Grey's Anatomy Richard Webber, Miranda Bailey and Meredith Gray walk the halls of the hospital.

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It took awhile, but ABC finally announced its hit medical drama, Grey's Anatomy, will return for Season 18. The network sure made fans, as well as show runner Krista Vernoff, sweat though, not announcing the renewal until a few weeks before this season's finale. But, now that we know the drama will continue, we can take a collective breath, process what happened in Season 17 and start preparing ourselves for what's to come.

Part of the uncertainty about Grey's Anatomy's future was fueled by main character Meredith Grey falling victim to COVID-19 and spending much of Season 17 unconscious and in a beach hallucination. The beach gimmick did allow for some epic character comebacks, as fans were treated to Meredith's reunions with husband Derek "McDreamy" Shepherd, sister Lexi Grey and her longtime love Mark "McSteamy" Sloan, as well as 007 himself, George O'Malley. We got some fan favorites (but not all) back in the "real world," too, with the reunion of April Kepner and Jackson Avery. But, enough about the past. What's in store for the future? Let's break down everything we know so far about Grey's Anatomy Season 18.

Grey's Anatomy Levi Schmidt and Taryn Helm watch TV at Jo's apartment

Season 18 Will Premiere In Fall 2021

Although ABC hasn't released a specific date, the network did confirm Grey's Anatomy Season 18 will return in fall 2021. Most seasons of Grey's Anatomy premiere in late September, but a COVID-shortened Season 17 was delayed until November. Here's hoping we won't have to deal with that again (for many reasons, not just TV related)! Another possible factor, however, might be Ellen Pompeo's lobbying for shorter seasons. If the show doesn't go back to a post-COVID filming schedule, it remains to be seen how that would affect the premiere date.

Grey's Anatomy Zander Perez

Grey's Anatomy Will Retain Its Time Slot

There may be a few things up in the air regarding premiere date, but we do know one thing: ABC confirmed that Grey's Anatomy will retain its 9 p.m. ET Thursday time slot, and it will continue to follow its crossover-friendly spinoff, Station 19, which was renewed for a fifth season. The Seattle firefighter drama's third season premiere kicked off a crossover event that coincided with Grey's Anatomy's Season 16 midseason premiere. The two shows have played at 8 p.m. and 9 p.m., respectively, ever since.

Grey's Anatomy Teddy Altman and Owen Hunt exchange a look in the hospital.

Multiple Series Regulars Are Confirmed To Return

Only three actors have walked the halls of Seattle Grace-turned-Grey Sloan Memorial for all 17 seasons, and all three — Ellen Pompeo (Meredith Gray), Chandra Wilson (Miranda Bailey) and James Pickens Jr. (Richard Webber) have signed on for Season 18. Three other series regulars, Camilla Luddington (Jo Wilson), Kevin McKidd (Owen Hunt) and Kim Raver (Teddy Altman), signed contract extensions in 2020 that would keep them with Grey's Anatomy through Season 19, should it be renewed again. Negotiations with the other Grey's actors are not known.

Grey's Anatomy Tom Koracick

Three Season 17 Stars Will Not Return

Grey's Anatomy fans were dealt some surprises in Season 17, as three series regulars left the show, and therefore will not return when Grey's starts back up. Giacomo Gianniotti's Andrew DeLuca was murdered in the midseason premiere after chasing down a suspected sex trafficker. Jesse Williams announced his exit from the show as the Grey's Anatomy episode aired that showed his character, Jackson Avery, planning to leave Seattle to focus on effecting social change. And Greg Germann surprisingly followed, as his character, Tom Koracick, decided to go with Avery to Boston.

Grey's Anatomy Meredith Gray sits on a bench.

Ellen Pompeo Got Another Raise

With Ellen Pompeo's single-season contract extension, the actress also reportedly negotiated a salary increase and, with that, remained broadcast television’s highest-earning actress in a primetime drama series. Although we don't know the details, Forbes reported in 2020 that Pompeo made about $550,000 per episode prior to this latest extension. Fellow Grey's OGs Chandra Wilson and James Pickens Jr. also reportedly received pay increases. Pompeo has spoken out for years on pay equality, not just between men and women, but for people of color as well.

Grey's Anatomy Atticus Lincoln Link

Relationships Will Be Shaken Up

While Maggie and Winston tied the knot in the Season 17 finale, another couple may be splitsville. Amelia turned down Link's proposal, and Link is seemingly moving in with BFF Jo and her newly adopted daughter Luna. With Link having fostered Luna while Jo fought for custody, could this situation finally be what takes their friendship to a romantic level? Teddy and Owen got engaged in the finale, but the road for those two has never been easy. And Meredith and Cormac "McWidow" Hayes seemed to be picking up where they left off, sharing a drink together.

Grey's Anatomy Jackson Avery talks to Sarah Drew at her house.

No New Spinoff Is In The Works, At Least Officially

Fans got really excited when Jonnie Davis, president of ABC Signature (which produces Grey's and Station 19) seemingly teased another Grey's Anatomy spinoff in the future. But, he had to backtrack quickly, saying, "There are no conversations about a spinoff of Grey’s Anatomy at this time." Yeah, I hear your official statement, but after the success of Private Practice, which ran for six seasons, and Station 19, which just got renewed for a fifth season, I'm okay with remaining optimistic about something happening in the future.

All I can say is it's going to be a long summer waiting for our favorite Seattle surgeons to return to our TVs. But, at least there's some certainty in knowing it will return, after going so long into the season without that confirmation. Until then, get caught up or rewatch all your favorite episodes, as Seasons 1-16 of Grey's Anatomy are streaming on Netflix, with Season 17 streaming on Hulu. For some viewing options during the hiatus, be sure to check out our 2021 summer TV premiere guide, and stay tuned to CinemaBlend for the latest in TV and movie news.

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