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'Grey's Anatomy' and 'Private Practice': The Family Sloan flips the switch

118604_3379_pre After a long holiday hiatus, "Grey's Anatomy" returned tonight with a game-changing hour, and some bonus crossover drama on sister series "Private Practice."

The "Grey's" episode, titled "Blink," began with Meredith's voiceover explaining how a person's life can be transformed in an instant. In the blink of an eye (get it?) you can become an entirely new version of yourself. Several characters and relationships were transformed by pivotal moments. Though the episode probably could have benefited from a little bit of streamlining, it was one of the stronger ones so far this season, especially in comparison with "Holidaze," the rushed fall finale.

I think the writers have struck gold with the characters' living situations at the moment -- particularly having Callie, Arizona, Christina, Owen, Mark, and Lexie all living in the same apartment building.  With the latest addition to the mix -- Mark's pregnant teenage daughter, Sloan -- there's an open-door-policy dorm vibe, not unlike what made "Friends" so much fun to watch.  It's a nice reminder that outside of the hospital, these people aren't just occasional sex partners, they're a haphazard, makeshift family as well.

I've been looking forward to this episode because of its focus on Mark. He's one of my favorite characters -- I'm always happy to see him get a story line of his own, because he injects even the most melodramatic moments with a cocky sense of humor. He's the eternal high school yearbook "most popular," so he's incredibly charming, but he's also the type of guy who expects to get what he wants. He's not used to anyone telling him that something can't be done or that a situation is hopeless.

The McSteamy family dynamic is put under a microscope in this episode. For a few months, Mark, Lexie, and Sloan have been living together. It's testing Lexie's patience, which is understandable, especially because Mark is still getting the hang of being a father. "He just gave her 80 bucks for a muffin and a sandwich! She's just going to end up spending it on a pair of jeans that show off her butt-crack and then she's gonna ask me for half of my pasta salad," Lexie complains to Christina when she's forced to go next door in search of an available shower. Lexie isn't far from Sloan's age, either, so there's an almost sibling-like quality to their interaction -- including a little bit of rivalry and competition for Mark's affection.

Watching Mark try to adjust to his new role as McDad is fun too. The writers are doing a great job -- after my parents got divorced and my dad was suddenly faced with some "mom decisions," my sisters and I definitely weaseled some extra allowance out of him. Lunch money decisions were about to become small change, though. Mark faced a serious bombshell when an ultrasound revealed that without surgery, Sloan's son would likely be born with severe birth defects that would handicap him for life.

Because he's Dr. Mark Sloan, he settles for nothing less than the best and flies Addison Montgomery up from L.A. to do her Superwoman OB-GYN thing. I'm always glad to see Addison back. Kate Walsh is fantastic, and I miss her on "Grey's" -- though "Private Practice" has been going above and beyond expectation. (If you're not watching it this season, you're missing out. "Private Practice" has managed to strike a perfect balance between personal drama and ethical medical dilemmas that "Grey's" is still grappling with.)

"You reacted like a parent," Addison tells her old flame when he halts Addison's surgery because of a small risk to Sloan. "Now, I don't know when, I don't know how, but at some point, you became a dad to that little urchin. Congratulations.You're a parent."

As a parent, Mark makes a crucial decision: He invites Sloan to move in with him and Lexie, and to stay with them while she raises her baby. All of this ... without consulting Lexie. Whoops?

I do feel for Lexie in this situation. She's young; other people her age aren't about to become step-grandparents. "I'm happy for you; I really am. Something happened today. You became a dad, and Sloan, against all odds, became a mom. But I didn't. I was barely ready to move in with you, never mind your daughter and grandbaby. I don't want this," she tells Mark.

Though I'm sad to see them break up, Lexie did make the right decision. Their lives have taken different paths. That said, Mark made the right decision too. Parents -- even parents to surprise 18-year-olds -- are supposed to make choices in their child's best interests. It's the natural order of the world.

