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'Grey's Anatomy': A night to remember

March 27, 2009 | 11:56 am

Thursday night was not the night to miss “Grey’s Anatomy.” Derek returned to work at Seattle Grace. Izzie underwent — and survived — brain surgery. Owen nearly strangled the life out of Cristina. And Mer-Der finally got engaged. It was an episode in which much went down but nothing felt rushed, a genuinely moving installment that provoked laughter and tears. It was the kind of episode that made you nearly forgive, if not entirely forget, all the craziness that threatened to permanently derail the beloved drama earlier this season.

Tensions were running high as Derek prepared to operate on the tumor in Izzie’s brain (the first in a long line of surgeries and hellish treatments awaiting her, it seems). His confidence was thoroughly shaken, and it certainly didn’t help to have Izzie’s hard-nosed oncologist (Kimberly Elise) questioning his every move. For her part, Izzie tried to put on a brave front, knitting a bright green scarf and encouraging her friends to go about their usual rounds. None of her fellow Seattle Gracers, outside of Bailey, seemed to know how to deal with the enormity of what was going on so they kept their distance. Alex, taking over voice-over duties from Meredith this week, battled guilt over not questioning Izzie’s hallucinations of Denny, as he struggled to make a “deposit” that might still allow Izzie to have kids one day. Callie felt guilty too for often wishing Izzie dead after she had an affair with George. And George was so hurt by the fact that Izzie hadn’t shared her medical crisis with him — but had shared it with Cristina — that he was willing to work with his ex-wife for the day.

Cristina, for one, could be forgiven for being a little distracted. One moment she was sleeping peacefully and the next she was gasping for air as her Iraq war vet boyfriend, wiggy with post-traumatic stress disorder, tried to choke her to death. The scene was appropriately disturbing, as was Cristina’s behavior afterward. Not unlike a domestic violence victim, she was quick to make excuses for her guy’s violent outburst and just as quick to take him back after he profusely apologized. Wearing a turtleneck under her scrubs to hide the handprints on her neck, she went about her business at the hospital, pretending nothing out of the ordinary had happened. The aftermath of the attack wouldn’t have seemed like the ideal time to have sex for the first time, but one tender embrace in the on-call room later and off came the clothes. Lying beside him afterward, afraid to fall asleep, Cristina finally realized that maybe this was a situation she couldn’t handle after all. And, I admit, I breathed a huge sigh of relief. Owen seems like a good guy in the grand scheme of things, but the dude clearly needs help, and, by the end of the episode, he had turned to Derek for just that.

Owen and Cristina would seem to have a long, bumpy road ahead of them. If they’re lucky, they’ll be able to work through their issues and come out the other side as healed and whole as Derek and Meredith. Could the scene where they finally got engaged have been any more perfect? For the couple who’ve weathered so many ups and downs, it took place, fittingly, in an elevator (and thanks to the chief, Meredith waited to board the right one). The doors opened and there was Derek, clean-shaven and radiating the full powers of his McDreamyness, surrounded by CT scans that marked pivotal points in their relationship, including the first time they scrubbed in together, the surgery that prompted their first kiss and their most recent case — Izzie — which proved Meredith could not only handle a crisis but could also get others, including her man, to face things head-on as well. “You say you’re all dark and twisty, but it’s not a flaw, it’s a strength,” Derek told her, as “Grey’s” fans surely collectively cheered. “It makes you who you are.” He did not get down on one knee, and he didn’t actually pop the proverbial question — there was no need. Rather, he told her, simply, beautifully, that he loved her and wanted to spend the rest of his life with her, a sentiment she sweetly echoed. Engagements are a dime a dozen on TV, yes, but this one managed to feel both original and well-earned.

Did Derek's proposal do it for you? What did you think of the dark Cristina/Owen twist? And are things starting to look up for Izzie? Weigh in below.

— Shawna Malcom