Surgery, Meredith Grey educated us at the top of last night’s new Grey’s Anatomy, is oftentimes much like a performance. “There was a time when they called operating rooms,” she said, “an operating theater.” Then she rattled on for a while about the similarities between the two things: doctors arrange sets, put on costumes, wear masks, use props, and that everything has to be rehearsed — all leading to that moment when the curtain goes up. Lights, camera, action! Sort of.
The thing was, though, that the specific surgery she was talking about — the huge, complicated, once-in-a-lifetime, dozens-of-doctors-needed separating of twins that were conjoined at their backs — was never quite as dramatic as the build-up she offered. Sure, it was super interesting to see the scope of what goes into a surgery like that: The planning and prep! The sheer number of doctors! The repeated practices! The what-ifs and contingency plans! The battling between the surgeons over who would do what! But when it came down to it, truly, I was more fascinated by what was going on elsewhere in Seattle Grace, even if those other things weren’t technically the central focus of last night’s episode. Oh, well — I like what I like!
Specifically, I’m talking about the crazy, repetitive storytelling that Dr. Altman was putting poor Christina Yang through over in her much simpler, untheatrical OR. There, Dr. Altman was working on various patients with Kepner, and, all the while, she required Yang — who was not participating in the surgeries — to stand opposite her and repeat exactly what happened when her husband died back in that fateful November episode. Over and over and over. I can still hear the haunting phrase, “time of death: 8:52 p.m.,” ringing in my head. I shall never forget when Henry died, as long as I live.
The scenes — which, I cannot stress enough, went on and on and on — were uncomfortable, but fascinating to watch. I was enamored with it more than the bigger, glitzier “theater” going on in the other OR mostly because I felt invested in what was happening between Altman and Yang. In a weird way, it didn’t feel like the craziest request, for Altman to keep asking her to tell her what happened. Because she wasn’t there — and, yes, wasn’t even told that her husband died for hours — Altman was simply grasping on to every last moment of Henry’s life via Yang. Sure, it’s bizarre, but it was her way to cope with it. Was it healthy? That’s certainly another debate, but something in me just had the utmost respect for Yang, who sat there and dutifully recited every detail. Altman would bark, “From the top, Yang!” — until, finally, Altman could repeat the whole thing back herself.
NEXT: Kepner lashes out at Altman, Christina apologizes, and Ben goes after Bailey.