Thursday, November 19, 2020

Grey’s Anatomy 17x01 and 17x02 Recaps: “All Tomorrow’s Parties” & “The Center Won’t Hold” (Welcome to the New World) [Contributor: Julia Siegel]

"All Tomorrow's Parties" & "The Center Won't Hold"
Original Airdate: November 12, 2020

It’s been seven long months (or has it been years?) since the last episode of Grey’s Anatomy aired but it was absolutely worth the wait! Even though the show is tackling the coronavirus pandemic for the foreseeable future, there’s plenty of joy and hope to go around and distract you from the harsher parts of our new reality. The premiere also delivers on the promo’s promise of something truly unexpected happening that has made fans around the globe incredibly happy. With a stuffed two-hour season premiere, and the small crossover in sister series Station 19’s return, there’s a lot of catching up to do with our favorite TV doctors. 


Since season 16 was forced to shut down production a few episodes before the planned season finale in the spring, the season 17 premiere helps to answer the lingering questions left by the impromptu finale and what would have happened in the now never-to-be-seen episodes, mainly via flashbacks. When we last saw the staff of Grey Sloan Memorial Hospital, lots of stories were up in the air. What did Link and Amelia name their baby boy? What happens now that DeLuca admits he is bipolar and needs help? Will Meredith and Hayes get to go out for drinks? Can Richard find a way to forgive and reconcile with Catherine? Is Jo going to survive Alex leaving her? And most importantly, is there any way that Teddy and Owen’s relationship can be saved? The good news is that most of those questions do get answered, at least in part. 

The flashbacks are scattered throughout both episodes and show what happened between the finale and the days leading up to the pandemic shutdown in mid-March while the present-day/main plots occur in early April. DeLuca arguably has the biggest flashback storylines. The first flashback shows that he went into manic depression following Richard’s surgery at the end of the season 16 finale. In the next, DeLuca is holed up in an on-call room and unable to work. Carina tries to comfort him when Bailey finds them and asks DeLuca if he is up for seeing a former patient, the girl that no one believed was a victim of human trafficking. Bailey informs DeLuca that he was correct about her situation, which makes DeLuca come alive.

The girl tells DeLuca her story and how she was held captive for two years. Bailey instructs Helm to alert the police and help find the girl’s family. Meredith and Bailey perform the girl’s needed abdominal surgery, and Bailey is beside herself that she didn’t believe DeLuca and sent the patient home when he first brought up trafficking. The girl’s sister arrives ahead of their parents and the reunion ends the story on a happy note. DeLuca’s last flashback is a poignant intervention scene. Bailey, Carina, Richard, and Meredith hold an intervention and tell DeLuca how there is no shame in having a mental illness. Each doctor has only nice words for him, but DeLuca feels he has failed at his one life goal of not ending up like his dad. Giacomo Gianniotti gives one of his best performances to date when DeLuca has a complete breakdown over knowing that he’s not okay and not knowing what to do. Carina tells her brother that now is the time to listen to the people who do know what to do, which convinces him to agree to treatment.

Jackson also has some very important flashback scenes. The first is with his ex-girlfriend Victoria Hughes from Station 19, who shows up at his door with nothing on under her coat. Normally, Jackson wouldn’t mind being flashed by his girlfriend, but little Harriet is in his arms! To make things more awkward, this is the first time Vic meets Harriet and Vic thinks things are moving too fast. Jackson’s awkward female encounters don’t end there. In his next flashback sequence, Jackson is given a proposition from Jo. She finds him in an imaging room and asks for a one-night stand to get over Alex. Jo doesn’t know how to be or feel single again and is tired of being a sad sack. Since she trusts him, Jo feels Jackson is her best option, and he nicely agrees to the arrangement. 

