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Monday, May 31, 2021

Grey’s Anatomy 17x16 Recap: “I’m Still Standing” (Six Weeks) [Contributor: Julia Siegel]


“I’m Still Standing”
Original Airdate: May 27, 2021

The season’s penultimate episode of Grey’s Anatomy has a rather interesting premise: it shows us what happens to the main characters and their patients over six weeks. This is a good tactic to help speed along time since up until this episode, the whole season took place in a period of roughly two or three months. We see the lives of Grey Sloan Memorial’s finest ebb and flow while they try to find some sort of new normal as the world continues to change. While this episode doesn’t leave any major cliffhangers for the finale, it will be good to see which stories wrap up and which will continue into the eighteenth season.

WEEK ONE

The episode opens with Amelia and Meredith at home, with the former playing caretaker. Mer is looking much better since she got home from her extended stay in the hospital, but she’s annoyed with not being able to immediately go back to her normal life. Amelia, on the other hand, is very happy to be back at work, and she is extra busy since she has inherited Tom Koracick’s service on top of her own. We then get to see the new resident apartment, where Helm has officially moved in with Jo and Schmitt. Jo is a bit annoyed by Helm living there since the place wasn’t built for three people and tells Schmitt not to bring more people home. On a more positive note, Schmitt gets a message that he has been accepted into the COVID-19 vaccine trial being run at the hospital. He and Helm are thrilled that there might be good news on the horizon, but it doesn’t faze Jo.

At the hospital, Winston and Maggie are in the early stages of wedding planning and discuss options in a lounge with Richard listening. They consider mini toasts at the reception and possibly having two or three wedding cakes. Richard can’t hold his tongue and asks the couple how they can have a wedding when the world is shut down. It’s funny how they don’t think the pandemic will deter their wedding plans, and Maggie even suggests that they have the wedding in a remote place, like somewhere with a waterfall near the ocean. Their semi-ignorant bliss brings some much-needed levity to the episode.

Owen and Amelia wait for an approaching ambulance outside the OR, and Owen is happy that Amelia is back and has responded to the incoming trauma instead of Tom. Amelia tells Owen how Tom left to go work with Jackson and the foundation in Boston, which is news that Owen somehow didn’t know. Tom’s decision finally makes Owen respect his former enemy, so don’t expect much bad blood between them if and when Tom appears again. The ambulance arrives with a young female, Skyler, who has a depressed skull fracture. Amelia is worried about a brain bleed and immediately brings her upstairs for a CT scan.

The other two patients of the episode are then introduced, though we are already very familiar with the first: baby Luna. Hayes and Jo meet with Luna’s newly appointed legal guardian who is a CPS social worker named Carmen. Hayes reports that Luna has been spitting up after every feeding and her heart rate is down. He needs to order some labs to find the cause, so Carmen tells him to let her know what he finds. After Carmen leaves, Jo asks Hayes if they have to run everything by her, but Hayes says only he has to because he is Luna’s doctor.

Richard, Maggie, and Helm are treating Gwen, who presents with congestive heart failure. The doctors have determined that Gwen’s blood is clotting and that she needs a filter to stop the blood clots from getting into her lungs. She will also need a heart transplant and will have to stay in the CCU in the meantime. Gwen is all alone for the process, as her husband died the previous fall and she has no family to contact. In the OR, Owen and Amelia scrub in to perform neurosurgery on Skyler. They FaceTime Skyler’s dad to tell him they need to relieve the pressure in her brain by removing a piece of her skull and embedding it into her abdomen until the swelling goes down. 

The last plot of the episode then gets into full swing when Schmitt arrives for his first dose of the vaccine. He gives himself a little pep talk beforehand to calm his anxiety, which immediately starts to go away when he sees the very cute Dr. Mason Post. New guy Post is the doctor in charge of the vaccine trial and asks if Schmitt feels sick. Schmitt reports he is nauseous and feels alone, but he doesn’t feel sick so he can get the vaccine. After getting the vaccine, Schmitt wryly tells Post that all he has to do is not die, and Post assures him he won’t die from the vaccine. A crowd has also gathered outside of the room and applauds Schmitt for getting the vaccine.

WEEK TWO

Week two starts with Mer playing catch with Ellis in her backyard. Bailey comes to visit, so Mer sends Ellis inside to do school work. They sit down at the table, and Mer is a little winded from playing with her daughter. She wants to talk about anything, so Bailey tells her how she has not found a replacement for Jackson yet, her foster son Joey got an A in A.P. Biology and wants to be a doctor, and Ben’s tumor is gone, meaning he needs no further treatment. Mer didn’t know Ben was sick, and if you didn’t know either, this storyline played out on Station 19. For the Grey’s Anatomy audience, Bailey explains that they found a lump and Ben was diagnosed with testicular cancer. He had his testicle removed, and now the cancer is gone and he doesn’t even need chemo. Bailey apologizes that she has been so stressed that she couldn’t talk about it with anyone, and Mer is sorry that Bailey had to go through that.

At the hospital, Maggie visits Gwen and finds Helm sitting with her. Winston then shows up, only to find out that Helm paged him because Gwen wanted to meet the man Maggie is marrying. She asks them if they have set a date and if she can see pictures if she lasts that long. Maggie jokingly tells Helm not to page anyone unless it’s about work, but it is sweet to see that Gwen has made a support system from her doctors. We then see Schmitt’s next appointment with Post, as he has to check in every now and then to make sure he doesn’t have any adverse reactions to the vaccine. Schmitt doesn’t know why he was so nervous because the vaccine was no big deal and he’s doing great. Post then clearly makes it known that he is interested in Schmitt, which catches the resident off guard.

Nico sees Schmitt leaving the trial room and catches him to ask how he’s feeling and if he’s experienced any side effects. It’s cute how Nico is worried and is showing more affection for Schmitt than ever. Schmitt tries to brush him off and wants to get back to his patients, so Nico stops him again by asking if they broke up. Apparently Schmitt has been avoiding Nico ever since he walked away when Nico asked him to move in, which has left Nico in limbo on their relationship status. Nico also asks Schmitt if he wants to see other people. Schmitt admits he doesn’t know, but Nico only wants to be with Schmitt. He tells Schmitt to find him when he makes up his mind.

In the NICU, Hayes has come up with a good plan for Luna and is telling a very distracted Carmen how he wants to treat the baby. Carmen doesn’t even look interested, which really annoys Jo. She tells Hayes and Jo that she doesn’t have to think about Luna because they are doing such a great job with her, but that doesn’t make Jo feel any better. We then get an update on Skyler when Owen goes to check in on her. Amelia is sitting with her and says for the audience’s sake that it has been two days since they closed her skull, but she hasn’t woken up yet. Amelia is worried that they will have to consider a tracheotomy in a few days if Skyler doesn’t wake up. She goes outside to update Skyler’s dad and tells him that her status hasn’t changed and how she might need a trach for long-term breathing control. The dad is quite sad because he missed a lot of his daughter growing up since he worked too much. He finally got a chance to know her when she moved back in when the pandemic started. He consents to the trach, as he doesn’t want Skyler to be in pain.

WEEK THREE

Jo and Link pass by each other as one is leaving and one is coming to the hospital one morning. Jo seems pretty happy, until she gets a text about completing paperwork for Luna’s social worker. She tells Link that she hates Carmen and thinks Luna deserves more. Link replies with wanting to know what the holdup is. Jo is slightly confused, so he continues to ask if they are pretending that Jo isn’t going to adopt Luna. Jo admits that the thought has crossed her mind, but she never thought she would have a kid on her own. However, she does think Luna is perfect and she loves her. Link says it’s a pretty great feeling to have a kid and tells his friend to stop asking herself if she can do it because she already is. It has been quite obvious since early in the season that Jo was very drawn to Luna, and the seeds for a potential adoption have been scattered throughout the season. This episode manages to speed up Jo’s emotional response to the baby, but Jo wanting to adopt Luna shouldn’t be surprising.

The wedding talk resumes for Maggie and Winston, who brings up New Zealand as a potential location for their wedding. He likes that New Zealand has effectively gotten rid of COVID-19 and knows it’s not a perfect idea, but it’s something. He hates that the pandemic has their hands tied, but Maggie doesn’t think New Zealand is a viable option. Winston brushes off the rejection by saying that they are both smart and will figure out how to have the perfect wedding. Maggie suggests that they wait to get married until the world opens up a bit more, which upsets Winston. He thinks Maggie has cold feet, but Maggie wants their wedding to feel right instead of having to compromise. She knows what she said sounded bad, and their conversation is cut off when she gets a text that they have a heart donor for Gwen.

In another part of the hospital, Amelia and Owen are scanning Skyler’s brain to see if there’s anything they can do for her. Skyler has yet to wake up, and Owen gently tells Amelia that some patients don’t wake up and she may have to accept that in this case. Amelia refuses to give up because Skyler is someone’s baby, which brings out her protective mother side. Elsewhere, Post and Schmitt meet for their weekly meeting. Schmitt has developed a rash on the back of his neck and didn’t want to say anything because he felt that Post looking at it would be a bit too intimate. Post says he doesn’t have to look at the rash, but lives are at stake. Schmitt caves and lets him see the rash, which must be nothing because it isn’t mentioned again. We then see Richard, Maggie, and Helm performing Gwen’s heart transplant. They have all grown to love Gwen over the past few weeks, and Helm especially has a good connection with the woman who she feels has the best parts of a mom.

The scene changes to show Amelia and Link having sex at Link’s place. It appears that they may have moved out of Mer’s house and back to Link’s. Amelia can’t believe how quiet it is there and that she can actually hear herself think. She asks Link what he is thinking, and he is wondering what if he knocked her up. He says that living at Mer’s house the last few months broke him, and now he loves being a dad and wants more kids. His admission clearly freaks Amelia out, though she doesn’t tell him what she thinks of that.

WEEK FOUR

Bailey visits Mer again and brings her a suture kit to help with Mer’s dexterity. Mer has been reading about future side effects from COVID-19 and is a bit freaked out. Bailey tries to calm her by saying she could be fine, but Mer says the data is terrifying. Bailey replies that reading can’t do the work and attempts to get Mer to go for a walk with her. Mer goes on a tangent about how she can’t operate if she can’t stay on her feet for very long. She reveals she can’t pick up the kids without feeling like she has run a marathon. COVID-19 has taken a huge toll on her body, and Mer wants her old life back and doesn’t want everyone asking how she is every five minutes. Bailey doesn’t appreciate the rant, so she walks out without another word.

At the hospital, Amelia does another brain scan on Skyler, which shows there is still no brain activity. Link and Scout FaceTime Amelia to say good morning, and when Link starts playing a song on his guitar, the scan starts lighting up. Skyler’s brain reacts to the musical stimuli, which excites Amelia. Richard, Maggie, and Helm examine Gwen, who is doing very well. She has no signs of organ rejection, which pleases the doctors. Gwen informs them that she woke up with a headache and is now seeing double, so the team sets up a neuro consult.

Amelia pages Owen to see Skyler’s scan. She is taking it a step further now and is talking directly to Skyler and then playing music through the microphone. Each time the music plays Skyler’s brain lights up in the same area. Amelia then asks Skyler to think about her bedroom at home, and a different part of her brain lights up. This prompts Amelia to tell Skyler that she is going to ask yes or no questions. If the answer is yes, she wants Skyler to think about music. If the answer is no, she wants Skyler to think about her bedroom. Amelia puts two sticky notes on the computer screen showing the scan indicating the yes and no zones that should light up. She asks Skyler if her name is Michelle, and the no zone lights up. Amelia asks if her name is Skyler, and the yes zone lights up. Owen and Amelia are thrilled at the breakthrough, which gives them hope for Skyler’s recovery.

