In surgery, there is a red line on the floor that marks the point where the hospital goes from being accessible to being off limits to all but a special few. Crossing the line unauthorized is not tolerated. In general, lines are there for a reason. For safety. For security. For clarity. If you choose to cross the line, you pretty much do so at your own risk. So why is it, that the bigger the line, the greater the temptation to cross it? We can’t help ourselves. We see a line, we want to cross it. Maybe it’s the thrill of trading the familiar for the unfamiliar. A sort of personal dare. Only problem is, once you’ve crossed it’s almost impossible to go back. But if you do manage to make it back across that line you find safety in numbers.

Break on Through is the fifteenth episode of the second season and the 24th overall episode of Grey's Anatomy.

Short SummaryEdit

The nurses's strike causes chaos in the hospital, as Meredith accidentally intubated a DNR patient, and then must let her die; Izzie treats a young pregnant patient with much more in common than the patient realizes. George joins the picket line, while the rest of the interns meet their new resident, the anti-Nazi, which Cristina immediately clashes with over her choice of medical care.

Full SummaryEdit

Outside the main entrance of the hospital, the nurses strike has begun. They shout "fair hours, fair wages". Izzie and George want to cross the picket line, because they're healers and they took an oath. George says his parents will be very disappointed if he crosses the line. Cristina joins them and says she heard there are scab nurses coming. She goes in first, but the nurses throw food at her as she makes her way to the entrance. Izzie decides to follow. Olivia yells at her to change her own bedpans. "Enjoy your syphilis, Olivia," Izzie says as she walks on. George decides to stay on the other side of the line.

Meredith discovers that Richard is visiting her mother again. They're talking about how Ellis will become Chief of Surgery one day. They hold hands and Meredith leaves.

Patricia is talking to the temp nurses. This can't be an excuse for sloppiness. Derek and Burke are complaining. Patricia says she stopped being a nurse because of doctors who don't pitch in. They complain to Richard, who says they'd need 40 extra nurses to relieve the striking nurses. They don't have the $2 million that'd cost.

Cristina, Alex, and Izzie are observing other residents, trying to predict who will replace Bailey, as Meredith joins them. Suddenly, a loud voice calls all their names. A perky resident comes over, happy to have finally found them. She says they look like a great group. She was a little worried because her horoscope said she was in for a challenging day. Sydney hugs Cristina to say hello, but Cristina doesn't like to be touched. The resident introduces herself as Sydney Heron. Her philosophy is "heal with love". Sydney notices someone's missing. Cristina says George is with the nurses like a little girl. Sydney likes that he stands up for what he believes in. Sydney asks who wants to go to the pit for a consult. Alex and Cristina leave to go do that, as Meredith goes to check on her patient. That just leaves Izzie. Addison comes over and asks her for a consult.

The ER resident asked for a surgical consult because of a fast-spreading rash. They go to the curtain, only to find a couple making out on the bed. They apologize, but they are on their honeymoon. Cristina asks the woman to dismount.

Meredith passes a room where Grace Bickham keeps asking for Lennie. Meredith can't find her chart so she has no idea what's going on. Grace says her husband was here. Meredith notices she has troubles breathing. She calls for a nurse.

Outside, Olivia tells George they won't throw donuts if he decides to cross over. He says that's not the problem. He can't go in because that'd disappoint his parents, and they'll kick him out of the program if he goes home. He says he's a union guy. He asks for a sign and joins the others in the protest. The nurses applaud for him.

Meredith has to intubate, but the only one who responds to her call for a nurse is a nursing student. Meredith asks her to get an intubation tube. The nurse comes back and Meredith successfully intubates. "Awesome!" the student says.

Addison's doing an exam on Cheyenne Wood. Her mother really has to go, because it's a long drive and she can't miss another shift. There's a mass on the neck of the fetus, which is causing a build-up of fluid and an obstruction of the airway and spine. Addison will perform a C-section, but she'll only half deliver the baby. They'll leave the umbilical cord intact so that the baby can get oxygen during the surgery. After the surgery, she'll hopefully be the mother of a healthy baby girl. Cheyenne is worried about the costs, but Addison says it's covered. Addison leaves to go deliver things to the lab. Izzie explains to the Woods that the hospital gets a write off the surgery, so it's not charity. Izzie promises Cheyenne's mother that she'll watch Cheyenne so that she can make her shift in Chehalis.

