'Grey's Anatomy': First do no harm

Jamespickens_greysanatomy_s3_240 One thing that Grey's Anatomy does so well when it's on its game (and it was tonight) is show with perfect clarity the relationship between what's going on inside a person to how they act toward others. And this week we got that in spades -- from the Chief, Hahn, Callie, Meredith, and the latest addition to Seattle Grace: Major Owen Hunt (Kevin McKidd), the new trauma chief.

Living spoilers -- not the mannequin kind -- ahead...

Practical learning: First of all, a disclaimer that no animals were harmed in the making of this episode proved alternately alarming and fascinating. And stayed that way, thanks to Hunt.

As the Chief introduces the Major to Derek and Sloan, one of his incentives for bringing him on board becomes clear: With Hunt heading trauma, Seattle Grace is being reclassified as a level 1 trauma unit. And while McDreamy and McSteamy greet McArmy's arrival with something less than excitement, it's nothing compared to the freakout moment Cristina has when she sees him. Which is later utterly wiped away when he doesn't remember her name.

Hunt is taking the residents and interns through a skills lab -- which turns out to be surgery on pigs. Big pigs. They're anesthetized and strapped down, and Hunt proceeds to take a knife and stab each of them before telling his shocked crowd, who have yet to scrape their jaws up off the floor, to save their lives and fix the injuries he just created. It really doesn't get more hard core than this -- and while the object of the exercise is clearly to give these docs some practical experience at being hands-on and thinking on their feet, I'm more or less with Izzie, who storms out, saying they could learn the same lessons on surgical mannequins without hurting living things.

Katherineheigl_greysanatomy_s3_240 This storyline brings with it some great moments -- the interns naming the pigs, Lexie petting her pig, and Cristina's utter astonishment and burning resentment that she's stuck taking care of the pigs while the others go and deal with six trauma patients who've come in from a car accident. It also brings with it some nice indignation from Izzie, who makes her point about using animals for practice without sounding irrational. And once again I give props to Katherine Heigl for not wandering off into shrill territory; she's been consistently restrained this season while displaying some real guts and standing up for herself when necessary. Obviously there's more on the page for her to work with, but her approach overall is much more interesting than it was last season.

Hunt's practical learning method of teaching rubs Derek and Sloan the wrong way as well, particularly when he encourages Alex to handle a scalp laceration with skin glue instead of calling them in for help, and the patient's wound ends up screwed up. But here's the thing: just as Hunt seems a little too swaggery and a little too set in his ways, he totally disarms a confrontational Derek and Sloan by telling them he wants to know what they'd have done different medically, so he can do better next time. He understands there are different ways of doing things, so if you think there's a better way to do something, tell him and he'll listen. Awesome. Suck on that, pretty boys.

Sandraoh_greysanatomy_s3_240 Cristina (who by the way, heroically kept all the pigs alive all day and is horrified at Hunt's order to put them down now), of course, is just self-involved enough not to be able to restrain herself from asking Hunt if he really doesn't remember her. That was before, he says, telling her a story about how his 20-person unit got trapped in an RPG ambush and he was the only one who survived. McKidd is fantastic at showing the coiled-and-disciplined soldier fighting it out with the sadness and shock (and probably PTSD) accompanying his experience. There's a whole lot to this guy, and it's going to be great to watch it come out.

Attempting the impossible: The other big medical case this week is Tori, a 10-year-old girl with an abdominal tumor that's grown around five major arteries including her aorta. The Chief, telling Bailey she should be the best and telling her to step up to the plate so she can become just that, puts her in charge of the team and the plan to help this little girl. She chooses Meredith to assist, because she spies the Anatomy Jane doll that Meredith brought into work after finding it packed away in one of her mother's boxes. Obviously, Bailey played with this Barbie with removable organs as a kid too. She also asks Hahn to join their team, since the little girl's very vigilant family insisted that Hahn be part of any treatment option for Tori.

