It's Not Penny's Night On Grey's Anatomy
Oops! Callie's new girlfriend turns out to be the doctor who repeatedly stabbed Derek to death with a butcher knife last season. (That's how it went, right?)
Picking up right where last week's episode left off, Seattle's own version of the Schuyler sisters -- Amelia, Meredith...and Maggie -- are putting on a dinner party for their friends, co-workers, and significant others. And into that particular fray walks Callie's brand-new girlfriend Penny. At the end of last week, we all that Penny is the resident who was on call and wasn't able to save Derek when he died. In the surgical-hotshot vocabulary of Grey's Anatomy, that translates to "Penny killed Derek," both because this show is about superhuman badass surgeons, and if you don't do as well as the Hypothetical They might've, you might as well be an actual murderer, and because everybody in its orbit accepts hyperbole as reality at all times.
Welcome to the Sloan-Grey dinner party, Penny. Home of the world's most purposefully intimidating circle of friends ("friends"?) in history.
First and foremost, this is a fantastic episode of Grey's. It's also a frustrating one if you watch this show so that you can see characters you like being decent and generous to each other. Don't get me wrong, I want that too. I love that. Grey's does that a lot, but it also gives us episodes like this one, where Meredith and Amelia (specifically) and everybody else (generally) accepts the "Penny killed Derek" hyperbole and runs with it.
Since the beginning -- and this was the 250th episode of the series, so you have to go back a long way -- Grey's Anatomy has been a kind of an experiment in externalized emotion. It's never just the love triangles or heightened life-or-death scenarios that have made the show so soapy. It's that it's always asked what would happen if a hospital full of young, sexy doctors externalized their emotions at all times -- in the elevator, in the operating room, while being held at gunpoint. Whatever the characters are going through, whatever we in the audience are relating to these characters for, has always burst out into the halls of Sloan-Grey.
And so we ended up with this week's episode, which again asks a question: what if Meredith were allowed to externalize every ugly, wounded, hurtful, petty, angry thing she must be feeling when confronted with the sight of the woman who is essentially the living, breathing avatar of her husband's demise? What if Amelia didn't swallow what the rest of us would surely swallow, because we're adults and we live in a society that depends on our doing exactly not what the Grey's characters do on the regular?
Episodes like these are hard to enjoy but -- for me, at least -- easy to love. Particularly since the entire ensemble is in the same place, bouncing off of one another and reminding us what an utter horror show it would be to try to penetrate their social circle.
- [TIE] Miranda Bailey / Jackson Avery
Neither the hospital's chief of surgery nor its youngest board member gets a lot to do this week. Bailey unlocks the second half of the episode with her revelation that Penny will be joining Sloan-Grey's resident program, and Avery responds less harshly to the momentarily mellowed Kepner, but neither one of them gets much of the story to her- or himself. There's just too much else going on.
- Jo Wilson
To her credit, Wilson is quick to apologize to Edwards for her ultra-shitty behavior last week, ratting her supposed best friend out to Amelia for what turned out not to be a false story about childhood adversity after all. Unfortunately for Wilson, Edwards (momentarily) forgives, but she does not forget, as she calls out Wilson for her jealousy and for her need, subconscious or otherwise, to chalk Edwards's superiority up to a childhood trauma that they can share. Also, Wilson, just be cool and pitch in with dinner prep for Pete's sake. Have you never been to a Friendsgiving before? Getting dragooned into carrot-chopping is not the affront you'd like everyone else to think it is. Calling Intern Cross away from the hospital to bring you a sack full of manchego, on the other hand, is almost certainly an abuse of authority.
- Intern Cross
Points for fetching said manchego -- and for later pulling up a rocking horse to sit at the corner of the dinner table -- both without complaint. He loses points because both are done because he has a crush on Wilson, but honestly? I'm more than ready to blow up Jo and Alex's romance, and as soft places to land go, she could do FAR worse than Cross.