In the NICU, Luna starts coding and Hayes desperately tries to save her. Jo watches as several doctors perform CPR and intubate the baby. Luna pulls through and has a normal heart rhythm again. Hayes tells Jo that Luna aspirated after she was fed, and Jo announces that she wants to be Luna’s mom while crying. Hayes is no more surprised than Link, even though this is the first time Jo is making her intentions known.

WEEK FIVE

Week five opens with Amelia telling Maggie and Richard that she has been doing neuro exams on Gwen for a week. She has found no signs of anything wrong or any reasons for her headaches. Amelia leaves the room to go meet with Skyler’s dad, and Maggie realizes that Gwen doesn’t seem to mind all the tests. Richard thinks that Gwen might be making her symptoms up, so they go to talk to Gwen. Maggie tells her that she has zero abnormalities and that the headaches are a mystery. Richard chimes in that there is a rare complication from transplants that could be the answer and that there’s a simple test to perform, all of which he is making up. He tells Gwen that weakness in downward movement in the left arm is the complication before testing her arm motion. Gwen starts moving her arms, and her left arm immediately drops. Maggie interjects to Richard that she thought the complication is right sided weakness, so Gwen does the “test” again and drops her right arm. They catch Gwen faking and get her to admit that she isn’t ready to leave the hospital because she has friends here and has nothing to go home to. She apologizes for wasting their time, but Maggie insists that she is a miracle and is ready to leave.

Jo sits with Luna in the NICU, and Hayes comes to tell her that Luna’s chest X-ray shows that she now has aspirated pneumonia. Jo wants to call Carmen, but Hayes says they can wait for a bit. Hayes asks Jo how long she has been there, and Jo reveals that she stayed with Luna all night because she didn’t want the baby to be alone. In a hallway, Maggie finds Winston and tells him how they got to the bottom of Gwen’s headaches. He gets how frustrating the whole process was in very clear wedding metaphor overtones. Maggie picks up on it too and tries to explain again that it’s not that she doesn’t want to get married; rather she wants the wedding to feel right. Winston says he hears her, but that the conversation can wait.

The best part of the fifth week comes when Amelia brings Skyler’s dad into the scan room. Owen is waiting for them and explains to the dad how he can ask Skyler yes or no questions. Skyler’s dad approaches the microphone and asks his daughter if she can hear him. The scan lights up in the yes section, which brings tears to his eyes. Amelia tells him to take all the time he wants, and she and Owen leave the room to let the father and daughter have some time together. Sadly, this is the last we see of Skyler for this episode, so it isn’t clear if she will wake up. I’m hoping this story continues to play out in the finale, as it’s a tough one not to wrap up.

WEEK SIX

The episode wraps up with a longer string of scenes showcasing the sixth week. First, Schmitt and Post run into each other as they get to the hospital one morning. Post thinks Schmitt’s face is cute without a mask on and that his fresh haircut looks good. He asks Schmitt if he would like to see each other out of the hospital, particularly that night at his place. Schmitt doesn’t know what to say, so Post says he will text him his address and see how Schmitt’s day goes.

Inside, Jo and Hayes meet with Carmen to discuss Luna’s status. Hayes reveals that they had trouble extubating Luna, so they had to leave the tube in her throat. Luna is also not responding well to treatment, continues to aspirate, and her overall condition is getting worse. Hayes would like to operate to protect her for the future. Carmen disagrees and feels that until Luna is adopted she can’t have the surgery. She then tells Jo that she was sorry to hear that her adoption application was denied before leaving. Jo explains to Hayes that she didn’t pass the background check and that explaining her past to CPS won’t change anything. Hayes feels bad for her, and it almost looks like he has an idea. I wouldn’t be surprised if he has a trick up his sleeve and this isn’t the end of Jo trying to adopt Luna.

Bailey then visits Mer, who is surprised to see her boss. Mer is looking a lot better that week, which Bailey points out. Mer thinks that Jackson and Tom had the right idea, and Bailey quickly says that she doesn’t want to lose Mer too. Mer assures her that she doesn’t want to quit, but she wants to grow and learn and get better. She continues to say that she has spent the last few weeks getting back to normal, but “look where normal got us.” Mer feels no one should ever want to get back to that. Bailey has an idea to propose to Mer and asks her to not say no right away because she’s desperate and wants Mer to at least consider it. Bailey reveals that she wants Mer to take over the residency program. Mer quickly says that Richard runs the program, but Bailey assures her that Richard has too many jobs and that one day in the distant future, he will want to step back. They need to have a plan in place in advance, and Bailey needs someone who thinks like she does. She says that Mer is her plan and she wants Mer to put together a team that reflects their world by personally choosing every residency class. Mer can shape the residents however she wants and can even rewrite the curriculum to set the program up how she wants to in order to “sandblast the bias off them.” Bailey tells Mer that she can make sure this world doesn’t go back to normal, which puts a big smile on Mer’s face. Mer asks if she’s allowed to say yes, cementing her official medical comeback.

At the hospital, Helm and Maggie wheel Gwen out in a wheelchair. Helm assures Gwen that she can call her whenever she wants. Richard greets them with Gwen’s long-lost dog, who he managed to find in a shelter. Gwen is overjoyed at the reunion and all that the doctors have done for her. Maggie tells Richard that she feels better about this exit than replacing Gwen’s heart, and Richard feels the same.

Later that night, Schmitt knocks on an apartment door, which Nico opens. Schmitt says that he panicked because he loves Nico and is not used to feeling it back. Nico assures Schmitt that he always felt it back, but couldn’t always say it. He feels that he has changed because of Schmitt. He continues to say that he has been thinking about Schmitt all day long. Nico wants to take care of Schmitt and watch Lord of the Rings because that’s what Schmitt likes. Speaking of what Schmitt likes, the whole apartment is covered with lit candles, giving it a very romantic atmosphere. Nico lovingly says that he never wants to be without Schmitt. After noticing the candles, Schmitt asks how Nico knew he would come over that night. Nico admits that he has been lighting the candles every night hoping Schmitt would eventually show up, and they share a passionate kiss.

Back at the hospital, Owen finds Amelia resting in a lounge. Amelia reveals that she hasn’t been in her element for a while and is freaked out about Link wanting more kids. She always thought she wanted more kids, but doesn’t think she feels that way anymore. She loves Link and Scout, but doesn’t know if she can love any more kids without losing more of herself. Amelia goes on to say that she hasn’t been to a meeting in two weeks because she has been focusing too much on Skyler. She feels her world is too messy for more kids. Owen replies that kids are more than just work and that it’s not going to work unless both her and Link want it. He offers to go to a meeting with her if she wants. Amelia thanks him and reminds him that the meetings are still virtual. Owen tells Amelia to be honest with Link and that he will understand before heading out for the night.

We then see Jo get home, and Helm asks her roomie if everything is okay. Jo looks dead inside and lies about how she’s feeling. She crawls into bed and tells Helm that she can either live there or talk, but she can’t do both before pulling the sheets over her head to cry. The scene shifts to Amelia sitting outside of what looks like Mer’s house reading a text from Link. He wants to know if she will be coming home soon. Amelia doesn’t appear to want to go home or talk to Link about her feelings, which will continue to play out in the season finale.

The episode ends with Maggie and Winston meeting in one of the hospital’s parking lots. Maggie starts by saying that none of Winston’s wedding ideas are perfect, but she has figured out what’s really bothering her. She has realized that perfect is never going to be an option because her mom won’t be at her wedding. She assures him this has nothing to do with him, and Winston wishes her mom could be there too. Maggie would like to take the engagement ring that her mom gave her and turn it into her wedding band. She also suggests flying her dad and Winston’s grandma out to Seattle as soon as possible so they can have their wedding, then they can have a huge party to celebrate when it’s safer. Winston likes the idea, and we see the door of a nearby car open. Maggie’s dad and Winston’s grandma get out of the car, and Winston is beyond shocked to see them. They all meet in person for the first time, and Winston is thrilled that Maggie set up this surprise. This should set up a very nice wedding finale to cap the season on a happier note.

Sunday, May 30, 2021

Mythic Quest 2x05 Review: “Please Sign Here” (Tell Your Disappointment to Suck It... We’re Doing a Bottle Episode!) [Contributor: Jenn]



“Please Sign Here”
Original Airdate: May 28, 2021

Bottle episodes of television are iconic. Take Friends’ “The One Where No One’s Ready” or Community’s “Cooperative Calligraphy” (written by the director of “Please Sign Here,” Megan Ganz, and where our subtitle this week is from). The best part about bottle episodes is that they slowly escalate tension between the characters. While in comedies, the tension begins as fun and silly, eventually you’re left with the stifling reality of being trapped with people who grate your nerves. Or worse.

Mythic Quest’s foray into a bottle episode, “Please Sign Here,” is nothing short of brilliant. It does everything a bottle episode is supposed to do — it gives characters a believable reason to be stuck together (they all have refused to sign the form Carol needs them to), escalates the clashes between each of them (Brad/Jo, Rachel/Dana), and slowly but subtly builds the stakes until that final, painful Poppy and Ian scene.

It’s truly a great example of a bottle episode and it accomplishes everything it sets out to do.

LIONS AND OTTERS AND WOLVES… OH MY

First thing’s first: Naomi Ekperigin did an amazing job this episode as Carol. I love that we got to see more of her on screen and her slow descent into madness was just pitch-perfect. Her rant about Rachel using the word “oppressive” was hysterical. I don’t know how she manages to put up with the MQ staff but thank goodness she does. She’s fed up with the few people in the building — our main characters — who have refused to sign forms that prove they took a personality assessment. Carol is even offering up vacation days to anyone who signs. Poor Carol just wants to do her job and go home.

But each character has a reason for not signing: Ian refuses to sign until he knows what animal Poppy got. Rachel refuses to sign because she doesn’t want to be put in a box or labeled. Dana doesn’t want to sign because she disagrees with her assessment. Brad won’t sign because he wants to watch chaos unravel, and he took Jo’s form so she couldn’t sign. I don’t think we ever get clarification on why Sue doesn’t sign it since she’s usually quite agreeable, but she’s there too. (Oh and David doesn’t sign because he’s trying to be rebellious.)

Slowly, we unpack each of the characters’ reasonings and their clashes with each other. Jo, still high on the revelation from Zack last week, has decided that Brad is no longer worthy of her respect. She got a shark as her animal on her assessment, and Brad (though he said he filled his test out randomly) got a mouse. Jo is beginning to lose her tether though — she’s now willing to clutch onto anyone who can offer her power. She sees Brad as weak since he didn’t kill the 4-H pig, Katie, he had as a kid and she mentions the story to everyone. Brad, on the other hand, recognizes Jo’s lust for power and reiterates that when it comes down to it, they’ll battle to the death for that power. Jo does make a valid point, even if it’s to try and prove Brad’s weakness: Brad pretends to be ruthless and cruel, but he helped David get a date and he saved Dana’s job. He hasn’t cashed in on the favor from Rachel yet, but he tells Jo and us that he will. Jo isn’t wrong — Brad is a human being. And even though he can be aloof and selfish, he has a heart. Jo sees having emotions or feelings as being weak, but Brad claims that all those things are strategic. What’s Jo’s strategy? To jump from powerful man to powerful man? Something Brad says really does lay the foundation for Jo’s journey moving forward: he warns her that she’s not a shark; she’s a parasite latching onto the power of others. And when she drinks that power, she becomes a bit blinded to reality. It makes her feel invincible.