Jo shows up at his place later that night drinking from a bottle in a brown bag with only a long shirt on and no pants, and Jackson has the place set up for a candlelight dinner date which made me think that he might actually be into her. Of course, sort-of drunken Jo mocks Jackson for the “date” and his wealth, which makes things quite uncomfortable. She approaches Jackson, starts making out with him, and stops about three seconds later when she bursts into tears. Jo starts bawling and insists that she wants to keep going in between sobs. Like the good man he is, Jackson tells her to stop and that they can try another time. Jackson really looked like he wanted it to happen in that moment, so it should be interesting to see if some sort of connection develops here.

Jackson also has to contend with a healing, post-cobalt Richard via flashbacks. He finds Richard somberly watching a video of his conference meltdown presentation and announces that he has gone viral. Jackson quickly says that they can spin the video into good PR about the signs and symptoms of cobalt poisoning to help people. Unfortunately, Richard is in a dark place because he knows that telling Maggie to operate on her cousin and spending time with another woman were not caused by the cobalt poisoning and feels there is no one to blame but himself. In a flashback afterward, Jackson gives Richard a big speech about how difficult it is to live with his mother, how deeply she loves, and how much that is ultimately worth. He makes an excellent attempt to get Richard to see the truth and actually tells his step-dad to get over his pride and call Catherine because he’s not going to get over her or fix himself until they talk. The scene ends on a touching note when Richard tells Jackson that he always wanted a son, and Jackson says he has one.


There are more flashbacks of Amelia and Link enjoying the first few days of parenthood and being stumped over what to name their son. Auntie Mer is surprised that her nephew doesn’t have a name when she visits for the first time, but the new parents can’t agree on one. Link really wants to name him Scout, as a fun nod to his To Kill a Mockingbird-inspired first name, Atticus. Amelia thinks Scout would be better as a nickname, so they spend a great deal of time hilariously trying to think of a better name. In one great moment, Link tries to let the baby pick his own name by saying random names and watching for any reaction. Amelia gets into it too, until they realize how dumb it is. Their next baby naming session involves an article Amelia finds on the internet that suggests picking a name for your baby inspired by your last dream. Of course, that also doesn’t work and we have to wait until the end of the next episode to learn the baby’s name.

In the show’s new present, all stories take place in early April 2020, right in the thick of the early days of the pandemic. Amelia and Link are on leave with a house full of small children. Not only do they have their own three-week old son to take care of, but they are also the current guardians to Meredith’s three children. Meredith and Maggie are staying in separate hotels and are not going home in order to keep Amelia, Link, and the kids safe from COVID; so Amelia and Link went from no kids to four kids in the blink of an eye. 

The first time we see the new parents in the present is also the first time we see the Grey/Shepherd/Pierce backyard. Amelia scrolls through social media on her phone and realizes that it is Link’s birthday and that she totally forgot. Link also forgot it was his birthday and found out when his mom called him to wish him a happy birthday. Amelia feels bad, so she decides to throw him a small birthday celebration the next day. As Link is drowning in laundry, Amelia finishes supervising virtual school and gets Mer’s kids to all watch a movie together, which gives the couple some much needed alone time. They run upstairs to enjoy the quiet while it lasts, and we get to see a little of their fun until the baby cries and puts a stop to it. Later on, Amelia gives Link a stack of donuts with a candle on it since she couldn’t get a cake. The moment is complete by Link finally revealing the name of their son: Scout Derek Shepherd-Lincoln!


Back at Grey Sloan Memorial, a lot has changed in three weeks. Richard has completed his hip rehab and is back to normal. Bailey is surprised to see him in the parking lot walking toward the hospital and even more surprised to hear that he is ready to get back to work and help out. She begrudgingly allows him to stay and insists on giving him a personal tour of the newly-restructured hospital, since everything has changed. Bailey and Ben have decided to stay apart during the pandemic and also live at separate hotels. Ben’s sister is staying at their house with the kids, and the couple sees each other twice a day when the entire Station 19 crew shows up outside the hospital to clap out the doctors and nurses at the shift changes, social-distancing style. 

