The two-part season premiere has us facing the aftermath of George's heroic act and Izzie's ongoing cancer crisis
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Grey's Anatomy
Credit: Michael Desmond/ABC
ELLEN POMPEO

Well, Happy Fall TV Season, Grey‘sters! Yeah, that name for you all isn’t working so much, is it? Let me know if you think of some better moniker for the collective Grey’s Anatomy community. Why should Idoloonies and Losties have all the fun?

Speaking of fun, this sure was not a shiny, happy re-entry into a fresh new season of our favorite angsty hospital drama. Then again, we knew what we were getting into. And I have to say that for once, I was glad to have a major plot point — that is, George dying — spoiled and spoiled and spoiled some more over the summer hiatus. (No, I’m not just saying that because a good bit of the spoiling happened in a cover story in my own magazine.) This episode simply would’ve hit too hard, too fast, too early in a new season if we truly hadn’t known whether he and/or Izzie would die (he of complications from a disfiguring bus accident, she of cancer, if you need a refresher). We fans have already mourned the delightful (if largely absent, last season) George O’Malley and his arc from puppy-dog clueless intern to confident man heading off to the Army. (We’re even willing to forget, in his demise, that annoyingly false-feeling dalliance with hottie best friend Izzie.) All the better to simply take in his friends’ and colleagues’ well-acted grief, and watch how it’ll affect the remaining characters moving forward. The writers even played with our expectations briefly, spending a few minutes pretending we weren’t totally sure the accident victim was George — after all, the only evidence was that he’d traced ”007,” George’s nickname, in Meredith’s palm with his finger. How hilarious would it have been if George really weren’t dead, and all that press had been a big lie?

Are we just as happy to have Izzie back? Really, I’m asking you, Anatomists. (Hmm, I’m not sure that’s any better.) I’m torn about her: She had some nice scenes this week (like, as George’s former mistress/best friend, helping George’s ex-wife Callie decide whether to donate his organs). But I’m not sure we’d suffer much without her, either. Maybe we just need to see more of where she’s going this season, post-tumor, to truly tell.

I would, however, suffer for sure without Cristina and Owen. Their romance provided a nice counterbalance to all the surrounding death and sadness: Owen and Cristina quietly, briefly holding hands, waiting for an ambulance to pull up. Cristina trying to seduce Owen with the black lace bra she was wearing under her scrubs. She wasn’t thrilled when Owen said his shrink was against them having sex. ”I’m saying she’s a prude,” Cristina pouted. ”She’s prudy and misguided.” He explained that the shrink doesn’t want him to ”bury himself” in Cristina, which he surely would if they did it. And never did abstinence sound hotter.

But there were also patients to be saved: Namely, an Australian tourist named Clara who’d lost her arms in a speedboat accident. (One of her annoying airhead companions did manage to rescue the arms and bring them to be reattached.) And Martha Plimpton’s teenage son, who’d been diagnosed with ”growing pains” but was still suffering from constant discomfort and odd clumsiness. Clara’s arms did get reattached successfully, but she’d have a long road through physical therapy to get them (plus a prosthetic leg) working again; her traveling companions, meanwhile, left her without a support system, so Cristina ordered Lexie to be her friend. Lexie begged Clara to call her mother to tell her what had happened, but instead got roped into typing ”everything’s fine” emails to her mom for her.

NEXT: Laughter through the tears

There was also hospital intrigue brewing, despite George’s death: The board decided to boot the Chief since Seattle Grace’s rankings hadn’t gone up since last year. They asked Derek to take the job, so he asked for time to think about it while he went and warned the Chief instead. It seemed like bad taste to me for the board to bring this up when one of the staffers just died on Seattle Grace’s own operating table, but I guess that’s why I’m not a hospital administrator.

