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A Grey’s Anatomy Catch-up Guide, No Matter How Far Behind You Are

Photo: Maya Robinson/Vulture and Photo by ABC

Ever wondered if the actors who play your favorite doctors on TV could actually save your life? You can find out for yourself at Vulture Festival in Los Angeles when Grey’s Anatomy cast members Camilla Luddington, Jake Borelli, Alexis Floyd, Adelaide Kane, Midori Francis, and Niko Terho compete in our medical-trivia competition on November 13 — tickets are on sale now!

So you want to watch Grey’s Anatomy as it launches into its 19th season, but you aren’t exactly caught up? Maybe you only just recovered from a certain dreamy person making a permanent exit. Maybe you swore off the medical drama when Izzie started sleeping with a ghost. Or maybe you’ve never laid eyes on an episode of Grey’s Anatomy in your entire life (who are you?). It can be intimidating to dive into a show with such a rich history, but that shouldn’t stop you from taking on Grey’s Anatomy in all its soapy, sexy, sometimes medical glory. We’re having a great, sometimes traumatic, time over in fictional Seattle, why shouldn’t you?

If you don’t have time to go back and watch old episodes (they’re all streaming on Netflix), regardless of where you left off, we get it! As a service to the public, we’ve created this handy Grey’s Anatomy guide just for you. It highlights some of the most important events and people in Greys history and provides information that should help you hang with even the most diehard of Grey’s fans. There’s nothing like watching the entire series, but this should come close! Now what are you waiting for? It’s a beautiful day to save lives … and also get caught up on the longest running prime time medical drama in television history.

Start Here If: You’ve never watched an episode of Grey’s Anatomy

Welcome to fictional Seattle, where life and love and death and steamy hookups and medical marvels all convene at Seattle Grace Hospital. You have much to learn and so much to look forward to! Please know seasons one and two of Grey’s Anatomy are treasures and if you have time to watch both in full (that’s 36 episodes), you should.

Person to Know

Seattle Grace’s Meredith Grey (Ellen Pompeo): Meredith’s likes: voice-overs that explain the theme of each episode, tequila, surgery, elevator rides full of sexual tension, dancing things out. Meredith’s dislikes: being compared to her mother, renowned surgeon Ellis Grey (Kate Burton), having to keep her mother’s advanced early-onset Alzheimer’s a secret, finding out that her one night stand with the good hair is also her boss, hugs.

Must-See Episode

“Pilot” (Season 1, Episode 1): At the very least, watch the pilot — it’s good! You’ll meet all the major players for the first few seasons. Aside from Meredith, these include Meredith’s fellow interns: Cristina Yang (hard-core surgeon, cherished angel among all Grey’s fans); George O’Malley (dorky, in love with Meredith); Izzie Stevens (cheerful, one-time lingerie model); Alex Karev (total dick). You’ll also meet her superiors at the hospital: their resident, Miranda Bailey (known as the Nazi, a complete delight); Richard Webber (chief of surgery, knew Ellis Grey, recovering alcoholic); Preston Burke (arrogant cardio-thoracic god); and Derek Shepherd (man with good hair, also very good neurosurgeon).

Relationship Watch

Meredith and Derek: Mer and Der (Patrick Dempsey) are basically the Prom Queen and Prom King of Grey’s Anatomy.
Meredith and Cristina: Let me spoil something for you here: Meredith and Cristina (Sandra Oh) are the greatest relationship in this entire series, don’t @ me. They are kindred spirits, both insanely talented at what they do, neither is overly warm, both love tequila, and most important, they never apologize for who they are.
Cristina and Burke: Yes! There is another intern-attending romance afoot at Seattle Grace. Burke is all-in on Cristina from the get-go, but with Cristina, surgery will always be her greatest love. You should know two things about them: (1) Their chemistry is off the (medical) charts, and (2) Cristina gets pregnant toward the end of season one and schedules an appointment for an abortion without telling Burke anything. I know, drama!

Person to Know

Addison Shepherd (Kate Walsh): In the season-one finale, a hot redhead walks into Seattle Grace, beelines for Derek and Meredith, and says, “Hi, I’m Addison Shepherd […] and you must be the woman who’s screwing my husband?” That’s right, you guys: Derek is married.

Vocab Lesson

McDreamy (n.): The nickname given to Derek Shepherd by Cristina Yang in Season 1, Episode 2. It sticks.

Start Here If: You stopped watching once Addison showed up.

Season two explores the fallout of this reveal and Meredith and Derek spend a lot of time fighting their feelings for each other in light of Derek’s marital status. It’s very hard and they fail!

Must-See Episodes

“Into You Like a Train” (Season 2, Episode 6): If you want to see Grey’s do a deeply moving patient story that seamlessly ties into our doctors’ personal story lines, watch this one about a man and a woman who get impaled on the same pole during a train accident. Only one of them can live. You’ve heard that people cry during Grey’s? It starts here.

“It’s the End of the World” (Season 2, Episode 16) and “As We Know It” (Season 2, Episode 17): Part one took the coveted post–Super Bowl spot in 2006. Meredith has to keep her hand on a bomb inside a man’s body to prevent it from exploding, Bailey has a baby, and Kyle Chandler is there as the bomb-squad leader. He dies. It’s very riveting television!

Vocab Lesson

My person (n.): The only human you want by your side no matter the occasion. The one person who truly gets you. It was coined when Cristina listed Meredith as her emergency contact for her abortion appointment. They are forever and always each other’s person.

People to Know

Adele Webber (Loretta Devine): Richard’s no-nonsense wife who hates how much he works.

Thatcher Grey (Jeff Perry): Meredith’s estranged father who has a new family.

Mark Sloan (Eric Dane): A.k.a McSteamy, Derek’s best friend (a plastic surgeon) who had an affair with Addison and arrives in Seattle to win her back.

Callie Torres (Sara Ramirez): An orthopedic surgeon who falls for George.

