Dickinson Behind-the-Scenes: An Interview With the Artisans

Meet the artists who bring this Apple TV+ series to life!

Getting Rid of the Stigma: Mental Illness in Young Adult Fiction by Megan Mann

In this piece, Megan brilliantly discusses the stigma of mental illness in literature and how some young adult novels are helping to change the landscape for this discussion.

Jenn's Pick: Top 15 Jeff/Annie Moments

In 2013, Jenn put together a list of the 15 best Jeff/Annie moments. Revisit and discover those memories!

Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Julie and the Phantoms 1x02 Review: “Bright” (This Band is Back!) [Contributor: Jenn]


“Bright”
Original Airdate: September 10, 2020

What makes your life brighter? Is it a person? A hobby? A place? Julie Molina’s life is brighter when there’s music in it. But after her mom’s death, grief dimmed even the thing she loved most and gave her the most life. That is, until a few ghosts entered the picture.

“Bright” is a really solid episode of Julie and the Phantoms that sets up plots for the rest of the season and reminds us not to waste our power.

THIS BAND IS BACK

“Bright” picks up right where the pilot left off — Julie has finished playing and the boys have been behind her, listening. They poof out of the studio and discuss how impressed they are by her talent and also confused they are by why she’s hidden it for so long. We’ll talk more about Julie and her love of music in a bit, but let’s talk about Luke, Alex, and Reggie first.

Throughout the episode, they learn more about their ghost powers and abilities and sadly reflect on their lives and the current state of the world. Reggie misses his family after hearing an emotional Ray discuss his late wife, so the boys go to the beach to see Reggie’s old house. Unfortunately, the neighborhood where the boys used to live is completely demolished and restaurants have taken their place. It’s been 25 years since they last saw their families, and when Reggie and Alex vocalize this, Luke reminds him that they’re longing for families that were broken.

Alex came out to his parents and their relationship was never the same. Luke mentions that his parents regretted buying him his guitar (and we’ll see more of their dynamic later in the show). And Reggie’s parents were one fight away from divorce. While the boys watch over the lives of the living with wistfulness, Luke pulls them back to reality — what they were missing is long gone, and it wasn’t great to begin with. That doesn’t stop Alex and Reggie from feeling lost and disconnected though. Even though their families weren’t the best, they were still something real and tangible to hold onto.

Now that they’re dead, Alex makes a valid point to Luke: what do they really have, anyway? They have no lives. They have no families. They’re invisible to everyone but Julie. The world around them changed so much from 1995 to 2020 and they didn’t even get to be part of it. They’re floating through a world with no real tether. Except for one thing, as Luke reminds them: music. They have their music. They have each other. That’s all they need.

While Julie and the Phantoms’ central character is Julie Molina, Luke, Alex, and Reggie are such integral parts of the show and their character development is just as important as Julie’s. And music is something that doesn’t just connect the boys to each other and to their listeners, but to Julie as well.

DON’T WASTE YOUR POWER

Though Julie has rediscovered her spark for music, she isn’t automatically let back into the music program. Unfortunately her spot has already been filled. And even though Julie is reminded how much she loves music and is inspired by it, she’s not too keen on writing again. It still hurts too much because it reminds her of her mother.

But Luke and Flynn push Julie to find a way back into the music program. Inspired by his passion for music and Julie’s talent, Luke actually strikes up a really important conversation with Julie in her kitchen while he’s longingly looking at all the food in her fridge he can’t eat. He tells her that if Mrs. Harrison and Principal Lessa won’t let her back in the program, then she will just have to find a way to smash the rules and make them listen to her. Julie is skeptical; she’s not really the smashing, kick-the-door-in type of girl. But Luke is insistent on two things: that Julie needs to fight and that Julie needs to fight because she cannot let her power go to waste.

He’s right, too, and she knows it: music is the thing that breathes life into her. She’s not just talented, but she’s fully alive when she’s playing piano and singing. Luke tells her that he can’t watch her waste her life, especially when he’d give anything to be alive. There’s a great moment next when Luke gifts Julie a song. Even if she’s not ready to write, Luke is prepared to help in any way possible — and that’s a reason I love their friendship and relationship. Luke’s present is a song called “Bright” that Sunset Curve never got to record, and he workshops it in the kitchen with Julie. This is one of the first, but not last, scenes that proves Charlie Gillespie and Madison Reyes have such incredible and charming chemistry. When Julie sings, Luke encourages her proudly. He doesn’t need to be the star; he’s happy to give her something personal to him because he wants to watch her shine.

And truly, he continues this throughout the series. When Julie shows up at a pep rally, poised to perform “Bright,” she starts to get nervous. Very nervous. And Luke is constantly hyping her up, reminding her that she’s got this and mouthing the words along before he and the rest of the boys join her on stage to perform. I love shipping and I’ve shipped a lot of couples in my life, but what I constantly look for is a ship that’s healthy, encouraging, and brings out the best in each characters. The Julie and the Phantoms “Juke” ship certainly delivers on all counts. And I can’t wait to watch it grow in season two (yes, I’m manifesting it in my head, okay?).

“Bright” ends with Julie and her ghost boys performing the song on stage and coming to a really fun realization — people besides Julie can see the boys when they’re singing and playing their instruments. And then, after they take their bows, they promptly disappear. Dun dun dunnnnnnnnnn!

Hitting the right notes:

  • Musical breakdown: I think originally when I watched Julie and the Phantoms, my favorite song was “Edge of Great,” but right now it might be “Bright.” Madison’s high note coupled with Jeremy and Charlie’s harmony, and Charlie’s grit/growl makes it a pretty perfect song. “This Band is Back (Reggie’s Jam)” is so charming and fun, and I need more of Jeremy singing in season two. And if you haven’t yet tried to run to “Wow,” you’ll find it is a perfect song to run to!
  • “This is why no one hugs you.”
  • “I’m so happy for you! And me!” This is why Flynn deserves the world.
  • You know that gratuitous shirtless scene of Chris Hemsworth in Thor: Ragnarok that’s in there for no other reason than for our own personal enjoyment? I thought about that in this episode when Luke changes shirts. Really there’s no reason we need to see it, but also isn’t there?
  • I WANT MORE OF RAY AND REGGIE BONDING.
  • “Okay, how am I the emotional one?”
  • “It tingles... in WEIRD places!”
  • Everyone else caught those little smiles when Julie walks through Luke, right? We ship it.
  • We talked about this in our podcast but I’m glad the show doesn’t villainize Carrie for making pop music; Julie complimenting her was a nice touch.
  • I can’t express how happy the shot of Flynn on the trumpet makes me.

What was your favorite part of “Bright”? Sound off in the comments below!

Tuesday, December 29, 2020

Grey’s Anatomy 17x06 Recap: “No Time for Despair” (Winter Finale Drama) [Contributor: Julia Siegel]


“No Time for Despair”
Original Airdate: December 17, 2020

COVID trials and tribulations, an unwelcome blast from the past, racial tensions, and struggling to move on are the major themes of the winter finale of Grey’s Anatomy. Even though the start of the season was delayed due to the pandemic, we have seen nearly as many episodes of the show as normal. Yes, we will still have to wait the usual three months for new episodes, but the explosive back half of season seventeen will be worth the wait. 

THE CRUEL WORLD

The main medical and dramatic cases of the week started on the winter finale of Station 19 when the firefighters saved two Black teenage girls from their kidnapper and a fiery blaze, and they are now on their way to Grey Sloan Memorial. Race plays a major part again during this hour, and it’s really great to see that the Grey’s Anatomy writers are not shying away from real world issues. But more on that later. 

We get a quick peek at Tom Koracick, who is now sharing a room with another COVID patient, before checking in on our favorite COVID patient. As the scene changes to her room, Meredith wakes up with a big gasp and is immediately alert. Amelia, Maggie, and DeLuca are thrilled to visit Mer and see her awake. DeLuca tells Mer that she has been mostly asleep for eight days, and Amelia shares stories about the kids. Naturally, Mer thinks that she can leave the hospital now that she is awake, and DeLuca believes that she could be discharged in a week if her stats stay up.

Teens Shanice and Jada are brought into the ER and are examined by Hayes, Owen, and Schmitt. Shanice’s mom recounts her daughter’s tale to the doctors and the audience members who didn’t catch Station 19. The girls thought they were meeting up with another young girl to help them become social media influencers. Little did they know that they were being tricked by middle-aged white man Bob, who promptly kidnapped them and held them in a small, padlocked room of his basement. Jada’s mom, Joyce, tracked her daughter’s fitness band to Bob’s house, which neighbors Captain Maya Bishop’s home. Bishop had the crew over for an afternoon get together when they heard Joyce screaming outside and went to help. Shanice and Jada heard the commotion too and managed to set a fire, which eventually saved them. However, things went downhill quickly as several members of the Station 19 team and Joyce were arrested by some racist cops. The story doesn’t sit well with any of the doctors, who are determined to help make things right. 

Maggie video calls Winston for a short reprieve from the harsh realities of the central storyline. She is ecstatic to report that Mer is awake, and Winston is happy for her. The conversation is oddly cut very short since Winston is in his car in a parking lot and tells her he is going grocery shopping. The brief chat felt off, but it is thankfully resolved later in the episode. In another area of the hospital, Richard and Jo meet up to talk. Richard knows he has been asking a lot of Jo in helping out with Mer and Bailey’s patients, and he very much appreciates her hard work. Jo asks if they can discuss her career path, but that conversation gets stalled until after the winter break because Richard gets the last text that he wanted to see. He ominously tells Jo that no one will be leaving the hospital tonight before walking away.

We then get another brief check up on Koracick as Maggie goes to see how he is doing. Koracick looks much better than he did in the last episode and seems to be more himself. Maggie happily reports that Mer is awake, which gives Koracick a much needed dose of hope. She says that she will be back in an hour and advises her patient to rest, but a lot happens in that short amount of time. Richard has paged the staff to the cafeteria for a somber announcement: Seattle Presbyterian has hit capacity, which means that GSM will be receiving double the amount of patients per day. Richard announces that the hospital is on surge protocol and that they will need to turn the cafeteria into a COVID ward and double up patients in every room to fit the swell of incoming patients. He also proclaims that residents will now be able to treat COVID patients, which should be a big help to our main players. After his speech, Richard approaches Bailey to tell her to go home and deal with the grief of losing her mother. Bailey, who sounds a bit dead inside, refuses to leave or to go home. Richard knows his stubborn protégé won’t budge, so he tasks her with handling the patient transfers from Seattle Pres to Grey Sloan Memorial.

IF THINGS WEREN'T BAD ENOUGH...

Back in the ER, Hayes wants to order chest X-rays for the girls to make sure their lungs weren’t damaged by smoke inhalation, while Jackson tends to a burn on Jada’s hand. Owen walks back in and pulls Jackson and Hayes to the side to inform them that Bob the kidnapper is en route to the hospital. Jackson immediately says no, but Owen informs him that even though he too isn’t happy about it, there isn’t a choice due to Seattle Pres being at capacity. Owen wants both girls moved into rooms upstairs, stat — that way they don’t have to come face to face with the predator.

