Hey Grey's Anatomy Fans: Was It Just Me, Or Did Meredith's Big Rant Sound Like Ellen Pompeo Was Talking About Her Own Exit?

Meredith Grey on Grey's Anatomy
(Image credit: ABC)

Spoiler alert! Spoilers for Grey’s Anatomy’s Season 18 episode “Should I Stay or Should I Go” ahead.

Meredith Grey took a lot of crap when Grey’s Anatomy returned from hiatus on May 5. As word spread that she had accepted a full-time job in Minnesota, Meredith endured the wrath of Maggie and Catherine, the petulance of Richard, and some trademark zingers from Addison. After maintaining her professionalism throughout the day, her emotions broke free when even Nick suggested she stay in Seattle for the time being. Et tu, McTransplant? Meredith went on a pretty fantastic rant, asking why she and she alone was required to stay at Grey Sloan when she was ready to move forward, and it all started to feel a little “art imitating life” to me.

Ellen Pompeo found the role of a lifetime when she started playing Meredith Grey on Shonda Rhimes’ flagship drama back in 2005. However, the actress never expected the series to last 18-plus seasons, and she’s spoken openly in the past few years about having been on the show for “too long” and working on “convincing everybody that it should end.” That’s why when Meredith got uncharacteristically emotional about her colleagues' insistence that she owed the hospital her undying devotion, I couldn’t help but wonder if a little bit of Ellen was peeking through Meredith’s words:

I have the right to leave. I've earned the right to leave. Other people from my residency class, they left and took other opportunities. I stayed. I worked. I researched. I won awards for that place. I did everything that was expected of me and then some. And now if I want to leave, it's considered disloyal? It's ridiculous. It's absurd. You know what else it is? It's my decision, and I've made my decision.

It’s kind of eerie, isn’t it? She has won awards for the show, and her peers have all left. Justin Chambers, Sandra Oh, T.R. Knight and Katherine Heigl — her four co-stars who played Grey’s Anatomy’s first-season interns — have all gone on to do other projects. 

Interestingly, the only other two actors who have been on the ABC hit with Ellen Pompeo all these years are James Pickens Jr. (Richard) and Chandra Wilson (Bailey) — the two characters who were the angriest with Meredith for wanting to leave. The other surgeon who gave Meredith an earful in “Should I Stay or Should I Go”? Catherine Fox, played by Grey’s executive producer Debbie Allen.

Now, I’m not by any means suggesting that Ellen Pompeo’s fellow actors are harboring ill will toward her for her opinions on the show. In fact, it seems to be Pompeo’s passion for Grey’s Anatomy that inspires some of her apprehension to continue. Rather than only concerning herself with the money the show makes, Pompeo wants to make sure there are good stories left to tell.

At the end of “Should I Stay or Should I Go,” Meredith agrees to stay in Seattle a little longer, which again mirrors Ellen Pompeo’s latest contract renewal. The actress upped her contract for one more year, ensuring that Grey’s Anatomy will see a Season 19 on ABC, but beyond that we’ll have to see if Pompeo has made a decision.

Two episodes remain before the big two-hour Season 18 finale, featuring the return of Japril. In the meantime, be sure to check out our 2022 TV schedule to see what shows are premiering soon.

Heidi Venable
Content Producer

Mom of two and hard-core '90s kid. Unprovoked, will quote Friends in any situation. Thrives on New Orleans Saints football, The West Wing and taco trucks.