Relationship Watch

Meredith and Derek and Addison: Derek left NYC because he caught Addison cheating on him with his best friend. Although Meredith asks, Derek does not decide to pick her, choose her (he definitely still loves her)—he wants to try and make his 11-year marriage work.
Cristina and Burke: Cristina miscarries and Burke (Isaiah Washington) isn’t happy to learn she wasn’t going to tell him she was pregnant. They break up briefly, but end up living together.
Alex and Izzie: They fall for each other but Alex self-sabotages, cheats on her, and she ends things with him. He never stops having feelings for her.
Izzie and Denny Duquette: Denny (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) is a long-time patient of Dr. Burke’s. While waiting for a heart transplant, he and Izzie fall hard for each other.
Richard and Ellis: Surprise! Richard and Ellis had a torrid affair back in the day. She left Thatcher for him, but Richard couldn’t leave Adele.
Meredith and McVet: Meredith gets a dog named Doc and takes up with his vet, Finn (Chris O’Donnell). Finn is both dreamy and sad.
George and Callie: She is more into this pairing than he is.

More Must-See Episodes

“17 Seconds” (Season 2, Episode 25); “Deterioration of the Fight or Flight Response” (Season 2, Episode 26); “Losing My Religion” (Season 2, Episode 27): Season two ends with a three-part story (season two had 27 episodes — 27!). Burke gets shot. Izzie cuts Denny’s LVAD wire to get him back on the transplant list and risks losing her license for the man she loves. Denny tragically dies an hour after proposing to her. The image of Izzie in a pink prom dress weeping in the arms of Alex while Snow Patrol’s “Chasing Cars” plays is forever emblazoned in the mind of every Grey’s fan. Also, Meredith and Derek have dirty hot sex and she must choose between him and Finn.

Start Here If: You stopped watching when Denny died.

Denny was very charming! It was a tough loss. But Seattle Grace moves on (mostly), and so should you.

Must-See Episodes

“Drowning on Dry Land” (Season 3, Episode 16): The second episode having to do with a massive ferry-boat accident. It’s a great showcase for several characters including: Izzie, who gets her surgical mojo back post-Denny by doing brain surgery in the field; Alex, who steps up his patient-care game; and Meredith who ends up drowning in the Puget Sound because she simply gives up. Derek pulls her out of the water and tries to save her. It’s very dark and very exciting! Don’t worry, she lives (this is only season three) after a trippy excursion to a Seattle Grace After-life limbo situation.

Didn’t We Almost Have It All?” (Season 3, Episode 25): Burke walks out on Cristina at their wedding. No one walks out on Cristina Yang!

New Wrinkles

Mommy Issues: An ailing Ellis returns to Seattle Grace. In a few hours of lucidity, she finds time to tell Meredith that she’s ordinary. It stings! Ellis dies shortly after. Meredith carries scars from her mother FOREVER.

Daddy Issues: George’s dad dies after a stint at Seattle Grace and George spirals. He elopes with Callie in Las Vegas and then proceeds to cheat on his wife by sleeping with Izzie.

Bon Voyage: Addison has enough of McDreamy and McSteamy and heads for sunnier skies in California. Her spinoff, Private Practice, takes off during season three of Grey’s. She is greatly missed.

People to Know

Dr. Lexie Grey (Chyler Leigh): The new intern is Meredith’s half-sister by way of Thatcher and his wife Susan. Meredith wants nothing to do with her for a long time. Don’t worry, she gets over it!

Major Owen Hunt (Kevin McKidd): Military trauma surgeon extraordinaire. He pops up in the season five premiere and becomes a permanent fixture at Seattle Grace a few episodes later. He helps Cristina when she’s impaled with an icicle (it is a thing that happens on this show!), and they start up a very steamy relationship almost immediately.

Relationship Watch (slash Breakup City)

Webber and Adele: Webber gets an ultimatum — work or his wife. She ends up leaving him.
Callie and George: The affair with Izzie comes out and this disastrous, impetuous marriage ends.
Izzie and George: Once George ends things with Callie, he and Izzie make an honest attempt at things, but they realize they are better off as friends. So, all the drama was for naught.
Meredith and Derek: They’re off again and Derek starts dating a nice nurse named Rose, but the love between Meredith and Derek is iconic and cannot be denied. They get back together, of course. Sorry, nice nurse Rose!
Alex and Rebecca: Cripes, these two. Rebecca (Elizabeth Reaser) was a Jane Doe during the ferry-boat accident who needed a face transplant, and she and Alex form a deep bond. But she ends up being extremely unstable and things go south fast. Still, the relationship is a huge step forward in Alex’s character development.

More Wrinkles

Drama Rundown: Derek moves into Meredith’s house, but things get rocky again while they work on a neuro clinical trial and Derek takes all the credit. Then Derek learns he’s killed more people in surgery than he’s saved and he gets very existential and forgets about grooming practices. Callie develops feelings for cardio surgeon Erica Hahn (Brooke Smith). Callie is very hesitant and eventually Erica gets fed up and leaves Seattle. Callie and Mark embark on a hot-friends-with-hot-benefits relationship as they both avoid feelings for other people. Izzie starts to see the ghost of Denny Duquette. And by “see” I mean “have sex with.”

Start Here If: You stopped watching when Ghost Sex became a thing.

You are not alone. Thankfully, the show recovers! It gets good again!

Ghost Sex, Explained

Yes, the Ghost Sex gets an explanation: Izzie has a brain tumor. Not great for her, but good for everyone else questioning what happened to this show.

Person to Know

Dr. Arizona Robbins (Jessica Capshaw): Pediatric surgeon and wearer of rolly sneakers. She has a lot of pep, which is a departure for Grey’s Anatomy.

Must-See Episodes

“Elevator Love Letter” (Season 5, Episode 19): Derek finally comes back from self-imposed surgical exile to save Izzie! Owen’s PTSD almost ends his relationship with Cristina! The original interns grapple with Izzie’s diagnosis! DEREK PROPOSES TO MEREDITH IN AN ELEVATOR.