DeLuca pops into Mer’s room for a quick exam, and Mer is back to her usual self. She wants to know how her patients are doing and wants to start helping as a doctor again. DeLuca tries to remind her that she needs her rest and to get better first, but he gets paged away. Over in the cafeteria, Teddy is running the show like a tyrant. She is not in a good mood at all and is shouting to the rest of her helpers that the fire marshal will only let them have 30 beds in the cafeteria. Teddy goes off on Helm for not setting up the beds and supplies the way she likes them, and Richard steps in to put an end to her rant. The stress has clearly gotten to Teddy, who storms off like a child instead of speaking properly to her boss.

Things get even more tense when Koracick’s roommate crashes and begins to code. Maggie and a team of nurses rush in to try and save the man, but he unfortunately doesn’t make it. Koracick is horrified and is visibly freaking out over what just happened. He tells Maggie how his roommate’s wife tried to take care of her husband over the phone and that he would like to know the dead man’s full name in order to pray for him. In a panic, Koracick asks Maggie if Mer is still awake. Hearing that Mer is still doing well helps calm Koracick down a little. 

In the ambulance bay, Jackson tells Owen that the girls are now upstairs. Schmitt joins them to wait for Bob’s arrival, and he shares his disbelief over conducting a sex trafficking ring during a pandemic. Bob arrives handcuffed to his gurney and is causing a fuss. He claims that the girls broke into his house and started a fire. Station 19’s Montgomery hops out of the ambulance and tells them not to listen to Bob’s nonsense. As Jackson and Owen wheel Bob inside, a mysterious woman pokes her head around the corner and asks Schmitt what happened to that guy. She goes on to tell Schmitt that she was mugged and hit her head, so Schmitt tells her to follow him inside to get checked out. As he turns to walk away, the woman stops the act and looks totally fine. Could the sketchy lady be a part of Bob’s operation?

SHOWING SOME KINDNESS

Upstairs, Jackson talks to Jada and informs her that his attorney is looking into her mother’s arrest. He fully intends on righting Joyce’s situation. Jada is moved by Jackson’s willingness to help and cries about how she caused the mess by being dumb. Jackson reminds her that she is only thirteen and that it is okay to make mistakes. He reveals a story about how he stole his mom’s car and crashed it when he was fifteen before reinforcing the idea that Jada should only be mad at her kidnapper and not herself.

In the ER, Owen examines Bob and asks him to stop struggling against the handcuffs. Bob wants the cuffs off and keeps repeating how he didn’t kidnap the girls. Owen strongly says he believes both girls and is amazed by their strength. He tells Bob about his own sister’s kidnapping to drive the point home. Owen ends his speech by telling Bob that it’s his job to help his skin and lungs, but he deserves to spend his life behind bars. Bob chooses that moment to crash and pass out, which makes Owen momentarily think that he is faking. When he realizes Bob isn’t faking, Owen quickly calls a stroke alert. In another ER bay, Schmitt checks out the mystery woman, who wants to know what’s going on with Bob. She gets distracted from Schmitt’s questions as Owen goes by pushing Bob’s bed. The mystery woman becomes even sketchier when she asks Schmitt where the restroom is, and she tries to follow Owen and Bob. 

Over in the COVID ward, Koracick wheels himself into Mer’s room in a wheelchair for a visit. Mer is surprised to see that Koracick is also sick, so I guess no one told her. Koracick tells her that he wanted to see that it was possible to beat COVID, but Mer reminds him that she has almost beat it. Koracick also wanted to spend some time in a room where no one is dying because he can’t stand that everyone is dying around him. Mer reaches out her hands, and he takes them. They share a nice moment as Mer assures him that she won’t tell anyone that he broke the rules to come visit her.

We then see that Amelia has stuck around the hospital as she pops in to see how Bob’s CT is going. Owen informs her of the kidnapping situation. Amelia says she is Bob’s best chance to live long enough to rot in prison because he is having an ischemic stroke. Back in the COVID ward, Bailey is moving the new sick patients from Seattle Pres to rooms in Grey Sloan Memorial. She gets distracted when her current patient is assigned to the room where her mom died the night before. She asks DeLuca if he would be willing to take over for her. DeLuca tells Bailey that she should care for herself and either go home or go to her office for a bit. He tries to get her to understand that she needs to take more than a minute to grieve. Bailey sheds some tears over his kindness as DeLuca takes her place with the patient.

Owen and Amelia have brought Bob to the cath lab to take care of the clot in his middle cerebral artery. Amelia asks if the girls are okay, and Owen says that he hopes so. Amelia can’t wait to go home and hug Scout, which makes Owen profess how awful it feels that he can’t go home and see his kids. He feels not seeing his kids is a special kid of torture and is sort of happy that the pandemic is keeping him occupied. Owen goes on to say how not everyone is trying to help stop the pandemic when there are some people trying to hurt others like Bob. 

Back in Mer’s room, Koracick and Mer are sharing a good laugh. Koracick is cracking jokes about how neurosurgeons are the best lovers of all the surgeons, causing Mer to laugh and cough hard. He ignores the protest of Mer’s lungs and continues to talk about how he wants to create a dating app for women who want to date a neurosurgeon after he gets better. The happy moment fizzles out quickly when Koracick settles down and says, “You don’t realize how addicted you are to saving lives until you can’t.” He tries to lighten it up by wondering how the top two surgeons in the hospital caught the plague. They go back and forth on who is the better surgeon, but their ribbing gets cut short as they constantly see dead COVID patients being wheeled by outside of the room, which hits them equally hard.

THE TRUTH HURTS

Richard decides to see how things are going with Teddy and the new cafeteria COVID ward. Teddy is still in a bad mood, so Richard tells her that she can take some personal time if she wants since she has more than earned it. Somehow, this prompts Teddy to finally reveal her problem: she thought that if she could keep Mer alive, that it would mean something. However, nothing has changed now that Mer is awake. Teddy doesn’t feel that taking a break will save anyone, plus she has nowhere to go anyways. Richard gives her a dose of pure truth and tells Teddy that that’s on her and she knows it. He believes that Teddy needs to take the time to figure out why she blew up her life and clean up her messes. Teddy needs to look at herself in order to not repeat the same pattern again. Hopefully this is a real wakeup call for Teddy because she most certainly does need to clean up her life.

Maggie finds Shanice’s mom crying in the hallway outside her daughter’s room. Shanice’s mom is having a hard time with the fact that she almost lost her daughter and has to go on as if nothing happened if she wants her family to survive the pandemic. She can’t take any time off work, which is hard on her. She leaves Maggie in the hall to go back in with her daughter. In another hallway, the mystery woman is talking on her cellphone to a second mystery person about how Bob won’t talk. She wants to go talk to Bob to see how much the girls he kidnapped know. The woman rounds a corner, sees DeLuca, and stops dead in her tracks, but he doesn’t see her. Flashes reveal that she is the same lady who brought in the kidnapped girl at the end of last season. Bob is part of the same sex trafficking ring that caused DeLuca’s big meltdown. 

Back in Mer’s room, Koracick tells her that her stats are looking good, and Mer talks about how much she misses her kids. Koracick says that he used to be so angry at God for taking his son, David, away from him, but now he thinks it’s a blessing in disguise since David doesn’t have to see his father so sick. He quickly says that he is kidding and wishes there was a silver lining because there isn’t anything he wouldn’t do to have more time with his kid. Another staff member comes into the room and forces Koracick to leave. As he’s being wheeled out, Koracick wishes Mer good luck with the plague, and she says the same back.

Schmitt happens upon the sex trafficking ring lady and has brought a police officer along to let her give a statement about being mugged. She distractedly tries to give a fake story while worrying about running into DeLuca. Meanwhile, Jada and Shanice are now sharing a hospital room as Hayes and Jackson watch over them. Joyce comes running into the room, and Jana is very happy to be reunited with her mom. Hayes and Jackson give them some space, and Hayes asks Jackson if he was able to help them. Jackson replies that money got Joyce out of a sticky situation.

Outside in one of the tents, Maggie is giving COVID patient’s families calls about their deaths. Amelia sees her sister and decides to take a break with her because she is sad about saving Bob’s life when she could easily have ended it. Maggie doesn’t know how Amelia had the control to save him, and Amelia says that she didn’t hurt him because she took an oath to do no harm. Amelia isn’t the happiest that Bob will live far longer than he should even if he does die alone in prison. Maggie is sick of everything, and Amelia agrees that it’s infuriating. 

However, Amelia doesn’t understand that Maggie is talking about the monsters from the past that made the world what it is today. She’s outraged about how Black girls aren’t seen as innocent victims but instead tend to be guilty until proven innocent. Maggie discusses the same high statistics for Black girls being kidnapped that were discussed on Station 19 and says that it’s a problem that gets ignored too easily, just like how not everyone is outraged that COVID is killing Black people at crazy rates. She firmly believes if COVID was killing white people at a higher rate, then wearing masks would be the law. Amelia says Maggie is right and doesn’t know how she carries it all. Maggie replies that she does it by the skin of her teeth before walking away.

TOO MUCH TOO SOON

Schmitt finds Jo on a bench outside at the end of the day and asks if she quit yet. Jo doesn’t feel that she is quitting, rather she is choosing joy. She hasn’t spoken to Mer since she woke up because she doesn’t want to get shamed for leaving surgery. Jo knows that whatever Mer would say would be right, but she gets a lot of joy from thinking about changing professions. It seems like Jo is sticking to her rash decision, even though it seems like an odd choice.

Back inside, DeLuca is impressed that Bailey successfully transferred 27 patients to the new COVID ward in under five hours. He asks if she broke anything, and Bailey replies that she screamed into a pillow for a few minutes. DeLuca tells Bailey that he has no words to describe how bad it felt when his mom died. Bailey says it doesn’t feel like she’s in her body and doesn’t know what to do about a memorial. Her mom had big plans for a service and didn’t want a sad funeral, but none of it can happen now. DeLuca interrupts when he gets an alert on his phone to take his meds and get some sleep since it is the end of his shift. Bailey is so proud of the progress he has made. DeLuca tells her that he is lucky to be surrounded by people that didn’t give up on him.

Mer is sitting in her room and hears and sees the patient in the room across the hall coding. No one is immediately responding, so she pushes her own help button. When no nurses or doctors come running, Mer does the only thing she knows how to do: she unplugs her IV, changes her mask, gets out of bed, and goes across the hall to help the dying patient herself. Mer starts compressions, and a few nurses arrive moments later. The nurses tell her to go back to bed, but Mer says the patient doesn’t have that kind of time. Mer instructs a nurse to take over compressions, while she intubates the patient. Helm shows up and is shocked to see Mer working on the patient. Mer finishes her job and goes to walk back to her room. On her way out the door, Mer asks Helm to get her a wheelchair and promptly passes out as Helm catches her.

