video thanks to Geniusmentis
The final episodes of Season 6 found Owen and Cristina juggling their commitment to each other with the unsettling return of painful memories for each of them. While Teddy’s presence had both provided a teacher for Cristina and given Owen a chance to regain a friendship, it had also triggered his wartime memories.
With Cristina’s encouragement, Owen settled into working alongside Teddy in Seattle as they had in the field. Due to this experience, however, we soon began to see Owen again experiencing PTSD symptoms except this time he also flashed back to the painful loss of a comrade in the field. As his memories of that loss unfolded over the course of a powerful episode we saw both the derivation of his friendship with Teddy and gained insight into the likely event Owen was dreaming about when he choked Cristina the previous season during a PTSD-triggered night terror.
Owen became increasingly erratic both at home and at work, causing Cristina to express her concern while also mystifying Teddy who found her friend suddenly unwilling to back up her medical choices as he would have in the field. While this experience was exceedingly painful for all involved, Owen also found some relief through talking to the husband of a patient being treated by Teddy and Cristina. His wife had requested physician assisted suicide as cancer ravaged her frail system. Over the course of an emotionally tenuous day Owen realized the parallels between his stressful response to the patient’s choice and his inability to save his comrade during the war.
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Both Cristina and Teddy struggled to assist Owen from their very different vantage points. Cristina tried to provide opportunities for Owen to talk while asking him to consider a return to therapy. After Owen bristled at her suggestions Cristina took matters into her own hands by asking for assistance from Teddy, the friend who had been there alongside Owen as events took their toll on him in Iraq. Teddy, aware that in this difficult situation the only way to help Owen was to help Cristina help him, offered Cristina simple advice, ‘He’s in love with you…Show him how you feel.’
Upon reaching home to find Owen attempting to return to some sense of normalcy by observing the basic rituals of making dinner, Cristina felt momentarily hopeful. Yet Owen’s acute reaction to something burning on the stove caught them both off guard. When Owen reached for Cristina she flinched, forcing a painful realization for them both. ‘You’re scared of me,’ he whispered as a broken expression flashed across his face. Cristina admitted, ‘I don’t want to be,’ before reaching for Owen’s hand. And with that, Owen accepted that a return to Dr. Wyatt’s psychiatric couch was imminent.
As he began to allow himself greater access to his wartime memories in order to heal from them Owen found himself facing a conundrum. The past he’d disavowed was intent on coming to the surface and he discovered the value of those memories amidst the pain they generated. The experience of working as a trauma surgeon in Iraq had provided him opportunities for growth and important friendships with Teddy and the other members of their platoon. At the same time that he had attempted to place those memories behind a locked door, they also formed the framework for the kind of man, the kind of surgeon he had become as a result of those experiences and it was that man who had fallen in love with and was loved in return by Cristina. Yet Owen continued to fear how those memories would impact Cristina as he struggled to face the future with her while making peace with the past.
In an interesting turn of events, we soon found Teddy never told surgical department administration she’d stopped looking for a job elsewhere. Having opened a national search for a head of cardio thoracic surgery, Derek squired eminent heart surgeon Tom Evans around the hospital. While Cristina was excited at the opportunity to observe a prominent cardio god in action, Teddy flailed as she began to fight hard for a job that had become important to her. It unfolded across a tense episode that Teddy valued both the new version of her friendship with Owen as well as opportunities to work with Cristina. Yet Owen was saddened at watching Teddy’s miserable struggle to retain a job she’d taken on at his request. Adding additional tension was Cristina’s request that Owen endorse Teddy to Derek in an attempt to sway him to offer Teddy a permanent job.
When Owen discovered Derek had already chosen to offer the contract to Dr. Evans, Owen found himself standing at a crossroads. As Cristina had regained her professional confidence, Owen believed her enthusiasm about Evans’ appearance indicated she was now in a position to learn from any qualified mentor. Owen also seemed to wonder if his best course of action to fix what was broken amidst his friendship with Teddy was to assure Derek she had opportunities elsewhere, potentially giving her a chance at a fresh start somewhere else.
In the meantime, we saw Cristina’s prior traumas revisit her at the same time she was attempting to support Owen through his recovery process. Cristina found herself unexpectedly drawn to the child of a female cardio patient. As she movingly talked to the child about her mother’s illness Cristina seemed to find her own peace around her father’s tragic death in a car accident when she was nine years old. Strikingly, Cristina chose to stay with the child while her mother was rushed into surgery, a decision that seemed to show Cristina’s increased comfort with balancing the emotional side of her life with her professional goals.
Cristina’s attempt to reassure the child was eerily reminiscent of Owen’s earlier conversation with the cancer patient’s husband, further illustrating how both Owen and Cristina faced parallel journeys. Cristina told the child, ‘First you’ll feel you could have done more to help her but it’s not true. You did everything you could. It won’t feel that way but remember me telling you this, you did everything you could…(and) over time it will hurt less and less.’ Facing this watershed moment in her emotional growth, Cristina shattered and could only find comfort with Owen. In a touching scene, Owen held Cristina lovingly in his arms as she sobbed for her own childhood loss and managed to finally tell him, ‘I miss my dad.’
