Grand Rounds: Dissecting Grey's Anatomy: The Song Beneath the Song
Welcome to Grand Rounds: Dissecting Grey's Anatomy, a roundtable on Grey's Anatomy featuring Snarky's Machine, Everett Maroon, Redlami, and s.e. smith. This week's Grand Rounds is hosted by the fierce tag-teaming duo of Everett Maroon and s.e. smith. Without further ado, let's begin!
s.e. smith: This musical episode was an ambitious project. Did it work for you? Why/why not?
Everett Maroon: Not that I was hoping for a medical recreation of Buffy the Vampire Slayer's "Once More with Feeling" episode, but I did expect some interesting musical numbers and original songwriting to push the characters' story arcs. Thus I was disappointed to see that people were singing pop songs, and not just pop songs, but pop songs that have already played on Grey's Anatomy. It was like some kind of weird payola scheme, like when radio stations were caught hyping songs that music executives had bribed them to over-play on their hourly rotations. It seemed odd to me to take a love song from Snow Patrol and sing it to Callie while she's lying critically ill on an operating table. My other gripe is that unlike that musical Buffy episode and unlike Glee, the action in the scene went on around the singers, with people barking orders or worse, having to cut out of the song to speak to someone. I wasn't sure if this was Shonda trying to force the hallucination aura of the episode, or play against some vision of Busby Berkeley, but I found the music destabilizing to the narrative. And while musicals typically have people sing when they're flooded with emotion, one of the night's biggest moments—when Meredith breaks down in the elevator with Derek—had nary a note of melody. But it's Cristina who wins the Willow Rosenberg Award for the episode, because she never sang a thing. It could have been fascinating to hear her belt out a tune about why her heart repair technique was tops over Teddy's plan to hope for the best. And heck, I wanted some dancing! What a way to reclaim where Derek got shot than with a big patients, residents, and attendings dance number on the catwalk?
Snarky's Machine: It was brilliant! Okay, other than giving Lexi way too many Auto-Tuned solos just because her hair was cute and she moves great. I was most thrilled by Karev's Burt Reynolds-esque sing/talking. One question: Loretta Devine was in the original cast of Dreamgirls (she plays Adele Webber), has been heavily featured of late and—oh yeah—she has a fabulous voice, yet she was ghost in the episode. I was waiting for her to sing something! Bailey and Callie were incredible, but Owen is my new favorite character with his stunning Murray Head-esque performance.
Redlami: I thoroughly enjoyed it. It felt a little like "Jesus Christ Superstar" with Callie as Jesus and Owen as Mary Magdalene. Okay maybe not just like that, but the songs actually seemed to draw me into the drama going on rather than distract me from it.
s.e. smith: Lots going on here with chains of command and authority. Did a particular scene involving exertion or defiance of authority stick out for you?
Everett Maroon: Addison has been so picked on this season over at Private Practice, I guess she got to dish out a little righteous anger at Lucy, who I thought was way more competent than this week showed. Cristina was willing to abide the Chief's decision to follow Teddy's lead, which shows maturity for her, and so I thought it was particularly crappy of Teddy to refuse to teach her any more. Yes, Cristina is a rock star and how many Seattle Grace doctors has she saved at this point? Are we up to four now?
Snarky's Machine: Addison was exerting control over the new lady ob-gyn and I found it somewhat uncomfortable because it was another example of a woman's authority being questioned simply because she needed a moment to consider her options before responding to an inquiry. It was actually disappointing to see the dissolution of the relationship between Cristina and Teddy. I wasn't sure it was necessary to toss Teddy in front of a bus in order to demonstrate how much Cristina has evolved and learned from her various mentors.
Redlami: Last week, Owen made it clear that he wasn't going to be able to back Cristina just because they were married. In this episode he didn't back her again when she suggested a risky procedure that might save Callie's life. But she persisted, and ended up not only saving Callie and the baby but getting herself thrown off Teddy's service. It reminds me of something Snarky's Machine told me, "no good deed goes unpunished."
Everett Maroon: Leading into the end of the season, we saw some relationship shifts in this episode. Which ones were the most surprising?
s.e. smith: I think what was most surprising to me in this episode was that Mark came to some important realizations on his own, without being pushed. He's spent a lot of the season being rather ridiculous, and throughout the series other characters keep having to take him aside and tell him what's what. We saw real growth in Mark during this episode as the chips were down and he realized that he's about to lose everything, and needs to bury the hatchet, work with Arizona, and be a dad. That's a real shift in his relationship with Arizona and Callie, and a very positive one, too!
Snarky's Machine: I was impressed that Grey's has found a way to move past Lexi and Mark in order to give Lexi and Jackson a shot at something more age appropriate. I liked how this episode toned down some of the nasty sexist rhetoric wafting from Eli towards Bailey's general direction. The biggest shift was Meredith taking ownership of her jealousy and the "smallness" of her life and problems. And thank you, Shonda for not having them burst into that "elevator" song from the season two episode "Into You Like a Train"
Redlami: Maybe it was only for dramatic effect because Sunjata is such a great singer, but I was a bit surprised by Eli and Miranda's part in the "dirty dancing" segment. I thought their relationship was more in question after last week's episode.
Everett Maroon: In the midst of the singing, there were a lot of discussions about ownership and responsibility for the new baby, and the professional/personal divide. How do we feel about how this all shook out by the end of the episode?
s.e. smith: There were a lot of layers going on here! Grey's has a long history of moralizing on current social issues and that really came to the fore here with Arizona talking about how she was "nothing" and reminding viewers that she had no legal rights. I think that baby has a rough road ahead and she's going to need all three of her parents, so I really hope they can stick it out and work cooperatively. It would be really awesome to see the show moving forward with this model of nontraditional parenting where all three parents play an important role in the baby's life.
Snarky's Machine: I was kind of distracted by all the singing, honestly. I know they were trying to deliver a big message with regards to the rights afforded gay partners, but it was lost amongst Callie's powerhouse vocals and Mark's shaky, but hot, sing talking.
Redlami: I was pleased to see Mark and Arizona come to some kind of rapprochement, after they'd leveled some pretty nasty words at each other. I felt the writers were commenting about the state of affairs when a "sperm donor" legally has more say in these life or death decisions than someone's life partner.
More about your writers...
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.
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. smith writes at this ain't livin'.
Redlami turns numbers into stories and is the resident tech geek at I Fry Mine in Butter.
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