Grey's Anatomy recap: '1-800-799-7233'
Jo's showdown with her abusive husband leaves him (and us) breathless
Tonight’s episode is the first in the history of Grey’s Anatomy not to be named after a song title, but as you know after watching, it’s for important reason that Shondaland chose this particular installment to break with tradition.
The last time we saw Jo she had just run into her estranged abusive husband Paul (Matthew Morrison) on her way to delivering life-saving information about Frankie, the 7-year-old with a blood vessel disorder. The episode opens with her still dumbstruck by the fact that Paul is standing in front of her, beaming like a cat that just ate a canary. Before Jo can even really begin to form any words, he quickly introduces his fiancée, Jenny (Bethany Joy Lenz). He proceeds to tell Jo — who still hasn’t closed her mouth — that they can’t plan a wedding when he’s still legally married.
Suddenly Arizona comes out nowhere and starts fangirling over the fact that the Dr. Paul Stadler is standing in front of her. She playfully chides Jo for not telling her that she knows Paul, who, like many abusers, instantly uses the opportunity to chip away at Jo’s credibility by telling Arizona that Jo was a big partier back in the day. After Arizona is finished being completely clueless, Paul tells Jo they should find someplace quiet to talk and sign divorce papers. Even this comment, which is delivered with such a distrustful slickness, makes me want to scream at Jo to run and never look back. But she’s done that for long enough.
Meanwhile, Meredith is still in the OR with Schmitt (more popularly known as Glasses) hooked up to an IV in order to give much-needed blood to the poor woman on the operating table with the enlarged spleen. But he passes out because the hackers have apparently also turned up the hospital thermostat to a stifling 90 degrees. For the rest of the episode, everyone at Grey Sloan Memorial looks as slimy as Paul actually is.
Bailey is trying in vain to get in touch with Jackson, who, if you recall, was last seen with Maggie getting an impromptu blood bath in a medevac helicopter after their patient Claude’s tube came loose. They were transferring him to another hospital, which they’ve finally arrived at, looking like extras from Carrie. Because Jackson is MIA and the FBI is apparently useless, Bailey ends up getting help from an unexpected place: an intern named Casey Parker, who asks her if the FBI has tried overriding the security system. Turns out Casey served two tours of duty in cybersecurity in the Air Force and knows a thing or two about hacking.
As Paul is leaving the hospital, Webber stops him to also fangirl and then give him a tour of Grey Sloan Memorial. Seeing an opportunity to torture Jo further, Paul asks Webber if he can stay and help since clearly they’re still suffering from the effects of being hacked.
Karev is prepping for surgery with Amelia on Frankie after getting annoyed at Jo for not showing up on time with the right information when who should sit down next to him but Paul! Because Karev once went on that stalking journey at a convention to confront Paul, he recognizes him immediately. Karev is called into surgery before he can do anything, but he instructs Helm, the perky blond intern, to find Jo, bring her to him, and never let her out of her sight.
Paul goes in to Meredith’s OR to help her, but as soon as he introduces himself, Meredith remembers his name and coldly tells him, “I know who you are. I’m friends with Jo Wilson.” Completely unfazed and without missing a beat, Paul launches right into his spiel, obviously attempting to undermine Jo’s credibility. “So Jo Wilson said something about me? Was she drunk when she told you?” he begins, slithering his way across a long-winded story involving rehashing Jo’s tumultuous upbringing and how much he wanted to save her before finishing with a lie about Jo stealing money from him.
Helm finally finds Jo in the gallery above Meredith’s surgery, watching Paul below. Jo texts Karev while he’s successfully finishing up Frankie’s surgery to tell him that she’s okay.
Arizona is in line to donate blood when Carina saunters up to shamelessly flirt with her. At this point I wonder if this woman has an off button because she is always on. Clearly a spark still crackles between them, just like the electricity used by Casey the wonder intern, who manages to essentially hot-wire open the blood bank by using a defibrillator machine. He’s like MacGyver, only nerdier.
At the other hospital, Jackson and Maggie are sharing high school war stories as they operate on Claude. Well, Jackson is telling Maggie how amazing he was (varsity baseball, freshman prom king) while Maggie tells him he’s a human superlative. After they’re done operating, they somehow wind up in the locker room together, wearing only towels. Maggie’s idea of flirting, though, is to tell Jackson that cell phones have 10x more bacteria than the average toilet seat, and you suddenly understand why she’s been single for so long. This sad back-and-forth goes on for a while until one of the hospital staff finally brings them their personal belongings from the medevac. Jackson sees he’s missed 27 calls from Bailey. Oopsy. I still can’t believe it took them as long as it did to get their stuff, but I gotta say I wasn’t mad about having to watch two beautiful humans lounging in towels.
