Grey's Anatomy Season 15 Episode 11 Review: The Winner Takes It All

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Mothers and sons, and fathers and daughters. Family was at the center of another emotional hour of this prolific medical drama. 

Grey's Anatomy Season 15 Episode 11 got teased as an emotional hour that undoubtedly would bring back that #TearsofGreys, and it was a total feels fest. 

Thatcher Returns - Grey's Anatomy Season 15 Episode 11

Something that Grey's Anatomy has excelled at is stripping away the hustle and bustle and focusing on a handful of central and periphery characters to share stories. The series has an enormous cast, and they often fail to put all of them to proper use. 

With bottle episodes and things akin to them, however, they can showcase the best of each person's tremendous talent while allowing the stories to breathe. It strikes the perfect emotional chord that way. 

Related: Grey's Anatomy Season 15 Episode 10 Review: Help, I'm Alive!

It's difficult to choose a specific standout performance in an hour like this because, with space and the writing, the primary characters of this installment were able to bring their all and give us something beautiful.  

Catherine the Brave

I would be remiss not to mention Debbie Allen when it was her hour. She embodied the matriarch vibe and regardless of how you feel about the character and some of her actions over the years, the impact and effect that she has on the whole hospital were palpable.

There isn't a doubt that she, flaws and all, is a medical icon. There isn't a doubt that she is the head of the Fox-Avery-Webber family and that she keeps them together. There isn't a doubt that she is Richard's second or third chance at being the love of his life. 

She was optimistic and trying to be upbeat for her family, but she was also terrified. There is bravery to owning and acknowledging the fear. She exuded strength and grace. 

These two pulled off a miracle. Miracles aren't always punctuation marks, but they are still worth celebrating.


Her most special moments were those with Jackson. They tried to keep things light, and honestly, who didn't lose it a bit over their deal? Their family is one of legacy, and that is always at the forefront and comes with a plethora of issues, but it also comes with something sweet and touching too. 

Catherine freaking Fox is a boss lady. Of course, she would find a way into the gallery of her son's first surgery. She nags, and she critiques, and she does all those things overbearing mothers do, but she loves the hell out of her son, and she's proud of him. 

They bonded over their shared love of listening or thinking about music to calm their nerves before surgery or during it. Naturally, it was sweet as ever that Jackson played her favorite song - the song that makes her happy and brave. The dancing in the OR was cute. 

OR Dancing

Like Catherine, it wouldn't be right to not speak about how amazing Jesse Williams was during this hour. I love that in the recent seasons he is afforded more opportunity to show off his range as an actor. Jackson was so desperate and helpless while trying to keep up a brave face for his mother. 

He brought Harriet to the hospital to see her. He spoke about all the things that they would do when she got out of surgery, and he didn't want to entertain the thought of his mother not making it out of that surgery alive and intact. 

Jackson's nervous energy in that gallery and the errant comments about Tom's capabilities were enough to make me nervous for him. He was pacing around the gallery like a caged wild cat ready to pounce. Jackson was a beautiful, heartbreaking mess. 

Catherine: I watched you.
Jackson: My first sur -- how did you watch?
Catherine: Child, please. I am Catherine Fox. Do you think there is a world where I wouldn't sneak into the gallery of my baby's first surgery? Oh, you were a sight to see. I bet Harriet does the same thing one day.
Jackson: Well I'll be sneaking up in the gallery with you someday.
Catherine: Deal.
Jackson: That's a deal.

This hour did a fantastic job of capturing the nuance of these unique bonds and relationships. It got to the heart of them. What made the hour a success was the strategic and careful way the series chose which characters to utilize and how and when to use them. 

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Maggie wasn't prominent, and she didn't need to be, but she came in when she was supposed to come in and provided the support that was necessary.

First, she checked in with Richard in a sweet moment that was rewarding because the two of them don't always have as many scenes together as one would expect, but when they do, their closeness is transparent. 

In an hour about fathers and daughters, it was a subtle, but necessary scene. Then, Maggie went to be a support to Jackson, and she comforted him and empathized with him, but she allowed that moment to be about him. 

Jackson Breaks Down

Sometimes, all you can do when a person is hurting is be there. Sometimes your presence is enough. It was Jackson's best scene of the hour as he reflected on his mother's larger than life persona and how he can't envision his life without her. 

It was a moment that I can't imagine him sharing with anyone else at the hospital during that moment because of his closeness with Maggie in addition to her understanding that in-between stage of being afraid of her mother's state, and she was close to her mother as well. 

