I spent my twenties planning my death. It was either that or get a job.
It wasn’t ever sudden death. It always started with the phone call from the doctor telling me the blood work from my routine check up showed some horrible, rare disease. Then I’d imagine my long valiant struggle with the disease, followed by my moving, heroic death. As friends and family gathered around my deathbed, I’d urge them to laugh, love, live. Don’t dwell on how sad you’ll be when I’m gone. Okay, if you must, dwell a little.
Eventually I got a job. Got married, had kids, got another job and another, took up jogging, perfected my apple pies, knit stuff, discovered the joy of online shopping – in other words, my life filled up. And as my life filled, my death fantasies stopped. Thoughts of death remained, but they were more along the lines of, what’s this bump? Please don’t let it be cancer. Once you’ve made a life for yourself that you like, you don’t want to die.
Until you do.
In tonight’s episode, Tony and I wrote about two people who want to die. And their paths to death are totally unlike my death fantasies – these aren’t the depressed musings of a lazy twenty year old, their wish to die is born out of reality. Living has become too painful.
The idea for the episode came from Shonda saying to me and Tony, “Let’s do an episode about Owen’s experience in Iraq.” She felt that at this point in the season, it was time to delve a little deeper into Owen’s past, not only to explore the origins of his PTSD a little bit more, but also to give us a chance to see Teddy and Owen as friends.
We wanted to show Owen, pre – bad stuff happening to him. So the initial scene where Owen and Teddy are playing soccer in between casualties was very important to us. They acted it beautifully, Teddy jumping on his back, them teasing one another …. They look happy. Carefree. And then the sound of the helicopter overhead signaling that Bad Things have happened. Time to go to work. Owen pauses, taking an extra second before picking up his battle gear. It’s as though he knows intuitively that everything’s about to change.
This day, the day Dan died, they way Dan died – is something that Owen tries not to think about. But when he wakes up in the middle of the night and it’s quiet and there’s not surgery or people to distract him and the thoughts start, Owen has to get up, put on the TV, do push ups, to get his mind off that night.
He couldn’t save Dan. It finally came down to that. He couldn’t save his friend and so he had to let him die. He had to watch him die. And in the end he had to help him die. Owen carries that knowledge around with him. Fate put him in an unwinnable situation, and he’s paid for it every day since it happened. And so when Teddy asks him to help her with a patient who has requested Physician Assisted Suicide, Owen is triggered. He spends the episode trying to save Teddy and that couple from a similar fate.
But finally, in the end, Owen is able to offer some comfort to Sean, Kim’s husband. He’s able to tell Sean that there will be a moment where he’ll know he did the right thing and he needs to hold onto that moment. That is Owen’s struggle. To hold onto the belief that he made the right choice out there in the desert.
By the way, we shot that stuff a few hours away from Los Angeles in the desert. And we had 3 days to do all that Iraq stuff and we needed all of the three days. And we needed it not to rain. The forecast called for rain on the last day of shooting and the rain held off until the last scene on the last day and then it just started POURING. It’s the scene where Dan is laying there dying and it’s raining!! The crew put up and tent over Dan and Owen and we finished but the footage had rain in the background, you could barely hear the actor’s lines because of the rain. Luckily we were able to fix it all in post.
Physician Assisted Suicide is a relatively new phenomenon in the US. In fact, the law was passed in the State of Washington just last year. The government makes patients who are interested in ending their lives jump through a lot of hoops. In researching all the legalities, what got to me were the real patient stories. What was surprising was how nothing really changed in the face of what can only be described as the biggest decision of anyone’s life – kids still needed lunches for school, dentist appointments still needed to be made, and couples still fought over the most mundane things. Sara Gilbert and Derek Cecil really did a great job in making that couple come alive on screen and making us feel the multitude of emotions they were going through, like when Kim tells Cristina that nothing ever changes, you have the same fight, even when you’re dying you have the same fights …
Speaking of fights (nice segue, don’t you think?) Meredith and Derek are just now realizing that their lives have irrevocably changed since Derek became Chief. And faced with the mounting frustrations of his new job, Derek is not his best self. No, let’s be honest – Derek is kind of a jerk in this episode. He steals a patient from his wife. A patient she diagnosed. A patient she was going to get to do a cool procedure on. And he did it behind her back. But here’s what I love – you don’t hate him for it. Because even jealous and petty, Patrick is so damn charming … oh, and don’t you love how April is all smitten with Derek? Also we feel like Jackson is really becoming friends with Meredith, so we wanted to give them that Who Down in Whoville speech, he was great too, don’t you think? Jesse Williams is the actor playing Jackson and he’s not only gorgeous, he’s a really nice guy.
And the Chief is struggling to find his new identity in the hospital. He’s no longer the Chief, but he’s also not just one of the boys. And that’s a pretty lonely place to be. Which prompts him to engage in what can only be described as one of the most uncomfortable attempts at locker room humor in Seattle Grace history. Like it or not, he’s always gonna be THE CHIEF. You can take away the title and the office, but that doesn’t change the fact that you can’t say things like “If I wasn’t married I’d hit her, I’d hit her hard.” We were really punchy in the writer’s room when we came up with that line. We couldn’t stop laughing. And it was one of those things that you say to yourself; this is either really funny or really stupid. But I love how Jim Pickens plays it. And I LOVE when Alex says, “Um. Chief. I think you meant hit that.”
Callie wants a baby. She wants a baby. Nothing wrong with that. Except that as much as she wants one, Arizona doesn’t. So what do you do?
I have a baby. Two actually. One’s thirteen. And the other is seven. And I HAD to have them. No one could have stopped me. I have a friend who has been saying since grade school, I’m never having a baby. Since grade school. And she never did have one. She’s awesome with kids, by the way. My kids love her. But as much as I wanted kids, she didn’t. So what do you do??!! It’s an awesome conflict, I think, that just landed in the middle of their relationship before they were ready to deal with it. You’ll see how that plays out in the last few episodes of the season.
The last few episodes of the season. Did I just write those words? It’s weird. I’d say we’re winding down around here, but we’re really not because we have such a FINALE in store for you, we’re all a little tingly and jumpy. I hate knowing things and not being able to tell them. Hate it. But I can’t tell cause that would ruin it.
So now I’m gonna go home to my kids, maybe have a glass of wine, play with the dog, scrounge around for some dinner, watch my episode on TV tonight (I’ve already seen it about ten times, but it’s so much more fun to watch it in real time), eat ice cream, do some online shopping. You know, live.
Grey Matter Blog