Excuse me if I seem a little shell-shocked — I’m still reeling from the final scene of tonight’s episode of Grey’s Anatomy. You know the one: when Meredith opens the door to invite Callie plus one into her dinner party, only to find out that plus one is one of the doctors who operated on Derek before his death.
So, for starters, let’s give Shonda Rhimes a little shout-out for always keeping us on our toes. This was a plot twist I was in no way prepared for.
Of course, looking back over the course of the episode now, it’s easy to notice the proverbial breadcrumbs leading up to that shocking reveal. At one point, Meredith talks to Maggie about how she hadn’t thought about sex since Derek’s death — that “vagina city is a ghost town… the orgasm train isn’t rolling through the station.” Several times in the episode, she finally says those gut-wrenching words out loud: “I’m a widow.”
The most telling moment, though, had to be when Meredith delivers the kind of tear-inducing speech only she is capable of to the anxious interns. In teaching them how to inform patients of the death of a loved one, she draws from her own personal experience.
“When you walk into a room to tell someone their loved one has died, it’s more than just a list of bullet points you’ve memorized. Yours is the face they will remember for the rest of their life. They were fine before they met you. They picked up their children from school, they made dinner and they got a call. The police showed up at their door, picked up them and their children, and brought them here, to this room, so that you can give them the worst news of their entire life,” she shares with the interns.
“You are changing their lives forever. You are responsible for this moment — for the instant that person goes from a wife to widow is you. All you, nobody but you. So this person isn’t an inconvenience, they are not a box on a list to be checked off. You are a part of their lives now. Your words, your face. Take that seriously and recognize the importance of your role.”
Talk about all the feels. Grey’s Anatomy certainly lived up to its tissue box Twitter emoji this week.
Moments later, Callie and her new girlfriend, Penny, arrive at the party being thrown by Meredith, Maggie and Amelia. Since Maggie is running late, thanks to a last-minute booty call with the hot new intern, and since Amelia is setting up the food, Meredith answers the door to welcome the duo.
Oblivious to the connection, Callie cheerfully introduces Penny to Meredith. But for Meredith (and the rest of us in the know), the realization of Penny’s identity is visceral, like a punch to the gut. Penny is that person for Meredith — the one she told the interns about, the one who would forever intrinsically be wrapped up in the worst day of her life.
Penny was one of Derek’s doctors the day of the car crash. Arguably, she is partially responsible for his death and she is the personification of the moment Meredith went from wife to widow.
Yikes. It’s one thing to not be a fan of the person one of your best friends is dating, but this is a next-level situation we’re dealing with. And it’s especially sad in light of what Mer told Maggie earlier in the day about finally being happy again, even though she never thought she would be after Derek’s death.
I mean, how is this going to work? Can it work? Every single time Meredith looks at Penny’s face, she will be reminded of her worst hours. She will see Derek lying on the hospital bed. She will feel the anguish and the heartbreak all over again. Really and truly, the only way I can see this working is if Meredith and Callie cease to be friends.
Which brings us to the next problem: Callie. It’s not as if Callie isn’t personally invested in this tragedy either. She and Derek worked side by side on their brain-mapping trial for how long together? They were more than colleagues. They were close friends. Callie even lived with Derek and Meredith for a while when she and Arizona first split.
Can she really continue a relationship with a woman she’ll always associate with his death?
In Penny’s defense, she didn’t actually kill Derek. She was the one doctor on staff at that hospital who fought for Derek — who tried to insist on a course of action that could have saved his life. Of course, by that logic, it could be argued that she was directly responsible for his death since she ignored that voice inside of herself telling her something wasn’t right.
But, Derek… Derek would have wanted Meredith to forgive Penny, right? When he was lying in the hospital, listening to Penny talk but unable to communicate his feelings, he thought, “She’s smart. I like her.”
Still, just because you forgive someone, doesn’t mean you forget what they did or what it is about them that makes you uncomfortable. It for damn sure doesn’t mean you want to sit across the dinner table from them. That’s precisely what happens next week, though, so this should be interesting.