The next morning, Owen walks out of the hospital for some air and sees Teddy. Surprisingly, he walks over to say hi. He tells Teddy that he doesn’t want to keep punishing her or the kids and wants to talk about what they are going to do. Teddy takes Richard’s advice to take inventory of her life and reveals to Owen that she was in love with her friend Allison and that they were deeply in love with each other. She isn’t sure what it has to do with what she did to Owen, but she says it was the only secret she kept from him before she slept with Koracick. Teddy just wants to give Owen all the facts and still loves him and their family even if it’s over between them. Owen laughs hard and bitterly. He’s been trying to put it all together since their wedding day. Owen says it turns out she didn’t change; rather he didn’t really know her at all. He then gets a bit mean by saying that Teddy doesn’t know what "true" means and that they named their daughter after a lie. Owen walks away as Teddy gets a page about Mer’s declining status, causing her to rush inside.

Richard visits the COVID ward cafeteria and tells Bailey that he has never seen anything like this. He’s not sure doing his best will be enough this time. He feels that they are going to lose their own to the toll of the pandemic, not the disease itself, because it will hurt them in a way that they can’t even begin to understand. I’m putting money on Teddy being the first of those victims. Bailey and Richard simultaneously get pages about Mer too.

Bailey, Richard, and Amelia have quickly congregated outside of Mer’s room. Maggie hasn’t answered her phone according to Amelia, so she’s missing from the group. Teddy checked in on Mer, who is now unconscious, and updates the group on her declining stats. Bailey thinks the exertion of helping the other patient put Mer over the edge, but Teddy isn’t sure that’s true. Teddy thinks Mer’s lungs were already too damaged and the treatment caused a COVID high. She thinks it’s time for Mer to go on a ventilator, but Bailey is firmly against the idea. Teddy feels Mer’s lungs are at a breaking point and that more patients are surviving because of ventilators now instead of it being a death sentence. Bailey protests, and Richard reminds her it’s his call. He tells Teddy to do it, as they all look incredibly worried.

Out in the parking lot, the sex trafficking ring lady leaves the hospital while talking on the phone. She says that she had to leave the hospital because it’s too risky. DeLuca walks through the parking lot at the same moment and sees her this time. He instantly recognizes her. Carina walks up to him at the same time, so DeLuca tells his sister what is going on and needs her to believe him. She wants DeLuca to call the police, but he wants to follow the woman. They decide to follow her together and call the police at the same time. Unfortunately, we don’t know how this story will play out, and the resolution is a very long three months away.

A quick cut away shows Maggie drunk in her hotel room. Someone knocks on her door, and she drags herself out of bed. When she opens the door, she is very surprised to see Winston standing there with a bouquet of flowers. It was only a matter of time before he showed up in Seattle, and this is the perfect time for his arrival. Maggie needs some moral and emotional support and Winston is the perfect person to help her. The episode ends with Teddy bringing an unconscious Mer to the COVID ICU and putting her on a ventilator. There are some flashes between Teddy putting Mer on the ventilator, Mer alone on her beach, and Bailey, Richard, and Amelia solemnly watching from outside the room. Mer might be in a bad place for now, but let’s keep our hopes up that she will pull through. 

Hopefully we get some good news when the show returns March 4, 2021.

Saturday, December 26, 2020

Never Have I Ever 1x01 Review: "Pilot" (A Coming-of-Age Comedy) [Contributor: Jenn]


“Pilot”
Original Airdate: April 27, 2020

Do you remember what your high school experience was like?

Whether you had a great one or a downright unbearable one, I think we can all agree that high school is awkward. You’re still trying to figure out who you are, what you like, and who you want to become in the future. You know nothing about love and relationships, and you don’t have that much experience in the world yet. But that doesn’t mean high school students don’t know trauma or grief. And that’s something Devi Vishwakumar (Maitreyi Ramakrishnan) knows firsthand.

When we open Never Have I Ever, narrator John McEnroe (just go with it; it’ll be explained later on) tells us the story of Devi, a 15-year old high school sophomore who had a terrible freshman year. Her father had a heart attack and died at a recital. And then with no medical explanation apart from grief and trauma, Devi’s legs stopped working which left her confined to a wheelchair. Not the ideal freshman experience by any means.

But Devi’s a sophomore now who is no longer wheelchair-bound, and is ready to reinvent herself. She decides the first step to improving her life and the lives of her best friends Fabiola (Lee Rodriguez) and Eleanor (Ramona Young) is for them all to get boyfriends. Her reasoning is that boyfriends are stepping stones to popularity. The boys don’t have to be perfect — they just have to give the girls enough credibility to get popular. Devi tells the girls she’s setting her sights on a flamboyant and not technically out boy named Jonah, but in reality she’s crushing hard for Paxton Hall-Yoshida (Darren Barnet). And at the end of this episode, she decides to ask him to sleep with her. 

Devi is obsessed with her plan to gain popularity and have a “normal” high-school existence. She doesn’t want to do the work to emotionally process the trauma of her father’s death — even when her therapist (played by Niecy Nash) recommends that Devi begin journaling. Instead of working through her feelings, Devi prefers to try and control her life. She prides herself on success and this area should be no different.

A PROTAGONIST WITH FLAWS


The thing about Devi is that in the pilot, and as the series progresses, we don’t always have to root for her. She’s flawed and she’s also a teenager. When she chooses to say or do things, when she makes choices that we as audience members cringe at, we’re reminded that she doesn’t know enough about life to be self-aware. It’s frustrating in the pilot to see Devi’s reaction to the news that Eleanor has a boyfriend (and that Fabiola knew). Eleanor dating a theatre tech was not part of Devi’s plan to make them all popular or cool; it was, however, something that Eleanor and Fabiola hid from Devi because they knew she would overreact. You’d think Devi would be happy: Eleanor has a boyfriend.

But it’s not about Eleanor’s happiness; it’s about Devi’s desire for control. She storms out, irate, while John McEnroe talks about them essentially both being passionate and hot-tempered individuals. 

As Never Have I Ever continues, we’re going to see exactly how flawed Devi is, how much her selfish actions and lies hurt others... especially her best friends. But for now, the pilot is an example of how Devi doesn’t have the proper perspective yet that she needs to grow.

A lot of Never Have I Ever is about Devi, her attempt to navigate high school, and her friendships. But the core of the show is family and we’ll see a lot more in the coming episodes focused on Devi’s relationship with her mother and cousin Kamala. But in the pilot, we get the chance to see their dynamics a little. Kamala is a beautiful PhD student at Caltech. There’s not clear reasoning as to why Devi dislikes Kamala so much, but we can read between the lines: she’s the perfect Indian woman. She’s smart, she’s beautiful, she’s motivated, she’s set to have an arranged marriage, and she’s also just a perfectly nice person! She’s trying, and Devi thinks she’s trying too hard. Kamala is, in the teenager’s mind, imposing on her way of life and also setting an impossible standard to live up to in her family. I get it. And as we learn more about Devi’s relationship with her mom, we’ll discover more about family grief and trauma.

Never Have I Ever is such a delightful comedy and I can’t wait to continue to unpack it with you all!

Favorite things:
  • I love that John McEnroe is the narrator for this show. I will never NOT love it.
  • “Not a super chill time to be a brown person in America.”
  • “Sociopaths get shit done, Fab.”
  • “Your responses were very hurtful.”
  • I just love Kamala and she only grows on me as the series progresses.
What did you all think of the pilot? Sound off in the comments below!

Saturday, December 19, 2020

Grey’s Anatomy 17x05 Recap: “Fight the Power” (The Ballad of Miranda Bailey) [Contributor: Julia Siegel]


“Fight the Power”
Original Airdate: December 10, 2020

Miranda Bailey takes center stage in the latest episode of Grey’s Anatomy, as she deals with quite the personal dilemma. As COVID rages in Seattle, a very sick Tom Koracick is brought to Grey Sloan Memorial in rough shape. Jo has a moment of hope and bliss with a surprise assignment in an otherwise depressing episode. Let’s dive into these main storylines.

A LIVING NIGHTMARE

It is clear from the get-go that the episode will revolve around Bailey, as she gives the opening voiceover and appears in the first scene. Bailey has been sleeping in her office most nights, as she has little time or energy to make it to her hotel. We see her morning routine, including a FaceTime call with Ben. As she makes her way through the hospital, Bailey has a video call with her dad. Bailey’s dad is having a hard time with her mom’s dementia and she always tries to leave the assisted living facility they are living in. The news is very concerning to Bailey, who urges her father to not go outside or let her mom go outside, before ending the call to get to work.

A little while later, Bailey and Maggie have a conversation about the increasing number of COVID cases in assisted living facilities and nursing homes. Maggie says that three new COVID positive patients have come into the hospital that day from the same home. Bailey asks which one and is surprised to hear Maggie say the name of the place where her parents live. She runs off to call Ben. A panicking Bailey asks her husband to pick up her parents and bring them to her hotel room, which she feels will be a safer place for them. Ben naturally agrees to help, but he’s in for a surprise when he gets to the assisted living facility. 

Bailey makes her way back to the desk where Maggie is working. Maggie informs her that her phone has been ringing like crazy, and Bailey sees that she has nearly 20 missed calls from Ben. Right as she calls him back, Ben comes rushing into the hospital in front of Bailey with her very sick mother on a gurney. Maggie and Bailey immediately bring Bailey’s mom to the COVID ward. They have a difficult time taking care of her because she doesn’t understand where she is or what is going on. Bailey decides to sing to her agitated mother, which helps her calm down. Mrs. Bailey calms down enough to let them help her and even starts singing along. Later in the day, Bailey checks in on her mother. Maggie informs her that her mom’s condition is worsening and that she is going into multi-system organ failure. Bailey knows that her mom wouldn’t want to be on machines or kept alive with medications, but isn’t quite sure what to do. She wants to call her dad, but she doesn’t know how to tell him that the love of his life won’t make it through the night. 

Instead of immediately calling her dad, Bailey decides to visit Meredith. Even though she is still sleeping 99% of the time, her stats have been slowly getting better since she got into the trial. Bailey tells a sleeping Meredith that she misses her. As Bailey starts talking, we see her on the beach with Meredith. Bailey describes how she’s always had big emotions and that her mom helped her manage her feelings as a kid. She goes on to tell Meredith that her mom has Alzheimer’s and never told her because she didn’t want to bring up old pain for her or Richard. Bailey says it would be a lie to say that it hasn’t been hard or painful even though she is a doctor and knows a lot about Alzheimer’s. She feels like she knows nothing and has a hard time talking about it. Meredith solemnly responds here and there on the beach, even though Bailey can’t hear her. The touching scene ends with Bailey wishing that Meredith was awake so they could really talk.

Bailey goes back to her mom’s room and has her dad video call in. Her mom is awake, and her dad is now quarantining at Bailey’s hotel room. Bailey’s mom recognizes her husband before falling asleep, leaving father and daughter to talk. Mr. Bailey really wants to be at the hospital with his wife and wants his daughter to call him back when her mom wakes up again. Mrs. Bailey has heard the whole conversation and is crying in her sleep. Bailey tells her mother that if she’s ready to go, it’s okay. She assures her mom that they will be okay and that they love her, but don’t want her to suffer. Mrs. Bailey wakes up and says that she’s not ready to die. Bailey replies by saying she understands if she is tired and that she loves her. Mrs. Bailey again says that she’s not ready to die and that she wants to go home.

