Friday, February 19, 2010

Grey's Anatomy, "The Time Warp": Back in the day

Been a while since I've written about "Grey's Anatomy," but since several of my regular Thursday shows were off last night, and since the episode was both off-format and fairly interesting, let's have a review coming up just as soon as I throw you a chocolate...

Sooner or later, most dramas will resort to flashback episodes like "The Time Warp." They're an easy way to shake up a familiar formula for a week, they allow the writers to fill in some backstory, they allow the actors to play different versions of familiar characters, and the fans tend to like some or all of those things. This one didn't live up to some others I've seen - in particular the "St. Elsewhere"(*) two-parter "Time Heals," which told stories from throughout the hospital's 50-year history - but it hit most of the necessary marks, and was a particularly good showcase for Chandra Wilson as the young, mousy "Mandy" Bailey.

(*) Speaking of "St. Elsewhere," the Richard/Ellis storyline took place in the same year as that show's first season, and since I know what a 1982 hospital drama looks like, it was weird to see how the hair and wardrobe choices seemed to be from several years earlier than that, more '70s than early '80s. Then again, most flashback episodes have this problem; whenever "Friends" showed us Chandler in the '80s, his allegedly trendy haircuts were always years out of date.

There were moments in that '80s storyline where the show went for the easy choice, particularly when the attending was revealed to be a racist and a sexist. I'm not saying that there weren't plenty of doctors with those attitudes from that period, but as drama, it felt cheap. Either make him a lot smoother and subtler in his bigotry, or limit him to being one of racist, sexist, ageist or homophobic, but not all four. Still, Sarah Paulson was a very good choice as the young Ellis, really evoking what we saw of Kate Burton in seasons past. J. August Richards was handicapped by a distracting hairpiece, but I also saw less of James Pickens Jr. in him.

A few questions on the more contemporary stories: First, whatever happened to the evil surgical attending played by Missi Pyle? (Another character, by the way, who was a little too blatant a villain, even though I'm sure such surgeons also exist in every program.) I know the series' timeline is always going to be wonky (which is also why it was probably a mistake to give us a specific date for Bailey's intern year), but Bailey's up on stage talking trash about someone who, if she's left the hospital, only did so a short time ago.

Second, how does everybody feel about the continuity insert of Karev and Callie hooking up briefly back before she met George? This is a show that already has had too many characters sleeping with too many other characters - so much so that my wife was under the impression we'd already seen these two have sex - and I don't know what's necessarily gained by adding another coupling in the past.

Overall, though, pretty good, and Richard's oath at the end (paralleling his AA speech at the beginning) was a very nice moment for Pickens. What did everybody else think?

33 comments:

paulf said...

Haven't seen it yet- I'm in Ireland, we're about seven episodes behind - but oddly I did see Time Heals for the first time this week. Really good episodes (and even with the awful accent, Edward Herrmann is great), but the whole story with Morrison's son being kidnapped probably deserved some more attention, rather than getting lost in all the other stories in the two-parter.

Shannon said...

I was not a fan of the Callie/Alex hookup. It seemed like a cheap attempt to shock people that added absolutely nothing to the story or characterization. In fact, it just makes them look bad, especially Alex, who was chasing Izzie at that time in the show's history. With as many time line/continuity issues as Grey's has, they really shouldn't try to shoehorn stuff like that in.

I also didn't buy Callie's stage fright. It was ridiculous and over the top, and doesn't fit with her character at all.

I did like the Bailey story, and the Richard/Ellis flashback was mostly enjoyable. Interesting to see the origins of Richard's drinking problem and the whole mess with the affair.

Ed O. said...

This is the 2nd episode in a row that has made me cringe. Last week was just bad, but this felt like a missed opportunity. What did we really learn about Ellis and Richard? Other than we can apparently blame Ellis for Richard's drinking problem. I felt like this was a real chance to shed more light on Ellis, and I don't think it did that.
The Callie/Karev stuff seems obviously there to mess with her and Arizona; Judging from AZ's looks she didn't know about Alex. I found that revelation entirely extraneous and unnecessary. And dumb.
Does anyone else find it difficult to believe that the Bailey we met in season 1, "the nazi", was that mousy and quiet only a couple years before? That's not a growth, that's a personality transplant.
This episode was a vanity project for Shonda and the writers, and they engaged in it at the expense of their characters and their show.

Nicole Marie said...

Maybe like Canada, the 80s didn't get to Seattle until much later?

