In a twist of fate, Adele will end up at the same Alzheimer's facility where Meredith's mother Ellis was treated in her final days

By Tanner Stransky
Updated February 24, 2012 at 07:50 AM EST
Credit: Vivian Zink/ABC

If you thought we said goodbye to Rose Ridge — the facility where Meredith Grey’s Alzheimer’s-stricken mother Ellis Grey lived before she died rather early in the series — you were sadly mistaken. No, unfortunately, the latest new episode of Grey’s Anatomy, “If Only You Were Lonely,” took us back there last night, as Richard Webber explored options for how to care for his Alzheimer’s-stricken wife Adele. The whole thing was — in a word — heartbreaking to watch. Rose Ridge is not the kind of place where you want to return.

The whole sequence began when cameras turned to a sleeping Richard, who woke to the sound of a smoke alarm going off. He ran to the kitchen of his house, where a skillet on the stove was flaming. It was clear from the outset: Adele, in her affected state, had somehow forgotten about the skillet and caused the accident, which saw Richard suffer burns on his arm while trying to put it out. “Adele, are you okay honey?” he asked her, but she only looked completely bewildered.

As seems to be the case whenever one of the Webbers is hurt or sick, Meredith took care of Richard when he came into Seattle Grace after the accident. His faux daughter recommended that he check out Rose Ridge. Her concern ran deep: “Any deeper,” Meredith said to Webber, “and this burn could have retired you from surgery.” Rather reluctantly, Richard took Adele to look at the place. I just about crumbled when the guy giving them a tour of the facility — we saw the exact pair of chairs that Meredith and her mother Ellis used to sit and chat, all those years ago — excitedly offered to show the Webbers the gym. “We just added a piloxing class.” Yes, piloxing, apparently a mash-up of Pilates and boxing — that was supposed to be a selling point for the place. As if that would make the fact that Adele was suffering from a debilitating disease somehow bearable. But the line did exactly what it was supposed to do: make me feel like grabbing Adele, wrapping her in my arms, and running home — or really anywhere else — with her.

That, in fact, is just what Richard wanted to do, too, especially after Adele’s confusion about why they were there continued. “It’s nice, but it’s too small for us,” she told Richard. “You’re a doctor. You said you could afford a house. We couldn’t possibly start a family here. Richard, where would the nursery go?” The pain in Richard’s face was palpable as he said to her, “You’re right, honey. It’s too small. I said I’d get you a house. Let’s go.”

Richard seemed determined to take care of Adele himself. “Rose Ridge is not the answer.” But Meredith told him: “You think you can handle this, but you can’t.” Richard volleyed back to Meredith with more heartbreaking words: “I made vows to Adele, vows that I have broken time and again…. The least I can do is honor her in sickness. She stays home, and if necessary, so do I.” But then, Adele had another tantrum with a caretaker in her home, which found her also questioning who Richard was. “Don’t hurt me!” he yelled at her. “I’m your husband, Richard! I’m your husband!”

The final scenes we saw with the Webbers really brought the whole situation to a head, and it became clear that we’ll — very tragically — be seeing a whole lot more of Rose Ridge as Adele’s disease progresses. “I have Alzheimer’s, don’t I?” Adele said, as she realized that she’s the one that caused the burns on Richard’s arm. “Yes, sweetheart, you do,” he told her. And then Adele again: “Rose Ridge does seem like a nice place. We went there this morning, didn’t we? I think it’s best that I would go live there.” And this is the part where you see your heart fall out of your chest.

NEXT: More on Adele’s Alzheimer’s

I realize that I just spent more than 600 words rattling on about what happened between Richard and Adele. It may seem excessive, but there’s something about this story line — probably the fact that I’ve had special people in my life affected by Alzheimer’s and the similar dementia — that really just made me cave in completely. There are lots of levels to it: There’s the fact that Ellis Grey — who Richard also loved — dealt with it, too; the fact that Adele and Richard had finally worked out some of their marriage issues and were returning to some normalcy; the fact that I do not want to see one of my favorite actresses, Loretta Devine, eventually leave Grey’s Anatomy; and the plain fact that Alzheimer’s is a horrible disease. It just doesn’t seem fair. The truth is that it never is.

