Season 14, episode 7: Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story
(Written by Krista Vernoff; Directed by Debbie Allen)

You guys. I really had to sit on this review longer than I would’ve liked simply because I was SOOOOOO emotional. And for the first time in Grey’s Anatomy history, it wasn’t because I was sad. I was over the moon happy. This may be the most satisfying episode of Grey’s ever. Seriously. 

So, Krista told all of us that this episode was nostalgic. She warned us. And she was right. This is probably one of my favorite episodes of television. Ever. Possibly coming in second only to the pilot. I’m really not even sure how to start this review, so I’m just going to start talking. 

“Surgeons are scientists, trained to believe only in that which we can see and touch. But that training doesn’t always take.” ––Meredith Grey

Image courtesy of ABC

They didn’t waste a beat getting an Easter egg for us to find in there. You’ve probably seen most of these on Twitter already, but I’m still going to go through them… what else would I talk about? Anyway. Young Folks played in episode 306, and a new cover from The Wind + The Wave kicked off the big 300 last night. Easter egg #1: check. And they were on a ferryboat. A real one. In Seattle. Another check mark.

And the little bit of dialogue between Alex and Meredith on the boat made me think Meredith had been visiting Derek, but I’m not exactly sure if that’s right or if I’m reading too much into things. But it did sound like that’s what was going on. 

How was it? Was he happy for you?

No. He was jealous. 

And then Alex mentions that everyone is jealous, that it’s a Harper Avery. Which means the “he” in question is some kind (or was some kind) of doctor. It would also explain the ferryboat. Derek loved them so much, it seems appropriate that he would be buried somewhere out of the city, where you need to take a boat. I have no idea if this is true or not, but it’s a nice thought, so I’m going to stick with that. 

Easter egg #3: the tunnels. This was such a pilot scene right here. Wow. It looked exactly like it. I honestly felt like I had just been sucked back in time; this felt like season one to me, not season 14. And that wasn’t the only egg in the scene, either. Remember in the pilot when George jumped off the gurney and ran off and fell? Glasses did that too. He even looked like T.R. if all you can see is scrub pants and tennis shoes. (Look, I miss T.R. so much, I’ll do anything to convince myself he’s still here.

Image courtesy of ABC

Alex and Meredith walking down the catwalk was another trip down memory lane. This location hasn’t been used as much in recent seasons as in the past, but this scene brought all those feels back. It’s really special when a set turns into a character in itself, and this hospital? Definitely a character. And that catwalk? Also a character. On a personal note, it’s really cool for me to see it used now because I’ve been there, so there’s that. And yeah, all of our docs love a good trauma, this one came at a perfect time for Meredith to not have to get on a plane. I can’t say that I blame her, though. 

Linda Lowy really hit the nail on the head with casting these three. I mean… seriously? And I also have to shoutout Mimi Melgaard here too, because even their outfits played off the outfits of George, Izzie and Cristina from the pilot. Everything about this scene was perfect. Including some old cast members: Paramedics Nicole and Ray. And right as Baby Izzie starts to speak, we hear it. Cosy in the Rocket starts to play and all the old Grey’s fans lost their shit. Me included. And then we got the opening credits too? With the shoes and the medical instrument tray and the people on the gurney… *wipes a tear* Sidenote: have we ever been told whose feet those are? Because I’ve been asking that question since 2005. 

*I’m going to stop numbering all the Easter eggs I mention, because my last count was almost 50 and we don’t have that kind of time. You can just start to assume that anything I talk about from now on, is an egg. And also different from usual, we’re going chronologically tonight. 

In episode 206, we saw two people roll through stuck on a pole. They couldn’t separate them because the pole was exactly what kept them from bleeding out. And now we’ve got Baby Cristina and Baby George in a very similar predicament, only this time, it’s a rollercoaster cart. But those two weren’t the only patients brought in who held eerie similarities to former doctors. Amelia was working on a man who saved kids, who presented with a splenic lac, and who couldn’t speak. Sound familiar yet? In the episode that shall not be named, one of our favorites was in this exact situation. 

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Image courtesy of ABC

And then Alex starts to describe real Izzie using baby Izzie, and Jo looks at him like he’s crazy. I’m thinking she’s trying to picture him with someone who could be called “perky,” and it’s funny to her. And Jo also says “seriously,” to which Alex responds, “please don’t say that word.” Alex is freaked out, y’all. And then he stutters his way through an update on Baby Cristina and Baby George (I’ll start using their actual names: Cleo and Greg). This whole time, we’re hearing another musical blast from the past, with a cover of They. This song showed up in the pilot: Izzie’s doing rectal exams, George is failing at inserting an IV, and Meredith is lost with Katie. And then Baby Izzie passes out, Alex catches her and it’s all very 227. Alex picked real Izzie up off Denny’s bed and carried her, exactly like he did here. Woah. Baby Izzie also attached herself to Alex which brought back Jane Doe/Ava/Rebecca Pope memories. And her birthing partner was Greg. Because of course it was, duh! 