Now or Never” (Season 5, Episode 24) and “Good Mourning” (Season 6, Episode 1): If you’re watching these for the first time, please have a moment of silence for those of us who had to endure an entire summer before learning the fates of both George (dies!) and Izzie (lives!). Not everything about it is debilitatingly gut-wrenching—Meredith and Derek get married on a post-it note! A Post-It Note wedding!

Relationship Watch

Mark and Lexie: The Romeo and Juliet of Seattle Grace.
Callie and Arizona: It doesn’t take long for these two to pair off. Callie’s very Catholic parents do not approve, and she loses her hefty trust fund because of it.
Cristina and Owen: V. hot and heavy. Dare I say, she seems much more into this guy than she ever was with Burke? Owen has demons though.
Bailey and Tucker: Her ambition and intense schedule proves too much for Bailey’s husband and the two divorce. Bailey can do much better.
Alex and Izzie: Izzie uses Meredith and Derek’s impending nuptials as a distraction from her tumor, but in the end, they decide to gift Izzie and Alex their wedding. These two get married! Izzie is too weak to make it all the way down the aisle, and George helps her the rest of the way. Feel free to sob whenever you want.

Start Here If: You stopped watching after George died.

The body bags are really starting to pile up on this show.

Must-See Episode

“I Saw What I Saw” (Season 6, Episode 6): A great medical episode that demonstrates Grey’s Anatomy’s willingness to play with its own format.

New Wrinkles

Notable Drama: Seattle Grace merges with Mercy West, becoming Seattle Grace Mercy West, sometimes known as Seattle Grace Mercy Death. Several new characters arrive, but you only need worry about Jackson Avery (Jesse Williams), hotshot resident and grandson of renowned surgeon Harper Avery (he has a prestigious award named after him!), and April Kepner (Sarah Drew), eager to please and exasperating. Elsewhere, Webber starts drinking again and has to step down as chief — Derek takes the job. Bailey starts dating cute anesthesiologist Ben Warren (Jason George). Meredith and Lexie’s dad, Thatcher, who started drinking after his wife Susan suddenly died, needs a liver transplant — guess which daughter is a match!

Bon Voyage: Izzie gets fired after a patient mishap, and leaves Seattle. She pops back in, but her marriage is not salvageable. Again, Alex has matured through this relationship. This also marks Alex’s move from plastic surgery to pediatrics. Our Alex!

People to Know

Dr. Teddy Altman (Kim Raver): She’s a cardiothoracic surgeon who served with Owen in Iraq. There’s a whole mess of history and feelings wrapped up in their relationship.

Dr. Amelia Shepherd (Caterina Scorsone): Another Shepherd neurosurgeon! She pops in from Private Practice during season seven, but will return in full force later. She’s constantly trying to outdo her brother.

The Hospital Shooting

“Sanctuary” (Season 6, Episode 23) and “Death and All of His Friends” (Season 6, Episode 24): The hospital shooting episodes. Though incredibly hard to watch, the incident changes a lot of our characters going forward. Meredith watches Derek get shot by the angry husband of a patient he lost. He almost dies and she has a miscarriage. Cristina is forced to operate on Derek with a gun to her head ― afterward, she suffers from PTSD and can’t operate for a long time. Alex almost dies of a gunshot wound. April and Jackson bond after losing their two best friends. Webber finally steps up and acts like the chief we all know him to be. And yes, everyone’s experience in these two episodes is harrowing, but Bailey’s will have you wondering why she ever steps foot in that hospital again. Hey, no one ever said watching Grey’s Anatomy was fun all the time.

Relationship Watch

Meredith and Derek: They keep trying for a baby, but decide adoption is their best option. They meet a little girl named Zola and fall in love. Oh! They get married at City Hall, for real this time.
Cristina and Owen: Cristina has the hardest time post-shooting and one way she acts out is by marrying Owen. Although she wears a fabulous slinky red wedding dress, no one thinks this is a good idea.
Callie and Arizona: Another couple spatting over kids. Callie wants ‘em, AZ does not. Arizona takes off for a project in Africa and Callie stays behind, sleeps with Mark, and gets pregnant. Don’t worry! They work it out, Callie and Arizona get married, and the three parent little Sofia together.
Mark and Lexie: The same story does not have a happy ending for these two. Again, Lexie feels pressured into moving too fast — she didn’t sign up for a kid. They breakup, but make lots of moony eyes at each other.
Bailey and Ben: They break up after the shooting — Bailey is broken! — and she starts dating a very hot nurse named Eli (Daniel Sunjata). Bailey has great taste in men.
Teddy and Henry: Teddy is trying her best to move on from Owen, and agrees to marry patient Henry Burton (Scott Foley), a chronically ill man in need of insurance. Twist: They fall in love!

The Musical Episode

Yes, the rumors are true: Grey’s Anatomy has a musical episode! “Song Beneath the Song” (Season 7, episode 17) is, um, not great. A very pregnant Callie is in a car accident and while holding on for dear life, imagines everyone singing. Instead of watching the whole episode, just watch Sara Ramirez murder “The Story” by Brandi Carlile (above!). But, like, murder in a good way, not in a “lose your medical license and go to prison” sort of way.

Start Here If: You stopped watching after seeing your doctors sing in the O.R.

A lot of people did not enjoy that.

Must-See Episodes

“Dark Was the Night” (Season 8, Episode 9) and “Suddenly” (Season 8, Episode 10): If you’re tracking the Owen/Teddy saga — which you might want to do, seeing as she returns in Season 14 — you should watch this two-parter in which Henry’s health suddenly takes a turn, and Owen has Cristina operate on him without telling her who the patient is. Henry dies and Owen repeatedly lies to Teddy to keep it a secret from her until she’s finished with her own surgery. She leaves by the end of the season. But in happier news: Meredith and Derek officially adopt Zola. They’re really Mom and Dad now, not just our Mom and Dad!

