I cannot lie: I groaned when I saw in the brief DVR synopsis of tonight’s episode that Thatcher would be back. I felt like we’d mined Meredith’s sad-childhood-history bare, and it always feels like such a stretch when every single doctor’s parents show up multiple times for massive procedures. But I stand corrected. It may not have been a Grey’s Anatomy for the ages, but the story lines were solid, and more in keeping with the Grey’s we love than last week’s were. I simply didn’t like how straightforward ER-ish things had started to skew, but this brought it back nicely to that tricky balance between quirky and serious, sexy and medical. And Thatcher, as it turned out, did a better job than I expected at helping this process along by showing up in need of a liver transplant.
From the George death, to the impending revolving-door ins and outs for Katherine Heigl and Ellen Pompeo, to the waxing and waning of plots, what all of this underscores is how hard it is to keep a juggernaut show moving smoothly. Some episodes are in-betweeners; some whole seasons are their own kind of in-betweener. This feels like one of those. But let’s also remember: We went through some pretty bumpy territory last season, too, especially in the early to middle stages. Sometimes I mourn the heady days of the first few seasons, when I wept almost every week and hung on Mer and Der’s every black-panty-losing tryst. But TV shows are long-term relationships, and I think we have to admit that that early magic simply cannot stick around forever. It’s still a well-made show full of characters we love, even when we hate them, which is saying quite a lot.
Aside from Thatcher, the other medical cases worked nicely into the scheme of things without being too heavy-handed about it. One older gentleman wanted a penis implant, which allowed Sloan to work out some of his own feelings about dating a younger woman. (Bonus points for Tom Amandes, of the late, lamented Everwood, showing up as his son. Somebody on the Grey’s staff loved that show almost as much as we did, didn’t they?) Cristina, still desperate to find a niche in the soon-to-merge Seattle Grace staff — ”I can be hardcore into anything you want,” she was pleading to one doctor at the assignment board — ended up on his case. ”What’s high risk?” she asked when she happened to overhear. ”Does someone have a risky high tech surgery?” Thus she ended up with the unenviable job of shaving him for surgery. This was all to amusing effect, natch, though it didn’t do much to nudge her towards her one true path, which she’s never been able to find with all the cardiothoracic switcheroos. The penis implant case seemed to be playing comic relief this evening until the patient gave Sloan an incredibly moving speech about waking up one day to find all his major life milestones behind him. ”Then one night they sat me down at the Bingo table with Marion.…She’s my tomorrow.” And his reason for wanting a fully functioning penis. Sloan knocked his own very Sloanian monologue out of the park when the patient’s son threatened to make him move back home if the retirement community where he met Marion was going to make him act so recklessly as to get a penis implant. ”Come on. It’s just an erection. All the guy wants is a woody. God forbid you get to be his age and your kids won’t let you have one.…And there’s nothing wrong with dating a younger woman, it keeps you young, and that’s my professional opinion.” (This prompted the following message from my esteemed colleague Lesley Savage: ”Sex tape or no, I like Dr. McSteamy.” Couldn’t agree more.)
NEXT: Gut-Wrenching (Literally)