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''Grey's Anatomy'': The biggest emergency ever

On ”Grey’s Anatomy,” even a fan can object to Izzie’s overwrought star turn and the unlikely prospect of the death of the show’s namesake character

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Grey's Anatomy

TV Show
run date:
Ellen Pompeo, Chandra Wilson, Justin Chambers, James Pickens Jr., Kevin McKidd, Jessica Capshaw
Current Status:
In Season

”Grey’s Anatomy”: The biggest emergency ever

The three-part saga continues.

Meredith died. My Meredith died. By the last minutes of the night, she was out of the water, her face bluer than her scrubs, and every major cast member except Callie was keeping soggy vigil at the hospital, even though a ferry had just crashed and you’d think some of them would still be busy. Meredith’s temperature was plummeting, and around the time it hit 82 degrees and the third or fourth achy indie rocker of the night started crooning again over a lone piano line, we suddenly heard the familiar drone of a flat EKG. ”We’re losing her,” said the Chief. Now, I’m no TV surgeon, but when the EKG goes pancake and screeches out that classic steady tone, doesn’t that mean she’s lost? Oh, Meredith, you will be missed. All these weeks, I defended you so. Fade to white. There, in the next moment, Meredith, rouge-cheeked again, woke up coughing in the heavenly OR, and to one side slouched Kyle Chandler, as the dead guy from the Super Bowl episode, and to the other leaned the great Jeffrey Dean Morgan, as deceased Denny Duquette. ”Am I dead?” Meredith asked. ”Damn right you are,” said Denny. ”Holy — ” blurted out Meredith, niftily evoking a higher power, and that was the end of this cliff-hanger episode.

But of course Meredith, my Meredith, is not dead! We only had to wait about 15 seconds, past that closing roller coaster speeding around that candy heart in ShondaLand, set to the sultry tune of that Eddie Money saxophone, to get to the scenes from next week’s conclusion of this trilogy, where we quickly learned from Announcer Man that the woman Dr. Derek Shepherd loves most ”could be lost — forever!” Could be lost, huh? Gotta hand it to the Chief — how did he know Meredith wasn’t necessarily dead, despite the flatline? That’s good doctoring. Or lazy TV making. One of the two.

I was disinclined to like this follow-up episode because last week’s edition of your and my favorite show was, quite obviously, just about the worst in Grey’s history. (Half of you on the message boards seemed to wearily agree, while the other half seemed to be irked that EW’s weekly critique of a poor episode — yes, if you haven’t caught on by now, this is a weekly critique — bothered to be critical.) And I don’t think tonight ended very well. So Meredith saw the light, met some old guest stars, and will live to tell the tale. Why not dump Izzie, or Callie, or (for God’s sake, if you gotta) Isaiah Washington’s Burke over the side? Then at least there’s some titillation as to whether a major Grey’s character will actually die and an actor will get booted off the show. But Grey’s without Grey would be like House without House, or Alf without Alf.

The only reason to put the lead character in life-threatening jeopardy is to create breakneck drama out of what we all know will turn out all right, and I would argue the show hasn’t really done that in these two episodes. Still, I was shocked to be kinda moved by the single shot of Derek hauling Meredith in slo-mo up the wharf staircase; I felt real emotion behind Patrick Dempsey’s gape of agony, despite, at the same time, balking at what was only the night’s first annoying, overdependent instance of tinkly indie-light-rock crooning on the soundtrack. Later, at the end, I also liked how a pair of legs moved to sit down next to grieving Derek (who’s all droopy-lidded again) and the legs turned out to be Mark’s. It reminded me, especially as Mark put a brotherly arm on Derek, that Mark’s full potential as a Grey’s character has as yet gone untapped this season.

And most of all, right after that, I was into Izzie’s climactic Meredith-esque speech, at least at first. To set it up: George was worried Meredith wouldn’t make it. ”People die,” he said. Which was perfect, since George recently lost his dad. And Izzie fluttered her eyes. ”I know people die,” she replied softly. That was also perfect, especially given the mournful way Katherine Heigl delivered the line. We know Izzie knows people die. It was subtle. I just think it was unfortunate that Izzie kept talking. She went on to say that she believed in good; she believed Denny was still with her. But then she also went on to say she believed that ”if I eat a tub of butter and nobody sees me, the calories don’t count.” What? Calories? Izzie, you are slinky and hot. Keep eating all the butter you want. Clearly the calories do not count. What is with this insignificant tub of butter? It is important enough that Shonda Rhimes mentioned it briefly last week on her Grey’s writers’ blog, but I don’t get eating butter as a metaphor for what’s going on with cute, scarred Izzie. And following that, Izzie took the opportunity to tell George that he made a mistake marrying Callie. Given that Meredith was dying one room over, and George was already crying, it didn’t feel like the right time for this; it felt phony. Katherine Heigl, a wonderful actress who I can’t wait to watch in this summer’s Knocked Up and maybe would even have expensed a ticket to see in Zyzzyx Road, delivered this speech as well as it could be delivered, but the whole bit ultimately reeked of overzealous scripting.

So! Just to be clear: I am grousing, but I’m not grousing as much as I groused last week. Last night’s episode was better than last week’s, and I still love the show, even if I still wish the whole ER-ish ferry thing would go away, double time. Karev had a good subplot as he became more human matching victims to families; the one scene where he connected a wrecked husband to his dead pregnant wife was top-flight tingly Grey’s. Addison had a fine early moment with Burke where, sighing, she questioned the ability of our overemotional interns in a crisis; this, finally, was what the docs should be talking about as a sweeps-month megadisaster explodes around their heads. Chandra Wilson, once again, made Bailey’s few scenes count; the reason this actress is winning all the awards, I think, is that she can take a line as simple as a withering ”Yeah, you do that” to George and make it jump off the screen and land in your living room.

And yet — professional duty and all — I can’t bow out of here without pointing out a couple more things that I thought were daft. Izzie saved a guy by drilling grisly holes in his head. This assignment was ridiculous, yet she did a good job. The Chief even took her off probation. But something made me chortle during a quick scene with her and Mark as they stood over the poor sap in the OR. She saved the guy’s life, Mark said, so ”after I strip off the periosteum,” he cooed to her, passing an implement, ”you can see what a high-speed pneumatic neurosurgical drill feels like.” Under her mask, Izzie beamed. Yippee! At least something good came out of the deaths of hundreds of people: Izzie got to hold a special pneumatic drill. And finally, how about that little blond demon girl by the water, the one who doesn’t talk but does make jerky hand motions and smiles a ventriloquist’s dummy’s smile when her mother finds her? She’s the most grating character on Grey’s we’ve ever seen, is she not?

And with that, I’m out of here. Hate me, agree with me, or — better yet — go ahead and talk amongst yourselves below, but whatever you do, don’t say you hope (har har har) that my dear stringy-haired Meredith is dead for good, because if you do, I will track you down across the Internet and come into your homes and eat your children. Meredith is tops, all right? Back off. Talk instead about that opening scene, since even I admit it was a little dumb that we’re meant to think that dark and twisty Meredith sacrificed herself to the merciless undertow. (She’s not that dark and twisty.) Or talk about the sexual tension in the beginning of the episode between huggy Sydney and Karev: Are they the next to hook up? Or talk about this Grey’s trilogy as a whole. Since this week’s episode was slightly better than last week’s, is next week’s absolutely guaranteed to be the best yet?