Miranda Bailey wants to bring the joy back to Grey Sloan Memorial. The pandemic has left the hospital a dreary place with low morale. Her employees are retiring to write mystery novels, relax in places with a view, and find the fun in their lives again. She wants people to remember that what they do here is bigger than themselves, that they are all in this together. COVID-19 robbed them of so much, and a big part of that is the reason they do what they do: the joy of their work. Or as Webber puts it: “You want to remember the ‘why.’” He has some ideas of how they can make some changes. And yes, if you’re thinking, Hmmm, is this whole “finding joy” thing a little meta and definitely applicable to the show itself, because, holy shit, things were suffocatingly sad there for so, so long?, you are not alone.
A big portion of how Webber and Bailey want to enact positive change is linked to fixing the residency program, which is (let’s be honest) a real shitshow at the moment. These residents stink! Some of that is COVID and some of it … well, you can’t teach natural talent, babe. But Webber is going to try. He’s taking control of the program again — that whole “Meredith takes the residency program” thing lasted like one episode — and he’s making observations from the walkway overlooking the lobby, and it feels like old times, doesn’t it? Webber is putting the residents through a rigorous day in the skills lab — Schmitt calls it “the Surgical Olympics,” Helm calls it “the Hunger Games” — and the winner gets a solo surgery. It’s hard, it’s fun, even the attendings are getting into it, and at the end of it all Schmitt gets to pull a yoni egg out of a woman’s bowels with an assist from his fellow residents up in the gallery (Meredith’s residency class would never). Bailey can see the joy, people.
Someone who needs to see the joy standing right in front of her is Meredith Grey. And by that I mean both the revolutionary medical journey Seth Cohen’s dad is handing her and the hot transplant surgeon who wants to take her stargazing and tells her things like “risk it all.” That’s, like, so much joy. Especially for Meredith Grey, who we know loves to be shrouded in darkness for about eight months out of the year. It is her way.
Meredith is still deciding whether she wants to attempt to cure Parkinson’s disease, so she calls in Amelia to make sure she isn’t crazy for even considering David Hamilton’s offer. Mer’s obviously going to need a skilled neurosurgeon to pull this off, and if she’s doing this, she wants Amelia by her side. Amelia pretty much says yes from the moment Meredith walks her up to the Grey Center doors. Then she definitely says yes when she checks out the state-of-the-art equipment and learns they’d be working with Dr. Kai Bartley, a renowned neuroscientist who was a few years behind Amelia at Hopkins. Amelia is a huge fan of Bartley’s work. A huge, huge fan. It doesn’t take long for Amelia to sit Meredith down and ask her why in the hell she wouldn’t say yes to this. Not only is a famous surgeon “throwing money at them” to change the face of medicine, but it would also get Meredith back to her neuro roots. I don’t know if anyone has missed Meredith doing neurosurgery over the years since she switched to general, but sure, we can go with that. Amelia wants to do this with her, and she thinks her sister-in-law should’ve said yes yesterday. She heads back to Seattle.
On Meredith’s date with Nick — he sets up a picnic under the stars, because after he almost died he started to appreciate the simple things in life — he asks her about her “top-secret project.” She’ll only tell him one thing: She’s scared. She’s scared of failing. She’s scared of killing a brilliant surgeon. She’s scared of risking the comfort and safety she has in Seattle to possibly be a public failure. But Nick doesn’t buy it. “You are not a safety person, Meredith,” he says, reading her perfectly. She won’t be happy playing it safe, and he knows that because he’s the same way. “You’re going to risk it all, and win or lose, it’s going to be a hell of a ride.” In other news, I’m sweating.
Meredith knows Nick is right about her. So she goes to see David and give him her demands: She gets to pick her own team. Any progress they make through this research and surgery has to become “public and accessible to anyone with Parkinson’s.” And she wants to move the lab to Grey Sloan. That last item is a problem for David. It’ll be too expensive, and the clock is ticking — his prognosis is only getting worse. So they come to an agreement: She’ll open a satellite lab in Seattle and travel to Minnesota once a week. They shake on it. Meredith Grey is going to try to cure Parkinson’s disease. Talk about finding your joy, huh?
Back in Seattle, Meredith’s new brother-in-law seems to be fitting in nicely. Winston’s on his own this week because Maggie’s in Boston while her father has hip surgery, but Winston already knows that to be a surgeon at Grey Sloan you must (1) fight for your patients even if it could land you in major trouble and (2) say things in an extra-dramatic tone while exiting rooms in a hurry. He’s a natural! Winston ends up with a patient, Rashida Flowers, who has kidney disease due to diabetes. She also has a clotting disease that makes dialysis difficult, so her only other choice is a transplant, but she doesn’t qualify for the list. Both her mother and brother died of kidney disease because they, too, couldn’t get a transplant, so she has resigned herself to this fate.
Winston can’t wrap his head around this. Rashida’s renal function should make her an excellent candidate for a transplant. He looks into the eGFR, the tried-and-true formula they have been using for decades to determine kidney-transplant candidates, and finds something alarming. The formula is based on racist assumptions about Black people that makes it more difficult for them to qualify for the list — merely one instance of many that have “snaked their way into medicine.” He has examples of other patients on the list with the exact same health profile as Rashida, and the only difference between them and her is that they’re white. It’s appalling. Unfortunately, there’s not a lot that Winston can do. He can’t even appeal to the board unless the patient’s condition is medically emergent.
With her clotting disease, it doesn’t take long for Rashida to fall under that category. Yes, it’s a scary moment when things begin to go south, but Winston gets her stable enough, then delivers the good news: She has finally been placed on the transplant list. Rashida bursts into happy, relieved tears. It doesn’t change anything about the eGFR at the moment, but it does change Rashida’s life. “It’s time we start questioning our standards,” he tells Rashida’s nephrologist, who seems fine with the status quo. Grey Sloan is really rubbing off on Dr. Ndugu.
The OR Board
• Owen and Teddy seem to be in a nice little honeymoon period: They’re joining forces to do whatever it takes to help Noah Young, a vet with pulmonary fibrosis. He contracted it from exposure to burn pits while on one of his six tours, but the VA won’t cover treatment. He’s terminal, but he wants to spend whatever time he has left with his son, so he leaves the hospital, against medical advice, before Owen can get to him. Elsewhere, Teddy is worried the world might be cruel to little Leo, who decides to wear an Elsa dress to day care. Owen tells her that yes, the world may be cruel, but they never will be. Leo is happy. They should let him be who he is. We’re only two episodes in, but no drama has transpired between these two, and that is a really unexpected win.
• More talk of joy: Link is still a Sad Boy, crashing at Jo’s — they’re packing diaper bags together now — and singing depressing lullabies to Scout. Jo assures him that he’ll be okay; he just needs to start looking for the joy around him. Mm-hmm.
• Ooh la la: Are Cormac and Megan going to have a steamy hookup? She’s hanging around to fill in while Mer is away, and they have some immediate chemistry. Let’s do this! If you’re bringing the joy back, you have got to bring the steam back too!
• And now Peter Gallagher is quoting Into the Woods and alluding to a deep love for Sondheim musicals? I guess I’ve found my joy. Is this man going to die?
• Next week: Dr. Addison Montgomery returns, babyyyy!