Austin Guzman on "P.Y.T. (Pretty Young Thing)"...
Original Airdate: 2-10-11
In last week’s Grey Matter, Mark Wilding told you all about the time he tried (and failed) to be an actor. In high school, I also tried my hand at acting. There’s a difference between Mark and myself, though. I didn’t just try. I freaking succeeded.
Which was handy because I loved attention.
As I quickly discovered, if you auditioned for a play and got a part, people would be FORCED to pay attention to you. And if you got the lead (as I did on more than one occasion – brag, brag, brag), they’d have to pay attention to you for as many as TWO WHOLE HOURS. Once, an elderly couple even came up to me at Hometown Buffet to tell me that they had seen and enjoyed my performance as King Arthur in our school’s production of Camelot. I was a mother-flippin’ star.
But a person gets older. Maybe wiser. He leaves behind dreams of celebrity and pursues a career behind the scenes. (Though still in a capacity where he will be paid his fair share of attention. Hey, reader! Thanks for your time!)
Then one day, while casting actors to play Clinical Trial Patients and their family members for an episode of Grey’s Anatomy, a producer suggests that it would be funny if THE WRITER played one of those family members.
Oh hey there, Former Dreams of Super-stardom. It’s been a while. Nice to see you again.
So, of course I said, “yes.” How could I not? And it’s not like it was going to be super-tough or anything. The family members in this sequence didn’t have any lines. I’d just have to sit at a table, pretend to care about the person sitting next to me and NOT look like a big, fat idiot. I could totally do that. After all, I was once recognized and praised by my adoring fans while loading up on bread pudding in a buffet line.
HERE’S THE THING, THOUGH: There’s a difference between standing onstage in the high school auditorium and being on the set of a television show with a great, big professional TV camera staring you down. You’re suddenly the most self-conscious you’ve ever been in your entire life. You can’t stop thinking about the fact that just two days ago you’d gotten the worst haircut a person has ever gotten. Ever. You’ve also recently put on ten (but probably more like fifteen) pounds, which will combine with the extra weight the camera adds to make you look like Santa Claus, age 29. There are bright lights shining in your eyes making it nearly impossible to see, which you can’t really do anyway because you’ve taken off your glasses, knowing that your mom would later complain that she couldn’t see your face if you left them on even though you now realize that ain’t nobody gonna miss your big damned head because of all that extra weight and HOLY HELL WHY WON’T YOUR MOUTH STOP TWITCHING???
This is your moment. The nation is watching. You’re sitting across the table from Meredith Grey herself in an honest-to-God consult room at Seattle Grace Mercy West Hospital… and you probably look like a big, fat idiot.
The stakes are huge, people. Which is why I can totally identify with what it must feel like to be a doctor who’s about to perform a heart transplant on a baby who hasn’t been born yet.
In this week’s episode, Alex and Lucy go head to head over just such a case. Lucy is so shocked and offended when Alex refers to a brain-dead baby as a “turnip in the cabbage patch” that there is absolutely no way she’s going to let him get near a baby. It’s a fair position to take if you don’t know Alex Karev. When you’re just meeting the guy, he comes across as a jerk-ass wrestler with a crappy attitude. What you don’t know is that once upon a time, Arizona actually gave Alex a speech about the fact that a peds surgeon has to do whatever they can to not picture “tiny coffins” all day, every day. So you don’t see that what Alex is doing when he calls a baby a “turnip” is distancing himself, playing down the stakes of what he’s about to do, so that he can keep a calm head, not get too emotionally involved, and actually be able to help his patient. Yeah, it may not be the best tactic. And even though Arizona was the one who gave Alex the speech way back when, she’s not particularly thrilled with the way he’s chosen to cope, either. But at least she gets why he’s doing it. In the end, Alex and Lucy are in the same boat – doing what they think is best for the tiny, tiny patients they’re trying to help.
Okay, so maybe my situation isn’t really the same as Alex & Lucy’s. There probably won’t be any tiny coffins involved if I can’t stop my lip from twitching as though I’ve injected it with caffeine. (At least, I hope not. That’d be terrible. And crazily improbable.)
