Owen and Cristina had found their way back to each other through the strength of their love and their efforts to step into a shared ‘do over’ of their relationship. They had also found a way to work together as surgeons and administrative peers through the process of the crash-related lawsuit, the resulting sizable settlement’s strain on the hospital’s financial situation, and purchasing the hospital when potential bankruptcy put them on course with an ill-suited buyer. What remained for Owen and Cristina to process was their history and how it impacted where they now found themselves as they settled into their need for each other and what each wanted from their relationship going forward. Neither seemed to know how to begin that conversation even as we saw each of them trying to do so amidst sorting out how they felt.
When the trauma department reopened with new technology and procedures in place that supported the dynamic efforts of both Owen as a trauma surgeon and their newly put in place board, made up of he and Cristina and their fellow surgeons, it showed how compellingly their professional lives had grown from experiencing their recent challenges. After the pre-existing board of directors attempted to place the responsibility of managing the aftermath of the plane crash which devastated their surgical service on Owen’s shoulders, the powerful result was a professional reunion for he and Cristina to match the one occurring in their personal relationship.
Shortly after Grey Sloan Memorial Hospital’s trauma department reopened its doors, a traffic accident brought in a family of patients, a husband and wife who were gravely injured and their young son who struggled to process the situation without his parents’ guidance. As the pressures of how to manage both their physical injuries and their family dynamic increased, both Owen and Cristina were drawn into a situation which highlighted the strengths and challenges each of them faced individually and within their relationship.
Once Owen’s professional life was no longer consumed by keeping the hospital’s doors open, he regained his purpose as a surgeon and a leader. He ably directed his staff in assessing and supporting the medical needs of these accident patients, making full use of all their newly reinvigorated Emergency Room and Trauma Service had to offer. At the same time, Owen’s protective instincts were triggered by their patients’ son, a child who was scared, confused, and temporarily on his own while his parents were in surgery. While the boy’s injuries were superficial, he was in a precarious emotional position as his parents’ conditions grew graver and he relied on Owen’s calm demeanor and support.
Cristina was also involved in this family’s situation as she charted an assertive course of action to treat the child’s father who had sustained serious cardiac injuries in the accident. As always, she was intently focused upon providing her patient the best possible care, even to the extent of utilizing some controversial treatment options. There was also an emotional undercurrent to the situation for her, perhaps, as the accident seemed reminiscent of her own childhood experience of being in a car accident in which her father sustained similar injuries and ultimately died.
Owen and Cristina were both triggered in their own way by their patients’ situation, yet it remained clear that they were still each others’ emotional safe haven. In addition to romantic time at home together, they also showed how much better they were able to communicate as they touched base throughout the day, relying on their personal bond to support their work and also themselves in a hectic work environment. We saw that even in moments of frustration they were able to more adeptly navigate conflict as they used different tools to both give each other space to have their reactions and not letting those reactions steer the course of their interactions. Even as they were each motivated to keep their family of patients together, we saw in Owen and Cristina’s workplace actions to do so how they were growing and changing and yet that they had more growth in front of them.
As the medical realities of their patients’ injuries grew more complex, Owen and Cristina sometimes struggled with their emotional reactions. Owen responses grew reactive at times as he tried to provide stability to their patients’ young son until the child’s grandmother could fly in from out of town. Owen sought frequent updates from Cristina and Derek Shepherd, who had operated on the child’s mother, to reassure the boy that all that could be done was being done to resolve his parents’ conditions.
Owen attempted to provide the child information that would calm him, yet his urgent need for that information compelled Cristina to wonder if there was more to Owen’s reaction than routine concern for patient care. As a result, Cristina’s focus alternated between her post-operative plan for her patient and possible reasons for Owen’s emotional responses, including that he was tired of administrative duties and missed working with patients. As she watched Owen settle the child into a hospital room for the night, Cristina sussed out that it was possible Owen’s reactions had to do with helping the child feel safe while his parents’ health remained up in the air. This realization left her thoughtful as she tried to figure out her own response to this information.
Owen’s protective urges remained firmly engaged even when the child’s grandmother arrived. Just as it seemed possible the boy would have some additional stability, it was quickly clear his grandmother was emotionally ill-prepared for the weight of the situation. She struggled to process her son’s condition as he remained unconscious following Cristina’s surgical attempt to repair his cardiac injuries. The grandmother’s frailty grew even more evident when the child’s mother died following an unanticipated brain bleed. Owen explained her death in terms the child could understand yet there was no making sense of what had happened in the face of the grief it instilled in the boy, his grandmother, and Owen as well. He remained vigilant and emotionally involved, staying at the hospital that night to support the boy and his family even after Cristina encouraged him to go home with her, have some dinner, and relax a little. While she told Owen she understood his need to stay at the hospital, Cristina later admitted to Alex Karev that she feared she was losing Owen.
