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Grey's Anatomy - The Winner Takes It All and Girlfriend in a Coma - Review - Turns Back Time

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Catherine Fox’s surgery could have been the only storyline in “The Winner Takes It All.” Unfortunately, it wasn’t. Thankfully, though, it does form the bulk of the episode. Her life hanging in the balance affects nearly every other main character on the show, and that toll is reflected in the emotionally fraught scenes that surround the operation. The stakes are well-established beyond the simple risk of death. Catherine might be partially paralyzed. Amelia or Koracick might fumble and never forgive themselves. Every tremble packs a punch, because these are people viewers have known for years, and their every fear is reflected in your own heart. In particular, the episode is a showcase for Debbie Allen, Greg Germann, Jesse Williams, and Caterina Scorsone.

When Catherine takes a walk around before her surgery, Jackson accompanies his mom. They share a wonderful scene in the operating room where she tells him about her first time wielding a scalpel, how she panicked and started singing “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” inside her head to calm herself. Jackson recalls her playing that song often in his childhood. She tells him it always brought back that “same sense of joy and calm.” He files the moment away and surprises her by playing the song right before her surgery. The operating room turns into a party floor, a jubilant celebration, and Catherine Fox dances and dances. The absolute elation and serenity with which Debbie Allen plays this scene is thrilling to watch. And when the tone shifts during the surgery, it packs more of a gut punch. Jackson hovers in the gallery, finally stepping outside to collapse sobbing on Maggie’s shoulder. You never forget for a second in these moments that Catherine is in danger. (It is almost unforgivable that the tension is broken by cutting to Meredith visiting Thatcher, which not even Jeff Perry’s tortured performance can make anywhere at near interesting as what’s happening back at the hospital).

The surgery impacts Koracick in a big way. Teddy encounters him sitting on a bench, in a bit of a daze, playing the game Operation. She reassures him that he and Amelia will do great. Later, he and Amelia run through the worst possible outcomes before Amelia initiates her superhero power pose. Their friendship has always been one of the more entertaining parts of the recent Grey’s seasons. That pays off in a big way here as they move through each frightening step of the surgery. It boosts the emotional heft of the moment where they have to turn Catherine on her side and Amelia switches places with Koracick so he doesn’t have to look at Catherine’s face while operating on her. The surgery proceeds at a steady pace, not without obstacles that make it more agonizing. When they worry about getting all the tumor, Richard calls down for them to use his cancer-detection pen. Even with all the different ways Koracick and Amelia tackle the surgery, they aren’t able to remove all the cancer, so Catherine isn’t out of the woods. That doesn’t take away from the overwhelming relief that she still has use of her hands and legs after the operation though. Teddy invites Koracick out for a drink, but he declines in the sweetest way, saying he wants to smell nice when he lets her take him out. Instead, Koracick spends a moment in the chapel, speaking to his son, talking about what it meant to save his friend. Amelia too shares about the experience in the AA meeting with Richard. It’s a beautiful note to end on, with the tears glistening in Amelia’s eyes as she explains how grateful she is to be sober.
“Girlfriend in a Coma” is actually the story of a fiancée in a coma. Natasha (Siena Goines) and Garrett (DaJuan Johnson)’s love story threads its way through month after month. Garrett doesn’t leave her side, even as holiday decorations at the nurse’s station in front of her room change. Schmidt comes to Meredith to ask for her advice on how he should deal with the emotional weight of Natasha and Garrett’s situation. In her words, it’s “brutal and depressing” and he should take breaks outside to avoid feeling like he’s going insane. Natasha herself makes the saddest Groundhog Day reference ever about her situation. She begins to recover and requests watermelon-flavored Jell-O when she’s able to start eating.

Pain is by no means exclusive to Garrett and Natasha. Catherine’s recovery process has been slow and miserable, and she refuses help from her baby-talking therapist and Richard. At one point, she slips on the treadmill. She falls and starts sobbing, as Richard gently picks her back up. An incredibly heartbreaking performance from Debbie Allen. Another couple, Ben and Bailey, face a milestone of their own. Beginning with an awkward Christmas Eve encounter, Baily starts asking Ben to come back. She apologizes for making him leave. He’s not ready to move past it, telling her that she left him, but Baily comes home on Valentine’s Day to find Ben in the yard. He has an apology of his own, for not being there for her as much as she needed after her heart attack and for not building her treehouse. He’s building it now. Their joyful reunion is the happiest moment of the bittersweet episode.

This episode also works really hard to put Teddy and Owen into a friend zone space, while also taking every opportunity to remind us that maybe this ship isn’t all the way out of the harbor. They share moment after moment together. Owen takes Teddy outside to see the snow, reassuring here they will find holiday traditions that work for their families. He joins her for a sonogram, and they hug with happy tears in their eyes afterwards. Their relationship is almost ideal at this point. Meanwhile, Koracick is flirting and courting Teddy as we’ve never seen him flirt and court before. Even his wisecracks are much softer. And he’s taking it in baby steps. Even with how fast as this pairing has materialized, Germann and Kim Raver have quickly built lovely chemistry.

Newton’s Third Law of Gravity dictates that for every couple growing closer another couple must start faltering. Owen and Amelia receive some surprising news from Betty. She lied about her identity. The person they thought was her father over the phone wasn’t. Her parents are out there looking for her, and they don’t know about Baby Leo. It’s a huge blow to both Owen and Amelia. Their relationship basically mended itself as they bonded over parenting Betty and her baby boy. With Betty pulling away from Amelia, there was already a measure of heartbreak. This new turn of events sets everything back even more. Owen panics, and he’s near tears, referring to “my son” being taken away. (Kevin McKidd sells this scene so well.) Owen starts saying negative things about addicts, which Amelia takes personally (because it is personal) and considers huffing off to Meredith's.

Owen and Amelia’s new problems pale in comparison to Natasha and Garrett’s. Natasha grows weaker, with new infections and relaspses constantly tormenting her. In the book of Grey’s Anatomy’s most heart-rending moments, there’s now a chapter for Natasha. On Valentine’s Day, she and Garrett ask the doctors to take her off the machines and thank them for trying to save her. Alex gets the idea to give the couple their wedding under the stars, and Meredith reads Natasha’s vows. It’s one of the show’s best gut-punch bawl-your-eyes-out scenes ever. A round of applause for guest stars Siena Goines and DaJuan Johnson.
Newton’s Third Law of Gravity dictates that for every couple torn apart by death a new couple must come into being that same night. After an episode of teasing, Meredith standing him up for a New Year’s Eve date and accepting a Valentine’s date with Link to taunt him, DeLuca makes his move. He brings Meredith to the roof for some champagne, and they share a kiss. (It is so warm in Seattle in February. The sky is clear. There’s barely a chill in the air. Bailey’s yard is in full bloom.). It’s what Natasha would have wanted.
“Kiss the one who turns back time for you,” she admonished Meredith. It’s hard to even think about the new couple with that devastating wedding only minutes in the rear view mirror. Quick happy glimpses of Bailey and Ben, Richard and a stronger Catherine, and Koracick and Teddy’s cute date leave us with no doubt. The Season of Love is in full swing.

Except for that Baby Leo being taken away from Owen business. I don’t want another cycle of Owen and Amelia drama, so let’s hope they stay in the bouquet stage.

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