A handful of patient stories, small but effective character moments, an impending hospital shake-up, and a moving scene between Alex and … Amelia? Nice job, Grey's! "Roar" isn't quite on par with the greatness of last season, but it sure is an improvement on the past few episodes.
Any residual joy Bailey might be feeling after last week's episode is completely obliterated when Catherine Avery, hot off some morning shenanigans with Webber, comes storming into the chief's office demanding an explanation for why Alex Karev is still on the hospital payroll. Catherine thinks Bailey is being too lenient, and if she doesn't make an effort to replace Karev, Catherine will. It's like Catherine doesn't know who she's talking to or something.
Meanwhile, Bailey's feeling pretty confident in her decision to stand by a stellar surgeon like Alex. That is, until Alex keeps overstepping. He needs Bailey's help with a patient down in the Tumor Ghost Clinic, immediately. Slow your roll, buddy. We all care about the funny pregnant woman you met in line at the courthouse and diagnosed with cancer based on a hand rash, but that doesn't mean you have to be impolite. Sheesh!
The outburst when enlisting Bailey's help isn't the only time Alex crosses a line tonight. It's nothing we haven't seen before: He fights for his patients until the bitter end, but there's an added tension when the person he's fighting against holds his fate in her hands without his knowledge. But still, I get it. Veronica, our pregnant patient, is very charming. She's pregnant after she and her best friend found themselves at age 40, childless, with a healthy supply of tequila. So it's a real gut punch when Bailey confirms Alex's suspicions: Veronica has pancreatic cancer.
Since the baby would never survive radiation and chemotherapy, Bailey explains the options to Veronica and BFF Jeremy. Option one: Veronica terminates her pregnancy and starts chemo to prolong her life about a year or so. Option two: Veronica does nothing and dies in a month before the baby can be born. Not great, you guys.
But wait! There's an option three! They could perform a risky surgery, wherein both mother and baby might die on the table, and if it works, Veronica would live long enough to have her baby but then die after. There are no good options, people! That's life. Of course, option three comes courtesy of Alex overreaching again. Serious question: When Bailey yells at Alex "When I tell you to know your place, know your damn place!" do you think he peed his pants a little? It would be understandable.
The only thing that saves Alex from Bailey's wrath is Veronica, who decides she wants option three. She knows it's a risk, and she knows she'll be sacrificing her own life if it works, but it's the only option that results in anything good. She sees Jeremy pushing their baby in a swing. She sees them getting older together. She sees them watching Star Wars, her baby going to high school, getting an apartment. I see nothing because my eyes are filled with tears.
At Veronica's request, Bailey goes through with the surgery. Because of Veronica, Bailey's also reminded why she kept Alex around in the first place: He's a great doctor. She ends up telling Catherine as much, so he isn't getting fired after all. He deserves another chance. Catherine takes it surprisingly well. Turns out, she's found a bigger problem at Grey Sloan: She wants to know why so many of their surgeons — Alex, Ben, Meredith, April, Leah — have needed second chances at all. Catherine thinks there's something inherently wrong in their resident teaching program. It's time for this place to make some changes.
There's one small problem: Catherine's husband, Richard Webber, runs the hospital teaching program. So that seems like it'll be a nice, constructive and not-at-all-awkward or emotionally fraught conversation.
With that conflict looming over our heads, it's nice to know Alex's job at Grey Sloan is safe for the time being. Unless he, you know, gets convicted of a felony or something. For now, we can still bask in the greatness of Alex Karev. There are several nice Alex moments to choose from in "Roar." How about the conversation with Jeremy as Veronica goes into surgery? Jeremy gets overwhelmed at the thought of parenting alone and then breaks down when he realizes he's losing his best friend. Alex calms him down, tells him the secret to parenting is just showing up, and all the while you can tell he's thinking about his best friend, Mer.
Oh, sorry, guys. My arms hurt from raising that Merlex flag so high again.
Later, Alex is also pretty great when he gets stuck in a room with Amelia, who is also in the throes of a breakdown. She's been working on a cute kid named Robby who suffered a head wound after his father's road rage landed them in a highway median. One minute Robby is waiting for his father to come out of surgery and admitting to Amelia how scared he felt; the next minute he's in the OR with a serious brain bleed. Robby flatlines and Amelia, who has been burying a lot of feelings after that whole pregnancy debacle, loses it.
She runs into what she thinks is an empty room to finally cry it out, but finds Karev inside. Instead of being scared off, he asks her if she wants to talk about it. If she doesn't want to, he's cool with that. Finally, Amelia says something. Well, she says a lot of something. (Meredith is right, Amelia really does talk a lot.) She tells Alex the entire story about her son who died. She confesses that she hasn't told Owen everything, and that she's afraid he'll hate her once she does. Alex reminds her that this is Owen Hunt they're talking about. Dude forgives a lot. Amelia keeps going and tells Alex what we already knew: When the pregnancy test turned up negative, she was relieved. That's why Owen will hate her.
The girl is overreacting. If she actually explains the situation, there's no reason for Owen to hate her! But she won't do that, of course. She's just going to push him away until the whole thing blows up. Even so, it's a powerful scene between two characters who haven't shared a ton of screen time. Old Alex would've bolted out of that room as soon as Amelia walked in. New Alex? He stays put. You're still basking, right?
But the best Alex Karev moment of the night is the quiet scene he shares with Meredith after a long, long day. Life is short and with a trial date set, he wants to make the most of his time with his family. He proposes waffle Sundays with Meredith, the kids, Maggie, and even Amelia. When Meredith starts to groan about it, Alex tells her to be nicer to Amelia. After all, Alex won't always be there and Mer needs her sisters. We know Alex won't be going anywhere, but the sentiment is still so swoony. Friend or lovers, it doesn't really matter. Alex and Meredith understand one another on a level no one else can. They take care of each other. And now, they'll eat waffles together.
Laughter Is the Best Medicine, Except for Real Medicine:
- You guys, Leah Murphy is back! This is being entered in the "funny" section of the recap because this must be a joke, right? No one wants you here, Leah. Except maybe Maggie, the object of Leah's cardiothoracic crush.
- After contemplating the frailty of life, both April and Jackson have to repeatedly check the straps on Harriet's car seat. Automobile safety has never been so adorable!
- The Grey Sloan doctor with the worst road rage is April. That seems about right.
- While commiserating with Leah about how terrible Grey Sloan was when they first started, I love that both Maggie and Riggs realized that their only friend for a while was April. "She likes everyone."
- Stop trying to make Jo and DeLuca happen. It's not going to happen.
- "Tell me my shenanigans weren't worth it." Are Webber and Catherine the hottest couple on this show?
Sob Scale: 6/10
Sometimes you think you have it all together. And sometimes, you sob openly into a bag of Pirate's Booty while a woman named Veronica talks about the future her child is going to have without her. That's just life, I guess.