Welcome back to Grand Rounds: Dissecting Grey’s Anatomy, a roundtable on Grey’s Anatomy featuring Snarky’s Machine, Tasha Fierce, Everett Maroon, Redlami, and s.e. smith. We hope you had fun over the winter hiatus! This week’s Grand Rounds is hosted by the ever-superb Everett Maroon. Without further ado, let’s begin!
Everett Maroon: Meredith’s voiceover at the end of the episode says, “Good thing life doesn’t come with a scalpel,” or when we run into trouble we would cut it out. Given that Dr. Avery and Teddy’s OR nurse refused to operate on a patient in this episode, how does or doesn’t Meredith’s sentiment serve as a useful context for this week?
s.e. smith: There’s a lot of moralizing in this episode, with people taking what they think are firm ethical stances on whether to provide medical care to the shooter, cutting to the heart of a key debate in medicine, if you will. I’m reminded that, yes, doctors do take an oath not to refuse care, and thus those who choose to scalpel out, as it were, their professional responsibilities were behaving unethically. But, the show also didn’t let the shooter kill anyone, which made the moral dilemma for the viewers more dilute; I think people would have had a harder time grappling with it if people had died.
Everett Maroon: Once again we are subject to the extreme levels of self-righteousness of the residents, which I don’t think attendings would put up with in reality, and which continue to posit Dr. Avery in particular as hot-headed and irrational. When he and the nurse walked out of the OR, I’m pretty sure they violated at least several ethics rules, as Teddy reminds them by pointing to the oath Jackson must have taken when he received his M.D. Yes, the team saved all 26 patients who rolled into their hospital from that shooting, and presumably scalpels had something to do with that, but as Meredith walks off with Cristina into that good tavern, after everything we’ve been through in six seasons, it remains the surgery that binds the friends together. And it’s surgery that may be rekindling the romance between Torres and Arizona…
Redlami: I think it works. In terms of Jackson leaving the OR, he soon learned he couldn’t just “cut out the trouble” (in this case, letting the shooter die). The lesson was driven home with the one-two of Alex’s lecture and then having to confront the shooter’s mom.
Tasha Fierce: I seriously don’t know why they put up with Avery pulling all the stunts he does. And it annoys me that the only other black male doctor on the show besides the chief is so volatile and irresponsible. I understand the characters aren’t supposed to be perfect, but we have varying representations of white men, do we have to have only two polar opposite portrayals of black men? Anyway, I suppose the sentiment is opposite to what Avery and the OR nurse did, taking the easy way out and not sticking with a surgery that might be morally ambiguous but necessary.
Snarky’s Machine: I didn’t view Meredith’s voiceover in that manner. For once I found it to be supportive and non intrusive. The voiceover provided a refreshing framework in which to enter the episode. Ironically, the usually brief Richard was the one whose “these are brothers” chow chow felt the most cloying, given that Meredith had already helped the audience make the necessary connections between their own tragic event and the one clustercussing their Emergency Room. I felt her words, even at the end, had more to do with the healing happening for each person in a matter that served their character and with a firm acknowledgment that one form of healing does not fit all. It was very powerful.
Everett Maroon: Karev stands up to numerous people this week who make assumptions about others to justify their bad behavior. What messages about privilege, ethics, and mental illness did we take away from these conflicts? Is anyone else sick of using Karev as the explainer for “crazy” people?
s.e. smith: YES! I am really tired of Karev and his crazy brother being the stand-ins for Lessons About Mental Illness when there are characters with mental illness on the show whom we could engage with directly; Drs Yang and Hunt have PTSD, and Lexie Grey clearly has some lingering depression and anxiety. Especially since the lesson this week was important: People with mental illness are human beings and playing god when it comes to providing medical care is not OK. One thing this episode kind of elided was that this is a real-world issue; people with mental illness are denied treatment or coerced into treatments they do not want, particularly those with mental illnesses considered dangerous.
Everett Maroon: If Karev’s elucidations about people with mental illness were based on his training and not just his personal family experience, I would have fewer concerns here. But every time there is a Very Bad Person in the emergency department or surgery ward, it seems, Dr. Karev is there to give a reality check on why people need to have more kindness. “He’s still my brother,” as a tactic, is more a statement about Karev’s class status and family dysfunction than a plain appeal like “He’s still a person.” I wish GA gave us other ways to see the nuances or effects of working class status on Karev than via some troubling tendency for him to “explain” away all the people with mental problems. But I will add here that I loved watching him run interference—literally—with Dr. Stark. He is willing to put himself out there in a way that no other character gets to play on this show, except maybe Cristina, when she’s not on some odyssey of self discovery.
