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'Grey’s Anatomy': Crossing over at Seattle Grace

February 13, 2009 | 12:58 pm


When I was on the “Grey’s Anatomy” set for a feature story about last night’s “Grey’s”/”Private Practice” crossover, Dr. Bailey herself (Chandra Wilson) kindly summed up what has become a primary difference between Shonda Rhimes’ two ABC dramas. “This is the more juvenile, crazy, off-the-wall, people-who-don’t-have-any-sense kind of show,” Wilson said of “Grey’s.” “The ‘Private Practice’ people are a little bit more mature.”

Lucky for us “Grey’s” fans, “Private’s” Addison (Kate Walsh), Naomi (Audra McDonald) and Sam (Taye Diggs) brought a little of that maturity with them to the halls of Seattle Grace. Their presence, which could’ve easily just been a cheap ratings ploy, instead had the welcome effect of bringing the beleaguered mother ship from which “Private” launched back down to

For starters, there was a renewed focus on medicine (always a plus for hospital dramas). The Addison with the sassy new haircut and sharp gray suit wasn’t back in Seattle to drive a wedge between ex-husband Derek and Meredith, though her arrival did have the side effect of delaying Derek’s plan to propose. Rather, Addie was there in hopes that her brilliant neurosurgeon ex could save the life of her brother Archer (Grant Show), an egomaniacal, womanizing (and yet, still oddly charming) neurologist, who was fading fast thanks to a bunch of worms in his brain. When Derek finally operated, we got to see said worms on that snazzy OR monitor, and it was hard not to be on the edge of your seat as he carefully extracted them one by one.

Later, in the “Private” part of the crossover, it was a desperate Derek who required Addison’s mad OB/GYN skills. After a long day of saving Archer, he’d rushed into operating on his pregnant patient’s brain aneurysm, and one small error turned into a big ol’ problem that threatened to end the lives of both mother and unborn child. During that surgery, a frustrated Addison reminded Derek of the “hot dog Thanksgiving,” a disastrous holiday during their marriage when he wound up cooking hot dogs after her feast made his sister sick and led his mother— who, she finally established, had never liked her — to accuse her of trying to kill everyone.

The exes' exchange highlighted another strength of the crossover: the characters’ deep, and evolving, emotional bonds. For the most part, Derek and Addison seem to have moved past the pain of their acrimonious divorce, but being in the same place again naturally stirred up the knotty feelings that come with seeing someone you once felt certain you’d spend the rest of you life with but somehow didn’t. How can you not feel a bit melancholy, especially when all of your old reunited med school buddies — including Sam, Naomi and Sloan — keep singing the heartfelt song Derek composed and performed for Addison at their wedding, even if it was a cheesy little ditty that rhymed “gross anatomy class” with “Addison’s fine ass”? Or when, like Addison, you realize that seemingly everyone from your old life and your new one is coupled up and you’re still single?

Naturally, Meredith felt a bit discombobulated by the Oceanside Wellness gang’s presence. Mostly because she didn’t recognize her Derek in the guitar-playing, sappy-songwriting one of their memories. Cristina empathized because she suddenly didn’t recognize Owen, either, after the arrival of his “sunshine girl” ex-fiancee, who was at the hospital with her sick dad (played by — whee! — “Lost’s” Bernard!). But instead of running from the Derek development, which the old Meredith might've done after Sadie, a.k.a. the clueless, cheating intern, got caught and quit, the new Meredith realized she was exactly where she wanted to be. Give this girl your mama’s diamond ring already!

Admittedly, the Sadie story felt like an abrupt way to get rid of Melissa George, but it did result in two positives. (A) It means one of the season’s extraneous recurring characters is off the canvas. And (B) At least it gave T.R. Knight something to do. As for “Grey’s” other possibly leaving actor, Katherine Heigl, she got her best story in months. (Not that it would take much to beat the Dead Denny mess.) She organized a morale-boosting contest for the disgraced interns and, Lexie being the only intern we actually see regularly, naturally won. But it makes sense that Izzie — faced with the possibility of a still-mysterious life-threatening illness — would find herself in the denial stage. For now, it seems she can only handle what's fun and frivolous, and, if Alex’s conversation with Addison hinted at what lies ahead, Izzie's smart to get all the carefree fun she can now.

Finally, I cannot end this post without mentioning my favorite pairing to come out of the “Grey’s”/”Private” combo meal: Bailey and Sam. The grief he gave her about becoming a pediatric surgeon … the grief she gave him for letting ex-wife Naomi go and wind up in the arms of Archer … the fist bump. I say again, the fist bump! Together, Chandra Wilson and Taye Diggs are hilarious and touching and all sorts of fabulous. Here’s hoping this isn’t the last we ever see of this unexpectedly dynamic duo.

So, what did you think of the crossover? Weigh in below!

—Shawna Malcom

(Photo courtesy ABC)