Raise a glass, friends, because this episode of Grey’s Anatomy was a “bottle” episode. Entirely self-contained and Miranda-centric, “(Don’t) Fear the Reaper” was everything “Personal Jesus” wanted to be. It is, at its core, a public service announcement for women’s health wrapped in the personal crisis of Miranda Bailey. And I am more than fine with it. Yes, the dialogue is still very fact-dense but the tone is much less heavy-handed and, thus, the overall effect works well. Lives will be saved because of this episode and, while that would be enough, a spotlight on Chandra Wilson, with able support from Jason George, Kelly McCreary, and James Pickens Jr., is okay by me.

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As the episode opens, Miranda’s voice over invokes that old cliche, “On your deathbed, no one wishes they’d worked more.” But that sentiment comes to a grinding halt as Bailey asserts, “Tell that to people who love their work!” Miranda Bailey does love her work and that’s a good thing. But it’s not unfair to point out that Miranda, who loves her job and does it brilliantly, is also prone to overwork. And with the constant crises and a husband who can’t seem to decide what profession he’s in? Well, that’s certainly enough to give Miranda “permanent indigestion.” After dropping Tuck off at school, Miranda and Ben clash for the umpteenth time about his career switch from surgical intern to firefighter. In fact, Bailey is so irritated that she has Ben drop her off right then and there. She’s got a meeting at Seattle Presbyterian Hospital. She goes directly to the ER and announces to the nurse in charge, “My name is Miranda Bailey. I am the Chief of Surgery at Grey Sloan Memorial Hospital and I believe I am having a heart attack.” WHAT? Nooooooooo!

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Miranda spends several hours in the ER trying in vain to convince first an intern (her tests are normal, it’s probably stress or maybe acid reflux) then a psychiatrist (he was paged for a consult, her story doesn’t add up, she has a history of mental illness) and finally, Seattle Presbyterian’s Chief, Dr. Larry Maxwell (there’s no indication that a full cardio work up or a stress test are needed) that there is something seriously wrong with her. Fortunately, Miranda called Maggie and requests that Dr. Pierce report swiftly and secretly to the Seattle Pres’ ER. Maggie turns up and runs into Richard, whom Miranda had asked to cover her duties since she was “home sick.” It didn’t take Richard long to connect the dots. Miranda has never called in sick a day in her life, plus he heard Dr. Maxwell being paged while talking to Bailey on the phone. Richard and Maggie manage to find Miranda by pretending to be her husband and daughter! 

Meanwhile, Miranda is busy saving the life of the daredevil patient in the next bed. Morgan is a risk taker (paralleling Ben) who can’t understand why adventure holds no appeal for Miranda. When Morgan throws a clot and almost dies, it’s Miranda performing CPR. Morgan survives and Miranda promptly collapses. She’s got a blocked artery. Dr. Maxwell (stung because he and his staff misdiagnosed Miranda) refuses to let Maggie step in and does the procedure to remove the blockage himself. Later, just when Miranda seems fine, she begins to gasp. There’s been a complication and Maxwell wants to do a tried and true procedure which would cut Miranda open completely. Maggie recommends a keyhole CABG which only has a three-inch incision, is less risky, and allows faster recovery. Realizing he doesn’t know how to do the keyhole, and Maggie shames Dr. Maxwell into giving her privileges to operate, saying they wouldn’t be in this predicament if he and his team had listened to Miranda in the first place.

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You Call ME!

As she’s headed into the keyhole surgery, Miranda (so private that she went to Seattle Presbyterian instead of Grey Sloan) finally asks for Ben to be called. He races to her side and when she survives the surgery, they have a heart-to-heart, so to speak. Ben tells Miranda he’s giving up being a firefighter. She tells him to undo that decision. He deserves to be happy in his work. He’s grateful not to have lost her. They vow to cherish every day. She asks him to build her a tree house where she can read, like she had as a child. 

There were lots of flashbacks in this episode (probably to fill time as much as to fill story) but they worked for the most part. Some flashbacks were newly created. We see Miranda in various stages of childhood in the grip of her overprotective mother who, it turns out, lost Miranda’s older sister to SIDS and was, therefore, terrified of something bad happening to Miranda. Yet Miranda persevered despite this, rejecting a college close to home (and her mother’s pleas to become a speech pathologist instead) and attend Wellesley to become a surgeon. At episode’s end, as Miranda breaks the news of her heart attack to her mother, her mom takes it pretty well and offers full support.

The other flashbacks were literally clips from Grey’s Anatomy over the years. It was a joy to see old friends (George! Callie! Derek!) if only for a moment and to remember great scenes, such as Ben proposing to Miranda. And as we were reminded that after all the woman’s been through (including, but not limited to, Tuck being delivered by George, her first marriage dissolving, being face-to-face with the hospital shooter, struggling with OCD, the hospital fire, the hospital cyber-hostage situation, and being the first woman chief of surgery at the hospital), it’s no wonder she had a heart attack! 

The message here couldn’t be more clear. Female heart attack symptoms present very differently than those of men. It is estimated that 63% of women who die of heart attacks had NO previous symptoms. Women know their bodies and should advocate for themselves and insist on further testing and care if they feel the issue has not been resolved properly. Women of color may be especially at risk for misdiagnosis and/or lack of proper treatment. Do not back down. Get the help you need so you can live the life you were meant to live. 

Random Observations

  • How great was it to see Robert Picardo back as Mr. Nelligan? He vowed to never return to Grey Sloan after being shot there earlier this season and, sure enough, the hypochondriac was in the ER at Seattle Presbyterian as Miranda arrived. Bwah hah hah!
  • Was that Mark Moses (of Desperate Housewives) as Dr. Maxwell?
  • Did anyone else LOL when Catherine showed up with beef brisket and garlic mashed potatos for Ben and Richard? She didn’t make it herself (“Oh Child, please!”). Her driver picked it up.

Grey’s Anatomy airs Thursdays 8/7c on ABC.

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(Image courtesy of ABC)

Janalen Samson

Contributing Writer, BuddyTV