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Jenna Bans on "Tainted Obligation"...

Original Airdate: 10-8-09

So I’m a large nerd.  I like my parents.  A lot.  I like to hang out with them, I talk to them almost every day on the phone.  I was the person in high school who was like, nah, I don’t think I’m going to that party, I’ll probably just chill with the ole’ parental unit.  We’ll order a pizza, play a few board games – it’s gonna be a blast if you want to stop by…yep, I was that girl. (I know you’re wondering and yes, shockingly, I still had a few friends my own age.)  Even now, I get a three day weekend and I’m usually off to Minneapolis to hang with the parents.  Now I recognize that that’s super weird and slightly creepy to most people, including my husband.  He’s all, ew nerd, stop being so obsessed with your parents.  But I am.  I just like ‘em.  They’re good peeps.  And they gave me a very happy and stable childhood – which I took for granted until I moved to Los Angeles and started working in television – because amongst creative types, I’m figuring out the normal upbringing is quite the rarity. 

My point being, it was REALLY easy for me to understand Lexie in this episode – ‘cause that’s how I imagine she grew up with Susan and Thatcher.  There was taco night, and movie night, and if she had homework issues, one of them was always around to help.  So now that her Dad needs some of her liver, recovering alcoholic or not, she’s gonna do it.  She’s not even thinking about the Chief’s upcoming merger – and the fact that recovering from a major surgery will put her on the bench, out of the game, for at least a month. Lexie doesn’t blink, because family isn’t an obligation to her like it is for a lot of people -  it’s a gift.  But Meredith, as we all know, did not have such a charmed childhood.  So you can hardly blame her for shutting down emotionally the second Thatcher shows up and pukes blood on her shoes.  Hell, anyone would draw the line at puking on the shoes, right? (Hey, fun fact – that wasn’t Ellen Pompeo’s feet, that was her stand-in’s feet that got thrown up on ‘cause Ellen was all pregnant and we got her off her feet whenever it was possible.)

What’s interesting about this storyline was that I thought I wrote a reconciliation story – between Mer and her father.  I thought I wrote the episode that was going to put all the bad blood behind them for good. And it did, in a way – Mer tells Thatcher the door is open, which is pretty huge.  And though it was incredibly hard for her to work up the courage to say that to him, she knew it was the only thing that would let him – or alleviate his guilt enough - to allow her to save his life.  But something happened in this story during the shooting process.  It changed – subtly, but substantially.  Here’s how it started -- Ellen Pompeo came to me on the first day of shooting and wanting to change that speech she gives to Thatcher.  She wanted to add a simple line, to have Mer say “I want you to do this for her.”  Because for Ellen, this story wasn’t a Mer/Thatcher reconciliation story – it was a Mer/Lexie story.  It was a story about these two women, who have done this awkward dance around each other for two seasons now, finally becoming sisters.  Ellen insisted that her main reason for doing what she does, for being completely vulnerable in front of the man who has hurt her in more ways than we can count at this point, was Lexie.  She was doing it for Lexie.  And the more I thought about that, the more I became convinced she was absolutely right.  And when that became clear to me, everything sort of fell into place.  That last scene when Derek’s watching Mer wake up, Lexie at her side, having slept with her all night, was even more emotional.  It wasn’t just about Lexie being grateful – that was there for sure – but now it was about Lexie unconditionally loving her sister.  And Mer actually loving her back.  Now I don’t think they’ll be having slumber parties and pillow fights with each other any time soon, but still.  From strangers two seasons ago to actual sisters is pretty amazing progress – especially for someone who’s ambivalent to the very idea of family ala Meredith Grey.

And though it seemed that Derek had a small part in Meredith’s story tonight, what he did for her was as important as if he had talked her face off for six scenes – he let her have space.  It’s funny, ‘cause in the writers’ room he DID have six scenes of talking her face off – he was originally going to point out all the pros and cons of donating the liver, he was going to be sort of a sounding board for her as she worked it out.  But then we came to something better, the idea of visually showing Mer struggle while Derek watches, knowing he can’t help her with this. Knowing to stop Cristina from going to her because she can’t help Mer either.  He knows his wife well enough to realize this was a huge, huge decision that she had to come to herself – and simply waited, ready to support her, whatever she should decide. 

