Here's a fun fact. The very first episode of Grey's Anatomy aired exactly nine years ago on March 27, 2005. Ten seasons later, we've arrived at episode number two hundred thirteen, a tremendous achievement by any standard. Even more impressive is that at a time when the show could be "phoning it in," the writers continue to mix things up from time to time and try alternative formats.
There was the musical episode, the documentary, the real-time episode, and the alternative universe. Now comes a variation on that theme. "Do You Know" (loosely based on the Gwyneth Paltrow film, Sliding Doors) explored the idea of how someone's life might change as the result of a single decision. And, thus, we find Cristina Yang asking pivotal questions both figuratively and literally as she ponders two possible future paths for her life. Do you know who you are? Do you understand what has happened to you? Do you want to live this way?
Door Number One
In this version of events Cristina works with a patient (Jason) and his wife. Jason has been in a catastrophic car accident. As as result, he is a quadriplegic and will never again breathe on his own. Asked if he wants Cristina to remove the vent which allows him to breathe, Jason nods yes (meaning he will die). This sets in motion a series of events.
Cristina tells Owen he is the love of her life and that they should be together. They buy a house and eventually adopt a dog (Mrs. Rodriguez!). I think I even saw wedding rings on their hands, which would indicate remarriage. Soon, a few years have passed (see older Zola) and Crowen has been happy, but Owen is restless. He voices his frustration that what he wants never seems to matter. In fact, he has been offered a job to join Teddy in Germany running the Military Trauma Division. Cristina adamently refuses to move, citing her research and her work. But...surprise!...in the next flash we see that they are still in Seattle and Cristina is pregnant! Whoa.
What happens next is as heartbreaking as it is predictable. Cristina is giving birth to the Crowen baby and immediately regrets her decision. She resents the child (although we later see her pregnant again), although she loves seeing how happy Owen is as a dad. Over time, her career slips away as she prioritizes her family and finally we see her at the Harper Avery Awards, presenting the award to Dr. Shane Ross. This pathway closes with Cristina sobbing over her lost opportunity for greatness. Yikes.
Door Number Two
In this scenario, Jason tells Cristina not to remove the vent. He wants to live. This sets a completely different set of circumstances into motion. Cristina and Owen stay together but in a much less structured sort of way. Owen still has the trailer. Cristina has a room at Karev's house. Crowen's on and off but their core issues still remain. Cristina likes things as they are. Owen, despite trying not to, wants more.
We see that they are caught in an endless cycle. They break up, they can't resist each other, they get back together, they break up again because they want different things. Cristina finally asks for Meredith's help (in the one Cristina scene that rang just a touch false for me). She and Owen need to break up for good...for their own good.
So they do break up. Cristina focuses on her career. Owen descends into alcoholism. Cristina wins her fourth consecutive Harper Avery Award as Owen is terminated by the hospital board for his dangerous and unprofessional conduct. Ouch.
Conclusions and Predictions
In a move that I imagine left some viewers frustrated and others confused, the episode ended ambiguously. Jason chose to die. Cristina never did speak to Owen in "real" life, instead turning her attention to Meredith after the pivotal moment passed without fanfare.
So what just happened? On some levels, not much, and I believe that was by design. This episode was meant to be fluid and left open for interpretation. Yet I still think I know where this is heading.
1) Cristina and Owen will always love each other. They are each other's "person," soulmate, and love of the other's life.
2) Love isn't always enough. Cristina wants to be able to focus on her career. She does not want children. Owen wants both a career and family. The message we got in this episode of Grey's Anatomy is that if either one compromises, who they are as a person and what they fundamentally want out of life, will end badly at best, and tragically at worst.
3) My prediction is that Cristina will soon leave town for a professional opportunity because if she stays in Seattle, she and Owen will always be drawn back together, and that's not good for either of them. If he no long has to see Cristina every day (the woman he loves but can not have), perhaps Owen has some hope of moving on with his life...or so Cristina will reason.
5) My second Fan Girl Hope is that one day (either when Grey's Anatomy ends or if Kevin McKidd leaves the show) Cristina will come back to claim her man. What would change to make that outcome both possible and plausible? I've no idea. But I can still dream.
6) Final Thought: Sandra Oh and Kevin McKidd were wonderful in this episode. Kudos to them for their stellar work. I will miss their acting partnership very, very much.
The next all-new episode of Grey's Anatomy, "You Be Illin," airs April 3 on ABC.
(image courtesy of ABC)