For those of you who’ve waited all winter to learn the fate of Alex Karev, the guy who decided to plead out to prevent Jo from having to testify, you’ll have to wait just a little bit longer. But you know what? That’s okay. Instead of jumping right back into the drama, “You Can Look (But You Better Not Touch)” offers a (mostly) standalone episode that’s moving, even as it only has three familiar faces. Am I anxiously waiting to get back into the Grey Sloan Memorial grind? Sure thing. But man, those last 20 minutes are sure worth the pit stop at the Tri-County Hospital prison floor.
Yes, after so much talk of prisons, Grey’s Anatomy actually goes to one — but Alex Karev is nowhere nearby. (Thankfully!) Okay, so Alex is on everyone’s mind, but this trip only has three participants: Arizona, Bailey, and Jo. I know what you’re thinking: How does one survive a Jo-heavy episode? I’m here to tell you, it’s not so bad! I mean, it’s not great. But it’s not bad! As long as Jo stays away from anything having to do with Alex or romantic entanglements or personal relationships or whining about Stephanie being better than her, she’s maybe a little bit tolerable. Also, Jo really has to focus at the moment, since she has her hands full with the patient of the day: a 16-year-old maximum security inmate, the very pregnant Kristen Rochester (Anna Jacoby-Heron).
After a tense car ride, during which Jo makes it clear to Bailey that she’d like to talk about anything other than Alex — remember, Bailey just learned why Alex took a plea bargain — the doctors head inside the prison hospital. These first steps into the prison aren’t any less tense, to be honest. Arizona and Jo are trying to wrap their heads around being pregnant while incarcerated, while Bailey makes it clear that she feels no sympathy. When Jo says that no one intends to wind up here and that “stuff happens” (she would know, right?), Bailey spits back, “Stuff doesn’t happen to you, you happen to stuff.” Bailey is not having it right now.
Bailey really isn’t having anything about this day. She throws shade on their lack of proper equipment, and when she meets Kristen, she looks at her like … well, a prisoner, not a person. Perhaps it is best to be on guard with Kristen, though. The girl looks like a harmless, wispy blonde teen, but that wispy blonde takes down the prison’s doctor, Dr. Eldredge (Klea Scott) with one quick tackle. Never mess with a hungry pregnant lady, okay?
Kristen is a K-10, the label given to the most violent prisoners. We never learn the crime that put her behind bars, but you can imagine it’s pretty awful. Witnessing that display of rage is upsetting for Arizona, Bailey, and Jo, but even more upsetting is watching a girl in late-term pregnancy being put in a four-point restraint. Kristen’s lawyer Amanda (Jasmin Savoy Brown) is outraged, but Dr. Eldredge offers no help. She’s generally annoyed at their presence, and doesn’t like one of her patients getting special treatment. It riles up the others.
The doctors press on. Kristen is 31 weeks pregnant and has an acardiac twin — essentially, a nonviable second fetus that feeds off the healthy fetus, or as Kristen calls it, a vampire baby. The doctors need to cut the connection between the two. In order to do this, they’ll have to externally rotate the baby (ouch!) and then go in with a probe. Kristen thought she’d be delivering her baby today, with her mom by her side, not having a giant needle stuck in her belly. As you can imagine, she’s a tad upset.
The bad news keeps piling up. First, Amanda, whom Bailey refers to as the “K-10 Whisperer,” is called away on another case. The docs are on their own. Second, Arizona meets with Kristen’s mom. While Kristen confides in Jo that her mom is going to adopt her daughter and give her the life Kristen walked away from — casseroles, private school, swing sets, and cartwheels on the beach — her mom is downstairs informing Arizona that she refuses to see Kristen and once she adopts the baby, she’s never bringing her back. Have I mentioned how depressing this episode is?
Arizona and Bailey decide that telling Kristen about her mother’s plans will only hurt her more, so they’re staying quiet. But as they begin the procedure, Kristen senses that she’s not getting the full story and begins to rage. When she suddenly goes into preterm labor, she demands to know where her mother is. It’s too much for Jo to take, so she spills the beans. Still, Kristen’s mother refuses to see her.
My heart broke into a million pieces when Kristen, at her most vulnerable, cried, “Nobody’s mom doesn’t come when they’re having a baby!” She’s suddenly not just an inmate anymore; she’s a young girl, and she’s all alone. Except, she’s not. You know who makes sure of that? Miranda Bailey. Bailey is the one who grabs the girl’s hand — no matter how much Kristen doesn’t like it — and tells her over and over that she isn’t alone.
There, in that room, Bailey, Jo, Arizona, and even Dr. Eldredge — who finally lets Kristen out of her restraints — work to help a young woman give birth to a healthy baby girl named Ellie. How lovely (and timely!) to watch an episode of TV that focuses on a room full of women — complicated, flawed women — helping one another, regardless of their differences. Even better, it has nothing to do with a man! In fact, the only men in the episode briefly appear when the doctors first arrive at the prison. This one’s for the sisterhood.
Now, if watching Bailey and Jo hold Kristen through childbirth doesn’t make you tear up, surely the next scene will. Kristen knows she’ll never get to see her daughter again, and maybe even knows it might be for the best. She takes Ellie in her arms and tells her daughter to be good, to listen to her grandma, and most devastatingly, to remember her mother. You guys, even that scary guard looks like she’s getting emotional!
Ellie’s taken away and Jo holds Kristen a little longer. Jo promises her that Ellie will be okay. That she’ll play on the swing set and do cartwheels on the beach. That she’ll miss Kristen every day, but that she’ll be okay. Jo wins some major points in this episode.
The doctors come out of that room looking just as worn-out as I feel. Arizona has one last meeting with Kristen’s mother in which she tells the woman off for abandoning her daughter. It’s over the line, but you know what? We’re all feeling a little emotional. She gets a pass. Bailey, who learned about the challenges Eldredge faces running a prison hospital in one truly excellent scene, leaves with newfound respect for the woman and her line of work.
“Maybe she’ll be okay,” Jo says during the car ride home. They all know she won’t. Kristen is sentenced to 20 years to life. As Bailey points out, that’s longer than the girl has been alive.
After everything she saw today, Bailey apologizes to Jo for her callousness earlier in the day. Sometimes, she says, “stuff does happen to people.” Then she drops the bomb: Bailey tells Jo and Arizona about Alex’s plans. No one takes it well. How could they? Aside from Meredith, these are the three people who care about Alex Karev the most.
Laughter Is the Best Medicine, Besides Real Medicine:
- There wasn’t much laughing this week, but when Bailey spirals into thinking about being trapped in prison and Jo responds with, “Just don’t lose your badge,” I giggled. A lot.
- Kristen gets a read on all three of the doctors right away. The most enjoyable is her take on the cheery Arizona. She wants to know if Arizona always sounds like “unicorns and rainbows are about to shoot out of [her] ass.” I mean, yes?
- After Kristen opens up to Jo about her idyllic childhood and her hopes for baby Ellie, she quickly puts her wall back up: “If you tell anyone I said all that crap, I’ll kill you.” Jo’s reaction is perfect.
- Bailey ends up tending to another inmate with an oozing foot wound. Her name is Needles. Can this be a spinoff?
The Sob Scale: 7/10
True story: I teared up while writing about Jo’s speech to a suffering Kristen, so you can imagine what the viewing experience was like.