Grey’s Anatomy Recap: The Gift That Keeps on Giving

Grey’s Anatomy

A Hard Pill to Swallow
Season 16 Episode 11
Editor’s Rating 3 stars

Grey’s Anatomy

A Hard Pill to Swallow
Season 16 Episode 11
Editor’s Rating 3 stars
Photo: Kelsey McNeal/ABC

Excuse me but who is this Irish man just strolling around the hospital tying women’s shoes and offering other women coffee? How will people concentrate on all the life saving going on? Also how will certain women remember that they have a very nice Italian boyfriend who they should be kissing? Amelia Shepherd isn’t wrong: That is one “well-wrapped gift” Cristina sent from Switzerland. And he might be causing some problems.

In “A Hard Pill to Swallow,” we get to see a softer side of Cormac Hayes. Personally, I was into Grumpy Cormac, but “Sad About My Wife” it is. Meredith and Cormac team up to help a 17-year-old swimmer who starts spewing up blood. Eventually, they figure out Kai has been vaping — his lungs look like a 60-year-old smoker’s — and Grey’s proceeds to give us a heavy-handed Special Episode about why vaping is evil. And that’s coming from me, a person very much against vaping! It just felt very PSA-directly-to-camera.

Aside from reminding us that vaping is very bad (which guys, seriously, it is! Don’t do it!), it gives Cormac the opportunity to apologize to Meredith for his behavior on their last case. He explains that this time of year is tough for him, it was around this time two years ago that he lost his wife to cancer. Meredith is very understanding and assures him that it gets a little bit better with time. Good on her, she’s not like, “oh, well, my husband got T-boned by a truck, my sister got crushed by a plane, my mom suffered a long battle with Alzheimer’s, and one of my best friends got dragged by a bus and I’m still functioning, but you go on and be grumpy, sweetie.” She could’ve really rubbed her unbeatable grief game in his face, but she didn’t, because she is a lady.

Cormac and Meredith also bond in the O.R. When Meredith hears his plan for Kai is extreme and he wants to cut some of the lung out, she offers a less invasive one. And, friends, he totally goes along with it. It’s what the boy’s father wants, so Cormac is happy to hand over the reins to Meredith. Who is this calm bald man?

In the O.R., however, it immediately becomes clear that Cormac was right; Meredith’s plan isn’t working. Without any type of “I told you so,” Cormac just takes the lead and they move forward with his procedure. Two adults working together in a Grey Sloan operating room without any ego is truly a sight to see. Later, Cormac stops Meredith from apologizing. The only reason he knew they’d have to be so aggressive is because he’s worked on a similar case and in that instance, he was opting for the less invasive procedure, but his colleague wanted the aggressive route. His colleague was right. Do you know who that colleague was? Cristina Yang. Of course it was. Cormac, apparently, has no idea that Cristina and Meredith are friends, which seems a little odd because, like, wouldn’t he know that his boss, the head of an entire INSTITUTE, used to work at Grey Sloan alongside the Meredith Grey? Do the baseline amount of research, dude.

Anyway, yes, Meredith seems to be warming up to Cormac. He flusters her. It is a new thing for Mer. But before we declare MerLuca D.O.A., know these things: Meredith tells DeLuca that she misses him in Italian (their love language) and by the end of the episode it looks like the two might reconnect over a patient. There is hope, is what I’m saying!

This patient is Suzanne (Suits’s Sarah Rafferty), and this story is poised to be a weepy one. We’ve got an upbeat mom with a mystery illness, we’ve got a sister Who Wants Some Answers, and we’ve got two daughters irrevocably damaged from the death of their father that occurred just one year ago when doctors misdiagnosed him. That is a real perfect storm of Grey’s Anatomy Tear-Jerker Patient Story right there. Suzanne came in for a routine appendectomy with DeLuca, but hasn’t recovered post-op. When Bailey returns from a few days off to process her miscarriage, DeLuca quickly fills her in. They have no idea what could be causing her fever and there’s even one harrowing moment when they have to operate on Suzanne in the MRI room. And once Bailey promises Suzanne’s trembling daughters that yes, they will figure out what is wrong with their mom, you just know this is going to get much worse before-slash-if it gets better. That’s how we roll here.

