The season gets started with a crash, while Meredith and the gang learn big lessons on friendship and love, natch

By Jennifer Armstrong
Updated September 26, 2008 at 04:00 PM EDT
Scott Garfield/ABC

Grey's Anatomy

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‘Grey’s Anatomy’ recap: Preaching hospital

I understand you have to bring it for a season premiere, especially in season five (!) when everything’s starting to feel a little stale. (We learned that lesson from Bernadette Peters and her on-screen hubby, in a way — that you gotta work to keep things exciting as your relationship starts to age — but we’ll get to that in a bit.) However, five-year-itch notwithstanding, I could’ve lived without all the fake-out shocks in last night’s Grey’s Anatomy, like, for instance, the opening sequence (a dream sequence! Ha! Tricky!) in which Derek died on the table after a car crash. Of course ABC put that in the promos, and of course fans went all kinds of crazy about that, as well as the later scene regarding Rose and a possible love child. Shonda Rhimes can go on all she wants about not wanting to deceive fans, but she had to know that stuff was going to bring the hype. She’s a smart lady.

I suppose she also did it because she knew she couldn’t open with a scene featuring everyone gathered around the computer waiting for annual hospital rankings to come out. It did, however, set the tone for the whole episode — and from what I can tell, the whole season to some extent — when the Seattle Gracers found out they’d dropped to No. 12. These overachievers were set on edge so much that it almost seemed like they might forget about their sex lives, which are clearly ranked No. 1. No way those fools at Johns Hopkins are getting more.

Ah, but not to worry — soon enough romance reared its pretty head, as soon as Lexi was whispering under her breath about how she “adores” George. (He’s a sweetheart and all, but I do find it hard to believe this guy inspires this many secret crushes from beautiful women — he’s barely had a few minutes’ break between Callie, Izzie, and now Lexi.) Lexi acknowledged that she knew the rule was “no talking unless it’s medical” when she and other interns were following Cristina and Meredith around the hospital, but come on — that’s not how Seattle Grace got to be No. 12. They seem to talk pretty much only when it’s non-medical.

Callie and Hahn were busy avoiding each other for non-medical reasons after their kiss in last season’s finale. When they finally forced themselves to talk to each other, though, it was strictly business — mostly a lot of blathering about the “research” they were both respectively “busy” with. Meredith, however, was willing, if not ready, to make herself fully available to Derek — by asking him to move in with her. “I’m leaning into the fear to get a happy ending,” she therapized repeatedly.

NEXT: Cristina gets iced

But, of course, there was real medicine to tend to as well. Bernadette Peters showed up driving a smashed limo full of girlfriends in ball gowns — apparently they’d crashed on the icy roads (it was some indeterminate time of year in Seattle that involved snow) and lost their limo driver. Hated the spurting blood that happened when they took the injured driver out of the car; loved how the possibility of the ladies’ injured husbands, who were being taken to Mercy West, brought out the insensitive competitiveness in Bailey and Cristina and got them to make a convincing case to bring the guys to Seattle Grace instead. Loved even more that a random Army doc happened to help the men post-crash and then show up at the hospital with them, and that he happened to be the very cute Kevin McKidd of last year’s Journeyman. (Side note: It’s unfortunate that his character’s last name is Hunt — it sounds too much like Hahn, especially when the Chief says it. But I guess there’s no changing that now unless he marries Cristina and takes her name…though I’m getting ahead of myself here.)

Last night’s script screamed “written by Shonda Rhimes” because she can sell ridiculous stuff like a random Army doc who showed up to sweep Cristina off her feet, came up with ways to cure one of the car crash dudes’ paralysis, and mended Cristina’s icicle-induced wound later in the two-hour episode. Rhimes can also pack in the super-profound lines without, somehow, making them feel cheesy and speech-y. (Points to the actors, too, on that.) One of my faves came from old pro Kathy Baker as one of the car crash ladies, who revealed she was sleeping with her pal Bernadette Peters’ husband, and explained to Meredith, “Little pieces of you get chipped away by another person. And then you shave little pieces of yourself away so that you’ll fit together. Then one day you look up and you don’t even know who you are.” (Bernadette Peters, incidentally, was a tearjerker in this ep, too.)

Jilted nurse Rose, meanwhile, was passive-aggressively expressing her “delayed rage,” as Dr. Sloan called it, at Derek in the operating room. “You changed your mind,” she snapped when he explained why he’d switched medical tactics. “Got it.” Then she took it even further, and gave him that promo-worthy line, “I’m carrying your child, Derek,” before adding, “Ha, gotcha.” Yeah, good one. Cristina, on the other hand, was sniping at Meredith what we all often long to say to her as she went on about her commitment phobia: “I’ll give you a hundred bucks if you talk about something else.” She didn’t, of course; she just continued carping about how awful it sounded to be stuck in a house with Derek forever. “So I’ll have five chatty children and a chatty husband, and I’ll live in the wilderness,” she worried. “And then you’ll start sleeping with my husband.” This is the part where I want to hate Meredith, and yet I relate so much that, well, I don’t hate her. I’m sure many of you do, and I totally get that. I might even envy you a little bit for it. I envy Cristina, too, for her succinct way of putting it: “As you weigh your options, just consider the possibility of shutting the hell up.” And then…holy crap! Did Cristina just slip and fall and then get impaled by a falling icicle in the side of her abdomen as she was saying Derek and Meredith would probably not last longterm? Could this have been another dream sequence? No, because the next part was one: old Meredith and Cristina cooking dinner together, presumably spouseless, several decades in the future! Old-people makeup is always cute, and I get the point, but let’s just say this probably would’ve been cut if they didn’t have two hours to kill last night.

