Grand Rounds: Dissecting Grey's Anatomy: Almost Grown
Welcome to Grand Rounds: Dissecting Grey's Anatomy, a roundtable on Grey's Anatomy featuring Snarky's Machine, Tasha Fierce, Everett Maroon, Redlami, and s.e. smith. This week's Grand Rounds is hosted by the ever-delicious Tasha Fierce and if you're jonesin' for a recap before you plunge in, Snarky's Machine has got you covered over at I Fry Mine In Butter. Without further ado, let's begin!
Tasha Fierce: The theme of this episode was "growing up," i.e., maturing. The residents were given the responsibilities of attending physicians for a day. How do you feel the residents matured personally as well as in their relationships with each other while facing the stress of being "kicked out of the nest"?
s.e. smith: It was interesting that I feel like I've said a couple of times this season that the characters aren't given a chance to grow and mature, and this week they were forced to jump into the deep end of the pool; I guess they heard my complaints about the lack of character advancement! I was really impressed with Meredith handling the solo craniotomy and reinforcing that it was her OR, showing that, you know, she actually has a reason to be a bit confident in her abilities. April, on the other hand, choked up pretty badly when it came to handling the lung transplant patient. It seems like changing scrubs forced some characters to tighten up their game and focus, while others weren't really ready for the big leagues.
Snarky's Machine: Oddly enough, the only person truly prepared and I believe mature enough to handle the responsibility—Lexie—wasn't able to participate in the activity. Is it just me, or wasn't it odd how she's the only 3rd year resident at the hospital? I think the others handled their responsibility with mixed degrees of success. Definitely found Dr. Avery's derail in to incompetence a little confusing.
Redlami: What started as playing dress-up—everyone but Cristina seemed pumped to be wearing the dark blue scrubs—turned into a multifaceted exploration of maturing, particularly taking responsibility. Whether it was Alex's needing to convince a parent to allow her son's surgery, Meredith flying solo, April having to decide a patient's course of treatment or Jackson admitting he was in over his head, I think the episode largely portrayed coming of age in terms of the variety of ways of handling the increased responsibility that comes with maturity.
Everett Maroon: Karev is going to be a blunt person no matter what, it seems, but at least he's gotten better at understanding that other people have decent access to their feelings, even if he doesn't. And Avery just got the one-two punch on not acting like a know-it-all teenager, between Teddy's riot act reading last week and McDreamy's anger this week. Meredith got to come into her own, although I feel like she's done that before. And did we just see Yang get back into the hunt?
Tasha Fierce: While the residents were given attending responsibilities, the attendings were asked to prepare presentations for the chief on what they would do with $1 million if given to their department. Do you think the attendings handled the competition in a mature manner and prepared sufficiently for their presentations?
s.e. smith: Uhm, depends on the attending! Callie seemed a little ridiculous with the trying to set people up and then going in there and basically saying she wanted to one-up her girlfriend (although there is a long and very established history of children's causes tending to eclipse adult health issues and I wish that had been explored a little more—it's not that I think children's causes shouldn't be funded, but that there are serious funding disparities going on). Bailey I thought was the best. She was realistic when she came in there and I loved her point that, in terms of breakthrough research and medicine, a million smackaroos just isn't that much, but the money could actually be tremendously beneficial if it was dedicated to infrastructure improvement to serve real patients right now.
Snarky's Machine: Bailey nailed it when she said one million bucks wasn't a lot of money. I think Mark made that point as well. Of all the presentations I liked Bailey's and Mark's the best. They both seemed pragmatic and sustainable and like they would have an immediate impact on patient care. The others were too ridiculous or too self-centered. And for the "tiny human" doctor, didn't the parents of a little boy she treated a season or so ago give the hospital a grip of change? What happened to that?
Redlami: I think the immaturity displayed by some of the attendings was meant to contrast with the maturity the residents (attendings-for-a-day) were showing. Derek was particularly unrealistic in terms of wanting to use the money to cure Alzheimers, even if he was sincere in his motivations. I laughed at Mark's justification for making the money go further when he explained that he would work harder since he wasn't sleeping with anyone. Once again, Miranda was the only behaving like an adult, lecturing Richard on how far a million dollars really goes, and pointing out that the chief really didn't have it to spend anyway.
Everett Maroon: Good question! They did seem to handle the request like bratty children, although I enjoyed laughing at Torres' antics. If these folks ever did a hospital-wide Survivor contest, I'd put my money on her. And I'm not sure how much prep they were supposed to do, seeing how widely it varied from doctor to doctor. But I loved that McSteamy got kicked out of the conference room after his eye-batting at Webber. It was just like how Avery failed with Teddy last week. I wonder if HR doesn't need to do a day-long sexual harassment training on the surgery ward.
