Cristina and Owen take it to the next level, in more ways than one; Izzie starts her treatment journey; and Derek gets back on the horse and steps up his game with Meredith

By Jennifer Armstrong
Updated March 27, 2009 at 04:00 PM EDT
Scott Garfield/ABC

Grey's Anatomy

S5 E18
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Hey, so this Grey’s Anatomy episode was kind-of a big deal, huh?

For starters, I was heaving sobs in under three minutes, despite the fact that I was well-prepared for Owen’s post-traumatic-stress-disorder-induced sleep-choking of Cristina. Callie heard the commotion and broke it up, otherwise things could’ve gone much worse. And that’s just the point. At the risk of getting all public service announcement here, I truly believe this is a fantastic story line to tackle — the phenomenon of post-war night terrors that can endanger your bed partner is very, very real (my Vietnam-vet dad went through this for years, when I was too young to appreciate the strain on both him and my mom), and few people realize (or really want to think about) what soldiers go through once they get home. It helps, in this case, to have a pair of sublime actors handling this sensitive topic. As good as they’ve been at amping up the romance crackling between Owen and Cristina, Kevin McKidd and Sandra Oh brought the Emmy consideration tonight from scene 1.

Another sign that Grey’s has returned to its second-season dramatic glory? A T.R. Knight sighting in under six minutes! (Theory: T.R. Knight sightings are directly proportional to the quality of an episode, whether or not he directly contributes to said quality. Discuss.) He veered ever-closer to his very own emotional arc, too, by asking to be on ex-wife Callie’s service. Just one instance of this episode’s particular knack for mending previous rifts and acknowledging series history while forging new partnerships — which, by the way, is the definition of a quality soap/drama.

Case in point, Izzie’s brain surgery day brought everyone together and tore them apart at the same time, multiple times. We knew from the first second the doctors mentioned harvesting Izzie’s eggs to save them from chemo destruction that Alex might have some quick thinking to do about the future. It was only a matter of time before he was contemplating whether to offer up some sperm (apparently the eggs keep better when they’re fertilized). He did, with noticeably little deliberation, even if he did have some trouble, um, getting going on that sperm sample at first. (One can understand a guy not being particularly in the mood when his girlfriend is preparing for brain tumor surgery. ”This isn’t how Izzie and I were supposed to make a baby,” he told Meredith.)

And I bristled at Kimberly Elise’s introduction as Izzie’s no-nonsense oncologist, but that was the good kind of bristling — the invested, conflicted kind. When she mused aloud to Cristina about how she’d have to tell Izzie that they’d have to use some kind of extra-toxic drug on her, Cristina questioned whether it was a good idea to deliver bad news right before surgery. The new doc snapped, ”Today or tomorrow, the news is the same. And right now, I have time.” A very Cristina answer under normal circumstances. That plus the fact that Cristina was wearing a turtleneck to cover up the bruises from her near-strangulation added up to more vulnerability than perhaps we ever thought we’d see in Seattle Grace’s prickliest resident. Even when Burke left she wasn’t half as destroyed.

NEXT: Baby steps

That said — and this might be my personal biases showing here — I loved seeing Cristina at least try to stand by her man. Meredith was quite understandably concerned (bordering on pissed) that Owen had endangered Cristina, and so devastatingly at that. But Cristina was built for just this circumstance — she’s a tough broad who doesn’t scare so easily. If that’s not an expression of love of the highest order, I don’t know what is. And we all know that’s no easy feat (for anyone, but especially for her). Derek tried to step in and be helpful, as he’s wont to do, by telling Owen PTSD is a discernable, real condition with treatment options — but Owen lashed out at Derek’s own recent psychological troubles and sent him packing. Cristina, however, tracked Owen down in that basement boiler room place with the steam vents that they hang out in now and told him she wasn’t about to run away: ”Let me decide what I can handle,” she said, which has to be the most romantic thing anyone could ever say to another person, even if it’s ill-advised.

Another interesting dilemma: the folks waiting for Aunt Joyce to die. The poor old lady’s doctors had given her one month to live — three years ago. So her relatives were pretty much spent on rushing to her bedside and saying goodbyes, only to see her push on through again and again. The whole scene rubbed Alex the wrong way, naturally, but they had a point — how many times can you put yourself through that before you start to detach emotionally?

