Eric McCandless / ABC

Grey's Anatomy's Tries For A Happy Ending

A successful kidney transplant and a reunited family are the center of an episode where the victories feel a little hollow.

At one point in the episode, Maggie looks a little dejectedly at what should have been a happy family reunion and asks, "How is this not a happy ending?" Her question feels like it hovers over this episode since by the end, quite of few characters have what could be considered positive, even desirable outcomes. And yet, these victories all feel a little hollow in the end.

Let's rank those outcomes from hollow to happy.

  1. Maggie & Nathan's Case
    A woman -- dirty and seemingly homeless -- wanders into Grey Sloan speaking nonsensically and looking very disoriented. After she passes out, Maggie and Nathan realize that her pacemaker is past its sell-by date and they replace it. Using the serial number on the "Ford Pinto of pacemakers," they learn that her name is Claire, and using that information, they track down her parents. However, Claire's parents show up believing that Maggie and Nathan have found their daughter's body. She's been missing and presumed dead for twelve years. They'd had a funeral and everything. But she's alive! They should be happy, right? However, their reaction is strangely subdued. Especially when they attempt to speak to her and she replies with more disorganized rambling, talking about cats and hats and snakes.

    Their reaction perplexes Maggie, but Nathan understands it. They'd buried an empty box and moved on with their lives. Without actually saying the words, we see in Nathan's face that this is exactly his situation with his possibly-not-dead wife Megan.

    What's more, Claire is diagnosed with schizophrenia (hi Dr. Psych Guy, good to see you again!). As Dr. Pysch Guy points out to her family, the medication to treat her condition is not an exact science. She will spend the rest of her life battling the disease and they have to live the rest of theirs wondering if one day she'll wander off to disappear yet again if she can't handle the meds.

    This is such a well-done storyline. It hit a quite a few good emotional notes as you could the see the parents were expecting closure but are now faced with a wholly different set of challenges. I thought Maggie and Nathan were both pitch perfect in their handling of it, too.

  2. Jo's Concession
    A teenager named Chris and his mother check into the hospital to undergo a kidney transplant. The mom is donating one of hers to her son. They are happy, exuberant, and treating this like a celebration. This can't last. Sure enough, almost in the next second their buzz is effectively killed when Chris's dad shows up, escorted by Jo to the room where they are being prepped for the surgery. Jo may not have done anything wrong with bringing the father to them, but I almost feel like if you have a "Grey's security? What security?" tile on your drinking game bingo card, you really need to take a drink right about now.

    The dad is an abuser whose belligerent dial is set to high. I mean, this man could create beef with a happy cloud. Mom and Chris are upset and the doctors have to wrestle mean dad out of the room. Oof, not a good way to start a surgery.

    It gets worse. After they take one of Mom's kidneys out and begin to transplant it, they have to stop cold. Mom's other kidney has died. Now they only have one kidney, and two people who need it. Veteran Grey's watchers can figure out how the next act in this play will unfold. However, before it gets there the doctors debate who should get the kidney in case they can't find another one. I liked this part because it actually shows them grappling with an ethical medical dilemma and trying to come up with a palatable process where no rule exists. They talk, they plan, they debate but no solution presents itself.

    Until jerkface dad decides to donate his kidney. Jo is all "hells no!" since he sets off all her abuser triggers. Look, I get that Jo has had a terrible past and her reaction is well within Grey's MO about making everything about the doctors, but I couldn't co-sign her wanting to reject this kidney just because of who the donor is and her filtering the situation through her personal lens. Her truth isn't their truth.

    In the end this is a faux win-win for everyone. The mom and son each get a viable kidney and are alive but aren't aware the abuser dad saved the day, the dad is able to get some sort of absolution by donating his kidney but will supposedly never be able to take credit, and Jo gets to head her first successful operation while feeling she somehow let an abuser win.

  3. April's Position

    Bailey leaves on a mysterious errand, leaving April in charge. Almost before the front door swings closed on Bailey's departing form, the shit hits the fan with the kidney transplant. With Bailey MIA, the doctors wonder who has the authority to decide what should happen with the kidney. April announces that she is in charge. The brief, uncertain silence follows that announcement is worthy of a Twitter meme.

    April is a bit out of her depth. She really doesn't inspire a lot of confidence at first but she gamely rises to the occasion. I honestly do feel bad for April even though she's not one of my favorite people. She is managing to do the job but it's thankless. It doesn't feel like she has the respect of her peers in this instance. Jackson especially is allowing his bitter flag to fly. April is right, she only took the job she was offered, but in the end it may not really matter.

  4. Meredith's Decision
    Bailey's mysterious errand is a "Camp David" summit with Meredith to convince Meredith to return. She shows up at Mer's house and, like a vampire, demands an invitation inside.

    This has to be one of the most frustrating conversations on Grey's in awhile. The words coming out of Bailey's mouth in no way address Meredith's concerns. If anything, they should raise more flags. Bailey tells Meredith, "I wanted Minnick to add value [to Richard] but Minnick did not want to work with Richard." So in essence, she's confirming Jackson's rather pissy -- but accurate -- accusation that Minnick stole Richard's job and Bailey allowed it happen. Really, Bailey's entire justification for everything she's done sounds almost like someone who has been coached on how to respond but doesn't really believe what they're saying themselves.

    Despite her boredom at home (how many scenes of Meredith folding laundry do we need?) Meredith refuses to return. Until Richard shows up and seemingly convinces her to do so.

    I hate this development, because nothing has really changed. Minnick is still there, Bailey still made a bad decision, and in the end Meredith return to a system that she doesn't really agree with. Oh well, at least she'll be off her couch and away from her laundry basket and she's received Richard's blessing.

  5. Minnick's Redemption

    Yup. This is in full effect. Last week she had her moment of humanizing weakness. Hence, the next step on the road to Minnick Redemption is getting people to like and accept her. April is already there. The kidney transplant is a Minnick Method™ Operation with Ben and Cross as the leads and Webber assisting on harvesting the kidney, while Jo and Steph are the leads with Karev assisting on the transplant. Emotional drama aside, the operation is a complete success.

    Richard is working with her cordially, if not 100% enthusiastically. The residents love her. Although Stephanie's hero worship has been effectively snuffed out, she's still on board with Minnick's philosophy. April was already turned. Jackson is the most vocal hold-out, but that doesn't matter because Arizona is the big get. Arizona has completely thawed, voicing a laundry list of Minnick's great qualities and how totally unfair everyone is being to the completely awesome Minnick. They kiss, natch. Minnick is happy she gets the girl. But for me, the pairing rings awfully hollow.

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