Not even the most brilliant surgeon is born with the skills, perspective or fortitude to make it to the top. There is always a defining experience that propels them to the next level.
Thursday night on Grey's Anatomy, Bailey, Richard and Callie reflected the cases that helped make them the doctors they are today through a series of flashback sequences.
45 DAYS SOBER: We open in the present with the Chief talking about his group of residents at an AA meeting. He's 45 days sober, but will not be reinstated. At least not yet.
Derek tells him it'll be a while before the board will consider that, and he's been authorized to offer him a general surgery attending position instead. Richard is not happy.
Still, he agrees to participate in Derek's newly-instituted lecture series in which the surgeons will share stories about some of their most significant cases. His involves Ellis.
The Chief's story may have been our favorite, as the case itself was compelling, we got to see what younger Ellis Grey was like, and it tied in beautifully with his current struggles.
The Chief gets a well-deserved standing ovation.
In 1982, Richard was the only African-American resident in the program and Ellis the only woman. They both take their share of abuse and formed an immediate bond over that.
Richard and Ellis clearly fell for each other but struggled with their affair, as she wanted was for them to leave their marriages and be together. We even got to see little Meredith.
They work on a patient they think has GRID (Gay Related Immune Deficiency, later called AIDS), and the patient threatens to sue. Their attending wants nothing to do with this.
The patient later ends up back there with complications from Kaposi's Sarcoma, and while they had no idea what caused his disease or how it spread, they operated anyway.
They were there when he drew his last breath after suffering complications from pneumonia, too. Because that's just what you do, fulfilling the oath to do right by the patient.
You have to persevere, no matter how you might lose your way. He certainly knows about that, as back then, the straight arrow started down the road to full-blown alcoholism.
In the end, Richard retakes the Physician's Oath from the stage, and it's an inspiring moment, more profound than any statement or traditional apology could ever have been.
She also had a resident (guest star Missy Pyle) who was nothing short of evil.
It was funny to watch the 2010 Bailey, the consummate chief resident and leader, recount her case and see the dramatic shift in personality juxtaposed with her passive intern self.
Seven years ago, Bailey had a patient with chronic pain who had been through many surgeries, including having her ovaries removed. Nothing worked. Her diagnoses were wrong.
"Surgery is a shark tank," the Chief tells her. Will she be a shark or a minnow?
The next time the patient comes back, Mandy cancels her surgery, incurring the wrath of her resident but diagnosing it correctly and saving the patient one more painful ordeal.
She stood tall in the face of adversity, and taught us that the patient's history is the most important part of any diagnosis. Then came the moment Bailey as we know her was born.
When she told off her resident, we couldn't help but exchange high-fives.
Mandy proved that a patient's history is everything.
REVISIONIST HISTORY: Callie's flashback was interesting in that it took place in the Grey's Anatomy era - Alex assists her during his intern year, when she wasn't on the show yet.
Sunder, a graduate student whose legs had been twisted and his lungs damaged by polio as a kid, is pushed to the brink by grueling pain and surgeries, while pushing Callie to hers.
Sometimes that's what it takes to get you where you need to go, though. Callie does a remarkable job during one surgery, but is forced to end it because of the patient's weak lungs.
Yet he's willing to move forward, and because of that, so is she. They end up doing a series of surgeries that are incredibly grueling for the poor patient, but he ends up walking.
Once again, moving stuff. Gives you a lot of respect for surgeons' resolve!
On a lighter note, Callie mistook Alex for George, having heard about the latter's heart-in-the-elevator expertise. Alex doesn't correct her, and karma comes back to bite him hard.
When the patient crashes and she needs him to work on his heart, the jig is up on Karev. Not that it stopped him from getting with her in her homey, hospital basement crash pad.
Remember when she lived down there? Alex and Callie, who knew?!
- We thought the flashback guest stars were well cast. Did you?
- Which of the three blasts from the past was your favorite?
- We would have enjoyed a Mark or Cristina flashback.
- The soundtrack wasn't half bad!
What did you think of last night's Grey's Anatomy?