Battle. Fight. Win. Lose. These are the words we use when someone is diagnosed with an illness or a disease. We use militarized language that implies it's a fair fight. But when it comes to life and death, what does winning really look like? Is a person a loser for dying when the outcome isn't really in their control? When it comes to medicine, who's to say what is winning or losing? There’s just as much value in trying again as there is in letting go. Letting go of suffering, regret, pain, fear. Instead of saying someone we love is battling, beating, fighting, winning or losing, why don't we just tell the truth? We get sick. We take our medicine. Some of us live, some die.

The Winner Takes It All is the eleventh episode of the fifteenth season and the 328th overall episode of Grey's Anatomy.

Short SummaryEdit

Amelia and Koracick tackle a daunting surgery on Catherine, while Richard and Jackson hope for the best. Meanwhile, Richard urges Meredith to visit her father, Thatcher, before his time is up.

Full SummaryEdit


  • Meredith Grey
  • Miranda Bailey
  • Richard Webber
  • Jackson Avery
  • Amelia Shepherd
  • Maggie Pierce
  • Teddy Altman
  • Catherine Fox
  • Thomas Koracick
  • Phillip
  • Thatcher Grey
  • Casey Parker
  • Taryn Helm
  • EP Doctor
  • Nurse Gregory
  • Nurse Karen
  • Intern James
  • Zola Grey Shepherd
  • Derek Bailey Shepherd

Main CastEdit

Guest StarsEdit


Medical NotesEdit

Catherine FoxEdit

  • Diagnosis:
    • Grade III chondrosarcoma
  • Treatment:
    • Surgical resection

Catherine was ready to have her surgery. They took her in and started the resection. The plan was to open her back, mark the coordinates of the tumor, do partial laminectomies to expose the tumor, and remove it en bloc. However, when they opened up her spinal column, they realized the tumor wouldn't come in one piece. Tom said to suck out the contents and remove the shell. It didn't work, so Tom said they needed to go through the front and meet in the middle to remove it. They flipped her and remove the tumor, but found the tumor was attached to the brachial plexus. Richard gave them his cancer pen to find the edges of the cancer so they could remove it, but they told her when she woke up that they hadn't been able to remove it all and she'd have to live her life with the cancer.

Thatcher GreyEdit

  • Diagnosis:
    • Acute myeloid leukemia
  • Doctors:
  • Treatment:
    • Supplemental oxygen

Thatcher was in the ending stages of AML. He declined the use of pain medication due to his alcoholism and had only supplemental oxygen. Meredith sat with him throughout the day, until he finally took his last breath.


Song Performer Scene
"Ain't No Mountain High Enough" Cast (Debbie Allen)
  • Catherine sings to herself as she gets a CT.
"Ain't No Moutain High Enough" Diana Ross
  • Jackson, Catherine, Richard, Amelia, Tom, and the OR team dance before Catherine's surgery.
"Mustang Sally" The Commitments
  • Tom operates and sings along with the music, over Amelia's objections.
  • Jackson and Richard watch from the gallery.
  • Maggie comes in to join them.
"This Must Be the Place (Naive Melody)" Talking Heads
  • Tom continues to operate to music. It's going well.
  • Jackson paces in the gallery.
  • They're ready to remove the tumor, but can't get it free.
  • Maggie leaves Richard in the gallery to go talk to Jackson.
  • Bailey comes in to sit with him.
  • Something goes wrong and Tom has them turn off the music.
"Hold On" The Rescues
  • Tom and Amelia prepare to turn Catherine.
  • The team carefully moves her onto her side and stabilizes her there.
  • Amelia and Tom rescrub and step back up to the table to continue their work.
  • Tom hesitates and Amelia offers to switch places with him to snap him out of it.
"When It Don't Come Easy" Sleeping at Last
  • Tom leaves Teddy.
  • Richard sits on a bench outside.
  • Tom sits in the chapel and tells his son about saving Catherine.
  • Maggie sits by Jackson in Catherine's room.
  • Amelia speaks at an AA meeting about how good she feels after operating on Catherine.
  • She's glad she was sober for it, so she could feel every moment.
  • Richard smiles at her.
  • Meredith shows her kids what Thatcher got for them.

