It feels as if we have dutifully trudged across that death beach episode after episode and it is finally time to reap our reward for being very good boys and girls: Japril. Is. Endgame. You guys. YOU GUYS. Can you even believe it? After everything they’ve been through, Jackson Avery and April Kepner are going to ride off into the sunset — er, move to Boston together. Oh buddy, this one is for the Japril fans who have been hoping for this day (for everyone else, please don’t rain on this long-awaited, mismanaged parade, okay?). It’s here! It’s happening!
Now, if you’ve stumbled on this recap without watching “Look Up Child” or staying up-to-date with entertainment news, you might be a bit confused. There are some things to explain. First, Deadline announced that after 12 seasons, Jesse Williams is leaving Grey’s Anatomy. The next episode, airing May 20, will be his big send-off, which means this episode was all about teeing up his departure (actually, his past several episodes have been about teeing up this departure, and obviously the circumstances are different, but this is what Alex Karev deserved). The reason why Jackson Avery is leaving Seattle feels earned. It feels like closure.
The last time we saw Jackson, he had a blowup with his mother about how the Fox Foundation was so beleaguered by bureaucracy that it couldn’t do anything worthwhile. The pandemic had made racial inequity in medicine even more apparent, and the foundation and the Averys both have money and resources to do something that could make a difference and yet were doing nothing. During this argument, Catherine tells Jackson that he sounds like his father and Jackson ends up running off to his car and driving off into the night.
Here we discover that he was driving to see his dad in Montana. The last time we (and Jackson) saw Jackson’s father was when we first met him back in season 13, so suffice it to say, when he arrives at Robert’s bar after days of camping and being one with nature and not returning his mother’s calls, it’s awkward. Jackson wants answers. Last time, he was too scared to ask his father why he walked away from everything — his legacy, his work, his son. So, over putting together boxed lunches for those in need in town — Jackson Avery working a meat slicer while talking about his feelings? Okay! — the Avery men have a confrontation that’s been a long time coming.
Yes, Robert hated the bureaucracy of the foundation, too. And there was immense responsibility in having all of that money and people looking to you to fix all their problems and not being able to do anything about it. Robert says he didn’t want to be the kind of guy who was right for that role and he walked away from it all. And there’s nothing wrong with a smaller, simpler life. When Jackson asks if he has ever thought about what would’ve happened if he had stayed, Robert says that he isn’t one to look back. This is what really sets Jackson off and he finally says the things that have been weighing on him for so long: His father abandoning him messed him up. When things get hard, he runs. He constantly feels like he’s trying to fight back the parts of him that are like his father. Honestly, Jackson’s character has never made more sense than he does at this moment. It’s been daddy issues all along!
Robert tells his son that he regrets leaving him every day and it’s a pain he has to live with for the rest of his life. At this point, Jackson is bawling. Robert tells him that of course he isn’t anything like him. If Jackson was a runner like Robert, he would “be long gone by now.” Any time Jackson runs, he always comes back. He’s committed to his family and to his work. When the Harper Avery scandal broke, it would’ve been easy to walk away from the Avery legacy, but Robert reminds him that, instead, Jackson not only fought to fix the problem, but made the foundation better.
This is exactly what Jackson needs to hear. The next thing he does is drive right to his mother’s house to tell her that he is finally ready to take over the foundation in Boston — to take on the birthright he’s been avoiding his whole life. And he’s doing it because he wants to fix the system, or dismantle it, or whatever he needs to do to help serve those who are typically erased or ignored by the health-care system; he’s going to reallocate all of the foundation’s resources to fight inequality in medicine. “I know where I belong,” he tells his mother, who is overcome with emotion. Later, she tearfully tells Richard that she’s never been so proud in her entire life.
All that’s left to do is to make one huge ask of the mother of his child; he’s going to see April.