But parasites only survive with hosts, and Brad sends Jo a clear message — she needs to be careful who she attaches to next. Ian, David, and Brad have their flaws but they’ve all been agreeable, human people to Jo. They treat her like a person, even at her worst moments. My assumption is that Brad knows Zack won’t and that will send Jo reeling. The thing about power is that Jo’s become an addict; she’s had enough with Brad that she wants more. And she’s willing to do anything to get it. The only problem? She doesn’t see that the power she’s gaining from others may be too much and take her out.

I suppose only time will tell, but I have a feeling Jo will have to be knocked down a few pegs before she’ll admit that Brad was right.

A DETERMINED OTTER AND AN AMBITIONLESS BABOON

I love Rachel and Dana as a couple, but the thing about being in a relationship is that it often reminds you that you and your partner may be fundamentally different people. Rachel is so consumed with her relationship with Dana that it’s all she really wanted or needed from season one until now. Her arc was falling in love and now that she’s achieved that, she’s happy to just exist. Dana isn’t. Dana may have achieved relationship success but that’s not all she wants. She wants to learn to code and because Poppy is being an awful boss, she’s thinking about enrolling in Berkley and learning computer sciences that way.

Rachel though is stunned by this confession; she and Dana haven’t talked about her moving six hours away. Rachel, because she only has Dana, is shaken. But Dana isn’t. Because Dana is a wolf. Rachel isn’t all of Dana’s life or ambition, and I think these two are realizing that pretty quickly. Dana is destined for things beyond a life as a tester, but I don’t know that Rachel is. Or even if she is, I don’t know that she even WANTS a life beyond being a tester. We learned that a bit last week: she has no clue what kind of seat at the table she wants. And even though Rachel and Dana were friends, Rachel has no idea what Dana wants or needs.

So now, these two need to figure out exactly how to navigate their wants and needs moving forward. (I loved that moment Dana signed her name on the chart in the wolf section because she was tired of being pushed around by Poppy.)

“YOU MADE ME A LION”

And speaking of Poppy, the woman managed to get out of the test because she was busy with work. Ian is insistent though in knowing what kind of animal Poppy tests as, and when it’s finally revealed that Poppy is a lion — just like Ian — the man can’t handle it. Sidenote: I love seeing Ian’s frustration early on in the episode with Poppy, especially after Brad points out that Montreal is treating her more like the leader than him. Ian has a huge ego, we know that, but I think part of it is ego and part of it is watching the person who looked up to you thriving without you. It’s not just ego, but a sense of being abandoned by someone who you know is better on so many levels than you are.

The real gut-punch of the episode though comes at the end when Carol tries to push Ian to be vulnerable with Poppy about his biggest fear. He confesses that he’s afraid Mythic Quest is his only good idea and that Poppy is the younger, smarter lion. Poppy... confesses that she’s afraid of singing in public as her biggest fear. Even Carol is taken back by Poppy’s cool detachment; Ian was completely exposed and Poppy just shot an arrow at him. The exact words were: “I’m not asking for a reward. I’m just asking you to be honest back.”

Carol notes that Ian is the real lion because he was vulnerable and that statement strikes something in Poppy that leads her to anger. She shouts that Ian can be the leader, and asks if he’s happy about that arrangement. Ian genuinely isn’t happy with it though. Resigned, he signs the test in silence.

What comes next is a conversation that’s both brutal and necessary. A lot more than Ian’s pride and vanity were bruised by Poppy; the person he loved and respected just stabbed him in the back — and the worst part is that she knows how hard it was for him to let down his guard. She is the one who told him that he’s never vulnerable earlier, so it’s not like she’s oblivious. And there’s something to be said about the people we love and trust most being able to hurt us the worst; they know our pain points and just like they know how to help us, they know how to hurt us just as strongly. 

Poppy’s ego has gone unchecked for weeks now. She’s been given power and authority with no concern wielding it. She dismisses Dana and her team. She demands respect without trying to earn it from the people around her. She feels like she’s untouchable now that Montreal is praising her and giving her things. Poppy, a person who has never held much power, is now being given everything she wants. How damaging do you think that is to someone’s sense of self? Pretty damaging, I’d say, if she’s willing to talk down to others and dismiss Ian’s confessions.

Ian is backed into a corner now and even though what he tells Poppy — that he doesn’t believe in her and she will fail without him — is harsh and awful and he says all of it with a slight smile, he’s also not entirely wrong. See, the problem isn’t the power. There’s nothing wrong with a woman in power, after all. Poppy’s problem is that her power led to a distorted view of who she is and who other people are. Poppy’s power has led her to believe no one else matters or if they do, their worth and value are only tied to what they can do for her. They’re not propping her up? Not getting her coffee? Not telling her she’s a god? Well too bad, then they’re not serving her and she doesn’t need them.

Her confession to Ian — that she needs him to believe in her and spur her toward creating good things — is entirely selfish at the moment. She doesn’t outright apologize for the way she betrayed him a few minutes earlier; she wants to go back to the way things were without having to do the work to get there. So Ian is right, in a sense, because in that moment the last thing Poppy needs is to hear him tell her that she’s amazing and he believes in her. All that will do is distort her view of herself and her power even further. She’ll be an unstoppable lion of his own creation. She will be a worse version of him, actually.

And therein lies the biggest source of pain for me in the episode: Ian believes he created Poppy this way and the only way to get things back to “normal” is to destroy the monster he made. While the way he tore her down is excruciating, Poppy needs to take a look at what her pursuit of power has done. And Ian also needs to look at what a functional relationship with Poppy would look like. Instead of seeing her as competition, he needs to see her as a partner. They’ve lost their ways, both Ian and Poppy, this season because they’ve lost who they are to each other and who they are to Mythic Quest HQ. Ian’s refusal to address his issues until they’re about to spill over is what got them into the mess at the end of the episode, after all. If he could have set aside his ego earlier, they could have saved a lot of pain. Because Poppy is right to feel the way she feels when Ian dismisses her and challenges her at every turn; she’s spent her whole life feeling lesser than people like him and he’s basically forcing her to prove herself every time she enters the same room as him.

So yes, both Ian and Poppy are wrong. But as we saw in this episode, only one of them, in the moment, was willing to do the hard thing to fix a problem: Ian. Until Poppy is ready to do the same, they’re going to be at an impasse. And this might just be a low point for Poppy to realize that.

Now we just have to wait and see what happens next.

Notes and quotes:

  • Once again, Megan Ganz did a wonderful job directing this episode! How fitting for her bottle episode journey to come sorta-full circle here. Also Katie McElhenney, way to break my dang heart.
  • Sue’s excitement over being upstairs and also being mouse friends with Brad is amazing. Caitlin McGee wasn’t in the episode much but she totally sells the little bit that she’s in! (Also, did Sue just sign her form off-screen? I need to know what happened.)
  • “Sounds like Poppy’s the king of the jungle.”
  • “What?! No one is killing anyone.” “Metaphorically, Carol.”
  • “What color?” “I’m half-Asian.”
  • “Oh, I said: ‘black, white, brown, green, you’re the most annoying person in the world.’”
  • David thinking he’s a wolf this whole episode only to realize he took the test backwards is pretty hilarious. Thank you, David Hornsby for the hilarious performance.
  • I wanted to know what animal I was from this test, so someone created a quiz based on the answers and I ended up being an otter which tracks 110% — emotional, agreeable, social, and empathetic.
  • “There goes a butterfly in wolf’s clothing.”
  • “Dear Lord, please don’t start spinning again.”

What did you think of this episode? Sound off in the comments below!

Saturday, May 29, 2021

The Flash 7x11 Review: "Family Matters, Part 2" (Forces Finale) [Contributor: Deborah MacArthur]


“Family Matters, Part 2”
Original Airdate: May 25, 2021

This week on The Flash: the nightmare that is the Forces storyline appears to have come to a blessed end. I’m sorry to say it remained frustrating, confusing, and annoying until the very last moment but at least it’s over! I think! I hope! Please, I am begging you, let this storyline be over.

SURE. FINE. WHATEVER. JUST END.

In the aftermath of the end of last week’s episode, it’s revealed that the death of Iris, Alexa, and Bashir was just an illusion Bashir can suddenly project into everyone’s mind. With everything else that’s frustrated me about this storyline, I don’t think I brought enough attention to the fact that the Forces seem to just conveniently gain powers as the story requires them. Bashir randomly gained the ability to manifest physical light-tentacles last week, now he can cause mass illusions that essentially allow him to manipulate reality and it’s never made clear how it works. This happens multiple times this episode, all clearly because the writers couldn’t find ways out of whatever situation the characters found themselves in or couldn’t find ways to get certain characters together in one place. It’s transparently bad writing, and I honestly expect better from this show.

With everyone alive who’s supposed to be alive, the priority turns toward keeping them alive. The Speed Force wants the other Forces dead, and Team Flash figures the only safe place to put them is inside the Speed Force pocket universe that’s been abandoned by the Speed Force entity. It’s very confusing and it doesn’t actually matter all that much because as soon as Iris, Alexa, and Bashir arrive in the Speed Force (Location) — which looks like the West house but dusty, by the way — the two Forces start plotting a way to get out and kill the Speed Force (Person). Oh, and the Forces can speak to each other telepathically. That’s another convenient power they get to have now.

Barry spends his time hunting down Deon, who is feeling sorry about killing the other Forces and Iris until Barry tells him that they’re actually fine. Then Deon’s desire to go a-killin’ is renewed, except it’s the Speed Force in his sights now. Why did Deon switch from being against the Speed Force, to allied with her, and back to being against her? Well, frankly, if the writers didn’t worry about that making sense, then neither should you.

Deon snaps away from Barry in order to enact his revenge, and Barry’s at a loss for how to find him again. Barry is taking it upon himself to keep all the Forces alive and to stop them from killing each other even though, at this point in the story, the Speed Force has fully decided that the others must die and also the city might be destroyed in the process. According to Barry, “These forces exist because of me and Iris, I have to do everything I can to protect them.” Actually, you don’t! Look, I’m not a parent but if I had a kid and that kid turned into a serial killer, I’m definitely not protecting them. Sorry. I mean, I know the reason he’s sticking to his guns on this is because the Forces will all turn out to be good people and Barry knows that because he’s read the scripts, but still.

Another face-off with the Speed Force and Barry learns that the reason why Central City is being besieged by technicolor storms and repeatedly struck by lightning is because of the other Forces, not her. We get a weak reveal of foreshadowing when Allegra remembers seeing an old-fashioned car on the street once, indicating a Still Force time paradox. Wow, that sounds like something that should have really been peppered throughout the season a lot more, The Flash. You know you can’t follow breadcrumbs if the breadcrumb is literally a loaf of bread, right?

Deon shows up to attack the Speed Force but he gets knocked out fast, landing himself in the S.T.A.R. Labs medbay and regaining his humility again. This guy really does teeter precariously between sad kid and rage-filled bully, huh? Anyway, while Barry laments that his inability to control the Forces might be a sign that he and Iris shouldn’t be parents (hey, Barry, here’s something that might make any future parenting easier for you: don’t adopt four fully-cognizant and independent adults) Joe tells him that’s nonsense and that he should be bringing the Forces together instead of separating them. Bashir and Alexa escape from the Speed Force (Location) and convene with Deon at S.T.A.R. Labs, having “felt” that things are different between them. Yet another convenient power gained during this plotline.

Barry, Alexa, Deon, and Bashir go to confront Nora, but she’s gotten to the point of having black eyes and a constant wind rustling her hair and clothing. She’s reached nuclear levels of goth! Lightning sparkles. Barry et al. disappear. If this is all about their “family” coming together, shouldn’t Iris be involved in the confrontation? Everyone ends up in a bad green screen universe. A fight sequence on par in CGI quality with an early-2010s video game cutscene proceeds, resulting in Barry and the others getting kicked out of green screen world. We get some technobabble about the Forces storm eventually causing a reverse Big Bang, thereby destroying the universe, so Barry and his “kids” have three minutes to save the universe and I’ve never been more bored of a ticking clock. Barry runs off while the good kids face off against the Speed Force.

