Stacy McKee on "Invest in Love"...
Original Airdate: 11-5-09
OK. So I am currently writing this blog (and when I say writing, I mean longhand. In a notebook. With a pen. That’s right, people. This week I’m blogging old school!) early on a Saturday morning as I stand in line at a horse racing park near the Los Angeles Airport. I, along with easily 500 other people, am waiting in line to get my H1N1 vaccine.
So far, I’ve been in line for 35 minutes.
This is one of the only places in the city offering the vaccine right now and while, ordinarily, I totally wouldn’t bother getting up early on my Saturday to go stand in a ridiculously long line for a shot… At this particular moment, I really don’t have a choice.
My OB was pretty darn insistent. As was Shonda, who called me out of the writers’ room on Friday to try and convince me to leave work and go home, suggesting I should seriously consider spending the next several weeks safely sanitized inside a large plastic bubble. (Greys and Private have already had 3 confirmed H1N1 cases emerge in just the last week, so the likelihood of me being exposed is… well... not absurd.)
So everyone’s freaking out. And insisting I go get vaccinated. And all of this just because --I’m pregnant. You wouldn’t think that being pregnant could cause such a fuss.
Guess what? It can.
And you probably would think that being pregnant – newly pregnant, mind you, and ridiculously hormonal – might prevent me from getting assigned to write the all PEDS episode this season. Seems a little cruel, doesn’t it? To ask the newly pregnant girl to tackle the one episode in which every major patient is supposed to be a SICK KID?
We’ve been planning an all PEDS episode for some time. Arizona is a regular now and we’ve started seeing more and more of her – but for the most part, we always see her helping Callie through crisis after crisis. We haven’t yet really given Arizona a crisis of her own. So what better chance than in an episode where every patient is – in essence – her patient. Every patient is from the PEDS floor. PEDS, where things work a little bit differently, where the patients believe in magic. Because they are kids. Sick, dying KIDS.
Guess what? As concerned as Shonda was about me living in a plastic bubble, she was just as equally NOT concerned that perhaps making me write the all Pediatrics episode was just a teeny, tiny little bit of torture. “It’ll be great,” she said. “Use your new maternal instincts to make the episode better,” she said. “NO, WALLACE CAN’T LIVE! I DON’T CARE HOW PREGNANT YOU ARE. THE ADORABLE LITTLE SICK KID MUST DIE!” she said.
Okay, maybe she didn’t say that last bit exactly like that. But still. Even I knew I couldn’t really tell Wallace’s story properly if I let him live. And as sad as it might have made you to watch his mom come into the morgue and try to usher his final resting bad dreams away - I’m telling you people - it was even more terrible and heartbreaking and so so so sad for me. ‘Cause all I could think of the entire time – as I wrote it, as I sat on set and watched us film it, as I sobbed all the way through it while watching a cut of the episode in my office – all I could think about was: Oh my god, what if that were MY baby. What if I were that mom? What if I were the one visiting my child in the morgue?
And then I would officially declare to anyone who would listen that I was a terrible person. A terrible, terrible person to write such a horribly sad story about a dying child -- WHILE PREGNANT.
You know how, when Alex is standing there all shirtless and Derek is mocking him, Alex blurts out: “Bailey made me!” – Well, that’s how I feel about this episode. Shonda made me!
I still can’t get through a cut without crying. Stupid me for killing stupid Wallace when I’m this stupidly hormonal.
It’s a good thing you aren’t here in line with me, cause I’m actually starting to cry right now, just thinking about it. And I’m pretty sure my crying is starting to make the volunteer line monitor in the red vest a little anxious. She keeps looking at me and whispering to the red vested guy next to her.
Btw, I’ve hit the hour and 10 minute mark now. And the line hasn’t moved since I started writing this.
So, to balance out all the sadness in the episode, I knew I had to incorporate a story that would make me (and you) feel good, too. Enter Alex. Saving a teeny tiny baby. In the NICU. Shirtless.
See? A happy miracle baby story! And a half naked handsome man! I’m not such a terrible person!
Alex’s story came from these cases I’d been reading about tiny, preemie babies where the doctors had done everything medically possible, but the babies just weren’t strong enough to rally. So, a lot of times, the parents would just pick up their little babies, thinking that at least they would get to hold their child for a few minutes while it was still alive.
And then these miracles would happen, where the babies would feel their parents’ warmth and hear their heart beat, and the babies would, miraculously, start to thrive. One of the articles described how no incubator could mimic the simple act, the simple comfort of the baby being held.
