Apron Strings is the sixth episode of the sixth season and the 104th overall episode of Private Practice.

Short SummaryEdit

Addison's role as a parent is challenged when Henry's biological mother reappears and asks to be more involved in her young son's life. Meanwhile, Addison reconnects with her mentor, who shares a very painful secret.

Full SummaryEdit

8 months ago

Addison is holding a fussy Henry.

Mildred tells Addison and Judi that open adoptions are negotiable. Addison wants Judi to feel comfortable because she's so grateful, but Judi doesn't really know what she wants. Addison asks Mildred what people usually do. She's okay with Judi being a part of Henry's life if that's what she wants. Mildred says weekly photos and monthly visits is a common set-up. Judi says sure, but doesn't seem too interested.


Addison is holding Henry. She knows this is supposed to be an open adoption, but she doesn't feel open. She fears Judi might think she's doing a horrible job raising her son. Jake says that's not the case. Addison wonders why she's coming over now, after having heard nothing from her for eight months. Jake thinks it might've taken her this long to wrap her head around all of it. He makes Addison realize it might not be about her. That makes her feel better. She tells Henry they're going to meet he lady who made him.

Jake and Addison bring Henry into the living room, where Judi's been waiting. Addison updates her on what Henry likes and that he's healthy, but soon realizes she's talking to much. Judi asks to hold Henry. Addison allows her to, but she visibly doesn't like it. Jake comforts her.

Jake wants to take a picture of Addison, Judi, and Henry, but he's got to go get a new memory card. Addison takes Henry and asks Judi if she wanted to give him the stuffed animal she brought, but Judi says no. It seems like Henry's got everything he needs. Addison likes to hear that. She confesses she was nervous. Judi wonders why as Addison's the most together person she's ever met. Addison wonders what changed now, since Judi never showed interest. Judi doesn't really know, but it's been hard. Judi confesses that ever since she gave Henry up, she's always felt like she forgot something. Now that she sees Henry, she doesn't feel like that anymore. Addison reminds her she's still open to agree to the monthly visits, but Judi would like to see him again sooner, like tomorrow. Addison agrees.

Addison and Jake are discussing Judi with their colleagues. Jake didn't feel like Judi regretted the adoption. Charlotte thinks seeing Henry's well might help Judi to move on. Violet says the purpose of an open adoption is having the mother involved in the life of the child, which can be a powerful thing. Cooper thinks Judi's just confusing everybody with her actions. Sheldon says it might be benificial to Henry to take away the mystery around his birth mother. Violet agrees that the birth mothers almost never have bad intentions. Charlotte thinks it still might be bad, fearing Judi might eventually start weighing in on parenting decisions. Violet says it's not about that, but then notices Addison started crying. She says she just wants to be Henry's mother.

James greets Dr. Carlsmith in the ER. She has pain in the left upper quadrant. She says she has gastric cancer and he starts examining her to see what's going. She asks about his education and is relieved to hear he didn't graduate from a quack school. He tells one of her papers helped him to safely deliver a baby on his first ER rotation. He finds the source of the pain and orders a CT. He asks if he can call anybody for her, but she doesn't want to be a bother.

Addison overhears nurses at the nurses station talk about Vivian Carlsmith. They inform her she's in the ER.

James tells Vivian he's going to admit her. Addison appears and hugs Vivian. She explains to James that Vivian is her friend and mentor, who taught her everything she knows. She asks why she's in the ER in LA. Vivian says she's a guest lecturer at UCLA and says she thought Addison was in Seattle. Addison says she moved to a warmer climate as Vivian groans in pain. Addison asks what's going on. Vivian plays find the diagnosis with her and lists her symptoms. Addison guesses gastrocarcinoma. Vivian says she always was her smartest student.

