BWW Recap: GREY'S ANATOMY Offers Up a Heartbreaking Episode that Explores the Current Opioid Crisis and Urges us to Decide to Live
Based on the promos that have been airing all week, it was evident that Thursday's episode of GREY'S ANATOMY was going to be an emotional one. Although the promos were (characteristically) misleading, the episode did not disappoint. The devastating effects of addiction, as well as the complicated ways in which different people view addiction, took center stage as the doctors fought to save the lives of over 50 patients who had overdosed, including Betty/Britney.
I WANT A NEW DRUG, written by Zoanne Clack and directed by Jeannot Szwarc, opens on a happier note. Meredith (Ellen Pompeo) is in the middle of a surgery that might just get her the record for longest single surgery. New love interest Deluca (Giacomo Gianniotti), and everyone's favourite scrub nurse, Bokhee are there to cheer her on. Bokhee even gets a line other than "yes doctor" when she calls Meredith "Wonder Woman." This is a very appropriate time for Bokhee An, who still works as a surgical nurse in Los Angeles and has been part of the show since day one, to have her moment. This episode is the one that ties ER as longest running medical drama. Next week, GREY'S ANATOMY breaks that record.
Initially, the gallery to Meredith's surgery is full of spectators, but most are pulled away due to the crisis situation in the ER. In the end, the moment Meredith breaks the record is fairly quiet and uneventful, likely just how Meredith would want it. Next week's record-breaking episode sounds like it might be equally as understated as it apparently doesn't even take place in the hospital. I like these choices. It is so true to life that sometimes these things happen with very little hoopla and instead, the focus is simply on people doing what they love. That said, Meredith certainly doesn't hate having this title and she is already planning to try to break her own record. After her surgery is done, and after she has checked on her sister (but more on that later), Meredith finds a gurney in the hallway to fall asleep on. Deluca sees her and wheels her into a room for more privacy and then drapes a blanket over her. This couple has yet to really make my heart go pitter patter, but I will admit that this was a sweet moment.
Meanwhile, literally everywhere else in the hospital...
All hands are on deck after patients start coming in after sustaining apparent overdoses. Ben (Jason George) tells Bailey (Chandra Wilson) that "people are dropping like flies in the park" and implies that it appears drugs have been laced with something.
I've been waiting for a while for GREYS to address the opioid crisis. This is a show that never shies away from topics that are affecting the world around us, and this is absolutely one of those topics. The show did a good job to focus on the humanity of the patients, but to also emphasize the devastating effects of addiction. Betty's boyfriend Linus (Joshua Bassett), and those who love him face the ultimate consequence; a young mother also briefly loses her little boy in the park while she is passed out; Alex (Justin Chambers) reveals that he was basically once that little boy and it clearly still affects him, and has of course shaped his own perspective on addiction; and Amelia (Caterina Scorsone), who has been through all of this before and who is watching Betty relive some of the terrible things that have happened in her own life, is absolutely devastated. This whole situation hits her to the core. When Linus dies, and with Betty still in surgery, all of the pain Amelia has experienced over her life due to addiction seems to come to the surface. She has a necessary cry as Link (Chris Carmack) awkwardly tries to console her and chivalrously tries to help her have some privacy.
Prior to Amelia breaking down, she and Link share a bit of a moment which begins with him rattling on about how futile their jobs seem to be when "people keep killing themselves and each other." He clearly has no idea that she is a recovering addict, or that a young woman who is basically like a daughter to her is one of the patients. The fact that Amelia seeks a way to connect with Link, rather than lashing out at him, or internalizing what he says, or some other unhealthy coping mechanism that we have seen from Amelia in the past, is a sign of incredible grace and growth on her part. She is distraught right now and no one would fault her if she reacted poorly in this moment...but instead, she finds a way to connect with and relate to Link. This is healthy for her, and also very kind to Link, who didn't do anything wrong...he just didn't know.