As the tour starts, Richard asks Bailey if he can see DeLuca and Bailey ominously replies that DeLuca is no longer a resident at Grey Sloan Memorial, but more on that later. The first stop is the outdoor triage tents that have been set up in the parking lots. The ER has been moved outside since the entire hospital has been converted into a COVID-only center. Traumas and any other non-COVID cases are sent to other hospitals. Bailey and Richard witness an awkward moment between Teddy and Owen in the triage tent, which makes Richard remember that the whole OR heard the now infamous voicemail of Teddy and Koracick having sex. Bailey assures him that it actually happened and the two laugh before heading inside the hospital.

Bailey explains that the East Wing has been converted into the COVID ward. The hospital currently has enough ventilators, but they are running out of PPE and need to reuse all PPE over and over. When they get to the main isolated COVID treatment area, Bailey explains that not every doctor is allowed in. Certain doctors have been assigned to the sickest of the COVID patients, and they are only allowed inside if they are in head-to-toe PPE. Naturally, the first doctor we see in this area is Meredith, who is incredibly frustrated. She acknowledges her visitors by shouting about how her patients are fine one hour then dead the next. Mer has just lost her fourth patient of the day and isn’t happy that everyone is dying alone. She then angrily welcomes Richard back before stomping off to help another patient.

The next stop on the tour is to the OR floor. The hospital is only allowing emergency surgeries, and Richard isn’t the only one that thinks it’s weird to see an empty OR schedule. Bailey brings a moment of levity when she shows Richard the hospital’s biggest acquisition: UV lamps that they are using to disinfect rooms in minutes. With the tour complete, Bailey tasks Richard with committing every word of the new safety manual to memory before he is allowed to treat patients. Of course, that gets derailed pretty quickly.


Before we get to how Richard gets interrupted, we need to get to the backstory of the main medical cases of the episodes. The only purpose of the “crossover” with Station 19 was to introduce some victims of a car fire turned wildfire that were brought to Grey Sloan because their injuries were too severe to bring anywhere else. Other than that, the crossover was pretty lacking.

Owen gets the first patient from the ambulance and brings him into the ER. Jackson comes to help their teenage burn victim, who has deep head-to-toe burns. Jo shows up to provide an extra set of hands, and things are clearly still awkward between Jo and Jackson from their non-hookup.

Jackson and Jo take the kid to the OR, which leads into the flashback of their not-so-sexy encounter. Meanwhile, Schmitt has been assigned to another tent in the parking lot that is acting as an outdoor waiting room for the families of patients. The parents of two teens from the fire have shown up, and they are not getting along at all. Schmitt can’t control the situation and calls in Bailey for backup. Before she can get there, the mom of the kid with head-to-toe burns sneaks into the hospital to see her son. She peeks into Richard’s office, and Richard immediately hops up and asks her why she is in the hospital when they have a zero visitor policy. The mother tells him how worried she is about her son, and Richard actually agrees to help her. 

Even though Richard breaks protocol by allowing the mother in the hospital, this is such a Richard move. He once again showcases how caring he is by finding the son’s ICU room. The teen is out of surgery, but isn’t in great shape. Jackson is shocked to see the mother outside the room. Richard allows her to stay for a bit and even redeems himself by showing Bailey a fantastic solution to the hospital’s PPE supply problem. He draped everyone’s masks on racks and put the UV light on them so they can be safely disinfected without causing structural damage, which was a problem with the previously used antibacterial wipes. Bailey is incredibly moved by the idea but says that Richard has earned the right to stay home and stay safe, especially since he is high risk. Richard replies that he won’t find peace if he has to leave the hospital, which finally makes Bailey realize he’s not going anywhere.

