Warning: This recap for the “The Room Where It Happens” episode of Grey’s Anatomy contains spoilers.
Ghosts haunted Grey Sloan Memorial this week.
Yes, Halloween was last week, and no, this is not a “Halloween episode” of Grey’s Anatomy, whatsoever. It is a deep and meditative examination of grief — and how losing loved ones can change you, drive you, and even inspire you.
This is no ordinary episode of Grey’s Anatomy. For one, it focuses on just four main characters: Meredith, Richard, Owen, and Stephanie. But its exploration of how pain has remade all of them into the surgeons that they are today is incredibly poignant. They’ve all experienced an immense loss, in one way or another, and they’ve maintained the will not just to survive… but to thrive. And to save other lives. It’s awe-inspiring, particularly in this moment in American life.
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Shonda Rhimes, why do you keep doing this to us? Now we need to order another case of tissues. #ThanksShonda.
Here’s a rundown of this week’s episode, including our live tweets:Hail Gail
As Meredith’s voiceover ruminates on how the lack of sleep affects us and can make us make poor decisions, an operating room comes to life. Lights come on, nurses and doctors stream in, instruments are readied.
Meredith, Owen, and Stephanie are working on an unnamed man who’s been in some kind of car accident. Richard enters the OR to help. They are concentrating on this man’s liver, which has been nearly destroyed.
Richard pushes Meredith to let Stephanie take the reins on a few procedures, no doubt in response to Dr. Minnick from last week. Steph is hesitant at first, so Richard prods her by trying to give the unnamed patient a name and a life. They decide to call him Gail and make him a woman — a 46-year-old woman. They continue to work on “Gail,” as Stephanie plays along and fills out the rest of her life. “Gail” has two boys and two girls and plays cello. And Richard is seeing “Gail” as a vision in the back of the OR, as if she really exists.
“Gail” is not doing well, though, and Richard announces she needs a liver transplant. They could remove her liver and call UNOS immediately, but Meredith argues against that. They could just pack up “Gail” and keep her in ICU until a liver becomes available. Why take away a liver from someone who really needs it this second? Richard tries to overrule her, but Meredith has the ultimate answer: She is the head of general surgery and she is in charge. Richard can stay and accept that, or leave.
As they continue to work on “Gail,” Richard tries to rope in Hunt in on his imaginings. Hunt then has a vision of his sister, Megan, when they used to work together in the field. “You usually only bring me around when you feel guilty,” Ghost Megan saucily notes. We like her!
She wonders what he’s feeling guilty about. Her death? Kinda befriending Riggs? Marrying someone he barely knows? She even taunts him about maybe being attracted to Meredith (ew!).
When “Gail” starts to crash, Owen snaps out of the vision and decides they need to take out his liver. Meredith orders him not to cut, but he does it anyway. Gail is now liver-less.
Mind over matter
As Meredith and Owen argue about his unilateral move, Steph notices something odd about “Gail’s” vitals. He’s losing a lot of blood for no reason. Suddenly, she sees a vision of Kid Stephanie, who encourages her to present her theory.
Stephanie, a little hesitant still, tries to tell the docs that “Gail” has a platelet disorder — not so dissimilar from the sickle-cell anemia she had as a child. The doctors are barely listening to her, so Kid Stephanie pushes Adult Stephanie to really speak out.
Stephanie yells, “Listen to me!” A surprise trio of Meredith, Owen, and Richard all turn to her. She presents her theory and backs it up. How does she know this? Well, when you’re a kid with a debilitating disease, you read a lot!
The patient continues to crash when a nurse comes in to inform that “Gail” is actually a man named Carl and he has a wife, daughter, and son. This triggers Meredith, hard. Because she was a wife with a daughter and son when her own husband was on table such as this, dying like this.
She sees an image of her kids, Zola and Bailey, in a waiting room. Carl, meanwhile, is flatlining in the present day. Meredith is pumping his heart with her hand. When Richard accuses her of playing it too safe with his treatment, she declares, “I’ve done everything I can to keep Carl alive.”
Carl’s heart rhythm returns to normal, so Owen suggests they go back to her original plan of packing him up and taking him to ICU. But then Meredith has a full-on vision of the moment when she had to tell Zola and Bailey that their father was dead. And people, this isn’t a three-hankie moment. This is like a three-hundred hankie moment. When Zola asks if the doctors can fix her daddy, Meredith has to say no. “But you fix everyone,” she says, as our hearts break into a million pieces.
That flashback to telling her kids wakes Meredith up. She announces that they are going to perform a liver transplant on Carl. But no liver has been found, the other docs note. Fine — they’ll use part of Carl’s! Meredith decides they’ll cut out the good part and put it back in Carl until a better liver can be found. It’s a Hail Mary, but it’s going to work.
Afterward, Owen congratulates her, and so does Richard. Meredith apologizes for some of the mean things she said to him during surgery (and pulling rank), and then asks him about “Gail.” That was somebody close to him, wasn’t it? Turns out it was his mother, who died when he was 10 of advanced pancreatic cancer.
He started using the “Gail” story because he became too desensitized to patients. One day, he had to tell a patient’s family that the patient had died — of pancreatic cancer, just like his mom. But as they sobbed, he felt nothing. He’d become a robot.
“After that, I started changing the rules,” Richard said.
Meredith nods. Maybe Dr. Minnick has a point about some of their teaching methods, but Richard is right that they shouldn’t be robots. Meredith circles back to her thoughts about her sleepless night. She realizes that sometimes, to avoid being a robot, you need to see ghosts.
Grey’s Anatomy airs Thursdays at 9 p.m. on ABC. Watch clips and full episodes of Grey’s for free on Yahoo View.