Grey's Anatomy Under Pressure

Last week’s episode was intense and there were plently of unexpected twists. Of course, the writers had it all planned out as they explain in the Grey’s writer blog!

Once in a while, here in the Writer’s room, if we’re stuck on a problem or need a new idea, someone will yell:  “Everyone think of three good ideas in the next three minutes — GO!”  And we all stop talking and start squinting or staring into space as we think really hard and the room starts to smell like burnt toast, and then, “Time’s up!”  And we go around the room and we have to say what we came up with.  And this game pretty much always works.  We always come up with something.  Why?  Because we had to.   Because pressure – even fake pressure – pushes your brain into survival mode, causes you to think differently, move differently and become very creative, because the stakes have suddenly become life-or-death.  Which is why I was a little surprised to learn we’d never done “Pressure” as a theme in six-plus seasons.  I mean, these doctors have life-and–death stakes every day.  So we were interested in what extra pressures we could put on these doctors, but even more interested in what happens when all the pressure is taken off. 

Like when you…say… quit your job. 

So, yes, let’s talk about Cristina first…. She left the hospital, under what might have been the worst possible circumstances:  not in a panic or a fit of anger – these are conditions you can get over — but with a clear-headed decision that surgery is just not what she wants to do.  Which is more frightening, because it means she might never come back.  What’s even scarier for Cristina is the question of what she will do now.  Now that the thing she’s been working toward, preparing for, eating, sleeping and breathing for all of her adult life is suddenly off the table.  Here, she’s clearly avoiding the question, as she grasps at any and every notion that crosses her path — from haircuts to housewares.  Anything to keep from looking at the real question:  “What do I do now?” 

Callie’s in a similar boat, trying to picture what her life will be after losing the one person she really wanted to spend it with.  And it appears she’s as undecided as Cristina, as she spends the whole day trying to put a good face — and a decent hairstyle – on the situation.  But what Cristina says is true: we’ve rarely seen Callie when she wasn’t in a relationship.  And in the end, she just can’t do it; Callie turns to her friend Mark and tells him she doesn’t want to be alone without someone else.  I love those moments, when their friendship becomes a life raft. 

Cristina’s departure is putting pressure on other people too:  Meredith heard last week that she’s at least partially responsible for Cristina’s troubles; Derek feels a debt to her that he doesn’t begin to know how to repay; Owen wants the girl he met back, for her own sake as much as his; and Teddy (thanks in part to Derek’s misdirected frustration) worries that she could have done more. 

So when the Emir arrives, it puts these three in a little political pressure cooker, where the stakes are higher because so many people have a vested interest in the outcome of their work.   As the politicos argue about who’s at fault and what’s the best way to save their leader,  our doctors have to air their own agendas, point their fingers of blame, and figure out between them the best way to save Cristina.  Meredith and Derek clearly disagree, and I think it’s really surprising when he goes behind Mer’s back to steal Cristina away.  It’s almost a betrayal.  I would say it was a betrayal if I didn’t believe that he was helping Cristina for Meredith’s sake, too.  That he wants her to have her friend back.   It’ll be interesting to see if Mer sees it that way.

Alex is under his own kind of pressure, the pressure to take care of his family, which we learn about only at the end of the night.  And looking back on his day with that bit of knowledge, you can see how it informed every decision he made.   He’s so furious with himself for abandoning his family, when he fights to for a way to save the little girl from a possibly failed liver transplant; he’s trying to go the extra mile for someone, after leaving his family to fend for themselves.   And then poor April:  she basically tells him what he so needs to hear, that he’s okay, that he’s a basically good person, and he reaches out for some kind of connection, some kind of solace.   But he’s in such an angry, hateful place, he’s inexcusably horrible to her.  And he knows it, in that moment.   He knows it at the party, too, where he wants to apologize.  When Jackson hits him, he takes the first punch as a sort of penance – he wants to pay the debt.  The fight could stop there.  But Jackson’s in a whole other place…. 

Now, Jackson – it’s not clear who’s putting the pressure on Jackson.  It’s true, he has been making a lot of mistakes in the last few months, and he’s been a little tightly wound.  Maybe while we’ve been concentrating on our other doctors’ healing, we’ve not noticed that Jackson might not be as together as he appears.  But is it, as Lexie suggests, paranoia?  Maybe he’s the only one putting the pressure on himself?  Really, it doesn’t matter — when that sort of stress builds up, it just needs any little excuse to let it blow.    Alex’s cruel treatment of April, who Jackson sees – rightly or wrongly — as his last surviving ally, is enough.  He can’t control himself.  This could be the relief valve he needed to get better, since the shooting.  Or it might be the tip of the iceberg…  We’ll see. 

Before we go, I want to say a word about Dr. Stark.   Stark is a rare presence – he represents a type of attending surgeon we Grey’s writers have heard about many times in our research:  Not incompetent, not evil, just complacent.  Lazy.  Arrogant, and self-satisfied.  Just the opposite of our Seattle Grace/Mercy West Attendings.    In a lesser actor’s hands Stark could come off as just a villain.  But played by as intelligent, collaborative and hilarious an actor as Peter MacNicol, you get a really complicated human being, and that’s actually makes him way scarier.   We could not have been more thrilled with this bit of casting.  We’ve all been a huge fans of Peter MacNicol, and he’s been terrific to have on the set. 

Well, that’s it for now, thanks again for watching, and reading.  And come back here next week, when Zoanne Clack will be telling you about her episode which features, among other things, Miranda Bailey like you have never seen her before.  Ever.  Really. 

About the author

Beth Hodgson is a freelance writer and editor ( based in the Greater Toronto Area, Canada. Writing to keep the public informed is her passion; and who doesn't love Canadian TV?
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