When someone’s sibling shows up, you know there is going to be some sort of drama. There’s going to be a physical altercation (Alex!) or emotional turmoil thanks to tense family history (both of Meredith’s sisters, if we’re being honest), or sometimes that sibling can arrive and wreak havoc and never leave (hi, Amelia). The arrival of Winston’s younger brother, Wendell, falls mostly in the second category. Winston seems to unravel upon Wendell’s surprise visit, and it couldn’t come at a worse time, since Maggie is preparing for a major, career-highlight-level surgery, and she needs her No. 2.
Maggie has taken on the case of Fierce Fernanda, a young girl with a congenital heart condition that led to aortic stenosis (a narrowing of the aortic valve) who has been documenting her journey online. She and her family live in Boston, and because of her condition, they had to rent a trailer to drive across the country to Seattle so that Maggie can perform a rare operation called the Ross procedure in which she would replace Fernanda’s aortic valve with her pulmonary valve (wouldn’t it have been easier to figure out a way for Maggie to do the surgery in Boston?? Anyhoo …). It’s risky, not a lot of people have done it successfully, and everyone is hyped that Maggie is going to perform it.
But when Fernanda and her family show up, Fernanda is in bad shape. In the time it took them to drive across the country — and make some touristy pit stops — Fernanda’s condition has deteriorated, and now Maggie thinks the only choice is to perform a Ross-Konno procedure, which is even riskier than the previous one they were going to do because it involves cutting parts of the heart in half. Anyway, there’s just a bunch of crazy procedures and scary valve talk, and everyone is even more hyped that this is happening at Grey Sloan. Well, everyone who works there — definitely not Fernanda’s family, who are terrified. At one point, Winston finds Fernanda’s brother Rafael having a panic attack because dealing with his sister’s condition is tearing the entire family apart, and if she dies, he doesn’t think any of them will survive it. So that’s, uh, gut-wrenching and not at all adding more pressure to a situation that already has pretty high stakes.
But, surprisingly, it is exactly what Winston needs to hear to get his act together. Up until this point, he’s been less than focused thanks to Wendell’s arrival. Wendell couldn’t even RSVP for Winston and Maggie’s wedding, but now he’s shown up unannounced with a fancy new medical sales job. Winston seems suspicious. And maybe he has every right to be: At one point, he finds Wendell just casually chatting up Owen Hunt about buying drones that can deliver supplies to emergency scenes, and he is like, What in the fresh hell is this? The Brothers Ndugu get into it. This is Winston’s place of work, and he can’t have Wendell causing trouble. When Wendell tells him that he used Winston’s name — and Maggie’s and Webber’s — to get his new job, Winston is not pleased. And then when he finds out that Wendell has been speaking to their dad, who Winston has no desire to have a relationship with, well, that just sets him off. Wendell was here hoping his older brother would be proud of him for getting his life together, and that just isn’t the case.
All of this is why Winston goes off to Maggie about Fernanda’s family being selfish and bringing this trouble on themselves, and it’s clear to everyone that this is not about Fernanda. But it takes seeing Rafael in so much pain for Winston to realize that too. Before the surgery, he finally speaks honestly with his wife: When his mom was diagnosed with cancer, none of them took it well. Wendell started getting in fights and had anger issues, and their dad started drinking and gambling and ended up in jail. Winston’s mom used the money for her treatments to bail him out. He’s always blamed them for putting more stress on his mom, basically blaming them for her death. His entire life was almost derailed because of everything that went down, and he got scared that Wendell being here could mean he would lose everything he’s built in Seattle with Maggie. But he realizes this surgery is not about him or his issues, and he is ready to support Maggie in the OR.
And so, they cut. Well, first, Winston pumps up his wife by telling her that Fernanda’s family “were right to travel across the country for you” and he knows that because he did it too. I mean, holy hell, am I the only one who thought that was, like, the hottest thing to say in that moment? How do these surgeons operate under such sweaty conditions?! But operate Maggie does, and it is a huge success. Fernanda is saved and her family is saved and even Winston and Wendell set aside time to make their peace. All in all, a very big day for the Pierce-Ndugu contingent of Grey Sloan.
The excitement at the hospital won’t last much longer, I’m afraid, because Owen and Bailey get some troubling news. In case you hadn’t heard from the 30 people who make sure to mention it throughout the episode: There is a physician shortage at Grey Sloan. No, really! A physician shortage! Everyone’s talking about it. Bailey’s really spinning out about it and the chaos it is causing at the hospital, and to alleviate some of that stress, Owen, who still has not been cleared to operate yet, offers to take over as chief for the day to let Bailey get into the OR. The chief is mostly a logistical job, and he can handle it. But, like, if during his own tenure as chief of surgery Owen’s decision-making led to a plane full of doctors crashing into the woods, why are we giving this man the means?! Anyway, Bailey lets him do it. Joke’s on him, though, because this is a terrible day to be chief!
A woman wanders around the hospital trying to speak to someone in charge until she is directed toward Owen — in the middle of yelling at residents to stop watching a miracle surgery and get back to work because, have you heard, there is a physician shortage — and informs him that she is from the Medical Accreditation Council. Apparently, they’ve received over 15 anonymous complaints about the residency program at Grey Sloan in the last six months, and the council is investigating. The fact that this woman couldn’t find the director of the residency program, Richard Webber (still waiting for his assessment), nor the actual chief of surgery to speak to about this definitely doesn’t make a great first impression. So Bailey comes waltzing into her office feeling light and free after a day of operating, and Owen has to deliver the bad news: The council wants to shut the residency program down. That’s a real mood killer right there.
The OR Board
• Meredith and Zola have a sick day together, and she tells her about the permanent job offer in Minnesota. Zola says that she, Bailey, and Ellis would follow Meredith anywhere. It’s a sweet sentiment, but also, they kind of have to follow Meredith because, uh, they are children.
• I’m very smitten with this Jo-Todd story line, and I fear poor Todd Eames with his little fruit arrangement is going to get his heart crushed at some point. (At least his sister’s surgery went well!) For now, he’s just bringing Jo flowers and study snacks and saying cute things about respecting the rules of a library, even though this is Grey Sloan, and people are free, encouraged even, to make out wherever they want. Regardless, Jo hasn’t looked this happy in a long time.
• I was enjoying Teddy watching the whole Jo-Todd thing play out in front of her — there were some good comedy bits in this episode! — until she notes that she doesn’t care what Jo does with a patient’s brother because she “married a patient once, for insurance.” And that’s all she says!! The disrespect Henry Burton gets on this show!! I will not stand for it!!