“Grey’s Anatomy’s” Meredith Grey (Ellen Pompeo) survived COVID-19 and returned to work within the 17th season of the ABC drama. But unlike every other patient on the show who received a congratulatory clap out when being discharged after surviving the virus, she avoided one. After months back in rotation at Grey Sloan Memorial Hospital, though, she finally completed her first surgery since having COVID — and was certainly deserving of praise.
“Someone Saved My Life,” the Season 17 finale of the ABC medical drama, began with Meredith stating that the main lesson she learned from having COVID-19 was, “It taught me that I’m still alive.” An allusion to her time in a COVID-induced coma, Meredith walks on an actual beach; it’s a moment of serenity as she sprinkles petals around the sand. These words of wisdom meant even more later, after watching the episode shoot back in time to August 2020, when Meredith was frustrated at having to perform surgery, Maggie (Kelly McCreary) and Winston (Anthony Hill) had to postpone their wedding, Jo (Camilla Luddington) was fighting to adopt Luna, and the future of Link (Chris Carmack) and Amelia’s (Caterina Scorsone) relationship was uncertain.
The finale embedded moments of joy that signaled the worst of the pandemic — at least here at Grey Sloan — was over. The hour-long episode sped through almost a year of social distancing and civilian mask-wearing, implying that next season will take place post-pandemic.
After Teddy (Kim Raver) experienced a mild case, Owen (Kevin McKidd, who directed the episode) proposed on Christmas Day surrounded by family and makeshift snow. (She said yes.) Next came the vaccines. Even as Meredith fought for the lung transplant of a patient experiencing severe, nearly fatal COVID aftereffects, the hospital buzzed with happiness that the staff all received their first doses. A montage of smiling doctors (some tearing up) served as a reminder that it wasn’t so long ago that a vaccinated world seemed nearly impossible. “I love needles,” Miranda Bailey (Chandra Wilson) swooned.
But pushing through the darkness was not an easy hurdle for Amelia.
“It’s been a year, so much fear,” she told her addiction recovery group. “My boyfriend — my child’s father — he is not one of us. I am so glad he does not have to go through life like that, but sometimes there’s a part of me that wish he got it.”
Amelia knew Link would want more kids, especially when he agreed to help Jo adopt Luna by being a temporary foster parent. For the assurance of her own well-being, when Link proposed to Amelia on the beach at Winston and Maggie’s wedding (a romantic grand gesture with the option to pick one of four rings), she said no. He retreated to Jo’s new home to crash.
Juxtaposed from Link’s heartbreak was both Maggie and Winston’s wedding and Jo’s successful adoption of Luna, though. To pay for adoption and legal fees, she sold her shares of the hospital, which went to Tom Koracick (Greg Germann), who recently departed to Boston. Miranda expressed her annoyance with the hospital’s new co-owner in a quick video call with Tom, but she was delighted for Jo in the end. The new mom also found assistance from Jackson Avery (Jesse Williams), who has bestowed Jo his old Seattle digs and had a digital cameo of his own to welcome her to her new home.
But, would we be at an event with a bunch of doctors if at least one didn’t get called into the hospital? After Maggie and Winston said “I do,” Teddy and Meredith rushed off to Grey Sloan when a donor match for a lung transplant finally came in for their patient. Finally, Meredith completed her first-COVID surgery, serving as the perfect moment for her well-deserved clap out.
“So many people had struggled with COVID, and she didn’t want to feel any different than anyone else,” executive producer Meg Marinis — who wrote the episode with Andy Reaser — said in a statement to Variety. “We decided to clap Meredith out of the OR instead, which felt like the ultimate victory to her journey this season. That shot of Meredith in the OR Corridor, surrounded by her people, laughing and smiling in her scrub cap, it gives me all the feels. It gives me hope after such a hard year.”