Pete Nowalk on "Give Peace a Chance"...
So there’s a lot to talk about here – the fact that this was an all-Derek-all-the-time episode, that this was Chandra Wilson’s first time directing, that Izzie's still MIA... But before I get into any of that, answer me this:
You’re on a road trip. You’ve been driving for hours, your 3 kids all under the age of six are asleep in the backseat, when you realize you have to pee. Do you…
A) Stop at a gas station, wake the kids, and drag them into the restroom in order to relieve yourself?
B) Use one of your kids’ diapers, thereby allowing yourself to keep driving and let the kids keep sleeping?
C) Stop reading this blog because you’re so disgusted by this topic?
We played this game in the writers room one day. Shonda had seen an episode of Oprah where a mother confessed to doing B. (Here’s the link: http://www.oprah.com/article/oprahshow/20090311-tows-mom-truth/3). Naturally, we all went around the room debating what we’d do. Would we really use the diaper? Or would we do anything in the world to avoid said deplorable action? Some of us thought this mom was smart -- who wants to schlep a bunch of kids into a public bathroom? Others were a little horrified. Diapers are for babies. Or astronauts. Not grown adults who should know better. The diaper, you see, became a controversial topic around here.
Okay, I know what you’re thinking. "That's your job? To sit around and have potty talk?? And now you’re admitting that to the entire blogiverse?????"
I don’t blame you. But this is the way a writers room works. You chat, tell stories, discuss Oprah...until an idea hits. And then you work like mad to fit it into your episode. Hence, the diaper.
Do surgeons really wear diapers? Well, depends who you ask. Our wonderful medical researcher Meg found a blog that mentioned surgeons wearing diapers during particularly long surgeries. And one of our consulting surgeons said dude surgeons sometimes wear condom catheters. (Yeah, that's a real thing apparently.) Point is, it wasn’t that big of a leap for us to go diaper. Our doctors are hardcore by nature. Combine that with the threat they're feeling from the Mercy West residents and you can understand while they'll do anything to win. As Lexie tells Jackson, if she needs to pee in a diaper to help Derek get through his impossible surgery, she'll pee in a diaper. Which of course just drove Cristina crazy jealous...
Cristina was a shoe-in to win that pen-in-a-cup contest...but then she choked. Happens to the best of us. That left Owen having to cope with the fact that his girlfriend was fiending to put on a diaper. Admittedly, it's not the sexiest thing to picture your partner wearing. But I think it speaks to Owen's overall good nature that he found a way to be okay with it, even gifting Cristina her very own marathon surgery to cheer her up. And then, when Derek thwarts that plan, he goes as far as to sexily teach Cristina the right way to work the microscope. You gotta admit, the dude's a pretty awesome boyfriend.
Speaking of awesome boyfriend... I'm sorry, I mean awesome husband...
This episode probably felt different. I only say that because that’s exactly how I felt the minute we started working on it. As you've probably noticed, we’re trying to experiment more this season. And that’s probably uncomfortable for some of you. It was for me. When we first decided to focus this episode solely on Derek and his patient, I was a little scared. Most of this patient story (inspired by a case told to us by Dr. Robert Bray, an amazing neurosurgeon here in LA) involves Derek staring at a tumor. Not cutting, not operating, not talking to anyone. Like I said, scary.
In retrospect I’m really glad we told this story this way. As Derek says in the voiceover, what drew him to surgery was the quiet. The deep, intense, long-ass focus required to make it through a marathon surgery where any wrong turn can result in death. And this episode really reflects that. It’s quieter than a typical episode. More single-minded. Derek is our sole focus. And really, what an amazing character to spend an entire episode with. Watch Patrick Dempsey on your screen and you can’t help but be struck by how much he says without saying anything. The guy can pretty much give you an entire soliloquy with just one look. That’s a rare talent, and we really wanted to use that to our advantage in an episode about stillness and peace.
It also seemed like the perfect time to do our Derek-focused episode since we had little time to shoot with Ellen Pompeo (8 1/2 months pregnant at the time we shot this one). Typically, if Derek's doing a once-in-a-lifetime neurosurgery, Meredith would be at his side. But since we couldn't physically do that, we had her be there for him in a different way -- by helping him talk through the problem, by holding a phone to her ear for 26 hours... (I'm guessing Cristina and Meredith have an unlimited friend-to-friend calling plan in case anyone was worried about their minutes). So Mer was there for Der even when it seemed impossible...and I'm very jealous. That's the truth. I’m jealous that Meredith and Derek get to work together and support each other and speak their secret surgery language together AND still actually love each other. I guess they’ve been through their fare share of relationship crap. They’ve earned a little peace. Still, I'm jealous.
Back to the very different nature of this episode, helped along by the fact that there's still no sign of Izzie. She's still off god knows where and not telling Alex squat. Which is just harsh. Sure, the guy tried to pretend that he didn’t care whether she’d show up for her IL-2 treatment, but we all know that's just his way of coping. Who doesn’t show up for their life-saving IL-2 treatment? Especially a doctor?? That’s just irresponsible. And crazy… Yeah, I could go on. Poor frigging Alex. If I was Reed in that last scene I would have wanted to give the guy a hug. And I think the look on her face said pretty much that. But they just met. They’re not even friends. Or frenemies. No hugs allowed. Which is why that scene at the end with Alex sitting in the support chair with no one to support just kills me. WHERE THE HELL DID YOU GO IZZIE???
Okay, it’s a little insane for me to pretend I don’t know where she is. I do. And eventually you will, too. Onward...
Last but not least, I'd like to applaud Chandra Wilson. She acts, she sings, and now she directs... and sometimes all at the same time. I have a feeling Chandra’s the kind of person that’s good at everything she does. You know the type from high school – the classmate that’s all quiet and unassuming and not saying anything about the Algebra test you’re freaking about because she already knows she’s gonna ace it. Cause that’s what Chandra did directing this episode. And it wasn’t an easy one to direct, let me tell you. All those scenes in the OR are very hard to shoot – very technical, very hard to dramatize -- and she rocked it.
Alrighty then, I'm off to set to watch some scenes for episode 610 (our holiday episode, written by the awesome Krista Vernoff.) The end of this blog means the official end of episode 607 for me. In other words, my own sense of peace. I'll sleep well tonight. Hope you do, too.