If Grey’s Anatomy is bad at one emotion it’s grief. Everyone handles it differently, and no two grief expressions look exactly the same. Because grief is something we feel internally, it’s too individual to display well on a show with an ensemble cast. That’s why, historically, the show has skipped as far past the grief phase as it possibly can, be it with a time jump, or the disappearance of a grieving character from the forefront of the story line.
This week, after the extremely emotional conclusion of last week’s episode in which Maggie’s mother died, the show skips us forward. Though the opening shot depicts Maggie in a graveyard, placing flowers in front of her mother’s grave, “What’s Inside” takes place on Maggie’s first day back at work. Though the show still trips over itself trying to show us how Maggie feels, it’s at least self-aware.
For the first time in the series' history, though, it seems like the creators are a bit aware of that. Standing against another gravestone, Meredith and Amelia share dark jokes about the amount of grief between them. Neither has experienced a normal amount of grief for a person. They are — after all — characters on a show where every single person you love dies, every surgery that can go wrong does, and every form of transportation is a potential death trap.
Tonight, Maggie's grief is approached the way a surgeon approaches everything: through her job. Meredith, as she jokes at one point during the episode (a reference to an earlier season), once worked her way through a miscarriage, operating as she lost her child. And no job in a hospital is a job without a patient. “What’s Inside” focuses on a beautiful, fairly young couple Jen and Leo, whom Owen operated on when he was a surgeon in Afghanistan. The couple has a fairy tale story, though a gruesome one. They met in Afghanistan, and she pulled him out of a building’s rubble. They got married. She got pregnant, and now they are here at the hospital because her baby, still in utero has a tumor on her heart.
At 29 weeks pregnant, the couple has hoped to wait until the baby is born for doctors to operate, but Robbins and Riggs realize very quickly in a scan that she needs surgery today, the baby will have to be brought out of the uterus, operated on, and then put back in “like a nesting doll,” Avery says. It’s a cool surgery, and a rare one. It’s a surgery that Maggie wants, and that she fights to get, bumping Riggs off to serve as the primary cardiologist. There’s a slight hiccup when Owen tells them not to let Maggie do the surgery, but Maggie is honest.
She tells them that her mother died recently, and that she can work through the pain. “This is scary as hell,” Jen says. “I don’t need a doctor with a happy home life. I just need the best surgeon.” And so Maggie gets to do the surgery, an operation she’s not nervous about until Meredith and Amelia go to check on her and make her nervous about it. They’re worried about her, after all. And by the time the baby is out of the uterus ready to be operated on, Pierce is ready too, even though when she looks up at the window into the operating room, it’s filled with her peers, all nervously watching to see if she messes up.
The baby’s tumor comes off of her heart fairly easily. “It’s a monster” someone says. “Let’s slay a monster then,” Maggie says. An alarm goes off and the other doctors begin to panic. Meredith tells Riggs to get down there and fix it, but he refuses. There’s no movement. And it isn’t until Roberts begins yelling at her to do something that Maggie explains what she’s doing.
“My plan is to give her a minute,” Pierce says. “Her heart has lost something huge, something that’s been with her since day one. She just needs a little time to adjust.”
It’s an undeniable metaphor and unsubtle metaphor for Maggie’s own situation, but the pressure in that operating room, and the desire for Maggie to do well, overwhelms the corny metaphor and almost makes it work. “I’m not doing well,” Maggie admits later. “I’m doing my job, while everyone is staring and telling me that I am not up for it.”
All of this drama the week after an incredibly emotional roller coaster of an episode had to be cut with something. And that something is Cross, an intern who has checked himself into the ER with abdominal friend. He is the comic relief. Edwards is annoyed with him, assuming it’s in his head. But she checks the scans and its not nothing. It’s an inflammation that has to be surgically repaired. When they open him up, they find it’s TB, an incredibly contagious, very dangerous disease that happens to spread through the air. That means that Edwards, who has complained about the patient the entire episode, might actually have something to be afraid of. Ultimately, though, the entire plot is just comical. There’s never any danger that the intern might die, and the episode needs the levity. The undertone of the episode is dark, but at least there are some laughs to carry us through.
The showrunners seem to know that viewers are emotionally exhausted by this point, and so the rest of the subplots are also fairly fluffy. In one, Riggs and Robbins find a new alliance when Riggs sees Robbins and the hated Dr. Minnick get out of a car together, and so their secret love story gets revealed. Robbins, through careful plodding and paying an ounce of attention, realizes that Riggs is dating someone too: and that person is Meredith Grey. Before she can stop herself, she’s telling him about Derrick. McDreamy. The only man for Meredith.
Riggs sees Robbins coming out of their car with Minnick and realizes that they are together.“They were the great love story,” Robbins said. “It never occurred to me that she would be with anyone else. He was perfect.”
It shakes Riggs, but it becomes reality when Meredith turns him away before they finally go on their date. As she’s on her way out the door, Maggie shows up sobbing. Riggs arrives to pick her up. “I have people to take care of and you are not one of them,” she tells Riggs, and leaves to help her friend get off the couch and dance it out.
The episode ends in a tightly wrapped bow. Jackson shows Maggie her mother’s charts, and also gives her a stack of photos of her mother traveling when she realized how sick she was. “She came here because she knew that she was dying,” Jackson says. And Bailey and Webber, who have been fighting for the entire season, seem to be finally on the mend. But the relaxation may not last long, the previews for next week show Meredith on a plane, and that seems highly dangerous.
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