Meredith tells Richard that she went to see her mother this morning. Richard asks how she's doing. Meredith says she's fine. Richard asks Meredith to give Ellis his best.

Cristina marks the border of the infection. If it crosses the line, they'll have to do a muscle biopsy. Claire says she's supposed to run 10k tomorrow, but Cristina says that won't happen with this leg. Alex asks about the rash. They first noticed it when they were climbing Mt. Rainier yesterday. Sydney comes over and introduces herself, then admires Claire's wedding ring. Cristina asks if Claire had some accident. Wade says she cut her foot on some oyster shells at the beach a couple of days ago. They were windsurfing. Sydney jokes they'll need a vacation to recover from their honeymoon. Cristina says it's not a light infection and points out that the infection has crossed the border already.

Derek tells Meredith that Doc is doing fine. Addison comes over and tells Meredith to come visit the dog sometime. Meredith walks away and Addison asks Derek for a consult on the fetal spinal tumor.

While protesting, the nurses ask George to go in and check on some of their patients. They still care for their patients, but they can't cross the picket line themselves.

In surgery, Sydney asks if anyone wants to probe the wound. Alex gets to do it because he claims he'd like to try healing with love. Cristina is visibly disappointed and Sydney tells her that she has to learn how to share. Pathology calls with the results. It's necrotizing fasciitis, meaning the OR will be closed off to all non-essential personnel.

Meredith finds Patricia with Grace. Patricia can't believe Meredith intubated her, and neither can Grace's 3 friends. Patricia says Grace's chart was found. She's in end-stage COPD. She's on hospice. Her chart is marked DNR. One of Grace's friends hits Meredith with her handbag.

Grace's friends are rambling about how sure they are that Grace didn't want machines, and how all of Grace's family has passed away, except for her daughter. She's a lesbian, but not that it matters. Lennie has died as well. Grace made them promise they'd let her die. Meredith is confused, because Grace said Lennie was there. Grace's friends say that he was waiting for her in the light when she was trying to cross over. Thanks to Meredith, she can't reach him now.

George is in the hospital. Richard wants to give him a task, but George says he's not here. He's only here to check on some patients and then he's going back out to join the nurses. He's a union man, with all due respect. Richard says fine. George gives him some notes on certain patients, but Richard is not in the mood.

Wade is shocked by the news of the flesh eating bacteria. Cristina says they have to amputate, which she deems the only sane option. Alex says they can also try to cut out the infection. It won't be pretty, but they might be able to keep the leg functional. Wade wants to see Claire, but there's no time. He needs to decide now. Wade says running marathons is who Claire is. Sydney says they'll do anything to save the leg. On their way back to the OR, Cristina asks Alex if he really thinks this is the best choice. He says it's a way cooler surgery.

Derek tells Cheyenne that the prognosis is very good. They want to get as much as the tumor out during the surgery. She might be able to take her baby home by the end of the week. Derek and Addison leave the room. Izzie says behind and notices that Cheyenne is reading Shakespeare. Cheyenne says that was her homework for English. The baby wasn't due for a couple more weeks, but now she had to stop going to school. Izzie asks if she's made plans yet. Cheyenne hasn't. She's going to live with her mother. She was supposed to get her own trailer home, but those nine months flew by. Izzie understands.

In the OR, Cristina still disagrees with the decision not to amputate. If the infection moves into Claire's bloodstream, she's dead. They're solely basing their decision on the fact that she's young and active. Sydney misses compassion. She wishes Cristina was more like Alex, who's compassionate and warm. Cristina leaves to go to the restroom.

Cristina finds Burke and tells him about the case and Sydney. She thinks that Sydney is killing the patient.

Cristina and Burke enter the OR. Burke walks up to the table and they talk about the case. He asks about her protocol. Sydney figures out that Cristina wanted to make sure that the perky little bimbo cheerleader isn't killing the patient. Sydney says she's good at what she does. She's gonna do everything to clean out the infection. If it still spreads after that, Cristina can hold the saw for the amputation. Sydney says kindness and compassion aren't high on Cristina's list, but maybe some bonesaw action will make Cristina respect her some more.

