Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thanksgiving “Classic” Recap: Grey’s Anatomy “Thanks for the Memories”

“The stupidity of the human race, Grey. Be thankful for that.”

-Dr. Bailey

Even though Grey’s Anatomy and I don’t really see eye to eye anymore, I chose “Thanks for the Memories” for the Thanksgiving recap because it’s a great episode of television and an exemplar of what made the first 1 2/3 seasons of the show great. There’s snappy dialogue, humor, and a sort of misanthropic worldview that gives it an edge. Each character has a unique reaction and approach to Thanksgiving that fits perfectly within their established personalities. And there’s also a lovely “found family” bit to accompany the closing voice over. Some of my favorite moments in early Grey’s were the moments where Meredith, George, and Izzie, and maybe one or two guests, were just palling around the house, enjoying each other’s company. It felt like a warm, decent place to be. Even if the characters were often unhappy or downright surly, they would find moments of joy in each other’s company.

Meredith is feeling especially down and out and miserable, mostly because of the recent break-up with Derek. This was the first break-up with Derek. The really ugly one. The “oh yeah, I kinda have a wife” one. She’s worried that if she goes to the big Thanksgiving dinner Izzie is planning, she’ll make all her friends miserable, too. She decides to keep busy by volunteering to work at the hospital on Thanksgiving, much to Dr. Bailey’s delight, since Dr. Bailey didn’t want to have to choose “which intern to torture.” Alex is at the hospital too, because he’s too embarrassed to be around Izzie. Failing his medical boards has taken its toll. Alex and Meredith share sob stories, and I guess Meredith wins. Meredith’s so miserable, in fact, that she’s jealous of Holden, a patient who appears to be in a persistent vegetative state. She thinks that sounds peaceful.

So, maybe our Meredith is being a bit overly dramatic, but Holden’s story is compelling at least. It turns out that for the sixteen years since the accident he suffered while on duty as a fireman, he’s actually been minimally conscious. His wife and son (who was less than a year old at the time of the accident) have had to move on, so the discovery that Holden is actually back leaves them, especially his wife, who is now remarried and pregnant, with a whole lot of guilt. To make things worse, Holden’s brain was injured when he fell out of bed at the facility where he was “living.” The injury is serious, and the surgery to fix it is risky. Holden doesn’t make it through the surgery, but his son at least found it within himself to visit with his father before it all went down. This plot forces Meredith and Derek to work together in their first prolonged interaction since the break-up, and it helps Meredith start to get a little closure. She acknowledges to Derek that “you wouldn’t be you if you weren’t trying to make it work,” and she is open to meeting new guys when drinking at Joe’s bar at the end of the episode. She still, however, couldn’t bring herself to go to Izzie’s Thanksgiving.

Izzie’s approach to Thanksgiving is to go all out with bubbly enthusiasm. It reminds me how, a few episodes later in “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer,” Meredith remarks about Izzie’s Christmas decorating, “It looks like Santa threw up in here.” Izzie is nothing if not committed. She wants to celebrate the fact that no lives will be lost on her or her friends’ watch on the holiday. She tries to cook a big Thanksgiving dinner even though she’s much more of a baker than a cook, and she’s irritated when her friends aren’t as gung-ho about helping with and partaking in the dinner as she is.

George spends much of the episode trying to make others happy, in this case, his family. George’s dad and brothers invade the house to take George on the annual O’Malley turkey hunt. George hates this tradition, and at one point, he describes it as “Deliverance.” He just doesn’t operate on the same wavelength as the other O’Malley men. They like hunting and cars, and they all have blue collar jobs. They all feel like George acts superior to them, and George feels like they all act superior to him. We get a ton of funny lines expertly delivered by TR Knight, who perfectly captures George’s exasperation, first with the turkey hunt, and then when having to treat his father when his brothers accidentally shoot their father in the ass. I love how George sums up his day when he finally arrives back at the house for Thanksgiving dinner. “Today I committed bird murder and I was forced to touch my Dad's ass. I get extra points for showing up at all.”

Cristina is irritable as usual, although I find her antics funny in this particular episode. She’s concerned Burke will commit some social faux pas at Izzie’s Thanksgiving (he actually ends up being really helpful and basically cooks the dinner- there’s a fun reenactment of the George and the appendectomy scene from the pilot, only with Izzie and the turkey). She’s also horrified that there is no liquor in Meredith’s house. She has some wonderfully caustic lines when expressing that horror. Ultimately, she uses the lack of liquor as an excuse to leave (to go to the liquor store), but in actuality, she goes to the hospital and helps a patient who got a turkey bone stuck in his throat. Eventually, she arrives back at the house in time for dinner as well. I’m not exactly sure why. Cristina doesn’t usually have remorse about anything she does. I guess it was probably because she left Burke there.

The attendings (and a resident) of Seattle Grace other than Burke don’t have such a nice place to go for Thanksgiving dinner at the end of the day. They all have their own reasons for not wanting to be home. The Chief doesn’t want to be around his sister-in-law (and he never treats his family very well anyway, so I bet he’d do the same thing even if his sister-in-law wasn’t in town for the holiday). Derek is trying to avoid Addison, who thinks they should try having sex for the first time since their reconciliation. Dr. Bailey is trying to get in all the hours of training she can before she has to go on maternity leave. Of the three of them, only one isn’t miserable at the end of the episode. Derek goes home to his trailer to find Addison waiting for him with Chinese food- an homage to a Thanksgiving they spent studying together in medical school. Happy Thanksgiving, everyone. Here’s hoping you have a warm, loving place to spend the day, like Izzie created for her closest friends.

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