Blair Waldorf said...

Entertaining episode and format. I really liked the Bailey story.

I also did not believe Callie with stage fright. It goes against her character and I just can't imagine Sara Ramirez with stage fright.

Susan said...

Did this episode remind anyone else of "Three Stories" from House? The lecture leading to the flashbacks (three different stories), leading to revelations about the characters?

I didn't find Callie's nervousness about public speaking hard to believe at all. She's a smart woman, but her confidence has often been shown to be just a front. She was incredibly insecure in her relationship with George, she flamed out as Chief Resident, etc.

I had issues with the hair in this episode. Seriously, in the 80s flashback, it was distracting. Would Ellis really color her hair that blonde and take the time to curl it like that? And Thatcher looked like he had a nest on his head.

Pamela Jaye said...

Oh good! I was hoping you'd be here.

I deeply adore backstory. I wish I could see the St Elsewhere flashback ep again and I'm sorry ER never tried it (there were a few scenes when William H Macy's mentor was there but it wasn't enough. St E was really good as I recall, with Christina (?) Pickles talking some kid down from a bad trip in the 60s)

The 80s... liked the music, interesting 70s colors on the walls. I was perplexed by IVs in glass bottles. I would have though they were using plastic by then but I can't remember. I caught the AIDS when they mentioned (whatever tpe of pneumonia? he had) almost got GRID right, and despite lack of paying attention took a stab at the orange urine for a strange win with porphyria (shouldn't it have be "purple under sunlight"? orange indoors just made me think muscle breakdown, but I knew we were on a zebra hunt and porphyria is always popular (I'll admit it - I would not mind Grey's being more House-y)

My roomies were nurses in 83/84 and I remember one talking about AIDS. I also remember the visiting African marveling at the lack of an AIDS ward on ER years later.

Inconsistencies (for I eat sleep and breathe Grey's): Bailey's glasses were not "coke bottle" (and was there another female intern in her resident's gaggle? Shouldn't have been)
10 years ago you wouldn't have been in this program! No black surgical residents in the 70s?? I'd buy that in 62 but The House of God makes me think 72 was different.

Doesn't the guy who played Ellis' attending always play the racist/sexist/elitist? (last seem in whatever season of Gilmore Girls I'm up to. The library patron in from of me in the GG line is slow. and there are 4 people behind me. and the discs are scratched. methinks the county could use a second set). Nice to know I can no longer recognize Gunn... Sarah Paulsen... knew who she was when she said I'm not a nurse. should have known sooner, granted.

Would think by now Torres would be over the fear of public speaking. Seemed wrong. However, I was pleased to learn I was nit wrong in thinking she was a 3rd year when we met her (just want to know how she got out of residency in fewer years than Bailey. Did she do a Brian Austin Green 90210 thing?)

I like Derek as Chief. The focus on teaching is good. They did say "pending board approval" and Richard shouldn't get significantly better treatment than Izzie did - granted, Izzie should not have been back at all.

Little Mer and her Anatomy Jane were nice.

Ellis & Richard in the on call room made me think of Ellie & Awesome, oddly. (out of character for Ellie I still maintain)

Crap! Missed the date on Bailey's intern year (like I missed Izzie saying It's 2009. Oops. So, I guess this show started in July 2007. I liked Lexie's intern year with two Octobers)

Perhaps Bailey's resident bombed out of the progrram (in years 4 or 5) Did Bailey's patient's case last so long that Bailey made it to year two to solo?

Pamela Jaye said...

Pretty sure your wife is wrong about Callie (she slept with Mark 3 times and Alex saw it and told George, but mostly his substitute for Izzie was Olivia), and it's no so much in her character - back then - to sleep around, but let's see:
She's living in the basement. That's good. Alex fessed up. also good. She was not confused when she met George.
Heart in elevator was ep 2.05.
Alex was... studying to retake his boards and... had just *not* kissed Izzie on a date. The next thing we saw him do was miss the loud talking black cell phone woman from the train crash with internal bleeding and find the missing leg Cristina was looking for. The ep after that...he was escorting "wheelchair chick" and wondering why Izzie was mad. I guess he could squeeze Callie in, as he was in no way above recreational sex, but in ep 2.10 or so, it was pointed that he cheated with Olivia, so... it depends how far along we are. I don't think anyone said how recent the elevator was?
Loved the speech, which, coupled with a friend's recent screwing by a workmans' comp doc sent me flying to find the current status and wording of the Oath. Anyone know? Is it recited? If so, when and what are the words. Wikipedia said some places but I didn't see a match for the words.
I have a roomie who swears it's been phased out entirely, but that's part of his Illuminati thing. I don't believe all the stuff he says, by default.

