TRIGGER WARNING: this post contains materials discussing domestic violence and abuse. If you are in an abusive relationship in the United States and are seeking help, please call 1-800-799-7233, or visit thehotline.org for more information.
Welcome back from hiatus! It’s been a while since I’ve done one of these, and I can’t wait to dig into this phenomenal episode with you guys. I’ve got a lot to talk about, and I know you have been waiting to read, so let’s get to it!
Season 14, episode 9: 1-800-799-7233 Written by Andy Reaser; directed by Bill D’Elia
“There are moments in the OR when everything goes to hell, and no matter how much you’ve seen, how ready you are, how much help you have, nothing can truly prepare you. You have to keep going or your patient will die. Trouble is, in these moments, every instinct in your body tells you to freeze.” -Meredith Grey
This episode. Holy shit, you guys. Give Camilla Luddington all the awards right now, please. Anyway. Let’s just jump right in!
Paul Stadler is here. And it went about as well as we thought it would. Which means it went horribly and everyone hates him and we all wish we were the ones who ran him over. But I do want to focus on him quite a bit, actually.
The first thing I want you all to do is look at those pictures. Really look at them. Look at Jo’s facial expression, what do you see? Fear, horror, shock. Now look at Paul’s face. What do you see? He’s smirking. In that scene, that very first part of the episode, we immediately see how his mind works. He’s controlling. He feeds off of Jo’s fear of him. But it’s more than facial expressions. Go back and watch the scene where they are signing divorce papers and pay attention to Jo’s body language. Look how she’s sitting. Her arms are tucked behind her, she’s stiff, she’s wide-eyed. And when he reaches out to hand her the pen, she hastily grabs the it from him and avoids eye contact for the most part. She’s terrified of this man and what he did to her. Who can blame her, though?
While I’m on this topic, Jenny’s body language was actually pretty similar to Jo’s if you think about it. She seems to fold into herself a lot, as if she’s trying to protect herself from something. When she’s with Paul, she holds onto his arm, but how much of that is of her own free-will or because she’s scared of what could happen if she doesn’t? He’s controlling. We’d be within reason if we assumed that he had previously threatened her behavior in public situations. If her body language were to show that she’s scared of him, what would that tell everyone else? Paul needs her to act like she loves him in order for his abuse to fly under everyone’s radar. It’s Paul’s game. Jo was forced to play, and now Jenny is playing.
Speaking of Jenny, we really don’t know much about her. At all. I’m thinking we’ll learn some more in the next episode, but for now, all we can assume is that she’s scared. She’s just as terrified as Jo was, and she’s staying quiet. For now.
“I thought it would be the only time, I’m sure that you did the first time, too. But he just got smarter after that. He made sure that no one could see the bruises. He would apologize and then tell me it was my fault all in one breath.”
I’m not going to type out everything Jo said to Jenny in this post, but you can watch it here if you would like:
This moment was very much a defining moment for Jo. And it has the potential to be the same for Jenny, if she let’s it become that. As soon as she sat down and began to tell her story, she took away some of Paul’s power. I actually think she did that a while ago, but this solidified it to me. While we didn’t see it, I’m sure there was a long talk between Alex and Jo about her marriage to Paul. As soon as she decided to tell someone that story, Paul’s power over her was diminished. I’m not going to say it was obliterated, because I don’t think she’s quite there yet. It’s clear she’s not there yet. She is well on her way, though. I’m not an expert in any sense on dealing with abuse, but I think the first two steps to taking yourself back from your abuser are 1) getting out, and 2) telling your story. Those are very powerful things. And now, Jo has done both.
We’re not exactly sure how long “Brooke” and Paul were together, but I’m assuming it was a few years… I’d guess no more than four, but again, that’s just a guess. In that time, Paul managed to completely strip Jo of her sense of self-worth and confidence. We saw evidence of that in this episode, (and we’ve even seen some of that in previous episodes, especially the end of season nine) the only difference is she’s gotten parts of herself back and she was able to stand up to him in ways she probably never has before. But that doesn’t mean she isn’t still terrified of Paul Stadler. That power is still in his hands. That fear is still his way of trying to control her.
And now let’s talk about Paul. And I’ve done this before and you all hated it, so that means we’re doing it again! Remember that review I wrote a while ago where I told you all to think about things from Maggie’s perspective? Yeah, we’re doing that now with Paul. If it’s too much for you, skip ahead to just below the image of Meredith and Jo. Here we go.
First of all, I want to acknowledge Matthew Morrison’s incredible acting. This is such an important storyline and he had one of the most important roles. Why? Because he, as Paul, was showing the audience what an abuser looks like. And that is this: they look like anyone. They look like successful doctors, husbands, boyfriends, “good guys.” My point is, it can be anyone. And Matt had to show that.
