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'Grey's Anatomy': The McDaughter brings a case of holiday whiplash

November 20, 2009 |  7:36 am
118475_237_pre I've always been an easy sell when it comes to holiday episodes. There's nothing like a "Felicity" Thanksgiving, and "The Office" always has the best Christmas parties.  I'm a sucker for big makeshift-family dinners and people playing in the snow and a miracle or two.

So I guess it's no surprise that Thursday's "Grey's Anatomy" episode, "Holidaze," tugged on my heartstrings quite a bit. I've been rather cynical when it comes to reviewing "Grey's" so far this season, but after this episode, I do believe that the writers are getting back on their feet. They've had a lot of obstacles to work around this season -- and by "obstacles" I mean "maternity leave" -- but they seem to be finding their groove again.

As the second episode with some major time-lapse this season, "Holidaze" covered six weeks of Seattle Grace time in only an hour of real time.

There are definitely some positive things about an episode in warp speed. It gives viewers the opportunity to follow the "patient of the week" all the way through their hospital stay. This week we met Kelsey (Danielle Panabaker), a young woman who had to have her heart removed from her body due to an aneurysm that developed during a transplant. Maybe it's just that holiday spirit, but I loved watching her relationship with her boyfriend develop from a brand-new infatuation to an engagement ring the morning after she finally got a new heart.

We also followed Derek and Sloane through their development of an instrument to treat the untreatable AVM in Arizona's pediatric patient, Nicholas. I liked that they sped us through this process, because when things like this are drawn out too long, they lose their impact. Again, I got the holiday warm-and-fuzzies when Derek, Arizona and Sloane donated their own money (hard-earned, as there were no Christmas bonuses this year ... surprise, surprise) when the project went over budget.

Of course, a time-lapse episode does pose some problems. Though the patients and the medical dilemmas are certainly a keystone of "Grey's Anatomy," the real reason we all watch is for the regular characters. The time-lapse on Thursday felt like it hurtled through a lot of really important character development without allowing viewers time to stop and catch their breath. 

When a young hottie walks into the ER and interrupts Dr. Sloane, it's no surprise that he gives her the once-over. After all, he's McSteamy; it's what he does. It gets a little bit awkward, though, when she announces a few seconds later that her name is Sloane Riley and she's his daughter -- a claim quickly confirmed with a paternity test.MV5BMTU1NTk3NzgwOV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwOTA2NTAwMw@@._V1._SX600_SY400_

Covering six weeks of Hurricane Riley in just one episode left me with a bit of whiplash. She appears, she moves in with Sloane and Lexie, she flippantly accuses her father of perving on her, he confesses that he knew about her all along, and she tells him that she's pregnant ... all while I'm still busy saying, "Wait. Sloane has a kid?!?" 

It would have been nice to have a little more time to get to know Riley, because now she's been living with two of our regular characters for over a month but we haven't seen much of her. All we know is that Lexie thinks Riley's vacant and Arizona thinks hell will freeze over before Riley goes to college. I'm sure she's going to play an important role in the future, so I think it would've been a good idea for the writers to put some effort into giving viewers a reason to feel invested in her.

Sloane and Lexie aren't the only ones getting used to a new woman. Last week, the new "Cardio God," Teddy (Kim Raver), confessed to Hunt that she's always loved him. He did the right thing and spurned her advances, but he spent a lot of this episode tied up in knots over her. Hunt's confession Thursday that he also had feelings for her all along didn't come as a surprise.  What did surprise me was that when she opened the door for him, he said bluntly, "I'm in love with Christina."

It's rare on shows like "Grey's Anatomy" that the guy doesn't succumb to the temptation of the Hot Blond From His Past. I was pleasantly surprised when Hunt made it very clear that he's with Christina because he loves her, not because he has an obligation to her.  I'm looking forward to seeing how Teddy handles this from here on out.  She's been carrying a torch for Hunt for a very, very long time.

W118475_396_prehile I thought that Chandra Wilson and Frankie Faison both gave fantastic performances, I didn't feel very strongly about the story line with Bailey and her father. I think that we've seen so many episodes by now where Bailey battles with her work-versus-family dilemma. She shouldn't have to justify it to anyone anymore -- be it her father or, more important, the viewers. I'd love to see Bailey get some new material because Wilson is an incredible actress and she can do more than just this tired old story.

Finally, the six weeks between Thanksgiving and New Year's Day were not kind to Chief Webber.  In his first scene with Meredith, he blames his previous struggles with alcohol on "situational depression" -- a ... term of endearment for Meredith's mother. It seems to me that he's in a hell of a depressing situation now, as his hospital -- once a No. 1 trauma center -- falls from grace.  It's no big shock that he's leaning on his old crutch, but it's sad to see the chief in such a sloppy state when he was once such a strong figure. I do think it's an interesting choice for the writers, and I'm intrigued to see where they take it.

All in all, Thursday's episode wasn't perfect, but I felt that it brought back some heart to the show. As a side note, I loved the inclusion of Sara Ramirez's version of "Silent Night" -- it's so great to see her singing talents showcased.  I didn't miss Izzie much -- it wasn't until the episode was over that I noticed her absence -- but I would have liked to see how Alex handled his first Christmas as a married man ... without his wife.

What do you think? Did you like the time-lapse episode or do you wish these stories had been broken up a bit more? Did you miss Izzie or the Mercy Westers? What'd you think of Hunt's and Yang's dramatic elevator kiss?  I'm especially interested in your thoughts on Riley and whether you think she'll stick around.

Let's discuss it in the comments below!

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

Upper photo: Dr. Mark Sloane (Eric Dane). Credit: ABC

Center photo: Lexie (Chyler Leigh) and Riley (Leven Rambin) talk by the Christmas tree. Credit: ABC

Lower photo: The Seattle Grace gang gets together for dinner. Credit: ABC