Richard Cartwright/ABC
Annie Barrett
October 18, 2013 AT 06:31 AM EDT

Just before Scandal‘s Grey’s Anatomy-esque bomb scare Thursday night, Cristina Yang dropped a baby truth bomb on her longtime “person” Meredith Grey. I like how the show is addressing the working mother issue head-on and not ignoring Meredith’s kids just because she happens to be the main character and a surgeon. Dr. Grey’s triumphant back-to-work day didn’t go quite as planned. But that’s reality: If all of the parents (three of ’em, as Callie became the McDreamys’ sister wife) are deep inside a patient’s body cavity, there’s just not always going to be someone to pick up a child who fell off a slide.

Mer’s no longer at her best, and showing up isn’t enough, not today. (Dr. Smashané forgot she even was a surgeon!) Baby Bailey needs milk, Little Zola needs stitches, and a Sloan Grey Memorial patient needs heart and liver transplants — the stuff of surgeons’ dreams. Naturally, Meredith couldn’t prioritize Cristina’s patient — and so a rift is established between her and Cristina. It may have been deepening for awhile, but it came to a verbal head tonight. Cristina’s a surgical machine; Meredith’s a mom. And according to Yang, no one can be both. It’s not that motherhood negates talent; it’s that Meredith is unprepared, unfocused, and late. Cristina’s been surging ahead of the pack this whole time, as they’d vowed to do together as baby-deer interns — and at some point, Meredith “let up.”

Meredith is indignant. Sure, she doesn’t read articles, she doesn’t live at the hospital, she doesn’t do research, and she spends less time in the OR. But she’s every bit as talented and competent as surgeon as Yang, she insists. “NO, YOU’RE NOT,” bellows Yang. “I’m sorry, but you’re not.” Ouch! That was cold. Well, it is Seattle. (Yet was it just me or did Meredith look sunburned in bed as she and Derek very unrealistically woke up before the babies?)

It’s so tricky and painful, because they’re both right. Meredith shouldn’t have to choose between being a surgeon and being a mom, but she cannot humanly invest 100 percent of her energy into either job. Fact: Cristina’s still plowing down that road, and Meredith is snuggling in place. It’s sort of like how Sandra Oh is racing far, far away from Grey’s Anatomy. “We’re in different places now, and that’s okay,” said Yang, setting the stage for her eventual exit.

“Mer, your boobs are exploding. Go pump.” Oh, the disdain. They’d been having a moment!

The paranoid Mer-droid just doesn’t want to turn into her mother. And I can’t blame her — I’d be pissed off too if both my parents deserted me for Scandal.

NEXT: Callie is not her sister-wives’ keeper

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