At the same time, Jo checks up on Jackson and their burn patient. She decides to clear the air because she is mortified every time she is around him. Jackson knows Jo asked for a favor that she wasn’t ready for and says that they are all good. Bailey goes to check on the rising tensions in the waiting room tent and shows up in time to see the two fathers of the fire patients start fighting. One dad punches the other, who then falls on top of Bailey, spraining her ankle. A little while later, Jackson realizes his patient’s burns are even deeper than he first thought and needs to get back to the OR immediately. He pages the cardio team to the OR, as the burns are all the way through to the teen’s lungs. Teddy and Maggie show up to help but they unfortunately lose the patient during surgery.


The beginning of the first episode reveals that Maggie and former colleague Winston, who she reunited with at last season’s medical conference in Los Angeles, are now in a long-distance relationship. They FaceTime several times a day, and the first of these calls that the audience gets to see startles Maggie. Winston is hurried off the call when he is paged into surgery and quickly blurts out an “I love you” before hanging up on a stunned Maggie. Of course, Jackson overhears the conversation and playfully taunts her about it being a bit too soon for that phrase. A little while later, Winston calls back and explains that he was telling a colleague that he loved them as a morale boost. Apparently this is something that the staff at his hospital in Boston does. Maggie is relieved and admits that she was only a little freaked out, so all is well again. The relationship then gets put on the backburner until the end of the second episode when Winston buys a tent and has Link set it up in the backyard of the house, that way Maggie can see and stay with her family safely. We are all counting down the days until Winston shows up in Seattle!

The second episode has Maggie working with Catherine for the day. The pair has taken over a conference room to work on finding the money for more PPE and where to get said PPE, as everything is in such short supply. Catherine gets frustrated immediately and starts yelling about how much she hates the state of the world and how much PPE costs. Maggie joins in, and they both talk about how much they hate not being able to save people. Catherine ends their stress relief session by saying that she hates that her husband hasn’t come back to her, and Maggie seconds that thought. 

Koracick and Teddy are thrilled to get a massive shipment of PPE outside. Koracick has roped off the boxes and asks the staff to protect them. Teddy is so excited about the shipment that she suggests they rip open all the boxes and start handing out new masks inside the hospital like Santa Claus. As the boxes are opened, everyone quickly realizes that all the boxes only contain booties for the OR and nothing else that Koracick ordered. They now have $100,000 of booties and not the masks, gowns, and gloves that they desperately need. Koracick gets so upset that he smashes the boxes with a golf club before breaking down in tears. Things are so bad for Koracick that he actually asks Richard if he is on good enough terms with Catherine that he can take credit for the UV lamp disinfectant mask idea just to get a win. Richard naturally won’t let Koracick take credit for his idea, so Koracick opts for hiding from Catherine instead.

Catherine and Bailey then discuss Koracick’s $100,000 blunder and are interrupted by Maggie, who has found the courage to speak her mind. Maggie exclaims that she understands that Richard humiliated Catherine by throwing her out after his hip surgery and that she humiliated him by allowing Bailey to fire him. She practically begs Catherine to be the bigger person, make up with Richard, and let him help her with the hospital situation. Catherine gets the message loud and clear and pages both Koracick and Richard to the conference room. She has decided that Koracick needs to resign as chief of chiefs and that he will be allowed to stay on as a neurosurgery attending at Grey Sloan. Koracick would rather find another hospital to work at, but Catherine says his reputation is shot and essentially blackmails him into staying. He angrily leaves the room but agrees to stay. Catherine immediately offers Koracick’s job to Richard, who is a bit surprised. Then Catherine actually apologizes for everything she has done to hurt Richard. A shocked Richard accepts the job, takes his rightful place in running Grey Sloan Memorial again, and reconciles with Catherine.


It’s finally time to discuss what is going on in the rockiest relationship on the show: Owen and Teddy. Their season premiere plot is a bit easier to talk about in the order it happens, so let’s dig in. Things unfold when Teddy and Owen are waiting in the ambulance bay for an impaled teenager from the car fire/wildfire incident. It’s apparent that they have barely spoken since what was supposed to be their wedding day. Owen would finally like to talk to Teddy after work if possible and, with a smile on her face, she says that she wants that. As the ambulance arrives, we see a flashback to the day after their non-wedding. Teddy finds Owen in the hospital and he lies to her about getting called into an emergency surgery the night before. He tries to avoid the topic by mentioning Link and Amelia’s baby, but Teddy isn’t interested in changing topics. She wants to know if the wedding is off, and Owen assures her that it is just delayed and that he doesn’t want to cancel the wedding. It is amazing Teddy can’t see the word “liar” written on his forehead.

