[Warning: This story contains major spoilers from Thursday's season premiere of Grey's Anatomy. Read at your own risk!]
Grey's Anatomy has never been shy about killing off members of its cast — See: George, Lexie and Mark — so there was genuine fear this summer that Dr. Richard Webber (James Pickens Jr.), the heart of the hospital, could be the next on executive producer Shonda Rhimes' hit list.
At the close of Season 9, Webber was seemingly lifeless after being electrocuted when trying to turn on the generator during the super-storm. Picking up moments later, the Season 10 premiere saw Webber put through the ringer as Bailey (Chandra Wilson) attempted to save his life under Meredith's (Ellen Pompeo) direction. After two major surgeries, Webber woke up — but the Grey's family did lose Brooks (Tina Majorino), who was also electrocuted and hit her head when she discovered Webber's body. How will Webber handle the recovery process? TVGuide.com caught up with Pickens to get the scoop:
Were you at all worried about Webber actually dying?
James Pickens Jr.: I was clued in beforehand. We usually have our read-through before each new episode. Shonda said, "Hey Jim, don't freak out when you see this episode. It's really good. We've got some great stuff planned for this." I said, "OK!" So when I read it, it was fine.
Fortunately, Richard does survive. But he went through two major surgeries. How will he be dealing with the recovery process?
Pickens: He's not going to be dealing with it well. This is a man who is very proud. This is a man who led people. He was a mentor, he was an administrator. When he walked by, folks hustled. When he barked, they listened. Now, he's a man who is in a bed and dependent on others. His physical presence is no longer what it was. He doesn't deal with it well. The physical manifestations of being electrocuted are something he has to deal with. There's a whole element of self-pity, fear and anger and all the ranges of emotions folks have after something that's so traumatic. It's going to be a journey for him in terms of dealing with that and making this uphill climb back to where he feels that he is vital again.
How does he feel about Bailey, who was involved in the surgeries, and also called him an alcoholic? Can they ever get back to the mentor-mentee relationship?
Pickens: I think so. I think it's going to take time. There is some healing involved. She was right in her assessment of him at that time. She thought that he had her back and she felt that he didn't. She lashed out and said things she might not have meant in the heat of the moment. She looks at him as a mentor figure, someone that she tried to emulate her whole career and put a lot of confidence and trust in over the year. When she feels he threw her under the bus, she lashes out and she regrets that. That's why she's so diligent and adamant in trying to do everything she can to bring him back to some semblance of what he once was. Through that, the healing process will begin for both of them. I'm pretty sure they find out how much they do count on one another and how much mutual respect they have for one another. They have a love for one another. At the end of the day, he has a great deal of respect for Bailey.
How will Webber's girlfriend Catherine Avery (Debbie Allen) play into his recovery?
Pickens: She's going to be there as he recovers. She's very happy for the fact that she was able to be part of that team that helped in his recovery. She knows she's going to have to be hard on him because of the man that he is; he is not a very good patient. She's going to see that. She is going to have to muster up every bit of patience, calm and decorum that she can to try to see him through this. He knows that it's for his best, but he doesn't want to hear that right now. He's angry, he's afraid, he doesn't know what the future holds for him in terms of his physical well-being.
Will Webber feel any guilt for inadvertently causing Brooks' death?
Pickens: I don't know. He's got much bigger fish to fry at that point. I don't think guilt would actually play a part, at least not at this juncture.
Are you glad that Webber survived? Will you miss Brooks? Hit the comments!
Grey's Anatomy airs Thursdays at 9/8c on ABC.