On the season premiere of ''Grey's Anatomy,'' Meredith learns she's working with half sister Lexie; meanwhile, Izzie and George have Bambi issues, and Cristina goes it alone

The ”Grey’s” premiere: When Meredith met Lexie

So here we are, back again at Seattle Grace, the scene of so much misery last spring that we just blocked it out in order to enjoy the lighter-by-comparison summer fun of, say, tragically self-destructive detectives (Holly Hunter’s Saving Grace) or tragically self-destructive writers (David Duchovny’s Californication). Yes, when we last left our favorite hot docs, they were nothing less than a bloodbath of angst — Meredith and Derek on the verge of splitting again for no real good reason, Izzie declaring her love to an unresponsive George for no real good reason, Cristina sobbing herself out of her wedding dress for a very good reason. (That is, for Sandra Oh’s Emmy reel — love the Heigl, too, but did voters see that scene?)

Our first few scenes back made it clear — with a Shonda Rhimes-penned script, no less — that there would be no dark Sturm und Drang to match that very emo finale. We have shiny new interns! Happy boppy opening music! A sunny establishing shot of Seattle! It feels like the first day of school — a brand new day, to crib from that maddeningly omnipresent promo ABC has been running for a certain spin-off show on Wednesdays. (I refused to allow myself to think back on last season’s premiere, by which this — and most episodes of television in the world — would suffer by comparison. Remember sweet McVet? And the black panties? ”Dark and twisty”? Izzie in that divine prom dress? Sigh. No. Don’t think about it anymore; change is good. We learned that from tonight’s narration.)

The back-to-basics vibe stuck throughout the episode, which, while not exactly life changing, did successfully deliver one very strong message right from the source: Classic Grey’s is back, dear viewers, and we can do this addictive combo of banter and soap and metaphorically resonant surgeries without Isaiah Washington and Kate Walsh, dammit. (But if Private Practice tanks, we can totally do it with her, too! Whatever! And who’s Isaiah Washington? Never heard of him.)

All the hallmarks of old-school Anatomy were there. Alex and Izzie and Cristina and Meredith traded mildly witty barbs while sitting on that one gurney in that one hallway where they hang out. A midlevel disaster (car accident) provided a variety of unique surgeries to tackle (pregnant lady with severed arm, dude who seemed dead but wasn’t), plus one totally quirky twist (the deer who was hit must be saved!). And preposterous coincidences popped up to wreak further havoc on characters’ already complicated personal lives.

We might as well go ahead and talk about Ms. Coincidence first, since she was one of the bigger developments of the night. Just so happens one of the new interns is Lexie Grey, the half sister Mer never met and never saw any photos of ever. Of course, we’ve known since the penultimate episode last season last season that this was coming, thanks to Lexie’s flirtation with Derek in the bar, but tonight marked the big reveal to Meredith. The good news is they didn’t drag it out. They just plopped her introduction to her big sis right in the middle of getting the victims out of the ambulance, actually, which was awkward but better than some annoying multi-episode arc during which everyone would have to keep it a big secret and find contorted ways to not call Lexie by her last name or whatever. (You know that would totally happen on a lesser show. Or during those several helpings of super-extra-irritating we got in the middle of last season.)

Turns out there is a certain self-absorption that runs in the fam. The first big dialogue for the younger Grey came when she fluttered in to deliver X-rays to an impatient Cristina. ”I met my sister for the first time,” Lexie blathered by way of apology while a recently-dead-turned-back-alive man lay on a gurney. ”So then I got lost in my head on the way to X-ray because of Meredith?.” I was just thinking, Really, this is what we’re in for? when it got even worse. Next, she was caught right in the middle of Mer and Der’s first apparent face-to-face since their sorta-breakup ”talk” at the almost wedding (because, coincidentally, young Lexie had been sent to get good old McD for a consult). And Mer learned her sister was ”the girl from the bar” whom Derek had flirted with! ”The girl from the bar?” she fumed. ”I’m the girl from the bar.” I must admit, I almost had to love this massive ball of ridiculousness just for that line alone.

