”Grey’s Anatomy”: Cristina lends Burke a hand
This week’s episode, ”Let the Angels Commit,” was about commitment. And I am committed to this show. I am so committed to this show that I spent all day last Thursday getting ready to watch Grey’s. I stayed home sick and, as a warm-up, plowed through last week’s Studio 60, two episodes of 30 Rock (hilarious), two episodes of The Office (also hilarious), and two DVD’s worth of the second season of The Wire (EW is right: fine show). I was all set to cap my marathon off with a healing new Grey’s and a new TV Watch. Then I finally checked the DVR and discovered that Grey’s was a rerun. So early in the season, how could it be? To top it off, Survivor — the other best show on TV — took the week off too. TV, she is a fickle mistress. This is what Grey’s taught me about commitment last week. (That, plus this: Only idiots don’t check their local listings in advance, especially the week before November sweeps.)
”Let the Angels Commit” picked up the commitment theme right away. ”To make it, to really make it, as a surgeon, it takes major commitment,” Meredith’s voice-over began. ”It’s all about being committed, because if we’re not, we have no business picking up that scalpel in the first place.” Which — maybe I was still smarting from last week’s no-show — made me chortle a little. These surgeons are world-class, they work hard, they solve intense medical mysteries, but if they’re so committed, how do they still have time to drink so much whiskey at the bar across the street, and have sex, and gab in the elevators and stairwells, and look so good all the time? If they were really that committed to their jobs, the show would be boring.
That’s really all the skeptical half-grousing I’ve got on tap for this week. Otherwise, the episode was sturdy. Cristina has secretly taken over operations — in two senses of the word — for Burke, who’s still got a bum hand. She’s even writing on the OR board. So no, she couldn’t go get a drink across the street with Meredith (see?); she was stressed, busy, committed. Meredith instead walked in on Derek coming out of the shower of his designer trailer, where a mystery woman, Nancy, was lounging on the bed. Would that Nancy were a new girlfriend, since she had just seen Derek naked, but instead, yuck, she’s his sister. Nancy came to gain intel on Derek, Addison, Mark, and Derek’s ”slutty intern” and then report back to Mom. Embeth Davidtz, who I last saw in a movie everybody should see called Junebug, played Nancy, and in just a few scenes she managed to make the character convincingly ”McBitchy” but also complexly thoughtful and sisterly. Another excellent casting job.
Izzie came back to work in the hospital, but the Chief is wary, and he’s only gonna let her trail a doctor around: no touching, no talking, ”no pre-op, no post-op, no anything having to do with an op,” as Bailey put it. Bailey also got an earful from the Chief about how ”people” are concerned about her judgment, since it was on her watch that Izzie cut the ol’ LVAD wires in the first place. This sent Bailey into a crisis of confidence, as she started to wonder who in the hospital doesn’t trust her. A week or so ago one message boarder wanted me to talk about Bailey more, so let’s talk about Bailey now. A while ago, I called her a top 3 character on the show. And she’s terrific. But I’m not finding her as terrific this season as she was before. This week she sprang to life — and my admiration for her surged — when she was giving Izzie the business, talking tough like she used to, and I hoped that that was gonna be the intrigue, that a mini-plotline over the next couple of weeks was gonna follow Bailey as she whaled mercilessly on Izzie. Instead, Bailey passed her off to Meredith and spent the rest of the episode being vulnerable. I get what they’re doing, rounding out the character and all that, but Chandra Wilson is a brilliant enough actress that the writers don’t need to spell it out the way they’re doing lately. We saw enough of her softer side — we intuited it from Wilson’s very restrained work — in previous seasons, back when Bailey was the Nazi. As things are, this season we’re not seeing enough of her sterner side.
Where’d the Nazi go? This week’s last scene — featuring Bailey and her glower — was a mouth-watering, almost chilling development in that regard. First, backup: Cristina went too crazy taking over for Burke. She scheduled him to perform something called a ”Humpty Dumpty,” which is apparently when you take out somebody’s heart, cut it open, scrape out a tumor, and put the heart back in the chest. Burke and his crippled hand could’t do one of those! (Who could? Sounds like sci-fi.) Burke called Cristina out on her recklessness, and he was right. Cristina, it is clear, is not a good girlfriend and was essentially doing her own version of slicing LVAD wires here. She was gonna get caught, especially after Bailey signed on at the board to join in on the surgery. The game was afoot. And so Cristina committed — by secretly erasing Bailey’s name from the board. Bailey, ever-vulnerable and reeling, wondered why Burke took her off the surgery, Burke had to lie to protect Cristina, and Cristina was double-trapped. In the end, Burke gave her a look like he knew he’s Bill Hurt and she’s Kathleen Turner in Body Heat, and Bailey, in that last shot, looked to have figured out what Cristina had done, and she was pissed. (And hurt — because Wilson is that good.) In coming weeks, hopefully the Nazi will goose-step again.
Before we part, there were other nice things in this episode. That opening bit in the elevator where George played Cristina and Meredith played Izzie was expertly written and showcased both how well the writers know the characters and how well the characters know the characters. Seriously. And the medical situations on this ep were better than usual: I liked the Humpty Dumpty, liked Izzie talking sense into Gretchen the law student, liked the two uteri — I mean, uteruses. And that bit where Karev stepped in and saved George and the baby by talking Rumble in the Jungle and ”rope-a-dope” was a clever — if way far-fetched — inversion of that time long ago when Karev choked in the elevator and George saved him. Plus, it set up a potentially juicy tension between Karev and Mark, who declared Karev unfit for ”plastics” because he chose to save a baby instead of staying on hold for Mark at the DMV. This Karev and Mark matchup could be ”bear vs. shark” good. Much to my surprise, Justin Chambers’ Karev is inching in on the top 3. Gotta love a guy who’s clearly memorized long swathes of the great When We Were Kings.
Finally, Derek and Meredith. Nancy, before she hopped her plane back home, told her bro to chill out, to take some time off from Addison and Meredith. In the stairwell, Derek told Meredith he needed some time to himself. Some of you will bellyache, but this was a smart way to put those two on hold. Sis was talking sense! And it’s early in the season yet. Distract yourselves with George and Callie, who are of course close to back on. Does this make you happy or sad?
And what about the rest of the episode? Do you think George’s ”Are you a chicken or a pig?” has what it takes to be a new national catchphrase? Or is ”Are you ham or eggs?” catchier? Was it just me, or were there too many soft indie-pop songs playing over most of the big scenes in the last quarter of the show? When Isaiah Washington delivered the line ”Everybody loves a scandal,” did it maybe make you think of something else? And don’t you wish people would stop talking about the whole behind-the-scenes brouhaha so you could just enjoy the show?