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Like I said, disappearances happen. Pains go phantom. Blood stops running and people, people fade away. There's more I have to say, so much more, but... I've disappeared.

Drowning on Dry Land is the sixteenth episode of the third season and the 52nd overall episode of Grey's Anatomy.

Short Summary[]

The mass casualty incident continues to swamp Seattle Grace. Alex cares for Jane Doe while trying to find her husband, as well as please the hopeful, yet angry crowd in the clinic trying to get information. George crosses a professional line, and begins to regret it. Izzie tries her hand at a burr hole, not an easy feat for her as she doesn't have surgical equipment, nor much recent hands-on OR time, and Derek is sent into the field to manage some of the trauma, specifically neuro, coming in, but finds something else.

Full Summary[]

Meredith surfaces for a brief moment, but goes back under right away. She comes back up gasping for air, treading water. She then gives up and lets herself sink.

Two nurses ambush Cristina about patients. She's taken care of them and updates the nurses. She asks if they have seen Meredith. They haven't since this morning. She asks Cristina to page her in the pit in case there's anything emergent.

In the OR, Carly asks George about her son. He tells her Chris is fine and waiting for her. He claims Chris is very brave. Carly thanks him and she's put under. Bailey follows George to the scrub room and asks what happens when the happy mother wakes up after surgery and finds her son isn't there. George says he would be okay with that because his lie helped to save her. Bailey urges George to find the boy.

Richard and Burke are going to operate on Jane Doe to relieve the cardiac tamponade. Addison will monitor the fetus. Alex comes in and tells Richard that the families are looking for information. Richard says no one has more information than he does. He is the system to do this, so he has to figure this out. Alex asks Addison about Jane. Addison says they won't know how she's doing until they take her to the OR. Jane's being all alone has led Addiosn to wonder if anyone would notice if she were to disappear. 

Rick is still seizing. They can only let him ride it out. Izzie still doesn't know what they can do if Search and Rescue doesn't come in time. Izzie confesses she's out of practice. She's only been watching for the last couple of weeks. Vince says she did good stopping the bleeding. He believes Rick can make it. Izzie has to believe that she can do this. Izzie asks who's got a cellphone. All three men do.

Derek is still at the scene. He comes across the businessman Meredith treated earlier and he notices that the man is covered with her jacket, which has her ID still on it. The paramedic says they found the man like this, so Meredith must have moved on. Derek is called over to check on a man with a fracture, whom Derek says needs to be taken to the hospital. He then spots the little girl standing by herself. He walks up and asks if Meredith brought her here. She doesn't reply. He asks if Meredith is okay. She shakes her head.

Meredith herself keeps sinking in the water.

The clinic is still crowded with worried families. George enters and starts looking around for Chris, to no avail. He crosses paths with Alex, who is soon yelled at by the families for having no new information. He yells at them to be quiet. He asks for a minute so he can come up with a system. Sydney comes up and proposes to lend a hand or give him a hug. Alex then sees the instant camera lying around. He takes it and leaves.

Richard is watching Jane Doe's surgery from the gallery. He receives a call from Izzie, who tells him about her situation. She suspects Rick has a depressed skull fracture and an intracranial bleed. Richard asks about signs of increased pressure. Izzie lists the signs and stresses they can't get Rick out from the under the car. Izzie says being calm is impossible now. She needs to know what she can do. Richard tells her she has to do burr holes. He'll go look something up in a book, as he's not a neurosurgeon, and he'll call her back soon. Richard yells at no one in particular to find him a copy of Boardman's Neurosurgery. Mark comes up and Richard asks if he knows anything about burr holes. Mark's done it a couple of times. Richard asks him to stick around. He then tells Izzie to listen.

On the ferry, Izzie tells Rick's friend that she needs a drill to drill holes in Rick's head. Vince has a drill in his truck.

George is wandering the ER. He goes to ask Cristina if she has seen the boy on the photo. She's rather focused on all the medical cases and the fact that she missed out on the scene, but ultimately tells him she didn't. She's looking for Meredith herself.

