Welcome to Grand Rounds: Dissecting Grey's Anatomy, a roundtable on Grey's Anatomy featuring Snarky's Machine, Tasha Fierce, Everett Maroon, Redlami, and s.e. smith. This week's Grand Rounds is hosted by the pumpkin-pie scented s.e. smith and if you're jonesin' for a recap before you plunge in, Snarky's Machine has got you covered over at I Fry Mine In Butter. Without further ado, let's begin!
s.e. smith: This week on Grey's Anatomy: Nurses exist, provide patient care, and have opinions. Discuss.
Snarky's Machine: For the most part, Grey's got the tone right as far as their depiction of nurses—particularly male nurses. Male nurses are beholden to a different set of standards and protocols and Grey's was brave to portray this without much commentary. Clearly, a female nurse, no matter how experienced, would have been quickly reminded of her place in the pecking order and have her work devalued in a way that we didn't see happen to Eli.
Everett Maroon: Well, finally in season 7 we have more than one interaction with a nurse in an episode? Holy palliative care, Batman! I'm glad they took the time to show us that the male nurse is heterosexual and really into football. But yes, I was glad to see some chatter about how nurses also have professional experience—I just wish it wasn't presented so stridently. It almost seemed written to illustrate Eli the Nurse as negatively as possible, even as we could see around the edges of this localized moment into a fuller picture of him where he has good relationships with the attendings. But, apparently we'll get more screen time from him.
Redlami: I realize Grey's is a doctor show, so that's where the focus has been. Occasionally nurses have been used as plot devices (as when Derek dated Rose, making Meredith jealous) or as obstacles to be overcome, but haven't generally been portrayed either as fully realized characters or caregivers. Depicting conflicts between a male nurse and female doctors seems like an interesting way to both recognize the importance of nurses in treating patients as well as explore the way class and gender intersect in this particular workplace.
s.e. smith: It seems like Bailey is setting up (or being set up) to claim credit for the third-day discovery. In a twist on Stark's blatant grab for credit, it looks more accidental in her case. What do you think Grey's is telling us here, by using the show's most upright and moral character in a stolen credit story?
Snarky's Machine: This directly ties into the way in which nursing, as a profession, is devalued by doctors. Bailey could have easily been given this information if there had been policies in place supporting the exchange of ideas and such from all clinical staff. Also, Grey's apparently seems unaware that NURSE RESEARCHERS exist and have been doing this kind of work for YEARS. Yeah, that aspect of the fistula story arc did not sit well with me. I'll be curious to see how it is addressed. For what it's worth, the residents practice medicine under their attending physician's license, so I wasn't especially offended by Stark's power and credit grab. However, nurses have their own licenses, so to me it makes what Bailey did far more problematic.
Everett Maroon: Hey, North America was sitting there the whole time, but swaths of people credit Columbus for "discovering" it. Oh, wait, bad example. In Bailey's defense, Eli wasn't removing the patients' drains in order to prevent or minimize fistulae (I looked it up; Lexie Grey gave the wrong pluralization in the episode). He was doing it because of his concern with patient care and comfort. So Miranda's clamping onto this distinction and calling it the "cure" for the fistula seems not as much a stealing-credit moment as wholly unscientific and premature. How long did she look at Eli's records? Two seconds? I think this is a Sloppy Writing Moment—whether we call it a false-credit claim or a too-soon declaration, it's not in Bailey's character to act this way. I don't get it.
Redlami: Apparently Eli knew for years that his patients had better recovery rates but didn't say anything because his interest is in his patients in particular, not medicine in general. So what I see here is tension between balancing the needs of the many against the needs of the individual.
s.e. smith: I'm on a Bailey roll this morning; it seems like something may be sparking between Bailey and Eli. Normally I'm not a fan of the doctor-nurse relationship because there are usually weird power dynamics here, but in this case, it's a woman doctor and a male nurse. Does this change the dynamic? How? Or I am just imagining sparks between the two?
Snarky's Machine: This has all the earmarks of weird dynamic bingo. I'm not sure how we're to read Eli racially, but Daniel Sanjata, the actor who portrays him, identifies as mixed ancestry, so I'm curious to see how his racial identity will be coded on the show. I suspect since he is paired with Bailey, he most likely will be "black" and probably with a limited amount of commentary or analysis. I fear they are going to engage in a disappointing attempt at class analysis. Ten bucks says the back story on Eli will be that of a poor, bright kid who dreamed of medicine, but had to readjust his dream for a career in nursing. I would love it if Grey's was brave enough to portray nursing as a career worthy of its own aspirations and not Miss 1st runner-up for those who are unable to attend medical school. I'm also curious about how the power dynamics will be explored between the headstrong Bailey and the equally headstrong Eli. Lawd, please spare us the oppression Olympics.
