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'Grey's Anatomy': Bears, bones and big sad eyes

"Grey's Anatomy" episodes are always a careful balancing act.  The poignant, emotional moments are always the most memorable, but the comic relief is also necessary to cut some of the tension.

Thursday's episode, "Tainted Obligation," definitely had plenty of the latter.  We kicked off with Alex heading out of the trailer he's sharing with Izzie... only to encounter a bear.

Yes, a bear. A giant, lumbering, roaring bear, just hanging out outside the trailer.  Alex's high-pitched, girly yowl of distress was the first laugh of the episode ... but certainly not the last.  His panic attack upon discovering a tick on his neck was excellent too.  Justin Chambers must have been relieved to have some more lighthearted fare to work with after Karev's difficult few months.

Mark Sloan's patient of the week was Irving Waller (Ralph Waite), an elderly man interested in the AMS 700.  While that may sound like a jet or a car or a gun, it's actually ... a penis pump.  The 82-year-old Irving is determined to have sex for the first time since his wife died 20 years ago.  As he says, "There's got to be more to life than eating pudding and watching 'CSI.'"  (A not-so-subtle dig at "Grey's Anatomy's" biggest Thursday-night competitor.)

His son Charlie (Tom Amandes) is less than enthused about the idea.  Tom Amandes was brilliantly cast -- he adds a little extra awesome to every role he takes, but this one was especially perfect.  Hearing him crow about his father's inappropriate affair with a younger woman was hysterical.  I loved how the case brought out the softer side of Sloan (after all, he won't be McSteamy forever) while still showcasing his crude frat-boy sense of humor.
Of course, it wasn't all penis jokes. 

Thatcher Grey, Meredith's and Lexie's alcoholic father, made a rather dramatic entrance to the emergency room, slurring and vomiting black blood.  Of course, the doctors saw blood and they went into competition mode.  Their "That's my surgery!" "No, that's MY surgery!" battles were childish last week.  This week, they're not only childish but completely classless, considering that it's their friends' father that they're fighting over.

Thatcher's diseased liver came as a surprise to no one, least of all Meredith.  I was a little shocked by her matter-of-fact comment that she'd rather see him die than have him hanging around the hospital for ages, waiting for a liver transplant.

When the Chief revealed that Thatcher was ineligible for the donor list because of his recent history of alcoholism, Lexie didn't hesitate to offer up part of her own liver to save her father's life.  I knew that was too easy to be plausible! Lexie wasn't a match, but of course Meredith was. 

Meredith's continued insistence that she'd be happier if her father was dead made me roll my eyes.  She's not shy about her "dead mommy issues," and I'm sure that if Thatcher died, too, the "I'm an orphan" issues would show up ready for a showdown.Sadeyes

This episode served to highlight the differences between Meredith and Lexie.  Lexie is a bleeding heart.  As Meredith says, Lexie has "big, sad, I-love-my-daddy eyes," and she certainly knows how to use them!  Chyler Leigh nailed her speech where Lexie begged Meredith to donate part of her liver.  I think it was Leigh's best performance to date -  and, OK, I'll admit it: I cried a little.  This show is overwrought and predictable even on its best days, but it has the occasional moment that just hands you your heart on a plate.

I'd been wondering how they were going to explain away Ellen Pompeo's maternity leave.  With her and Derek still in the throes of post-it-marital bliss, I doubted relationship troubles would send her away from Seattle. The chances of Meredith being a casualty of the merger were slim to none, since the Chief still carries around guilt for his affair with her mother.  The liver donation story is a good, organic way to give Ellen her much-needed time off without affecting the show's pace too much. 

All in all, while this wasn't one of the series' best episodes by far, it was an improvement on last week's circus!  Hopefully next week's episode will be even better.  There were glimpses of the "Grey's" I know and love here -- but just not quite enough.

Your turn!  Let me know what you thought of this week's episode in the comments below.  Did you enjoy the bear as a special guest star?  What do you think of Tom Amandes as Charlie? Did Lexie's tearful monologue tug on your heartstrings? Let's discuss -- and make sure to check back next week for more Seattle Grace gossip.

--Carina MacKenzie (follow me on Twitter @cadlymack)

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Photos: Top -- Christina, Izzie, and Meredith (Sandra Oh, Katherine Heigl, Ellen Pompeo) cringe away from Karev's (Justin Chambers) tick. Bottom -- Lexie (Chyler Leigh) and her father, Thatcher (Jeff Perry). Credit: ABC.
Comments () | Archives (11)

Great review! I agree pretty much 100% with what you said, I thought Lexi nailed it this week and I definitely enjoyed the lighter moments in the episode.

I find Grey's frustrating at times, I feel like I'm just holding out hope that it will turn into the show that I was obsessed with 3 years ago. I still enjoy watching, but I'm getting less patient with the characters and story-lines.