A little later in the present, Teddy finds Owen taking a break outside and asks to talk. Owen says he hasn’t had much time to think lately, but when he does, he thinks about their future. He has looked over his medical directives and will and realized that they haven’t made a plan for what to do with Leo in the event that Owen dies. If Teddy isn’t willing to take care of Leo, then Owen wants to know if she would agree to Amelia and Link. Teddy doesn’t want to split up Allison and Leo. She’s also not okay with the idea of Owen dying, but she’s paged to the OR for the ill-fated burned teenager’s surgery, so the conversation is put on hold.

Before we can hear the rest of that conversation, the flashback we have all been waiting for happens. After a surgery, Teddy asks Owen what is wrong and what’s been going on. He denies that anything is wrong and asks her if there’s anything that she isn’t telling him. Owen lays it on thick by saying that he loves Teddy, trusts her, and reaffirms that she is his best friend. He corners her by saying, “If there’s something you need to tell me, now is the time.” Unfortunately, Teddy doesn’t know that Owen knows about her rendezvous with Koracick, so she says she’s not hiding anything. Owen pulls out his phone and plays the voicemail in full to a stunned Teddy. As she sobs, Owen says, “So much for love. So much for friendship. So much for trust. So much for us.” He storms out without another word, leaving Teddy to cry and reflect on her own.

Teddy is hanging out in a lounge after losing the burned teen and is joined by Jo. Teddy is thinking about Owen and feels that everyone in the hospital is on Owen’s side. In fairness, Teddy needs to realize that it makes sense that everyone is supporting Owen. Jo gives her some tough love about blowing up her life and how humiliating the whole ordeal has been for Owen. Teddy tells Jo that she tried to sabotage her own happiness because she doesn’t know how to be happy and that what she did is unbearable. Jo consoles Teddy and says that she needs to try hard to tell Owen that and make him understand how sorry she is. 

After work, Teddy approaches Owen, who is not in the mood to hear her apologize. She tries to get everything out at once and says a jumbled mess about how much she loves Owen, how sorry she is, that she will do anything to fix them, and that she doesn’t want to lose their family. Owen asks her what he did to make her hate him so much that she cheated on him because he can’t figure it out. Teddy replies that she made a stupid mistake and that’s all it was. In a really great move, Owen then brings up the fact that Teddy never says that she didn’t want to run away with Koracick in the voicemail. Owen has listened to the tape almost 100 times, and Teddy never said no to Koracick’s idea. Teddy doesn’t know how to reply, so she repeats that she wants to be with Owen and loves him and their family. He says he can’t do this, gets in his car, and drives away. It doesn’t seem like there’s much hope for these two, but I’m sure this will continue to play out in epic fashion.


Meredith’s story of the two-episode premiere isn’t always at the forefront, but it turns out to be the most important in terms of setting up the rest of the season. The first scene of the first episode shows Meredith alone on a beach. It seems out of place until the final seconds of the second episode, but more on that later. In the present, Meredith spends every minute of every day fighting COVID, and she isn’t handling the stress very well. She has Schmitt running point in the waiting room tent, which means he has to give the bad news to all the families. Like the good doctor she is, Meredith even gets some of the loved ones to call to say goodbye right before the patient dies. In between patients, she texts DeLuca to see how he’s doing, and we see DeLuca passed out on a couch with at least 70 missed calls on his phone. 

