Let it never be said that Grey’s Anatomy’s writers were afraid of multiple season-long story arcs. We’ve got a few this year, and we’re only a little way into the season, but so far there’s the adoption story line, the Lexie-Jackson affair, the baby angst between Owen and Cristina, and Alex’s plight of isolation. This week, those stories continue, sometimes with a little poignancy, but they mostly took to the backstage, two-upped by the twin moments of us meeting a character’s mother for the first time, and with The Trendsetting Surgery of the Week. Spoilers after the jump.
Next to the crib, Meredith packs up a box of Zola’s clothes, and Derek muses that she’s given up hope on having their custody restored. I love how Grey’s likes to keep us guessing about how much time transpires between episodes. How long has the baby been gone? Meredith says, no, I just think she’ll have outgrown these by the time she comes back. As a new dad of a 5-week-old, I can attest, these babies grow like weeds. But the point is made that there’s been no progress on the baby front, and Derek seems as bitter about why Zola is gone (hint: it’s Meredith’s fault) as ever.
Over at Cristina and Owen’s firehouse, Dr. Yang seems about as happy as we’ve seen her since she tried her hand at bartending last season, and we all know that she wasn’t authentically happy then. With a near-naked Dr. Hunt walking in, one wonders when the couple will have to have another tough conversation about babymaking and contraception.
Lexie, who still insists on wearing terrible bangs, is rushing to get a cab to go visit her sister Molly, because Jackson has sent her away while his mother comes to town. I’m sorry, who the hell is Molly? My mother has a Bichon named Molly, but I don’t think we’re talking about her. I’m pretty sure that after Lexie’s mom died and her father had his relapse into drunkenness, that she talked about having no family left except Meredith. Maybe Molly is from a now-canceled soap opera where all of the children grow into adulthood in 7 months. At any rate, Lexie is concerned that Jackson is ashamed of her. So since she put that out there, it can’t wind up being true. I see you with your pocket aces, Shonda.
While Bailey is assessing the surgery board, which I presume would take less time than she’s spending there, Dr. Ben walks up to announce he will be in her surgery that day. “I see that,” she says. Dude, I think she pretty much knows how to read at this point. He goes on to explain, condescendingly, that since he’s found out she’s dating a nurse, he’s decided not to avoid her OR anymore. No, it wasn’t tape and glue that was keeping her from you, Ben—in hindsight, it was her keen ability to see your objectifying, elitist nature, and to know to walk away from it. He does leave her jaw hanging as he struts away like a rooster who’s had it too easy. I do like that Teddy notices Bailey watching his butt as the strutting occurs, but she probably could have kept her mouth shut about it.
Next Grey’s gives us another look at grand rounds, and it’s nice to see such a packed audience after the Mercy West-Seattle Grace hospital merger. Apparently they didn’t all succumb to the Shooter of Season Six. Up at the front of the audience, a confident, experienced surgeon gives an oblique introduction to herself. Because Dr. Avery looks like he’s sitting on nails, so this must be his mother. Between la grande dame Dr. Catherine Avery (played with delight by Debbie Allen) and Jackson’s grandfather, the (in)famous Dr. Harper Avery, that must have been one hell of a Thanksgiving dinner, right down to arguing about how to carve the turkey. According to April, who used to work with her at Mercy West and is Facebook friends with her, “She says these things that shock you but then when you think about them, you realize she’s right.” Avery, however, rolls his eyes and proclaims that she’s toxic. Oops, looks like he didn’t communicate that to Lexie. She’s reading you all wrong, man. Cristina wants to know who hides their girlfriend when their mom goes out of town. Meredith responds, “Someone with a hypercritical surgeon for a mom. I get it.” God, I hate those hypercritical surgeon parents, too.
Well, Catherine has descended on the masses of residents at MWSG because she has a pioneering surgery and a lionhearted patient. I say “lionhearted,” because for the rest of the episode, everyone only discusses his penis. Or lack thereof. While the audience (and the residents) ponder what has happened to Patient Ryan, we cut [sic] to commercial.
Okay, okay, a penis is an organ, yes. He could be earless, or footless, or lacking a kidney, but Grey’s has gone directly to jail without passing Go. Quickly after the break Catherine explains that Ryan had had penile cancer and doctors couldn’t save the organ. He is now-cancer free, and she wants to do a penis transplant, the first such surgery ever. There is no shortage of volunteers to scrub in with her, but she’s taken a lesson from Hugh Laurie over at House, and puts them in competition with each other, where they must show off their prowress [sic] in vascular surgery on blobs of chicken. And though the surgeons at MWSG won’t work with the tainted Meredith, it’s Dr. Grey who wins the challenge to join Catherine Avery in the OR.
