'Grey's Anatomy': Alex's brother shows up, Callie wants a baby. And poundcaking.

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There's family you can't pick, and people you choose to be your family. But you never know what kind of family you'll turn out to be, or when's the right time to create one. "Grey's Anatomy" makes great use of its unlikely-family-unit formula, with a twist: we find out something about Alex's past.

Alex and Aaron and Amber: Alex's younger brother, Aaron, shows up, dispelling the notion that Alex hatched from an egg on the planet Evil, and pretty much immediately starts talking about his life, family, and Alex's past. Alex, it turns out, hasn't been home in seven years, and there's a ton of tension between them. He also needs surgery, based on the scary-looking umbilical hernia he's sporting. The poor guy has no health insurance, so Alex appeals to Bailey to do the surgery pro bono in a very funny scene in the day-care center with Tuck (who is huge and totally adorable). As time goes by, Bailey's becoming very crafty about getting what she wants sans speeches or yelling, and it's awesome to watch. And by doing almost nothing she gets Alex to schedule her surgeries for a month.

And as Bailey and Meredith prep Aaron for surgery, he gives them an earful about the horrible childhood that the Karev boys and their younger sister Amber had: mentally ill mom, abusive deadbeat dad, and a childhood spent in foster homes -- Alex was in 17 of them in five years. He also ended up in juvenile detention when he was 11 or 12 because he stole food for the family when his mom forgot to buy it. Alex interrupts and tells him to zip the lip, but Bailey eggs him on. Because who among us could stand up to questioning by Bailey? I'd spill in half a second. They're also completely impressed at how Alex came through everything he went through as a kid, and realize the guy's got more character than anyone could've guessed. 

As Meredith shows Aaron his scans and explains the surgery, Arizona and Lexie inadvertently spill that Alex got married, his wife has cancer and that they're splitting up -- thinking he already knew, despite Meredith's attempts to wave them off. Aaron confronts Alex, things get ugly, and both of them end up with bloody noses. Aaron gets the last jab in by telling Alex he's turned into their dad. Aaron wakes up to find Alex at his bedside, and tells him he was a better parent than both of their real parents combined, but he doesn't understand why he's cut his family out of his life. I send you money every month, Alex says, and send mom her meds -- do you want that to stop? I'm this close to being a real surgeon, and I can't do that and be in this. Aaron tells Alex that Amber turned out to be a good kid, and Alex assures him that he did too. It's a really nice bit, and Justin Chambers does a great job of staying understated while playing a whole lot of layers of emotion. He's terrific in this episode, and I'm glad we get to see a little of his range aside from having to take care of Izzie.

Who, by the way, we learn has sent divorce papers. We know it's coming because we know Katherine Heigl's never to return, and it's about as brief as how we found out that Erica Hahn left. Which is fine -- I've made no bones about not loving the Izzie shrill fest that's been an on-and-off thing for the past few years, and from where I sit, there's no loss in chemistry or quality to the show.

Alex drops this news on Meredith from the shower, since she's cornered him to play the part of the girl when she needs to talk about Derek wanting kids (Meredith: "He's being a girl for me." Alex: "Dude, it's true."). Fantastic.

Derek and Meredith: Derek's taken a page straight out the playbook of how to get what you want when opening the kids discussion by talking about how pretty they'd be. Who wouldn't fall for that? Meredith goes into a mini-freakout about how terrible a mother she'd be, but it's like an eighth of the kind of tailspin she used to fall into, and pretty much holds it together. It really is so much more fun watching Meredith get to be stable and kind of mothering when it comes to handling crises as they come up. And is it me or does Ellen Pompeo look like she's having a ball?

There's one wrinkle in the bedclothes: April Koepner, the resident from Mercy West who Derek brought back to essentially be his assistant, clearly has a case of the big ol' doe eyes for McDreamy. But she's wise enough to be utterly ashamed of it when Lexie notices and calls her out. A seed's clearly being planted here, but it could really go either way. 

