It’s a new dawn, it’s a new Grey’s, it’s a beautiful day to save lives for me, and I’m feeling … surprisingly fine about it? Listen, I know that was a stretch, but just go with it, okay? It’s season 19 of Grey’s Anatomy and I am tired! We are all tired! Except for maybe Miranda Bailey, who has wisely blown the Popsicle stand known as Grey Sloan Memorial and is looking fabulous! That’s what real rest and a reprieve from the land formerly known as Seattle Grace Mercy Death will get you. Oddly enough, “just go with it” seems to be the overall vibe of the season 19 premiere, which throws a whole bunch of new characters up on our screens and begs us to be patient, to give them time to introduce themselves to the group. Trust us, it seems to say. I mean, Grey’s Anatomy has been emotionally scarring us for decades now, so trust really isn’t on the table, but I will say I walked away from this episode cautiously optimistic that this show might be able to pull off the obvious retooling it’s going for here.
Of course, the big Grey’s hubbub during hiatus was Ellen Pompeo’s announcement that she’ll only be appearing in eight episodes this season. Without Meredith Grey at the center of this drama storm, the show will have to refocus a little bit. And thus we get “Everything Has Changed,” which, much like the pilot episode of Grey’s, spends the majority of its time following a group of five interns on their first shift at Grey Sloan. (Yes, the five of them do commiserate in the hallowed intern hallway, in case you were wondering.) At times it’s like we’re watching the reboot of a beloved series …only that series never technically went off the air.
Now before we get into who these new interns are, you might be saying to yourself, Wait didn’t season 18 end with Grey Sloan becoming an absolute dumpster fire that burned the residency program to the ground with only Meredith Grey left to figure out what to do with the ashes? You’re right! At the end of last season, post–Webber Method meltdowns and some major dysfunction among hospital leadership, the residency program was ripped away from Grey Sloan by the accreditation council, which is very bad for a place that prides itself on being a top-tier teaching hospital, and its residents were scattered in the wind.
Season 19, however, mercifully jumps six months ahead — bypassing what you know would’ve been at least ten episodes of people yelling about how they need to find a way to get the residency program back — and Meredith Grey, interim chief of surgery, has cobbled together a new class of interns in order to reboot the program, albeit with a bit of a different flavor (very meta!). Because of the situation Grey Sloan found itself in, the applicants for the new intern class are not up to the standards the doctors here are used to. Consider this Grey Sloan Intern Class: The Rejects, if you will.
Framing these new characters this way is, honestly, a smart move for a few reasons. First of all, by learning that all of these characters were rejected by more competitive residency programs, and if not for Grey Sloan and Meredith pulling their applications out of the “bottom of the barrel” their medical careers would’ve been DOA, they immediately become underdogs — and it is hard not to root for an underdog. Second, it adds a little mystery: Sure, the reasons why a few of them were rejected seem obvious, but that’s not the case with all of them. And now we’re left wondering about skeletons in the closet and insecurities right from the get-go.
The episode’s central medical emergency gives each of the five new interns a chance to reveal themselves a little bit: After a freak tornado in Seattle pushes a bus off a cliff (!!), the hospital is left with 14 patients who are possibly brain dead, and nine of them are organ donors. If we know anything, it’s that these interns are sure to have a whole host of bad days at Grey Sloan, but kicking things off by having to tell multiple families their loved one is brain dead and then asking for organ donation consent is pretty horrific.
Mika Yasuda — a woman with no filter — tries to make the best of it with her special brand of dark humor, which immediately pisses off Amelia Shepherd. Mika ends up being the only intern with a patient who could come out of this alive, and through her time with Marina and her mom, it becomes clear that the dark humor is probably just a defense mechanism and she actually has a secret well of empathy and optimism — perhaps somehow related to the fact that she has seven sisters?
Jules Millin gets handed the task of reprising the “intern who accidentally sleeps with an attending before her first day” role, but with a twist. We learn she hooked up with Link the other night, and while Link spends the episode sweating that out, running around trying to make sure everything is above board with HR, eventually Jules makes it humiliatingly clear that she is in no way interested in anything else with him. This isn’t a relationship, it was a onetime thing that happened before either of them knew who the other was. In short, she tells him to just be cool, man. It makes Jo laugh and laugh and laugh. In fact, Jules seems much more interested in building a relationship with Maggie — Jules is a Maggie Pierce fangirl. They work together on one of Maggie’s patients who has been waiting on the heart transplant list for a long time, and when a transplant once again does not work out, it’s pretty devastating. I expect we’ll circle back to this situation in the near future.
