‘Grey’s Anatomy’ and ‘Private Practice’: The Family Sloan flips the switch

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After a long holiday hiatus, ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ returned tonight with a game-changing hour, and some bonus crossover drama on sister series ‘Private Practice.’

The ‘Grey’s’ episode, titled ‘Blink,’ began with Meredith’s voiceover explaining how a person’s life can be transformed in an instant. In the blink of an eye (get it?) you can become an entirely new version of yourself. Several characters and relationships were transformed by pivotal moments. Though the episode probably could have benefited from a little bit of streamlining, it was one of the stronger ones so far this season, especially in comparison with ‘Holidaze,’ the rushed fall finale.


I think the writers have struck gold with the characters’ living situations at the moment -- particularly having Callie, Arizona, Christina, Owen, Mark, and Lexie all living in the same apartment building. With the latest addition to the mix -- Mark’s pregnant teenage daughter, Sloan -- there’s an open-door-policy dorm vibe, not unlike what made ‘Friends’ so much fun to watch. It’s a nice reminder that outside of the hospital, these people aren’t just occasional sex partners, they’re a haphazard, makeshift family as well.

I’ve been looking forward to this episode because of its focus on Mark. He’s one of my favorite characters -- I’m always happy to see him get a story line of his own, because he injects even the most melodramatic moments with a cocky sense of humor. He’s the eternal high school yearbook ‘most popular,’ so he’s incredibly charming, but he’s also the type of guy who expects to get what he wants. He’s not used to anyone telling him that something can’t be done or that a situation is hopeless.

The McSteamy family dynamic is put under a microscope in this episode. For a few months, Mark, Lexie, and Sloan have been living together. It’s testing Lexie’s patience, which is understandable, especially because Mark is still getting the hang of being a father. ‘He just gave her 80 bucks for a muffin and a sandwich! She’s just going to end up spending it on a pair of jeans that show off her butt-crack and then she’s gonna ask me for half of my pasta salad,’ Lexie complains to Christina when she’s forced to go next door in search of an available shower. Lexie isn’t far from Sloan’s age, either, so there’s an almost sibling-like quality to their interaction -- including a little bit of rivalry and competition for Mark’s affection.

Watching Mark try to adjust to his new role as McDad is fun too. The writers are doing a great job -- after my parents got divorced and my dad was suddenly faced with some ‘mom decisions,’ my sisters and I definitely weaseled some extra allowance out of him. Lunch money decisions were about to become small change, though. Mark faced a serious bombshell when an ultrasound revealed that without surgery, Sloan’s son would likely be born with severe birth defects that would handicap him for life.

Because he’s Dr. Mark Sloan, he settles for nothing less than the best and flies Addison Montgomery up from L.A. to do her Superwoman OB-GYN thing. I’m always glad to see Addison back. Kate Walsh is fantastic, and I miss her on ‘Grey’s’ -- though ‘Private Practice’ has been going above and beyond expectation. (If you’re not watching it this season, you’re missing out. ‘Private Practice’ has managed to strike a perfect balance between personal drama and ethical medical dilemmas that ‘Grey’s’ is still grappling with.)

‘You reacted like a parent,’ Addison tells her old flame when he halts Addison’s surgery because of a small risk to Sloan. ‘Now, I don’t know when, I don’t know how, but at some point, you became a dad to that little urchin. Congratulations.You’re a parent.’

As a parent, Mark makes a crucial decision: He invites Sloan to move in with him and Lexie, and to stay with them while she raises her baby. All of this ... without consulting Lexie. Whoops?

I do feel for Lexie in this situation. She’s young; other people her age aren’t about to become step-grandparents. ‘I’m happy for you; I really am. Something happened today. You became a dad, and Sloan, against all odds, became a mom. But I didn’t. I was barely ready to move in with you, never mind your daughter and grandbaby. I don’t want this,’ she tells Mark.

Though I’m sad to see them break up, Lexie did make the right decision. Their lives have taken different paths. That said, Mark made the right decision too. Parents -- even parents to surprise 18-year-olds -- are supposed to make choices in their child’s best interests. It’s the natural order of the world.

