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'Grey's Anatomy': Whodunit mystery rocks Seattle Grace

October 23, 2009 |  1:39 am
117900_5147_pre Thursday night's "Grey's Anatomy" episode was called "I Saw What I Saw," and I saw something that I haven't seen from "Grey's" in quite a while: promise.

Usually I don't like episodes that feel really gimmicky, but tonight's film noir style of storytelling worked for me.  Maybe it's because Halloween is coming, but I was digging the dark and stormy night and the Seattle Grace twist on the classic whodunit puzzle.

The eerie feeling began from the very first second of the episode, with thunder crashing outside the hospital as a janitor mopped up a slough of blood from a dark trauma room, a bloody axe resting on a cart nearby.

It's immediately clear that something has gone horribly wrong, and the Chief and his board are on a mission to find out who is to blame. I was initially skeptical of the whole concept. Do we really need yet another excuse to pit these docs against one another? The merger and subsequent firings have made "Grey's Anatomy" resemble a reality show.  Who is getting kicked off the island this week?

I complain about that every week, though. I'm sick of the doctors battling it out with each other, but I've resigned myself to the fact that the "Grey's" writers clearly love the competitive streak.

As the doctors were interviewed, light was shed on what happened earlier in the day. All hell had broken loose when a hotel caught on fire, and the ER was flooded with trauma patients. Cathy Becker (Erinn Hayes) came in with her young son and was treated for burns, but somehow, the rest of her ailments fell through the cracks.

I loved how we got bits and pieces of the night as each doctor described his or her experience from his or her own perspective. The Rashomon theme worked very well to build the tension and raise the stakes.  Every single doctor says, "She wasn't my patient," and every single doctor genuinely believes that the tragedy was someone else's fault. Obviously, this can't be the case - but the point is, the doctors aren't lying.  They just have different versions of the truth.

As soon as Cathy wheezed, "Don't let my son see me die," and Lexie promised that she wouldn't die, I knew she was a goner. Haven't the Seattle Grace doctors figured out by now that every time they promise someone will live, that person ends up in the morgue?

Ultimately we found out that Cathy died because her airways closed and her organs failed.  But what about that ominous slasher-movie axe from the cold open? Well, the axe did indirectly cause Cathy's demise. April - the new Mercy Wester played by the amazing Sarah Drew - saw the axe sticking out of a man's chest, and was distracted from checking Cathy's throat.

Had she done the entire examination, she would've seen the soot in Cathy's throat and could've easily prevented the tragedy. It's such a small mistake, a tiny human error the likes of which would've gone unnoticed if April had a desk job. But when you're a doctor, you can't make tiny human errors.  You have to be superhuman; you have to be perfect.

I was disappointed to see April fired; she was my favorite of the Mercy Westers. Plus, I got a kick out of seeing her interact with fellow "Everwood" alum Nora Zehetner (Reed). I'm glad Reed survived the episode.  Of all the newbies, I'm most hoping that she sticks it out and joins the regular cast. Zehetner really holds her own against the more seasoned actors - even if she does look like she could use a sandwich or two.

117900_5259_preOf course, I wouldn't mind seeing more of Dr. Avery, but I'm pretty sure that's just because of Jesse Williams' killer blue eyes, not because the character is interesting. Can we get this guy a storyline, please?  His little playground scuffles with Karev aren't particularly compelling.

For me, the best moment of the episode was at the very end, when Derek and the Chief discussed the day's fallout.  The Chief was so determined to find out who made the fatal error - the absent-minded screw-up that cost a young boy his mother - that he failed to look at the situation from a wider angle.

"Maybe it's not one doctor [who is responsible]," Derek said.  "Maybe it's too many doctors who don't know each other and who don't trust each other.  When I got to that room, it was chaos, because that's the system now: chaos.  That has been the system that's been in place since this merger.  Your system.  I'm saying you should look again at who is responsible."

Preach it, McDreamy! The Chief needs to look to himself when he's looking for someone to blame.  How can the hospital be strong when there are such clear cracks in its foundation? The Chief is the one who let the hospital falter, and now the doctors and nurses are the ones feeling the consequences, getting fired left and right. 

By the way, I adored the music on tonight's episode. The two most prominently featured songs were "Songs From Different Times" by Jack Savoretti and "Out of the Dark" by Matt Hires, in case you're wondering what to search for on iTunes.

OK, let's discuss the episode in the comments below! Did you guys miss Izzie much? Did you, like me, agree with Derek's harsh reality check for the Chief? Do you think April deserved to get fired for accidentally skipping the throat exam? Who do you think is next on the chopping block?

Can't wait to hear your thoughts!

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

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Mercy West is in, Izzie Stevens is out
Bears, bones, and big sad eyes
Paranoid schizophrenic meets paranoid residents

Photos: Top - the Mercy Westers (Jesse Williams, Robert Baker, Sarah Drew, Nora Zehetner) wait to face the wrath of the Chief. Bottom - Doctors try to break up a fight between Karev (Justin Chambers) and Avery (Jesse Williams).