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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

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March 27, 2009 at 04:00 PM EDT

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

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