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Meredith "kidnaps" Zola, and Cristina goes through with her abortion.

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September 23, 2011 at 11:00 AM EDT

Let’s be honest: There’s so much about Grey’s Anatomy that’s otherworldly. For starters, and the biggest representative in this category, of course, are the disasters that the show regularly features. Last year, in the season finale, there was a horrific plane crash with just one survivor. And very memorably, there was that epic ferry crash several seasons ago, among many, many other crazy messes the doctors at Seattle Grace Mercy West have tried to clean up. (How much can one city take?!) The ridiculous disaster that launched this season was no different: A huge sinkhole opened up in the middle of a Seattle street, swallowing up an unhappy couple in the middle of a fight, as well a father and son, and who knows what other poor, unfortunate souls that we never even saw.

But juxtaposed against that nightmare that launched season 8’s two-hour season premiere was exactly what the show does portray rather accurately (most of the time): the relationship drama. I’m talking, specifically, about the simmering mess between the show’s two main couples—Derek and Meredith, and Owen and Cristina—all of which was very believable. Just as we left them at the end of last season, both were living apart—and both were dealing with some major, but very different, baby drama. Meredith put it best in her voiceover at the top of the episode: “Even good marriages fail. One minute you’re standing on solid ground, the next minute, you’re not.” (And there’s your link back to that pesky sinkhole! Get it? Solid ground?!)

With Meredith and Derek, they were still reeling from the fact that she messed up his clinical trial on Alzheimer’s. Despite his trepidation, the Chief had to fire her for assigning Adele the drug instead of the placebo, per the hospital board’s instruction. “Derek, I got fired,” Meredith told her husband, very flatly. His biting—and unsympathetic—retort: “What’d you think was going to happen?” In the middle, of course, sat the baby drama: Zola, who was being shuttled back and forth between her new mother and father, never spending a night with them together since they took her in.

The couple’s always-somewhat-suspicious social worker eventually got wind of the line in the sand between the two (and Meredith’s firing) and started questioning Meredith, which caused her to run off with the baby in the second hour of the episode. (Granted, she didn’t really go anywhere, but she was unreachable for four hours.) “I think I stole a baby,” Meredith later said, with some grain of self-awareness about what she did. Despite that action being the result of her (growing) motherly instincts, it backfired on her, naturally: The end of the episode saw Zola being taken away from the couple, pending an investigation into what, exactly, happened. Of course, it didn’t seem to help much with the continuing freeze out between Meredith and Derek, although he did defend her actions just a teeny bit to the social worker: “If there’s a flaw,” he said of his wife, “it’s because she loves people so much she’ll do anything for them.” (On another note, though, the battle between Karev and Meredith seems to be at a temporary thaw, though, considering how he helped her with Zola in her time of need.)

NEXT: Meredith and Cristina serve up two outstanding monologues.

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