Bailey takes some time outside to think. She leaves a voicemail for Ben to tell him that she thinks her mom was lucid and needs help deciding what to do next. Maggie finds Bailey and joins her on the bench she’s sitting on. Bailey explains how her mom said she wasn’t ready to go, which made Bailey feel overjoyed before feeling mad. She’s mad that no one told her that her mother was sick. Bailey doesn’t want her to suffer from Alzheimer’s anymore, but she doesn’t want COVID to be the reason she dies. Bailey doesn’t want her mom to be another statistic as a Black woman dying from COVID. She is having a hard time coping with the fact that her mother was perfectly healthy and is now struggling to breathe.

Maggie understands that it isn’t easy and that the situation is confusing and hard. She tells Bailey that with her mom, fighting at all costs didn’t give her a better peace of mind at the end and might have done the opposite. Maggie realized in hindsight that it was easier to fall back on acting like a surgeon rather than a daughter. She knows Bailey will never be ready to say goodbye to her mom and tries to help her realize how much she has done for her mom and that her mom has lived an amazing life. Bailey isn’t having any of it because she feels guilty for bringing her parents to Seattle right before the pandemic hit. She believes that if she hadn’t forced them to leave New York, they would be fine. Maggie argues that Bailey couldn’t have known any of this would happen and that she shouldn’t feel guilty about it. Bailey realizes that she needs to be a good daughter, and Maggie assures her she is doing that by giving her mom the best care possible while keeping her comfortable. Maggie wishes she could have given her mom a more dignified death.

The last scene of the episode shows Bailey and Richard watching her mom from outside her hospital room. Bailey’s mom is getting worse, and Richard tells her that she needs to go see her mom because she will never forgive herself if she doesn’t. Bailey wants her mom to be surrounded by her dad and family, but doesn’t want anyone to get exposed. She is scared, and Richard says they will go in together. Once inside, Bailey sings to her mom while crying. Mrs. Bailey wakes up and listens as Richard joins in the song. With a tear in her eye, Bailey’s mom closes her eyes and passes away with her daughter holding her hand. The loss will definitely impact Bailey, and it will be interesting to see how it will affect her work. 

NEW PATIENT

The other COVID patient of the week is none other than Tom Koracick, whose condition has gotten very critical. Helm, Teddy, and Owen meet the ambulance that brings Koracick to Grey Sloan Memorial. His oxygen levels are dropping quickly, which concerns the three doctors. Before they can bring him inside, Koracick has a seizure on the gurney. Once they get him to a trauma room, Owen kicks Helm out because residents can’t help COVID patients. Koracick wakes up in a delirium and doesn’t know where he is or who Teddy and Owen are. They quickly decide Koracick is going to need CT scans immediately.

Teddy sends Koracick’s scans to Amelia and video calls her for a consult. Amelia decides that the best course of action would be for her to go into the hospital and examine Koracick herself. She hangs up and gives Link specific instructions for each of the four kids under their care. Amelia is glad that Link wants her to go help Koracick, especially because she doesn’t want her friend and mentor to die. Koracick means more to Amelia than Link knew, and she accidentally lets it slip that she once slept with Koracick. Amelia quickly walks out the door before explaining anything to Link. 

Over at the hospital, Amelia examines Koracick and updates Teddy on his status. Koracick has neural deficits, and Teddy tells Amelia that he asked for his son in the middle of his delirium. Amelia wants to watch him for a bit and see if he responds to treatment. Teddy and Amelia then have a real conversation about life. Teddy asks how baby Scout is and complains about not being able to see her own kids before asking if Amelia knows what happened with the wedding getting called off. Amelia assures Teddy that she has done much worse than her and hurt more people. Teddy feels that everyone ignores her, which makes her feel like she is wearing a scarlet letter. Amelia ends the conversation by promising to keep a close eye on Koracick for Teddy and thanks her for getting Meredith into the COVID trial. 

Later that night, Amelia is ready to leave the hospital after triple checking Koracick’s vitals. Teddy thanks her for all the help, and Amelia leaves Teddy to visit a sleeping Koracick. Teddy talks to him and says that she isn’t sure if he was too sick to answer the door or if he was ignoring her when she visited the other day. She continues by saying that they mean enough to each other that, even though she hurt him more than she can imagine, a repair can be made. Teddy hopes Koracick remembers some of the things he doesn’t hate about her in order to salvage their friendship. She says that he won’t be able to get rid of her unless he gets better and tells her himself. Koracick squeezes Teddy’s hand and wakes up. He jokingly tells her that he was ignoring her when she came to his house and asks for a friendly sponge bath. It is good to see that Teddy and Koracick will be able to repair their friendship because they both could really use a friend.

A NEW PATH FORWARD

The last big storyline of the episode follows Jo. Schmitt tries to wake his roomie up first thing in the morning, but Jo doesn’t want to get up for work. She hates that she can’t operate and can’t stand having to see the refrigerated car of dead bodies. Schmitt needs her to get up because he needs a ride to work. Jo begrudgingly helps him out and is still looking over the patient from two episodes ago who had the liver baby. Schmitt, Jo, and new intern Khan find her labs concerning and determine that they need to do another scan. The new mom is upset that she hasn’t met her baby, but Jo reminds her that the baby is still on a ventilator and that it isn’t safe yet. 

To cheer her up, Khan goes to the NICU to let the patient FaceTime with her baby. Jo and Schmitt interrupt and inform their patient that the CT scan shows she has an abscess in one of the blood vessels in her liver. It’s causing a pseudo-aneurysm and will need immediate surgical intervention. The patient gets mad again because she has waited eight years to become a mom and feels that it will never be real at this point. The three doctors feel bad for her and bring their patient to the OR for surgery. Things don’t go as well as expected, so Jo changes the plan mid-surgery to remove part of the liver to save the patient’s life. 

The surgery is successful, and the patient survives. While scrubbing out, Khan tells Jo how happy he is to have been a part of that surgery. Jo is confused because the patient may still need a transplant and isn’t out of the woods. She also can’t imagine that Khan would find that surgery exciting when he was formerly a vascular surgeon in Syria. Khan insists that he was impressed with Jo’s skills, which brightens Jo’s day. 

Shortly after, Khan finds Jo in the hall and tells her their patient hasn’t woken up yet. Jo wants him to keep looking after the patient and sends him on his way. As Jo goes to walk away, a nurse grabs her and says she needs a doctor immediately to help deliver a baby. Jo tries to tell the nurse that she isn’t part of the OB department and hasn’t delivered a baby in a long time. The nurse drags Jo into a room and the doctor immediately jumps in and quickly delivers the baby. Jo is overjoyed to see the birth and the new family. She continues happily watching the new family until the nurse interrupts her moment and asks her to sign some paperwork before leaving.

Later that night, Jo recounts her tale of surprisingly having to deliver a baby to Schmitt. Jo liked that she was the first person in the world to hold the baby boy and that seeing the new family was the happiest thing she’s ever seen. However, she feels that the whole thing was a random fluke and that she will be back to the same old nonsense tomorrow. Jo then wonders if Carina is so happy all the time because she delivers little bundles of joy. Schmitt thinks Carina’s happiness probably comes more from her orgasm study, but Jo ignores him. Jo shocks her roommate by saying that she is considering changing specialties because she is tired of not being happy. She doesn’t think the change would be that insane if surgery isn’t bringing her joy anymore. Schmitt urges her to sleep on it before making any decisions, but it seems like Jo may have made up her mind. It’s unclear whether Jo will make her choice in next week’s two-hour winter finale crossover event, but we will soon find out what she wants to do with her life.

Julie and the Phantoms 1x01 Review: "Wake Up" (Tell Your Friends) [Contributor: Jenn]


“Wake Up”
Original Airdate: September 10, 2020

I am not the target demographic for Julie and the Phantoms, but that didn’t stop me from devouring and falling head-over-heels in love with the series. We’re talking about picking out china patterns and searching-for-a-house-together kind of love. With the kind of charm that director Kenny Ortega is known for, this teen/family show focuses on Julia Molina (Madison Reyes), a young woman who’s grieving the loss of her mom who died a year ago. When three ghost boys named Luke, Alex, and Reggie (Charlie Gillespie, Owen Joyner, Jeremy Shada) who died in 1995 show up in her house, Julie begins to find the courage to play music again.

So let’s dive deep into the show over the course of these reviews and talk about all the things that make it so endearing and important. Oh, and if you’d like to listen to two hours’ worth of a podcast about it, you can also check out our bonus episode of The Community Rewatch Podcast where friends and I covered all things Julie and the Phantoms.

For now, just sit back, relax, and grab a snack... anything other than a street dog, that is.

GRIEF AND HEALING THROUGH MUSIC

The most important thing about the pilot is that we learn Julie’s grieving the loss of her mother. She’s in the music program at her high school and since her mother’s death, Julie has been unable to play. Unfortunately, her grace period is running out and if she can’t actually perform, she’ll be kicked out of the program. When Julie sits down at the piano, she’s unable to play and runs from the classroom.

Later on, Julie’s dad confronts her about her decision to give up on the music program. He knows his daughter well enough to know that music isn’t just what bonded her to her mother — it’s the thing that makes her come alive. And that theme of music being life-giving and healing continues throughout “Wake Up.” When Luke, Reggie, and Alex realize that when they play their instruments, people can hear them, Luke is elated. He tells Julie that it’s the most alive they’ve felt since they died. They’re still able to do the thing they love and were born to do. Luke then makes a pretty poignant mini-speech to Julie about how they could never be able to give up the thing that makes them come alive, no matter what. They’re artists; it’s who they are and music is what they were born to do.

But interestingly enough, Julie lies to the boys when they ask her about the piano in the studio. She tells them that she doesn’t play and that she isn’t a musician. I think so much of Julie in the pilot is incredibly relatable for anyone who’s ever struggled with grief. She keeps her head down and a hat on in the hallways at school, preferring to be as invisible as possible to everyone besides her best friend, Flynn (Jadah Marie). Julie has lost herself. Her grief is very valid and real, of course, but it’s also trapped and immobilized her. Imagine that Devil’s Snare plant from Harry Potter. Julie’s grief is like that; she’s trying to avoid it and fight it but all it does is grip tighter and tighter. The only way to survive a Devil’s Snare, as Hermione Granger will remind you, is to do the exact opposite of what you want to do: stay still. The way we survive grief is to feel its snares tangled around us and feel the weight of that deeply, but to not let it claim us as its next victim. We sit in grief, and we let ourselves feel it. We don’t fight it; we work through it.

But Julie’s pain, like the Devil’s Snare, is squeezing the very life and light out of her. And it’s taking away the one thing in life she was born to do and loves doing: music. That’s what makes the storyline in “Wake Up” extra beautiful. Until the moment Julie sits down at the piano to play her mom’s song, she does not really know how to feel her grief while also expressing it in the art form that brings her the most joy.

