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Joan Rater is "Wishin' and Hopin'"

Original Airdate: 2-1-07

So … Tony, my writing partner who also happens to be my husband had brain surgery last year.  He’s fine.  Totally fine.  But it was brain surgery and there was a chance that he wasn’t going to be fine.  And Tony has a good brain.  The kind of brain that remembers everything.  And I mean, everything – names, dates, entire casts of television shows from the 70’s.  His whole family is scary smart, trivia contest winning smart, and even they acknowledge the superiority of Tony’s Brain.  So, when Tony was about to have his head cut open we were all worried about Tony’s Brain.  What if it isn’t the same?  Who is he if he isn’t the guy who knows everything?

During this time, I discovered something about my brain.  Stress - especially the stress of having a husband about to have a craniotomy - makes me forgetful.  The name of my kid’s teacher would suddenly elude me.  The lyrics to a song.  I’d go upstairs to get something but forget what I was there for.  There was one day, a few days before his surgery, where I was standing at an ATM unable to remember my PIN number.  The PIN number I’ve had for 10 years, the one I punch in without thinking everyday.  I needed money for parking but my secret code eluded me.  So I had to call a friend to bring me money.  I knew it was just the stress of the surgery, but still, while I waited on a street corner for my friend, I felt frustrated and embarrassed. 

I tell you these things about Tony’s surgery and my stressed out brain because those scary, frustrated feelings were on my mind a lot when I was writing this episode. This episode was obviously about a lot of things, but for me, it was really about Alzheimer’s disease.  How devastating it is to families, how it turns spouses and children into caretakers, how it robs people of their memory, their identity.
The concept of someone with this disease having a lucid day is real.  The disease varies for everyone, but experts we talked to said that patients have bad days and good days and then sometimes they have great days where it seems like they are their old selves.  Maybe it’s a moment, maybe an hour, for some a whole afternoon, but we were fascinated with the idea of getting this time, this gift, and knowing that it’s only temporary.  What would you do with that one day?  And what would it mean for Meredith? 

The words “ELLIS HAS A LUCID DAY” have been up on the board in the writers’ room since last season.  We knew it was a cool idea - what it would mean for Mer and Ellis to be able to connect again – but we never really knew what to do with it.  I can’t tell you the number of times we’ve tried to put it in episodes but it never felt quite right.  If you’re going to give Meredith her mother back and then take her away again, you’d better have a pretty good reason.   Last season Meredith had her hands full with the Derek/Finn of it all.  The beginning of this season was so much about the aftermath of Denny.  But now it feels to me like the interns are entering a new period, a period that is really about identity.  Who are they as surgeons?  Can they have a life and a career?  Can they be happy?  Meredith is … or at least she should be. She and Derek are together and she finally has a chance at happiness.    Perfect time for her mother to show up. 

I really mean that.  Not because the writers love to torture poor Meredith, but seriously, if Meredith is ever going to be happy she’s got to deal with the fact that she had a really terrible childhood.   

On the set, when we were shooting the scene where Ellis Meredith what happened to her -- and tells her how disappointing it is that Meredith turned out so ordinary -- after the first take when the amazing Kate Burton really just went all Ellis Grey on Meredith, there was this silence. It was so awful and raw and ugly, these terrible things Ellis was saying.  And the silence was broken by someone on the crew who said, “Oh, now I get all the drinking and the sex with inappropriate men.” And it was cathartic to be on the set when Meredith finally stood up to her and said,  “You want to know why I’m so ordinary?  What happened to me?  You.  You happened to me.”  I think Ellen’s work in this episode, especially in that scene, is exceptional.

And then finally, Ellis and Richard.  With him she lets her guard down and we see her be vulnerable.  And when she tells Richard that she wishes she could do things differently, she made so many mistakes, if she could do it all over, she’d be fine with being happy, like Meredith says she’s happy, that she’d be satisfied to just be ordinary … Shonda took the final pass on that scene, and the actors did a remarkable job with it. It gets me everytime I watch it.

Because that’s really what it’s all about.  We have to cherish the time that we have here, and love the people who surround and support us, even if they make us crazy.  Because things happen.  Brain surgery, and Alzheimer’s and weddings.  And the worst thing is to come to the end of your life and realize, like Ellis, that you should have tried harder.

I know this isn’t an ordinary blog – there’s so much that happened in this episode that I didn’t talk about.  But this wasn’t an ordinary episode.  And I just wanted to give you a little window into what I was thinking about when I wrote it.



I'm so glad that you talked about the whole Alzheimer's episode, and I really liked your intro... I'm glad your husband is okay, for both our sakes and for yours.