Loved the ep! Still wondering about the glass IV bottles. Side note: the writer, Zoanne, last I heard was still picking up ER shifts, I'm assuming to hold to her license/certification. (know a pathologist former ER doc who works in the ER now and again to keep his... certification in ER)

Pamela Jaye said...

PS - since Alex had already taken care of his syphilis, Callie should be ...safe. There really should be *more* oubreaks on this show but I guess we should be happpy we got *one* - as they said, ER didn't do it.

btw, Mercy somewhat improved, but heading in a Grey's direction. too much sex and triangulation, with a side of Alzheimer's and surprise wives.

Pamela Jaye said...

Missing last night: Mark and Owen, I think, as well as most of the rotating Mercy west 4

Pamela Jaye said...

re: Bailey being mousey: in HS, boys she liked ignored her while using her to get their assignments done. There's a remote chance she didn't bring on the over-assertiveness till lives were hers to lose.

Pamela Jaye said...

good one, Nicole, and Whoops on the Three Stories. I did mean to mention that but I was lost in tea colored urine and muscle breakdown as relates to porphyria girl (not House's self-diagnosis of infarct) and forgot to come back to it.

And here's a question - why did House have an infarct in his leg? no one bothered to check underling causes? gee, I would. a friend had a stroke at a young age due to a torn artery in her neck... so oung - I would want to know why. Then again, I'm weeks behind on House.

Anonymous said...

I thought the episode could have been much stronger than it was. I also was incredibly distracted by "Ellis"' coal-black eyes, since Kate Burton has big blue ones.

Anonymous said...

Alan, you must be an entitlted white man, because when folks are prejudiced they usually inhabit a lot of biases all in one nice neat package. I'm not in your racial demo, but I've encountered all those biases in one person. Don't be so dimissive of prejudice when it doesn't impact your life. It's impacted mine plenty.

Anonymous said...

I thought both the time travels were way off in clothing and the Ellis/Richrd in attitude as well. I was in college in 82 and there were lots of women and minorities in med school/already interns. Sure they may not have had it easy, but it wasn't unusual for them to be there. Also the clothing was very 70s to me, even doctors dressed accorind to the times.
Bailey also looked like she dropped out of the mid 90s with the hair and glasses - not just 7 years ago.
Oh and thank you Ellis for ruining yet another person's life by turning Richard onto the demon rum (or vodka in his case).
No more Ellis please, glad she is dead, don't want to hear from her again.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Alan, you must be an entitlted white man, because when folks are prejudiced they usually inhabit a lot of biases all in one nice neat package.

Sure, but there's what's true in reality and what's interesting in dramatized fiction. And the Gregg Henry character turned into a caricature inside of one sentence, an easy target for the audience to hate. Grey's can be more nuanced and more interesting than that, even with characters (like Ellis) who are deplorable in so many ways.

fgmerchant said...

Alan, on Friends, the point was that Chandler and Ross thought they were trendy in their flashbacks, even when they weren't. That was an intentional choice to show how dorky they were.

I enjoyed the Bailey story and the Chiefs flashback, but I didn't really see the point of the Callie flashback. It didn't seem to serve much of a purpose other than to fill time. I don't feel like I learned anything about her character and I definitely did not believe that Callie would be that paralyzingly scared of public speaking! Plus, no doctor would get on stage in front of your peers to tell a medical story and then add that you had sex with a colleague at the same time.

I was shocked that the Chief's flashback was in the 80s. From how old Merideth and the other s look, I would have accepted it in the 70s, especially because the wardrobe seemed to come out of early 70s. Plus it would have been more believable to see the sexism and racism in the 70s, when surgical programs might have been integrated just 5 or 6 years ago, rather than the 80s when it would have been a good 10 years since surgical programs were integrated.

@Pamela Jaye, the oath is still around, but most classes will write their own version of the oath. By that I mean, usually the Class President or someone selected by the students will write the oath for everyone in that year.

Alan Sepinwall said...

That was an intentional choice to show how dorky they were.