Eventually, Julie recognizes the truth in the lyrics of the song her mom created: grief is a part of you. If you’ve ever lost a person you love, you know that the grief never really goes away. But the lyric: “And I use the pain, ‘cause it’s part of me” reminds us of the truth that there is power in our pain and there is purpose beyond it. Julie’s pain and her loss is part of what makes her a fully-realized human being; her grief is part of what makes her who she, Julie Molina, is. There is no one like her. And she uses pain and emotion to connect to herself and others through song. When Julie takes her mother’s advice and takes the first step — the small step on the path toward healing — she is empowered to take the next one. And then the next one. And so on.

“Wake Up” (the song, not the episode) brings Julie from darkness to light quite literally. It’s such a stunningly directed number, and I love that we begin to watch the morning light burst through the studio just like the light that had been dimmed in Julie bursts forth through her song. Madison Reyes is an incredible singer and actress already, and this number made me clutch my heart because of how deeply I felt connected to Julie in the moment.

But that’s not where we end: we end with Luke, Reggie, and Alex watching the performance from behind Julie. They’re as proud and in awe as we are; the girl they thought didn’t sing not only can sing well, but she can channel the kind of emotion and power that moves people (and ghosts). That’s why I love that we get the chance to see Julie’s dad and her little brother, Carlos, react so sweetly and softly to Julie singing again. They’re proud, yes, but there’s something else there too. They’re watching a person they love bloom and heal. It’s a beautiful sight, truly, when you can visibly see someone come into their own as a person.

The episode ends with the boys watching as Julie finishes her song, and when I first watched the pilot, I immediately went on to the next episode. I was enraptured by Madison’s voice and couldn’t wait to see where the story would go.

If you haven’t yet watched Julie and the Phantoms, please do. And then come back next week for my review of “Bright”!

Hitting the right notes:

  • Musical breakdown: “Now or Never” is really great, and I appreciate the commitment the boys had while standing under those 90s-style lights. Also I can’t wait to belt this out loudly at a concert someday. “Wake Up” stunned me in the best way possible, and now the only reason I can’t listen to it more often is because it’s my wake-up alarm. I kid you not.
  • The clever joke of the hotdog place being called “Sam and Ella’s” was not lost on me.
  • If you notice in the background when the boys are eating the hotdogs, you can see a missing poster for Luke that his parents put up. You’ll learn the heartbreak of that during “Unsaid Emily.”
  • “Hey underachiever.” “Hey disappointment.” Their friendship is everything to me.
  • “You know they’re gonna get married and have a bunch of unholy babies.”
  • “I have been crying for 25 years?! HOW IS THAT POSSIBLE?”
  • “You’re a good brother, but that’s not gonna work.” “I tried.”
  • Fun fact: Alex was the first character I connected with! Immediately I knew I was going to love him. Also confession time... I may have thought that the show was going to set Alex up with Julie until we learned in the next episode that Alex is gay. I still want Alex and Julie to have more scenes together as friends though. Maybe in season two, Netflix?
  • The final shot of “Wake Up” with the boys appearing in the background gave me chills. It still does.

What did you all think of “Wake Up”? Sound off in the comments below!

Monday, December 14, 2020

Jenn’s Pick: TV Shows and Films That’ll Deliver Holiday Cheer This Year [Contributor: Jenn]

This year has been tough, but as we approach the holiday season with its carols, lights, and general cheer (not to mention copious amounts of cookies), there are a lot of go-to holiday films and TV episodes to keep you in the Christmas spirit! Let’s break down some of the media you can rely on at the end of 2020 to deliver the perfect boost of serotonin!

Dash & Lily (Netflix)

Dash & Lily is a very quick binge if you’re in dire need of a YA rom-com that also satisfies your love for New York at Christmas. Based on a book series, Dash & Lily tells the story of its titular characters who get to know each other through a notebook game that they trade back and forth. The highly-optimistic Lily loves Christmas; the cynical Dash does not. But as the two get to know each other through their writing and we see New York through each of their eyes, we get to learn that maybe life, love, and Christmas aren’t as simple as we thought.

Incredibly witty, charming, fun, and with a stunning cast, Dash & Lily is — as my friend Shawn put it — essentially a modern-day You’ve Got Mail for Gen-Z. And if that doesn’t convince you to watch, I don’t know what will.

Noelle (Disney+)

Anna Kendrick isn’t a Disney princess (yet), but Noelle puts her pretty close when she plays the daughter of Kris Kringle intent on helping her brother, Nick (Bill Hader), become Santa Claus. But when Nick escapes from the North Pole and ends up in Arizona, it’s Noelle’s job to bring her brother back before Christmas is ruined for everyone. 

Noelle is a sweet, funny tale about believing in yourself, finding the meaning of Christmas, and learning the power of family. Anna Kendrick is a star, no doubt, and it’s her perfect blend of zany humor and emotional heart that makes this film so special and will give you a much-needed dose of holiday serotonin. 

Happiest Season (Hulu)

In spite of the social media controversy over whether Harper is a terrible human being or not, Happiest Season is a gem of a Christmas rom-com. Starring Kristen Stewart as Abby, a woman who’s headed home with her girlfriend for the holidays. There’s only one problem: Harper’s family doesn’t know she’s a lesbian, and they definitely don’t know that Abby is her live-in girlfriend. The entire movie is a series of misadventures with Harper, Abby, and the entire family. We discover more about Harper and her past. We learn about the competitive nature of the family and their competitive relationships. In a family where love had to be earned, it’s no wonder Harper, Sloane (Alison Brie), and Jane (Mary Holland) turned out the way that they did.

Though the film focuses on Abby and Harper, Dan Levy and Aubrey Plaza absolutely steal scenes, and if you’re in the mood for a cheesy rom-com for the holidays, Happiest Season is right up your alley.

The Muppet Christmas Carol (Disney+)

The Muppet Christmas Carol is the best version of this story, I will accept no arguments. I owned the movie on VHS as a kid, and maintain that it’s the best for numerous reasons: it features the Muppets, it has incredibly lovely songs (“Bless Us All” made me weepy as a child and still does a little bit as an adult), and it also stars the incomparable Michael Caine).

This movie might be nostalgic for you millennials, but it’s also the perfect film to watch this holiday season if you haven’t seen it. The jokes are fun and meta and the story is familiar and timeless. Check out The Muppet Christmas Carol this Christmas!

Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey (Netflix)

A new Christmas story debuted this year called Jingle Jangle, which was a delightful, vibrant, and heartfelt journey into the world of an inventor and the complexities of family. Jeronicus Jangle (Forest Whitaker) is an inventor who created something extraordinary when he was younger, but it was stolen by his apprentice, Gustafson (Keegan-Michael Key). He also ran off with a book of Jeronicus’ inventions. 30 year later, Jeronicus has lost his creativity to invent. He now owns a pawnbroker shop but if he can’t produce a spectacular invention soon, he’s going to lose his shop. 

Jeronicus has a daughter who is now grown but fairly estranged from him. Jessica (Anika Noni Rose) sends her young daughter, Journey (Madalen Mills), who is also a passionate inventor and incredibly smart to visit her grandfather after he sends Jessica a letter. Jeronicus seems uninterested at first, but he soon learns how much she has in common with him and truly begins to bond with her and love her as his granddaughter. The rest of the story is about magic, Christmas, the power of family, and inventions. It’s a wonderful musical journey filled with Black actors and actresses — seriously, the songs are so great and Madalen is insanely talented for such a young kid! — that will fill you with the joy that only holidays can bring.

I’ll Be Home for Christmas (Disney+)

Look, Jonathan Taylor Thomas was a 90s heartthrob, and I’ll Be Home for Christmas is a fantastic romp featuring his comedic chops. It also stars a young Jessica Biel, and the story is pretty straightforward: Jake (Jonathan Taylor Thomas) receives a call from his father in New York, offering to give him his vintage Porsche if he can return home to New York by Christmas Eve. Jake has been reluctant to go home since his mother died, and had originally planned to take Allie (Jessica Biel) away to Cabo for Christmas. But with his father’s offer and Allie’s insistence that she wants a “real Christmas,” Jake reconsiders and agrees to make it home in time for Christmas Eve.

What follows next is a series of shenanigans when Jake’s college nemeses punish him for not helping them cheat on exams. So Jake begins an arduous journey home by hitchhiking, entering a Santa race, and so much more. It’s a really fun journey though because every person Jake meets helps set him on the path toward what Christmas really means and why he’s been avoiding celebrating it for so long.

It’s a feel-good Disney film that you should definitely add to your Christmas rotation if you haven’t already!

Dolly Parton’s Christmas on the Square (Netflix)

Is this movie everything you expect it to be? Absolutely. But is it campy, a little emotional, and filled with plenty of Dolly Parton? Also yes. Regina (played expertly by Christie Baranski) is a jaded, grieving woman who decides to evict the residents of her hometown and sell the town to a land developer to build a mall. But she’s visited by an angel (Dolly Parton) who helps her think through some of the childhood traumas, experiences, and joys that brought her to where she is that day.

The plot is a bit all over the place, and there are more storylines than you can count but by goodness is it energetic in its campiness. Additionally, Dolly Parton wrote all the songs and basically created the whole film herself. That deserves some respect. Plus, Jennifer Lewis is in it and she is an absolute star. I’m fully convinced that Dolly’s an actual angel after watching this film and that Christine Baranski can elevate anything that she is in. And if that is all you take from this film too, that will be enough. 

“The Polarizing Express” — Psych (Amazon Prime; Peacock)

To kick off our discussion about Christmas television episodes, I wanted to talk about Psych. But I don’t know that I can say it any better than I did when I wrote about this episode years ago, so here goes:

In the vein of It’s a Wonderful Life, Shawn is forced to imagine what life would be like if he didn’t exist. Through some pretty hilarious and zany visions of Gus, Lassie, Henry, and Juliet’s lives, Shawn jokingly recognizes that their lives are better because he returned to Santa Barbara. But what made this Christmas episode so important was that there were moments within the visions where the characters would stop and stare at Shawn and he — and we — would realize truths about them: that Shawn doesn’t appreciate Gus as much as he should, that he doesn’t respect Lassie as much as Lassie deserves to be respected, that Juliet is a woman who isn’t as tough as she lets on, and that he needs to care about and for his father.

Those realizations carry over into reality: the reality where Shawn got himself suspended and his father fired because of his methods on a case. Shawn is lax and selfish at the beginning of the episode, thinking only of how HIS life has impacted the people around him. What he begins to realize through his dream sequences is that often he is too concerned with his own life and fails to appreciate the people who care about him and always go out on limbs for him. So Shawn decides to solve his real-life case using the by-the-book method he often disregards. He consciously chooses to treat the people in his life more carefully and more thoughtfully than he normally would thanks to his revelation. He decides to be mature and considerate and it pays off, as the team solves the case. Shawn returns to his father’s house later that night to repair their relationship and finds Henry asleep. In a moment of beautiful tenderness, Shawn tucks his dad in and then notices a Christmas card for him. We aren’t quite sure what Henry wrote in the card, but we do know that it visibly affects Shawn.

