Freezing. Choking. Getting tongue-tied. It's what we call it when your mind goes from brilliant to blank. You can prepare all you want, but the feeling can still hit you, out of nowhere. So when it hits you, when your mind shuts down, when you open your mouth and no words come out, the good news is, it happens to all of us. Freezing. Choking. Getting tongue-tied. There's a reason it happens. We lose our words because the stakes are so high and we have so much to lose. We're petrified of saying too much or saying it wrong, when the truth is the only wrong thing you could say is nothing at all.

Who Is He (And What Is He To You)? is the sixteenth episode of the thirteenth season and the 285th overall episode of Grey's Anatomy.

Short Summary[edit | edit source]

Jackson and April travel to Montana in order to perform a complicated surgery on a young patient, but Jackson's mind is elsewhere, and April is forced to step up and get him back on track.

Full Summary[edit | edit source]

Jackson and his mother are in the back of a car. Jackson appears distracted while Catherine's looking forward to spending time with Harriet. Catherine says they can always bring the patient to Seattle, but Jackson says the patient and the donor are too unstable to move, so he's going to them for the throat transplant. Jackson tells her to say whatever she has to say, but she only tells him she's sure he'll be just fine.

The car arrives at the airport, where a private plane is waiting. A cab arrives with April and Harriet. Jackson was expecting Grey to come with him, but Catherine says that Zola has the flu and April's very capable. Jackson takes Harriet from April and gives her to Catherine after some cuddling. April takes her luggage to the plane while Jackson reminds his mother not to do anything with Harriet that involves medical journals. Jackson says bye to his baby and gives Harriet to her grandmother. "Bye, baby," Catherine says as Jackson boards the plane.

April's greeted by the flight attendant as Dr. Grey, but Jackson explains the change. April loves the Avery plane. She thinks Catherine deserves this after having made the Avery Foundation what it is today. Jackson doesn't want to talk about his mother now. The attendant comes over with champagne, but Jackson tells April not to take it since they're going to the hospital right away.

April and Jackson arrive at Avery Medical Center.

They are welcomed by Dr. Steve Corridan, who gives them tablets to read the chart. He's excited about the transplant. He takes them to the ICU to see the donor, but then reveals that April and Jackson still need to explain to Mr. Young why there's nothing they can do for his son anymore. The man has trouble accepting what happened. April deduces the man's thinking they came to save his kid. Steve thought it'd be better if it came from them.

In his son's room, Eric Young talks about how excited he is to have them here. He asks what the plan is and how long it'll be before his son wakes up. It's his son's tenth birthday. They went for one more run on the mountain when the accident happened. April brings up that there's nothing they can do and starts talking about organ donation, but this only upsets the father. Jackson steps in and says he knows that Eric would do anything to have his son back. Letting go of any part of him feels impossible. He's the only one that can make the decision and they'd never ask him to do something he's not comfortable with. Jackson says that when he lost his son, he needed to find some meaning in it. The father then decides to sign the documents.

Corridan takes the Seattle surgeons to Caroline's room. Outside the room, Jackson greets Caroline's mothers. Mary says her daughter's met with way too many doctors already, resulting in false promises and her daughter is going through hell with all the tests. Risa asks her to calm down. Mary says her daughter needs her voice, so this throat transplant better be real. Jackson starts over. He introduces himself as a plastic surgeon and ENT specialist, as well as a father. He's come a long way because he knows he can help Caroline. He doesn't make promises he can't keep.

While Jackson and April examine the girl, Mary brings up that the laryngectomy may be the safest bet. If the transplant fails, they're looking at a permanent trache. Risa's willing to risk it, trusting that Jackson wouldn't do it if he couldn't pull it off. Jackson states that this is the best bet to give Caroline her life back. Risa encourages Mary, who then consents.

April asks Jackson why he's using his fatherhood to connect with people. He doesn't see the problem. It's her problem if she doesn't like it, and he reminds her she wasn't even supposed to be here. He has somewhere to be right now, but he'll find her later so they can prep, for which they only have tonight. April questions where he has to be here in Montana, but he walks off.