Everett Maroon: I wish she would have called the glue-and-strings guy. I liked him for her. Eli here seems like the nurse equivalent of Jackson Avery, and I am really tired of the series giving us characters who talk about how attractive they are. I don't know anyone in real life who brings their own beauty into conversation like this. Especially in Seattle! But maybe she'll go to the Seahawks game with Eli, watch the Seahawks lose, and realize she really ought to give Ben another shot. I'd also like to think that Bailey is principled enough not to use her doctor's authority over Eli whilst on any date with him, but she did just behave uncharacteristically, didn't she?
Redlami: I like the character of Eli, but all I know of him so far is that he's good looking, self-serving, and doesn't trust doctors. I can't tell yet if there are really sparks between them; Bailey was definitely on a high from getting a new angle on fistula reduction, and Eli seems to be portrayed as always looking for the quid pro quo.
s.e. smith: One of the storylines this week featured a character without health insurance, effectively being discharged to die until Teddy offered to marry him so he could access her benefits, another case of 'plotlines ripped from the headlines.' How do you think this is going to turn out?
Snarky's Machine: Two words: Denny Duquette. This storyline is such bad-idea jeans. I was stunned by its inclusion.
Everett Maroon: I like him a whole lot better than the "see ya later" therapist she dated at the beginning of the season. And I like him better than Hunt, who I will say is growing on me. So hey, Teddy has shown she can do worse. But it makes me wonder, is this the 21st Century's version of marrying a foreigner so they can immigrate? Because this guy needs a green card for his adrenals, like yesterday. And aren't there at least a few programs designed just for people like him—like Social Security disability, SSI, and state-based funds? Leave it to GA to go straight to glitter wedding without passing GO and picking up $200.
Redlami: I don't see how this can end well. Fortified with good intentions and a lonely heart, Teddy seems to be running roughshod over any sense of appropriate boundaries. She's sure to get overly involved and lose whatever objectivity she has left. But this does seems to suggest the writers are paying attention to how difficult it can be to get complex systems to serve the needs of the individual.
s.e. smith: Yang goes fishing! Of all the approaches to her recovery (Cruise Director Hunt, scheduling every minute of her day, Laid Back Shepard, letting her be herself, Get Back On That Horse Teddy, etc.) who do you think has been the most effective and helping her decide where she wants to go next? What is Meredith learning about Cristina over the course of this crisis?
Snarky's Machine: Honestly, I don't think Meredith is learning anything. I think Meredith has long enjoyed the relationship with Cristina on her terms and how she has defined it. The erasure of race that exists within their relationship seems to be chief amongst the sources of their latest dysfunction. Cristina, like many women of color, isn't "allowed" the opportunity to be fucked up or fall apart while also being seen as highly capable. This is not the case for Meredith, nor is it a reality she chooses to explore or acknowledge. Owen nailed it when he said to Meredith, "She's not like you." Though I don't think he meant to rage such astute analysis.
Everett Maroon: I think it's clear that Derek has found a way not to pigeonhole her, but also not to let her get wild with bad ideas. Thank goodness the series finally found something for him to be good at other than neurosurgery and combing his own hair. He's very good at knowing when to give her pushback ("I can't get my mind to stop." "Yes you can.") and when to let her talk (firehousing remodeling approaches). I think this process has been good for Cristina, overall, but perhaps I'm banking too much on Meredith's voiceover this week about healing taking time. Yang has never given herself time to do anything, and I do wish the doctors would refrain from their condescension about everything that isn't conducted with a 10-blade in hand. They're looking increasingly like the unhealthy ones, while Yang is quickly coming back up to the emotional age of an adult, after her forays into being a mall rat and binge drinking. I think it's hard for Meredith to draw a line between her and Cristina, especially because Yang has been the only other core model for her as a resident, the first one being her emotionally abusive and impossible-to-please mother. I think her crisis around Cristina had a large role in her recklessness in Owen's OR this week. She needs to define herself as a doctor on her own terms, and she may be realizing that she's been living as Yang's twin, and that this has had limitations on her own growth.
Redlami: Give a surgeon a fish and she eats for a day, teach a surgeon to fish and she has a breakthrough. Only time will tell if Derek's laid-back approach is going to ultimately cure Cristina, or just ease her permanently out of the OR. I think—or at least hope—Meredith is finally starting to realize that while they may have been very close before the shooting, things have changed and she's no longer the expert on all-things Cristina, and needs to back off and let other people provide the care for her friend that she can't.
We'll be returning in January after the Grey's winter break!
About your bloggers:
Snarky's Machine is the founder of the pop culture site I Fry Mine in Butter.
Everett Maroon is a Seattle-based writer, focusing on popular culture commentary, speculative fiction, and memoir. His interests include the interrelationships of characters on Grey's Anatomy, Dr. Bailey, behind-the-scenes politics, and Dr. Bailey.
Tasha Fierce blogs about politics, fashion and whatever she wants at Red Vinyl Shoes.
s.e. smith is a cantankerous, cat-wearing, pop culture-loving, pants-eschewing philistine from the wilds of Northern California with a compendium of largely useless random knowledge and a typewriter that doesn't know when to quit.
Redlami turns numbers into stories and is the resident tech geek at I Fry Mine in Butter.