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'Grey's Anatomy': Jessica Capshaw shines as Arizona Robbins

November 6, 2009 | 12:13 am
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In tonight's episode, "Invest in Love," Meredith's voiceover returned after last week's brief surrender to Derek. I was hoping that Ellen Pompeo's maternity leave would give us a longer break from that ever-monotonous introduction, but, oh well.

The focus of this episode is children in distress.  My mom works with very sick children, and for years I've heard her incredible stories about the children her team saves, and about the ones who succumb to their illnesses. It's a subject very, very close to my heart, so, in my defense, I was ultra-sensitive to tonight's subject matter. Don't judge me for crying ... a lot!

The first child was a preemie baby, born to Laura, a mother suffering from major head trauma after a car accident.  After sustaining injuries and gestating only 30 weeks, the baby doesn't have much hope for survival, but Laura is too injured to meet her. "What if she dies before she's ever been held?" Laura cries.

Alex is feeling despondent after being served (by the always warm and fuzzy Chief Webber) with an enormous medical bill for his MIA wife, who still isn't coming in for her IL-2 treatments. He's resigned to the fact that the baby is going to die, but not so resigned that he doesn't make sure she gets held before she dies. "You're not alone," he whispers to the baby.  "You're not alone." (That 'awww' you just heard was the sound of millions of women melting all over the country.)  When the baby's condition suddenly improves, Bailey says that skin-to-skin contact could save her, and demands in a very Bailey-like fashion that Alex remove his shirt. (That 'oooh' you just heard... Well, you get it.)

Not only do we get half-naked Alex for an entire episode, but his shirtlessness leaves room for some nice one-liners from the McBFFs. "Have you started to lactate yet?" Derek asks, before Sloane bursts into the room asking: "Is this the room for the calendar shoot? They said it was downstairs."  


When the baby makes it against all odds, Bailey muses that Karev would be good in pediatrics. Excuse my inarticulateness, but... duh? Karev has had an affinity for babies since he started working with Addison years ago. I think he likes them because they don't care what a jerk he is, so long as he takes his shirt off and nuzzles them for a while. And not that I want him to cheat on Izzie, but I'm pretty sure he could find those same qualities in the wide-eyed Dr. Reed.

118246_043_pre The second pediatrics patient is a 15-year-old girl who fell off her roof while making what she calls a "calculated risk." I call it "stupid" -- she ate hallucinogenic "magic" mushrooms in the middle of the night and then believed she could fly off her roof. When her parents start to get outraged, she reminds them that she gets straight As, is on the honor roll, runs student council and the school paper, and tutors kids with reading problems. She's a dream child.

Oh, except for the druggie thing.  

Her attitude inspires Christina, Callie and Owen to reminisce about their own childhoods while they perform surgery. When Jackson starts to chime in, though, they don't care. I'm not surprised! He's a Mercy Wester, after all. Mercy Westers are robots! They don't have childhoods! They don't have feelings! They don't have souls!

Of course, something goes wrong during the surgery.  Perhaps inspired by Derek's rogue turn last week, Christina steps in to do an invasive cardio procedure herself, with Owen and Callie shouting their objections. After all, she's unqualified. Jackson is the only one who backs her up. It was painful to watch Owen ream her out in the scrub room. I couldn't tell if he was angry as her superior or as her boyfriend.

Jackson, however, thought Christina's intrepidity was hot -- similar to the way Burke used to. I wouldn't have been surprised if Christina had sought out a little carnal comfort with Jackson, but she pushed him away when he drunkenly kissed her later.  Hmmm... Somehow I don't think we've seen the end of that.

The real star of this episode was Jessica Capshaw's Dr. Arizona Robbins. She began her rounds by warning her residents that pediatric surgery wasn't just a miniature version of general surgery. "These are the tiny humans. These are children. They believe in magic. They play pretend. There is fairy dust in their IV bags. They hope, and they cross their fingers, and they make wishes, and that makes them more resilient than adults. They recover faster, survive worse. They believe."

I always love Arizona's speeches. Sometimes, the monologues on this show get drawn out, becoming too saccharine or too overwrought. Jessica Capshaw, however, always delivers her lines with subtlety, forgoing histrionics in favor of honesty.

We were then introduced to a very Doogie-like "Dr." Wallace Anderson, a child suffering from short gut syndrome who often joins Arizona on rounds to work on his math and science skills after seven months in the hospital. Early in the episode, Arizona promised Wallace that they'd celebrate their shared birthday together. And on "Grey's Anatomy," a promise is always a very, very bad sign.  

118246_203_preWallace's mom (in an amazing turn by Erica Gimpel, who I adored as a different Wallace's mom on "Veronica Mars") and dad ask for a meeting with the Chief and Arizona, presenting the hospital with an incredibly generous $25 million donation, some of which they want to go to researching their son's condition. Unfortunately, it's too late. Arizona doesn't think that Wallace will survive another surgery, and if he does, surgery will only buy him two painful months. "You think I'm pouring all this money into research so that you can find a cure for some other kid?" Wallace's father cries.

Pressured by the Chief, and by the weight of all that research money, Arizona reluctantly agrees to do the surgery. Wallace is a smart kid, though.  He's been in the hospital a long time; he knows there's only two ways out of there, and he doesn't see a light at the end of his tunnel. His first surgery goes alright, but later, complications arise and he dies while Arizona tries to save him.  Afterward, Arizona is curt and clearly furious with the obvious dollar signs in the Chief's eyes.

Arizona has always had trouble standing up to authority. Last week she stood up to the Chief and collapsed into a messy pile of tears on Callie's shoulder. This week, no such waterworks... until she gets home to the ill-timed surprise birthday party Callie throws for her. (Did anybody notice that Callie invited the Mercy Westers? Did she not get the heartless, soulless, robot people memo?)  

I adore Callie and Arizona's relationship, in case my other episode reviews haven't made that abundantly clear.  They argue, they make mistakes, and they yell at each other, but at the end of the day, they still love each other, and they're doing their best.  It's really nice to see a gay relationship on TV that isn't meant to titillate or shock anyone.  (Kevin and Scotty on "Brothers and Sisters" are another great example; kudos to ABC.)

Arizona was the latest on the list of doctors to skewer the Chief's new focus on money, and she was right to do so. It was mortifying to watch the board and the Chief scramble to save face with the Andersons just hours after they lost their son. "I'd be more than happy to oversee any packing," Jennings (the superb Mitch Pileggi) says. "I've already arranged for a car." How gross!

Luckily, Arizona's words got through to the Chief and he invited her back into the room to speak to the Andersons, despite Jennings' protests.  

When a child dies, money doesn't matter. Parents want to know that the doctors cared. They want human compassion, not greed-driven platitudes. I'm sure I'm not the only one who cried when Arizona finished up Mrs. Anderson's "good dreams, good dreams, here to stay" mantra over Wallace's body. I'm confident that Arizona will do amazing things with that $25 million, because like her patients, Arizona Robbins still believes in magic.  

Let's discuss this week's episode in the comments, guys!  What'd you think of Jackson and Christina's not-quite-hookup? Do you think Dr. Karev should lose the top half of his scrubs forever? Do you love Jessica Capshaw's performance as Arizona as much as I do?

Come back next week in hopes that November sweeps will keep "Grey's" on this creative climb!

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

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Photos: (from top) Jessica Capshaw as Arizona Robbins, Jesse Williams as Jackson Avery and Erica Gimpel as Mrs. Anderson. Credit: ABC
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