Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Grey’s Anatomy 17x14 Review: “Look Up Child” (Japril) [Contributor: Julia Siegel]

“Look Up Child”
Original Airdate: May 6, 2021

The return of a fan-favorite character brings a mixed bag of emotions by the end of the latest episode of Grey’s Anatomy. It has been several weeks since it was announced that Sarah Drew, who last appeared in season fourteen’s finale in 2018, would reprise her role as Dr. April Kepner for an episode this spring, but the reason for her visit had been kept tightly under wraps. The reunion between April and her ex-husband Dr. Jackson Avery is long overdue, but you probably won’t be able to guess why it is happening now. 


If you have been reading my season seventeen recaps, then you know I’m not a big fan of the structure of the episodes that take two storylines and jump between them every few minutes without letting either develop naturally. This is another one of those episodes, and the story structure seems random and unnecessarily messy until the very end, when you realize that each storyline was actually properly juxtaposing the other the entire time. It does work in the end, so stick with it even if you are confused by the purpose of any given scene or the timeline, which you will also be able to put together when the hour concludes.

The episode begins with Jackson driving through a thunderstorm at night. We last saw Jackson two episodes ago when he got in his car and drove off to a mystery location. He’s thinking about April while driving, and we get a montage of Jackson’s best memories of his ex-wife. His thoughts briefly change to when he visited his dad, Robert, in 2017. The montages help set the stage for the impending visits Jackson makes as well as reminding the audience who these returning characters are (not that we needed a reminder about April!). The scene changes to show what Jackson was up to after he ran out of Seattle: he goes camping, won’t answer Catherine’s calls, and keeps on driving east. 

Jackson eventually makes his way to his father’s diner located in the Montana wilderness, and Robert is quite surprised to see his son. The scene cuts again to show Jackson pulling into the driveway of April and Matthew’s Washington home in the pouring rain. He gives himself a little rehearsal pep talk while ringing the doorbell before April opens the door with their daughter Harriet in her arms. April is just as shocked to see Jackson on her doorstep as Robert was, so it’s clear that Jackson has made two unannounced visits. When April sees Jackson, we get a quick montage of her favorite Jackson-centric memories. 

Now that the storylines are established, the scenes get longer in length with each switch as the episode continues. It becomes clear quickly that Jackson visits his dad before April. The meatier scenes begin at Robert’s diner, where Jackson attempts some small talk with his estranged father. Robert tells his son that he has been thinking about him with all that has been going on in the world. He wanted to call, but didn’t think Jackson would want to talk after the way their last visit ended. The fact that they haven’t spoken in three years makes Jackson’s choice of destination a bit odder. Robert tries to connect with Jackson by asking how Harriet is, but Jackson doesn’t have much to say about the three-and-a-half-year old that has never met her grandfather. Jackson decides to take over the conversation by revealing that he has come to Montana for answers. Robert brushes off that statement by asking Jackson if he will help him deliver meals to his regular customers.

Back in Washington, April is mighty confused as to why Jackson is at her house, and the only rational reason she can come up with is that it must be his night with Harriet and she forgot. In typical April fashion, she starts freaking out about how Harriet has a fever of 102, is coughing, and hasn’t had an appetite for a few days. April doesn’t know what illness is plaguing her daughter and doesn’t have any support because Matthew is out east visiting his family. Oh, and the power keeps going out, which might be worse for her than the sick child. Jackson assures her that she didn’t have her schedule confused and that everything will be fine. He tries to get her to calm down, but anyone who knows April knows that it’s probably better to let her anxiety run its course. 

The scene changes back to Montana where Robert is showing Jackson the system he came up with to make and deliver meals to his customers. Jackson is having none of Robert’s beating around the bush and brashly says that he doesn’t want or need anything from him other than answers. He tells Robert about how Catherine told him that he sounded like his father and that he can’t get that out of his head. Jackson is desperate to know what Catherine meant, so Robert explains that he was never one for the establishment and believes that the system is rigged. Jackson thinks his own viewpoints are different because he believes the system is broken and needs a fresh start. Robert smiles and immediately says that that sounds like him. He goes on to explain that the Avery name carries influence and baggage at the same time, which is hard to balance. Jackson knows that people assume that the Avery name can magically fix everything, and Robert assures his son that he understands what he is feeling. 

