Though Maggie (Kelly McCreary) arrived at Grey Sloan Memorial long after the hospital shooting—both of them—the bomb in the body, and the plane crash, she’ll get her first taste of danger during Thursday’s episode of Grey’s Anatomy when she gets sucker punched by a patient.
“The best part, for me, was that the patient who punches Maggie is the dad from The Wonder Years, Dan Lauria,” McCreary tells EW. “I had my first total fan girl, geek-out moment while we were shooting because I loved that show as a kid. I was like, ‘As long as it’s Dan Lauria, sure. Go right ahead, punch me in the face.'”
The incident ends up being a big turning point for Maggie. “It turns out to be this really—for lack of a better word—striking moment in the episode where you figure out what the problem with this patient is,” McCreary says. “I’m working on a case with Ben [Jason George] and Richard [James Pickens Jr.] involving a patient who exhibits signs of Alzheimer’s and Maggie winds up having an epic foot in her mouth moment where she gets on the family’s case for not keeping the patient out of danger. This, of course, sparks the conversation between Richard and Maggie about his experiences with Alzheimer’s.”
Though McCreary is shy to say whether Maggie actually knows that her biological mother Ellis Grey (Kate Burton) had Alzheimer’s, she says the experience will bring her closer to Richard. “We get to see Richard’s very protective papa bear come out when Maggie gets punched,” she says. “There’s just a connection that’s gradually been forming on a professional level over this time.”
Meredith (Ellen Pompeo), meanwhile, is facing the real possibility in this episode that Derek (Patrick Dempsey) has been cheating on her. “As we’ve seen in the last few episodes, Maggie is eager to be a helpful and supportive sister,” McCreary says. “You’ll see a little bit of that going on. Maggie shows up as very compassionate towards Meredith as she’s trying to solve this mystery.”
Speaking of relationships, Maggie’s budding friendship with Ethan (Lance Gross) won’t be addressed during Thursday’s episode, but he will be back soon. However, he’ll be in for a tough road ahead. “We’ve declared that she’s very good at being alone,” McCreary says. “She’s maybe not that happy about it, but that’s the way it is. She doesn’t feel comfortable connecting with people in general. She’s still coming out of her shell in that regard. She’s still growing into a person who feels safe connecting with other people. It’s going to be a gradual process.”
While Maggie may have trouble opening up in the love department, McCreary says we’ll see more of the friendship between Maggie, Callie (Sara Ramirez), Alex (Justin Chambers) and Mer. “There’s an awesome throwback to the tunnel scenes of the early Grey’s days in this episode,” she says. “That four-way friendship continues to be established.”
Grey’s Anatomy airs Thursdays at 8 p.m. ET on ABC.