Jackson's standing outside a diner. He walks up to the door and watches the bartender. He then gets a call from April. As she finishes pumping breast milk in her hotel room, she tells him she ordered Chinese food and laid out all the charts. She realizes things are not the greatest between them right now, but they need to work together now. Jackson says he's prepping alone and that he'll see her tomorrow. He hangs up, frustrating her.

Later that night, Jackson's reviewing charts on his laptop in the diner all the while keeping an eye on the bartender. The bartender then comes over with a beer on the house. Jackson says nothing as the bartender walks off.

As she's prepping, April gets a call and once again has to clarify she's Dr. Kepner, not Grey. She asks the caller if they've tried his room. She's surprised by what the caller tells her.

April and Corridan are back with Caroline and her parents. There's a lesion on the donor's throat, meaning the transplant is no longer an option. Mary gets frustrated, wondering how they are going to fix her daughter after having assured her that the transplant was the solution. Risa asks her to stop yelling. April says the laryngectomy is Caroline's best chance, but the mothers hate the idea of their daughter losing her voice. Rise holds her daughter's hand and asks what Jackson thinks.

Back at the hotel, April leaves Jackson an angry voice mail, asking him to call her right now. She goes to bang on his hotel room door, but to no avail.

April arrives at the diner and finds Jackson. He drinks his fourth beer as she talks about all the stuff she's done to find him. Jackson tells her to calm down. He read her text, but no organ means no surgery. He figured he could have a drink since he won't be operating. He then sees his phone died, so he didn't see her other calls. April is pissed because he's drunk. Caroline's repeat scans showed more extensive esophageal invasion and her parents are a wreck, and Jackson's just getting drunk. Jackson says he only had four beers and some whiskey. The patient's counting on him, but there's nothing he can do. He wants to be left alone. April says this isn't him. He doesn't bail on anyone. Jackson yells he's not. The bartender comes over and asks if they want desert. April says Jackson's going home to sober up. The bartender wants to call him a cab, but Jackson says he's walking. He leaves money on the table and leaves. The bartender then sees Jackson left his book about techniques in oropharyngeal surgery. He asks if they're doing an airway reconstruction. She tells him the throat transplant got scrapped. He says he was a surgeon, many lifetimes ago. April asks if he gave that up for this. He says this isn't that different. People come to you in need, you give them comfort, and they leave feeling better. Plus, the hours are better and nobody dies. He shakes her hand to welcome her to Bozeman, revealing his name is Robert Avery. April asks Avery like the hospital. He says once upon a time.

April's woken up by banging on her door. She goes to open and Jackson tells her they need to find a way to help Caroline. She asks if he's okay. He says he's fine. He tells her to get dressed so they can get to work.

Back at the hospital, Jackson's tossing up a ball. He can't think of anything but the laryngectomy, which he hates. April wonders why they had to come all the way down here, but Jackson ignores her. He says he did a staged procedure on his last patient with a throat tumor, but April points out Caroline doesn't have the time. April wishes they had worked on this last night. He says he gets the point. He was drunk, but he doesn't need her monitoring him. She says she's not. She's here trying to come up with a solution even though it's clear he doesn't want her here. He says she's only here because she's so close with his mother all of a sudden. She says she and Catherine were friends long before the two of them happened. She respects Catherine and what she's built. April then reveals Catherine told her that she and April are more alike because they had to work for their money. Jackson says this is not a contest. Their fight is interrupted by a page.

As they're running towards Caroline's room, Jackson tells April that if her airway collapsed, they'll have to crike her right away and take her to the O.R. When they arrive in the room, they're surprised to find Mary and Risa packing. They are taking Caroline to Baylor, where Dr. Rapkin believes she can help them. Jackson says they rejected that approach already. April says it's time to hear now. Risa hears all of them. She refuses to let her daughter down just because they stopped asking questions. They asked, April and Jackson said no, so they're taking her to Baylor. Steve says it's their right and despite Jackson telling him that the girl can choke on her tumor, he tells the parents to fill out an AMA form. Mary asks Jackson why they should stay. April says there are no other options but the laryngectomy. After looking her daughter's face, Risa announces they are going at Baylor. Jackson then says he has an idea to save her voice. He reminds them he never breaks promises. All they need is a little time. Mary says they get on a plane tomorrow at 3, so they have until then.

