Grey's Anatomy recap: 'Be Still, My Soul'
Maggie gets more aggressive with her mother's treatment as Diane's health begins to deteriorate.
With two words, Meredith effectively summarizes the general theme of the whole episode: a long goodbye to Diane Pierce. But let’s not skip ahead to the (super sad) end just yet.
The episode kicks off with Maggie’s mom’s health slowly deteriorating and her surgeons (Meredith, Riggs, Jackson, Richard, and Bailey) recommending that she get an exploratory surgery but take some time off to rest and recuperate first. Only Maggie wants to get it done immediately — something that happens repeatedly within the hour.
The first time occurs when the younger Pierce wants her mother to get a laparoscopic procedure done. Only this time, Meredith puts her foot down because she doesn’t want to cause Diane pain. Unfortunately, she’s fired for her efforts.
This news shocks Jackson, Richard, and Bailey, whom Maggie goes to with news of an experimental trial that her mother would be a perfect fit for. All three surgeons recognize that this is a terrible idea. Only none of them can tell her. Jackson feels bad he kept her mom’s cancer secret, Richard is a guilty dad, and Bailey… well, Bailey just doesn’t want to, and I don’t blame her. Maggie is not at her most reasonable right now.
Nonetheless, Richard ends up talking to Diane and warns of the toll the aggressive trial will take on her body. Turns out she’s aware, but she trusts Maggie, who thinks it’s a good idea. Richard points out that this is why they don’t let surgeons operate on family members. But Diane is not changing her mind, so she moves to a special room in the hospital, and Bailey comes in to warn of her of all the side effects. Because there are many. And they really don’t know which ones Diane will suffer from.
As the trial begins, we see that Maggie’s mother suffers from all the side effects. And it isn’t pretty. Because as Bailey warned, things will get much, much worse before they have a chance of getting any better. While this is happening, Meredith says what we’re all thinking: that Diane is doing whatever Maggie wants, and it’s killing the poor woman faster.
Not that you can tell, with Diane’s sudden burst of energy that sees her reorganize the pantry and clean Meredith’s kitchen. She also wants to teach Maggie how to make her lasagna. At first the young surgeon is adamant her mother not pass down any wisdom, but the older Pierce argues that she’s old and deserves to be able to rest and have her daughter make her lasagna for her. So Maggie learns how to make noodles from scratch — something she reiterates when the Jackson, Arizona, and Richard carpool arrives (bearing wine!).
The impromptu dinner party turns out to be a fun affair, as Diane tells stories of how two-year-old Maggie learned to read, something she credits to Richard and Ellis. Things get a wee bit awkward when she mentions she wants to pay her respects to the deceased Grey. After some attempts at deflection, Meredith brings up that they disposed Ellis’ ashes down the drain of her favorite OR. This cracks Diane up, which then makes her start coughing up blood…
The ambulance pulls up at Grey Sloan and Diane is taken in, with Maggie stepping out following and after her — not unlike Meredith and her mother all those seasons ago. As we find out, Mama Pierce suffered an esophageal tear that requires surgery. Bailey steps in to do it, telling Richard to go comfort his daughter. But the old chief doesn’t buy it. He says his well-being hasn’t been Bailey’s priority for a while and that she is the last person he’d call on for help.
Meanwhile, Jackson, Amelia, and Richard are attempting to check in on Maggie and talk her into letting her mother take a rest, but the cardio surgeon is determined to get Diane back on her feet so she’s eligible for the trial. And while I get that they care about and want to respect Maggie and her mother’s wishes, isn’t it against their oaths as doctors to let this continue happening?
Luckily Meredith is listening to my pleas, and she steps in and warns Maggie that her mom is too sick and that this is hurting, not healing, her. She also points out that of course Diane can’t say so when her surgeon daughter (whom she clearly loves and values) is standing right there in the room with her. Only Maggie doesn’t take the observation too well. She points out that she loves her mother enough to not pour her down a drain. OUCH. And if things can’t get more awkward, Riggs saw the whole thing. He attempts to comfort Meredith, but she’s not having it right now.
