the experimental Alzheimer’s treatment for his wife Adele, but Chief Webber is in the last inch of a wet painted corner, as it were. After all, he hinted that Adele should get the treatment and not the placebo. Perhaps Grey’s is asking us how we’d frame the ethical dilemma: is this a person stealing bread so her family can eat, or is this stealing some deserving stranger’s treatment?
Whatever our opinion on Meredith’s actions, the consequences set the characters apart almost as much as the previous season’s shooting rampage: Miranda Bailey is beyond disgusted, refusing to provide Chief Webber with a recommendation, Derek has separated from her, even as they share parenting duties of adorable Zola, and most of the attendings seem to have distanced themselves. And yet, though terminated, Grey hangs around the hospital in a way I can’t imagine could be repeated in real life—hell, I got fired from a crappy bookstore job and they walked my ass out of the place. I don”t see anyone letting her hang around charts and patients, but Meredith and the hospital are one, a unit that as we’ll see, can’t be disarticulated from itself.
The other main couple schism, Cristina and Owen, are also not speaking to each other, except as their job duties insist on some level of communication. Teddy, having realized her love for her fakeish hubby (though more real than the Mer-Der Post-It marriage), has stars in her eyes. Even so, she insists that Cristina get back to basics because she needs to have more of a foundation underneath her jazzy thoracic surgery skill set. And without access to Owen, whom she’d previously used as a complaint outlet, Cristina spends a lot of time early in this episode rolling her eyes. She is not one prone to smizing—she’s much more comfortable on the pissed off side of the eye-emotive spectrum.
Meredith, fired though she may be, tells Owen that he needs to forgive her and let go of this idea that Cristina will be a good mother if only she has this baby. Wait, she’s still pregnant? Owen looks surprised. Issue #1: he’s been angry at her (for terminating the pregnancy) for something she hasn’t done (she’s still pregnant). Issue #2: he has no idea what’s going on with his spouse. Bad, bad Owen. She stuck with you after you tried to strangle her in a daze, so maybe you should chillax and be there for her.
What’s striking about Meredith’s appeal to Owen, though, is her justification of how she knows Cristina will never be the mother he wants her to be. “She’ll resent the child,” she says. She knows this because her mother, Ellis Grey, was just like Cristina. She is that child, that unwanted, unloved child. Now Meredith is like a feral Nell child, only of a hospital, and eight seasons in, for me at least, Meredith stops being a character and instead becomes a poster child for reproductive freedom. Unwanted babies will grow up to have specious medical ethics, folks. We’re all only an unwanted child away from having our Alzheimer’s study screwed to the proverbial pooch.
There are a few relationships sailing along on smooth waters, however, Lexie Grey and Dr. Avery seem to be getting along quite well, and the Parental Triumvirate of Callie, Arizona, and McSteamy (who seems to have had some work done on himself by a surgeon much less talented than himself) whirl into work with cute chubby baby in tow, having apparently ironed out their authority issues with each other. Given that Callie declared last season that she got three votes in the menage a trois, I wonder if her two partners have finally capitulated to her.
Alex Karev, a.k.a. drunk tattler, has been left alienated among his peers, and is something of a pariah to the attendings, although Arizona still has a soft spot for him. He tries to tell the Chief that he was mistaken about Meredith, but Webber waves him off. Apparently the Chief is much more interested in hauling in Teddy’s husband for a surgery, two weeks early, and in showing Dr. Bailey how to insert an islet cell repairing treatment in a mouse. Why, asks Bailey, totally confused. If you can do it to a tiny mouse, a person is a cakewalk, he tells her. We’re left to wonder, just for a moment, if he’s trying to retire or if he’s started drinking again.
Meanwhile, April Kepner as Chief Resident is—surprise, surprise—getting no respect from the other residents. This is a woman in need of a short retreat on female power. Something. Anything. Nobody’s updating the boards, Avery blows her off when she tries to give him assignments, and because of the lapse in discipline, two surgical patients get switched, leaving Dr. Kepner to race into Bailey’s OR to shout, stop, there’s a bomb inside that guy!
No, wait. Stop! That’s the wrong patient!
Well, maybe they should give Kepner more than one day to get the residents to listen to her.
