Grand Rounds: Dissecting Grey's Anatomy: The Song Beneath the Song

Welcome to Grand Rounds: Dissecting Grey’s Anatomy, a roundtable on Grey’s Anatomy featuring Snarky’s Machine, Everett Maroon, Redlami, and s.e. smith. This week’s Grand Rounds is hosted by the fierce tag-teaming duo of Everett Maroon and s.e. smith. Without further ado, let’s begin!

Callie stands in the surgical observation room, hands to the glass

s.e. smith: This musical episode was an ambitious project. Did it work for you? Why/why not?

Everett Maroon: Not that I was hoping for a medical recreation of Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s “Once More with Feeling” episode, but I did expect some interesting musical numbers and original songwriting to push the characters’ story arcs. Thus I was disappointed to see that people were singing pop songs, and not just pop songs, but pop songs that have already played on Grey’s Anatomy. It was like some kind of weird payola scheme, like when radio stations were caught hyping songs that music executives had bribed them to over-play on their hourly rotations. It seemed odd to me to take a love song from Snow Patrol and sing it to Callie while she’s lying critically ill on an operating table. My other gripe is that unlike that musical Buffy episode and unlike Glee, the action in the scene went on around the singers, with people barking orders or worse, having to cut out of the song to speak to someone. I wasn’t sure if this was Shonda trying to force the hallucination aura of the episode, or play against some vision of Busby Berkeley, but I found the music destabilizing to the narrative. And while musicals typically have people sing when they’re flooded with emotion, one of the night’s biggest moments—when Meredith breaks down in the elevator with Derek—had nary a note of melody. But it’s Cristina who wins the Willow Rosenberg Award for the episode, because she never sang a thing. It could have been fascinating to hear her belt out a tune about why her heart repair technique was tops over Teddy’s plan to hope for the best. And heck, I wanted some dancing! What a way to reclaim where Derek got shot than with a big patients, residents, and attendings dance number on the catwalk?

Snarky’s Machine: It was brilliant! Okay, other than giving Lexi way too many Auto-Tuned solos just because her hair was cute and she moves great. I was most thrilled by Karev’s Burt Reynolds-esque sing/talking. One question: Loretta Devine was in the original cast of Dreamgirls (she plays Adele Webber), has been heavily featured of late and—oh yeah—she has a fabulous voice, yet she was ghost in the episode. I was waiting for her to sing something! Bailey and Callie were incredible, but Owen is my new favorite character with his stunning Murray Head-esque performance.

Redlami: I thoroughly enjoyed it. It felt a little like “Jesus Christ Superstar” with Callie as Jesus and Owen as Mary Magdalene. Okay maybe not just like that, but the songs actually seemed to draw me into the drama going on rather than distract me from it.

s.e. smith: Lots going on here with chains of command and authority. Did a particular scene involving exertion or defiance of authority stick out for you?

Everett Maroon: Addison has been so picked on this season over at Private Practice, I guess she got to dish out a little righteous anger at Lucy, who I thought was way more competent than this week showed. Cristina was willing to abide the Chief’s decision to follow Teddy’s lead, which shows maturity for her, and so I thought it was particularly crappy of Teddy to refuse to teach her any more. Yes, Cristina is a rock star and how many Seattle Grace doctors has she saved at this point? Are we up to four now?

Snarky’s Machine: Addison was exerting control over the new lady ob-gyn and I found it somewhat uncomfortable because it was another example of a woman’s authority being questioned simply because she needed a moment to consider her options before responding to an inquiry. It was actually disappointing to see the dissolution of the relationship between Cristina and Teddy. I wasn’t sure it was necessary to toss Teddy in front of a bus in order to demonstrate how much Cristina has evolved and learned from her various mentors.

Redlami: Last week, Owen made it clear that he wasn’t going to be able to back Cristina just because they were married. In this episode he didn’t back her again when she suggested a risky procedure that might save Callie’s life. But she persisted, and ended up not only saving Callie and the baby but getting herself thrown off Teddy’s service. It reminds me of something Snarky’s Machine told me, “no good deed goes unpunished.”

