At one point in this episode, a man’s intestines burst out of his body while he’s in the hyperbaric chamber and it really is an apt metaphor for both this episode as a whole and how many of our main characters are feeling at the moment. “Sign o’ the Times” gives us a look at Grey Sloan as Seattle, and the country, is erupting in protest after the killing of George Floyd and the episode is stuffed to the point of bursting with a whole bunch of terrible things happening at once. Most of our characters look like they’re about to burst because of the stress and trauma they’re living through, none more than Maggie and Bailey this week. Anyway, if I never have to see a man’s intestines pop out of his body again, it will be too soon.
Everyone is shaken as the news goes from bad to worse on a daily basis, a city curfew is instated, and tension is at an all-time high. Webber tells people that if they need to take time off to rest or to protest or to just process everything going on, they should. “Revolutions don’t schedule appointments,” Webber tells Bailey as he heads out to a march because “these moments save lives too.” He’s back at the hospital almost as fast as he leaves because a woman named Nell (welcome, Phylicia Rashad, and no, before you ask, she and her sister Debbie Allen don’t share any screen time), whom he was next to during the protest, got shot with a tear-gas canister that is now lodged in her neck. She ends up needing surgery, but is ultimately just fine and is mostly there to inspire a bunch of doctors as she and Webber swap protest-scar stories — her first march was the March on Washington with Martin Luther King Jr. in 1963. Webber feels invigorated and hopeful after spending time with her.
Bailey’s day is basically the opposite of that. She’s left to deal with a patient who makes her feel so hopeless it’s a wonder she’s even still standing at this point. Bailey has a patient who doesn’t believe COVID-19 is real. He won’t wear his mask correctly, he thinks the whole thing is a scam and the doctors are making money off of it and refuses to be a sheep. And then he tests positive. He’s having trouble breathing and he has a blood clot in his leg and yet refuses to take anything Bailey says seriously. He wants a prescription for his asthma and that’s it. You want to brush this guy off as an idiot and move on, but when you think about everything Bailey has lost and the level of pure trauma she is simply just living with each day, the fact that she has to deal with a person like this is just so brutal. At one point she has to step out of the room and into the stairwell before she screams or breaks down into tears, or both.
Of course, this terrible person decides to leave against medical advice and he collapses before he can even make it out of the parking lot and Bailey and Teddy are unable to save him. His death enrages Bailey. The one thing she can do in the middle of all of this chaos and heartbreak is save people’s lives, but not with someone like this. What is she supposed to do with this? She wants to hope that they’ll be turning a corner from all of this soon, but days like this, she cannot find hope anywhere.
Maggie knows this feeling all too well and it crops up again in her story line this week. The world is on fire and Winston is making his drive across the country to officially move to Seattle to be with his fiancée. He’s alone and driving and Maggie is terrified the entire time. And then her worst fears happen: While they’re on the phone, Winston gets pulled over by the police. She tells him to keep the phone on so she can hear everything and Winston tries to handle the situation as calmly as possible, but he’s terrified too. And then the police make him hang up the phone. Maggie keeps trying to call him back to make sure he’s okay, but he doesn’t pick up. She is freaking out.
She is also in the middle of a complex case: She’s working on a 22-year-old named Guy who was shot in the chest with a rubber bullet during the protests. He keeps crashing and they have to rush him into the OR or he could die. So Maggie is dealing with this insane stress and fear over having no idea if Winston is okay and also having to calm down enough to save Guy’s life. She needs Webber. Holding back tears just as she’s about to go into the OR, she tells Webber that she needs someone to find Winston. He takes her phone and tells her that if he can’t get ahold of someone soon, he’ll get in his car and go looking for Winston. He’ll take care of it. So Maggie is able to go in and do her job.
Just as they’re finishing up — Guy is going to be okay! — Webber gets Winston on the phone. The man is shaken up. Like, visibly shaking. He tells her that he was pulled over because his bike rack was obstructing his license plate and then they got a look at who was driving and “it turned into one of those things.” They made him get out of the car and they searched through all of his things, tossing it all out on the road to go through it, to have their dog sniff it, to have their dog sniff him. He is beside himself and he doesn’t know how he can get back in the car and drive. Maggie tells him she’ll stay on the phone with him for as long as he needs. She waits for him outside of her house and when he finally pulls up, they hold each other. It’s a tiny bit of relief.
The O.R. Board
• Well, Meredith is still sleeping. It’s still infuriating. This time around, it’s Schmitt who gets to wax poetic about how amazing Meredith is as he takes her for treatment in the hyperbaric chamber. Excuse me, as he takes Doll Meredith into the hyperbaric chamber. I’ve been trying to ignore that doll that they’re using for Meredith for weeks but that thing will haunt me for the rest of my days and it needs to be mentioned. Anyway, this is where the guy with the intestines comes into play: They have to double up in the chamber these days and when that patient’s insides are on the outside of his body, it’s Schmitt who steps in, asks, “What Would Meredith Grey Do?” and then saves that man’s life like a real boss.
• Cormac is one of the doctors inspired by Nell. At the beginning of the episode, he shows up at Grey Sloan with a major head wound: He was at the protest with his two sons and ended up in a fight. Because of that experience, he refuses to let his sons continue to protest. After hearing Nell’s story, however, he knows he needs to let them be a part of this moment and to take a stand. As long as he’s there with them.
• Jackson, too, is moved by Nell’s story. He realizes he’s never actually been to a march or protest, but rather donated money and signed petitions when he could. He goes to his mother to ask why her philosophy is that going to work and being successful was the best way to help. He wants to know why they don’t have scars like Nell and Webber. All of this ties into Jackson’s new push for the Fox Foundation to put together free COVID testing sites — just one of the ideas he and intern Ortiz came up with after their meeting in the previous episode. Catherine’s been putting him off because of stuff with the board, but Jackson’s tired of all the red tape. He’s tired of not doing enough. At the end of the episode, he’s in his car plugging in an address to his GPS, somewhere that’s 11 hours away. A mystery!