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Jenna Bans on "I Will Follow You Into The Dark"...

Original Airdate: 3-12-09

Okay, people…step away from the comment section…step away from the phone (no one at ABC’s gonna answer at this hour anyway, trust me)…and hear a writer out. I know what you’re all thinking – HOW COULD THEY HUMILIATE SHADOW SHEPHERD LIKE THAT!? Just kidding. We’ll talk Mer/Der and the bat and the ring, we will, but first I would actually like to start with Shadow Shepherd, ‘cause he’s part of the bigger issue here which is…

Derek Shepherd is not in a good place right now. In fact, dude’s pretty much at his worst. Remember when our friendly neighborhood serial killer Eric Stolz told him they had a lot in common? Derek’s started to believe him. What I love about this storyline, besides that it gives the talented Patrick Dempsey a chance to show us just how big his acting range is, is that you’d never think it would happen to Shepherd. Shepherd knows brains like I know…well, nothing. Maybe chocolate. But the point is, he’s not just a star in his field, he runs his field. It’s like the Pope having a crisis of faith. And everyone’s feeling it – Mark, literally with his maimed hand, Richard, who can’t possibly run his surgical floor without his star neurosurgeon…and sad little Shadow Shepherd, who finally gets his shot to impress his colleagues, and not one of them can even remember his name. (Even writing the script, I couldn’t keep it straight. When Darren, our script coordinator, was clearing the names, he’d call me and be like – so, it’s John, but everyone keeps calling him Jim, right? And I’d be all, yes. Wait, no. Wait, yes.) And it’s not because he’s not a good surgeon, it’s just with Shepherd around, who pays attention to the bald dude in glasses? In the end, Derek’s legendary status ends up hurting Derek the most. Because when people expect greatness out of you 24/7, it’s damn near impossible to live up to. You’re bound to take a big fall.

Like the interns do, I’d like you to ask yourselves – if you were handed a death sentence today, couple of months to live, what’s the first thing you’d do? Personally, I wouldn’t waste any time. I’d immediately re-introduce trans fats into my diet and then hop a plane to one of those huts over the ocean in Bali where the floor is glass so you can experience all the marine life without actually having to get wet. But that’s me. Izzie’s clearly a better person. Just when she’s found her niche at SGH, teaching the interns, she gets slapped with cancer. Wear sunscreen. But instead of hightailing it to a Balinese paradise (seriously, those huts look COOL) she takes her devastating diagnosis and channels it into an educational - albeit macabre - game for her interns, who are sorely in need of some attention. Shonda’s had this Patient X thing in her head for a long, long time – and when she first pitched it out, I immediately loved it. And hated it. I still love and hate it. Because it’s so totally messed up and unfair. What Izzie’s doing, teaching the interns, is a selfless, meaningful endeavor that no one else, even Alex, will ever give her credit for. Everyone’s been busy clamoring for surgeries while Izzie’s quietly achieved the impossible – she’s turned the gaggle of morons we met in season 4 into doctors. And now she’s DYING. And no one gets her, and no one knows it, and it’s seriously UNFAIR. Wear sunscreen.

Except Cristina. Now A LOT of thought and discussion went into the decision that the person Izzie goes to first should be Cristina. And some of you were probably thinking, why not Alex? Why not George? Hell, why not Mer? And that’s what Izzie was thinking too, in the end when she’s standing in the resident lounge, eyeing all of her friends, wondering whose evening to ruin. And she decides on Cristina. Because at the end of the day, even though they’ve never gotten along that well, Izzie knows Cristina’s strong enough to take news like that. She’s not gonna crumple, she’s gonna take the news like a hard, cold scientist and that’s what Izzie wants right now. It’s what she needs. ‘Cause she’s got a hell of a fight on her hands and the odds are stacked. I’d want Cristina Yang on my case too.

So my Mom – she really loves Grey’s Anatomy. In fact, she calls me after every episode, thrilled and excited to tell me what scenes she loved, what lines made her laugh, whose performance made her cry…Tonight I asked her what she thought and there was a long silence. And then: HE HIT THE RING WITH THE BAT!? I know many of you are equally as shocked, maybe a little horrified, and I’m with you. It was brutal to watch. But here’s what I really want you to take from it – Meredith’s reaction to it all was infused with a maturity and strength that was five seasons in the making. She didn’t crumple to the ground sobbing, she told him to do his worst, because she’s not going anywhere. She knows he’s drunk and angry, she knows he’s lashing out at her because that’s what you do when you’re drunk and angry and filled with self-loathing, you lash out at the last people in the world you should be lashing out at, the people you love and most importantly, she knows Derek doesn’t mean it. She knows he’s at his lowest, professionally, personally…so she’s not gonna bail on him. She’s gonna let him have his little “the world is a better place without me operating in it” tantrum and when the dust settles, Mer’s still gonna be standing there, supporting him. Because that’s what you do in a relationship. That’s what you do in a marriage. For better or for worse, right? So you can choose to see the end of this episode as a MerDer nuclear holocaust, but I really hope you don’t. I hope you can see it as I do – as progress. Twisted progress, yes, but hopeful all the same. For better or for worse, people.

And with that…let the discussion begin!

This blog post was originally posted on greyswriters.com and an archive of the posts can now be found at ABC.com.

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