The first great change involved saying goodbye to George O’Malley, a member of the Fab Five, who we learned had been the victim of a fatal traffic accident. Even as hospital staff members were experiencing grief, work continued as patients still required treatment. And yet, moments were found to savor connections. As people around them took in this loss we found the usually stoic Owen and Cristina tenderly reaching to hold the other's hand while waiting for a rig to arrive in the ambulance bay. Both were acutely aware of their loss – that of a friend and fellow surgeon – yet as the season began they also renewed their commitment to their relationship.
Even as they moved into the future together Owen and Cristina remained clear they were facing challenges, chief among them Owen’s PTSD as a result of his army service in Iraq. As a show of good faith, Cristina even went so far as to attend therapy sessions with Owen. (Of course, this move on her part was also an attempt to prove to Owen’s psychiatrist that she and Owen knew each other well enough for her to relax her stance on asking them to wait to indulge in physical intimacy.) These sessions revealed the enormity of the path ahead of them. In addition to the weight of Owen’s wartime experience, the reality that they were in the beginning stages of a relationship and had a lot to learn about each other was also brought home to them. (click read more to continue)
As everyone struggled to get their sea legs amidst this overwhelming workplace change, we found Owen able to step up and see the larger picture. Owen is a man who doesn’t play favorites in the operating room and he had no difficulty accepting input from the new residents, even as that action put him in conflict with his girlfriend Cristina, who is overtly territorial and competitive when it comes to work. For Cristina, additional residents also aimed at proving themselves meant more staff vying for fewer surgeries. As her frustration mounted Cristina had difficulty expressing herself until her dam finally burst as she unburdened her anxiety to Meredith Grey, her ‘person’ and best friend.
Chief among Cristina’s stressors was the fact that she had been without a cardio mentor for quite some time and had been unable to pursue learning within her specialty area. Her disappointment at the absence of a teacher to help take her skills to the next level caused Cristina to lash out, even going so far as to emotionally tell Chief Webber he should cut her from the resident pool if she wouldn’t be able to use her skills at the newly merged hospital.
While career has always been important to Owen he was ill prepared for the fervor with which Cristina began to pursue surgeries and compete with the newly arrived and sometimes arrogant Mercy West residents. While he believed they would weather the storm together and that Cristina’s surgical skills would land her a key slot in the changing hospital landscape, she became increasingly desperate, especially in the face of a continued absence of cardio.
Owen attempted to get the sometimes rigid Cristina thinking outside the box by getting her outside the hospital, with Meredith’s help. Initially skeptical at the idea of hitting a few balls into the outfield as a salve for her workplace angst, Cristina eventually found great satisfaction in hitting a home run. Owen successfully diverted Cristina’s attention from her heavy emotional load by asking her to ‘stop thinking about what’s going to happen. You need to focus on what’s right in front of you.’ This change of scenery both allowed Cristina to release some of the day’s tension while also eliciting the first laugh we’d heard from her in a long, uncertain workday.
Yet, as the rocky integration of Seattle Grace and Mercy West staff escalated, all bets were off when a hotel fire brought multiple patients and resultant chaos to the emergency room, setting off a conflict for medical cases among the assembled group of residents and lead to the avoidable death of a patient. This patient’s death resulted in the firing of a Mercy West resident, which seemed to take the wind out of Cristina’s competitive sails as she remarked ‘it could have been any one of us.’ The combined group of residents seemed to call an uneasy truce after this incident that allowed for a slightly more peaceful workplace, even as Cristina continued to itch to perform cardio surgery.
Owen continued to believe in Cristina’s talent while missing the extent of her desperation until she pushed to do an unapproved procedure while scrubbed in assisting him in surgery. This event both opened Owen’s eyes to the depth of Cristina’s professional fears and also challenged their personal relationship. The couple initially fought over Cristina’s haste and the potential damage to her career should something have gone wrong during the procedure. After blowing off some steam through conversation with Meredith, Cristina rallied and both advised the patient she got lucky in surviving the fall which caused her injuries and also found the courage to try to explain herself to Owen. ‘In surgery…that was me, can’t you see that?’ This hard-won confession, followed by an apology for overstepping in the OR, brought Cristina’s professional needs to light for Owen in a new way and made it all the more clear that she was floundering without real learning opportunities.
Next up: Episodes 6.9-6.17 in which Owen and Cristina adjust to the additional stress caused by Owen’s request that a friend from his army days take on a temporary contract as the potential new head of cardio at the hospital. How will Owen and Cristina deal with the situation when this friend provides news Owen wasn’t anticipating when he sought a teacher for Cristina?
Images ABC Promo photos, Video geniusmentis