Thursday, November 6, 2014

REVIEW: 'Grey's Anatomy' - Owen, Callie and Jo Treat a Veteran, Derek Plans a Dinner & April's Mom Visits in 'Don't Let's Start'

ABC's Grey's Anatomy - Episode 11.06 "Don't Let's Start"

Owen becomes invested in a patient when he realizes she may have served in the military. April's mother pays her daughter a visit and bonds with Jackson. Derek plans a family dinner. A patient's diagnosis causes Bailey to reconsider her own health issues. Dr. Herman drops a bombshell on Arizona.

I've really appreciated Grey's Anatomy streamlined approach to its narrative this season. They'll let one specific storyline take over for a week - seeing things from Maggie's perspective, the Ellis Grey flashbacks, Callie & Arizona's therapy and separation. "Don't Let's Start" doesn't follow that approach. It has many different stories that are connected through a thematic though line - trauma as it compares to dealing with things on impact and the subsequent complications.

For a brief moment, I thought this would be an April spotlight episode considering it has her mother visiting to help her with her upcoming baby. April hasn't been a big focus for the season so far - likely because of Sarah Drew's real-life pregnancy. She - and by extension Jackson - haven't really had character arcs this season. She's largely been relegated to the background while he has largely just been a person on the board whenever that group meets. By bringing April's mother to Seattle, that puts this couple in bigger focus for one episode. April's relationship with her mother feels incredibly generic. Her mother doesn't understand the lifestyle that April lives and that puts a big divide between the two of them. They say words and things are happily put back together by episode's end. But I wasn't actively engaged in this story - largely because it's whole point was to remind us that April is pregnant and dealing with that.

I've also previously stated that I'm not entirely sure why the show is committed to this elongated fight between Derek and Meredith. It's one of the recurring stories for the first half of this season. But is it interesting seeing our leading couple bicker like this over and over again? I'm not sure there is an easy way to resolve this story. And yet, I enjoyed that they were dealing with the other changes going on in their lives. Derek is a family person. Over the course of the series, he hasn't spent much time with his family. They stop by for a week and then vanish. And yet, he knows how to be a part of a family. Meredith doesn't know how to do that. It's a great gesture to throw a family dinner inviting Maggie and Richard. Maggie came to Seattle to learn who her birth mother was. She has a strong grasp on who Ellis was as a surgeon. But as a person, it's still a mystery. She didn't come for this new family. Her adoptive parents are fantastic for her. They are her family. This is a biological connection everyone has to deal with. And Richard has done a poor job at that. He wants to know his daughter and he's sorry that he messed things up. But that dynamic is still rich with tension. She needs honesty and information. He wants a relationship. That is tricky. Meredith and Derek losing track of time in the shower is enough to get the father and daughter to talk about. But that relationship hasn't been fixed yet.

And then came the latest reminder that Owen was a veteran and all the complications that result from soldiers coming home. The show has done stories exactly like this one. The specifics are just different. A veteran was car-jacked. Owen, Callie and Jo save her life. But all she cares about is her car because that's where she has been living. She won't go to the VA for help because she feels that would be taking resources away from the soldiers who actually need it. All she did was work on computers. She wasn't a soldier. The case hits home for Jo because, as you may remember, she was homeless for a time as well. More importantly though, it's important for Owen because he's been working with veterans this season as a distraction of sorts from dealing with his emotional issues. To him, this is a simple fix. He tells her what she needs to do and why she needs to do and she complies. It's a simple solution. And yet, the dynamics on this show are never simple. The cases tie into the issues the main characters are dealing with. As this episode points out, it's much harder to be a doctor and deal with the consequences after the initial reaction.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Don't Let's Start" was written by Austin Guzman and directed by Rob Greenlea.
  • When the episode description mentioned Bailey's health issues, I was worried they were bringing up her OCD again - which was a horrible story last year. Fortunately, it was about her realizing that she doesn't take her own advice that people should eat healthy and exercise. The story wasn't that subtle but it was enjoyable to watch - especially when it came to her jogging.
  • Dr. Herman has been a weird character so far. She's a new mentor for Arizona but hadn't had a lot of character development. Certainly nothing that would justify hiring Geena Davis for the role. So the reveal that she has a brain tumor and only six months left to teach Arizona everything she knows is a very exciting direction to take.
  • However, when Arizona asked Dr. Herman if Owen knew about her diagnosis, shouldn't she have asked if one of the Shepherd siblings knew about it?
  • At no point in time did Derek or Meredith consider inviting Amelia to the family dinner?
  • Jo freaking out about having no home if Alex broke up with her felt weird. Nothing exactly built to that moment. It was the only time the couple appeared in a scene together. Also, where was she leaving before she started dating him?
  • Derek's justification for the family dinner: "We need more black people in the family. Because I need to learn more ways to braid Zola's hair and Bailey won't show me."