Not according to Marta Kauffman. I asked her about that once, and she said they just chose those hairstyles (Flock of Seagulls and Miami Vice) because they were more iconically '80s, and funnier-looking, then if they'd gone more period-appropriate (say, with Bon Jovi hair for the '87 flashback). They just decided to fudge it and assume most people wouldn't care about the year.

fgmerchant said...

Wow, I guess I was wrong. I literally re-watch friends multiple times a year (I watch an ep or two right before I fall asleep) and I thought I knew all the trivia as well as I know every line on that show! I stand corrected.

Anonymous said...

I think having the attending be racist and sexist was critical in two ways. First, it showed - vitally, I think - why Richard and Ellis, who both were marreid - initally were bound together. They both were the odd person out and thus were cast (out) together. Their connection through medicine followed. Also, it works for kids watching Grey's who were in elementary school (if even born) in the 80s, because they might not get how things were back then concerning AIDS. As they showed, many doctors didn't even know what GRID was. Having a generally "unenlightened" doctor to be the one who won't treat the AIDS patient thus "makes sense," as opposed to having a kindly MD do it, as that would be much more jarring and harder to swallow. Even if people didn't understand the medical profession's confusion about AIDS, they could understand that the sexist, racist, would be a homophobe who wouldn't treat the AIDS patient.
The actress who played young Ellis has never impressed me, but I thought she knocked it out of the park here. Maybe we can have more Ellis flashbacks with the diaries.

Byron Hauck said...

The thing is, in 82, they didn't even know what was causing AIDS. Isolating HIV was a couple years away, and stumbling onto AZT even further. Can you imagine how scary it must have been when kind, intelligent, caring doctors had absolutely no clue what this disease was that was killing more and more people every year? And how scary it must have been when years went by with little new information?

So, if you want the cool GRID-AIDS change in 82, I don't think you can position the doctors who were scared of the guy as villains. And you certainly can't talk about giving the guy hope when there is almost no way he survived long enough to get started on AZT. But if you put it a few years later, you lose the terminology but can vilify anyone who runs away from the patient.

Pamela Jaye said...

wait - what was the GRID patient in for, the first time? I can't think of anything surgical... must watch a third time

@fgmerchant thanks

so, in 1982 Meredith was... what? how old was that kid?
Having worked in an office in the first half of the 80s, I know about the smoking.

Paris said...

-I liked the flashbacks. Even though I thought bring up Ellis Grey again would be tired, Sarah Paulson did a pretty good job bring that character back to life in her prime. I usually like J. August Richardson, but I agree with whoever said that his hairpiece was distracting.

-I wasn't too surprised at the Callie/Alex hook-up. There was a brief conversation they had that I remember from Season 3, which implied that had known each other prior to working together in that episode. I thought Callie having stage fright was hilarious. They tend to throw a lot of comedic material at Sara Ramirez. Sometimes, she takes it a little too over the top, when Callie had chicken pox. But this time, she handled it just right. I don't know why they waited til now to reveal that though. It almost serves no purpose. Arizona wouldn't even think to hold that against her. Regardless, Callie is my favorite character on the show. I love it when they bring her to the forefront rather than supporting someone else's storyline.

-Bailey as an intern was probably my favorite flashback. Seeing how she was back then, all of Bailey's breakdowns make sense. It was "Mandy" coming up the surface.

Pamela Jaye said...

What I'd like to know is how they made Callie appear "fat" in her flashback but not fat in her lecture. Must have been the clothes. Or the hair. (loved that they got the hair right)

Good point on Bailey's Breakdowns. I love most of her scenes with Derek. There have been so quite a few.

Pamela Jaye said...

Byron Hauck said...

The thing is, in 82, they didn't even know what was causing AIDS. Isolating HIV was a couple years away, and stumbling onto AZT even further. Can you imagine how scary it must have been when kind, intelligent, caring doctors had absolutely no clue what this disease was that was killing more and more people every year?


I'm not in the medical profession and I don't have AIDs, in fact, I'm not aware of ever meeting anyone who does. And yet, hearing "can you imagine?"... I don't have to imagine to hard, all I have to do is remember. I vaguely remember talking to my roommate about it. All the nurses were scared. I think they wore triple gloves. (sadly, now, I can't remember my roommate's last night. but she worked at Tufts University Medical Center which apparently was really close to City Hospital...)

Pamela Jaye said...

name. I can't remember her last name.
sigh.

Craig Ranapia said...

I think having the attending be racist and sexist was critical in two ways. First, it showed - vitally, I think - why Richard and Ellis, who both were marreid - initally were bound together. They both were the odd person out and thus were cast (out) together.