Luckily, everyone did seem to get some time off to attend George’s funeral, where the cute redhead George had jumped in front of the bus to save was sobbing audibly while the priest read that ”to everything there is a season” bit from the Bible. In a twist on the classic Mary Tyler Moore episode about Chuckles the Clown’s memorial services, Izzie had to leave the graveside when she started laughing hysterically. Fellow residents Alex, Cristina, and Meredith followed her away from the mourners in concern, only to find her cracking up — and to start cracking up with her. It was the perfect laugh-so-we-don’t-cry moment, and it was a nice extra touch putting the four remaining of the original intern class together for their own kind of bereavement:

Izzie (still guffawing): George is dead. He’s dead. They’re about to put him in the ground, and the priest is doing classic rock lyrics, and that girl, that redhead, is crying harder than his mother.

Cristina: You are far more twisted than I ever realized.

Izzie, to Meredith: And you got married on a Post-It!

Meredith: I got married on a Post-It, I did.

Cristina, to Izzie and Alex: And you guys got married for real?!

Izzie: And I got cancer? What?

As Lexie grew depressed about having been a ”bad friend” to George, Mark gave us another light moment. He broached what we’ve all been wondering: ”This may be bad timing, but I gotta ask: What did that guy have? He wasn’t much to look at, but you and Stevens and Torres? Tell the truth. Was he, you know, hung?” Sadly, we got a laugh instead of an answer to that one. It will likely remain a mystery forever.

After the funeral, the Chief still didn’t want to figure out what to do to keep his job, even though Derek had been stalling the board for a week. He barked to Derek that he wanted to ”take a minute” for George, but we knew he was simply at a loss. His fate grew even more tenuous as Callie blew up at him — right in front of the chairman of the board — for not giving her the attending job she wanted. Then he ordered Arizona to stop doing ”an emergent 3-D MRI” on Martha Plimpton’s kid, who’d returned to the hospital with a fever and constant vomiting on top of his constant pain.

And in other medical news, Izzie was discharged — she’s ”still a cancer patient,” but her surgery was successful enough for her to go home with Alex. (And accidentally stumble upon Mer-Der having sex on the staircase, which prompted Derek to give their fellow happy couple the keys to his trailer.) Clara got so angry about having been saved instead of dying — only to lie motionless, barely able to use her limbs — that she started flailing about as much as her body would allow, basically trying to rip herself apart again.

NEXT: Owen talks it out

But by the three-weeks-later mark (the second hour of the two), Clara was recovered enough to be bossing Lexie around about moving in with Mark. Still, she had a bowel infection that required surgery, and this freaked her out. Especially when she heard there was a small risk she could end up with a colostomy bag. ”No poo bag,” she said. ”No surgery. No more surgery.” When Bailey heard Cristina had ”talked her out of” the surgery, she flipped out, too, obviously suffering from something far deeper.

And, oh look, Arizona was freaking as well! Because Martha Plimpton’s kid still needed this 3-D MRI thing, and the Chief still wouldn’t give it to her. ”Otherwise you can come with me to my board meeting to explain why you’re running this hospital like a charity,” he snapped. Essentially, it was freak-out day at Seattle Grace.

Maybe because no one was getting any. Izzie confided in the other girls that Alex seemed to be, as Cristina put it, ”afraid of the cancer sex.” When Izzie explained that (duh) cancer wasn’t contagious, Cristina replied, ”I know that. I would totally have sex with you.” Namely because she still wasn’t getting any either; she and Owen were still just talking about their feelings and sharing their intimate thoughts, nookie-free, per his therapist.

Sex was on Callie’s brain as well — the sex Mark used to have with Callie. Mark moved in across from Callie, all the better for them to practice their unusually familiar brand of friendship: Callie not only asked him which outfit was more appropriate for her first day at her new job — at Mercy West, after being snubbed for the promotion — but she also stripped down and changed right in front of him. The Chief, naturally, just happened to get in a car accident (it’s okay, only his ankle was messed up, nothing major) in the Mercy West area, and just happened to end up in Callie’s care on her first day. She assigned an intern to stitch him up. Chief tried to tell the kid to suture him with ”Dermabond. It takes less time and heals quicker.” (Nice product placement, Ethicon Inc.!)When the kid answered, ”Yeah, but, budget cuts, you know,” it clearly was an a-ha moment for the Chief, but more on that later …

Meanwhile, Cristina and Owen went to therapy together, ostensibly for Cristina to plead her sex case to the shrink. She got shot down, of course: ”Does Owen talk to you about the war? Does he talk to you about the incident between you two? The choking?” Apparently they wouldn’t be allowed to get it on until he could share war stories with her, thus showing he was finally working through his PTSD. Bummer. Fair, but bummer.