Redlami: Considering that people of privilege are overrepresented among surgeons, at least as they are portrayed as Seattle Grace, it makes a kind of sense to me that there wouldn’t be too many people besides Alex (and ealier, Izzie) who have had to deal with the harsher consequences of trying to make it through life with a mental illness. And while Grey’s earns points with me for not backing away from some thorny questions, it’s still a very two-dimensional take on life, and I accept Alex taking on the role of the “hothead” who’s no stranger to “crazy.” One thing I noticed about Alex’s behavior in the OR with Dr. Stark is that he waited for Arizona to give him an order. I think it demonstrates growth that, as uncomfortable as he was with Dr. Stark’s order, he didn’t get confrontational until Arizona gave him license to body block Stark.
Tasha Fierce: Well, at least there’s an explainer for “crazy” people instead of just letting the assumptions slide or go unchallenged. Of course there’s always Lexie, who everyone is so worried about falling apart again, to represent some craziness. Although Karev has annoyed me in the past, I’ve been liking him more and more lately (except for that horrible “sex” scene with April), and this episode definitely represented him as a champion for those who have no voice, which is an odd but interesting role for him considering his checkered past.
Snarky’s Machine: Technically Karev didn’t stand up to Stark. Karev saw Robbins in the gallery and said, “Freaking do something” and then felt embolden by her presence to get mouthy with his attending. I’m not entirely comfortable about the way in which Stark is being presented as a villain. He’s not a villain. He is a lazy, old-school surgeon who oddly was the only one in the OR not veering towards ableism. The appeals made by Karev, Robbins and Torres were dripping with ableism and Stark was the only person who said, “She can live with out her leg. I am trying to save her life.” We might not like him, but that’s some real talk. In terms of Karev and Avery, that was a really beautiful moment.
Everett Maroon: Cristina took herself directly to the hospital without passing Go or collecting $200. What’s everyone’s take on her triumphant return to surgery?
s.e. smith: Guess a whole lot o’ healin’ happened over winter break.
Everett Maroon: I don’t think I’m the only one who gasped when the shot cut just after Dr. Yang exclaimed, “You have to open his chest.” I know I’m not the only one, because my partner did too. On the heels of our collective inhale were smiles. Hey, at least this is a woman who knows herself; she told Dr. Hunt she felt better and damn it, she did! And hello, I loved the flashback of sorts to when Meredith had her hand on a bomb and couldn’t walk away. Yang went right back to a riptide of stress and didn’t even break a sweat. Good thing Chief Webber wasn’t going to fret about people who weren’t employed by his hospital suddenly landing in two ORs. And lucky shooter that she was where she was when she was. By the way, who doesn’t know where the Space Needle is? Just look up.
Redlami: As soon Cristina turned to follow the parade of ambulances, I had a feeling she was heading toward her epiphany. While Derek may be claiming credit with his “fishing cure,” I appreciate that Grey’s has had the guts to portray Cristina’s recovery as long and uncertain.
Tasha Fierce: Oh, I loved it. I’ve been dying to see her back in the OR. She’s Cristina again, and she handled herself as Cristina normally does. The next episode looks good, with her competing to become chief resident. Finally!
Snarky’s Machine: I thought it was beautifully executed. It had to come from Christina and I was so glad Teddy and not Derek was the one who got to be there for it. I found it perfectly believable that she wouldn’t know where the Space Needle was. She’s not from Seattle and um, she was a little busy doing a SURGICAL RESIDENCY to venture far beyond the hospital. When would she have time to check out a tourist destination, when it has been established since day one she never likes to be far from the OR? The writers were masterful in handling Christina’s return. Very inspired.
Everett Maroon: We began this week by seeing the coupled doctors in bed. How they handled the stress of the school shooting within their relationships aside, what did we not get to observe for the single doctors? Were the reactions of Bailey, April, or Chief Webber, for example, well-detailed enough?
s.e. smith: I was thinking about how Private Practice also leads with people sleeping with each other and ignores the characters who are not currently knocking boots. I feel like we don’t get a chance to connect with characters who are currently single. It’s also disappointing that the only real life we see outside the hospital is docs in bed.
Everett Maroon: I brought up this question because I didn’t feel we were given enough screen time with the doctors who are currently single (or whose partners the writers for GA don’t care about) if this was a big moment after their collective trauma from the end of last season. We saw April crying, Dr. Bailey looking upset, as Chief Webber talked to the assembled staff, but we didn’t get any dialogue from them about what they were going through. And how audacious was it for Arizona to bring up her self-centered whining to Torres while all of this was going on? I can appreciate that some of the couple configurations give us a lens through which the audience can see how the doctors are handling the pressure of big moments like these—Meredith and Dereck gave us most of this last night—but hello, don’t non-coupled doctors have feelings too? It struck me as writing laziness.
