Maggie and Meredith go up against Derek and Richard on a case, and Edwards gets involved in April and Avery's pregnancy.

By Chancellor Agard
November 21, 2014 at 04:29 AM EST
Danny Feld/ABC
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If there’s one thing Grey’s Anatomy has always excelled at, even in its dark ages, it’s been crafting a thrilling finale. Although tonight’s episode is only the midseason finale, we still expect it to fulfill certain criteria, the most important one being one helluva cliffhanger (or more). Compared to seasons past, however, the cliffhangers at the end of tonight’s episode are rather underwhelming, which is a good thing for a show 11 seasons into its run; Grey’s has already proved it can keep us at the edge of our seats by throwing bats–t scenario after bats–t scenario at us. At a time on television where the huge twist has become the most important part of a television show—ironically, precipitated by shows like Shonda Rhimes’ Scandal—it’s nice to see Grey’s pull back on the throttle on its soap opera tendencies (and I hate using that word as pejorative) and aim for drama that feels a bit more grounded.

Tonight’s episode opens with Meredith monologuing about how imperfect and incomplete our memories are, something she said at the beginning of “Only Mama Knows,” as we flash back to that tragic day at the carousel when Richard left Ellis, to her mother yelling at her about being ordinary, to her and Derek arguing about moving Washington. This trip down memory lane lasts briefly because we’re suddenly thrown in medias res into an argument between Maggie and Derek. The quasi-in-laws can’t agree how to treat a patient who has a nasty infection in both her mediastinum—the space between the lungs where your heart hangs out—and her brain. Owen’s also there being a fairly ineffective moderator. Derek thinks he should be allowed to operate first, and Maggie thinks she should go first. Eventually, Meredith enters the argument because Maggie asked her for a second opinion. Can anyone guess who Meredith sides with after looking at the scans? Yep, Maggie, which pisses Derek off. Derek insists that Meredith take another look at the brain scans, to which Meredith says, “I know how to read a brain scan, Derek. I learned from the best, remember?” To bring about some kind of ceasefire, albeit temporary, Owen suggests that they run more tests in order to determine who will get to operate first.

You don’t need me to tell you that Meredith and Derek’s disagreement is just the latest manifestation of their domestic problems. The question that both Meredith and Derek have to deal with over the course of the episode is: Would they be digging their heels in so much if this were any other doctor? Both conclude yes, but the audience knows that if they were dealing with other doctors, there would at least be a lot less yelling.

While Meredith and Maggie are looking at the latest scans and convincing themselves that they indeed need to go first, Derek has decided to ask Weber for a consult because he thinks, and hopes, Weber will side with him. Unfortunately for Weber, whose relationship with Maggie is already rather tense, he agrees with Derek that the brain infection should be handled first. Naturally, the Grey sisters are pissed off; Meredith because she views this as another time where Derek doesn’t trust her judgement, and Maggie because she doesn’t want to deal with Weber. The argument reaches new heights when the patient’s lungs start to shut down, which both sides believe support their respective opinions. Derek tries to pull rank on Maggie and says that he should be allowed to operate first because he’s been there longer. However, his very intelligent wife doesn’t hesitate to point out that Derek, unlike Maggie, is no longer a department head, thus Maggie is the only one who can pull rank. With everyone’s eyes on her, Maggie decides to operate on the chest first.

As Maggie and Meredith are performing their surgery, Derek and Weber share a moment in the observation room. Derek admits that he has given Meredith many reasons to believe he’s working against her, but in this instance, he’s convinced that’s not what he’s doing. Weber has no problem empathizing and says he knows how it feels for somebody to choose to see you only in one way, and he says that they’re both so much like their mother (#NatureVsNurture). In spite of a brief bumpy moment, the Grey sisters successfully complete the surgery, and to Derek’s slight disappointment, their patient makes it out of the surgery without any mental deterioration and is ready to go for his surgery tomorrow.