NEXT: Wham, Bambi! Thank you, ma’am!

Izzie, meanwhile, got the other dose of silliness for the evening: the ailing deer, brought in by an adorably pleading boy. Having already lost her interns’ respect, she was faced with whether to pull out all the legit medical stops to save Bambi. Which, of course, is also George’s sometime nickname. Excuse me, Doctor, can you help me? I’ve been hit over the head with the personal resonance of this plotline?.

We’ll get back to Bambi and Izzie’s undying love in a minute, though. First, let’s talk ”internally decapitated” guy, who not only gave Lexie a lot of important running around to do but also hit us even harder over the head with metaphorical significance. See, there was still ”no sign of Burke,” as Cristina kept pointing out until Derek finally broke the news that her erstwhile fiancé had handed in a resignation letter two weeks back. And when Decapitated Dude’s wife showed up, Cristina told her, ”This could be the last time you see him alive.” Then there was an extensively schmaltzy scene in which the Dude blinked ”I love you” (three blinks!) to his wife and kids before finally going into his (ultimately successful, yay!) surgery. But, hey, I like my medicine with a touch of schmaltz, and it does go down easier with prickly Cristina on the scene.

Schmaltzier still? That aforementioned George and Izzie nonsense. Here’s how it went down: They ran into each other in the stairwell. They had a moody blowup about whatever. It ended with Izzie crying, ”I am Bambi, George. I’m all alone in the forest, George, and my mother’s been shot by a hunter. And where are you?” Okay. So. Problems: 1. Do I have to reiterate the entire world’s objections to George and Izzie together? The entire lack of chemical foundation for this silly affair? No? Good. 2. Is she really Bambi? Is she really all alone in the forest, even symbolically? Has her mother really been shot? Last premiere, I’d buy it. This one, not so much. 3. Did anyone else think of the vastly superior When Harry Met Sally ”I am the dog” speech here? (”If anyone is the dog, Harry, you are the dog.”) 4. Seriously?

And speaking of overwrought nonsense, I’m now officially pulling for Steamy and Dreamy to work it out and be friends again just so the Dreamster can get some testosterone back in his life. Because I can’t have him moping around saying impossibly She’s Just Not That Into You-baiting rationalizations like ”She panics, she wants this, she doesn’t know how to have this, and it’s not her fault.” Darling, every girl who has ever dated a bad boy has uttered a variation on this exact sentence. Oh, so troubled, so scared, the love we have is too overwhelming! True or not, you dump her and ignore her — only way she’s going to come begging back. Trust me, she will. Though usually not until you have a new, much-better-for-you-but-kinda-boring love interest and you’re feeling generally good about your life.

Anyway. One development I really did dig was the Lexie-George friendship that sparked in the nursery. Still smarting from her McBeal act earlier, I was skeptical when she was all, ”It’s like a cute festival in here!” while looking at all the babies. But then she gave that speech about how she meant to go to Mass Gen for her internship but had to come back to Seattle when her mom died, and how all her plans got screwed too so George could cut the moping. ”You delivered a baby today,” she said, ”so stop feeling sorry for yourself.” Word. And George, bless him, gracefully accepted the attitude adjustment. ”You are kind of awesome,” he replied. Then Lexie really won me over with her response: ”I know.” Even better? The amazed looks on those sweet, innocent little interns’ faces later in the locker room when Lexie bragged about George’s first-day exploits and made it clear she’d keep his secret that this was his second first day as an intern.

Sure, there were no world-rocking plot twists this fourth (!) season premiere, unless you count Meredith and Derek’s obviously-not-going-to-stick breakup (why bother?) and George’s final-scene declaration of love to Izzie (I’m in denial). But if I did tell Grey’s Anatomy that it’s at least still kind of (a little bit) awesome, it would say, ”I know.” And that’s what I love best about it.

What do you think? Which plotlines were too schmaltzy, which left you cold, and which were just right?

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Grey's Anatomy

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

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