Speaking of caffeine, there’s that whole Callie/Arizona/Mark situation. While the parent-to-baby ratio is surely going to have some benefits once that baby is born, Callie is quickly realizing that it’s also putting her smack-dab in the middle of a 2 vs. 1 scenario and NOT in the way she might’ve anticipated. While Arizona and Mark do want what’s best for the baby, they’re kind of forgetting that making the mother miserable isn’t going to help anyone. Callie’s not being irresponsible or unreasonable in what she’s asking for. She’s not putting herself or the baby at risk. SHE JUST WANTS ONE CUP OF COFFEE. And, in the end, Arizona and Mark know that a little bit of compromise is a small price to pay for a happy home life. Which is maybe a lesson that Lexie needs to learn, too…
Lexie’s dealing with the P.Y.T. (Pretty Young Thing) referenced in the episode’s title. This is actually how we writers referred to Thatcher Grey’s twenty-seven-year-old girlfriend, before we dubbed her “Dani.” Here’s the thing. I have a little experience dealing with “Dad’s New Girlfriend,” myself. I was in college when my dad met the woman who has since become my stepmother. Sure, my dad had the good sense to choose someone who was age appropriate, but it’s still a strange thing when you’ve grown up seeing your parent a certain way, then are suddenly forced to see him as someone who goes on dates with a lady you’ve only just this moment met at a barbecue. I think I handled the situation with a little more grace than Lexie is initially able to muster. I’m pretty sure I’ve never screamed in my stepmom’s face. For one reason, it’s because like Dani, my stepmom’s actually a lovely person. But also, as Shonda once put it in the writers’ room when we discussed this episode - when it comes to family, you’ve got to get onboard or you’re going to lose them. It takes a lecture from Meredith and something like fifteen peanut butter cups from Jackson to get Lexie to figure this point out, but she does come around. She might not love the idea of Dani, but she loves her father and if not losing her relationship with him means being nice to a tattooed lady, then so be it.
And what about Jackson and those peanut butter cups? It would seem that while Jackson’s at first open to Mark’s offer of trading awesome surgeries for information on Lexie, something changes while he watches her eat that candy and talk and talk and talk… Earlier in the episode, Jackson insists to Mark that he and Lexie aren’t close, but they sure do seem to be a bit closer by the end of the day. So much so that Jackson is willing to miss out on surgeries that might help him win Chief Resident if it means keeping Lexie’s secrets. I’ve said it before, but I find Lexie Grey incredibly charming. And from the look on Jackson’s face at the end of the episode, something tells me he’s starting to as well…
Meredith, on the other hand, is not as charmed by Lexie today. And that’s because she’s simply not worried about her dad and his girlfriend. Dani makes Thatcher happy? Awesome. Mazel tov. If Dani wants to be there to hold Thatcher’s hand while he deals with a kidney stone, then it means that Meredith doesn’t have to do it. Which is fantastic, because Meredith seriously doesn’t have the time. Not only is she dealing with all the work that comes with an Alzheimer’s Clinical Trial, but now The Chief’s offering her what could be an even more prestigious Clinical Trial – a Clinical Trial based on Ellis Grey’s research.
As we put this story together, we always knew that we wanted Meredith to decide to stick with Derek’s Alzheimer’s Trial, but we weren’t always clear on WHY. We knew it felt right to us, but we weren’t sure what Meredith’s reasons would be. At a certain point it was pitched that Meredith would decide that the Alzheimer’s trial belonged to her, while the diabetes trial belonged to her mother - Meredith wanted to make a name for herself under her own steam. And while that may still be partly true, it ultimately didn’t feel completely right. Further discussion brought us to the real heart of the matter: Richard is offering Meredith the chance to complete Ellis’ work – to ensure her professional legacy. Derek is offering Meredith the chance to cure her mother’s disease. Richard suggests that Ellis’s research is Meredith’s birthright. But what Ellis really left Meredith was first-hand experience of just how terrifying a disease Alzheimer’s can be and the drive to keep others from having to go through that, too.
Okay, so fine. My problem isn’t really all that high-stakes when compared to curing diseases or whatever. In fact, my moment has come and gone and chances are you missed it completely. But, I promise you this: my mom sure didn’t. And I have a feeling this half-second of screen time is going to follow me around for a while yet.
Austin’s Mom: “Did you see Austin on Grey’s? No? Well, here, I have it cued up on my phone…”
Austin’s Mom’s friend: “Which one’s Austin? The one who looks like Santa Claus, age 29?”
Whatever. That’s the price you pay when you’re a super-star.