Once Greg and Cleo were freed from the rollercoaster cart, it’s discovered that Cleo has a pretty nasty puncture wound situation happening. Easter egg #19: Cristina’s ice cycle in season five. It wasn’t exactly the same, but enough was there for us to draw that parallel. Those are my favorites, actually. The ones that aren’t glaringly obvious, the ones you have to hunt a little harder to find, those are the best. Cleo also talks about Meredith (surgical royalty) the way Cristina talked about Ellis in the pilot.

Greg/Baby George feels really guilty about his friends being hurt. He tells Bailey and Webber that it was his idea to go to the carnival, and that they wouldn’t be in this situation if it wasn’t for him. And for some reason, that made me think of George’s own death. Just like Greg’s decision ended up getting him hurt, George’s decision to step in front of that bus ended up killing him. That’s another one of those subtle parallels I was talking about, and I didn’t catch this one the first time. Or the second time. But I did catch it the third time, and then that scene made me tear up a little, not going to lie. 

And what I’m about to say could get me in some hot water with some people, but I’m saying it anyway because it’s my blog and I can say what I want. Sam Billo and DeLuca are highkey reminding me of season one Meredith and Derek. Not because their stories are in any way alike, but the way they’re trying to avoid each other and then ending up with their pants down? Does that not sound like something we’ve seen before? Ok. Moving on. 

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“He was in my head. He saved this guy. He was that good.” ––Amelia Shepherd

I love how this scene played out. As soon as I saw this patient, I knew it’d be the ghost of Derek coming back, and the story was told in such a smart way. For one, there was no anger with it, which would’ve been really easy to do. Instead, Amelia took it and learned, she did better than Derek’s doctors did, and she saved a life because of that. I also want to point out something else I caught here, and it has to do with Amelia’s word choice (which is really Krista’s word choice): “He was in my head. He saved this guy. He was that good.” Amelia has been terrified of what’s in her head lately. Brain tumors will do that to you, I’d say. But this? This thing in her head? It’s not a bad thing. It’s Derek teaching her, it’s her not missing the signs, it’s them saving a life. Together.  

“You think I’m taking it for granted? I’m not taking anything for granted. I want that award so bad I could pick you up and throw you out a window. Especially right now because my best friend’s image is splayed out in front of me. Cristina Yang is the only one who gets just how badly I want that award.” ––Meredith Grey

Yeah. Cristina does know. I mean, the fact that she couldn’t win a Harper Avery while employed by Grey Sloan was one of the reasons she took off to Switzerland. That and the promise of her own chocolate factory. 

And then we were attacked by Mark Sloan’s ghost. We also learned that Capshaw does a pretty decent impression of Eric Dane, too. She may be telling this story to Baby Izzie to keep her calm, but I’m pretty confident that she’s doing it for herself too.

Now, if you read my tribute post yesterday, you know how much I LOVE the song Keep Breathing. Yeah. That came back up in this episode. And you can bet I’ve already added this version (it’s by Congratulationz and yes, it’s on Spotify) to my playlist. The first time we heard this, Meredith was cutting Cristina out of her wedding dress. This time, Zola is comforting Maggie. I just––I just want to curl up in a corner and cry, you guys. Come on.

“You wanna know what my mom would say? She would say, ‘even though your mom’s not here, she’s always with you.'”––Zola Grey-Shepherd

And one more thing about this scene. It’s another one of those super hidden Easter eggs… I think we’re at #31 according to my notes. Zola pointing out arteries with Maggie really threw me back to Meredith at 5 years old carrying around Anatomy Jane everywhere she went. It’s like the 21st century, cutting edge, version of that. Like mother, like daughter!

Richard and Bailey’s conversation about saving “this O’Malley” reminded me of Richard in “The Room Where it Happens” last season. I know Krista said she focused on the originals and the episodes she was there for, but I need to mention this. In 1309, we learned that Richard makes up someone good––a life for his patients. Something that makes him work even harder to save them. He uses his mom. He couldn’t save her, but as Meredith pointed out to him that episode, he’s saved her so many times after. That’s kind of what he’s doing now with George, I think. 

