If the promos for Thursday’s Season 17 premiere of Grey’s Anatomy were to be believed, the two-parter (which continued stories begun earlier in the evening on Station 19) was going to end with a “shocking… jaw-dropping” conclusion that would leave us saying, “Oh my God.” It was a lot for a show, even one as solid as ABC’s resurgent drama, to live up to. Did it pull it off? Read on, and we’ll go over everything that lead up to that (exclamation) point, then you can weigh in in the comments.
‘THAT’S THE FOURTH PATIENT I’VE LOST TODAY, AND THEY’RE ALL DYING ALONE… WELCOME BACK, RICHARD!’ | As “All Tomorrow’s Parties” began, it was April 2020 — in other words, mid-pandemic. To Bailey’s surprise, Richard, now happily cobalt-free, reported back to work. He especially wanted to say hello to DeLuca. (In a flashback, we learned that he had struggled mightily after Richard’s surgery — and Carina blamed Meredith for having pushed him.) Webber also wanted to know whether it was true that a whole OR had heard Teddy having sex with Koracick in a voicemail. Nearby, Jackson accidentally overheard Winston tell Maggie that he loved her at the end of a FaceTime call. WTH was that? said her expression. Later, Winston would explain it away in a manner that didn’t freak her out but did kinda make her heart flutter. Oh, and as for Jackson, in a flashback, we saw that Vic had misunderstood a text from her hot doctor lover and showed up at his place with nothing on under her puffy coat… only to be greeted by Harriet in his arms. “I’m not a stepmom,” the incident made her realize. Mm-hmm, except maybe one day to Pru.
When Tom ran into Richard, he explained in his inimitable style that he was carrying around a golf club to keep anyone from getting within six feet. He’d soon snap and use his nine iron on boxes of what were supposed to be PPEs but were actually only booties. Treating Kaden, the burn victim from Station 19’s Season 4 premiere (recapped here), Jackson had a capital-M moment upon seeing Jo. Apparently, they had hooked up!!! (OK, that qualified for at least one OMG!) Alone with her shortly thereafter, she suggested that “people do stupid things.” Had the hookup been a letdown? In a subsequent flashback, Jo asked Jackson for a “sexual favor” — a bridge over the river of the husband who left her. A one-night bridge to not being a sad sack. And he was “a human male that I kinda trust,” she added, the flatterer. When she showed up for their rendezvous, she hadn’t even bothered to wear pants. He, meanwhile, had set up his place for a date. A bad, bad date. “No girl wants to take her clothes off after eating cheese and cured meat,” she laughed. And certainly not to Kenny G music. Still, they kissed. “I really want to have sex with you,” she said. But she kept crying. Hilarious.
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‘WHAT SEEMS LIKE A WEAKNESS IS ACTUALLY A STRENGTH… IF YOU GET HELP’ | In another pre-COVID flashback, we saw that, since DeLuca was resting in an on-call room — Mer hadn’t wanted to leave him home alone in his state — Bailey was able to inform him that Cindy was there asking for him. He had been right, Miranda told him; the girl had been being trafficked. When she’d continued getting sicker, Opal had said that she was useless and dumped her. At that point, she’d made her way back to Grey Sloan. While being treated by DeLuca, she confessed that her real name was Erin. She’d been abducted at 14 after falling for a “photographer’s” scam. Later, Bailey, Mer, Carina and Richard united to stage a kind of intervention for Andrew. “I would give up every life I ever saved to not feel like this,” he cried. He’d even give up having known Mer. He’d only had one goal in life: to not be like his father, and he’d failed. “All we’re asking you to do,” Grey told him, “is fight as hard for yourself as you do for everyone else.”
Back in the “present,” as we neared the end of the first episode, Mer, strong as she is, lost it after yet another patient neared death. No sooner had she trashed a supply closet than who should walk in but DeLuca. “Hey,” he said. She was in no mood for “Hey,” though. She was pissed that he’d turned off his cell phone and panicked her. “I’m glad you’re OK,” she said angrily. In one last Cindy flashback — sorry, Erin — she was reunited with her sister, who assured her, “It’s not your fault.” In the “present,” Richard broke the rules to allow Kaden’s mother to see him. “If Bailey asks, I’ll tell her I didn’t get to that part of the manual,” he told Jackson. Oh, that’d go well! When he tried to do exactly that, she started to fuss, but he diverted her by revealing that he’d found a way to sanitize PPEs without deteriorating the masks. She only got on him so much, she said, because she cared. She didn’t want him to put himself at risk. In response, he explained that every one of his relationships had failed. He couldn’t walk away from the one that he has with the hospital, too. Finally, Jo apologized to Jackson for the way she’d behaved toward him. “I’m pretty sure I snotted in your mouth,” she recalled. He wasn’t upset, though; they were friends, they were cool. Bumping into Nico, Levi said that he hoped his ex was doing fine, because he himself wasn’t. He’d just lost his 100th patient. Nico was about as caring and responsive as ever. Ugh.
