10/29/2010 AT 8:00 AM ET
A film crew took up residence at Seattle Grace-Mercy West on Thursday, resulting in an unconventional, though emotionally stirring, episode of Grey’s Anatomy.
Presented as a documentary called Seattle Medical – Road to Recovery, the installment explored, from the point of view of the filmmakers, the effects of the shooting spree on the hospital’s doctors and patients six months after the tragedy. There were shaky handheld camera shots, bleeped-out swear words, reality TV-style confessionals and “coming up next” teasers before commercial breaks – all of which was a bit jarring but ultimately led to new insight into familiar, beloved characters.
Being filmed prompted some docs to work overtime to present the hospital – and themselves – in a positive light. The Chief extolled the virtues of the hospital’s new increased security measures, even as we witnessed the obstacles they caused, from Lexie being unable to get past the security guards because her hair was a different color than on her ID badge to Avery finding himself trapped between doors with a critical patient by an inadvertently triggered alarm. Callie tried to downplay her heartbreak over Arizona deciding to leave Seattle behind for Africa to accept a prestigious grant. And a protective Meredith looked out for a still-fragile Cristina, gamely answering questions for her fellow doc when she struggled to find the right words and spinning her continued avoidance of the O.R. as a simple lack of opportunity.
Other characters seemed largely unaffected by the presence of cameras. Derek freely spilled that Cristina sometimes slept in his and Mer’s bed, and Teddy yelled at a guard and threatened to report him over the Avery situation. But it was Alex who was the most movingly unguarded. While he claimed he didn’t like kids, and that he was only interested in specializing in pediatric surgery because it was “the elite of the elite,” his actions toward his young patient Lily told a different story. When the Bieber-loving pre-teen had to give up her iPod to go in for a scan, he sang – endearingly off-key – to comfort her. He worked day and night to ensure an experimental, life-saving procedure to repair her trachea went according to plan, and sent her pictures to update her every step of the way. And, when little Lily was all better, Alex put on a tie and visited her school for a sweet show-and-tell.
While the serious tone of the documentary left few opportunities for the drama’s patented quippy banter, the hour still boasted some Grey’s-style surprises. Callie decided to move to Africa with Arizona. And while a modern medical miracle – a double-arm transplant – was a success, a routine procedure involving guest star Mandy Moore was, sadly, not. Finally undergoing the surgery she was supposed to have the day of the shootings, the poor girl never woke up. A month later, she was brain dead and the rest of her organs were failing, leaving a devastated Bailey in tears.
But it was Cristina who got the episode’s final, powerful scene. Sitting down for a confessional without Meredith for the first time, the newlywed initially tried to put on a brave face but, in the end, she seemed to feel compelled to be honest. “Being a hero has its price,” she said quietly. That may be true, but it makes for unforgettable drama.
Tell us: Were you a fan of the doc-style episode?