As Seattle Grace is overrun with Mercy West staffers, our home team goes on the defensive -- but it's too late for one of them

By Jennifer Armstrong
October 16, 2009 at 04:00 PM EDT
Eric McCandless/ABC
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Wow. Way to go from zero to mindblowing, Grey’s Anatomy.

After a brief, post-grieving-George’s-death nap, the show was back, all ablaze with interpersonal conflict and snappy one-liners and speeches — dear God, the speeches — and big stuff actually happening.

And it was all thanks to Seattle Grace’s merger with Mercy West. What had been mostly an administrative drag the past few episodes — necessary set-up, to be sure, but not exactly a thrill — exploded with the arrival of orange-scrubbed personnel infiltrating those familiar hospital halls and angling for the jobs. There were still cutbacks to come, as evidenced by the HR rep showing up to give the Chief a standardized speech to read while firing people. If the episode was anything, it was a lesson in creative problem solving. How to delineate the home versus away teams, our guys versus the invaders? Put the new kids in orange scrubs and explain it away with a line of dialogue about how the blue ones hadn’t come in yet. How to cover up Ellen Pompeo’s growing real-life pregnancy? Put Meredith in a hospital bed recovering from giving her father some of her liver for a transplant. How to deal with Katherine Heigl’s real-life baby leave? Well, we’ll get to that in a bit.

Besides the new orange-versus-blue conflict, we also saw the re-emergence of an old, unresolved clash: Callie’s dad (the perfect Hector Elizondo) returned to deal with Callie’s embrace of lesbianism — with the family priest in tow. As Callie said, quoting the bumper-sticker slogan, ”You can’t pray away the gay!” Nonetheless, Daddy Torres was willing to try to.

As the docs got down to business on the patients of the week, the script skillfully dealt with the new cast additions in neat pairs, teaming each of the Mercy West residents (or the ones we care about, anyway) with one of the regular cast members. So in that spirit, we’ll look at rundown of the major battles of the night:

Lexie vs. April: I sigh with affection every time I see Sarah Drew, a.k.a. Hannah from Everwood (and more recently, Kitty, Salvatore’s unknowing beard wife on Mad Men). She was so sweet as bookish Hannah, but holy Moses, was she a passive-aggressive little thing straight out of the gate at Seattle Grace as Dr. April Kepner. ”Of course, you were here when that psycho intern cabal was marching around chopping out each other’s organs,” she cooed in mock innocence to Lexie, when they were paired up. ”That must’ve been scary.” They worked together on a guy who came in wearing handcuffs — he’d broken into someone’s house, then got caught and beaten by a golf club. April acted all clueless, then offered up an I-don’t-really-know-what-I’m-doing-but… suggestion that Derek actually took instead of Lexie’s. The oddly attractive, wise burglar offered Lexie some advice: ”Find her open window. Everyone has one.” Then he kindly took it one step further later by stealing April’s prized little red notebook and giving it to Lexie. Of course Lexie didn’t want it at first, but then couldn’t help but look, and found such embarrassing mantras as ”I am the future of medicine.” Then our little Lexie tried out being a bitch, and it worked — perhaps a little more than she’d have liked. ”She’s the future of medicine,” she said pointedly of April to Derek while April stood by, shocked and embarrassed. Later, though, Lexie gave back the journal and apologized, and we were left with hope for Lexie and April.

NEXT: Cristina shows her heart while talking about not holding hearts

Cristina vs. Jackson: Cristina, of course, tried to shut her opponent down immediately, scoffing at Dr. Jackson Avery’s zone-defense way of splitting up the patients. But Hunt loved it, immediately giving round one to the arrestingly gorgeous newcomer instead of his own girlfriend. Ouch. (Not that I wouldn’t give any and all rounds to this guy. Good God, those eyes! There’s a reason he was called ”the Hotness Monster” when he was on Greek. And played a nude model in Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2.) When they took on a patient — a middle-aged guy who’d been stabbed in a fight with his 19-year-old lover/former babysitter’s dad — Cristina stopped the bleeding in record time. ”That’s how we do it on our side of town!” she boasted. But when the babysitter’s dad came after the guy again, Jackson body tackled him just as Hunt walked into the room, and round two went to him as well. ”Can you bring that guy over later?” the stabbing victim asked Cristina. ”I want to thank him. He saved my life.” To which, of course, she replied, ”I saved your life.” Round 3 came inconveniently around lunchtime, a.k.a. Seattle Grace Comedy Hour: Halfway through eating their sandwiches and trading their delicious witty barbs, it occurred to our favorite residents that the Mercy Gracers were doing neither. ”Oh my God, they don’t eat lunch,” Cristina said as they all dropped their food and scattered back to work. No surprise, Jackson was there with Hunt and had already gotten the surgery. Cristina retreated to the solace of Meredith’s room to cry. (Liked the way Meredith’s room became a place for everyone to articulate the frustrations of the day. And how cute was it when Derek stopped by to ask if Meredith and Cristina were ”having the dark and twisties”?) In one of many Big Speeches of the night, Cristina sobbed, ”Do you know how long it’s been since I held a heart in my hands? … I miss Burke. I miss him all day. … Every day he was here, I held hearts.” (Also: Nice shout-out to a past character. I like when we don’t forget what’s happened before.)

