Grey’s Anatomy has that very House Of Cards habit of throwing people into the mix and pretending they’ve always been there. Viewers were reminded of that pattern with Thursday’s “Anybody Have A Map?” when Richard Webber (James Pickens Jr.) reminisces about hiring beloved nurse Frankie (Stacey Oristano), who will end up dying during surgery a few scenes later. “When you hired me, I was first in my class at nursing school,” Frankie, who says she is “skating towards 40,” recalls, suggesting she has been at Grey Sloan Memorial for about 10 years, if not more.
After all, Frankie likely joined the hospital between the ages of 22 and 26, and is now looking at 40. It’s entirely possible her character has been a member of the Grey’s Sloan team for the past 15 years.
Yet, you shouldn’t feel like a bad Grey’s Anatomy fan if you don’t remember Frankie rushing to find a crash cart or hooking up with a doctor back in the day. Despite the nurse’s apparent lengthy working relationship with Richard — “You’ll always be my chief,” she tells him at the top of “Map” — we only met Frankie this year.
IMDb confirms Stacey Oristano’s character entered the Grey’s Anatomy world with season 15’s third episode, “Gut Feeling.” The medical drama’s tendency to act like Frankie has always been a integral member of the Grey Sloan team began in her introduction with the lead nurse complaining about the schedule. “Don’t take it out of me,” the very pregnant, very exasperated new character tells her nursing team. “It’s our new chief’s first day. He needs time to learn.”
The “he” Frankie was complaining about is naturally this season's new interim chief of surgery, Alex Karev (Justin Chambers). Frankie has strong opinions on chiefs at her hospital, since her two most important conversations in the history of the show deal with dragging or praising a surgeon’s ability to lead.
The expecting nurse floats in and out of “Gut” from the time we meet her. She promises Amelia Shepherd (Caterina Scorsone) she’ll check in on a neurological patient every two hours and informs former chief Miranda Bailey (Chandra Wilson) just how much Karev is failing at his job. Frankie then disappears for a few episodes until last week’s “Flowers Grow Out Of My Grave,” when she pops up towards the end of the installment to yell at Karev. The chief committed the cardinal sin of starting to hookup with wife Jo Wilson (Camila Ludington) in his extremely publicly visible office. Franke did not appreciate that.
All together, Grey’s season 15’s use of Frankie is wildly smart considering her inevitable tragic fate, which was used to spurn Richard’s looming spiral after eight years of sobriety. The series managed to prove a brand-new character like Frankie was a crucial and much-loved part of the Grey Sloan orbit without yelling it at viewers. Instead, we slowly realized how much the characters we’ve known for years relied on this woman we had never technically met before.
That’s why Frankie’s in-surgery death towards the midpoint of “Map” is so gutting. Richard clearly cared deeply about Frankie, she of “tough, fair, with a little bit of flair” vibes. Frankie’s nurse team obviously loved her like family. Everyone from Amelia to Bailey and Karev either respected her or feared her. There is no way Frankie's abrupt, bloody death wouldn’t rock this hospital. Yes, even with a three-episode, mostly-background stint.
While we’ve obviously seen the last of poor late Frankie, it’s unlikely her story is over. Her “Lil Pancake” baby, who was born at just 28 weeks old, is rushed to the NICU when his mom’s spleen surgery goes horrifically wrong. We all know Grey’s Anatomy can’t leave a tragic baby storyline alone forever.
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