'Grey's Anatomy': The One Where Everybody Learns a Lesson

Shonda Rhimes has two hours to wrap up this strike-shortened season of "Grey's," so apparently the solution is an episode in which nearly all have a patient or relationship that parallels some mess in their own lives. And they all learn something from it! Who'd-a thunk?

Talk about a depressing start. We finally get to the deepest, ugliest roots of Meredith's Dark & Twisty personality. It's always been obvious that Mommy Dearest really screwed her up, but now we learn that Mommy Dearest slit her own wrists in the kitchen while Little Mer watched (at Mommy's insistence, apparently). And then Little Mer waited until Mommy passed out before calling 911 because Mommy instructed her not to, and Mer was afraid there would be some wire-hanger reprisals.


With all that Dark Twistiness already going on, it's pretty much imperative that Cristina gets out of her death spiral, so Mer gives her the surgery-stealing sparkle pager -- which, of course, is all it takes to turn Cristina into happiness and light.

There are two big cases this week: Cement Boy and Tumor Girl. Actually, that would be Tumor Girl AND Tumor Boy -- they are the last two survivors from their Tumor Support Group, and they are In Love. Only Mer and Der off Tumor Boy -- No. 12 in the clinical trial! -- in the first part of the show. But not before Mer and Der, bless their hearts, go behind Tumor Girl's parents' backs and let the Tumor Lovers get it on in a patient room (Theory: Everyone should get to lose their virginity before they die!) while they jointly guard the door. Hey, it's the least they can do before they kill the guy.

(Speaking of getting it on, the whole early scene with Callie and McSteamy doing it was really quite steamy, even for this show. In full Dirty Boy Mark mode, McSteamy is looking for Callie to dirty-talk about how she really wants to get it on with Hahn. My, my!)

Anyway, the Chief tells Mer that some important board is giving them one more patient to operate on, then pulling the plug on the clinical trial at midnight if they kill him. But Mer, who is mad at the chief (foreshadowing here, people!), decides they should operate on both Tumor Lovers before midnight, and lies to Der about clearing it with the boss.

Meanwhile, Cement Boy arrives at the hospital, having let three jerk-wad guys from school talk him into lying in a vat of wet cement to impress the hottie Mean Girl who secretly likes him (and whom he not-so-secretly worships). The idiots leave him congealing in there for like an hour before calling 911 and by the time he arrives at Seattle Grace, he's got about a ton of drying cement around his body.

And who knew (!) how many truly horrible things cement could do to a body. I mean, you think you just have to sandblast the poor sap out, but his skin is burning from the inside out! And the cement is leeching the water from his body! And toxins are building up! And his leg is so something-or-other that Callie has to pull that move from a few seasons ago when she throws down the betadine and just slices the puppy open to relieve the pressure. Ewwww.

Cement Boy, it turns out, is Bailey's special episode alter-ego. New, softer, Bailey is trying too hard to Do. It. All. She decides to do a very un-Bailey-like thing and promises Cement Boy he won't die while he whimpers and blubbers about how Mean Girl is going to think he's an idiot and now he's going to be Dumb Cement Boy for life in her eyes (if he even lives). Bailey gives him the Big Speech about how this is only a tiny mistake in the big life picture. (This involves a very detailed comparison to Han Solo's life trajectory, so "Star Wars" geeks, feel free to call out if she got anything wrong). Anyway, no shocker here -- later in the show Bailey realizes that *she* needs to look at her own big life picture. So she turns over the clinic to Izzie (who gets another pathetic mini-storyline this week, we're happy to report) and goes happily home with little Tuck to presumably try to win her husband back.

Meanwhile, Mean Girl is Callie's alter-ego, given that she knows what she wants -- to kiss Cement Boy and be his girl -- but is afraid to do it because of what other people (like the twit boys she hangs out with) will think. Callie gives her the Big Lecture and then realizes -- shocker! -- that she's doing exactly the same thing, being afraid to kiss Hahn even though she really is all hottie-hot for her. So she ambushes Hahn in the parking lot and they have a long, deep lip-lock. Needless to say, McSteamy is watching in the shadows. Luckily for us, McSteamy needs no big revelatory parallel-life moment. He just gets to be as much of a Dirty Boy as possible (in the guise of unselfishly helping poor Callie expand, um, her sexual experiences, of course!).

