You’ve got to hand it to the Grey’s Anatomy writing staff. We’re halfway through 11 seasons (episode 233!) and they refuse to take the path of least resistance. It can’t be easy to keep things fresh after all this time, yet the show continues to evolve and grow and, yes, surprise. This installment, “Staring At The End,” showcased Amelia, Nicole and Arizona. The result was outstanding work by Caterina Scorsone, Geena Davis and Jessica Capshaw as Dr. Herman’s “bold and brazen” tumor took center stage.
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One of the things I most admire about GA is that the writers are willing to deviate from the typical episode format from time to time. In this case, the episode unspooled over the course of about a month and focused almost exclusively on a dual storyline. Amelia prepared obsessively for Dr. Herman’s surgery. Meanwhile, Dr. Herman raced against the clock to complete as many surgeries as possible while simultaneously training her fellow, Arizona. All other characters were either supporting this storyline, making only cameo appearances, or completely missing in action.
After last episode’s first kiss between Amelia and Owen, I was curious as to what their next scenes would be like. In a word, there was awkwardness, albeit adorable awkwardness. Owen brings Amelia coffee. She’s flustered and distracted and consumed by the upcoming surgery. She basically tells Owen that she likes the coffee him, but she needs to stay focused on the tumor for now. For his part, Owen is completely understanding and supportive, assuring Amelia that she can always come to him for support or just a friendly ear.
Training Wheels Are Off
Meanwhile, Nicole is doing some obsessing of her own. She’s bound and determined to put off her surgery as long as possible in order to teach Robbins as long as possible. Arizona gets thrown into the deep end of the pool as mentor and mentee plow through surgery after surgery at a breakneck pace. The good news is that Arizona is making great strides as a fetal surgeon. The bad news is that Herman’s condition is worsening. And all the while Chirpy and Snarky are bonding in a big way, so much so that Callie questions what the heck is going on between them. Romantically? Nothing. But in every other way? So, so much. The Herman/Robbins relationship has become one of my favorite aspects of the show. It’s complex and complicated and I’m scared of what will happen to Arizona if Nicole dies.
Life Will Out
Over the course of several weeks, Amelia begins to give educational talks to the residents about Herman’s tumor. In the beginning, attendance is sparse but over time interest grows until, finally, the fire marshall makes Chief Hunt set up a separate room for overflow crowding. Amelia rocks the talks. She’s brutally honest and vulnerable and kind of amazing, which doesn’t go unnoticed by Owen. Secretly though, she’s terrified that she may be in over her head and in a weak moment she goes off on Stephanie, who calls her on her erratic behavior and tells Amelia to “get it together.” She does, but I’m super worried about what might happen to Amelia if Nicole dies. Richard insists that there will have been value in the surgery whether or not it succeeds, but can Amelia survive if Herman does not?
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Pick a Card
Herman and Robbins continue to work their cork board of colored index cards. When disaster strikes and a patient’s baby dies in the womb, they can even make room for Glenda Castillo, a patient of Miranda’s. This is important because by episode’s end, Herman is crashing. Her vision is compromised and her surgery is scheduled immediately. End result? Robbins has to take over Glenda’s case, which will stretch into the next episode, as will Herman’s surgery.
The Dream Box
In one of her lectures, Amelia referred to the Dream Box, that part of the brain that makes us the essence of who we are as individuals. If Herman survives the surgery, will she still be herself? If she dies, will Arizona and Amelia be able to recover from the loss? I honestly have no idea how this storyline is going to resolve itself. And I find that thrilling. Stay tuned.
“I don’t like questions without answers, like ‘where do we go when we die?'” – Nicole Herman
“Are you ever not chirpy?” – Nicole
“Are you ever not snarky?” – Arizona
“The first cut is what sets the tone.” – Amelia
“Arizona seems so happy.” – Callie
“You seem happy. Ish.” – Meredith
“I can’t ask him for help. I can not listen to the smugness in his voice. You can hear it. He has transcontinental smugness.” Amelia on her brother (and fellow neurosurgeon) Derek
“Am I seriously wishing for a sexless relationship where I don’t have to groom myself?” – Callie
“You walk around here telling anyone who’ll listen that you’re the best. Well, then, be the best.” – Miranda to Dr. Herman, who has declined to treat Glenda Castillo yet again
“I am not negotiating with a patient. I am the doctor.” – Amelia Shepherd Nicole Herman
“I believe in you. I look up to you. I wanna be you.” – Stephanie to Amelia
“You can talk to me.” – Owen to Amelia
“My whole career I’ve been The Other Shepherd.” – Amelia
“‘Night ‘Night, Tumor Baby. It has been lovely. But we are done.” – Amelia
“I wanted to break new ground. I wanted to leave a legacy. I wanted my life, my brain, my existence to mean something… In order to do that, in order to be remembered, in order to leave something significant behind… you have to leave.” – Dr. Nicole Herman
Grey’s Anatomy airs Thursdays on ABC.
(image courtesy of ABC)