Dr. Miranda Bailey dismantles the patriarchy to save her own life.
Credit: Mitch Haaseth/ABC

Dr. Miranda Bailey is fearsome. No nonsense since day one, she’s universally respected and rarely outsmarted. She has nurtured numerous classes of interns with tough love and maternal guidance. But what happens when Grey Sloan Memorial’s Chief of Surgery suddenly finds herself at the will of others? When she (albeit willingly) is placed among physicians who don’t know her legacy and dismiss her findings as dramatic and unfounded? At the beginning of this week’s episode, she writes off the saying, “On your deathbed, no one wishes they’d worked more,” as an excuse for laziness, but what happens when her relentless work ethic puts her life in jeopardy? These are the questions she faces this week.

As Bailey and Ben drive Tuck to school, we catch the surgeon in a moment of motherly pride as she gushes over her son before his history fair at school. However, once Tuck leaves the car, he seems to take Bailey’s smile with him. She and Ben ride on in tense silence for a while. Ben tries to lighten the mood by telling her about his firefighter agenda for the day, but she’s not having it. Citing indigestion, Bailey makes Ben drop her off at nearby Seattle Presbyterian Hospital for an “appointment,” popping an antacid before hopping out of the car in annoyance.

Once inside, she reveals the true reason for the impromptu visit:

“My name is Miranda Bailey. I am Chief of Surgery at Grey Sloan Memorial, and I believe that I am having a heart attack.”

After walking an intern through how to conduct her own EKG and then dismissing him for incompetence, Bailey meets Seattle Presyterian’s head of cardio. Dr. Larry is a condescending hotshot who continuously rejects her insistence that she’s having a heart attack, turning down all the tests she’s requesting. Maybe she’s experiencing hormonal changes? Has she started any new medications? Perhaps it’s the flu? Incredulous, Bailey schools the good doctor on the fact that heart attack symptoms in women appear differently than they do in men. People often think they know more than doctors, but maybe he could consider that another doctor might be capable of accurately diagnosing herself?

Nope. He’s still not buying it.

Flashes to Bailey’s upbringing reveal the source of her aversion to reckless behavior. Her mother smothered her: constantly listing the possibilities of how something could go wrong or how her daughter could get hurt. Discouraging her habit of climbing trees to read. Insisting that Bailey wear training wheels on her bike even though she’s in junior high school. Throwing a fit over the prospect of her only child traveling six hours away for college. It’s not until she’s older that her father reveals that before she was born, her parents had another daughter who only lived two months. While this made her mother’s behavior more understandable, her overly cautious nature eventually seeped into everything Bailey did, eventually manifesting in Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, triggered by the staph infection incident in season 9.

In an effort to disprove the surgeon and use her own history against her, Dr. Arrogance sends in Dr. Gregory, a psychologist. In an attempt to make Bailey see things his way, Dr. Greg leans on her “history of mental illness” and “apparent lack of a support system” to explain away her claims of a heart attack.

With measured anger, Miranda informs him that nearly 70 percent of women who die from coronary heart disease had no previous symptoms and that African American women are more at risk than any other ethnic group, statistics that are backed up by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

After striking out with the psychologist as well, Bailey calls in a player from her home team: Maggie. With strict instructions not to tell anyone, Bailey summons Maggie to the emergency room at Seattle Presbyterian. By the time she arrives, Webber, who was suspicious of Bailey’s absence, has already beaten her there. They find Bailey helping to save the life of a woman in the bed next to her who had begun to code, unbeknownst to the doctors, who apparently spend more time catering to their egos than their patients. After a job well done, a winded Bailey collapses to the floor.

Once Bailey is conscious and back in bed, Maggie GOES IN on Dr. Know-It-All. After reviewing her charts and running more tests, she scolds him for not giving Bailey the proper care hours ago. She and Webber try to convince Bailey that she needs to call her husband and be transferred to Grey Sloan, but she vehemently refuses. Appearing weak is not an option.

“It’s taken me way too long to feel tall there, and I’m not going to let a blocked artery take me down a peg,” she says. (Recap continues on page 2)

Since she won’t leave, Maggie makes it her priority to make sure Bailey receives the best care possible in this inferior hospital. Of course, Maggie knows the perfect surgical method to alleviate Bailey’s ailments, but Dr. Patriarchy doesn’t know how to do it and won’t give Maggie the necessary privileges because he’s prideful and petty. It takes the “good ol’ boy” tone of Webber’s endorsement in Maggie’s skill to persuade the pathetic excuse for a cardiothoracic surgeon to come around to reason.

It’s while she’s on the operating table that Bailey finally requests her husband. Constant flashbacks to her relationship with Ben (their first date, his crossword marriage proposal) and high-stress moments across her tenure at Grey Sloan (George delivering her baby, the hospital shooting) were worrisome to watch as she went under the knife.

Elsewhere, Ben is exhausted and hungry from climbing 40 flights of stairs during his firefighter training, but once a call from Webber brings him up to speed on Bailey’s condition, he throws his food to the ground and sprints (literally on foot) to the hospital.

At the operating table, Pierce has not let up on Dr. No Help. She’s fuming. “I am grateful that Dr. Bailey fought for herself like she does for her patients everyday, and I am furious that she even had to.”

In the waiting room, Webber and Ben bond over their acknowledgement of Bailey’s stubbornness and strength. Webber also takes the opportunity to share the wisdom that the worry Ben is feeling right then is what his wife goes through every day he pursues his firefighter dream.

Bailey emerges from surgery to face an angry yet relieved husband. Ben tells her that he’s quitting the firefighter training program, but remembering the way her mother used fear to discourage her dreams, Bailey tells him to follow his heart: “Life is too precious to waste doing anything less than what makes us happy.”

This intense hour delivered in more ways than one. Through glimpses into her upbringing, fans were able to grow closer to a character they’ve respected and loved for 13 years. Additionally, light was shone on the importance of properly treating heart disease in women, particularly women of color, recognizing the symptoms and fighting for the healthcare you deserve. Next week promises a return to Grey Sloan and the drama of Jackson’s “anonymously funded” competition, but I certainly enjoyed this temporary detour.

Episode Recaps

Grey's Anatomy

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

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