Did we mention that Cement Boy lives? Ah, yes. And Mean Girl goes and kisses him, etc. But not before Cement Boy's surgery also gives us the Big Moment of truth for Hahn and Cristina. With Hahn out of the O.R. and Cement Boy crashing, Cristina (who stole the surgery from Izzie with the sparkle pager power -- how great is that?!) starts some super-cool surgical thingamagig that Burke taught her to save him. Hahn comes back in and flips and the Chief decides to back Cristina. Then later he gives Hahn a smackdown lecture about how residents are puppies and she needs to teach and not just break their spirits and Hahn is all miserable (don't worry, that parking lot kiss is still coming). Cristina overhears and realizes that *she* hasn't been the best teacher, either, and so she lets Lexie learn that running whipstitch Burke taught her on a banana.

Speaking of Lexie, we've got two more storylines (yes, yes, we'll get back to Mer and Der in a minute) that are clearly there just so Lexie, Pitiful George, Alex and Izzie get to be in the show. Lexie breaks into the files in the Chief's office, reads all about the current residents, discovers Pitiful George only failed the intern test by 1 point (oh, and that Alex made up a story about having testicular cancer that cost him one of his "tangerines" to explain away his bad med-school grades). She tells Pitiful George, who first gets mad, then decides to confront the Chief. Blah, blah. So the Chief tells Pitiful George he can take the test again. Blah, blah. Trust me, it wasn't even worth that much recap.

Meanwhile, Rebecca/Ava has reverted to a childlike state and Alex is trying to feed her and change her and take care of her like an infant, but she decides to slice open her wrists with a butcher knife in Mer's kitchen (more foreshadowing here, people!). He brings her in to the hospital and Izzie wants her to get a psych consult and Alex freaks out and says no, no, he can take care of her. This is all about exploring Alex's Dark & Twisty insides, because he had to clean up and feed his sick alcoholic mommy when he was a boy and that's what turned him into the mess that he is. Izzie stands up to him (really, it's not even nearly as good as it sounds), Rebecca/Ava gets packed off to a mental hospital and Alex would almost be like old Alex -- begging Izzie for sex as a way of muting his pain -- but he's all glassy-eyed and crying and sad in the process. Which apparently doesn't much turn Izzie on.

Now, back to Mer and Der. Der is all upset about killing all these patients and how it makes him feel (and how bad it is for his professional rep) so he projects it all onto Mer and gets all cranky and tries to talk Tumor Girl out of becoming Victim No. 13. But Tumor Girl insists on still getting surgery even though it just killed her boyfriend. And, no surprise here, it finally works! Tumor Girl wakes up and her tumor is shrinking! Time for Mer and Der to finally drink that Champagne!

Meanwhile, though, Mer has been running back and forth to the hospital shrink, because now that she's finally confessed the Dark & Twisty moment of her childhood, it's time to solve all her multi-layered psychiatric twistiness in one day! Guess what? She's mad at her mom for being all miserable after the Chief broke her heart and left her! And she's mad at the Chief for permanently messing up her mom! And her mom really wasn't trying to kill herself because she was an *extraordinary* surgeon and any *extraordinary* surgeon would have known to cut the carotid artery rather than waste time on that stupid wrist-slitting exercise! (Something Mer figures out after going home and finding all Rebecca/Ava's blood in her kitchen in one of those flashbacky-kinda moments). What her mom really wanted was to make the Chief come back!

So Mer confronts the Chief on this and he gives this whole unrepentant speech about how he didn't know about the suicide thing and that despite screwing her mother over and lying to his wife and all of that he is a Good Man. A Good Man. Which really just makes you want to slap him silly. Then, later, he goes to his wife and gives her a whole unrepentant speech about how he just made this one little "mistake" 20 years ago, but he's really a Good Man. A Good Man. And she takes him back, which really makes you want to slap her silly.

Anyway, the upshot of all her super insta-therapy is that Mer realizes that when Mommy Dearest told her to be *extraordinary* she didn't really mean to push away love and be a closed-off, tequila-whore superstar surgeon! She meant Mer should go for it ALL!

So Mer runs off to Der's trailer to find him. And Der runs off to Mer's house to find her. And they miss cute, blah, blah. Then Der finally finds her up on all that fantabulous land of his, where she's somehow managed in the middle of the night to find two zillion matching candles in glass jars and has used them to make a layout of the house she wants to build with him after all. (Big awwww! here). And she's babbling on in that Mer way and he takes the big strides toward her and pulls her to him for the big kiss (insert swoon here). Only then, in a pitiful attempt to redeem all his total doggy-dog behavior toward Pathetic Nurse Rose the past few weeks -- because really, how can he be McDreamy if he isn't the anti-Sloan? -- he tells Mer to "wait for him" so he can go dump poor Rose in the middle of the night. You know, so he can jump back into the sack with Mer with a "clear conscience." And don't we just love him for that? So Mer is left standing in her candlelight darkness, waiting, until next season, for her McDreamy to return.


