Grey's Anatomy recap: Tuning In and Tuning Out

Callie faces down death -- and a high-concept Musical Episode. Does she make it out alive?
Ep. 18 | Aired Mar 31, 2011

Callie (Sara Ramirez) sang her way through a near-death experience on Grey's musical episode.

First, the good news: Grey's Anatomy's highly anticipated, and deeply confounding, musical episode wasn't fatal. I think the drama, which has been damn good this season for seven years in, can recover from any damage suffered during this bizarro turn into Glee territory. (It certainly gives one a whole new appreciation for how tough it must be for Glee to pull this off every week.) Now the not-so-good news. To paraphrase the great Randy Jackson: Yo yo, Grey's Anatomy, for me, for you, for me, it started out weird, then it got pitchy in the middle, then it was kind-of an incomprehensible mess, but you pulled off a great finish. Song choice, Seattle Grace. Song choice. I say this as a person who likes Grey's Anatomy, musicals, karaoke, and out-of-body-near-death experiences very, very much: It was okay once for fun, and I'm psyched that I now get to write a recap where I grade song performances, like the cool Glee recappers. But let's not do this again, shall we?

That said, let's get into it -- the song-by-song breakdown to which I've been so looking forward:

"Chasing Cars" (in the style of Snow Patrol)

The screeching U-turn into Musical Mode felt jarring, even for me as a person who was very aware that this was going to happen. The explanation was clever -- Callie was seeing everything in song while having her near-death experience, which was convenient because the actress who plays her, Sara Ramirez, has a tremendous voice and won a Tony on Broadway in "Spamalot." (It might've played better if we'd ever heard Callie mention a love of music or somesuch, but I'm fine with the suspension of disbelief.) And once I got into the groove, I found this number pretty touching, the way it started with Callie and slowly encompassed the doctors as they began working to fix her. That, too, took a little getting used to, but Kevin McKidd had a nice rock voice, and, of course, Broadway vet Chandra Wilson probably did the best job of everyone acting out the scene at hand while also singing. This song's massive emotional manipulation power helped, too. The brief silence as they found the fetal heartbeat, followed by the group harmony, also had me thinking they could possibly pull this whole crazy stunt off after all. B

"Breathe (2 a.m.)" (in the style of Anna Nalick)

"Just breathe, everyone," our new fearless band leader, Owen, commanded the stressed-out doctors, which pretty much screamed, "We're about to sing a song about breathing!" And there it was, another song so soon on the heels of the first. Luckily Chyler Leigh sounded good. I still had faith that we'd settle into this weirdness and the musical thing would be okay. Callie and the baby seemed like they might be okay, too -- her contractions stopped, but she needed to recuperate before any more operating or she would bleed to death. The new O.B., whose name is Dr. Lucy Fields and I am now determined to learn that, oddly declared herself "out of my depth" on helping with this case. Really? She can only handle healthy pregnant ladies? This is not a good sign, is it? Oh, right, we needed Addison to helicopter in! Which would've made way more sense if she said more than two lines in this episode or sang anything! But she didn't! Anyway, Lexie found Mark crying in the stairwell as she sang, which got me back to feeling the song a little again. "You don't have to do this," he said, underscoring his intention not to sing much in this episode. "I know you hate me." She comforted him, and sang some more, and at least I bought her emotional connection to this whole situation because of Mark, so I decided to just go with it. B

"How We Operate" (in the style of Gomez)

As the attendings all discussed the fact that Callie had a hole in her heart, I felt like a song was coming on yet again, and, man, did I want them to break into "Hole in My Heart," a catchy forgotten gem by Cyndi Lauper from the Vibes soundtrack. Alas, it was "How We Operate," which is a super-cool and haunting song in real life but not so much when Kevin McKidd growls it as a solo in the middle of a scene. I swear the other attendings were looking at him like he was a nutso guy singing in the middle of a serious discussion about a serious medical issue, but presumably under the logic of this episode they couldn't hear him, so I suppose that was just doctorly concern on their faces. Then there was this extra-strange moment when they closed the door and we could still hear the singing quietly in the other room while the residents talked outside. I can't begin to parse the conceptual thinking behind this. I would consult the excellent book Life After Life for some answers, but I have a lot of songs to get through here still. On the plus side, we got this funny (spoken, praise be) line from Alex about his new ladylove, Lucy: "She works here at Seattle Grace Mercy Death. So I'm pretty sure she's gonna go crazy or get cancer or get shot by a gunman or hit by a truck. So don't get your hopes up for Karev's big happily ever after." We will not, sir, because you are still stuck in this episode, and our hopes for it just plummeted. D

"Wait" (in the style of Get Set Go)

Another cool song that I'd rather listen to on my iPod, though the group effort here was slightly less awkward than poor McKidd's futile efforts with the last one. New rule: The more the execution looks like a music video, the better. During this, we learned Callie would have a better chance if they took the baby out, but the baby was barely viable. Arizona and Mark fought over what to do about this and their roles in her life (again). Mark argued for saving Callie at all costs, while Arizona said Callie would want them to do everything they could for the baby. It was, at least, nice to see how much Arizona had taken ownership of the baby now. But she snapped at Mark, "You're basically a sperm donor." And he snapped back, "You don't get a say. I'm the father. You're not anything." Trouble was brewing for Lexie and Jackson, too, as Jackson saw how upset she was: "I get it," he said, "it's Mark's kid." Worse still, Derek told Meredith that Callie had suffered massive head trauma that she might not recover from. Did anyone else start to totally disconnect from what would normally be disturbing information about a character we love because it was coming between song lyrics? I sure did. C

NEXT: Why is there a sex montage in near-death? Why?

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