And for all these moments and so many more, “The Polarizing Express” deserves to be on your holiday watchlist. Also if you haven’t yet watched Psych, what are you waiting for?! It’s an amazing show.

“The Doctor, the Widow and the Wardrobe” — Doctor Who (HBO Max)

I was very tempted to put “A Christmas Carol” or “Christmas Invasion” on this list, but I decided instead to go with another Christmas special classic, “The Doctor, the Widow and the Wardrobe.” The plot seems relatively straightforward for Doctor Who — the Doctor (Matt Smith) is the caretaker of a widow and her children in 1941 England. It’s an homage, of course, to The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and in typical story fashion, the children escape to a magical world and something goes horribly awry. It’s a combination of the magic of fairytales with the sci-fi of Doctor Who. But the focus is truly on family. And when the Doctor sees the power in that, he decides to visit a few of his closest friends for the holiday: Rory (Arthur Darvill) and Amy (Karen Gillan). In a sweet, touching end of the story, the Doctor realizes it’s been two years since he’s seen his friends and yet... they always set a place at the table for him at Christmas dinner. He cries happy tears and the episode ends.

I love Doctor Who Christmas specials. My best friend and I watch them together every year, so it’s part-nostalgia, part-love for the show itself. But honestly, if you don’t get even a little bit weepy at the end of this one, you might be a Cyberman.

“Regional Holiday Music” — Community (Netflix)

Once upon a time, I loved Glee. And then I stopped, but when “Regional Holiday Music” aired, I was reminded of all of Glee’s absurdities all over again! Though “Abed’s Uncontrollable Christmas” is a true work of art, this one has to be my favorite Christmas special that Community did. The inclusion of Mr. Rad (Taran Killam) was a pitch-perfect parody of Glee’s Mr. Schue. Everything from the musical interludes, the veiled reference to Brad, and a Kings of Leon joke makes this episode one for the books. But it’s more than just a clever dig at the FOX musical comedy; it’s a legitimately heartwarming story about friendship during Christmas. The final scene of the episode hit so hard when we watched it live because the show had been pulled from the schedule and while the choir sang “we’ll see you all after regionals,” those of us watching had no idea when we’d actually see our beloved Greendale Seven again.

Every year, “Regional Holiday Music” cheers me up, makes me laugh (seriously I dare you not to crack a smile during “Teach Me How to Understand Christmas”), and reminds me of exactly the kind of brilliance Community was capable of.

“The 23rd” — New Girl (Netflix)

New Girl is my favorite show. This is no surprise. And “The 23rd” may just be my favorite Christmas episode of all-time (sorry, The Office and Community). The episode focuses on our favorite ragtag group of friends trying to make it through a holiday party. Nick needs to make it to the airport on time to get back to Chicago from Christmas, even though he’s never EVER made his flight. Jess, meanwhile, is struggling with the fact that her boyfriend told her that he loves her and she doesn’t feel the same way. Cece is dealing with her jerk boyfriend (played by Stephen Amell) and Schmidt is trying to prove to Cece how much he cares about her.

At the end of the night, the group drives away from the party, dejected at how the evening turned out. But Nick has one last trick up his sleeve when he sees Jess’ dismay: he takes the whole group to a street with houses known for their incredible Christmas light displays. The street is dark already because it’s late, but the group makes a loud enough ruckus that the neighborhood relights their homes for a few moments.

“The 23rd” is everything you could want in a Christmas episode. It’s sweet. It’s hilarious. It drives plot forward. It features a lovely moment for the show’s main ship. But most importantly, it’s representative of the heart of New Girl. It’s an episode about doing anything for the people you love, no matter how absurd, and that... that is New Girl.

So what are your favorite Christmas episodes? Check out some of our past articles about my favorite Christmas classics and some other favorite holiday TV comedy episodes!

Thursday, December 10, 2020

Grey’s Anatomy 17x04 Recap: “You’ll Never Walk Alone” (A Ray of Sunshine) [Contributor: Julia Siegel]


"You'll Never Walk Alone"
Original Airdate: December 3, 2020

As Meredith’s condition worsens, we are greeted by another past cast member to lighten the mood. Things may seem grim at Grey Sloan Memorial Hospital, but life is good on Meredith’s dream beach. I wouldn’t be mad if we were gifted a full episode on that beach, as that is the only place where there is some happiness on this show. 

LOOK AT THE BRIGHT SIDE

The episode at least tries to start out on a good foot before things start to get worse. Richard has been spending much of his time in the COVID ward with Meredith, whose condition is worsening. She spends almost all day sleeping according to Richard, who is now doing daily updates with the hospital staff in a tent outside. All the main doctors are in attendance for a morning meeting and want to know how Meredith is doing. Richard tells them that she’s not getting any better and that they all know she is getting great care from Teddy and DeLuca. The pandemic is getting worse, and Koracick butting in via Zoom isn’t helping the situation. He is still out with COVID, even though he insists it must have been a false positive since he is perfectly fine. Jackson stops him mid-rant by hanging up the call, to the pleasure of everyone in the tent.

After the meeting, Jackson finds Jo in a lounge and invites her over to his place. He wants her to come over to reboot their friendship and start fresh from their disastrous last meeting. Jo agrees to hang out with him and have dinner at his place later that night. Over at the Grey/Shepherd/Pierce residence, Link is playing his guitar for Scout and Amelia is running around like a tornado. She has a dazed look in her eyes as she searches for gauze because little Bailey lost a tooth. Link has no idea why she is freaking out about a tooth falling out and suggests that she look on the bright side. Let’s just say that doesn’t sit well with the frazzled new mom.

Back at the hospital, DeLuca and Teddy have found a very promising COVID trial based in New York that has two open spots. They pitch the idea to Richard in hopes that he will allow them to try to get Meredith a spot in the trial. Richard wants to think about it a bit more before committing to a potentially risky trial. Bailey is also getting a bit anxious because her parents recently moved into an assisted living facility, which puts them at an even higher risk for COVID. While she mentions it another time or two throughout this episode, this is a story that will play out next week. She tells Nico about her struggles before he goes to help a female patient who has cut her arm. The patient is freaked out when she notices he is Asian-American and wants to know where he is from before he treats her. Nico pretends not to notice her xenophobia even when a new resident points it out. 

At the same time, an Asian-American patient is brought in via ambulance. He was recently treated by Owen for appendicitis and was sent home with some antibiotics. He fell off a ladder, landing him back in the ER. Over in Meredith’s dreamscape, a house has appeared on the beach. As she approaches the house, Meredith sees a man on the porch. It’s none other than George O’Malley, and it’s mighty good to see him again. Meredith is about as shocked to see him as he is her. There really is no one better to bring back than the most lovable, good-hearted original character.

SUPPORT SYSTEM

Meredith isn’t the only doctor dealing with the harsh realities of COVID. Helm shows up at Koracick’s house in full PPE to administer a COVID test. Koracick refuses to let her inside and perform the test. He grabs the kit and does it himself behind the closed door. While she waits, Helm reveals that she had a mild case of COVID. It’s odd that we are only hearing about this now and with no further explanation. It’s a wasted plot point. When Koracick opens the door to hand back the completed test, Helm sees a weird computer setup running simulations. Koracick says he is trying to stop the pandemic with algorithms, and it seems like quarantine is starting to get to the usually head-strong doc. 

During a routine FaceTime, Winston surprises Maggie by inviting her to a virtual dinner to celebrate his grandma’s birthday. Maggie is a bit unsure at first, thinking that it might be a bit too soon to virtually meet Winston’s grandma. Instead of telling him the truth, she blames her indecision on being worried about Meredith. Maggie eventually agrees to attend the virtual dinner, which makes Winston’s day. Over in the MRI suite, Owen’s former/current patient is getting a scan, and the results are being watched by Nico and the new resident. They find that the patient has diverticulitis, not appendicitis, meaning he will need surgery. Owen pops in and tells the resident that she can scrub in with him. 

We then get a peek at Jackson and Jo hanging out at the former’s place. They kick back, have a beer, and get a little sad when mentioning how worried they both are about Meredith, before Jo eventually passes out and accidentally stays the night. Their shared worry about Mer cues a very nice scene on the beach. Mer and George are together on the house’s porch now, and it is worth noting that she is able to get right next to him, but couldn’t get too close to Derek (who is sadly absent from this episode). George reveals that he checks in on her sometimes and says that Mer has great kids. In a nice play on the fact that it’s been over 11 years since we last saw him, Mer asks George how he got older. His quippy response that nothing on the beach is real and that it might be more peaceful for Mer to imagine him older is quite perfect. After Mer responds with, “You sound like a fortune cookie,” and the old friends share a laugh, things start to get serious. She wants to know if she gets to choose whether to go back or not, but George doesn’t know because he didn’t get that choice; he states that it is different for everyone. Maybe Meredith has forgotten that she does in fact get to choose whether to survive or not, which we know from season three’s similar arc. 

The scene changes to Mer’s hospital room, where she is now lying prone on the bed. Bailey and Richard are there in full PPE discussing the next steps. She wants to wake Mer up to ask her about the trial, but Richard is still on the fence and doesn’t think they will be able to wake her up. Richard is struggling with not knowing the pros and cons of the trial, so he decides to give Mer a little longer to see if keeping her prone will help. The sisterly drama continues with Winston’s grandma’s birthday Zoom dinner. Maggie, Winston, and Winston’s grandma are enjoying their long distance dinner when Winston’s dad unexpectedly joins the Zoom call. It is quickly revealed that Winston and his father are not on good terms at all, which causes Winston to abruptly hang up. He awkwardly leaves Maggie on Zoom with his family.

We then see Jo waking up on Jackson’s couch, mad at herself for falling asleep. Jackson is totally fine with the fact that she inadvertently slept over and tells her that she’s welcome anytime. Before she walks out the door, Jo turns around and kisses Jackson. After a few kisses, she decides she is ready to sleep with him. The pace quickly changes as the scene shifts back to Mer telling George that she was devastated when he died. George comforts her by saying that he was happy everyone was laughing at his funeral. Mer explains that she was devastated then became okay, which was the same thing that happened when Derek died. She goes on to say that eventually you move on and that her kids would go on too. 

We then finally get to the real reason George is on the beach: Mer’s subconscious is fighting for her to survive. Derek showed up for the past few episodes for the same reason. Mer is only going to imagine the people that will force her to keep fighting. George feels that grief is different for kids and reveals that his mom has not moved on from his death. “Some grief is heavier than other grief,” he explains before adding that some grief gets stuck. George goes on to say that sometimes he tries to shake the grief she is carrying out of her, and Mer makes fun of him for haunting his mom. In the most convincing part of the speech, George adds that he wants his mom to let it go and that he wants to tell her that he is still himself even though she can’t see or touch him. Hopefully Mer has finally taken the hint. The scene jolts from the beach to outside Mer’s hospital room, where DeLuca and Richard are talking. DeLuca is attempting to once again convince Richard that the trial is better than nothing and that they need to do something before it is too late.