Of course Mark Sloane jumps up, announces he’s from plastics, and asks why she isn’t considering a reconstruction. Oh, oh, pick me! Pick me! I know! Because that wouldn’t make for an interesting Grey’s Anatomy episode, Mark! Well, she says, she wants to restore full urinary and sexual function, and reconstruction doesn’t give him this. Yeah, Mark. I’ll just say here, in greater context than a hospital show, that trans men like me know full well that genital reconstruction generally just approximates appearance, often leaving out the ability to do things folks generally do with their crotch regions. So it’s at this point that I’m grateful, somehow, that the narrative is non-trans located; he’s a cisgender man who through no fault of his own (like say, a bad motorcycle accident) lost his junk to save his life. GA has a long history, after all, of pitting residents against their patients vis a vis some perceived moral high ground. This case is free from that paradigm, and free from the other tendency on Grey’s to misrepresent the autonomy of disfigured or disabled patients who are looking to medicine (or for medicine to restrain itself) for help with maintaining their own status quo quality of life. Nobody in the room doubts or judges Ryan for wanting what the other men in the room have. Instead, we doubt the woman of color on the stage. Not in her capacity as a surgeon, but in her ideas. It’s a notion that Sloane, for the majority of the episode, just can’t wrap his mind around. The rest of the doctors in the room, however, are there with her, applauding, no less.
Let’s not just give Ryan a hand, she says, let’s give Ryan a penis! From your mouth to God’s … uh, forget it.
Bailey’s surgery rolls around and there’s Ben the anesthesiologist, acting positively juvenile. Are we really watching Bailey get guilted by a man she dumped more than a season ago? This is wrong, on so many levels. She doesn’t need to explain anything to him. Oh, she wasn’t clear, he says. She made it sound like she wanted him to wait. I think back, trying to remember what the extent of her “tape and glue” speech was exactly. No, she didn’t say, “wait for me.” She said she wasn’t in a place to date. So according to Ben, Miranda should have called him up once she felt ready? Has he missed the entirety of the He’s Just Not That Into You concept? Or the “I’ll call you” ploy? I am somewhat flabbergasted at this rationale, just like I was at Sloane challenging a renown surgeon who announces she’ll do a first-ever procedure.
But hey, let’s get really creepy—Ryan’s older brother seems way more into Ryan’s penis than anyone other than Ryan should be. Turns out he’s been pushing for this to happen since Ryan’s penis-ectomy. Penis, penis, penis. The world revolves around penises, at least for Ryan’s brother. I think they should have named him Rod, just for the fun of it. Sloan insists on scrubbing in to the surgery, and yikes, he’s a little creepy about this, too, but then he is a survivor of the broken penis, which he got with Lexie, who is now with Avery, who sent her away so he wouldn’t have to be embarrassed by his mother.
I really appreciate any scene between Bailey and former Chief Webber. Although the series touts Meredith as his daughter figure, it’s really Bailey who is his protege and who earned her way into his heart, without the guilt of an affair or her status as a neglected child pushing him into that position. It would seem that at this moment, Bailey has taken Ben’s unfair accusations to heart, but she also is getting tired of her relationship with Eli, which has never progressed beyond the physical. Webber doesn’t give her very good advice, but he doesn’t need to.
There are a lot of jokes made about Kepner’s virginity, and the oh-so-obvious uptightness she carries around because she’s never had the luxury of a little penis-time. So of course we have to see her in the OR for Ryan’s surgery, all tense around his new transplant, so much so that she—get this—over-suctions a vascular connection and ruins it. Yes, the virgin sucked too hard on the patient’s replacement penis. I know, I know. I don’t care for the symbolism, either.
Here is where the difficult Sloane earns his keep, by coming up with a way to rebuild the artery and save the . . . day. But get this: Sloane has Avery the Younger do the vascular work, and praises his skills at the same time, calling him talented.
There’s a problem, however, on the ward. Baby Zola has been brought in with seizures and an obstructed bowel. Karev has been working on her case with Rollins, and they are instructed by the social worker not to inform Drs. Shephard nor Grey about her admittance. In fact, it could jeopardize their adoption case, which we all know by now is already in free-fall. Because of this proscription, Karev pages Yang, and passes on the responsibility for telling Meredith to her. This is where I recall that early on in the series, Alex told Dr. Burke that one of his only strengths was his dedication to telling the truth. Wow has that come back to bite him. Nobody on the show, other than Bailey, appreciates the truth, Karev. Cristina, being one of the folks okay with bending rules, runs to tell Meredith that she’s needed, and Meredith leaves the OR, which is how Kepner got the suction duty.
Cue the scenes of surgeons running through the halls to the assistance of baby Zola, but Mer-Der stay out of the way of the social worker. There are hushed, urgent conversations about her prognosis, then Rollins and Karev head to her operation. Karev just had a devastating bowel resection, remember, but he jumps back on the horse and and corrects her illness. It takes a village, people. Derek, true to form, blames Meredith for everything that goes wrong with this child. If only the baby had been at their home, they’d have seen any of her cells short-circuiting before awfulness could ensue. He pushes this specious argument until Meredith breaks down crying. I guess if it’s not about penises this week, it’s about guilt. Finally, Derek comforts her. You caused that sadness, Derek, just FYI.
The end of the episode wraps up quickly: Miranda breaks up with Eli and goes to Teddy and Henry’s house stag. Mer-Der spot the social worker in the hospital and the three of them have a long moment of angry silence and we’re supposed to believe the social worker regrets her whole approach to the couple. Jackson admits without words that he’s fallen in love with Lexie and his mother warns him that clearly, Sloane is still burning a candle for her. Mer-Der seem to be on the same page at last, as they call Cristina, who is with Zola as the baby goes to sleep. They sing her a lullaby through the phone, and as Cristina cradles the baby, who is just the cutest freaking kid (other than my son, of course), Owen catches a glance, looking forlorn for children all over again. I knew it would be the issue that keeps on giving.