Of course, every action has a reaction. In the follow-up episode of ‘Private Practice,’ Mark jets off to L.A. so that Addison can finish the surgery Mark prematurely called off. He’s acting like a real dad -- scared and a little bit impressionistic when it comes to Addison’s colleagues at Oceanside Wellness. His punchy attitude and Addison’s family issues make for quite an explosive combination. Searching for ‘something to numb the pain,’ the former lovers rule out heroin, alcohol, and compulsive overeating and go with a remedy they’re more familiar with: sex.

After the sex, Mark is still shaken by his breakup, and he even proposes relocating to L.A. with Sloan and the baby. He finds comfort in his old friends and the escape from Seattle Grace’s drama, and he looks forward to helping Sloan raise her baby. Unfortunately for Mark, the stress of the surgery leads Sloan to realize that she’s not ready to be a mother -- and luckily for ‘Grey’s’ fans, Mark finally sees that he’s still in love with Lexie and can’t stay in L.A.

Meanwhile, back in Seattle, Lexie proves why she and Mark were such a good match to begin with. She hooks up with a former flame of her own: Alex. He’s given up on Izzie, and though he shoots down Bambi (er, I mean, Mercy West’s Reed), he doesn’t hesitate at all to fall back into bed with Lexie. I’m not sure how I feel about this move. After all, Izzie did essentially abandon him after he stood by her through her cancer, but ... did his rebound fling really have to be with someone they work with? Izzie’s inevitable return is not going to be pretty. As Meredith says, ‘This is the old Alex: sleeping with some random person because you’re angry and hurt.’

Speaking of Reed, though, I’m starting to hope that she gives Charlie the time of day. He’s a little bit of a dope, but he’s been pining for her for so long, and his fumbling awkwardness is almost endearing. It’s been a while since we’ve had a good old-fashioned ‘will they or won’t they’ romance on this show.

Back to those crucial character changes, though. Meredith has been enabling Weber’s drinking for far, far too long now. I was so glad when she finally told Derek what’s been going on. Weber endangered at least one patient with his carelessness, and now the once infallible Seattle Grace chief of surgery spends his time reminiscing about better times under the guise of mentoring Meredith. While he was watching those old surgery videos, I was half expecting Bruce Springsteen to burst through the door and start singing about boring stories of glory days. When Meredith spilled the beans, she was doing the right thing, and, as she said in her voiceover, she was becoming a doctor. ‘A switch flips,’ she says.

For me, the most startling ‘flipped switch’ was within Christina. After years of missing Burke’s tutelage and desperately needing a ‘Cardio God’ to help her become the doctor she’s meant to be, Teddy arrived and gave Christina her first truly solo cardiological surgery. Her teaching method was certainly interesting: a bit like teaching a kid to swim by tossing him into the deep end without his floaties. As Christina struggled to replace the heart valve on a very difficult patient (played brilliantly by guest star Cynthia Stevenson), tension mounted and Teddy refused to help, even when things looked dire. Ultimately, Christina took control and the surgery was successful.

However, forced to finally face up to the fact that Owen doesn’t love her, Teddy packed her bags. She was on her way out of Seattle Grace, for good, when Christina chased after her. ‘What do you want? More money? Because I’ll talk to the chief,’ Christina begged, moved to tears. ‘You can work with vets! No one here has ever believed in me like this. You believe in me more than I do, and I need that. I will die here without that. Tell me what you want, and I will make it happen.’

‘I want Owen!’ Teddy blurted, and without hesitation -- without so much as a blink -- Christina said, ‘Fine. Done. Take him.’


My jaw dropped! Christina has always put her career first, but to trade her boyfriend like he’s a card Teddy asked for in a game of Go Fish is extreme, even for her. I’m really glad that we don’t have to wait another five weeks for a new episode, because I have a feeling that next week’s episode is going to have some shocking consequences for almost all of the characters.

I can’t wait to chat about this episode with you guys! What do you think about Lexie’s and Mark’s demise? Were you as shocked as I was by Christina’s impulsive reaction to Teddy’s resignation? Did you watch the ‘Private Practice’ follow-up?

Dish in the comments below and don’t forget to come back next week so we can discuss Izzie’s return.

-- Carina MacKenzie (catch up with me on Twitter @cadlymack)

Sloan and Mark have dinner in Los Angeles. Christina (Sandra Oh) chases Teddy (Kim Raver) out of the hospital. Credit: ABC

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