Ellen Pompeo: Ron Tom/ABC
Gregory Kirschling
October 06, 2006 AT 04:00 AM EDT

”Grey’s Anatomy”: Fantasies gone wrong

October’s here. This is the best month there is. Last night was a good night to go home, cook a chicken, open the windows to let the early autumn in, and watch a very fine episode of Grey’s Anatomy with you, the rest of America. And this was the finest episode of three in this young season! I don’t see how any of you could argue with that. So let’s all like each other, and be happy together, and get down to it.

The evening began dubiously. To the tune of the first Andre 3000 Idlewild single (which is not as good as the first Big Boi single), we zero in on Meredith in bed and in the middle of a randy dream sequence co-starring Finn and Derek. Right away, two things. 1. Isn’t this the first post-Super Bowl episode from season 2 all over again? Remember how that one opened with George dreaming of a shower scene starring Meredith, Cristina, and Izzie? And remember how disappointing that was, how it felt like Grey’s was trying to be more provocative than true fans knew it to be, and how it seemed like a gross ploy to capture new horndog viewers left over from the football game? This felt like that, at first. 2. On the other hand, you gotta admire this show for tricks like this, because it seems to delight in, to derive such glee out of, making Meredith look unlikable. ”Meredith is a whore!” I practically heard half of America shouting at the TV through my open windows. Yes, we raised the question last week, and the hot debate is under way: Do we like Meredith? I’m all for her, and as far as I’m concerned, the fact that she’s so brazenly unlikable on this show makes her all the more lovable.

Take Callie, in comparison. In the very next scene, we discover that Callie has moved out of the hospital basement and in with George (already). And she uses up all the hot water, she hogs George’s towel and his computer, and she walks around his coed domicile naked. Why aren’t you mad at her, rest of America? Meredith is burned like a Salem witch on these message boards for dithering and for being stuck on the wrong guy, and Callie gets a pass for being a total psycho? Doesn’t seem right to me.

Anyway, let’s roll back and find a point of commonality. Little Miss Sunshine deserves at least a nomination for the guest-spot Emmy this year. Abigail Breslin popped up to play a kid who thinks she’s a superhero, who’s seemingly impervious to pain, who rips out a staple jabbed into her flesh with her teeth and spits it across the room. She was a guest star for the Grey’s hall of fame — unforgettable. And Breslin totally raised Justin Chambers’ game too, because this was one of Karev’s best episodes ever. It was a little disappointing that the show did such a bad job of explaining what ailed the kid, but it didn’t really matter, because Karev’s scenes with her were so heartfelt. (Although, really — why couldn’t she just be nerveless, like Darkman? Surely that’s a medical condition.) Best part was when Karev reassured her that her foster parents weren’t gonna trade her in. ”Nobody sends home a superhero,” he said. Karev’s the man.

And — for the first time ever — I’m worried that Derek’s the Man — you know, like Big Brother, keeping the little guy down. Last week I named him a top 3 character on the show. But I’ll admit that he’s been disappointing so far this season. Why’s he so cocky? I miss Derek’s droopy, lovelorn, cuckolded looks from last season. He worked better as a man existentially trapped. This was officially the first episode where it was okay not to like Derek. He asked Meredith out; Finn asked Meredith out. And Derek pulled the BMOC card at every step: interrupting Finn and Meredith’s modest lunch date with an irresistible ”corpus callosotomy” (anybody know how to spell that?), smirking like a frat president, pouring out ooze instead of charm as he tried to woo Meredith. I still like him: I only assume this is all for the good of the season, which could benefit big time from a strong push by — as Cristina amusingly dubbed him — ”you funny vet!”

What else happened? In what felt like the longest, most obvious close-up of the show’s history, Cristina learned — in her last moments in this ep — that ”recovery’s hard work” and ”you need to be patient” from Derek, who was talking to the wife of the corpus-callosotomy guy. So, we might reasonably conclude, maybe in future episodes she’ll go easier on Burke, who is — refreshingly — kind of still a moody basket case after his hand injury. I expected him and Izzie both to be healed by now, after the heavy-duty trauma they sustained last May, which is so last season — but I like it that they’re still in critical condition, so to speak. This show has a deep enough bench to keep the central action interesting while these two slowly rehabilitate off to the side. (Izzie, if you didn’t watch, spent the whole episode loitering outside the hospital, mustering the courage to try and step back inside.) And George — after whining like a weasel to his friends about how awful it was living with Callie, rather than telling it to her face (which is, to be fair, usually how it works in real life, is it not?) — finally told Callie that he wasn’t ready for them to live together. And she retorted angrily that he might’ve mentioned that the first four times she asked. She has a point, and so does he. You couldn’t argue with either of them, and it was kind of poignant. Let’s rule it this problematic couple’s finest moment together so far.

And let’s all agree that this show has proven it knows how to seal the deal in the last 10 minutes of every recent episode. That scene when Meredith stumbles upon the crying Addison, who tried to boot Mark out of the state and maybe still hopes to win back Derek, and who just begs for a moment’s reprieve from having to look at Meredith at all? It was terrific. Addison wiped the floor with my dear Meredith, who — I agree with you! — was kind of cold, and didn’t show proper deference or respect. But then, in the last moments — give it up for a great close — Derek walked Meredith back to her door, and then Finn crashed the party with a pint of strawberry ice cream, and suddenly it was a showdown, and Meredith delivered as good a speech as Ellen Pompeo has ever pulled off on this show. ”Nobody’s even looking at me!” she yelled at her two suitors. ”My fantasy is not two men looking at each other!” And people will call her full of herself, but I think she was right on. Those guys were looking at each other a whole lot. This is great groundwork for episode 4 and the rest of the season.

Right? What do you think? Do you like Meredith more or less right now? Did you also think George looked like Brando in Streetcar at the end of the episode when he hung apishly onto the door frame in his undershirt and said, ”Callie moved out, which is a relief”? What do you make of the fact that the episode began and ended with three people in bed (just as the Super Bowl episodes began and ended with three women in a shower)? Did anybody else notice that Addison looked a lot more lasciviously at Alex when she sent him off to work at the beginning of the ep than she did at Mark when she sent him back to New York later on? And when Derek asked, during the brain surgery in the OR, ”What do we want to avoid?Grey?” and she said, ”We want to avoid retractors on the sagittal sinus,” is that what she really meant, or is that lovers’ code for something else?

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