This week’s episode of Grey’s Anatomy deals with that feeling of safety, and what it feels like when our home seems far away and we feel isolated away from it. There’s vulnerability in being stranded and feeling uncomfortable, and that’s what this episode is trying to deal with, albeit fairly poorly at times. The storylines from “Back Where You Belong” are loosely connected to this theme at best, and at times the episode feels like it’s three different episodes entirely. Add on top of that a fairly slow pace and a lighter drama load than last week and you get an episode that misses most of the emotional marks it tries to hit.
The first patient drama this episode deals with a 16 year old kid named Christopher whose mother is donating a kidney to him to help him survive. This surgery (part of the Phase II) program is to be performed by Edwards and Wilson, neither of whom seem emotionally stable enough to be slicing anyone open. Edwards is still reeling from the death of her patient last week and Wilson is dealing with a double whammy: She has to be in the surgery with her ex-boyfriend Alex Kerev, and the situation of the family is triggering for her.
Christopher’s father has shown up unwelcome at the airport to yell that he “has rights” to see his child. They patients reveal that this man hit Christopher’s mom and that they stayed because “I didn’t have a job, Chris was sick all the time. I thought I could make it work, but the night he went after Chris, we left.” Jo asks Owen to ask him to leave the hospital but that is obviously not happening because there’s too much good drama to be gained by him sticking around.
Of course, something goes wrong in the surgery. The mom’s second kidney failed and now there is only one good kidney between them. “This is not a thing that happens,” someone says, which could be the motto of every Grey’s Anatomy patient drama ever. But it leave the doctors in a complicated spot, which only becomes more complicated when the father agrees to give a kidney and turns out to be a match for his child.
Wilson, herself a victim of domestic abuse, argues against this man getting to be a donor, because she doesn’t want him to have control over the family. But she’s overruled and her only course of action is to sternly chat with the father while he’s on the operating table. “You’re not the hero here,” Wilson says. “This is the least you can do. The very least.” After accusing him of doing this to manipulate his family, she offers him an option: To do something “good,” he could do this anonymously and the family would never have to know.
The father agrees, and everyone survives, with the mother and her son getting to believe that the kidney was given by an anonymous stranger.
The second patient drama of the night deals with a young woman who appears in the ER obviously mentally unstable and speaking in riddles. She has “the Ford pinto” of pacemakers, and they have to replace it to keep her alive. The only way they can think of to find out who she is (she has no ID) is to trace the serial number on her pacemaker.
They call the girl’s parents who haven’t seen her in 12 years and are shocked that she’s alive. The girl suffers from schizophrenia, which came on while she was in college, and it got bad enough that she abandoned her life in a college apartment. The parents however, thought she had been abducted and eventually after years of searching, presumed her dead. They gave up on their daughter, and the realization that she was alive and suffering all those years wrecks them.
This story would be more relatable if the struggling woman was given any defining characteristics at all other than her mental instability. Because we don’t really learn anything about her, besides that she disappeared, it’s hard as a viewer to connect to her plight. When the head of psychology gets her on a few drugs to help stabilize her and calm her down, she manages to recognize her parents. But what’s meant to be a beautiful and sobering reunion feels mostly lackluster.
Of course, the show is ready for a little more life to return to the hospital. This episode began with Meredith Grey still on suspension for her insubordination. “Can your hypothalamus curl up and die from boredom?” she asks her roommates at the beginning of the episode. But despite the fact that she spends every scene she’s in folding laundry, Meredith’s storyline seems like it might be about to get some new life.
Miranda Bailey visits Meredith at her house and demands coffee. She explains that she chose to keep Minnick over Richard Webber because she was asking herself “What would Richard Webber do?” and it seemed like the right move for the future of the hospital. Meredith, though, isn’t sold, and it takes a visit from Richard himself to convince her to call Bailey on the phone.
Bailey says she’s ready to lift the suspension. “I want to, but I can’t. I do not want to be reinstated until Richard is as residency director. Minnick goes.” There’s no explicit guarantee that Meredith will scrub up for next episode, but the implication is that she’ll be back. And thank god, because the show needs her.