Which was why this story was so perfect for Alex. He feels so completely helpless right now, so utterly useless and alone. And then he encounters this little baby who’s also struggling, also alone. For a moment, Alex finds a purpose. And he’s reminded that he can make a difference in somebody’s life, even when his own seems to be falling apart all around him. On the most basic level, these two little lost souls just need each other.
Ooo! Just moved up in line. Several whole inches. This is progress, people.
The surprise party, by the way, is based on a true story, too. A true Grey’s story. It happened a few years ago, when we threw Krista Vernoff a surprise baby shower. It was the best kept secret our office has EVER had (because, basically, no one in our office can keep a secret. We’re a bunch of blabber mouths. The fact that the party was genuinely a surprise still surprises ME!) – Anyway. Shonda told Krista to come to a meeting at her house one morning, a morning where Krista was in the middle of a million different rewrites and script pages and stress. Lots of stress. So Krista kept calling people from the office, and none of us would pick up our phones because – of course – we were all crouched in Shonda’s living room, waiting for Krista to arrive. So by the time she got to Shonda’s, Krista had probably had one of the worst mornings ever, just in time to walk in the front door, have us all yell SURPRISE, and to have poor Krista burst into tears. Full on, pregnant and hormonal tears.
Obviously, right now, I can identify.
And that is exactly what happens to Arizona. She steps into the apartment wanting nothing more than some quiet time to just decompress and maybe vent a little and just feel her feelings and instead – she’s met with a room full of party goers.
Mark Sloan is right when he says that surprise parties are hostile. Because they ARE! (One of my favorite unscripted moments in the episode comes from Cristina when she’s eating breakfast and listening to Mark’s take on surprise parties. If you notice, she TOTALLY sides with Mark as she chomps on her bacon. It’s hilarious!)
And, if you were paying attention, you may have noticed that the surprise party moment is the ONLY moment in the entire episode where Arizona cries. Even though, as we’ve established, Arizona tends to cry in the face of authority figures. Arizona is a people pleaser –Which is why she winds up agreeing to a surgery she doesn’t believe in – she’s trying to please Richard. He’s the chief. She doesn’t want to let him down…
But even after standing up to him, after kicking him out of her OR, she still doesn’t break down and cry. After losing Wallace, Arizona still doesn’t cry. After having to face the Chief and face Jennings in the wake of losing Wallace, Arizona still doesn’t cry.
Until the party. Where it all just comes flooding out. In the most horribly embarrassing way.
I love, though, that then she gets it out. She cries with Callie, but when she gets back to the hospital, even in the morgue with Wallace’s parents, Arizona doesn’t break down. I feel like it’s a big turning point for her.
Meanwhile – I’ve now been in line an hour and 45 minutes. This vaccine better be worth it.
I can’t, of course, blog without talking about Meredith and Derek who, admittedly, don’t have a LOT of screen time this episode. But the time they have is, I think, utterly charming and adorable. I love seeing them be happy and married and totally in sync with one another.
We were, of course, limited a little by the fact that when we filmed this, Ellen had JUST had her baby. In fact, this is the first episode we filmed with her post pregnancy. (It was really fun, actually. She had tons of adorable baby photos to share. That is one cute baby with one FANTASTIC wardrobe. Just saying.)
And finally – one of my favorite moments in the entire episode comes in the very last scene – from Callie.
For those of you who have been watching Grey’s for a while, you know that Callie tends to blurt things like “I love you” out – often prematurely. She did it with George, and he never could say it back. She’s a gal who jumps in head first, sometimes blindly, and we’ve seen it bite her in the ass.
So what I love love love is the moment when, after the horrible day that Arizona’s had, after the disastrous party, after losing one of her favorite patients – Arizona comes home, takes one look at Callie in her lingerie and that silly party hat – and Arizona says “I love you” first.
The look on Callie’s face when she hears that? Oh man, I’m starting to tear up again. It’s just so unbelievably vulnerable and sweet and lovely. Okay. Totally crying again.
…Just as Red Vest is motioning for me to move ahead in line. I think maybe I’m about to go get my H1N1 shot. FINALLY. After over 2 hours of waiting.
At least, I suppose, I’ve put all the waiting to good use. I’ve blogged. I’ve cried. And I’ve given myself a lot of extra work for Wednesday night, when I’ll inevitably be typing all this up. So that’s it for now, kids! Talk to you again in a few episodes!
This blog post was originally posted on greyswriters.com and an archive of the posts can now be found at ABC.com.