In the Shonda Rhimes-penned hour that ABC called “the episode America will never forget,” Grey’s Anatomy revealed not only Derek’s whereabouts but his fate as well. Aaand… ? Let’s just say you might wanna keep the tissues handy as you read this recap. A lot of tissues.
SPEED DEMON | As “How to Save a Life” (named for the show’s favorite song) began, Derek left a message for Meredith, then chatted with Amelia, April and Bailey (who were in surgery) while driving to the airport to go to his meeting in D.C. Amelia and Bailey teased him, suggesting that he was gonna miss his flight, but he insisted that he’d be fine because he was taking a shortcut. Bad decision, it turned out. No sooner had he lost his connection to the OR than some A-hole went racing by him — and, as Derek noted, he was already going 10 mph over the speed limit himself. Next thing ya know, he was slamming on his brakes because Speed Racer had cut off the SUV in front of him and caused a horrific accident. Avoiding a collision himself, Derek leapt out of his car and checked on Sarah and Winnie, the mother and daughter in the SUV. “I think I’m dead,” Winnie believed… until Derek assured her that her pulse guaranteed that she was, in fact, still alive. Next, Derek found Alanna (Lisa Shay!), who’d been thrown from the speedster. She’d had the wind knocked out of her but seemed more or less okay. The driver, however… When Derek found Charlie, he was wandering down the highway about to collapse from a massive head injury.
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LIFE SAVER | Once Derek had helped Winnie out of the car, he tried to send her off to wait with Charlie and Alanna so she wouldn’t see how painful it was for her mom when he helped her out of the SUV. Though Winnie wasn’t afraid to stay – she’d seen her father die – she relented and brought bandages to the teens. Good thing she did, too, because worse than Sarah getting out of the vehicle was Derek popping her hip back into place. (Her thank-you: “I hate you.”) After the sportscar exploded, Alanna had a meltdown about how very much she wasn’t supposed to be there. “I’m a mathlete,” she declared. But when hot Charlie asked if she wanted to go for a ride, she couldn’t refuse. As if fate was making her pay for that decision, she then doubled over in pain – her insides were coming out! That being the case, she was sure she was gonna kick the bucket right then and there, and she might have except for one thing: “I don’t let people die,” Derek explained.
NO GOOD DEED GOES UNPUNISHED | After the smoking car brought help and the victims were taken away, Derek was about to resume his drive when his cell rang. Positioned awkwardly in the middle of the highway, he stopped to try to retrieve his phone from between the seats, and… BAM! He got plowed into by an 18-wheeler! For a second, it looked like he was getting taken to Grey Sloan, but no, it was a fake-out. He got taken to another hospital, one without a trauma center. Though he’d lost the ability to speak, we heard in voiceovers that his mind was absolutely fine – he was even able to diagnose himself and knew that he should have been taken to get a head CT immediately. Discovering him – and much worse for wear than when she last saw him – Winnie broke down in tears but checked his pulse and assured him that he wasn’t dead. When the ER docs found her in Derek’s cubicle, she revealed that he was the doctor who’d saved all of the accident victims. Unfortunately, as he was wheeled into surgery, he knew, “I’m going to die because these people aren’t properly trained.”
END OF AN ERA | During his operation, Derek voiceover’d as loudly as he could what the docs should be doing. In the end, they needed a neurosurgeon, stat. But the guy took forever to get there – and then wasted more time kicking out of the OR the lady doctor who called him on his terrible response time. By then, it didn’t matter. “You’re too late,” Derek knew. When we returned to Mer where we left her last week – at her front door, police lights playing across her worried face – the cops told her there had been an accident and asked her to come with them. So she bundled up the kids and went to the hospital. “I’m so sorry for your loss,” said the jerk neurosurgeon. Derek was on life support but, for all intents and purposes, gone. Looking at his chart, Mer immediately noted that not getting a head CT was a bad call. (That’s putting it mildly.) Faced with the choice of sending Derek away to a long-term care facility and praying for magic or pulling the plug, Mer yelled at the doctor, “Give me the papers!” Outside the hospital, the lady doctor who’d failed Derek apologized to Mer. “Yeah, you weren’t good enough,” Mer replied. “So learn from this, better yourself, and you will be better for next time.” How could she be sure? Because for this lady doctor, Mer said, Derek was “the one” – the one whose face she’d see every time she treats a new patient forevermore. Alone at last, Mer threw up in some bushes, then reentered the hospital to do (sob) what had to be done. “Derek,” she said at his bedside, a tear trickling down her cheek, flashbacks to happier times starting to play along with “Chasing Cars.” She’d be fine, she promised her husband. “Are you ready?” asked the nurse. “No,” Mer answered, “but go ahead.” And with that, Derek’s life support was shut off, and he died.
What did you think of the way the show handled Derek’s demise? On a scale of 1 (“Eh”) to 10 (“Can’t type! Still weeping!”), how much will you miss him?