But, really, were any of you truly surprised that Meredith (and Maggie) turned out to be right? We knew coming in that this season was dubbed “The Year of Meredith” and has as its mission the reassertion of Meredith and her career. Consequently, the season has made very little attempt to not pick sides; Meredith has definitely come out of their arguments as the one who’s closer to being right. Reasserting Meredith’s centrality in the show has, unfortunately, entailed making McDreamy less than perfect and somewhat unlikeable—something that TV recap writer extraordinaire and EW correspondent Samantha Highfill mentioned in last week’s recap and said initially felt weird. By the end of the episode, Sam had come around to the idea of a slightly less-dreamy-McDreamy. I find myself in the same boat and am glad the show is pursuing this story because (a) no one—no matter how perfect his hair and smile and everything—is perfect, and (b) because it draws on the show’s long history.

What distinguishes this fight from other fights that Meredith and Derek have had is that it’s one of those fights that’s only possible between characters who share a long history. Yes, Meredith’s right when she points out the unfairness of Derek believing his career was more important to hers, and it’s nice to see the show further exploring the consequences of two ambitious people in one marriage. On the other hand, however, this isn’t the first time Meredith has slowed down Derek’s career, lest we forget her sabotaging his Alzheimer’s trial in season 8. This argument is all the more compelling because it’s allowed to play out without any kind of huge crisis or plot twist.

While Meredith and Derek are worse off after this surgical disagreement, Maggie and Richard are definitely in a better position. A lover of puzzles, and thus answers, Maggie asks Weber why he sided with Derek. Weber explains that he reached his decision in this catch-22 situation by doing risk/benefit analysis, outcome measurements, and considering the adverse effects, which is a quantitative way of analyzing risk. Eager to learn, Maggie asks to see this list—except, she can’t because Weber, with years and years of experience, did it all in his head. Although he doesn’t have anything paper, he can and is willing to walk her through his process over coffee or something, which is something she agrees to.

NEXT: Arizona does a bad thing.

Across the hospital, Owen and Callie hit a snag in their robotics trial when one of the military vets, Jordan, falls and hits his head while testing out the robotic leg. Amelia successfully performs surgery on him, but he’s in a coma when he comes out and the doctors don’t know when he’s going to wake up. Callie’s already having a hard go at things, so this is not helping. Know what else isn’t helping? Owen blaming her for the accident. Owen holds her partly responsible because he thinks it wouldn’t have happened if she hadn’t allowed Jordan and his best friend Rick compete to try out the leg first. Having spent time in the military, he knows that they don’t evaluate risk like everyone else. Compared to disarming a bomb in a supermarket filled with families, trying to walk up stairs with a new robotic leg seems like a piece of cake.

Because all of this isn’t enough for Callie, Rick tells her that he won’t try out the leg until Jordan wakes up and gets it first. This prompts Callie to quit the trial because she believes Owen was right: that she doesn’t really understand military vets. Owen, fresh off a bonding moment with Amelia, apologizes for being angry and refuses to let her quit and commands her to convince Rick to rejoin the trial. As to be expected, Callie’s able to get Rick in the trial and toward the end of the episode we see him take his first steps with the robotic leg.

Meanwhile, April goes in for a routine ultrasound and is surprised to find that Edwards will be the one performing it. [ASIDE: I forgot Stephanie and Avery dated until tonight. END ASIDE.] As we found out last week, April and Avery want to be surprised by the baby’s gender, unfortunately, Edwards accidentally refers to it as a “he” when she tells April that he’s seated like a Buddha. When Avery comes in, he says that’s how the baby was positioned in their last ultrasound, which worries Edwards for some initially unknown reason.

