‘Grey’s Anatomy’ Season 20 Finale: Is Everyone Really Fired?

A wildfire around Seattle ends up being the least shocking development to close out the ABC medical drama’s milestone installment

Ellen Pompeo in "Grey's Anatomy." (Disney/Anne Marie Fox)

Note: This story contains spoilers from the “Grey’s Anatomy” Season 20 finale.

“Grey’s Anatomy” knows how to deliver a shocking season finale, but not even the most devoted fans could have guessed that nearly its entire staff would get fired by the conclusion of the eventful Season 20.

As the medical drama celebrated the end of a milestone season — which further cemented its legacy as TV’s longest running primetime medical drama, and now ABC’s longest running primetime series ever — the show set the stage for substantial change moving forward. With the fallout of both Meredith (Ellen Pompeo) and Amelia’s (Caterina Scorsone) secret Alzheimer’s research and the interns’ past mistakes reaching its peak in the Season 20 finale, “Grey’s” ended its latest run with more than 70% of its core cast of characters either fired, threatening to quit or considering leaving medicine altogether.

And since reports surfaced about departing cast members and significant screen time reductions ahead in Season 21 (ABC declined to TheWrap’s request for comment on the reports), it’s anyone’s guess what the cast of “Grey’s Anatomy” will look like when the show returns this fall.

All the drama unfolded as the doctors of Grey Sloan Memorial treated an avalanche of patients from a wildfire raging in the outskirts of Seattle. Teddy (Kim Raver) was the first professional casualty in the season’s penultimate episode, after Catherine Fox (Debbie Allen) learned Teddy had been secretly funding Meredith and Amelia’s research with hospital funds — against Catherine’s wishes.

The finale, appropriately titled “Burn It Down,” picked up as smoke covered the city and the doctors were called to attend to the injured. Owen (Kevin McKidd) convinced Teddy to return to the hospital to help with the emergency situation. He was convinced that, despite firing her from the chief of surgery role, Catherine would be OK with Teddy helping the victims of the fire during a citywide catastrophe.

But Catherine’s rage was palpable when she met with Meredith and Amelia to discuss their secret project. Meredith appealed to her desire to be at the forefront of groundbreaking medical research, but the president of the Catherine Fox foundation couldn’t see past the betrayal, so she presented the doctors with an ultimatum: Hand over the findings of their research for Dr. Thomas Koracick (Greg Germann) to keep the research going without them, and they get to keep their jobs — along with Teddy.

While Meredith and Amela pondered the decision, the other doctors tended to various patients affected by the fire. The surgical interns and residents also waited for the results of their recent exams to determine their future career prospects, as Simone (Alexis Floyd) hoped to find a way to help Lucas (Niko Terho) avoid having to repeat his intern year after their reckless botched surgery in the previous season finale. Lucas also faced a potential move from Seattle after Maggie (Kelly McCreary) offered him a spot at her hospital in Chicago in the penultimate episode.

Teddy, Owen, Bailey (Chandra Wilson) and the team treated “Station 19” firefighter Theo (Carlos Miranda) — in one last crossover with the firefighter drama before its own series finale Thursday — and were headed to the operating room when they ran into Catherine. She attempted to stop Teddy from joining the surgery, but Owen screamed at her to reconsider her power trip so Teddy could help save a life. She stepped aside and let them go to the OR.

For the interns, things seemed to be hitting their stride as Lucas bonded with a patient who suffered from memory loss and rebuilt her life — giving him sage advice as he faced his own potential life changes — and also enlisted the help of another patient to set up a database for people to check in on their loved ones during the wildfire. Mika (Midori Francis) and Jules (Adelaide Kane) got to scrub in with Richard (James Pickens Jr.) and perform a complicated procedure, too. But those wins were overshadowed quickly, after Blue (Harry Shum Jr.) begrudgingly admitted he recognized the woman Lucas had been treating. She was once his fiancée.

Winston (Anthony Hill) was forced to perform emergency surgery on Webber’s patient and called him out for the severe error in judgment of allowing the interns to perform the complicated procedure. After learning that they had once again been involved in the death of a patient, Jules and Mika found solace in each other — and almost shared a kiss before being interrupted by Simone.

Meredith and Richard have a heart-to-heart about the Alzheimer’s trial, as well as Richard’s realization that it might finally be time for him to give up surgery for good. He had been thinking about the possibility all season, but the latest tactical error confirmed his concerns. The conversation led to Meredith confronting Catherine, and confirming she published the initial results of her research online, sealing her fate by resigning from the foundation to Richard and sealing Amelia’s and Teddy’s fates. Owen learned that he had also been fired by the end of the episode, likely for defying Catherine earlier.

As the wildfire chaos eased, the interns and residents received their test results and all passed. Levi (Jake Borelli) learned that his scores weren’t enough to secure him the pediatric surgery fellowship he was hoping to land, leading him to reevaluate his future (Borelli is set to exit the series in Season 21).

Lucas ended up getting the highest score out of everyone in his class. As he met with Catherine to see if he’d be forced to start from scratch anyway, all of his classmates (including Mika, who is also reportedly set to leave the series in Season 21) burst into the conference room and threatened to quit if Catherine didn’t let Lucas advance with them. Though she seemed unfazed by the threats at first, claiming she could replace the whole class by the next day, she was taken aback when Bailey herself stepped up and said she’d also leave the hospital. The resolution of their standoff will have to wait til the fall.

That leaves Winston, Jo (Camilla Luddington), Link (Chris Carmack) and Dr. Monica Beltran (recurring player Natalie Morales) as the only doctors on seemingly steady ground by the season’s end — though they experienced their own twists. Winston and Monica sparked a surprising new romance, bonding over both navigating recent divorces. And after collapsing in the midst of the wildfire chaos, Jo learned from Levi that she is pregnant. Given their tension after the last prengnancy scare earlier in the season, Jo hesitated to tell Link the news before the episode ended. But that shoe will have to drop eventually.

As for Meredith, the aftermath of her resignation found her reuniting with Nick (Scott Speedman) outside the hospital. Meredith previously declined his marriage proposal, but said she hoped he would be in her life forever. He came around by the end of the finale, agreeing to be her partner moving forward and following her through whatever crazy adventure comes next. And Meredith surprised him with the reveal she bought a house for them to share with her kids.

“Grey’s Anatomy” will return for Season 21 this fall on ABC. Past episodes are available to stream on Hulu and Netflix.


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