Grand Rounds: Dissecting Grey's Anatomy: These Arms of Mine
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 fabulous Snarky's Machine 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!
Snarky's Machine: Without the heavy handed voice over from Meredith the audience was left to draw their own road map, so what did you feel was the unifying theme of the episode?
Everett Maroon: Initially I thought the episode was about some kind of "outside looking in," but as it progressed I think it was about the concept of the hero. Arizona heading off to save the surgery-starved children of Africa, Torres rocking the arm transplant in a moment of crisis, Avery and his sole focus on reviving a dying patient, Karev creating a new trachea out of nothing—these were all examples of medicine as hero, the doctors as a conduit for heroic moments. The interviews with the doctors reinforced this, especially as they appeared to be responding to questions about their endurance and triumph on the day of the shooting. I thought it was interesting to see how humility and heroism were put in tension—Shonda loves her some tension—and only Chief Webber spoke of the people in the hospital with grandiosity. Even when Meredith was going on about how amazing Cristina was, she didn't sound like a human pamphlet for Seattle Grace. And everyone else downplayed their own achievements. Then at the end we are left with Yang reminding us that being a hero comes with a price. Bam. Please take us docs off your pedestal, thank you very much.
Redlami: I think this episode was mainly about compressing a long span of time so we could see how the characters are dealing with the aftermath of the shooting, and in particular to get ready for what I believe is going to be a major turning point for Cristina. That said, one common thread I saw was the promise and limitations of technology in promoting healing —both the medical and emotional kind. On the one hand, we had the amazing double-arm transplant and home-grown trachea, that had (mainly the male) doctors puffing and preening. On the other, we had the failure of the security system, which had triggering effects on Lexie and Jackson, and the complication in Mary Portman's surgery, which seemed to set Miranda back quite a bit.
Snarky's Machine: I actually preferred seeing the show without Meredith's voiceover. I think in the initial season it served to help guide viewers to through the narrative structure, but now it feels intrusive and patronizing. More often that not, it serves to distract the viewer from some fairly striking impressions, particularly as it relates to Meredith who happens to be the poster child for lack of self awareness.
Snarky's Machine: Bailey's tragic and humbling reversal of fortune provided a counterpoint to the transplant surgery. Dr. Karev emerged as a pediatric surgical rock star. How you think the medical triumphs and setbacks serve the individual character arcs that have emerged over the first five episodes?
Everett Maroon: Bailey seemed right smack back at her "tape and glue" emotional spot from episode one of this season. Which makes me ask why Webber thinks that everyone is better. They're clearly still struggling, and according to the show, it's been how long since the shooting now? Four months or more, right? I'm glad the writers didn't forget that there was a shooting, like they forgot the trauma of the ferry accident, but I'm also getting weary of watching people who clearly need some therapy not get any. And I'm glad to see Karev get some positive developments in his life after all the crap he's been through, even if he doesn't realize that he likes kids. Yang has got to seek some counseling at this point. I can't imagine that an actual surgical program would let her hang around not doing surgery for months.
Redlami: I was disappointed in Lexie's story; after seeing some very positive developments in her character, in this episode she was mainly a flustered and frustrated plot device. Why couldn't someone get her a temporary access card, since hers clearly wasn't working? And wasn't there anyone else who could have been sent out for coffee? Is that really what third-year residents are for? I found Alex's rise believable; his brush with death seems to have instilled a greater commitment to his patients, with whom he seems to have a stronger rapport, despite his protestations that he doesn't like kids.
Snarky's Machine: I found Bailey's scenes the most honest and poignant. I was pleased that her "humble" surgery was given the same amount of weight and value as the more flashy procedures successfully performed during the episode. The writers did an exceptional job setting up the heartbreaking twist and surprisingly Bailey was not portrayed as the strong, black woman, but revealed to be very human, vulnerable and fragile. I guess that glue and tape is not working out so well.
Snarky's Machine: The use of documentary style cinematography shed light on the disconnect between the external and internal lives of each doctor. Whose emotional disconnect stood out to you the most?
Everett Maroon: I was wary of this setup when the episode started, having an unpleasant flashback to ER, well after that show jumped the shark. And really, GA did a much better job with the form. Chief Webber struck me as the most off-putting of any of the folks doing an interview, especially as his marketing of the hospital seemed anti-medical at times. Shaking a flask of pink growth liquid? Really? And what is he doing in that lab anyway? I didn't pick up on emotional disconnects from anyone other than Shepard, Karev and Yang—for me, most of the interviews showed that the doctors are drowning in their own emotions. But Derek remains mired in pretending everything's okay, when we know from last week and week two that he's still shaken up, and Yang looks like she could melt down at any moment. I was touched by Avery because I think we keep forgetting that it was his close friends who died that day, even though they weren't important people to the Seattle Grace staff.
Redlami: I found Meredith's statement that "it was a good thing the shooting happened here, where we can deal with it" particularly disingenuous, especially considering how deeply involved she was shown to be with Cristina's long and uncertain recovery. The absence of her typically authoritative voiceover made this shocking pronouncement even more jarring.
Snarky's Machine: The best part of the "documentary" style was it confirmed for many viewers that Meredith is often not working from the same set of realities as the rest of the characters. It was pretty sad actually to see her try to speak to Cristina and their relationship, when it was clear that Cristina didn't think Meredith had any valuable insight.
Snarky's Machine: Which character's off-the-cuff remarks during the documentary seemed the most revealing? The most out of character?
Everett Maroon: Derek should not share who comes into his bed when he is talking to television cameras. Who does he think he is, Jon Gosselin? Cristina talking about being blessed seemed not her at all, but perhaps that was just nerves in front of a camera. Sometimes we say strange things when we know people are watching.
Redlami: Richard's opportunistic sales pitch was thoroughly in character as he struggled to shine the best possible light on his hospital and doctors. In the process, he stomped all over their lives, revealing Arizona's grant before she was ready to, and hogging the limelight during every high-tech achievement. I don't recall another episode where he spent so much time in the OR.
On the other hand, toward the end of the episode, Cristina's statement that "we're healed" stood in stark contrast to much of what we witnessed, particularly with Miranda, Jackson, Lexie, Richard and Cristina herself.
Snarky's Machine: Mark Sloan's on-camera confessions about Derek were pretty shocking. Their relationship is rarely given this kind of nuanced exploration. We are supposed to take for granted they have healed the wounds between them without any evidence. It was very surprising to see Mark get emotional about Derek's shooting and also acknowledge the complexities of their relationship. I didn't necessarily believe anyone was "out of character" but I did enjoy seeing the Chief in shill mode. I also found it interesting that he seemed less adept as an administrator "on camera" than does normally. That said, I was confused by Chief Webber's transformation from his usual proud papa/stern papa framing to a glory stealing showboater. It seemed like a side of the Chief Grey's has not always done a good job depicting, but is clearly an aspect of his personality. Look at the sweater colors he favors!
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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