After a horrific plane crash, Seattle Grace loses one of its most beloved doctors; plus, Bailey gets engaged and Hunt fires Altman

By Tanner Stransky
May 18, 2012 at 05:42 AM EDT
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The anticipation of a death is an unsettling experience — even if that death is of a character on television. We viewers went into last night’s episode of Grey’s Anatomy, titled “Flight,” much like the family member of a cancer patient goes into the hospital for the last time: with complete and utter dread, knowing the end is near. We had the knowledge that one major character wasn’t going to be alive at the end of the hour, per interviews that series boss Shonda Rhimes gave. And a plane crash at the end of last week’s episode all but spelled out that the victim would be one of the six doctors on the flight: Meredith Grey, Derek Shepherd, Cristina Yang, Mark Sloan, Arizona Robbins, or Lexie Grey.

Then, last week, Ellen Pompeo, Patrick Dempsey, and Sandra Oh resigned their contracts for next season, so the field of possibilities narrowed to just Arizona, Mark, or Lexie. Seeing as how Arizona and wifey Callie had been put through so much last season with that horrific car wreck, it was basically boiled down to one half — or both? — of will-they-or-won’t-they couple Mark and Lexie. It was only about 20 minutes into the episode, then, that it became clear the victim was Lexie, who had been crushed under part of the plane that crashed in the woods.

This being the often-overwrought Grey’s Anatomy, Lexie’s final few minutes were full of the requisite melodrama. After it became clear that Mark wasn’t going to be able to move the debris off Lexie and save her, he sat with her as she passed away, the bottom-half of her body crushed by the plane. “Mark,” she told him, despite his disbelief, “I’m dying.” And she made a final request of Mark, the man she had just professed her love to: “Please, tell Meredith that I love her and that she was a good sister. Please, tell my dad…” But Mark didn’t want to believe what was happening in front of him: “No, you’re not dying. You don’t die today.” But he couldn’t stop the inevitable. “We’re gonna have the best life, you and me. We’re gonna be so happy,” he told her, obviously responding to her confession from last week. “So you can’t die, okay? You can’t die. Because we’re supposed to end up together. We’re meant to be.” And then she passed away, with Mark closing her eyes.

It was an intense death. I mean, how awful was it to watch one of Grey’s longest-running characters pass away so quickly — and rather unceremoniously? I get that Ms. Rhimes had to do what she had to do — and every show needs to be shaken up once in a while — but I don’t love that Lexie was the one to die. Could it have been someone less important somehow? I guess it would have been too obvious to do Kepner. And you probably just don’t kill off a hottie like Mark Sloan, right?

NEXT: More on the big crash, Lexie’s death

The responses to Lexie’s death were much as you’d expect: Mark went into a catatonic-like state; Meredith was wailing like a crazy person; and Cristina went into battle-bitch mode to try to save everyone else. And, actually, it was the cynical doctor who provided the most refreshing commentary on a situation that was so insane and outlandish, especially when you consider how many insane and outlandish situations the Seattle Grace doctors have been through over their eight seasons. “I don’t understand how this keeps happening!” Cristina said, while clearly dealing with her own form of shock. “I’m serious, I do not understand how this keeps happening. We keep dying. We’re in a plane crash, like right now!”

The meta-commentary from Cristina was really the only thing that kept me from going off the deep end about all the events happening, really. “If there’s one thing that I’ve learned with all the bombs and the guns to my head and the buses running down my friends is that I am not interested in dying!” she said, referencing the avalanche of crazy that has befallen the cast over the years. “I want to get out of here, and I want to go home, and everyone has to help!” Her let’s-get-real dialogue just helped to even out the loony, unexpected events. Because, like, how many tragedies can these surgeons go through?

To be honest, the whole plane crash played so, so very crazy. The pre-credits segment of the episode — which was released earlier in the week — felt almost like it was ripped out of The Blair Witch Project, with its shaky, shrieky style. And, truly, where was Walt, the polar bear, and the smoke monster? Clearly, I was getting major Lost vibes out of this particular plane crash, too. And I handled all of the blood and gore pretty well — but my biggest complaint was actually about Arizona’s constant screaming. I was honestly surprised they couldn’t hear her back at Seattle Grace or all the way at their destination, in Boise.