What raises my eyebrows (and I've seen a few others on social media who agree) is the way in which she connects with Link. She asks him what he would do if he left it all behind and gave up medicine. It is a lovely moment (before it is totally ruined by the tragedy that comes next), but what I want to know is why this is on Amelia's mind? Is the show setting us up for her departure? I'm not going to lie, I've had a gut feeling that this is Caterina Scorsone's final season for a while now...and moments like this don't help me to ignore my gut!
Once Amelia collects herself, she joins Owen and Betty/Britney's (Peyton Kennedy) parents in the waiting room. Betty has suffered an aortic dissection as a complication of meth use. Teddy (Kim Raver) eventually comes out to let them know that (due to her surgically badassery whilst also being 30 weeks pregnant), Betty has survived surgery and is recovering in the ICU. This is after Teddy insisted to Maggie (Kelly McCreary) that she had to be Betty's surgeon so that if Betty didn't survive, Teddy would be the one delivering that news to Amelia and Maggie could be there as Amelia's sister. The Grey's writer's are so clever. In this one moment, they managed to call back to the heartbreak and fallout of Henry's surgery from many moons ago, and how this has affected Teddy, and they have a moment where Teddy finally acknowledges that yes, Maggie is Amelia's sister. Just beautiful. Also beautiful is the 5-minute long hug of utter gratitude that Amelia gives Teddy when she comes to share the good news.
Speaking of callbacks, we also get a callback to the day Amelia "decided to live" on PRIVATE PRACTICE. Britney's father doesn't want to tell her that her boyfriend died because "it could kill her." Amelia is initially incredulous, but quickly softens. Again, she is dealing with someone who just doesn't have the perspective that she does. Once again, she shares her experience in order to help Britney's parents better understand their daughter. She tells them about losing her fiancé Ryan, and how at first, she thought she would die...but then, she decided to live...because he died. She says that she hopes this is Betty's bottom and she hopes Betty decides to live. Britney's parents seem to take heed. When Britney wakes up, she is surrounded by both of her families. I hope she decides to live too.
I would like to end this recap by talking about the storyline involving Ralph, the homeless gentleman who finds the missing child and carries him to the hospital despite having some seriously painful looking infections in his feet. He was also in the park, but just because he is homeless does not mean he uses drugs. I like that the show took a moment to poke holes in society's belief that all homeless people have made poor decisions that have put them in that situation (this is of course not to say that we shouldn't also care about people who are homeless and suffering from addiction). This man fell on hard times and was maxed out at the local shelter. Like addiction, Homelessness is also a complicated issue that affects many different people. As a society, we have to do better. Jackson (Jesse Williams) is able to provide some basic camping supplies to this man and is also able to re-evaluate what it really means to go without.
It has come to my attention that Abdul Salaam El Razzac, the actor who played Ralph, passed away in December, shortly after filming this episode. I would like to thank him for this beautiful performance. May he rest in peace.
Overall, this was a very emotional episode, but it was also the kind of episode that will promote conversations and understanding. Those are always the best kind.
I know I am using Betty/Britney interchangeably in this article. It is a choice. Deal with it.
Was anyone else wondering whose record Meredith broke? In terms of surgeries we've seen, both Derek and Amelia have had some pretty long ones. I secretly hoped that once the terrible situation Amelia was going through was over, Meredith would sidle up to her with a twinkle in her eye and whisper "By the way, I broke your record" in a way that only a sister can. Oh well. This is definitely in my head canon.
Near the beginning of the episode, Teddy gushes to Bailey about how much she likes Tom. Yep, they are officially an item. I don't know if Teddy and Tom have done the dirty yet, but once they do, Teddy and Amelia will have hooked up with three of the same people (Mark Sloan, Owen, and Tom). Correct me if I'm wrong, but I think that is some kind of GREY'S ANATOMY record!
If that scene between Amelia and Link means that there might be romance brewing between them, I vote that their ship name be Lepherd.
Ok...ending on a more serious note. The episode ended with a PSA by Caterina Scorsone encouraging people who are struggling with substance use to seek out help. I would like to echo that. Please decide to live.
GREY'S ANATOMY airs in Canada on CTV on Wednesdays at 9pm and on ABC in the US on Thursdays at 8pm.
Photo Credit: ABC/Disney