Most people's favorite TV shows serve as an escape from the world, but this season of Grey's Anatomy has been a bit hard to watch. The series' season, which began in November of 2020, deals with the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, and it's rough. The doctors are getting burnt out just a few weeks in, and since we know what happens next, we also know it's only going to get much, much worse. Fortunately if you need a break from this season, the next holiday on our 2020 calendar makes for an easy excuse to look back on the good ol' days and rewatch some of the past Thanksgiving Grey's Anatomy episodes that have nothing to do with pandemics — and a little more to do with turkey and pie.
In its 17 seasons, Grey's has only done four Thanksgiving-themed episodes, but they're all worth a second (or third or fourth) viewing. A few of them can even provide a little more context for the interpersonal drama unfolding right now on season 17 — hindsight reveals all. And, at the very least, it's always a blast to see the original characters again and not just because Meredith (Ellen Pompeo) is having COVID-induced delusions.
"Thanks for the Memories" (Season 2, Episode 9)
This is the show's first Thanksgiving episode, and it's Grey's at its best with the original cast of interns all still there. The plot centers around most of the doctors being incapable of taking Thanksgiving off because they love their jobs too much and because they are avoiding helping Izzie (Katherine Heigl) cook Thanksgiving dinner. But even though they leave her with the most to do, George (T.R. Knight) and Cristina (Sandra Oh) make it home to eat and Alex (Justin Chambers) surprises Izzie at the end, too. Meredith, in true Meredith fashion, avoids the holiday because she's moping about the fact that Derek (Patrick Dempsey) and his wife Addison (Kate Walsh) are back together.
The detail that makes it all worth it: Alex and Izzie are actually dating in this episode, so it's a sweet, little trip down memory lane at a time when, in the show;s current timeline, they're off raising their twins together.
"Holidaze" (Season 6, Episode 10)
This episode explores Christmas and New Year's Eve as well, but the events of Thanksgiving are particularly memorable. This is when Mark Sloan (Eric Dane) discovers that he has a teenage daughter. It's a fact so shocking to Mark's girlfriend Lexie Grey (Chyler Leigh) that she accidentally chops her pinky off during Thanksgiving prep.
Elsewhere, Teddy Altman (Kim Raver) has just joined the cast and is smitten with Owen (Kevin McKidd), even though he's dating Cristina. If you hate the drama between Owen and Teddy in season 17, reliving the early days of their lighthearted romantic tension could be fun.
The detail that makes it all worth it: There's a very Meredith and Alex scene where they practice their operating skills while eating Thanksgiving dinner and complaining about what they're not thankful for. (My turn! I'm not thankful for 2020.)
"Somebody That I Used to Know" (Season 10, Episode 10)
Owen is dating a woman named Emma (Marguerite Moreau) who is a skilled cook. Meredith convinces Owen and Emma do to Thanksgiving at her house so she can reap the rewards (see: the leftovers). Owen also wants to invite Cristina, and sweet Emma agrees because she thinks that he's over her. Not even close.
The new interns Jo (Camilla Luddington), Stephanie (Jerrika Hinton), and Leah (Tessa Ferrer) stay at the hospital to have their own Thanksgiving with Richard Webber (James Pickens Jr.). None of them can cook, so they opt to get fast food fried chicken. Thanksgiving is what you make it, y'all.
The detail that makes it all worth it: Owen will eventually end up cheating on Emma with Cristina, which is what makes his season 17 anger at Teddy when she cheats extra hypocritical.
"She's Leaving Home Part 1" (Season 11, Episode 22)
This episode covers a year in the characters' lives following Derek's death — including a brief Thanksgiving mention. Jo is attempting to cook the turkey for herself, Alex, and Meredith's sister Maggie (Kelly McCreary), but no one has any faith in her cooking skills. (Perhaps they heard about the fried chicken Thanksgiving from the previous season.) Instead, Alex gets takeout and Maggie digs into a pie. Meredith also briefly makes contact to tell Alex that she and the kids are fine, but to leave them alone as she grieves her husband.
The detail that makes it all worth it: With Derek now back on season 17, it's worth remembering how his death affected Meredith and why she is so desperate to reach him on that beach.