Grey's Anatomy is just days away from saying goodbye to another longtime cast member, but Jesse Williams' Jackson Avery is poised to get a much happier sendoff than Giacomo Gianniotti's DeLuca earlier in Season 17. The latest episode saw the return of Sarah Drew as April Kepner for the first time since Drew was written out in Season 14, delivering a Japril reunion that set up Williams' departure as Jackson as something positive. His big farewell episode is on the way, and I find myself wondering: could Sarah Drew make a surprise reappearance before the final credits roll?
Now, Sarah Drew was announced as returning for just the one episode, meaning that Jackson didn't have much time to convince April to come to Boston with him and their daughter so that he could run the Harper Avery Foundation, sweetening the deal with promises of resources to fund her projects. April ultimately agreed, and she even sweetened the deal further (for Japril fans, anyway) with the reveal that she and Matthew are no longer together.
The description for the next episode reveals that Jackson will share "the big news" of his departure with his colleagues at Grey Sloan, and the promo for the episode shows Jackson handing in his resignation and hypes it as "a farewell to Jackson." With his farewell episode airing right after Sarah Drew's return for a Japril reunion that will see the two characters head off to Boston together, isn't it conceivable that she filmed an extra scene for a cameo to send Jackson off to the next stage of his career and life?
Honestly, it would certainly beat Grey's Anatomy sending Alex off for a happily-ever-after with Izzie and breaking Jo's heart without having either Justin Chambers or Katherine Heigl on hand for any new scenes. Still, the Alex situation (such as it was) set a recent precedent for Grey's sending a major character off by reuniting him with his most famous love interest for the next chapter of their love story, and that makes me think the show could do it again, but better, with Japril. Surely Grey's would have brought back Justin Chambers and Katherine Heigl if possible, right? And Grey's just had Sarah Drew!
Plus, Grey's Anatomy brought back all those other characters this season to deliver some closure, even in death, and most of those were shockers. Throw in the fact that there was no guarantee that Grey's Anatomy would be renewed for another season when the episode featuring Sarah Drew's return was filmed, and I could 100% see Jackson and April heading off into the sunset in his farewell episode with both on screen. Sarah Drew was back to film the latest episode that aired, and I know I'd love to see her in the next.
Now, I can admit that I'm partly basing my hope for a quick Sarah Drew appearance in Jesse Williams' final episode on the events of another long-running medical show: ER. The show famously (and at the time, secretly) brought George Clooney's Doug back for a quick scene in Julianna Margulies' final episode as Carol as a series regular, just long enough to give them a happy ending together on screen.
Less famously but still relevant to the idea of Sarah Drew appearing one last time on Grey's Anatomy was the final ER episode of Maura Tierney's Abby Lockhart as a series regular, when Goran Visnjic returned for a cameo to show that Abby would get a happy ending with his character and their child... in Boston, of all places.
Even as somebody who wasn't watching ER live in the era of George Clooney and Juliana Margulies, and as somebody who preferred Abby with Carter, and as somebody who spent most of the Grey's Anatomy farewell to Alex watching in disbelief, I honestly think that a final Japril scene would be a wonderfully hopeful way to curb any sadness about the departure of Jackson. And it feels very possible, given Sarah Drew's recent return.
But I can also admit that possible doesn't exactly mean likely. Grey's Anatomy's third big Japril episode ended on a sweet and hopeful note for both Jackson and April, with both of them finally on the same page and ready to head to Boston with their fingers crossed for new horizons, and their adorable daughter in tow. If that was Sarah Drew's final scene on Grey's Anatomy, and the final Jackson/April scene, then I have nothing to be upset about.
Jackson leaving Seattle to use the Harper Avery Foundation's resources to fight for racial equity in medicine, April getting more resources for her own goals, and the little family unit more or less sticking together, is about the best way I can imagine Jesse Williams being written out without rushing anything. Assuming Grey's Anatomy doesn't deliver just about the worst twist imaginable by killing him off in his farewell episode, Jackson will have gotten one last big episode with April and one episode to say his goodbyes to Grey Sloan, which is pretty great with or without a surprise appearance from Sarah Drew.
In fact, I'd say that Sarah Drew's guest appearance after a few seasons away gave her a better sendoff than she got when she was written off as a series regular. Besides, Drew dropped some comments about a potential spinoff that at the very least make it fun to imagine what could come next for Jackson and April. ET reports that after Drew confirmed that she is "deciding" that Japril is endgame, she had this to say about potentially continuing their story in a new show:
Now, a spinoff is no more guaranteed than Sarah Drew turning up in Jesse Williams' final episode for an ER-esque sendoff a la Doug and Carol, but it's fun to consider in light of what has been kind of a bummer of a season of Grey's Anatomy. Even Meredith's reunions with her long-lost loved ones happened because she was potentially dying and they were dead, and Grey's Anatomy not time-jumping out of COVID like some other medical shows meant that the characters are still dealing with elements of the pandemic that the real world has recovered from.
For all of this speculation, the one thing that is confirmed is that Jesse Williams is leaving Grey's Anatomy after twelve years, getting an on-screen farewell that almost certainly isn't going to earn him a slot on any lists of Grey's Anatomy deaths. This could be more of farewell like what Cristina got than anything else, but we'll have to wait and see. His final episode airs on Thursday, May 20 at 9 p.m. ET on ABC, with the Season 17 finale soon to follow.
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Laura turned a lifelong love of television into a valid reason to write and think about TV on a daily basis. She's not a doctor, lawyer, or detective, but watches a lot of them in primetime. Resident of One Chicago, the galaxy far, far away, and Northeast Ohio. Will not time travel and can cite multiple TV shows to explain why. She does, however, want to believe that she can sneak references to The X-Files into daily conversation (and author bios).