The three use their convenient psychic connection to plan another trick against the Speed Force: making her hallucinate (or foresee?) a world without people. The Speed Force’s primary fear is being alone, so it sends her into a regret-spiral that turns her eyes back to normal and pacifies the ever-present wind billowing her goth clothing. She asks for forgiveness and the four now-united Forces lend some power to Barry, who runs around the massive tornado that was about to destroy the universe until it disappears. Day saved!

With the Forces family having worked out their differences, Barry sees them off inside the Speed Force (Location), which looks a lot nicer now. They’re going to build out that pocket universe and… I guess the human beings they’re possessing will just never see their friends and family again? I know the show made a point of trying to define the Forces-humans as sad sacks with no lives, but I find it really hard to believe none of them had anyone they’d miss in the real world. But whatever, this plot is over and I’m done wondering about it.

At the end of the episode, Barry and Iris decide to try having kids.

Other Things:

  • Other plotline: Frost escaped prison just to put other metas who had escaped prison back into prison. She spends the whole episode fighting that bartender she met before being arrested, then shows up at Caitlin’s apartment having been released from her “life without parole” sentence for good behavior. What was the point of the “Frost goes to jail” plot if they were just going to undo it? 
  • Also, a bunch of metas escaping from prison seems like it should’ve been a prime chance for Kramer to use that meta-cure gun they teased last episode, but we got nothin’.
  • I can give this episode at least one compliment: the soft choir music that plays over the direct aftermath of Barry running the tornado disaster away is really pretty.
  • Do I regret my stubborn refusal to call the Speed Force “Nora” since the Speed Force is being used as a location in this episode? Maybe.
  • Next week: We say goodbye to Cisco. It’ll be sad.

Wednesday, May 26, 2021

Mythic Quest 2x04 Review: “Breaking Brad” (Not So Anti-Hero After All) [Contributor: Jenn]


“Breaking Brad”
Original Airdate: May 21, 2021

We’re so conditioned to seeing heroes and villains in our media. We like our heroes to be straightforward “good guys” who always say and do the right thing. They’re easy to root for, after all. And we like our villains to be simple too; they should be bad, get defeated or bested by the good guy, and sulk off screen. 

But it’s a lot harder to reckon with the idea of antiheroes and morally ambiguous characters. What I love about Mythic Quest is that it’s unafraid to present characters as flawed. Everyone who works at Mythic Quest HQ is imperfect and the show doesn’t shy away from having the characters we’re supposed to root for do things that make us cringe. While they may occasionally be self-centered, say the wrong thing, or treat people badly, they’re not bad people — they’re just decent humans who are constantly learning better habits and unlearning bad ones. Out of all the characters on the show though, Brad is perhaps the most straightforward in his sociopathic tendencies. He’s unashamed and blatant in what he wants; he’s not afraid to step on toes or hurt feelings. He’s not even afraid to manipulate people as long as he gets what he wants.

There’s something we should remember about Brad though: he’s not the villain of this story. His greed and his drive for achievement are parts of his personality, but Brad also donated money in “Mythic Quest: Quarantine” to charity and was always going to. He just enjoyed torturing David in the process. And even though Brad claims to hate everything Everlight stands for, he accepts his defeat and walks away. And in last week’s episode, “#YumYum,” we actually saw that Brad cared about helping David — his methods were just devoid of emotion. When he recognized his error though, he corrected his mistake and found David a match.

So “Breaking Brad” is an interesting and stunning look at the depths of Brad’s character. First off before we dive into the particulars, let me just say that Danny Pudi deserved awards every year for Community and never got them, which will forever remain a source of pain for me. And he deserves awards for the nuances and subtleties that he displays in “Breaking Brad.” Watching Brad slowly unravel throughout the episode was so fascinating, and Danny’s subtle way of emphasizing Brad’s cracks and fissures is just... well, *chef’s kiss.*

BRAD’S PIG

In the pilot, Brad explicitly tells the team that Mythic Quest: Raven’s Banquet is not his legacy. But when Brad’s brother, Zack (Parvesh Cheena, in a really great performance), comes into town and swoops into the office, Brad notes that Mythic Quest may be his legacy after all. He refers to the game and company as “his pig,” and that no one will get to slaughter it but him. See, Zack is — as Brad defines him — “a private-equity douche who swoops in, fattens up companies, and then guts them.” As we saw last week, Poppy conceded to Brad’s idea of a battle royale in the new expansion and the result has been nothing short of successful. (So successful, in fact, that Montreal gifts Poppy with a Porsche but that’s for a discussion in a little bit.)

David actually invites Zack to Mythic Quest HQ because it’s Brad’s birthday (it’s not). In spite of his often-naivete, David’s defiance in this episode to get close to Zack is something that should be noted. David is seen usually as “the straight man” in the show: he’s the one commenting on the absurdities happening, but that doesn’t mean David is unflawed. His desire for acceptance is what drives him to compromise his values, and his lack of leadership does cause some lapses in judgement. Zack presents himself as everything David needs — someone fun, supportive, who treats David like an equal and a brother. And the thing is that Zack knows EXACTLY what he’s doing.

Brad warns Jo that Zack is bad news, but even she’s a bit skeptical. Still, since Brad is her new mentor her loyalty to him overrides whatever else she might be feeling so she unflinchingly is rude to Zack on Brad’s behalf. We watch as Zack slowly starts to crack through the exteriors of the other characters, warming up to them and getting into their good graces (not to mention getting Snoop Dogg to perform at the office). If you were like me, you were wondering if Zack was going to be a red herring or if he truly would turn out to be as evil as Brad kept convincing us he was.

Turns out, Brad was right. When they’re alone, Zack threatens Mythic Quest — the one thing Brad loves — and tells Brad that he needs to beg him to not gut the headquarters. Brad does in one of Danny Pudi’s most captivating, beautifully-acted scenes. Throughout the episode, Brad is frazzled. He’s pacing the hallways so fast that Jo can barely keep up. He’s rattling off things about how bad Zach is. He’s rushing to practically get Poppy to side with him (it doesn’t work once Zack strokes Poppy’s ego). It’s Brad totally unhinged, and I loved it. We’re so used to seeing Brad in the driver’s seat of schemes. He’s the one who’s sitting in a chair, poised to say exactly what Poppy and Ian do in “Everlight.” He’s smirking all-knowingly in meetings. He even had a cup made with “battle royale” on it to taunt Poppy. Brad is playing chess when everyone else is playing checkers — something he points out from the very first storyline in the pilot.

But this episode is proof that while Brad may be calculating and cold, he’s not heartless. There’s pain evident in his face as he begs Zack not to kill his game. And when Zack walks away, not promising to keep Mythic Quest intact, Danny Pudi’s face is gut-wrenchingly perfect. There’s still this stoicism, or practiced stoicism in his face. He’s being deliberate in how much emotion and control he allows Zack to have over him. But when he begs Zack to not kill the game, there’s real emotion there. It’s not for show and it’s not to win — this is Brad being utterly vulnerable and realizing he has no card left to play. His brother is the one who has stacked the deck against him and the only move left is earnestness. Danny Pudi seriously knocks that small, powerful scene out of the park. There’s pain and an intense vulnerability that we haven’t seen from Brad thus far in the series. It’s so startling but beautiful. 

And it makes the fact that Jo witnesses the moment even more powerful. But there’s still one lingering question she has — she rushes to the elevator to ask Zack about an elusive “Katie” that he’d mentioned earlier in the episode. Katie, it turns out, was a pig the boys had in 4-H. When it came time to have to kill the pig, Brad couldn’t do it so Zack did. That small anecdote is important because it proves, as this episode does, that Brad isn’t heartless. He puts on a good front and he may be calculating and manipulative, but when it comes down to it... Brad cares. He’s human. And that’s the thing Zack exploits — Brad’s heart. 

I’m so interested to see where this storyline goes and what else Mythic Quest has in store for Brad. Once again, give Danny Pudi Emmys. Please and thank you.

IN THE DRIVER’S SEAT

Our other storyline is hilarious and also powerful in a way that I didn’t expect! As we saw last week, Ian and Poppy have divided the testers — Dana is now apparently Poppy’s assistant (poor Dana just wanted to learn to code, not get Poppy coffee) and Rachel is hanging out with Ian. When Rachel realizes that Ian can’t drive the stick shift on Poppy’s Porsche, she decides to drive it back to the office instead, forcing Ian in the passenger seat of the car. One quick thing before we talk about the Ian/Rachel poignant conversation: we’re starting to see just how badly Poppy’s ego is for others. All Dana wants to do is learn how to code from a lead engineer; instead, Poppy treats her like her own personal assistant, and Dana is upset by this. Instead of being a mentor to someone who genuinely wants to learn, Poppy dismisses Dana. I have a feeling this will come back to bite her.

Back to our Ian/Rachel story: While in the car, Rachel vents to Ian about her relationship with Dana. She’s worried about what’s happening between them, especially because Dana is so goal-oriented and she screwed up their chances for Grouchy Goat. Ian is annoyed — not just because Rachel annoys him, but because Rachel is talking about her relationship when she has the undivided time of a co-creative director. In typical Rachel fashion, she begins a discourse about the imbalances of power and the lack of opportunities for women in gaming. To her utter surprise though, Ian acknowledges his privilege. He knows that as a straight, white man he’s been given opportunities. But he shifts ever-so-slightly to remind Rachel that he also had to fight for his seat at the table. When he was alone in an elevator with his boss as a tester, he pitched tons of ideas. Eventually, that led to him being promoted. But Ian had to put in the legwork to get where he wanted to be. Now, Rachel has his undivided attention and instead of pitching ideas, she’s talking about her relationship.

Ian points out that he’s not going anywhere and this is the rare chance where Rachel can ask for what she wants without limits. So what does she want? Rachel, instead of answering, freezes up. It’s fascinating: Rachel complains so much about the lack of opportunities for marginalized people but when she’s literally presented with the chance to change something for herself professionally, she can’t think of a single thing she wants. She’s passionate but has no ambition. She doesn’t know what she wants. And what Ian gives her choices — she wants a seat at the table? Cool. What kind of seat? A creative one? A managerial one? What does she specifically want to do. Rachel tells him that he wants it all, and then Ian realizes that Rachel literally has no clue what she wants to do in life. She’s actually happy where she is, as a tester. But Dana isn’t, and that’s a point of contention in their relationship already. Dana wants to learn how to do things so she can leave the tester room and go onto better things. Rachel has a vague notion of success and ambition but no practical idea of what that really means for her or what she wants to do.

It’s such a good, well-written point of tension for her character and relationship. Who is Rachel, even, and what does she want out of life? We don’t know and as it turns out, she doesn’t either.

I loved “Breaking Brad” and that it focused so heavily on character development. I’m so in awe of how great this season of Mythic Quest is and am ready to see what else the show has in store for us!

Notes and quotes:

  • “Sorry, I’m lost.” “Me too. Is this a new hallway?”
  • “It’s a metaphor, Jo. Keep up!” “I’m trying!”
  • I didn’t know how much I needed Poppy/Dana and Ian/Rachel, and then four of them together in scenes until this season. Now it’s all I want and need.
  • “I’m just gonna let the women of color figure this out. I’m gonna back away.”
  • I love that Megan Ganz wrote this joke: “I put the ‘man’ in ‘manual.’ I can say that ‘cause I’m alone.”
  • I don’t remember Poppy consuming this much candy in season one but I’m so here for this runner.
  • “Yeah, yeah, sure. Blame your lack of ambition on the patriarchy.”
  • GIVE DANNY PUDI ALL THE AWARDS.
  • Snoop Dogg being in this show is so random but also entirely perfect?