Alex has returned to the clinic with photos of every patient either in surgery or the ICU. There's also a separate board with people who have been transferred to other hospitals, about which Sydney has the details. Some families are relieved to find photos of their loved ones. Alex goes to check on Jane Doe, but he's stopped by families whose loved ones are not on the board. They realize that means they are most likely dead. Alex says there could be other explanations. One man in particular asks about his pregnant wife, whom Alex thinks could be Jane Doe.

Derek is asking the little girl where Meredith went, but she's overwhelmed by the chaos surrounding her. She looks around and starts walking up to the edge of the pier. Derek follows her and asks her where Meredith is. She points at the water.

Meredith is still not moving as she sinks.

Burke founds that the leak causing the tamponade comes from the right atrium. He can fix it without putting her on bypass. A scan detailing the facial fractures is up on a monitor. Alex comes in and tells Addison he found the husband. Jane Doe is Casey Clark. Addison asks how he knows. Alex says she's pregnant. Addison says chances are more than one woman on that ferry was pregnant. He cannot give the man hope without checking every last body in the morgue. Alex takes a photo of Jane's face and leaves the OR. Addison and Burke complain about the interns. Burke has a lot of pent-up frustration to let out. Addison then notices late decels on the monitor, but Burke fixes it with a stitch. He thinks they've made it through the worst part.

Alex comes across George in the stairwell. George tells him he's looking for a boy whose mother is in surgery. He's come to realize the hospital is enormous. Alex might know where the kid could be.

Alex and George are in the morgue to take photos. They are also looking for a pregnant woman. Alex complains about having to deal with the families. He'd rather deal with patients. George finds a body lying face down. He has Alex help him turn it around. George finds it hard to believe Alex isn't moved by all this death. He then finds a pregnant woman. Alex takes a photo of her face.

Izzie is about to drill into Rick's skull. Richard reminds her the drill won't automatically stop like a neurological drill, so she has to stop as soon as she feels the release of pressure. Mark tells her to trust her insticts. A nervous Izzie wants to clean the drill again, but Richard says she's done that enough. It's time to act now. He directs her to find the right point and has her make a scalp incision down to the skull. There's a lot of blood, but Mark tells her not to worry about it since it's just superficial. Izzie then takes the drill and turns it on, which causes Vince to make a sound. Izzie tells him he's gonna have to pull himself together or he has to leave. No one can freak out around her. Mark reminds her the temporale bone's only a couple of millimeters thick. Izzie drills but finds that the dura is still intact. She's going to have to drill again above the frontal lobe. The skull is five times thicker there, Mark tells her. Izzie drills again and tells Mark she sees blood. Richard tells her to drill around the hole to relieve the pressure. She does so as Vince looks on in horror. She drills until the hole is 2 centimeters around. She definitely sees blood. She has to use her finger and gauze to evacuate as much of the clot as she can. Fortunately, it's not arterial. The dura looks like it's pulsating regularly with the heart, which is a good sign for the brain's perfusion and oxygenation. Finally, Izzie has to fill up the wound with gauze to minimize the bleeding. Richard compliments Izzie, who warns Rick's friend there still are other injuries to worry about. One of the friends notices Rick's opening his eyes. They are all relieved.

The little girl is standing by the edge of the pier by herself. A coast guard notices her. He picks her up and starts carrying her away, until he hears a gasp. Moments later, a wet Derek comes walking onto the pier with an unconscious Meredith in his arms.

Derek is performing CPR on Meredith in the back of an ambulance. They are five minutes away from the hospital.

George checks in with Bailey, who's still operating on Carly. She looks good. George says he's looked everywhere and contacted everyone, but he can't find Chris. The odds are he's in the water. Bailey is not looking forward to telling Carly that her son is still missing. George will keep looking.

Izzie and Rick arrive at the ER. Izzie informs Richard that he's still tachycardic and has a GCS of 8. She thinks they should lots of antibiotics because she ran out of sterile material to work with. Richard tells her she saved Rick's life. He tells her to get cleaned up and join him in the OR. She's officially off probation.