Owen and Cristina and Teddy: Owen's still in his dark place, and Cristina can't get through to him, at least in part because she keeps urging him to go back to the therapist. They end up working on a trauma with Callie and Teddy -- a woman cop, Gina, was shot, but she took down three perps in the process, and her unorthodox handling of the situation may cost her her job. That turns out to be the least of her problems when they discover in surgery that the bullets she took are the exploding kind. Cristina tries to feel around her heart where there's a fragment, and it explodes, sending shrapnel everywhere inside her body. Owen loses it, Callie defends Cristina, and Teddy's not happy but just wants to deal with the situation. There's a ton of damage, and to stop the bleeding from the uterine artery they have to perform a hysterectomy. Gina and her husband had a deal that once she made Lieutenant they would settle down and have kids, but each time she got close to a promotion she did something like this. Now they can't have kids, and Gina's fellow cop went to bat for her and saved her job. But she chooses the family life.

But there's still plent of aftermath from the surgery, where Owen yelled at Cristina that when her superior officer tells her to stand down she should stand down. He's clearly in the midst of a PTSD trigger, Teddy tells Cristina, and what he needs is time, because he's in love with her. He needs therapy, Cristina says. Don't tell him what to do, Teddy warns her -- just tell him how you feel. Kim Raver plays the scene beautifully, with emotions fairly close to the surface but still always in control. I'm really glad she's around, and how lucky would any of us be to have someone understand such a part of us so well.  

Cristina comes home to Owen not knowing what she'll find, but he's calm and in a good mood. Until the sausages burn, he gets angry, she flinches, and he realizes that she's afraid of him. She doesn't want to be, and he doesn't want her to be, so he says he'll go back into therapy. I know a lot of you folks don't like them together, and maybe it's my McKidd crush talking, but I'm pulling for these two.

Richard and Lexie and April: Their case is a woman who passed out in the grocery store -- she's anemic, and her cancer is back. She and her husband have been through this before -- three years ago she was given six months to live. Richard warns that the surgery could be more complicated this time, but it all goes really well (despite April staring up at the gallery where Derek's standing during surgery), and Lexie goes to tell her incredibly relieved husband. But in between, the woman has a stroke when April tries to take her off the ventilator, and she'll never wake up. Three years ago she signed a directive that she never be kept on a ventilator, and even though her husband fights it, Derek ultimately backs Richard's call that they have to abide by her wishes. The husband's heartbreak is palpable -- certainly not the kind of thing you want to watch in a coffee shop because your internet connection at home is down, because you'll be tearing up in public. I'm just saying. It falls to Lexie, who's turning into a blockbuster of a doctor, to take the woman off the ventilator. Later she asks Mark how long it took him to toughen up in this job. He's still learning, he says. 

It's also great to watch Lexie's loyalty to Meredith blaze up when she sees how April looks at Derek.

Callie and Arizona: Callie and Arizona are still super awkward around one another because of last week's baby discussion. Arizona copes by babbling about poundcake and its buttery goodness when she runs into Mark and Callie at the coffee cart, discussing his "date" with Teddy. Mark being Mark, he immediately thinks (hopes) that "poundcake" is code for something dirty. (As in, "I pounded her cake, she pounded mine.") Oh, Mark. Be a winner.

Callie's struggling with her feelings about having kids, talking to Bailey about knowing when's the right time (doesn't exist, Bailey says), and trying to understand what's going on around her from a kind of maternal perspective. In the end, she and Arizona, who's now babbling about lotion, talk about talking about the idea of kids. That's a step. 

Teddy and Mark: So Teddy and Mark have started sleeping together, and he pretty much blew Teddy's mind -- which we know because that's what he told Callie and what she told Arizona. Apparently the dude's got mad skills, which isn't a surprise, but it's sort of nice to know that rumors of his prowess weren't exaggerated. In the end, when they're back in the proverbial saddle (with caramel sauce or chocolate or whatever -- Sloan's one of those guys), Teddy wants to be honest with him about wanting kids. He tells her to relax and they can talk about whatever it is later. But it's doorbellus interruptus, because little Sloan's on the doorstep and busting in saying that the baby's on its way -- as in, she's in labor. Apparently going to a hospital didn't occur to her. And I hope Mark had pants on when he answered the door.

Separate note: While Bailey with Alex and Bailey with Callie was great, I want more! More Bailey and her new fella! 

And a final note: A shout-out of thanks to my Zap2It colleague Jethro for taking over recapping duties last Thursday.

What did you think? Did you like learning more about Alex's backstory? Do you miss Izzie? Are Owen and Cristina's days numbered? Will Sloan's appearance break up Teddy and Mark? Do you think the situation with April and Derek will stay on simmer, or will it boil over? 

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Photo credit: ABC

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