You are definitely right, there were moments in that episode that remind me of why I fell in love with the show in the first place. Still though, the golden years are gone, and it's not the show it used to be; however, last night's episode was certainly enough to keep me dedicated to the show.

Great article-- I agree with everything you said--the fighting over Meredith's father was ridiculous. (I think they need to let that storyline drop.) Meredith's cold exterior was a bit much-- especially as she is a physician and where exactly was the empathy here? I agree that it was a very clever option to get her off for maternity leave. Lexie's spiel on why Meredith should help their father was great-- it somewhat made up for her ridiculous behavior last episode! Meredith's little speech to her father about doing this for her sister was lovely but there was no "beef" to back it up. The audience has seen few signs that she has enjoyed having Lexie as a sibling.
I did love Ralph Waite's role-- quite a stretch from Papa Walton all those years ago! I did love Sloan's blast at the son-- very well done. Not sure why the son AND his wife had to be intimately involved in the details but I guess it made it a bit more interesting AND awkward.
I am with you-- we need more of the old Grey's but this was a better episode than the last. The writer's need to drop the merger crap-- not liking that. Not comforting to feel that the patients are being compromised (who wants to think about that??) in an effort to get "more cutting time." Need to get back to the old Grey's.
Keep up the good work. I enjoy it. Reading your articles after the shows is like talking the show over with a fellow fan-- but where is the double latte??

Great review. I look forward to your posts each week.

I thought the best part of last night's episode was the interaction between McSteamy and Ralph Waite. Even though Mark is starting to soften around the edges because of his relationship with Lexie, he still has that "Good Old Boys" mentality. I loved how Ralph Waite delivered his hilarious lines. I'll bet they had a good time shooting his scenes.

Actually, Lexie's screen time bothered me last night. She was probably supposed to sound pleading but I thought she sounded like a whiner.

I will not stop watching this show until its last episode but last night's episode was not one of its finest. There were just too many implausible events. Come on writer's! You can do better than this.

Any chance you will get to review Private Practice? It is an excellent show-- very well written and excellent actors-- and you never hear about it. Am getting addicted to it. Would love to hear your thoughts about it after each show!

I agree with all that you said here. I am so sick of the constant, empathy-free fights over surgery. It's crass and takes me completely out of the storyline, hoping no real medical professional could be so uncaring. I understand that the residents have to have some sort of distance from patients but seriously? It was Meredith and Lexie's FATHER for goodness sakes.

And Lexie, oh goodness the girl can turn on the tears. I agree that this was her best performance to date, it was perfect. (Far better than the "Choose me, love me" crap spewed years ago by she who shall remain nameless.)

I really do miss the Grey's of yesteryear. If anyone would've told me Mark Sloan would be one of my favorites I would never have believed them. At least we still have Bailey.

Thanks for your awesome review, I look forward to them every week!

Did we all forget what a real bastard Thatcher has been to Meredith. Personally I think that she was perfectly justified in feeling the way that she did in this episode.

The writers have been able to have Mer in all the episodes cos of this story line, so that's good. But Mer is going to stay in Seattle Grace Hospital through her merit as a doc. Mer dosen't rely on her husband's or mother's reputation to be a doc. i think the chief will have to justify his choices in who he fires and those he keeps

I was hoping Meredith wouldn't do it. She owes this guy nothing and they were all -- Meredith included -- treating this partial liver transplant like it was a small deal, a small operation, an easy recovery, etc. Derick, as her kind-of new husband, had every right to weigh in, to protect her and their life. But he's just so Alan Alda here, watching as Meredith decides.

As for Lexi's speech, it was WAY too predictable and even had echos of the same rhythm as the "choose me" speech Meredith gave Derick.

Owen just makes me laugh. People seem to like him but he's a one-note actor when he's beating himself up for choking Christina or killing a patient.

Callie's looking a little chunky -- is that new?

I've recently adjusted my expectations of this show and am able to enjoy it again, but this episode had too many big dramatic speeches for my taste.

I think Meredith had a right to feel the way she did about not donating her liver to Thatcher. She never knew him. Remember that the day she went to his house was the first time she saw him in over 20 years? Why should she just give away a piece of her for a man who never truly fought for his rights as a father to see her? I don't think she's being cold, I think she's justified in her feelings.
I do like watching Mark Sloan...not only because he's McSteamy, but because I like seeing how he turned from "Man-Whore" to an actual person with feelings. It's great to see that he's not just a one-sided character. I liked this episode overall, but I do think the merger and the fighting over surgeries needs to stop. The fighting over surgeries in such tacky ways would never fly in a real hospital, so I think Shonda needs to portray this a bit more realistically.


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