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Grey’s Anatomy – 7.12 – “Start Me Up”

January 14, 2011

As expected, the second episode to air since the winter hiatus yielded compelling character and narrative development while still being a “boring” episode. Despite the allusions to the perky, irrepressible Rolling Stones hit from the 80s, Grey’s take on “Start Me Up” was a rather grim affair. Grey’s suffers from the problem plaguing many shows with standard 20+ episode seasons; there is often more season to fill than story to tell. The key plot points and character arcs contained in this episode could have easily been shoehorned into previous episodes without any lessening of their impact.

It’s been established since last season’s finale that Meredith has been eager to get pregnant, so I wasn’t exactly sure why that was the bulk of her on screen duties. When she wasn’t stealing pregnancy tests from the hospital, she was racing to the bathroom to pee on them. This is hardly the sort of behavior one expects from a surgeon who believes she should be one of the front runners for Chief Resident. Even her whiny voiceover sounded unsure and shaky. This episode more than any other this season illustrates the “not enough story to fill the time” problem. (BTW, I think April or Alex would actually be the best for the job, given they are really the only ones who understand the concept of delegation.) We’re told Meredith and Derek’s baby fever is vital to their character arcs, yet little time is devoted to fully investing quality time and writing into that storyline. For the last couple of episodes the MerDer baby quest feels like little more than filler used to glue other unconnected storylines and scenes together.

In contrast, Callie’s pregnancy – Oh yes, she’s knocked up – is fully integrated into her overall character arc and also the character arc of this season. Further complicating the already complicated relationship between Callie and her estranged lover Arizona, the baby arc calls back to Callie’s relationship with Mark and also his own baby arc from last season. With all the interested parties fully assembled and off negotiating other concerns, the stage is set for a real, soapy square involving Callie, Mark, Arizona and Lexie! Efficient use of story and character. Well played, Grey’s.

Meanwhile the episode centers on the race for Chief Resident and a smattering of plot devices in the form of first year medical students. As expected, these short coats – a nickname for med students because their lab coats barely cover their backsides – aren’t there to have their own world intersect with the Grey’s universe, but rather they are there to kill screen time and tells us things about our core characters that seven seasons of has probably already told us. Alex is ambitious and also very craft. Okay, we’ve known that since season one! Cristina is insensitive and impatient, just like her mentors! Wow the student really has become the teacher. But oddly and far more satisfyingly, Miss Lexie has quietly assumed the role of pragmatic den mother relinquished by Meredith! When the others were whining about how annoying the short coats were, it was Lexie – not Meredith – who smugly pointed out how old and crabby everyone sounded. No speeches detailing how each surgeon has grown as though they were standing before The Wiz after realizing they didn’t need his help to get home. Instead, the characters have barely paused to realize they are now the asshole surgeons they remember greeting them upon their arrival to the program. Nice moment for Lexie who, also like Meredith, had little to do in this episode. Lexie spent most her screen time propping up other characters’ storylines and wearing a rather unflattering shade of coralish red lipstick.

Yet another My So Called Life alum – the divine Wilson Cruz – stopped by (in a kilt) to deliver this week’s sermon on tolerance and love. Wilson Cruz is a fantastic actor who was tasked with a preachy, unflattering, badly written guest role. His character’s speech in support of marriage equality and family was Grey’s at its hammy best. Instead of allowing Cruz to inform his character with all the key talking points of his speech – in a more nuanced and less preachy manner – the writers decided they ought to bring the action to a screeching halt, pull out a mallet and then proceed to beat us over the head with the message. It was a wasted moment and one that could have been so much more meaningful and poignant if Cruz had been allowed to break free from the shackles of that shabby writing and bring his own vastly superior talents to the game. Cruz is not an actor who needs to have his dialog written into the ground.

I guess that tape-n-glue is holding up pretty well because Bailey and Eli engaged in a little kissy face at the nurses’ station. Naturally, TV is still too scared to show the chubby black lady and her racially ambiguous (as cast here) boy toy knock boots on camera. They kept alluding to Bailey’s 360, complete with a sassy press-n-curl and some exaggerated self fanning motions post kiss. Still, it was good to see Bailey getting some romantic screen time and rather than seeing her running around yelling at everyone or raging at the ceiling. Good for Bailey. Sadly, the same cannot be said for the Chief who has seen his narrative prospects all but dry up since resuming his administrative duties. Does he ever have a conversation with anyone that doesn’t include, “Damn it, I’m the Chief!”? Yeah, I didn’t think so either.

Did Cris and Owen have any milk to go with the cereal dinner? Has Teddy gotten more than she bargained for? Can Teddy make her sham marriage work? Why is Alex so damn happy these days? Is Arizona’s behavior going to continue to teeter on the brink of stalkerdom? For more scintillating conversation, don’t forget to check out the Grey’s Roundtable over at Bitch Media

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. January 14, 2011 1:58 pm

    I got fooled! Whenever Callie and Arizona entered an elevator before, they were usually kissing before the doors opened, so I was sure they were going to make up. Instead we got to see the doors literally (as well as figuratively) close once more with everything now up in the air and fast falling to pieces. Not the greatest episode, but well worth watching for the Callie and Miranda stories.

  2. January 14, 2011 2:29 pm

    This is starting to seem like the season of tragically wasted characters. Avery and Teddy should strike.

  3. evmaroon permalink
    January 16, 2011 1:26 pm

    I’m a big fan of Wilson Cruz too, and the man looks pretty spiffy a la Mr. Haggis, but wow, that was some preachy preachiness. His Latino character lecturing a Latina lesbian character on gay marriage was all over the place, Hot Mess style. I think I groaned through that whole storyline.

    As someone who’s in a couple that’s been trying to get pregnant, I can unequivocally say that everybody, even non-doctors, knows that there is no use in peeing on 10 pregnancy test strips. If you don’t have the HcG, you don’t, and Meredith would know this. She would also know that peeing 10 times during one shift wouldn’t let her body catch enough hormone in her bladder to be read by a test, even the nice digital ones. And yes, I saw the “NOT PREGNANT” sticker they used instead of the actual digital readout. I guess the crew wanted to be able to return the test to the store after they finished filming, but no one’s gonna give them a refund after they broke through the foil.

    Tsk tsk for turning the Chief into a whiny anti-romantic. He knows all about relationships that are on the fringe of society’s approval, after all.

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