Content warning: This recap includes some mild descriptions of sexual violence.
This week's episode of Grey's Anatomy started with a warning about scenes of violence and sexual assault and so does this recap — there were some very intense, upsetting events talked about and depicted on the latest episode, so please be aware of that and exercise caution if that is a trigger for you.
The episode picks up with Jo (Camilla Luddington) back at work and avoiding talking to Alex (Justin Chambers) about her trip to meet her birth mom Vicky (played by the wonderful Michelle Forbes), the reasons for which become clear as the show flashes back to Jo's trip. When Jo arrives on her mom's doorstep, Vicky initially freaks out because she's terrified about her current family finding out about Jo, so they meet at a nearby diner.
Jo is incredibly angry at her mom for having such a nice life now — husband, two kids, beautiful home — because she was convinced that her birth mom must be struggling if she gave up her daughter to flounder in the foster system. But it turns out that Jo's birth father actually raped Vicky and that's why she couldn't bear to keep Jo. It wasn't that she didn't love her baby — she did, so much — but the constant reminder of her rapist was just too much.
Jo is still pretty mad that her mom didn't do better — find her a home instead of dropping her off at a fire station. But she tells her mom about getting an abortion when she was pregnant and her ex was beating her regularly, trying to make a connection. Vicky seems to appreciate the connection but still bristles at Jo's attempt to grab her hand. It's a punch to the gut for both Jo and the viewers. But her mom says she's doing the best she can, then and now.
Jo's flashbacks are juxtaposed with present-day Jo helping Abby (Khalilah Joi), a woman who comes into the hospital with a pretty deep cut on her face claiming it happened from smacking herself with a cabinet door. But she was actually beaten, choked and raped by a random man after going to a bar after having a fight with her husband. She sobs as she recounts her story and says there's no point in doing the rape kit because there is never any justice for rape victims. She's not wrong, but Jo talks her into doing the kit just in case someday she is ready to pursue legal action.
It is pretty stomach-churning to watch Jo and Teddy (Kim Raver) administer the rape kit, but what a powerful scene. Grey's Anatomy has never shied away from issues and this one was handled with unflinching honesty. But the moment that really started the waterworks is when Abby can't handle leaving the exam room because every man she sees has her attacker's face, so to help get her to the OR, Jo and Teddy line the hallway with all the women they can find — doctors, nurses, orderlies, candy stripers, janitors, everyone. It's an incredible moment. Maybe the most powerful scene this show has ever done and that is saying something after 15 seasons.
After Abby's surgery, Jo sits with her as she calls her husband. She's terrified to tell him because she thinks he'll only ever see her as this broken rape victim, but Jo helps her realize this is not her fault and she decides to call him. We later see her husband holding her hand as she gives her statement to the police.
And while Jo was incredibly strong for her patient, she is still dealing with some pretty serious emotions after meeting her birth mom. Alex tries to talk to her about it, but all she wants to do is go home, be alone and sleep, which is a classic sign of depression. Unfortunately, the previews for next week seem to imply that that’s exactly where Jo is headed.
There's one other little storyline wherein Bailey's (Chandra Wilson) son has his first girlfriend, so Ben (Jason George) talks to him about consent. It's definitely an important conversation to have with your kids, one that perhaps could even happen much earlier, but it's a little disconnected from the two other storylines and therefore a little jarring when the show cuts to it. It would have been nice if the show had made this one all about Jo's mom and Jo's patient. But it doesn't take away from how powerful those two arcs were.
Appropriately, the episode ends with the RAINN National Sexual Assault Hotline 1-800-656-HOPE.