For once, we have some optimism in play on Grey's Anatomy. Let's just enjoy this while it lasts.
The new research contest idea cooked up by Jackson Avery (Jesse Williams), a.k.a. the anonymous benefactor, and then can-kicked down the surgical line into April Kepner (Sarah Drew)'s lap might've seemed like one big vanity project meant to make up for his inability to win a Harper-Avery Award. But it's actually got the halls of Grey-Sloan Memorial brimming with revolutionary new ideas that might just save and/or better a lot of peoples' lives.
Here's what the docs come up with, despite April's unceremonious (read: hungover) contest introduction session.
First, there's Jackson himself, who wants to make The Hunger Games' Capitol medicine come to life with spray-on skin grafts. It's a novel idea that would help burn victims the world over and make his work life so much easier. Avery's mother Catherine (Debbie Allen), however, has another plan in mind. Her friend and esteemed colleague Dr. Velez (portrayed by Transparent's Candis Cayne) is willing to be patient zero on a potentially game-changing new version of the vaginoplasty for transgender patients. She's got it all figured out already, but she still needs Jackson's help to, you know, actually perform the procedure on her. The idea here is that they'd use a different tissue — from the peritoneum — to line the walls and make the area more functional and pleasurable than current methods.
Jackson struggles with the idea of putting his own pet project on the back burner for "something that would only affect one percent of patients" on a surgery that's already medically sound. But when he's reminded that one percent of the world's population amounts to 75 million people, and his entire job is about making peoples' bodies feel like their souls do, well, he caves. His aero-skin is years away from true development anyway, and here we have a live patient who's ready to go. Plus, his mom said so.
Down the hall, Amelia Shepherd (Caterina Scorsone) and Alex Karev (Justin Chambers) have a pediatrics patient named Kimmie who's been battling the brain tumor that just won't quit. The girl wants nothing more than to try out for a school musical — and her years of treatment have gotten in the way thus far — but now her tumor's back and worse than ever. Surgical removal will hinder her ability to speak, and chemo and radiation obviously won't get rid of it for the long term either. It's a no-win for this songbird, it seems.
But Shepherd's inspired by her patient's vocal prowess to try and tackle this tumor with some frequency treatment that would, in theory, shatter it without damaging the surrounding brain tissue. Now, there's something to sing about! So many grand ideas here, and yet this one has a ready, willing, and frankly deserving patient at the ready as well... good enough, right? RIGHT?!
Meredith Grey (Ellen Pompeo) and Jo (Camille Luddington) — make that Dr. Josephine Brooke Wilson, now that she no longer has to hide — stumble upon their research idea as well, after their splenectomy patient from last time returns with a whole body full of mini-spleens that have popped up in her late spleen's place. It's Twilight Zone-style stuff here, but, hey, it wouldn't be Grey's without at least one whackadoodle concept in motion. She wants to replicate that process, synthetically, with other dying organs, specifically for alcoholics whose livers quit and they're ineligible for transplants.
Owen (Kevin McKidd) is basically just window-dressing for this episode because he doesn't have the energy or interest in trying to track down the patent rights he'd need for his idea; but his experience does give Meredith some pause. Can she get the patent she'll need to proceed?
Meanwhile, Miranda Bailey (Chandra Wilson) may be bed-bound in recovery, but she gets Glasses (who's new nickname is Blood Bank, apparently) to play fetch for her with all the tubing and suction devices she'll need to pitch her colonoscopy device that's supposed to take the "roto-rooter" edge off the testing. Glasses is understandably uncomfortable about this whole process.
Maggie Pierce (Kelly McCreary) navigates her new boyfriend Clive's blissful unfamiliarity with the world of medicine enough to put together her idea for charging artificial hearts through the skin instead of having these poor patients plug in all the time. And Richard Webber (James Pickens Jr.) manages to make a few hearts flutter himself by learning salsa moves for his anniversary dance with Catherine while helping Maggie cope with the anniversary of her mother's death. Somehow, his device idea — a wand that can detect whether cells are cancerous or healthy in the middle of surgery — matches her childhood protection device ("a magic wand") to a tee and offers one lovely little father-daughter moment. D'aw.
Obviously, the medical minds that work with the show's writers were giving some GOODS for this episode, eh? How about this for some important inspo?
Last but not least, Arizona Robbins (Jessica Capshaw) is still reeling from the death of Karen, who had preeclampsia after giving birth to April's ex-fiance's baby a few episodes back. It dawns on her, based on Carina DeLuca's (Stefania Spampinato) dumbfounded reaction to how many mothers she's lost, just how bad the maternity mortality rate is in this country. So, she makes an impassioned plea to April, past deadline and with no paper to support her idea, and gets it through anyway. After all, April still has some guilty feelings going on about Karen's loss herself. Fair? Eh. But at least it'll give Carina something to do — and someone to do, since the two are now ready to be partners in more ways than one again. Huzzah!
In the end, we don't find out who all gets through to the next round of the proposal process, but it does appear that Meredith and Jo do (patent rights or naw) while Amelia and Alex do not. Are we about to have another Sheperd sister-in-law showdown? Or will Amelia and Alex break bad and do this girl's surgery with or without the funding? Stay tuned.
Looking ahead to next month, it appears we're getting our first Station 19 cross-over moment, fit with another hand-in-the-body moment for old time's sake (just hopefully with no bombs this time).
Grey's Anatomy returns Mar. 1 on ABC.