Two brief scenes follow up that first deep conversation. First, April tells Jackson how both she and Matthew have been working a lot, which has resulted in her house being a mess. She’s been taking care of Harriet non-stop for the past few days, and Jackson realizes that she hasn’t been taking care of herself. He decides to watch Harriet for a bit and encourages April to take a shower to relax. As soon as April gets into the bathroom, the power goes out and spoils the plan. April’s frustration reaches its peak as she aptly yells “Come on!” when the power blinks out. 

Then, Robert shows Jackson how to use a meat slicer, which he considers a form of therapy. Jackson asks Robert how he walked away from his life in medicine, so Robert describes how being Harper Avery’s son was no walk in the park. Sadly, Harper thought that Robert was a stain to the Avery name, and Robert explains that he didn’t want to be the man that the role required or the man his dad wanted him to be. Robert continues by saying that he believes Jackson came to visit because he is ready to leave it all behind too.


We then go back to Washington, where April is mad about the power being out. Harriet has cried herself to sleep, and Jackson found a few flashlights and candles. He’s slightly annoyed by not being able to find any matches, which April explains is because Matthew is a first responder and hides them all, so he lights them over the stove. Jackson picks up a candle in the shape of a nun and burns it by accident, which April actually finds funny. April then continues the small talk and asks how Meredith is doing. Jackson gives her the good news that Mer is awake and on the mend, which April is very happy to hear. He continues to beat around the bush by saying that this is the first time he has been at April’s house, and he isn’t sure how he hasn’t visited before. Jackson coyly asks April if she’s happy, and they talk in circles until Jackson finally blurts out that he went to Robert’s diner. April is surprised because she thought Jackson never wanted to see his father again. He agrees that he didn’t want to see Robert again but he needed to know if he was right about what he wants. Jackson finally tells April and the audience the real reason for his trips: he knows he can step into his own, unlike his father, and wants to take over the family’s foundation. 

The scene flashes back to the diner, where Robert is talking about how difficult COVID has been for him. He has done everything possible to keep his diner open and eventually started packing lunches for his regulars. He eventually gets back on track by saying he feels it is wild to go to work every day doing something you don’t like. Jackson tells his dad that he feels stuck between two sides of himself: the successful surgeon who wants a progressive foundation and the guy who didn’t ask for any of it and feels it’s too late to fix anything. Robert says that Jackson needs to let go of the idea that it’s his job to save the world. 

Jackson slightly changes the subject by asking Robert if he has ever given any thought to what if he hadn’t left. Robert says he isn’t the “look back at the past” type, which is the opposite of his son. Jackson continues and says he wanted to ask Robert last time he visited why he left. He reveals he has never gotten over it and is messed up pretty badly from being abandoned as a child. Jackson feels the hole Robert left has made it hard for him to maintain relationships because he has the inclination to run away all the time. Jackson has tried to rid himself of the shame and pain by doubling down at being the best at everything. He knows that when things get rough, he winds up running away and “fighting the you in me.” Jackson gets increasingly agitated during his monologue and starts slicing meat while talking as a distraction. While not paying complete attention to what he is doing, Jackson slices his hand open instead of the meat.

The scene ends, so we are taken back to April’s house. Harriet’s temperature has dropped and her breathing is getting better, which makes both parents feel better. April asks Jackson if he was hoping Matthew wouldn’t be home tonight, and Jackson quickly replies that he has no problem with Matthew and doesn’t have a bad word to say about him. What April really wants to know is why Jackson had to come in person to tell her that he visited his father. Jackson reveals that he wants to move to Boston to run the foundation, and he wants April, Matthew, and Harriet to move out east with him. He assures April that the foundation will hire her and Matthew, so they can do whatever kind of philanthropic work that they want to do. He really needs them to come with him because he doesn’t want to be so far away from Harriet. I think it’s safe to say the audience and April collectively raised their eyebrows in surprise at the same moment.


