Natalie Abrams
November 16, 2017 AT 09:24 PM EST

Warning: This story contains major spoilers from the fall finale of Grey’s Anatomy. Read at your own risk!

Grey’s Anatomy welcomed back a familiar face in very haunting fashion.

As Jo (Camilla Luddington) raced to save a young patient following a massive cyber attack at Grey Sloan, she stepped off the elevator only to come face to face with her abusive husband, Paul (Matt Morrison). “Hey, Brooke. Or is it Jo now?” he says. It’s such a simple line, but it’s enough to send shivers down her spine as Jo is faced with the manipulative man she’s been running from for years.

Paul briefly appeared on the show last season when Alex (Justin Chambers) tracked him down but decided not to confront him, knowing it could put Jo in further danger. But Paul found Jo anyway. Paul’s return kicks off a major storyline for Grey’s in exploring domestic abuse, which Jo suffered for years at the hand of Paul.

“I can tell you that I’m excited that we are telling this story in the way that we are telling this story,” executive producer Krista Vernoff tells EW. “Paul is a terrifying human for Jo to have to face, and she gets a lot of support in facing him. It is dramatic, and it is emotional, and it is frightening, and it is the Shondaland roller coaster, and I’m really proud of it. At this time, in this world, I think it’s a story that needed telling.”

ABC

That’s not to say the current climate of near-daily allegations of sexual harassment or assault has necessarily factored into the storytelling, as the storyline was planned long before these recent headlines. “I don’t think it has colored it,” Vernoff says. “We always approach Grey’s Anatomy from a place of human storytelling and the stories that we want to tell. I think that what’s happening and what’s coming out, this rug being shaken out and the clean up that’s happening — this beautiful, painful cleanup — is making us feel like the need to tell our stories is ever more present, and we’re proud of the stories that we’re telling.”

Grey’s Anatomy will return Thursday, Jan. 18, at 8 p.m. ET on ABC.

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