So get this – the story that was probably most emotional for me to write?  Irving gets a new penis.  And not because standards & practices gave me hell about it. (Which they did  - in the most gentle, polite way possible.  In fact, if you read the emails that went from ABC to our prop master, Angela, to me and Shonda Rhimes, you would laugh very heartily.  Because there was waaaay too much discussion about the penis.  The number of times we used the word, the ways we used the word, the actual shape of the apparatus… It was a very fun and incredibly absurd process to witness.) I loved this story because I hate the idea that once you’re old, your life is over.  I hate when people treat their aging parents like old furniture they want to get rid of but have to find a place for so they stick ‘em in the corner and forget about them.  I suppose because watching their parents age is too painful, so they just…put them away.  But the thing is, the truth is, the truth that actually inspired a lot of the writing, is something my Grandma always said.  She used to say that even though she was eighty, with horrible arthritis, she still looked in the mirror every morning and didn’t recognize herself.  ‘Cause inside, she still felt the same way she did when she was twenty.  That’s what I thought about while writing Irving– this guy just has no idea where all the time went.  And what I loved about the actors who played this story is that they made it so real – the son and daughter-in-law weren’t evil, just overly concerned about their Dad. (Okay, maybe just a bit condescending too…) And the amazing Ralph Waite (did anyone recognize him as Pa Walton from ‘The Waltons?’) played Irving so truthfully, without leaning too heavily on the comedy, he made us believe he NEEDED this surgery.  That it was truly the key to enjoying his golden years – that it would give him his “tomorrow.”  And how great was Eric Dane defending Irving’s right to a sex life? I wanted to cheer when he finally told the son and daughter-in-law what was what.  

Cristina, on the other hand, didn’t have so much fun with Irving’s penis.  (I believe that was mention #3, Standards & Practices.) Poor Cristina. She’s really struggling and lost these days.  Without a cardio god to mentor her, she’s adrift.  So much so that she turns a simple tick removal into a major surgery.  So much so that she says to the Chief, who has had a helluva crappy day himself– cut me from the program.  It’s clear at this point Cristina’s willing to do just about anything to get her surgical groove back.  And I can promise you, it’s going to be an interesting journey this season to see just how far she will go.

And Izzie.  Poor Izzie. The girl’s living with cancer, lost her best friend, impulsively got married and dragged her husband away to live in the woods.  That takes a lot out of a person.  I need to seriously recover on the couch for an hour after I go to the grocery store – I can’t imagine the emotional and physical fatigue Izzie must be feeling right now.  I think by the end of this episode, after Owen tells her that channeling her experience as a patient at Seattle Grace is undermining her strength as a doctor at Seattle Grace – she’s wondering if she made a mistake.  She’s wondering if Alex and Derek and now Owen might be right – that she came back to work too soon.  That she’s not emotionally ready to be cutting into people yet.  Because I think every doctor wants to believe all their terminal patients can be Izzie – but the odds tell another story. And I would imagine there’s a very careful dance doctors have to do between acting like a scientist and acting like a patient advocate and what Owen says to her at the end sticks with her – now that she’s been through this transformative experience – cancer - she has to decide who she’s going to be at the hospital.  She’s going to have to re-invent herself as a surgeon.