Jennifer Frey  |  May 23, 2008; 9:48 AM ET Grey's Anatomy
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i was actually surprised. this was the best episode of the season. i've been really disappointed all year long with this show and about to give up on it, but last night renewed my faith!

Posted by: DC | May 23, 2008 10:58 AM

So, who else thinks tumor girl will end of pregnant with tumor boys baby? Great episode indeed, wish they would break it into two one hour episodes tho.

Posted by: KC | May 23, 2008 12:43 PM

KC -- probably on the reruns, they will.

Posted by: Anonymous | May 23, 2008 1:07 PM

I've liked most of the post-strike episodes, but this wasn't one of my favorites. Maybe too "busy," as you note.

I will say that I'm glad Meredith was given the opportunity to grow both as a doctor and a person these last few episodes, but ultimately ended up back with Derek. The ending was awkward to me, though--I almost expect something bad to happen to Derek on his way to/from telling Rose the news. Like there can't really be a happy ending after all.

The Ava/Rebecca thing had run its course--and I thought I'd heard that the actress had gotten a role on another network series for the fall. I did find it jarring when Alex kept talking about people going thru a bad patch when Justin Chambers had gone thru his own breakdown/bad patch earlier this year.

Not sure what I think about the Callie "flip"--I'll have to see how the writers handle it.

Hope they keep Rose and do more with her. She's a strong character and the actress has done a good job. Maybe she'd be a good foil for Sloan--there's some tension there (well, there's tension everywhere with Sloan) and she's strong-willed enough to sort him out, maybe.

Posted by: alex | May 23, 2008 2:17 PM

"I almost expect something bad to happen to Derek on his way to/from telling Rose the news. Like there can't really be a happy ending after all."

Okay, so I'm not the only cynic. Feeling slightly better about the fact that I'm thinking the same thing.

Posted by: Anonymous | May 23, 2008 3:28 PM

I thought it was a good episode and I thought this review of it was perfect and just about the funniest thing I've read in a long time. I too agree that the Ava/Rebecca thing is old and needs to disappear before the fall! I really wanted to slap her silly a few times. And basically b**ch slap Alex for being such a jerk.

Question- How will George feel when he finds out Callie is gay (or at least trying it out)? Grey's definitely needs a gay character though.

Posted by: LBH219 | May 23, 2008 9:33 PM

Truly a remarkable effort, Ms. Frey! Thanks for the detailed - but completely entertaining - analysis. I wonder what gutter nonsense Shondra will generate next season, after Der is hit by lightning on his way to dump Rose.

Posted by: Watched it all. | May 24, 2008 10:04 AM

The whole Callie/Hahn arc has made me want to scream. First off I love Callie, but it kills me that they take the one non-skinny person on the show (and she really is beautiful) and decide to make her gay too. I mean come on.

Also, I feel like they're trying to imply that after a bad relationship with George and some ill-fated nights with McSteamy she's got nothing left but to turn gay. What the hell? This is not the first show where we see a main character who's relationship ends badly just turn gay. It's really annoying. I have had bad relationships but I've never simply "turned" gay.

I'm mad too that they turned this nice girl power relationship between the two outsiders - Callie the fattie and Hahn the intimidating strong female doctor - into a gay relationship. Why couldn't they just be friends?

I don't mind there being gay doctors on the show. I totally support the lifestyle, but it really pisses me off that they take these two non-traditional characters and go to far. Can't Callie just be a normal-sized girl with a bad relationship history? Can't Hahn be a strong, egotistical doctor without having to turn her gay?

It's just really annoying.

Posted by: KD | May 27, 2008 10:57 AM

i was surprised that there was never any facing of consequences for the kids who let the guy scream out from where he was drowning in cement for an hour while it hardened around him. i am creeped out by that storyline. those kids were really f*ed up. then she just kisses him as if that makes up for what she allowed to happen to him!! it was really overly simplistic to end that storyline on that kiss.

Posted by: cg | May 27, 2008 3:54 PM

I definitely am worried about Derek- I think he is going to get hit by a bus or stroke out or something. No way that Shonda will let him and Meredith be happy together next season. Maybe Rose will flip out and shoot or stab him or something? Or maybe she will turn up pregnant?

Posted by: CAB | May 29, 2008 3:20 PM

Does the reviewer actually like this show? Everytime I read the GA review it is full of snark.
This was a great finale and most critics agree.

Posted by: Dcet | May 29, 2008 4:04 PM

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