In order to get us to like Meredith again, the show has her help a little disfigured boy get free surgery; plus, Ava the Amnesiac returns, and Derek decides to start dating

By Jennifer Armstrong
Updated October 28, 2007 at 04:00 PM EDT

”Grey’s Anatomy”: Likable Meredith returns

Clearly tonight was the official Meredith redemption episode: We started with no less than a montage of her near-death experience, her touchingly humiliating ”Pick me. Choose me. Love me” speech to Derek eons ago, and her mother’s ”You’re no more than ordinary” outburst at her. If you weren’t already forgiving her, this montage was saying, you basically have no soul. And the fact is that, despite my general annoyance with her as of late — and contrary to many fans of the show — I do like Meredith. I just think of her as that deeply troubled friend who’s a mess but I love anyway, or Carrie Bradshaw during that whole screwing-with-Aidan season, when I wanted to kill her violently but stuck with her nonetheless. Extra points to Mer for finally deciding to deal with some Mommy Issues by laying the elder Dr. Grey’s ashes to rest, even if that meant bringing them to work in a Baggie. But basically the whole episode was designed to goad you into liking our heroine at least a little again

Whom do I love unequivocally this season? Yes, Callie. You can spend another week debating whether she gets to blame Izzie as much as George for the dissolution of her marriage, but it was pretty ballsy that she just announced to everyone that Dr. Stevens should direct her questions and concerns to Dr. Bailey ”because she’s been sleeping with my husband.” Feminist or not, the woman is good for drama.

Lexie, though, I’m not sure what she’s good for. A laugh? Sorta, but not a big one. The poor thing came to work in a bonnet and freckles as a Halloween costume (she was…what? Dr. Laura Ingalls Wilder?), because, it was quickly established, Dr. Yang was ”screwing with” her and told her to dress up. This gets our weekly ”Seriously?” award, no further analysis needed.

I was, however, psyched to see a few of my faves getting well-deserved story lines, Dr. Sloan first among them. He got some things rolling, anyway, even if they weren’t quite explosive yet. Mostly, we learned of the Nurses United Against Mark Sloan (officially, anyway — we could’ve guessed such a thing existed). Gotta love a guy who just goes with that and asks, ”Are there any club activities?” Then, literally right on cue, this adorable kid walked up and said, ”Daddy?” Turned out Derek had paid him to say that, though, and he was actually, you know, just looking for someone to do pro bono surgery to give him ears because he was severely disfigured. No big deal. Conveniently, Sloan’s just-revealed unpopularity immediately became an issue when he at first turned the kid down, saying he had ”no social capital” to rally the nurses and doctors needed to perform charity work. Meredith revealed that she does, which means she’s much more popular with her coworkers than she is with fans. Either that, or helping an earless kid was a shameless attempt to up her likability ratings among audience members. Which you gotta admit was an ace move.

Then out from the Patient Hall of Fame popped Ava the Amnesiac, and I was actually shocked at how happy I was to see her. Though on second thought, I know exactly why: We haven’t seen chemistry like this since, well, Meredith and Derek. (Dear Lord, please let us not be in for all that misery here.) Did you even care what she was saying by way of explaining her appearance there when Alex was looking at her like that? Or am I the only one here suffering a brand new crush? He’s really been on this show the whole time? I must’ve been fully McDreamsthetized until this season. Ava adorably went on for a bit about how she was really disappointed that he didn’t come to find her — and, look, I totally feel for her on that, and I give her much credit for hauling her ass to Seattle Grace for the grand gesture instead. I would probably not do that in real life, as it’s a definite Dating 101 no-no. But that is exactly why I love seeing it on my television, and besides, it would be a really boring episode to watch Alex go to some chick’s house in the suburbs to win her back (kinda like those ER eps where they went to Africa or whatever, except with less important social resonance). Mostly, though, I just wanted them to make out, and they finally did, so I was happy. This also, not unlike the chemistry thing, made me realize how long it’s been since we saw some good hospital-backroom face sucking, too. Bravo all around.

My swooning made the bit with the chainsaw, of course, all the more jarring. I don’t do well with any bodily harm on screen, so it did not sit well with me to see one patient realize that his chainsaw (which had his severed finger stuck to it somehow) was missing, only to discover that another patient (who had some kind of disorder, obviously) was severing his own foot with it.

So, yeah, can we talk about cute Sloan instead? I believe many of you fans may be getting your wish in the near future: He was clearly hitting on Callie, and she didn’t punch him in the face, or really discourage him in any way. I’m all for revisiting that sexual liaison, maybe in a full-blown relationship even. Those two would challenge each other in a way George could never do for her. That girl needs a lot of man — a confident guy who’s secure in his place in the world. This would do it. She was just blathering to him about how her life was falling apart in this scene, barely paying attention to his banter, but I think she might come around. And we’re due for another towel scene from him anyway.

