Bill Harper On "Rise Up"...
Original Airdate: 11-6-08
Since this week’s episode has much to do with dead people who won’t stay dead, I thought it might be appropriate to start with a story about some dead people:
When I was a teenager, I visited my sister at college, where she was studying to be a physical therapist. She told me to meet her in a lab, and (purposefully, I think) gave me zero advanced warning that what I’d be walking into was a gross anatomy lab -- a room full of dead bodies. Surprise. Ha. Good one. I went through what must be the Five Stages of Seeing Unexpected Corpses: 1. Shock, 2. Revulsion, 3. Unease, 4. Gnawing concern about the fragility of my life, 5. Worry for this dead stranger in front of me, curiosity about how he got here, why he wasn’t buried, who his family was, how his hands got so calloused... Anyway, lots and lots of feelings, and all in about four seconds. Plus, the smell was weird. But suddenly, I swear, all of it was replaced with one feeling: Fascination. As four students worked over the open stomach cavity of a grey-green male cadaver, I was struck by how quickly it became just that to me -- a body, not a person. I felt like I understood the detachment that doctors must need to do their jobs. The ability to save lives -- and the daily threat of losing them -- must be enough to paralyze you if you don’t detach a little. If you don’t de-personalize.
(Sorry, I know I’m already sort of well into this blog, but I feel this weird, nagging impulse to introduce myself, since we haven’t met. I’m Bill...longtime fan, first-time writer, first episode of Grey’s, first blog. Ever. Hi. Very happy to meet you.)
That detachment shows up all over in this episode. The first Solo Surgery’s about to be awarded, it’s a huge deal, a huge honor, so our doctors are fired up to learn, to prepare, to win it -- and their interns are being neglected by their teachers -- everyone’s getting a little crazed, a little...detached.
Lexie assembles her league of unclaimed bodies. But Alex literally body-snatches them and pretty soon all of the residents are using them. And I mean using them. They’re so consumed with practicing procedures (and, in some cases, their lunch) they lose track of the fact that these are actual people they’re cutting into. Of course, it takes Bailey to snap them back, to demand for these bodies the respect they deserve. Sadly, it all lands on poor Lexie, who, from the beginning was the only person who showed those cadavers anything like respect. (I love her little speech thanking them for being there). No wonder she joins her basement band of self-doctoring interns.
Meanwhile, George works heroically away on his “patient.” Stan (played by iStan -- truly the most amazing, state-of-the-art trauma patient simulator there is out there). The idea behind these simulators is that they can create a scenario so realistic that doctors actually feel the stress of a real-life trauma. And by the end Stan becomes more of a person than he has a right to be (thanks partly to the Chief).
The poor beating victim, on the other hand, becomes less than human. Alex and Cristina have turned him into a grab bag of procedures to practice on, losing track of the person to the point where Owen completely snaps. Owen, ironically, has spent the entire day trying to depersonalize himself. He’s fighting so hard to not connect, to keep it professional, to keep Cristina at arm’s length. It must be a reaction to what we learned last week - losing his entire unit, being the sole survivor. If anyone ever wanted to detach, if anyone wanted to flee from being human, it’s Owen. And it builds in him all day, until it explodes.
I think my favorite scene might be the one when Cristina finds Owen and realizes maybe the only way to break through, to really communicate, after learning of his tragedy, is to tell him this incredibly intimate story of her own. Sometimes the most tragic and defining experiences can create a shorthand between people. They just understand it in a way that no one else would. (OK. I’m flat-out fascinated by Owen and Cristina. They seem to skip steps that most of us have to go through when we meet someone. They’re all surprise kissing and tragic-life-story-trading. No small talk, really. I can’t wait to see what happens next between them.)
So, the doctors must detach, but as Bailey and Owen point out, you can’t let the Person become nothing but The Patient. Everybody is “somebody’s somebody.” This peculiar opportunity that doctors have to cross the line between life and death and back again -- well, it would make me crazy. For most of us, Death is the finish line. For surgeons, it can be just another hurdle.
And death isn’t the end for a lot of people in this episode. Meredith and Cristina learn that, unearthing all those diaries of Ellis’s, trading them like best-sellers, learning from her brilliant past.
There’s poor Mr. Bullard who’s so prepared for his wife’s death after such a long illness, only to find that, when it comes down to it, he’s not prepared at all. He has to bring her back. And poor Bailey, who’s obviously working so hard to keep her own marriage alive, and sees the ideal of what she’s after in the Bullards. To stop trying to save her, to stop working, to give up on the ideal goes against every instinct she has, as a doctor and as a person.
But come on. If were going to talk about people coming back from the dead. If we’re talking resurrections...Come on...
Picture this: You’re a fan of the show. Then the dream of a lifetime comes true and you get to work on the show. It’s your first episode, and Shonda says to you: “This is the one where Denny comes back.”
He is, as Callie says, Seattle Grace Legend. And his re-appearance opens a whole can of worms: People forget that’s how we met Erica Hahn. I admit, ever since Erica Hahn showed up for her first day of work I’d wondered, in the back of my mind, how much she knew of what went on here the night of that heart transplant. I knew if she didn’t know, and she found out, it would blow up. And it does -- In one day her whole world is rocked. Her work, this hospital, her relationship, nothing is what it seemed. Upside-down. And poor Callie is playing catch-up. Not knowing where it’s going. Or where Erica’s going.
And Izzie. Poor Izzie. It is, as Meredith says, a lot of Denny for one day. But she figures there must be a reason that her patient -- Denny’s former rival for the transplant heart -- is here, (played by Tom Verica, an amazing actor, who, you may notice, frequently directs our show as well) and that he’s in Denny’s old room. And that Denny is wandering the hallways! And staring at her with his big, sad Denny eyes. This must be how she can finally, once and for all, can lay him to rest. Right? I love how her fear and concern over seeing her dead boyfriend, there...in the room, is replaced with that incredible, final sadness of realizing that he’s not. That he’s gone. Gone for good.
Or is he? Denny...seems to have other plans. As for what happens next between them, I can’t say. I can just say this...
...It’s not over yet.
This blog post was originally posted on greyswriters.com and an archive of the posts can now be found at ABC.com.