Both Seattle and Boise — where the six surgeons and, yes, the pilot — were coming from and going to had no idea of what had happened. It was only during the last few minutes of the hour that Chief Hunt started to piece together that something was very wrong, as he listened to multiple voicemail messages from a doctor in Boise who was alarmed that the convoy from Seattle Grace had never arrived. So that’s where we left the episode: The Seattle Grace crashed crew was stranded in the woods, with no real hope of rescue, and Hunt was just figuring out that they aren’t where they’re supposed to be. Distress!

NEXT: Meanwhile, back in Seattle…

Back at Seattle Grace, there were happenings, too — albeit, they weren’t quite on par with what was going on out in the woods. Webber was planning his traditional dinner for the doctors finishing their residencies. But no one was excited about it, except for him. “You guys jazzed about dinner?” he asked Kepner, Avery, and Karev, all of whom were dreading the evening. “Call me Miles Davis — because I’m jazzed!” Webber promised his graduating residents — minus Meredith and Cristina, who they patiently waited for — some great advice. “You know, we should wait for the rest of them,” he said, looking at the two empty chairs. Little did he know that those chairs wouldn’t be filled anytime soon.

Hunt and Altman also finally had it out, as it was revealed that she turned down a chief job at military medical institution MetComm so that she could stay and support him in the wake of Cristina planning to leave Seattle Grace. “I would love to leave here and never look back,” Altman told Hunt. “But you are as beaten and broken as I have ever seen you. And after everything that I have put you through, the tolerance and kindness and friendship that you have shown me, I am not going to leave you because of my loyalty. I am not going to leave you for MetComm or anywhere else.” Talk about a reversal — from hatred to pure love.

But despite that, Hunt wasn’t going to let Altman get away with that, so he fired her. Yes, fired her! “You’re fired,” he told her. “Effective immediately.” He blamed it on her bad behavior the past few months, in the wake of Henry’s death, but it was clearly a play to get her to take the job at MetComm. At first she was angry, pissed even, before Altman came back and gave Hunt a big, forgiving hug and said, in reference to Cristina, “You don’t lose her! You fight, you hear me?” So, does this mean that Altman — along with Lexie — is also going to be absent from Seattle Grace next season? We’ll have to wait and see.

Bailey, too, was fighting with Ben, because of the news that came last week about him taking a surgical internship in Los Angeles, which came in tandem with a proposal from him. This week saw him proposing a commuter marriage, and Bailey seemed to eventually cave — but not before she came in with her own proposal while wearing a trench coat and a thong. “I proposed to you!” she said, in one of the more lighthearted moments of the evening. “In a trench coat and a thong! Proving, once again, that no good, ever, can come from a thong.” This whole storyline just makes me grin, ear to ear. I’m so, so happy that Bailey has found some happiness, even if he’ll be down in Los Angeles a lot of the time. Bailey hasn’t been this delighted in a long time.

NEXT: Kepner, Meredith’s final words, and what’s next…?

And what of Kepner? She was still reeling from the fallout of not passing her boards. All her offers were pulled — including the one from Seattle Grace, which she seemed to think she’d be able to keep. But Hunt claimed he had budget issues and pulled her job, leaving her future on the show up in the air. And her relationship — can we call it a relationship? friendship? — with Avery was still pretty fraught, mostly because they both don’t know what lies in their future. But even after a conversation that saw them come to no conclusion about what they were or weren’t, Kepner and Avery decided to just have a good night and celebrate at the resident’s dinner. “I’m happy tonight!” Kepner said, rather pained. “I’m gonna be tonight, Jackson, because this is a happy time and we should be celebrating.”

Meredith ended the hour with the requisite voiceover, echoing Webber’s words at the beginning of the episode: “The years we spend as surgical residents will be the best and worst of our lives,” she said. “We will be pushed to our breaking point. This is the starting line. This is our arena. How will we play? That’s up to us.”

As we head into the summer hiatus, the biggest question is: What’s the fate of all our Seattle Grace doctors? Who will be back? Will Altman somehow return? Will the rest of the crew at the crash site survive until help will arrive? Is Kepner going to stick around? And Karev, will he really go to his sweet deal at John Hopkins? Sound off with your thoughts in the comments below.

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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