FRUSTRATION

Owen, Nico, and the new resident check in on their patient the morning after the successful surgery. After Owen leaves the room, the resident has a difficult conversation with Nico. She wants to express her concerns to Owen about him not knowing that people of Asian descent are more susceptible to diverticulitis and the fact that he should be aware of that. Nico isn’t sure that bringing it up to Owen is a great idea because Owen is likely to think that she is calling him a racist, even though that isn’t her intention. He tells her to tread carefully and not go on a war path since she just started her residency at Grey Sloan Memorial.

Helm visits Koracick again and tells her grumpy superior that he keeps testing positive for COVID. Koracick’s worldview has become grim over the last 24 hours, which has Helm concerned. Back at Jackson’s, Jo and Jackson have slept together on his couch. Jo decides that if they don’t sleep together again then they won’t be considered “a thing.” Jackson thinks about it and says that if they do it again before getting dressed, then it’s just one experience. The logic convinces Jo, and they get busy. 

We then see Maggie and Amelia spending some time together while doing laundry in the backyard of the Grey/Shepherd/Pierce house. Maggie complains about Winston’s daddy issues, not realizing they were so bad that the two couldn’t even be together virtually. The conversation changes to them both stating that they hate that they can’t be with Mer before the scene switches back to the hospital. Teddy is outside looking frantic while getting some work done in a quiet spot. Helm finds her to tell her that Koracick is in a bad place and could really use a friend. Teddy is trying to keep up with all the new COVID developments and find a way to save Mer. Helm prefers that she proceeds with saving Mer, though Teddy doesn’t forget the message.

Inside, Owen, Nico, and the resident are once again with their patient. Owen is happy to announce to the patient that he is getting better and should be able to go home in a few days. The new resident decides to say that it’s terrible that the patient got so sick, and Nico quickly tells her to leave the room. After she walks out, Nico’s frustrations mount and he goes off on Owen about the misdiagnosis. Nico shouts that all of the patient’s suffering could have been avoided with a simple scan and that Owen should have known to check for diverticulitis. Nico’s better half, Schmitt, runs into his roomie Jo as they both get to the hospital. He judges her for not coming home before telling her that he is sleeping with Nico again. Jo shames him back, but she does like his idea of having a sex buddy during the pandemic.

Amelia continues to get angry at home when Link’s positivity becomes too much. She gets very annoyed with his happy-go-lucky approach to life while they are spending time outside. She actually tells him that she can’t take his positivity anymore and that he needs to give her space to be afraid and angry. Amelia doesn’t want her emotions to be shut down by looking at the bright side all the time because it will drive her to start using pills again. Link lets her air out her frustration, but he’s pretty hurt. 

DECISIONS

Back at the hospital, Mer is unconscious and shivering. Richard looks over her chart while trying to make a decision about the trial. On the beach, George asks Mer if she still dances it out. Mer replies that she hasn’t danced since Cristina left. George gently reminds her that Cristina didn’t die and not-so-subtly talks about all the things he misses about being alive. Mer briefly closes her eyes on the beach and hears Richard talking. When she opens her eyes, Richard is sitting on the beach with her and George. Though she can’t interact with him, Mer can hear Richard directly talking to her about whether to try the trial or not. Richard is struggling with seeing Mer so sick and not knowing what to do. Mer apologizes to Richard, who can’t hear her. George thinks that if Mer chooses to stay, her decision might break Richard. She tells George that she knows and verbally says, “I know, George” in the hospital room while sleeping. Real Richard hears Mer, runs out of the room, and tells DeLuca to get Mer in the trial. Hearing Mer speak and say George’s name is all Richard needs to hear to make a final decision.

Schmitt is taking a breather outside of the hospital before leaving for the day, when Nico walks out and sits on a bench near him. Nico proclaims that he hates everything in the world except for Schmitt, as he has just come from yelling at Owen. Schmitt wants to invite Nico over, but he’s not sure that anything has changed or if it is a good idea. Nico firmly believes that the pandemic has changed everything and that they might not live to see tomorrow. Schmitt is convinced by Nico’s passionate statement, and they go back to Jo and Schmitt’s apartment together. Jo then shows up at Jackson’s place, and Jackson quickly says that he doesn’t want to be in a relationship. He has finally realized that he tends to jump into relationships too fast and needs time to figure things out. Jo laughs and says that she isn’t in any position to be in a relationship either. She is still putting herself back together from her very rough year and is only looking for friendship and sex. Jo tells Jackson about Schmitt’s pandemic sex buddy idea, which definitely makes them a thing.

Owen finds Bailey in one of the hospital’s outdoor tents and wants to talk. He gives her the presentation of his patient and says that he sees it all the time as appendicitis. He feels there is no excuse for defaulting to standard care and explains that he made a judgement call. Owen wants to treat everyone equally. Bailey has heard all about the case and tells him that’s not how it works. She explains that everyone has biases and what matters is what you do about it. She encourages him to do some learning, change his practices, and change the trauma protocols if necessary. Owen is definitely taking his learning experience seriously, so it will be interesting to see if this story continues to play out.

Back at the Grey/Shepherd/Pierce residence, Link is playing his guitar by himself. Amelia approaches him and wants him to talk about his troubles. Link isn’t interested, and Amelia doesn’t want him to bottle his emotions up. He starts explaining that he processes emotions different from her. He only focuses on the good things because that’s what he needs to do to get through the day. Link can’t be miserable like Amelia all the time because he gets too depressed, so he sticks with what works for him. They finally agree that it’s okay that they process things differently.

At her hotel room, Maggie gets a video call from Winston. He’s apologetic about the Zoom dinner he ruined, and she says they don’t have to talk about his dad if he’s not ready to. Winston makes it up to her by watching a movie together through the video call. Teddy tries to be a good friend and goes to Koracick’s house later that night. He doesn’t answer, and she shouts through the door that she brought him soup and thought they could talk through the door. She wants him to know that he’s not alone. The camera pans inside to show Koracick sitting at the base of the door. He’s huddled in a blanket, has the chills, and definitely isn’t looking good at all. I’m a bit worried for Koracick, and his condition will continue to be featured in the next episode. 

The episode ends with another scene on the beach. Mer is back to talking about George’s death and tells him that she was mad at him for choosing someone over himself. George says he didn’t know that he would die, so Mer asks him if he regrets it. George doesn’t think it matters and says that Mer would have done the same thing. Mer tells him that he went all in for every person before saying, “You changed my life, George. I didn’t say it then, but it’s true.” 

The touching moment is interrupted by a flash to the hospital room, where Mer has been turned prone again. Bailey tells Richard that he made the right call to put Mer in the trial. Richard reflects on all the things he has seen Mer do in her life and opens up to Bailey. He knew that COVID patients suffered in isolation, but he never thought about how alone the people who care about them feel. He feels helpless, and Bailey puts her hand on his shoulder for support. The episode ends with a quick look at Richard, Bailey, Meredith, and George all sitting together on the beach. It’s very fitting for these four to be together, as they were always each other’s support system.

Wednesday, December 2, 2020

Grey’s Anatomy 17x03 Recap: “My Happy Ending” (Uphill Battle) [Contributor: Julia Siegel]


"My Happy Ending"
Original Airdate: November 19, 2020

What’s the best way to get an audience to pay attention and improve their daily practices? Give one of TV’s most beloved characters COVID and see how real people react. That’s the latest approach Grey’s Anatomy is employing to showcase the real risks, dangers, and truths about the pandemic we have been living with this year. The show has made it clear that it wants to illustrate the pandemic from start to end and make sure the audience understands how the virus has impacted the world’s everyday heroes. So hold on tight, because things are about to get crazy.

A STUBBORN PATIENT

It’s been four days in the Grey’s Anatomy universe since the events of the two-episode premiere. Richard is settling into his new job as chief of chiefs and decides to address the entire hospital staff via a live-streamed video message. He encourages the staff to take care of one another and announces that they have gotten enough COVID tests in for the entire staff. Everyone in the building will be tested that day and it is a non-negotiable. He also announces a new protocol for COVID cases: only attendings will be allowed to treat COVID positive patients. Richard feels it is too risky to allow residents and interns around the COVID patients, so the senior staff will be working on their own. To assist the residents with the rest of the patients, Richard introduces a new class of interns. 

We are then introduced to Grey Sloan Memorial’s VIP patient: Meredith Grey, who was hospitalized after collapsing in the parking lot and testing positive for COVID. Grey’s Anatomy can show the most impactful effects of COVID by giving Meredith the virus. She has the most family and friends on the show, the community of the hospital will be rocked, and she also owns the hospital, so there are a myriad of ways her declining health will impact the show. This will affect all characters and viewers alike. Now, I don’t expect Mer to succumb to COVID, but this won’t be a quick one or two episode arc. 

Teddy is Mer’s main doctor and naturally, Mer is trying to handle her own care. Mer wants to go quarantine in a hotel, that way the hospital will have a bed available for another patient. Teddy won’t let her patient leave the hospital until she’s sure Mer won’t pass out again. We then see that Maggie has been helping out in the COVID ward. After losing her seventh patient of the week, she bumps into Hayes who is there to lend a hand and ask how Meredith is doing. He really should go visit her, but Hayes is happy to hear that Mer is bossing everyone around like normal. 

Teddy discusses the pros and cons of letting Meredith leave the hospital with Maggie and DeLuca, but she can’t make a decision. Maggie and DeLuca go to check on Meredith and find her passed out on the ground. They panic, try to wake her up, give her oxygen, and get her back in bed. While that is happening, Meredith is dreaming about Derek on the beach. This will be a constant motif throughout the episode and presumably the near future to show each time Meredith loses consciousness, whether via sleep or due to COVID symptoms. She tries to take a few steps toward Derek, but wakes up before getting close to him. Meredith mentions to DeLuca and Maggie that she just wanted to take a few steps on the beach, which is why she got out of bed, but they have no clue what she is talking about. Meredith also doesn’t want any more tests but Maggie and DeLuca rush her to get a chest CT.

The scene cuts to outside of the hospital. Jo walks outside for a short break and sees Link, who is coming into the hospital for an ortho consult. Jo tells Link how she has been covering Meredith’s service for the past four days before Schmitt interrupts to grab her for an abdominal consult. Back inside, DeLuca, Maggie, and Teddy are watching Mer’s scans come up. DeLuca is angry that they didn’t listen to him about doing a scan hours ago and talks about all the different experimental drugs they could give Mer. Teddy and Maggie talk him down by explaining the multitude of reasons why they refuse to give Meredith Grey untested, experimental treatments. 