A very full operating room with the focus on Miranda Bailey

Everett Maroon: Leading into the end of the season, we saw some relationship shifts in this episode. Which ones were the most surprising?

s.e. smith: I think what was most surprising to me in this episode was that Mark came to some important realizations on his own, without being pushed. He’s spent a lot of the season being rather ridiculous, and throughout the series other characters keep having to take him aside and tell him what’s what. We saw real growth in Mark during this episode as the chips were down and he realized that he’s about to lose everything, and needs to bury the hatchet, work with Arizona, and be a dad. That’s a real shift in his relationship with Arizona and Callie, and a very positive one, too!

Snarky’s Machine: I was impressed that Grey’s has found a way to move past Lexi and Mark in order to give Lexi and Jackson a shot at something more age appropriate. I liked how this episode toned down some of the nasty sexist rhetoric wafting from Eli towards Bailey’s general direction. The biggest shift was Meredith taking ownership of her jealousy and the “smallness” of her life and problems. And thank you, Shonda for not having them burst into that “elevator” song from the season two episode “Into You Like a Train”

Redlami: Maybe it was only for dramatic effect because Sunjata is such a great singer, but I was a bit surprised by Eli and Miranda’s part in the “dirty dancing” segment. I thought their relationship was more in question after last week’s episode.

Everett Maroon: In the midst of the singing, there were a lot of discussions about ownership and responsibility for the new baby, and the professional/personal divide. How do we feel about how this all shook out by the end of the episode?

s.e. smith: There were a lot of layers going on here! Grey’s has a long history of moralizing on current social issues and that really came to the fore here with Arizona talking about how she was “nothing” and reminding viewers that she had no legal rights. I think that baby has a rough road ahead and she’s going to need all three of her parents, so I really hope they can stick it out and work cooperatively. It would be really awesome to see the show moving forward with this model of nontraditional parenting where all three parents play an important role in the baby’s life.

Snarky’s Machine: I was kind of distracted by all the singing, honestly. I know they were trying to deliver a big message with regards to the rights afforded gay partners, but it was lost amongst Callie’s powerhouse vocals and Mark’s shaky, but hot, sing talking.

Redlami: I was pleased to see Mark and Arizona come to some kind of rapprochement, after they’d leveled some pretty nasty words at each other. I felt the writers were commenting about the state of affairs when a “sperm donor” legally has more say in these life or death decisions than someone’s life partner.

Sara Ramirez, recording

More about your writers…

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.

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. smith writes at this ain’t livin’.

Redlami turns numbers into stories and is the resident tech geek at I Fry Mine in Butter.

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13 Comments Have Been Posted

sperm donor????

mark did not donate sperm to Callie ; she was broken up with Arizona and they were enjoying each other. she was not trying to get pregnant with her girlfriend- who is not her life partner yet --as far as Callie knew she and mark were making a go of it. mark of course has more legal say than Arizona ; he is the BABY'S FATHER!!!!!

The use of "sperm donor" was

The use of "sperm donor" was from the episode itself, during one of Arizona and Mark's fights.

And I'd like to question the

And I'd like to question the "of course" assumption in your comment. As Mark and Callie weren't trying to make a baby together, why does Mark's biology get to trump Arizona's legal rights, which are nothing until she and Callie register as domestic partners in Washington? Given the long history of lesbian partners getting screwed by biological fathers and former partners' families, don't we want to push back aging this notion that ejaculations should be more of a basis for parenting than say, actual parenting?

Silly autocorrect. That

Silly autocorrect. That should be against, not aging.


Plenty of straight people get knocked up without trying who may not be together..... If the Mother gets a boyfriend or even gets married to a different man, the Bio Father doesn't lose his rights to the child because the Mother is with or even lives with someone different. Why should this be any different in Callie & Mark's situation? Because Callie is with another woman??? THAT'S BS! This is not a matter of gay rights because this happens all the time in the straight community and bio parents are not losing their rights. He shouldn't lose rights to his child just because Callie is with Arizona and not him. Callie acted as a straight woman and had sex with a man and conceived a child. You don't get to have sex with a man, get pregnant, and raise the child with two Mom's without the Dad when the Father is around. She should have acted like a lesbian, and got a sperm donor from a person that she and Arizona chose if she wanted to raise a child with Arizona. She and Mark decided to raise this child together before Arizona came back.... her being back means she falls into the plan.. she doesn't replace Mark.

Just because you say it in all caps doesn't make it true...

Yes, yes, straight people are constantly losing their rights to those oppressive queers!

