By Brianne Moore
Today the folks at Seattle Grace Mercy West decided to play a little game of “what if?” and who hasn’t played that at least once in their lives? In this case, making a few ‘different choices’ as Meredith puts it makes everyone’s lives drastically different. Meredith, for instance, has been raised in a stable household by her mom (who does not have Alzheimer’s and is the chief of surgery) and her stepfather, Richard. The lack of a scarring childhood has turned Meredith into the kind of pink-wearing, glossy-haired girly girl who would squeal over her new engagement ring with BFF April Kepner. And who’s the lucky man? Alex, whose different choices include unfortunate hipster glasses and an obnoxiously cheerleader-y attitude. Cristina’s still a misanthropic rock star, so she’s not too different, though she has terrible hair and everyone hates her for apparently driving Burke away. She and Meredith do not get along.
On the attendings’ side: Callie is, rather inexplicably, head of cardio, wife of Hunt, and mother to a passel of kids. Hunt’s trying (poorly) to hide his PTSD from everyone; Derek and Addison are still miserably married and she’s pregnant—but not with his baby; Bailey is completely unable to stand up for herself or speak up under any circumstances, even allowing Ellis to steal her whipple surgery; and Sloan is nowhere to be found until the very end of the episode, when he brings in Lexie after she ODs.
Yes, that’s right, Lexie’s probably the most drastically different of all, having been rewritten as a junkie who’s overdosed so many times she’s basically destroyed her heart. This isn’t really a matter of different choices so much as a complete character 180. Going from perky surgeon to thieving, angry junkie, even after you lose both parents? That’s quite a leap.
The episode was more about fantasy and less about the cases: Ellis had her whipple, which goes poorly because the patient has a history of deep vein thrombosis, rendering the vein she wanted to use for the procedure unusable. Derek and Addison argue their way through a surgery on a newborn with a neck tumor, and Cristina and Meredith clash over a heart patient whom they’re both operating on because Callie has absolutely no spine at all and refused to just assign one of them to the case. The girls later bond while shocking Lexie’s heart, though, and Cristina teaches Meredith the fine art of taking a tequila shot, which I’m pretty sure even a well-adjusted Meredith would have learned in college, or at least somewhere else before she hit her late 20’s.
Despite these different paths, some characters just can’t help but come together in the end. Meredith and Cristina, Cristina and Hunt, Callie and Arizona. And although this alternate universe isn’t great—aside from everything else, Ellis is still cold, self-centered, and unloving, her joyless rule over the hospital illustrated by the dull, gray scrubs everyone wears (heh, get it? Ellis Grey, gray scrubs?)—there’s still some good amidst the bad: the horrible hospital shooting apparently never happened, probably because Ellis managed to deflect the bullets with her many Harper Avery awards.
It’s a fun game to play, What If (although I thought it made for a less-than-exciting episode that did nothing to advance any of the plot). Have you ever played it? How do you think your life would be different if you’d made a few different choices?