Happily ever afters are so very rare on Grey's Anatomy because this is usually a show that aims to leave us lounging in a puddle of tears that are decidedly not made of joy. But tonight, well, the mood is definitely different?
Sure, anyone holding out hope that Meredith Grey (Ellen Pompeo) and Nathan Riggs (Martin Henderson) might come out of this season's new love triangle on top might be disappointed, but there's something much more organic about him rekindling his long-lost romance with his pseudo-affianced, Megan Hunt (Abigail Spencer) than her getting a McDreamy 2.0, right?
The episode takes place in real-time and through flashbacks to the couple's time in Baghdad, before all hell broke loose and she was abducted. They're there with Owen Hunt (Kevin McKidd) and Teddy Altman (Kim Raver), and they're very clearly in love ... but each has some hangups that they'll need to explore before they can really commit to one another. Let's take it from the top.
The episode opens with the quartet on tour in Iraq, where Megan is ambitious about her prospect of nabbing the coveted surgery residency, and she seems to be a shoo-in thanks to her own gumption and the fact that Owen, her brother, is the CO of their company.
Unfortunately, that does her no good, and she's passed over for the opportunity. But why? Well, she's got a sneaking suspicion that Owen didn't so much put her up for the job as set her back. Meanwhile, when she stumbles upon a necklace in Riggs' room, he says is meant to be an engagement bauble for her, since she loses anything that's not strapped to her. It's a proposal she's delighted to accept, and, judging by the current-day shots of her readying herself for a trip to Malibu, where Riggs and Farouk await her in their new home, she's joyfully sporting his newest token of betrothal now, too.
Teddy treats the "engagement necklace" like it's only slightly unordinary ("interesting" is her word of choice) while Megan's around, but as soon as she can get some alone time with Riggs — treating the suspected shooter of a rogue firefight that's injured him and several others, friendly and otherwise — she calls him on his lie. Not only does she recognize the necklace as one belonging to a Sergeant Phillips, but it's also engraved with her initials, so he's just bound to be busted sooner than later.
While all of these memories start to come through, a cheerier-than-usual Owen decides to join his sister on her trip to California, to give them some long-overdue bonding time cheese puffs and their shared love of Salt-N-Pepa classics. He diverges on a so-called shortcut to try and sway her forward progress to the Sunshine State, however, by taking her to an old fun house hangout they used to haunt and challenging her to an old school ring-toss, where the highest stakes are her staying in Seattle. She is not amused.
The plot backfires spectacularly because she then sees through all the feel-good vibes of this vehicular adventure and is reminded of anther time he tried to spin a selfish decision ... not putting her up for that STRAT position (and yeah, it was 10 years ago, but she got kidnapped before they could fight about it, so, fair game).
After some prodding — and some seriously harsh burns about how there's no woman, even his wife, who he hasn't let down — she finally gets him to admit he undermined her journey to becoming a general by labeling her as impulsive and immature to the higher-ups. Ouch.
Meanwhile, just as present-day Riggs is losing track of Farouk — who decides to hit the beachside food truck but is overwhelmed by the options, school, and the fact that he'll have his own room now — his flashback persona is also losing control. Now that his secret is exposed to Teddy, he has to try and find out what to do about it. Does he pretend it didn't happen? Does he try to run interference and replace the necklace with? Or, as Teddy so bluntly puts it, does he just take his lickings that he so thoroughly has coming by fessing up to the truth?
Door number three seems to be the preferred option of Teddy, who somehow knows that there is still a chance of reclaiming what they have together if he admits what he's done right away. A slight chance, but still. And she's also looking out for Megan when it comes to Owen, too, because she stands up for her decision not to join the Major on the road, knowing just as well as anyone that he's sabotaged her shot at the next level.
In real time, Megan and Owen's road trip has stalled to complete silence, until he's finally willing to apologize to her — well, halfway at least. He says he was wrong to interfere with her career, but in the same breath wants to do it again and turn their caravan around to go back to Seattle Grace. She's not having it, though, and pulls over to the side of the road to demote him from unexpected passenger to actual hitchhiker.
That's when the real meat of the conversation comes through: Owen blames Riggs for cheating on her so many years ago, which is why she ended up taking that fateful flight. But she doesn't buy into blaming Riggs for her 10-year stint as a prisoner of war because (a) they've got too good of a thing going right now — seriously, just look how cute he is with Farouk over nachos by the beach — and (b) she cheated on Riggs first.
That's what you call a bombshell.
Because while Riggs is ready to confess his crime of passion to Megan in flashback land, she reads his approach wrong and thinks his cold feet are owed to her own indiscretion. All the cards are on the table from both, and they're both flops, but she's still upset about his news and asks Owen to clear her to travel with the female patient she's been treating, who's said to have stifled the attacker. But when another soldier wakes up from his injuries and informs Teddy that the woman was actually the shooter, well, she's too late to stop the helicopter.
In current time, Megan informs her brother that the reason she wants — no, needs — to relocate to California because that's what got her through so many years in captivity. She pretend the sand of the desert was just the beach and promised herself that, should she ever get the opportunity to escape, she'd be setting foot in the ocean every single day to feel that real respite again. Whatever dreams Owen had of them growing old together, he'll need to make a new plan.
Speaking of which, now that Amelia (Catarina Scorsone) is well again, it's decision time between them as well. Instead of sticking around in Malibu to join his sister on her new life adventure, he takes the first flight back to Seattle. But unlike Megan, this Hunt sibling is not going to have a fairy tale ending this time — well, not in the traditional sense. He and Amelia peaceably agree that they are not happy together — they don't even know each other any more — so they each return their wedding bands to one another and decide to go their separate ways.
As Megan basks in the beach and the embraces of her son and future husband, Owen enjoys the rare sunburst in Seattle and seems at peace with himself, for a change. All is well. For now, at least.
Grey's Anatomy airs Thursday nights at 8/7c on ABC.