I hope that Mer/Der can work through some of the things that Ellis said to both of them, and I'm glad that Mer had a chance to tell her momm the surgery even if her mom wasn't there anymore... You guys did an excellent job as always... can't wait for the Podcast!

I Love it!

It made me cry, it made me laugh, it made me proud, it made unable to stop talking about it since it ended! Absolutely fantastic writing and acting as well. Another job so very well done... Cannot wait unitl next Thursday!

Concerned fan

Please tell me that you guys are going to redeem Izzie after her behavior in this episode. I think you wrote too much into the extreme, and borderline out of character. I know some characters are used as tools, but seriously enough is enough. Start progressing her character. I love that she is progressing career wise with the clinic, but she needs to progress in other areas.


Kate Burton deserves an Emmy, Golden Globe, whatever for her performance on last nights performance. Absolutely brillant!

O.K. now I loved the Addison drooling over Alex and then going to bed with McSteamy - "I am not thinking about you, right ...now" Hysterical.

Gearge has testes again Yeah!!! Callie O'Malley - who thought to torture the poor woman with that?

I love Preston Burke!
I did not like Izzie's character in this epi at all but Miranda Bailey was as usual-stellular.

Thanks for a great epi!


I have been waiting all day for this blog and I am so glad you didn't talk about the engagement or the marriages but the Alzh. This was one of those TV moments for me that was real. My grandfather had this horrible illness and you nailed it in the epi and the blog! You know you have an amazing tv experience when you and your husband sit for a half hour after the episode and talk about life about your gradfather about alzh. and life and what it means not only to you but to those characters you just watched like they were your best friends and you were in the room with them. THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR ALL OF THAT!!!!


This was an exceptional episode. Could you blog just a bit more?? Maybe about Addison and Sloane??


Last night's episode was the best one this season! You did an awesome job and your timing for Ellis to be lucid was PERFECT! Congratulations!


Thank you!

Karen, Ontario


Please, pretty please, have a blog Part II! This episode was packed with so much drama... the O'Malleys, the new clinic, Burktina, Addison and Mark (what the...?).

maybe we can all petition Joan to have a second blog. whaddya say?


The only good part of this episode was Burke & Christina’s “yes”. The Ellis/Mer/Der were good scenes - just really sad. I cannot believe George & Callie were stupid enough to get married - guess I was wrong in thinking she had some sense. But, other than that, I could have done without this episode. Absolutely nothing much to write home about. Hopefully, next week is better.


Ok, it was a great episode, really, Ellen Pompeo deserve an award, Kate Burton was amazing too... but please, what is wrong with you, all of you, writers ??
Where is Derek ? Where is Mer ? Why Mer wasn't with Derek when he woke up (mark was with addi, wasn't he ?) why Derek didn't comfort Mer when she was in tears ? why the hell Derek snapped (again) at Meredith ???
Why do you do that to us ? we have waited so long for them to go back together !! we waited for one and a half YEAR and now, you give us nothing in return ?? you PROMISED great stuff ? where are they ? The "i'm always going to show up" speach was great, ok, but it was a single scene, a single little tiny scene... it's not "great stuff" !
Us, MerDer shippers, have always defended you against people who said that once Mer/Der will be together they'll become annoying, we always said : "no, GA writers are good, they'll be able to keep them hot, sparkly, interesting" but i'm afraid we were wrong... OMG you managed to make Mer/Der boring, you have wasted PD & EP chemistry...
Do you know that you have the most beautiful, perfect, lovely couple we've never seen in a tv show ? a couple with an amazing, unbelievable chemistry, why don't you use it ?
And do you want PD to leave the show or something ? he's the lead actor isn't he ? then where is he ? you have to give him a storyline !! a real storyline !!
Please don't waste our favorite show, we fell in love with Grey's because we fell in love with Meredith and Derek... and now, every week, we're deprived, disappointed by the lack of them....
Please please please, fix it soon


You end with "there's so much that happened in this episode that I didn't talk about". This is such an understatement.

The episode had it's moments but overall I'm beginning to believe you've (collectively) lost that "Grey's feeling". Each episode has moments but overall they are just lacking...lack luster....boring. I don't know what's happened with this season, maybe you replaced all the old writer's, maybe Shonda is too busy to check in on Grey's due to other projects, but it seems like you're on autopilot and low on fuel.

Please give us the Grey's from season 1 that we fell in love with or even the Grey's from season 2 that we loved to hate....just give us something to get emotional about!!

Let's face it the website isn't even changed. How long have we wanted to "get away with McDreamy"?? How about recognizing Chandra and Patrick in addition to the cast for their wins??