The episode actually starts here, with Jackson driving at night, in the middle of a storm, and arriving at April’s house all amped up and mumbling to himself about how he knows this sounds impulsive but he swears it isn’t, and the episode cuts back and forth between his time with his father and his night explaining himself to April, for the drama of it all. And of course, Jackson has the right to be worried this will all come off as impulsive since, you know, he does have a track record with impulsive decisions, lest we forget about his big “say it loud and go from there” moment in the middle of April and Matthew’s (first) wedding. At least he’s sort of self-aware?
So he knocks on April’s door. Although we haven’t seen April since she left in season 14, we know that she and Jackson have been very amicably co-parenting little Harriet and she’s been living in Seattle with Matthew since getting hitched after rekindling their romance when Matthew’s wife died in childbirth. If that sentence sounds insane to you, it’s because it is! What a terrible idea! All of this is to say, the two have remained best friends so this isn’t, like, an out-of-nowhere visit. But it certainly isn’t Jackson’s night to have Harriet, which leaves April confused.
She’s also a bit relieved because Harriet’s running a high fever (it isn’t COVID, she tested) and the power keeps going in and out. Oh, and Matthew and his daughter are out on the East Coast with his sister who is sick. Within seconds of Jesse Williams and Sarah Drew back on the screen together, their crackling onscreen chemistry is there. It all feels very lived-in. There is banter and teasing and knowing looks. It feels like we never left these two! Can you believe the show separated them for this long?!
And then Jackson lays it on her: He is going to take over the foundation, which means he is moving to Boston, and he needs Harriet to be there with him. He wants them all to move there. He’ll help April and Matthew get jobs. With the foundation, April can have all the resources she needs to keep her rural-medicine program going. It’s all insanely presumptive and April rightly pushes back: He’s always done everything he can to avoid taking over the foundation and now he wants her to upend her life for it? Jackson apologizes if figuring out who he wants to be is an “inconvenience” to her “perfect little life.”
It’s obviously more than that and they both know it. They rehash some of their old arguments about who had whose back when and April running off to Jordan to heal from the loss of Samuel and find herself and Jackson having to stand there and watch her marry Matthew (the second time). He would never stand in the way of her happiness and he is asking her to do the same thing. He makes a very impassioned speech about how he knows he can do this — run the foundation, make important, long-lasting changes, and still be a good father to Harriet. He can be the man his own father couldn’t. He’s begging April to give him that chance.
The next morning, Harriet’s feeling better and there’s a cute little family-breakfast scene that if I didn’t know how this episode ended would truly enrage me because it’s all very “What might have been!” But then April apologizes for saying that Jackson isn’t the right guy to take this endeavor on and they wistfully talk about how they always have such bad timing. It’s their thing, they say (well, that and yelling at each other until they end up humping somewhere), never figuring out “how to want the same thing at the same time.” Jackson backs off of his request; they’ll figure something else out. And April stops him: “Don’t do all the speeches and convincing and that thing where your face just lights up just to take it all back.” They’ll go to Boston with him. He deserves a shot to make this happen for himself.
Jackson is surprised, mostly because he figured she would need to discuss such a huge decision with her husband. As he is blathering on about ways to pitch the idea to Matthew, April blurts out that she and Matthew split up. Remember all those reasons why April and Matthew getting married after she had already left him at the altar once and then also his new wife died under her watch felt like a horrific idea? Yeah, they split up because of those. Matthew went to see his sister and he isn’t coming back. It always had to be Matthew leaving, otherwise April would be a monster; this is much easier to buy. Hey, look at Grey’s Anatomy righting a major wrong!
As Jackson asks April if she’s okay, he reaches his hand for hers because we have been blessed tonight. She’s not, yet. “Fingers crossed for new horizons,” she says, cementing her choice to leave it all behind for Boston. He repeats the sentiment and they hug before he goes to make plans for the move, and bringing April back to close out Jackson’s story is all very Doug Ross and Carol Hathaway and I can barely stand it (in the best way). This is shaping up to be the sweetest of goodbyes.