Callie doesn't have to "act straight" or "act like a lesbian", because it is clear that Callie is a bisexual woman, and I am not sure that being bisexual requires anyone to dress in uniform, wear a name tag, and go to specific parties. There is no right and proper way to parent in these situations, and no checklist saying "if you have X sexuality, you must do it this way". We should push back against the notion that the hard work of making sperm (what a chore that is!) makes someone an automatic parent. If you don't use birth control, or have sex that could lead to potential pregnancy, you must plan for the aftermath. Mark doesn't automatically trump Arizona simply by being there when the sperm was deposited, but there needs to be agreement among them all for when the kid comes out. Blended families have been working out how they piece themselves together in this exact situation for years, and it would be great if a show could depict one that works well. Hopefully better than <em>Friends</em> did back in the 90's. Oy.

This does translate to the straight community, but not in the way you are pushing. Straight couples are trying to figure out how to parent in unmarried, non-traditional families, with step-parents who spend more time raising children than bio parents. These situations affect all families and all parents, and ultimately, all children born to any of them, straight, queer, blended, etc.

The ability to create sperm on demand does not a father make. Any single mother raising a kid by herself can tell you that.

That the law of the land in

That the law of the land in the US is to have one or two legal guardians for a child shouldn't and doesn't mean that a kid can't have three parents. I'm not suggesting that because it's a problem that Arizona has no legal rights to the baby that Mark should vacate his parental rights. It's entirely possible for it to be a horrible position for Arizona without saying anything about Mark's status. As someone who helped a lesbian friend as she dealt with the loss of any visitation whatsoever when her girlfriend left her and took the child they'd been raising with her, not having a legal avenue to even SEE a child is devastating for a person. Unimaginably traumatic, really. I think a progressive stance would include looking at alternative ways of protecting all of the parties who may be involved in childrearing—in this case, it's unclear to me how Washington State law would understand Arizona's rights if she and Callie get a domestic partnership, which is what is allowed to them in that state. Could Arizona take the kid to day care? Authorize treatment at a hospital? These are actually considerations that constrain people and their relationships every day, and shouting about Mark's rights just because his orgasm resulted in a pregnancy is really not helpful. We don't have to be okay with a legal system that pits parental figures against each other.

Also, I'm not sure why

Also, I'm not sure why lesbians have to use sperm donors in order to be parents. How about lesbians who were previously married and had kids with their spouses? And why not have sex with men just to conceive a child? Why demand that "acting like a lesbian" means having the financial resources to buy from a sperm bank? As someone who just used a sperm bank to get pregnant with his spouse, that's insisting on something like $700-$1,200 a month outlay until conception. Seriously? Callie doesn't "act like" a straight or gay woman just based on her sex partner. How do bisexual people even exist in that setup? So sure, she does get to have sex with a man get pregnant and raise the child with her girlfriend. None of that is to say that Mark loses his parental rights, and none of THAT is to say that unless she tells Mark he's the dad, he'd have any way of knowing he could be a parent. Men's in-person sperm deposits lead to pregnancies all the time that they have no clue they were involved in.

What stuck out to me most

What stuck out to me most about the episode was that during the Sunshine song we got to see almost everyone having sex except Eli&Miranda Bailey and Callie&Arizona. It felt strange and truncated to me, but maybe because those are the two couples who I care the most about.

Perhaps Eli is better at

Perhaps Eli is better at dancing scenes than love scenes. Just kidding. I did also note that the exclusions from this sequence were curious. Good question!

I kind of felt that most of

I kind of felt that most of the "running on sunshine" scene was Callie imagining what these relationships are like. And then when they "hit the truck" we see Miranda push Eli away and Callie on the hood of the car. It all seems to be more coma-fantasy than reality.

See Owen Differently

It was only in this episode that I realised Owen was in Father Ted, possibly the funniest comedy show in existence. He was specifically in the Christmas Special episode, where (if you don't know it) Father Ted and a bunch of his priest-buddies accidentally stumble into the Lingerie department of the department store while Christmas shopping and have to escape without being seen by members of the public.

(wondering what the old man/kids bit is about? That's Father Jack, severely alcoholic priest whose vocabulary is limited to "Feck!" "Arse!" and "Girls!" and who has clearly had a profound impact on these children).

This mediocre excuse for an

This mediocre excuse for an episode doesn't hold a candle to Buffy. The singing didn't serve the story, it didn't provide necessary context and there are too many bad pop songs on that show telling people to breathe, they didn't need to feature another. I'm surprised it has gotten so many positive reviews.

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