Speaking of “finally,” Meredith is done with the spleen surgery and runs into Alex. They start to compare notes on Paul when they’re interrupted by Jo, who assures them that Paul is lying, that he takes the truth and changes it to fit his own story. In yet another moment that drives home why Meredith is still and will always be my favorite, she grabs Jo and says, “You are Jo Wilson. I know exactly who you are.” (Recap continues on page 2)
Meredith continues her awesome streak by getting Paul to sign the divorce papers. Ever the sociopath, Paul tells her that he hopes this brings her peace and says they both deserve it. Jo calls him a monster after telling him that he doesn’t deserve anything good. She also realizes as she watches Paul leave with his fiancée that it’s still not over because Jenny is likely in danger, so she and Meredith devise a plan to separate Jenny and Paul before they can leave the hospital. Using Arizona (whom they’ve apparently brought up to speed about Paul’s true nature) to distract him with some scope she says she needs help with, Jo corners Jenny in the waiting room and tells her how Paul once kicked her back hard enough that he broke her ribs. She gives Jenny her phone number and tells her that she can get her out of this right now. Jenny tells Jo to leave before Paul comes back. Thankfully she does, and the three watch Jenny and Paul walk out, arm in arm.
The FBI still isn’t getting anywhere because it turns out they are working harder to try to catch the hacker than they are in trying to get things up and running. That’s all Bailey needs to decide to further use Casey’s expertise. Turns out Casey was convicted of hacking a federal server — the DMV. He tells Bailey his license was taking too long; Bailey decides that’s a small enough crime that she lets him use her computer to try to fix this mess.
Meredith and Jo are finishing up the day in the locker room when they go to leave, but Paul and Jenny are standing there. “I’m so glad you and Jenny had a chat,” Paul says. Jo instantly defends her, saying that Jenny never said anything. Meredith tells Paul to leave, but instead, he starts to verbally lay into Jo, calling her pathological, hell, and torture. Before he can get any more worked up, Meredith picks up the locker room phone and calls security, causing Paul to storm out, but not before he tells Jo that he’ll keep her phone number so he “knows where to find her.” Apparently he’s not the smartest abuser on the block ’cause she can just get a new phone, but I digress. What is smart is that after he leaves, Jo asks Meredith if the phones are working and she says, “No, but he doesn’t know that.”
It isn’t much longer until the phones are back up and running, though, thanks to Casey’s expertise. Bailey asks him if he really hacked the DMV and if so, why. He tells her that his license referred to him as female when he’s, in fact, a proud trans man. Bailey responds the only way she should have: “Thank you for your service, Dr. Parker.” Side note: I love how this show can continue to surprise me after all these years, and hell, yes, Shonda. Thanks for including a trans character!
Karev catches up with Jo and Meredith and can see that something’s wrong. They tell him how Paul cornered them in the locker room. Jo starts to freak out because she realizes she will never be rid of him. “I wish he was dead,” she says ominously before Karev moves to take her home.
Though they’re in scrubs from the other hospital, Jackson and Maggie are finally back at Grey Sloan Memorial. Jackson asks Maggie out for a drink, but she smartly tells him that they both know it’ll be more than a drink and that because his ex works there, their parents are married, and they work together, they really shouldn’t. Which is good because right then Tinder Clive mysteriously reappears, asking her if they’re ever going to go out. She decides to swipe right IRL and they leave together as Jackson watches them longingly.
On what is presumably the next day, Meredith walks into the ER. She sees Jo and Karev staring at a hit-and-run patient in one of the rooms. Assuming it’s Jenny, the camera pans to prove us wrong as we see Paul bloodied on the table. Before we can relish in vindication, though, we’re left to worry about exactly what happened and what will be the consequences for Jo and Karev.
The title of tonight’s powerful episode was “1-800-799-7233,” which is the number for the Domestic Violence Hotline. According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, on an average day there are more than 20,000 phone calls placed to numbers like this. A special round of applause to Grey’s Anatomy and Shondaland for using their amazing platform to put this vital information out there.