James and Addison leave the room. Addison regrets not having seen her for too long and asks about the treatment plan. James wants to have her admitted for pain management and he ordered the CT because he fears the cancer has metastasized to the liver. James thinks she should have family to support her, but Addison says her sister died years ago. There's no one left. James gets called away to treat a girl who fell in physical therapy. The girl's mother sees Addison and tells her this is all her fault. Addison doesn't see why. The mother says Addison doesn't even recognize her and introduces herself as Sean Petrucci. Addison recalls the case. She did an in utero surgery for Gwen's spina bifida eight years ago. Sean said Addison lied when she promised her the baby would have a normal life. Addison can see she's upset, but Sean doesn't want to patronized. She's been through hell since Gwen was born. She says Addison should've advised her to have an abortion.

Cooper and Charlotte are making their bed as they discuss baby names and Henry. They feel bad for Addison. It's already hard enough for them to make parenting decisions and they chose each other. Cooper still thinks that if you make the honorable decision of giving up your baby to give them a better life, you should back off and let them live that life. He admits he's curious about his birth mother, too, but he knows you don't give up a child unless you're in a crisis, so he thinks he shouldn't find her. His birth mother is responsible for the great life he has, and he wants her let her live her life too. Mason overhears them and he's surprised to find out Cooper's adopted. He asks about Cooper's birth mother, but Cooper doesn't know anything about her. The two take off to go to school.

Addison is sitting by Vivian's bedside with Henry. Vivian always knew Addison would decide to get children. Addison confesses she adopted Henry, although she was the OB on the case. Vivian is suprised to hear that the birth mother visited and that Addison let her. Addison says it's part of their adoption agreement. Vivian gets emotional upon hearing Judi gets to see her baby is healthy and well. Addison asks if she's all right. Vivian confesses in 1954, at the age of 15, she had a baby. She never got to hold her. The nuns gave her away to a catholic family. She had a baby and they took her away.

Violet asks Sam when his TV show is going to be on the air, but Sam says they still have to decide on things since it's a pilot. A man comes in, looking for Addison. He gives her a letter and tells her she's been served. Addison opens the letter. Sean Petrucci has sued her for wrongful birth, meaning she believes her baby shouldn't have been born. Addison explains she did fetal surgery on Gwen to fix the spinal bifida, which was a success, even though it was still experimental at the time. Apparently Gwen walking is not enough of a miracle for Sean, because she flipped out yesterday in the ER. Violet says some people aren't equipped to rasie a less-than-perfect child. They all can't understand a mother can say her child's life isn't worth living, as even disabled people can have good lives. Addison says it'd be one thing if she made a mistake or did something wrong, but she only helped Sean. Sam says it's not her fault Sean can't handle being a mother.

Jake and Addison are pushing Henry on the swings in the park. Judi appears with Donna, her mother. 

Donna says Henry looks exactly like Judi when she was a kid. Judi hopes this is okay. Jake says she should've mentioned bringing Donna, but Addison says it's okay. She's just a little surprised. Donna says she and Judi had an argument and Judi disappeared out of her life, so she never knew Judi was pregnant. Donna asks if she can hold her grandson. Addison hesitates, but then hands him over. Jake asks Judi if her mother's the reason she wanted to see Henry. Judi says that after they reconciled, her mother's desire to see Henry gave her the courage to call them to schedule a visit. Donna starts crying and says that she wished Judi had just come to her when she was pregnant.

James and Vivian are playing a card game. She wins. He tells her that the cancer has indeed spread to her liver. She doesn't want to talk about her options. She knows she's going to die soon, but she also knows that sometimes, greater forces are at work. She says she won't accept his diagnosis and asks if he hasn't any traumas to deal with. James says it's his day off. She asks him to deal another hand and make it interesting, suggesting a buck a point.

Addison is lying awake. She sneaks out of bed. Jake tells her not go stare at Henry to make herself feel better. Addison pretends she's just going to check on him, but he says sleeping babies need to be left alone. Jake asks which thing is keeping her up. Addison is frustrated over what Donna did and she also regrets not having stayed in touch with Vivian. Addison wonders why all of this is happening to her. Her lawyer said they can't win in court so they needed to go to mediation, but Sean is just not willing to talk there. She's afraid that she's losing her son, that Vivian will die, and that she has to settle for millions when she hasn't done anything wrong. Jake says she won't lose Henry and Vivian will die eventually. She didn't do anything wrong, but it might help to abandon the fighting mood and open up to listen to Sean to make the hostility go away. Maybe Sean is just a mother who's willing to do anything to make her child's life easier.

