Spoiler alert. The story includes details about the December 17 episodes of ABC’s Grey’s Anatomy and Station 19.
ABC’s Grey’s Anatomy and Station 19 wrapped their fall runs tonight with a crossover storyline that revisited the topic of human trafficking with Opal making a return. In Station 19, the crew, off duty, step in to help a Black mother who is standing in front of a house, convinced that her teenager daughter and her friend are being held inside after she tracked the girl’s fitness bracelet. She had called the police but, after being brushed off, she took things into her own hands. Led by Dean, who has a daughter himself, the group try to help but the house owner, a middle-aged white man, denies that there are any girls inside and would not allow them to go in and check. Two white cops finally arrive but turns out they are responding to a call from the man in the house who asked them to remove the mother from his property.
As the firefighters are about to enter the house using a non-existent gas leak as a pretext, fire breaks out. It was started by the girls, Denise and Jada, out of desperation. They are saved and, along with the alleged kidnapper, who was also injured in the fire, they are taken to Grey Sloan. Outside the house, one of the two cops provokes an altercation, leading to Dean, Robert and the mother being arrested. The mother is later released and reunites with her daughter in the hospital on Grey’s but Robert and Dean’s fate remains unknown.
On Grey’s Anatomy, Bailey is still reeling from her mother’s death the last episode, with her husband breaking the news to her son on Station 19. Patients continue to die at an alarming rate, and the hospital is at surge capacity, with the cafeteria turned into a makeshift Covid wing. Human trafficker Opal slips into Grey Sloan, trying unsuccessfully to get to the kidnapper who is being treated. Meredith wakes up, she is feeling great and has a great, witty chat with Koracick in her room as the two commiserate over their illness. He tells her that she gives him hope that the terrible disease can be beat. But later that episode, Meredith gets up to help a coding patient as no one is around and collapses right after. With her vitals plummeting, she is put on a ventilator.
In other developments, Jo still plans to switch specialties to obstetrics, and Teddy and Owen’s attempt at a normal conversation proves that the rift between them still runs pretty deep. DeLuca, who helped Bailey process her grief over her mother’s death, sees Opal in the hospital parking lot and, joined by his sister, follows her. Opal’s previous trip to Grey Sloan sent DeLuca into a mental meltdown when no one believed his human trafficking claims, so this development raises a red flag.
In an interview with Deadline, Grey’s Anatomy and Station 19 showrunner Krista Vernoff and the writer of the Grey’s fall finale, Felicia Pride, discuss the kidnapping storyline and the importance of shining a light on the issue of “invisible” Black girls and women. They address the fate of Grey’s Meredith and Station 19‘s Robert and Dean, would Opal’s return jeopardize DeLuca’s mental health recovery, is Jo switching careers and will there be more light on the medical drama next year. Vernoff also makes an emotional speech about what she is hopeful for.
DEADLINE: You opted to follow the pandemic from the start, so Grey’s Anatomy currently chronicles the first wave of infections in the spring about 7 months ago. In tonight’s episode, Grey Sloan Memorial reached surge capacity as the country is grappling with a massive new wave and ICUs across the U.S. reach capacity. How does it feel to be so timely?
VERNOFF: I can only speak for myself and say that it feels profoundly disturbing. We are telling stories about hospitals being at surge capacity because the stories are set in, at this point, May of this year. So, the fact that the stories that we set in May of this year are now incredibly timely with the current surge is just heartbreaking to me. Felicia?
PRIDE: I would agree. And I just remember, Krista, you really encouraged us in the writers room to continue to show the strain and the pressure that hospitals were under, so that’s why we were thinking about that as the storyline to continue to show that.
DEADLINE: At that time, late May and June, the pandemic overlapped with the the Black Matters protests following the death of George Floyd. Tonight’s crossover storyline touches on racial equality and policing. How did that storyline come about, and was there any personal experience reflected in the emotional monologues delivered by Dean and the girl’s mother on Station 19 and Maggie on Grey’s Anatomy?
PRIDE: One of the things that we really wanted to show, in addition to how horrifying sex trafficking continues to be, was the fact that Black girls can be more vulnerable to sex trafficking, and what are the forces and reasons behind that. So, with that lovely monologue that Maggie has, we were really just trying to connect the dots about the many reasons that Black girls can be more vulnerable to sex trafficking, from being hypersexualized in the media to physical abuse to all of these things. We were really just trying to show both the horrific issue of sex trafficking, but also what got us there and what is the practice that led to that. It was also really wanting to shine a light on just the invisibility sometimes of Black girls and wanting Black girls and Black women to be seen.
VERNOFF: I’ll add that a great many of our conversations when we were first gathered in the writer’s room were influenced by the climate in the country at that moment, and you’re seeing that depicted here. It felt very, very, very important to all of us to tell these stories this season and to be authentic to the lived experience of the writers in the room and also the actors in the cast. It felt like it was time to talk about these things in a more direct way than we had historically on the show.