We get a brief break in the April-Jackson conversation to see what happened immediately after Jackson cut his hand on the meat slicer. Robert cleans out his son’s hand and wants to glue the skin together. Jackson naturally insists on doing it himself, but he eventually lets Robert do it after a bit of struggling. Robert wraps Jackson’s hand in gauze and is happy that he hasn’t lost his medical skills. He jokingly mentions that he and Jackson should go into practice together, which makes Jackson walk away to get some fresh air. The other conversation then resumes with April accusing Jackson of wanting to move across the country on a whim because the pandemic has been difficult for him. April reminds him that he’s always hated his name for as long as she has known him. Jackson assures her that he needs to make the move and wants to make positive changes. 

April doesn’t buy it and thinks Jackson is just walking away when having a tough time again. Jackson tries to throw the insults back at April by attacking her religion, which doesn’t sit well with her. April wants to know how much time Jackson spent thinking about going to see his father before going to drive her point home, and he can’t admit she’s wrong. She knows Jackson never wanted any of this and doesn’t want to go to Boston with him on a whim. It wouldn’t be fair to them if Jackson hates it and things don’t work out. Jackson drives his thoughts home by telling April that he never came to her asking if it wasn’t going to work when she married Matthew and brought him into their family. He adamantly says that he has never stood in the way of her happiness and has always had her back. All Jackson wants is for April to return the favor this time. April wants Jackson to be happy and feels he deserves happiness. However, she can’t kick the idea that Jackson isn’t the guy to run a foundation, and she doesn’t think he ever will be.

Jackson is mad that April believes he will either fail or quit and isn’t too happy when April continues on the offensive. She says that Jackson has left his mark doing the impossible and doesn’t understand why he would want to give that up. April feels it’s too late for him to decide to throw his surgical career away. She is also happy with her current life and loves helping people in Washington. She doesn’t want to leave the life she has built behind. Jackson tells April that she can continue her good work in Boston with even more resources than she currently has. April reminds Jackson about five minutes too late that he actually didn’t always have her back and brings up how he didn’t support her when she joined the military. Jackson explains that he was resentful of her choices at the time, but understands it all now. He feels that he’s not running from something this time, rather he is running to something. He wants to make something his own, but April says it’s not fair. Jackson believes he finally has the opportunity to have his life make sense. 

The conversation is interrupted by Harriet waking up and crying, so Jackson goes to check on her. When he comes back, he tells April that Catherine managed handling the foundation and raising him, so he wants to do it too. Jackson wants to create lasting change with racial equity in medicine while being the father his never was, which is quite the worthy cause. April understands where Jackson is coming from but informs him that all he needs to do to make it happen is turn her life upside down. 

That natural stopping point is the start of the end of Jackson’s Montana trip. The scene picks up where it left off with Jackson sitting on the front step of the diner to get some air and take in the scenery. Robert comes out and sits next to his son and reveals that he has been thinking a lot about their last visit. He admits that he left Jackson and Catherine because running away felt safer to him than staying. He was convinced Jackson would be better off without him, but Jackson doesn’t understand how his father could think that. Jackson reminds Robert that he missed every major event of his life, and there were many times Jackson needed him and could have used his advice. Robert explains that at the time, he thought that he may have become the screw up his father thought he was and he didn’t want to pass that trait along to Jackson and mess him up too. He never meant to cause such a mess and screw Jackson up. Robert also doesn’t think he has the right to take up any of Jackson’s time or space because of his decision, yet he regrets leaving his son every day. Robert admits it haunts him daily, and even though he’s truly sorry, he knows an apology will never make up for it. He knows he will never get over his past actions, but he has always believed that Jackson would be okay.

