Alright “Grey’s Anatomy” fans, Season 14 is finally upon us, with a two-hour premiere Thursday night on ABC to kick off the return of the network’s beloved TGIT line-up. But we have a very serious question: How has Meredith Grey made it this far?
Our beloved titular character has been through the ringer more than a few times. She’s survived keeping a bomb in place in a body cavity, almost drowning, a miscarriage, finding out about, not one, but two long-lost sisters, her “person” moving across the globe, the death of her husband, a brutal attack that caused her mouth to be sewn shut during recovery… And so. Much. More.
Here’s a breakdown of Mer’s most perilous moments and how she managed to make it through.
The moment: The bomb
Who can forget the iconic bomb episode? It takes place early on in the series — Season 2 — and showed fans that anything can happen at Seattle Grace Hospital. Kyle Chandler guest stars as Dylan Young, a bomb squad member sent to help diffuse a certain homemade-bomb-stuck-in-a-body-cavity situation. A young first responder gets her hand caught inside a man’s chest, simultaneously keeping him alive and also preventing the bomb from detonating. When she freaks out and leaves, Meredith quickly takes her place, putting herself in mortal danger instead.
Consider it foreshadowing: Putting herself into dangerous situations is a theme for Meredith.
How she survives
After the anesthesiologist ditches, it’s down to Mer, Young, Dr. Burke and a couple nurses. Meredith has a moment of near-death clarity when it’s time to pull out the bomb, as everyone in the room is worried it will explode and kill them all. She tells Burke and Young to save themselves, and asks them to make sure George and Izzy don’t have to move out of her mother’s house, where they all live. But Young won’t have it, and urges her to do what she has to do (in total Coach Taylor no-BS mode). “No one is dying today, Grey,” Burke tells her. Sadly, Burke is wrong. It’s not Mer who gets killed in the inevitable blast, but Young.
The moment: Almost drowning
Meredith is notoriously “dark and twisty” — we can get that way, too, sometimes — but in Season 3, she gives everyone a scare when she falls into the Puget Sound while helping victims of a ferry accident. She has a chance to fight, but lets herself sink deeper and deeper into that water. This mirrors a moment at the beginning of the episode where Derek finds her staying under the water in the bath for a moment too long — just long enough for both the audience and McDreamy to worry about her state of mind.
How she survives
Thankfully, McDreamy comes to the rescue and pulls Mer out, but she’s unconscious for a while. In her unconsciousness, she encounters people who have impacted her in some way: Denny, the heart patient who Izzy fell in love with; Young, the bomb squad member who helped save her life; and her mother, who ends up dying while Mer’s under. While Dr. Bailey and Webber try to revive Meredith, Denny and Young try to convince her not to stick around. “You’re either in this thing, or you’re not,” Young tells her in her dream-like state. “There is no in between.” We spend the episode wondering what Mer will choose, given her will to live seemed weak at best when she fell in to the water. But she decides she has more work to do and pulls through.
The moment: Active shooter
One of the scariest moments to watch is that other two-parter — when a vengeful widower descends upon the hospital to get back at Derek for the death of his wife. At the beginning of the episode, we find out Meredith is pregnant. She tells Cristina, but wants to wait to tell Derek. Mr. Clark, the shooter, ends up finding Derek and shoots him — but he doesn’t die. Cristina and Jackson quickly operate on McDreamy to save his life, but Mr. Clark appears again and puts his gun to Cristina’s head. So here’s Meredith, newly pregnant, staring at her best friend and her husband in danger. She characteristically offers herself up, saying that killing her would get the “eye for an eye” revenge he’s looking for, since she’s Derek’s wife, and it was Mr. Clark’s wife who died.
How she survives
Dr. Owen Hunt is also in the OR when all of the above is going down, and when he tries to make a move to stop Mr. Clark, he gets shot. While Owen is bleeding out on the floor, Jackson orders Cristina to put her hands up. They both stop operating to prevent Mr. Clark from shooting again, and Jackson tells him to watch the heart monitor until Derek flatlines. Mr. Clark is successfully tricked into thinking Derek’s a gonner, and he leaves the operating room. Cristina and Jackson quickly resume operating on Derek, and eventually his life is saved. Meanwhile, Meredith operates on Owen to save his life for Cristina. She and April do end up saving Owen, but Mer doesn’t get away unscathed. The pregnancy she was waiting to tell Derek about ends that wretched day in a miscarriage.
The moment: The plane crash
Six of Seattle Grace’s doctors — Meredith, Derek, Cristina, Mark, Lexie and Arizona — were heading to Boise to help out at a hospital there. But they never make it as their plane crashes in the woods, injuring Derek and Mark and killing Lexie, who was pinned beneath part of the plane. Her death is one of the most excruciating moments for viewers, and for Meredith, who finally found a close relationship with her half-sister. Derek is also injured — on his surgical hand, no less — adding another element for Meredith to worry about. It’s one of the most remembered episodes and leaves the season on a cliffhanger, as the remaining doctors are left in the wreckage with nothing but a stick of gum.
How she survives
We could argue that everyone who does survive the crash owes some gratitude to Cristina, who manages to keep a pretty level head throughout the ordeal and never loses her will to survive. We get some meta-commentary from Cristina, who says out loud what we’re all thinking: “I don’t understand how this keeps happening!… If there’s one thing that I’ve learned with all the bombs and the guns to my head and the buses running down my friends is that I am not interested in dying!” The initial plane crash episode is the Season 8 finale, and later in the Season 9 premiere we see everyone back at the hospital. Mark has been unconscious since the crash, and his living will deems him be taken off life support after 30 days. The doctors have no choice to pull the plug, and we like to think that when he dies he gets to be reunited with Lexie. Everyone else is relatively fine — though there are emotional scars that will never go away.
The moment: Her brutal attack
In Season 12, Meredith survives a brutal — and we mean brutal – attack by one of her patients who comes out of a seizure confused, and ends up beating her as she tries to get him back to bed. Meredith is helpless, unable to scream and unable to be seen since the door is closed and the blinds are drawn. On top of that, Mer’s eardrums burst during the attack, rendering her temporarily deaf.
How she survives
The other doctors eventually find her, but plenty of damage is done. And despite the dislocated elbow and rib fractures, the most damage is psychological. Her jaw had to be clamped shut so it could heal properly, and her hearing is still shot for much of the episode, rendering her unable to communicate. When her children visit, they’re afraid of her, which is even more painful for Mer than her injuries. Her survival comes from somewhere within her, when she is able to forgive her assailant and truly heal.
Pulling through all of these events — not to mention the death of her husband, giving birth amidst a storm and no power, and the death of several others close to her (e.g. George O’Malley) — easily makes Meredith Grey one of the most resilient women on TV. We can’t wait to see what Season 14 has in store.