On ''Grey's Anatomy,'' George's dad takes charge of his own cancer treatment while Meredith's keeps dodging her; meanwhile, Izzie deposits the damn check

By Gregory Kirschling
Updated January 14, 2007 at 05:00 AM EST

”Grey’s Anatomy”: Father issues

Grey’s Anatomy‘s winter vacation felt long, didn’t it? College kids at state party schools don’t get half as much holiday time off. I don’t like it! Had to watch that ”previously on Grey’s Anatomy” opener more closely than ever. Where’d we leave off? Cristina had betrayed Burke; now he’s gotta get his hand fixed — yeah, I remember that. George’s sick dad survived the fall finale but needed a tumor removed before he could get his cancer treated — check. Addison seemed to be forming some kind of triangle with Sloan and Karev — double check. And Meredith’s half-sister Molly had a problem baby, and Meredith’s estranged yet dopey dad, Thatcher, was lurking about the hospital — what? For some reason I could’ve sworn Molly had her baby in, like, late October. But then I went back and read my last TV Watch of 2006, and, no, the baby was a fall-finale cliff-hanger. Huh. Guess I blanked it out.

There might’ve been a reason for that. By my lights, the Thatcher subplot was the least involving of the goings-on in an otherwise pleasantly eventful new episode last night. With Molly’s baby still incubating, dotty old Dad lurked around the hospital some more, and Meredith avoided him. I just don’t buy the conception of the father character so far — why is he so dopey and dithery? This is Meredith’s dad? I’m hoping something big and unexpected will blow wide open here in the coming weeks. Until then, the only really good payoff from this subplot last night came during a nice early scene between Meredith — pushing back the tears for most of the episode (also: she snores) — and Cristina, who admitted, after prodding from Meredith, that she has a stepfather she sees for Yom Kippur. Meredith didn’t know that. I forget — did we? Fill me in, people!

Cristina, in other news, is desperate to hear how Burke’s hand is doing, but she won’t go to Burke herself and ask, because she and he aren’t talking to each other right now. Why not? Addison asked Burke that very question as he was lying around in his hospital bed, and he replied, ”Did you ever play ‘say uncle’?” And you had to get a little excited here because you knew another good, tartly written Grey’s speech was coming on — and the show always gives an awful lot of them to Burke, doesn’t it? The game, Burke explained, is when ”someone bends your arm behind your back harder and harder till you say uncle.” (Duh, Addison!) ”Then what happens?” she asked. (Okay, maybe she was playing along.) ”Then,” Burke answered, ”they have all the power.” (Wham! Another Grey’s speech, this one modestly scaled but still pointed, hits the spot.) Addison’s reaction was also appropriate: ”That’s pathetic!” At this point, Isaiah Washington gave us a smile that took off on an appealing loop de loop.

This was, until the record screeched at the very end, a much-better-than-usual episode for T.R. Knight’s George and Sara Ramirez’s Callie, who I’ve never thought were TV’s most convincing pair. George, previously a freak about patient care when it came to his dad, settled down a lot, and Knight — to a fuller extent than in any other episode so far this season — was affecting. George stayed something of a likable hard-ass playing cards with his wistful old man on the eve of the surgery; he showed good stiff upper lip when he counseled his lunkhead brothers and mom to ”be prepared” — choking up just the slightest bit at that line — before they went in to see stitched-up Papa O’Malley. Knight was particularly solid in the scene where Callie tried to win an anxious George over in the waiting room with her amusing and well-played new ”stare” move, which she picked up from Bailey.

Behind George’s back, Mr. O’Malley — his jaw wobbling — urged the Chief and Bailey to take the tumor out no matter what, because O’Malleys are fighters! And the Chief and Bailey complied, even though in the OR, the opened-up inside of Mr. O’Malley’s corpus turned out to be riddled with horrible white cancer. If they’d kept the tumor in and patched him up, Mr. O’Malley would’ve died slowly of the cancer in the coming weeks and months. Now that they’ve taken it out, everybody’s got their fingers crossed: If Mr. O’Malley doesn’t get better, his sick organs could easily fail, and he could die in double time. George has slight cause to go nuts if he finds out what the Chief and Bailey did, and he probably will — better TV drama that way, and I still say Mr. O’Malley’s a definite goner.

