Izzie, George, Derek, and even the Chief face their various addictions after the explosion of a meth lab, and Mama Burke straightens Cristina out

By Jennifer Armstrong
Updated October 07, 2007 at 04:00 PM EDT

Grey's Anatomy

S4 E2
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”Grey’s Anatomy”: Docs face their addictions

Now this episode was some good old-fashioned Grey’s Anatomy, the kind that makes last week’s look like…well, like the solid but still cleaning-up-last-season’s-messes installment that it was. Here, the rhythms were pulsing just right, the banter was flowing, and the pathos snuck up on me at the end just when it should have. The whole thing hewed exactly to the textbook Greysian formula that made this show huge — the perfect study for some inevitable future TV or film major’s thesis, ”Anatomy of a Perfect Grey’s.” Herewith, a cheat sheet:

Step 1: Set up seemingly unrelated plotlines based on characters’ known traits and flaws. Cristina didn’t know what to do with the gifts left over from her non-wedding because she is, to put it lightly, no Emily Post; the Chief resolved to delegate more because his workaholism wrecked his marriage; George and Izzie decided to pursue their alleged love because they’re just silly. The best part, of course, is that you know they’re all doomed in one way or another: Cristina was physically assaulting her gifts; the Chief can’t seem to get a break when it comes to his relationship with his wife; George and Izzie were oddly chatty and devoid of actual passion. (It’s important, incidentally, that all these things be tied together with the giant smack of a theme for poor Ellen Pompeo to go on about in her voice-overs. You can, however, play pretty fast and loose with it. Turns out these people were all addicted in their own ways — George and Izzie to the rush of their secret relationship, the Chief to his job, and, um, Cristina to…hating housewares? Not sure about that, but you could be sure the hospital emergency of the week was going to have to do with addiction. Which brings us to…)

Step 2: Establish a medical story line that can teach Seattle Grace staffers very important life lessons. In rolled an ambulance with the victims of a ”stove explosion” that would turn out to be a — gasp! — meth-lab explosion. Bonus points for adding a baby and a lonely old man for pathos.

Step 3: Add whimsical humor. Cristina somehow managed to tote her truckloads of wedding loot to the hospital so she could trade it for surgical favors with her fellow docs. (Cristina Yang: Greatest symbol ever of modern women trained to overachieve in their work lives at the expense of their hearts? Discuss.) Meanwhile, one of those new random interns (Intern No. 2, according to Cristina) managed to pop up briefly and engage in general goofiness and pratfalls. Seriously, did our favorite now-residents act this ridiculous at the beginning of the series?

Step 4: Enter random family member of Seattle Grace staffer. This one was a doozy, too — and certainly better than another darn Grey showing up. (I’m hoping we’re officially out of those now.) Yes, folks, it was Ms. Diahann Carroll as Mama Burke! Please tell me we can figure out a way for her to return again despite her son’s obviously permanent departure. In fact, can we have her walking around every week, just knocking some sense into these nutjobs? First, she smacked down Meredith for being totally self-obsessed (what, our Meredith?) when she announced at the wedding last finale that it was ”so over,” all dramatic and looking-but-not-looking at Derek, after Burke bailed. ”To use that moment to send a message to your boyfriend,” Mama said, ”well, that’s just selfish.” Later, George came by for the second of what appeared to be a round-robin of obligatory sit-downs with Mama for perceptive advice. ”Burke’s guy is staying in a marriage out of obligation?” she said to George. ”That’s no way to live. That’s no way to love.”

Of course, for better or worse, we also have our own permanent spare Grey now — Lexie — but she was just kinda skulking around the clinic staring at Mer this episode. Well, that, and allowing Meredith to spew that crap about how she ”can’t let” Derek love her: ”And it doesn’t take a shrink to see why. Because our dad chose you.” I understand daddy issues as much as the next modern neurotic girl, but, jeez, have we possibly had enough already?

NEXT: Stir well and let simmer

Step 5: Mix business and pleasure. First, Mr. Wise Old Neighbor just sorta casually mentioned to Sloan that it wasn’t such a hot idea to stay a bachelor and spend the twilight years alone. Then, of course, a perfectly legitimate professional reason surfaced for George not to tell Callie about Izzie — namely, because Callie’s now Izzie’s boss. Not to beat this dead-on-arrival relationship, but have you ever seen less electricity between a couple — a cheating one, no less — than between George and Iz when they were all whispery and standing close? I literally laughed when George was all, ”Well, then you better walk away,” like he couldn’t keep his hands off her. But in all fairness, I am starting to have some faith that this thing isn’t going to go the distance, and these two will, eventually, figure out they weren’t so much in love with each other as they were wishing they were, for their own separate reasons. I hope.

Step 6: Shock us with a medical-case twist. Okay, so not only was it a meth lab, but the kid was all hopped up on the stuff because of the fumes in the apartment. That didn’t sit well with Alex, who got all in the dad’s face about it, prompting Daddy to knock his lights out and leave with the kid. This had several positive results: (1) It got Callie in trouble with the Chief for not handling it better now that she’s chief resident, thus upping the tension in that story line; (2) it gave Alex something to do, which he’s sorely needed since Little Miss Amnesiac left him in the finale; and (3) it set up Bailey for that ”you got in the face of a drug dealer” speech, which could’ve been ordinary in someone else’s hands but was positively transcendent in Chandra Wilson’s.

Step 7: Bring it all on home. Finally, Cristina faced Mama, who, it turned out, had come not only to get Burke’s stuff but to apologize to his jilted (sorta) bride. ”With him by your side, you could’ve become a brilliant heart surgeon,” she said. ”I wish I’d been born at another time. I could’ve been more like you.” As if that weren’t already choking me up, Cristina asked if he was ever coming back, and Mama answered, simply, ”Remember, you’re a strong woman.” Then, in the midst of the Meth Dad being taken by police and the baby recovering from a stroke, the Wise Old Neighbor mused, ”After 60 years on this planet, my family’s a couple of drug dealers and a kid.” Derek, meanwhile, admitted he has ”a problem” — he’s addicted to Meredith, get it? — as Callie chose to remain in denial. ”I am your wife,” she said, pleading with George not to admit to the affair after her supremely crappy day. ”Do this for me.”

Me, I might have a little bit of a problem, too — I know Grey’s is just callously plucking at my heartstrings with its melodramatic lines and longing looks and Cristina going home to her sad, now-empty apartment. And yet, I’ll probably come back for more next week (and would even if the nice folks at EW didn’t pay me to).

What do you think? Do you like having Meredith explain the show’s themes, or could you do without it? Are you hoping George and Izzie are over each other soon? And do you ever feel that the producers have no idea what to do next with Derek and Meredith?

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