In the two-hour Season 6 premiere of Grey's Anatomy, the staff of Seattle Grace deals with the death of one of their own. Meanwhile, Owen treats a British backpacker who loses an arm in a speedboat accident, and Arizona has trouble diagnosing a 15-year-old patient's "growing pains." Plus: Derek gets a shocking proposition that puts him at odds with the Chief.
It's been a long summer since that cosmic elevator ride with George and Izzie last May. If you've kept an eye on the headlines at all the past few months, it was no shock that it was indeed George O'Malley who was sent to that big ER in the sky. Still, questions loomed: How would the show send him off? How would those left behind deal with the tragedy? There's a simple answer to the first question: Despite Derek's attempts, George is left brain-dead. Answering the latter question was the major focus of the opener, so in the interest of dissecting this extra-long episode, let's recap by focusing on those most affected — and someone who's barely affected by it at all. Grab your hankies, and let's get to it.
The former Mrs. O'Malley has the most immediate and physical reaction. Though the hyperventilating struck me as a bit much after it went on and on, Sara Ramirez certainly knows how to play someone grieving. Because she's still George's wife in God and Mama O'Malley's eyes, Callie has to decide whether or not George's organs should be donated. Callie freaks, before realizing that Izzie, fresh off coming back from the dead herself, is the one best equipped to make that decision.
Once George's organs are harvested and his body is in the ground, Callie hopes to throw herself into her new job as an attending physician. The bad news is, the doc she believed she would be replacing took a hit to his 401(k) and won't be retiring. (Topical!) Callie is furious with the Chief, who is in no mood for her complaints (see below). Instead of grieving her way through Arizona's endless supply of doughnuts, Callie becomes the new attending at cross-town rival Mercy West. Ironically, the Chief shows up there with a wounded leg after running a red light. Though her grief (personal and professional) is the most palpable through the episode, at least she gets the last laugh. (Or does she?)
Thanks to Karev, Izzie is the last one to learn about George's death. Even though everyone walks on eggshells around her, she is incredibly strong. When cherry-picking which of George's organs to give away, Izzie notes, "George would give everything." And so that's what they do. It's heartbreaking to see Izzie finally sob as she holds George's hand one last time, which makes her uncontrollable laughter during his funeral a bit of a shock. However, the moment with everyone laughing in the graveyard provides some much-needed levity, and strikes me as how many people realistically deal with grief.
On the plus side, Izzie's cancer has stopped growing. The bad news is it's still there. Izzie says she expected to either be healed or to die; the thought that she might have to live with the disease never occurred to her. Living is that much more difficult when her new husband, Alex, won't sleep with her, no matter how much she asks. (I agree, though, that bringing up how much you miss your dead ex is not exactly a turn-on.) Izzie turns her frustration on Amanda, the girl George saved who posts up outside the hospital every day. "You lived and George didn't. So go live your life," Izzie yells, finally getting through to her. She also finally gets through to Alex with her "be my husband" speech, but he confesses that he's afraid of everything because Izzie died in his arms. "I can't live without you," he says, finally baring his soul and really embracing Izzie for the first time since she left the hospital.
Lexie wonders if she abandoned George in his time of need, but really doesn't have as much time to grieve as the others. She's busy playing best friend to Clara, who had both arms and one of her legs chopped off in a boating accident. Try as she might, Lexie can't get Clara to tell her mother back in London about her injuries. "She made me from scratch," Clara says, urging Lexie to continue writing the fake progress notes from her trip around the globe.
Clara becomes severely depressed at the slow-go of her healing process, and when she turns up with an abdominal infection, she refuses the surgery because of the risk of having a colostomy (or "poo bag" as she puts it.) To save her life, Lexie plays hardball and threatens to tell her mom if she doesn't have the surgery. Clara finally relents, but falls into depression again when her physical therapy stalls. Lexie, however, convinces her to prove the people (Yang) who twisted-ly refer to her as "Ceviche" (chopped fish, geddit?) wrong. She does, and after taking her first steps in a month, Clara decides that her now non-from-scratch body is in good enough shape that she can call her mum.