What did you think of this episode? Sound off in the comments below!

Tuesday, May 25, 2021

WandaVision 1x08 Review: “Previously On” (A Clip Show of Trauma) [Guest Poster: Hannah E.]


“Previously On”
Original Airdate: February 26, 2021

Wanda walks through a clip reel of her traumatic past in this WandaVision episode.

Spoilers for all nine episodes of WandaVision!

“Previously On” is the crown jewel of WandaVision. Everything the show set out to do is delivered upon so beautifully in every scene. It plays on the idea of two TV tropes — the "previously on" segment and the clip show, and stretches them to their limits. I love the episodes that are straight-forward pastiches, but I also love the transformative approach this episode takes to the genre recreation. And apart from two brief scenes at the very beginning and end, the episode is able to devote every moment to Wanda. Every scene of this show knows its main character so well that layer upon layer of meaning can be found in almost every line. The more work you put into this episode, the more you’ll get out of it; the attention to detail makes every scene worth analyzing...

ENDLESS NOTHINGNESS... LET'S START THERE

Using the idea of a "previously on" segment as a framing device to give Wanda exposure therapy is absolutely brilliant. So much of the previous episodes had been dedicated to the subtle build-up of Wanda’s character and motivation; her grief and trauma was the undercurrent that ran through all previous episodes, pushing the show downstream. By making Agatha’s motivation be finding the root of all that pain, the writers give themselves the perfect excuse to stop dancing around their central theme and give it the center stage it deserves. And because the show is so focused on moving on from grief, it’s great that they found a clever way to show how important therapy is for mental health. 

The opening scene between Wanda and Agatha is the first time we get to see them interact free of artifice. I think the show slightly misses the mark on Agatha in the finale, but in this one they hit the bullseye. Free of having to force her into the trappings of a Marvel villain, here she’s scripted somewhere between a therapist and a bully. Much like a member of the audience, Agatha has been studying Wanda; while she’s been doing it for nefarious purposes, the insights she gained are true. Seeing Wanda through Agatha’s eyes is the most ruthless the show gets in laying bear Wanda’s shortcomings. The insecurity that made it so easy for Agatha to trick her. The denial that runs so deep that even now, as Wanda knows she can control the town, she still doesn’t believe she created it — telling Agatha she can’t explain how it exists because she didn’t do it.

Agatha is the perfect foil to break through Wanda’s denial. Her whole goal is to discover how Wanda runs the Hex, and nothing is going to stop her from getting what she wants. She knows from her spy, Pietro, that the feeling of “endless nothingness” is the last thing Wanda remembers before Westview. Unlike the other two characters we’ve seen try to break through to Wanda — Vision and Monica — Agatha has no love or sympathy for Wanda and doesn’t hesitate to cast a spell forcing her to relive all of her most traumatic memories. 

One of the things that makes this episode so good is the amount of care that went into the small moments, making sure every line added to characterization. When Agatha first pushes Wanda to start her walk down memory lane, Wanda refuses; having to relive her memories is the most extreme version possible of facing past trauma — it would completely destroy Wanda’s coping mechanism of denial. She would never agree to do it, even under threat of death. But the one thing Wanda cares most about is her family; she would do anything to protect them. As soon as Agatha threatens her kids, Wanda relents. With that, the two witches take their first step into the past.

SOKOVIA

The first flashback brings us to Sokovia in 1999 when Wanda was just a kid, and her parents and brother were still alive. We watch as the four Maximoffs form the perfect family. The theme they composed for Sokovia, that plays over adult Wanda watching her younger self, is eerily reminiscent of the Stark theme from Game of Thrones and any time I hear that cello, my eyes immediately tear up. 

There’s something tragically beautiful in the way Wanda’s mother sees the men fighting outside and chooses to close the window and go back to her family. Their homeland is war torn and fighting rages right outside the window, but inside their home none of it matters. Much like Westview, Wanda’s childhood home was a refuge from the real world, complete with sitcoms — Wanda gets to pick her favorite episode which is The Dick van Dyke Show, “It May Look Like a Walnut.” In that episode, the horror of Rob’s life slowly escalates into an episode of The Twilight Zone until he wakes up and realizes it was all just a nightmare. It’s not hard to see why Wanda loves it so much. 

Then comes the moment when Wanda’s life changed forever. Bombs rain down on the Maximoff family home, obliterating it. Wanda and Pietro, buried in rubble, are forced to watch as a bomb that landed in their living room beeps and beeps, never going off. On the side is written STARK, the name that would motivate Wanda and Pietro for the next 10 years. We know from previous MCU films that they were left in an orphanage and never adopted. Eventually they went on the run together, making do the best they could on their own, waiting for the opportunity to kill Tony Stark.

It’s a huge evolution for Wanda’s character that she’s the reason the bomb never went off. When Wanda was first introduced to the MCU, Marvel Studios didn’t own the rights to the X-Men franchise. In the comics, Wanda has always been a mutant, but the movies weren’t even legally allowed to use the word. That’s why in Age of Ultron they say she didn’t have any powers until she was experimented on by Hydra. WandaVision is the first MCU project to come out since Marvel acquired the rights to X-Men from Fox, and presented a great opportunity to redo Wanda’s origin and make her a mutant. Even though this is definitely a retcon, it doesn’t feel like it because they do such a good job incorporating it to the story Wanda told in Age of Ultron, of the defective Stark bomb. If there’s one thing we know about Tony Stark, it’s that he doesn’t sell defective tech. Of course Wanda saved her and her brother’s lives with her latent mutant ability. 

Again in this scene we see Agatha accidentally helping Wanda through her trauma. When she says “the only way forward is back,” she means it to be condescending and cruel — one more jab at the fact that she’s forcibly dragging Wanda into the worst memories of her life. But she’s not wrong; the only way Wanda can move on from her pain is to acknowledge that it exists, and there’s no better way for her to do that than to go back through her past in a form of intense exposure therapy. Agatha doesn’t know it but even as she moves one step closer to her goal, she plants the seeds of her eventual loss.

WE WANTED TO CHANGE THE WORLD

The next stop along Wanda’s memory lane is the moment Hydra experimented on her with the Mind Stone. Marvel made some pretty huge missteps in the changes they made to Wanda’s origin story, but I actually really like the specific change of her powers coming from an Infinity Stone; the comics never provide a good explanation for why she’s so powerful, and they’ve given it many, many attempts (each attempt makes it progressively funnier that Pietro is just like, a normal speedster — even though he endured all the same things that made his twin into a god). Having her be exposed to an Infinity Stone is such a simple way to explain her powers, and having the Mind Stone also be the Infinity Stone that created Vision adds another layer of meaning to their love story. 

The shot where the Mind Stone reveals itself to Wanda is the most stunning visual in the entirety of the MCU. The image of the Scarlet Witch, shrouded in golden light as if haloed by the sun itself, reflected through Wanda’s irises, is breathtaking. The force of the vision knocks Wanda out. When the Hydra agents watch the footage back, the whole scene is missing; even before Westview, Wanda was editing out the parts of her life she didn’t want.

It’s another great moment of character consistency that as the door appears to lead Wanda into her next memory, it’s the only one she doesn’t fight; as soon as she sees that it’s the door to the Avengers compound, she walks through eagerly. Wanda doesn’t want to face her past, but even more than that, she just wants Vision back — and she’ll face any bad memory in the world for a chance to see him again. 

IT CAN'T ALL BE SORROW

In a TV season full of great scenes, this is the greatest scene of the show and it’s not even particularly close. In three and a half minutes the show articulates all of its themes, pays tribute to the love story at its center, and writes some of the most insightful lines to explain grief I’ve ever heard.

It’s a small moment, but I love that when Wanda is explaining to Agatha the significance of the Avengers’ compound, she says she felt all alone in a new country. The only time previous films ever addressed that Wanda is an immigrant was a throwaway line from Civil War in which Tony implies she doesn’t deserve human rights because she’s not a U.S. citizen (the absolute biggest of yikes to how casually the MCU made its leading hero parrot anti-immigrant sentiment!). WandaVision is the first time where her immigrant status is meaningfully incorporated into her character. She feels like an outsider in this foreign place and it’s part of what draws her to Vision, and vice-versa; he too is an outsider, human enough to want to be human, but not human enough for humans to see him that way. Except for Wanda.

The scene takes place right after Pietro died, and Wanda’s description of grief — the feeling of waves crashing over and drowning her — shows the writers did their research to portray it accurately. A very famous study of grief from 1944 described it thusly: Sensations of somatic distress occurring in waves lasting from twenty minutes to an hour at a time, a feeling of tightness in the throat, choking with shortness of breath, need for sighing, and an empty feeling in the abdomen.

Grief takes on physical side effects, and the most common experience is waves that feel like drowning. The description of “emptiness” Wanda gives in episode six is textbook. A lot of television portrayals of grief seem more consumed with the idea of it, the pageantry of sadness, rather than the reality. This show took its time to make sure they presented the real thing.

Like I’ve said before, the one thing I think the MCU consistently does well is understand that its heroes are humans — it’s cool to see Captain America and Iron Man punch stuff, but the emotional core of the films comes from Steve Rogers and Tony Stark. They have normal lives they want to go back to. That concept is never more true than when it’s applied to Wanda and Vision. Both of them are extremely reluctant heroes. What Wanda wants most in life is to go back to the small, normal life she had before her parents died. What Vision wants most in life is to simply have a normal life, one that would let him fully understand what it means to be human. They’re the two most powerful beings in the universe, constantly thrown into the biggest and craziest events in the world. But there’s nothing they’d rather do than sit down in a room together, watch a sitcom, and share a laugh. 

The show never takes its central love story for granted; in this scene they really put in the work of showing why these two people love each other. Wanda’s barely keeping her head above water as she struggles with the death of Pietro, and Vision gives her the one thing she needs to keep going: a way to understand her loss. Vision sees death from a perspective only he can see, as something slightly apart from humanity. He’s able to see the forest where humans only see trees. The way he puts it to words is just beautiful: "I’ve always been alone, so I don’t feel the lack. It’s all I’ve ever known. I’ve never experienced loss because I’ve never had a loved one to lose. But what is grief, if not love persevering?"

The people who genuinely disliked this line fundamentally misunderstand the nature of profundity. Sometimes something’s great because it’s simple. Great lines don’t stick with you because they’re a complicated puzzle you have to solve. They stick with you because they managed to say something profound about humanity in a way that resonated. There’s something beautiful in Vision, a man trying to become human, taking something as insurmountable as grief and distilling it down to one sentence that makes Wanda smile. 

The line is also deceptive in its simplicity. Grief is almost always portrayed as a burden that must be overcome, something the main character must move on from to be happy again. But moving on from grief is its own problem; no one wants to forget the memories they shared with someone they loved. Presenting grief as the perseverance of love manages to synthesize the idea of moving on and keeping the memories. It finds beauty in moments that would otherwise be the worst of Wanda’s life.

A less talented team of writers probably would have ended the scene there, letting their best line hang in the air for the audience to think on, but this team were smart enough to give Wanda and Vision one more moment. Instead of ending on a statement of the profound, the scene again draws the attention back to the small moments of normalcy between them. Vision laughs at the show, now understanding the humor Wanda helped him see in it. He looks back at her, desperate for approval, for evidence that he’s starting to be human, and she meets his eyes, laughing too. He was able to give her something profound in his understanding of grief, and she was able to give him something equally profound in return — a loved one to lose. 