Bailey sends DeLuca off to make a “war room” and get as many brains as possible on this case. His first call is to Mer, duh. As he’s freaking out with frustration, she calms him down. They will figure this out together. I hope it includes furious face smashing.

It’s not like Bailey was having an easy go of her return and needed a mystery-illness-mom-with-two-cute-sad-daughters, you know? She’s just back after three days of hell and while she’s trying to figure out what’s going on with Suzanne, she also has to deal with Tom Koracick up her ass about taking a “vacation.” He’s not thrilled about it! Bailey is able to shrug off or ignore most of Tom’s condescension, until she can’t anymore. At the end of the day, she’s so fed up, she finally tells him the truth: She wasn’t on vacation, she was crying in her bed for three days after a miscarriage. Tom’s whole demeanor changes. His ex-wife had two miscarriages before they had their son. He tells Bailey that people just assume you’ll be sad and move on, but he knows that’s not how it goes — at least, that’s not how it is for him. He still lights a candle every year on what would’ve been their birthdays. They take pieces of our hearts with them, he says. Bailey is in tears. Later, she goes to light a candle. You guys, Tom Koracick continues to be a wonder. I have no clue what the long-term plan is for him as a series regular, but I am very glad to have him.

Let’s see, who else is sad around here? Oh, yeah, Maggie Pierce is sad. The saddest, really. She’s still at home refusing to leave. Finally, Richard has had enough and he goes to see her and pretty much forces her to talk to him over homemade pancakes. He tells her that the reason he was avoiding her wasn’t because he was angry with her, but because he knows this was all his fault; he pushed her to do Sabi’s surgery. “Family doesn’t operate on family” — he should’ve known better. But Maggie knows it was her arrogance and her mistake that killed her cousin and she deserves to be punished, she deserves to be hated. She’s also adamant that she isn’t coming back to Grey Sloan. But then Richard gives his daughter the pep talk she’s needed all along, about how maybe this was a lesson she needed to learn and that if she quits, she’ll only be hurting all the other people’s lives she could save. She will get through the lawsuit and she’ll get through her grief. I think it works! Richard is a real gem.

Unfortunately, his wife disagrees. When he gets home, Catherine is all over him about where he was. The trust in their marriage is completely gone and they both know it. “We need to have a bigger conversation,” Catherine tells Richard as she slugs down a drink. There’s just no way that can be good. For any of us. Can you imagine sitting through a Catherine and Richard divorce?

The O.R. Board

• Hey, remember that time when Owen and Teddy decided to send Cristina in to operate on Teddy’s husband Henry without telling her and then he died and then Owen lied to Teddy about it for several hours while Teddy was still in surgery? That has nothing to do with anything that happened in this episode, but I just wanted to remind everyone of a time when Owen and Teddy had an interesting, dramatic storyline and not “Leo swallowed my engagement ring!”

• I guess they’ll be getting into some more drama soon, since Amelia has finally told Link about her little paternity confusion. After some thinking on it, and a patient story that ends with a truly epic breakup, Link decides that he’s allowed to be upset about it. And that not only does he deserve to know who the father of Amelia’s baby is, but so do Owen and Teddy. This is going to be terrible!

• Amelia admitting that she’s “chaotic” and it “sometimes hurts people” is truly the understatement of the year. And yes, I know it’s only January.

• “I honestly worry about your entire gender sometimes.” Very much here for the Jo Karev comedy hour, but still dreading whatever tragedy is to befall her and her marriage. She has so many feelings, that one.

Grey’s Anatomy Recap: The Gift That Keeps On Giving