Grey’s Anatomy has certainly made some, um, choices this season. It’s already been almost unbearably sad as we’ve watched our doctors at Grey Sloan Memorial take on the devastating toll of the COVID-19 pandemic. And now, as if to double down on the trauma, in “In My Life,” Grey’s has decided to take a deeper dive into a story line tied to 9/11. Like I said, a real choice. And nine episodes in, just as people are really growing frustrated with all the time spent away from the hospital in Meredith’s trippy life-or-death limbo beach, Grey’s decides it’s the perfect time to spend an entire episode in a different character’s trippy dream sequence. Listen, I’m not against trippy dream sequences — Grey’s has done many over the years and they’ve been effective — it’s just … the timing of this one couldn’t be worse. Everything here feels like overkill.
Here’s the other thing: There are a lot of problems with the Teddy character (definitely not Kim Raver, who seems to be doing everything she can in her performance and is great) since she returned full time in season 15 as a completely different person than she was during her initial run. This episode feels like the show is once again trying to make these changes make sense, to show it’s a pattern that has always been there, but it just ends up feeling forced. Perhaps if Teddy being trapped in her mind as she processes the worst events in her life and tries to figure out where things really went wrong was just one story line among many — like how we visit Meredith on that godforsaken beach while other things are going on — it would’ve worked better. Having the entire episode be focused on Teddy’s hellscape with the only “reprieve” being Owen and Amelia building furniture and screaming about trauma? This is a hard one to swallow.
At least while spending time in Teddy’s head and watching Owen grapple with what’s happening to her we do learn some interesting things. Oh, and Ghost DeLuca is there, so that’s nice. Let’s talk about it.
So, yes, as we saw after DeLuca’s memorial, Teddy has gone into some type of PTSD-induced state in which she isn’t speaking or eating or moving, really — she’s staring off into space, trapped in her own mind. Here we find her still in this state, but in bed, with Owen doing everything he can to snap her out of it. Or, at the very least, drink some water. If something doesn’t change soon, he’ll have to admit her to the hospital.
Amelia pops over with fluids for Teddy and to be there for Owen and once Owen spills his guts about where everything stands with Teddy she is like, and I’m paraphrasing, “Boy, child, man, you need to forgive that woman. For all of our sakes, including and mainly for the audience.” Owen throws a complete fucking hissy fit about how Teddy doesn’t deserve his forgiveness, which is RICH coming from a liar and a cheat himself, and it is Amelia (!) who is the voice of reason (!!), reminding Owen that just because Teddy has processed her trauma differently than he has, it doesn’t mean he can blow it off. She is clearly suffering from PTSD from the trauma of losing Allison in such a horrific way (and probably from a whole host of other things this woman has been through). And then Owen says something ridiculous about how she’s never talked about it before, and Amelia’s like, “Do you walk around telling everyone how you strangled Cristina?” I really wish Ghost DeLuca had popped in and literally scratched a record at this moment. The air is sucked out of the room. Amelia reminds Owen that people don’t walk around talking about the worst things that have happened to them and that sometimes traumatized people hurt the people they love. Owen knows that better than anyone. Owen got help for his PTSD. Now Teddy needs help. And Owen needs to find a way — no matter how long it takes or how impossible it seems — to forgive her.
Now, while all of that’s going on, Teddy is having a time of it. There’s lots of wild cuts and symbolism and people (Ghost DeLuca rises!) and things and open heart cavities where they shouldn’t be. It’s all unnerving and chaotic; it’s supposed to be. Once the episode settles into its groove, you see the whole thing is about Teddy reliving huge turning points in her life and wondering if she had made a different choice, would things be better now? Where did Teddy go wrong and can she change things?
Obviously, we know this exercise is futile. But Teddy does it over and over, going further back into her past. What if she got in the car with Tom on the day of her wedding to Owen and they ran away together? Well, it seems like it would be fun for a little, but then she would lose Owen and her family and completely blow things up (she literally blows Dream Tom up with a grenade).
What if when Owen came to visit her in Germany, she didn’t kick him out and he stayed and she told him the truth about Allison and then they got married? This sequence takes a turn fast: Even during the wedding ceremony — officiated by Ghost DeLuca — Owen is taking calls and text from his exes, Amelia, Beth, and Cristina (justice for Emma!). Teddy’s insecurities about whether Owen actually wants to be with her and isn’t just settling because he can’t have Cristina or Amelia rear their head here. “I’ll never be enough for you,” she tells him.
And then she’s back in an O.R. with DeLuca and he wants to know about Allison. We learn more about their story: They were friends, and when Teddy’s parents both died in the same year (her father was sick, for her mother it was sudden), Allison was the one who got her through it. Teddy was in so much pain, and it’s during this time that they went from friends to lovers.
“I killed her,” Teddy says. This is the moment Teddy wants to try and change: The morning of September 11, 2001, Teddy and Allison were in bed together and Allison wanted them to play hooky — but Teddy says no. She has to get to work. And everything changes. This time around, in dreamworld, Teddy says yes. But even as they spend the morning happily in the park, you see the shadow of a plane fly overhead and there is chaos and Allison still dies. There is nothing Teddy can do to stop it.
Teddy’s problems are two-fold, as explained by Meredith, who walks Teddy through a hospital lined with corpses on gurneys covered by sheets like she is the freaking gatekeeper of death (feels on-brand). First, Teddy is burdened by the immense guilt she feels over the people she’s lost. She feels responsible for Allison’s death, for DeLuca’s, for Meredith’s current condition. But also, as Mer points out, Teddy has a tendency to run from pain. When her parents died, she ran into Allison’s arms. When Allison died, she left her life behind to join the army. When Owen was with Cristina, Teddy found her way to Henry. It goes on and on and on. This wise dream version of Meredith tells Teddy that joy and pain are “a package deal,” and you can’t have one without the other. Teddy needs to stop running, even if she is scared of both those things.
Those wise words seem to do the trick because just like that, Teddy snaps out of it, gets out of bed, and Owen finds her rocking baby Allison, assuring her daughter that she’s there now and it will all be okay. Does Meredith have magical powers in all her forms or what?
The O.R. Board
• Wowie has Grey’s Anatomy really done Henry Burton dirty. Teddy has barely (if at all?) mentioned the guy since returning and in her big life breakthrough episode, he is merely brought up within a list of a bunch of other characters whom Teddy has lost? She doesn’t want to redo the way he died? Or, like, just have him pop up on the O.R. monitors for a hot second? What a cruel, cruel world Grey Sloan has been to Henry Burton.
• Even in dream sequences, everyone knows Cristina Yang is number one, always.
• Dream Tom only wants pancakes and Champagne, Dream Tom is … my dream man?
• Next week: LEXIE’S BACK!! Aw, look at Meredith’s Death Beach using its powers for good!