NEXT: Heart troubles

As if all the chainsaw business weren’t enough, we also had a literally heart-wrenching story about an older gentleman having to decide whether to take his dying daughter’s heart to replace his own failing one. And Meredith, meanwhile, was working tirelessly to get that kid his free ears. Buddying up with old intern Norman last week, palling around with disfigured kids this week — will she perhaps be helping abandoned kittens next week? Maybe really cute ones that are missing limbs? As I said, though, all this pandering is kinda working on me, reminding me that I have been known to find her relatable. She’s funny and caring at the same time, even: ”She was afraid of heights,” she deadpanned when Cristina suggested scattering her mother’s ashes off a roof. ”Sexy love, not sibling love?” she asked guilelessly when discussing George and Izzie’s newly public relationship with them. Clearly she’s feeling the same about them as we all do.

Sorry, can we go back to swooning over Ava and Alex one more time? Her telling him about wrapping her baby in her shirt to get her to sleep because the kid smells Mommy and feels comforted? And Alex then falling asleep? It’s a fine line between gag and swoon, but I’m on the right side of it. Okay, done. For now, anyway.

There was, however, not much love on the other side of the hospital, where Dr. Hahn, that random bitchy doctor who shows up once in a while, was smacking Yang down for sleeping with her superiors. Totally harsh, totally wrong in this context, but totally needed in the grander scheme of things. (And she’s sticking around as the new chief of cardiothoracic surgery!) No one has been aching for an attitude adjustment more than Cristina, much as I love her. Well, Izzie has needed one, too. And Meredith. But we’re getting there, folks, we really are! (Though Izzie proved she’s still not quite adjusted when she blew up at Cristina for being a ”closed little circle” with Meredith and then excused her own actions by saying, ”Meredith slept with another woman’s husband!” Sweetheart, Meredith isn’t perfect, but very different story. This is, however, setting up a nice little bond between Callie and Cristina, which is a friendship that makes total sense.)

George, I suppose, has been beaten up enough lately — or at least does a much better job of acting all worn out. So he got to give a sweet, heroic little speech to the heart guy about how when he lost his dad, he would have gladly given his own heart to save him if he could have. (BTW, are we headed for an eventual Lexie-George coupling? She was awfully touched.) McDreamy, too, started regaining a little mojo, thank goodness, even if it was partly because McSteamy put the word out that he was ”lookin’.” (No g!)

In a relatively unsurprising turn of events, Norman the Really Old Intern dropped to the floor during surgery and was later revealed to have suffered a stroke. We all saw some sort of health catastrophe coming for him, didn’t we? Grandpa Gilmore couldn’t hang with the Seattle Gracers forever. His emergency did pull Alex out of bed with Ava, which was a bummer but better not cause some kind of lasting rift between them. You show up at a hospital during a doctor’s shift to declare your love to him, you accept he might have to, you know, doctor something. Anyway, he rushed to Norman’s bedside to discover the old guy was just fine but had determined he wasn’t cut out for surgery; he’d be going into psych instead. ”You surgeons are all just a bunch of little children running around with your scalpels and your severed feet and your inappropriate sex in inappropriate places,” he said. ”You all need a good shrink.” Oh, Norman, we’ll miss your self-referential and totally obvious observations about life on Grey’s Anatomy.

The second well-deserved new story line of the day went to Bailey, who’s been doing a lot of her trademark telling-off of various interns and residents but not much else this season. Well, turns out she was having some marital troubles of her own — the hubby wasn’t so happy about her missing their kid’s first Halloween. She even got to go on about this for a good minute or so to George without having to discuss his crap in between. Though the problem with any of these married doctors is they always have the same plots — spouse is mad they don’t spend more time at home, blah blah blah. Still, Chandra Wilson deserves to play something besides mother hen, so gold star for that.

Finally, in the obligatory end-of-the-day wrap-up sequence, Derek came to terms with reality: ”I have to start dating.” (God help us.) Alex returned to the back room to find that Ava had gone but somehow left behind her shirt. (That better be a gesture of good faith, because I can’t handle them already breaking up.) George and Izzie beamed at each other about making it through the day, then chastely clasped hands. (If this affair were so hot, wouldn’t they be making out now?) And Meredith, um, washed her mom down the surgery drain. Seeing this, I’m officially never checking into Seattle Grace, even for a Band-Aid (where has that been?), but I did get a little choked up, nonetheless.

What do you think? Any of you haters liking Meredith more? Or Sloan? Or George and Izzie?

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Grey's Anatomy

Meredith. Alex. Bailey. The doctors are definitely in on Shonda Rhimes' hospital melodrama.

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