Bill Harper On "Beat Your Heart Out"...
Original Airdate: 2-5-09
Hi. First of all, if Grey’s Anatomy just ended -- stop! Go back, sit down, and watch Private Practice! I know, you’re probably doing it anyway, but seriously -- it’s going to get SO GOOD and if you miss tonight’s Private, you’ll feel like you’ve missed out. GO! Come back here when it’s over!
Hi. So, Valentine’s Day is almost here. Every year, my wife and I do the same thing -- or a version of the same thing. She’s not a fan of Valentine’s Day, she doesn’t care for the hype. “It’s needless pressure, it’s invented by the greeting card companies; a gift or gesture on any random day would be more meaningful...” So every year we agree not to do anything. Just ignore it. Honestly, I love this about her. My wife is smart and sensible and pragmatic and these are qualities I love and depend on, because I have none of them. And it certainly takes the pressure off. But I’m just not wired that way. I can’t not do something. And it’s often just cheesy flowers or chocolates, sometimes it’s something more elaborate, but I end up doing something. Even though I promise I won’t. And this upsets her. Because she did nothing. Like we agreed! And now she’s the one who got something and did nothing, even though nothing was what was the only appropriate thing to do. In short: every year for Valentine’s Day, I make my wife feel a little crappy. Romance!
So I felt especially close to Derek as he spends the day trying to plan the perfect proposal. (Can we just take a second here to say DEREK’S GOING TO PROPOSE. Who would have thought that a drunken tussle on Ellis’s living room rug would lead to this? Not Meredith, I bet.) And while Derek’s twisting himself inside out to keep this surprise for Meredith, trying to find exactly the right way to do it, all of his efforts are actually backfiring, sending the wrong signals and sending her into a panic.
Romance and Panic Attacks. As this episode began taking shape in the writer’s room, it became clear that these two main factors that would be at work. Either people were experiencing one or the other, or one was leading directly to the other. Romance and Panic Attacks. Which go together, I thought at the time, like peanut butter and clams.
Start with Cristina and Owen, who have maybe the most romantic day I’ve ever seen. Shonda was very interested in the hotness of the chasteness between these two. We had lots of discussions of the tortured sensuality of the Victorian Era, where a hand placed next to another’s hand could be so electric, so concentrated, that it was actually better than sex. To go further, to consummate that kind of compressed excitement, would be to risk losing it. And I loved that in Seattle Grace, where people famously steal into on-call rooms between surgeries, these two were living a bodice-ripping romance novel under everyone’s noses. Cristina doesn’t even have words for what this is. So they choose to long for each other for a while. And it’s painful, but in that way that you sort of don’t want it to stop. It’s clear they’re both loving it.
Meanwhile, Mark and Lexie, at the height of their own romance, start to crumble under all the secrecy. Poor Lexie’s collapsing under the weight of trying to keep her relationship with Mark from Mer and Der, and then lying to Jen about her husband’s surgery, to keep Jen from going hyper-hypertensive. She’s killing herself trying to protect everyone. Even at lunch she almost outs herself as a penis-breaker. I love Mark and Lexie, I have to say. I admit, I was not so sure at first about this pair, but I think I had the same misgivings Mark did. I like most what Lexie is forcing Mark to learn about himself. And when he finally tries, in Derek and Meredith’s bedroom (he really tries!) to come clean to Derek, it’s not just to clear the air, or apologize or confess as much as to share with his best friend this great thing they’ve both found. Cause it’s the real thing. When he can’t -- it’s horrible timing -- his disappointment is so clear.
And then Callie, who’s looking down the barrel of her failed relationships learns that even when he chooses to be OK by herself, it’s just lonely. And at the moment she feels it hit rock bottom... Enter Arizona “actions-speak-louder-than-words-especially-in-the-ladies-room” Robbins. I love characters who sneak up on us. What I think I love most about Arizona is that she is genuinely, positively interested in people, in the most selfless way. We knew this right away, when she made Alex squirm on the plane a few weeks back, with all the questions about his girlfriend. So it seems perfectly natural that she would just stop in the loo to cheerlead a colleague. Then....surprise! Romance! And she turns Callie’s whole set of expectations upside down. Which I’m all for. I want Callie to be happy. I can’t wait to see where this goes.
And amidst all this romance, all these panic attacks: Jen, whose concern for her husband is actually endangering her and her baby’s lives. Owen’s past catching up with him, just at the wrong moment. And Dr. Dixon, who suffers a perfect storm of social anxiety: too much touching, talking and unexpected information at once, causing her to lose control of herself. But knowing what she needs to cope. (The treatment she demands from Bailey and Cristina was inspired by the amazing work of Temple Grandin, whose work with livestock led her to amazing insights on how to ease anxiety in people with Autism and Asperger’s. If you ever feel like being inspired by astonishing humanity and creativity, just Google her name). Finally, Izzie, spending all day trying to make sense of Denny’s parting message, and clearly expecting the worst. Only to be left at the end of the day with a clean bill of health. And Alex.
It was Izzie’s sense of dread that made me realize something about Romance and Panic. They seemed at first like an odd combination, until I realized they are remarkably similar experiences. They share a lot of the same symptoms: rapid hearbeat, breathlessness, sleeplessness, obsessive thoughts, etc. But more to the point, I think they have the same root cause: Expectation. Romance puts us in a state of anticipation that is as good as (sometimes better than) the actual fulfillment. Look at Owen and Cristina. And anxiety, panic -- Dixon’s, Bailey’s, Izzie’s -- comes from anticipating the worst outcome -- one that might not ever even occur. They’re the same kind of scary. Sort of like falling: when we dream we’re falling, we call it a nightmare. But we also call it “falling” in love. Because we have absolutely no control over the outcome.
Happy Valentine’s Day, by the way.