118797_370_pre Of course, every action has a reaction. In the follow-up episode of "Private Practice," Mark jets off to L.A. so that Addison can finish the surgery Mark prematurely called off.  He's acting like a real dad -- scared and a little bit impressionistic when it comes to Addison's colleagues at Oceanside Wellness. His punchy attitude and Addison's family issues make for quite an explosive combination.  Searching for "something to numb the pain," the former lovers rule out heroin, alcohol, and compulsive overeating and go with a remedy they're more familiar with: sex.

After the sex, Mark is still shaken by his breakup, and he even proposes relocating to L.A. with Sloan and the baby.  He finds comfort in his old friends and the escape from Seattle Grace's drama, and he looks forward to helping Sloan raise her baby. Unfortunately for Mark, the stress of the surgery leads Sloan to realize that she's not ready to be a mother -- and luckily for "Grey's" fans, Mark finally sees that he's still in love with Lexie and can't stay in L.A.

Meanwhile, back in Seattle, Lexie proves why she and Mark were such a good match to begin with. She hooks up with a former flame of her own: Alex. He's given up on Izzie, and though he shoots down Bambi (er, I mean, Mercy West's Reed), he doesn't hesitate at all to fall back into bed with Lexie. I'm not sure how I feel about this move.  After all, Izzie did essentially abandon him after he stood by her through her cancer, but ... did his rebound fling really have to be with someone they work with? Izzie's inevitable return is not going to be pretty. As Meredith says, "This is the old Alex: sleeping with some random person because you're angry and hurt."

Speaking of Reed, though, I'm starting to hope that she gives Charlie the time of day. He's a little bit of a dope, but he's been pining for her for so long, and his fumbling awkwardness is almost endearing.  It's been a while since we've had a good old-fashioned "will they or won't they" romance on this show.

Back to those crucial character changes, though. Meredith has been enabling Weber's drinking for far, far too long now. I was so glad when she finally told Derek what's been going on. Weber endangered at least one patient with his carelessness, and now the once infallible Seattle Grace chief of surgery spends his time reminiscing about better times under the guise of mentoring Meredith. While he was watching those old surgery videos, I was half expecting Bruce Springsteen to burst through the door and start singing about boring stories of glory days. When Meredith spilled the beans, she was doing the right thing, and, as she said in her voiceover, she was becoming a doctor. "A switch flips," she says.

118629_1386_pre For me, the most startling "flipped switch" was within Christina. After years of missing Burke's tutelage and desperately needing a 'Cardio God' to help her become the doctor she's meant to be, Teddy arrived and gave Christina her first truly solo cardiological surgery. Her teaching method was certainly interesting: a bit like teaching a kid to swim by tossing him into the deep end without his floaties. As Christina struggled to replace the heart valve on a very difficult patient (played brilliantly by guest star Cynthia Stevenson), tension mounted and Teddy refused to help, even when things looked dire. Ultimately, Christina took control and the surgery was successful.

However, forced to finally face up to the fact that Owen doesn't love her, Teddy packed her bags. She was on her way out of Seattle Grace, for good, when Christina chased after her. "What do you want? More money? Because I'll talk to the chief," Christina begged, moved to tears. "You can work with vets! No one here has ever believed in me like this. You believe in me more than I do, and I need that.  I will die here without that. Tell me what you want, and I will make it happen."

"I want Owen!" Teddy blurted, and without hesitation -- without so much as a blink -- Christina said, "Fine. Done. Take him."


My jaw dropped! Christina has always put her career first, but to trade her boyfriend like he's a card Teddy asked for in a game of Go Fish is extreme, even for her. I'm really glad that we don't have to wait another five weeks for a new episode, because I have a feeling that next week's episode is going to have some shocking consequences for almost all of the characters.

I can't wait to chat about this episode with you guys! What do you think about Lexie's and Mark's demise? Were you as shocked as I was by Christina's impulsive reaction to Teddy's resignation? Did you watch the "Private Practice" follow-up?