Richard is talking to Grace's friends. Richard appreciates that they're looking after their friend, but they're gonna need to contact a durable power of attorney to sign the release. They say they can call Alice, Grace's daughter. They'll need Alice's original signature, but Alice lives in Oregon. Meredith and Richard walk off and Meredith comments the ladies were really into Richard. Richard ignores that and says that if Alice confirms that Grace is DNR, Meredith will have to kill her patient. Richard asks Meredith if there's anything he can do for her. She says no.

Before heading out, Izzie passes by Cheyenne's room. Cheyenne is reading Shakespeare to her baby.

At Joe's, the nurses are celebrating George while Meredith and Cristina are drinking. Cristina hates that Sydney called her unkind in front of her boyfriend, because she's not. Meredith says she's gonna have to kill her patient. Now it's Izzie's time to say what's wrong. Izzie packs her stuff and leaves. Cristina says she's a very compassionate person. George and Alex sit down with them. Alex says he'll puy for nurse George's drink. George tells the nurses that Alex mockingly called him a nurse. One of the nurses dumps a drink in Cristina's lap. Cristina and the nurse start yelling at each other. Joe interferes. Meredith drags Cristina out of the bar.

Izzie walks into Cheyenne's room. Cheyenne greets her. She can't sleep because she has to pee all the time. Izzie says she came back to talk to her. She grew up in Chehalis, too, in Forest Park behind the church. Cheyenne has a friend who lives there. Izzie asks if she can keep a secret. She shows Cheyenne a picture of a girl and says that is her daughter.

In the picture, the girl is 6, but she's 11 now. She used to live in Santa Barbara, but they moved and Izzie doesn't know where. She knows her name is Hannah and that she likes pigs. She thinks that is because her mom read her Charlotte's Web. Izzie says she is Hannah's mother, but she's not Hannah's mom. She knows things like this are not talked about where they come from, but she wanted Cheyenne to know that there are more ways to be a good mother. She wanted more for her daughter than she could give her at 16. Cheyenne says she loves her baby. Izzie says she won't be able to read her daughter Shakespeare anymore when she has to work night shifts in a diner.

Cristina comes home and finds Burke holding his trumpet. Cristina says she heard him from outside. She doesn't know what the neighbors think about it, and points out a person who lacks compassion wouldn't care about that. Burke asks about the leg. Cristina says it's carved to hell, but still on her body. They're watching it overnight. Cristina notices Burke is bothered by something. Burke says he's never questioned a fellow surgeon in their OR. Today made him realize what the problem is with an attending dating an intern.

The strike is still going on.

George is giving Meredith notes on patients. Burke asks George to do sutures, but George says he can't help him because he's all for fair hours and fair wages. Izzie gives George a cup of coffee and asks about the strike. George has come to realize how little they thank the nurses or try to get to know them. He realizes he shouldn't be seen talking to Izzie. Alice and her girlfriend arrive at the nurses station and Alice asks Meredith where she can find Richard Webber. Meredith leaves with them.

Cheyenne's mother comes over. She's angry because of what Izzie told her daughter, because Cheyenne is scared enough as it is. Izzie says she didn't advise her or pressure her to give up her baby. She only talked to her. Mrs. Wood thinks Izzie crossed a line because she feels superior over them. Izzie says Cheyenne is smart. She can have more than a trailer park and night shifts at a diner. She asks Mrs. Wood to look past her current hate for Izzie and maybe realize that Izzie is actually right.

Sydney tells Claire she's making a spectacular recovery. After a few times in the hyperbaric chamber, her leg will be saved. Claire thanks her for saving the leg. Sydney leaves Alex to explain the hyperbaric chamber to Claire and Wade, and tells Cristina she'll take that apology any time.

Alice signs the release for her mother. Meredith explains to Alice, her girlfriend, and Grace's friend that she'll give Grace a sedative, and then she'll remove the tube. Alice gives her mother one last kiss. Grace's friends have already said their goodbyes. Richard offers Meredith to do it, but she says she did this, so she should undo it. She gives Grace the sedative and turns off the machines. Alice's girlfriend asks how long it'll take. Meredith says it might be a couple of hours and removes the tube.