New Wrinkles

Drama Rundown: Derek and Meredith’s Alzheimer’s clinical trial gets muddied up when it turns out that Adele Webber has Alzheimer’s (yes, her too) and Meredith messes with the integrity of the trial to help her. It ends the trial, puts a strain on their marriage, causes a rift in Meredith and Alex’s friendship (he turns her in!), and complicates Zola’s adoption. Cristina gets pregnant, but wants an abortion; Owen reluctantly agrees — but never gets over it. The residents take their boards — April is the only one who doesn’t pass, and she’s fired, but she loses her virginity to Jackson and they have VERY hot bathroom sex, so her experience is really a draw.

Person to Know

Dr. Catherine Avery (Debbie Allen): A hardcore urologist and Jackson’s mother. She and Richard sleep together when the residents take their board exams and embark on a relationship.

The Crash

As if things couldn’t get worse: Season eight ends with a terrible plane crash! Meredith, Derek, Cristina, Arizona, Mark, and Lexie get on a small charter plane to pick up transplant organs and it goes down in the woods. They are there for days. Lexie dies while she and Mark pledge their undying love to one another. Arizona loses her leg. Mark suffers injuries that kill him weeks later. Derek gravely injures his hand. It’s not a great time.

Start Here If: You stopped watching after the plane crash when you couldn’t get Arizona’s screams out of your head.

Seriously, it was awful.

New Wrinkles

Post-Crash Drama Rundown: The remaining plane crash survivors (plus Callie, representing Mark) sue the hospital for negligence and win, thus bankrupting the hospital. They decide to buy it and, along with Jackson representing the Avery Foundation, become the board of the newly named Grey Sloan Memorial Hospital (in memory of Lexie and Mark, now forever together, brb just crying). Meredith and Derek move into the dream house he built for her. Yes, built.

Must-See Episode

“Things We Said Today” (Season 9, Episode 10): We’re deep into Bailey and Ben’s wedding day, but Bailey’s at the hospital operating on Adele Webber. Adele eventually passes. Richard has already moved on with Catherine, but it is still heartbreaking.

People to Know

Intern Roll Call: Meet Jo (street urchin), Stephanie (the best of us), Shane (hardcore), Leah (a complete mess), and Heather (she dies at the beginning of season 10 so don’t even worry about it).

Relationship Watch

Bailey and Ben: These crazy kids get married and are very cute together!
Cristina and Owen: These crazy kids get divorced … but keep banging each other.
Meredith and Derek: Meredith gets pregnant! She’s very tense the entire time, especially after she tests positive for several genetic markers of Alzheimer’s. Like they don’t have enough to worry about.
Jackson and April: They continue to hook up even though April thinks premarital sex is a sin. They call things off and she starts dating Matthew (Justin Bruening), a Christian paramedic. April and Matthew are engaged by the end of season nine.
Alex and Jo: Alex is back to his womanizing bullshit, and hooks up with most of the interns, but Jo (Camilla Luddington) is the person who really gets under his skin and they start a meaningful relationship, bonding over their tragic childhoods.
Arizona and Callie: Arizona is depressed after losing her leg and it takes a toll on their marriage, she cheats on Callie and the two separate.

Even More Drama

So Much Happening: Alex’s abusive father shows up and Alex is sent into a tailspin. Meredith is happily settling into her General Surgery specialty, until she and Cristina start battling it out for use of the new 3-D printer to change medicine and win the coveted Harper Avery award. Ben leaves his surgical residency program in Los Angeles to be closer to his wife — he becomes an intern at Grey Sloan. Bailey ends up killing several patients with a MRSA infection she didn’t know she had and then develops severe OCD. Amelia Shepherd moves to Seattle!

Bon Voyage: Cristina loses the Harper Avery award and then learns that, because of the Avery Foundation’s financial role at Grey Sloan, no one from that hospital will ever win. She gets a job offer from Preston Burke (!) to run his cardiothoracic institute in Zurich, so she says goodbye to Owen for good, has one final dance with Meredith, and leaves Seattle.

Newcomer Alert! Dr. Maggie Pierce (Kelly McCreary): Cristina’s very young (she graduated med school at 19) replacement as Head of Cardio. Fun fact: She’s also the secret love child of Ellis Grey and Richard Webber!!!

Another Must-See Episode

“Get Up, Stand Up” (Season 10, Episode 12): Inspired by words Mark Sloan once said to him, Jackson professes his love for April AT HER WEDDING. Derek is supposed to be slowing down his work so Meredith can focus on her research, but gets a call from the president with a job offer. Shane, sleep-deprived and guilt-ridden over Heather’s death, performs emergency surgery on Alex’s dad by himself. Shane has a mental breakdown in the OR and Alex’s dad eventually dies.

Vocab Lesson

#Japril (n): Jackson and April’s ship name. They run away from April’s wedding together and get married! The problem that will plague their entire relationship — she’s a person of faith, he most certainly is not — rears its head pretty early on. And then they get pregnant! That always fixes stuff. See also: Calzona.

Start Here If: You stopped watching once Cristina left.

We get it, she was our favorite too.

Must-See Episode

“Only Mama Knows” (Season 11, Episode 4): If you’d like a crash course in all things Ellis Grey and the secret child she kept from everyone, turn this baby on.

New Wrinkles

Drama Rundown: Maggie has to fight to win over Meredith. Amelia is outed as a recovering drug addict and is still fighting with her brother, who is splitting his time between Seattle and big presidential stuff in D.C. To prove herself as a capable Head of Neurosurgery, Amelia takes on an impossible case: a giant tumor lodged in the brain of Arizona’s mentor, neonatal surgical wizard Dr. Herman (Geena Davis). She succeeds! Alex spends some time working at a private practice, but can’t fight his feelings for Grey Sloan Memorial and returns to peds with Arizona. Bailey takes Cristina’s place on the board.

Relationship Watch

Meredith and Derek: Derek’s decision to work on his brain-mapping project in D.C. creates a rift in their relationship. He finally decides his family in Seattle is the most important thing in the world to him. UNFORTUNATELY IT IS ALL TOO LATE.
Amelia and Owen: A lot of demons in this relationship, but they fall in love.
Jackson and April: Joy over their pregnancy is short-lived when they learn their baby has a fatal disease. They induce labor and their son, Samuel, dies minutes later. They never really recover.
Webber and Catherine: They almost end things after the Harper Avery award debacle, but these two are crazy about each other.

