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How to save a life: The moment that changed 'Grey's Anatomy' this week

Season 11 | Episode 21 | “How to Save a Life” | Aired Apr 23, 2015

Admittedly, I skipped the live viewing of tonight’s Grey’s Anatomy. It didn’t matter, because even with all the #TearsOfGreys and Cristina’s departure and the plane crash and the shooting and the bomb and the drowning, there’s no way that anything that bad could happen. There was no way. In all the moments of Grey’s Anatomy, I never considered that if I skipped tonight’s random 21st episode of the 11th season that there would be anything groundbreaking enough to feel like a major Grey’s moment would be missed. And I was wrong. Let us, regrettably, break down tonight’s episode.

Usually, I choose four moments to discuss, and from there, I break down the episode. For this week’s episode, there aren’t four moments. There’s one moment—a moment that changes an entire series. A moment that felt like a myriad of things: gratuitous, expected, unimaginable, necessary, inevitable, and mostly, confusing.

At the conclusion of last week’s episode, viewers saw cop cars pulling up to the MerDer household: All we could see were the flashing blue-and-red lights, as we heard the echoing words of Derek, confirming that he would be home after his last trip to DC. The opening shot that we get is not Derek in Washington, or even Derek on a plane. We see Derek, standing on a ferry, leaving Meredith a message on her phone. He just wanted to say … we don’t know, because the message cuts short and shows Derek waiting in a line of traffic. He chats on the phone with Amelia, Bailey, and April about taking a shortcut to the airport. He loses them because the reception is bad. Suddenly, a black car comes from behind and passes Derek on a windy road—driving recklessly, it clips the SUV in front of Derek and causes a crash that leaves Derek’s fate in jeopardy.

Luckily, he’s able to stop. Being the McDreamy we all know, he runs to the accident scene and checks on a mother-and-daughter duo in the SUV. The daughter in the backseat, Winnie, isn’t speaking. Derek asks her if she’s okay and she nods, and then says, “I think I’m dead.” Derek reaches in and says, “Let me feel your wrist.” She puts her wrist up, and in some of the most painfully ironic foreshadowing this show has ever seen, he says, “I can feel your pulse. Your heart’s beating. If your heart’s beating, you’re not dead.” He runs over to the next car and finds Alana, who was in the reckless black car. She insists that she has to go, but he keeps her on the ground—she tells him that Charlie was driving, but Charlie isn’t at the scene of the accident. Totally casual, Charlie is walking down the street, but when he turns around, we see that Charlie’s hair is matted with blood and he collapses in the street.

Derek runs back over to Winnie and her mom, and after he gets Winnie out, he tries to send her over to the others. Winnie remains behind and drops some of the realest Grey’s references that have been heard in a while. She says that she knows her mom will be in pain, but she can handle it, because she watched her dad die (LIKE DEREK DID) while fishing. Then she asks if he fishes (DEREK DOES), and says he’s not God (LIKE DEREK SAID WHEN HE WAS SHOT), and says that he doesn’t know if anyone will die today or not.

Derek puts Winnie’s mom’s hip back into its socket, and then Winnie runs over to let Derek know that the black car’s on fire. Derek pulls Charlie and his girlfriend away from the car and saves the day again. As black smoke billows into the sky, Winnie and Derek agree that help is on the way. Alana begins to panic and talks about how much her stomach hurts, and when Derek opens up her pants button, he reveals that her stomach is cut open and her intestines and organs are hanging out. Derek tries to calm the group and then says, “It’s a beautiful day to save lives.” As he does, a fire truck comes from around the corner, picking up Charlie, Alana, Winnie, and her mother. Winnie leans in to give Derek a hug and he sends them on their way. Derek gets back into his car and pulls away, answering a call in the middle of the road just as a semi plows into the side of his car.

Very Important Music Moment: Gulls by David Gray

As Derek’s ambulance pulls into the hospital, the surgeon pleads with them to take Derek elsewhere because they’re not a trauma center. Derek is doing a voice-over, diagnosing his own ailment, but this isn’t Grey-Sloan Memorial. From a couple curtains over, Winnie notices that Derek is in a bed near hers. As a surgeon argues that Derek needs to be treated for his stomach injuries, another surgeon argues that his brain injury is more important. From an unconscious state, he begs for her to fight for him. Winnie grabs his hand and says that she can feel his pulse, so he’s not dead. Devastatingly, she says, “It’s a beautiful day to save lives, so you’re not dead.” The doctors wheel Derek into surgery as his unconscious begs again for a head CT, but it seems to be too late.