Cristina tells Burke that Sydney wants an apology. Burke says she crossed a line, and made him do it, too. She doesn't believe she can make him do anything. Burke says it's his fault. He's supposed to be her teacher. She came to him as her boyfriend, and he responded that way. She admits she's not used to being wrong. He knows that, but she's still an intern.

It's been 2 hours and 17 minutes, but Grace still hasn't moved on. Meredith and Richard are outside the room. Meredith confesses she saw him in the nursing home. She heard he visits Ellis two to three times a week. She wonders why he kept that a secret. He doesn't know. He asks if she'd like him to stop going. Meredith doesn't reply and goes to check on Grace. However, before entering the room, Meredith asks Richard if he thinks that Ellis is lonely. He thinks so, yes.

Grace is surrounded by her family, friends, and doctors.

Izzie, Derek, and Addison are operating on Cheyenne and her baby. Izzie cuts the umbilical cord and Addison takes the baby out. Izzie puts the baby in an incubator.

Grace finally moves on to the other side while cherished by her friends and family. They all get emotional as Meredith calls time of death 12:42. Meredith leaves the room.

Meredith runs into a supply closet and Derek comes in, having seen her gone in. Meredith is crying. She manages to say she doesn't want her mother to die alone. Derek calmly urges Meredith to take deep breaths. He gives her a paper bag so she can prevent hyperventilation. She breathes into the bag and lets her head rest on his shoulder. After a few secons, she announces that she's okay. She thanks him. They stare into each other's eyes until she leaves the closet.

In the nursery, Cheyenne asks Izzie if she's ever wished that she hadn't done it. Izzie says no. Cheyenne wonders if she gets to name her baby if she gives her up. Izzie says she can name her for herself. Izzie says she named her girl Sarah.

Meredith finds Richard and tells him he should keep visiting her mother, because she lights up when he's around.

Burke and Cristina approach Sydney, but Cristina sees she's with Alex. She says she can't do this in front of Alex. Burke says she has to. Cristina wonders why he's not apologizing. He says attendings don't apologize to residents. Cristina follows him to Sydney. She almost whispers as she begrudgingly tells Sydney she's sorry for having overstepped. Sydney says that's the compassion she was looking for. Sydney wants to hug it out, but Cristina turns around and walks away.

The nurses strike is broadcast on the news. Richard realizes they need the nurses. He asks Patricia where they can get the money. Patricia recalls seeing paperwork for a multi-million dollar surgical robot. Richard says there's a 2-year waiting list, and the robot will bring in huge business. Patricia asks if he and the robot can handle that business without nurses.

The nurses are cheering and taking away their signs. Richard is shaking hands and congratulating them.

Addison and Derek are lying in bed in the trailer, with Doc lying on the foot of the bed.

George is playing a game as Izzie climbs into bed with him. Meredith does the same only seconds later. They're both okay. He asks what happened today. They both say nothing happened. Izzie says they don't know everything about each other. Meredith and George agree. Meredith turns out the light. George asks if anybody wants to have sex, causing izzie and Meredith to laugh.


  • Meredith Grey
  • Cristina Yang
  • Izzie Stevens
  • Alex Karev
  • George O'Malley
  • Richard Webber
  • Addison Montgomery-Shepherd
  • Preston Burke
  • Derek Shepherd
  • Eleanor
  • Ruth
  • Mrs. Wood
  • Claire Solomon
  • Agnes
  • Wade Solomon
  • Sydney Heron
  • Joe
  • Cheyenne Wood
  • Patricia Murphy
  • Nurse Olivia Harper
  • Ellis Grey
  • Temp Nurse Zibby
  • GI Nurse Kate
  • Grace Bickham
  • Nurse Debbie
  • Nurse Tyler
  • Nurse Home Staffer
  • ER Resident
  • Alice Bickham (right) and Anne

Main CastEdit

Guest StarsEdit


Medical NotesEdit

Ellis GreyEdit

  • Diagnosis:
    • Alzheimer's disease
  • Doctors:
  • Treatment:
    • Residential care

Claire SolomonEdit

  • Diagnosis:
    • Necrotizing fasciitis
  • Treatment:
    • Surgery
    • Hyperbaric chamber

Claire came into the ER with a rash. They suspected an infection, so they marked the edge of the infection with a marker. When it spread quickly, they knew it was aggressive. They took her into surgery to remove the infection. Pathology determined that it was necrotizing fasciitis, so they worked diligently to remove the infected tissue without having to amputate. After surgery, they told her she'd need a few treatments in a hyperbaric chamber, but she was expected to make a full recovery.