James finds Amelia in the scrub room to talk about surgical pain management options for Vivian, but Amelia says none of the options are suitable for a woman that age with gastric cancer. James figured it was a long shot. He confesses she's just one of these patients that he really, really wants to help.

James appears in Addison's office at the practice. He says Vivian doesn't have any more time than a motnh left, but she refuses hospice and she doesn't have any advanced directive. James thought maybe Addison could convince her to be less stuborn. As Addison nods, Judi appears in the doorway. She wants to talk. Addison thanks James as he leaves and she goes to close the door behind him. Addison tells Judi she can't show up at her work or ambush her with her mother. Addison is forever grateful for the choice Judi made, but she's not a child anymore so there's no going back. Addison threatens to disappear with Henry if Judi doesn't stop ambushing her. Judi apologizes, not realizing Addison felt that way. She says she came here to say that she can't see Henry anymore. It's too hard for her. She just wanted to say that Addison was a great mother and that she won't bother her again. She leaves, leaving Addison to feel guilty.

Sean and Addison are meeting with a mediator. He asks Addison how much in utero spina bifida sugeries she does. Addison says about five. The mediator asks her to explain to Sean how the surgery would make it possible for Gwen to walk. So Addison does. She's seen on the chart that Gwen is starting to walk. Sean says Gwen hoists herself out of her chair with her arms, hovers for five minutes and falls back into her chair, exhausted. That's not walking. The mediator says that by suing Addison, Gwen is saying she would have had an abortion if she had understood that Gwen would never be completely ambulatory. Sean says it's not just the walking. Gwen will never live a normal life. Addison understands Sean is not happy with the way her life turned out and that she's just looking for someone to blame. Sean says she is to blame. Addison didn't prepare them for this life, which she knows to be true because her husband walked out before Gwen was 2. Now, she has spent every moment of her life caring for Gwen and she'll do that for the rest of her life. Addison says she saved Gwen's life, like Sean begged her to do. Caring for your child and being afraid every day is part of motherhood and she didn't think it was part of her job to explain that to her. Clearly, she was wrong, because no mother would ever do this, would ever say her child shouldn't exist. Sean refuses to be named the vilain. She says Addison is heartless and the jury will agree. She packs her stuff and leaves.

Addison enters Vivian's room with flowers. Vivian deflects her question about her pain level and asks about the mediation. Addison says she tried to play nice, but the truth is she made no mistake and she didn't feel like listening to the bitch complain about her life anymore. Vivian wonders why everybody wants everyone else to understand their feelings nowadays. Addison says she has spent her entire career to become a great doctor and now her reputation's being threatened. Addison feels pressured, because there aren't many people who do what she does, so if she can't practice medicine, there are literally babies who won't get saved. She knows that sounds egotistical, but Vivian says she deserves every little bit of her pride. Addison sits down and holds Vivian's hands, saying it's time to put her affairs in order. Vivian asks about Judi to deflect again. Addison says she showed up again with her mother, but she thinks it's hard for Judi because her mother doesn't approve of Judi giving Henry up. Vivian says mothers try to protect their children, but they sometimes do a lot of damage in the process. Addison asks what her mother did. Vivian explains that in the maternity home, they would allow you thirty minutes to hold your baby before leaving. However, Vivian's mother showed up to take her home and sent the sister away with her baby. Vivian starts crying and says she wanted to be a mother, but she knew she couldn't give her a good life. Medicine and looking after a few special students became her life's work. Addison asks if she forgave her mother. Vivian knows she just did what she thought was best, and her actions inspired her to end up as the only female surgeon of her class. It rolled off her back, because after her mother called her a whore, nothing else hurt her. Addison asks how she found the strength. "We're women, honey. The strength finds us," Vivian says.

