A windy day causes multiple collisions in the wake of Yang's departure.

Credit: Adam Taylor/ABC

Welcome back to the Grey Sloan Memorial Hospital, where the whirlwind that was Cristina Yang has been replaced with, well, a literal whirlwind. And despite the fact that the strong gust of wind doesn’t have Yang’s sharp wit, or even her dance moves, it does manage to keep things moving at such a rapid pace that it’s hard to notice the huge gaping hole in the middle of the series. Then again, if any show should know how to repair a wound of this size, it would be one about (sexy) doctors.

But seriously, between the constant references to Yang—no matter how painful they were—and the show’s choice not to dwell on her exit, which apparently happened yesterday, it felt like business as usual, only slightly less dark and twisty. Grey’s has always been at its best when put in heightened situations—there’s a bomb in a body cavity! there’s a shooter in the hospital!—but that simply cannot be done on a weekly basis. Instead, a good hour in Seattle is one filled with family drama, likable patients whose physical ailments relate to the emotional ailments of our favorite doctors, and at least one trip to Joe’s. And if that’s the criteria, then this season opener met it.

We start with a flashback to the day that Ellis lost a 5-year-old Meredith in a park. One minute, Meredith is on the carousel, and the next, she is standing next to her mother as she cries out Richard’s name. It’s a flashback we’ve actually seen bits and pieces of in the past, the day that Richard left Ellis for good. But what we come to find out this time around is that it’s also the day that Ellis gave birth to who we now know is Maggie Pierce. Well, that’s assuming that there isn’t another Ellis lovechild out there.

In the flashback, we hear Ellis say she doesn’t want to hold the crying child before we cut to Meredith being rushed out of her home. It seems the memory wasn’t already eventful enough, so it also happens to be the moment in which Ellis leaves Thatcher. We watch as young Meredith says goodbye to her father, but more importantly to her doll. No offense, Thatcher. Hey, remember Thatcher?

Back in present day, Meredith is at her old house—an image that is so reminiscent of the good ol’ days it could make any Grey’s lover tear up. Before we can blink, she’s at the foot of Alex and Jo’s bed. Not surprisingly, Karev hasn’t changed his locks yet, a fact Meredith brings up before kicking Jo out of bed. Just like that, Jo and her boobs are out, and Meredith and her sweats are in. Cue the “I’m not moving to D.C.” speech between Meredith and her new, potentially even grumpier, Cristina.

But getting woken up by Meredith is only the beginning for Karev, who arrives at work to realize that Bailey wants the board seat that Cristina left to him. And in a moment that perfectly sums up how times have changed, Alex is willing to go toe-to-toe with the Nazi. This from the guy who was once too scared to perform heart surgery in an elevator. (Go George!)

NEXT: Meredith finds a new “person”

However, the board seat will have to be decided by a majority vote, something this episode doesn’t get to, probably because of the storm happening outside the hospital. In a moment that feels like a major callback to the days of E.R. and dangerous rooftop run-ins with helicopters, Hunt, Pierce, and Grey meet on the helipad to get a patient. After the sisters say their hellos, the helicopter nearly kills them all, before finally, the gurney rolls off the roof and onto a car filled with sick teens just trying to have sex. Talk about a mood killer.

Everyone, meet the adorable patients who are young, in love, battling cancer, and now, battling various other wounds caused by a flying gurney. It could only happen in Seattle, but we’ll take it, because how else would these two inspire Callie to agree to getting a surrogate with Arizona? Only, by the time Callie comes to that decision, Arizona has made one of her own: She’s going back to school! Specifically, she’s accepting Dr. Herman’s (newcomer Geena Davis) offer to enlist in a fetal surgery fellowship. So yeah, the patients don’t always inspire two doctors in the same way, but it’s really only a problem when said doctors are married, right?

Then again, dealing with the same patient can also be a problem if you’re related, or secretly related in Meredith and Maggie’s case. Once they make it back down from the helipad, Maggie tries to step out of the way to let Meredith do her thing, but quickly, Maggie’s requests for a heart echo become nothing more than an actual echo. (Get it?) And it doesn’t help that Meredith is joined by Owen, who keeps expecting Yang every time he pages cardio. Instead, Yang’s two favorite people have to deal with Pierce, whom Meredith calls “perky,” “chatty,” and someone who probably likes cats. But there’s one thing that’s certain: There is a little bit of Ellis in Maggie after all, something Meredith realizes when their patient starts to crash. (And it’s something the vending machine realizes after Maggie takes out her sister-related frustration on the poor thing.)

Side note: Did Edwards temporarily losing a kidney take anyone else right back to the time Meredith dropped a kidney in Bailey’s OR? Also, I hope whoever put an organ in a sink got fired.

Away from mini-Ellis 1 and mini-Ellis 2, Derek and Amelia—new head of neuro—work together, which gives Amelia the perfect chance to bug him about how he and Meredith are “live apartners.” But thanks to a patient killed by a freak accident, that might not last for long. By episode’s end, McDreamy does what he does best: He picks Meredith. He chooses Meredith. He loves Meredith. Only … she doesn’t exactly pick, choose, and love him back. He resigns from his D.C. job, and instead of hugging him, Mer takes a seat at the very bar where she met Derek and orders a tequila alongside her sister. And based on a voiceover that’s all about being lost, it’s safe to say Meredith will be needing her new “person” a lot this season if she has any hope of finding herself again.

Speaking of which, a quick pointer for Alex if he’s going to attempt to be Mer’s “person”: The “I just don’t know if my marriage can survive this” moment deserves a full hug. None of this one-armed business, Karev.

As for everyone else, Amelia and Richard probably have more secrets than anyone else considering they now go to AA together, and April is trying to get anyone and everyone to care for Owen, who’s working himself to death to keep from missing Cristina. And just more generally, everyone seems to be waiting to see where the new wind will take them next, because, you know, the whirlwind that was Cristina Yang is no longer there to boss them all around.

Overall, it wasn’t a particularly memorable hour, but it was a good note on which to start a season. It was a way to show the fans that things can go back to normal even in a world without Yang. But considering that the show can’t replace Yang with an outdoor windstorm every week, it’ll be interesting to see where we go from here.

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Grey's Anatomy

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

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