As they leave the hospital, April asks Jackson what his idea is. He confesses he has no idea, but he couldn't allow them to move the girl. April asks what's wrong with him, torturing that family with false promises. Jackson thinks they can find a way to deliver. April then asks when he was going to tell her that he found his long lost father. He's the whole reason they're here. Jackson denies that. April doesn't want to be lied to. They are only here because of his father and now Caroline's going to die. She angrily walks off.

Jackson and April say good night to their baby through videochat. When they're done, April asks why he didn't just tell her. After some time, Jackson says he sat there, staring at his father, figuring he'd see him eventually and recognize something. But all he got was "You good?". No recognition. He had a million things to say to him, what an ass he was to walk out on his family, that he wasn't the only Avery who couldn't handle being one, that he still should have shown up for graduation or birthdays. But then his father apparently doesn't know his own son. April tells him to make his father know him.

Outside the diner, Jackson wants to bow out, but she's not going away until he's done this. It's her business because they have a job to do and he's not in it until he's done this. Jackson slowly walks towards the door as April walks off.

His father opens the door and tells him they're closed, but he has some meatloaf left over. Jackson then says he's Jackson Avery, his son. Robert is surprised and walks up to him. He's happy to see his son and hugs him. He invites him in. Robert doesn't know what to say here. He asks if he and April are here for work. Jackson says yes, adding he's a plastics and ENT surgeon. Robert asks if Catherine's here too. Jackson doesn't reply and asks about the dinner. Robert says it's a roof over his head, and there's food, and he's off on the weekends to play golf. He gets mugs and coffee, his own blend. Jackson tastes the coffee and admits it's great. Robert asks Jackson to talk about his life. They sit down. Jackson starts talking about his work, but Robert wants to know about his personal life. He wants to know if Jackson has a family, if he's happy. Jackson says of course he is. Robert says that's not of course. Jackson says he is happy and asks if Robert is as well. Robert says he is. Robert says he couldn't do the Avery thing, the galas and handshaking. When he found out what his thing was, nobody could drag him away. Robert talks about the night he met Catherine. It was an annual gala. Catherine was the most beautiful woman in the room. She was going toe-to-toe with some guy and when she had a laugh, he got really attracted to her. He approached her, and she ignored him half a night just to spite him. He was born in that life, but she was born for it. So he took off. Robert says Catherine's expectations are crushing. Jackson doesn't want Robert to talk about his mother. Jackson tells Robert he doesn't know him and leaves.

April's waiting for him outside, but he tells her not to ask about it.

The next morning, Jackson brings April a cup of coffee. He lies down on a couch as he says there's got to be something they can do for Caroline. April asks if he wants to talk about his father, while Jackson suggests a staged procedure again. April says another course of radiation would make Caroline a bad surgical candidate. Jackson then says Robert talked a lot about how hard it is being an Avery. He suggests a temporary stent, which April shoots down. Jackson says Robert was so polite. Jackson says he clammed up and didn't really say anything. His father was happy. He never pictured his father happy without him. He talked a lot, yet he said nothing about Jackson. It never occured to Jackson that his father never missed him. April says he doesn't know that. Jackson says he does now. It didn't even occur to the guy to pretend otherwise. It's hard to tell someone what an ass they are when they are smiling and talking about coffee. He just stood there with his heart in his guts, or guts in his throat, whatever the expression is. April says it's heart in your throat. Jackson then has an idea. Caroline needs a valve. They can use her guts for her throat. They can make new vocal cords out of her own ileocecal valve and her appendix.

Jackson and April have presented the plan to Steve, who's not enthusiastic. April says the parents have consented. Steve says it's never been done before. Jackson says that's part of the magic. Jackson asks Steve if he doesn't want a place at the table when they're making history. Steve's not sure he can get approval. Jackson says he doesn't have to. As an Avery, he can give them the permission.