Image courtesy of ABC

“She’s married with three kids, and she lives somewhere, I think, kinda woodsy. She’s a surgeon, she goes to work everyday, and she refuses to hire help so her house is always a mess. And it has Christmas decorations all over it because she won’t let her husband take them down. It smells like muffins, and she’s smiling. When I picture her, she’s always smiling.” ––Alex Karev

I’ll be the first to admit this: I wasn’t the biggest fan of Izzie. I love her and I miss her, but she wasn’t my favorite. But this? Round three of Jordyn in tears. The fact that Alex has made up this whole story about Izzie, I think, just shows how much he did love her. It’s kind of like his own “miracle dream.” He doesn’t want to call her because he knows that may shatter the dream. He wants her to be happy, he wants her to be smiling, he wants her to be loved by someone as much as he loves Jo. And that’s big of him. Izzie nearly broke him when she left, but Alex has grown and matured a lot since then. He sees the world differently now, and he knows that it’s not worth holding these grudges. He’s happy and he wants her to be happy. Simple as that. 

And now the moment I’ve been waiting to write about since last night; my favorite Grey’s Anatomy moment EVER: Meredith Grey winning her Harper Avery while surrounded with the people that she loves. I’m going to cry while I type, I can feel it. 

Yep. I’m crying. But I’m going to push through. It’s not helping that I’m listening to the same cover of Such Great Heights right now either. I’m actually sitting in the library on campus right now and people are staring at the girl with headphones on who is quietly sobbing in the corner, but this is fine. Back to the point. I feel like I have to put Jackson’s speech in here because I have so much to say about it. (If you know it by heart already like me, skip down a little!) 

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Image courtesy of ABC

“Knowing very well that she might win tonight, Dr. Grey opted to stay in Seattle. A trauma came in and she knew that she was the right doctor for the job. That’s one of the many reasons that I’m so very, very proud to call her my colleague and my friend. Now, Dr. Grey has experienced more loss in her life than I think most of us would deem fair. She lost her little sister, Lexie Grey, who I know would love to be here tonight with us. She lost her husband, Dr. Derek Shepherd, who knew with total certainty that this night would happen. And she also lost her mother, Dr. Ellis Grey, who won this award twice, once as a resident, and probably would’ve won a few more if she hand’t been taken from all of us so young. The most amazing thing about Meredith, though, is that she takes all that pain, all that loss, and she turns it into drive. Drive to save lives, to make things better. And despite all that she’s lost, she continues to find joy in her work; as a surgeon, as a teacher, as a mother. That she managed to share that joy through her spirit of discovery, and of possibility, and of hope, right in the face of darkness, I am profoundly grateful for the lessons that I have learned from Meredith Grey. And it is my distinct honor to accept this award on her behalf. Congrats, Meredith!” ––Jackson Avery

Ok. Now I can talk about that. It was on hell of a speech, that’s for sure. And I’ve balled my eyes out every time I’ve heard it. First of all, Krista has been saying that this episode is a love letter to the fans who have been around for 14 years, and this speech was exactly that. The way Jackson Avery talked about Meredith is the same way I talk about Meredith. It felt so good to see that emotion acknowledged on-screen because I’m too used to people dismissing my feelings on these characters. I can’t tell you the number of times I’m told, “they’re just fictional characters, they’re not even real,” or “get over yourself,” but this? This was all of my feelings put out there for everyone. I’m sure it’s not just me, but this was personal. And I can’t thank Krista enough for giving me that. 

And as if I haven’t cried enough in the past 24 hours over this episode, now I have to write about the moment that made me redefine the “ugly cry.” Proof:

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Ellis Grey. I do want to say though, the surprise was short-lived for me because I did catch Kate Burton’s name in the opening credits, which I know really upset Krista. But I don’t think it took away too much from her being there, and I also know a lot of people missed her name. You all have to know by now how much I love Ellis. I love talking about her, I love watching her, I LOVE HER. And since I’ve seen tons of people talking about what this award means for Meredith, I want to talk about what it would’ve meant to Ellis. 

Ellis was a medical titan in the way Shonda Rhimes is a TV titan. Badass, fearless, the smartest person in the room. And she knew it. She was so sure of everything. Except for Meredith. I really think having a daughter terrified her more than anything ever had… more than anything ever would. She wasn’t hard on Meredith because she hated her; I really think Ellis loved Mer very much, and that’s why she was so, so hard on her. She wanted Meredith to be the best, to be better than her. She just had a twisted way of showing that. Ellis lived in a time where women didn’t have powerful careers, and they certainly didn’t have powerful careers and a child. It just didn’t happen. And she was really insecure about that. Who wouldn’t be? She raised Meredith to be tough as nails, because she had to be tough as nails. And it worked. Meredith is tough as nails.