Dish in the comments below and don't forget to come back next week so we can discuss Izzie's return.

-- Carina MacKenzie (catch up with me on Twitter @cadlymack)

Photos: Top to Bottom -- Arizona (Jessica Capshaw), Mark (Eric Dane), and Addison (Kate Walsh) discuss surgery options with Sloan (Leven Rambin). Sloan and Mark have dinner in Los Angeles. Christina (Sandra Oh) chases Teddy (Kim Raver) out of the hospital. Credit: ABC

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Izzie's not-so-triumphant return
Comments () | Archives (12)

My best friend's daughter was born with amnniotic band syndrome and let me just say we were VERY offended at the dis-tastefulness and lack of class that the show's writers/producers had regarding this scenario. Her daughter was very much offended and hurt; as well as I. Let me just say we have never ever thought of the words "stumpy baby" or "gimp" when it comes to our beautiful 14 year old tumblwer, cheerleader, soft ball player, track runner!!!! People should think about other peoples feeling before they think about making a buck!!! TACKY!

Oh man! I love Mark and Lexie, held my breath for almost two hours, but Mark's subtle admission that he was in love with Lexie? That made it worth it for me. That made it worth having to watch Mark and Addison together. That made it worth having to watch a drunk Lexie sleep with a not drunk Alex. So, all in all, not as bad as I was anticipating. I was anticipating the worse, then again, it was pretty bad but Mark's "I'm so sorry. I'm sorry Red," made me want to jump for joy. I don't doubt for a second that next week will bring on even more drama, but for now, knowing that Mark loves Lexie? That made it for me.

I hope they do not keep up this "cross over" experiment. Grey's Anatomy is very entertaining and interesting with good actors. Private practice is silly and, with a couple of exceptions, the actors are not very good. I have tried to watch it (because my recorder is still tuned to ER!), but I end up just turning it off and having an early night. I think the problem is they are trying too hard to mix drama with comedy. I love Amy Bremminger(?) and I wish she wasn't in this show because I think it is not doing her career any good. The drama/romance mix of Grey's Anatomy works very well.
Anyway, for what it is worth, I do not want to have to watch PP in order to keep up with GA.

Christy, don't forget that only Sloan said those things, and the writers were trying to portray her as a scared, immature, classless, and yes - tacky - teenager. She's a deeply flawed character. None of the doctors used those words!

Lauren, I love Mark and Lexie too! I'm hoping that Sloan will go back to her mom or something, so that Mark and Lexie can work things out. I have a feeling that Mark and Lexie's relationship issues will be shoved to the back burner next week, because it's time for Izzie and Alex to work out their junk.

Thanks for the comments, guys!

For the record, Mark did reprimand his daughter for using those words, I believe in the context of "I know I haven't been your father for very long, but if you say 'gimp' one more time I'm going to smack you" or something like that. Sloan said those things, and she isn't exactly known to be an understanding character.
I think (I can't believe I'm saying this) Lexie's going to need to go out and sow her wild oats before she can even think about a relationship with Mark again. I have a feeling Sloan's on her way back home to her mother sans baby, so hopefully when she does grow up and gets to the same place as Mark she won't have to deal with his baggage. (I'm sorry, I just don't like Sloan. I like that Mark's growing up and taking responsibility but I want her to just have her baby and leave. When she said she wanted to go home, my heart leapt.)
I watched PP, but instead of viewing it as the second half of a two-hour block of good television I counted down the minutes until Grey's ended and resigned myself to following the story through the next hour. I'm kind of done with the crossovers - and if they're going to bring Addison in, I think she and Derek should have more interaction. They were large parts of each other's lives and their only exchanged words were in reference to Bailey's love life.
Finally, I'm not shocked because we all know Cristina's married to cardio. On one hand I was surprised she'd give Owen up so flippantly, but on the other Cristina's always put her career first. Always. She's said she misses Burke, not for their relationship but for his tutelage. I think Owen's going to be shell-shocked but kind of relieved she made the decision for him, but I could see Teddy's guilty conscience eating at her after awhile and leading her to realize she should have never asked that of Cristina. The big question that will determine the future of Owentina - will Owen be able to accept that Cristina will always be a surgeon first? We haven't seen the last of Owen and Cristina.