April and Jackson are taking Caroline to the OR while Jackson promises the parents to keep them updated. Mary hugs Jackson. She tells him she's giving him all the love humanly possible because she believes in him. Jackson thanks her. Mary asks him to make sure they get their girl back alive.

Jackson and April are scrubbing in. He says back in Seattle, they'd have a full gallery and a webcast. Nobody's gonna see them now. April says she'll see it. They enter the OR. They get gowned and gloved and step up to the table as Steve comes in. He wishes them good luck. April and Jackson look at each other and each asks for a scalpel. Jackson makes an incision in Caroline's throat while April does so in her abdomen.

The surgery goes well. Jackson watches as April works on the excised part of the intestines. They perform the autotransplant and close the incision. They pulled it off.

Jackson and April are back at the hotel. They have time to get some sleep, but they're both so awake. The surgery was amazing. April checks her phone, but Jackson says it'll be another couple of hours before Caroline's awake. Jackson opens his door. April says she's gonna go sleep, unless he thinks they should go back and check on Caroline. He says no. They walk up to each other. He then says he's thinking about their track record in hotels. They kiss passionately. He picks her up and carries her into his room.

The next morning, April's lying in his arms. Now he knows why his mother sent her. She knew he'd go see his father anyway, so sending back-up was better than trying to talk him out of it. That's so Catherine. April says she knows what a good father, since she had one her whole life. She knows that Jackson is a good father. He took them both in and took care of Harriet when she couldn't, and he hasn't stopped taking care of any of them since. He never bailed on them. April knows that Jackson came here to tell his father something, so they shouldn't leave until he's done that.

Jackson's back at the diner. Robert sees him and tells him to sit down. He's got something for him. Jackson says he can't stay long since they're headed out. Jackson says he came to say goodbye. Robert's really glad he came. He starts talking about next time, but Jackson cuts him off because there won't be a next time. Robert's visibly disappointed. Jackson tells him he has a daughter named Harriet. Robert smiles. He's a grandfather. Jackson says he's not. He seems like a decent guy, but he's not his father. Jackson figures that when you have a kid, you make a promise. Jackson doesn't break his promises. That's the difference between them. Jackson's really glad that he met him and tells him goodbye. He walks out, and this time Robert's the one who's left speechless.

Jackson, April and Steve are in Caroline's room with her parents. After she's taken some time, Caroline manages to say hi to her mothers, who are delighted. Mary hugs Jackson again. As the parents cuddle their daughter, Jackson and April smile at each other.

Jackson and April get off the plane in Seattle, where they're greeted by Catherine and Harriet. Catherine asks if everything went okay. Jackson yes and kisses her on the cheek. April can ride home with them. She takes her daughter and walks off. Jackson then thanks his mother, for everything. He hugs her. They then get in the car and drive off.

Cast[edit | edit source]

Main Cast[edit | edit source]

Guest Stars[edit | edit source]

Co-Starring[edit | edit source]

Medical Notes[edit | edit source]

Brian Young[edit | edit source]

  • Diagnosis:
    • Brain death
    • Throat lesion
  • Treatment:
    • Organ harvest

Brian, 10, was pronounced brain dead after a skiing accident. However, his father struggled to accept that he wasn't going to wake up. April and Jackson talked to him and Jackson was able to donate Brian's organs to give his death meaning. However, when the went to retrieve his throat for transplant, they found a lesion in his throat, making it ineligible for transplant.

Caroline Hodges[edit | edit source]

  • Diagnosis:
    • Laryngeal cancer
  • Treatment:
    • Laryngectomy
    • Constructed organic larynx

Caroline was in the hospital with a large tumor in her larynx. Her parents were told that a laryngectomy was the safest treatment, but it would leave her unable to speak, so her moms refused it as an option. Her moms then contacted doctors at Baylor, who believed they had an option that would work for Caroline. April and Jackson told them they'd rejected that as an option already and convinced them to give the doctors another day to think of a new plan. Jackson then had the idea to use part of Caroline's intestine and appendix to build her a new larynx that would preserve her voice. It was successful and after her surgery, she was cancer-free and able to speak.

