Bill Harper on "I Saw What I Saw"...
Original Airdate: 10-22-09
So, my kids and I were watching this nature film about Meerkats, and at one very tense moment, a giant eagle swoops in and snatches up a terrified little meerkat and carries it off to its nest of doom to be eaten, and all of his meerkat brothers were very sad and so were my kids. My daughter actually said: “That’s so sad.” And I said to her “What if this were a movie about a family of hungry Eagles? Then it would be awesome.”
Because that’s the truth – it all depends on your perspective. Facts are facts but the Truth – the Truth is all about perception. It’s personal. It’s the reason we have a justice system. Because several people can come away from the same event with very different stories, based on who they are and what their situation is and how they perceived what they saw. The Truth is their truth. Truth is perception.
This is something I’ve believed for a long time, so I was really excited when it was decided that this episode would be a very different kind of episode than we usually do -- something we’d talked about doing for a while -- a “Rashomon” Story.
A Rashomon story isn’t a new idea – it’s named for a 1950 Kurosawa film, in which a crime is depicted from the conflicting points of view of four witnesses, the truth lying somewhere in between their stories. Nor was it a new idea for Grey’s – like I said, we’d been wanting to do something like this for three seasons, but for one reason or another, we hadn’t. But now there were great reasons to do it…
With Izzie having just left Alex in the wake of her firing and Meredith recovering from Liver surgery, we knew we’d be missing a couple of our regular people. And the merger of Seattle Grace and Mercy West has brought a handful of competitive new residents. And with them, we had the opportunity to have a look at Seattle Grace from a different perspective, through the eyes of these relative strangers. We also knew that one of the Mercy Westers would be fired, as fallout from the merger, just as Izzie was. So it was a great way to pit the residents against one another. And we could get a fresh perspective on these new interlopers as well.
You know that thing they say about rattlesnakes? How they’re more threatened by you than you are by them? That’s how I felt about these Mercy West Residents, who had our residents so threatened last week. In the previous episode, when April’s passive-aggressive haughtiness was unmasked, her insecurity and exposure really put me on her side. And, clearly, it had an effect on her, too. April starts this episode with an attitude of not fighting the home team, but being a team player. Just bringing her best self to the job. It’s Reed whose competitive fires have been stoked, and she’s grumbling from the very beginning about how much Alex and Cristina have it out for them.
And the different structure of this episode gave us a great opportunity to see it. Cristina handing off Cathy Becker’s charts, for example: from Cristina’s point of view, she’s just handing off cases to available doctors, solving a problem. From April’s point of view, she’s snarkily palming off crappy cases onto the new kids.
And Charles sees Alex as a self-involved douche, ignoring patients and taking personal calls. And, from his point of view, it’s the truth. But when you see the story from Alex’s perspective…
Poor Alex. He’s coming apart. With Izzie gone God knows where, it was fun to use Alex’s relationship with his phone to tell the story of his tenuous connection to her. And when he finally gets a connection, when he finally gets through to her, it’s in the height of the chaos – the worst possible time. And when these new (from his perspective) idiots can’t save a patient by themselves… he has to make the right choice, he has to hang up, even though he knows he might not ever get her back. So Reed and Charles see a selfish maniac shoving his way in to recklessly treat -- maybe kill -- a patient. But we get Alex’s story, and we see Alex doing the right thing, saving the patient, even though it might have cost him the only good thing he’s ever had.
Meanwhile, Lexie comes across the patient in the midst of a struggle she’s having -- against herself. Another theme that kept emerging for me as I wrote the episode was Responsibility. As everyone is seeking to find out who was responsible for Cathy Becker’s death, it looks for a while like it might have been Lexie. But in the end, Lexie steps up for the patient she is ultimately responsible for, and gives him the care he needs.
One of my favorite parts of this story is actually what it reveals about Arizona – Her commitment to helping this poor kid suffer his unbearable agony is no surprise. But her anger and impatience at a young resident who can’t control her feelings is a color of Arizona’s character we hadn’t really seen yet. She’s a hardass teacher, and I don’t think we knew that about her.
And Richard. This merger is clearly not going the way he might have hoped -- it’s barely underway, and things are getting more and more chaotic. He drives this episode with command and control, pushing to get to the bottom of what is essentially a murder mystery in his hospital. And in the end, from his perspective, he’s on top of it, he’s solved a problem. Only to find that -- from Derek’s perspective -- he is the problem.
But is that the truth? Is this all Richard’s fault? The Merger, the firings, Cathy Becker’s death? From his perspective, all he’s ever done is try to save this hospital. So the truth depends on where you stand, what you saw. Facts are much more easy to deal with. Truth is messy, way too personal and, as Meredith points out, way too full of questions. Like, where is Izzie? Is she coming back? How far can this hospital be pushed before there’s a breaking point? And the same can be asked of Richard and Derek’s friendship.
This episode was a really different one for us – part murder mystery, part puzzle, and, in the midst of this unusual framework, hopefully you felt it was your same Grey’s Anatomy – where our doctors struggle to connect with each other and connect with their patients. It was a challenge and a lot of fun to figure out, and I hope you enjoyed it too. I want to say a quick thank you to our cast and crew, who were called upon for more work than usual in shooting this episode, and the episode’s director, Allison Liddi-Brown. And to you, as always… thanks for watching!