So….where to begin? This week’s episode of Grey’s Anatomy, “Unbreak My Heart,” focused exclusively on Jackson and April’s relationship. All other characters made only cameo appearances as we explored, through flashbacks, how “Japril” met, became friends, fell in love, got married, and eventually fell apart. Kudos to Jesse Williams and Sarah Drew for their portrayal of a couple who went off the rails, despite their love for each other. The heartbreak Jackson and April felt was clear from opening moments to the closing scene. Yet one crucial question remained: would Japril divorce or find their way back to each other? The answer to that question, however, was anything but simple.

What Is Happening To Us?

“Every part of the trauma tells a different piece of the story,” April intoned as the episode began. What followed was a series of scenes told in reverse chronological order, scenes which filled in the blanks of moments that had, up to this point, happened off-screen. Missing moments were expanded upon in clever ways such as when a scene we had seen in “The Sounds of Silence” from Meredith’s point of view was suddenly flipped and we heard the Japril dialogue. We also finally heard what Jackson wanted to say to April in the fall finale cliffhanger: I want you.

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How Do We Make It Stop?

That declaration led the couple to therapy, which did little good. Jackson complained that it was as if they were in different sessions, their perspectives were so different. April maintained that at least she was willing to try while Jackson was not. As the time line spiraled further and further backwards, however, one thing became crystal clear. Despite some early undercurrents of distress over religion (complicated issue reduced to a few words: she’s Christian, he’s not religious in any way, shape or form), the catalyst for the disintegration of Japril’s marriage came down to one thing: the death of their son. 

Would You Just Say It?

One word. That’s the crux of it all. Samuel. If Samuel had lived, Japril would not be in this terrible place. But their baby did die and, as is so often the case, their marriage unraveled because of it. This episode was heartbreaking because it rang so true. We learned that after Samuel’s death, April was practically catatonic, so lost in her own grief and pain that she couldn’t see Jackson’s grief and pain. To make matters worse, Jackson’s efforts to comfort his wife were harshly rebuffed and when April went on two separate tours to the Middle East for months at a time. Jackson felt utterly rejected by his wife while also mourning the death of his son. For her part, April’s only comfort was her work in Jordan. The work saved her – healed her – when nothing else did.  Stung, Jackson shouted, anguished, that April left him. She countered, thinking out loud, what made him so angry? That what she needed to heal was the work instead of him? Sadly, he responded that he needed her, but she wasn’t there. 

The Way We Were

The farther back in time we went, of course, the more illuminating things became. Japril’s happiness at her pregnancy. Sweet, romantic scenes that took place when they eloped. Early days of budding, awkward friendship. There is a saying that we live our lives forward but they can only be understood backward. That is certainly the case for Jackson and April. Every step led them to this place a place, a hurt, from which they might not be able to recover.

Do You Really Want This?

By the end, we fast forwarded back to the present and April, seeing the resignation on Jackson’s face, finally signed the divorce papers and then fled the office as quickly as she could. In the final scene, Arizona arrived to keep April company, a bagful of alcohol in tow, which April refused. Arizona, incredulous, reminded her she had just signed divorce papers. Didn’t she want a drink? What was she, pregnant? April’s reply? “According to the test I took this morning, yeah, actually, I am.” Whoa.

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Another thread in the story was Jackson’ ongoing care of a patient, Tatiana, whom he had been treating for over four years and forty-three surgeries after acid was thrown in her face. The references to Jackson’s mentor, the late Mark Sloan, who didn’t get Tatiana’s case because he was on a plane to Idaho (the crash of that plane would result in injuries which led to Mark’s death) and his brilliance in Plastics almost did me in. Seriously. Oh! And Tatiana in a wedding dress and Jackson in a tuxedo at the beginning of the episode? A red herring. Jackson walked the bride down the aisle. Whew! 

April: “I took care of myself so that I would survive. And all that does is make you angry.”

Jackson: “I wasn’t coping! I was covering!”

Meredith (confused by Japril’s exuberance): “I only dance it out when something bad happens.”

April (on her parents meeting Jackson post-elopemnt): “They’re predisposed not to like you.”

Jackson: “You’re marrying a rich, handsome surgeon!”

Jackson (to April Tatiana): “You and I, we are a team now. It’s gonna be you and me. We’re gonna get through this together. I’m not gonna lie. It’s not gonna be easy. And it’s not gonna be quick. But I’m gonna be right there the entire time. I will not leave your side. I promise you.”

In the earliest flashback, when Jackson and April met on the first day of their internship, who else was there? Charles Percy. Remember him? Uncertain of his speciality at that point, he was reassured that he had plenty of time to figure that out. No so much. RIP Charles.

April (in voice over): What hurts us is cumulative. It happens over time. We absorb blow after blow. Shock after shock. Painful hit after painful hit. But even then, even if we know exactly how we got here, it doesn’t mean we can fix it. You can’t heal every wound. And that’s okay. I have to believe that’s okay. I have to believe that even if something seems as if it can not be fixed, it doesn’t mean it’s broken.

Grey’s Anatomy airs Thursdays at 8pm on ABC.

(image couresty of ABC)

Janalen Samson

Contributing Writer, BuddyTV