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'Grey's Anatomy' recap: 'The Distance'

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Nicole Wilder/ABC

Grey's Anatomy

type:
TV Show
Current Status:
In Season
tvpgr:
TV-14
seasons:
11
performer:
Ellen Pompeo, Chandra Wilson, Sara Ramirez
broadcaster:
ABC

Did you just assume the superhero pose for a few minutes? Yes? Good. Now let’s talk about that roller coaster of an episode.

Now, when I say “roller coaster,” I mean one that starts off without any drops or twists. One of those that tick, tick, ticks as the car climbs up a steep hill, simultaneously boring and exciting its passengers at once. Then, right when you’re zoning out, the car drops. The roller coaster has taken off.

As we know, Amelia’s operating on Herman. And everyone is watching. The gallery is packed with doctors—something that Maggie points out is kind of weird. “You’re on the edge of your seat!” Meredith tries to explain. “The adrenaline, the rush.” Maggie is still suspicious, because apparently her idea of entertainment isn’t observing someone in her most vulnerable and worst state. In other words, Maggie probably doesn’t enjoy reality TV.

While the non-operating doctors (who probably should be operating—don’t they have patients to tend to?) prep in the gallery, Amelia mentally prepares herself for the long surgery ahead. Edwards finds her with her hands on her hips, staring up toward the ceiling. She’s “being a superhero,” she tells Edwards. Amelia once read a scientific study that found standing in that superhero pose before a daunting task can make you feel more confident and can help you perform better at the task (Shonda Rhimes confirmed on Twitter that this is a real thing). So Edwards joins her. The sight of these two doctors decked out in scrubs, very seriously assembling themselves into a superhero pose is quite silly—but also, not going to lie: I’m totally going to try out that pose next time I have to perform potentially fatal neurosurgery (or, you know, the next time I have to write a recap).

Amelia’s confidence remains for a bit until she hits a wall, causing Webber to head down to the O.R. himself and give her a pep talk. He offers to help her; she orders him to call Derek and get him on a plane right away. She’s nervous, and she’s losing that superhero mentality, and she’s desperate. But no matter how much I miss Derek (which is a lotGrey’s has had a noticeable absence of attractive male doctors lately), it was an incredible relief to watch Webber shoot her down. “You have it in your head that he’s better than you,” he tells Amelia, “but it’s not true.” Amen, Webber. Amen.

I thought Derek might show up anyway, that he’d appear in the gallery right as Amelia was having a breakthrough. But he never does, and Amelia ends up staying there the entire time. Webber’s pep talk works, further proving his status as the hospital’s resident dad, and she and Edwards start again with renewed motivation. After 13 hours though, Edwards passes out. 

In non-Herman news, Arizona’s operating on Glenda Castillo and her unborn baby with Bailey’s assistance. Remember when I said the beginning of the episode was like the boring start of the roller coaster? These scenes are included in that. Sure, there are some heated disagreements in that O.R., but nothing entirely gripping. But the surgery is successful, meaning that Arizona just saved two lives solo—something she can’t quite celebrate knowing that Herman could be dying in another part of the hospital.

NEXT: Amelia risks her health for Herman’s.

[pagebreak]

Arizona’s nerves do provide an opportunity for her to have a sweet moment with Callie though, something we’ve been seeing hints at the past couple weeks. Callie holds Arizona’s hand and comforts her as she cries about the possibility of Herman dying, something she’s obviously not ready to face. Callie and Arizona shippers might see this moment as a possible lead-up to the two rekindling, but I interpreted it as a moment of pure friendship—something I’d prefer to believe, anyway: Callie is great, Arizona is great, but their time as a couple needed to be done. Both for their sake and for the show’s. 

Arizona doesn’t end up going to the gallery, which is probably for the best. Grey ends up swapping in for the passed-out Edwards so that’s solved, but then Amelia does something dangerous: She takes off her bulky outer glove to better operate, therefore exposing herself to radiation. Everyone, Owen included, tells her to stop, but she charges ahead sans glove because to her, saving Herman is more important than saving herself. Maybe it’s not the wisest decision, but it’s an admirable one. Plus, taking off the glove does help her finish what she needed to do—inspiring Meredith to later tell her it was “badass.” (It was.) And with that, the surgery is complete.

Amelia exits the O.R. and sobs in the hallway as Edwards returns to close Herman up. After that, it’s time to wait for Herman to wake up. They wait and wait, eventually realizing she had a stroke. But then Herman wakes up, cracking the same dry jokes she always has: She first utters “Mommy? Is that you, Mommy?” in an attempt to trick the doctors into thinking they messed with her memory, but alas, she’s fine—kind of.

Amelia and Edwards leave to give Arizona and Herman some privacy, which gives Herman a chance to tell Arizona something huge—the final, steep drop of the roller coaster, if you will: She’s blind. Completely blind. And, surprising for Herman, optimistic: “The point is, I’m alive,” she tells Arizona, smiling. 

Herman’s right, she’s alive. But it’s heartbreaking to see her wake up blind, to know that she’ll never be able to operate again. This breaks Edwards’ heart, too, but Amelia’s not having the pity party. Instead, she turns the tables and gives Edwards a pep talk: “You defeated death,” she says. “Mere mortals can’t do that. Only we can.” Only, as Edwards replies, superheroes. 

Extras

  • In another dad-like moment, Webber congratulates Edwards on her 13-hour surgery stint as soon as she wakes up. If she wasn’t already a stand-out resident, she is now.
  • April made her first appearance since her baby’s death to watch Herman’s surgery. “Dr. Herman was with me on my worst day,” she explains, “I just wanted to be with her for hers.” This is about all she contributed to the episode, but it was still nice to see her back.
  • Before Amelia hands the surgery over to Edwards to close up, she warns Grey to watch out: “I don’t want Herman seeing a big ugly scar every time she looks in a mirror.” This turns out to be a sad bit of foreshadowing since we now know Herman won’t be able to look in a mirror.
  • Herman is not sentimental, but she veers into the territory when she wakes up and tells Arizona, “I knew I picked the right horse.” I’m still not sold on their relationship—a few more episodes of seeing them bond would have probably made this episode more poignant—but I still couldn’t help but tear up over this entire post-surgery moment.