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What Grey’s Anatomy has going for it that very few other shows do right now is its history. An extensive, over a decade long, emotional history. People who watch Grey’s have been through a lot with Grey’s (these are people who did not write the show off forever when Izzy had ghost sex or George got hit by a bus or McDreamy by a truck). At this point, and in this episode, they are rewarded for that loyalty with the show’s now longest-standing relationship: Meredith and Alex.

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As everyone around them has been smashed by vehicles or moved on to cat litter commercials, Alex and Meredith are the show’s constant. They’re so close that some ’shippers hold out hope that they will wind up together at the end, despite the fact that at this point, the two are as close as siblings. Shonda Rhimes has brought in no shortage of characters to fill the holes in Meredith’s life left by McDreamy and Cristina Yang, but new sibling Maggie is unfortunately like the anti-Cristina. As far as chemistry goes, it’s Alex who gets Meredith most of all.

So the setup from last season’s cliffhanger—Karev punches DeLuca to an absolute pulp because he mistakenly believes he was trying to take advantage of a drunken Jo—is not a bad one, as Justin Chambers is certainly capable of taking on a major storyline. And all of Alex’s moves this episode, as maddening as they might have been, make sense, but only because we know this character so well. (If this was a pilot, we would think at least half of the people on this show were nuts.) He’s deeply flawed. He came from a troubled background, with an absent father and a mentally ill mother, and wound up in foster care. The Alex that somewhat insanely believes that he can possibly talk DeLuca out of pressing assault charges, is the wounded child who got pushed from foster home to foster home, trying to stay out of trouble. What was most affecting and possibly most frightening this episode, is Karev’s look of resignation in the back of the police car and in the jail cell, as if he always knew this was how things would wind up for him eventually.

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It’s also somewhat maddening that Meredith would cover for him, but again, the history between these two makes it easy to understand why Meredith would lie to her sister to help Karev. She hasn’t even known Maggie that long. It also makes for possibly the best scene in the episode: Alex and Meredith at the jail cell. They wisecrack, but they hang on to each other, they say “shut up,” and after all they’ve been through, in a way, they’re all each other has.

As is often on Grey’s, one storyline far surpasses the B and/or C plots, so that they look even worse by comparison. It was refreshing to see Kepner show some backbone for once and stand up to Catherine (Debbie Allen, who directed this episode). Since we may have to start liking April now, we will need to pass the Kepner Torch Of Annoyance to someone else, and holy mother of God, that person is Maggie. Sure, she was an egghead. So was Edwards, and she doesn’t act like a goddamn 12-year-old whenever boys are involved the way Maggie does. DeLuca is in the hospital, getting operated on, and Maggie frets aloud about whether she should still be dating him or not. Maggie has a crush on Riggs, which apparently means that he is off-limits to the rest of the world. Even with everything else that has happened, Maggie gets upset over Meredith covering for Alex and lying to her, so much so that Meredith has to say, “It wasn’t about you, Maggie” and truer words have never been spoken in the history of Grey’s Anatomy. Shonda Rhimes has such a gift for creating strong female characters we would follow right off a cliff—Olivia Pope, Annalise Keating—why does brilliant cardiac surgeon Maggie have to be such a child-woman? More importantly, how much of her whining are we expected to put up with every week? Lord, even Jo looks good by comparison, and we know that Jo isn’t going anywhere. We also know that her psycho ex is bound to show up this season, because that’s the way soap operas work.

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Meredith and Karev’s message at the end of the episode is that being an adult means that we have to deal with whatever horrible thing we’ve done. For Alex, this means he eventually realizes that he needs to turn himself in, and Meredith does the same thing by confessing his involvement to Bailey. It also apparently means that Grey’s guilt over lying to Maggie means that she needs to give up Riggs so that Maggie (ugh) can have him. It’s something else we know about Meredith Grey, and the dark side that, ultimately, unites her with Alex: They’re always ready to expect the worst, to turn away happiness for something else. Despite how dire it looks for Karev right now, hopefully this does not mean the end of that relationship on this show.

Because at this point, people who are going to watch Grey’s are just going to watch Grey’s. I’m not going to review it every week (see below), but it falls under what I like to call sock-folding television. As the mother of small children, my whole life is laundry, so I need TV that I don’t need to really pay attention to but that is still entertaining enough to be distracting. Right now, Grey’s is perfect for that (for the most part), but who knows where this storyline will lead? Sometimes Grey’s cast members depart suddenly (like Chyler Leigh and Eric Dane) and sometimes they erode gradually (like Sandra Oh and Sara Ramirez). Chambers has been in about every episode for the last 12 seasons, and he has five kids. Maybe he’s tired. Shonda Rhimes still throws out enough curve balls that it’s pointless to speculate. But the loss of Karev from this show could permanently alter my laundry plans, something even Dead Denny didn’t accomplish.

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Stray observations

  • Years ago, I saw the Flaming Lips open up for the Butthole Surfers, who featured video of eye surgery behind the stage.When the Lips headlined their own show a few years later, they had the same eye surgery video. I can’t stand to watch eye surgery, I guess is what I’m saying, so that whole Meredith-Warren scene, I had to peek through my fingers.
  • What “Kepner” means: “A fair and honest price for quality pork.”
  • “Am I being stupid chasing after Riggs when DeLuca was right there?” He broke up with you. Do you really not understand how relationships work? Like at all?
  • The Kepner-Avery baby is awfully cute. “Tubman. Also The Spy.”
  • “He was a person I was personal with.” SHUT UP MAGGIE.
  • Did enjoy how mere moments after Meredith said she’d never lie to Maggie, she lied to her.
  • We’re not doing regular weekly reviews of Grey’s this season, but will check in on noteworthy episodes from time to time.

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