Who Is He (And What Is He to You)?
Jesse Williams as Jackson.
Grey’s Anatomy has guts. To focus an episode on a polarizing couple not once, but twice, is ballsy. There must be a whole slew of you who wanted to throw something at your television when you realized “Who Is He (And What Is He to You)?” was another all #Japril episode. I also know there’s a bunch of you who squealed with glee at the news and cracked open a bottle of wine to celebrate. I know this because I am one of those people.
To be fair, this is more Jackson’s week to shine than any kind of examination of his and April’s relationship, unlike their last standalone episode. Regardless of how you feel about Jackson, or April, or Jackson and April together, you must admit that we all needed a little break from Grey Sloan Memorial. Everyone there has lost their mind. So much yelling!
Even if you are not a #Japril fan, there are things to appreciate about this episode, including — but not limited to — the fact that people were arguing for only 25 percent of the time, and that is a real win for us Grey’s fans. More than just an episode about two characters I care about, this is a good story about a son searching for his father, buoyed by great performances from Jesse Williams, Sarah Drew, and … drumroll please … ERIC ROBERTS. (Surprise! Eric Roberts plays the long-lost Robert Avery.)
Now, off to Montana in our private plane we go! Remember how agitated Jackson was before? A little mountain air is going to do him good. Jackson and April — who Catherine invited to take Meredith’s place when Zola conveniently “had the flu” — arrive at an Avery Medical Center in a cozy mountain town to perform a throat transplant. Caroline, the young girl getting the transplant, is too unstable to be moved, and it just so happens that there is a donor at the same hospital. This is the reasoning Jackson gives April when she presses him for answers as to why they would come all the way out here to perform this surgery. Obviously, there is more going on.
When they arrive, Jackson does some smooth talking with Caroline’s mothers, whom he reassures by saying charming things like, “I’m a father” and “I do not make promises I can’t keep.” It works, but April is turned off by the smarminess. Jackson tells her he’s being honest and a good doctor, before he runs off to a local watering hole, the Jefferson Grill. There, he proceeds to creepily stare at the bartender and get very, very drunk.
Lest you think Jackson is drinking on the job, note that he only starts drinking after he gets a panicked text from April letting him know that the donor throat is no longer viable. Caroline’s moms are understandably freaking out; the only other option at the moment is a surgery that would leave her without vocal cords, and there is no way in hell that’s happening. Unfortunately, April is left to do damage control alone … poorly.
She eventually finds drunk Jackson at the Jefferson Grill and tries to talk some sense into him. He wants none of it, makes a little scene, and leaves. April and the bartender are left to clean up after him. The bartender and April get to talking about surgery, and he introduces himself as Robert Avery. THAT’S RIGHT, YOU GUYS: Dr. Avery is right in front of us. He’s been somewhat of a mystery, rarely even mentioned since Jackson arrived in season six. It’s about time we all got some answers regarding what this dude has been up to.
The next morning, Jackson is extra-surly and only wants to talk medicine. The doctors are called to the hospital and learn that Caroline’s moms are transferring her to a different hospital. Jackson warns them that it would be dangerous to move her, and anyway, he has an idea for how to save Caroline without permanently removing her vocal chords. The moms believe those baby blues and give him until 3 p.m. the next day.
Of course, once they’re out of the hospital, Jackson admits he is lying. He just needed to buy some time. Finally, April reveals she knows he came here to find his dad and that he’s lying to everyone, including a dying girl. How dare you, handsome sir!
Later, Jackson lets his guard down. He’s hurt that his own father didn’t even recognize him — that he looked right in Jackson’s eyes and had no idea who he was. Old news, but Jesse Williams is wonderful in this scene. “Make him know you,” April tells him. And so they go back to the Jefferson Grill together.
Jackson eventually tells his father who he is … but the first interaction does not go as planned. Robert is very chatty and claims to be very happy. He couldn’t take the pressures of being an Avery, so he left and found his real passion. Yes, his real passion is a dive bar in middle-of-nowhere Montana. I’m not totally up to speed on the protocol when meeting the son you abandoned for the first time, but I’m pretty sure telling him how fulfilled you are now and how your life before was trash is not part of it. CALL ME CRAZY.
Jackson barely speaks except to defend his mother, holds back tears (!!!), and then gets the hell out of there. The next morning, there is a very cute scene in which Jackson attempts to brainstorm about the case, but also, obviously, needs to talk about what happened with April. Eventually, Jackson has one of those patented Grey’s eureka moments, and thinks they can use Caroline’s own intestines to build her a valve for her throat. It’s like this whole “gut in your throat” versus “heart in your throat” argument Jackson and April have. There’s no time to explain, we have a girl’s voice to save!
And save it, they do. It’s very exciting and I’m not ashamed to admit that I welled up watching Jackson and April be happy to work together. Oh, and also that a little girl is able to speak again. That too, I guess. But #Japril has been through so much, it’s a relief to see them enjoying each other’s company.
And you guys, they really enjoy it. They’re wired after their big, life-changing surgery and Jackson cannot take his eyes off of April. Back at the hotel, he picks her up like he did all those years ago in that bathroom. REMEMBER THE BATHROOM? And they finally get down to business.
During their postcoital spooning session, Jackson realizes his mother sent April along because she knew he’d need some support on this trip. Typical Catherine. April goes on to tell Jackson that he’s a good father, that he’s taken care of Harriet — and April, for that matter. No matter how hard it got, he never bailed. Robert couldn’t do that. April reminds him that he came here to tell his father something, and Jackson owes it to himself to say it.
Back to the Jefferson Grill it is. This time, Jackson doesn’t have a problem speaking. He tells Robert about Harriet. He tells him that having a kid is making a promise. Robert broke his promise, but Jackson would never, could never do that. That’s the difference between them. He doesn’t think they’ll be seeing each other again, which I get but also hope isn’t true — if only to see Eric Roberts and Debbie Allen go toe-to-toe. One day, perhaps!
And with that, #Japril head back to Seattle. Aside from the long-awaited #Japril reunion (are they really back together or what, Grey’s?), the other big development is Jackson making amends with Catherine. He sees her on the tarmac and thanks her for, well, everything. He learned about his father, but he also learned about her. So, no more fighting … at least for a little bit, maybe?
• Of course Catherine’s idea of grandmother-granddaughter bonding would involve reading medical journals. Poor Harriet!
• And OF COURSE Catherine has multiple berets for riding in her private car to her private jet. You can never have too many Lap of Luxury Head Accessories.
• Callback alert: April orders Chinese takeout for her and Jackson while they prep. Remember the last time they ordered Chinese takeout? Making out was involved.
• Jackson holding little Harriet before he left reminded me that we don’t get nearly enough Jackson holding little Harriet. REMEDY THIS, SHOW.
We are only with the ex-donor dad for a moment, but that entire scene, including Jackson bringing up Samuel, is brutal. Also, it goes without saying, but any time Jesse Williams tears up, I tear up. I can’t explain it, and I won’t apologize for it.