Tuesday, May 25, 2021

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

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. 


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 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?


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.


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.


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