Building on the promise of this quiet moment of connection, while attending a party at Meredith and Derek’s house Owen asked Cristina a pivotal question. ‘Let’s move in together…I ran it by my shrink and she thinks it’s a good idea. You, me, get our own place?’ Cristina’s heartfelt agreement made it clear she too was ready for the future. The next morning Meredith couldn’t keep herself from advising Cristina that before taking this next step she should be sure there wasn’t more than meets the eye to Owen’s friendship with Teddy. After initially ignoring her friend’s words Cristina spent the day working with Owen and Teddy, observing them through the lens of Meredith’s murmurings and a pair of patients and their story of long lost love regained now that circumstances brought them both to the hospital for treatment.
Further trying to protect her friend, Meredith also urged Owen to talk to Cristina about his attempt to sway Derek’s decision about the cardio position. In the ensuing conversation in a hospital stairwell Owen’s uncertainty of how to incorporate both his memories of the war and his bond with Teddy into his present life in Seattle crashed into Cristina’s own scrambled thinking. As Owen admitted that Teddy both triggered and confused him, paired as she was in his mind with memories of injured soldiers, Cristina grew fearful and withdrew. Added to the tension level was the realization that Teddy had been standing on the stairs below them as Owen and Cristina exposed their innermost fears to each other.
Headed into the season finale the question of how to proceed became further mired in the past for both Owen and Cristina. Each had exposed long-protected wounds and had, in the process, uncovered baggage they had done their level best to ignore was still with them. And once these intense and painful issues had been brought to the surface, distance grew between them at the precise time they had thought they were prepared to step into a deeper shared future. As Owen and Cristina’s fears reached a crescendo so did life at the hospital as into their midst came a grieving widower carrying a gun who sought vengeance for the loss of his wife.
The rapidly dwindling separation of Before and After played out for Owen and Cristina over an increasingly tense landscape. Teddy became offended Owen had tried to influence Derek’s decision about her hospital contract. And given Owen’s disbelieving response to her anger, it seemed their friendship was more tenuous than ever. Soon thereafter, Owen encountered an overtly emotional Cristina who found herself needing validation of the security of their relationship. As each woman asked Owen, in her own way, to make his feelings clear his frustration became palpable. Yet one could see via his tender and anguished responses to Cristina and the brusque way he dismissed Teddy’s concerns that Owen’s frustration was primarily with himself and his inability to step out of his wartime memories in order to fully inhabit his future.
As the gunman attempted to find those responsible for his wife’s death amidst the hospital staff, the situation quickly grew catastrophic. Several of their colleagues were wounded, some were killed. The hospital went into lockdown mode, throwing the orderly system of the facility into chaos. The reality of the situation heightened quickly as Derek was seriously injured while trying to negotiate with the gunman. Saving his life fell to Cristina when it became apparent no attending surgeons would get to them in time as police had cordoned off the building and shut down the elevators. While telling Meredith, ‘for a resident, I’m very good,’ Cristina prepared for the surgery of her life.
Meanwhile, Owen and Teddy who had been in surgery as the lockdown occurred now faced transporting their critical patient to safety outside the hospital. During a tense trip through eerily quiet hospital hallways Teddy made a final attempt to reach Owen. Angry at both himself and the situation his PTSD-related confusion had caused, Owen withdrew himself from the equation and told Teddy he chose no one. Yet once outside the hospital Owen’s feelings became clear even to Teddy as he visually searched the scene while quizzing a police officer on whether medical personnel had been evacuated. Teddy took in Owen’s obvious distress at not being able to ascertain Cristina’s whereabouts. Facing the truth, Teddy turned to Owen and encouraged him to find Cristina, quietly saying, ‘Go…it’s okay, it’s okay to choose.’ Owen nodded his thanks to Teddy for her understanding before running back inside the hospital.
He soon located Cristina in an operating room struggling to save Derek’s life while the gunman threatened her. Owen gathered himself at this most crucial juncture in their lives, entered the OR and set about drawing the gunman’s attention. In his attempt to both secure Cristina time to finish operating and make sure she was safe, Owen stated his feelings plainly and clearly when he said, ‘that is the woman that I love. You touch her, you shoot her, and I will kill you.’ Cristina found her own words after Owen was shot trying to distract the gunman. After the impact of the shot sent Owen to the floor and rendered him temporarily unconscious Cristina quickly advised her friend Meredith to take Owen across the hall to clean and stitch his wound, ‘I’m trying to save your guy now please go try and save mine.’
Later, as Derek’s surgery neared its end we see Meredith and Owen in the operating room alongside Cristina. As Derek’s heart rebounded and beat again in a healthy rhythm Cristina turned and gazed at Owen, exhaustion and intensity plain on both their faces. It’s clear these two have fought their way to the surface and chosen each other in that operating room and I, for one, can hardly wait to see what comes next.