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At the start of medical school, you and your classmates stand together, wearing your lab coats for the first time. And you take an oath. The oath has many versions, but each boils down to this: the practice of medicine should be humane and kind. It turns out there's a catch they don't tell you about. Medicine mimics the world it lives in. And in this world, humanity and kindness are often in short supply. I remember that day that I first put on my white coat even though it was long ago. I took the oath alongside my classmates and I meant it with every cell in my body. But this world has challenged that oath so many times that I barely remember what it said anymore. So now, every day, I take a new oath. I pledge to help build a world worth living in and never stop believing that world can exist. Not today, so far from today, but someday.

Sign O' the Times is the twelfth episode of the seventeenth season and the 375th overall episode of Grey's Anatomy.

Short Summary[]

Maggie is preoccupied with Winston while trying to treat a patient wounded in the Seattle protests. Meanwhile, Levi is tested by an emergency, and the doctors struggle to treat a patient who doesn't believe in COVID.

Full Summary[]

Jackson comes across a small Black Lives Matter protest while on his morning run.

Cormac watches as his son craft signs for the protest.

News alerts keep interrupting Maggie as she tries to text Winston to be safe. Amelia brings in coffee. Richard e-mailed the staff to tell them they are allowed to take time to rest and protest if they need in. Maggie is worried Winston's won't make it back to Seattle in one piece. Maggie decides to go to work to distract herself.

Bailey tells Richard about the precautions she took for possible incoming traumas from the protests. She hates that they coincide with the pandemic but Richard says revolutions don't schedule appointments. Richard is heading out to protest himself but he's available in case she needs him.

Catherine and Jackson arrive at work. She is glad he came in for work. Jackson brings up his and Alma's proposal for a free COVID testing and treatment silent for low-income patients. Catherine will revisit it when the revenues improve. Jackson points out they can't wait till COVID's over. Catherine just wants to get through this week. Cormac and his sons walk up and call for Jackson. Cormac has a head lac.

Maggie videochats with Winston as she gets ready for work. He's at a gas station. He has been driving for three days. He brings up the apartment listing but she has not been able to look at it with all that is going on. He understands but the real estate market is wild so they need to act fast. She asks him to be extra careful.

Teddy and Bailey are checking on Meredith, who is still sleeping most of the time. Levi will handle her hyperbaric treatment today.

Cormac finishes a call to Irene as Jackson stitches up the lac. He was wounded by neo-nazi counterprotesters who went after one of his sons with a billy club. He got in their way just in time. Cormac is feeling enraged but he wants to get back to work with the ER filling up. Cormac has decided not to let his boys protest anymore until they are 18. Richard comes in to fetch Jackson.

Richard brought in Nell Timms, who was shot with a teargas canister at close range. It's lodged in her shoulder. They move her to a trauma room.

Nell feels excruciating pain. The CT shows no acute fractures. Nell asks for a hand to squeeze. Jackson orders a CT angio to rule out a neurovascular injury. Richard explains to Nell they will remove the canister in the OR once they have a clear idea of vascular damage.

Owen has bandaged up a protester in the tent outside. He gives her some extra bandage since she is heading back out. Owen paged Maggie for an incoming patient who was shot with a rubber bullet. She is distracted by her worrying about Winston. He congratulates her on her engagement. The ambulance arrives with Guy Houston, who was defibrillated in the field after being hit by the bullet. They rush him inside.

Levi gets Meredith settled in the hyperbaric chamber. James Chee arrives with a patient who needs hyperbaric treatment for a post-op wound infection. The schedule is packed so they started doubling up patients. Levi allows him in but he warns James not to talk to Meredith since he was instructed not to cause Meredith any stress.

Jo runs into Cormac and fixes his Band-aid. Cormac coughs, which he attributes to the teargas. Irene came to pick up his sons despite their complaining. They want to be part of the change but he won't let them after what happened. Jo understands both sides. Cormac has lost too many family members to see any side but his own.

Mabel Tseng briefs Bailey on Chad Anderson, who collapsed while jogging. He experienced shortness of breath. Bailey repeatedly instructs him to keep his mask on. Chad blames his asthma and expired inhaler. His sats have been hovering around 88%. Bailey asks Chad if he has possibly been exposed to COVID-19. He denies that. Bailey orders a full work-up. Chad scoffs as he believes COVID to be a hoax.

Richard meets Jackson in the CT boot. Richard says they were marching peacefully. He can't imagine someone thought it a good idea to fire poisonous gas at a woman of her age. Richard says it was beautiful at first, then it was frightening and messy. The protest was organized. You have to put yourself on the line to be part of it. Good trouble lights you up. The scans confirm that there's only soft-tissue damage.