Notes and TriviaEdit

Grey's Anatomy 15x11 Promo "The Winner Takes It All" (HD) Season 15 Episode 11 Promo

Grey's Anatomy 15x11 Promo "The Winner Takes It All" (HD) Season 15 Episode 11 Promo

  • This episode's title originated from the song The Winner Takes It All, originally sung by ABBA.
  • This episode scored 7.27 million viewers.
  • This marks Thatcher Grey's first appearance since the season seven episode P.Y.T. (Pretty Young Thing).
  • This the first episode directed by Allison Liddi-Brown since the season eight episode Support System. She directed at least one episode every season from season five through eight.
  • The final song in the episode, When It Don't Come Easy, was chosen because it was the song writer Elisabeth R. Finch listened to over and over again during chemo to calm her.
  • The baby pictures at Thatcher's house are of Jeff Perry's daughter, Leah Perry.


Episode StillsEdit

Behind the ScenesEdit


Catherine: I appreciate both of you wanting to be a part of this, but I have a crackerjack neuro team. I need you to be my husband and my son today.
Thomas: And we need you to be our patient.
Catherine: Thomas, you're getting ready to cut open my spine. I will be whatever I want.
Thomas: Oh. Music to my ears.

Jackson: You really think that posteriorly is the way to go?
Thomas: Oh, it is fun to have so many surgeons in one family. Remind me, Avery when did you become double board certified in neuro?
Jackson: That's really how you talk to your patient's family?
Thomas: It is, actually.
Amelia: We need to go in posteriorly to avoid the carotid and the jugular, and to avoid having to weave through the brachial plexus.
Thomas: Look, I know how hard it is to be on the bench, but we are the A-Team. And we don't lose. Just ask Shepherd's tumor. Oh, wait, you can't. Because I removed it. Flawlessly.

Thatcher: A few years back, a student told me about a semester he took abroad building schools. Lexie was gone, and I thought I could either drown my grief in a bottle of Scotch or do something. So I did something.
Meredith: In Zimbabwe.
Thatcher: The sunsets, Meredith, and the quiet. The people that I met, they have this passion for life, loving, learning.
Meredith: And then you got sick.
Thatcher: I thought I'd just come home, do whatever treatment I needed to do, and then go back, but... It was good, coming home. It gave me a chance to... It was the right thing to do.
Meredith: You went and got a whole new life.
Thatcher: I did.
Meredith: I'm glad for you. I'm glad you saw sunsets and built schools for people who needed them and you stayed sober. You went and got a whole new life. Halfway across the world this time. But you didn't give a damn about the people you left behind.

Thomas: What if we try your thing? You know, the word-vomit and the feelings? That seems to work. For you.
Amelia: Okay.
Thomas: You you first.
Amelia: This is the largest tumor I've ever seen on the biggest legend I've ever known, and if I screw this up, I'm gonna have to live out the rest of my ill-fated surgical career fixing idiot teenagers who get hurt cow-tipping in Lawrence, Kansas, 'cause I can't look Richard in the eye knowing I gorked his legend wife.
Thomas: That is specific.
Amelia: Well...
Thomas: I'm saying, how do you get hurt cow-tipping?
Amelia: It's a thing. Just... You. Go.
Thomas: Catherine Fox is an icon, and a magician, and a giant among men and not just for the reasons you think. She's saved more penises in her OR than any surgeon on the planet. And all I keep imagining are the dozens of men with zero-functioning penises, doomed to live out their sexless lives if I botch this surgery.
Amelia: That's what you're worried about? Men and their junk?
Thomas: That, and if I lose her... I've lost enough.
Amelia: So let's keep her alive.
Thomas: Let's keep her alive.

Meredith: Fine. I'm mad.
Thatcher: Because I moved away.
Meredith: Because you ran away. Because you have never fought for anyone or anything that you cared for in your life. You just disappear. When I gave you a piece of my liver, you said we would try, right? You said we could get to know each other. You didn't try. You didn't fight. And when Lexie died...
Thatcher: I know. I know.
Meredith: No, you don't know, because you weren't here. I lost my sister. I lost my husband. And you were nowhere to be found.
Thatcher: That's not... Meredith, I was there after Derek died.
Meredith: No, why would you say something like that?
Thatcher: Because it's the truth, Meredith. Richard told me Derek died. I bought a ticket. I flew all day, all night. I got to the funeral just just in time. I stood a few rows back. Next to some of your doctor friends from the hospital.
Meredith: I would remember if you were at his funeral.
Thatcher: I was there, Meredith. But you were barely there. You were a ghost. You looked like me when I lost Susan and Lexie.
Meredith: Are you saying you came to the funeral and didn't speak to me?
Thatcher: I felt like it would would have been for me, not not not For for you.