“I just wanted to show his own truth in his side of the story. He believes he’s the good guy, just like a lot of abusers.” -Matthew Morrison
If we take the time to really look at this from Paul’s point of view, we will see that he thinks he’s right. He truly believes that Jo screwed everything up for him. That she ruined his life. He believes that she deserved what he did to her. It’s messed up. It’s twisted. But to him, it’s the truth. Just like abusers in real life, they never think what they’re doing is wrong. Or maybe they do, but their reaction (the hitting, the kicking, the screaming, etc.) isn’t as bas as the other party’s actions. So for Paul, that means that when Jo spoke to the man sitting next to her at a dinner party, she was wrong. And then she laughed when he brought it up. And to Paul, she was so wrong for doing that that she deserved to be hit. It’s a power thing. It’s a control thing. He feeds off of it, and that’s why it just grows and grows and gets worse and worse. Paul probably got a rush, or maybe even a high off of that first slap. So he went back for more.
When “Brooke” left him and became Jo Wilson, she took that power with her. For however long, he had control over her. If she did something he didn’t like, he hurt her. Suddenly, that was gone. He had nobody to control in that way anymore, and he didn’t know how to handle that. To him, it was everything. It’s what made him powerful.
“You are torture. You are hell. You walk around and you ruin lives and no one ever stops you. They just believe you. ‘Cause why? ‘Cause you’re pretty? ‘Cause you’re sweet? Your looks will fade one day, Brooke. Your looks will fade and you’ll be left with the truth. You point fingers at everyone else around you, but you’re the monster.”
That’s Paul’s truth. That Jo is the liar. That she’s the monster. In his eyes, he is protecting people from her by hurting her. By stripping her of her own power. By beating her down until she is quiet. That’s one side of this. But the other side? The side of himself that Paul let’s people see? That’s a whole different story. To a perfect stranger, Paul Stadler would probably seem like the perfect gentleman. In fact, we saw him like that with Arizona in the beginning of the episode, and with Richard a bit later. That’s what they do. They’re master manipulators. They are so good at gaining people’s trust, especially people outside of whatever relationship is housing the abuse. And I think I know part of the reasoning behind that: it’s self-preservation. It’s a defense mechanism. He befriends the people around him––coworkers, the barista, the mailman, anyone he sees regularly––so that if and when someone speaks up about the abuse, he’s got people on his side. Or at least he thinks that means he’ll have people on his side.
We saw him try to do it with Meredith while they were in surgery. That didn’t go well for him. He acted all charming and praised her and brought up the Harper Avery and then Meredith shut him down. That’s one less person on his side. Thank God for that, right? “I’m friends with Jo Wilson” was all it took for Paul to realize that people knew exactly who he was. And I’m sure that freaked him out a little, even if he still thinks what he did to Jo was right.
“You are Jo Wilson. I know exactly who you are.”
Meredith Grey and Jo Wilson getting along. And not just that, Meredith Grey and Jo Wilson being a team. Meredith Grey believing Jo Wilson, without a shadow of doubt. Letting Jo cry on her shoulder. Being beside her. Standing with her. That is what we need to see happening. This scene reminded me of when Mer was attacked in 1209 and told Alex that she had a “whole damn village.” Now, Jo has that village. Meredith is fiercely loyal, and while their relationship has been rocky at best, I really think we’re going to see a great friendship blossom between these two pretty soon. At least, I hope that’s what happens.
And then there’s Alex Karev. He doesn’t know Brooke. He knows Jo. He loves Jo. He loves her so much and it’s so obvious. And because of his own history with living in a domestic violence situation, he’s going to be protective of Jo more so than he ever has been. Which is totally understandable. BUT. Alex is also known for being very reactive and getting himself into trouble. We already know he’s laid eyes on Paul before and managed to not kill him, so that’s a pretty good sign. And now that he’s showed up in Seattle, Alex has gone full on protective mode. Who can blame him? He did the same thing with his mom, so it wouldn’t be out of character for him to beat the hell out of Paul. But he’s grown a lot, and he knows that doing so will do nothing to help Jo. What good is he to her if he’s locked up in a prison cell? Alex’s character development is phenomenal, and I’d even go so far as to say that every moment since the pilot has lead him to this. He finally let himself totally and completely fall for someone, and now he’s faced with a challenge that could define the rest of his life, both with Jo and as an individual. So far, it’s looking like he’s handling it well, but who knows? We’ll just have to watch and see what happens, I guess.
I’m sure I could talk more about this storyline, but I’ve said enough at this point. And there’s another pretty important storyline in this episode that I want to talk about. You should know what it is. Something about a hacking and an intern shocking the doors to the blood bank and then hacking the hackers and saving the hospital? Does that ring a bell? Well, that doctor is who I want to talk about.
Dr. Casey Parker, one of the six new interns at Grey Sloan, is the man not only behind saving the entire hospital, but also saving Jackson roughly 20 million dollars. If you’ve been paying attention to the new batch of interns, you’ll know that Casey has a quick sense of humor, and he seems like the kind of guy everyone gets along with. We’ve gotten comfortable, as an audience, with this character, just like Casey has gotten comfortable with his new co-workers. And it’s because of that sense of familiarness that one line of dialogue ended up not being the most important thing about him:
“I’m a proud trans man, Dr. Bailey. But I like for people to know me before they find out my private medical history.”
