Grey's Anatomy recap: 'Old Scars, Future Hearts'
Past heartache has far-reaching consequences in everyone's lives
Considering it’s a 14-year-old medical series, it’s astounding that tonight’s Grey’s was the first in a very long time to focus so much on the heart, and, yet, that’s precisely what it also seemed to lack. To be fair, tonight wasn’t so much about the heart as it was about love (new, old, first, and maybe, hopefully, even last). It took us to the past and it even took us to church, and yet my own heart, which has loved this series from the first moment it broke me in ways that still make listening to Snow Patrol’s “Chasing Cars” or The Fray’s “How to Save a Life” near impossible, was left overwhelmingly unaffected, when considering its end, I should’ve been gutted.
Meredith, at least, has been gut-punched by the fact that Marie Cerone isn’t the family friend she thought she was. She’s poring over her mother’s journals, confused by the discrepancies between what her mother’s written and what really happened, even though she still has no clue about what transpired. Maggie is similarly clueless, trying to butter a towel and wearing her shirt inside out because, well, she’s in love with her hot stepbrother who’s announced his intentions to woo her. She lies to Meredith and tells her that all of this extra Maggie-ness is because she’s still upset about married Tinder Clive. Amelia breezes into the kitchen like a breath of stank air, having just come home from lots of sexy time with her ex-husband.
Speaking of former spouses, April is waking up with a hangover and regret: Tom is overstaying his welcome after their one-night stand, and understandably, she needs to puke.
Jo and Alex are getting ready for work when Alex spies fellowship instructions on her desk. It seems she’s applying for fellowships very far away from Seattle, and by extension, him. But he can’t focus on that right now because they’re going to be working with Maggie on the Dor procedure (a surgical technique so special it’s named after the cardiac surgeon who invented it) for cosplay teen Charlie.
Charlie is in the throes of first, sickly sweet love. He calls his ECMO machine a dragon and insists that while Maggie is his knight in shining armor, his boyfriend Henry is his other knight in shining armor, the “master of his heart.” Though it’s admittedly been a while since I myself experienced those very first pangs of teenage love, this whole exchange felt especially contrived — almost to the point of pandering — and after it was over I, too, understandably felt the need to puke.
Before I can, though, we’re awkwardly thrust into the first flashback of the evening: Karev’s first love, a blond girl he’s making out with on his couch after finding out that — surprise, really? — she didn’t just come over to study. But just as things get heated, his mother comes running in with a hammer, trying to attack him because she thinks her son is an alien. Clearly his mom is off her meds, and rather than being understanding, Karev’s cruel girlfriend later makes fun of the entire incident to their friends.
Meanwhile in her lab, Meredith confronts Marie about her relationship with Ellis. She wants to know why Marie is here if their friendship ended so badly, and she admits that she’s concerned Marie won’t let her license the polymer patent and will instead let a petty disagreement stand in the way of a landmark medical breakthrough. Marie eventually explains to her that she and Ellis were going to publish their work together, but in the end Ellis screwed her over and took the credit, earning her second Harper Avery in the process. Marie says she was broken by the betrayal because she had trusted Ellis more than anyone in the world and loved Meredith as her own.
Marie lays her cards on the table: If Meredith wants the polymer, then she has to announce to the world that the Ellis Grey procedure is now the Grey-Cerone procedure. Talk about heart-torn: Meredith has — for as long as we’ve known her — lived in her mother’s shadow, simultaneously emulating and resenting her, and here she’s faced with a choice that could effectively kill two birds with a single polymer. And this is the only part of the episode that did hurt my heart: The magnitude of this decision, which essentially carries the 14-year weight of a character’s driving force, is given painfully short shrift. (Recap continues on page 2)
The flashbacks continue with Jo, whom we see living in her car and being rescued by Richie Rich, who falls in love with her despite her “street rat” ways. He doesn’t buy that, and poor boy does look closer, only to have the not-so-magic carpet pulled over his eyes as Jo ultimately hightails it out of town.
Just before Maggie is about to perform the Dor procedure, a heart has become available for Charlie. But Charlie wants to decline the organ, proclaiming that because his “scarred heart fell in love with Henry,” he wants the surgery he originally went to Grey Sloan for. The surgeons remind him that it’s not a permanent solution, that it might only last a year, and that declining this organ may kick him off the transplant list for good.
Doing what he believes is his own grand romantic gesture, Henry breaks up with Charlie in an effort to propel him to get the heart he so desperately needs, though, again, nothing seems to be able to give this story line the heart it also so desperately needs. Even after Jo sweetly tells Charlie not to give up before he winds up lying with his literal chest open on the table, no amount of defibrillation can revive my interest.
The other thing that flatlines in this episode is Maggie’s flashback: She and Steve, her med school partner, bond over their cadaver to the point of naming him Leonard. Maggie falls in love with Steve, falsely believing their weird bond translated to something more. As she explains to Jo and Karev, she loved Steve the way they loved Leonard. She even wrote a poem for Steve and ends up reciting it for Jo, Karev, and, inadvertently, Jackson. Rather than seeing the story and poem as strange, Jackson tells Maggie that he finds her inner geek charming because he, too, is a massive nerd.
After many complications, including a heart too big for his chest, Charlie ends up being fine and Henry comes back to him, heralding Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s words as his love proclamation. How much do I loathe this story line? Let me count the ways…
What I am surprised to find strike a nerve is the non-secular narrative that develops from, of all places, Tom. April still isn’t able to shake the guy, and to make the never-ending one-night stand worse, he tries to “read her” and figure out why she’s both an overextended mom of a toddler and a brassy, assertive woman (because obviously a woman cannot be both). He manages to land, though, because he recognizes his onetime crisis of faith in her. As he tells her matter-of-factly, his son died in a freak accident. Initially he wanted to “find God and choke the life out of him,” but eventually he realized that it wasn’t a matter of God leaving him or him leaving God; it was just a fight. There’s enough simplicity in his story of ruin and redemption, which rings so honest and is only helped by Tom’s delivery and April’s reaction, that I surprisingly find this act to have the truest heart in the episode.
In the end Meredith rightfully decides not to give Marie what she wants, telling her she can give her any amount of money but she cannot undo her mother’s legacy. In response, Marie promises to dedicate her company to stealing Meredith’s idea and that the mini livers will be known as the Cerone Method. And yet again, Ellis is the undoing of Meredith Grey.
But the heart of this episode isn’t done beating just yet. After spending the better part of the evening brooding over Jo’s possible leaving, Karev returns to their loft, which is aglow in candles. She tells him that she realizes she’s never fit in anywhere so she’s always felt like she’s had to keep moving, running from anyone who dared to love her. Seizing the moment, Karev frantically goes to look for the engagement ring, but Jo is already wearing it. She kneels in front of him, “I always wanted to run until I met you…” she starts, “I want a great big career, but I never want to go anywhere without you. You are my home and you are my heart,” she continues before asking him to marry her.
Five seasons in the making, five seasons of Karev and Jo chasing cars, and this is the culmination we get? While I loved the proposal, it still somehow felt…rushed. They deserved more than the last few minutes of a packed episode, and so did we.