First things first. Seriously? Seriously? After a long wait between episodes during which the fate of Alex Karev is left hanging precariously in the balance, Grey’s Anatomy returns in its winter premiere and tells us nothing? Zilch? Nada? SERIOUSLY? I am extremely put out over the whole thing. To make matters worse, while I don’t mind the occasional “bottle” (self-contained, focusing on only a few characters, often with a twist of format) episode, “You Can Look (But You’d Better Not Touch)” was an unrelentingly bleak, depressing, and – frankly – rather useless outing.
The acting in this episode of Grey’s Anatomy was solid, of course, with Chandra Wilson, Jessica Capshaw, and Camilla Luddington up to the task of carrying the episode on their experienced and capable shoulders. And the premise was clever. No men in at all with the exception of one security guard. All women. All the time. But the execution (so to speak) of this hour which was set in a hospital ward designated for high risk female prisoners was simultaneously heavy handed and predictable. I couldn’t wait for it to be over. I have higher hopes for next week but, in the meantime, let’s get this recap going. It’s not going to be pretty.
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Tri-County Hospital: Prison Floor
As the episode opens, Doctors Bailey, Robbins, and Wilson are en route to pay a house prison hospital ward call to Kristen Rochester. Kristen is 16 years old and 31 weeks pregnant. Her pregnancy is high-risk due to TRAPS Syndrome, a condition in which one twin is essentially normal but the other is basically a mass of cells. That mass of cells, however, puts lots of extra stress on both the mother and the normal twin and needs to be severed. Enter our trio of surgeons to perform the procedure and then get the heck out of there stat.
When the doctors arrive, they are thoroughly searched (Arizona’s prosthetic leg makes an appearance!) and credentialed. They are warned to keep their badges with them at all times as they won’t be able to leave the ward without it. Though all of the doctors are uneasy, Miranda is particularly “spooked” which makes her both a skittish hot mess and more self-righteous than usual. Amanda Joseph is Kristen’s attorney and for reasons the doctors don’t understand, she has a calming affect (“she’s the K-10 Whisperer!”) on the prickly and violent Kristen.
Unreasonable Delay, Obstructing Legal Rights
The head of the ward is Dr. Eldredge, a hard-as-nails doctor/warden hybrid who runs the floor with an iron fist. Kristin attacks Eldredge, dislocating her finger, the moment Eldredge lets the doctors in the cell. Kristin is immediately restrained and the doctors begin the examination. Making matters worse, Amanda gets called away on another emergency case, leaving our docs alone (save one lone guard) with the patient.
Miranda follows Eldredge out the doors in an attempt to run away and treat the doctor’s broken finger. Along the way, another patient begs Miranda for help. Soon, Miranda is chastising Eldredge for not treating the prisoner’s seeping abscess (gross!) and condescending lecturing the woman about how she could allocate her resources better. Fortunately, Eldredge gives Miranda a personal tour of the pitifully stocked supply closet and issues a well-deserved smack down to Chief Bailey, who has the decency to look properly embarrassed about her behavior.
Meanwhile, Robbins tries to develop a rapport with Kristin but her chirpiness is off-putting. Wilson takes a whirl as well, trying to relate to the patient by sharing her history of petty theft and homelessness. But – surprise – it turns out that Kristin has nothing in common with Jo. She was raised in a wealthy family. She went to boarding school. She had lovely summers on the beach with her casserole-baking mother. The one interesting angle to this whole thing is that we never do find out what heinous acts Kristin committed to get her “20 years to life” in prison. We only know that somewhere along the way she went off the rails. The result? She’ll have her baby, but despite her fantasy of raising her daughter in the prison like she watched in a movie, Kristin’s mom will adopt the child and raise her as her own.
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Lies We Tell Ourselves
Kristen’s procedure goes awry (due in no small part to her getting agitated, having read the judgment on Bailey’s face with scary accuracy) and her water breaks, forcing an immediate delivery of the baby. Kristen is desperate to see her mother, who actually is on the premises, and begs for them to let her attend the baby’s birth. Then comes the twist: Kristen’s mom is only there for the baby. She wants nothing to do with Kristen who is now a person she no longer recognizes. Upon finding out that Arizona has a daughter, Kristen’s mom advises cryptically, “Pay attention.” It seems there were no signs that her daughter would one day turn into someone who required detention in a maximum security prison. Yikes.
In the end, Jo spills the beans to Kristin that her mom is not being kept from her. She is, in fact, refusing to see Kristin. This news seems to break Kristin completely. The baby is born as all three doctors rally around Kristen to give complete support. After initial reluctance, Kristen holds the baby, whom she wants to name Ellie, and tells her to be good. The baby is given to Kristen’s mom, who insists that the child will be named Hannah and that Kristen will never see her.
Arizona gets all preachy with Kristen’s mom and makes shaming comments, including asking if she will abandon Hannah, too, if she one day makes a mistake. (Bring it down a few notches, Robbins. You don’t even know what Kristen did. Maybe her mom is being a total jerk. And maybe she has every right to have cut herself off completely from her daughter. We don’t know.)
On the Road Again
By episode’s end, the doctors are headed home again, Bailey having told Dr. Eldredge to come see her first should she ever wish to make a job change. Bailey drops the bomb on Jo and Arizona that Alex is going to accept the D.A.’s plea deal and will be going to prison. This explains, in a not-so-subtle way, why Miranda was particularly wigged out over the whole prison thing. Arizona is shocked and sad. Jo tells them to stop the car and vomits. While one could argue that all of these women are very close to Karev and therefore are affected even more deeply by the case as a result, it just all felt hollow to me – an empty episode.
Agree? Disagree? Offer your opinion in the Comments. In the meantime, Grey’s Anatomy returns next week with, presumably, the answer, at last, of what fate awaits Alex Karev.
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Memorable Moments and Quotes
Jo: “I’m just saying…you get hungry and desperate or broke and desperate…and stuff happens.”
Miranda: “Stuff does not just happen to you. You happen to stuff.”
Kristen (about Arizona): “She always talk like that?”
Arizona: “Like what?”
Kristen: “Like unicorns and rainbows are about to shoot out of your ass.”
Jo: “I’m so sorry, Kristen. Your mom’s here but she won’t see you.”
Jo: “I want the world to be good. For once I want to see sun and be happy. For once I wanna be wrong.”
Miranda: “Alex went to the D.A. and took a plea bargain. He’s going to prison.”
Grey’s Anatomy airs Thursdays on ABC 8/7c.
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(image courtesy of ABC)