Maggie: Richard, this can't be good for you either.
Richard: The first year or so Catherine and I were together, we figured out how to make the long distance work because we'd promise to show up whenever we needed, however we needed. It's what you do for the people you love. She may fuss, but I don't need to ask her where she wants me to be. I'm already here.

Jackson: Mom's always been larger than life, you know? Laughs harder, yells louder than anyone. She's the life of the party. Even if it's my birthday party and she's taking over the dance floor.
Maggie: Sounds amazing.
Jackson: I was 16. It was mortifying. She'd always do that. She always inserted herself in every single aspect of my life, you know, whether I wanted her to or not Hell, whether I even knew about it or not. And now I can't imagine what a room would even feel like without her in it taking up all that space. It was different losing Samuel. That was more like like my world collapsing around me, you know? And this, I just... I feel like a scared little kid. Like nothing is safe. Like the world's upside down and nothing makes any sense anymore.

Thatcher: Richard and I started talking about a lot of things. We both had amends to make. There are so many things I could say I'm sorry for, Meredith. But all I really want to say is thank you.
Meredith: Thank you for what?
Thatcher: For so long, I measured my life in the things done to me, taken from me. Now I can see my life for exactly what it is. Some people have more pain than others. But no one, nothing, was conspiring against me. When you gave me a piece of your liver, you gave me time, precious time.
Meredith: Time to get your head out of your own ass?
Thatcher: You could say that. I had a life, Meredith, 'cause of you. My own real, honest, painful, incredible life. I just wish you and I could have shared it.
Meredith: Well, I guess you did try this time. I just didn't know.
Thatcher: I miss Lexie. I miss her so much.
Meredith: Me too.
Thatcher: I'm sorry you lost her. I know how much it it meant to you, having a sister.
Meredith: I have another sister.
Thatcher: But you and Molly, you were never close.
Meredith: Her name is Maggie. She's brilliant. And kind. She's the best of Ellis and Richard.
Thatcher: Your mother and Richard had a baby. At least something good came from all that.

Meredith: Do you regret marrying her?
Thatcher: The entire time she was pregnant with you, she pretended she wasn't. I don't know if it was stubbornness or denial. Maybe both. Nine months, she had to do everything herself. And I had to let her. The night she went into labor, she came home after surgery, and she just stood in the doorway, wide-eyed. "We're having a baby, Thatch. We're having a baby." As if the idea just hit her, right there. She started to laugh. She couldn't stop laughing. Laughed all the way to the hospital. I never heard her laugh like that, so big, so free. And I just thought, "Wow. What a way for you to come into the world." We weren't perfect. We weren't even happy a lot of the time. But I'd marry her all over again for that night, that laugh. And you. And this. I'd do it all again for this.

Amelia: Catherine, when we went in to get the tumor, it was adherent to your brachial plexus.
Thomas: We were able to remove about 95% of it, but we had to leave one nodule behind.
Catherine: So radiation? Chemo?
Amelia: They've had some success with proton beam therapy.
Catherine: Some?
Thomas: It's likely, even with treatment...
Catherine: I'll have to live with this cancer the rest of my life. I was sure you'd get it all or kill me trying.
Thomas: So did we.
Amelia: Catherine, I'm so sorry.
Catherine: Sorry? I'm alive. I can live with this for many years. People live with cancer. We've all seen it happen.
Thomas: You're gonna have to get scans every three months to make sure the tumor doesn't grow.
Catherine: And in between, I'll operate. And I'll hug my son. Make love to my husband.
Jackson: Okay.
Catherine: Chase my Harriet, make mistakes, and fight about who gets to pick the movie on date night. You two have given me my life back.
Jackson: Now what? 'Cause we didn't plan on this.
Catherine: These two pulled off a miracle. Miracles aren't always punctuation marks. But they are worth celebrating. So we are gonna have that party. We just might have to wait a couple of months so I can get on the dance floor.

Amelia: I operated on a freaking legend's spine today. And it was terrifying. And exhilarating. And imperfect. Mostly terrifying. Because she's not just a legend. She matters so much to so many people that I love. Most of my life, I have been chasing the kind of high that I feel right now. I gave a surgeon back her hands today. I gave a husband his wife, a son his mother. And I am so incredibly grateful to be sober to be present enough to have felt every terrifying, exhilarating, imperfect moment.

See AlsoEdit

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