Grey’s Anatomy Recap: Ghosts of Shepherds Past

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Caterina Scorsone as Amelia, Ellen Pompeo as Meredith, Chandra Wilson as Miranda. Photo: Mitch Haaseth/ABC
Grey's Anatomy
Episode Title
My Next Life
Season
12
Episode
12
Editor’s Rating
3/5

Since Grey's Anatomy returned from winter hiatus a mere four weeks ago, I've been hankering for answers to some of the season's biggest questions: What happened to Owen's sister? Where do Alex and Jo stand? Will Amelia ever not make me want to punch a brick wall?

Don't get me wrong, the character-centric episodes have been some great hours of television to add to the Grey's canon. Especially Japril. Oh, Japril! Since I'm an equal-opportunity recapper, and I know not everyone is a fan (haters gonna hate, but haters also gonna be respectful about it), I'll give it a rest for now. Just know that Alex realizes April is pregnant because she's happy, a little sweaty, and he's a Peds god. When he asks April if she needs anything, even I got a little sweaty.

Yes, it's been fun to single out characters while we get back into the swing of things, but truly, it's time for some answers. Perhaps Grey's realized how withholding it's been, and so it treated us to tonight's delightfully nostalgic "My Next Life."

You know how you know you're watching Grey's Anatomy? A character tragically dies and the episode can still be considered "delightful." It's all relative, people.

The ghost of Derek Shepherd looms large over Grey Sloan Memorial. This is especially true for the two main ladies in his life: Meredith and Amelia. Though I'm sure Derek is never far from their minds, a blast from Grey's past forces the sisters-in-law to confront their ties to the late neuro king.

Enter Katie Bryce. You remember her, right? She was Meredith's first patient on her first day as an intern. Which means we met Katie in the pilot episode. So, yeah: I had to do a little digging to recall the case of the girl with the aneurysm that Derek handed to Meredith after realizing she wasn't just a girl in the bar anymore.

Amelia refers to Katie as Meredith and Derek's "surgical love child," and she's right. For Meredith, seeing Katie brings her back to the beginning of her story with Derek. She's territorial, eager to protect the work she and Derek did together. For Amelia, realizing that she's been handed her brother's old case ignites all of her lingering insecurities.

Amelia's always been under the impression that she was the lesser Shepherd, and again, she's right. Sorry girl, but like a truck that T-bones your car while you're reaching for your cellphone, the truth hurts. Amelia's not a bad surgeon — she's actually an incredible surgeon — and if Katie hadn't once been healed by Derek the Great, Amelia would have no qualms about opening up her head and removing that fist-sized aneurysm.

Since her name is on Katie's chart, Meredith wants to be involved in her treatment. Unfortunately for Meredith, she's hands-deep in another patient. That'd be Daphne, a woman who vowed to make a fresh start at life after beating cancer. She's about to be discharged when Meredith notices that Daphne's port-a-cath site looks infected. When Mer cuts into it and it bleeds uncontrollably, well, then she knows it's infected. Daphne isn't going anywhere.

Neither is Meredith. She thinks that if she applies enough pressure to the area, the bleeding will stop itself. Riggs, who comes by as a cardio consult ("Yes, 'Ugh Riggs' is here"), can tell it's sepsis, and says that Daphne needs surgery. Meredith refuses to remove her hand — she wants to wait a little longer to see if her pressure theory will work. Really though, she's grown attached to Daphne and her never-too-late-to-change attitude. She's delaying the inevitable.

It soon becomes evident that surgery is Daphne's only option. But Riggs has become a bit attached, too. Before he takes Daphne to surgery, he wants her to call her estranged son. With all that big talk of a fresh start, it's the one thing she's been avoiding. Riggs assures her that she's changed for the better, so she needs to forgive herself. Daphne makes the call and her son agrees to come to the hospital. And that's the moment when it becomes totally obvious that Daphne is a goner.

Well, that or the giant puddle of blood that forms under her bed. That could be a sign, too.

There's a reason Riggs is so drawn to Daphne's story. He knows what it's like to carry around self-blame. Later, at Meredith's prodding, he (finally!) reveals what happened to Owen's sister Megan: She and Riggs were working in the same unit, and when one of Megan's patients had to be evacuated via a very risky helicopter ride, Riggs tried to take her place, but the two fought until he agreed to let her go. The helicopter disappeared and they never found her. So, what's the over-under on number of episodes until Megan turns up? End-of-season cliffhanger, anyone?

As Meredith and Riggs race Daphne into the OR, they cross paths with Amelia wheeling Katie into surgery. For a brief moment, Meredith sees Derek prepping for Katie's surgery. And if hearing Derek say, "It's a beautiful night to save lives" one last time doesn't make you want to ugly cry while sliding down a wall, there's no saving you. #WHY

The moment is brief, but then it's gone. Meredith is ready to focus on Daphne. She's no longer Derek's intern, she's no longer Derek's wife. She is Meredith Grey, and she is the sun.

Amelia also has to rid herself of Derek's ghost in order to perform. After a blunt pep talk from Owen (who she's humping on the reg again) Amelia realizes that living in Derek's shadow is debilitating. She's constantly blaming herself for messing things up — her sobriety, her relationship with Meredith, this surgery — and she's letting that blame become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Once Amelia is able to shake it off, Taylor Swiftstyle, she's got Katie's surgery in the bag. Hearing Meredith tell a post-surgery Katie that Amelia did good is just icing on the closure cake.

Want to know what gave me absolutely no feeling of closure whatsoever? Jo and Alex's story. After Meredith pushed Alex to reconcile with Jo, the two have been happily living together again. Though that sounds like a resolution, I still wanted to understand what went down after Alex proposed. Apparently, Jo didn't say yes or no, and the engagement ring has been living in Alex's drawer. When Alex confronts Jo about the ring, her big realization is that she doesn't want to wear it — but she doesn't want Alex to get rid of it either. So, the ring goes back in the drawer. Which means that nothing actually happened with this story line.

Now that I've released Amelia from the time-out corner, is it cool if I put Jo there?

Laughter Is the Best Medicine, Except for Real Medicine:

  • Here's hoping Arizona never grows out of her slutty renaissance, if only because that would be the end of Webber the Wingman. This was something I never knew I needed, but now that I've had a taste, I fear I can't live without it.
  • "I would've put you with Crop Top. She looked smart." Webber proving my point.
  • "Maggie, I told him you were a wildcat!" I love Maggie and DeLuca more and more each week. Now that Webber and DeLuca know about each other, I can't wait for the scene when they both try to clear the air.
  • Remember how funny Arizona was before the implosion of Calzona? Referring to DeLuca's mystery girlfriend as a "screamer" and explaining her "neighborhood" to Webber made me giggle.
  • "You were an intern, Grey. You weren't even a full person to me yet." We need more Bailey, and we need it now.

Sob Scale: 4/10

I thought watching Daphne's son hold his dead mom's hand would affect me most, but what had me really welling up was Grey's use of Thirteen Senses' "Into the Fire," the same song used in the pilot episode's surgery montage. Oh, the nostalgia!