One week a month, Watch This offers television recommendations inspired by the week’s new releases or premieres. This week: In honor of the series finale of AMC’s Hell On Wheels, our favorite episodes about trains.
Grey’s Anatomy, “Into You Like A Train” (season two, episode six; originally aired 10/30/2005)
Any serialized drama that runs for a dozen seasons is bound to repeat itself, especially a medical drama like Grey’s Anatomy, which is already hemmed into unavoidable genre tropes. The fast-and-furious disaster episode eventually became a perfunctory annual ritual for Grey’s, as was the case on Desperate Housewives, another long-running ABC tentpole drama. Adding some freakish weather event or an act of negligence is an ever-reliable means of jolting energy into a season of television, but even acts of God lose their impact upon repetition. In the case of Grey’s, the annual Seattle Grace disaster became a go-to not out of desperation or habit, but because the first such episode still represents the show at the height of its power.
The cataclysm du jour in “Into You Like A Train” is a rail accident triggered by a “redneck” trying to beat the train, as one eyewitness puts it. Among the injured are Bonnie (Monica Keena) and Tom (Bruce A. Young), an unfortunate pair that ends up skewered by the same pole and wheeled into Seattle Grace as a human kabob. Meanwhile, Meredith Grey (Ellen Pompeo) is among the metaphorically maimed, having boozed herself into oblivion upon finding out that her boyfriend, Derek “McDreamy” Shepherd (Patrick Dempsey), chose to patch things up with his unfaithful wife.
Meredith begins the episode sitting at a bar waiting for McDreamy to walk through the door—her version of the “meet me on the bridge” rom-com trope with the added benefit of a full complement of spirits as a safety net. “I said ‘Pick me,’” she tells the bartender, mortified in hindsight over her heartfelt plea to Derek. By the time Derek arrives, Meredith and the rest of her Seattle Grace cohorts have been called to the hospital to patch up those injured in the train wreck. Only later does Meredith find out that he did come to the bar, but only to let her know he couldn’t go on with the relationship. He’s a married man, after all.
Meredith gets the gut punch just before heading into the surgery room to tend to Bonnie and Tom, where the surgical team has decided the best course of action is sliding her off the pole to create the best opportunity to save him. Audiences are accustomed to seeing episodic stories used to drive home the latest plot point of the serialized story. But even though Krista Vernoff’s script is easy to telegraph, the episode is rendered so effectively, it’s impossible to resist. The Bonnie-and-Tom scenes are devastating even before the final one, which finds Meredith trying in vain to get some attention for the doomed Bonnie. “What about her?” Meredith cries. “We can’t just leave her!” It’s so on the nose, yet undeniably compelling. People who ask why Grey’s is still a thing owe it to themselves to watch this episode and find out.
Availability: “Into You Like A Train” is available, along with the full run of Grey’s Anatomy, for streaming on Netflix and abc.go.com, and on DVD.