I’d give anything to bring Ellis back to life to see Meredith win a Harper Avery, but I guess I’ll just settle with ghost-Ellis being there instead. The fact that Meredith won this award, the fact that she won it as a single mother to three young children nonetheless, proves that Ellis did her job. Meredith learned more from Ellis after her death than while she was alive, but part of me thinks that’s even more powerful. She grew into her mother’s teachings, she took them as she needed them, and look where it got her. I’ve been saying it for years, but Meredith Grey? You are extraordinary. And Ellis is saying the same thing, wherever she is.

Ok, phew. I cried that entire time. It took me an hour to get through that part. Moving on.

Sofia is home! And she misses Callie. And Arizona misses Callie. Everyone misses Callie. And everyone misses Mark. Maybe I should’ve taken Arizona’s approach here and eaten three different flavors of ice cream. That definitely would’ve helped me out.

Meredith trying to point out the similarities between Cleo and Cristina to Owen was actually pretty funny. Owen didn’t see it, Mer offered to text Burke, but then Owen said what we all know to be true: 

“Meredith, there’s no one like Cristina. No one.” ––Owen Hunt

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Image courtesy of ABC

And then we’re are literally sucked back in time. Again. But this scene more than any, if you ask me. Not only is Rilo Kiley’s Portions for Foxes playing (that was the first song ever on Grey’s BTW!) but Meredith, Alex and Cristina (via phone) were back in the tunnels. As much as I wish Ellis Grey were here, I wish Cristina were here just as much… maybe even a little more. But at least she’s alive and can share this moment with her person. I cried again during this scene. Actually, the entire last 10 minutes were spent in tears for me. And for once, they weren’t tears of grief. I was overjoyed with things. All of my favorite characters, these people who are now my family, we were all standing on the moon. Cheers to that!

“Scientist or not, most of us who’ve been at this a while are forced to acknowledge the mysteries of life. We are forced to acknowledge that a certain kind of magic exists and that history and memory and the ghosts of our past are sometimes just as tangible as anything we can hold in our hands.” ––Meredith Grey

And that’s all! I know there are more Easter eggs that I didn’t talk about, but I feel like I hit all the big ones. I’ll see you all back here next week for the final review of 2017!




  1. I just love it when people pay attention and analyze the characters right. I personally never liked Izzie as a character much and I wasn’t the biggest fan of her relationship with Alex either because he is my favorite and it felt very one-sided at times to me. The way she left just made things worse. Like you wrote, she nearly broke him. The fact that he can now speak of her so positively when in season 9 he thought he was responsible for ruining every woman he came close to? I’m giving most of the credit to Jo here. She came into his life during a dark time when his friends were busy with the lawsuit, when he felt guilty over Arizona losing her leg, and when he had been single for so long that he was too scared to tell Jo that he had developed feelings for her because his relationships always ended in a disaster. Plus, he could relate to her in ways he had never been able to relate to anyone because she was a foster child once too. He didn’t want to lose her friendship, especially during a time she was almost his only friend. They’ve been in love for 5 years now and they never stopped loving each other. At times it was even sadly Alex himself who wasn’t the best boyfriend to her when Jo had been there for him through it all, especially the Jimmy thing. I couldn’t understand why Alex was acting like that back then, but kudos to Krista Vernoff for making him this caring and attentive boyfriend again this season. That’s the real Alex Karev, he would do anything for the woman he loves, and Jo loves him so much that she deserves his love the most. What I loved about his speech about Izzie is that there’s no trace of bitterness there anymore. He’s not wondering what if they could have worked things out or why it all went wrong, he’s not blaming himself or her for it anymore. He has moved on, he sees now that despite how much he loved her, they weren’t meant to last and that maybe they just weren’t right for each other. Jo makes him so happy now that all he can hope for is that Izzie is as happy as he is. No hard feelings between them anymore. I think it was the best kind of closure they could give Alex and Izzie without Katherine Heigl returning. And it was done in a way that was respectful to all parties. In my humble opinon Jo has showed Alex so much over and over again how deeply she loves him, more than most females do on the show with their partners, that she deserves to be called the one for him. AAnd Krista managed to do it indirectly and subtly without disrespecting Izzie. And managed to make Alex think of Izzie without disrespecting Jo. I truly liked that part last episode and I was very happy to read that you came to the same conclusion because it’s honestly rare to read these kind of reviews that are so spot on. Especially with Alex people often twist the things he says or does into things they want to hear, and as an Alex fan I always get annoyed. Because no, he’s not secretly in love with Meredith who is like a sister to him even if he doesn’t call her that, or no, he’s not still pining after Izzie, he’s in love with Jo and he has been in love with her since 9×14 when she stole him donuts. Not everyone has to like that but it’s the truth. And I for one am glad that this season their relationship is finally being focused on again after 3 years of neglect.

    Liked by 1 person

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