Addison shows up in physical therapy to talk to Sean. She says Gwen's a fighter. Addison tells Sean she went back and looked at Sean's chart. She'd been trying for three years before they gave up on IVF and finally got miraculously pregnant, which tells Addison she never would have terminated. Sean says a wealthy doctor with a perfect child doesn't get to judge her. Addison says Sean is judging her though, putting her life on trial for money when she did nothing wrong. Sean says she has to take care of Gwen. She got laid off. The hospital where she worked cut the social worker staff. Something's gotta give to make ends meet and there's nothing else she could do. Sean really doesn't regret having Gwen, but there's nothing else she can do. Addison says that some day, Gwen will find out where the money came from and it'll destroy her. Addison sees Gwen taking her frist step before walking out.

Cooper is rubbing Charlotte's legs as Mason comes in. He thinks Cooper's parents were pirates because he didn't get seasick when they went sailing. Cooper says he's Jewish though, because he got adopted through a Jewish agency. Mason wonders why Cooper doesn't want to meet his real parents. Cooper says his real parents raised him. There's a difference between real parents and biological parents. Charlotte reminds Mason that some questions can hurt the person they're asked to. Mason apologizes to Cooper, but he knows he wondered about his father a lot growing up with just his mother. Cooper understands that. He wonders about his birth mother too, and he imagines her living a happy life with three kids. He's just never been interested in finding her. His parents were the parents who did his homework with him and stayed up with him when he was sick. Blood doesn't make family, love does. Cooper uses Charlotte as an example. She's not related to Mason, but she's still his mama. Mason says that makes sense.

James is checking on Vivian's vitals. She knows they're bad. She asks if he's married. He says he hasn't found the lucky girl yet. Vivian says if only she were 40 years younger. Addison comes in and says no flirting. James says he'll come to check on her later. Vivian needs Addison to write a letter. She starts dictating, and the letter is written to her daughter. 

As Addison writes about Vivian and her feelings for giving up her baby daughter, she has flashbacks of delivering Henry and adopting him. Vivian hopes her daughter never felt abandoned, but she wants her to know there was no moment of her life where Vivian didn't love her. In her heart, Vivian was always there with her, so she had two mothers.

Vivian tells Addison she never knew where her daughter is and she won't live long enough to find her, but she asks Addison if she'll do it for her. Addison says yes. She promises to give her the letter.

Addison sits down in a restaurant called Canter's. Judi comes to take her order, but then sees it's Addison. She asks what she's doing here. Addison is not really sure, but she read when you adopt a baby, you're supposed to give the birth mother something. She gives Judi a box. Judi opens it and finds a golden necklace with the letter h. She likes it. Addison asks her to never stop seeing Henry. Judi says Henry shouldn't be around her, as he'll be angry with her when he's old enough to understand it. Addison says he won't, because he'll understand why she did it. She put his wellfare above her own and that's what a mother does. Judi says Addison is his mother. Addison says Judi is too. She's okay if Judi needs a break, but she, Judi, and Henry are connected with each other. Addison wants her to know she's always welcome in their home. Judi says her break is in 10 minutes, so they could hang out with a piece of blueberry pie.

Sean and Addison are back in mediation. Addison says she wants to settle. Whatever amount of money Sean wants, she'll pay it so Gwen can be taken care of. She wants to help. Sean says Addison was right. Gwen can never think Sean didn't want her. Sean knows Addison didn't do anything wrong, so she can't take her money. 

Addison walks into Vivian's room, only to find an empty, clean bed and James sitting there. She asks when. James says an hour ago. She didn't see his text as she was in mediation. Addison sits down. James says he's sorry. He says Vivian had this light in her eyes that reminded him of her grandmother. She died of cancer, too. He wishes he'd gotten to spend more time with her when she was dying, but he was in med school, always putting medicine first. Addison wipes her tears and says he saved lives. He gave other families more time with their loved ones and thereby made a sacrifice for the greater good. Addison says that what Vivian would have said. 