Hello, is anyone at home??



I have been waiting all day and that is all we get? I get what you're saying, but still.
It was an amazing episode...again, but I didn't like all the loose ends it left. The end with Christina and Burke was great and when George stood up for Callie "O'Malley" (great line by the way)
You didn't address the fact that Derek went off on Meredith again (because of what Ellis said to him). HE didn't even apologize this time.
You stress us out.

Pam in Janesville

It has taken a while to become composed here.....oh MY. (Yes, obviously wrote this last night :))

Alright, I admit it, I cried. Excellent job again everyone. Writing, cast and crew. Thank you again for making "television" a real escape.


So, the Chief ended up giving Ellis that gift for the moment, the NOW that only Ellis could know for awhile........the manufactured but could have been real....memories in another "what if" lifetime.

I had no idea that Alzheimer's patients can and DO experience a lucid period sometimes...... and poor Meredith, she KNEW it would end this way, that her mother, would reject her, would tell her she was a disappointment.....and then when she went to explain, and the LOOK in Mer's eyes, when we all realized that Ellis had "gone away" once again......oh, I am so sorry to all the people who live this nightmare everyday.....

Was that time a gift ? I don't know. Only to lose that loved one AGAIN ? What does that gain ? Is it a cruel joke of nature ? I don't know.

Cried ? Yes. Lots.

We all knew it was coming, like a dark veil that was just over the horizon, my only question was how LONG would Ellis remain as Ellis.....would she get a chance try to mend the lifelong rift with Mer ? Nope. Thought not. At least Mer got the time to tell Ellis that what happened to her was HER !

Great George - standing up for CALLIE O'MALLEY !!!!!! Whooo hooo !

To those who live the nightmare of losing those loved ones, that lose the "essence of who and what they are" and proceed to sail the uncharted and unknown course of everyday living of the rest of their remaining lives.....bless you all, the families and the patients.

Joan, thank you for shining a light on this part of the disease.

Pam in Janesville, CA

Brittany, SC

GREAT EPISODE!!! I still miss the Mer/Der parts but it's great to see the other characters and their interactions. I love the Callie/Addison friendship.


weak! There was so much! Like did richard mean it or was he placating ellis? Alex and Addison? Christina's brillant scene? George standing up for callie!?? WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU PEOPLE! ?


Last time I checked I was watching a show about an intern, who falls for an attending, and the troubles of being in love your boss, them building their relationship, the good times, the bad times, everything they would go through together.

Did that show get canceled?

I know there is a few couples on the show but I thought Patrick Dempsey and Ellen Pompeo were the male and female leads making them the main couple but since they get no screen time together, I must be thinking of a different show.

Brittany, SC

GREAT EPISODE!!! I still miss the Mer/Der parts but it's great to see the other characters and their interactions. I love the Callie/Addison friendship.


As always, I love your episode. I thought Ellen & Kate Burton did an EXCELLENT job! Kudos to them! You really felt their pain.

But being a big Mer/Der fan, couldn't Derek just be there for Meredith? I'm not asking for the show to evolve around them; but in this epi Meredith needed Derek's support and if he provided it... we didn't see it.

Thanks for another emotional episode.


I loved the episode! Ellen Pompeo blew me away last night! She was absolutely superb!!!
Keep up the great work.


The best, the best the best episode by far. Great acting, great writing. Everything was great. SOOOOO very good. I can't put into words. Mer and Ellis were simply fantastic.
OMG! Just the best! And it was the first show in February!

Congratulations! to everyone that worked on this episode. Simply the BEST!
Did I mention how much I enjoyed it?

You did a wonderful job! Thank you for bringing me such joy to watch these characters unravel and evolve!

Thank you!


If Meredith and Derek are happy it's off screen.If the plan is for all her Mer/Der fans to completely lose investment in these two characters as a couple, then it's working!The tampon/pad talk had more screen time than Mer/Der. Why are they the ones with the least airtime possible?


Your scenes with Meredith and Ellis were very good even though they were so hard to watch. I loved Richard with Ellis telling her what she wanted to hear. Then poor Meredith pouring out her heart to no avail. Ellis was gone again.

Loved Bailey and her talk with the young girl. Touched my heart.

But...can you writers please give us more Mer/Der. We are really losing our patience now and some die hard fans are not watching anymore.It's getting really old.They are in love. Let's show it instead of snoring and bad breath.


I'm a diehard Grey's fan and I loved last night's episode. The characters are so complex and real. I love the end when Bailey said $8 million dollars for one and she knew it was worth it and that all her energy in getting the clinic started was worthwhile. Great show. I could go on and on... thanks.

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