DEADLINE: The police storyline, will that continue beyond the cliffhanger on Station 19 after Robert and Dean get arrested? What happens to them? Will we see them interact with law enforcement, go through the justice system?
VERNOFF: We are definitely following through on that story very powerfully on Station 19. But I don’t want to tell you how we’re doing it.
DEADLINE: Going back to Grey’s, is there any light in the tunnel? We are coming off two back-to-back very heavy episodes. Are things going to get a little bit more hopeful soon?
VERNOFF: These were very heavy episodes and we have some pretty intense episodes coming up at the beginning of the year as well. We started our season in April of 2020, and we’re being as honest and as authentic and as deep and as true with that as we can. And what that means is we have to find our hope and our joy and our silver linings and our humor and our sexy and our romantic inside the parameters that 2020 offered us. So, that’s my answer, Nellie. I’m hopeful every day. When you say are there more hopeful episodes coming up, I just want to say, every day of 2020 I’m hopeful.
I’m hopeful for a vaccine. I’m hopeful that people will start to take the pandemic seriously. I’m hopeful that they’ll start to wear masks. I’m hopeful that we can depoliticize this thing and all just take care of ourselves and each other and our healthcare workers. I’m really hopeful for all of that. And one of the ways that Grey’s Anatomy and Station 19 are helping with that is by living inside of the pandemic rather than jumping to an idealized post-pandemic world. So, I have a different twist on hope this year.
DEADLINE: Speaking of hopefulness, what about Jo and her trying to find joy for herself by switching careers. Is this for real? Will she be delivering babies anytime soon?
PRIDE: Jo’s storyline in this episode reflects, I think, a lot of us finding basis and reasons and things that will bring us joy in these moments. And to your point and what Krista’s talking about, about finding joy, I think that’s what a lot of our characters are trying to do. One of my favorite scenes is actually Winston coming to visit Maggie. And that sort of joy, it’s emotional, but it’s just joyful. So, I think that’s what we’re trying to do is find those moments of joy with our characters.
DEADLINE: Let’s talk about DeLuca and the Grey’s cliffhanger. Minutes after Bailey praised him for taking such good care of his mental health, we see him chasing after Opal whom he suspects of human trafficking. Is that a jolt that will send him down-spiraling again?
VERNOFF: I think that his mental health is strongly enhanced. I think that he is carefully taking his medications and I think that what he was saying to his sister is true, when he was saying, I’m right. Because of his mental health and his mental state, people didn’t believe him the last time he recognized Opal. And now he needed his sister to believe him and she did. And so, they’re following her not from a place of mania, but from a place of bravery and truth.
DEADLINE: Are Andrew and Carina in any danger?
VERNOFF: I don’t know. You’ll have to tune in next year.
DEADLINE: What about Meredith? Early in the pandemic, more than 80% of COVID patients put on a ventilator died, so that does not bode well for her. What can you tell us about what is next for Meredith, besides that we’ll probably see more dream sequences on the beach while she is intubated?
VERNOFF: I will say that historically Meredith has defied statistics like that. She has top of the line medical care and an entire team of people dedicated to doing every single thing they can to save her and she has a rough road ahead.
DEADLINE: We know Patrick Dempsey will be back. Are there any new Grey’s alums that you have recruited for the dream sequences?
VERNOFF: The honest answer to that at this point is no, Nellie. I hope I have a different answer to that at some point soon.
DEADLINE: Will we see more of Denise and Jada, the girls that were saved?
VERNOFF: I think we may eventually see more of them. But I don’t think we see them in the next episode, right?
VERNOFF: We don’t see them immediately again, but there’s a possibly of seeing them again down the line. They were wonderful.
DEADLINE: Felicia, you mentioned the Winston and Maggie reunions. What other scenes would you like to highlight?
PRIDE: Some of my favorite scenes, which were at the suggestion of Krista, are between Meredith and Koracick. To see these two, sort of, OG doctors who are both suffering from this horrible, horrible illness still be able to find moments of humanity for each other. And I love the Bailey-DeLuca scenes, which you mentioned, DeLuca kind of helping Bailey who just lost her mother by talking about his own mom and talking about that pain and how he got through it. And also paying homage to the many Covid patients that come through ICU that he’s seen and how we’re just trying to make the best of this situation by honoring our loved ones.
VERNOFF: With both Grey’s Anatomy and Station 19, I just thought these were really powerful, beautifully written, beautifully directed episodes. And I’m so personally moved by the impact that Grey’s is having by the work that the writers and the directors and editors and our crew is bringing under extremely difficult circumstances. It’s a scary, hard time to be working and everyone is showing up and taking care of themselves and each other with masks and face shields and social distancing and hand washing and we’re making this show, which feels important right now. And I just really want to shout out to the crew.
DEADLINE: When are you wrapping production? This week?
VERNOFF: We’re going to wrap production on Friday and we get a couple of weeks off for a Christmas break. The show isn’t back until, I think, March. But that’s because we just have a reduced number of episodes this year because of how late we came back to production.