Well, that escalated quickly. April Kepner is now the interim chief of general surgery and the attendings are not enthused.
The ones we get to see, at least. Meredith and Alex are completely sidelined for this surgery-heavy episode, which seems like a misstep for Grey’s Anatomy. Especially since April’s predicament has so much to do with Mer. Are Mer and Alex at home eating waffles in bed? One can only hope.
Meanwhile, April is doing her best to assert her new authority. She’s pretty pumped about her promotion, and she should be. I mean, sure, the day before accepting the job she did seem pretty gung-ho on the Stop Minnick front, but a girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do. In previous recaps, we’ve discussed how polarizing April Kepner is. I’m Team April. She’s unabashedly herself — a Goody Two-shoes who strives to be taken seriously. I get that. Also, she bagged Doctor Hotface (and also Smart Person, obviously). Give the girl props. I get that she can be grating, but she adds a nice mix to the goings-ons at Grey Sloan.
Anyway, April’s first task as chief of general surgery is to help Eliza Minnick roll out the next phase of her teaching plan: two randomly chosen residents will become lead surgeon, and see their cases through while an attending assists. Minnick is overseeing Stephanie’s surgery, and April has to find someone to assist Ben Warren. She lands on Webber. The ask goes about as well as you’d expect, if you were expecting April to have to beg and Webber to agree only after throwing some savage snark. It’s the “sure thing, Chief” heard ’round the world.
April’s taking flak from all sides. Her esophageal-cancer patient is constantly comparing her to her former doctor, Meredith Grey. She only refers to April as Not Doctor Grey! Her friends are either ignoring her or giving her crap. She has to eat lunch alone at the Grey Sloan High cafeteria. When Jackson finally confronts her about the situation, he insults her by implying that she only got the job because his mother manipulated the situation. She’s left screaming in the middle of the day-care room that she earned the position. That she is a good surgeon. Yeah, it’s a rough day for our farm girl.
The adversity fuels April. Once it dawns on her that she is, in fact, the boss lady, she starts acting like it. She starts doing her job. She kicks Maggie out of the esophageal-cancer case because Maggie made it clear she thinks April is a traitor. After April kicks that cancer’s ass, she doesn’t gloat — she simply appreciates that her patient finally asks for her name. A boss lady should always be classy.
If April wasn’t already feeling better about being the woman in charge, a nice chat with Catherine Avery — who, for the record, did not tell Bailey to give the job to April — does the trick. The other doctors, Jackson included, are angry that April gave up the cause. That she’s an opportunist who should’ve known to say no. And yes, it could look like that from the outside. Catherine, however, reminds April that people like Jackson are not like the two of them. (April getting giddy over being compared to Catherine is precious.) They had to work for what they have. Jackson doesn’t know what it’s like to live without a safety net. If he did, he’d know April had no choice but to take the job. It is a lovely little conversation that leads to a lovely little glass of wine because neither of the girls really wants to return home to their angry dudes. Remember when Catherine first showed up and made April pump a penis implant? Man, times have changed.
Since being a part of Minnick’s phase two is what gets April an overabundance of side-eye from her friends, let’s talk about how that goes down. Neither chosen resident has the smoothest of times.
Bailey wants to observe Ben’s surgery with Webber, even after her husband has told her to back off. The surgery goes swimmingly, but with no help from Webber or Bailey, who devolve into a heated argument. Bailey wants to know why Webber is helping this hospital fall further behind. Webber wonders when Bailey, whose first solo surgery was also with him, forgot that he knows how to teach. Things have gotten so bad between these two because of how much they care for one another. (Webber later tells Catherine that Bailey was his “start to finish.” Aww.) Still, Ben is right to call them out for spending time arguing about teaching instead of actually, you know, teaching. This was his first solo surgery and it was ruined. He’ll never get his first time back.
Neither will Stephanie, whose first time is infinitely worse. She is obviously pumped to be getting a chance to run a case on her own. She is Eliza Minnick’s No. 1 … and, well, only fan. The two end up with a 9-year-old patient named Matty. He is very cute and his parents are very cute while talking about a family cruise and you just know this is going to end badly.
Matty has gallstones and an inflamed bladder, so he needs surgery. No family cruise for cute Matty today. Arizona is livid that Minnick would allow a resident to perform her first lead surgery on a child. YOU DO NOT EXPERIMENT ON TINY HUMANS. But Eliza has complete faith in Stephanie and in her teaching methods. Arizona 100 percent disagrees. Which is how Stephanie, Eliza, and Arizona end up in the O.R. with blood gushing out of Matty’s abdomen. Very quickly, Matty dies.
Stephanie is beside herself and asks Minnick what she did wrong. “Did I kill that boy?” Oof, you guys. It is rough stuff. Even worse, Minnick can’t answer her. She can’t even speak. The teaching guru runs off in tears.
With nowhere else to turn, Stephanie seeks guidance from her greatest teacher: the always-dependable Richard Webber. Still shaking, she walks him through the surgery, determined to find out where she went wrong. Richard stays calm and tells her that doctors aren’t able to fix what they can’t see — and how was she supposed to know there was a bleed? Arizona and Minnick didn’t catch it either. “You lost. It’s not your fault, but you lost. Every good surgeon does,” he says as he brings her in for a patented Richard Webber healing hug. It’s the most moving scene of the episode, and it proves, once and for all, that Webber is right. He has always been an excellent teacher.
Elsewhere in the hospital, Arizona tracks down Minnick to tell her that she is pretty much the opposite of Webber. A good attending has to be able to teach her resident more than just the how-tos of surgery; she has to teach her resident how to handle the consequences of surgery. Minnick cries and cries and admits that she can’t teach Stephanie what to do in this situation because she’s never been in it. She’s never lost a child in surgery.
I guess this is an attempt to make Minnick a little more sympathetic? Or at least shade in some character details. Okay, sure. It does make Minnick seem a little more human, but I am still not onboard with the increasingly imminent Minnick-Arizona love affair. Even if Arizona does pull out Minnick’s horn wires. Thanks, but no thanks, Grey’s.
Laughter Is the Best Medicine, Except for Real Medicine
• Okay, it doesn’t turn out so great, but Stephanie’s excitement to take a surgery from start to finish is just one more example of why she’s the best. “Mama’s gotta go do surgery.” Yes, lady. YES.
• Ben Warren gets called “Mrs. Bailey” and refers to himself as Miranda’s “First Lady.” How are either of those things insults?
• April shrieking about being the nicest is peak April.
• I’m unsure what this says about me, but I could totally watch a good 30 minutes of the attendings snacking on baby carrots and talking about Switzerland. They have good banter, what can I say?
• Bailey used to have Hanson’s “MMMBop” on her surgery playlist. I’ll just leave that right there for you all.
• Did anyone else cheer when Jo called April a badass for telling off Maggie and April told her to shut up? Even April Kepner can’t handle Jo Wilson.
The Sob Scale: 5/10
Who among us can watch Richard Webber take a weeping resident into his strong, caring arms and walk away dry-eyed? We are but mere mortals, after all.