Every so often a TV show you love airs an episode that feels as though it is a tiny gift the show made just for you, to thank you for that love. Most days, your relationship with that show feels very one-sided; some might say, “It’s all in your head, you crazy, it’s a TV show and also how long has it been since you left your apartment?” But then you get one of those episodes, and you just know. You know that they know you’re out there. I’ve watched Grey’s Anatomy’s Miranda Bailey–centric “(Don’t Fear) The Reaper,” and now I know that they know.
Finally! Finally we get the all-out Bailey-extravaganza we deserve. After 14 seasons, Miranda Bailey has earned an episode all to herself. Bailey raised those baby interns up right and she keeps people on track. She is vital. She is necessary. So when Bailey checks herself into Seattle Presbyterian because she knows she is having a heart attack and none of the dummy doctors will listen to Grey Sloan Memorial’s Chief of Surgery, it’s only natural to worry. We’ve seen other beloved surgeons enter hospitals that are not Grey Sloan and never return. (It still hurts, McDreamy.)
Thankfully, Bailey comes out of this thing just fine (duh). But over the course of the episode, we are treated to everything we could want in a Very Bailey Episode: Bailey speeches, flashbacks, George O’Malley, Webber father figure-ing all over the place, Maggie Pierce being a badass, tiny Miranda Baileys in giant glasses, Catherine Avery saying “child, please,” and so much Bailey and Ben goodness that I almost couldn’t stand it. Just kidding! There is no such thing as too much Bailey and Ben goodness.
But most importantly, this episode allows Miranda Bailey to teach us all another valuable lesson: Women need to be advocates for their own health. Remember back when Maggie joined the team and Jo tells her that Bailey doesn’t need to “bring any thunder” because Bailey is the thunder? Well, tonight Bailey is more than just the thunder, she’s the whole damn storm.
After a busy morning dropping off Tuck in his adorable bowtie and actively not fighting with Ben over his choice of becoming a firefighter, Bailey makes up a story about a meeting at Seattle Presbyterian and has herself admitted. She is Doctor Miranda Bailey and she is having a heart attack. Obviously, this would have all been easier if she just went to Grey Sloan, but Bailey knew immediately what was happening to her and she didn’t want to waste time — she also did not want to look weak in front of her employees. She worked too hard to earn people’s respect and she’s not going to let a heart attack change their perception of her.
It’s a shame, because the doctors at Seattle Pres all seem to think they know better than Bailey does about her own health. She knows she is having a heart attack, but the initial tests show no signs of one. Bailey wants a full cardiac workup, but Dr. Maxwell, chief of surgery in this neck of the woods, repeatedly tells her that it isn’t necessary. It could be indigestion. Or stress. He wants to know if there are any major stressors in her life.
Has Dr. Maxwell ever seen Grey’s Anatomy? GET A CLUE.
Instead of listening to his patient, Maxwell sends a shrink. The psychiatrist is even more condescending, if that is possible. When he blames Bailey’s feelings on stress and a little bit on her mental illness (sometimes I think Grey’s forgets Bailey has OCD), Bailey has to inform him of an alarming statistic: “63 percent of women who die suddenly from coronary heart disease have no previous symptoms, and women of color are at a far greater risk.” With that in mind, Bailey calls in the cavalry: She tells Maggie Pierce to get over to Seattle Pres immediately.
Lest seeing Miranda in a hospital gown has made you forget about her badassery, when her emergency-room neighbor (Transparent’s Amy Landecker), a “live your life to the fullest” motorcycle enthusiast, stops breathing, it’s Bailey who jumps up and performs CPR. So when Maggie and Webber (he figures out Bailey is lying about a sick day because he’s Webber) arrive at the hospital, they find their friend saving a life while having a heart attack. That’s how Bailey rolls, you guys.
Bailey’s health deteriorates fast and in a surprise to only the doctors at Seattle Pres, she has a full blown, active heart attack. Maggie tells Maxwell that this could’ve been avoided if he’d done a cardiac stress test, like Bailey asked, and then she demands surgical privileges. She’s not letting this guy anywhere near Bailey with a scalpel. She is furious that Bailey had to fight for her own care.
Before Bailey goes under, she finally asks Maggie to call Ben. She needs him. Ben gets the call and you guys, he runs. He runs through the streets of Seattle to get to his wife. I am a sucker for a dramatic run toward a loved one in trouble and this one is excellent. Also excellent? All of the flashbacks to Bailey and Ben’s relationship. Don’t get me wrong, seeing Ghost George and Ghost Derek is great, but the quick trip through Bailey and Ben’s courtship is the most affecting. Those two nuggets love each other!
I’d also be remiss to not mention the flashbacks to Bailey’s youth. Bailey’s episode voice-over focuses on the idea that “no one regrets not working more on their deathbed.” But, Bailey asks, what if you love your work? Isn’t spending your life doing what you love, with the people you love, what really matters? In her childhood flashbacks, we see her battle an overprotective mother to fight for her dream of becoming a surgeon. Little Bailey learns that her mother is so overly cautious about everything because she lost Bailey’s older sister at just two months old. Before heading off to medical school, Bailey has to make her mother see that her little Mandy is just fine, and becoming a surgeon is what makes her happy. It’s a nice insight into a character we’ve been following for 14 seasons.
Back at Seattle Pres, Bailey comes out of surgery just fine and is reunited with Ben. It’s full of “I thought I lost yous” and “Not a chances” and Ben wanting to quit the firefighter life because now he knows how Bailey feels every morning as he leaves and Bailey stopping him because life is too precious not to do what makes you happy. In short, it’s perfect.
Then Bailey has to do the hardest thing next to having a heart attack: She has to call her mom and tell her about it. Bailey’s mom is still hanging out on the same porch swing from Bailey’s childhood, still scared by certain things, but she isn’t so scared for her daughter. Bailey tells her mom that she had surgery, but that she’ll be okay. Mrs. Bailey’s response is simple but moving: “I know you are. You’re my Mandy.”
Laughter Is the Best Medicine, Except for Real Medicine
• Maggie’s face when Bailey casually mentions that time when Richard was electrocuted. She’s another person who really needs to catch up on her Grey’s history. It’s streaming on Netflix, guys. Educate yourselves.
• Catherine rolls up to the waiting room with gourmet meals for Webber and Ben procured by her driver (as if she’d cook). Catherine never disappoints.
• Bailey lets her sci-fi geek freak flag cry. As an example of the fact that men don’t listen to women until they do something wrong, she cites the fact that Luke and Han would’ve saved everyone a lot of trouble if they just listened to Princess Leia in the first place.
• What was your favorite Bailey flashback? I’m partial to the reminder of her relationship with George and also Ben trying to propose with a crossword puzzle. My least favorite was, without a doubt, the gunman pulling Bailey out from under Mandy Moore’s bed and then Bailey futilely yelling at the elevators to open while Charles bleeds out. That episode still haunts my dreams and I need no reminders, thank you very much.
• But those giant glasses on all the tiny Miranda Baileys.
The Sob Scale: 7/10
Sometimes Grey’s Anatomy makes you cry, and then sometimes Grey’s Anatomy puts Kesha’s “Praying” on in the background as Ben Warren walks up to Miranda Bailey in her hospital bed, holding back man tears because he thought he was going to lose her and they remind you that love exists in this (fictional) world. What in the hell, Grey’s Anatomy?