Very Important Music Moment: Today Has Been OK by Sleeping at Last

Haphazardly, the hospital staff operate on Derek, but they don’t understand what’s going on—that is, until it’s too late. As they wait for the resident neurosurgeon to arrive, they realize that the mistake they’ve made trying to treat everyone’s favorite neurosurgeon is irreparable. Once the resident neurosurgeon arrives, he kicks the woman out who has been fighting for Derek. And then in Derek’s voice-over, he announces that it’s too late. We cut to Meredith at their house, and then to the hospital. She approaches Derek’s room, and he turns to her and tells her what happened. She leans on his chest and he rubs her shoulder, but then we flash back. The truth is that none of that happened. It is too late. She’s been called in to the hospital.

As Meredith approaches this foreign hospital, in their foreign elevator, the surgeons apologize to her. The neurosurgeon says that he admires his techniques and that it was an honor knowing him, and that’s when Meredith takes his chart—critiquing their course of treatment and coldly finishing with, “You did the best you could,” as she turns and sees that he’s on life support. Meredith gives one of her most beautiful monologues to date, explaining the science of life support versus the hope of life and magic as she breaks down in tears. She screams, “GIVE ME THE PAPERS!” and storms outside to see the crying surgeon who tried to save Derek’s life. Meredith explains that Derek will be her “one.” He will be the one that haunts her in all other patients, but she needs her to learn from that and not quit.

When Meredith returns inside, she agrees to remove Derek from life support, as a special version of “Chasing Cars” by Sleeping at Last plays. Meredith says, “Derek, Derek,” as there’s a shift to some of the most Meredith and Derek moments—all the way from the beginning to Zola and Bailey to this moment in the hospital. She says, “Derek, go. We’ll be fine.” And with that, he flatlines and the world of Grey’s Anatomy, as we know it, comes to an end as the words, “Would you lie with me and just forget the world,” hauntingly play over the closing slide.

So that’s where we’re at, guys. And to be honest, it’s a really, really hard day for a Grey’s Anatomy fan. Usually there are some jokes or laughs, but it’s not really a funny time. This is an episode that changes the course of the entire series and makes you ask that terrible, awful question: Is this the inevitable shark that Grey’s Anatomy finally jumped? Of course tears were shed—big, “bitch baby tears.” And then there’s just a sadness. What do you think? Are we nearing the end of our Grey’s era? Has the envelope finally been pushed off the table? We have three more episodes babies, and I want you to know … from one superfan to the next … I love you. Like ferry boats and beautiful days.

Grey’s Anatomy airs Thursdays at 8/7C on ABC.

TV Families | EW.com
Mark Harris
February 23, 1990 AT 05:00 AM EST

The Bradys are back, with a passel of 90’s hassles. Do they represent the typical American Family? Did they ever? Who does? Stare and compare!

Kind Of Family
TheBradyBunch 1969-74: Blended
The Bradys 1990-: Enormous
Married…With Children 1987-: Postnuclear
Thirtysomething 1987-: Extended
The Flintstones 1960-66: Modern Stone Age

Family Pet
The Brady Bunch: Tiger
The Bradys: Alice
Married…With Children: Buck
Thirtysomething: Grendel
The Flintstones: Dino

Typical Guest Star
The Brady Bunch: Davey Jones
The Bradys: There’s no room
Married…With Children: Sam Kinison
Thirtysomething: Carly Simon
The Flintstones: Ann Margrock

Expression Of Joy
The Brady Bunch: Groovy!
The Bradys: Ritual hugging
Married…With Children: ”Oh, great.”
Thirtysomething: ”Of course I’m happy for you. Really. But what about me? Why does it always have to be about you?
The Flintstones: ”Yabba-dabba doo

Expression Of Rage

The Brady Bunch: ”Hmmm…”
The Bradys: ”If you back away from something you really want, then you’re a quitter!” (the angriest any Brady has ever been)
Married…With Children: ”Aaagh, God, take me from this miserable life!”
Thirtysomething: ”I’m not angry, OK?”
The Flintstones: ”Willllmaaaa!”