Yes. Casey Parker is a transgender man. But he’s also a doctor. He’s a veteran. He’s the guy who saved Grey Sloan. He is so much more than his gender, and that’s the whole point. In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Krista Vernoff and Alex Blue Davis both talked about the importance about trans representation on television. For some reason, in society, when someone hears the word “transgender,” nothing else about that person matters anymore. All they are is transgender. That’s it. And that’s not right.
Hands down my favorite part of this storyline came with Dr. Bailey’s reaction. And I think it’s because there wasn’t much of one. When Dr. Parker came out to her, she didn’t act like it changed anything about who he was, it didn’t change anything she already knew, he’s still the same Casey Parker as he was before. He’s still the same Casey Parker she chose to hire. Only now, Bailey knows of one more piece that helps create the whole person. It was just fact. You can tell by the look on her face that she was proud of him. And I don’t think it was necessarily because he chose to come out to her. Or at least that’s not all she was proud of. She was proud of his service, both to the country and the hospital, she’s proud of him as an employee, she’s proud of him for staying true to himself. And she’s probably proud that he’s comfortable enough in their professional relationship that he felt safe coming out to her. Just look at her face. I love that picture. I feel like Bailey’s reaction embodies what everyone hopes for in a reaction when they choose to come out. Whether it’s a family member, a friend, or a boss.
My only criticism with this storyline is when they chose to use it. I feel like the main focus of this episode was the story between Jo and Paul, and because of that, most of the headlines on Friday focused on that. Part of me feels like it may have overshadowed the importance of having accurate representation of transgender men on television. However, in saying that, I did realize something. But first, watch this interview with Alex and Krista.
Now that you’ve seen that, (and now that I’ve seen that) I’m about to undermine my own criticism here. I think it’s important to be able to do that because it shows that you can think from more than one perspective, and that’s an important quality to have. Anyway. That’s my life lesson for today.
I said that I felt like the domestic violence storyline overshadowed Casey’s storyline. However, I also think that may have been the point. I just spent several minutes writing about how Casey’s gender identity is not the most important thing about him, so why should that fact be the main focus and/or the most important thing in an episode?
And now I get it. And I think it makes it that much better. See? This is what happens when you look at things from a new perspective. It’s good for you.
Before I go, there are a few more things I want to talk about. First up, that Jackson and Maggie scene. I’m not sure if it was just me or not, but something about them being stuck in a steamy shower room with no access to scrubs felt more like a fanfic than an actual episode. You all know how I feel about the possibility of a Jackson/Maggie relationship happening, and that has not changed. I’m just not about that being a thing. But I do like them together as friends. When I think of them being together romantically, I feel about as pukey as I do when I think about Meredith and Alex being together romantically.
Just look at that. What show is this? Are they having a spa day? A Croatian retreat? It was kind of fun though, because we did learn a little more about Jackson and Maggie’s pasts. I’m not a fan of them being a couple, and I’m pretty confident I’ll never want that to happen, but I’m really enjoying their little chats about their childhoods. Especially Maggie’s childhood. I’m really interested to see how she was raised by her parents versus how Meredith was raised by Ellis. And another thing: Maggie and Jackson always talk about the possibility of them having been in the same place at the same time in Boston, but what about Meredith? Her and Ellis lived there, too. What if she and Maggie ran into each other? What if Ellis ran into Diane and Maggie? What if Jackson and Meredith were in the same class at school? These are all questions I have now. A flashback of that would be epic and I hadn’t even thought of it happening until I typed it. This would also be a great excuse to get Sarah Paulson as young Ellis back on screen, and I’ll never say no to that happening.
I also need to say this: I really love Dr. Levi Schmitt, affectionately referred to as “Glasses.” He reminds me so much of George O’Malley, and I’ve always loved him and I’m still not over that bus incident. I’m never going to be over that, by the way. The scene with him (Glasses) and Meredith in the OR was more of that classic Grey’s humor coming through, and I always love when they get that in there. Ellen and Jake have such a fun chemistry together, and I really hope we get to see them working together more. Who knows? Maybe Meredith will take him under her wing and we’ll get even more. It could happen.
Also: I’m telling myself that Meredith was on the phone with Cristina in that last scene because that makes me happy and it would also make her happy. This wasn’t important, but I wanted to put it in here because I always have to mention Cristina in some way.
Before I go, I want to share my own crazy prediction to the question everyone is asking: Who ran over Paul? Here’s what I think (and what I hope) happened: Jenny confronted him and he got defensive. Maybe even pushed her and she fell into the street? I said it was crazy, don’t look at me like that. Anyway. He pushed her and then “saved her” so that he would get the hero badge. How do you tell people that the man who just saved your life is beating you? That’s what he’s thinking, at least. And that’s as far as I’m taking my prediction. If you’ve got a crazy theory about who ran over Paul, leave it in the comments! I’d love to hear them!
And as always, we’ll end with the closing monologue:
“So what do we do when instinct tells us to freeze? When we can’t see the right answer? In those moments, it’s usually a good idea to trust the instinct and take pause. Because decisions made in the heat of the moment can ruin a whole lot of lives.” -Meredith Grey
See you back here for “Personal Jesus!”