Amidst their own individual emotional processing of the anvils they were provided in the course of treating this family, Owen and Cristina also found time to emotionally connect, which provided some sweetness to their days by reminding them of the power of their reunion. When Owen quickly stepped into an elevator with Cristina you could see the twinkle in his eye as he flirted with her while also teasing her, the scientist, with having what she called 'a good feeling' about her patient's recovery. She assured him she had lives to save but said she would find him later before he leaned in to kiss her. Likewise, we saw how focused Cristina was on Owen’s emotional reaction to their family of patients’ tragic situation as he struggled to maintain his composure after the boy’s mother died.
There was a poignancy to the confluence of the realizations Owen and Cristina seemed to be finding within themselves, their bond, and in treating this family as the season drew closer to the season finale. Owen continued to try to make things right for their patients’ child, trying to lighten his mood with an impromptu soccer game in the ambulance bay and encouraging the child’s grandmother to believe her son could recover and that she had it in her to support her grandson. Meanwhile, Cristina remained keenly aware of Owen’s attachment to this child and brainstormed with Owen and her resident additional ways to heal the child’s father, doing it as much for Owen as she was for her patient’s son. We saw their efforts on behalf of this family more firmly join Owen and Cristina together in the wake of the child being hospitalized after getting into his grandmother’s sleeping pills. As Owen stood by feeling helpless, Cristina encouraged the child to stay hopeful, telling him they were doing all they could to save his father’s life.
It was in the wake of this situation that Cristina found a way to begin to voice her fears to Owen, even as it might forever impact them and their relationship. While spending some quiet time with Owen in an on-call room, Cristina told Owen she saw a shift in him in his recent focus on this child and that she wondered if, in that focus, there might be a connection to his own desire to have a child. Owen countered her words with some of his own, stating firmly that he wanted her. When Cristina remained uncertain, he then tried to kiss that truth into her. While their passionate connection remained undeniable, the conversation in front of them was just as undeniable and here it seemed they both were beginning to know it.
As is the usual fashion of season finales on Grey’s Anatomy, external factors served to heighten the emotional stories being told for the surgeons as a storm of expansive proportions was due to arrive in Seattle during those episodes. Emergency-preparedness couldn’t entirely replace the emotional journeys in front of Owen and Cristina even as they prepped any patients who were stable enough to be moved to other hospitals. Owen remained conflicted over the potential for the child to go into foster care should his father’s health remain uncertain and his grandmother further maintain her inability to provide him the family support a young boy needs. Upon hearing from Cristina that the child’s grandmother had inquired about withdrawing care from her son given his continued unresponsive state, Owen’s stress increased. Cristina’s response was to rerun the tests and scans they’d just run in search of any other options to heal the child’s father, again, as much for Owen as for her patient and his family.
Unfortunately, the positive news that removing a previously undiagnosed blood clot could dramatically improve her patient’s condition was overshadowed by a poignant admission from Owen that his emotional attachment to the child had him prepared to give the boy the support and the home he needed. Owen haltingly expressed his thoughts after asking Meredith Grey about the emotional process she and Derek went through in deciding to adopt their daughter. Owen smiled as he talked about the bond he felt with this child and how it compelled him to offer him support when it was lacking from other sources. His timing was bittersweet, however, as those words coincided with Cristina finding him with the news that her patient, the boy’s father, had woken up. Even as he saw the boy relieved to be reunited with his father, Owen struggled to step away from the plans he’d finally allowed to reach the surface and be put into words. Cristina was puzzled by his reaction until Meredith let her friend in on what she and Owen had discussed. This news left Cristina concerned and pondering next steps in her relationship with Owen.
When the storm arrived sooner than anticipated and complicated the already complicated business of providing patient care, Cristina approached Owen to discuss his personal attachment to the boy and its potential impact on the structure of their relationship. As her own emotional response grew more heated it seemed that Cristina’s glimpses of Owen’s need to parent had her even more afraid of losing him than she’d previously admitted to Alex. Owen remained unwilling to extrapolate his focus on this child as it related to the larger issues in their relationship as he assured Cristina he loved her and wanted his life to be lived with her. Even as they weren't fully reaching each other in this conversation, the love between Owen and Cristina remained powerfully evident.
After a day spent medically testing themselves and their ability to be present for patients and colleagues, Cristina found Owen in an on-call room as the storm began to clear. When she pressed him to further discuss their differences regarding the topic of children in their relationship Owen reiterated his love for her. Cristina made sure Owen knew how much she loved him too, yet his inability to answer her when she asked if he believed a life with her in the absence of children could be enough for him left her concerned about their future. Cristina, seeming unwilling to further stand in his way if what he wanted was a family, exited the room with tears in her eyes. Owen called after her yet remained seated as he seemed to realize he had things to figure out for himself too regarding the topic of children.
As we step into Season 10, it remains to be seen how Owen and Cristina will further deal with the conflict between their love for each other and their acknowledgment of the topic of children being something which they will both have to explore and discuss. Having regained their bond, having tested that bond, having shown that their bond is stronger now for that testing, it will not be an easy task for either of them to sort out what next steps to take for themselves or their relationship. Yet it sounds like their love will be ever-present for both of them even as they step into those further challenges in front of them.