Spoilers are ahead. Thursday night’s Grey’s Anatomy episode was boring. Usually such a description would be an indictment of storytelling. But for season 17, it’s a win. The 10 episodes that came before “Sorry Doesn't Always Make It Right,” have been full of too-close-to-real-life medical horror, confusing (if exciting) cameos, and gutting deaths. An hour-long breather is a welcome relief.
That’s why it took me until the final 10 minutes of “Sorry” to realize something is very wrong with the chapter: It completely betrays Maggie Pierce (Kelly McCreary).
Last week’s episode, “Breathe,” holds one of the few wholly positive sections of Grey’s Anatomy season 17 — Maggie gets engaged. Maggie spends the bulk of the installment fretting about the looming exit of her then-boyfriend Winston Ndugu (Anthony Hill), who lives in Boston. Winston showed up in Seattle four episodes prior at the end of “No Time for Despair.” This is the first time the couple has gotten to spend any real time together face-to-face since formalizing their relationship; they reconnected right before COVID-19 hit America and have been making long-distance love work since. Between the sadness of sister Meredith Grey’s (Ellen Pompeo) COVID-19 bout and the omnipresent devastation of the pandemic, Maggie doesn’t want to see the one light in her life get on a plane back to the East Coast. Winston fixes that problem by proposing.
“I can’t imagine life without you anymore,” Winston says while on one knee, brandishing a ring hiding in an earbud case. “And I don’t ever want to try. Margaret Pierce, will you marry me?”
Maggie says yes. No matter what your pragmatic brain might say about relationship timelines and engagements, it’s impossible not to tear up at the sight of such an optimistic, loving scene in the face of more than a year of unthinkable tragedy (both in real life and the world of Grey’s Anatomy). Maggie Pierce is engaged to a wonderful man and everyone should cheer about it.
“Sorry Doesn't Always Make It Right” immediately forgets about this joyous development. No one mentions Maggie’s engagement over the episode, including Maggie. This narrative decision would be odd no matter what, but it’s particularly frustrating considering the two major plotlines in Thursday night’s chapter. The spine of “Sorry” is an engagement debate between Maggie’s “sister” Amelia Shepherd (Caterina Scorsone) and the man she has a baby with, Atticus “Linc” Lincoln (Chris Carmack). Amelia and Linc talk about the pressure Linc’s mom Maureen (Bess Armstrong) is putting on them to get hitched and their niece Zola’s (Aniela Gumbs) youthful shady remarks on the subject. Yet, the couple ignores the natural insecurity that would come from Maggie’s fast-tracked engagement.
Maggie and Winston have only been dating for a year, at maximum, and most of their relationship has been through a screen. It would be normal for either Linc or Maggie to comparatively wonder why they’re not ready to run down the aisle together when they’ve already brought a baby into the world. No one gives housemate Maggie a second (or first) thought.
Then there are two of the main patients in “Sorry,” Shayne Riley (Kevin Berntson) and Karissa Skolaski (Lisa Schurga). The pair ends up in the emergency room after their wedding day car accident. Shayne and Karissa had only known each other for three months before saying “I do.” Karissa complains that her sister told her that’s “not enough time to get to know someone you’re going to spend the rest of your life with.” This is exactly the kind of mirror image plotline Grey’s Anatomy would traditionally use to force Maggie to consider her own speedy relationship — if she’s moving too fast, if she knows Winston well enough to wed. “Sorry” declines to give Maggie that space to explore her emotions, which could have reenforced her dedication to her series-brightening romance.
Maggie doesn’t even meet Shayne or Karissa. Maggie, who came up with an innovative shared ventilator plan last week, is too busy shooting down Cormac Hayes’ (Richard Flood) request for a miracle heart surgery to save his infant patient. Cormac — not medical genius Maggie — is the one who saves the baby.
“Sorry” so purposefully refuses to recognize Maggie’s milestone that it’s easy to theorize the chapter was initially meant to air before her engagement. Unfortunately Grey’s Anatomy doesn’t have that excuse. Recently killed-off former star Giacomo Gianniotti helmed “Sorry,” and the director’s script he shared on Instagram in February confirms this episode was always meant to be the eleventh of the season. It was also, apparently, forever destined to sideline Maggie’s love story.