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Grey's Anatomy recap: 'If/Then'

In a special, thought-provoking episode, the minds behind Grey’s imagined a surprisingly different reality for the doctors of Seattle Grace

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Greys Anatomy IfThen
Vivian Zink/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 previews for “If/Then” — Grey’s Anatomy’s new episode last night — looked like one egregious, what-if gag after another: Karev looks like Clark Kent! Meredith has stick-straight hair! Cristina is a bigger bitch than she normally is! Bailey is a soft-spoken nerd with dreadlocks! Ellis Grey is alive and working it hardcore at Seattle Grace! The episode was touted as a look at what would have happened if things had been different for our favorite television doctors — what I’m dubbing Bizarro Seattle Grace — but initially, it looked simply like it should have instead been titled “If The Doctors Had Bad Stylists/Then They’d Look Like This.”

Admittedly, there was a focus on changing the looks of some of the doctors — I’m not exactly sure why that was so supremely necessary, other than to drive home the point that these were different versions of the beloved characters we know — but, just a minute or two in, it became clear that this episode was about more than just how the medical professionals styled their hair. If you didn’t pick it up by the end of the hour, “If/Then” was about destiny and how — no matter the windy, horrible path you’re on — you may still arrive at the same place the universe had intended all along.

Trusty voice-over master Meredith Grey guided us into the odd — and, I’m just going to say it brutally here, somewhat pointless — premise. “What if one little thing I said or did could have made it all fall apart? What if I’d chosen another life for myself? Or another person? We might never have found each other,” she began at the top of the episode. “What if I’d been raised different? What if my mother had never been sick? What if I’d actually had a good father? What if? What if? What if?…” What if, indeed! Let the dream begin!

Her hallucination or dream — whatever you want to call it — encompassed changes for most of the Seattle Grace crew: A sulky Derek was still with a pregnant Addison (Kate Walsh returns yet again! What if she hadn’t gotten a spin-off?), although they were unhappy together. Ellis Grey was the chief at Seattle Grace and happily married to a rather submissive Richard Webber, who had helped raise a seemingly well-adjusted Meredith Webber. (Yes, you read that right — Meredith Webber.) Callie was married to Owen, who was dealing with post-Iraq issues. (Teddy was nothing but a mention in passing, by Callie, who thought she was a male friend helping him through his stress via Skype.) Cristina was a loner — shocking! — and a stealth surgeon who everyone hated because of her surly demeanor and the fact that she slept with Dr. Burke, who had apparently left the state after their affair. (There were lots of winks like this — mostly to departed characters — throughout the episode.)

NEXT: Bailey is a nerd, Karev wears horn-rimmed glasses, and a few doctors get no Bizarro-self updates