On this week’s episode of ABC’s Grey’s Anatomy, new chief Owen Hunt (Kevin McKidd) tries to whip the staff into shape to play in a softball game against another hospital. He is assisted by Henry (Scott Foley), whom he temporarily hires at the hospital just to help out with the game. Bailey (Chandra Wilson) and Meredith’s (Ellen Pompeo) simmering hostility finally erupts on the field, while Cristina (Sandra Oh) finds a new calmness in being a team player. Also, Callie (Sara Ramirez) works to save a mangled hand, Derek (Patrick Dempsey) tries experimental brain surgery, and Alex (Justin Chambers) nags officials to get Meredith and Derek’s adoption process moving along.
There is a lot going on in “Put Me In, Coach,” and the sharing of plot by so many characters actually makes this a very strong episode. While not a single one person gets a ton of screen time, many move along their ongoing arcs, and get a little bit of focus. More so than could even fit in an opening summary paragraph. This is a great example of how to use an ensemble effectively, balancing many stories. Plus, it’s fun to see everyone come together on the softball field, despite the drama going on in their lives.
Speaking of the game, how come virtually all of the players were the main characters, with the entire central cast participating? Seattle Grace Mercy West is a huge hospital, and Hunt could only recruit his friends? Then again, one does tend to do things with one’s friends, and considering how close all of the main characters are — as a group — it does sort of make sense that they would all help Hunt out. Even Henry, who thankfully feels like more a part of the group than ever before, since he’s not a doctor. But no one with any athletic skills works in the hospital and has a desire to help out their place of employment?
Cristina is not generally a team player. She has experienced much growth over the last year or so, but still, deferring to others is not her natural inclination. Yet, in “Put Me In, Coach,” Cristina lets April (Sarah Drew) do a surgery. This impresses Teddy (Kim Raver) enough to finally get off Cristina’s back and declare her done with her education. Yes, Cristina looks and acts highly professional in the operating room. Her skills have never been in doubt. But her temperament is finally evening out with maturity. She’s not perfect, but who is? Cristina hasn’t lost her edge, exactly, but honed it better.
Alex also struggles with playing well with others on Grey’s Anatomy. At the end of last season, this costs him a lot personally, especially pertaining to his friendship with Meredith. This week, Alex works very hard to help out Meredith get her adopted child back, still trying to make up for his colossal mistake. It’s heartwarming to see him go to so much effort, though not surprising. Alex may do stupid things, but he does care. His actions in “Put Me In, Coach,” although never revealed to the hopeful parents, ingratiate him with viewers even more.
April needs to find her place in the group. Hunt accuses her of hiding behind paperwork, and others echo the sentiment. She is very good at the administrative aspects of being Chief Resident. Unfortunately, whether from fear or distraction, April is letting the surgical focus of her career slip. April has never been an easy one to pin down, but has become slowly likeable. Thus, here’s hoping that the still-floundering woman will finally get some peace and direction soon. Understanding the problem is a good start.
Meredith and Bailey’s feud is brewing, and has been ever since Meredith gets Derek’s study canned. It’s interesting just how hostile Bailey has become towards the other woman. Is this because Meredith is a former student of Bailey’s, and Bailey feels responsible for how Meredith turns out? Is it because Meredith’s actions hurt Webber (James Pickens Jr.), a close friend of Bailey’s, professionally, even if Webber has forgiven Meredith, and is satisfied with the outcome? Whatever the reason, Webber has it right by forcing the two to work together on his trial. They need to let off some steam, and Bailey needs to appreciate just how great a doctor Meredith is again. Their new partnership should be highly entertaining, as well as a catharsis.
Webber is adjusting quite well to being just another surgeon on staff. He steps up as a leader when he needs to, such as to fix Bailey and Meredith’s fight. But he also doesn’t step on Hunt’s toes. Grey’s Anatomy experiments with a non-Chief Webber before, but this season’s more permanent demotion is the best handled instance up to this point.
Owen is making a fine replacement. When Webber previously considers stepping down, the attendings squabble, and none emerge as a real leader. Derek also never feels right in the job, during his temporary tenure. But Owen is different. He’s fair. He is nice to everyone, and doesn’t play favorites, or form preferences that influence him. He has near universal respect, and people follow him without complaint. As such, he makes for a good leader, and may even end up being a better chief than Webber, as sacrilegious as it feels to write that statement.
Sloan (Eric Dane) has a new girlfriend, which sparks significant jealousy in Lexie (Chyler Leigh), much to Avery’s (Jesse Williams) dismay. Lexie does not seem serious with Avery when they begin their sexual relationship. Yet, over time, Avery gets very serious about her, and it’s almost as if Lexie will grow to feel the same. But she hasn’t, and it’s very clear in “Put Me In, Coach” that she still carries a torch for her former beau. Which is a little odd, since Mark Sloan makes many overtures to win her back, and she shoots him down repeatedly. What she is doing to both Avery and Mark isn’t fair. But that doesn’t mean many fans won’t want Lexie and Mark to work things out, myself among them. Though that happiness will now be tempered with sorrow for Avery when it ends.
With all of the other stories going on, one can be forgiven for overlooking any actual medical work that happens in Grey’s Anatomy. “Put Me In, Coach” showcases two brilliant surgeons at the top of their games, though, so it must be paid attention to. Both Callie and Derek rise far above the already high expectations placed on them by themselves and their peers in this installment. Callie fixes a hand that most surgeons could not fix because she respects artistry so much, and Derek goes for removing a tumor that other neurosurgeons will only partially treat by doing something never done before. Sometimes, it’s easy to forget what geniuses some of the main characters are. But not this week.
Grey’s Anatomy also stars Jessica Capshaw. Watch it Thursdays at 9 p.m. ET on ABC.