To inspire more teamwork—because apparently nobody’s had any time before this whole sinkhole presented itself as an opportunity—Bailey says they’re going to do a Gunther. In eight seasons we’ve never seen any “Gunther” exercise, so of course the viewers are wondering what in hell she’s talking about. A Gunther is a group exercise on a real patient—in this case a woman who’s had her leg amputated because it was crushed under a car at the bottom of the sinkhole, and I didn’t bother mentioning it before now because OMG, this plot point has happened like 15 times in the last 6 years on cop and hospital dramas, and I am too over it to dwell on it. The attendings watch the surgery, ready to jump in if they really have to, since one time during a Gunther the patient actually died, waiting to see who will take the lead. In all of the shouting, Cristina opens the chest of the sinkhole survivor and to revive her heart, sticks an epi pen into Karev. By accident, really. Karev, for his part, falls onto the floor and needs to be revived himself. At least this gets Cristina and Alex talking—she’s well past pissed at him for narcing on Meredith, medical ethics issues aside, and he seems willing at this point to have at least a couple of people in his corner, so he’s willing to do anything. And it just so happens he’s about to get his chance in two shakes of a lamb’s tail.
Elsewhere, in her traipsing around Seattle Grace Hospital, Meredith checks in on little Zola. She makes better rounds of the premises than Nearly Headless Nick at Hogwarts. At that precise moment, the social worker for child protective services shows up, slightly confused about why Meredith isn’t helping the victims of the sinkhole. What, she needs to be everywhere at once? Apparently CPS is a bit concerned about the different stories they’ve gotten out of Mer-Der with regard to Zola’s care. And I ask, once again, why do they treat Mer-Der as a married couple, when their marriage license for a whole year was basically a commitment IOU on sticky-back paper? Isn’t that problem #1 with this couple? They’ve never processed their relationship to each other longer than it took to bolt into a courthouse and write their names down in front of a judge. Anyway, Meredith makes nice with the social worker and lies with a smile. And then she picks Zola up and wanders away, seemingly far, far away, to another galaxy where no phone or pager signal can reach. Pager signal? Didn’t chica have to turn in her pager WHEN SHE WAS FIRED? You people need to take a lesson from the Trump.
Great, now it’s like the cliffhanger to the awful L Word series when Bette grabs the kid and absconds in the car, only we find out at the premiere of the next season that she really didn’t go anywhere. And hold on, that’s exactly what Meredith does. She doesn’t even leave the hospital, instead taking Zola to some odd corner of the labyrinth like it has its own Room of Requirement or something (second Harry Potter reference of the day). Cristina knows where it is.
Together, they hatch a plan, as both the social worker and Derek have been looking for Zola for hours. The jig, as it were, is up. But the plan is just good enough to get the dogs called off, plus it helps calm the waters between Alex and Merestina. Dr. Karev was just checking on Zola’s health. Meredith just left her communication devices in the day care. Simple and innocent.
These weren’t the only folks to come to Grey’s rescue. After Getting Dr. Bailey to plant the islet cell treatment into Teddy’s husband, he gives over the whole clinical trial to Bailey, and then takes the fall for the tampering of Dr. Shepard’s Alzheimer trial. Oh, Meredith was just covering for me. Meredith is un-fired. I guess that whole never leaving the hospital thing worked out for her. That is some major white privilege right there, Meredith, just saying. If Alex lost people covering his back because he was a truth teller, so Meredith has nearly everyone—even her alienated husband—going along with increasingly elaborate fabrications.
Most of the stresses of the cliffhanger are thus resolved. But what of Owen and Cristina? In a much-talked-about moment, Hunt holds Cristina’s hand as she terminates her pregnancy. Just FYI, there’s supposed to be a nurse present during this procedure, folks. But it’s a signal that he heard Meredith and will support the woman he loves despite his selfish predilections.
In one two-hour episode, the rifts have been closed (well, mostly), the tensions relieved, the cliffhangers survived. Unlike a year ago when series creator Rhimes told us we’d watch a slow return to normal in the wake of the shooting, we are all wrapped up now after one week. Except well, for one thing.
Baby Zola is gone, gone back to CPS. I suppose I know what the focus of next week will bring all of us.