Grey's Anatomy's Best Episode: Yesterday

By Mack Rawden 2012-02-06 20:40:01 discussion comments
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Once again, we're tackling another show in TV Blend's weekly series "___'s Best Episode." Each week a different writer will pick out a different episode of a TV show and argue why it is definitively, absolutely the best thing the show ever did. Arguments will be started, tears may be shed, but we're here to start some conversations and make some arguments for really, really good TV. This week Mack makes a case for Grey’s Anatomy’s “Yesterday,” which shed light on the behaviors of a number of characters. Read below, argue with us in the comments.

Grey’s Anatomy has always been a show about baggage.  It’s been about the scars, the smiles, the promises and the heartbreaks a handful of surgeons carry beside their scalpels.  We weren’t privy to all those wounds at the beginning; so, we watched and wondered.  We wondered why the characters behaved the way they did and what could have possibly happened to push them into medical school and into each other’s arms.  In time, we were told these details and hundreds more, but in learning them, we too found ourselves suffocating beneath baggage. 

In a way, that’s the reason why Grey’s Anatomy can never be as good as it once was.  We’ve seen these men and women fornicate and fight, cry and make-up too many times.  Their motivations and dreams are now common currency, obscuring our abilities to be affected behind dozens of remember-whens.  Remember when we finally met the man that ruined Derek and Addison’s marriage?  Remember when Meredith confronted her father for the first time?  Remember when George slept with the woman of his dreams?

All of those remember-when’s started out as I-wonder-why’s.  Teased, hinted at and slowly explored for months, these broad questions lingered over Seattle Grace, sometimes quietly in gossip-laden whispers and sometimes more directly in conversations between friends and lovers.  Each was entitled to its own moment, and each got one, somehow encapsulated within forty-three minutes.  Entitled “Yesterday”, Grey’s Anatomy’s greatest episode aired partway through the second season.  It didn’t feature bomb scares or main character deaths or exam failures.  It simply turned three of the biggest I-wonder-why’s into three incredible remember-when’s and still found time to offer three fascinating medical cases perfectly reminiscent of the Grey’s formula we’ve all come to love.  

It seems like there shouldn’t have been enough time to feature all of that in a single episode, but Grey’s has always had a wonderful way of using its patients as conduits to advance the overarching plot.  In “Yesterday”, we’re given three strangers.  The first, a good-hearted teenager with facial tumors and a desire to finally appear normal, gives dirty mistress plastic surgeon Mark Sloan an excuse to stick around after Derek coldcocks him. The second, a scared asshole with a dying dream of telling those who betrayed him off, gives Meredith the impulse she needs to finally confront her father.  And the last patient, a woman who can’t stop having orgasms, operates as the final push for George to tell Meredith how he feels. 

None of the actions these men and women inspire work out for the characters.  Mark’s patient dies on the operating table.  Meredith tracks down her father, only to find a sad and lonely man at a loss for words, and George gets exactly what he wants, which is a whole lot lonelier than what he had.  It’s a team failure from every angle, and it’s really goddamn sad. These moments were all coming for a long time.  We needed to meet Mark.  We needed to put a face to Thatcher, and we needed to be reminded why guys like George are better off without girls like Meredith.  Their arrivals gave us three unforgettable remember-whens, but they also brought more I-wonder-why’s, paving the way for the subsequent season and a half which proved the strongest Grey’s ever gave us.    

“Yesterday” starts with a punch and ends with a fuck.  In between, it unloads a little bit of its characters’ baggage and places it on us.  The repeating of that process might have eventually ruined Grey’s Anatomy, but to produce an episode like this, it was worth it. 
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