I JUST WANT TO BURY HIM

Seeing Vision right in front of her, so close but impossibly far away, is enough to push Wanda forward into the memory Agatha’s been trying to reach this whole time: the moment she created the Hex.

This scene does such a good job slyly subverting expectation. Hayward’s lie from episode five already made us believe Wanda went to SWORD to resurrect Vision. The vision Wanda has in the Hydra flashback, of the Scarlet Witch coming down like an angel, puts the idea in your head of her as an almost godlike figure. This should be the moment when her power is unleashed. She should never feel less human than she does in this moment. The scene even leans into expectations at first, having her power walk across SWORD like a woman possessed.

Then it pulls the rug out. Wanda’s not here to resurrect Vision. All she wants is to bury him, the most human form of grief imaginable. Elizabeth Olsen is never better than in this episode, and in this scene she’s devastating. The writers knew how to take lines that were already sad and make them hit even harder. Take this line for example: "When I came back, he was gone — his body."

At first she says that Vision was gone when she returned from the blip, but then has to stop herself. Vision was already gone before that. She’d already lost him. She corrects herself and says that it was his body that was gone. The only piece of him she thought she hadn’t lost. 

An artist who worked on the show released the Storyboard for this scene, and the original dialogue read like this: "I’m sick and tired of everyone acting like Tony Stark is the only person we lost. Like he’s the only Avenger there ever was. Too bad, then, if you’re Natasha, but at least she was flesh and blood, right? But where are the memorials for Vision? No moving tributes for the synthezoid?"

I wouldn’t have begrudged them if these lines made it to the final episode, but I really love how subtle the version that made air is. The show never outright says that people are bigoted against Vision because he’s a synthezoid; instead, they leave just enough evidence for the audience to notice if they pay attention. It feels subtle and pervasive the way real world prejudice does; no one will ever say outright they’re a bigot, and we live in a world too often willing to turn a blind eye. Especially re-watching the series, there’s so many moments of Hayward treating Vision like less than human; it’s clear in the way he only ever calls him “The Vision,” cruelly parades the body in front of Wanda, refers to him like a computer, and the way he calls him “this thing” in the post credit scene. 

When Wanda is begging for his body back to be buried, she says, “He deserves a funeral at least.” Then she adds, “I deserve it.” Vision is not a person to SWORD, and she knows that. Appealing to what he deserves won’t get her anywhere because they don’t believe he’s human. She says, “I deserve it”, because she’s human and they can’t deny that. If they refuse to see the humanity in her husband, all she can do is force them to see the humanity in her.

The scene where Hayward shows Wanda the corpse is genuinely heartbreaking. Because Hayward sees Vision as less than human, he shows Wanda the body as it’s being taken apart; a gesture so casual in its cruelty I think some of the audience missed it. He doesn’t show her Vision in an act of compassion; he shows her Vision because he knows she’s capable of bringing him back to life. He lies and says they’re dismantling Vision — we know from the post credit scene that SWORD spent all five years trying to resurrect Vision — because telling the truth would incriminate him if Wanda ever told anyone. So instead of taking a risk in asking Wanda to bring Vision back, he tries to emotionally manipulate her. Throughout the whole scene he’s baiting her, trying to push her over the edge. He wants her to snap because then his toy will work again. 

At first, Wanda doesn’t recognize that it’s Vision. She’s the only one who ever saw him as completely human and can’t comprehend as she watches SWORD agents take the person she loved apart like a car being scrapped for parts. He was a man and they treat him like nothing more than a machine. If you pause the screen at the right second, you’ll see that Wanda breaks the glass in the shape of a heart as she flies down to say goodbye; every second of this episode was crafted to add something to the story, and here the visual effects bring the emotion of the scene to life — it literally breaks Wanda’s heart to see Vision’s corpse. 

Having all of Hayward’s men point their guns at Wanda also creates a parallel to a similar scene from an earlier episode. In this one, Hayward tells his men to stand down because he thinks Wanda is about to resurrect Vision. He decides to hand over control to Wanda because he thinks it will get him what he wants. But he bit off more than he could chew; in episode five he and Wanda are in the exact situation, but when Hayward tells his men to stand down it’s because they’re pointing guns at him and instead of taking orders from him, his men are under Wanda’s control. Hayward played with fire and got burned. He bears some amount of responsibility for Wanda creating the Hex (which is why he’s so desperate to clean up the mess before anybody finds out).

The line “I can’t feel you” is a callback to the last words Vision ever said to her, but also a tragic parallel to their first meeting in Age of Ultron. As a telepath, Wanda can read anyone’s mind; but Ultron, the prototype for Vision, wasn’t quite advanced enough to be human — Wanda couldn’t read his thoughts. The first sign that Vision was truly alive came from Wanda being able to look inside his head. Now, as he lays in pieces on the table, Wanda tries for one last time to read his thoughts. But she can’t feel him. The thing that first let Wanda know he was alive is no longer there. Vision is gone. Wanda doesn’t steal the body, as Hayward claimed. Instead, she hangs her head and leaves. 

Finally we see why Wanda came to Westview. Not to resurrect her husband or kidnap the town. She came to see the home Vision bought for them. All of their shared dreams and desires made real in a small plot of land; the promise of home, of normal life, that both of them wanted for so many years. Everything Wanda ever wanted was right in her grasp until it slipped through her fingers like water. Instead of seeing a home for her and Vision, she sees a vacant lot. When Vision bought it he saw promise – a blank space for him and Wanda to build upon together. Now instead of holding their future, the emptiness just holds nothing. Endless nothingness. 

Wanda opens the deed on which Vision left her a note: "To grow old in."

And suddenly the heart on the calendar from the first episode makes sense. As Wanda drove through Westview, she saw a dreary town hit hard by the Snap. Wanda’s chaos magic bursts forth in an involuntary extension of Wanda’s subconscious, changing everything she saw that was broken down and rewriting it to be brand new again. The sad people sleepwalking through their lives are rewritten into the happy characters we see in Wanda’s sitcom. She turns everything that made her sad into something that brings her comfort. That’s why the heart Vision drew, which had become a symbol of the future she would never get to have with him, is rewritten on the calendar to mark a future date. It becomes a promise that her and Vision have more days together. 

The opening title sequence from the first episode, of Vision and Wanda driving into town, is nearly identical to the scenes of her driving into town alone in this episode. The first thing Wanda’s subconscious chose to broadcast was re-writing that memory into what it was meant to be. Her and Vision were supposed to come here together to settle down. As viewers we intellectually know that Wanda made the Hex to get back her life with Vision, but making that real through visual storytelling is a great touch. 

It’s no coincidence that we see Wanda recreate Vision in the same episode that we see Hayward resurrect him. The two scenes work as incredible foils to highlight how different Wanda and Hayward are. While both of their actions may end up in the same result, their motivations could not be more different. Hayward takes one weapon — the missile — to make another, even more powerful weapon out of Vision. He takes all the life away from him — literally drains him of his color — to make him the robot he always saw him as. 

Wanda does the opposite. The things she loved about Vision was not his power or his abilities. What she remembers most about him is what made him human — his kindness and compassion, his sense of humor, the way he smiled. When she brings him back, he literally comes from her heart. The Vision she creates is even more human than before. And unlike the one Hayward revives, stripped of his free will, Wanda’s Vision is entirely his own, uncontrolled by her. She didn’t want to bring back a puppet. She wanted the real Vision. 

The musical score in the background of this scene is titled “Genesis.” Fitting, considering this is Wanda’s creation myth. As the story goes in the biblical genesis, God created Adam and seeing that he was lonely took one of Adam’s own ribs to create Eve. A piece of Adam lived forever in her, tying them together as the only two things in the whole of creation who were alike. Wanda, straddling the fence between god and mortal, plays the role of both God and Adam in her genesis. Through her loneliness, Wanda’s subconscious took a piece of herself — the piece of the Mind Stone that lives in her — and gave it to Vision, recreating his memory around a fragment of the stone. The only two beings in the whole of the universe to share a piece of the Mind Stone. 

Wanda loved Vision to the point of invention; an entire world built to hold her love for him. In a parallel to the first time Vision was created, in Age of Ultron, Wanda is again the first person that he sees. His life always begins with her. 

The moment after Wanda creates Vision, when she steps forward, is achingly beautiful. It parallels an earlier scene from the episode, from the flashback of her and Vision in the Avengers Compound; in that scene present-day Wanda stepped forward, reaching out to touch past Vision, but he disappeared, only a memory. Here, there’s a beat that’s just Wanda looking at Vision, trying to comprehend what she sees in front of her. Then she steps forward; just like before, she can’t help but reach out to him. As she takes the step she transforms into black and white, entering the world of The Dick Van Dyke Show. Her denial wasn’t a conscious choice but merely a side effect of how much she loves Vision.

As the scene draws to a close, for the first time, present-day Wanda fully understands what she’s done. Her eyes well with tears as they run over the studio set and cameras, destroyed by the realization that none of it is real. 

Odds and Ends:

  • Even though the first seven episodes of this show are largely dedicated to Wanda and Vision playing house, it’s still such a weird feeling to watch a superhero do something as mundane as drive a car. Just imagining Wanda taking a driver’s ed course is so funny to me.
  • “Vhere are vy children? That accent really comes and goes.” Kathryn Hahn’s delivery of that line is so funny, and it’s nice to see the MCU poking some fun at how inconsistently they’ve had Elizabeth Olsen do the fake accent. It’s so funny to me that Infinity War and Endgame were shot back-to-back, but Wanda has an accent in one and not the other.
  • “Fake Pietro. Fietro, if you will.”
  • It’s a strong piece of continuity that Wanda’s description of her grief to Vision is nearly identical to Monica’s description of what it felt like to be in the Hex. Both were expressions of the same feeling.
  • Hayward tells Wanda it’s his “legal obligation” to dismantle Vision. Sometimes I think I must be watching a different show than other people, because one of the main criticisms of WandaVision I’ve seen is that they never explain what Hayward did that was illegal. But on multiple occasions, through several different characters, the show states that Hayward resurrecting Vision is a violation of the Sokovia Accords.
  • As it’s being rewritten, the theatre marquee changes to advertise “Big Red” and “Kidnapped.” I wonder what that could mean.
  • In the very last line of the episode, Agatha becomes the first person to ever drop the name Scarlet Witch in the MCU. That’s been a long time coming. 
  • Having a government agency re-assemble Vision free of his personality and color is a plotline ripped straight from a West Coast Avengers comic book run. I personally hate the direction that comic went in and much prefer the way White Vision is used here.

Never Have I Ever 1x08 Review: “... pissed off everyone I know” (Lost) [Contributor: Jenn]



“... pissed off everyone I know”
Original Airdate: April 27, 2020

You know how if you avoid something for long enough, eventually it’ll come back to haunt you? Well, Devi learns that full well in “... pissed off everyone I know.” Not only does she realize that actions have consequences — a lesson she should have learned already but alas, has not — but she also learns in this episode that if you push down your grief too long, it’ll eventually resurface in the most inconvenient ways.

Devi does a lot of damage throughout this episode, so let’s break down what happens. Shall we?

BEING A BAD FRIEND

Our previous episode was all about Devi longing to be a better friend to Fabiola and Eleanor. But when she’s given the opportunity to actually put those skills into practice, she fails. The worst part is that Devi doesn’t just apologize or admit her mistake — instead, she gets defensive. She blame-shifts. And she avoids talking about the one thing that she knows she needs to: her dad’s death. But it’s more than just that. Devi felt obligated to help Paxton (he did tell her that she owed him, after all) but didn’t have to stay the moment she realized he didn’t have an emergency. She could have stopped the ensuing disaster right then and there. But then Paxton reveals that his sister needs Devi as a fashion model for her clothes, and Devi’s ego — and the chance to show off in front of Paxton — overrides her better judgement.

