From Shonda Rhimes, creator and writer of "Thanks For The Memories"
Episode Airdate: 11/20/05
Writing this episode was a bit of an exercise in torture for me. Don’t get me wrong – it was fun. It’s always fun. But for the first time, the majority of our interns are outside the hospital. Which meant figuring out a way to have medical cases without having “medical cases”. How was I going to have patients? You need patients on a medical show. That’s why they call it a medical show. So I sulked. Then I lay on the floor of my office for a while and thought about running away to Italy. Then I opened my office door and told everyone that I would never write again and that my career was over. Then I ate a lot of candy. And then I came up with an idea. Enter…the turkeys.
I like to call them Turkey One and Turkey Two.
Turkey One is the bird that Burke and Izzie spend the day cooking. Did you watch the pilot episode? If you did, then you know that Burke talks George through an appendectomy. It's a pivotal scene for me, as it was the very first scene I envisioned when creating this show –- it’s essentially what started the show, the idea of one poor surgeon being labeled as “007.” That scene is called back, almost word for word, in the Thanksgiving episode. Joe and Walter bet on Izzie’s moves, Burke yells “Suction!” and, for the first time on our show, we play a song that we’ve already used before. Yep, it’s the same song from the pilot episode (a great tune by The O.A.O.T’s). What made me happy about Turkey One was that it gave us an opportunity to explore a relationship that had never really been explored on our show – Burke and Izzie. In writing the episode, I discovered how much of a gentleman Burke really is. Out of kindness, he takes over this potential turkey-making disaster and finds a way to bond with Izzie. Which tells us a couple of things about him:
1.) that he can make himself at home anywhere
2.) that he is in love with Cristina.
Because why else would he do what he does on Thanksgiving? He loves her, pure and simple. And no one can tell me otherwise. I do wonder if they’ll make it as a couple. Because, I gotta tell you, it killed me to write that Cristina would rather spend the day in the operating room than with Burke. But it was the truth and I had no choice. Just like I had no choice but to let Derek choose Addison. People will tell you I had a choice but I didn’t. Really. I promise. I’m sorry. The characters made me do it! I’M SORRY ALREADY!
On to Turkey Two. Turkey Two is the turkey that George is forced to hunt with family. I really wanted to show more family stuff in this episode because we all have families and, while we all love our families, much of the holiday time spent with our families is ruined by a lot of crap we should have gotten over when we were kids but did not. For George, that’s the idea that he’s always felt like an outsider. You can see George as a kid, can’t you? He’s the one reading a book while his brothers and Dad are watching monster truck rallies. He’s the one winning challenges with the Mathletes while his brothers are lettering in football. George is the runt of the litter and the runt of the litter always ends up feeling like the outsider. What was most important to me, though, was showing the flip side of George’s hostility. As much of an outsider as he is in their life, they are in his life. Which is what made the “Pick a Car” speech his Dad gives so nice, I think. They don’t know how to talk to him, they know he thinks they're stupid, they know he’s in a world they’ll never be in. But they try. So why can’t he? I love seeing this side of George. So much of his personality is explained in this episode. He’s a science geek raised in a family of hunting, shooting, car-talking men’s men. How could he turn out any other way? I love the moment where George is loading the truck at high speed and he takes a moment to laugh with his celebrating brothers. Because the moment his brothers turn away, George’s face turns deadly serious. He wants out of there in the worst kind of way. This is pure misery for him on a real level. Kinda makes you almost sorry you laughed at his syphilis. Almost. But not quite.
Let’s talk about Alex. He played a small but pivotal part in this episode. I like to create moments for him and Meredith. Because, in my head, they are very similar people. Even though Alex can be such an ass, even though he’s arrogant, even though he gave George the Syph. He and Meredith are both lost, both lonely, both former screw-ups who got their acts together. In another lifetime, they would be really good friends. So throughout the season, we watch them pause from time to time to look at each other and see that they are mirrors of one another.
In a lot of ways, this is really Bailey’s episode. I came up with this story line because, every once in a while, someone will meet me and underestimate me. I’m fairly round, I wear a lot of pink, I tend to forget how to talk when I’m nervous – people tend to ignore me. Which, let me tell you, pisses me off. And I thought about how that must happen to someone like Bailey all the time. She’s short, she’s cuddly cute and she doesn’t say much to strangers – she doesn’t look like you’d assume a hot shot “Nazi” surgeon would look. So the fact that this guy would assume the Nazi is a man, that Bailey might be stupid, that he can talk to her like she’s an intern…well, let the fireworks begin. What I love is that Bailey (who always lets people have it – here in the writers’ building, we call them “Bailey’s Arias”) never lets this guy have it. All she says is “Happy Thanksgiving”. And that’s more biting than any aria she could deliver.
And, oh yes, the Mer/Der of it all. I love this couple. LOVE. LOOOOOOVE. I love watching them together, I love imagining what they will say to one another, I love watching McDreamy be McDreamier than I ever McDreamed he could be. LOVE. So it’s been a little hard on me what with him choosing Addison and leaving Meredith behind. I have been suffering. (Yeah, yeah, I know it was my idea but still…can I not hurt?) What I needed was a bit of closure. A bit of a sense that Meredith was gonna be okay. And a sense that Derek would never be the same for having lost her. So, to get all metaphorical, Holden -- the sleeping patient -- is Meredith. She’s the one who woke up to find that everyone has moved on without her. She’s the one trying to figure out how to get through this. There’s that moment at the end where she tells Derek that it is good that he’s trying, that if he didn’t try, he wouldn’t be the guy she fell in love with. And she’s got these glittering tears in her eyes. She’s dying inside but she’s right. If he didn’t try to make his marriage work, he wouldn’t be McDreamy. I tried to find a way around that but that’s a fact. McDreamy would try. McDreamy would do everything he could. But she also asks Derek if he loves Addison. And Derek says “I don’t know.” Which gives us a little bit of hope. You hear that? We have a bit of hope. Okay, not hope for next week’s episode because I saw in the promos that Meredith might be kissing someone else but eventually…all my fingers and toes are crossed. Keep hope alive.
About Addison…Maybe you can try to feel a little sorry for her? See how hard she’s trying? See how much she’s suffering for her mistake? Give the woman a chance. She didn’t mean to show up and bust up our Mer/Der love. Okay, maybe she did but still…she’s a good person. And she’s no longer wearing the salmon colored scrubs.
Last thing: our bartender, Joe. Joe is gay. Now, I knew Joe was gay this whole time. I’ve known Joe was gay since I wrote his first lines. Joe has always been gay. What I wanted to do was let Joe be gay without it being a “thing”. Without having a very special coming out episode of Grey’s Anatomy. I hate "very special" episodes of things. So instead of being very special, I made it as “unspecial” as possible. Here’s Joe, here’s Joe’s boyfriend. Whatever. Moving on. It’s one piece of who Joe is as a person. There are more pieces. You’ll learn about them. In time.
Okay, I’ve rambled on and on and on. Go eat your turkey. Go be with your families and friends. Thank you for watching the show.
And Happy Thanksgiving.