Deadly Episode Watch

“How to Save a Life” (Season 11, Episode 21): Sorry, not sorry. If we all had to watch Derek die in a shitty hospital after rescuing a group of people and then getting slammed by a semi truck, you do too.

Start Here If: You stopped watching after McDreamy met his demise.

Sometimes we still can’t believe it really happened, but here’s a secret: post-Derek Grey’s is excellent.

Must-See Episode

The Sound of Silence” (Season 12, Episode 9): Directed by none other than Denzel Washington. Meredith gets brutally attacked by a patient and spends most of the episode unable to talk.

New Wrinkles

Drama Rundown: Meredith goes missing for an entire year (it’s only one episode) to cope with the loss of her husband — when she pops up again, surprise! She is giving birth to her and Derek’s third child, Ellis. She moves back into her mother’s house, where Maggie and Amelia eventually join her. She finally gets back into the O.R. and sports a ferry boat scrub cap in honor of her late husband. Catherine and Richard get married! Callie starts dating Penny, who was the doctor in charge of Derek’s care when he died. It’s very awkward! After April and Owen return from military surgical training in Iraq, April looks to repair #Japril—it doesn’t work. They end up divorced but April reveals she’s pregnant again. How complicated!

Yes, Girl, Yes: Bailey is FINALLY named Chief of Surgery. It just feels right, doesn’t it?

Bon Voyage: Our dear Callie Torres leaves us at the end of season 12 to follow Penny to NYC. We have to sit through a terrible custody battle between Callie and Arizona first, but they do part on fairly good terms, considering all the yelling.

People to Know

Andrew DeLuca (Giacomo Gianotti), handsome intern who hooks up with Maggie, and Nathan Riggs (Martin Henderson), a charming cardio surgeon who served with Owen and Teddy in Iraq and was best buds with the resident redhead until they had a falling out. Over what, you say? Nathan was engaged to Owen’s sister Megan, who went MIA in a helicopter accident. Owen blames Nathan for Megan getting on the helicopter, both feel tremendously guilty for moving on. Nathan and Meredith have instant chemistry!

Relationship Watch

Bailey and Ben: Ben performs an emergency C-section in the hallway during a lockdown and the mother ends up dying. When Bailey doesn’t back Ben up, it causes a major rift in their relationship.
Meredith and Men Who Are Not Derek: Mer hooks up with a hot military surgeon named Will, but it is way too soon. He tells her she’s worth waiting for, but we haven’t seen him since, so … And of course, there’s Riggs. He’s trying hard to win Meredith over, but she puts him off, especially after she discovers Maggie has it bad for the guy.
Amelia and Owen: They fight and cry a lot, yet still, they would very much like to get married.

Must-See Finale

Family Affair” (Season 12, Episode 24): It’s Amelia and Owen’s wedding, it shows Meredith and Nathan bonding over lost love, demonstrates the dynamic between the Sisters (Meredith, Amelia, and Maggie), and has Alex reverting to his old ways and brutally beating up DeLuca when he misinterprets finding the intern with a drunk Jo — but really I am recommending this episode because BEN WARREN CUTS A BABY OUT OF APRIL KEPNER ON MEREDITH GREY’S KITCHEN TABLE. Welcome to Grey’s Anatomy, Harriet Avery!

Start Here If: You stopped watching after the kitchen table C-section.

Admittedly, it was a lot.

New Wrinkles

Drama Rundown: Alex gets charged with felony assault but eventually DeLuca gets the charges dropped. Jo can’t marry Alex because she’s already married — and her name isn’t Jo Wilson! She’s been on the run from her abusive husband, Dr. Paul Stadler (Matthew Morrison). Maggie’s mother shows up with breast cancer. Her death guts Maggie, but also brings her and Jackson, her mother’s surgeon, closer. Jackson goes looking for his father, Robert Avery (Eric Roberts), in Montana, but realizes he never needed him. He and April sleep together one last time, but their romantic relationship is over. RIP #Japril. Amelia reveals that she got pregnant while still an addict and the baby was born with no brain. She doesn’t want to have more kids, and Amelia and Owen separate. Later, she learns she has a giant brain tumor that’s been growing for years, meant to explain some of her more questionable choices. It’s the most dramatic of character cop-outs (also she has it removed and is fine). Stephanie leaves after a harrowing incident involving a rapist loose in the hospital who causes an explosion. Meredith and Riggs do it in the backseat of an SUV. I mean, they do it lots of places, but that place is the hottest place.

Must-See Episode

Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story” (Season 14, Episode 7): Grey’s 300th episode! It’s a big love letter to longtime fans, oh and no big deal but at the end of it Meredith Grey wins the Harper Avery Award. You’ll be crying as an entire O.R. gives Mer a standing O — including, Meredith envisions, her mother.

People to Know

Megan Hunt (Abigail Spencer): Yes, you guys — SHE’S ALIVE. She was held captive for ten years, but is finally found and brought to Grey Sloan. It’s Meredith who encourages Riggs to reunite with his lost love, and it’s Meredith who comes up with a miraculous surgery to save Megan’s life. Megan and Riggs quickly fall back in love and move to the sunny beaches of California with Megan’s adopted son from her captivity.

Tom Koracick (Greg Germann): Amelia’s neurosurgeon mentor (suck on that, Derek!), who arrives to operate on her tumor. He also most definitely hooked up with Catherine Avery at some point. He’s mostly an arrogant dick to people, but during a fling with April (she suffers through an alarmingly self-destructive phase), he reveals he had a 10-year-old son who died in a freak accident. Dear lord, everyone on Grey’s is dark and twisty inside.

Carina DeLuca (Stefania Spampinato): Andrew’s older sister who comes over from Italy to do a female orgasm study at Grey Sloan and generally embarrass her brother.