His condition at the end of the episode did lead to the night’s most blatant off-note. In front of his brothers and mom, George was checking his dad’s urine bag for signs of dreaded kidney failure, and he got an encouraging reading (”130 cc’s of shiny yellow urine!”), and so he started to whoop, and then Callie came in and started to whoop too, and finally they started to…funny-dance, and then they kissed in front of everybody. Up to here, I was rooting for these two, but this felt off. The dancing was too much, too phony, too Ellen DeGeneres-y, too ”love us, love us, love us.”

The scene convinced me that the one thing wrong with this episode was that the usual Grey’s comedy-and-whimsy slash death-and-drama balance was ever so slightly off. It was a heavy night at Seattle Grace, and for once, a few of the stabs at humor or cuteness didn’t really gel with the rest of the show. The other offending scene, I take no pleasure in reporting, was when Izzie finally took her coffee-ringed, food-stained $8.7 million check off the fridge and into the bank. She had to, as a condition for Bailey to let her back in on a surgery, but she sure didn’t want to, as we saw when Izzie was sobbing and yammering uncontrollably in front of the banker. I love Izzie, I love Katherine Heigl, but it was hard to tell if we were supposed to laugh or cry or what at this. It was too high-pitched to be heartbreaking, too painful to be funny, and too all-over-the-place to be funny-heartbreaking. The whole thing made you think the worst; it made you think, ”Izzie, just deposit the goddamned check already!”

But for the rest of this TV Watch, let’s just accentuate the very positive. This script was bubbly with good lines. The teen who was literally doubled over by VATER syndrome — played by Mae Whitman, from One Fine Day ten years ago — was full of vinegar, and it was delicious when she zeroed in on Izzie with the takedown that began, ”You’re way too hot to be a doctor.” (Never mind that she could’ve delivered that line to just about any other member of the cast.) Bailey had a stand-out zingy line too. When Callie asked her if she knew Derek well, Bailey casually IDed him with ”Lots of hair, too many women, likes elevators and long walks on the beach.”

Best of all was the exchange Karev used to rope in sweet Addison. Yes, all signs pointed us here this season, and here we were at last. Sloan was riding Karev all day, and he was snarly to Addison too — more on that sly yet major development in a moment. At one point, Sloan wanted a coffee, and Karev gave him a vanilla latte, which didn’t go over well. At the end of the episode, both of them perched intimately over Meredith’s half niece’s incubator, Karev admitted to Addison that he planted the vanilla latte on purpose. ”Why?” Addison asked. ”Because,” Karev said, ”he was rude to you.” Karev, you rascal! Nicely volleyed. The reply doesn’t hold a candle to my all-time favorite melt-the-woman line — that would be Jack Nicholson’s ”You make me wanna be a better man” — but it worked nicely on Addison, who headed slowly in for the complicating kiss until (d’oh!) they got interrupted by a nurse or something at the last minute. As long as this romance doesn’t crimp Karev’s ongoing season 3 awesomeness, I don’t mind it at all.

Finally, Addison appears to have aborted Sloan’s baby! At least I think that’s what happened: The show got tantalizingly vague on this hot topic this week. It made me think I missed something from 2006, so I tried to go back to my old TV Watches to see if I’d noted the clues before, but the website’s redesigned and I can’t find any of them right now. So it’s a question mark, a real big one. (Right?)

This ep was so fat with incident that I’m running out of space to go into it further, but before I go, a program note. For the next two Thursdays, I’ll be out of town on an EW superassignment. Grey’s TV Watch privileges will pass to my friend and colleague Vanessa Juarez, who’s great. Unfortunately, she’s not as big a Meredith fan as I’d like, but then few people are. At least she seems inclined to call Derek and Sloan by their embarrassing nicknames, so that’ll be something new to look forward to here. Grey’s, and America, are in good hands.

Till next week, tell us what you think about this episode? Did you miss the narration? What’s up with Addison and Mark? (Is the scene in which he bitched about the Seattle rain foreshadowing, and is he moving back to New York?) Didn’t you love that brilliant moment in the closing montage when Cristina was tossing and turning on a couch, and Burke was wide awake in bed, and slowly you realized they were in the same room, staring at each other, and not talking? And yes, doesn’t it suck when your mate’s snoring wakes you up at night?