Typical Problem
The Brady Bunch: Marcia and her rival both want to be the prom queen.
The Bradys: Bobby gets paralyzed.
Married…With Children: Al doesn’t buy his family Christmas presents.
Thirtysomething: Nancy gets cancer.
The Flintstones: Fred and Barney are staying out too late.

Typical Solution
The Brady Bunch: The prom committee decides to have two queens.
The Bradys: Bobby gets married.
Married…With Children: They hate him.
Thirtysomething: If only we knew…
The Flintstones: Wilma and Betty decide to follow them.

House Style
The Brady Bunch: Conservative but mod, circa ’69
The Bradys: Conservative but mod, circa ’90
Married…With Children: Roach motel
Thirtysomething: Enviable
The Flintstones: Suburban cave

Clothing Style
The Brady Bunch: Early Osmonds
The Bradys: Made in the USA
Married…With Children: Flammable fabrics
Thirtysomething: Eclectic earth tones; nice ties
The Flintstones: One-piece

Most Annoying Character
The Brady Bunch: Alice’s cousin Emma, the substitute housekeeper (too strict)
The Bradys: Marcia’s husband, Wally (chronically unemployable)
Married…With Children: Steve (supercilious)
Thirtysomething: Ellyn (goes through Hope’s drawers, babbles, changes hairstyle every other week, generally mistreats her friends)
The Flintstones: Mr. Slate (bossy)

Attitude Toward Sex
The Brady Bunch: Never heard of it
The Bradys: Omigod — even Cindy does it!
Married…With Children: Peg: Yes. Al: No.
Thirtysomething: They didn’t get all those kids by accident.
The Flintstones: Prehistoric

How Spouses Fight
The Brady Bunch: They don’t.
The Bradys: Infrequently, but it happens
Married…With Children: Tooth and nail
Thirtysomething: They stop talking
The Flintstones: Fred and Barney go bowling while Wilma and Betty max out their charge cards.

How Kids Get Into Trouble
The Brady Bunch: Greg takes a puff of a cigarette.
The Bradys: Carol’s grandson steals her business cards and sticks them in the spokes of Bobby’s wheelchair.
Married…With Children: By committing felonies
Thirtysomething: Ethan plays with a forbidden toy rocket.
The Flintstones: They don’t.

How They’re Punished

The Brady Bunch: ”It’s not what you did, honey — it’s that you couldn’t come to us.”
The Bradys ”Next time, ask.”
Married…With Children: By the authorities
Thirtysomething: It blows up in his face.
The Flintstones: They’re not.

What Family Does For Fun
The Brady Bunch: Takes special three-part vacations to Hawaii and the Grand Canyon
The Bradys: Has flashbacks
Married…With Children: Exchanges insults
Thirtysomething: Talks
The Flintstones: Attends showings of The Monster at the Bedrock Drive-In

Unsolved Mysteries
The Brady Bunch: How exactly did Carol’s first husband and Mike’s first wife die?
The Bradys: What’s with Marcia’s new face and Bobby’s blonde hair
Married…With Children: What kind of hair spray does Peg use?
Thirtysomething: Why did Nancy take Elliot back? What do Gary and Susanna see in each other?
The Flintstones: How does Barney’s shirt stay on if he has no shoulders? Where do Fred and Wilma plug in their TV?

Worst Behavior
The Brady Bunch: The Brady children once made Alice feel under-appreciated.

The Bradys: Marcia’s son Mickey watches Bobby’s car-crash tape for fun.
Married…With Children: The Bundy’s kill their neighbor’s dog.
Thirtysomething: Elliot has an affair and talks about it.
The Flintstones: Characters don’t wear under-clothes.

Best Reason To Watch
The Brady Bunch: This is what life should be.
The Bradys: They’re all grown-ups now!
Married…With Children: Terry Rakolta hates it.
Thirtysomething (Tie) This is your life. This isn’t your life.
The Flintstones: This is what life might have been.

Best Reason Not To Watch
The Brady Bunch: Blurred vision from rerun overdoses.
The Bradys: You’re all grown-ups now.
Married…With Children: She has a point.
Thirtysomething: After a while, you think it’s real.
The Flintstones: The Simpsons

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