Lots of good stuff coming your way in season six, lots of BIG stuff.  It might be my favorite season so far – although I tend to say that a lot, about every episode, and no one in the writers’ room believes me anymore.  So I’ll just leave you with this little nugget.  When you’re shooting an episode of television, there’s this thing called the “call sheet.”  It’s basically a notice sent to all cast and crew, telling them what time to be on set the next morning, the order scenes will be shot in, make-up and hair requirements for characters, special effects needed, things like that.  It’s a handy little document.  And this is what our call sheet said the night before we shot the opening scene with Alex:  DUE TO THE PRESENCE OF A BEAR ON SET, BREAKFAST WILL NOT BE SERVED. PLEASE EAT BREAKFAST BEFORE YOU ARRIVE AND DO NOT BRING ANY FOOD ITEMS ONTO THE SET.  I read that, laughed for about ten minutes straight at the absurdity, then got kind of scared for the crew and Justin Chambers (it’s a supposedly trained “Hollywood” bear but you can’t have a granola bar around in case it goes all “me bear, me hungry” and eats you?)  And then it suddenly hit me – how is this my work?  How is it work to go to the woods and watch a huge grizzly bear scare the crap out of Alex Karev?  How is it my work to read funny emails about the overuse of the word penis? (#4.)  I came to the conclusion that I don’t say it nearly enough - I love my job. I love the people I work with.  I loved every minute of writing and shooting this episode.  And I love all of you for being such loyal, amazing fans of the show.  I hope you loved watching it.  Or at least liked it.  Or at least laughed once or twice while checking email and paying bills.  



So another season of Cristina being punished for wanting to be the best?

I will just watch the dvd of seasons 1&2

You have just lost another viewer.


LOVE this episode.

LOVE Lexie!

More Lexie!,more Grey sisters!


...Seriously? Cristina's storyline this season is going to about..."whoring" herself out to get surgeries? The same resident who all of the attendings unanimously picked to do the solo surgery? The same resident who has already put up with the same storyline back in season 4 with Hahn and ended up "getting her groove" back in that season finale?

What is the point? Why can't a real, solid, interesting storyline be written for Cristina? Why is Sandra Oh's talent being wasted while other boring characters take center stage and are actually written for? Why would her budding relationship with Owen not be explored more when the chemistry between her and Kevin McKidd could be a storyline in itself?

Honestly, I am not looking forward to the rest of this season, no matter how much it is hyped up. I don't care about Lexie Sue, I don't care about new characters that are going to brought onboard because of the stupid merger storyline. I want some real stories to be written for the characters that have been on the show for six years and have earned the interest and love of the viewers. Especially Cristina, apparently the red-headed stepchild of Grey's Anatomy.


Seriously? So this is not going to be the end of watching Cristina suffer so much just to be able to do her job?
All the writers are being so mean with her this season. Well, always, because she hasn't had a good time at work since what? Season one? It's repetitive, let the girl have so happiness.


I've been going through the most amazing journey this year, after discovering I have a half-sister. Our father is dead, but if she wants part of my liver, she can have it. You got the Lexie/Meredith dynamic right tonight and I loved it.


Chyler Leigh gave an amazing and very moving performance.Both Chyler and Ellen were stellar. Ellen was right on how to play it. I loved both Lexie and Mer's speeches. Love their bond.


I love the decision to make the transplant a story about sisters who love each other and trust each other to ask the unthinkable (I know he wasn't your dad, but he's my dad so please do what I can't) and do the unthinkable (you're just the guy that poured by cereal but she's my sister and you have to take this for her). Beautiful.


Please do not let Izzie and Alex move back to Mer's. I have really enjoyed their scenes in the trailer. They are the best couple, and I'm really nervous about what's going to happen on KH's hiatus from the show.


Bah ! Once again, you writers JUST DON'T GET IT. What makes sense in your heads, and what seems oh so brilliant in the writers rooms, does not make sense in the heads of people with functioning brains.

This is the part that I have a problem with.

And though it seemed that Derek had a small part in Meredith’s story tonight, what he did for her was as important as if he had talked her face off for six scenes – he let her have space. It’s funny, ‘cause in the writers’ room he DID have six scenes of talking her face off – he was originally going to point out all the pros and cons of donating the liver, he was going to be sort of a sounding board for her as she worked it out. But then we came to something better, the idea of visually showing Mer struggle while Derek watches, knowing he can’t help her with this. Knowing to stop Cristina from going to her because she can’t help Mer either. He knows his wife well enough to realize this was a huge, huge decision that she had to come to herself – and simply waited, ready to support her, whatever she should decide.

