When it comes to midseason finales, almost no one does them better than ABC’s TGIT lineup. Over on Scandal, Olivia Pope (Kerry Washington) officially burned her white hat for good, while How To Get Away With Murder answered the perennial question of “What. Happened. That. Night?” Yet, the majority of the Grey’s Anatomy season 14 winter finale, “Out Of Nowhere,” was missing the kind of spark that really made you care, deep in your bones, about what was happening in Grey Sloan Memorial Hospital. That is until the final moments of the episode, when Jo Wilson (Camilla Luddington) ran directly into her abusive estranged husband Paul Stadler (Glee’s Matthew Morrison). Though hacker schemes, blood-drenched doctors, and nervous interns abound in “Out Of Nowhere,” the appearance of Paul is the only moment that feels like it will have game-changing consequences for the future of Grey’s Anatomy.
Considering how earth-shattering Paul’s a big scene felt, it was surprisingly short. Throughout the winter finale, Jo and boyfriend Alex Karev (Justin Chambers) try to figure out what medicines a 5-year-old patient named Frankie (Micah Abbey), who may or may not have a blood clot in his brain, has been given. Since hackers have taken hold of Grey Sloan’s medical records, the doctors have to get to the bottom of problem the old fashion way: running around the hospital until they track down the correct nurse to answer their question. As soon as Jo figures out Frankie cannot be given a specific blood thinner, and is therefore running to Alex to inform him of the life-saving news, she sprints right into Paul. Cue the woozy camera angles and zoom-ins, because Joe now has two crises on her hands.
All Paul actually says is, “Hey Brooke,” absolutely shocking Jo, who ran away to Seattle to hide from the violent man. “Oh, wait, it’s ‘Jo’ now, right?” You instantly realize the menace Matthew Morrison’s blandly handsome face can create when he smiles in a way that really shows off his surprisingly sharp canines.
Paul’s reintroduction to Jo’s world is all the more unsettling when you take into account her description of their marriage. In season 12 finale “Family Affair,” Jo turns down Alex’s proposal and subsequently drinks away her problems. Thoroughly inebriated, she explains to Andrew DeLuca (Giacomo Gianniotti) the reason she can’t marry Alex is because she’s already secretly married. “If I bought the wrong something he would hit me in my face, or my stomach. Nobody knew that but me,” she explains of Paul, who everybody around her “loved.” When Jo decided she needed to get out of such a scary situation, she ran to Seattle and changed her name. As we learn in season 14, Jo was born Brooke, and eventually picked up her husband’s last name Stadler.
Considering all of the work Jo did to hide herself from Paul, the obvious question is, how did he find her? The most sensible answer would be Grey’s heroine Meredith Grey’s (Ellen Pompeo) news-making Harper-Avery award win in 300th episode “Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story.” The winter finale just so happens to be the immediate next episode following the landmark installment. As the “Out Of Nowhere” cold open shows, Meredith is now a draw for major news stories. With major news comes big old cameras that broadcast all over the world. Since Meredith’s win is so big, it’s doubtful the journalist-camera man pair we see at the top of the episode is the first that’s visited Grey Sloan — that would certainly explain why Meredith seems so exhausted over talking about her accomplishments. If Jo walked in the background of even a single shot of a Meredith interview, it’s likely Paul saw it, especially since the abuser is also a doctor.
On top of that, when Meredith won her Harper-Avery, from the hospital as opposed to the award ceremony in Boston, Jo definitely would have been in any of the social media images. While the gallery of Meredith’s peers cheered her on, Jo was in the very front row of the crowd. Meredith also popped champagne with Alex to celebrate her win. If Alex put anything on social media about his best pal’s success, images of his girlfriend Jo would likely be a tap or two away on Instagram or Twitter. And, remember, Paul is a doctor, so this is the kind of stuff he could easily stumble upon by accident. This begs the question, will more unwanted specters of Grey Sloan past start descending upon the hospital as well?
While we wait to see if more unwanted guests pop up in Grey’s Anatomy, we first have to deal with Paul, who will surely only get worse the more time we spend with him. Season 13 episode “True Colors” suggests Paul’s appearance could create catastrophic consequences. During the installment, Alex ends up at a conference where Paul is speaking. He has one fantasy sequence where he gets Paul drunk and beats him to death. Alex ends up in jail, but at least the Paul threat is neutralized. In the second one, Alex tells Paul off, revealing he knows “Brooke,” but doesn’t give away any information on her current whereabouts. Still, Paul ends up using Alex’s exasperated speech to find Jo. Alex walks into Jo’s apartment smiling, but finds Dream Paul choking her to death. The moment he sees Alex, Paul snaps his wife’s neck.
Although it's unlikely either of these nightmares will come to pass, the faux events of “True Colors” do hint Paul’s addition to the cast will only create chaos on Grey’s Anatomy when the Shondaland drama returns from winter break on January 18, 2018. In a climate where abusers are getting dragged into the light and punished for their actions nearly daily at this point, let's hope Paul is next on the metaphorical chopping block.
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