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'Grey's' recovers and bids adieu for now

December 7, 2007 | 10:16 am

The first bona fide tragedy of the writers strike is about to occur. After months of slipping and sliding in an attempt to regain its footing after a disastrous third season, "Grey's Anatomy" has definitely regained its grip, just in time to run out of new episodes. Frankly, I can't think of a better reason for the writers and the producers to come to terms as quickly as possible because who knows what will happen if the writer's room remains empty and fallow for much longer.

ABC did its best to prolong the joyous event by stringing out a two-part special episode over three weeks, which was pretty smart. Two weeks ago, a car wreck involving emergency vehicles made for what is a season stalwart for any medical show: the big disaster scenario. Last year, if you will remember, it was the ferry accident, in which the graphics far outshone the script, which focused more on Meredith's chronic ennui than on all the dead and dying. But the least said about that the better because this time around, the injuries and the medicine were at the forefront and Meredith was allowed to behave not only like a doctor, but a doctor with some chops, aiding a beloved ambulance driver who was trapped upside down in his vehicle.

Meanwhile, Lexie was bathed in the blood of an exploded carotid artery from a patient who had a tumor removed, Bailey gets caught in the unwinnable war between career and home life as she operates on a white supremacist, Izzie tries to please the unpleasable Dr. Hahn who, in turn, cuts Mark off at the knees all while trying to save two patients and proving that she is harder on herself than on anyone else. Alex has snuck Ava into the observation gallery to watch him operate, only things go horribly wrong, both medically and then personally. (Fortunately, they still manage to have sex.) Derek fixes a woman's brain while continuing his flirtation with Rose, and when Meredith finally tells him (for about the third time) that she really does want a relationship, Patrick Dempsey gets to make his eyes shine in that sad, patient way that has turned him into a heartthrob. Meredith, darling, we think it may finally be too late.

The result was tense and tender, intriguing and revealing, the fine balance between medicine and personality that made "Grey's" such a big hit in the first place. Most importantly, Meredith seems to have regained some of the power she had in the first two seasons when she may have been dithering over her love life but she was still caring for her ailing mother and attempting to forge a career outside her formidable shadow.

Bringing stepsister Lexie in was, it seems, an inspired idea. Not only does the show now have a backup Grey should Ellen Pompeo decide to cut and run for a film career, but Lexie gives Meredith a chance to show her strengths and weaknesses in a more sophisticated and believable way than in the endless, and increasingly irritating, dance with Derek. Likewise, allowing Derek to explore another relationship will, one hopes, give Dempsey a little more room as an actor. Watching his character get jerked around according to the needs of Meredith had to be hard on the man who can do much better work than patience and that startlingly sexy smile.

The emerging Bailey story line -- husband seems on the verge of leaving because she is too taken with work -- is a welcome replacement to all the various romances. These people are adults, after all, and issues of the heart continue long after the supply room sex stage wears off.

All of which makes the probability of many months without this new and improved "Grey's" a bleak and frustrating scenario. It isn't easy to get and keep a group of writers in sync, producing at such a high level, which is why the hit shows are the hit shows and the rest are not. We viewers can only hope that the damage of the strike will not permanently throw everyone off their stride, that these talented people will be able to pick up where they left off, right here, right now.

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