But as hard as it is to watch all this go down, the Grey’s writers and producers should be credited with smartly and sensitively portraying a disease that is very real and affects lots of people. As all of us fans know, Grey’s often delves into diseases and cases that are ridiculous, outlandish, and extremely rare. But this bit of reality and humanity — despite the sadness surrounding it — was very welcome.

Don’t worry, though: Grey’s still had plenty of outlandish cases going around last night, too. Take Morgan’s insanely premature baby, for instance, which Lexie, Karev, and Arizona were working on together. The baby weighed just over 14 ounces, begging the question: Is that even possible? “Babies that weigh less than 16 ounces,” Lexie told us, “don’t survive,” But somehow, the little baby we’d come to know as Muhammad Ali — and then his real name, Tommy — was alive, with tiny, clammy legs that looked to be about the size of my index finger. “My God, he’s the size of a soda can,” Lexie said upon first look.

And as much as the case was a little bit out there, in terms of reality, there was a nice human element to it. Again, heartbreaking — but human. Morgan’s boyfriend Chris had finally arrived from Cleveland, and there was disagreement between the pair over how they should proceed with baby Tommy’s care. Chris wanted to stop treatment, because the baby only had a 13 percent chance of survival, according to the Outcome Predictor program he was using. (Seriously, that’s an application on smartphones? What the what? At least it looked like an app.)

NEXT: Morgan makes a choice, while Altman and Cristina both go a little bit crazy on Owen

Morgan wanted to proceed with surgeries that might give little Tommy a chance, while Chris wanted to stop. “It’s about doing more harm than good,” he said. It was then that Morgan zeroed in on the real problem plaguing Chris: She realized he wanted an out of the situation, he wanted out of situation born from a pregnancy that was an accident anyway. So she told him to “just go.” And added: “I’m not cutting you out. I’m offering you an out… I’m saying take the out, Chris. You want it.” So he left — but not before Karev gave him an update and then a look of death that let Chris know how disappointed he was in his abandoning ways.

Then something interesting happened as Morgan and Karev stared at each other over Tommy’s incubator — there seemed to be a real connection between the pair, which made me think: Could there be a love connection happening between Moran and Karev? Especially that Chris now seems to be out of the picture? Just last week Morgan was the intern whose name Karev couldn’t remember. But now that his boyfriend is out of the way and considering Karev’s affinity for premature babies, maybe — just maybe — these two could get together? Honestly, stranger things have happened at Seattle Grace. And Karev hasn’t had a juicy love story line in a while. The thought seemed silly when it first popped into my head, but now I’m convinced it wouldn’t be the worst thing — and I’m convinced the minds behind Grey’s must be considering it. The first priority, however, is clearly fixing little Tommy. Which — after Karev gave Lexie a rundown of the pediatric ward’s success cases — actually does seem somewhat possible. All very interesting!

The rest of the happenings at Seattle Grace last night were — compared to what was happening with Adele, Richard, and Morgan’s story lines — less enticing, but still interesting, story lines. Sloan was trying to work as Cupid — er, a version of Cupid — between Avery and Kepner. He was convinced that Avery needed a little sex to blow off some of the tension and steam from his intense preparation for boards. “Any thoughts on how to alleviate stress?” Sloan asked Kepner. Then he just suggested Kepner become better buddies with Avery. “Become the other kind of buddies. Everybody wins!” Before running off, a flustered and hilarious Kepner shot back: “This is sexual harassment, you know that, right?” The still jovial Sloan, however, concluded that it was just “sexual encouragement!”

The situation did reveal that Avery still has feelings for Lexie. When Sloan encouraged Avery to be with Kepner, he wasn’t having it. “You still love her,” Sloan realized. “You still love Lexie.” Well, duh — but last we all knew, Lexie was still in love with Sloan! What a messy little sort-of love triangle that really needs to be dealt with — and put to bed — on some larger scale. Soon, hopefully, soon.