Outside of the hospital, Lexie battles with the decision to move in with Mark, who has just moved into Callie's building. Of course, Lexie was unaware that he lived across the hall from his "hot, hardcore ex-sex partner" until Callie changes in front of him in the hallway and barges into his bathroom while he's showering. "How gay are you, on a scale of one to gay?" Lexie asks Callie, who puts Lexie at ease. "He doesn't look at my boobs anymore. Not since he met you." So, Lexie shows up later that night with a toothbrush and her bags.
She's an emotional vacuum as usual. She doesn't eat, sleep, or cry, but does take her mind off everything by consummating her post-it marriage with Derek all over the house. (Lexie catches them on the countertop; Alex and Izzie walk in on them in the stairs.) Meredith is unable to really face the grief head-on until the custodial staff comes to clean out George's locker, at which point she becomes a blubbering mess. Luckily, McDreamy is there to comfort her.
Arizona was never as close to George as the others, and her focus is on comforting Callie (see aforementioned doughnuts) and treating her patient, Andy, a 15-year-old kid who is constantly in severe pain for no apparent reason. Like doctors before her, she can't find anything wrong with him, but wants to do an expensive 3-D MRI to be certain. The Chief, however, denies her request. Refusing to disappoint Andy's mother ("I'm going to make Andy my person, too," she says), she refers them to girlfriend Callie at Mercy West. Unfortunately, the scan comes back with no results.
With a little help from Dr. Shepherd, they ultimately discover that part of his spine is still attached to his tail bone. His recent growth spurt is causing the tethered cord to pull, and thus causing all the pain. In the OR, Derek lets Arizona give the cord a snip, since she saved him from a life of being addicted to painkillers. "He owes his future to you," Derek says. Again, it was nice to have some uplifting moments spread throughout the episode.
Dr. Hunt has to explain to George's mother why her son signed up for the Army in wartime. Though it doesn't bring him back, Owen says he liked her son and his passion for saving lives. He says he was heroic and noble, and that Mrs. O'Malley has much to be proud of.
He and Cristina seem to be going strong, but she's a little randy and he's on orders to keep it in his pants. His shrink doesn't want lust to cloud his vision for fear that it will interfere with his therapy. Cristina doesn't buy it, and goes to the shrink to prove how much they "share." Once there, however, Cristina realizes how much Owen doesn't talk about the war, his trauma, and the choking incident. However, Cristina's dark humor (Ceviche, etc.) finally opens up Owen to talking about his issues. "You made a start," the shrink says. And then they make sexytime. After which, it finally hits home to the previously sex-deprived Yang that George is dead. (She's always thinking about herself.)
Bailey is crippled by George's death. She has to personally hear who is getting his organs and why. She also is extremely reluctant to help Arizona diagnose her patient. Once some time passes, however, the tough Bailey from seasons past resurfaces. She yells at Yang for discouraging Clara from the surgery because of the colostomy risk, and when Yang gives her attitude, she kicks her off her service. The Nazi is back.
After being stony for much of the episode, she finally lets loose in the elevator with Derek. "I can't care anymore," she says. "I have to stop caring so much; I cant keep feeling like this." Bailey wants to distance herself from her interns, who she has treated like children. She wants to devote that energy to her baby boy instead. With that off her chest, the elevator ride can continue, and so can Bailey's life. (Can I just say how much I love the friendship between Derek and Bailey?)
Of all the men of Seattle Grace, the Chief is the most visibly shaken. But he has no time to think about it because Derek informs him that the board wants to stage a coup and throw the Chief out the door and hand over his office to Shepherd. Derek tells the board he'll think about it, only to buy the Chief some time. But the Chief won't listen to Derek when he tries to tell him to form a plan.
After his car accident forces a visit to Mercy West, the Chief starts spending more time at that hospital. Rumors begin circulating that he is going to jump ship, and Derek thinks that the Chief owes him a heads-up at least. But rather than moving on, the Chief reveals that Seattle Grace and Mercy West are merging because of the economy. Worse, jobs will be lost, so everyone has to bring his or her A-game. Based on Derek's reaction, he was all but ready to ascend the throne after the way the Chief treated him, but now it seems the merged hospitals will leave Richard in charge a while longer.
What did you think of the episode? Were you happy with the way George's story ended? Shocked by the news of the merger? Share all your thoughts in the comments below.