Wow, how fraking patronising is that as a storytelling token? i guess that really showed that racist-sexist jerk -- milk chocolate love! Could it be possible that people have inter-racial relationships because they're physically and emotionally attracted to each other, and it doesn't have to explained away with a liberal dose of handwavium. It's about as tiresome as constantly being reminded that Callie isn't "really" gay or bi- or whatever the hell is going on with that character.

LA said...

Does anyone else find it difficult to believe that the Bailey we met in season 1, "the nazi", was that mousy and quiet only a couple years before? That's not a growth, that's a personality transplant.

This episode was a vanity project for Shonda and the writers, and they engaged in it at the expense of their characters and their show.


Yes and yes. The only thing I liked about this episode were the nice moments for Pickens. Oh, and the hilarious hairpiece on Joe the Bartender which got an LOL from me. Otherwise, it was dreck that had Rhimes self-indulgent fingerprints all over it despite being attributed to another writer. I really need to rethink my commitment to this show.

Pamela Jaye said...

I still have no idea why Ellis was attracted to Richard. I don't know if it's just lately but frequently he is a nincompoop. I love it when he is strong, or even in the beginning when he was addicted to his job, but he folds on letting Izzie back with some story that in no way relates, wanders the halls voyeuring the exciting cases when he should be having meetings and doing paperwork, etc.

But even back in "1982" - what was there in him that a go-getter like Ellis would want? I can't think of anyone on the show she would ever be attracted to except maybe Burke and definitely Cristina. Bailey was tough, but not necessarily ambitious, and Ellis hates the weak - I just don't see Richard, despite his chiefship as someone that ambitious. And you know how Ellis treats those she can not look up to.

Pamela Jaye said...

while rethinking commitments: how are you currently feeling about Cristina? I loved her crying to Owen about losing pieces of herself. It's a song I've been hearing since episode (5?) of Duet...

I thought that scene was very good, even though I prefer to wallow in Mer and wish Lexie could get her act back together. And of course I think Izzie should be thrown under a bus.

Kate said...

Maybe like Canada, the 80s didn't get to Seattle until much later?

I worked in a Canadian teaching hospital around 1982 and this felt like it was 1952 to me although probably Seattle had more racism than Canada did.

It was the usual GA over the top writing. Come to think of it, my mother was a resident in 1952 and no one would have dared call her 'nurse', probably because her aunt was Chief of Pediatrics at the same hospital. Ellis being a b**** had nothing to do with being a woman and everything to do with her personality.

The Bailey story was interesting although those braids were ridiculous. I can't understand why Richard would have left his wife for Ellis, especially as we had no insight into his marriage at all, and Callie's speaking phobia was just ridiculous since she would have been presenting at grand rounds for several years now.

Allison DeWitt said...

I'm late to this because I just watched this episode today. I disliked a lot of things that felt forced and/or hard to buy - but I enjoyed it overall.

Callie as a nervous nellie who had to be saved by Alex..OK, maybe. And then a flashback to an affair? Please!

Bailey as a trembly wimp was a pretty hard sell for me, but that scenario led to her arse kicking moment toward her superior. And that was a pleasure.

I really like Sarah Paulsen, especially in this part. That backstory was interesting from the influence her coldness might have had on little Meredith to her pushing alochol on Richard. Although, a slight nitpick,.. I think she would have picked whiskey.


Doesn't the guy who played Ellis' attending always play the racist/sexist/elitist?

Snakes, smirkers, and evil murderers..he does it quite well.
Gregg Henry. I think I first saw him in "Body Double".

TheEscenes for Richard, acting liek the real "Chief" from AA to the lectures, were excellent. I wish they'd do more of that, andnhave less soap opera.

Thanks for the review and comments!

Anonymous said...

I actually went to high school in the Pacific Northwest in 1982 and worked my summers in a big teaching hospital my dad worked for. This flashback was so off--the decor was way too early 70s (would have worked if it was a podunk hospital that hadn't been kept up, but this is supposed to be a premier teaching hospital). Nurses *never* wore those hats (again maybe in some throwback doctor's office somewhere but not in a major surgical program). Also, the residents I worked with and around were a really diverse lot. Many women, many people of color. I wouldn't doubt there was subtle racism, but if an attending had acted that way...he would have been the outcast, not them. Everyone would have been saying "what an old-fashioned ass" behind his back. Writers, set decorators and costumers all missed the mark here...