Izzie comes across Cristina in the hallway and enthusiastically tells her what she did. Cristina gets that Izzie's a hero and she's jealous, but she really needs to know where Meredith is. Izzie says she should be back, because she didn't see Meredith at the scene. She proudly says she's off probation. She's a rock star.

Alex puts the photos of the fatalities up on a board. He knows it's difficult, but they need to identify as many people as they can. As the families break down around him, all the death is clearly getting to him.

Mark tells Izzie they have agreed to let her do the honors. She has to drill a few more burr holes before they start the craniotomy, this time with a high-speed pneumatic neurosurgical drill. Izzie is very excited and asks for the drill.

Sydney is comforting distraught family members. Alex walks up to the man who's looking for his pregnant wife. He says they have two pregnant women, one of whom is in pretty bad shape. He shows him Jane Doe's picture. The man has trouble recognizing her, but Casey's eye color doesn't match with Jane Doe's. Alex apologizes. The man asks about the second woman. Alex has trouble saying she's deceased. The man understands regardless and breaks down.

The ambulance with Meredith has arrived in the ambulance bay. Bailey opens the doors and the paramedic says it's Jane Doe. Derek tells Bailey it's Meredith. Bailey asks how long she's been down. Derek frantically continues the CPR as he insists she's alive. They take Meredith inside.

Cristina is still suturing when Burke appears in front of her. He tells her the patient is out of the woods. She asks an ER physician to finish for her. She and Burke walk into an empty trauma room. Cristina is frustated that Meredith has disappeared. She has to listen to her McLove Life and the one time Cristina has something to share, she goes missing. Meredith is her person. Burke doesn't understand why Meredith is so important. Telling Meredith makes it real. If she murdered someone, she would call Meredith to help her drag the corpse across the living room floor. Burke thinks she's likening him to a corpse. He's done. He leaves as Cristina repeats that Meredith is her person. Her pager goes off.

Izzie, Mark, and an unnamed neurosurgeon are working on Rick. It's all looking good. Izzie's pager goes off and the nurse insists she'll want to take this one.

Alex checks up on Jane Doe in post-op. She's stable so far. Addison is sad to hear no one has come to claim her. Alex then tells Addison he would notice if she went missing. Addison smiles. Alex gets paged.

George is sitting while watching the photo of Chris. He then notices a 7-year-old John Doe on the OR board.

He enters the OR, where Callie is operating on the boy. He shows Callie the picture and asks if this is her patient. He really hopes this boy is on her table and not drifting on the bottom of ocean. She asks him to hold the photo into the light. She recognizes the kid as her patient by his goofy ears. George tells Callie he's going to show Callie tonight how happy she just made him. She cuts him off as the staff starts laughing. George then gets paged, too.

The little girl has arrived at the clinic, where she's finally reunited with her mother.

Bailey is working on Meredith, while Derek keeps stammering about atropine. Richard comes in and orders him to get out as he takes over CPR. They will get her through. Bailey has started a central line.

Burke arrives outside the trauma room and sees Derek sitting on the floor in the hallway. Derek says Richard threw him out. Burke asks what he needs. Derek needs Burke to go in there. Burke does so.

In the trauma room, they have only managed to get Meredith's temperature up to 80 degrees. Meredith goes into V-fib. They debrillate, which returns her to asystole. Addison comes in and she's shocked by what she sees. She suggests warm peritoneal lavage or continuous bladder lavage with warmed fluids.

Mark sits down with Derek and comforts him.

Bailey is still performing CPR. Meredith's temperature has only risen to 81. Addison begs Meredith not to do this. As a nurse enters, Addison sees Derek and Mark sitting outside.