Hahn, however, is utterly unsympathetic and basically a total downer the entire time, refusing to even entertain the idea that any surgery on the girl might work, and she lets fly with so much withering sarcasm and caustic negativity that to say she's counterproductive doesn't even begin to cover it. Meredith, playing with the Anatomy Jane while they strategize, suggests basically removing all the girl's internal organs to cut out the tumor, and then put them back in. It's never been done before, but the family agrees. Kudos to Seattle Grace for letting the resident who dropped a kidney on the floor last week handle organs in surgery again. There are some complications -- though not Meredith's fault -- and despite taking fire in the OR from Hahn, Bailey comes up with a creative solution (an umbilical artery) that solves the issue at hand, and Tori comes through just fine.

Chandrawilson_greysanatomy_s3_240 The medicine is great, but so are two interpersonal moments that come out of it. First, Bailey sticks it to Hahn for accepting congratulations on the surgery from the Chief, telling her she's been a bullying, negative pain in the arse throughout the entire case, and she doesn't deserve the credit. I love feisty Bailey, and once again I say, Emmy for Chandra Wilson! Bailey's at her best when she's fighting for the patients, but it's great to see her stand up for herself too.

Second, the Chief tells Meredith that she wasn't imagining it when she noticed that he hasn't been able to look at her all day. She used to bring that Anatomy Jane doll everywhere with her when she was a kid, he says. Tori has an army of people looking out for her, but Meredith didn't have anyone. And this case and the doll reminded him of how much he was responsible for that. If I thought "I'm sorry" would hold any meaning for you at all, I'd say it, he tells her -- 1,000 times a day. The best part is that there's action involving Meredith, but within it she's relatively healthy -- the discomfort and sadness aren't emanating from her, and she seems on track. It's nice to see. We'll see how long that lasts as she goes through the big box of her mother's journals that Derek finds.

Brookesmith_greysanatomy_s3_240_2 Callica: Part of Hahn's attitude problem stems from her relationship with Callie. The two have reached "awesome" in the horizontal position, and Hahn describes how their relationship makes her feel in a totally disarming and really charming way. To her, Callie is like glasses, she says. When she was a kid she had headaches, and the doctor said she needed glasses, which she didn't understand -- until she saw that what she had thought were just big green blobs were actually leaves. This relationship is as revelatory to her as suddenly being able to see something that you didn't even know was there -- and as she tearfully explains this, Callie freaks out. Poor Hahn -- she keeps making herself vulnerable and trying to open up, and at least initially she keeps getting shot down, which is embarrassing and makes her put her defenses back up. Understandable, even forgivable -- even if her "No one likes a girl who gets emotional" comment to Bailey is just horrendous. You're better than that, Hahn.

Erica's emotionality sends Callie running straight to Sloan to see whether she still feels something from sleeping with him. And that confuses her even more, since she, uh, enjoys herself with him too. But it's Sloan who's the surprise here. It's one thing to be confused, but now she's a cheater, he says. Does she want to be a cheater? Of course Callie ultimately tells Erica that she was with Mark, and says she wants to be with her, even if she's not having the same kind of "glasses" experience that Erica is. Here's what gets me: Hahn accepts that Callie was with Mark that same day. That seems un-Hahn like to me, and not necessarily something the others would have to put up with.

Justinchambers_greysanatomy_s3_240 Alizzie: On to our other couple. Alex and Izzie are together, in a matter of speaking. He wants to know if they're exclusive or if he can still sleep with other women -- a suggestion she blows off by calling him a barbarian. Later, he comes to her again -- after having watched Hunt disarm Derek and Slon by offering to listen to their criticism and suggestions -- and says he needs her to teach him how to do this relationship thing, where they talk about their stupid feelings. And a light goes on -- suddenly she understands the boy language he was speaking. He wants to be exclusive, which is why he was acting like a doink. And now they're going steady. And we can all make our bets on how long it will last.

What did you think? Do you like what the addition of Hunt does to the chemistry of the cast? Did some of the awkward coping with emotion remind you a little bit of junior high?

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