As the pressure of the pandemic mounts, Meredith goes into a supply closet, breaks down, and throws a bunch of supplies around to let off some steam. The door opens and in walks DeLuca wearing dark blue scrubs. Turns out that DeLuca has been promoted to attending somewhere in the last three weeks, but this doesn’t get mentioned at all in either episode. What’s even odder is the fact that less than three weeks ago, DeLuca was having a breakdown and is now doing great, is seeing a therapist, has gotten a promotion, and is working with COVID patients. This news is enough to make anyone’s head spin, especially since it goes unexplained. Mer wants to know where DeLuca was, and he explains that he was sleeping at home. He asks how the patients are doing, and Mer says that everyone has died. DeLuca apologizes for not being there. Who is this new DeLuca?! Mer is glad that DeLuca is okay and reminds him that he needs to make sure people know where he is at all times.

Over in the waiting room tent, Nico finds Schmitt, who hopes his ex is doing okay. Schmitt tells Nico how he has had to tell 100 families that their loved one is dead and that he isn’t doing well with his new role. He still cares about Nico and thought he might want to know how he’s doing, but Nico is ice cold and says he’s fine before walking away. We then see Mer and Jackson taking a break outside to get some air. She is jealous that he got some OR time, which she hasn’t had in two weeks since she is only running COVID codes. Jackson explains surgery wasn’t much fun since it was 98 degrees in the room and he had to be in full PPE. He leaves, and Mer sees Hayes sleeping against the side of the building. She decides to wake him up and sees that his mask is falling apart. Hayes swapped his perfect mask with a nurse earlier in the day. If this doesn’t prove that this man is perfect, then I don’t know what will. He goes back inside and leaves Mer by herself.

Later on, Mer gets paged by Hayes to scrub in for surgery for the impaled kid from the wildfire. Mer is giddy to get back into surgery and save the impaled kidney that Hayes had transplanted only weeks earlier. They both look happy to have some time together, and the chemistry in the OR is effortless. Mer has apparently been reciting surgical steps while getting into her PPE each day because she’s claustrophobic. I don’t recall Mer ever being claustrophobic, so maybe this is a pandemic thing? The two surgeons have a nice chat until things start to go south. Though they had to remove part of the transplanted kidney, they manage to save their patient and he will make a full recovery.

At the end of the night, Mer falls asleep sitting up at a nurse’s station and misses a text from Hayes asking if she wants to meet him in his office for a drink. Right after the text arrives, Mer is woken up by DeLuca, who tags her out for the night. Mer wants to stay but DeLuca tells her that she needs to take care of herself and let him take care of the patients. She agrees to go home. This new and improved DeLuca is amazing, and I have a bad feeling things might come crashing back down for him. Elsewhere, Nico finds a frosty Schmitt in a supply closet. Nico knows he was a terrible boyfriend and proposes that they become sex buddies for stress relief. Schmitt is taken back, and they start their new arrangement in the supply closet.

Mer didn’t see Hayes’ text, so their long-awaited drink will have to wait for another day. Hayes leaves the hospital for the night and sees someone lying in the parking lot. He runs over and finds Meredith passed out, unresponsive. Hayes shouts for help and switches into emergency mode. This development isn’t even the most shocking thing to happen. In the final seconds, we return to Meredith on the beach, and it is now clear that we are seeing another one of Meredith’s near-death dream states. She faintly hears someone calling her name, and the camera pans down the beach to show Derek standing on the beach waving at her. Meredith and the audience are equally stunned to see the return of Derek. Of course, this is where the episode abruptly ends but the teaser for the third episode shows that Derek will be back and will talk to Meredith. 

Just like the rest of the world, I am absolutely shocked that Patrick Dempsey agreed to come back and that ABC managed to keep his appearance a secret. The happiness we all feel about his return is a little bittersweet given that Meredith isn’t in good condition, but Grey’s Anatomy has always been at its best when Meredith is on the brink of death. This situation harkens back to the season three arc of Meredith drowning, being dead for a bit, and seeing dead friends in her dream-like state. No matter what happens next, the third episode is poised to be excellent.


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