Music[edit | edit source]

Song Performer Scene
"Doubt" Mary J. Blige
  • Mary Hodges hugs Jackson as he takes Caroline to surgery.
  • April and Jackson prepare for surgery.
  • Jackson makes the first incision.
  • They operate.
  • They finish.
  • Jackson and April go back to their rooms.
  • They kiss and Jackson carries her into his room.
"You Don't Know" Jill Scott
  • Jackson leaves the diner.
  • Caroline speaks hesitantly for the first time since her surgery.
  • Her mothers celebrate.
  • Jackson and April get off the plane and are greeted by Catherine and Harriet.
  • Jackson thanks his mother for everything.
  • They get in the car to go home.

Notes and Trivia[edit | edit source]


Grey's Anatomy 13x16 Promo "Who Is He (And What Is He To You)?" (HD) Season 13 Episode 16 Promo

  • This episode's title originated from the song Who Is He (And What Is He To You)?, originally sung by Bill Withers.
  • This episode scored 7.90 million viewers.
  • This is the first episode in the entire series not to feature Ellen Pompeo as Meredith Grey.
  • It also shares the record with In the Air Tonight of fewest main cast members appearing, with only two, Jesse Williams and Sarah Drew.
  • The episode is the first of the entire series not to feature any original cast member from the beginning of the series.
  • This episode is also referred to as #JaprilTheSequel on social media, in reference to the season twelve episode Unbreak My Heart, which was dubbed #JaprilTheMovie.
  • Sarah Drew specifically requested to include the breast pump in the scene where April's on the phone with Jackson.
  • The episode was filmed in Agoura Hills. The diner is an actual diner called The Old Place, located on 29983 Mulholland Hwy, Cornell.
  • However, the shot of the ski resort just after Jackson and April speak to the donor's father for the first time is of Park City (UT) Mountain Resort's Canyons Village (formerly called The Canyons at the time this shot originated, pre-2010). 
  • Originally, the scenes at the diner were all supposed to be interior, but Kevin insisted on also including exterior scenes because it would make it easier for the audience to feel like they're on a trip with the characters. He also had to fight to get all the snow.
  • The episode was also filmed with the Scandal crew instead of the regular Grey's Anatomy crew, so the experience was really different for the actors as well.
  • Jackson Avery narrates the voice over for this episode, making it the first episode where he narrates the voice over on his own. He previously shared a voice over with all the male main characters in season eight.
  • This is the episode that introduced Jackson's father.

Gallery[edit | edit source]

Episode Stills[edit | edit source]

Behind the Scenes[edit | edit source]

Quotes[edit | edit source]

Eric: If you understood what you were asking, you wouldn't.
April: Mr. Young...
Jackson: I know what we're asking. And all you want is to have him back to hold him. I know the thought of letting any part of him go feels impossible. You're the only one that can make this decision. We understand that. We wouldn't ask you to do something that you're not comfortable doing. And if ultimately don't want to do this, that's fine. We are here to support you either way. All I know is, when I lost my son, I just needed to find a little meaning in it.

Robert: I was a surgeon. That was many lifetimes ago.
April: Really? You gave that up for this?
Robert: Well, this isn't all that different. People come to you in need, you provide them comfort, they leave you feeling better than when they came. And the hours are better and nobody dies. That I know of. Welcome to Bozeman, Doctor...
April: Kepner. Uh, April Kepner.
Robert: Robert Avery.
April: Avery? I'm sorry, like the hospital?
Robert: Kinda. Once upon a time.

April: I am just trying to come up with a fix for our patient regardless of the fact that you don't even want me here.
Jackson: And yet you're still here, because you and my mother are such good friends that she chose you instead of asking me who I wanted.
April: Oh my God. I was friends with her long before you and I were even... I respect her. I respect what she's built and what that means.
Jackson: Great. Good for you.
April: You know, your mom says the difference between the two of us is that you were born with money and I had to earn it. It's why she and I are more alike.
Jackson: You think this is a contest between you and me? Who's the most alike? Who's the most appreciative?
April: No, Jackson. That is not the point of any of this.