I have a real problem with that. I get the concept of a scene where we see Derek being supportive of Meredith in as non verbal way. One of my fav scenes of all time is the S2 scene where they rode down in the elevator together in total silence after the infamous "You don't get to call me a whore" scene. That was supposed to have dialogue, but on PD's suggestion the dialogue was dropped. The scene was 10 times better and packed much more of an emotional oomph as a result imo.

But those kinds of non verbal scenes that take place during major upheavals in the lives of the characters involved in them, only work if (a) we have seen lots of general communication between them in other episodes and (b)we have had lots of verbal communication taking place between before and after the non verbal scenes, about what SPECIFICALLY is going on, so that we know exactly where they are both coming from re the issue at hand. The S2 episode had that in spades. Tonight's ep did not, so it all felt very flat to me.

She was having major elective surgery that could have killed her. It could also impacted whether or not she lost her job in the Mercy West merger. Whether Derek agreed with her about her moral obligations to give part of her liver to Thatch or not, they are each others "person" now. (I think.) We should have seen SOME sort of discussion between them where they addressed the pros and cons of having the surgery. The emotional. The practical. The physical. The work/recovery aspect of it all. Yes at the end of the day, the decision is hers. She has to make it by herself, but to make it with damm all input from her "husband" was beyond stupid. It made the storyline seem hollow and deeply unsatisfying imo. Add in the fact that her post surgery recovery scene was with Lexie and not Derek, and it just gets even worse.


loved it. laughed a lot. out loud. cried a bit, not too much. mr. walton got a woody- classic.


Good episode. I loved seeing Meredith front and center again. I've missed her. I don't really care much for Lexie and my dislike for her grows and grows. I loved Derek supporting Meredith, but I kinda wish you'd left in a little dialogue between them. You keep skimping on that and it BUGS.

Also, I hate all the references to the post-it and being married. I'm fine that they aren't married, but it seems to be making a mockery of your fans. So, please stop.

Tired of the endless monologues. That seems to be a favorite approach for you writers. They are boring. I went to bathroom during Webber's speech to Thatcher.

I LOVED Christina and the penis stuff. My husband (who HATES Grey's, but occassionally watches with me while he patiently waits for us to get to the Office) laughed hysterically at that.

Derek should have been by Meredith's side when waking up, not Lexie.

I love mer/der. I just do. They make the show for me and keep me watching.

Jenna, you are one of my favorite writers for the show. Keep it up.


First off, I really liked the Meredith and Lexie storyline tonight and I am really glad it changed to that from a Meredith and Thatcher reuniting, because that would have been hard for me to believe. The developing storyline between Meredith and Lexie has been wonderful and its first fulfillment tonight was very nice to see. Also, my favorite moment of the whole episode is Derek watching Meredith while she paced. He trusted and respected her enough to know that is a decision she had to make on her own, yet cared enough to watch over her. I would love to see more actual in depth conversations between them, but in that moment, I truly did feel that his not going to her was better than him talking it out with her.


Two Lines stuck out to me about tonight's episode....

"I heard you got married on a sticker" - Thatcher Grey
"She's my wife" - Derek Shepherd

Thatcher, while most likely one of the characters I have the least respect for on Grey's Anatomy, actually in his attempt to congratulate his biological daughter, hit the nail on the head with that comment. Yeah, his daughter, got "married" on a sticker, what a testimony to the couple that for many has been the backbone of Grey's. It pretty much sums up the mockery that continues to be made on Grey's about marriage as well as makes those of us that are disgruntled fans concerning this matter, feel as though we are truly becoming the brunt of your jokes.

Derek, while I love his complete love, devotion and commitment to Meredith, the woman who saved him and showed him what love was all about, I couldn't help but be reminded that once again his statement is false. And, though, that scene was wonderfully done by Patrick Dempsey as well as Ellen Pompeo and no doubt shows you what this couple is all about, sadly hearing those words, didn't mean what I once thought it would to this long time, die hard, Meredith and Derek fan. Which is sad, to see the culmination of one of the things you most looked forward to for 6 seasons, be completely stolen away and replaced with an unacceptable substitute.