She’s being a teenager, in other words. And that’s why I can almost understand Devi’s inherent selfishness and her self-destruction; she’s a teenager who can’t see the forest for the trees yet. She doesn’t know how to properly manage her emotions, and she doesn’t know the importance of taking responsibility for your actions. Her apologies to Fabiola and Eleanor are too little, too late: Fabiola knows that Devi was at Paxton’s. Whatever crafted lie she told pales in comparison to Eleanor’s crisis. And yet, Devi keeps trying to rationalize her behavior rather than admit that her narcissism fueled her decision-making.

And so Devi is abandoned by her friends who need a break from her, and understandably so. When Devi discusses this in her therapy session, Dr. Ryan points out that the root cause of Devi’s behavior is that she’s refusing to address her grief. Devi, meanwhile, is insistent that she’s just being a teenager. She’s boy crazy because that’s what she’s supposed to be, not because it’s distracting her from dealing with complex trauma. Dr. Ryan knows better and that’s why, when Devi’s anger flares up, she suggests Devi see another therapist. Devi interprets this as another abandonment — first her dad’s death, then her best friends, and now her therapist — and storms out of Dr. Ryan’s office. 

Of course, Devi is burying her grief beneath the surface and refusing to address it. Instead of addressing the feelings of guilt or sadness or anger at her dad’s death, she projects them onto the people around her. And what’s really important is that when Devi explodes at Fabiola at Ben’s birthday party, Fab doesn’t let Devi get away with it. 

Devi’s excuse is that her dad died, and Fab gently tells Devi that she’s sorry that happened. She’s sorry Devi has had to endure the trauma of losing a parent. But that doesn’t give Devi a free pass to treat her friends like garbage. Because Devi is so deeply consumed with her own world because it’s easier than dealing with reality, she takes Fabiola’s critique as an insult and can’t admit that she’s treated her friends terribly. Everything, in the end, is about Devi: how it makes her feel, how it impacts her, etc. And her friends are tired of having their problems and struggles sidelined because of her. They hit a breaking point in this episode, and I think it’s important that we sit uncomfortably in the reality that our protagonist is in pain but she’s also very wrong for treating people the way she treats them. Both things can be true! You can be grieving and also a monster to people around you. Our pain doesn’t give us a pass to do whatever we want.

DEVI’S LOVE LIFE

In some significant plot developments here, Ben tries to kiss Devi (twice!) and it makes their relationship super awkward. But prior to the awkwardness, Ben actually genuinely wanted to know how Devi was; he could tell something was bothering her in class and makes an effort to softly ask her about it. But then Paxton comes in and Ben gets a little jealous, which is adorable.

Speaking of Paxton: he drives Devi home from Ben’s birthday party and surprise kisses her as she’s telling him about how she’s been abandoned by people she cares about and can’t stop screwing up her relationships. It’s an interesting moment to choose, Paxton, I’ll give you that. But I think for the first time, he appreciates Devi’s emotional honesty and responds by kissing her. We’ll continue to unpack this relationship in the next few episodes but suffice to say that Devi will have to deal with her feelings for both Ben and Paxton.

The episode ends rather startlingly: Devi, high on her kiss with Paxton, waltzes into her house pretending like she’s not lost anymore! She’s got a boy who likes her! So what if her friends won’t speak to her? She’s finally found a place for herself and that’s all that matters; she just has to keep focusing on the good stuff and shoving any bad thoughts down.

But then Devi walks into the house to see the fridge ajar and her father standing there. The episode ends with Devi registering the same shock we all feel. Dun-dun-DUN.

Favorite things:

  • “When you become a famous designer, could I become your muse?”
  • I will always love that Ben’s mom is played by Angela Kinsey.
  • How much do we love Ben’s jealousy? So much.
  • There’s an adorable little plot of Fabiola chatting with Eve, the girl she has a crush on, about coming out. They’re precious.
  • “I left a funeral to be by your side when Nick Jonas married an Indian woman that wasn’t you.” “That was very hard on me.”
  • “How is your grandma, Trent?” “She has her good days.”
  • There’s a plot here of Devi catching Kamala with Steve, and Devi actually thinking Kamala is way cooler for having a secret boyfriend.
  • STEVE IS THE BEST.
  • “You’re in a legit love triangle!”
  • Ben and Devi are honestly too cute in this episode.
  • “Do you believe in miracles?!”

What did you all think of this episode? Sound off in the comments below!

Grey’s Anatomy 17x15 Recap: “Tradition” (Farewells) [Contributor: Julia Siegel]


“Tradition”
Original Airdate: May 20, 2021

Are you ready to say goodbye to Jackson Avery? Me either, but at least his exit is natural, plausible, and leaves room for him to return in the future. A surprise second character leaving the show as a regular may distract you a little from the grief of Jackson’s departure. The latest episode of Grey’s Anatomy celebrates farewells and new beginnings, which will surely leave you with a smile on your face. 

GOING HOME

Even though the hour was marketed as Jackson’s big farewell, his exit wasn’t at the forefront of the episode. A few plots got a bit more screen time than Jackson’s, so let’s dive into those first. Meredith’s COVID recovery is seemingly the most talked about thing in the hospital. Maggie, Owen, and Teddy have Meredith do some sort of breathing test to see how her lungs are functioning. Our central doctor passes with flying colors, and the other docs announce that her stats have been getting better and better. They are happy to tell Mer that if her latest round of labs comes back clean, then she will be able to finally go home!

Richard watches the happiness play out from the window outside of Mer’s room and catches Bailey as she passes by in the hallway to give her the good news. He wants to plan a big clap out for his surrogate daughter and wants to get the whole hospital involved. However, Richard knows they need to tell Mer that DeLuca died while she was unconscious because he would have been first in line at the clap out. The fact that it’s clearly been over a week since Mer woke up and no one has mentioned DeLuca’s absence is quite absurd. Bailey wishes that DeLuca could be here to see Mer leave, prompting Richard to say that maybe DeLuca can see it.

A short time later, Mer is visited by Maggie, Richard, and Bailey. Mer is sick of talking about COVID, so the conversation turns to Maggie’s wedding planning when Richard asks if a date has been set. Maggie says she and Winston haven’t set a date, and Mer chimes in that she has yet to meet Winston in person. Again, it’s been at least several days of Mer being awake and on the mend, and her future brother-in-law who now works in the same hospital has not visited yet? Richard changes the topic by informing Mer that Jackson is moving to Boston the next day, and Mer wants to know if there are any other tragedies she doesn’t know about. Talk about awkward! I like to believe that Mer is fishing for someone to finally bring up DeLuca’s death without her having to do so, but no one takes the bait. The three doctors try to beat around the bush, so Maggie takes Mer to do some walking laps around the hospital. 

Later that afternoon, Bailey and Richard talk while walking through the hospital. The physical therapy department has signed off on Mer and her labs have come back clean, so there’s no reason to keep her in the hospital any longer. Richard tells Bailey that she needs to tell Mer about DeLuca, but Bailey doesn’t want to. This whole coward act drags on a little too long, but they eventually get the courage to do the right thing. The two walk into Mer’s room with looks that scream “a tragedy has occurred.” Mer immediately wants to know what’s up. They say they need to tell her something about DeLuca, and Mer cuts them off to say that he’s okay. Bailey quickly states that he is not okay, so Mer nonchalantly clarifies that DeLuca is with his mother. Bailey and Richard look at each other with stunned expressions. Sadly, the conversation ends there and we don’t get to see them ask Mer how she knows that. I would really have liked to see Mer explain how she knows rather than watch Bailey and Richard stumble with whether to tell her or not.

In the evening, everyone gathers outside of the hospital for Mer’s clap out, which they think is a surprise. Bailey is the most excited person there and tries to organize the group. They all start clapping and cheering as they think they see Mer coming, but intern Perez comes out the door with an empty wheelchair. He announces that Mer wasn’t in her room and all her things were gone when he went to get her. Hayes laughs and exclaims, “Good one, Grey,” before walking back inside to get back to work. Most of the crowd finds the switch to be comical, but Bailey is quite pissed off. Where did Mer go, and how did she avoid the clap out? We’ll get to that shortly.

THE START OF SOMETHING NEW

The second largest story of the episode combines several characters and subplots. In the morning, Schmitt finds Helm in a hallway to bask in the great news that Mer should be going home. Oddly, Helm is in a bad place and is clearly depressed even after hearing the news about Mer, which concerns Schmitt. In another part of the hospital, we see Jo in pink scrubs! She is now officially an OB resident and is learning the trade from Carina. For those of you who didn’t watch the latest episode of Station 19, Carina informs Jo, and the audience, that she will be staying at the hospital since she got engaged to Maya Bishop. Carina will still be going to Italy for a month to help her homeland through the COVID crisis, so Jo is trying to learn as much as she can as quickly as she can. She is thrilled to be in her new role, and even enthusiastically asks Carina if she wants a coffee because residents will do anything for their attending.

In the ambulance bay, Tom and Helm receive a Native American patient, William, who may be having a stroke. Intern James Chee is with them and says that he previously treated William for COVID. This episode happens to be our first foray into Chee’s backstory, and we quickly learn that Chee also knows William from the reservation, as he too is Native American. They get William inside for a brain scan, which shows that he is in fact having a stroke due to a large clot in his brain. Helm seems completely uninterested during the whole process, which is out of character for her.

After the scan, Tom, Helm, and Chee go outside to the parking lot tent to inform William’s pregnant granddaughter, Mary Ann, of his status and the procedure they will need to do to break down the clot. Mary Ann tells the doctors how her tribe has been having an increasingly difficult time with COVID because they can’t get any supplies. Tom jokes about how the hospital had a hard time getting supplies and got tons of booties instead of masks. Mary Ann informs him that instead of receiving the supplies they ordered, the tribe got a shipment of body bags. Tom feels horrible for the tribe and what they have been going through with no supplies and limited access to treatment. He promises Mary Ann that he will do whatever he can to save her grandfather, who is an elder of the tribe. 

Out of nowhere, Mary Ann doubles over in agony, so they take her inside for a consult. Jo and Carina examine Mary Ann while Chee watches. Mary Ann is only concerned about her grandfather, not the fact that she’s in labor, so Chee goes to get an update on William. Meanwhile, Tom and Helm begin William’s procedure to break down the clot with Chee observing in the background. Helm is still not into helping the patient, so Tom kicks her out of the room and replaces her with Schmitt. Back in the maternity ward, Mary Ann’s contractions are now three minutes apart. She’s sad to hear that her clinic doctor, who was supposed to deliver the baby, won’t be able to make it in time due to another emergency. Jo is happy to report that Mary Ann’s parents and husband are on their way. Since Chee has not come back with a status update yet, Jo goes to check up on William for Mary Ann.

In the OR, Tom deploys a stint and is finishing up the procedure. Chee tells Tom and Schmitt how he volunteers in the clinic and apothecary at the reservation and how he makes salves and traditional practices to treat his patients. Jo pops in for an update, and Tom reports that he is nearly done. When she leaves, Tom asks if he correctly saw Jo in pink scrubs. Schmitt tells him that Jo switched specialties to find real happiness, which surprises Tom. 

We then get a quick sequence of back and forth shots to show what is happening with the two family members. In the maternity room, Mary Ann tells Carina and Jo that she doesn’t think she can do this alone. We then see Chee perform smudging, burning cedar in a traditional Native American healing ceremony, in William’s recovery room. The baby is then born, and Jo is visibly thrilled to be a part of it. William wakes up and asks his doctors to tell Mary Ann that he is okay. They happily tell him that his great granddaughter was born and that he will be able to video chat with them shortly.