Jackson Avery crying is something that shouldn't happen. It hurt my soul seeing him like that.

He was so raw and vulnerable, and he was every bit like a child. I loved the distinction he made between how when Samuel died it felt like his world exploded (a feeling of a parent losing a child because that child is their entire world the second it's born), and the fear of losing his mother reduced him to that of a helpless, scared child. 

Jackson: Now, I can't imagine what a room would even feel like without her in it taking up all that space. You know it was different, losing Samuel. That was more like my world collapsing around me, you know? And this is. I feel like a scared little kid.
Maggie: Like nothing is safe. Like the world is upside down and nothing makes sense anymore.
Jackson: Yeah.
Maggie: Yeah.
Jackson: I don't like.[cries] I don't like it.

It was a powerful scene and moment. 

But then, Richard was the embodiment of strength and calm. He was a sturdy and solid rock throughout the entire ordeal. Has Richard ever been portrayed this strong? 

This Richard has gone through hell and back, and he's seasoned, wise, and mature in a way that marks his growth as a character over the years as well. For Richard, it was simple. He would remain as close to his wife as he could physically be because that was the promise they made to one another.

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From stepping into his place as leader of an AA group to being the quiet strength during Catherine's experience, to him offering pearls of wisdom during his brief but profound moments with his "daughters," Richard was the ultimate patriarch during this hour. 

Richard Mentors Betty - Tall - Grey's Anatomy Season 15 Episode 9

Richard shared a moment with Maggie and encouraged her to be there for Jackson like a great paternal figure would, and Bailey, his protege, she was there to offer her mentor, friend, and father figure the support that he needed. 

Meredith, of course, was determined to be there for Richard, but in the end, the best way that she could honor him and herself was by respecting the wishes of her real father by seeing her birth father in his final days. But more on that in a moment. 

If those characters and those moments weren't enough, the series also had the duo of Tom and Amelia to bring the feels, too. I apologize if this is redundant, but Greg Germann has been a breath of fresh air on this series. He's the best addition to the series in recent years. 

Tomcat - Grey's Anatomy Season 15 Episode 7

Tom is such a complex character because it is easy to write him off as an arrogant asshole, but he has so much passion, pain, and heart. He's incredible. 

Tom doesn't get rattled or frazzled. Tom is a rockstar neurosurgeon and confident to the point of ad nauseam, but Tom loves Catherine. He worships and adores her, and he loves her so profoundly that no one else can ever fully understand the nature of their relationship. 

He credits her for saving his life and his soul, and that type of loyalty and devotion transcends labels, you know? We have never witnessed Tom as terrified and frazzled as he was channeling his nervous energy into games of operation or doubting himself before and during surgery. 

Tom: Catherine Fox is an icon, a magician and a giant among men, and not just for the reason you think. She's saved more penises in her OR than any surgeon on the planet, and all I can imagine is the dozens of men without functioning penises doomed to live out their sexless lives if I botch this surgery.
Amelia: That's what you're worried about? Men and their junk?
Tom: That and if I lose her ... I've lost enough.
Amelia: Then let's keep her alive.
Tom: Let's keep her alive.

The beauty of his bond with Amelia is that she is to him what he was to Catherine. It's a cycle of fantastic mentors fostering amazing proteges who in a sense become their legacies.

The Amelia and Tom scenes were everything; it was hard not to get misty-eyed when he was too overwhelmed at the sight of Catherine on the table, so Amelia stepped in to cover for him. 

Tom doesn't say much nor does he get serious often, but when he does, he only needs a sentence or two to get you in the feels. All he needed to say for Amelia to get it was that he couldn't lose anyone else. 

Team Neuro the Redux

They removed most of Catherine's cancer and used Richard's device to help save her life (I love the way their projects are incorporate). Catherine survived, isn't paralyzed, and she'll need chemo and radiation for cancer that will remain. 

Tom is still upset that he couldn't remove it all, and he couldn't see that he performed a miracle at first.

Related: Grey’s Anatomy: The Link, Meredith & DeLuca Love Triangle Is The Worst Idea Ever

I wanted him to take Teddy up on her offer. The two of them would make a solid couple, but he needed that moment in the chapel to speak to his son. 

Amelia's speech during her AA meeting was necessary for her. Amelia's growth, while controversial in the way it came about (TUMOR!), is remarkable. Finally, Amelia is in a fantastic place in her life, and she's going to be okay. 

