William Harper on "St. Valentine's Day Massacre"...
Original Airdate: 2-11-10
Valentine’s Day! A time for romance, roses, candy, candlelit dinners, roof collapses and heart-shaped boxes of chocolates stolen from comatose patients.
I know. The romance can get a little dark and twisty around Seattle Grace. It’s never going to be candlelight and roses. Derek can’t get three blocks on a date with his wife without being paged back for a mass casualty. But honestly, that was the fun of writing this episode; finding all the ways of illuminating romance.
There’s the tale of unrequited love between Emile and Mrs. Banks, for one. And Meredith and Alex get sucked in like it’s a chick flick. Will he? Won’t he? Will she? I think the romance is not just in Emile’s unrequited pining, but in the warmth and comfort that Mrs. Banks has found in decades of marriage to her husband. I think everything she says to Meredith is true. Finding the right person, being with them, knowing them so well – and being known -- is romantic. That’s what Meredith has signed up for, on that post-it note. But it’s still a scary proposition. And with the new pressures Derek is facing as Chief, Meredith’s suddenly faced with the question of how she’s reinvented herself in this marriage. Will it limit her going after her passion, the thing that makes her HER? And she’s faced with deciding how much she’ll commit to the role, how she’ll allow herself to be defined by it. In the end, she learns that a marriage, like life, is a constant reinvention. You choose, over and over again to adapt to each other and with each other, always being clear on what you will and won’t give up to accommodate the other. Change, adaptation, is what keeps a marriage stable in an unstable world.
What I love about this story is that, even separately, Derek and Meredith are going through the same struggle. Being Chief apparently means denying himself his passion – surgery -- as he’s kept from the O.R. all night for a series of more mundane administrative tasks. I think Derek’s scene in the scrub room with April may be my favorite example of reinvention in the episode, because, to me, it’s the point when Derek becomes the Chief he would want to be, bringing all his compassion and experience to lead and teach. Despite that, this transition to Chief isn’t going to be easy, professionally or personally. In the end, they’ll face the struggle together. Move forward, find a new shape. That in itself is pretty romantic.
You know what else is romantic? The First Date. There’s nothing quite like the crazy, flustered anticipation of the First Date, right? And how awesome is it that it’s Bailey’s? It’s sort of shocking how coolly and cruelly Bailey shuts Ben down when he asks her out. And delightful when we realize its because this nice, attractive, eligible man just dismantles poor Miranda Bailey. And in the true spirit of Valentine’s Day, Arizona decides to play Cupid and get the ball rolling. And despite Bailey wanting to KILL her, it works, she gets it together to cough out an acceptance to dinner. It’s about time Bailey gets to cut loose. As Lexie says, change is a good thing. And in this episode, everyone is reinventing themselves.
Two reinventions I particularly like, because they’re so different, are Lexie’s and Mark’s. Lexie’s is blatant, and sudden and shocking: NEW HAIR. I shaved my head once. I’m not endorsing this. But I’d always wanted to know what I’d look like with my hair very VERY short, and I wondered aloud about it one night and my wife said “Let’s do it RIGHT NOW!” and in minutes, clippers were buzzing, clumps of hair were flying, and even halfway through cutting it, she and I both could tell...this was a terrible idea. Turns out, my head has a shape that is flattered by hair. Without it, I look like an overturned mixing bowl. “It’ll grow back, ” my wife said, supportively. And it’s true. It did. But that’s essentially what Jackson is saying to Lexie: New hair is a safe change, because it’s just gonna grow back. Lexie’s not really committed. She didn’t do something bold and permanent, like a neck tattoo (I’m not endorsing this, either). She made the safe change. She’s made a change that’s only skin deep, and temporary. And Jackson calls her on it. (I love that Jackson reveals this by admitting he was treated as the pretty, dumb one. And had to reinvent himself).
But for Lexie, the hair color is different. For one thing, she looks very good as a blonde (unlike, say, me with a buzz cut). And for Lexie, it’s an undeniable step forward – a new look can free you up, can release you to act like someone you’re not. Or, in her case, act like the person you’ve been hiding inside. Which might be kind of a badass. I think keeping the new hair is a first step in Lexie’s transformation, and I can’t wait to see where it goes from here.
The other reinvention – Mark’s – I love because it’s building over time. It culminates when he steps up to adopt his newborn grandchild. In an instant. In a blurt. He’s wanted a child since we met him – Addison’s -- but he’s spent the time since then maturing -- from man-whore to monogamist, to responsible father to Sloan, then committing to adopt and raise a newborn baby -- to the point where we really want one for him: He’s grown up a lot.
Teddy (And Owen) are trying to do maybe the most difficult reinvention of all: to go backward. What I love about her speech to Owen in the scrub room, is that, not only is it an act of forcing him to acknowledge their friendship, but that we learn so much in that speech about the level of camaraderie and intimacy they shared as friends in the Army. They apparently talked about everything. That’s a very difficult thing to give up, and she just flat out refuses to do it. Can they go back to the way things were? She and Owen both admit it’s hard to do. Life moves forward, not backward.
And so do we. Next week’s episode, in fact, will give you a glimpse of a Seattle Grace you’ve never seen before, and some stories of our doctors that you never knew happened, even if you’ve been watching from the beginning. It’s an exhilarating, funny and really moving episode. So see you back here, then.
Thanks for reading, and thanks for watching!