Grace BickhamEdit

  • Diagnosis:
    • End-stage COPD
  • Treatment:
    • Hospice care
    • Intubation

Meredith found Grace in her room without a chart. Grace was struggling to breathe, so Meredith intubated her, not knowing that she was DNR. Her daughter had to be called to confirm the DNR so that the tube could be removed, which would allow her to die.

Cheyenne WoodEdit

  • Diagnosis:
    • Pregnancy
    • Fetal spinal tumor
  • Treatment:
    • EXIT Surgery
    • C-section deliver

Cheyenne's baby was diagnosed in utero with a mass on her neck, which was obstructing her airway and spine. They did EXIT surgery on the baby to keep her alive while they removed the mass and then they completed the delivery.

Ava JenkinsEdit

  • Diagnosis:
  • Doctors:
  • Treatment:

Ava in 4114 needed a dressing change and the nurse said it's scary for her, but if they sing the ABCs or the Wheels on the Bus, she can handle it.

Mrs. O'BrienEdit

  • Diagnosis:
    • Chocolate allergy
  • Doctors:
  • Treatment:

Mrs. O'Brien has a major panic attack if the doctors don't check on her at least once an hour. She was in room 2412. She is also allergic to chocolate, but she pulls the allergy sticker off her chart every chance she gets

Mr. RobertsEdit

  • Diagnosis:
  • Doctors:
  • Treatment:
    • Diuretics

Mr. Roberts has to be watched while taking his diuretics because he liked to hoard them under his mattress.

Burke's PatientEdit

  • Diagnosis:
  • Treatment:
    • Stitches

Room 2602 needed sutures. Burke asked George to do them, but he was striking with the nurses.


Song Performer Scene
"The Suggestion Box" Aqueduct
  • The nurses are picketing outside the hospital. Izzie and George don't want to cross the picket line.
  • Izzie and Cristina cross the picket line, but George refuses.
  • Meredith goes to visit Ellis and finds Richard there.
"Wanna Fly" Vassy
  • Cristina and Meredith talk about their bad days.
  • George is siding with the nurses.
  • Joe has to break up a fight between Cristina and a nurse.
  • Meredith leads Cristina out of the bar.
  • Izzie goes to talk to Cheyenne.
"Someone to Love" Kate Earl
  • Izzie talks to Cheyenne about Hannah and tells her adoption is an option.
  • Cristina comes home and Burke complains about what she did with Sydney. m
"Sailed On" Landon Pigg
  • Burke and Cristina talk about what happened with Sydney.
  • Meredith and Richard wait outside while Grace dies.
  • Meredith admits that she saw Richard at the nursing home.
  • Richard tells Meredith Ellis is lonely.
"Scratch" Kendall Payne
  • Grace's family and friends wait by her bedside.
  • Derek and Addison operate on Cheyenne.
  • The baby is delivered.
  • Grace struggles to breathe and then stops. Meredith calls time of death.
  • Derek follows Meredith into a supply closet and sits with her while she cries.
  • Izzie and Cheyenne talk.
"Just in Case" Leeroy Stagger
  • The nurses celebrate their win.
  • Addison and Derek lie in bed together.
  • Izzie and Meredith climb in bed with George.

Notes and TriviaEdit

  • This episode's title originated from the song Break on Through (To the Other Side), originally sung by The Doors.
  • This episode scored 18.44 million viewers.
  • Sydney's badge in this episode does not show "Surgery" as her department, but rather "Surgical Resident".
  • The nurses' strike was resolved as the money earmarked for a multi-million dollar surgery robot went to pay for the additional 40 nurses' salaries. Webber mentions a two-year waiting list for the robot, which would fall near the end of Bailey's residency, and would use that robot in attempt to lure her back into general surgery.


Episode StillsEdit


George: My dad's a truck driver, my mom's a teacher. If the evening news shows me crossing a picket line, they'll outlive me just to pee on my grave.

See AlsoEdit

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

The Grey Matter blog post on this episode can be found here.

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