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

By Tanner Stransky
Updated September 23, 2011 at 11:00 AM EDT
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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.

The trouble between Owen and Cristina, however very much unlike Meredith and Derek’s issues, did get some level of resolution, despite getting there being rather traumatic for both parties. And it was actually the Owen-Cristina situation that led to two rather amazing monologues during the episode. First, after Meredith tried to convince Cristina to go down the motherhood path with her, we heard Cristina’s final testament about why she just had to go through the abortion.

Because it was so good, I’m recounting it here again so we can all bask in it a bit: “I wish I wanted a kid,” Cristina told Meredith, very seriously. “I wish I wanted a kid so bad, because then this would be easy. I would be so happy. I’d have Owen and my life wouldn’t be a mess. But I don’t. I don’t want a kid. I don’t wanna make jam. I don’t wanna carpool. I really, really, really don’t wanna be a mother. I wanna be a surgeon, and please—get it. I need someone to get it, and I wish that someone was Owen. I wish that he would show up and get it, but that’s not going to happen. And you’re my person. I need you to be there at 6 o’clock tonight to hold my hand because I am scared, Mer, and sad, because my husband doesn’t get that, so I need you to.” How heart-wrenching is that? I think she made her case rather well. Meredith quickly jumped on board.

The second monologue—this time, Meredith was speaking to Owen—was just as good, as Cristina’s good friend defended her decision. “Trying to pretend she loves a kid as much as she loves surgery will almost kill her, and it will almost kill your kid,” Meredith said to Owen. And then came the real gut-wrenching part that harkens back to all we know about her history with her mother Ellis: “Do you know what it’s like to be raised by someone who didn’t want you? I do. To know you stood in the way of your mother’s career? I do. I was raised by a Cristina. My mother was a Cristina, and as the child she didn’t want, I’m telling you: Don’t do this to her because she’s kind and she cares and she won’t make it. The guilt of resenting her own kid will eat her alive.”

Ouch, is all I have to say to that. But you know what? Her revelations to him worked their magic. Later, we we saw Owen enduring the abortion with Cristina and holding her hand while she cried through it. Those scenes were, in a word: awful. Not that they weren’t also amazing to watch, but it was truly difficult to see that all go down, considering everything that had passed between this couple to get to that point.

The other relationship here that was portrayed so eloquently was a non-sexual one: the undying friendship between Cristina and Meredith. Those two smart monologues came from two gals who go to the mat for each other. Watching them sway and fight and come back together is like watching some great symphony of lasting dedication between two wayward souls. I loved it. Made me think about all my best friends and how we can just let loose like that, on each other—or someone we’re defending the others to.

NEXT: Kepner’s ineptitude at being chief resident brings the funny!

To return to Meredith for a second, there was indeed a bit of redemption (and resolution) for her, too, in terms of her job at Seattle Grace Mercy West: The Chief took the fall on the trial tampering for her, which makes sense because he was sort of the one to benefit from it, since Adele got the Alzheimer’s drug instead of the placebo. “You have my apologies,” the Chief lied to Derek. “I destroyed your trial.” Derek immediately knew that he was lying, of course, but couldn’t do anything about it, and Meredith was reinstated at the hospital. (To the chagrin of Bailey, who was none to pleased about the Chief falling on his sword: “You’re throwing your whole career away for that damn girl,” she told him, as he passed his diabetes clinical trial over to her.)

All that Meredith drama wasn’t confined only to affecting Derek and the Chief: Her firing, with Karev as the catalyst, led the doctors to look for what they kept referring to as “a Gunther.” “Meredith Grey is the reason we need a Gunter,” Bailey told the Chief. At this point, what, exactly, a “Gunther” is still hadn’t been revealed to we viewers. But it turns out that it was a team-building exercise where a difficult case—in this instance, the female half of the couple who were fighting before going down into that sinkhole—was turned entirely over to the foursome (minus Meredith, since she was still fired at this point) to fix. “Don’t screw this up,” Bailey told Cristina, Avery, Kepner, and Karev, “like you’ve screwed up everything else you’ve touched lately!” Who emerged as the leader of the group? In this case, it was eventually revealed to be Avery who led the way to the solution for the lady’s major medical issues.

That’s right: New chief resident April Kepner wasn’t the leader, despite her recent promotion. “I wasn’t the Gunther,” she complained, after the foursome had tidied up the problems with the patient. “I was the super-duper assistant.” She may have been in that situation, but as the new chief resident, she certainly tried her best to be a leader. But, after everyone ignoring her and mixing up—and thus, almost killing—a patient, it became clear: Kepner’s new leadership role is mostly there to provide comedy at this point. And goodness, it was funny! No, no, it’s not funny that a patient would have been screwed up, it’s just humorous to watch Kepner scramble for it all—and so earnestly! Like when we first saw her at the top of the episode, her bubbling excitement is killer: “I heard there’s an omelet bar!” she nearly screamed, when running off to the new-year meeting. What a loon!

The rest of the Grey universe was rather quiet: Lexie complained about taking Meredith’s cases and benefiting from her misery; Avery had some sex with Lexie (despite that baby crying) and tried in vain to convince Sloan that he wanted to go into plastics; Arizona and Callie were in baby bliss, blessedly; Altman did her best to teach Cristina a few back-to-the-basics lessons. All necessary, but not that riveting.

What’d you think, Grey’s watchers? Where does Cristina and Owen’s marriage go after the abortion? Will Meredith and Derek get Zola back—and will their relationship survive? Were you grossed out when Owen had to amputate that woman’s leg in front of her husband? Let me know 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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