‘HOW IS NEXT WEEK ALREADY OVER?’ | In “The Center Won’t Hold,” the second of our two episodes, Richard and Catherine crossed paths for apparently the first time since his surgery. When she snarked that he’d better be careful post-op, he wouldn’t want to get hurt again, he shot back, “The only pain I’m feeling right now is square in my ass.” At Mer’s, Amelia was stunned to learn that she’d misplaced a week and missed Link’s birthday. In a flashback, the new parents struggled to name their son. Scout was out, per Amelia. Tony was out, per Link. Maybe they could name him after something they dreamed of? “Snake in a vest” didn’t have a great ring, though, Link noted. In the “present,” Amelia tried to make it up to Link for missing his birthday by occupying the kids with a movie and modeling her birthday suit. Upstairs, the couple partook in a brilliantly naughty, socially-distanced love scene.
In the “present,” Owen asked Teddy to talk after work. It seemed they hadn’t really since… since presumably their wedding was postponed. In a flashback, he told Teddy that he should’ve left his mom a voicemail (ha) to let her know they weren’t tying the knot that day. But no, he didn’t wanna cancel. Did she? Oh, Owen. What are you up to? Back in the now, he told his would-be wife that if he died, she’d get Alison, of course. But maybe if she couldn’t handle Leo, too, Amelia and Link could take him. “I’m not OK with you dying,” she said. And that wasn’t what they were supposed to be talking about, anyway — clearly. Before the conversation went any further, she was paged, leaving Owen alone and forlorn. “Let’s talk later then,” he said. When “later” arrived, Teddy challenged Owen to tell her what was wrong. In response, he beseeched her to come clean with him. He loved her. She was his best friend. So spit it out. “No,” she insisted. “There’s nothing.” So he played her the telltale voicemail message that he’d heard on what was supposed to have been their wedding day. “So much for love,” he said. “So much for friendship. So much for trust. So much for us.”
‘SO THAT’S YOUR REPORT? THAT THE WORLD IS ON FIRE?’ | In a meeting with Maggie, Catherine balked at Pierce’s requests. Loudly. But really, they were both just furious that they were faced with a problem that they couldn’t solve. “I hate that everyone is dying!” Catherine yelled. Eventually, they wore themselves out, and Catherine admitted that she hated that Richard hadn’t come back to her. In a flashback, Jackson found his stepfather watching his medical-conference “speech” online. But he couldn’t blame all of his mistakes on cobalt. He’d advised Maggie to operate on her cousin. He’d spent time with Gemma. “I have no one to blame but myself,” said Richard. Later, Jackson acknowledged that his mother could be impossible. But “when she loves, it’s hard.” So Richard needed to choke down his ego and forgive Catherine already. Take her call and hear her out — for Jackson if not himself. In the “present,” Maggie challenged Catherine to woman up and keep fighting for Richard. As the episode drew to a close, Catherine told Tom that she was accepting a resignation that he hadn’t offered as chief of chiefs but would keep him on as neuro chief. She then offered Richard the COC position — and an apology for everything she’d done that had hurt him. Aw, those crazy kids were back together again.
Meredith was downright gleeful when she was called in by Cormac to help him save a kid named Frankie’s kidney. (He fell on a spike on Station 19, you may recall.) The teen’s pal Kaden, meanwhile, turned out to have been burned so badly that even his insides were fried. After Cormac told Frankie’s dad that he’d pulled through surgery, Maggie and DeLuca broke it to Kaden’s father that he… had not. Suddenly, both dads had to feel pretty stupid about the fight they’d had that had injured Bailey’s leg. Reeling from the heartache, Teddy wound up clashing with Jo, who was eager to judge her. “You had a beautiful life,” said Jo, “and you blew it up with a butt-dial.” When Teddy welcomed Jo to judge her as harshly as she wanted — it still wouldn’t be as harshly as she was judging herself — the former Mrs. Karev asked if she’d told Owen that. She’d tried. Well, concluded Jo, “try harder.” Mer got a text from Cormac inviting her for a drink in his office just as it appeared that she and DeLuca had gone back to being just friends. And Nico locked Levi in a storage closet to offer him some “stress relief.” Oh, Schmitt, you deserve better!
In the final moments of the episode, Maggie got home to find a tent in the backyard — a gift from Winston so she could get her sleep and see her family whenever she wanted. “I know you don’t like camping,” he joked. But she loved it — and him. Link told Amelia that he’d savored his birthday. “I got sex and a donut” — gluten-free but still. Oh, and they’d decided to name the baby Scout after all — Scout Derek Shepherd Lincoln. Leaving Grey Sloan, Teddy approached Owen to apologize and profess her love. What had he done to make her hate him so much that she’d cheat on him? he wanted to know. She hadn’t even said that she wouldn’t run away with Tom, she’d just said that she was marrying Owen, as if it was some fate that she’d accepted. Sorry, nope. He couldn’t forgive her. (For once, I was totally Team Owen.) When Cormac left Grey Sloan for the evening, he found Meredith collapsed in the parking lot. At the same time, apparently hovering between life and death on a beach in her mind, Meredith was reunited with Derek. The Derek. For real. The show had snuck in a guest appearance by Patrick Dempsey!