Alex vs. Reed: Dr. Reed Adamson started off on a sour note by taking George’s cubby in the locker room, inciting a near fist-fight with Izzie. (I was distracted because she looked so familiar, but I couldn’t immediately place why: Turns out that’s because she was on Heroes — which I forgot I ever watched — and, yes, Everwood. It’s getting to be like Everwood never went off the air, with most of the cast showing up on Grey’s and Brothers and Sisters.) Anyway, it figured after that inauspicious beginning that she’d clash with Alex, too. They immediately fought over the chart of an older guy who came in with stomach pains (sure, exactly what I’d want to see if I’d come to the hospital sick). After much bickering and chart-hiding and information-withholding, it emerged that the guy had an adrenal tumor and an artery blockage — she found the blockage, he found the tumor, for those of you keeping score. Which they were. It wasn’t until they were fighting over what his aphasia meant that the patient’s daughter finally stepped in and smacked them down.

NEXT: Callie finds acceptance

Callie vs. Daddy: Callie finally confronted her dad (and the priest) in one of the most heart-wrenching scenes of the night — with another speech of the kind one puts on Emmy reels. He started quoting the standard anti-gay passages of the Bible, and she did what I’ve always wished I could do to people who do that (but never knew my Bible well enough) by quoting other passages right back at him about Jesus’ messages of acceptance and love and non-judgment. ”Jesus is my savior, daddy,” she concluded, ”not you.” Chastened, Daddy Torres finally reached out to Arizona, who told him that her Marine father, when he heard she was a lesbian, simply asked, ”Are you still who I raised you to be?” She continued on: ”I love your daughter, and I protect the things I love. … She’s who you raised to be.” (Seriously, with the monologues.) After his moment with Arizona, Daddy caught Callie on her way out of work to ask, by way of making up: ”Is there any chance you’d give your mother a wedding?” (How many times can I cry in one episode?) She said yes, and kids, too! ”She’s not a vegetarian, is she?” he quipped. ”Because I don’t know how much more I can take.”

Izzie vs. Charles: Izzie and her partner, the chatty Dr. Charles Percy (played by Robert Baker of last year’s failed CW experiment Valentine as well as a bunch of guest stints on the likes of Veronica Mars and Cold Case), were getting along great. He was confessing his crush (on fellow new doc Reed), she was showing him around and giving him the combination to the lab…. They were the picture of camaraderie. When someone passing by asked Izzie how the whole cancer recovery was going, Charles charmingly quipped, ”And you don’t want anyone to know because they’ll be blown away by the fact that you’re already back at work and they’ll only be able to think of you as some awesome superwoman, which clearly you are.” Izzie happily fetched him coffee. It was when she was bringing it to him that she overheard him bragging to the other Mercy Westers, ”It’s like I have my own surgical bitch.” And his coffee was dumped all over him. She growled — in another welcome shout-out to recently deceased George — ”You will never measure up to the people we’ve lost.” She was so rattled, though, that she apparently screwed up their kidney transplant patient’s dialysis, miscalculating her potassium levels to almost fatal levels. ”She’s alive,” Bailey told her. ”But she’s not getting her kidney after three years of waiting.” A devastated Webber was forced, with the HR rep sitting in the room, to read the cold corporate speech to Izzie: ”There is simply no room on the staff.” A devastated Izzie left for what we can only hope is just a temporary firing (and, of course, Katherine Heigl’s aforementioned baby leave). Worse, Alex found a ”Dear John” note in his locker from her — she’d just taken off without telling anyone. Stunned, he too sought refuge in Meredith’s room with Cristina, announcing simply, ”Izzie left me.” An immobilized Meredith commanded Cristina, ”Go hug him.” But she couldn’t…quite. Touching and sad and funny all at once. Just the way I like my Grey’s.

What did you think, Grey’s Watchers? Am I wrong, or was this the best episode of the season — better than the George’s-death premiere? Will the Mercy West merger revitalize Grey’s? Which was your favorite dramatic monologue of the night? Who’s your favorite/least favorite new resident? Are they a little too unabashedly awful right now? Would you like to see a Callie-Arizona wedding? Do you think Izzie’s fired for good? Were you happy or sad to see her go?

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