'Grey's Anatomy': Fixing what's broken

Ellenpompeo_greysanatomy_s3_240 Of all the people on Grey's Anatomy who should be in therapy -- and that's pretty much everyone -- it's hard to argue that anyone needs it more than Meredith. Which is why I was so happy to see that she's been going (and also because it means we get to see more of the great Amy Madigan). And why I was so bummed to see her try to graduate herself this week. Because she's "happy." Please.

Floods of spoilers coming...

You're not done, Meredith, Dr. Wyatt tells her. It's good that you're happy, and good that your relationship is moving forward, but that's not the point. You're making progress and you're working hard, but you're not done. No kidding. Aren't doctors always telling you not to stop taking the blood pressure/depression/cholesterol medicine just because you feel better? Come on, Mer -- stay in therapy for us.

At the house, Izzie, fresh from the shower, walks into her room to see Derek measuring it with a tape measure. He's thinking about making it his office when she moves out. Which is news to her. Meredith, when she hears about this development, isn't so convinced, but Derek pushes, saying that they're part of her old life, and now it's time for them to build their new life together. Part of me groans on the inside -- is this going to turn into another Meredith's-obsessed-with-her-relationship episode? I may have had all the processing I can take.

Jamespickens_greysanatomy_s3_240 Following up on his command that the teaching protocol of Seattle Grace will change, the Chief calls an all-hands-on-deck meeting laying out just what he proposes. First, second, and third-year residents will no longer be able to specialize, because it interferes with a fully rounded surgical education. Personal relationships, personal loyalties and personal favorites will no longer be a factor. They will refocus on patient communication and bedside manner -- meaning that some will wake up and get compassion, and others will learn to treat patients without getting so emotionally involved. Residents, your interns will reflect on you; if they fail you fail, and if they succeed you succeed. Attendings: same goes for residents. Teach with enthusiasm. Learn with enthusiasm.

This outline is accompanied by a sequence in which the chief pulls Cristina off the case of a patient with an aortic aneurysm and puts Alex on it, pulls Meredith off the case of a neuro patient in extreme pain and puts Cristina on it, and pulls Izzie off the case of a young woman with stage 4 colon cancer, and puts Meredith on it. George is trying to re-take his intern exam, but as he's about to begin, water drips from the ceiling onto his test booklet.

Water's starting to drip through the ceiling everywhere. Alex's heart patient ends up slipping on a puddle and falls. Then the dripping water -- ceiling tiles are bowed and swollen with water -- hello? -- shorts out the CT machine where the poor guy's getting checked out to make sure the fall didn't hurt him too badly.

Brookesmith_greysanatomy_s3_240 Hahn, disconcerted by a snide remark from Mark Sloan before the chief's meeting, tells Callie that Sloan knows about them. Yeah, Callie says -- because I told him. Hahn's clearly freaked out -- she's not yet comfortable with whatever their relationship is, and Sloan just bugs her. And she wants to keep her private life private. Fair enough.

Meredith's patient, a young woman who's been battling colon cancer that's metastasized to her liver, implores her to dish some dirt about her own life, as her sister can only talk about the cancer. What an opening for our girl -- these stories are all new to this audience! Derek and Cristina's patient (Daniel J. Travanti -- so good to see him, and he's wonderful here) has been experiencing constant pain for seven years that he rates an 8 on a scale of 1 to 10. The poor guy's seen doctor after doctor, tried everything, including all kinds of painkillers, and nothing. While they're putting him through some tests, Derek tries to get Cristina on his side in the great roommate eviction drama -- and dangles getting to do burr holes in front of her. Meanwhile, the enthusiastically learning Lexie Grey, who has a photographic memory, has an idea for diagnosing the patient. And is promptly blown off by Cristina. So much for teaching with enthusiasm.

Chylerleigh_greysanatomy_s3_240 But you have to give Lexie credit -- she goes to Sloan with her idea, knowing full well she's going to get harassed about her feelings for George. And it turns out she's right. Sloan the ear, nose and throat guy does a test and finds out that the patient has an inflamed nerve in his nose that's been causing the pain. And it can be fixed with a simple surgery, not the lobotomy that Derek was considering as an option.

Izzie, confronting her impending move, approaches Alex about sharing an apartment she's seen, and he replies that he'd rather live in his car. Charming. But he's good with his poor patient, who's convinced that God hates him -- his wife left him, his accountant stole from him, the store where he worked burned down, he was diagnosed with this aneurysm and is being treated in a crumbling hospital. He may get the surgery, but it'll hurt, if he doesn't die, and it'll probably get infected. Which puts Alex in the awkward but oddly convincing position of bucking the poor guy up. Your luck's going to change, he says.

Chandrawilson_greysanatomy_s3_240 Bailey learns from the chief that the leaking ceilings are from a burst water pipe. He refuses to shut down the floor so repairs can take place. He's got a plan. It's minor, he says. Then Bailey proceeds to tell a story about Tuck flushing one of his action figures down the toilet -- and she thought it was no big deal, minor. Until she returned home "to a kitchen filled with several inches of poop water." It's worth it to rewind and replay that scene several times just to hear Chandra Wilson say "poop water." It's not as good as the Han Solo speech, but it's fantastic nonetheless. And when the elevator doors open and water -- though not poop water -- flows in on Meredith, Izzie, Cristina, and Alex, it's clear it's more serious than the Chief seems willing to admit.