THE NEW NORMAL

We then get a break from the doom and gloom with a pair of consults. First, Jo examines her patient in the ER. The labs show that the patient doesn’t have COVID and that her abdominal pain is caused by her pregnancy. Funnily enough, Jo is more enthused about the news than her patient. Jackson, Link, and Helm go to see their patient, only to be asked to come back in a few minutes when he is done with a Zoom call. Turns out that he is a sex therapist and is in the middle of a session with clients. The doctors don’t know how to react, so they have him mute his call so they can examine his crushed hand for a few minutes. Unfortunately, they hear a bit of the call and leave before it gets too awkward. Jackson and Link agree that the patient will need a CT scan to determine whether surgery is needed.

One of Grey Sloan Memorial’s parking lot tents has been turned into a staff COVID testing center. Owen thanks Richard for making things at the hospital more efficient before going back to work. Richard and Bailey catch up while he gets his test, and he asks Bailey to write out all the things that still need improving now that he has the power to change things. Another change that Richard has made is making Koracick in charge of teaching the interns. Richard and Koracick have essentially switched roles, but it’s not going so well for one of them. Koracick is not happy with his new job and is incredibly standoffish with the room full of fresh interns. I do hope we get some stories with a pair of interns who are mother and daughter down the line. After passing out assignments to each doctor, he tells them to find someone else if they need any help and leaves. Koracick should be taking his new position more seriously if he wants to stay employed.

Over in Meredith’s room, Maggie shows her sister the scans of her lungs. It is clear that Mer’s condition is getting worse, and Maggie tells her that she needs to rest. Mer pushes Maggie to let her try an experimental drug treatment, but Maggie isn’t game and can’t make that call. Maggie leaves and finds Teddy in a nearby stairwell for a quick chat. She wants to know whether Teddy can handle being Mer’s doctor no matter what is going on in her personal life. Maggie says how concerned she is about Mer’s declining stats and how she needs to be there for Mer as her sister, not as her doctor. Teddy assures Maggie she can handle Mer’s case and even approves Maggie’s request to have DeLuca help out with Mer’s care since he has seen the most COVID patients.

In another room, Jo has brought in Carina to consult on her patient with abdominal pain. Carina can’t find any sign of a baby via ultrasound and determines that she must not be pregnant. Both doctors agree that a false positive could mean a tumor, so they book a CT scan to find the cause of the woman’s pain. Link and Jackson have gotten the results of their patient’s scans, and they decide he will need surgery to repair his hand. Link stays to operate, stating that his trip to the hospital is like a vacation from the four kids. Jackson is jealous that Link gets to spend time with the kids while he barely gets to see Harriet due to the pandemic and how much he is working. 

NEW ROLES

The scene shifts to a nurse complaining to Koracick about an intern’s lack of ability to do his computer work. The intern that Koracick assigned to desk summaries can’t figure out how to do the job that Koracick didn’t show him how to do. He freaks out when Koracick numbly tells him that he is writing transfer papers for dead patients to the morgue. This is yet another small instance of the pandemic getting to Koracick, which makes me worried about his long-term mental health. Over in CT scan room, Bailey checks in on Jo and Schmitt as they wait for the scans to be completed. All three are shocked to see that the patient is in fact pregnant and that the fetus is attached to her liver. The most interesting case in the past three weeks reinvigorates the doctors, and they can’t wait to share the news with the rest of the hospital.

Before that happens, we get an update on Mer. Maggie is sitting with Mer as she sleeps and Amelia is watching her sleep through FaceTime on Mer’s iPad. Mer is a bit grumpy when she wakes up, and Maggie decides to have a serious discussion about Mer’s healthcare directive. Maggie wants her to reconsider who her power of attorney is, but Mer has no interest in anything other than talking to her kids. Little Ellis pops on the screen to say hi, while Amelia and Maggie look on sadly. Mer then falls back asleep, giving us another quick glance at the beach scene. In a touching moment, Mer starts walking toward Derek as their love theme plays. He tries to approach her, but they can’t get close to one another. Derek says that Mer is worried about the kids and attempts to make her realize that she is in a dream. Mer doesn’t care, and they share a nice Han Solo/Princess Leia moment when Mer tells Derek that she misses him and he replies, “I know.”

Out in the staff COVID testing tent, Teddy purposefully finds Owen and makes some pleasant small talk. Owen is short, wants nothing to do with Teddy, and brushes her off after getting an update on Mer’s condition. He actually tells her to go away before yelling at the interns for not wearing their PPE properly. Owen curses out Koracick for not teaching the interns, which is strike two for the new teacher. Carina and Jo tell their patient the news about the pregnancy and explain that the baby will need to be delivered that day if she wants her to survive. The patient wants to keep the baby and preemptively names her Luna before being rolled off to surgery.

Before joining them in surgery, Bailey pays Mer a visit. Mer jokes about how bad her lungs are looking, but she can barely speak, let alone breathe properly. Bailey has come to talk some sense into Mer about changing her power of attorney from Alex Karev to someone local. She explains that it’s too difficult to make tough decisions over the phone and that Alex, who is halfway across the country, can’t travel to Seattle due to COVID restrictions. Mer knows that her sisters wouldn’t pull the plug on her even if it was necessary, which is why she wants to keep Alex as her power of attorney. She knows he is the only one who could make that decision. Since Bailey knows she’s not going to win this battle, she tells a jealous Mer about the liver pregnancy before leaving for the OR.

In another area of the hospital, Koracick sees Mama Ortiz, the mother in the mother/daughter intern duo, and demands to know why she’s not in the ER discharging patients. She tells her new boss how she was a social worker before becoming a doctor and feels the patients deserve better than being discharged. She refuses to discharge anyone before talking to their main doctor about each case. Turns out, Mama Ortiz is looking for Mer but Koracick doesn’t have the heart to tell her where Mer is and why the doctor isn’t currently working.

NEW ROADS

Hayes joins Carina, Jo, and Bailey in the OR to deliver the liver baby. They quickly get the baby out of the patient’s abdominal cavity, but the baby isn’t breathing or moving. To make things worse, the patient is also bleeding out. Hayes and Carina intubate the baby and bring her to the NICU, while Jo and Bailey remove a part of the patient’s liver to save her life. The scene cuts to Mer being woken up by her iPad ringing. She picks up a FaceTime call from Hayes, who is standing outside of her room. He jokes that the liver baby looks stronger than her and volunteers to be her power of attorney if she wants. Mer is still being stubborn about changing it, so Hayes encourages her to write down everything she wants medically, then choose someone who will ignore that and choose her over and over again. These two have such amazing chemistry over a call about potential death that Mer absolutely needs to get with Hayes if she recovers. Mer admits that she is afraid to fall asleep because she might not wake up. Hayes tries to cheer her up by saying that everyone is scared of her because she is fierce and will fight for every last thing. He says that the virus has nothing on her, and Mer hangs up with a smile.

Night has fallen on Seattle, and Koracick goes to talk to Richard in the latter’s new office. Koracick is unsure why Richard wanted him to teach the interns because he has no idea how to show them what to do. He goes on to say that the way Richard teaches is a real gift, which is an extremely nice compliment coming from Koracick. Richard believes that Koracick is the right man for the job due to Amelia’s recommendation. Koracick doesn’t believe that he can get the interns through the pandemic or teach them anything and feels that Richard needs to take over.

Link arrives home to the Grey/Shepherd/Pierce household and is greeted in the backyard by Amelia. He wants to stay away from her until he can get tested for COVID since he was at the hospital, and plans to spend the night outside, presumably in Maggie’s tent. Amelia asks how it went at the hospital, but Link barely responds before she bursts into tears about how worried she is for Meredith. Link doesn’t know how to console Amelia, and Amelia admits that she is struggling and feels like she might explode. That sparks Link’s memory of his patient’s method of giving his clients the best results, so he tells Amelia to tell him what she wants and he will get anything for her. Amelia decides that she wants to feel something other than overwhelming despair, and they decide to make that work while staying six feet apart.

TROUBLE AHEAD

Back at the hospital, Teddy tracks down Koracick in a lounge and asks him if they could possibly have a conversation over coffee. Just like Owen, Koracick turns Teddy down by sarcastically saying that he’s been having a grand time since their hookup and that it would be better if she weren’t there right now because she broke him. Koracick admits that he still loves Teddy, but he wants to get over her since he has had enough heartbreak in his life. As if his day couldn’t get any worse, Owen chooses that moment to crash their party and coldly announces that Koracick has tested positive for COVID. He orders Koracick to follow hospital policy by going home and quarantining for two weeks. Koracick is shocked and insists that he is perfectly fine and symptom-free. Koracick’s diagnosis leaves Grey Sloan Memorial without two of their top docs, and let’s hope no one else goes down.

We then get a quick appearance from Winston via video chat with Maggie in a supply closet. She cries and tells her new beau that she doesn’t know how much longer she can deal with the pandemic. Fifty three people have died on Maggie’s watch in the past three and a half weeks, which is weighing heavily on her. She is also scared for Meredith. In the NICU, Jo and Bailey check in on baby Luna. Bailey calls the baby pure joy, while Jo says she is a survivor. Bailey lets Jo know that the work she has been doing in Mer’s absence hasn’t gone unnoticed and thanks her for everything. Jo is happy to hear Bailey’s words, but she’s more focused on the fact that Mer has to survive. This is a great opportunity for Jo to continue to prove herself and I’ll bet she will keep shining.

Before the episode ends, Richard visits his pseudo-daughter. Meredith asks him to be her power of attorney because he’s known her for her whole life. Richard is also the only one she can trust to pull the plug if she has no brain activity. Mer reiterates that she doesn’t want to be put on a ventilator, but this time discloses that the reason is due to the shortage. She doesn’t want to take a vent away from a patient who needs it and insists that she isn’t at that point yet. Mer is trying to stay conscious because her kids need her. Richard points out that everyone needs her before leaving the room. Meanwhile, Bailey is waiting to direct Richard to his next meeting. Richard brings the three interns who survived their first day at the hospital into a clean OR. In a scene that is very reminiscent of the scene from the pilot where Richard shows Meredith, Cristina, Alex, Izzie, and George the OR, he gives the new interns a speech about how he knows this isn’t what they envisioned being a doctor would be like. Richard profoundly explains that the before is gone and that they are in the now. He promises to teach them the jobs that need to get done and to teach them as much as he possibly can while getting through the pandemic together. 

The episode ends with Bailey and DeLuca watching Mer sleep. She’s dreaming of being back on the beach with Derek. She starts walking toward him again and asks him to walk toward her. He once again states that the sand isn’t real, and I’m not sure if the point of the statement is just Mer’s subconscious telling her she’s asleep or something else. Mer runs toward Derek and face plants into the sand. They both laugh, the audience laughs, and everyone’s having a good time. Derek tells Mer that he will be right here when she is ready, and the episode ends. 

That is very close to a line from Meredith’s near-drowning death dream sequence with Denny and bomb squad officer Dylan Young. Another comparison to that prior arc will appear in the next episode, airing December 3, as the promo reveals that another person from Mer’s past will show up on the beach as her condition worsens. It’s likely it will be someone who has passed away, so best guesses are either of her parents, Lexie, Mark, or George. Anyone living who’s not on the show anymore would be great too, but we will have to wait to find out.