Grey's Anatomy recap: How to Save a Life | EW.com

TV Recaps | Grey's Anatomy

'How to Save a Life'

Damn it, Derek.

(Kelsey McNeal/ABC)

Grey's Anatomy

Season 11, Ep. 21 | Aired Apr 23

Seasons ago, Webber led Derek and Callie through the process of taking Mark off life support. Callie stopped him to remind him this process wasn’t news to them. Webber knew this. “I’m not saying that because you need to know the procedure,” he said. “I say it because even if you think you’re prepared for what’s about to happen, you’re not. Your brain can’t fully absorb what we’re about to do. But by saying this, I’m giving you a little time to catch up.”

The past two weeks have, in a way, been trying to give us that little time to catch up. From the moment the show established Derek was missing, it was somewhat clear he wasn’t exactly safe. Grey’s is known for twists, but saying Derek was missing and then being like, “Oh, just kidding, he’s just hanging out at a bar, perfectly fine”? That’d just be cruel. Then again, killing Derek is also cruel… but we’ll get to that later.

If that wasn’t clear enough (and if you for some reason are reading this but didn’t watch), Derek is dead. I can tell myself Derek is fictional hundreds of times, but it’s not going to make typing (or reading) “Derek died” any easier. But here we are, so I’m going to start from the beginning of what turned out to be an awful, awful Seattle day.

Derek was driving to the airport when he saw a car accident happen right before his eyes. These first 15 minutes are full of false alarms: A sports car races around Derek, that car and a giant SUV eventually crash into each other right in front of Derek, the sports car blows up. Derek makes it through all of these though and, even better, he doesn’t just drive away (but then again, who would?)—he stops to help the victims.

First he goes to the SUV, which holds a mother and her daughter, Winnie (played by Parenthood’s Savannah Paige Rae). Winnie thinks she’s dead, but Derek comforts her by feeling her pulse and reminding her that as long as she can feel her pulse, she’s not dead. Good tip.

Derek then continues to dart between that car and the other one until the sports car blows up and gives off some smoke signals that he hopes will bring help their way (none of their phones are working, and Derek couldn’t find his in his car). Help does come, and everyone except Derek is on their way to the hospital. He hugs little Winnie goodbye, gets in his car, then reaches down on the passenger floor to feel around for his phone. Then it happens: a semi-truck T-bones his car.

The next time we see him, he’s in a stretcher arriving at a hospital that doesn’t want him. Not exaggerating: The hospital wants to reject him as a patient because they’re not built for trauma. But the EMTs insist, so Derek gets wheeled into the emergency room where he is promptly… not taken great care of.

At this point, Derek can’t speak, but we hear his thoughts through his ongoing inner monologue. We hear him assess his own health, we hear him tell the doctors what to do, what not to do. They have no idea who he is, but Winnie—waiting by her mom in the ER—spots him and gives him a one-sided pep talk which is really just the pep talk about pulses he gave her earlier that day. She then tells a doctor his name is Derek.

The doctors continue to mess everything up though. He needs a CT scan, but one doctor is fighting that. “I’m going to die because these people aren’t properly trained,” he thinks. And he’s right.

Not only are they incompetent trauma-wise, but the neurosurgeon on call doesn’t really seem to get the point of having an on-call neurosurgeon: He shows up an hour and a half after he’s summoned. But it’s too late by that point. Nothing was working in Derek’s favor. It’s over.

Because this half hour of television didn’t toy with our emotions enough, Grey’s goes on to offer us a fake-out: The police show up at Meredith’s house, and the next scene is her walking into Derek’s room and talking to him. “Don’t be scared,” he tells her. “I’m not going anywhere.” That’s all in Mer’s brain though. In reality, the police are telling her there’s been an accident.

NEXT: Meredith sees Derek.

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