More tough love was going down in Clara’s room, as Lexie essentially blackmailed her into having the life-saving surgery to stave off her infection. Either she got the surgery or Lexie would email her mom and tell her everything. She chose the surgery. Afterward, though, a still-grieving Bailey let it out on Cristina in an epic tough-lady showdown that ended with Bailey kicking Cristina off her service. Arizona forced her medical issue in a different way, sending Martha Plimpton and son to Callie at Mercy West, hoping she’d do the fancy 3-D thing the Chief wouldn’t allow. Callie wasn’t happy about the manipulative move, but she did it anyway. To no avail, though: They still couldn’t figure out what the heck was wrong with the poor kid.

NEXT: Sexy good times

And … it was back to the sex. Which one couple, and only one couple, was having tons of. This time, Lexie was the lucky one to walk in on Derek and Meredith. ”Sorry,” Derek apologized. ”We’ll be sure to clean the countertop.” The countertops, however, were very, very clean at the trailer, where Alex and Izzie were now staying. As Alex pored over paperwork, Izzie basically begged him to sleep with her to cheer her up because she missed George. ”’I miss George’?” he snapped. ”Nice. Real seductive.” (Yes, he slipped back to jerky-Alex tone, but I can’t totally blame the guy, either. You don’t stoke your new husband’s desire by dropping your ex’s name, even if the ex was also your best friend and he just died in a tragic bus accident. Actually, you should probably leave tragic bus accidents out in general, too.)

Callie finally, inadvertently, pushed Lexie toward the big move-in by sauntering right into the bathroom where Mark was showering and carrying on an entire conversation with him about the Chief while he was all McSteamy and buff. ”How gay are you on a scale of one to gay?” Lexie asked afterwards. ”Because even if you really are gay, he’s not. And you’re hot.” And Callie completed the sweetest jealous-girl confrontation in history by responding, ”He doesn’t look at my boobs anymore. … Not since he met you.” Aww.

Back at Seattle Grace, sunshine was finally breaking through all the gloom: Derek figured out that Martha Plimpton’s kid had a ”tethered spinal cord,” and all they had to do was snip this stuck fiber, yay! Izzie’s cancer was still around but getting better, yay! Izzie was telling the depressed girl George had saved, who’d still been moping around the hospital, to go get a life already, yay! And best of all, Cristina’s pitch-darkness was saving the day all around: It wasn’t until Lexie told Clara that Cristina had been calling her ”ceviche” (you know, chopped-up fish) that Clara saw the lighter side of things and finally started learning to walk on her prosthetic leg. Oh, and explaining the ceviche joke to Owen’s shrink prompted Cristina to make a crack about Owen being even darker than she was, what with the going around choking people. Chuckling about it along with the sliced-up fish finally made him open up and … boom, next thing you know, they were home finally having sex again.

Alex opened up at last, too, explaining to Izzie in the official Tearjerker Speech of the Night: ”You died in my arms. You freakin’ died and then you left instructions that I wasn’t allowed to save your life.…You wanna know what I’m afraid of? Everything.… You made me love you, and then you freakin’ died in my arms.”

Then just as I was crying, and Meredith was crying as George’s stuff was finally removed from his locker, the Chief dropped the bomb, the key to how he was keeping his job: Seattle Grace would be merging with Mercy West. And everyone better hold onto their jobs for dear life.

At least we won’t be without Callie for long — and we likely won’t be bored.

What did you think, Grey’s watchers? Was this a fitting homage to George’s passing? Was it too weepy? (Is there such a thing on Grey’s?) Were you happy to see Cristina and Owen moving forward? Do you like the merger twist?

Episode Recaps

ELLEN POMPEO
Grey's Anatomy

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

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