Totally agree with your comments about Cristina's "then take him" being over the top but at the same time think this is completely in character for Cristina. She's always been career driven. I think her comment was impulsive and she'll certainly think about it later. I don't see her doing this to Owen being any different from what she did to Burke, for example, in the lead up to and the day of the wedding. It seems that this time, Teddy is comparable to Burke professionally as a mentor, and Owen is comparable to Burke on a personal level (different personalities and situations but comparable in terms of what they represent to Cristina). Seems like she was unsure of her feelings about Burke on a personal level also. It will be interesting of course to see where this leads. I hope Cristina does not give up on Owen. I don't see why she can't have both love and career but Teddy of course complicates things. By the way I don't think too much of this triangle but it does leave the viewer torn as Kevin McKidd has stated in several interviews leading up to the episode.

I actually thought the episode was the best one I've seen all season. This season has been awful IMO, with only the SP and a few others being any good. I thought Holidaze was very good minus a few weak parts. But this one was excellent as I've thought more about it, not that I liked everyone sleeping around. I think Lexie and Alex are hot together and have great chemistry in their drunken scene and I've always been indifferent to their story lines. I hope the remaining episodes of the season are of this quality but with improved story lines. I really don't like the Mercy Westers--any of them--and wish they'd disappear. They've pretty much ruined this season for me. No offense to the actors however.

As a doctor's daughter (DK - dr's kid) and a former psychotherapist-in-training, I underderstand Christina's drive and dedication manifest in her begging Teddy to stay with the hospital and to be her mentor. It is not true that a talented person can not reach the pinnacle of their profession without the best mentor(s), but it sure does help to have them along for the journey. The tips and tricks the good mentors can share are irreplaceable and invaluable.

If I had been faced with such a choice during my training years, I would have chosen my personal life, but only after considerable thought. But I say that knowing cutting on the human body is not the same as working with people to reeducate the emotional side of their lives.

I get Christina's left-brain thinking which has been warmed up by training from Dr. Bailey, exposure to the dermatology unit, and of course, her relationship with Dr. Meredith Grey - Shepard.

Extremely talented and intelligent people are complex and for me Grey's Anatomy captures this with every plot line and in every episode with every character. It's one of my all time top favorite shows since television began. Kudo's to Chandra Rhimes and staff and the cast!

That was such a awesome and clean review and made me look at some things in a new perspective. I was devestated over Mark and Lexie, and I hope this Sloan girl leaves town as soon as possible! However, it was beyond touching when Mark realized that he loved Lexi so much, he couldn't stay with Addison. Bueatiful!

I only watched Greys because of Addison but I need not have bothered as she was barely in it.

I do watch and enjoy Private Practice and it is a vastly better show than Greys now. Kate Walsh has had a run of frankly amazing episodes, starting with the car crash in 3.07, then the long-awaited arrival of Addie's parent's in 3.10 and now with this episode which she absolutely nailed. My heart broke for Addison at the end. And I am loving Sam for being such a good guy. Very interesting as to where this is going.

Pity you don't blog for Private Practice. It's improving as Greys is sinking.

Please tell me you don't get paid to write this.

Please tell me you don't get paid to write this. Are we so isolated that we cannot have these discussions with someone who has a face and a voice.

Well, Hope, not to be offensive but so what if she gets paid to write it? Why shouldn't she-- it is a review. And, Carina's reviews are very entertaining. I find her style refreshing. So, LA Times. go ahead and pay her!! The reviewer obviously has a voice-- and my guess is that she does have a face as well! This is just a forum for Grey's fans-- no one is running for election. We can all have a voice and who cares that there is no face associated with those voices.
In terms of the review, nicely put. Lots to write about these episodes.


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