Season 13, episode 16: Who Is He (And What Is He to You?) (Written by Elisabeth Finch)
Ok, so last night we all saw #JaprilTheSequel and I’m sure there were squeals all across the country. It was really weird hearing Jackson doing the VO but it’s a bubble episode, what do you expect? Here it is:
“Freezing. Choking. Getting tongue tied. It’s what we call it when your mind goes from brilliant to blank. You can prepare all you want, but the feeling can still hit you out of nowhere. So when it hits you, when your mind shuts down, when you open your mouth and no words come out, the good news is, it happens to all of us.” -Jackson Avery
The first scene we see is Jackson and Catherine in the car on the way to their plane. (Of course they have a plane, duh.) There’s obviously a hidden conversation happening. They’re not talking about the patient and if you missed that the first time, go watch it again. I’d really like to see some Robert Avery/Catherine Avery flashbacks after watching this episode because I just cannot seem to picture them EVER being together, let alone married. Also, when Catherine said that Zola had the flu so Meredith had to stay home, I just wanted to scream at the TV because we haven’t seen those kids in so long. Zola probably has her permit by now. And of course, Jackson and April are not on good terms so this last minute switch-a-roo is not going to go over well with him.
I don’t want to talk too much about the basic, surface level plot for this episode because I took my notes differently and I really want to dive into Jackson in this review. But there are some plot points I want to mention before we do that:
- When Jackson talks about being a dad and losing Samuel, April really didn’t like that, which I get. She may not be comfortable talking about that with patients, but it’s Jackson’s life too and he can use that to connect with parents. In this case, with the donor’s father, it worked.
- I’ve been trying to figure out a significance to the name “Jefferson Grill” (the diner Jackson’s father works at) for a while now, and I just can’t think of one, so if you have any ideas on that, leave a comment!
- When April figures out that she’s talking to Robert Avery, her face immediately changes and Jackson’s behavior is, maybe not explained or excused, but understood. She goes back into that role of being there for him, even when he acts like he doesn’t need it. I’ve missed seeing that side of Jackson and April. Not just as a couple, but as the friends they’ve been since season six.
Now, to switch things up a little, and maybe get more analytical than I tend to do on here, let’s wade through Jackson’s mind. I think the major theme of this episode has to do with promises. Jackson promising his patient’s moms a solution. Jackson’s promise to Harriet as her dad. Robert breaking his promise to Jackson… the list could go on forever and we don’t have that kind of time.
Do you all remember that VO from season six, right after George dies, when Meredith describes the stages of grief? Yeah, that’s what we’re going to do now.
*remember that these stages do not go in order, necessarily. So as I discuss them, the sequence won’t be exactly linear, so hang with me.
DENIAL Right from the start of this episode, Jackson is denying the real reason he’s going to Montana. Sure, Caroline was too unstable to move, BUT we all know she’s not the only reason he went. Even Catherine knows it. Later on in the episode, he denies the fact that he even needs to have the conversation with his father. That scene with April in the hotel bedroom where they’re just talking, that’s the conversation he is denying. Maybe denial isn’t exactly the right word, I think he wants to say those things but just didn’t know how… not until April forces him. There’s also some denial on Robert’s part, too. He’s clearly denying the fact that he up and left Jackson, he picks up like he was away for the weekend, not the better part of 30 years.
ANGER You know how some people get fun and giggly when they’re drunk? Jackson Avery is the other kind of drunk. He’s at the diner, of course he knows that it’s his father waiting on him, but April doesn’t. She has no idea what’s going on, poor thing. Jackson has been talking out his anger on her for so long now I’m surprised she hasn’t snapped. I also think I mentioned this in the last review, but Jackson seems to be angrier than situations deem lately and I think we finally figured out why. Because trust me, coming from someone in a very similar paternal parent situation, this is not something you just do without thinking long and hard about it first, and that thought process is draining and can get very upsetting.
BARGAINING This stage was the only one I had some trouble seeing in Jackson. The first scene I noticed some bargaining was when April calls him out on his reasoning. She knows why he came now and she wants him to face it, and there goes Jackson, attempting to bargain his way out of doing what he came to do. I also noticed some on Robert’s side as well, actually it’s much more blatant in his case. He’s bargaining with Jackson. He’s offering him small talk over chicory coffee as if that is a fair trade for what he did all those years ago.
DEPRESSION I feel like this has been a long time coming. Especially since Jackson and April fell apart after losing Samuel. Jackson didn’t get to choose to not be in Samuel’s life, there was nothing he could do. Robert chose to walk out and not be in Jackson’s life. As someone who is in the same boat with the “sperm donor,” I totally get that feeling. (Not the losing my own kid part because I don’t have kids but the other half, totally get it.) He has been pushing everyone away for a long time. He isn’t allowing anyone to be there for him. Part of me also wonders if he holds any blame on his mom for the whole situation… that can happen. If that is the case, that can also make him feel guilty because it’s his mom; she’s the one who was there, who had the birthday cards, who came to graduation.
ACCEPTANCE Going back to the scene of Jackson and April talking (right after that ADORABLE FaceTime with Harriet) about his father. “You good?” That’s the moment I think Jackson starts to accept that his father isn’t actually his father. He finally figured out, or at least got closer to figuring out the answer to a question he’s been asking his whole life. The reunion with April!!!! (WHICH I TOTALLY CALLED IN A REVIEW FROM A FEW WEEKS AGO, I’ll attach a screenshot for proof) I think this was both of them accepting that they still love each other despite everything they’ve put the other through and everything they have gone though together. And the last scene, Jackson and Catherine, I LOVED that scene, I feel like it’s the first time we’ve ever seen Jackson and his mom have a awwwwww moment. Everyone in America said that, did you hear it? He finally accepts that she knows what he needed and that she was right. Mother knows best, right?
So there you have it, the five stages of grief featuring Jackson Avery. BUT while I was taking these notes, I asked myself, does Jackson have anything to grieve? Do I have anything to grieve? Like Jackson, my father left, though he left before I was even born. So I asked myself this question multiple times: what do we have to grieve? The idea of a father? A man who chose to leave his kid? All of the time we lost with them? I don’t really have the answer to that; not for me and not for Jackson.
Just one more thing (and this one is fun so keep reading you’re almost finished!) I noticed in this episode. THERE WERE EXTRA FORTUNE COOKIES!!!! April still has a thing for them apparently, but this time she refrained from hurling them at Jackson’s head. Maybe that’s why they had makeup sex? Fortune cookies seem to do that to them…
And, like always, I will wrap it up with the closing VO:
Freezing. Choking. Getting tongue tied. There’s a reason it happens. We lose our words because the stakes are so high and we have so much to lose. We’re petrified of saying too much or saying it wrong when the truth is, the only wrong thing you can say is nothing at all.” -Jackson Avery