E: Cristina goes fishing. That’s right. She goes fishing. She spends a day on a lake with Derek, attempting to be silent and still.
But some actual things happen. Some folks get into a fight in the o.r. that’s not really about what’s happening in the o.r. Someone who isn’t a surgeon actually gets credit for knowing something (at least with us, if not with the surgeons). Someone gets a door slammed in their face. A few people get asked out on dates. Somebody gets kissed. And someone proposes.
So, you know, regular day at Seattle Grace/Mercy West Hospital.
The theme of this week’s episode is recovery rather than surgery. It’s actually something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately, because of something a dear friend is going through, so the ideas as a whole resonated with me. We really do expect the surgery to be the traumatic part, the life and death; it doesn’t occur to us that lying in a hospital bed healing can be even more dangerous.
Callie and Mark greet the day by admitting, while brushing their teeth, that they think of their exes while having sex with each other. Awesome! In Mark, this renews his determination to get back together with Lexie. In Callie, this spurs a slightly desperate longing to be preferred by anyone. First it’s a guy in need of a hip replacement with a hilariously passive aggressive wife who thinks Callie can’t be any good because she’s not overbooked, and also because she’s the only one doing the surgery. Of course they come crawling back once they learn how magic her minimally invasive procedure is (and seriously, I have seen how arduous this recovery is – I have someone to tell if there really is such a thing), especially after she pretends to be busier than she is so they’ll put more value on her time. She’s inherited Alex from Stark, who’s too jealous to work with him, and she tries to seduce Alex to ortho from peds. But no such luck. Even though he whines with her about Arizona leaving them both, and seems receptive, once offered a chance back on Stark’s service, he jumps. Stark might be a tool, but that’s where Alex’s heart is, and he knows it.
Callie, however, is not quite so clear sighted. Arizona arrives at Mark’s door, looking a little bit manic. She’s abandoned her genius grant because she’d rather be with Callie than stay in Africa and make a difference for thousands of kids and medicine in general. And of course Callie (who has spent the entire day trying to feel wanted) rewards that preposterously devoted behavior by slamming the door in her face.
So, okay, there are very few instances where I would put career ahead of love, but Arizona had a chance to do something truly amazing, and I just honestly can’t believe she’s give it up like that. Not that there aren’t sick kids in America, of course, but there’s a medical system in place, and in Malawi, perhaps not so much. There would have been people depending – some with their lives – on her funding. I like having her on the show, but I’m sorry, there’s no way out of this for me. Wrong, selfish, unexplainable choice. Especially considering what a prat Callie is being about it. You left your remarkable life for what?
Um, okay. Let’s see. Scott Foley and his big brown puppy dog eyes show up in a wheel chair, Denny Duquette light. He charms Teddy by asking, as they ride the elevator together, if he looks okay enough to propose to his girlfriend. It turns out, however, that he was only proposing for the girl’s health insurance benefits, because he’s going to die without continued medical care (something to do with a massive tumor? it’s not explained well) and his own insurance has run out. Teddy, oddly taken by the case even though it doesn’t seem to be thoracic and the guy doesn’t seem as charming as they want him to be, gets Webber to go to the board to ask for pro bono care. When the board won’t, Teddy proposes a marriage of convenience. Well, the shrink did say she had a thing for unavailable men. And she admitted herself that she’s so frustrated by Cristina that she desperately feels the need to save someone. (Which she couldn’t do during the normal course of her day?) This all seemed obvious rather than moving to me. I don’t know where it went wrong, exactly, but it all seemed pretty rote. I wanted him to be more captivating, somehow. Or maybe he just doesn’t have enough gravitas, or something, for me to see him with Kim Raver? Maybe he just needs more lines. I don’t know. But if they’re going to want me to care about how all this turns out (which likely means when she’ll fall in love with him and when he’ll die) they’re going to have to do better.
In case you’d forgotten, Bailey is still obsessed with fistulas. I kind of wish they’d explain more about this – I mean, is this all about pancreatic surgery? What was the stat that they used – was it 42% or 32% who get them? And didn’t they say at some point, weeks ago, that the people who get them all die? Bailey might be sublimating her horror over Mary’s unexplained death into this particular quest, and I get that, sort of, but I wish it were either more obviously related or that it were more clearly described. Anyhow, Bailey starts the episode taking someone’s gallbladder out of their mouth (amazing and complete vile at the same time) and Avery, Kepner and little Grey (who are all working on her service today) can compete for a change to do the same procedure, depending on how well their protocols go within her fistula study. Lexie tells everyone that she wants the surgery as much as she wanted a pony as a little girl; farm girl April – returning to her passive aggressive form – tells Lexie that she wanted a pony as a little girl, too, and you know what? She worked hard, and she got one. Named Sparkles.