Intern Roll-Call: Meet Levi Schmitt a.k.a. Glasses (a walking disaster who means well), Taryn Helm (crushing hard on Meredith), Vikram Roy (tries to sue the hospital), Dahlia Qadri (third in her class, lovesick), Casey Parker (a transgender military officer and IT whiz), and Sam Bello (has a long romantic history with DeLuca!).

Relationship Watch

DeLuca and Sam: There’s evidence to suggest that any time these two get together they ravage one another’s hearts, but they still can’t help themselves. Sadly, Sam must flee the country when they discover ICE is looking to deport the Dreamer. DeLuca is wrecked.
Bailey and Ben: Just when they’re in a great place marriage-wise, Ben decides he’s going to quit surgery and become a firefighter … just in time to join the Shondaland spinoff, Station 19! He’s still around, but less than usual.
Meredith and Not Derek: She’s not all that interested in dating, but she meets a transplant surgeon and the two hit it off. Dr. Nick Marsh (Scott Speedman) was only in one episode, but by Shonda, he deserves to come back.
Alex and Jo: Jo’s abusive ex-husband finds her! It is terrifying! He gets hit by a car and eventually dies, but still, things looked dire for a moment or two there. Now Jo is free! She and Alex can get married!
Jackson and Maggie: They are hot for each other, but there’s that small matter of them being step-siblings. They get over it and under each other!
Owen and Teddy: Yes, Teddy! Owen flies to Germany to declare his love for her, they have a ton of sex, but in the end, Teddy doesn’t think Owen is sincere.

More Wrinkles

Drama Forever: April’s ex-fiancé Matthew shows up in the hospital with his pregnant wife; his baby is born but his wife dies. Bailey suffers a heart attack and it puts a lot of things into perspective — especially how taxing her chief of surgery gig is. Richard’s longtime sponsor dies and he worries how the loss will affect his sobriety. Owen fosters a baby named Leo. Leo’s teenage mom, Betty, shows up and she’s a drug addict who Amelia decides to take under her care. The four live as some sort of makeshift family.

Well, That’s a Bummer: It turns out that Harper Avery was actually a terrible human who tried to sweep at least 37 instances of sexual harassment and misconduct under the rug with his money, but it all comes to light. They dismantle the Harper Avery Foundation. Jackson uses his considerable fortune to pay reparation to the victims. Catherine reverts to her maiden name, and The Catherine Fox Foundation is born. Meredith is disgusted and returns her and her mother’s Harper Avery awards.

Mommy Issues: Alex finally makes amends with his mother. She is bipolar and Alex gave up most of his childhood to take care of her and his two siblings. Now she’s back on her meds and doing well. They have a long way to go, but it’s a start!

Must-See Episode

“Cold As Ice” (Season 14, Episode 23): Surprise! April and Matthew have fallen back in love after suffering great tragedies, and then, because this is Grey’s Anatomy, they get in a car accident that leaves April hypothermic and stops her heart. All the doctors work to get her back. The big takeaway here, though, is that Jackson, a man who could never quite swallow April’s unwavering faith, prays to God to keep her alive and then she wakes up! He begins to question a lot of things.

And Some Good Things!

Happy Endings: After some hijinks, Alex and Jo are married by Meredith on a ferry, and April and Matthew decide there’s no point in waiting and they get married, too. It’s April Kepner’s big send-off from the show. Also saying good-bye is Arizona, who decides to go to NYC to be with Sofia and newly single Callie. We’ll miss them, but at least neither got hit by a semi truck! Elsewhere, Amelia and Owen are making googly eyes at each other and DeLuca drunkenly kisses Meredith.

Hey, Don’t I Know You?: Teddy Altman is back — and she’s pregnant with Owen’s baby! So, that should be fun.

Start Here If: You stopped watching when forced to say good-bye to Arizona and April.

Very uncool, Grey’s.

People to Know

Dr. Atticus Lincoln (Chris Carmack): He’s described as an Ortho God and gets a slo-mo entrance. None of this is wrong. He also knew Jo before she was “Jo” — he and “Brooke” used to work together. Link survived bone cancer as a child, which inspired him to be both a surgeon and an optimist. He does things like cuts his gorgeous hair to make children feel better. He is perfect.

Dr. Nico Kim (Alex Landi): All orthopedic surgeons are hotties with bodies, according to Grey’s Anatomy; bless this show. Nico is Link’s ortho fellow and during his first surgery at Grey Sloan, he winks at Schmitt from across the OR. A bold move!

Relationship Watch

Meredith and DeLuca: Neither of them can stop thinking about that drunken kiss, but DeLuca has to earn Meredith’s affection by fighting through a love triangle with Link. Oh, he earns it all right. Meredith is scared to fully love another man again, but she cannot help herself.

Bailey and Ben: Ben’s new gig as a firefighter and Bailey’s stress at work prove to be too much and she calls a timeout on their relationship. It sticks longer than anticipated, but those two are in it for the long haul. They are hotter than ever!

Amelia and Owen: Ugh, these two. They try to make it work again. They realize they are terrible together again. Owen will always love Teddy!

Teddy and Tom: Oh, Tom. Although you are the perfect boyfriend for Teddy, you are collateral damage in the tornado that is Owen and Teddy. But honestly, has Teddy ever laughed so much? Has anyone on this show?

Teddy and Owen: They are inevitable, it seems — especially with a daughter on the way. Teddy may be in a safe, stable relationship with Tom, but she’s never felt love like she does for Owen. Thanks to some much needed therapy, Owen realizes he’s been sabotaging his relationship with Teddy all along, and as Teddy gives birth (welcome, Alison), he promises to prove his love to her for the rest of their lives. Will these two ever make it, or will they just destroy one another? Honestly, it’s a 50/50 shot.

Amelia and Link: This starts out as two hot people “managing pain” together, but it turns out they’re very compatible. Also Link sits through a dinner with all the Shepherd women, which is a true feat of strength.