Speaking of which, Alex handed over his sperm sample without ever mentioning it to Izzie — or even going to see her. Translation: They were conceiving a child but neither talking about it nor being in the same room that day. Sure, that happens all the time in, say, artificial insemination cases, but not usually when you’re dating. And one of you is prepping for brain surgery. Equally disturbing was the fact that Derek was determinedly practicing pre-operation, miming out motions and naming surgical implements aloud. (Hmm, would I be happy to see my surgeon warming up a little, or concerned that he might be a little rusty on equipment names and cutting and stitching techniques?) But I gotta say, when he did his (wonderfully cheesy) trademark surgery-opening line, ”It’s a beautiful night to save lives,” I let loose with the tears for the second time of the night. Everyone else’s struggles to deal with Izzie’s grave condition only encouraged me. ”I wished Izzie Stevens would die,” Callie said, wrestling with her own guilt. But she talked George through his anger at Izzie, explaining his own feelings to him: ”Then there’s the fact that she’s your best friend,” she said, ”and she might die on you.” Even the dumb interns were sweetly worried about Izzie’s operation. Under the stress of waiting, Meredith prodded Cristina still more about staying with Owen. ”Hands around the neck,” she reminded her. ”Ring thrown in your face,” Cristina sniped back. The Chief, however, brought everyone together by voicing the collective mood: ”You’re scared. I’m scared too.” Then, quicker and easier than expected — with only some minor wavering on Derek’s part before he got all badass-surgeon-decisive — Izzie’s operation was over. And successful.

NEXT: The big proposal

Aunt Joyce, on the other hand, didn’t fare so well — yes, she finally died. Well, for a minute it looked like she might keep ticking, but it turned out that was just her pacemaker. ”Are you sure she’s dead, young lady?” one of her impatient relatives asked Lexie. She was. And finally they were truly sad.

Derek was doing his own brand of moping, despite having just pulled off an absurdly high-pressure operation, and his first one back after killing a patient and going off the deep end. All he could do was whine to the Chief about how Meredith had turned his proposals down twice now, which, while technically true, was a load of crock: He’d asked her first that morning, just after she got back from comforting Cristina and before he jetted off to work; and then he’d asked her again, claiming he couldn’t do the surgery unless she said yes. (Gee, McDreamy, way to be romantic. That’s exactly the way a girl always dreams her proposal will go: Say yes or I might kill your friend.) I didn’t like seeing him shave the depression beard, either — simply because I liked the depression beard — but I could get behind the let’s-move-forward sentiment. And move forward he did: Finally, with a proper, perfect proposal. In the Grey’s Anatomy-trademark elevator! With CT scans covering the walls, representing all of their key moments together! That’s right, Tearjerker Moment No. 3 of the night! It felt like the exact right moment for them, too, despite all of our seasons full of waiting: She really has come a long way, he’s had his own emotional travails now, and he truly convinced me that he should love our damaged little title character. ”You say you’re dark and twisty,” he said. ”It’s not a flaw. It’s a strength. It makes you who you are.” Second most romantic thing a person can say to another, incidentally.

Also in the good news department, Cristina and Owen finally got it on…and it. Was. Hot. Exactly as hot as it should’ve been between them, with all the chemistry and the buildup and the angst and the pheromones that fly every time they’re on screen together. Lots of soulful looking into each other’s eyes, and just…sigh. Mmm. Okay, enjoy that for a few seconds, because here comes the bad news: Cristina broke up with him afterwards. She said exactly what I was thinking, that she was scared as soon as she was lying in his arms. Definitely a downer, but probably a smart move on her part. It’s the only way he’d be forced to get help, and she certainly couldn’t risk being choked to death. Even for sex that good. Which I assume it was. She sent him off to get a brain scan from Derek, Meredith showed up to comfort Cristina, Alex got into Izzie’s hospital bed with her and told her about the sperm…basically, everyone was where they should be. At least for the moment.

What did you think, Grey’s Anatomy fans? Was Derek’s proposal everything you’d hoped for? Did Cristina do the right thing? Was there enough T.R. Knight?

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Grey's Anatomy

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

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