Cristina joins Alex, Izzie, and George, who are watching Derek and Mark from the other side of the double doors. Cristina needs some time to let it sink in. Izzie insists that Meredith will get through this. George isn't so sure. Izzie believes Meredith will get through this. She believes in the good. It's been a hell of a year, and despite the overwhelming evidence to the contrary, she believes they will all be okay. Izzie believes that Denny is always with her, and that the calories don't count if no one sees her eating a tub of butter. Surgeons who prefer staples over stitches are lazy, and she also believes George made a terrible mistake marrying Callie. She believes she can tell him that because they are best friends, and she also believes he will be okay despite his mistake. Izzie believes that believing they will survive is what makes them survive. Izzie hugs Cristina.

Richard orders another dose of epi. They are on their fourth round. Meredith is still in asystole. It's been 20 minutes. Richard says they are losing her. The monitor flatlines.

Meredith coughs and opens her eyes. She's greeted by Dylan Young, the bomb squad guy. She asks if she's dead. "Damn right you are,"a voice says. It's Denny. "Holy -" Meredith says.


Main Cast[]

Special Guest Stars[]

Guest Stars[]


Medical Notes[]


  • Diagnosis:
  • Treatment:

A nurse asked Cristina if she had checked on Kramer in 2309 and she had. He had had x-rays.


  • Diagnosis:
  • Treatment:

Higgins in 2312 needed diet orders, which Cristina provided.


  • Diagnosis:
  • Treatment:
    • Digoxin

Collins in 2323 needed to be monitored. The nurse was told to page Cristina if his systolic dropped below 90. He'd been given a loading dose of digoxin.

Ellis Grey[]

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

A nurse mentioned checking on Ellis and that she was fine.

Carly Height[]

  • Diagnosis:
    • Open abdominal wound
    • Evisceration
  • Treatment:
    • Surgery

Carly, 45, was taken into surgery to treat her open abdominal wound.

Jane Doe[]

  • Diagnosis:
    • Pregnancy
    • Cardiac tamponade
    • Traumatic pericardial effusion
    • Facial injuries
    • Crush injuries
    • Hypothermia
  • Treatment:
    • Surgery
    • Fetal monitoring

Burke took the pregnant Jane Doe into surgery. Addison monitored her fetus while Burke operated. She became hypotensive and the baby had late decels, but that was quickly rectified and Burke finished the surgery.


  • Diagnosis:
    • Chest injuries
    • Leg injuries
    • Broken arm
    • Crush injuries
    • Blown pupil
    • Seizure
    • Depressed skull fracture
    • Intracranial bleed
  • Treatment:
    • Burr holes
    • Craniotomy

Rick was still seizing and still trapped under the car. Needing assistance, Izzie called the hospital for help. Webber talked her through drilling burr holes over the phone with Mark's help. Once she drilled a hole, she looked at the dura, which was pulsing with his heart beat. Then she packed the area with gauze to minimize bleeding and they waited for him to be extracted. While they were waiting, he opened his eyes. He was then transported to the hospital so he could have brain surgery.

Business Man[]

  • Diagnosis:
    • Nearly severed leg
  • Treatment:

The patient whose artery Meredith had tied off was taken to the hospital.

Derek's Patient[]

  • Diagnosis:
    • Fracture
  • Treatment:

Derek saw a patient and said to stabilize the fracture and get him to the hospital as quickly as possible.

Cristina's Patient[]

  • Diagnosis:
    • Arm laceration
  • Treatment:
    • Stitches

Cristina stitched up a laceration on a woman's arm in the ER.


  • Diagnosis:
  • Doctors:
  • Treatment:
    • Surgery

A man identified one of the pictures Alex posted as Fatima. Alex told the man that she was in the OR, but stable.

Meredith Grey[]

  • Diagnosis:
    • Hypothermia
    • Asystole
  • Treatment:
    • Attempted resuscitation

After pulling Meredith out of the water, Derek started CPR in the ambulance on the way to the hospital. Once they arrived, they took her into a trauma bay and continued to attempt resuscitation while warming her up.

Young Man[]

  • Diagnosis:
    • Leg laceration
  • Treatment:
    • Stitches

Cristina stitched up the leg of a young man in the ER.