Schmitt and Nico: Schmitt finally comes out and he and Nico get hot-and-heavy. Like, hooking up in an ambulance during a windstorm, hot-and-heavy.

Jackson and Maggie: Things seem to be going fairly well for these lovebirds until Maggie calls Jackson “Mr. Monopoly” and thinks his privilege prevents him from understanding real life and Jackson basically tells Maggie he wishes she had a different personality. That is, um, yeesh.

Must-See Episode

“Silent All These Years” Season 15, Episode 19: Probably the hardest Grey’s Anatomy episode to watch in its 15 seasons, but an important one. Jo finds her birth mother and learns she was the product of a rape, which sends Jo down a very dark path, especially as she treats a patient who is the victim of an assault. It is as gutting and intense as it sounds.

New Wrinkles

More Drama, Please: Jo basically shuts down after discovering the truth about her biological parents and this threatens both her marriage and career. Eventually, she decides to take a leave of absence and get some real help. Meredith has a heartfelt one-on-one with Thatcher, just before he dies. It’s very sad and moving and cathartic! Catherine Fox learns she has a gigantic tumor on her spine. Tom and Amelia get most of it out, but not all of it. Catherine and Richard’s marriage only becomes stronger afterward, even though Catherine was reluctant to tell Richard since he recently lost his AA sponsor and almost relapsed. Meredith Grey, in her infinite wisdom, commits insurance fraud to help a patient, but it’s DeLuca who ends up in prison for it, confessing to the crime to prevent Meredith from being arrested. Bailey unceremoniously fires Meredith, Webber, and Alex after learning they very much had something to do with it, too. The core four at odds! Oh, and also, there’s this whole thing about a fetus being grown in an external sac and we see a lamb growing in a bag. If I have to know that “a baby in a bag” is a real thing, so do you.

Pac-North Problems: After being fired from Grey Sloan, Alex takes a job as chief of surgery at Pac-North Hospital, a disheveled, run-down, possibly haunted place. He hires Richard, and together they try to whip the hospital into shape. Richard and Catherine split up because Richard’s angry that Catherine stood by and let Bailey fire him. To show him who’s boss, Catherine turns around and buys Pac-North, humiliates him by closing it, and forces him back to Grey Sloan. Later, when Richard almost dies from cobalt poisoning, he still wants nothing to do with Catherine. It’s bad, people!

Must-See Episodes

My Shot” (Season 16, Episode 8): Meredith must face the medical board to keep her license after all the insurance-fraud shenanigans. Alex calls in favors from old friends and former patients, who write letters and show up in person to speak before the board. Expect lots of meaningful callbacks for longtime fans and a surprising connection to Derek’s death.

Leave a Light On” (Season 16, Episode 16): Oh, Alex Karev. When Justin Chambers abruptly left Grey’s Anatomy after 15 and a half seasons, the show had to scramble to explain the departure of one of its best developed, most beloved characters. In the end, they came up with “Alex reconnects with Izzie, learns she had two children using the embryos they froze when she was going through chemo, and ditches Seattle (and his wife, Jo!) to follow his heart and live on a farm with the love of his life.” Whether you’re watching this episode to take a nice walk down Alex and Izzie Memory Lane or to scream at it in frustration is up to you. All I’m saying is that this is an important chapter in the overall Grey’s lore.

Relationship Watch

Meredith and DeLuca and Hayes: There’s a little rockiness between Mer and DeLuca when DeLuca feels disrespected and unequal in their relationship. There’s a lot of rockiness when DeLuca refuses to acknowledge what everyone else can see: He is suffering from bipolar disorder. Meanwhile, hunky Irish head of peds Cormac Hayes, a widower and a dad, arrives. He might just be the dark and twisty kind of guy Meredith needs.

Owen and Teddy and Tom: The never-ending saga continues when Teddy and Owen get engaged but Teddy is unable to give up her part-time lover, Tom. She tries to rush down the altar to prove she loves Owen, but Owen shuts the whole thing down when he receives a voice-mail of Teddy getting a very pleasurable wedding gift from Tom (the wedding gift is sex).

Jackson and Maggie: Wow, these two break up so fast in season 16. Jackson moves on with Station 19 firefighter Vic Hughes, but they end things by the end of the season. Maggie, however, runs into a colleague from her past, Winston Ndugu, and dare I say it might be love?

Schmitt and Nico: Sorry, people. This couple is splitsville.

Amelia and Link: Amelia gets knocked up early on in their courtship and refuses to get a paternity test for a while (it could be Owen’s). Eventually, they find out the baby is Link’s, and the two are in a very healthy place when their son is born.

Bailey and Ben: Bailey and Ben take a bit of a roller-coaster ride: They are overjoyed when Bailey is unexpectedly pregnant, suffer the devastating loss of a miscarriage, and end up taking in a foster child. They are the best of us.

The Pandemic

At a time when TV shows were trying to decide how to best tackle COVID-19, if at all, Grey’s Anatomy went full throttle. The show is about a hospital in Seattle, so it makes sense and at first it seemed like the show best situated to explore multiple facets of the pandemic — the toll it has taken on first responders, the way it exposed inequality and bias in medicine, the frustration over the politicization of a deadly virus — but after a while the whole thing becomes a bit of a slog.

Yet still! The pandemic brings about some major changes for many at Grey Sloan: Teddy has a mental breakdown; gets some closure in regards to her feelings for her late, great love Alison; and, after a while, Teddy and Owen reconcile and wind up engaged. What a ride! Meanwhile, Maggie and Winston get married, Jo adopts the daughter of one of her patients who dies, Bailey loses her mom to COVID-19 and deals with Ben having testicular cancer (he’s fine!), both Webber and Catherine and Nico and Schmitt reunite, and Amelia gutting-ly rejects poor, poor Link’s marriage proposal because he wants more kids and she definitely does not. That dude is going to be a mess for a while.