Tasha Fierce: For most of the episode, Cristina was still dealing with her PTSD and was extremely detached from decision-making and taking a stand regarding treatment options for her patients. In the end, she makes a big breakthrough in her recovery. Do you foresee a return to surgery for her in the next episode or do you think she still has a ways to go?
s.e. smith: I don't think we'll see her in surgery just yet. Sweeps week isn't until November! But seriously. I think that in this episode, like the last one, she really connected with a patient and was reminded of why she got into medicine, and that's giving her the confidence to push for patient care and advocate for her patients, kind of like Karev did with his patient. I think Cristina needs that push, that pressure, a patient who clearly needs not just surgery and care, but her specifically.
Snarky's Machine: I think Cristina will be "recovered" within the space of two episodes. Partly, because the writers sense the audience's lack of enthusiasm for the story arc and partly because the writers have gotten burned in the past—season four's Cristina/Mer fight that last entirely too long—for dragging out unpopular and disappointingly executed story arcs. The reality is the writers have not prepared the audiences for the painstaking process of healing that Cristina needs to undergo and therefore they will have to rush through it. There have been other shows that have struggled with this situation and from what I recall they also were unable to locate the sweet spot between portraying recovering from trauma in a thoughtful, nuanced way and alienating the audience.
Redlami: It was good to see signs of Cristina finally emerging from her trauma-induced haze. I think when and whether she returns to surgery is really a function of how quickly the scriptwriters decide to send her there, but there seem to be signals that she's at least ready to be a doctor again.
Everett Maroon: I think she's ready to come back to the operating table, actually. I can appreciate that the character gets to do something new—experiencing paralysis and failure—but I don't actually believe that Cristina Yang would collapse this long without seeking some treatment to get back to the things she loves. I'm sure she'll struggle for a few more episodes, but seeing some man's life in the balance, needing her input, I think that brought back a large part of her psyche. I am a bit confused as to why we're not hearing more about how the other doctors are doing—I still remember Bailey's monologue in the season premiere. Has glue and tape really held her together so well?
Tasha Fierce: Karev's patient for the episode was a teenage boy with breast growth in for a breast reduction. The boy's mother was very much against the surgery and gave significant pushback to Karev. How do you feel about Karev's response to the boy's mother and do you feel that the attendings behaved in a mature manner towards Karev in this situation?
s.e. smith: Karev's case was of particular relevance to me, because I've been thinking a lot this week about the denial of autonomy to minors when it comes to medical decisions; their parents can force them to undergo procedures and deny procedures they want. It was clear that this kid really wanted the reconstructive surgery, and Karev was super aggressive, I felt, not just because he wanted to do the surgery, but because he cared about the kid. I got a little whiff there, a sense that Karev was maybe advocating because he wished someone had done the same for him. And I felt like the attendings were pushing Karev to think about bedside manner/sweet-talking parents, while Karev was more focused on patient care, illustrating a big tension that comes up in pediatrics, where sometimes you have to sweet-talk the parents to get your patient the necessary care.
The framing of this case left a lot to be desired; Grey's doesn't have a great track record on gender issues and body image and that stuff got left in the dust with all the brouhaha over the "manboobs."
Snarky's Machine: It illustrated points addressed in s.e.'s piece about the most recent episode of House. It was interesting to see how much of Karev's mentoring was given as unhelpful advice, "ped surgery is 90% parent management," so it was surprising the ordeal had even a modicum of success. I was conflicted about the whole way the condition was framed, but felt under the circumstances and realizing Grey's is a medical drama, things could easily been a whole lot more problematic.
Redlami: One of my quibbles with Grey's Anatomy is that sometimes I think characters suffer under the weight of the episode's theme. This week, as the residents stepped up, the attendings seemed to step down, as though to highlight the increased maturity of the less seasoned doctors. In that context, it made sense that they'd let Alex sink or swim, but they seemed to be neglecting their responsibility to the patient in the process.
Everett Maroon: If the attendings were told to back off, then they did a good job letting Karev take the lead. I liked how Torres responded when Arizona and McSteamy told her Karev was in charge, saying oh, he'd done much harder surgeries than that. What I didn't care for was all the talk about what it meant to "be a man," or to be a "freak." None of that was examined, and wow, a lot of it was really problematic. So all men need to have cookie cutter breasts? If he'd been fat man-boobs would have been acceptable? Not having breasts makes a 13-year-old suddenly mature? I also didn't like seeing a surgery I've had on the television! But okay, that's just my own scar line showing.
What did you think? Sound off in comments, and be sure to join us next week for our discussion on "These Arms of Mine."
About your bloggers:
Snarky's Machine is the founder of the pop culture site I Fry Mine in Butter.
Everett Maroon is a Seattle-based writer, focusing on popular culture commentary, speculative fiction, and memoir. His interests include the interrelationships of characters on Grey's Anatomy, Dr. Bailey, behind-the-scenes politics, and Dr. Bailey.
Tasha Fierce blogs about politics, fashion and whatever she wants at Red Vinyl Shoes.
s.e. smith is a cantankerous, cat-wearing, pop culture-loving, pants-eschewing philistine from the wilds of Northern California with a compendium of largely useless random knowledge and a typewriter that doesn't know when to quit.
Redlami turns numbers into stories and is the resident tech geek at I Fry Mine in Butter.
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