Robert recognizes that Jackson is at a crossroads in his life and tells his son that he (Jackson) will be fine no matter what he decides. He also assures Jackson that they aren’t the same and knows that Jackson is a committed person. Roberts tells Jackson that anyone with any sense wants to run away once in a while, but they don’t go through with it. He knows Jackson isn’t a runner because he would have been long gone by now if he was. Robert explains that there is a difference between being scared of doing the right thing or just doing the wrong thing. He ends the talk by telling Jackson that he doesn’t want him to blame any decision on him because Jackson is ten times the man he will ever be. Hopefully this visit is very healing for the father and son and they can resume some sort of relationship. 


In a new timeline, we see Jackson arrive at Catherine’s house post-Montana trip. When his mom answers the door, Jackson quickly tells her that he can’t stay in Seattle anymore. He needs to do something good and get a sense of equity because he doesn’t want people of color to have to fight to have decent medical care. He mentions the deep-seated neglect of the current healthcare system to round out his thoughts before dropping the bombshell that he wants to take over the foundation and move every penny into helping racial equity in medicine. Jackson wants to do whatever it takes to balance the scales, even if he has to dismantle the medical system to make something that will service everyone. Before Catherine can even respond, Jackson says he loves her and needs to go immediately talk to April. He runs back to his car, leaving his mother in stunned tears. 

The next morning, the storm has passed and Jackson is having breakfast with Harriet. April wakes up after spending the night on the couch and is happy to hear that Harriet’s fever is gone. April asks Jackson if he is sure about taking over the foundation and moving to Boston. Jackson admits he isn’t sure it will work, but he’s sure he wants to try. April takes a quick shortcut to mention how she doesn’t get how their romantic timing has always been so awful. They talk a little about their on-again-off-again relationship and how their thing was always arguing until they had sex. 

Jackson gets back on topic by telling April that it’s okay if they stay because he has realized that it’s unfair of him to ask them to go. April responds that he deserves this opportunity and that they will make Boston work. She says yes to the plan... without consulting Matthew. Jackson is thrilled and surprised at the same time because he didn’t think it would be that easy. He vocalizes how he also thought she would have to pray on it and consult with Matthew. She quickly says no and Jackson keeps talking about Matthew. Eventually, April interrupts to blurt out that she and Matthew split up. Jackson is just as floored as the audience and had no idea about the split. April explains that they kept trying to tell themselves that it was God’s plan to bring them back together after she left Matthew at the altar at their first wedding, but Matthew was still so angry and hurt by her actions. Matthew denied it for so long and tried not to hate April, but he ultimately couldn’t let it go. They learned that life isn’t always so tidy and that God’s plan isn’t always easy to understand.

April says that they both started working longer hours and spending more time apart before Matthew eventually went to Philadelphia to support his sick sister. One day, he called April and told her that he was staying in Philly and wouldn’t be coming back. Jackson is still shocked, and April says that she was going to tell him but didn’t think her marriage counted as a casualty with everything that is happening in the world. Jackson jokes that April was too proud to say anything before seriously asking her if she’s okay. April says that it’s hard to say, but it looks like she’s moving to Boston so she has her fingers crossed for new horizons. I could almost hear the cheers of the Japril fans across the world when she finished her thoughts.

The episode wraps up with a quick glance of Catherine and Richard at home. Catherine is still visibly upset so Richard consoles her by saying that Jackson will come back and that she can always go visit. He knows it’s hard to hand over something you put your whole life into. Catherine assures her husband that she’s not sad and that her tears are due to the overwhelming pride she has for Jackson’s decision. We then see Jackson putting his coat on at April’s and getting ready to leave. He tells her that he needs a few days to figure out what to say to Bailey and to tie up loose ends in Seattle. He can’t quite put his feelings into words, and April agrees. They hug each other, and Jackson leaves to go back to Seattle one last time. It is quite shocking to learn that Jackson is in fact leaving Seattle for good in the next episode (airing May 20), but the way he is doing so is wonderful. His mission is one all fans will get behind whether you want to see him go or not. Plus, we have the added bonus of Jackson and April starting fresh and maybe, just maybe, finally making things work. While it is hard to see a second main cast member leave the show in one season, especially one so long-tenured, Jackson/Jesse Williams is leaving on his own terms and getting the proper goodbye he deserves.


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