In a year when the weather is topsy turvy, here are three sure signs of spring: baseball, taxes, and May Sweeps. Yes, the 2011-2012 television season is careening towards closure at a frenzied pace. Gone are the mid-winter doldrums with the endless sea of reruns and preemptions. In their place are brand new, eagerly-awaited installments of our favorite shows, all culminating in cliffhanging season finales, but first things first.
The next few episodes of Grey’s Anatomy will set the stage for what is coming in those last few episodes. This week’s episode, “Moment of Truth” focuses on the residents as they head to San Francisco to take their board examinations and it’s looking like things don’t go smoothly, either personally or professionally, leading to fallout in next week’s installment, “Let the Bad Times Roll”. The residents make decisions about their futures in the penultimate episode of season eight, “Migration”, which then segues to the season finale, “Flight”.
Showrunner, Shonda Rhimes, has promised that this year’s finale will be no exception to the standard of high-octane drama established in seasons past, but the stakes are higher this year. The original cast members (Ellen Pompeo, Patrick Dempsey, Sandra Oh, Justin Chambers, James Pickens Jr., and Chandra Wilson) have reached the end of their contracts and if the outcomes of the renewal negotiations are actually finalized, then no one is talking. Meanwhile, rumors abound that a beloved character will die. So what’s a fan to do? Who will stay? Who will go? What will happen in the final four episodes of the season? I had the pleasure of speaking with Sarah Drew (April Kepner) to get her thoughts on everything from the dreaded boards to a stomach-churning cliffhanger.
The ABC promo seems to pretty clearly indicate that virginal April will be getting some action with Jackson Avery! Sarah confirms that April and Jackson do “hook up” and “make out” but declined to comment specifically on whether or not April actually loses her virginity. She says that April is “super freaked-out” by all of the stress surrounding the boards and all of that “anxious energy comes out in crazy ways” as the heightened emotions of the experience bring out different sides to April, leading her to behave in ways that Sarah calls “out of character.” The storyline between April and Jackson will continue throughout the rest of the season as the two of them deal with “conflict” and “confusion”, trying to figure out what happened and where they go from here. April considers Jackson to be her “best friend” and now the lines between friendship and romance have been blurred.
The Moment of Truth
Press releases reveal that the residents will respond to the pressures of the boards in widely varying ways. Some rise to the occasion. Others crack under the pressure. One even fails. Sarah calls the boards a “huge defining moment” which has all of the residents “terrified” because the outcome will determine their futures. Complicating things further is the fact that each resident is dealing with distractions. Alex is preoccupied with what is going on back in Seattle with his infant patient, Tommy. Meredith has something happen that Sarah calls a “huge distraction”. Cristina has “so much drama happening with Owen” and Jackson’s mother shows up as one of the examiners! As for who fails his or her boards, Sarah couldn’t say, but that answer will be revealed in the next few episodes, well before the season finale, as the residents make decisions about their next professional steps.
I am a Soldier
My favorite April Kepner episode is season seven’s “That’s Me Trying” in which Owen Hunt (then head of the emergency department, now chief of surgery) trains the staff in crisis response, and April, to everyone’s surprise, emerges as a budding trauma surgeon. Season eight has focused mostly on April’s role as chief resident with her surgical training largely in the background. When I asked if April had ever officially declared trauma as her area of specialty, Sarah assured me that April is definitely still in trauma, even though we haven’t seen much of that played out on screen recently. She also said that each resident will receive a “pep talk” from their mentoring attending before they head off to the boards. This means Owen will be talking to April, Teddy to Cristina, Mark to Jackson, and Arizona to Alex. I’m wondering if Meredith also gets a pep talk and, if so, from whom? It seems as if she’s finally decided on general surgery, so would that mean a blessing from Bailey? Speaking of Bailey, it will be a nostalgic moment to witness her interns head off to their boards…for her and for us. This moment has been five “years” (I’ve given up trying to calculate Grey’s Anatomy time) and eight seasons in the making.
Devastation on the Horizon
Snippets of information are beginning to emerge about the last two episodes of the season, “Migration” and “Flight” with a mysterious event/medical crisis of epic proportions (on par with bombs, ferry boats, and deranged gunmen) rumored to take center stage in the season finale. Sarah calls the finale a “huge cliff-hanger episode” in which “all bets are off.” She says that basically everybody (excepting three or perhaps four cast members by her count) is involved in this “big gigantic thing” and no one’s fate is certain. “We don’t even know,” she says of the cast. Another variable is that, according to Sarah, all of the residents have taken positions at other hospitals and we “don’t know how people will remain at Seattle Grace.” When I asked if the show had wrapped for the season, Sarah responded that some actors are done for the year, including herself, but other actors are still shooting into next week. It’s not an indication of who is coming and going, either, but simply a reflection of “scheduling and location”, so we shouldn’t read too much into who is done and who is not.
I finished my session with Sarah by asking something I’d always wanted to know: when April was fired in season six (“I Saw What I Saw”), did Sarah know that she’d be back a few episodes later? According to her, that was a “totally happy surprise”. She came on for two episodes but the morning after the firing episode aired, she received a call about becoming a series regular.
Onward and Upward
So what do you think Grey’s fans? Are you worried that your favorite character is about to be in peril or, worse, bite the dust? Will all of our residents really take positions at other hospitals? Will some cast members walk away from the show? Is someone being written off despite having a contract? Sound off in the poll and the comments. But first, a sneak peek at tonight’s Grey’s Anatomy.
(Image courtesy of ABC)