- Maggie Pierce
I do like Maggie -- more than a lot of viewers, I'm gathering -- but this week she gets a bum set of cards to play, as her post-De Luca UTI (do they happen that quickly, ladies? Like, on the drive home?) sends her spinning off into what-ifs about STDs and who even knows where that dick has been and so forth. She's not wrong, exactly, but (1) wrap that puppy up next time; (2) when he offers to tell you about his sexual history, LET HIM; and (3) if you're gonna be fucking the intern, at least fuck him from a position of power instead of letting him be the calm head of reason, because you are CHIEF OF BLOODY CARDIO, madam.
- Intern De Luca
That man can bring me cranberry juice all day, is all I'm saying.
- Alex Karev
I know I'm hard on him, and while I think my exhaustion with this character is mostly justified, I'll admit that sometimes he's perfectly fine and I'm just unmoved, and I can't help that. He's a very good friend to Meredith this week, picking up on her distress signals and sitting with her for as long as she needs. And yet, all I could think of during those scenes was that as good as he is at this kind of thing, I wish it were Cristina instead.
- Amelia Shepard
I love how Amelia is the Goofus to Meredith's Gallant this week. (If we can call Meredith's actions Gallant this week, which I understand if you can't.) Meredith goes to great lengths to attempt to avoid Penny, and even after dropping the "Penny killed my husband" bomb, she promptly leaves the dinner table. At which point the heretofore friendly and together Amelia goes all slowly-I-turn on Penny, demanding answers, hurling accusations, and ultimately bounding into Mer's room, demanding that her pain be acknowledged, earning her an extra helping of Mer Rage. The thing is...Amelia's pain should be acknowledged. She's doing the same thing as Meredith, really, in indulging every awful, unattractive feeling she has. She's just less aware of it in the moment. Also, if Amelia is this freaked out about needing to know everything that happened in the ER that night, she's had almost two years to look into it. Medical records exist, there are post-mortem reports, et cetera. You're telling me this version of Amelia wouldn't have attempted a malpractice investigation? Anyway, I love you, Amelia; feel better.
- Owen Hunt
He's been severely backgrounded this season -- this episode included -- but his story about momentary, shameful relief amid his worry over Cristina during the plane-crash ordeal is an admirably honest moment, and Kevin McKidd does a great job with it.
- April Kepner
Credit where credit is due: Kepner steps up to the plate when the hosts are flailing at the "dinner" part of "dinner party." She also has a moment of honest reflection re: the Penny situation, recalling the time she was held responsible for that patient death in her first season. This is the Kepner I wish we had more of. This is the Kepner I want to like. She's been through a mountain of shit across the seasons. Can't we get a character who's been toughened and made more wise by those experiences and let the younger characters be the abrasive messes?
- Callie Torres
Ooof, poor Callie. Finally lands a good girlfriend, manages to tiptoe through the Arizona land mines unscathed, only to find out there are WAY more massive land mines she didn't know about. I appreciate that her and Meredith's tentative friendship has remained tentative throughout the years (they've never had a real problem with each other, but some people are just not that close), but I still felt bad for Callie when she gets that door shut in her face at the end.
- Meredith Grey
I've basically already made my case for Meredith this week. She's grief walking around on two feet, carrying a tequila bottle. We don't have to like it, but it's riveting to watch it.
- Stephanie Edwards
As someone who thought Edwards was too quick to forgive Wilson, I'm glad she has her clapback moment at the end of the episode. Verbalizing one's superiority to a colleague is rarely the best way to win friends, but it also feels like the most Cristina thing to do, and I'm missing characters who do the Cristina thing.
- Arizona Robbins
"I like drunk Robbins."
Right there with you, Bailey.
If this episode needed one thing, it's a Whoopi Goldberg cameo, because Penny? You in danger, girl. And yet what's great about the episode is that it serves the double function of being a crucible of anguish for Meredith and a kind of hazing ritual for Penny. If what the show wants is to introduce her as a new character (we could always use more lesbian regulars on TV), this episode really made me like and respect her, beyond just feeling sorry for her. She hangs in there. From the looks of next week, she's gonna have to keep hanging.
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