“You Can Look (But You’d Better Not Touch)”
Original Airdate: January 26, 2017
MESSAGE IN A BOTTLE
Prior to the fall, Grey’s had never done a bottle episode. So it’s a little weird that we now have two. Thankfully, both are really good and help to expand the characters they focus on. This time, the focus is on Bailey, Arizona, and Jo as they go to a maximum security hospital prison to treat a very dangerous 16-year-old inmate’s atypical pregnancy. Each character takes a small personal journey, but the main point of the episode is more subtle than you might think.
Let’s start from the top. Bailey’s journey is a reality check more than anything else. At the most basic level, she gets a taste of how good she really has it running Grey-Sloan after seeing the minimal resources the prison hospital has. With one doctor and the bare minimum of supplies, Bailey is forced to open her eyes and realize that her life isn’t all that bad. She likes to complain a lot about how tough being the Chief of Surgery is, so hopefully this quiets her down for a bit.
Bailey also has an eye-opening experience by having to face her fear of prisoners. She hates the idea of helping someone who has committed crimes and doesn’t even want to be near a prison let alone in one. She’s forced to overcome her reasonable concerns and be her tough self again to make it through the day. This was also a subtle hint at the secret that she withholds the entire episode. At the very end, she reveals to Jo and Arizona that Alex is going to take the plea deal and go to jail. It’s very likely that some of Bailey’s anger and fear during the episode was misguided due to her feelings about Alex winding up in a place like the one she spent the day in.
Next up is Arizona, who had a lesser arc compared to the other two main characters. Arizona is faced with juggling a crazy patient, the patient’s mother, the patient’s lawyer, and her own moral code. Even though all the characters are faced with big time morality questions, Arizona is hit the hardest. The inmate says that when her baby is delivered, her mother will adopt the baby, raise her, and bring her to visit her jail-bird mom. Right before starting the procedure to help the baby in utero, Arizona is called away to another room in the hospital where the mother is waiting to speak to her. Unsurprisingly, the mother tells Arizona that she only wants the baby, has no plans to see her daughter, and will never allow the baby to know her.
Obviously, this is a struggle for Arizona, as she has had this fight before. She spends part of the episode trying to change this stubborn mother’s mind without much luck. Arizona is faced with withholding the news from her patient in order not to upset her further. Enter a huge morality struggle, and ten minutes later everything goes awry. Arizona knows the hardships of having a child that she doesn’t get to frequently see, which becomes her arc for the episode. She tries to get everyone to see reason from her standpoint, even though no one wants to really listen to her. You can’t help but feel bad for her because Arizona is the nicest character on the show and somehow winds up always getting the short end of the stick.
Arizona is also faced with the morality of having a violent inmate in restraints while giving birth. She sticks up for the little guys yet again and eventually gets part of her way by convincing the prison doctor to remove the handcuffs that are cutting her patient. Arizona gets a personal win by sticking to her ethical and moral codes and for doing the right thing in a bad situation.
PAST, PRESENT, AND FUTURE
Secretly, this episode is all about Jo. Even though it doesn’t appear like it on the surface, this bottle is meant to examine Jo’s past, present, and future. Jo does a majority of the work of keeping the patient calm and as docile as possible by connecting with her on a personal level. Jo gains the trust of her patient by telling her about her rough childhood and how they aren’t that different. In return, the patient goes into her cushy life prior to prison and recounts how one bad decision can change everything. Jo’s recount of her past and her reactions to a child having a baby in jail makes it seem very probable that she might have been a jail baby.
If you think about it, her emotions and thoughts on the topic seemed a little too personal. She is also able to calm her patient down by telling her how great her baby’s life will be and that her baby will miss her every day. With a tear in her eye, it’s clear that Jo is reflecting on her own past and how she wishes to know her real parents. We still don’t know much about Jo’s childhood other than she was in the foster system, so this episode could have subtly discussed her past.
In the present, Jo is struggling just like her patient, being torn apart inside by her two imminent futures. With the trial set for the next day, she knows that the love of her life will either go to jail just to protect her or her life will be blown up by her fake identity being exposed to the world. Either way, Jo knows she is screwed and doesn’t know how to handle the truth of either situation. Being in a prison hospital definitely doesn’t help because she knows that Alex very likely will wind up in a jail because of her drunken mistake and the lack of the truth.
The episode forces Jo to look at all angles of her life without making it blatantly obvious. Her past was full of turmoil, her present mindset is very rocky, and her future will be a struggle no matter what happens in court. Jo is a bomb that is waiting to build enough pressure to detonate, and she will definitely lose her cool very soon. The next episode should be pretty rocky for everyone, but Jo might have it the worst after hearing that Alex is going to take the plea deal.
However, we still don’t know whether he actually did or not! The end of the mid-season finale left us with Alex hearing Meredith’s pleading voicemail. His indecision was agonizing, and he hadn’t made up his mind by the time the end credits rolled. So, there is a slight chance that he decides to go to court, but from the looks of the trailer for the second half of the season, it appears he took the deal. Next week should give us more concrete answers, but it’s a definite that Jo is screwed one way or another now that people know her dirty little secret.