Private Practice

After an entire season of Violet (Amy Brenneman) being away from her child, a vicious court battle in Thursday's episode of Private Practice will determine where baby Lucas ends up — with faithful father Pete (Tim Daly) or back in the arms of his healing mother.

"It's the process and conversation that we've been waiting for for a year," Brenneman tells TVGuide.com, explaining that Violet never left her child for selfish reasons. "Violet separated herself from her baby because she was afraid she'd do something neglectful or abusive."

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After last season's finale, where Violet was sliced and diced by an unstable patient who proceeded to steal her baby, Violet has come to terms with her stress, says Brenneman. "It's really satisfying to come around and have her finally say her piece."

However, the court case is not just about Violet and Pete. "It involves everybody because everybody takes the stand and has to be brutally honest," says Brenneman. "Violet gets support in surprising places and non-support in surprising places, and through it all, everybody gets beaten up."

"There is a lot of dirty laundry hung out in this episode," adds co-star Daly. "It's not just a little dirty, it is soiled. It's not pretty. Pete is so in the right about everything that happens, even though some people may not perceive it that way. He certainly defends himself, a rigorous defense of his position."

Oh and rigorous it is, though executive producer Shonda Rhimes defends her male lead's actions. "There's nothing you wouldn't do for your child," Rhimes says. "Maybe his methods are wrong, but to everybody else, he's a flawed human being who has been very hurt by Violet, and is very scared of what could happen with his kid."

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So what does this custody battle mean for the future of Pete and Addison (Kate Walsh), who has finally taken a step closer to achieving her goal of being a mother this season? "It's such a huge struggle," says Walsh. "Of course she loves Lucas and is so connected to him, but she needs to do the right thing in the end. You see her really struggle in this episode with how really hopeless she is and how much she loves Lucas."

And even though Violet will walk away with a new sense of peace, the Oceanside Wellness crew will still be feeling the effects of this hearing long after the episode concludes. "Nothing is solved by the end of the episode, but a lot has changed by the end of the episode," says Rhimes.