Maggie finds no pericardial fluid on Guy. She explains that he has commotio cordis, which means the bullet hit him at the exact right time to disrupt his heart rhythm. Guy says things became chaotic when the cops intervened. He swears he didn't do anything wrong. Maggie admits him for observation. Guy wants to call his mother. Maggie leaves to answer Winston's call.

The landlord of the apartment called to inform him he needed a decision today. Maggie has looked at the listing and she's not a fan. Winston admits he told the landlord he would take it. He needs a better option than a hotel or tent. Winston is then pulled over by the police. Maggie instructs him not to hang up. She will stay on the line with him.

James asks Levi if Meredith is as mean as they say. He never got a chance to working with her. Levi says he hears Meredith's voice in his head with every win he books. She is the most influential teacher he has ever had. She can be tough but always for a reason. James looks forward to working with her.

Winston assumes a safe position. As one sheriff circles the car with a dog, Winston asks why he was pulled over. Upon hearing a worried Maggie, the sheriff checking Winston's license demand that he turn off his phone. Winston cautiously says his fiancée is worried but ultimately complies, stating he is reaching for his phone before he does so.

Maggie panics and immediately tries calling him back.

Richard and Jackson have removed the canister. Jackson mentions his mother ignoring his idea. Richard does not envy her job of solving problems as complex as she does. Jackson says it would be easier if she were to take advice of people trying to help her. Richard advises him to give her some time as they are all extra stressed right now. Jackson is impressed with how positive Richard is. He points out how energized Nell was and says there is power in gatherings like this one, the truth bringing people together. Jackson has to admit he has never been to a protest. He has contributed to causes in other ways, contributing money specifically. That works in this country. Richard tries not to judge how anyone chooses to handle traumas that come with living in the United States.

Winstons fails to answer the call. Taryn calls over Maggie as Guy is in V-fib again. Maggie hands her phone over to Sara and instructs her to keep calling Winston. She briefly explains the situation.

Bailey finds Chad and tells him that his COVID test came back positive. Additionally, he has ground glass opacities in his lungs and he has COVID toe. Chad laughs at the term. Bailey shows him the clot on the ultrasound but he insists runners don't get blood clots. Bailey backs off as he takes off his mask to tell her that COVID is the moneymaking scheme. Bailey stops herself from telling him about her mother. She leaves the room and goes to freak out for a moment in the stairwell. She returns to the room and tells him the facts of his worsening condition. This will not magically go away. She pleads to let them admit him and get him started on steroids and blood thinners. He insists on getting a new inhaler.

Maggie, Owen, and Taryn defibrillate Guy. They get him back to sinus rhythm. Maggie wants to get him to the CCU. Taryn is puzzled how a rubber bullet could cause a bruise in his heart. Maggie says it was a metal bullet encased in rubber fired from a gun at close range. Moments later, Guy goes into V-fib again. Maggie assumes the contusion is causing a closed loop of misfiring. They need to get him ablated. She orders meds and instructs to move Guy to the IR suite. Sara returns Maggie's phone. She hasn't been able to reach Winston. Maggie has Richard meet her in the IR suite.

Levi listens with half an ear as James talks about the forklift injury that landed his patient in the hospital. The patient starts moving. Levi warns James to up his sedation but his wound opens up and intestines pop out before James can do so.

Maggie still can't reach Winston. Richard arrives and Maggie informs him about the situation. It's been 20 minutes. Maggie needs someone to go find Winston. Richard asks for her phone and tells her to focus on her patient. If there is no response in a little while, Richard will go look for him himself.

Levi hears Meredith's voice from a time they dealt with a similar situation before. He has James push more sedatives and hold down the patient. Then he has to have the technicians depressurize the chamber so they can get this patient to an OR. Levi himself starts pushing the intestines back into the abdomen.

Maggie has moved the catheter in place. Richard lets her know that Winston has answered the call. Owen tells her to go since the patient is stable. Richard leaves her to talk to Winston in private. He is fine but they had him to do a DUI test and then ransacked his stuff. They had the dog sniff everything and him. His bike rack was obscuring his license plate. Winston is shaken up but he is relieved he made it out alive. He's not good to drive yet, though. He needs a moment to catch his breath. She stays on the phone with him.

Levi packs the patient's abdomen and instructs James to pour saline into the cavity to keep the intestines from drying out. Levi has James read Meredith's vitals. She remains stable. Remembering Meredith's instructions, Levi concludes he has done everything right.

