Oh boy. Here we are, butting up against the season finale and emotions are running high. And that’s just in the fandom. Meredith is in labour and about to ‘enjoy’ the arrival of mini McDreamy, Alex is in love with another crazy, April’s appeared in a Glee video, Richard’s finally joined the ranks of the “too many cooks in the kitchen” cliché, a shishkebab owned the OR and there’s an epic storm brewing.
Oh and Arizona made full use of the on call room...without Callie. I forgot that little gem.
Episode 923, Readiness is all, just about made us ready for what promises to be another thrilling season finale. I don’t think I’ve been this excited to see the end of the season climax since season 6. We will be faced with yet another disaster but this time where emotional catastrophe will be omnipresent.
The biggest drama, with explosive implications took place in the on call room between two blondes in the storm. Shonda has set her stall for season 10 (renewed yesterday) by throwing a spear through the heart of Callie & Arizona fans everywhere. It seems, though we don’t have the full story yet, that Arizona has strayed from the marital bed into the arms of another woman. And as the storm raged through Grey Sloan Memorial (note: why is Seattle Pres immune from the storm?) a hurricane raged on twitter...“this is character assassination”, “Arizona’s just being vain”, “selfish”, “betrayal to the LGBT community”, “you can never come back from cheating, I’m done with this show”... or my personal favourite “good man in a storm, until it’s a real storm”.
What I found striking about most of the twitter-verse I read - though I confess to switching off twitter after 30 minutes of headache – and what I found most worrying is that all these emotional reactions illustrate that most people appear to have completely missed the point of this storyline for Arizona.
This is NOT about cheating. Cheating in Grey’s land is a much-used device to push a story forward. Sometimes it has been used supremely well (Addison/Derek) and at other times it’s been awkward and clumsy (George Izzie). Owen’s cheating lies somewhere in the middle, though for me his was a retrospective story arc that the writers added in at the last minute. The use of previously unseen flashback footage has never sat well with me. Cheating itself is a devastating form of emotional betrayal, which in this case will throw up all sorts of debris before the tornado funnel hits and then we will get resolution (happy or not). That’s not an excuse for the writers to over-use it again this time with Arizona and Callie, but whether we like it or not, lazy storytelling or not, it is a tried and tested weapon in the Grey’s armoury. As viewers we have to see beyond the superficial of Arizona cheating, as we do cheating in real life, and realize that this story is about so much more, and we haven’t even reached the season finale yet.
923 was largely about ‘control’, or more specifically ‘losing control’. It vibrated through most of the storylines but none more so than Arizona’s and this subplot is the most honest for this character since her preferring chickens over children. “Readiness is all” made sense of what the writers have been doing with Arizona over several seasons and for that I am relieved, grateful and very excited, though I realize I maybe in the minority J
Paradoxically while Lauren utters the words “Arizona, you are allowed to lose a little bit of control” and others around the hospital are actually losing it, Arizona emphatically takes it back. Flicking the lock on the door was an enormous symbolic gesture of taking control. She made a decision for herself, something she has been denied, not just through the entirety of season 9 but since she made the decision to go to Africa without Callie. She has made none of the decisions that concerned her this season; the last one being, ironically, Callie flicking the lock to the x-ray room and taking control of Arizona’s residual limb. It was Callie who mentally spent all of Arizona’s money before discussing it with her; it was Callie who made the decision to cut off the leg and whilst the logical rational part of Arizona (which is normally her guiding light), knows the leg had to come off, the fact that she was unable to make that decision had a huge impact. And I’ve not even ventured into S8 or S7 territory. Now before I get a storm of protest I am not defending or justifying her actions, nor putting blame on Callie. I merely try to explain.
For someone as much as a control-freak as Arizona (reminder 812) this abdication has been personally and silently devastating. As if that wasn’t bad enough her sense of self, so attached to this, her pride in herself, in her work, has been quietly eroding and only now she has some clarity there; clarity in the shape of Dr. Lauren Boswell.
Lauren, incase you missed it, is actually Arizona looking in the mirror, they are each other, the same, articulating both what is going on with Arizona and what she needs. The mirroring starts the moment they swap coffee cups, all the way to “You really get me”...“I really do”. In addition Lauren is playing a major role in building Arizona backup. JCap, one of the best in “OR eye acting” did a great job blossoming with pride when Dr. Boswell was in awe of them taking over the hospital. As Jackson (more later) articulates perfectly...when was the last time she would have felt like that?
Dr Boswell is a well-placed plot device brought in specifically to do this. The intentional similarity between the two characters is fresh, unique and illuminating. It also means that their liaison won’t go further than a brief affair. Keeping two manifestly similar characters together would be difficult to sustain. Though I do think Jessica Capshaw and Hilarie Burton have great chemistry together, so I will be happy to be wrong and for them to bring Burton back in S10. Again, I suspect I’m in the minority.
