On Grey's Anatomy, You Don't Choose The Avery Life; The Avery Life Chooses You
Jackson and April head to Montana to do a throat transplant, and Jackson confronts his absentee father.
This episode was advertised on social media as "Japril the Sequel," as a way to let us viewers know this was going to be a tightly focused episode centering on Jackson and April's relationship and a follow-up to the episode last season that had been billed as "Japril the Movie."
Man, I hated that episode. I was not looking forward to revisiting this tedious relationship for round two. From the moment April predictably appeared to accompany Jackson to Montana instead of Meredith, I resigned myself to yet one more episode filled with bickering, but still held out on hope that their...whatever would be resolved once and for all.
But I have to admit, I was pleasantly surprised by this outing. April going with Jackson and creating enforced intimacy away from everyone else was about the only real predictable element. In fact, there were several nicely unpredictable surprises. Let's rank those surprises from "OMG!" to just "Oh, my…"
- Eric Roberts is Jackson's dad!
The promos made it a bit obvious that Jackson was going to meet up with the heretofore-invisible Pater Avery. I was curious in a rather detached way. Then Eric Roberts ambles into the scene. Huh. Hats off to Grey's for keeping this bit of casting a secret. I mean, it's not like he's Harrison Ford or anything, but still, this is just the sort of high-profile casting that gets breathlessly reported to death. Having Robert Avery portrayed by a bad-boy, bigger-than-TV famous actor like Eric Roberts instead of a less notorious character actor gives the scenes between Jackson and his dad some rather interesting urgency. It helps that the storyline lives up to the casting.
- Eric Roberts doesn't know who Jackson is!
So there's Jackson hanging out in his dad's intensely wood-paneled bar/restaurant, and Eric Roberts heads to his table with a beer and says, "You good?" Then he hands Jackson the beer and says, "On the house for new customers." Jackson just stares at him. That is when I -- and Jackson -- realize his dad does not know him. This merits a three-syllable-long "Daa-aa-aaamn" from me. I guess it makes sense, given that his dad just up and left when Jackson was young. And you really can't expect the man to look at grown-up Jackson and immediately know him. But I just -- I wasn't expecting that. Jackson agrees with me, because he looks a little shocked and a little gutted.
- Eric Roberts shows no remorse
April figures out that Eric Roberts is Jackson's father and consequently why Jackson has turned his surliness from simmering to up to flash fire. Initially Jackson rebuffs her attempts to talk, but he obviously needs someone to talk to about the shock he's received and she's conveniently there. "He doesn't even know who I am," he says rather dispiritedly. "Make him know you," she advises.
So Jackson returns and confronts his dad. The result is…unexpected. Eric Roberts smiles and is happy and hugs Jackson and invites him to have meatloaf. He doesn't exhibit any of the reactions I would have expected from a man who abandoned his son. When Jackson asks him to explain, he woe-is-mes about being an Avery. "The galas, the handshaking -- it just wasn't my thing." He also says of Catherine: "Her expectations are crushing." In none of this does he mention Jackson, nor does he acknowledge how a son might have felt at his leaving. He talks to Jackson as if Jackson is just some friendly stranger who wandered into his bar and they are swapping stories over coffee.
Poor Jackson. He's listening to this with various expressions of sadness, outrage, and just plain old hurt. Jesse Williams totally acts his face off in this scene. Seriously, he is doing a lot of face acting. I think about twenty expressions flit across with his face, all of them telling a different story.
Later, having made peace with the fact that this man is no father to him, Jackson returns to tell him about Harriet and wish him all the best. Robert is overjoyed to be a grandfather, but Jackson shuts that down real quick. He very nicely tells Robert that he's glad to have met him, but in such a way that you know he's really saying, "You can keep your meatloaf and your chicory coffee and your plaid shirt, you deadbeat Eric Roberts!"
- Eric Roberts usurps the Jackson/April story
One of the nicest surprises is how this doesn't become an endless Jackson-April whine/love/bitch fest. They don't rehash all their relationship crap so we could all relive it with them yet again. Sure, they fight and there is a bitter edge to it; the undertone of their failed marriage is always there. However, the bigger issue of Jackson and his father mutes this. Even though April's presence is contrived as hell, she serves a great purpose as Jackson's sounding board. Whom else could he talk about an issue this intimate with, if not April? Even with their current level of animosity she is the best person who could have been there with him.
The progression of Jackson's story with his dad coupled with their triumph in a difficult surgery acts as a catalyst for them to kiss and then have sex. Even better, there is no day-after remorse. This new facet of the evolution of their relationship feels almost like an afterthought to the more emotional story of Jackson. Which is probably why it didn't annoy me. Are they back together? I think so, but more importantly, the probable reunion didn't overtake the entire episode, so that's a win.
- Eric Roberts doesn't save the day
April and Jackson are in Montana to do a throat transplant. However, the donor throat has a lesion on it and they can't use it. The scenes of Jackson and April first trying to convince a grieving father to allow his dying son to donate organs, and then later convincing the recipient's two moms to approve the risky surgery, are well done.
It is a tricky surgery; in order to save their young patient they may need to remove her vocal chords. In addition, the two moms are very, er, forceful in their opinions, even going so far as to get a second opinion from another surgeon in another hospital.
April and Jackson are frustrated and try to work through many different solutions. In the one scene that April shares with Papa Avery, we learn that he was also a surgeon, and they speak briefly about the different options. I was so sure that he would be the one to give them their solution because this is Grey's and this is how they do. But he doesn't! In fact, his one small conversation with April is the sum total of his involvement with the case of week. Instead April and Jackson come up with the idea the saves that little girl's vocal chords. Of course Jackson figures it out after moping about deadbeat Eric Roberts, so maybe he saved the day after all.
- Eric Roberts is an excuse to see Avery Swag
I know the Averys are rich and all, but somehow, Grey's has never actually shown the proof. They are influential, have their names on fancy awards, and put up the money to save the hospital, but that all seems like background noise. So seeing Catherine and Jackson chauffeured up to a private airstrip, and a private jet with their name it, took me a little by surprise. I just am not used to seeing them so conspicuously consume their wealth.
Additionally, April and Jackson are performing their risky surgery at the Avery Medical Center -- the name emblazoned prominently on the front -- and the doctor in charge in reluctant to do it, waffling over approval. Jackson coolly reminds him that Jackson's name is on the building so the only approval they need is his. So not only is the Avery swag on display, so is the Avery swagger. Mama Catherine would be proud.