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Grey's Anatomy recap: Docu-Drama

As a documentary crew shoots at Seattle Grace, the doctors lose a favorite patient and one couple makes a life-changing decision

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Greys Anatomy Arms Mine
Danny Feld/ABC

Grey's Anatomy

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

The documentary format did Grey’s Anatomy some good, didn’t it? While I was watching this episode — the conceit being that a documentary TV crew captured a day at Seattle Grace, now a newsworthy subject as it recovers from the shootings last spring that killed 11 people — I liked the approach so much that I wondered if the show should switch to the faux-reality format that’s so popular nowadays. On the up side, it helped Grey’s shake off its schmaltzier instincts — Meredith’s pontificating voiceover, the montages set to soft indie rock, the parallels between patients’ cases and doctors’ lives drawn with heavy hands. (It also helped the show underplay, in a good way, the sad end to Mandy Moore’s storyline and the possibly game-changing decision Arizona and Callie seemed to make.) But, well, I realize those melodramatic tropes are also what make Grey’s Grey’s. Plus in permanent documentary form, we’d also miss out on a lot of between-surgeries banter and backroom sex, and nobody wants that. So: Great for a one-episode change of pace, in any case.

What we saw onscreen mimicked what we’d see if we were watching Seattle Medical: Road to Recovery — shaky camera work, news footage, title card and all. We learned about the new overzealous security measures implemented at the hospital (a particular irritation for Lexie, who’s changed her hair color since getting her ID badge). We saw documentary scenes interspersed with on-camera interviews with the doctors. (Did Meredith give herself an extra once-over with the curling iron and mascara that morning, knowing she’d be on TV?) We got at least a little of that Grey’s wit, as when Derek explained Cristina and Meredith’s relationship to the documentarians: “Yeah, Dr. Yang and my wife sometimes have sleepovers in my bed with me in it.” Surely that didn’t sound, um, odd to the documentary viewers at all.

We began with a 37-year-old male motorcyclist hit head-on by a car, coming into the hospital unconscious due to head trauma. The doctors lost him quickly, but there was at least a silver lining: He was a donor. He wouldn’t be giving a long-suffering patient the usual liver or kidney or heart — he’d be giving his arms to a guy named Zack who was married to a woman played by the delightful Amanda Foreman (from Private Practice, Alias, and Felicity, among others). They were so adorable that I feared for his life — adorable people often suffer the worst fates in this place.

Then again, it was a veritable adorable-fest at Seattle Grace this week. (Did they wait for all these adorable people to show up, then call the film crew to come on over?) We met a little girl named Lily with a tumor blocking her airway who loved to listen to — ABC/Disney corporate synergy alert in 5, 4, 3, 2… — the Camp Rock 2 soundtrack. And Mandy Moore’s character, Mary, returned to have the colostomy reversal she was supposed to get the day of the shooting. Mary told the cameras about how she and her cute husband had blown through their savings going on trips and enjoying their lives together since the shooting — and then threw in a line about how she wanted lots of babies once all of this was over. And that’s when we strongly suspected she’d be a goner by the end of the episode. Talking about kids, either real or future, is a death sentence on these shows. Doesn’t she know that?

NEXT: Bleep, bleep, and a little more bleep!