Charlotte walks into Addison in the hallway. She found the resume Addison left on her desk. She thinks Sean Petrucci is an interesting choice. She also finds it interesting that they never had an opening for social workers since the last financial setback, and an hour after she gets Sean's resume, she gets informed by the board that they got a substantial endowment earmarked for just that purpose. Addison guesses her timing was good then. Charlotte says she'll make sure Sean's resume is at the top of the list. Addison smiles.

Addison is on a plane to Portland.

Addison arrives at a house and shakes the hand of a woman who's been waiting for her. She thanks Addison for coming and is interested to hear what she has to say.

The woman and Addison sit down. Addison gives her the letter and the woman starts crying as she reads it.

Jake eats pizza and talks to Henry, whom he's carrying, about golfing not being a sport and basketball. Addison comes home and he greets her. She kisses them both and he asks how it went with Vivian's daughter. She says she invited her in and they talked about Vivian. Her daughter's living a full, rich life with a big family. Addison just wishes Vivian would have known that. Jake offers her some pizza, but she just looks up at him, smiling. She says she loves him, and he's the last man she wants to say that too. "Let's get married," she says.


  • Addison Montgomery
  • Jake Reilly
  • Cooper Freedman
  • Charlotte King
  • Sheldon Wallace
  • Amelia Shepherd
  • Mason Warner
  • Sam Bennett
  • Violet Turner
  • James Peterson
  • Vivian Carlsmith
  • Sean Petrucci
  • Mediator
  • Donna
  • Mildred Clemons
  • Judi
  • Gwen Petrucci
  • Nurse #1 (left) and Nurse #2
  • Man
  • Maxine
  • Henry Montgomery

Main CastEdit

Guest StarsEdit


Medical NotesEdit

Vivian CarlsmithEdit

  • Diagnosis:
    • CH1 mutation
    • Stage IV gastrocarcinoma
  • Treatment:
    • Pain management

Vivian, 74, came into the ER with abdominal pain. James said it could be a lot of things, but Vivian said it was gastric cancer. She had a family history of the CH1 mutation. James admitted her for pain management. He suspected the cancer had metastasized to her liver. Tests confirmed that and they started pain management. James consulted with Amelia for a spinal implant to control her pain, but Amelia said she was too weak to survive the surgery. James continued to manage her pain until she died.

Gwen PetrucciEdit

  • Diagnosis:
    • Spinda bifida
    • Scalp laceration
  • Treatment:
    • Physical therapy
    • Stitches

Gwen, 7, was born with spina bifida. Addison had operated on her in utero to improve her condition. She was walking in physical therapy when she fell and hit her head. She was taken down to the ER where James stitched up her head. She later took steps in physical therapy.


Song Performer Scene
"Cali in a Cup" Woods
  • Cooper and Charlotte make up their bed while talking about baby names and adoption.
  • Mason finds out Cooper was adopted and that he knows nothing about his birth mother.
"Time After Time" Eva Cassidy
  • Addison writes down Vivian's words to her daughter. She promises to find her daughter and give her the letter. 
  • Flashbacks of Addison getting Henry.
"Mama Sail to Me" Amos Lee
  • James shares a story about his grandmother with Addison in Vivian's room.
  • Charlotte talks to Addison about Sean's resume for the social worker opening.
  • Addison finds Vivian's daughter and gives her the letter.
  • Back at home, Addison is charmed by the way Jake treats Henry and she proposes.

Notes and TriviaEdit

Private Practice 6x06 Promo

Private Practice 6x06 Promo

  • This episode scored 4.24 million viewers.
  • This episode is focused on Addison.
  • Addison says she'd give all her limbs for Henry. At the same time in Seattle, Arizona Robbins is dealing with her amputated leg.


Episode StillsEdit


Addison: I love you. And you're the last man I wanna say that to. Let's get married.

See AlsoEdit

A complete overview of this episode's crew can be found here.

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