Christopher Height[]

  • Diagnosis:
  • Treatment:
    • Internal fixation of lumbar spine

George found out that Callie was operating on a John Doe who was seven years old, doing an internal fixation of the lumbar spine. George came into the OR and asked Callie to look at the picture of Chris Height. She identified her patient as Chris Height.


Song Performer Scene
"A Bitter Song" Butterfly Boucher
  • Meredith surfaces and takes a deep breath several times before going back under.
"Timeless" Kate Havnevik
  • The little girl looks out into the water. A member of the coast guard comes and carries her away.
  • As they walk away, Derek surfaces with Meredith in his arms.
"The Great Escape" Patrick Watson
  • Alex puts up the pictures of the deceased victims.
  • Mark tells Izzie she can do the burr holes in surgery.
  • Alex shows the picture of Jane Doe to Mr. Clark. It's not Casey and he then identifies the deceased pregnant woman as Casey.
  • Meredith and Derek arrive at the hospital.
"A Bitter Song" Butterfly Boucher
  • Addison steps in and offers solutions to warm Meredith up.
  • Mark sits down with Derek.
  • They continue working on Meredith.
  • The other interns wait outside for news.

Notes and Trivia[]

  • This episode's title originated from the song Drowning On Dry Land, originally sung by Tab Benoit.
  • This episode scored 25.76 million viewers.
  • After one day of filming scenes where Meredith was given CPR, Ellen Pompeo asked the director for a chest plate because it gave her heart palpitations and it hurt her chest. She was given the plastic chest plate that Demi Moore used on the set of Charlie's Angels.
  • Jeffrey Dean Morgan and Kyle Chandler are credited at the end of the episode instead of the beginning to preserve the end of episode surprise.


Episode Stills[]


Izzie: Oh, Cristina, oh my God, you are not going to believe what I just did, I'm going to tell you, but you're not going to believe me, you're going to think I made the whole thing up... I drilled a hole into this guy's skull. Several holes, actually, with a drill I borrowed from a guy named Vince, packed the hole with freaking tissue and then brought him back here, and then now I get to scrub in on his craniotomy. It was like a ride, this crazy rollercoaster ride with, like adrenaline shooting out of my ears. You would think that my hands would be shaking but they weren't, there was no shaking. Did I mention the drill? The scene where I was a rockstar, by the way.

Burke: What is your problem?
Cristina: You know everyone’s back. Everyone’s back except her. And I listen to her. Everyday, about her McLove life, her McDreamy, her McCrap. And the one day, the one day I have a thing she disappears.
Burke: Meredith, this is about Meredith.
Cristina: She doesn’t know yet.
Burke: Meredith?
Cristina: She’s my person.
Burke: Right. And if Meredith doesn’t approve, then what?
Cristina: This, this is not about getting her approval, its about…
Burke: What?
Cristina: Telling her makes it, makes it…. If I murdered someone, she’s the person I’d call to help me drag the corpse across the living room floor.
Burke: Ok, now, you’re likening someone here to a corpse. I’m done.
Cristina: She’s my person.

(Meredith wakes and sees Dylan)
Dylan: Hey!
Meredith: Hey … Am I … dead?
Denny: Damn right, you are.
Meredith: Holy …

Bailey: (to the paramedic): What do we got?
Paramedic: Jane Doe. She's hypothermic and dropping.
Derek: (doing repeated CPR on Meredith) She's not a Jane Doe. It's Meredith Grey. It's Meredith.
Bailey: Derek! Derek! How long has she been down?
Derek: I don't know. She's alive. She's alive.

Bailey: (to George) What happens when the happy mother in there wakes up after surgery and her son isn't there to greet her? What then? How are you gonna explain that, O'Malley?
George: If she wakes up after surgery because my lie helped to save her life. I'm okay with that, Dr. Bailey.

George: He's lost. Or... or...
Bailey: He's in the water. So when she wakes up, I get to inform her that she is not going to die... she's just going to want to die.
George: I'm sorry, I can … keep looking.
Bailey: Yes, you do that.

See Also[]

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

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