Also still brewing: the mess between Owen and Altman, who freaked out on the Seattle Grace chief during surgery in the OR. “If I wanted your advice on my specialty, Dr. Hunt, I’d ask,” she told him, after Owen offered a suggestion. “Back the hell off!” Callie attempted to tell Owen that such behavior wasn’t acceptable, but Owen assured her that he’d remain a punching bag for Altman for as long as she needs. Which, truly, seems like it will be a long time.

Cristina’s story line — she was convinced that her estranged husband Owen was cheating on her with a nurse, played by Summer Glau — was downright confusing. Cristina spent most of the episode in a zombielike state, watching the interactions between her husband and the aforementioned nurse and coming to conclusions with very little information. “I think Owen is cheating on me,” she finally told Meredith, after crazy-stalking the nurse with some help from Kepner. But then she sort of seemed to come to the realization that she, indeed, was the crazy one, making things up in her head. “I really think he’s not cheating,” Meredith told her. And Cristina even responded: “I know that!”

NEXT: Is Owen cheating…or not?

That’s why it was confusing when, during the last few minutes of the episode, that we saw her continue her insane ways by scanning Owen’s phone bills, reading his e-mails, and smelling his dirty laundry. “In the end, the decision is always yours and yours alone,” Meredith added in her voiceover, as we saw Owen return home and hop in the shower while Cristina was feigning sleep in bed. “And when it’s time to act and you’re all alone with your back against the wall, the only voice that matters is the one in your head. The one telling you what you already knew. The one that’s almost always right.”

At first, I took that scene to mean that, rest assured, Owen wasn’t cheating on her. But then I thought about it some more. Clearly, the voice in Cristina’s head is saying that he is cheating, as evidenced by her search through his e-mail and phone bills. And when he came home, he headed straight for the shower — does that mean that he needed to hop in there to wash a certain nurse’s scent off of him? (Wouldn’t a smart cheater just do that before he came home?) Anyway, I’m a little bit confused, but I finally came to the conclusion that Owen is indeed cheating, as evidenced by Meredith’s wise voiceover words. But maybe that’s a decoy — something to confuse we viewers. Do you viewers out there have theories or thoughts? Please do share in the comments.

The only other major medical story line of the night was the two patients who came into the ER after a espresso machine exploded in a coffee shop. A male patron from the shop claimed that he had a love affair with the barista, who was also being treated at Seattle Grace. But it came to be that he had created the whole romance in his head. “You have to stop,” she told the deluded man. “You have to just stop.” Really, the case served to make Cristina wonder whether she created this whole Owen-is-cheating-on-me thing in her head. Possibly. But possibly not. As I wrote above, it’s really unclear about whether Owen is cheating or not.

The one tiny other story line of the night was Derek’s, and — despite it being dashed off rather shortly — it was rather funny. From the beginning of the episode, Derek had been getting weird looks from ladies in the hospital whenever he was carrying around Zola. He took that as some form of racism, since he was a white man with a black baby. “Do you have a problem?” he yelled, after getting the look from a woman yet again. “It’s 2012! Want to be shocked by a white man with a black baby? You’re about three decades too late.”

Thankfully — and delightfully — it was Bailey who set him straight. “She is staring at you two because Daddy has nice hair, but — for some reason — his daughter’s hair is 31 flavors of wrong! It’s hard on the eyes!” And it’s true, Zola’s hair was a ratty mess. “You are white, but your baby is black!” In all the twists and turns that we’ve seen on Grey’s, I really didn’t see that one coming, and I had to laugh…a lot. It was cute, then, to see Bailey helping Derek fix Zola’s hair at the very end of the episode. Mostly it’s just nice — after the torturous first part of the season for the couple regarding Zola — to see Derek and Meredith enjoying their little cherub. It’s precious, really.

But what did you think of the episode, Grey’s watchers? Did the Adele-Richard story line tug at your heartstrings? Do you think there could be something brewing between Karev and Morgan? Or will Chris return? And: Should Kepner and Avery hook up — or should he make his move to win back Lexie? Let me know below, if you feel so inclined.

Tanner on Twitter: @EWTanStransky

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

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