April: When are you going to tell me that you found your father? Your father, Jackson. Your long lost, deadbeat dad, that distinguished hippie former surgeon Dr. Avery who slings hash at the local diner? He's the whole reason we're here.
Jackson: No, I came here to help a patient.
April: Don't lie to me.

Jackson: You good?
April: What?
Jackson: I sat there staring at him across the room, figured, you know, eventually he'll see me, recognize something. My face, my eyes, just anything. And all I got was "You good?" Like, literally, that's it. No recognition, nothing. Like I was anyone, no one.
April: So talk to him.
Jackson: Yeah, I tried. I wanted to. I went and I sat there. Waited. I got a million things to say to that guy. Thinking about it my whole... Tell him what an ass he was for walking out on his family, his kid. He couldn't hack it as an Avery. Join the club. Could still show up. Pick something, birthday, graduation. Show the hell up. That's what I was gonna say. All that. Then he looked me right in the eye. He doesn't know his own son.
April: So make him know you.

Jackson: I'm Jackson Avery. I'm your son.

Robert: Tell me something. Anything, everything. I know nothing. God, it's good to see you. Look at you.
Jackson: I'm Head of Plastics and board chair at Grey Sloan Memorial. I'm developing a new protocol with skin grafts, particularly burn victims, and...
Robert: No, I'm not talking... Of course you're amazing. You know, with your mom's help, your name. I'm sure you're successful. No, what I mean is, what you do, your family. Are you married? Kids? I guess what I'm asking is, are you happy?
Jackson: Yeah, of course.
Robert: No. Not of course.
Jackson: I'm happy. Are you?
Robert: Honestly, yeah. Yeah, I am. But for me, the whole Avery thing, I just couldn't do it. If it works for you, great. For me... The galas, the hand-shaking, it wasn't my thing.
Jackson: Your thing.
Robert: But when I found out what was, you couldn't drag me away, pal.
Jackson: From your diner in Montana?
Robert: The night that I met your mother, it was an annual Avery Gala. I was stuffed in a thousand-dollar tux. She was the most beautiful woman in the room, going toe-to-toe with some rich dinosaur about God knowswhat. And she had a laugh. I introduced myself and she ignored me half the night just to spite me. I was born into that life, but she was born for it.
Jackson: So you took off.
Robert: You know your mother. Her expectations are crushing.
Jackson: How about you don't talk about her anymore?
Robert: I'm sorry. You're right. She is your mother.
Jackson: That's true. She is my mother. And I don't know you.

Jackson: I'm just thinking about our track record in hotels.

Jackson: I know why my mother sent you. Wanted me to have some backup. She must've figured I was probably gonna see him and knew better than to try to talk me out of it.
April: She wanted me here. Just in case.
Jackson: That is so...
April: Catherine.
Jackson: I was gonna say infuriating, but, yeah.
April: Jackson, I know what a good father is. I've had one my whole life. You are a good father. You took us both in. You took care of her when I couldn't. And you haven't stopped taking care of either of us since. Even with everything that's happened between us you never bailed. And he couldn't do that. You came here to tell him something. Don't leave till you do.

Jackson: I just came to say goodbye.
Robert: Okay. Listen, I'm really glad you came by. Maybe next time, if you're...
Jackson: Yeah, I don't think there's gonna be a next time.
Robert: Okay. Jackson, listen...
Jackson: I have a daughter. Her name is Harriet.
Robert: Harriet. Jackson. Wow. That is wonderful. I'm a grandfather.
Jackson: No. No, you're not. My mom's a wonderful grandmother, and and you seem like a decent guy. But you're not a grandfather. You're not my father. And I figure, when you have a kid, you're making a promise. And I don't break my promises. That's the real difference between you and me.
Robert: Look, Jackson...
Jackson: Take care, Robert. I'm really glad that I met you.
Robert: Goodbye.

Jackson: Thank you.
Catherine: Oh, please, that's what grandmas are for.
Jackson: No. I mean...
Catherine: What? What, baby?
Jackson: Just... Thank you, Mom. For everything.

See Also[edit | edit source]

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

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