I have no doubt that those of you who write for Grey's, are very intelligent people. However, since there seems to be either a complete unawareness or avoidance of why the statements above are false, I feel the need to remind you of the needed definitions.

Wife -
A woman joined to another person in marriage; a female spouse.

Marriage -
The state of being united to a person in a consensual and contractual relationship recognized by law.

So please, out of respect to your characters and even more so to many of your fans, please either correct the situation these two are now in or not call this relationship something it isn't.


Really good episode. Loved the Mer/Lexie stuff, and I marveled at Mer "leaving the door open" for her father. She has come so far! I love Mer, and have loved watching her journey. I love that she and Derek are happy and doing so well together (though I do wish there would be some sort of marriage ceremony for them).

One thing I don't quite get, though, is the idea that Lexie had such a lovely childhood. With an alcoholic father who drank so much he ruined his liver by age ~60? (Or whatever age.) I don't see how that's possible. When we met her, she was taking care of him when he was drunk. And if Mer is so sensitive to his drinking, then it probably went on all through Lexie's childhood, if he's only 90 days sober. (Yes, I know the drinking can stop and start - even for years.) So while you've shown that Lexie and Molly had a much better relationship with Thatcher than Meredith did, I think it really contradicts his alcoholism. There's no way she wouldn't be affected by it, or have any issues and be totally warm and fuzzy. Not that she wouldn't still love him, but it's not a small influence.

Ralph Waite was really good. And it's a very good point about aging and still feeling younger inside. (Though if I see one more Viagra or Cialis commercial I'm going to scream.)

I do feel sorry for Cristina. Even with her growing relationship with Owen, professionally she has been rudderless since Burke left, really (since Hahn mostly shut her out, and didn't last long, anyway).


I loved the episode, especially when Izzie went out and saw the bear... laughed my butt off at that one.


It was a crappy and exhausting week. Thanks for making it better. Very very very excited about where this season is going. Did I mention I'm excited?


I knew the whole Mer and her Dad would get to me. I identify so much with Mer and being abandoned as a child. I know everything she's feeling, because I lived it. To be honest, I have wanted Mer to make peace with her Dad and have some kind of resolution, if not a genuine relationship. It's like the last piece in the puzzle of putting her back together. Seeing it happen was extremely emotional and moving for me.

I was praying all through the episode that Mer would somehow manage to find it in her to help her father. The way in which it happened, with Mer doing it for her sister, Lexie, and acknowledging that up front, was powerful, poignant and satisfying. It was a huge step for Mer, maybe one of the biggest of her life. To finally let go of the anger, hurt, disappointment and pain can be a scary thing. But if you ever want to be a fully realized person, then you have to find a way to make peace with the traumas and tragedies of your past. I am brimming with happiness for Mer.

I also want to say that I really enjoyed the story of the man who wanted the penis. At first, I thought it would be one of those funny, annoying, condescending stories about old people. I was pleasantly surprised to see it written and acted with dignity, honesty and respect. I did recognize Ralph Waite and was so glad to see him acting. He managed to imbue this man with real passion and feeling. I think it's important to understand what it's like to get old. I watched my own parents age. I was lucky enough to see them get old. My Dad passed away last year and nothing will ever be the same for me, even though he lived a long and fulfilled life. I talk to my Mom almost every day long distance and can hear how she struggles with old age. She is a strong woman, but there is difficulty because she can't do as much as she used to do. Whenever I lament the perils of being middle aged, she always reminds me that it won't get any easier as I move on into old age. I have always been close to my parents and am proud of it. I always found them interesting and lively and good company. I do get that older people want to have their "tomorrow". When Ralph Waite said that, I started to tear up. He was pitch perfect in every scene. Congratulations on a brilliant and memorable cameo.