Richard and Jackson tell Nell the good news. Jackson tells Nell he will operate again in a few days to get everything nicely cleaned up. Nell tells Richard he could have been hit too. Cormac checks in. Nell says she has never been better. She is not worried about a scar. She has one from tearing her ACL in Ferguson and one from frostbite in Standing Rock. Those are just the most recent ones. Richard has a scar from the WTO protest in 1999. Nell asks him about his first march. It was the Free South Africa march in 1988. Hers was the march on Washington in 1963. She was there in person for the "I have a dream" speech. She was 11 years old but she remembers the power of the moment. The feeling of possibility like that is rare and it's worth a few scars.

As they watch Meredith get settled in her ICU bed again, Bailey vents to Teddy about Chad. They list some of the disastrous things that COVID has caused for them. Bailey receives a worrying page.

Teddy and Bailey arrive in the ambulance bay and find Mabel doing CPR on Chad. He signed AMA forms and walked out. As Teddy takes over, Mabel runs to fetch a crash cart.

Chad has passed away. Bailey hates that he declined treatment and chose to walk away. Bailey needs to believe that they are almost over this brutal hill but now she's not so sure anymore.

Maggie meets Owen in Guy's CCU room. It appears that the ablation worked. Maggie tells him Winston is back on the road. He will arrive in an hour or two. Guy's phone rings in his bag of belongings. He has 17 missed calls from his mother. Maggie answers the call and brings her up to speed.

Jackson finds Catherine working in the conference room. She heard about his patient and wants to go meet her. Jackson asks why they don't have scars. Whenever he thinks back on marches he saw, he hears her voice telling him that going to work is enough. She always told him to exceed first and then give. He is successful now and he has given but nothing seems to change. Jackson wonders why the Foundation's work is not showing results. Catherine says she has decades worth of scars and she points out that there would not have been nearly as many black doctors if her work wouldn't have mattered. He is not criticizing her but he is annoyed at the red tape. He has plenty of ideas. She reminds him one battle at a time is how the world works. Jackson says it should not be like that anymore. He does not want to play by the broken system's rules. She says he sounds like his father. He wonders if that is such a bad thing, which hurts her. He leaves the room.

Cormac comes home and tells his boys that he was wrong before. It's his job to protect them. This is their country and now is the moment, so they can fight and protest, but only during the daylight and when he is with them. Liam says there is a protest downtown tomorrow.

Richard offers Jackson to give Jackson a ride home since the curfew makes it unsafe to walk. Jackson insists on walking. Richard tells him he can march tomorrow, it's practically over for today. Jackson says they are still marching somewhere.

Jo joins Levi outside Meredith's room. She heard about how he saved a life. Levi is happy to inform her that Meredith is stable. Levi admits he froze when the wound split but he wondered what Meredith would do. Jo recognizes that. Her advice is to always listen to the voice. He then notices she is carrying OB/GYN textbooks. She is serious about switching specialties. He jokes that he will be her superior if she starts residency again.

Maggie and Amelia are sitting on the porch with coffee. Winston pulls up and Maggie flies into his arms. He tells her he only thought about surviving to get back to her. They kiss.

Jackson throws a bag into his trunk and gets behind the wheel of his car. He sets his navigation to an undisclosed location 11 hours away and drives off.

Cast[]

Main Cast[]

Guest Stars[]

Co-Starring[]

Medical Notes[]

Meredith Grey[]

  • Treatment:
    • Hyperbaric therapy

Meredith was still sleeping most of the time, so Bailey scheduled hyperbaric therapy for her and had Levi take her.

Cormac Hayes[]

  • Diagnosis:
    • Scalp laceration
  • Treatment:
    • Stitches

Cormac was hit in the head with a billy club, causing a laceration to his scalp. Jackson stitched it up in the ER.

Nell Timms[]

  • Diagnosis:
    • Impaled object
    • Non-expanding hematoma
  • Treatment:
    • Surgical extraction

Nell was hit with a tear gas canister at close range. It became imbedded in her shoulder. She was taken to a CT Angio to see if it hit any major vessels. When the scan came back clear except some torn muscle, they took her into surgery and removed the canister. They told her they'd go back in a few days and close her up better and she'd need some physical therapy to get her full range of motion back.

Reese[]

  • Diagnosis:
    • Laceration
  • Treatment:
    • Bandaging
    • Antibiotic ointment

Reese was injured in the protests. Owen treated a cut on her arm. He told her to keep it on for 12 hours, then apply antibiotic ointment. He sent her with additional bandaging when she mentioned she was returning to the protests.

