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''Grey's Anatomy'': A night of farewells

On ”Grey’s Anatomy,” Izzie gets a message from Denny, along with $8.7 million; plus, Meredith chooses Derek

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Katherine Heigl: Vivian Zink/ABC

”Grey’s Anatomy”: A night of farewells

Man, is this show firing on all cylinders lately or what?

Last week I talked about how Grey’s Anatomy knows how to seal the deal in the last 10 minutes of every episode. This episode, true to form, sealed the deal in the last 10 minutes! Not that the rest of the show wasn’t shipshape, but just when you were thinking that maybe this whole installment was a little all-around lackluster compared with the last two weeks’ worth of sterling episodes, those last 10 minutes rolled around and knocked everything up a notch. Right now I feel that, pound for pound, the show as a whole might be as good as it’s ever been. Let’s start at the end and look at the last 10 minutes.

Meredith’s not pregnant. What a tease last week’s teaser was! In fact, this week, the opening credits — the opening credits! — were still rolling when Bailey announced that the lab work indicated Meredith wasn’t preggers. That was fast. We were had. Meredith, instead of an obstetrician, needed…whatever an appendix doctor is called. She needed an appendectomy. And she got one. In the last ten minutes, as she was healing from the surgery and from the morphine that made her so loopy for most of the show, Derek came to visit. He’d noticed Finn keeping vigil at her bed, and he’d talked to the Chief, who admitted — in a sensitive moment — that he loved Meredith’s mom enough to walk away. So Derek stepped up to Meredith and said, ”I’m walking away….Finn’s a better guy.” And he walked away. Did we buy it? We bought it. He looked like he really meant it. Derek’s back to being a top 3 character again. Somehow, despite the jerk he’s been so far this season, this move was moving, and made sense. Dempsey acted it like an ace. He really made us remember why we like the guy, and best of all was that slow, crushing fade that broke out on Ellen Pompeo’s face as Meredith realized what Derek was doing. Thumbs up.

And the last 10 minutes were just getting going. Back at the ranch, Izzie was sitting with George and bucking up to listen to the message that her dead beloved, Denny, left to his folks from his hospital bed. Katherine Heigl, in her quiet way, owned this episode: She didn’t have so many lines, but has she ever been better? Something interesting and gloomy was washing over her face throughout the show. This was Heigl’s best, most convincing grieving of the series. Izzie spent most of the show talking to Denny’s dad, who was played by another great, well-cast guest star, Fred Ward, the guy who played Remo Williams back in 1985. In the final minutes, as she listened to the message, and Denny provided the thematic voice-over wrap-up that’s usually Meredith’s bag, we found out that Izzie seems to have inherited $8.7 million. Does this mean she ain’t coming back to work? ”From here on out,” Denny’s voice-over from the beyond promised, ”nothing’s ever going to be the same.”

It was George who opened up the envelope with the check. He’d bailed on Callie to be there, and she called it quits with him for it. ”It’s always Izzie or Meredith, it’s never me,” she said. Good deal. This couple needed to break up. Callie’s my least favorite character, but every week I can’t quite muster up the energy to compile an argument against her. But these last 10 minutes were good to her. Callie, sitting at the bar, flashed her eyebrows — those suckers were especially hooked and Jack Nicholson-y this episode, weren’t they? — at Mark the new guy. (Sorry, still not gonna use his nickname.) She invited him back to her place — it fits like clockwork that her place is a hotel. That’s a nice Grey’s touch. Meanwhile, in another closing scene, Addison finally released her bicker buddy Karev from OB-GYN duty, and I feel it’s almost obvious that these two kids are gonna get together at some point.

But the biggest news of all is that after Derek took himself out of the running and left Meredith to Finn, Meredith very delicately, very neatly, very sweetly (how can you not like her?) sent Finn packing in the final minutes. I’m a little surprised the show didn’t end with just Derek’s bowing out — that plus this is almost too much drama for one show to handle. And I’m a little worried, because like a lot of you on the message boards, I don’t really know where a happy-Meredith, happy-Derek Grey’s Anatomy goes from there. But since the show’s clicking big-time lately, you get the sense that we’re in good hands and it’ll probably work, whatever happens.

As we’ve seen, you try to guess where this show is going at your own peril. In the opening moments, we met a big burly guy named Sean who sells cars. He’s jovial, he has a vivacious wife, and naturally all of us figured that this dude would be dead meat in a very emotional last quarter of the show. Seen it all before. Then he lit a cigarette and blew up his oxygen supply, all before the opening titles. It was a great little shock, good evidence that Grey’s knows what you’re thinking and is trying to keep ahead of you. (How about those bad fireball special effects, though? Reminded me, for some reason, of the inside of Sigourney Weaver’s refrigerator in Ghostbusters.)

Lastly, what do you think of Cristina? She was kind of a drag, right? She had the funniest lines last week, but this week — not showing much milk of human kindness when it came to helping Burke rehabilitate, or calling out ”Meredith, are you pregnant?” to the whole hospital — she came off like a scold. How can you possibly like her more than Meredith?

And what else are you thinking? Doesn’t Mark look like Leonardo DiCaprio? If Chris O’Donnell is really around for a rumored six episodes, what kind of trouble is Finn gonna get into in the next two? And in that scene where Derek examined Burke, how hard was it not to think of Dempsey and Isaiah Washington behind the scenes going head to head in a tabloid smackdown?