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'Grey's Anatomy': Who cares if Meredith and Derek reunite?

May 9, 2008 | 10:51 am

Patrick_dempsey_greys_200 Am I the only person on the planet who doesn't care if Meredith (Ellen Pompeo) and Derek (Patrick Dempsey) get back together? I mean, of the millions of "Grey's Anatomy" viewers, of course. Many, many denizens of Earth don't even know the show exists. (Yes, it's true, all those magazine covers to the contrary.)

I know showrunner Shonda Rhimes has been beating the "reunited" drum like it's the answer to all our prayers, but, frankly, I feel like it may be a case of too little too late. Poor old Derek has been pushed and pulled so many times, in so many different directions that it's hard to think of him as McDreamy anymore. He's more like McWishywashy. And Dempsey is back on the big screen in a fairly big way, so you have to wonder how long he's planning to stick around ye olde Seattle Grace.

Meanwhile, Meredith, though certainly becoming more believable and sympathetic this season, feels less and less like a main character, the show's title and voice-over notwithstanding. Which is just fine--part of last season's problem was its discovery (alas, too late!) that killing off Meredith's mom was not a good idea. Without the original spine of the mother/daughter conflict, not to mention the whole child-as-caretaker issue, the Meredith character could not carry the show.

This season, Meredith seems to be developing a spine of her own (yay!) while everyone around her is following suit, becoming deeper and richer people, which makes the the show a true ensemble of doctors who increasingly resemble adults. Double yay!

So last night we saw Karev (Justin Chambers) face the possibility that he might be a father while Izzie (Katherine Heigl), who was dying to tell him that Ava/Rebecca (Elizabeth Reaser) wasn't actually pregnant, kept her big mouth shut. Mark had to contemplate his hound dog ways when a scorned-nurses boycott shut down his surgeries (a troublesome scenario that one would not like to think could actually happen, even to a plastic surgeon) and everyone on the staff was forced to fill out a "date-and-tell" form, the legalities of which, again, give one pause. Callie (Sara Ramirez) continued to act like a seventh grader, having obsessive closet sex with Mark because Addison (Kate Walsh) had wondered aloud if she and Dr. Hahn (Brooke Smith) were a couple.

Most important, however, was at long last the not-so-dear-departed Preston Burke (Isaiah Washington) got his comeuppance. When he wins a prestigious award (not clear for what exactly, but it's prestigious enough for him to be in the newspaper!), Cristina (Sandra Oh) seems to shut down, not even rising to the bonding bait of Dr. Hahn's diatribe about sexism in medicine.

But at the end of the show, in a terribly contrived scene, she finally says what so many of us have been thinking for so long: that Burke is an egocentric fraud who used Cristina and then ditched her without so much as an e-mail of apology. For those of us who never liked Burke (smug, judgmental), it was a lovely moment, and praise to the writers for not even mentioning the untimely death of "Bionic Woman," to which Washington fled (though they did manage to wedge in a funny little reference to "Knocked Up").

In general, all the story lines are more subdued, but that's a good thing considering the hyperkinetic silliness that afflicted the show last season. The season finale looms, and while cliffhangers are always good, this one probably won't involve Meredith on the brink of death or some other soap-on-Ritalin development. "Grey's" is far from somber, but it does seem to be settling in for the long haul. And so, it seems, will Derek and Meredith. But with so much else going on, that just doesn't seem to be such a big deal.

-- Mary McNamara