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.


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. 


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. 


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.


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.


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.


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