Not wanting to jump to conclusions and unnecessarily scare the happy couple, Edwards seeks Jo’s advice, and Jo sees what Edwards sees and suggests that she ask Robbins. However, Robbins is dealing with her own problems as she and Herman are still yelling at each other because Arizona’s still not comfortable with not knowing anything about Herman’s personal life or the exact nature of the brain tumor. But, hey, Herman, who we find out is divorced and without children, is dying and couldn’t care less about what Arizona thinks she needs to know; Herman is more concerned with enjoying her last few days. This enjoyment includes trying every flavor of ice cream and, because this is Grey’s Anatomy, having as much sex as possible—specifically sex with Graham, who makes up for what he lacks in surgical skill in being aesthetically pleasing.

“Robbins, I don’t know how any orgasms I have left in life, but it may be fewer than flavors of ice cream, so I can’t spare any. Stop. stealing. my orgasm,” says Herman to Arizona after Arizona told Graham to stop sleeping with Herman. [ASIDE: Who else felt slightly uncomfortable when Graham mentioned that Herman was “open to suggestions”? END ASIDE.] Arizona cares so much about who Herman sleeps with because she’s worried it’s a symptom of the tumor. Earlier in the episode, Arizona fraudulently called Herman’s doctors and asked that they forward all of her records to Amelia, the head of neuro. Of course, Amelia gets her hands on them before Arizona and is immediately taken with the tumor, which she describes as beautiful. As they’re examining the tumor, Amelia informs her of the potential side effects, one of which is inappropriate sexual conduct. Herman’s aforementioned speech, however, convinces Arizona that sleeping with Graham is not a symptom of her cancer.

A fairly poignant moment comes amidst all of Arizona’s obsessing over Herman’s condition when Arizona comes across her ex-wife, who’s also having a dreadful day. Asking if they can pretend like everything between them is okay, Arizona takes a seat next to Callie and the two of them share a nice moment when they assure each other that they’ll work everything out. Unfortunately, reality must reassert itself and the moment ends, but not before Arizona asks if Callie misses her, to which Callie says yes—but as Arizona points out, not enough.

Eventually, Arizona and Edwards show the troubling ultrasound to Herman who confirms their fears: April and Avery’s baby has osteogenesis imperfecta, a congenital birth defect where the baby has fragile bones that are easily broken and for no reason, and in fatal cases, the disease can be detected in utero. If the baby does survive birth, it will only live for a few weeks. Although this is a very tragic turn of events, it’s not wholly surprising because I can’t think of any Grey-Sloane Memorial pregnancy that’s ever gone off without a hitch. To make matters worse for Edwards, who’s already in an uncomfortable position, Avery overhears her and Herman talking about it, deduces it’s his baby when Herman comments on how cute it looks seated like the Buddha and asks what’s wrong with his kid.

In a hardly used room in the hospital, Amelia is still poring over Herman’s brain scans. And Arizona, who’s convinced Herman’s okay and does not want her to find out she stole her medical files, is not happy when she finds out Amelia is working on the case. However, Amelia has a good news for Arizona, she thinks she can remove the tumor, which is a great moment for Amelia because after last week, she needs another win.

Because this isn’t enough to deal with, a representative from the White House is also floating around the hospital trying to convince Derek to accept the position in Washington. At first Derek says no, but following a heated argument with Meredith when he explains why he really resents her—for not supporting his decision to stay, to give up everything—he accepts it. Standing outside of the hospital and still yelling at each other, Meredith tells him he should’ve taken the job. That’s what he does, proudly and right in front of her, and this upsets Meredith. We end the episode with Meredith telling him to go, but she means it, she wants him to go.

Extras: 

— I’m loving Alex becoming Meredith’s new person and I’m glad that Jo, based on the ending, is finally starting to accept that.

— Weber: “Shepherd screwed me again.” Bailey: “I don’t care for the way that sounds.”

— I thought I was over Sandra Oh leaving and then they showed us that flashback to her sun speech in the last season finale. All the feelz! However, Meredith hanging out with Alex, Callie, and Maggie helps fill the void left by Cristina.

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