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Why Grey's Anatomy Season 18 Will Be Especially Meaningful To Longtime Fans, According To Ellen Pompeo

Grey’s Anatomy fans waiting for Kate Walsh to make her return to the ABC medical drama got a treat after last week’s episode. Specifically, a sneak peek of Season 18’s “Hotter Than Hell” not only confirmed Walsh’s return but also gave an epic callback to Addison Montgomery’s introduction in Season 1. And according to lead star Ellen Pompeo, fans should be on the lookout for more Easter eggs throughout the season.

In fact, the Meredith Grey actress confirmed that eagle-eyed viewers were correct about another hidden gem in the Season 18 premiere, “Here Comes the Sun.” She said the shirt she wore in that episode was, in fact, the same one she wore in the Grey’s Anatomy pilot back in 2005 (NBD, because we all still fit in our clothes from 16 years ago). That was a pretty impressive detail for fans to find, but if you missed these first two callbacks, don’t worry! Season 18 will continue to offer fun nods to past seasons, the star said on Jimmy Kimmel Live!:

It was my idea to pay homage to many things and many different seasons and give the audience things to watch out for and to plant Easter eggs.

Though Ellen Pompeo confirmed there are more Easter eggs to come this season, she won’t give viewers any tips on what we should keep an eye out for. And she couldn’t if she wanted to! Pompeo told Jimmy Kimmel that while it was her idea to add the surprises for longtime fans, she’s not sure which tidbits will show up, or where. In fact, she said she’s on the lookout as well:

I even look for them, because it was just my idea. I didn’t necessarily say, ‘Let’s do this and this.’ I wasn’t specific about it. So when that shirt showed up on my wardrobe rack, I said, ‘Is this the same shirt?’ And it was.

So what’s with all the nostalgia? Does Ellen Pompeo’s urge to look back at details from Grey’s Anatomy’s long run on ABC signal that the end is near? There’s been no official word on anything past Season 18, and if last year was any indication, we probably won’t know for a while. Season 17 saw Meredith Grey nearly dying from COVID and thus being reunited with a number of our favorite doctors who have died over the course of the show, including Derek Shepherd, George O’Malley and Lexie Grey. 

The nostalgia then — as well as not knowing if Meredith was going to wake up — left Grey’s Anatomy fans and actors alike wondering if there even would be an 18th season. Finally, the single-season renewal came in May of this year, so I wouldn’t hold my breath on whether or not we’ll get a Season 19 just yet.

But fans like myself will enjoy it while we can and will definitely be on the lookout for more Easter eggs. Tune in to ABC at 9 p.m. ET Thursday following sister Seattle drama Station 19 to see Kate Walsh return as Addison Montgomery. And be sure to check out our 2021 fall TV Schedule for all of the upcoming premieres.

Heidi Venable

Mom of two and hard-core '90s kid. Unprovoked, will quote Friends in any situation. Can usually be found rewatching The West Wing instead of doing anything productive.