A little while later, Jo tells Mary Ann and her husband, Shawn, that William is alright. Shawn tells Jo and Carina that they haven’t had the best experiences with hospitals and thanks them for everything that they have done. Chee brings their baby girl back in, and Shawn meets his daughter. Carina leaves them to enjoy the moment, and Jo follows her to talk. Jo says that she wanted to tell Carina before she left that her brother was incredibly kind to her and was a good, noble, sweet, and brave man. Jo knows that Carina is planning on spreading Andrew’s ashes in Italy and wanted to say that she’s so incredibly grateful to have known him. Carina smiles and thanks her for her kind words and tells Jo that she did a great job today.

Later that evening, William has a video call with Mary Ann, Shawn, and baby Rosie. William gives a moving speech to Rosie to introduce her to the world and tell her about her family and the land she comes from. Tom, Schmitt, and Chee listen to William’s words of wisdom, and Tom is the most affected by the speech. He and Schmitt eventually leave the room, and Tom orders Schmitt to perform a neuro consult on William every two hours. Schmitt speaks up and tells Tom that it would be good for Helm to help out since she hasn’t been having an easy time lately. Tom distractedly says that he doesn’t know what he wants anymore, so Schmitt can do whatever he wants.

After the failed clap out, Schmitt finds Helm crying on a bench. She tells her friend that she always wanted to be a doctor, but all she thinks about now is leaving and never coming back. She doesn’t know what happened to her, so Schmitt gently says that the job has been more death than she thought it would be. Schmitt tries to help her by saying that all he wanted for so long was more from Nico, but he froze and ran away when Nico asked him to move in. He continues to say that the pandemic doesn’t just affect people who get sick and die, it affects everyone. Schmitt then asks Helm to move in with him, that way they can be alone together. Helm cries more and wonders if Jo will be okay with this. Schmitt laughs and says that Jo will be home less than them, so of course she will be fine with it. It looks like a resident house 2.0 is being set up, which should be quite interesting. Speaking of Jo, we later on see her talking to baby Luna in the NICU and telling the baby her birth story just like William did for his great granddaughter. It’s clear that Jo is quite attached to the infant, so is a potential adoption coming up in the future?

COUPLES THERAPY

After giving Mer the good news in the morning that she will probably be able to go home today, Owen and Teddy head to an on-call room. Teddy is super thrilled that Mer will be going home, as this is the first good news she has gotten in months. She excitedly tells Owen that she finally feels hope, and her good mood rubs off on Owen. The two are giddy and put that energy into an unexpected passionate kiss. Owen nearly pulls away after the first kiss, but then locks the door.

Over at the sister house, Amelia and Link talk in the kitchen as they get ready for the day. Link is going into the hospital to work while Amelia stays with the kids. Amelia fantasizes about working, as she’s getting burned out from dealing with a household of small children every day. She gets a text about Mer’s good test results and is immediately thrilled that her sister-in-law might be coming home. In the next breath, she realizes the house is a dump and starts cleaning frantically because she doesn’t want it to be a disaster when Mer gets home. Link tries to calm her down by saying he will go confirm the news at the hospital, but Amelia quite comically starts crying over the mess.

Back at the hospital, Teddy and Winston are working together in the COVID ward and are happy to learn that the numbers are improving and that their patients are getting better. Owen and Link show up to help out too, but Teddy doesn’t get why they are there because Teddy doesn’t get that it’s more interesting for the viewers if more characters come together and talk. She’s more thrown by the fact that she most certainly slept with Owen a little while ago, and it’s hilarious that they are both all smiles when they look at each other. Winston and Link pick up on their odd behavior too. 

Bringing these characters together for a few quick scenes gives a sense of levity to the drama. The next time we see them, Link and Winston corner Owen to ask if there are any updates on Mer. Owen says he will ask Teddy, which makes the other men look at each other awkwardly. Winston bites the bullet and tells Owen that he and Teddy seem friendlier today. Owen claims that he couldn’t explain it if he tried, and the guys know just as much as we do that he’s lying. Link changes the topic by happily saying that as soon as Mer comes home and has the house under control, he and Amelia are out of there. Winston and Owen say, “Good luck with that” in unison. Their comment along with Link’s confused look made me chuckle. 

Link apparently needs a little time to process and try to wrap his head around it, but he can’t comprehend what they meant. He finds Owen and Winston a little while later just to tell them that Amelia wants out of the house more than him. Owen and Winston laugh because they both know that’s not true either. Owen explains that Alex called it the sister house because the place is like a magnet that keeps them all there together. It’s an apt description, and it slowly sinks its way into Link’s brain. He tells the guys that he misses his house and his bed and the quiet, but Winston says that quiet is overrated. Link tries logic by saying that when Mer comes back, there will be too many people in the house so they’ll have to move out. Winston wryly states that there’s a reason he got his own place before he moved to Seattle, and it’s pretty impressive that he picked up on the whole sister dynamic that quickly. Link dejectedly asks, “Is that it? Am I trapped?” Yes, Link. You probably are.

We don’t get another check-in with any of the couples until after the failed clap out, when Richard approaches a laughing Maggie and Winston. Richard wants to clear the air with Maggie by making sure she knew he wasn’t trying to invite himself to the wedding when he asked if they had set a date earlier in the episode. He doesn’t want to presume anything because he knows his relationship with Maggie hasn’t been the best. It is sad that Richard thinks he wouldn’t be invited to his daughter’s wedding, but his mood picks up when Maggie and Winston smirk at each other and say that they wanted to take Richard out for coffee or dinner to talk about the wedding with him. Maggie wants her adoptive father to walk her down the aisle, and she and Winston would like Richard to officiate their wedding. They couldn’t think of a better gift for him to give them than being at the center of their union. Richard says it would be the honor of his life, and his pure joy is radiant. 

Back inside the hospital, Owen and Teddy have some quality sexy time in an on-call room for the second time. Owen asks Teddy what she is thinking, so she spins a tale of how she remembers after a rough day in Iraq, the two of them would stare at the sky and talk about how they missed hamburgers. This is Teddy’s way of saying she’s hungry and wants to go get dinner with Owen... specifically two hamburgers, fries, onion rings, and a vanilla milkshake. Owen chuckles and says he’s buying, and then dives in for another kiss and more. I really didn’t think we would be seeing Teddy and Owen getting this friendly again this quickly, but it is good to see that they are mending fences.

MAN OF THE HOUR

It seems fitting to leave Jackson’s final day in Seattle for last. The episode opens with a quick flashback to Jackson’s first day at the hospital before showing him walk into the hospital one last time. A little later on, he meets with Bailey and Richard outside to hand in his resignation letter. He informs them that he is leaving for Boston in the morning. Bailey is stunned and doesn’t understand why he can’t lead the foundation from Seattle. Jackson kindly included a list of recommendations for new plastic surgeons in his letter, but that doesn’t help Bailey’s mood. She’s also mad that Richard knew first and didn’t share the news, but Richard defends himself by saying that it wasn’t his place to tell her.

Jackson tells them about his visit with his dad and how he realized he doesn’t want to be the “checked out and unwilling to fight for anything” man that his father is. He kindly tells Bailey and Richard that they showed him how to be the opposite and that he will always be grateful for that. As Jackson talks, we get a nice montage of the best of Jackson’s learning and growing moments. Bailey and Richard tell Jackson that they are proud of him. After he walks away, Bailey turns to Richard and wants to clarify what just happened. Richard laughs and says that Jackson Avery is now their boss.

A little later, Jo gets a text from Jackson and meets him in an OR gallery. He tells her that he is leaving. He also says that she looks happy and that he likes her pink scrubs. Jackson thanks Jo for the last few months and for her being a good friend when he needed one. Jo thanks him for saying goodbye in person and not in a letter (perfect burn thrown Alex’s way!). She also thanks Jackson for being a friend when she felt she had fewer and fewer of those. Mid-conversation, Jo gets paged for a birth and explains that she’s a resident again. She tells Jackson, “Good luck saving the world,” before running off.

The only other on-camera goodbye we get to see is between Jackson and Meredith. We see Jackson telling Mer that he’s leaving while she packs up her belongings in her hospital room. Jackson jokes how he single-handedly saved Mer, so she asks if he knows how cold it gets in Boston. Jackson is aware, since he spent the first eighteen years of his life there. When he gets to Boston, his first item on his agenda is to make sure April and Harriet settle in and are happy, then he will save the world. Mer then says that she is the winner because she is the last man standing from their residency class. She sadly says that everyone else died or abandoned her before diving into her history with Jackson.

Mer tells Jackson that the first time they met she thought that his name was a big one to live up to. Without missing a beat, Jackson says, “You would know.” She informs her friend that the Avery name is not ruined and that he is making it his own by reinventing it. She’s very impressed with him and his plans, which puts a smile on Jackson’s face. Mer slightly changes the subject by saying that she knows about the secret clap out and thinks that it’s too much because so many people didn’t survive. She would rather applaud the people who saved her, as they deserve it more. Jackson wants Mer to give the hospital staff the win and do the clap out because the place almost broke without her. He will be at the clap out, but didn’t want that to be their goodbye, which is why he’s talking to her now. Mer retorts that she doesn’t want this to be their big goodbye and says, “You go give them hell, Avery.” Jackson responds with, “Thanks for showing me how.” Mer hugs a pillow as he walks out, making the loss that much more real.

Now that we know Mer knew about the clap out, didn’t want a sad goodbye with Jackson, and then didn’t attend the clap out, it’s time to reveal what actually happened. As the doctors stand around the hospital’s exit confused and laughing, Jackson runs out the back of the hospital with Mer in a wheelchair. Mer is laughing and having a blast as they make their jailbreak. Jackson puts Mer in his car to drive her home and give her the peaceful exit from the hospital that she wanted. At the sister house, Amelia is chasing Bailey. Mer quietly sneaks in the door, and Ellis sees her first. The three kids run over to hug their mom in a sweet moment. Amelia is frozen still and very surprised at Mer’s entrance, and the smile Mer gives Amelia makes the latter get emotional. 

We then see Tom standing outside the back of the hospital as Jackson pulls back in. Tom wanted to talk to Jackson because he heard that Jackson was taking over the foundation and got some details from Catherine. Tom explains how he lost six roommates while he was sick with COVID and that he was the only white guy sick in the room. He feels like he owes it to them to be better. Tom thinks the world is the way it is because we let it be or, “because people who look like me made it that way.” He wants to become worthy of being spared from a horrible COVID death and wants to be an ally. Tom has decided to spend the time he has left making the world a better place. He tells Jackson that he will operate, administrate, whatever he wants. He doesn’t want money or a fancy title, he just wants to help. Tom’s heartfelt pitch is impressive and shows how far the once beyond-arrogant doctor has come. Jackson replies that he wants Tom in Boston at 6 a.m. on Monday morning, cementing Tom’s departure from the show. It is quite surprising that Tom is also leaving, but this move also makes sense. Tom lost his job to Richard earlier this season and now if Teddy and Owen are getting back together, then Tom’s main arcs have naturally come to an end. This won’t be the last time we see Tom, as he can easily come and go in a recurring role like Catherine.

The second-to-last scene of the episode shows Mer at home with the kids. Amelia is slightly annoyed that Link didn’t call like he said he would when Mer was leaving because the kids made signs to welcome her home. Mer assures her that this is perfect and just the way she likes it. Link bursts through the door and excitedly says that Mer should be on her way home before he sees Mer sitting on the couch. Zola shows off her sign, and Mer wants the kids to tell her everything that happened while she was gone. The episode comes to a close with Jackson driving away from the hospital with a smile on his face. He takes one last look into the ER as he drives by, which cues one last Jackson-centric montage. Jackson smiles widely as he drives away for good.