NEXT: A Rose is a rose is a rose…

Speaking of killing, Sloan put it best (doesn’t he always?) when he told Derek of Rose, “She’s a dead mouse on the kitchen floor. You have to pick her up and throw her away.” The animal metaphors continued when Derek told Meredith he figured she’d be too scared to go through with cohabitation. “You’re like a deer in the woods,” he explained. He then continued, teasingly, “Fine, let’s move in together. Or we could just go ahead and get married.” (Promo alert No. 3!) Then he added, “Ha, gotcha!” Yes, good one! Now let’s never do this bait-and-switch thing again, please!

One thing I related to even more than Meredith’s indecision was Callie’s freak-out when the experimental procedure — that one that involved freezing that dude’s legs to somehow make them work again — started to go wrong. She looked exactly how I would look all the time if I worked in a profession that involved being responsible for people’s lives and deaths. And, yeah, note the heavy metaphor there — she’s freaked out by an experimental procedure, get it? Experimenting? Like when you’re curious? About lesbianism? Speaking of which, Hahn then stepped in and calmed Callie down, talking her through ways to save him and proving that she has it in her to be a teacher after all! At least when it comes to her potential lovers, that is.

Cristina learned she isn’t such a great teacher, and she learned it the hard way, when her students couldn’t read her X-ray properly and cited the fact that she always does it for them. She further exemplified her control-freakiness when Major Cuteness strode in and forcibly removed the icy dagger lodged in her abdomen. “You took out my icicle,” she cried. “I didn’t give you permission to do that.” They bonded over his badass, from the frontlines medical stories, and he taught her a very non-Cristina lesson: “It’s not about being the best. It’s about saving lives.”

Rose finally stepped up to save Derek’s — and all of our — sanity by telling him she’s going to transfer to pediatrics. Sloan kept pushing Lexi to tell George how she feels about him, and I cheered him on, too — only because I cannot abide Lexi pining for George for very long. (Of course, she still hadn’t told him by the end of the episode. Sigh.) I also liked Izzie finally figuring out the accident ladies should just tell their friend, whose memory kept resetting every 30 seconds, good news — i.e., that her husband was alive— even though it wasn’t true. I’m pretty sure there’s some kind of deep lesson there, something about living in the moment, or having hope even if it’s false, or the entire nature of time and perception and the universe, but I had to stop working it out in my head because …

NEXT: Two by two

Wow, the Major was sweeping Cristina up in quite the kiss. And I was realizing how happy it made me to see her finally getting some after her long, cold, celibate post-Preston season last year. (Totally reasonable for her to take a break from boys after that, but I don’t come to Grey’s Anatomy for reasonability.) The kiss came just after the Chief had offered the Major a job and he turned him down to go finish his tour of duty, but I have a feeling that tour’s going to be cut thankfully short.

So now Cristina was back in action, the paralyzed guy was wiggling his toes, Lexi and George were talking about what great friends they were, Hahn and Callie were agreeing to be scared of their lesbianism together, and all was right with the world (even if I’m still skeptical of the concept of surprise-onset lesbianism, but I am no expert on this matter). Even Cristina and Meredith were getting all mushy — or at least as mushy as they get. “If I’m gonna do this with him, be this whole and healthy and a gooey person who lives with a boy, I need you,” Meredith told her BFF, asking for her support in trying to live as happily ever after as possible. “I need you on board….I need you to pretend I can do this.” Is it wrong that I got a little teary when Cristina said, “I’m on your side”?

On the other hand, the Denny flashback trick has officially lost its ability to evoke any emotion in me besides the desire to scream, “Get over it!” I understand that it was a big turning point for Izzie. I understand that Denny is a fan favorite. I understand that his death was sad and her pink “prom” dress was pretty. But as far as I’m concerned, these flashbacks, and dream sequences, and whatnot that keep taking us back there just annoy me at a time when I’m starting to like Izzie again. I don’t care if Alex was making out with some random chick and she saw it. Bad form. Cheapens Denny’s death. Move on. Good ending to the episode, though, when the Chief chastised the entire staff for becoming a bunch of No. 12-worthy slackers. I like Angry Chief, and I like the idea of them all having to step up their game a bit in the coming months. As long as they still get to have lots of sex, of course. This isn’t ER, after all.

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Grey's Anatomy

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

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