There are several inches of water everywhere, the ceiling is raining, and Bailey quite rightly suggests that they need to evacuate patients. The Chief, convinced his plan is right, really barks at her -- and while her shock and hurt is palpable, her sarcastic/straight response to him is even better.

The most heartbreaking scene comes when Cristina goes to prep the neuro patient for his surgery. For a minute, he seemed to have a little relief, she says. But his pain level's still an 8. He's seen 39 doctors, tried every kind of painkiller, had doctors tell him it's his imagination, tell him he's crazy, call him a drug addict. He looks absolutely exhausted. His wife died last year, after carting him to doctor after doctor and test after test, he says, his face crumpling. "She was my best friend. She was my favorite person. She died, and I couldn't feel it -- couldn't feel the pain because I was so completely preoccupied with this one. Now I finally know what's wrong, and Dr. Sloan's going to fix it. So you're right; I am feeling some relief." It's a brilliant, touching piece of acting, and I dare you not to cry while watching it. If you can, you might be dead inside.

In surgery on the heart patient -- the chief has kept two ORs working -- the ceiling falls in. Alex and Hahn hunch over him, keeping most of the debris from falling into his open incision. Raise your hand if you'd want to be a patient at Seattle Grace. Of course, the other surgery going on is the neuro patient, and they end up stopping that surgery so Hahn can bring her guy in and finish (We find out later that he's going to get surgery at a different hosptial, and he'll be OK.). While Hahn, Alex, Sloan, and Derek are all working on the heart guy to make sure there's no debris inside him, they find a malignant tumor on his pancreas. It turns out, as Alex tells the guy when he regains consciousness, that it was stage 1 -- and they almost never find them so early. They took out the whole tumor, and he won't even need chemo. The ceiling falling in saved his life. His luck is changing. And I couldn't help but feel for the guy as he embraced the news and resolved to say hello to the girl he likes at the grocery store. You go, guy.

Sandraoh_greysanatomy_s3_240 Cristina goes to see Meredith's semi-ex psychiatrist, and lays it out: You can't her quit. You're paid to have an opinion, and I'm trying to be supportive. Meredith lives her life at an 8, she says. That's her pain level all the time, at any given day, and Derek doesn't get that. "She thinks that she's happy but she's not -- and it's your job to tell her," Cristina says. Dr. Wyatt responds that it must be incredibly painful for her to think of losing Meredith to Derek. Classic Cristina response: "You're a terrible shrink!"

Later we find Lexie, who gave up the opportunity to be in the neuro surgery because she was helping George deal with the flood for the Chief, alone at Joe's. Those Grey girls do like their booze. Sloan joins her, and while he's just as skeezy as can be (I love that), their rapport is really fun and interesting. And I hope they don't take it down a hookup road, because it's better to have them relate in this way.

Also at the bar, Callie goes to sit with Hahn, and explains that while she knows Hahn's a private person, she processes her stuff out loud. She gave up a lot of herself to her her marriage, and she won't give up pieces again. Sloan's her friend. "I think I just hate him because he's seen you naked," Hahn replies, laughing. I like watching them navigate, clumsily, through their uncharted territory -- a much more satisfying way to develop their storyline than to boom, have them start living together or something.

Meredith runs into her therapist on the elevator, and unloads a plaintive/angry tirade about how pointless it is to even try to be happy when the world is such a horrible place. "Yes -- horrible things do happen," Dr. Wyatt responds."Happiness in the face of all that -- that's not a goal. Feeling the world, and knowing you're not going to die from those feelings -- that's the point. And you're not done. You've made progress because you're feeling and you're telling me about it. Six months ago it would have been just you and a bottle of tequila. My door's always open." And she leaves Meredith in the elevator, beginning to put the pieces together.

She comes home to find Izzie on the porch swing. On her apartment search, Izzie went to Cristina after Alex turned her down. And Cristina being Cristina, she thought only of herself and went in on the apartment with Callie. Which has left Izzie reeling a little. She's happy for Meredith and Derek, she says. But she doesn't know what happened that she doesn't have anyone. That's not true, Meredith replies. As if to prove the point, Alex walks up, throwing Izzie another one of the "isn't-she-great" looks he's been sending her way all day.

Patrickdempsey_greysanatomy_s3_240 And bless our poor damaged Meredith -- she stands up for herself, telling Derek it was wrong for him to just assume she's going to kick her friends out. They're her family. "And you don't get to announce it to them and ambush me. And you definitely don't try to get Cristina on your side. They're my family. They're who I have. You and Them. OK?" Derek says OK -- he wants to talk about it again when she's ready, but for now, OK. Jeez, was that so hard? Give the poor twitchy girl some space to breathe. After last week's jabbering fiasco, Ellen Pompeo really comes up with a good performance this week, letting us see that there's something going on inside while not being too showy about it.

In the end, George gets another chance too. In his own act of contrition, the Chief proctors his exam. And hopefully we'll find out soon if George makes it.


What did you think? Do you think the Chief's new plan for the program will bring the show back to where it has the potential to go? Were you relieved that it wasn't quite so Mer-Der-centric this week? And you can tell us: did you cry at all?

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