I absolutely loved that Der gave Mer her space. That was the right thing to do, the only thing to do. He showed her the ultimate respect - letting her own this dilemma and resolve it in her own way. It was beautiful to watch. I thought that last scene with Mer in the hospital bed and Lexie laying with her and Der looking in on them, was like coming full circle. Mer has a sister that she can embrace, Der has a wife who has come into her own and all is well in their world.

I thought this episode had much more emotional impact for me. Last week I just couldn't connect. But that's the way it is sometimes. Certain episodes will stay with me and others will be quickly forgotten. For now I am still involved with the characters and the show. I know that I'm not ready to let go.


This episode was awesome!!!
Loved the Lexie/Meredith interactions and yes, it's so nice to see them together as sisters...real sisters.

I loved the Mark/Lexie scenes too and the reference to Lexie, when Mark says that it's not wrong to hv a r/shp with a younger woman and that it keeps one young.

I must agree with you that Season 6 is amazing...can't wait for the next episode.

Let Merder act like adults

I love Mer/Der, I have loved them from the first minute of the first episode of the first season but this post-it thing is making what no Finn, no Rose, no ferry, no over the top dramatic event managed before, they are starting to look ridiculous. And I get it, I really do, they are not the kind of couple that gets married in a fluffy wedding, but form that to having them write a post-it and act as if that was a legal marriage?? Why not let them NOT be married? Why not show their commitment withouh having to remind us every episode of how ridiculous their non wedding was? Or go to a lawyer and sign a contract, which is what marriage is after all?
So pleae, just stop mentioning the post-it. They are not married, never will be, let's move on, because each time they mention it, it makes me cringe. Just let them be adults.
Oh, and I would have prefered to actually see them talk. It's not like we have seen many conversations between them since... S2 more or less.


Hey, I loved it.

Famous Artist

Well, Jenna Bans. I am one of those fans who kept hoping the episode would last forever. That was the way I watched GA the first two seasons, and that is what is happening for me this season.
I liked all the parts. And I really liked that moment between Callie and the Chief.
It was really fun to watch that episode. Really fun. And I cried.


Speaking from someone who waited nearly four years for my own transplant, I want to tell you my loved ones were there, for "all five scenes" if you will, of my life prior to my transplant and I wanted them there. To see Derek stand back was very unrealistic to me. THAT was not our Derek and not any family member, nor my spouse or friends would simply stand back in a life risking surgery. They all had input. I wanted them to, because to be a recipient of an organ or to be a living donor of one, is not just about yourself. It effects every part of the people who love you. And Meredith is Derek's wife, she is the love of his life if we are to believe the last 6 seasons of this show. It is not of my understanding how you could have him just stand back. True, it is her choice, but in the end "your people' need to be there, they need to voice their thoughts and their love, and YOU need to hear it too. Speaking from experience, I can tell you this. You have medical professionals working with you, so I know you get your surgeries down correctly, but emotionally, you missed the mark with Derek and Mer and sadly, it's not the first time. Given that this is one of EP last full episodes before her maternity leave, it is also sad to see you lighten up on MerDer scenes too. Personally, I think you missed the mark on the emotional impact of transplants and the need for your family and you to connect throughout the process. But Ellen was wonderful in this episode and I thank you for that.


Kudos to Ellen Pompeo ... I love Meredith in this episode. she was amazing.
thanks for great wirting.


Great episode. I love Meredith being centric again. It makes it all make sense. though I wish Ellen the best Materniy leave ever, I can't wait for her return.

Ellen was spectacular tonight. just perfect. I miss her on screen like tonight. Chyler rocked her scenes specially the with Mer scenes. Great show. love it.

Erin D

I miss George!!


I loved the episode tonite! Derek's watching Mer making up her mind said more than any speeches could have done. I really enjoyed Mark defending seeing a younger woman and having sex to the penile implant recipient. The appearance of the woman at the end was really heartwarming.
Alex screaming like a little girl at both the bear and the tick was hilarious.
Overall, good story lines, and lots of intrigue on the horizon as Seattle Grace merges with Mercy West.

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