Thankfully Richard is also making an attempt, but his target is Diane herself. She tells him about how Maggie was her miracle and that she’s always so happy that Diane doesn’t want to be the one who brings her sadness. She can’t let her daughter feel like she didn’t try everything she could to save her (which makes sense in sad, sad sort of way). But Richard says that he’s come to know the strong woman she raised and that he thinks she can handle it. Diane seems to listen to this. THANK GOODNESS.
When Maggie comes in armed with other ideas, her mother expresses her desire to stop the trial, and the surgeon storms out — though not without lashing out at poor Richard. Later, Riggs finds her, and she admits that the reason she’s so determined is that she didn’t know about her mother’s illness all this time, and that maybe she could have saved her had she known. Riggs hugs her as she cries.
After a while, Meredith joins her and offers her what advice she can: Sit there and listen to Diane talk while trying to record and memorize everything about her.
Maggie takes Meredith’s advice and sits with her mother as Diane begins to impart a few very valuable pearls of wisdom, namely:
- Orgasms aren’t a gift as much as something she deserves to have.
- To tell more people off. Especially if they’re a car salesman.
- To “be a little slutty” and make a few mistakes, especially with men.
- Fall in love with someone who loves her more than she loves him so that he feels lucky to be with her.
- Don’t make herself small for anyone. (Did she listen to Cristina’s “You are the sun” speech?! My personal theory is that everyone’s fave cardio god is out there giving TED talks with this theme, while also skyping Meredith and Alex in between surgeries and speeches.)
- Take her engagement ring, something both she and Maggie’s father want her to have.
Like every scandalized daughter, Maggie tries to change the subject to her mom’s nail polish. When Diane complains about the smell, the younger Pierce goes over to open a window and as she notices that the rain is stopped, it becomes very clear (at least to this Grey’s-sensitive viewer) that Mama Pierce has passed on to the Great Beyond. Maggie’s return to her side confirms it. She closes her mother’s eyes and, despite her tears, continues to apply her mother’s nail polish. It’s an utterly heartbreaking scene made only sadder by the lack of music. Kudos to surgeon-turned-director-for-the-episode Ellen Pompeo.
A short while later, Maggie’s father arrives at the hospital via helicopter. (Hopefully, no one needed an urgent transplant.) He offers to pay for it, but Richard says that he’s family. As they come upon Diane’s former room, we see that Maggie is holding her mother in her bed while Amelia and Meredith sit quietly by. Turns out Diane was right about being grateful that Maggie found her half-sister after all.
When Mr. Pierce opens the door, she runs into his arms, sobbing. Richard watches from the doorway. Later, at home, Maggie sits by herself, her mom’s last lasagna in front of her, as Meredith and Amelia join her. (Side note: This is the first time in a while that Amelia has not annoyed me in an episode, and it probably has to do with the fact that Owen is nowhere near her. Small mercies, I suppose.)
Elsewhere in the episode, Riggs and Meredith try to check in about getting dinner, to no avail. As Riggs notes in the end, it seems like their timing is off — especially now that it seems that Maggie will need Meredith for who knows how long. Meanwhile, Richard finally admits to Bailey (who hands him something) that Ellis died without forgiving him and robbed him of way too many things. So he forgives her because he doesn’t want that to happen to them. FINALLY. As much as I’ve understood why he was so mad at his former protégé, I’ve also missed their interactions and banter.
One thing I think this episode did very well was the parallels between Ellis and Meredith and Diane and Maggie, especially with the voice-over about Ellis’ unfinished note to Meredith, which the latter chooses to believe means that she shouldn’t let herself be ruled by fear — it’s not unlike what Diane told Maggie about taking a few risks. Does this mean we’ll see a more daring Meredith? Will she actually try to get dinner with Riggs after all?! This could get messy. Because after that hug and her mom’s advice, I can easily see Maggie attempt to ask Riggs out, thus restarting that awkward triangle. Sigh.
In any case, as sad as this episode was (and oh did it get sad), it was also a solid way to say goodbye to Diane Pierce. Goodbye, Maggie’s mom. It was great having you.