A Grey’s Anatomy midseason finale is engineered to be made of cliffhangers. There are two such shocks lurking in the ABC medical drama’s 2019 fall finale, “Let’s All Go to the Bar:” the car that drives into a below-ground bar filled with Grey Sloan doctors, and the possibility of a new love triangle revolving around Meredith Grey (Ellen Pompeo).
However, there is a far more meaningful jaw-dropper hiding in all these flashy tales — and it belongs to Jo Karev (Camilla Luddington). After one of the year’s most harrowing storylines, Jo may finally be, truly, be on the road to recovery.
All she had to do was steal a baby to get there.
Jo’s “Let’s Go to the Bar” storyline follows her journey as a Safe Haven volunteer. After what appears to be months of therapy, she has decided to care for babies who are dropped off at fire stations in the area (enter spin-off Station 19). Years ago, Jo was one of those babies. She believes if she can help these children, and possibly put herself in the shoes of the women who gave them up, she’ll be able to heal some of her own trauma. “Bar” marks the first time Jo actually has to step in and pick up one of the infants.
Jo is obviously overwhelmed by all of the emotions she feels holding a tiny, lonely life in her hands.
That’s why viewers shouldn’t be surprised by where they find Jo in her final scene of “Bar.” In her closing moment, we see Jo's longtime best friend Atticus “Link” Lincoln (Chris Carmack) pop over to the Karev apartment. Alex is out of town and Link believes he is there to cheer up Jo after her intense day. “Was it too much, too soon?” Link asks before offering to break out the vodka. Then you hear a baby coo.
“One could argue that it was, in fact, too much, too soon,” Jo counters, as the camera swings towards the infant. The baby is in a car seat, meaning Jo purchased him a car seat. That is an investment. Jo fully plans on keeping this baby she was supposed to drop off at Grey Sloan hours ago.
While both Link and Jo look panicked over this sudden turn of events, there is actually a silver lining here. This scene proves Jo is ready to take care of someone else — and actually desperately wants to do so. Considering the lows she found herself in earlier this year, that is a serious accomplishment rather than a failure.
In late March 2019, ABC aired “Silent All These Years,” the episode where Jo meets her biological mother Vicki Ann Rudin (Michelle Forbes) and learns her painful origin story. Vicki was raped and Jo is the product of that violence. Although Vicki fell in love with her baby daughter when Jo was born, she couldn’t shake her resentment of the child. Vicki's postpartum hormones did not help the delicate situation. So, Vicki left newborn Jo on the doorstep of a fire station. What followed, Grey’s Anatomy fans know well, was a life of abuse and desperation for Jo until she landed at Grey Sloan.
Vicki, on the other hand, created a beautiful world for herself in a wealthy suburb of Pittsburgh. She has a family she loves, including a husband and two children. She is happy in a way Jo never imagined for the woman who abandoned her so many decades ago.
When Jo returns to Seattle from Pennsylvania, she is shattered. She refuses to speak to Alex for episodes and eventually starts showing up to work drunk. The possibility of having children — something the Karevs were debating directly before “Silent” — evaporates overnight. Even the Karevs’ marriage, which stood out as one of the strongest Grey’s relationships, seems destined to collapse as Jo goes through her extreme, and understandable, depressive episode.
But, Jo never fully buckled. Even in the immediate wake of her meeting with her mother, Jo helps a woman named Abby (Khalilah Joi) cope with the aftermath of rape. Jo urges her patient to get a rape kit should she ever want to prosecute her assaulter and creates a tunnel of women to support Abby. Then at the beginning of season 16, with premiere “Back in the Saddle,” Jo seeks long-term treatment for her depression. When Jo gets out, she isn’t “fixed,” whatever that would mean, but she is hopeful. Alex reminds her he is all-in on their life together, and they head home.
Fast-forward nine episodes later and when Alex returns to Seattle from visiting his mom, he will find a brand new baby waiting for him. There will be much drama around that baby, but that’s what Grey’s Anatomy is — drama. Yet the show is also now a reminder that you can come back from any trauma stronger, and more loved, than before.
If you are in crisis, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or the Suicide Crisis Line at 1-800-784-2433.
If you have experienced sexual violence and are in need of crisis support, please call the RAINN Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).