I operated on a freaking legend spine today, and it was terrifying, exhilarating and imperfect. Mostly terrifying because she's not just a legend, but she matters so much to so many people that I love. Most of my life I have been chasing the kind of high that I feel right now. I gave a surgeon back her hands today. I gave a husband his wife, a son his mother. And I am so incredibly grateful to be sober, to be present enough to have felt every terrifying, exhilarating, imperfect moment.


Initially, when Richard told Meredith about Thatcher, I was as unfazed as Meredith was about the news. Typically, it's annoying when some outside character encourages another to make amends with someone who has hurt them just because that person is dying. 

Nevertheless; by the end of the hour, the peace that Meredith found was moving and cathartic. The trajectory of Meredith's character from the beginning of the season to this point, a decade and a half later, is extraordinary. 

Jeff Perry and Ellen Pompeo were extraordinary. 

Visiting Her Father - Grey's Anatomy

They brought up Lexie, you guys. Did your heart just burst with feelings? 

Thatcher was an imperfect man. It's always funny because in many ways he was sympathetic. Ellis did treat him like crap and cheated on him, but in other ways, he was far from it because he bailed on Meredith, started another happy family, and then he bailed again, and again, and again. 

He took an actual piece of Meredith and then left without a word and the empty promise that they would reconnect. It turned out he found himself again in Zimbabwe and via travel. 

We weren't perfect. We weren't even happy all of the time, but I would marry her all over again for that night, that laugh, and you. And this. I'd do it all again for this.


He lived a good life, and much of that was due to Meredith. He also let her know that even though he didn't speak to her directly during some of her most difficult times, he was there. The craziest thing about their talk was finding out that he and Richard kept in contact and spoke of Meredith often. 

Thatcher was there at the funeral when Derek died, and he couldn't bear seeing his daughter with that familiar vacant look in her eyes. He didn't want her most devastating moments to be about him. 

Sad News - Grey's Anatomy Season 15 Episode 6

You could tell that he loved Meredith with all that he had and spoke fondly of her to anyone who would listen. He was kept abreast of her life via Richard, he had photos of her everywhere, and he gushed about her to his aide. 

He even acquired some gifts from his travels for his grandkids of whom he never had a relationship. Meredith needed that closure, and so did Thatcher. They aired out their grievances, expressed their sides and let things go.

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They also reminisced on those moments living with Ellis. She was also a flawed person, and Meredith came to grips with a lot of things since her mother's death. There was some comfort in knowing that she was the parent who stayed. 

Making Amends - Grey's Anatomy Season 15 Episode 11

Age brings wisdom, and so does experience and distance from the past. It allowed Meredith to look at things differently when she thought about her mother, and it allowed her to do the same when she was speaking to her father. 

Thatcher was so at peace. He was just thrilled that Meredith showed up for him. He was at peace with Lexie's death despite missing her every day. He was at peace with his marriage with Ellis and everything that came with it because it gave him Meredith.

He doesn't regret marrying Ellis because of Meredith. The story about Ellis going into labor was intimate, revealing, and touching. He also had the best reaction to learning about Maggie's existence. 

Thatcher: I miss Lexie. I miss her so much.
Meredith: Me too.
Thatcher: I'm sorry you lost her. I know how much it meant to you having a sister.
Meredith: I have another sister.
Thatcher: But you and Molly, you were never close.
Meredith: Her name is Maggie. She's brilliant and kind. She's the best of Ellis and Richard.
Thatcher: Your mother and Richard had a baby? At least something good came from all of that.

It was only one episode, but it felt like some of Meredith's wounds were healed during those moments with her father. The final moment where she held his face and spoke so lovingly about her children (despite her troubled childhood and unstable parents, she has broken the cycle), it was so poignant, tragic, and beautiful.

By the time Meredith sat down with her kids and shared their gifts from Grandpa with them, she seemed freer. 

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Over to you, Grey's Fanatics! Whose performance blew you away the most? Are you surprised that Catherine survived? How did you feel about Thatcher's return? 

Hit the comments below with your thoughts. 

You watch Grey's Anatomy online here via TV Fanatic! 

The Winner Takes It All Review

Editor Rating: 5.0 / 5.0
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Rating: 3.9 / 5.0 (66 Votes)

Jasmine Blu is a senior staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow her on Twitter.

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Grey's Anatomy Season 15 Episode 11 Quotes

Tom: It's fun having so many surgeons in one family. Tell me, Avery, when did you become board certified in Neurology?
Jackson: Is this really how you talk to your patient's family?
Tom: It is, actually.

You're going to do great, you and Amelia. You're ready.

Teddy [to Tom]