All kinds of daddy issues and family dysfunction dominated tonight’s “Grey’s Anatomy” — but it was a (mostly) happy ending anyway. Even with Sloan’s long-lost 18-year-old daughter showing up.
Meredith and the Chief: Meredith knows that the Chief knows that she knows he was drinking at Joe’s last week. But what’s interesing is how he handles it: around Thanksgiving, he offers to become her mentor in the practical skills lab, to make sure she becomes as gifted a surgeon as her mother. His alcoholism was misdiagnosed years ago, he tells her — what he really had was situational depression. Astonishingly, she believes him. Meanwhile, he’s still not talking to Derek, which Derek quite rightly finds strange.
By Christmas, Meredith and the Chief are practicing skills on cadavers, and she’s urging him to make up with Derek. He eventually does, but mostly because of the case Derek’s working on with Mark and Arizona, and because it’s Christmas. At Christmas dinner, the Chief’s drinking egg nog — which doesn’t go unnoticed by Lexie and Meredith’s dad, who raises it with Meredith. He was misdiagnosed, she says. No, he wasn’t, Thatcher says — he’s an alcoholic. She calmly puts Thatcher in his place, but he’s definitely made her think.
By New Year’s, the Chief’s explaining his shaking hands by telling Meredith that he recently had his last drink, and it’ll stop soon. Then Joe pages her to the bar, where the Chief is pretty darn sloppy drunk, and we get to see Meredith uncomfortably assuming yet another burden of family.
Bailey: Callie overhears Bailey on the phone, lying to her parents about her holiday plans because she hasn’t yet told them about her divorce. It works all right for Thanksgiving, but Christmas finds her worried father on her doorstep, hoping to find out what’s up with her. He’s appalled that she has no Christmas tree and that Tuck’s away visiting relatives with his father. He’s even more appalled that she’s fixing some guy’s hernia on Christmas rather than being with her family — and he tells her as much in a kind of stunning speech about how he used to be a proud father and now he’s ashamed of her for the choices she’s made. Poor Bailey can’t catch a break here.
Bailey hilariously and very awkwardly invites herself to Christmas dinner at Derek and Meredith’s, because if her father doesn’t see evidence of some kind of life he’ll never leave. And there at dinner, in front of everyone, she decides to confront him. Her child is happy and healthy, she says, and getting out of a marriage she’d outgrown that was numbing and full of ultimatims was setting a better example for Tuck than staying in it. It’s a great scene, laced with pain for both Bailey and her father. That prevents you from cheering that she stood up for herself, yet you still respect the hell out of her for it. It’s another in a long line of really great performances from Chandra Wilson this season — methinks it’s Emmy time.
Bailey’s dad gets to see Tuck for himself, and realizes his daughter was right — the kid’s doing just fine. He and her mother are just worried about her, he says. They make up.
Cristina and Teddy and Owen: Cristina is thrilled to be working with a bona fide cardio god, who decides during surgery on a patient with a heart transplant gone bad to remove the bum ticker altogether and outfit her with two devices that keep her circulation going. The patient, Kelsey (Danielle Panabaker), is being attended to by her not-quite boyfriend (they had four dates before she got sick), who we think is going to bolt but turns out to be nothing short of an amazing guy. Kelsey needs to hang on until New Year’s Eve, Cristina says, when the drunk driving accidents will surely make more organs available. Teddy shows she’s a total softie about Christmas when she lets Kelsey go outside to see the snow.
An extremely weak Kelsey, who had to go through bowel surgery under local anesthetic, finally manages to get a heart — but not before an excited Cristina arranges for her transplant and has to be forced by Teddy to understand that the operation was made possible by someone’s death. Teddy and Owen, meanwhile, have been alternately awkward and a little moony-eyed, and Cristina notices the way Owen’s been looking at her. Owen confronts Teddy, doing that sensitive, tortured thing he’s so great at, admitting he had feelings for him and all but forcing her to admit she’s in love with him. Then he offers up a huge gut punch by telling Teddy he’s in love with Cristina.
Kelsey’s recovering, and after watching her boyfriend propose, Cristina confronts Owen, telling him he shouldn’t be with her because he feels like he owes her. He plants one ferocious kiss on her and assures her he loves her. Wowza.
Groundbreaking surgery: Arizona and Derek are treating Nicholas, a little boy with terrible nosebleeds caused by AVM, a cluster of malformed blood vessels in his brain. They convince his nervous parents that he needs surgery, but when he gets in there Derek finds he can’t reach the vessels, effectively dooming the boy because they don’t have instruments small and nimble enough to allow them to go in through his sinuses. But, Nicholas’ mother points out, the tools need to be developed by someone, so why not them?
Arizona and Derek work with Mark to develop the tool, but they go over budget and their funding gets cut off. They offer to put their bonuses toward finishing the research, but — surprise! — no bonuses this year. So they end up splitting the costs between them, and on New Year’s Eve they perform a successful surgery with the new tool.
Daddy McSteamy: Sloan has no idea his life’s about to be turned upside down by the arrival of a young blonde woman who turns out to be his 18-year-old daughter — whose first name is Sloan (Leven Rambin). He has absolutely no idea to how to cope with it or how to talk to her, even when she stays with him and Lexie through the holidays. Everyone thinks the daughter is a totally out-of-the-blue surprise, but Mark confesses to Derek that he knew his girlfriend 18 years ago was pregnant. He gave her some money, skipped town, and assumed that was the end of it. Now the guilt is killing him.
Finally Lexie forces him out of his sad cowardice and he learns that the girl is pregnant, dropped out of school, was kicked out of her mother’s house and has nowhere else to go. Ain’t family great?
Quotes and extras:
Cristina to Meredith: “Private lessons with the Chief. Man, those daddy issues are working for you.”
Meredith: “I don’t have daddy issues. He’s teaching me.”
Karev: “You’re his bitch.”
Meredith to Cristina: “Well, in that case you’re Teddy’s bitch.”
Karev: “Maybe that’s my problem — I’m nobody’s bitch.”
Cristina: “You’re Izzie’s bitch.”
Karev: “You’re the bitch.”
Derek to the Chief about paying for the surgical tool: “I’ll write a check. How much?”
Arizona: “I’ll split it with you.”
Silent) “I have a teenager — what if she wants to go to college?”
Arizona: “Have you met her?”
Mark: (Pause) “Fine, I’m in.”
Meredith, to Thatcher: “Were you drinking when I was a kid? When you left me with my mother and got another family and never looked back?”
Thatcher: “No. I didn’t start drinking until much later.”
Meredith: “Well then, we can’t blame the world’s evils on alcohol, can we?”
What did you think? How bad do you feel for Teddy? Do you get the feeling that Meredith’s calm, happy exterior isn’t likely to last much longer? If Sloan thinks he’s too young to have an 18-year-old daughter, how do you think he’ll handle the prospect of grandfatherhood?