Vocab Lesson

Death Beach (n): This isn’t an in-show term but rather an efficient way for the audience to reference where their lead spent most of season 17. As Meredith goes in and out of consciousness during her battle with COVID-19 (which, eventually, she comes out of although with some lingering long-COVID symptoms), she imagines herself on a peaceful beach where she’s visited by many Ghosts of Grey’s Past, including her beloved soulmate Derek Shepherd. His hair remains perfect. Alas, this conceit lasts entirely too long and by the end of the season you will be cursing that beautiful, terrible place. If you’d like to see what this Death Beach is all about without having beaches ruined for you forever, check out peak Death Beach content “You’ll Never Walk Alone” (Season 17, Episode 4): Mer runs into George O’Malley and we finally get some long-awaited closure with 007.

It’s So Hard to Say Good-bye

In the midst of the pandemic, season 17 cast off several major characters including:

Jackson Avery: The inequity within medicine in regards to race and gender has never been more apparent than during the pandemic, and Jackson realizes that with the Catherine Fox Foundation he actually has the power and resources to do something about it. Jackson decides to take his place as head of the foundation in Boston, and he wants April and Harriet to come with him. Luckily, April and Matthew have split because hello, everyone knew that marriage was a truly terrible idea, and April agrees to go. That’s right, against all odds, #Japril is endgame. #Japril shippers should feast their eyes upon “Look Up Child” (Season 17, Episode 14).

Tom Koracick: Tom has a long and emotional bout with COVID-19 and, after watching all six of his roommates die and realizing they were all men of color, he isn’t satisfied with the status quo any longer. Inspired by Jackson, he offers his services in any capacity needed to the young Avery and the Catherine Fox Foundation in Boston. But never fear, he also buys Jo’s shares of the hospital (which Alex left her as a parting gift) when Jo needs money to adopt little Luna — so much to Bailey’s chagrin, Tom owns part of the hospital and could pop in at any moment.

Andrew DeLuca: Grey’s does DeLuca dirty by having him have a breakdown while trying to stop a child sex trafficker (no one believes him because he seems so out of control), get his bipolar disorder in check, and seem healthier and happier than ever — and then have that child sex trafficker show up again forcing Andrew to go after her and ultimately pay the price with his own life. But for why, Grey’s? BUT FOR WHY?

Start Here If: You stopped watching when Grey’s put its lead in a coma for an entire season.

It gave the whole thing a real “stall for time” type of energy, you know?

The Grey Sloan Exodus

Admittedly, most of these people will be back, but wow so many doctors fled Grey Sloan Memorial in season 18 — and there wasn’t even a life-altering, catastrophic disaster as a catalyst. You know what, good for them. More people should be fleeing this death trap.

Cormac Hayes: Also known as McWidow (not Grey’s best Hot Man Nickname), Cormac’s brief stint at Grey Sloan ends when he decides he would not like to keep Owen’s secret about his new hobby: Owen’s dabbling in some euthanasia to help veterans die with dignity. Since that’s pretty frowned upon, and Cormac neither wants to go to prison nor send Owen to prison, he instead decides to move back to Ireland.

Owen and Teddy: After Owen gets blackmailed for his involvement in physician assisted suicide with several patients who don’t qualify, Bailey has no choice but to call the police. At least she gives the now husband-and-wife duo a head start. Owen and Teddy grab their kids and hightail it out of Seattle — they’re fugitives now, baby!

Richard and Catherine: Richard inadvertently blows up the Grey Sloan residency program by introducing the Webber Method: Residents can perform surgeries without attendings up to a certain point when they need to wait and it’s like, did Richard not experience season ten when Alex Karev’s dad died at the hands of an arrogant resident? I know you were there, Richard!! Welp, that happens again — this time Schmitt kills a nice podcaster — and the residency program is eventually shut down. After this goes down and Catherine survives another bout of cancer, the two decide to take an indefinite sabbatical and travel the world.

Miranda Bailey: Well, if you haven’t figured it out from those three previous blurbs, our Chief of Surgery had a year — I didn’t even mention the physician and blood shortages — and by the end Bailey’s just like, okay I’m out. She quits and hands her Chief Keys over to Meredith.

Relationship Watch

Meredith and Nick: Yep! It’s the transplant doctor Meredith saved back in season 14! They bump into each other while Meredith is in Minnesota trying to cure Parkinson’s and wind up falling in love. It is honestly pretty cute.

Amelia and Kai: Something’s in the air in MN: Amelia works on the Parkinson’s project with Meredith and meets neuroscientist Dr. Kai Bartley (ER Fightmaster). They almost end things because Kai doesn’t want kids, but dang, they just can’t quit each other.

Jo and Link: BFFs Jo and Link start having sex because they are both sad and horny, but Jo has real feelings for Link that, at the moment, he does not reciprocate. It’s messy.

Schmitt and Nico: Schmitt suffers a nervous breakdown after killing that podcaster and these two break up again. Are they the Ross and Rachel of Grey’s Anatomy?

Maggie and Winston: The newlyweds suffer a rough patch when Winston’s brother Wendell (Rome Flynn) arrives and steals twenty grand from them but eventually they reaffirm their love for one another.

Jackson and April: Surprise! Neither of these people are regular characters on this show anymore, but they do appear during Catherine’s cancer scare just to confirm that out in Boston they did end up getting back together and they are so in love. If you’re a #Japril shipper, this is excellent news. If you’re a #Japril hater, mind your business!!

Must-See Episode

You Are the Blood” (Season 18, Episode 20)

It took them 18 seasons and 400 (!!) episodes, but here Grey’s Anatomy finally explicitly points out that Meredith’s attachment to Grey Sloan might be less than healthy. And they do so with lots of clips from Grey’s History and lots of musical call backs. If both those things make us automatically begin to weep, does that mean we, too, have an unhealthy attachment to this place? Do not answer that.

Congratulations! You just completed your crash course in Grey’s Anatomy! Feel free to celebrate by dancing it out or drinking tequila, because you should feel confident enough to stroll on in to season 18 like a seasoned Grey’s vet. But remember, there’s always more to learn about the storied history of hot doctors in Seattle, and you never know who is going to walk through those hospital doors. Sometimes even ghosts!

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