Redlami: I found the opening with three vignettes of sexual activity (before, after, and during) to be refreshing, especially considering the recent monastic behavior of the doctors. All three were passionate and yet different: Derek and Meredith were angry, Cristina and Owen were grateful, and Lexie and Mark were playful. With such a large cast, I think choices have to be made, and except for April, who got to do little other than be told by Owen that she “can handle it” I think all the characters’ reactions to the shooting were well-represented.
Tasha Fierce: I think April’s reactions weren’t too detailed, but Bailey and the Chief’s reactions did go a bit deeper than just being harried because there were so many patients. I thought the scene with Chief and the cop (both the injured one and the one he met at the hospital’s shooting) were affecting, and Bailey cursing at “God” to bring the kid back was pretty real. But the show has always been about coupling, so I don’t think this episode’s focus on the coupled characters is anything new.
Snarky’s Machine: We did observe the “single” doctors. Webber gave a really long speech and had a moment with Marty the Sarge and said, “Marty, we have to stop meeting like this.” That was pretty powerful and indicative of the toll this stress has taken on the Chief. Bailey cried and raged at the ceiling, “Don’t you take Chuck from me. Don’t you do it!” and again, that seem to suggest she was still struggling to find ways to cope with the loss of her Charles. And April cried, didn’t eat her feelings and was brave beyond brave. Kepner had an awesome week. And I was happy to see sexy time. That was a wonderful way to let us know that Mark and Lexie were back together and to check in with the other couples. As for Karev, he dominated the episode, and I’m not inclined to assume he’s single just we haven’t seen the person. I guess they could show the other “single” folks masturbating in bed.
Everett Maroon: Weigh in on whether working for Dr. Stark is adequate penance for The continent-hopping Arizona.
s.e. smith: Talking about Dr. Stark’s characterization in an earlier episode, Snarky’s Machine pointed out that he’s almost a troped caricature of evil; we’re supposed to hate him and he’s set up very adversarially here. I definitely saw that in this episode where we are supposed to be fist pumping and shouting “victory” with Dr. Karev when Dr. Stark gets kicked out of his own OR. I think he’s outlived his usefulness as an all purpose scapegoat, though, and the show needs to do something more with him; maybe they will get a chance to do that when Arizona’s back?
Everett Maroon: This is going to be beautiful. In each of Arizona’s arguments with Torres this week, I found myself shouting at the television moments before Torres would say the same thing. Who knew I was so Torres-identified? Thus it is the case that I am really looking forward to Stark making life difficult for Dr. Robbins, at least for a little while.
Redlami: While Arizona had traveled halfway around the world to get back, Callie made it clear that her own journey back to their being a couple hadn’t even started. Working under Dr. Stark (does he even have a first name?) is only Richard’s penance; I think Callie’s is going to be a lot more painful for the penitent (and glowing) Arizona. Incidentally, I was pleased to see that Stark seems to be staying on; I was all set to see him storm out in resignation. I suppose at some level he’s aware of how his mediocrity might limit his career options. In any case, I think his continuing presence creates another axis of conflict to fuel future plotlines.
Tasha Fierce: Well, I hate Dr. Stark, so having him still around isn’t something I’m looking forward to. Penance for Arizona? I’m not sure what penance she’s supposed to pay, her actions don’t seem to me to necessitate any kind of penance in that sense. Of course, I’m not too invested in Callie and Arizona’s relationship (am I invested in ANY of their relationships? No), so I can’t say I’m dying to see her get hers for hurting Callie.
Snarky’s Machine: I’m not sure that was the point of that. Chief Webber said that Stark had a year contract. He’s the boss. It was always going to be like that and if Arizona didn’t realize this was the case than oh well. I think it’s wonderful. I like Stark. He has a way of putting the pretty people’s dramedy in perspective and serves as a great reminder of how much lookism affects the way in which your behaviors and words are received. I don’t want to see him go. Also, I adore the actor who plays him!
We’ll see you next week with “Start Me Up”!
About your bloggers:
Snarky’s Machine is the founder of the pop culture site I Fry Mine in Butter.
Everett Maroon is a Seattle-based writer, focusing on popular culture commentary, speculative fiction, and memoir. His interests include the interrelationships of characters on Grey’s Anatomy, Dr. Bailey, behind-the-scenes politics, and Dr. Bailey.
Tasha Fierce blogs about politics, fashion and whatever she wants at Red Vinyl Shoes.
s.e. smith is a cantankerous, cat-wearing, pop culture-loving, pants-eschewing philistine from the wilds of Northern California with a compendium of largely useless random knowledge and a typewriter that doesn’t know when to quit. Ou writes at this ain’t livin’.
Redlami turns numbers into stories and is the resident tech geek at I Fry Mine in Butter.