Shonda Rhound-Up: Potential new love for Meredith, Kepner in crisis on ‘Grey’s’

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Last week’s episode focused on Maggie (Kelly McCreary) and Jackson’s (Jesse Williams) evolving relationship and the clashes it caused in their family, in addition to Meredith’s (Ellen Pompeo) once-doomed research.

This week’s episode turns its attention away from Meredith’s research and towards her love life.

A transplant surgeon visiting Grey Sloan Memorial Hospital this week collapsed just after performing surgery, because he himself recently had a kidney transplant and tried to go back to work to early.

That transplant surgeon is Dr. Nick Mars (Scott Speedman) — he and Meredith sweetly flirt from their first scene together, in which general surgeon extraordinaire Meredith catches him when he faints. There’s clear chemistry between the pair, who engage in a round of 20 questions as if they were on a date rather than awaiting lab results that will tell them whether he’s rejecting his kidney or not.

We’ve spent seasons watching Meredith evolve after the death of her husband, Dr. Derek Shepherd (Patrick Dempsey). From the beginning of the series, she was as focused on her surgical career as she was on her relationship with Derek.

Although Derek’s death was absolutely devastating, it was necessary for Meredith’s character, narratively speaking. This is not to trivialize her experience as a widow, but rather to argue that her character has grown exponentially since she’s been able to have more screen time alone, and with other characters as well. She’s even won a Harper Avery.

That being said, a potential new love interest for Meredith is exciting, too. It allows the series to explore the idea that someone might have more than one great love in their life.

Their flirting is interrupted, though, when Meredith must rush Nick to an operating room — he has a clot by his kidney and needs emergency surgery. There’s concern that he might either lose the kidney or lose his life, but Meredith is able to save him.

That means there’s a chance their little flirtation could continue in future episodes.

Near the episode’s end, Meredith admits to feeling something with Nick that she hasn’t felt since Derek — and the series itself gives a nod to that special spark, with a flashback to Meredith’s first time seeing Derek in the first season.

Another romantic plot this week is between Owen (Kevin McKidd) and his best friend Teddy (Kim Raver). Sexual tension and emotional dependence has been building between the two since season six, so it’s almost sweet that the two have a chance to get together this week. Almost.

Owen flies out to Germany, where Teddy’s living, after Amelia (Caterina Scorsone) told him that Teddy is “his tumor.” It’s a strange analogy that makes odd sense: Owen’s chemistry with Teddy has increased despite every relationship he’s had on “Grey’s Anatomy,” including his marriages to Cristina Yang (Sandra Oh) and, later, to Amelia, too.

Of course, in classic Owen fashion, he doesn’t tell Teddy that he’s been having a sexual relationship with Amelia post-divorce, until after he and Teddy have slept together multiple times and he’s promised to move to Germany for her. Teddy, tired of feeling like Owen’s second choice once again, leaves Owen standing in her apartment alone.

You go, Teddy. You don’t need Owen — he’s been selfish for seasons, and you’re better off without him. He could use some time for self-reflection, anyway.

Central to this week’s episode is the fallout of April’s personal crisis, and Sarah Drew’s exceptional performance through it.

April’s crisis of religion has been building for weeks now: She’s been incessantly focused on rule-following. She also talked of God’s failings with a man she’d just hooked up with and kissed Jackson after screaming to the surgical interns that trauma never ends.

It’s hard to tell exactly the moment when April’s religious doubt started, but it could be attributed to the many ways her life has been derailed. She’s always been a devout Christian and a rule-follower. She feels that she’s done everything right, and yet God is “punishing” her anyway — in recent seasons she lost a baby before having a second one with Jackson and later divorcing him.

This week’s episode suggests, however, that April’s tipping point was when she treated a teenage Black boy for a gunshot wound after he was shot by police. In the episode, Jackson confronted April for trying to defend the policemen who shot an innocent child.

That experience was the toppling of yet another institution she trusted. In her life, police and God had always meant safety — how could either cause or allow the boy’s death to occur?

This week, April treats a rabbi who Miranda (Chandra Wilson) had given several rounds of antibiotics. The rabbi, Eli (Saul Rubinek), returns to the hospital because his skin is splitting from itself — he thinks it’s a rash, but it’s toxic epidermal necrolysis, or TEN (don’t Google it).

April condemns Miranda for giving Eli several rounds of antibiotics, but it’s not her fault. TEN is deadly; it can apparently happen to anyone, and there’s no way to predict it. Isn’t that comforting?

In any case, April doesn’t allow Miranda to go anywhere near Eli. She treats his condition on her own, prepares his end-of-life care and calls his wife, who ultimately doesn’t arrive in time.

April begs Eli to let her give him pain medication. In turn, he asks her to let him heal some of her emotional pain as well. The two engage in an impactful discussion of fairness, faith and justice, just moments before Eli’s death.

Drew’s performance is raw and deeply personal, and it makes her departure from the show next season all the more painful.

There’s a truth to April’s conversation with Eli that makes it one of the season’s best scenes thus far — paralleled only by April and Jackson’s conversation about the young victim of police violence.

This week’s episode was strong. It balanced honest reflection on characters’ flaws with nuanced existential questions, and purposeful but light romance.

Here’s to hoping “Grey’s” can build on this pattern in the coming weeks.

Sophie-Marie Prime covers television. Contact her at [email protected].