This is not character assassination. This is the Arizona truth. We cannot possibly say that Arizona never cheated before her life with Callie or wouldn’t cheat. I’ve seen no evidence to support that either way. By flicking the lock to the on call room door Arizona was finally making a decision for herself about her own life. Yes, it was a breathtakingly bad decision, but it was a decision and that is her ‘victory’, taking back control; a victory that I’m sure will be short lived, and will haunt her, but nevertheless a milestone moment. And let’s face it making breathtakingly bad decisions is completely IN character – airport break-up anyone?
There is more going on with Arizona, we are promised something tough in the season finale, and so 923 is only the start of it. We also have yet to see Callie’s side to this story, which can only be another rich vein to this much needed Arizona storyline.
To those who say there is no way back from cheating, then I remind them that in Grey’s Anatomy more often than not, there IS a way back. This devastating subplot promises immense fresh story telling. Bring it on!
An interesting side story for Lauren was the building up of Jackson too. I have spent many reviews showing my unhappiness at how this character has been poorly written, bland and boring. Perhaps there is still a bit of that but the moment when Jackson and Arizona are talking about Lauren and Mark completed the journey that started when Jackson over-ruled Arizona on a surgery (incidentally another illustration of loss of control for her). This was a lovely moment between them and I couldn’t help but finally warm to Avery. (Now don’t get all excited, he’s still lower down in my favourites list, just a bit higher than he was before.)
This warmth was especially poignant when coupled with Matt’s rather entertaining proposal to April. Oh Jackson – are you and April the new Mark and Lexie? On off on off, never to be together?
April’s entire day was beyond her control, in the ER and as a result of the deliciously virginal Matt serenading and proposing to her to a 1980’s Proclaimers song. There’s no doubt this was pure April magic and delightful to watch. Meredith was another victim of no OR control and her heavily pregnant indignation was at its height right up until the moment her waters broke just as the storm comes in with full force. Any previous attempt to stage-manage this birth and try to avoid pooping on the table is now rather redundant.
In the middle of all of this both Meredith and Cristina have to deal with Alex who is perceived to have lost control, as Jo actually did. Unfortunately, for me anyway, Jo’s actions merely compounded my disinterest in this story arc. Perhaps she was justified, perhaps not but something needs to change with this character for me to care – probably her leaving? Unlike Mousey who gets more and more likeable every episode, Jo’s redeeming qualities are severely lacking. And speaking of Mousey – how cute is the new neuro couple? Stay weird. Amen.
Continuing along the theme of losing control Owen saw his chance at fostering disappear at the same time as facing the prospect of the grandmother switching the dad off. Does that mean no more Ethan Hunt? And just as I was warming to the idea of mama Cristina...I jest. Ain’t never gonna happen. Bailey faced the uncertainty that comes with stepping back into the OR but her return, with minimal presence, was rather a damp squib that deserved more. I hope that season finale is good to Bailey.
Overall I found this episode to be challenging, teasing and immensely exciting. There was so much OR action that I was reminded how great it is when the cast are all busy doing surgeries. This is what I love. The darkness has returned figuratively and literally as the cinematography and stage direction was dark and filmnoir-esque, building a tangible sense of anticipation. The writing, whilst loaded with heavy content to prepare for 924, allowed for some wonderful sound bites, none more so than the brilliant Sandra Oh delivering Cristina’s own lack of control...
“Oh, oh no, oh no, no Mousey, Mousey no, no, don’t touch...Mousey NO!”
Or the poetic irony of Meredith being kicked out of the OR...
“You know how I could’ve avoided this...if I’d been safely in that exploding OR, where I should’ve been"
or her keen observation of Matt
“like a male Kepner, what are the odds?”
This episode is a season marker, where story has been shaped so vigorously. So to finish, I go back to where I started; control and cheating. If you believe in foreshadowing on this show then I remind you of Callie’s speech way back in 902, and pose the questions – will this play out? Did Callie even see that Arizona may have been a shell even before the crash?
“She’s not though. She’s not my wife... I don’t know who she is. Did this happen with Cristina? It’s like, you’re looking at her but there’s nothing inside. I feel like she’s just this shell, all the Arizona’s been scooped out and she’s just this shell now and I want her back. And I don’t think I’ll ever get her back if we cut off that leg, so, I’m going to save it, I’ve made a plan to save it, and you’re going to get on board and then we’ll work out a plan to get Cristina back but you need to help me now.
Or perhaps you agree that, on Grey’s at least, cheating is not the end but sometimes the beginning. After all, it brought us Addison (and Mark) who cheated on one of our show’s heroes and not only did she recover, she got her own show and her own happy ending with Dr Jake Riley. Mark did not get Addison but he did get Lexie. And Derek.... well he got Meredith.
Written by Brouhaha
Written by Brouhaha