Lexie’s observational protocol depends largely on constant testing of recovering patients. In order to do this, however, she tangles with a handsome nurse named Eli (new to us, but a 12 year veteran at the hospital; the actor Daniel Sunjata was new to me, but not fans of his regular gig Rescue Me) who doesn’t want her waking up his patient at all hours. Go, Eli! It’s incredibly rare for this show to admit that anyone other than the surgeons knows anything, but any patient will tell you that your experience in a hospital is largely about the nurses. The people who actually take care of you? The nurses. The people who hold your hand when your life is in danger, or your baby’s life? The nurses. The people who care about waking you up at 5 when you’ve barely slept and your body just wants to curl up and heal? The nurses. Just saying.
So anyway, Eli not only refuses to let Lexie test as much as she wants, he removes the drain which would give her access to the pancreatic fluid she wants to test, and he won’t let her put it back in. She begs Mark to talk to Eli, and – having secured a promise of drinks – Mark agrees. He then bribes Eli into a fake argument so that Lexie will think Mark’s gone to bat for her, even though Mark trusts that Eli knows more about patient care than Lexie does. I can’t decide whether I’m offended by that or not. (Okay, I guess I’d rather Mark be honest with Lexie. So, yeah, maybe a little offended.) Lexie drags Bailey over, after her surgery, so she can insist the drain get replaced. She does, but Eli puts his expertise up against theirs. I know what the patient needs, he says, and you should know that my patients don’t have post-op complications.
And it turns out, once Bailey and Avery and April and Lexie examine the records, that he’s right. His complication rate is 12% rather than 32% or 42% or whatever insanely high rate is their norm. (And seriously, if the surgery is that dangerous, I can’t believe no one’s obsessed about it on the show before!) Eli has the drain removed on day 3 instead of day 5, and it makes all the difference in the world. Eli seems to operate on instinct and observation rather than protocol; Bailey is determined to turn his insight into the new protocol and become the next Jonas Salk or Our Lady of the Fistulas. So even if she’s going to insist that this is her discovery, the show makes it clear whose idea it was, and I approve of that. Other things I approve of? Eli asks Bailey out, and she says yes, even if he is a nurse. (His crack about her being cute even when she’s horrified that a nurse asked her out? That was cute. Him being awkward about it? Also cute.) I love seeing the swagger back in her step. Now, he’s not Ben, but we won’t get Ben back unless Off the Map fails, and it might be nice if that show is good. Surprising, but nice.
Lexie’s asked poor Jackson to call her away after a minute or so with Mark. She immediately explains to him that nothing has changed, that they can’t be together because they’re at different places in their lives (he wants to get married and have babies, she doesn’t) but he kisses her and she stops caring. Poor Jackson gets the heave ho, again. Are they ever going to get this man a girlfriend? I know lots of people love Mark and Lexie together, but I’m with Lexie. She doesn’t want a husband. Isn’t it better for her to stay away?
Finally, there’s Cristina and Meredith, and Owen and Derek. On a whim, Derek takes Cristina fishing. She researches it, which is pretty funny, but she’s incapable of being quiet and has a really rough time just sitting still and waiting. Which is odd, considering. She can’t quiet the voices in her head, she tells Derek. I didn’t think that was her problem, somehow, though it would make sense if it were. I don’t know if anyone else found Derek as short tempered and irritating as I did, but I worry for this man, should he and Meredith ever have the longed for McBabies. He’s got zero patience and he’s not afraid of showing his lack of compassion. She catches a huge trout, and she’s thrilled, but when they give her the still flapping animal for a photo, she breaks down. These seem to be healthy tears, and Derek gets slightly teary about it, too, but that’s about all we get. It’s all very A River Runs Through It lite.
Owen and Meredith struggle to save a honeymooner who fell off a cliff while posing for a picture. His wife, who only shredded her ear, landed on him, and the man’s internal bleeding is so severe it’s almost surprising that he didn’t bleed out while he was being hauled up the canyon by whoever rescued him. When they realize the bleeding must come from his liver, Owen freezes, and Meredith shouts at him to not give up. He’s furious, but he comes up with a solution. Meredith does the repair on the liver, and adds one more stitch than Owen thinks is necessary, for which he tosses her out of the o.r.. Um, okay. It turns out that he thinks she’s fearless in the worst way possible and will only mess up Cristina because she takes unwarranted risks. He correctly notes Meredith’s ability to offer her life to the gunman as being unusual, though he ran back in the building himself, and got shot, so there’s more than a bit of the old pot and kettle game going on here. I mean, he can say all he wants that tackling the gunman and getting shot is different than asking the gunman to take you as his eye for an eye, but I’m just not sure. In both cases, they were willing to die to save their loved ones. Meredith’s way might have been more – can you say more passive? more extreme? – but neither one was exactly cautious. Meredith thinks Owen is enabling Cristina’s breakdown, that in marrying her he gave her permission to dissolve. I can’t argue with that.