Our three other interns, Simone Griffith, Benson “Blue” Kwan, and Luke Adams, are tied into the biggest case of the episode: One of the victims, Liam Collins, ends up being a triple-organ match for one of Meredith’s patients, Sarah Martinez. A triple match like this is pretty much a miracle find. It’s such a big deal that Meredith asks Nick, whom she hasn’t spoken to in six whole months but is in the hospital for another transplant procurement, to lead the surgery since she’s a busy chief and can’t do it herself. Nick, who is understandably very mad at Meredith, says yes — see? It’s a big deal.
It’s all going well, the family is celebrating the news, until it’s discovered that Dr. Adams informed the wrong Mrs. Collins that her son was brain dead, which means Liam’s mother hasn’t actually given consent for organ donation and is, as is her right, raising holy hell about the mixup. Oh, Luke Adams, he is very hot, which is cool, but he very much has a “how did he not fail out of med school” vibe. He gets reamed out by both Amelia and then Meredith, who reminds him that now that Liam’s mother will not consent until the tests confirming brain death are redone on her son, there is a chance that Liam could code before procurement, rendering his organs ineligible for transplant. Luke promptly barfs in a nearby trash can.
Simone Griffith, who we learn is having a tough time being at Grey Sloan because her mother died giving birth to her there, ends up really saving Luke’s ass. She’s supersmart and resourceful and keeps the retesting process moving right along. She winds up being the one to inform Mrs. Collins that everything and everyone involved confirms Liam is brain dead. But it’s Benson Kwan who swoops in to give Mrs. Collins a heartfelt speech about how hard this must be for her, but that he lost his brother when he was just 16 and the only thing that gives him some peace is thinking about the lives his brother saved by donating his organs. It’s very moving! It’s also, as Benson tells Simone after Mrs. Collins gives her consent for donation, a complete crock of shit. He made it all up! Benson just wants in on a triple-transplant surgery. You know what? This show could use a level of ruthlessness like that — game on, baby.
Simone and Benson are not the only two interns who get to be in the OR during the big surgery (which ends up going well). Nick finds Luke watching from the scrub room. Luke clearly feels awful and just wanted to make sure Sarah ended up being okay. Nick gives the kid a really lovely speech about how good doctors learn from their mistakes and that Luke should always try to end the day “better than it started” — he wants Luke to scrub in with him. It’s very nice and I can’t believe Meredith hasn’t talked to this man in six months just because she’s stubborn, but in the end she does offer him the residency director position, telling him that it’s both because he’s a great teacher and that she was inspired by his story of needing someone to take a chance on him to get his medical career going when she was selecting interns. Anyway, Nick’s a great character and I will be so sad when he rides off into the sunset with Meredith this season!
And just when you think Grey’s season 19 has kicked off with a solid episode, it provides a tiny little twist that might just get those tear ducts all worked up. As Nick is about to cut into the patient, with Luke scrubbed in by his side, Luke says “it’s a beautiful day to save lives.” I swear I heard a record scratch in my living room. Even casual Grey’s Anatomy fans should know that “it’s a beautiful day to save lives” is Derek Shepherd’s line. How? What? Why is this happening to us?
We cut to Meredith and Amelia up in the OR gallery watching all of this go down and, as it turns out, Luke is not just quoting Derek Shepherd, neuro god, he is quoting his uncle Derek Shepherd, neuro god. Yep, Luke Adams is Derek and Amelia’s nephew. He was Derek’s favorite nephew, apparently, and he revered his uncle. Meredith and Amelia agree that Luke is kind of a mess, but Meredith sees the Shepherd spark — and “genius” — in him. She thinks he just needs a chance to be great. She hired him because he reminded her of … Amelia. It’s a sweet moment and the type of character reveal one might expect from the reboot of a long-running show; it immediately makes you form an emotional attachment, and what can I say, I’m a sucker for that type of stuff.
The OR Board
• Teddy and Owen appear at the end of the episode to let us know that thanks to a very expensive lawyer, all the criminal charges against Owen were dropped, but his medical license is suspended and for the next six months he can only practice while under supervision. I’m sure we’ll get more details at some point on what happened during the couple’s way-too-brief sojourn as fugitives.
• Hopefully season 19 dives a little deeper into Maggie and Winston’s relationship, which deserves a more complex look. For now, it seems as though Maggie being both Winston’s wife and boss is beginning to wear on him.
• Jo and Link seem to be in a good place friendship-wise, and while you don’t want them to get together too soon, I’m hoping all of this Link-sleeping-around business is just a stall tactic — they built some really nice romantic momentum last season!
• After a stint in OB, Schmitt ditches Jo and becomes chief resident. It’s mostly by default, but good for him!
• When Link goes to Meredith for advice on how to handle the fact that he slept with an intern, her response is thus: “I’m in no position to judge you on this. I do recommend you avoid elevators for the foreseeable future.” It is perfect.