Guy Houston[]

  • Diagnosis:
    • Blunt force trauma
    • Commotio cordis
  • Treatment:
    • Radio frequency ablation

Guy, 22, was hit in the chest with a rubber bullet. They defibrillated in the field for ventricular fibrillation and then brought him to the hospital. They took him inside, where Maggie did an ultrasound on his heart, which showed no fluid surrounding it. Maggie said he had commotio cordis, which had interrupted his heart rhythm. Maggie wanted to admit him for observation, but before she could, he coded again in the ER. She believed the impact had bruised his heart. He coded again soon afterward. Maggie realized he'd keep coding until they did the ablation, so they rushed him to the IR suite. The ablation was successful and he was stable in his room afterward.

Chee's Patient[]

  • Diagnosis:
    • Post-op surgical wound
    • Evisceration
  • Treatment:
    • Hyperbaric therapy
    • Surgery

James brought in a patient with a post-op surgical wound for hyperbaric therapy. In the hyperbaric chamber, the patient started to wake up and opened his incision, causing his intestines to push out of his abdomen. Chee held him down while Levi sedated him. They then started depressurizing the chamber so he could be returned to surgery.

Chad Anderson[]

  • Diagnosis:
    • COVID-19
    • Deep vein thrombosis
    • Pulmonary embolism
  • Treatment:
    • Cardiopulmonary resuscitation

Chad collapsed while jogging and was brought to the ER, where he was given oxygen. He was still short of breath and also had some foot irritation. He insisted that he was fine and just needed a new inhaler. He insisted there was no way he'd been exposed to COVID-19. When Bailey expressed her intention to test him for COVID-19, he said he knew it was fake. His COVID test came back positive and his x-ray showed ground glass opacities in both lungs. She also said the irritation on his feet was a rash they were calling COVID-toe. An ultrasound had also revealed a clot in his leg. Bailey wanted to admit him for steroids and blood thinners, but he refused and signed himself out against medical advice. He was just outside the hospital when he collapsed again. They started CPR, but were unable to resuscitate and he was pronounced dead.

Music[]

Song Performer Scene
"Colors" Black Pumas
  • Jackson sees protesters as he jogs.
  • Cormac watches his sons paint signs to join the protest.
  • Maggie tells Winston to be safe and gets an alert about curfew.
  • Amelia checks on Maggie, who decides to go to work anyway.
"Come On, Girl" Cast (Phylicia Rashad and James Pickens, Jr.)
  • Nell sings to herself as she's wheeled away.
  • Richard sings with her.
"Stay High" Brittany Howard
  • Winston listens to music as he drives.
  • He gets pulled over.
"New Light" Mega
  • Maggie talks to Winston as he calms down.
  • Levi helps Chee treat his patient.
"Love Now" Marieme
  • Bailey talks about Chad and COVID denialism as they cover Chad with a sheet.
  • Maggie checks on Guy.
  • Maggie talks to Guy's mom.
"Treading Water" EMAWK
  • Jackson leaves the meeting with his mom.
  • Cormac comes home and talks to his sons about protesting.
  • Richard offer Jackson a ride home, but Jackson insists on walking.
  • Jo talks to Levi about his save and Meredith's condition.
  • Jo tells Levi she hears Meredith's voice and she listened to it.
  • Maggie and Amelia greet Winston when he arrives.
  • Jackson sets his GPS to a location 11 hours away.

Notes and Trivia[]

  • This episode's title originated from the song Sign O' the Times, originally sung by Prince.
  • This episode scored 4.98 million viewers.
  • The first day of filming for the episode was March 1, 2021. Filming wrapped around March 16, 2021.
  • All licensed music from the episode was sung by Black artists.
  • The episode takes place on or shortly after May 26, 2020. It follows up on the Station 19 episode Here It Comes Again, which takes place on May 25 as it shows the firefighter crew watching a news report about the murder of George Floyd. The resulting Black Lives Matter protests in Seattle are depicted in this episode.
  • Cormac's house is shown for the first time in the series.
  • A life-like dummy was made for Ellen Pompeo in the beginning of the season so she would not have to film numerous scenes of Meredith just lying in bed asleep. If they used the dummy for this episode, Ellen has only done voice-over work for this episode for the scene where Levi hears Meredith's voice in his head.

Gallery[]

Episode Stills[]

Behind the Scenes[]

Quotes[]

See Also[]

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

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