We've anticipated it for weeks, and it has finally arrived: the alternate reality episode. And it all starts when Meredith (Ellen Pompeo) goes to sleep thinking, "What if?" (Okay, we've had our dalliances with the hypothetical, too, but here she is dreaming up a whole wackadoodle world. Did she have some bad shrimp for dinner or something?) In this reality, Seattle Grace is just Seattle Grace without the Mercy West, curly hair is suddenly straight, doctors wear glasses instead of contacts, and Charles Percy is alive again. And that's just where the differences begin.
In Alternaworld, Meredith wakes up and promptly puts on a pink sweater set and pink lip gloss. (Okay, she's bright and shiny. We get it.) She goes downstairs and has sunny conversations with her mom and dad, Ellis (Kate Burton) and Richard (James Pickens Jr.). Aww. And then it's off to the hospital, where she tells her bright-and-shiny BFF April (Sarah Drew) — who else? — that she got engaged last night. And, on cue, her fiance Alex Karev (Justin Chambers) walks in the door, also looking like he has a date at the country club.
Ellis is sort of the Blair Waldorf of the hospital, ruling over her minions with an iron fist. (She can be sorta nice, though. Sorta. When the light hits her just so.) She has just won her third Harper Avery award, and to keep the reporters entertained, she steals Bailey's (Chandra Wilson) Whipple operation, and "Mandy" is too meek to even put up much of a fight. Bailey tells Alex a key insight into the patient's case that Alex forgets to pass on to Ellis, and as a result, the surgery goes south.
Cristina (Sandra Oh) is an emotionless outcast who sits by herself and sews bananas together. The other doctors ridicule her for sleeping with an attending, Burke, an affair which apparently made him flee the state. She apparently has a thing for attendings, because she's also crushing on Owen Hunt (Kevin McKidd) — and she helps him manage his PTSD outbursts. Meredith butts in on one of her surgeries and the two argue so ferociously that Cristina later blabs that she walked in on Alex having sex with April. Alex tries denying it, but April, true to form, breaks down in tears. What a terrible other woman April makes!
Jackson (Jesse Williams) is pretty much exactly the same, which is a little weird. His dreadlocked, tattooed, overdosing patient professes herself to be Lucille Ball, but we recognize her as Lexie Grey (Chyler Leigh). He tries to get her back on the straight and narrow, telling her that her photographic memory could see her through med school. But instead of taking his advice, she takes his swipe card and swipes some medicine before skeedaddling. She doesn't go far though, because Mark Sloan (Eric Dane) carries her in unconscious.
Derek (Patrick Dempsey) is sort of a dope, and Addison (Kate Walsh) is his pregnant wife who puts on a happy face in spite of all of his gloominess. After enough tension, she finally asks him if he wants their baby and if he even loves her. After Ellis gives Derek a not-so-friendly reminder that she would rather fire him than Addison, he tries to make nicey-nice with Addison, but she confesses that it's not even his baby. Out of the shower steps Mark. (Though truthfully, it's not as hot as the first time it happened on Grey's.)
Meredith goes crying to Daddy Warbucks about Alex's betrayal, and Richard offers a warm embrace. Ellis, meanwhile, rips Mer a new one for letting Cristina shame her in the OR. Meredith yells right back and leaves in a huff. Ellis breaks down in tears, explaining how she embarrassed herself in front of the reporters because of Mandy's mistake and tells Richard to fire her. She also expresses her exasperation in not being able to talk with Meredith. Um, a little smile goes a long way, lady.
Meredith and Cristina finally start bonding when they crack Lexie's chest and save her life. They celebrate with shots of tequila and actually talk like our normal Mer and Cristina do. Then Cristina heads home and Meredith starts chatting up Derek, telling him that the other residents call him McDreary. (Clever.) He cheers up and says that, just for that night, he'll be a guy in a bar. She says she'll be a girl in a bar. We flash back to the same dialogue that we heard during the Grey’s pilot, and we know where this is headed.
Oh, and Callie (Sara Ramirez) and Arizona (Jessica Capshaw) are also in this episode but don't really play a large part. Callie, head of cardio, has three kids with Owen. She and Owen seem solid, but by the end of the hour, she starts flirting a bit with Arizona...
Okay, we get it. The universe has a way of course-correcting itself. Yeah, we watched Lost, too, Grey's writers. We've heard this all before. What if, you want us to wonder? Okay, what if this episode lived up to the hype? You tell us if you thought it did, or if it was kind of a non-event.
Catch an all-new Grey’s Anatomy on Thursday, February 9 at 9pm ET/PT on ABC.
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