SPOILER ALERT: The story includes a detail about the Dec. 3 episode of Grey’s Anatomy.
The promo for tonight’s fourth episode of this season’s ABC hit medical drama Grey’s Anatomy teased that “another person returns from Meredith’s past.”
As Meredith (Ellen Pompeo) continues to battle Covid-19, her dreams have been taking her to a beach where the love of her life, Derek (Patrick Dempsey), is waiting for her. Tonight, someone else Meredith was fond of who tragically died came back to see her. Leaning onto the railing of a lifeguard tower at the beach was George O’Malley (T.R. Knight).
Both were surprised but happy to see each other.
It was the first of several dream meetings between Meredith and George, in which they strolled along the beach and his death and funeral.
“I was devastated when you died,” Meredith said.
“You were all cracking up at my funeral,” George said in response.
George spoke of what he misses about being alive (“Dancing til you drop, laughing til you cry, food and textures, the crunch of cereal as you eat it out of the box, the feel of clean sheets and good pillow at the end of a long day”.)
At their final conversation, Meredith told George how much he meant to her.
“You changed my life George,” she said in one of the episode’s most emotional moments, which was soon followed by another, a reunion at the beach of four of Grey’s original characters, George (Knight), Meredith (Pompeo), Richard (James Pickens Jr.) and Bailey (Chandra Wilson).
Knight’s appearance is part of a beach motif throughout the pandemic-themed Season 17 of Grey’s Anatomy designed to bring joy to fans.
It kicked off in the season premiere with the jaw-dropping return of Grey’s original male lead Dempsey.
Asked after the opener what other beloved characters from Grey’s past may come back, series’ executive producer/showrunner Krista Vernoff said: “You have to tune in and see who comes to the beach. It’ll be a joyful discovery.”
Both Dempsey and Knight were original Grey’s Anatomy cast members alongside Pompeo whose characters were fan favorites. Knight left in Season 5; Dempsey departed in Season 11.
Dempsey’s McDreamy died after being hit by a semi truck when he pulled over to help a family involved in a car accident. In a similarly selfless act, Knight’s O’Malley jumped in front of a bus to rescue a woman he didn’t know. At the time of his exit, Knight said he felt his character “had expired” after getting less screen time.
In a Q&A with Deadline, Knight and Vernoff tell the backstory of George’s big return and answer burning questions about tonight’s episode. Read it here.