”Grey’s Anatomy”: The truth comes out
”This is not the lovey, happy Thanksgiving episode I thought it would be,” my sister Meg announced halfway through Turkey Night’s Grey’s Anatomy, right when everything was crumbling down around Cristina and Burke, and I will quote her on that because I was thinking practically the same thing. This Grey’s was almost a downer. Isn’t this a gutsy show? I don’t think anyone was expecting Meredith, Derek, Burke, Cristina, Izzie, George, bartender Joe, and the Chief to face off in a festive Turkey Bowl or anything as chintzily holiday-themed as that, but it would’ve been hard to guess that this week’s Grey’s — the one we’d sit back to watch with bellies full of food and hearts full of love — would turn out to be so unrelentingly grim. Kudos to Shonda Rhimes and the gang for their daring: They don’t seem afraid of anything (not even of dragging down your holiday high), which helps keep the show compelling week in and week out. It wasn’t warm, toasty Thanksgiving television, which — I confess — initially bummed me out. I like warm and toasty on Thanksgiving! But the episode played much better when my Thursday sentimentalism melted and I rewatched it on Friday.
Cristina took over the narration this week, indicating that the episode was gonna be all about her and Burke — specifically their trying and slowly failing to keep Burke’s bum hand a secret. Now that ”George knows,” Cristina was convinced he was gonna tell the Chief, and she freaked out about it. I’ve been eager for this Burke and Cristina plot thread to resolve, and Sandra Oh’s first big scene of the episode reminded me why. Cristina jogged over to Meredith’s, where Meredith and Derek were doing crosswords instead of doing it, and made a half confession to Meredith, though she couldn’t quite say what she had to say. There was a peculiar exchange at the end. ”Cristina, you don’t jog,” Meredith said. ”We don’t jog.” What does she mean? In previous seasons, we’ve seen them go jogging. Did she mean it like ”We don’t jog…anymore”? Cristina replied, ”I jog sometimes…without you.” That, I buy. This whole baffling exchange made me think again that the show hasn’t done a great job of keeping Burke and especially Cristina integrated into the group so far this season. It feels like we’ve seen so little of her outside of her relationship with Burke. And it’s to the point that it’s harder to believe that she and Meredith are still best friends, or that Cristina, as a character, has got anything going on beyond her lifeless, joyless conspiracy-pact with Burke. (Of course Cristina and Burke aren’t silly dancing in their living room anymore, either.)
So, I thought, onward! Bring Burke and Cristina’s trickery to its finale. And the show, admirably, got us there in stomach-knotting fashion. Burke and Cristina spent much of the episode in stairwells or behind closed doors, hashing over who took who across the line, and when. It made me wish I had this season’s first and second episodes on tape, so I could go back and find out who really started their scam. My sense is that they are equally culpable, which is what made this episode increasingly dramatic, because it was so difficult to pick a side.
Things got ratcheted up when George decided to bring in Burke’s crosstown rival, Dr. Hahn (Brooke Smith), to do his father’s heart surgery, and that made Cristina think he’d tell the Chief. Then the Chief called in Burke to tell him something big, only it was that he wanted Burke to take over for him so he could retire. Many twists and turns! And the doomed couple was temporarily clear. That got Cristina to thinking that they could keep up their ruse indefinitely — which was the one far-fetched element of the evening. (She couldn’t be that dumb.) Later Burke, bristling and eager to prove himself, rebuked her during a gory heart surgery. At the end of the night, Burke walked in to the Chief’s office to confess, but Cristina was already there with a sorry look on her face. The theme of the night was betrayal, and she betrayed him. And this previously subpar subplot was suddenly riveting, both because it’s so hard to know what to think and because the couple is now in such a queasy place. Did Cristina sing just because Burke embarrassed her in the surgery? Or did good conscience, or George, prevail? It is entertainingly tough to tell. Cristina got a lot more interesting on Thursday night; she’s by far the hardest to read of any character on the show. The episode ended for these two — again, nearly wordlessly — when Cristina went home and Burke closed the bedroom door in her face. Cristina’s final narration told us that there are some wounds and betrayals so profound that there’s nothing to do…”but wait.” Fade to black. That was a tantalizing note to end on. This episode delivered, but more than usual it promised exciting things for next week and beyond.
Before I leave Burke and Cristina behind, cheers to Isaiah Washington. My favorite moment of the night was when Burke was in the elevator with Derek, who’d just found out about Burke’s ruse. ”I would’ve helped you if you told me,” Derek said. Washington clenched the back part of his cheek, as if with an electrical pulse, and that was his only reaction. Nicely acted. (The clench looked especially detailed on my Mom and Dad’s shiny HDTV; I almost missed it watching on a regular screen the next day.) I like Burke, and I especially liked the reserved cool Washington gave him this episode; I hope the actor stays on Grey’s.
George was the other big mover and shaker on Turkey Night. So much of what he did in this episode — bringing in a big-deal doc like Hahn to operate on his dad instead of Burke, getting curt with Callie and admitting he knew she slept with Mark, and coldly putting meddling Izzie in her place with a cruel remark about Denny — was controversial, and sure to turn off many viewers. But I was behind him almost all the way. Why? First, his dad’s dying. Second, he’s right about Burke. And third, he didn’t rat on Burke, either. I felt for him — I really did — in his first scene after the fun bit where Callie stormed in on Izzie and Meredith and pushed Meredith around because she was convinced it was Meredith who told George about her and Mark. Afterward, when Izzie went up to George, he asked, ”How’s my dad?” And — poor guy — Izzie ignored him and said, ”George, your ex is hardcore.” Sometimes there is too much attention given to people sleeping with other people on this show, especially given that less fortunate people are dying all over the place.
Which brings us to Karev and Addison. Forget everything I just said. I’d kind of like it if these two got together. Particularly if Addison really is pregnant. Though I have some reservations, their attraction really has been nicely developed; the signs starting popping up many, many weeks ago. The scene tonight in which they made their first real goo-goo eyes was my second favorite of the episode. ”You’re a decent guy, Alex,” Addison said. ”I’d hate to see Sloan beat that out of you.” And they gave each other an awkwardly long, achy look. Justin Chambers’ amused face said, all at once, ”This is weird” and ”This is awesome!” He is continuing his run of general excellence. Kate Walsh (who looks especially beautiful in HD) nailed it too. It was a rare warm and toasty minute out of a not-so-warm-and-toasty Thanksgiving episode. (Also warm and toasty? When Meredith cutely dropped her head on Izzie’s shoulder after Callie attacked.)
The last character I want to talk about is Hahn, played by Brooke Smith, who I’ve been following since she sang along to her car stereo in The Silence of the Lambs, and who looked awfully…hot on Thursday night, or at least better than she did stuffing her face with lo mein and M&Ms in what I thought was a demeaning role as Toni Collette’s ”normal” best friend in In Her Shoes. (How does this show make everyone look so good? Unlike many of you obsessed message boarders, I even approve of Meredith’s hair.) Hahn, introduced last season as a rival to Burke, is mean and nasty; we should see more of her. And now it looks like she could be back for good if the Chief still wants her to replace Burke, whether it’s because Burke is the new chief, or because Burke is out entirely. Do you like her? Should she be the next new regular?
And what else did you think about this episode? Is Burke finished? Should Cristina get punished? When Addison told the pregnant patient Janelle, ”Everyone has a father,” and Mark piped in with ”Not if she didn’t tell him,” isn’t that more foreshadowing that these two are expecting? Will Derek and Meredith’s decision to get physical again work out this time? And did you have a happy Thanksgiving, America?